Archives for: November 2010, 29
Some people report problems with many red wines: Headaches and the like. Often this is a matter of tannins, in which case it's a good idea to experiment with the low-tannin, more quaffable reds. Hint: If Beaujolais Nouveau (harvested a mere 3-8 WEEKS before release) doesn't upset you, your problem could very well be a matter of tannins.
But, hey, maybe you do well with ANY red wine, but you're looking for something you can drink shortly after it's released, not having a cellar or collection, or not being a wine connoisseur...What you'd want, therefore, is a red wine that is low in tannins, which means it's easy to drink young. Red wines that are heavy on the tannins take years to "grow into" them; tannins are what provide "structure" to these cellarable and complex elixirs.
But if the simpler quaffs are the ones you want (and these are, in fact, more food-friendly than the Big Boys), look at the other Beaujolais, especially since "Nouveau" or "Primeur" is out of date within just a few months of release!
(1) The top: Cru Beaujolais, meaning the 10 villages accorded this status. Crus are the longest-lived, generally, of the Beau's, some more than others. A great Morgon or Moulin-à-Vent is sometimes compared with Burgundy, being the most highly structured (tannins!) of the Crus; therefore these can lie down for 3-8 years. Although: I had a fantastic Moulin-à-Vent a few months ago, a 2003 (a FABULOUS year for Beaujolais) that would have been just right for the tannin-avoider. Perfect, in fact. Even elegant, which many wine snobs would never say about a Beaujolais (Fine, all the more for me). The other 8 Crus are nice, too, at 1-3 years.
(2) The Beaujolais-Villages: One step down from Cru, and one up from straight Beauj. In a good year, these can be every bit as good as Cru.
(3) Beaujolais: This is what the People drink, and it's good enough for me, if it's good enough. But definitely drink it within 1 to 1-1/2 years of bottling.
Now take a look at some of your Cabernet Francs: I've enjoyed Saumur-Champigny, Chinon and Bourgueuil, all from the Loire region of France. These are, also, drinkable young. If you're inclined to try a Cab. Franc from another region, go ahead!
Crozes-Hermitage, some New World Merlot (New World=Southern Hemisphere and Western Hemisphere)(this category includes thousands and thousands of wines), and some Bordeaux that are skewed toward Merlot/Cabernet Franc (rather than Cabernet Sauvignon, which is more tannin-heavy)(ask the knowledgeable seller, if the proportions are not listed on the back label, which labelling is becoming more prevalent as consumers become more savvy), St-Josèph, Vacqueyras, and Côtes du Rhône: All available young (under 3 years old).
From Spain, the Garnacha is generally easy and fruity, and often is harvested from old vines; and some Tempranillo is easy-drinking as well. Try the Garnacha, and if you prefer something somewhat more refined, look for it blended with Tempranillo (should be stated on the label, front or back), and it should be pretty easy on you, tannin-wise, as well as money-wise.
From Italy, try Bardolino and Valpolicella, drinkable ONLY young, really. There's always Chianti, as well as Nebbiolo d'Albi, and Barbera d'Alba (some).
Finally, don't ignore the Pinks! These are meant to be drunk as close to harvest-time as possible, talk about tannin-freeness. Don't laugh at the thought, as if Pinks are for...teenagers or "girls". There are exciting pinks being made today...some have a transparent red-pinkness to them, and I highly suggest you experiment with these if tannin is your problem. My all-time favorite in this category has long been Domaine Tempier (Bandol), but I'm royally miffed that they keep raising the price, to the point where a beloved quaff is now a "special treat" (Sorry, but I find $24 for a bottle of Pink a bit steep! But at least it shows you the "seriousness" of the category). I love an organic pink coming out of Argentina's famous Malbec crop: It's under the Familia Zuccardi label and is available in the US at Whole Foods Market for something like $8. (When I first tried it, it was on sale for $6: Talk about low-risk, and I high-tailed it back there and bought more, after having tasted it). This wine wordlessly answers the question "How can a wine be really, really fruity with LOW residual sugar?", a common one among the uninitiated.
Now: Don't be afraid of white wine. ALL of it is tannin-free. And there are some superb combinations with food, with which you'd never usually consider white the right accompaniment. If there is demand, I'll share white wine tips with you soon. Otherwise, I'll keep them a secret.