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Off the Vine

Humble wines for troubled times
'With humbling times go humble wines, so herewith some unpretentious reds, full-flavoured, comforting and value-priced,' The Globe's BEPPI CROSARIOL writes in his Wines and Spirits column
By BEPPI CROSARIOL, The Globe and Mail
Saturday, October 20, 2001

Starting a winery isn't exactly the fastest way to get rich, but I can think of at least two reasons to get in the game. One: free wine! Two: Alcohol tends to be a recession-resistant business. People don't abstain during lean times; they just may choose to drink less Richebourg than normal.

And in this Kierkegaardian political climate, I'll bet recession-weary consumers are indulging more than ever. Nothing stokes the thirst like dread.

With humbling times go humble wines, so herewith some unpretentious reds, full-flavoured, comforting and value-priced. Extensive personal research over the past month suggests they pair nicely with take-out pizza, Cheetos, Larry King, Geraldo and Lloyd.

Oro Candidato Vino de La Tierra 1995 (Ontario price $7.95, Product No.523811). This blend of tempranillo (90 per cent) and grenache (10 per cent) from Spain is medium-bodied and cherry-like, with hints of vanilla and herbs. For durability and freshness, it was aged two years in stainless-steel vats, 14 months in oak barrels and a year in bottle before release. It's still amazingly lively for a wine this old at this price. But, then, that's Spain for you.

Tyrrell's Wines The Long Flat Vineyard Shiraz 2000 ($11.75, No, 536763). This relatively recent addition to the line that includes Long Flat Red and Long Flat White from a terrific producer is a clear notch above its vaguely sweet, sibling blends. Full, ripe, brimming with juicy blackberry flavour and spicy oak, this smashing bargain has a plush texture but firm, bright, dry finish, not "flat" in the least. Brilliant wine-making considering the price. The affordable shiraz everybody is - or, rather, should be - looking for.

La Forge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 ($8.25, No. 580167). From sunny southern France, specifically the bargain Minervois region, comes this full-bodied cab that nicely blends Old World earthiness with plump New World fruit and oak. Dark berries and vanilla combine with cedar and spice and a fragrant cigar-box quality.

Jose Maria da Fonseca Periquita 1998 ($9.45 No. 25262). If you haven't had Portuguese wine since your Mateus years, this is a good place to start a long-overdue journey. Rather full, its brimming with juicy cherry, cassis and plum flavours, supported by a creamy texture and rustic hints of leather and fresh herbs. Soft, supple, longevity-enhancing tannins reveal themselves on the finish, which is surprisingly long, lively and dry.

As many well-travelled wine and food aficionados know, New York's World Trade Center was home to Windows on the World, reportedly the busiest fine-dining restaurant in the United States. It was located atop Tower One, the first to be struck and second to fall. More than 80 staff members and 200 breakfast guests perished in the September 11 attacks. The restaurant also was home to a hugely popular wine course taught by the restaurant's beverage director, Kevin Zraly, author of the huge bestseller Windows on the World Complete Wine Course.

Zraly was not caught in the attacks and this week resumed teaching his course at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. To those of us fortunate enough to have experienced his peripatetic and exuberant teaching style (a cross between Socrates and Borscht-Belt comic) while he bounced around the awesome environs of the glass-panelled 110th floor, it won't be the same. More important, though, his publisher, Sterling Publishing Co., will donate a portion of the proceeds from the 2002 edition of the book to a fund that will provide aid to the families of all members of the food and beverage industry lost in the Trade Center tragedy, many of them new immigrants who'd been earning subsistence wages. The Windows on the World Complete Wine Course 2002 is widely available in Canada and sells for $36.95.

Email Beppi Crosariol

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