Bottled Up

Sometimes in our search for "great" wines we can overlook the "good" everyday wines

Great wines come from great places. But sometimes in our search for the great, we can overlook the value of the good. Great wines are expensive; few can enjoy a reserve Napa Cabernet or Burgundy as an “everyday” wine. How, then, can the wine lover find good wines with the character of great ones?

Look for wines made from “declassified” grapes, or grapes from great vineyards that didn’t go into a winery’s premier bottling. Or, search for wines that rise above their modest pedigree, resembling more the essence of great-vineyard wines.

Neither will have the concentration of their big brothers, but they will share, we hope, their character; that je ne sais quoi of great wines. They also have the virtue of being drinkable now and are more often flexible at the table. Since few wineries market their wine this way, the best way to find these is to ask your trusted wine merchant.

Strub Riesling Kabinett
Niersteiner Bruckchen, Rheinhessen, Germany, 2007, $18
From the red soil Bruckchen vineyard, this shows Nierstein’s classic smoke and peachiness. Starts sweet, finishes dry, with remarkable complexity. Fantastic with pork chops and applesauce.

Vietti Nebbiolo “Perbacco”
Langhe, Piedmont, Italy, 2006, $24
Grapes are sourced from Barolo vineyards, and this shows Barolo’s trademark violets, plums and sweet earth. Snappy and supple, use as you would Pinot Noir and enjoy with snapper smothered with olive oil, sweet peppers and olives.

Jannase Cotes du Rhone “Argile”
France, 2005, $24
Roughly equal parts Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre, this resembles more a Chateauneuf du Pape than a Cotes du Rhone with its brooding fruit and meaty aromas. Open and let it breathe in the glass before enjoying with slow roasts.

Late Bottled Vintage Port
Dows, 2003, $25
Port houses usually only declare a vintage a few times a decade; 2003 was an exceptional, concentrated year. This slightly peppery, rustic port shows the trademark Dow’s style of Cabernet-like fruit with a slightly dry finish. Superb with aged Cheddar.

Michael Kwas is wine director at L'Etoile restaurant. He writes this column monthly.

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