Monday, May 10, 2010

Reliably Odd, Oddly Reliable

Those of you, fair readers, who are based in the Philadelphia area are very likely growing tired of my bemoaning the lack of exciting wine lists in our fraternal city. Believe me when I say that if more restaurants would pour something enticing, I'd go and drink it. When Tria was featuring Jacques Puffeney's Poulsard "M" on their list last winter, I probably helped them through the better part of half their inventory. The fact is, though, I continue to struggle to find a restaurant that consistently offers a list with any depth of options I really want to drink, as opposed to selections for which I'll settle in a pinch. It's one of the reasons that I'm so glad – so, so glad – that Philly has developed such a vibrant BYOB dining scene.

BYOBs don't always fit the bill, though. Even I don't always like to hoof it around town with a gunny sack full of bottles of wine slung over my shoulder. And I hate to pass up the possibility of discovering great food just because I can't bring my own bottle. Add to that the spontaneity of simply being able to walk into a place without any advance preparations. You get the picture. So, once in a while I do end up settling.

Cirò Rosso Classico, Librandi 2007
$40 on the wine list at Amis. ?% alcohol (didn't pay attention). Cork. Importer: Leonardo Locascio Selections, Winebow, New York, NY.
Luckily, Gaglioppo is one of those vines that's so intrinsically characterful that it manages to maintain its voice even in relatively innoccuous versions. (Is it the Pineau d'Aunis of Southern Italy?) And Librandi is one of those commercial-leaning wineries that manages to turn out wines that are still consistently characterful enough to provide real interest in the glass.

Librandi's expression of Cirò Classico may not hold the same geek appeal of the more artisanal version from the confoundingly similarly named winery, Linardi (brown wine, anyone?), but it still captures the personality of its autochthonously Calabrian main ingredient. When first opened, actually, it was alarmingly sweaty. But that nervous smell blew off once the wine had a chance to relax, revealing Cirò's typically zesty, black olive and spicy earth scented fruit. Combined with its lively texture, medium acidity, light-to-medium body and fine, raspy tannins, it turned out to be a pretty versatile match with everything my friend Joseph and I ordered at Amis, from a simple plate of bucatini alla “matriciana” to some bolder explorations through the fifth quarter.

The food was good. The company, too. The wine was perfectly satisfactory. As for shelling out $40 for a bottle that retails for about $12, that's just another all too common condition we suffer through here in the Commonopoly of Pennsylvania.

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