02 November 2005

The Wine Swap

Here's a belated review, but it's got a cool story behind it.

A couple of weeks ago, a guy I know named Tom suggested a wine swap, based on our mutual love of wine. Nothing odd about that, right? Except that I've never actually met Tom, and due to Tennessee's wine laws the mail was out of the question.

I know Tom through my friend Paul, who maintains a private e-mail list for friends and family. Taking a break from the discussions of politics and world events, Tom and I would occasionally veer off into separate wine correspondence. I've got a female housemate that doesn't drink and a girlfriend that isn't an enthusiast; wine tastings and the internet are my outlets for long-winded rants on fermented grape juice.

And since Paul was headed up for a visit a few weeks ago, Tom proposed the wine swap--I would send a bottle up with Paul, and Tom would return the favor. Paul, acting as mule, would be rewarded with enjoying the wine at both ends.

I passed along a bottle of the 2002 Tibor Gál Egri Bikavér, which I reviewed earlier. It was well-received and served alongside buffalo and lamb. I included a letter of explanation for my choice, and in the great tradition of Wine X I wove a tale about 80s teen comedies and pegged the wine as the weird foreign exchange student from eastern Europe with the funny name who turns out to be pretty cool.

In return, Tom sent me two bottles and a lovely explanatory letter. I'll get one out of the way. I had been dying to taste a Cahors, to sample my beloved Malbec as done by the French. It's barely produced in France and rarely available here, and Tom managed to track down a reasonably priced bottle from 1997. Sadly, it was oxidized and well past its prime. Note to everyone reading: this is not Tom's fault, and the joy I had upon seeing the Cahors label was more than enough to make up for the sad conclusion. This is truly a case where it was the thought that counted.

He also sent along another bottle: the 2003 Panarroz Jumilla, which hails from Spain. And with this delightful offering, Tom scored a home run. It's a Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre blend, though on the Iberian peninsula they call that last grape Monastrell. This wine comes from a small Spanish producer, and I couldn't find a website, but it appears to be quite popular throughout Europe. It got great reviews from Robert Parker, and as such there's a ton of fruit-forward delicious berry flavors, but also a classic European balance between the three grapes. Let's face it: I love GSM blends regardless of origin. France, Spain, California, Australia... I haven't met many that I didn't like.

I served the wine to Paul and my lady friend with an Italian-style pot roast. Yeah, that's what I fixed last weekend as well. It's finally turning chilly here in Memphis, and I've had a bit of a cold, so I'm entitled to my comfort foods.

Fortuitiously, the New York Times has an article this week by Eric Asimov (nephew of Isaac) in which he reviews California Rhone-style blends. I love these wines, and one of my only regrets from California is that Bonny Doon has decided to get expensive. I used to love Le Cigare Volant back when nobody was drinking it and it was $12 a bottle. Now it's $34 and I know I can get similiar and better wines for a third of the price. But I still miss it.

Bonny Doon is the sort of weird, artsy girlfriend you had in college that married some wealthy guy and won't talk to you anymore, but you secretly still yearn for her eclectic charms. And with that, I need a drink.

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