Liquid Assets

Best wine discoveries of the past few months

Over the last few months, I've tasted enough wine to wish for a nice, cold Lone Star, but there's good news: I really didn't taste anything offensive. There is such a glut of wine in the world that the really bad wines are being sifted out before they ever hit the marketplace, and most of what finally makes its way to the shelves of Grape Vine Market and Twin Liquors and Central Market and all the other reputable wine sellers in town is perfectly drinkable.

In fact, the quality bar has been elevated so sufficiently that your only real risk is paying too much for a wine that is simply a faceless, mediocre, corporate bottle of juice. Inoffensive, mind you, but now is the time we need to start sifting and looking for the real gems.

Despite the weak dollar/euro ratio, a lot of great bargains are coming from Europe. Things are so bad over there that a lot of their table wine is being refined and used as fuel! The bottom line for us is the wines that used to be selling at low prices aren't even making it to the market anymore, and the medium-priced wines have been shifted down in price.

One of the best Cavas I've tasted from Spain in several years is Mont-Marçal's Brut Extremarium ($18), a big, sharp wine with intense bubbles and rich citrus, peach, and yeasty aromas. This is really about as good as Cava gets, and a real shot across the bow of Champagne.

A few hundred kilometers north, 2003 Domaine de Nizas' Carignan Vieilles Vignes ($16) is a neat response to all those winemakers who claim you can't make a good wine from the Carignan grape. This wine is rich, fruity, complex, and exudes aromas that will remind you of the classic cuisine of the southwest part of France. In fact, we recently went to a little dinner for six where the main course was Toulouse-style Cassoulet, and this wine was absolutely ideal.

Masi has been making excellent wine in Valpolicella for six generations, but they also make wines in partnership with Count Serego Alighieri, a descendent of a fair poet named Dante Alghieri. Dante's vineyards and grounds have been in the family since 1353, and, for their 650th anniversary (!) they've come up with a real winner. The 2003 Serego Alighieri Possessioni Bianco del Veneto I.G.T. ($16) is a blend of 70% Garganega and 30% Sauvignon Blanc. Unlike most European white wines, this serves equally as an aperitif or with food (especially lightly sauced seafood). And, unlike most Sauvignon Blanc, this sees a little time in oak barrels, so you get just a hint of vanilla. Very nice stuff.

The last wine I want to tell you about is a miracle in a bottle given its price. The pick of the quarter is Stonehaven Winemaker's Selection Shiraz 2003 ($13), a big mouthful of plummy, jammy wine with a huge hit of black pepper aroma and just enough alcohol bite to make it a delicious addition to any slow-cooked meat. We had it with lamb shanks, and it made magic.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

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