I was asked recently what wines I served over the holidays to guests and friends, and what I might be looking to drink in the new year.Two good questions for someone who writes a wine column.
I will answer the second question first.
I consider myself a “explorer” when it comes to learning about wine, so I never limit what passes through my palate for any varietal. The wine world is remarkable. All countries are producing quality products, and it would be foolish from my standpoint to shut off any corner — whether it be Chile, Spain, South Africa or even Italy and France — to focus on one group of winemakers or terroir. I love discovery and you should too if you enjoy drinking and sharing wine “finds” with others. That said, I will not ignore value. In the year ahead, I will continue to seek out the best buys for the money. Quality does matter, and sometimes it comes at a price. Overall, though, I believe it is foolish to overpay for a bottle of wine. People who can afford to drink the 2010 Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon at $125 a bottle are welcome to do so. But I’ll be stocking up on the 2010 Rule Cabernet ($16) which is rated 92 points by the CellarTracker community or the fine rich reds coming out of Washington State’s Columbia Valley (Hogue, 14 Hands, Columbia Crest, Darby).
Now if there is one area of education in which I am headed in 2014 it is France. I will devote more time this year learning how to read a wine label from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace, the Languedoc and other wine-producing regions. Basically, I’m hoping to further my appreciation of a wine country that totally confuses me.
So what did I serve over the holidays?
The highlight was a dinner party for Sun editors where we dined on braised short ribs and vegetable risotto made by Patti Stella, the owner of Centro Restaurant in Lowell. The hearty meal was exquisite and it needed a big, muscular red to accentuate the beef and rich beet and carrot demiglase sauce. I dug into the cellar for two bottles of 2006 and 2007 Barbaresco from Italy’s Piedmonte region. What a fantastic grape, Nebbiolo, which is the core for the more expensive Barolo, and is also the primary varietal for Barbaresco, This is a luscious, long lasting wine with big black berry flavors that fuse with raspberry, hints of licorice and leather and smoke. Layers of complexity. My guests, some of whom were trying Barbaresco for the first time, were delighted by it. It’s the best compliment a host and hostess can receive.
You can find a decent Barbaresco at $20. Morandi comes to mind. The Produttori del Barbaresco which I served costs, on average, about $34 a bottle and is worth cellaring for a special occasion.