In Search of Sangiovese
By DOROTHY J. GAITER AND JOHN BRECHER
I attended graduate school in Italy, where my economics professor was obsessed with Sangiovese. (Sangiovese was a frequent commodity in his examples of economic theory.) Home in the U.S., I often look for wines labeled Sangiovese, but rarely find them. I know the main variety in Chianti is Sangiovese, but is there a difference in a wine labeled Sangiovese vs. Chianti?
—Maia Will, Bethesda, Md.
Chianti is made within a specific region of Italy under various rules. Because Sangiovese is the name of a grape, it's possible you'd find a wine labeled with that name from anywhere in the world. Some U.S. wineries make Sangiovese. We also don't see much varietally designated Sangiovese on store shelves. That said, we find that Italian wine simply called Sangiovese can be a good deal compared to "official" Chianti. Maybe it's from young vines or it's grown outside the official Chianti zone or maybe it's just someone's excess juice, but this is something worth keeping in mind for value. These are often simple, drink-now carafe wines that can be quite charming. Similarly, sometimes wines from Spain simply called Tempranillo (instead of Rioja) can be good deals.
Adventurous Steps In a Wine Journey
Under what circumstances would you buy a Gewürztraminer from Chile?
That's a question from us to you. When it comes to full enjoyment of wine, to a wine journey that improves with time and age, that really is a fundamental question -- well, maybe not specifically about Chilean Gewürz, but you get the idea. There are loads of outstanding wines on shelves today from all over the world, made from all kinds of grapes. Too many people are afraid to take a risk on something new. But sometimes, the most exciting and most rewarding part of the journey is the one that requires a little leap of faith. Consider Gewürztraminer from Chile.
We were at a trendy Manhattan restaurant called Spice Market, which has a very interesting, two-page wine list (to see it, go to www.spicemarketnewyork.com/menu-wines.pdf). Our previous time there, we had a tasty Chenin Blanc from an Indian winery called Sula. On the list this time, we spotted a 2007 Cartagena Gewürz from Chile (Lo Abarca, San Antonio Valley). It was $48 and it seemed like it might be good with spicy food. Was it ever. We taste more than 2,000 wines a year. We find something to like about most of them and we truly like many of them. And then there are wines that jump to the top of our list, wines that we will always remember. This was one of them. "The nose is so fresh and lush that it's like a winery barrel sample," we wrote as we dined. (The kids, who hate our note-taking, were down the street eating at Buddakan for Media's 20th birthday.) "It has a kind of Muscat floweriness, with some honeysuckle, honeydew and lots of lychee. It's so juicy. Taste is fresh and clean, with some white pepper and ice-cold, pale-green grapes. It's fun, fresh and lovely, exceptionally crisp, clean and focused. But you'd have to be open to new tastes because it is quite tropical and a little adventurous."
We found the wine online as soon as we got home. We ordered four bottles for $15.99 each and tried it again -- with the same result. At that point, we called the importer, T. Edward Wines of New York, which told us that winemaker Maria Luz Marin made just 500 cases of the 2007, of which 200 were imported into the U.S. About 80% went to restaurants (once again showing how important it is to look for unusual stuff when you eat out). The last case of the 2007 was sold on March 31, the importer said, adding that 300 to 400 cases of the 2008 should be arriving soon. We can't wait.
More On Waiving Corkage Fees
I just read today's [April 10] column about corkage fees. Here in Milwaukee, most fine restaurants allow you to bring your own wine for a fee of between $10 and $25. I have found, however, that many actually waive the fee when presenting the check. Last week, for example, my wife and I dined at Roots, a lovely restaurant with a beautiful view of the city. We brought along a 2005 Bordeaux from St. Émilion. The waiter took great interest in the wine, and over the course of the evening we talked about food, wine, and cheese with him. When he poured the wine for us I asked him to bring an extra glass so he could have a taste, which he found as delightful as we did. Upon leaving I wondered whether, in recessionary times, waiving a corkage fee is a way of inviting customers to return.
—Shan Nelson-Rowe, Milwaukee
That certainly makes sense to us. By the way, whenever you take a bottle of wine to a fine restaurant for BYOB, it's always a nice gesture to offer a taste to your waiter. You should only take wines that are special for some reason, and special wines are always best when they are shared.Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page W