Is it possible to be bedazzled by a wine? Not just to experience a profound palatal pleasure but be truly head-over-heels in love with a wine’s bouquet, flavor and the skill that went into fashioning it?
For me, the answer is a resounding yes. It was about a year ago in Sicily when I sampled a glass of 10-year-old Planeta Chardonnay. I had tasted older wines made from the Chardonnay grape before, but none had this product’s golden yellow color, heady bouquet of baked apples, rich, complex, earthy taste of melons and herbs and memorable finish with notes of butter and honey. I wondered if it was the wine alone or the seductive charm of the moment – sipping it along with my wife, the winemaker and her brother in a tasting room in a 100-year-old estate set amid scenic vineyards near the west coast of Sicily. So I re-tasted it at dinner that evening and was once again enchanted by its aesthetics and the way it mated perfectly with the likes of grilled branzino and pasta with eggplant and ricotta.
I’m sure others have experienced this phenomenon of being intensely and somewhat quizzically impressed by the brilliant qualities of a particular wine at perhaps a particular moment. But what types of wine could do this – only older products, top-flight premium vintages or boutique bottlings, etc.? To gain some insight into this question, I surveyed friends, relatives and professionals. Here’s what they said:
“My most unforgettable wine experience took place two years ago on a trip with my wife, Lorena, to Santorini, Greece,” recounts Armonk resident Nick Livanos, who with his family owns a number of first-rate restaurants, including Moderne Barn and the City Limits diners. “We were at the fourth-generation, family-owned Argyros Estate tasting a number of vintages of Vinsanto, a sweet white made from a blend of sun-dried grapes. I still remember the 1989 (vintage) that had flavors of roasted peaches, chocolate and fig preserves balanced by a salinity typical of the terroir of the region. Combined with the vistas of Santorini, sipping this wine was a gone-to-heaven experience.”
Good friend Jerry Rosenthal, a retired intellectual property expert and Pound Ridge resident, notes, “One of the ways I feel I’m drinking an extraordinary wine is when the quality far exceeds the price I paid for it. One such wine for me was the 2009 Borsao Tres Picos Granacha from Spain. This was a wine purchased for $7.50 a bottle that had a surprising depth, complexity and memorable finish for such an inexpensive wine. Even more surprising for a wine of this price is that it’s improving with age. The only problem is that others are discovering the wine as indicated by the increase in price for the 2010 vintage bottling. Hopefully, the price stays low so I can continue considering it bedazzling.”
“I’m often asked if I have a favorite wine,” relates wine writer and Manhattanite Charles Scicolone. “It’s a very difficult question to answer, because with different foods and at different times I enjoy different wines. However, if I really had to name one it would be Fiorano Rosso, a wine made by a prince – Alberigo Ludovisi – and fit for a king. This is a rare full-bodied wine vinified traditionally from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes grown close to Rome in Lazio. In my opinion, the best Cabernet-Merlot blend ever made in Italy and one of the most outstanding in the world, it has great depth, dominated by flavors and aromas of leather and cherry. Produced commercially until 1995, when for unknown reasons the prince pulled out the vineyards, I continually search shops in Italy and the Internet for bottles, and when I find one, it’s a memorable experience.”
Another wine writer and educator, Waccabuc resident Tyler Colman, says, “For me, pairing a special wine with a milestone evening is a recipe for bedazzling. For example, on our most recent anniversary, my wife and I had a bottle of 2008 Marquis d’Angerville Volnay Fremiets. Although young for a red Burgundy, the enchanting wine elevated the evening with a seamless blend of enlivening acidity and savory tannins.”
Echoing the sentiment that an exceptional wine at a special event makes for a bedazzling experience, my daughter Jill Spinak, a Katonah resident, says, “I was on my third date with my husband-to-be, White Plains lawyer Rob, and we went to Veritas, a New York City restaurant notable for its wine list. Looking to impress him, I wanted to order a wine that would be exceptional. Although I had enjoyed some of the California Martinelli wines, I had not had their Jackass Hill Zinfandel and thought it would be very cool to say ‘Jackass Hill’ to the waiter. The wine was delicious, as was the date, and now after 10 years of marriage and two kids, we still order Jackass Hill when we find it on a wine list.”
To add to my understanding of this phenomena, I’d be interested in hearing about readers’ bedazzling wine
experiences – which can be relayed to me through the comments to this article following the online version of this magazine.