Good wines at good prices
I am in a state of lamentation, as I know many of you are, at the closure of Maureen Adams’ Wine Studio in Manchester.
Perhaps the greatest loss in the closing of a wine shop is the fact that our choices become progressively more limited as there are fewer and fewer independent shops in the state.
One thing that does give me hope is that there are shops that, while they do not sell wine exclusively, they do sell wine. One of these is, of course, Angela’s Pasta and Cheese Shop on Chestnut Street in Manchester, founded, as you may know, by three Italian sisters. And, in Italian culture, it is virtually impossible to think about food without thinking about wine to accompany it.
When I was in Italy a few years ago visiting family, I was talking with my cousin Riccardo Scuero about bringing some wine back to America, and the subject of tariffs came up. He appeared puzzled, and said that tariffs and taxes were for alcohol — Scotch, grappa, and the like. Wine, on the other hand, is food, he said. Such is the difference in the Italian world view.
I made a recent trip to Angela’s and came away with a few gems, including several under $20 a bottle. (A few were under $10, and you won’t find too many shops with a whole shelf full of those that are of good quality.)
Let’s take a look at them now.
Trapiche Vineyards 2012 Malbec: Mendoza, Argentina, $9.95, 13.5% alcohol. The trick to growing good grapes in a hot country is to go up — way up — into the mountains, which is often the case in South America. This Malbec has a medium-intensity hue of rich purple. The nose is of medium intensity and developing, with red fruit predominating. It is a very dry wine with medium-plus acidity, medium tannin that is a bit coarse but provides some character, medium-plus alcohol. (It’s a bit warm on opening, give it 15 or 20 minutes to acclimate before drinking.) Medium body and a flavor intensity where fruits again predominate, including raspberry, plum, red cherry and just the slightest hint of cranberry. The alcohol, given some air, does balance out in time. Medium length finish. Good and drinkable now. 86 points.
Jam 2011 Red Wine: California, $19.95. The label doesn’t tell you which grapes are in the bottle, only that they come from California. However, the winery’s website (www.jamcellars.com) describes it thusly: a Bordeaux based blend of Merlot and Petite Verdot along with Petite Sirah and a touch of Zinfandel. In the glass, it is of medium intensity with purple and some shades of ruby; the nose is developing with fruits and some slight vegetal aromas. It is indeed a jammy wine, off dry, with medium acidity, tannin, alcohol and body. The flavor profile includes plum, strawberry, black currant and blackberry. Good concentration and balance. Ready to drink now. 87 points.
Villadoria 2008 Bricco Magno Langhe Rosso, DOC, 13.5% alcohol, $17.95. First, let’s demystify the label: “Bricco” means hill, “Langhe” means “tongue”, vividly reflecting the rolling hills of Piedmont’s wine region. Now, in Piedmont, there are hills and there are hills. My above-mentioned cousin, Ricardo, now well into his 80s, has a son named Marco. The last time I was sitting on their porch, I looked out at the mountain in sight of the house and commented on how beautiful it was. Marco shook his head and said, “E una collina” — “that’s just a hill.” This from a man who gets in his car, drives a half hour and skis in the Alps, which you can see from anywhere in downtown Turin, so he knows mountains. It’s all a matter of perspective.
The premier grape of the region is, of course, Nebbiolo, which goes into several of the worlds great wines, including the justly famous Barolo. They don’t list what grapes are included in this Villadoria, but the flavor profile certainly suggests Nebbiolo. It is a red wine, with purple, ruby and garnet coloring, medium-intensity nose with red fruit, developing. It is a dry wine, with medium-plus acidity, medium body and medium-plus flavor intensity of red fruit with just a little hint of leather. Good finish that holds the flavors to the end. Good quality, ready to drink now. 86 points.
Honoro Vera 2012 Monastrell, DO Jumilla, Spain, 15% ABV, $9.95. The label boasts 100% organically grown grapes in this region of Spain. Another medium-intensity presentation with purple and a good dose of ruby color, medium-intensity nose with fruits and spices, developing. This also is a dry red, with medium acidity, tannin, alcohol and body, medium-plus flavor intensity of fruit including plum, blackberry, a strong note of fig and raisin, as well as some jamminess. Good structure, balance and concentration, and ready to drink now. 85 points.
As wine prices continue to rise, in some cases rising out of sight, it’s comforting to know that a place like Angela’s continues to find us good wines under $20.
Contact local beer and wine writer Jim Beauregard at firstname.lastname@example.org.