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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Any Ideas?

As you know if you've read this blog lately, I've been writing a wine column for some time now--nine months, give or take.

The column, as you might have guessed, is strictly small potatoes. My co-author and I have abstract plans to establish a blog or a website devoted solely to the column (whereas this is my personal blog), but for now we're a one-newspaper, no-pay operation with no effective mechanism for getting reader feedback. I guess people just don't write letters to the editor complaining that the wine guys are giving Burgundy short shrift. Needless to say, we'd love to know what people are finding interesting, helpful, etc. Even more than that, though, we'd love to know what sorts of topics our readers are interested in so we can write about them.

So I'm asking a favor: if you come here for the wine columns, leave a comment about something you're curious about but haven't seen from us (or, since this is my personal blog, from me). If we don't already have an existing piece that addresses your questions, we'll see what we can do about whipping one up. And if we do have one, I'll post it here.

I may be away from the blog for a couple of days, but rest assured my co-author and I will pay close attention to what you say.

In the meantime, here are our thoughts on Tuscan wines:

Versatile Tuscany Offers Choice of Luxury or Value

When we set out to write the “Italian” column, we quickly realized that there’s not enough space on this whole page, let alone in this column, to do justice to such a huge topic. Italy boasts so many wines and wine regions that just listing them would use more than our allotted column space. Fortunately, wines from one of Italy's greatest wine regions, Tuscany, are widely available—and at a wide range of price points—in the U.S.

Tuscany forms what would be the top half of the shin in Italy’s famous boot shape. Both red and white wines are produced there, but the reds—which will be our focus here—definitely steal the show. Tuscany’s two most renowned reds are Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino. Wines from Chianti Classico (the subregion where the best Chiantis are generally found) tend toward cherry and plum fruit with spice and leather notes adding complexity. They are not generally deep, brooding wines, but rather medium-bodied reds with bright acidity, making them quite versatile food wines. They pair well with anything from rich fish like salmon to grilled red meats. Brunello di Montalcino, on the other hand, tends toward darker fruit, deeper, richer earth and leather notes, and ultra-sensual dried mushroom aromas and flavors. The best Brunellos are truly rare wines, and their price shows it. While you can find a good Chianti Classico for as little as $30, you won’t even find an entry-level Brunello in a wine shop for less than $60 or $70.

Despite the magnificence of Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino, we find wines simply labled “Tuscany” or “Toscana” to the most exciting, especially for the average consumer in search of good values. Wines with this more general label are subject to far fewer restrictions than wines from specific regions like Chianti (where winemakers are limited to certain proportions of certain grapes with specific aging requirements), giving them more opportunity for creativity and innovation. What’s more, while many of these wines—the ones known as “Super Tuscans”—can be very expensive and mind-blowingly good (think Bordeaux, but gamier and more powerful), there are also a number of simple but delicious ones out there. These wines tend to be more New World in style, with more obviously fruit-driven flavors, but they will give you a glimpse of Tuscany’s brilliance at a fraction of the price of its more majestic wines.

As you can see, it’s a struggle just to squeeze a sliver of Tuscany into a column of this size, never mind Italy. If your curiosity has been piqued, however, we encourage you to read more on your own. And if you find yourself needing help with some on-site research in Chianti or Montalcino, give us a call. We work cheap.

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