Wine intimidates the crap out of people. But if I could convey one thing about wine, one of its biggest joys is being so wrong about it. It's even better when your wrongness couldn't be more wrong is its wrong wrongness. There are times when I'm so wrong, I have to take some time to contemplate and have a good internal laugh over how high my level of idiocy reached. The reasons it happened. The assumptions made. Keeps ya young.
To wit. We've only seriously been into wine for about eight years, give or take. About three or four years ago, in a fit of "look how sharp I am and how great my palate is," I declared a certain wine beloved by both of us dead, the 2003 Pirramimma Shiraz, merely because the fruit began to taste macerated/cooked and a wet leaf component popped up. I thought that was "decline." Because I'm an idiot. And like to declare things.
Many wine people have a wine epiphany with an exalted bottle. Fancy Bordeaux, maybe of something like a Sassicaia, cult Napa cab. Ours was this $20 gem stocked by Trader Joe's at the time. And that might not even be completely accurate. It might even be a very cheap Spanish bottle of Abrazo, a tempranillo-garnacha blend with a $5 Trader Joe's sticker price about ten years. These were wines that hit a place in us, that stopped us in our tracks, making us say, "I want to know more!" Before, wine was just wine. After, it was the furthest thing from 'just wine.' We locked that down (new episodes mere months away!).
Two meals offered today, one co-opted by allergies.
Dinner #1: Wild boar sausages, grapes and tomatoes with 2003 Pirramimma Shiraz McVaren Vale ($40 - 20/20 Wine Merchants)
Recipe here (modified). Wild boar sausages from D'Artagnan, grapes and tomatoes that burst in the sauce-making process, latching onto the olive oil and balsamic, creating a unique bright, light and delicious final sauce. Quick and easy stuff that tastes like so much more. Use any sausage you want, the impression of the meal changes dramatically with the type of sausage, becoming springy and light with weisswürst, darker and deeper with wild boar. Quite versatile, never gets old and has been delicious in the past with dolcetto, Asimov's focus this week in "Wine Of The Times." Good stuff with a New World dolcetto in May.
Old friend this time.
We've probably gone through two cases, maybe more, of the 2003 Pirramimma Shiraz over the years. If there's one wine that has told us how a wine evolves, it's this one. The most sparkly blackberry and blueberry on the planet, tasting like a starry summer night when it was released, closed up for a bit (hence the "dead" declaration), only to resurface and strut all its wonderful secondary flavors in a great way in the last few years. This time, tons of iron, blood, gamey bird and briny black olives. Salty in the best way with herby blackberry and plum darting in and out. Medium weight, nice finish, just enough length, tannins offering enough still to (somewhat tenuously) keep it together. Still going and still interesting. And sufficiently different from the last time we had it. It's just been fun to watch this wander happily to its grave and I still don't know when that is.
The food helped. Boar linked up with the iron-rich blood and gamy notes nicely while the grapes seemed to help to draw the fruit out. Nice stuff. No complaints in the least.
Total cost for the meal: About $55. Mainly because Pirramimma essentially pulled itself out of the American market a few years ago, causing the price to shoot up on what was left of this Wine Spectator top 100 wine of 2006. Shipping ain't cheap, either.
And then the allergies kicked in for Mrs. Ney
Dinner #2: Moroccan chicken pie with 2011 Tons de Duorum Branco Douro ($15 - Saratoga Wine Exchange)
Mrs. Ney couldn't taste anything due to allergies. Shame. This was The Goods. Mark Bittman recipe here. He talks about what makes this a real winner in the description, adding lemon and green olives, but fails to mention them in the recipe. That's sorta Mark Bittman-esque and also why we sorta love him. Reminds us that precision isn't always so damn important. Just wing it. Figure it out. Mrs. Ney used Castelvetrano olives, the nutty, milky green olives from Sicily, and preserved lemons (easy to make yourself, better than store-bought) instead of lemon juice. Carrots added as well, all wrapped in puff pastry.
It's a Moroccan sweet-spiced chicken pot pie feast with flavors bouncing off the walls while still tasting subtle and refined. Ginger and preserved lemons keep things out of the too-dark realm, lifting things to a place of great balance and swirl of Maghreb deliciousness. Arugula salad with pomegranate seeds to finish. It's a favorite meal, done a little differently two Octobers ago and was quite special-fancy, fancy-special with a Condrieu.
The 2011 Tons de Duorum Branco Douro (see the project here) brought all the Portuguese white goodness wrapped in a more subtle package. Portuguese white grapes are unique to Portugal, this one being 30% Viosinho, 25% Rabigato, 20% Verdelho, 20% Arinto and 5% Moscatel.
Typically, Portuguese whites are a kaleidoscope of melon, citrus, green fruits and abundant wet stones with sturdy acid and something that tastes like you just drove past an open-air garbage dump on a hot day...in the best possible sense. After a 2010 trip to the Douro Valley, Portuguese white always tastes like vacation. We could drink it by the case but it's tremendously difficult to find in Chicago, only popping up on occasion. Quinta do Vallado (if you go to the Douro, STAY THERE! Sweet Jesus! that place is awesome!), Quinta do Crasto and Niepoort (hit and miss) make good ones in our experience. This is a nice one as well, a touch more delicate than they typically show and at a great price. The pairing never jettisoned itself into greatness in the least but each element never got in the other's way, liking very much what was on the table and in the glass.
Total cost of the meal: About $25 for two. Cheap! Leftover chicken from New Year's Eve helped in keeping the cost down and the leftovers covered lunch the next day. Not too shabby.