The Dialog Wines Blog

Wine; A Casting Call

 Published on: Monday, April 16, 2012

I always feel a sense of pride when friends ask my opinion of a wine or ask me to suggest a bottle as a gift for an important person in their lives. On the surface, these requests should really be quite simple and straight forward. All I have to do is pick a wine that I like or a wine that received a high score by a well known wine critic. That should be easy for someone that has some wine education and experience in the wine industry, right? Well, not exactly and here’s why:

I suppose I could also just find out what grape variety someone enjoys, be it Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay or Pinot Noir and simply make a suggestion from there. I’ll admit that when I try and weigh my likes and dislikes against all the wine I’ve tasted, it is easy to generalize and say that I enjoy some varietals more than others. But choosing the variety doesn’t account for the “style of a wine” all the time either. For example, from a stylistic point of view, a Chardonnay from the Napa Valley could be quite different than a Chardonnay produced in a cooler climate such as Burgundy or Canada. So when trying to select wine for myself or for others, grape varietal and wine style are just two considerations.

In my opinion, the most important factor when considering a wine is trying to decide how well a wine fits with atmosphere in which it will be enjoyed and consumed. I like to think of this idea as a wine’s ‘context.‘ When referring to ‘context’ and wine, to put things quite simply, I believe that there is truly a time and place for most quality wines. Putting a wine in its proper context is to try and account for where you are, who you are with, the meal you are eating or the overall atmosphere the end consumer finds him or herself in.

I liken it to a casting call for a movie. For a movie to be a success, the actor or actress needs to be ideal for the role that they are playing within the context of the movie’s theme, setting, plot etc. Consider the following scenario; Its your 5 year Wedding Anniversary and you are on a beautiful beach and enjoying the 30 degree weather with your significant other. The scenery is spectacular, there is a slight warm breeze blowing in off the sea and the smell of the fresh ocean air is adding something special to the moment. You’ve been saving a great bottle of wine for just such a special moment to remember the occasion. You reach into your picnic basket and pull out the best wine you could afford on the recommendation of your favourite wine critic; A big ripe and juicy , full bodied Napa Valley Cabernet with rich tannins and a long finish that Robert Parker scored a resounding 95 Points. An impressive wine… but you just casted Adam Sandler to play the lead in Saving Private Ryan. Who doesn’t love Adam, but lets be honest, should he be the guy out in the trenches battling the Nazi’s in a dark and serious World War Two movie? No more than a Napa Valley Cabernet should be pulled out of the picnic basket on a hot summer day at the beach.

Now, in the same situation, lets say you pull out a light, dry slightly chilled Rose wine from the south of France. You don’t even know what the grape variety is and to your knowledge, this wine has never received any awards. But your mouth is watering as you see the condensation form as the wine settles into the glass. The first sip is refreshing and you are immediately looking forward to a second taste because at this very moment, refreshing is bliss. Well done… you’ve just discovered a young Julia Roberts and your ready to cast her for the lead in Pretty Woman. Get it? Always context over grape variety, brand name and scores when choosing your wine.

Now, with that being said, let me throw out my own personal casting calls for a few different movie scripts that will be playing in the St. John’s area in the near future:

Mother’s Day
If your Mother’s Day festivities are going to include a family dinner or maybe just a gift for Mom, consider Tesch Deep Blue, 2010 (Germany, $22.50 at NLC).

This is a wine that is perfect for multiple occasions and is versatile enough to pair with almost any seafood dish or lighter fair. Made from 100% Pinot Noir (known as Spatburgunder in its native Germany), this red grape is vinified as a white wine with just a slight pinkish hue. Fresh, fruity and elegant, with strawberry and cherry aromas, this wine is dry but mild and well balanced. I’d compare this wine to a modern day Matt Damon; serious enough for Good Will Hunting or Bourne Trilogy but light enough for Ocean’s 11.

Father’s Day
Dads are never easy to shop for so how about something masculine, yet sophisticated.Cigar Box Malbec 2010 (Argentina, $16.69 at NLC) fits the bill perfectly. Ripe plum, blueberry, smoke and vanilla, this Malbec is full bodied with but refined in its youth! I’m thinking Sean Connery as James Bond!

Patio Wine
We’re hoping for some good patio weather this year, so best be prepared. While the sun is beating down and you’re casually chatting with good friends in the back yard, Code Fascination Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (France, $14.99 at NLC) with hints of citrus fruit, white flowers and minerality is simply refreshing and delicious. Just like Jennifer Anniston in (thinking…) well, any character she has ever played, this wine is straight forward and uncomplicated. A beauty to enjoy with “Friends.”

BBQ Wine
Personally, I’m excited just to be talking about BBQ and wine in the same sentence. BBQ and Wine… two of God’s best ideas in my opinion, but lets keep this simple. Your BBQ wine needs to be robust enough to stand up to smoky, charred flavours but it should also be able to play nicely with sweet and sometimes spicy components. From the first time I tasted the Velvet Devil Merlot 2009 (USA, $18.98 at NLC), I immediately thought about its rich smoked plum flavours and wanted to try it with BBQ spare ribs. Simple, silky,robust and ripe, the Velvet Devil is sinfully delicious. Velvet Devil with BBQ is like Sly Stallone in Rocky. Nothing complicated, just a great story and a real crowd pleaser.

St. John’s Summer Wine
Let’s face it. Even though the calendar tells us that Summer is approaching, if you live in St. John’s, you’re still going to have to face a few cold, damp and foggy nights. These are the nights when it is entirely appropriate to open a great bottle of wine to make yourself feel a little bit better about the circumstances. For instance, has Season 5 of Madmen been a little slow so far this year? I’d have to say yes. But at least the ladies have John Hamm and the men have Christina Hendricks to help carry us through the rough spots. Think of Chasing Lions Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (California, $19.50 at NLC) as your John Hamm or Christina Hendricks. Deep, full bodied and concentrated with black berry, plum and a hint of vanilla, this wine can be aged for another 3-5 years or enjoyed right now. Suddenly, a slow night just got a lot better!

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“I think the First Growths speak for themselves for those of you who know wine but some of the others might be a little bit of a mystery. Lucien Le Moine is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the finest producers in Burgundy.”

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