Change of pace
As much as I pay lip service to offbeat grape varieties and wines from unusual and out-of-the-way places, I'm just as likely as anyone else to get into a wine rut. Turn me loose in a wine shop, and I'll probably come out with a bag full of the wines that I've loved from the start: Dry, hearty red table wines made from familiar grapes in the familiar regions of Italy and Southern France.
Sure, an occasional Turkish Kavklidere or Calabrian Fiano d'Avellino or even a Russian Rkatseteli might briefly turn my head. But more often than not, it's back to the usual suspects. Ho hum!
Even if I weren't writing about wine for 50,000 readers who expect variety, I think it's a good idea to break out of whatever rut you're in from time to time; and if there's a moral in today's sermon, I'll recommend the same to you: One of these days soon, try something different in your next glass of wine. I think you'll enjoy the change of pace ... and if nothing else, it might sharpen your appreciation when you return to your favorites.
Suiting action to words, for today's tasting I moved from red to white and traveled from Europe to the far-away Antipodes to try a fine Riesling from a relatively new, promising wine region, Mount Barker, in Western Australia on the subcontinent's southwestern corner.
Made from "free-run" juice, the first sweet liquid that flows from the just-picked grapes without pressing, cold-fermented and closed under a squeaky-clean Stelvin-brand screwcap, this 2003 vintage wine is just about as fresh as Riesling gets. It's no lightweight tea-party wine, though, but a rich, almost unctuous white that balances luscious fruit with steely acidity. A fine wine, and a natural match with a wide range of Asian and Pacific Rim fare.
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Plantagenet 2003 Mount Barker Riesling ($13.99)
Clear, pale-gold in color, this Western Australia wine comes in a tall, dark-green Mosel-style bottle sealed with a modern screw cap. Classic Riesling aromas leap from the glass, ripe mango and peach scents marrying with aromatic pine and a back note of that odd but pleasant minerally "petrol" character that's characteristic of the variety. Flavors are consistent with the nose, full-bodied and almost oily in texture, dry or nearly so, with tart, steely acidity shaping fresh white fruit. A citric touch of lime persists in a long, clean finish. U.S. importer: Robert Whale Selections, Washington, D.C. (Jan. 20, 2005)
FOOD MATCH: A fine match with both the seafood and the bold Asian flavor accents in my rendition of a Cantonese classic, shrimp with lobster sauce.
VALUE: Very good value at this low-teens price.
WHEN TO DRINK: Riesling is one of the most ageworthy of white varieties, and this Australian beauty's structure, body and balance suggest it's a good one for the long haul, especially with the sturdy screwcap to keep it clean. Fine now, but assuming good cellar conditions, it would be intriguing to try holding a few for five or even 10 years.
The U.S. importer's site is here:
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Friday, Jan. 21, 2005