From the Houston Press comes this enticing recommendation from globe trotter Jeremy Parzen, who submitted this post from a strike plagued Greek airport. This wine, Chateau Graville-Lacoste, was also a Wine of the Week in the Dallas News in April – Somebody must really like this wine! And with triple-digit weather, it doesn’t take a weatherman to know value and taste go hand-in-hand.
Winemaker Hervé Dubourdieu is widely recognized as one of the great producers of Sauternes, the “noble rot” dried-grape wine of Bordeaux, where grape growers let the fungus botrytis grow on their late-harvest fruit, thus desiccating the berries and concentrating their sugar and flavors.
But on a long, hot summer night of a Texas June, I don’t reach for Hervé’s sweet, viscous nectar, in part because its price makes it a “special occasion” wine in our home, and in part because it’s a wine that I reserve for pairing with ripe aged cheeses during the fall and winter (I’ve already consumed a lifetime’s allocation of foie gras, and so I’ll leave that classic pairing to the fat cats who like that kinda stuff).
Instead, I search out his dry Graville-Lacoste, a wine made from the same grapes that go into his top wines. In this case, the blend is predominantly Sémillon, which gives it wonderful steely minerality and bright acidity. A smaller amount of Sauvignon Blanc gives the wine a gentle aromatic character that marries well with gentle spiciness, like the freshly cracked pepper that I sprinkled over a dish of short pasta, pancetta, and peas the other night.
You’ll find this wine for less than $20 at Kroger, Central Market, Whole Foods, and Top Shelf Wine and Spirits (ed. note: Spec’s too!). And don’t be fooled by its reasonable price: The wine is as elegant as its classic Bordelaise label (which makes it one of my favorite wines to take as a gift to a dinner party).
From the Wine Curmudgeon comes this domestic field blend recommendation from the always-grounded writer, Jeff Siegel. Read on…
Twenty years ago, when the Wine Curmudgeon started writing about cheap wine, there were dozens of red wines called field blends. The term dates to the early days of California wine making, when the same vineyard was planted with different grapes and it was often difficult to tell which was which. Zinfandel might be mixed with petite sirah, which might be mixed with carignane. There were two reasons for this: First, the early days were long before DNA testing, and grapes look alike, even to experts. Second, it really didn’t matter what the grapes were, since the winemaker was trying to make red wine, not a specific kind of red wine. (See Gallo’s legendary Hearty Burgundy.)
These days, the cheap field blend is mostly gone. Consumers are leery of wine that doesn’t have a varietal name on the label (though they seem more than willing to accept a wine labeled as pinot noir that doesn’t taste like pinot noir and has 24.9 percent syrah or grenache in it). The Marietta, though, carries on — the 53 ($12, purchased) is an old-fashioned field blend, mostly zindandel. As such, it’s non-vintage, which means the grapes have been harvested in different years. Since a field blend is about blending, vintage doesn’t really make much difference.
The Marietta isn’t quite as rough as it was in the old days (a quality I missed, actually), and it was a little sweetish when I opened up the bottle. But the longer it was open, the more zinfandel-like it became, with red fruit and black pepper. There wasn’t a lot of depth, but it’s well made and solid throughout. It’s exactly the kind of wine for a Fourth of July barbecue.
Note: The 53 is a previous vintage, so you’ll probably be able to find it for as little as $9 or $10. On other hand, when I was looking for it in Dallas, some retailers wanted as much as $15. Go figure.