November 17, 2004

Wines to be thankful for

By now you’ve been bombarded with enough Beaujolais Nouveau propaganda that you don’t need me to tell you that its light strawberry flavors go well with Thanksgiving dinner.

Instead of worrying about what goes with what , why not take some time to give thanks for the plethora of choices we have out there in the wine world?

It’s funny: Every Thanksgiving we give thanks for the abundance of food, yet we worry about the wine. “Will it match?” we wonder, hoping we’ve found a wine to please every dish and every person at the table.

There is such a whir of conversation and food circling the Thanksgiving table that the wine usually tastes good no matter what it is. So instead of fretting over it, let us spend a few moments giving thanks for the great wine we have in this world; for the great grapes and the hardworking people who transform them. Here’s what I’m thankful for:

Affordable sparkling wines, because everyone deserves bubbles, even on a Tuesday night.

Champagne Bollinger R.D. 1990, because the world needs extravagant splurges that are worth every penny. This stuff is expensive: $190. R.D. stands for “recently disgorged,” which means that, instead of selling the wine after the usual two or so years after vintage, the Bollinger family left it for a minimum of eight years before disgorging it from the wine barrels. In all that time they could have been making money on it, but instead they left it there so it could turn as rich and nutty as toast lavished with butter. Combined with the soft, tiny bubbles, it’s a celebratory drink like none other.

Sherry, because what could be stranger than a wine that grows mold and tastes better for it? Maybe that the people who make this nutty, sea-scented wine are still at it, though their craft is so sadly overlooked. Those of us who love sherry, from bone-dry finos through caramel-think PXs, are grateful that they do, especially at the low prices.

Greek vintners, who, through their constant work and intense pride, are reviving ancient treasures like Agiorgitiko and Xinomavro for modern-day enjoyment.

The Southern Italians, while we’re at it, who have brought great grapes like Fiano, Greco, Aglianico and Primitivo to our tables.

Zinfandel, the pink version for introducing so many Americans to wine, and the red one for giving the U.S. a wine that can compete with the best wines from around the world yet still stands out as uniquely American.

Vintners who aren’t afraid of the obscure. I’ll be raising a glass to Wittman from Germany for making Albalonga, and to Randall Grahm at Bonny Doon in California, who grows pigato and treixadura and a bunch of other obscurities. To the Australians who haven’t pulled out their Verdejo and to Austrians who plug on with Grüner Veltliner; and to the Portuguese, who beat everyone out in the obscure grape field: You all make our lives much richer and our happy study of wines endless fun.

Screw caps, which are saving more and more wine from a corked, smelly fate every day and getting rid of some pretentiousness along the way.

The rash of casual new places to drink wine in this town, like Brix, CapuVino, Paris Wine Bar, Swimclub32 and Forest Room 5, to name a few.

The passing of an amendment this past year that allows wine stores in many parts of the state to hold wine tastings so we can taste before we buy, just like people can in so many other states.

And for fabulous local importers like Baroness Wines, Elizabeth Imports, Enotec Imports, Guiliana Imports, Magnum Wine Group, Synergy, Classic, Grand Vin and Servier wines. They have kept us Coloradans stocked with an always interesting array of wines from around the world.

This article originally appeared in the Denver Post.

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