Fine Wine Writing by Jonathon Alsop

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Where have all the brats gone?
November 1999

I'd been getting email for about a year from an organization called The Wine Brats, but I was sure I was way too old and decrepit for the hip scene their edgy web site graphics foretold. I went to one of their tastings in Boston a couple of weeks ago. When I was a brat, we did things a little differently. We were bratty, for instance.

Perhaps this is a sign of my inevitable age, the old holding the young to higher standards of misbehavior, but after a few minutes of wandering around tasting Gallo's latest up-market products, it dawned on me that this wasn't going to be the rave of a wine tasting I'd been expecting. No one was going to pick a fight, or try to take their wine out of the Prudential Skywalk and go home mad, or even dance.

Yes, the people were a little younger than usual for a wine scene -- 28 to 39 versus 42 and up -- and they were naturally better looking and more energetic. Other than that, they were civilized and well-dressed and entirely un-bratty, a group ready to move into the 42 and up crowd already. No wonder people hate wine lovers: we tame the young, like golf.

I tasted two wines that night that were interesting.

'96 Gallo Frei Ranch Zinfandel (about $16, available everywhere) As much as people will resist thinking that a big winery like Gallo can make a good wine, the Frei Ranch Zin proves it can be done. This zinfandel was creamy and oaky, bristling with rough tannins. I'd definitely drink it again. Amazing, especially given the bias.

'95 Frei Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon (about $24, maybe a little less, limited availability) This one's a harder sell since it's in a price range that Gallo's not tried to occupy before. The Frei Ranch Cab is a big muscular red with chewy chocolate, oak and cream. I suspect there's a dose of merlot in there someplace.

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