Viewing entries in
Mencia

Comment

Wines with Style

Thanks to Gourmet for their image of The Achilles Project/Persephone!Ever been wary of a "Wines by the Glass" list? Been dubious the wines were opened two days prior to your debut at the bar? Or better yet, ever been overwhelmed by a list that's a real list, offering an ample array of wines you've never heard of?  The bars/restaurants that take their glass pours seriously are a rare and wonderful breed. The trick is navigating their list with style and grace. Not always an easy task! The Achilles Project/Persephone here in Beantown offers more than 20 different wines by the glass. To me, this is the first indicator they are serious about wine. The second indicator is that a good number of the wines on their list are "nerdy" (read: boutique offerings you don't see everyday). Like the boutique shop they run up front, they are focused on being fashion-forward, offering something new for folks to try. And because they are serious about glass pours, they also tend to be on the lookout for any wine that is past its prime, giving customers a greater opportunity to enjoy a "fresh" experience.  Sign me up!

Today I thought it would be fun to go through their "Wine By The Glass" list and pick out a handful of grapes that might cause a customer or two to scratch their head - when really they should be doing a little jig and embracing the list's fabulous uniqueness. Buckle your seat belt!

Lambrusco: This red wine varietal from Emilia Romagna, Italy is something else... Lightly sparkling (frizzante, as the Italians like to say), this wine offers smart red berry fruit flavors, often with just a touch of sweetness eminating from the ripe grapes they pick for this elixir. Think antipasto or anything with a touch of saltiness or lightly fried (calamari anyone?) as a perfect pairing. Or sip it on it's own! It's a real charmer.

Assyrtiko/Asirtiko: This white grape varietal may have different spellings, but to me they say the same thing: crisp, citrus deliciousness. The closest "mainstream" varietal I can reference for new Assyritko drinkers would be Sauvignon Blanc. But Assyrtiko brings additional minerality and even a hint of smoke to the table. This is a probably one of the most well respected varietals in Greece, with its real home in Santorini. Unique, bright goodness in your glass.

Scheurebe: This is one of Germany's best known hybrid varietals, yet it is still somewhat of an orphan.... DNA tests prove that this grape's dad is Riesling, but Mom is still unknown (though previously thought to be Sylvaner). Gotta love a freak! This wine typically offers tremendous floral aromatics and a touch of residual sugar (RS).  Tasting the wine out on the town can be a bit of a gamble, but your bartender should be able to guide you on just how sweet it is (though often enough you'll find they err on the drier side). Very much worth the experimentation, I've found. Often a great match for slightly spicy Asian dishes.

As for the Reds on their list, well.... some of these may be better paired with food than as a "cocktail wine" but it is certainly not everyday you see Austria's own delicious and lightly refreshing test-tube varietal Zweigelt on the roster, let alone a Mencia or a even a Monastrell (the Spanish name for the grape Mouvedre, which is better recognized in French wines). Nero d'Avola is up and coming, thought to be a pseudo Syrah with additional notes of currants, clove and vanilla; I find them more often distinct in their own right and offering far less oomph than Syrah can. But they are often just the thing to scratch the itch at a very reasonable price. Carignane can be wonderful, but I prefer to enjoy it when dinner's up, rather than at the bar with friends. I find it too dry, earthy and edgy without a bit of food on hand.

Any which way you look at it, the key thing is context. Do you want to sip something easy like a bit of Zweigelt while you chat with friends? Do you prefer something more familiar but still adventurous (like an Assyritko) to take the edge off a long day? Or do you crave a bit more body in your wine as you snack throughout the evening? If you're unsure you can either start with a bit of bubbly or white wine to get the ball rolling - and you can always ask your bartender for a recommendation to suit your mood!

Half the fun of wine is where you  are, what you're doing or who you are with. It's worth a touch of experiment; don't you agree?

Comment

1 Comment

wine exploration: Bierzo and Mencia

Bierzo, SpainWere you nerdy about wine in 2006? If so, you probably read a few articles about Bierzo, or the indigenous grape varietal they cultivate there (Mencia). Maybe you even tasted it. (It was considered "up and coming" at the time - and perhaps it still is, though I've only ever tasted a handful of Bierzo/Mencia wines since.) I became a fan of Mencia back then, having sampled a wine from Bierzo at  my shop's annual Fall Grand Wine Tasting event. I ended up with half a case of Dominio de Tares Baltos.  Since then I've fallen off the Bierzo wagon.  I was simply ready for new adventures once I finished my 6 bottles.

But as my co-worker and I continue to reevaluate and revisit the 1200 or so facings we have on our shelves, I found the Baltos again and decided to give it a whirl once more.

Bierzo is a fairly small wine-producing region located in the Northwest of Spain, quite close to Portugal. After the phylloxera epidemic killed most of the vines in the late 19th Century, economic crisis made it additionally difficult for Spanish winemaking to bounce back. But when they did in Bierzo, locals stayed true to their roots (no pun intended) and grafted Mencia vines, the dominant, native red grape varietal there. Bierzo became its own Denominacion de Origin in 1989. By then they were producing wines using more modern techniques to celebrate the best of their local varietals.

I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed when I retasted the Baltos. I was hoping for a wine with a bit of lift, as we like to say, something with red fruit flavors, a touch of earth and something... unique, I suppose. I remembered the Baltos as being distinctly versatile, pairing with a variety of foods and satisfying many people's taste buds. What I found was aromas of brett, or a barnyard essence with a touch more "funk" than simply walking into a real barn (a smell I actually cherish  in a wine). Brett isn't a fault, per se (though it is controversial), but I was hoping for violets, black raspberries and sweet plums. The palate delivered a touch of black plum fruit, but its leather earthiness dominated. A gentle bite of licorice filled the back palette. The wine wasn't bad, but it wasn't doing it for me either.

Perhaps it was palette fatigue at the end of a long day tasting and evaluating 75 or so wines for the shop, but the bottom line is, I was underwhelmed.

As I discussed at the outset, Bierzo was considered an up-and-coming region just a few years ago. I write about this 'designation' often enough. The thing is, Mencia/Bierzo doesn't seem to have taken off - at least not here in Greater Boston. Frankly, I've tasted very little Mencia offerings. I'm not in a position to judge them as a whole one way or the other. But I am curious:

How many of you are familiar with the Mencia grape and what is your experience with these wines?

1 Comment