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Today's Wine Tasting Note

© Copyright 1997 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

Red and white with fish
I threw together a quick cioppino tonight, a San Francisco-Italian fish stew, akin to a bouillabaise, featuring a variety of fish and seafood (scrod, tilapia, tuna, shrimp and mussels in this case, cooked in a spicy tomato sauce with green peppers, garlic and onions. This seemed like an obvious opportunity for a precedent-bending red wine with fish, and with pals coming over for dinner, I decided to open both a red and a white so we could compare and contrast.

The experiment worked, and so did both wines in terms of marrying with the cioppino; but I'm sorry to say that I found both wines a little disappointing.

Ruffino 1995 "Aziano" Chianti Classico ($11.99)
Dark ruby in color. Black-cherry and caramel aromas, pleasant at first, segue into a less-than-pleasant "dirty socks" quality that's hard to get past after an hour's exposure to the air. Cherry fruit and lemon-squirt acidity at first. Before it began to fall apart, I rated it "accessible, but on the simple side for a $12 wine." After its change in the glass, it's no value at any price. U.S. importer: Schieffelin & Somerset Co., NYC. (Jan. 9, 1998)

FOOD MATCH: This simple, fruity red worked very well with the spicy tomato sauce, and didn't have the tannins that are sometimes problematic with fish. It seemed to play a particularly enticing tune with the mussels and the bits of fresh tuna, and quite frankly was a good bit more enjoyable with the food than alone.

Louis M. Martini non-vintage "Louis' Blend" California White Table Wine ($5.89)
Clear straw color. Sharp, pungent pine-needle and "petrol" flavors strongly suggest that Riesling is the dominant grape in this undisclosed blend. Tart apples and piney flavors follow the nose; it's slightly sweet, but with ample acidity for balance. That piney-petrol quality is intriguing, but almost too over-the-top for enjoyment, especially with food. (Jan. 9, 1998)

FOOD MATCH: The intensely aromatic flavors and slight sweetness make this wine serve best as an aperitif than with any food, I think. But in its defense, it didn't war with the spicy, flavorful fish stew, and probably worked better than a wimpier white might have done.

All my wine-tasting reports are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores.

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