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Woman on the Verge of a Glass of Wine

Friday, February 26, 2010

Beyond Borders

This recession sucks. Ask anyone involved in food and wine, and they will agree that the financial downturn has done nothing for us. Suddenly winemakers who previously had people begging for their high-priced, low-production, "allocated" wines can't seem to give them away. Restaurants and wine shops no longer have the luxury of cellaring wines. We are all trying desperately to hone our selections down to wines that won't sit on the shelves forever (taking up ever-shrinking cash flow dollars), while still offering a decent selection to our clientele. I try to keep my game face on about it, often citing the ideology that running a business in this climate teaches us all how to be better at what we do. And, yes, it is true. We do learn lessons about how to run a tighter ship and to be more careful about how we spend our money. Honestly though, it just seems to take the joy out of the whole thing.

But in trying to look at the situation with a "glass half-full" mentality, I have indeed found a glimmer of good in the situation. You see, for me, this economy has forced me to reach out beyond my usual wine borders and to be adventurous, tasting wines from less established regions and by newer, younger winemakers whose wines are frankly much less expensive than what I normally buy for the restaurants. This may not be a mind-blowing concept for many, but finding the truly special wine that doesn't taste like it's a bargain is a real challenge. I happened upon one of these wines yesterday.

Paolo Laureano is a producer in the Alentejo region of Portugal. He was named Portuguese winemaker of the year in 1904 and is the winemaker at Herdade do Mouchao, which has been an icon in Portugal since being established in 1901. He has consulted for other wineries as well, but this 2006 red wine, called "Singularis," is all his own. It's made from 90% Aragonez, which is more commonly known as Tempranillo in Spain and 20% Trincadeira. After hand harvesting, he ferments the wine in stainless steel tanks and then ages it in oak barrels for approximately 6 months. On the nose, this wine shows lush aromas of dark berry fruit with wisps of wheat and brine running throughout. The black fruit component continues on the palate along side notes of grilled meat and aromatic spices. This is one of those wines that I describe as a "smoker's wine" for the hints of tobacco that run through it as well as its pencil lead-like minerality. What is surprising for me about this wine is that unlike most wines from Portugal, it isn't heavy and jammy. It has just the right amount of acidity and freshness that is is able to balance its dark intensity against its silky texture and weight.

We will be pouring this wine by the glass at AOC in the next couple of weeks. I'm looking forward to having a glass myself.

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