Learn your ABC’s

Of wine, of course, further proving we can (and will!) make a winetasting out of just about anything. Anyway, why should kids have all the fun? 

The tasting: We’ve started with six wines – three whites and three reds – but aren’t opposed to going through the whole alphabet (we included a Z in case you just can’t let go at C).

A is for ASSYRTIKO: Assyrtiko is from Greece, typically Santorini. This grape is amazing in that it retains lively acidity even though it is grown in a hot climate. Fresh with mineral and citrus notes sometimes including pineapple. Not so helpful hint: Some are aged in oak, others are not (sorry). About $22. Or, sub Albarino from Spain or Alvarinho from Portugal.

B is for BOURGOGNE BLANC: The entry level Chardonnay of the famous French wine region, for a wine to be called Bourgogne Blanc the grapes must be sourced from anywhere in the Burgundy region. Typically unoaked or with limited time (6 months) in neutral oak, it’s the gateway drug to more expensive French Burgundy. $20-30. Or, sub: Bourboulenc from Tavel, France...if you can find one.

C is for CHENIN BLANC: Chenin Blanc is from the Loire, France, where it produces wines with apple, honey, straw and wooly notes, with searingly high acidity. Now also made exceptionally well in South Africa, where it is called Steen and is a bit rounder, Cheinin Blanc can be made in styles that range from dry to sweet; easy drinking to age-worthy. For the purpose of this tasting, get a dry white from Vouvray or Savennières  from the Loire Valley or South Africa.  If you accidentally get a sweet one, add it to the dessert flight. $12-16 (unless you go for a more expensive example, such as the world famous Nicolas Joly Clos de Coulee de Serrant at $100). Or sub: You guessed it… Chardonnay. 

A is for AGLIANICO: One of the best Italian grapes you’ve probably never heard of, in this case a high quality, tannic and often age-worthy red wine made in the Southern part of the country, such as Taurasi. This is an intense wine with high, firm tannins, chocolate and berries, but crisp acidity. Quite a way to get started with the reds. $16-25 buys you a great example. Or, sub:  Alfrocheiro. And if you find it give us a call and we’ll join you for the tasting…. It’s often used in blends in Portugal.

B is for BONARDA: Bonarda is the second red grape of Argentina – for all of those who know and love Malbec. Bonarda is full of scrumptious red berries, is medium- to full-bodied with relatively low acidity. It goes down easy and is easy on the wallet, too, at about $15. Or sub: Barbera from Italy.

C is for CARMÉNÈRE: Carménère is a terrific grape for a blind tasting, because it often has a “tell” (in poker-speak): these are deeply colored wines, often with an herbaceous note that make it easy to recognize, rather like grass. These wines hail from Chile, although Carménère was part of the blend that originally made Bordeaux Reds famous.  $12-19. Or sub: Cabernet Franc.

If you are the type of person who won’t stop until you get to Z, well, we get you.

Z is for ZINFANDEL: Zinfandel is made almost exclusively in Northern California; in Italy the same grape is called Primitivo. Zin is a full-bodied, dark red wine bursting with blackberries and sometimes peppery notes that is often high in alcohol (over 15%). There is a big range of prices for these wines but $12-17 will do you proud. 

Pairing Conundrum: What to do when you have such a diverse selection of wines? Keep it simple as ABC: put out cheeses, olives, nuts, cracker and/or some rustic bread. Make a batch of warm popcorn (black truffle or sea salt) and settle in.  Alternatively, you can really take it back to the school yard and have everyone pack-in their meal in their favorite lunch box. 

And remember the old-school lunch bags for blinding the wine!