"Be careful Anaïs, abnormal pleasures kill the taste for normal ones."
- from Henry & June
- from Henry & June
The term 'vin de table', table wine, conjures up a variety of emotions for wine neophytes, enthusiasts and experts. Since I did not grow up in a winemaking region, table wine has always meant those wines on the restaurant menu marked simply "red" or "white". Inexpensive and sold by the glass, these are meant to accompany the meal, not to be sniffed and swirled but to be gulped with a heaping plate of spaghetti.
But as the depth and breadth my wine knowledge has expanded I have become a wine snob of sorts, seeking out 'abnormal pleasures' and snubbing the simpler pours. So my Twelve Under $12 series was meant to bring me back from the abyss and see if I could find pleasure in 'normal' wine.
I began this journey the way most people buy wine, wandering the aisles and looking at labels. My purchases were rather random, with vague recollections of grapes, regions or winemakers. I did not consult store staff, magazines or fellow bloggers, relying rather on instinct. An educated instinct, perhaps, but close to the way most bottles make it home.
So, what did I find?
On the plus side, I did not find truly undrinkable wine. While some wines were more interesting than others, and some even presented great values, most were simply decent liquid to help wash down weekday fare. Moreover, my explorer instinct let me to discover/re-discover some grapes and regions I had not tasted: verdicchio, baga, box wine, Romanian wine, torrontes....
On the negative side most wines were thin, flabby, uncomplex and, given the diverse geographic source of the grapes and prolific blending, few had that "sense of place" or regional style. Only one or two transported me to a higher sensory level, commanding my undivided attention. Not disappointing, but "hollow"...
Most memorable (red): the Portuguese Marques de Marialva seamlessly married with food while maintaining enough complexity for simply sniffing and swirling. A steal at C$10.95, the SAQ has inexplicably marked it down another C$2. A must buy.
Most memorable (white): the verdicchio was cheap and fun, but the Domaine de Tariquet was an absolute joy for the senses, confirming that the Vin de Pays des Côtes de Gascogne appellation is a great source of terrific white values.
Best value: While the new price of the Marques de Marialva is compelling, the amazingly cheap Romanian pinot noir (Chevalier de Dyonis) gets the nod here, a good Pinot Noir for under C$10.
Most intriguing: The Moulin de Gassac was a beguiling wine, perhaps the only bottle that displayed a sense of place - a true 'vin de pays'. I found it an intellectual turn on, an abnormal pleasure? But I would have to hide that from my wife (she hated it), and I feel it would be too "edgey" for many newbies and New World wine lovers.
Lost notes: I had a few cheapies that I didn't blog, including the nice 2007 Robertson Chenin Blanc - I can't find my notes, but I will go get another bottle and report back.
So, go break the bank and try some table wine - you will learn something, you may even be pleasantly surprised, and you won't break the bank.