Monday, June 2, 2008


Although I love wine, I have neither the personality nor the budget to pursue it to the degree of say my own grandfather, a French restauranteur, or my friend Jalal, a mathematician, who has purchased several cases of hand-selected wines for his three-year-old daugher Suraya, which he stores in a cellar outside of Paris. (My own two preschoolers, both of whom are fond of Suraya, are currently being subjected to sublimal messaging by me whilst sleeping: Marry Suraya, Marry Suraya. It's the only way I'll ever be able to taste such sublimeness).

Instead I go up and down the aisles of the New York City wine shop, Astor Wines, looking for bargains, often with one or two of the kids with me, rushing, and trying to remember recommendations given to me by Jalal, Peter, Laura or any of my other more worldly, wine-aware friends. And even if I had access to some exquisite wine, I would never have the will-power to hold onto to it––in a week, or month, I would crack it open and share it with my friends. I am too mired in instant gratification for collecting.

Jalal, who we just happen to be fortunate enough to live in the building next door to, was explaining wine pricing to me the other day at lunch, while we ate sopresetta, buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes, proscuitto and bread, all procured from Jalal and Suraya's weekly Saturday morning forays into Little Italy and drank little glasses of cold Vinho Verde, the lightly sparkling Portuguese wine. "The difference between a $60 bottle of wine and a $20 bottle of wine is significant," he stated in his lovely cosmopolitan voice, a mixture of Lebanese and thirty years of Greenwich Village dwelling. "It is all in the smoothness that the aging process brings to it, " he declared. His wife, a brit named Debra rolled her eyes and asked if we wanted more wine.

This conversation got me thinking: I never seem to veer past the $15 range, but maybe it would be worth saving up for something special. After the recent articles and studies about the effect a wine's price has on our experience of the vino itself, I was beginning to think I should stick with the $10 and under set, which of course I will have to anyways for day-to-day drinking (and with two boys, ages 3 and 4, believe me, I need my wine). But what about age, nuance and the other care that goes into a really exceptional bottle? I hope to learn more about this.

In the meantime, during my last case-buying expedition to Astor, I bought several bottles of Gazela vinho verde, which retails at $3.99, and splurged on a couple bottles of my new favorite white wine, which is closer to $20. The Graziano Fontana müller-thurgau comes Trentino in Northen Italy, near the borders of Switzerland and Austria; a region I learned this morning in one of the many wine books I have purchased and rarely opened, is celebrated for its unoaked chardonnay and sauvignon blanc wines. Lesser known, is the müller-thurgau grape which thrives in higher altitudes of this area. It’s a lovely, lower alchohol white wine which manages to be refreshing yet still full of character. Popular in Germany, the müller-thurgau grape can turn from aromatic to cloying, yet in the high altitude of Trentino, its dry and not too heavy.

I’ve sampled the 2006 müller-thurgau by the producer Graziano Fontana a few times, and each time I like it more. This winery is quite small (which appeals in a very Mondovino-sort of way)—just ten acres of vines, and according to a distinguished source (ie a web site) the wines are produced with care and a proud of sense of terroir. I’m interested in tasting wine from the nearby Pojer & Sandri vineyard to see how its Müller-thurgau stands up. And next time I go to dinner at Jalal's, I'll bring him a bottle just to see what he thinks.

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