Monday, August 16, 2010

Uncomplicated Pleasures

If you read enough wine blogs, especially at the more geeked-out end of the spectrum, or just here for that matter, it may sometimes seem as if there's a constant march forward, ever seeking out something more complex, something more obscure, more I-drank-it-first than yesterday's experience. There's no question that those pursuits do keep wine blogging fresh and help to keep the love of wine alive. But I also expect that the people doing all of that exploring and writing are still drinking simple wines, too, and continuing to find pleasure in them even if at a more quotidian, less rarefied level. I know that, for me, there are plenty of nights where I actually don't want something challenging or provocative, instead preferring to sit down with something simple, straightforward and just plain old easy drinking.

Saumur Champigny, Domaine Joulin (Philippe Joulin) 2008
$18. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Oslo Enterprise, Takoma Park, MD.
Sometimes that wine comes unexpectedly, in the form of something that's not familiar. I'd never had the Saumur Champigny rouge from Philippe Joulin so opened it on a night when I was up for anything. Something complex or challenging, something easy, maybe even something not so nice. This came out on the simple, straightforward point of the spectrum -- fresh, lively and supple; well balanced and direct. None of the gut, crunch or intense energy of, say, the Chinons of Bernard Baudry or the Bourgueils of Catherine and Pierre Breton; nowhere close to the depth and complexity of the Saumur Champigny's from Clos Rougeard, nor the richness of those from Thierry Germain. The only thing complicating this picture is the question of quality-to-price ratio. If this were three or four bucks less per bottle, there would be a good argument for slotting this into regular rotation for just the kind of nights I described above; at $18, though, it under delivers.

Barbera d'Asti, Roberto Ferraris 2009
$14. 14% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
At the totally expected end of the spectrum sits the Barbera d'Asti of Azienda Agricola Roberto Ferraris. I've been selling Roberto's wines for well nigh ten years and enjoying them for several longer, although oddly enough I've only written about them once before, for my guest contribution to the Barbera 2010 blog. Ferraris makes a couple of wines of ambition but the wines in his portfolio that I most enjoy drinking are his single vineyard "Nobbio" bottling and this, his Barbera d'Asti "normale." The 2009 just came ashore in the last few weeks and is already drinking great. Less dark, rich and jammy than the iterations from 2007 and 2008, the '09 epitomizes what I like most about good, straightforward expressions of Piemontese Barbera: it's juicy, snappy, full of blueberry and black cherry fruit, completely soft when it comes to tannic structure but alive and zingy on the palate thanks to Barbera's naturally high acid profile. Barbera also has natural tendencies toward giving high potential alcohol and, at 14%, this is indeed "stronger" than I normally like to go for everyday enjoyment. In this case, though, the 14% alcohol is completely balanced and integrated, showing up only via the pleasantly warm glow the wine delivers in the belly. Perfect Monday night pizza wine and, as long as we're talking QPR, a spot-on value at its price point.


Do Bianchi said...

the next time a sommelier asks me what I'm in the mood for, I'm going to say: "please don't change or provoke me... just please me..."

love this post...

Samantha Dugan said...

Great post and I agree completely...sometimes I just want it to please me.

Marcus said...

David, I opened Thierry Germain 08 Saumur-Champigny last night, mostly because I made a tasty dinner using 8 different fresh-cut herbs from my balcony and wanted something fresh and simple to complement rather than complicate. Germain's Cab was definitely richer than what I expect from Saumur-Champingny - some quite nice fruit, profound too.
And I paid less than $18 CDN here after taxes!
So, great post. Helped solidify some thoughts (and the need to get my hands on some Rougeard).

Avvinare said...

I agree wholeheartedly. I would love some of that Saumur right now.

David McDuff said...

Thanks for the kind words, all. I've been a bit blocked lately in terms of writing and inspiration, so your comments mean a lot.

@DoBi - just make sure the somm knows you're talking about wine!

@Sam - thanks for your words and for stopping by.

@Marcus - $18CDN is a fine price for Germain's wines. Was it the "Terres Chaudes"?

@Susannah - I'm sure you'd enjoy it as much as I did.

Marcus said...

David, no I was drinking his eponymous label, not Dom des Roches Neuves. We do get the Roches Neuves wines here too, but only their entry-level cuvée is in that price range. Terres Chaudes more like $25.

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