A reader wrote in the other day to take note of last week’s review of an inexpensive Bordeaux for everyday drinking (fortunately he liked the wine) and to ask a question: Just what did I mean when I described it as “accessible”?
He’s not the first to ask that question and it got me thinking about what I’ll call “wine speak.” There’s too much of it in the wine business, including wine criticism, and I’ll certainly raise my hand and plead guilty to an occasional lapse into this jargon, although I’ve made it a point — a mission, in fact, — to describe the wines I showcase in clear, conversational terms. I’ll try to redouble that effort this year.
Now to that word “accessible” and on to this week’s wine. I used it to describe a wine you can enjoy now, without the need for extended aging. That’s because the fruit had emerged well and the tannins — the microscopic parts of wine that come from the skins and other solid parts of the grape and give wine structure and what some people call a “chewy” quality — were relatively soft and didn’t dominate the wine.
Which brings me to a delicious and interesting $13 red from Italy, the 2005 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from La Valentina. Although you might not realize it, almost everything about this wine is on the label: It’s from the up-and-coming Abruzzo region of central Italy; the grape is montepulciano, the area’s dominant red, and the winery is La Valentina, which has been in business since 1990.
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To refresh my memory, I consulted my well-worn copy of “Vino Italiano,” by Joseph Bastianich and David Lynch, who describe montepulciano as “like a forgotten little brother among the big boys, taking a back seat to sangiovese and aglianico in central and southern Italy the way dolcetto and barbera take a back seat to nebbiolo in Piedmont.”
If it lacks the charm of sangiovese (let’s say a good Chianti Classico from Tuscany), the slightly more rugged montepulciano matches perfectly, as I found with La Valentina’s wine, with big, cold-weather meals like a sausage and tomato sauce I like to make, and the white bean and pasta soup called pasta fagioli, with which I also enjoyed it. The big, dark, fruity wine was not about to be overpowered.
That fruit shows mainly as blackberry and blueberry with some herb and spice notes and an earthy quality that is the probably the soul of the montepulciano variety. Adding to its fruit-forward style is the fact that most of the wine is aged in stainless steel and concrete vats, with only 15 percent of the blend aged in oak.
It is, you might say, another accessible wine.
Edward Deitch is the recipient of the 2007 James Beard Foundation Journalism Award for Best Multimedia Writing. He welcomes comments from readers. Write to him at email@example.com
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