A disclaimer: I love Syrah. I might love Syrah even more than Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s the most heady wine I’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking, with such intensity, such profound wildness, that I can’t helped but love it. This wine is predominantly Grenache, and as such presents a wonderful ruby color in the glass, with a nose of generous dark fruits, mostly briar-patch blackberries and plums, lightly tinged with spice. In the mouth, more black fruits are balanced to great silky tannins – courtesy of Syrah – with hints of pepper and integrated oak. Good complexity, tasty finish. Great with herbed roast lamb, beef stew, or pepper-crusted pork loin. $15.
Everybody loves a good Champagne. I would crack open a bottle of Bollinger, Pol Roger, or Mumms on almost any occasion, if I could spend the money required to have Champagne on hand at all times. Lacking said funds, I still manage to have great sparkling wine whenever the need – or the urge – arises. Here is the reason: Cava, the Spanish Champagne, made in the méthode champenoise, with secondary fermentation occurring in the bottle, followed by further bottle aging for complexity. Not only is it delicious in its own right, but for some reason Cava tends to exhibit similar flavor characteristics and texture despite its totally different origins, in terms of both terroir and grape varietals. It is blended from Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo, all indigenous to the Penedès region.
The mesoclimate in Penedès is far more clement than Champagne, as well. While both wines share an essence that I find hard to identify at this point in my career as a wine drinker, I find that Cava does tend to lack the complexity and depth of great Champagne, across all price points, but is a delicious replacement, however, and one I always turn to when appropriate. It tends to be a solid accompaniment to seafood of all kinds, particularly shellfish and fried fish, and is a perfect celebration wine or aperitif for people living on the cheap – although its growing popularity may well undermine its value.
The Segura Viudas Brut Reserva is a pale gold in the glass, and on the nose exhibits great stony citrus fruit, with hints of smoke and toasty vanilla, leading to more lemon and apple fruit in the mouth, and a mouthfeel that is at once rich and extremely clean, with crisp acidity leading to a finish laden with minerals. Fantastic with grilled shrimp in a lime-based marinade, or fresh oysters, or just by itself. Buy a case, because you can find this wine for $7 a bottle if you look hard enough.