If ornithologists keep detailed "life lists" of all the birds they see, why shouldn't oenophiles do the same with wine?
As I pointed out nearly five years ago in one of the first editions of The 30 Second Wine Advisor, oenophilia (wine appreciation) is just as much a hobby as ornithology (bird watching). If a noted bird watcher like Roger Tory Peterson - who is to aviary matters as Robert M. Parker Jr. is to things vinous - can keep detailed "life lists" of the birds he sees and where he saw them, why shouldn't wine enthusiasts do the same with the wines we taste?
I always bring an extra sense of anticipation to the first bottle of wine from a country or region I haven't experienced before, or when I taste a wine made from a grape I haven't previously encountered. That tart and tangy Japanese Cabernet I tried in Kyoto, a nondescript Peruvian red served with dinner in Cuzco or the odd Croatian red with an unpronounceable name stand out in my palate's memory, not because they were great but because they were different. They illustrate the near-infinite diversity that makes wine more interesting than any other beverage.
Which brings us around to the wine reports I'd like to share with you today, both of which come from well off the world's more traveled wine roads.
The first is a naturally sparkling wine from Limoux, in Southwestern France, where the locals claim to have solved the secret of putting bubbles into wine long before those latecomers in Champagne came along. The standard wine of the region, Blanquette de Limoux, is offbeat enough, but this one goes a step further yet: Blanquette Methode Ancestrale is made from the indigenous Mauzac grape by an ancient process not unlike home-brewed beer: The fermenting wine is bottled before all its natural sugar has been consumed by the still-living yeast, setting up the conditions for an intentional second fermentation in the bottle that creates a fizzy carbonation and adds earthy, yeasty flavors in a very light (6 percent alcohol) and fruity wine.
Our second wine comes from Alto Adige in far Northern Italy, where German is as widely spoken as Italian and the grape under study goes by the alternative names of Moscato Giallo or Goldmuskateller (both of which, by the way, simply mean "Yellow Muscat"). Although the grape's colorful name is based on the yellow-gold color of the ripe fruit on the vine, a bit of the color communicates itself in the wine as well, which shows a lovely perfumed delicacy and - in this bottling, if not universally - was vinified crisp and bone-dry.
Tell us your favorite odd varieties!
Le Propriétaire "Fruité" Blanquette Methode Ancestrale ($13.99)
This clear, straw-colored wine is lightly sparkling, foaming up with a brief, frothy mousse that falls back quickly, leaving no visible stream of bubbles in the glass. Fresh and distinctly appley aroma notes add earthy nuances that seem to blend leesy hints of yeast with a clean, woody scent of natural cork. Some lingering carbonation shows as a prickly sensation on the tongue, adding dimension to a crisp, slightly sweet apple-juice flavor. Not a wine of great depth, but a fine quaff or warm-weather aperitif. U.S. importer: Toad Hollow, Healdsburg, Calif. (Oct. 23, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: Went well enough with savory potato pancakes, and its prickly carbonation, sweetness and low alcohol might make it go unusually well with hot-and-spicy fare. As noted, though, it's probably best as a summer sipping wine or aperitif.
VALUE: Worth the mid-teens price to try it once for your wine-variety "life list," but for regular consumption I'd rather pay a few dollars less.
WHEN TO DRINK: Meant for current consumption, but its earthy character should help it hold up for a reasonable period in the cellar or wine rack.
WEB LINK: Toad Hollow has a page about a similar Blanquette that they label as "Risque," at
Gries 2001 Alto Adige Moscato Giallo ($9.99)
Very clear and very pale, the wine shows a light golden glow to justify the varietal name, which translates as "Yellow Muscat." Very pleasant scents of wildflowers and almonds mingle in an aroma profile more delicate than I expect of Muscat. You might expect a wine that smells so perfumed to taste sweet, but this one surprises with a fresh flavor that's bone-dry, with delicate white-fruit flavors shaped by crisp, gentle acidity. U.S. importer: Summa Vitis LLC, Sonoma, Calif; Matthew Fioretti Selections. (Oct. 22, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: Good match with a savory, pleasantly bitter vegetarian radicchio and red-onion risotto.
VALUE: Good value.
WHEN TO DRINK: Drink soon ... its fresh delicacy won't last forever.
WEB LINK: The importer's Website is here:
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Friday, Oct. 24, 2003