Monday, February 16, 2009

Romantic Wines You Gotta Love

I’ll bet you thought I was going to write about wines that go with chocolate. Actually there are too many wines that go well with chocolate, but don’t show up as well with more conventional foods. Besides, man does not live by chocolate alone. If that was the case Russell Stover would have been the first billionaire. Is that even a guy?

What about the meal that precedes the dessert, however? That is where your wine should shine, and if it pairs with dessert, so much the better. I actually had a wine that did that, a Brunello di Montalcino that my wife and I shared for our 25th anniversary, which is also a high-romance affair. Since Italians are big on romance, let’s take a virtual trip there to make our wine selections.

The two areas to focus on among the many types of Italian wine are Tuscany and Piedmont. Almost as a name, Tuscany conjures up romance, from the hilltop capped towns and villages to the lush countryside redolent with grape clusters. Chianti is king here, made primarily using the Sangiovese grape. A more select area is designated for Chianti Classico, where the better wine comes from. The summit for Chianti is the rich Chianti Reserva that taste like nothing that came in a wicker basket. To taste a Reserva is to fall in love with Chianti all over again.

Of course if you want the ultimate expression of love in the glass, then go for a Brunello di Montalcino, which comes from the town of Montalcino, using a special clone of the Sangiovese grape. These wines are not released until at least five years after the vintage date, so don’t expect a young wine. They aren’t cheap, either, but the laws of supply and demand work against you here. There is very little supply (Montalcino is not a big area), and lots of demand. But if it’s to share with your loved one, why not?

Piedmont is home to the Barbera and Nebbiolo grapes, and both make great wine, including Barbera d’Asti and Barbaresco. Closer to home, however, you can have your wine and not pay the high import costs these days. Even Trader Joe is charging more for them now. Instead take a tour of Luna Rossa in Deming, or order online any of Paolo D’ Andrea’s wonderful Italian wines. The wines he makes from Barbera, Sangiovese, Dolcetto, and Nebbiolo grapes are all good, earthy, fruit-forward wines. Your local wine shop probably has his 2004 Nini blend if you can’t wait for UPS. Salut!

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