Monday, May 08, 2006

Wine and Food

Okay, so I had some friends in town this past week, and naturally had to visit my temple of flavor, The Spotted Pig. It was a fun evening, but I rather annoyed myself when it came to wine choices. Firstly, there were six of us, so anyone who's been will know we had to wait a good deal for our table. A good deal in this case was almost 2 hours. Not a problem, since gastropub is half pub, and we enjoyed a few good Spotted Pig Bitter's with some friends. However, since lunch was a small affair that day, by the time it came to sit down, I was a little unsober. In an error of judgement, I ordered a bottle of Bodega Bleda Divus Jumilla 2002 ($50 on list / $18 retail), expecting something a little meatier with some good tannins. Instead, the wine was a fruit bomb, exploding with juicy berry flavors and sugary-softness. Definitely not a wine to enjoy while eating rich Rocquefort Burgers and Flank Steak, after four pints of bitter. My mistake, and I should have known better, but looking at the price I assumed, "Over $40, so should have some good structure." The wine was horrible when drunk in this circumstance, sadly. Sort of like cracking a bottle of Chateau Margaux while enjoying a lobster salad by the beach. Just wrong! There are a few wine from Jumilla that are similar, but I expected the weight of the Monastrell (Mourvedre) grape to come through as in most Jumilla wines I'd tasted.

Anyway, I think the wine would be a superb party sipper, but this tasting highlighted how inappropriate certain styles of wine are with food. Before that bottle was half gone, we ordered a $60 bottle of Barbera (Braida "Il Baciale") which had the necessary tannins and acid to cut through the richness of the meal. Saved by Italy, and not for the first time.

I think the message that I can pass on is, if you haven't tasted the wine, and the price is below $40, you can assume it will be quite soft and ripe, with not too much weight or structure. Over that amount, the wine should offer a more refined composition and better tannins. If it doesn't, you're probably falling victim to over-marked-up winelist prices. A common instance these days...


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