This column marks the birthday of one of my favorite Wineaus — a gal who despite her Champagne tastes would eagerly guzzle a dollar-store special if it happened to suit her fancy. It's the "suiting her fancy" part that matters to her — not the label, reputation, ratings, price, or even, dare I say it, what some critic happens to winespeak at her about a little horsesweat on the nose and a medium body. The triumph of personal taste over all else might seem to spell irrelevance for those of us who'd like to make a living telling you what to drink. I'd counter that argument with a defense of wine critics recently put forth by Barry Smith, the editor of a "philosophy of wine" book called Questions of Taste (Oxford University Press, 2007). Smith said that if you can find a critic who shares your sensibility and quite possibly your palate, she just might lead you toward a feisty little wine you wouldn't have discovered on your own. Or perhaps she'll draw your attention to some lovely element you'd missed in a familiar favorite. Either way, she's out there slogging through gallons of plonk just so you don't have to — and who can argue with that?
Here at Wineau Central, we always aim to give you two (and sometimes three or four) perspectives for the price of one — a value proposition that manifested itself this week as our Token Winemaker and I vehemently disagreed about two Pinot Grigios we were attempting to enjoy with a meal of snapper and Swiss chard.
I was delighted with Francis Ford Coppola's 2007 Bianco Pinot Grigio ($9.99) from California, particularly its light lemon aroma and a crisp taste that paired perfectly with fish. "Tropical and fat" were the words that interrupted my reverie, as our Token Winemaker began firing insults in the Bianco's direction. To be fair, his complaints were less about this particular wine and more about its style, which he thought exhibited an American tendency toward overripeness and hollow taste.
Far more pleasing to him was the 2006 Primaterra Pinot Grigio ($8.99) from Italy, which he found to have a nice crispness, along with a clean, classically Pinot Grigio nose. Subtlety may be a hallmark of this variety, but the nose was lost on me here, and I found the taste a bit too nutty. We both detected a slightly hard finish. Truth be told, we may have been searching for flaws in each other's favorites, because either of these wines would make a great bargain companion to a fish dinner — or could be enjoyed on their own on a hot summer night.
This week's third Pinot Grigio, a bit beyond our usual budget at $19.95 a bottle, comes courtesy of our birthday girl. On a recent night out, she introduced me to a 2007 Reuilly Pinot Gris Rosé, then promptly decided she wasn't a fan. No matter, I loved it enough for two — savoring its dryness and strong melon flavors, not to mention its cute orangey-pink color and clarity. This one's an import from local wine hero Kermit Lynch, and it's well worth the splurge.
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