30 Second Wine Advisor: Ugni's not ugly

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In This Issue

 Ugni's not ugly
Ugni Blanc - the French version of Trebbiano that's mostly used to make Cognac - turns up occasionally in a modest white wine that can be worth a second look.
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 Domaine de Pouy 2005 Vin de Pays des Cotes de Gascogne ($11)
This Gascon white is full of juicy, snappy citrus flavors and very tart acidity that makes it a fine food match, but it's less of a buy when the rising Euro pushes it over $10.
 This week on WineLoversPage.com
Randy Caparoso offers a thorough tutorial on Chianti and Super Tuscans, and François Andouze talks about very old wines on our Internet radio TalkShoe. On our forums, we talk about our current wine fascinations, and poll your preferences for cork, screw cap or synthetic.
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Ugni's not ugly

Last month, when I raved about the impressive white wines of Italy's Lugana region on the south shore of Lake Garda, I mentioned that the Luganese proudly assert that the Trebbiano grape used in the local wine is, well, different from the Trebbiano that's widely grown and casually produced across most of Italy.

Frankly, most Italian Trebbiano (and the identical French grape Ugni Blanc, which was most likely exported from Italy to France when the Catholic papacy moved to Avignon during the 1400s) is lightly regarded at best.

Indeed, in her excellent Oxford Companion to Wine, British wine scribe Jancis Robinson asserts that the Trebbiano of Lugana (and of nearby Soave) isn't Trebbiano at all but a synonym for Verdicchio, a grape of considerably greater luster.

True Trebbiano, on the other hand, is nearly ubiquitous - Robinson asserts that, when we consider all the Trebbiano and Ugni Blanc grown in Italy and France (and Argentina, which happily adopted the variety), it may be the world's most widely vinified white grape, surpassing the Spanish Airén in production if not acreage.

But most of it, frankly, doesn't amount to much. Speaking of Trebbiano, Robinson says, "It is, like most copiously produced wines, low in extract and character," albeit "usefully high in acidity." Indeed, the lion's share of French Ugni Blanc is never sold at retail but used as the base wine for distillation into Cognac, the world-renowned, strong grape-based liquor of Gascony.

A few Gascogne producers, however, do turn Ugni Blanc into a dry table wine, and some of those have achieved a following based on decent, drinkable quality (if not great character) at an affordable price.

One of the best of these is Domaine de Pouy, a crisp and snappy white that blends Ugni Blanc with Colombard, another lightly regarded white variety. Producer Yves Grassa makes it primarily for U.S. sale through importer Robert Kacher. It's handled with exceptional care, cool-fermented to retain its fruit, kept three months on its yeast lees to impart complexity and never touched by oak.

The 2005 vintage - now closed with a sturdy metal screw cap replacing the synthetic stopper used in recent past years - is now widely available, and the fresh new 2006 will be arriving soon. It's a fine potable for a hot summer day, with or without a meal, but as noted in my tasting report below, like all white wines it shows a bit more complexity and richness at cool cellar temperature, not ice cold.

Domaine de Pouy 2005 Vin de Pays des Cotes de Gascogne ($11)

Domaine de Pouy

Clear, pale straw color, with distinct citrus aromas - lime, mostly, and a dash of tangerine - with a background note of fresh herbs. Flavors are consistent with the nose, snappy citrus shaped by sharp, cleansing acidity that makes it a natural food wine. Its mouth-watering character makes it a natural to serve cold as a refresher on a spring or summer day, but allowing it to warm in the glass opens up a bit more complexity and texture, and unveils a pleasant bitter-almond character in the long finish. U.S. importer: Robert Kacher Selections, Washington, D.C. (May 13, 2007)

FOOD MATCH: Its tart citrus flavors and sharp acidity might overpower more delicate fare, but it's fine as a counterbalance to richer poultry or fish dishes including my choice, a roast chicken infused with fresh tarragon and sauced with a tarragon-Dijon bechamel.

VALUE: Long a "QPR" favorite for well under $10, it's still fair if not quite such a bargain at the $11 I've been paying locally for the past couple of years. Shopping around may pay dividends, though, as Wine-Searcher.com finds it for as little as $6 in some regions.

WHEN TO DRINK: It's not meant for long-term aging, but the modern-style metal screw cap that closes the 2005 vintage will keep it longer on the screw cap than the plastic stopper used in recent editions. Note that the 2006 is already coming into the market, and should be comparable in style with the added benefit of freshness.

Ugni Blanc = "Oon-yee BlahN"
Pouy = "P'wee"
Gascogne = "Gahs-co-n'yuh"

Domaine de Pouy is "wine of the month" on importer Robert Kacher's Website, so you'll find an article about it at this link during May 2007. (Thereafter, try searching the Kacher site for "Pouy."

Check prices and find vendors for Domaine de Pouy on Wine-Searcher.com:

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This week on WineLoversPage.com

Randy's World of Wine: Chianti - as old as the hills, as high as fashion
When you think of Chianti, do you visualize a wicker-wrapped bottle of "spaghetti red," Hannibal Lecter's choice with liver, or, perhaps, a sleek, modern and high-fashion Italian wine? Randy Caparoso catches us up on Chianti in this latest article in his "World of Wine" series.

Our Internet radio "TalkShoe": Vintage talk, and more
A special guest brought unusual excitement to last week's Internet Radio TalkShow as we welcomed Parisian wine lover François Andouze, a man who has tasted hundreds of ancient vintages back to the 1700s. Now streaming audio is available so it's easier than ever to listen to this show (and all past editions)! Click to tune it in ...
Next week's topic: All about buying wine online, E-tailers, clubs and auctions. To participate in the TalkShoe, now at a new time for your convenience, you can call in live on Saturday, May 19, at 1 p.m. US EDT (19:00 in Western Europe). For all the details, click to the TalkShoe page,

WineLovers Discussion Group: What's your current wine fascination?
We all go through phases in our love of wine. We try a little of this and a little of that. Then along comes a magic bottle, an old friend or a new discovery that casts a spell. You start paying extra attention to this grape or growing area, and you can't get enough of it. What's your current fascination? Share it with fellow wine lovers in this long and interesting conversation on our WineLovers Discussion Group.

Netscape WineLovers Community Poll: Preferred closure
Let's sample current opinion about the natural cork versus alternative wine closures by asking the usual question in a different way: Ignoring all other variables, if you had to choose just one type of closure, would it be natural cork, screw cap or synthetic stopper? Tell us your bottom-line preference in this week's Netscape/CompuServe Community poll!

Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:

 Exploring Burgundy - Mercurey (May 11, 2006)

 When wine makers visit (May 9, 2006)

 Wine Focus - Grüner Veltliner (May 7, 2006)

 Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

 Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Indian-style spinach with curry meatballs (May 10, 2006)

 Wine Advisor Foodletter archive: