Sunday, January 29, 2006


Yesterday I picked up a bottle of Ch. De Fontalem 2004, for about eleven dollars at Big Red. The label said A.O.C. Cotes du Marmandais. What’s that? I asked Cedric and he had to pull out the Oxford Companion to point out a map of some district to which Marmande was kind of near – Bordeaux is fifty miles down the Garonne. A quick search of the New York Times finds a reference in an article on "wines most of us will never drink." That would be a pity and I am glad it no longer applies to me. The wines, these days, are made mostly from merlot and cabernet, with 25% from traditional local grapes, especially one called abouriou. The wine has a clear red color, a nose of fresh strawberry somewhat like a good Rhone rose, a soft feel in the mouth and a pleasant, earthy taste with good tannins. It was a perfect partner to a relaxed Sunday meal of grilled chicken and frites. I have often been struck by the old British view that claret was a light wine meant for a simple bird, when most Bordeaux these days are deep, rich wines best with heavy beef. I suspect this wine is a lot like what red Bordeaux used to be. "And that’s a good thing."

Monday, January 16, 2006

Meanwhile, back in Bloomington

I have spent some time since the last post away from Bloomington and it doesn’t seem fair, or newsworthy either, to dwell on the fact that they sure do make some good wine in Tuscany. I was struck by the variety of inexpensive but distinctive sangioveses. Sure a great aged Brunello is a wonderful thing and maybe even worth a hundred euros now and then. So, also, are the commercial inexpensive Tuscans like, say, Antinori’s Santa Cristina, dependable values widely available for about ten dollars everywhere. But the range and quality of in-between wines, either lesser bottlings from the great Brunello growers or prime wines with more obscure geography, gave this thirsty traveler a real thrill for never more than twenty euros. I’m going to have to look more carefully at what’s available here. I have had some delightful non-Tuscans since I have been back. One great bargain: a Spanish wine, the 2003 Las Rocas grenache. For about ten dollars, this peppery and deeply fruity grenache can give stiff competition to a Chateau-Neuf du Pape at three times the price. Not much more expensive is the Cavalotto 2003 Dolcetto Scot, rich in cherry and almond flavors. If, like me, you think Australian wines cloying and heavy, disabuse yourself with 2004 Two Hands Brave Faces, a syrah/grenache blend sold in the high twenties at Big Red. The producer calls this very lightly oaked wine, with lots of red fruits and anise, the "whore" in his line-up. This wine is no more plausible as a hooker than was Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.