This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Monday, Oct. 27, 2008 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20081027.php.
The Reale thing
Before any of us get too excited about the prospect of U.S. shelf prices on high-end European wines dropping back within reason, let's remember a couple of grim realities.
First, of course, is this deadly serious matter: We're looking at an international banking, real-estate and financial mess here that has no bottom in sight and could spin the world into a deep recession or even the first Depression since the big one of 1929. Such a situation culd make such trivial matters as expensive wine quite irrelevant.
But even if we luck out this time and pass through the turmoil with most of us relatively unscathed, bear in mind that wine takes a long time to come through the pipeline, and prices rarely go down as quickly as they rise. It took a couple of years for the impact of the rising Euro to reach retail shelves with full impact. Chances are that any decline won't come with lightning speed.
For the duration, let's be glad if we still have disposable income to spend on wine at all. And you can count on this publication (assuming we can afford to keep putting it out!) to keep you posted about the relatively affordable wines that taste like they're pricey.
Like today's wine, for instance: Ambra 2006 Barco Reale di Carmignano, a fairly priced $13 in this market, may be the "little brother" of Tuscany's Carmignano, made from younger vines for earlier consumption, it legitimately meets the criteria for a "Super Tuscan," blending up to 80 percent of the traditional Chianti grapes Sangiovese (50%), Canaiolo and Malvasia (30%) with as much as 20 percent of the international Cabernet Franc or Cabernet Sauvignon.
A relatively modern Tuscan wine region, established only in 1994, Barco Reale occupies and is named after the royal hunting reserve of the Medici family, rulers of Florence and its surroundings during the Renaissance era.
Barco Reale can be a wine of real value, sharing with its Tuscan cousins an exceptional food-friendliness; it's ready to drink at release but will benefit from at least short-term cellaring. My tasting notes are below.
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Ambra 2006 Barco Reale di Carmignano ($12.99)
Dark garnet with a reddish-violet edge. Plums and spice, a distinct earthy "tree-bark" note behind the fruit. Fresh and bright red-fruit flavor, medium-bodied and nicely structured with snappy acidity that lingers. Pleasant, well-balanced, with relatively rational 13.5% alcohol, a good food wine. U.S. importer: Vintner Select, Mason, Ohio; A Marc de Grazia Selection. (Oct. 21, 2008)
FOOD MATCH: It might seem a cliche for a rustic Italian red, but spaghetti and meatballs with fresh-tomato sauce did make a fine match.
VALUE: This lower-teens price is a good buy for Barco Reale, which appears to sell at most U.S. retailers between $12 and $16
WHEN TO DRINK: Ready to enjoy now with a good food match, but it could use two or three years' cellar time and should hold in a good cellar for 8 to 10 years after the vintage.
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Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. However, we're skipping some editions at this point, and the Wine Advisor FoodLetter, customarily distributed on Thursdays, has been on break. I hope to resume it before long.
Bubbly and popcorn! (Oct 24, 2008)
Winning claret (Oct. 20, 2008)
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