Fine Wine Writing by Jonathon Alsop

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The Year In Review
by Jonathon Alsop
January 1996

I like change, so normally I end up judging a year good or bad based on how much things got shaken up. This was a pretty benign calendar year in the world of wine, if you judge it by its change-to-stability ratio. But even so, it's worth noting some highs and lows.

Nouveau Bows Out
Low-water mark of the year award for wine marketing belongs to the entire Beaujolais Nouveau scene, which comes and goes with no more attention these days than it deserves. Rule Number One: Never let any trashy wine out of the house, even if it is properly marketed.

Things That Go Munch In The Night
A world-class addition to the Boston food scene over the last year, Iggy's Bakery in Watertown MA continues to make delicious breads, each with its own unique crust and texture. Especially good for sopping up olive oil is the unassuming francese, looking something like a small loaf or a big bisquit. Their super-thick focaccia is a meal in itself, and amazing with a bottle of gutsy red. Add a little Parma ham and some oil-cured black olives, and I guess it's not a meal in itself anymore.

Local Boys Make Good (Wine)
1994 was a great year for the vineyards and wineries of New England, especially Bill Russell and his new sparkler from Westport Rivers in MA, and Larry McCulloch from Chamard in CT. Look for Larry's soon-to-be-released Long Island chardonnay, merlot and cabernet at the Boston Wine Expo in February.

You Do The Math
Trentadue Winery from California's Sonoma Valley produces the delicious '93 Old Patch Red (about $11), a flavorful and unique blend of petite sirah, zinfandel, carignane and alicante bouchet. The unique thing about this wine is that it's a field blend, which means the grapes are harvested, pressed, and blended on-the-spot -- live, so to speak, from vines originally planted around 1890, an old patch indeed.

The '93 offering boasts "90% made from vines over 109 years old" on the label, a slight recalculation from previous vintages, which I believe specified 100% from 100 year-old vines. The difference could be accounted for by advances in carbon-dating technology, and at any rate, the wine tastes as great as ever. Conventional wisdom claims that old vines make the best wine, and the Old Patch Red seems to back this up.

January Wine Shopping List
Personally, I'm not going to be buying any wines in January except for the simplest sipping and cooking wines. I'll probably have a couple of wine-free days, just lay off and pay my bills from the holidays, which I recommend to everyone without fear. I see myself going into a winter time moderation, sort of a consumption downshift to match my activity level, lest I turn into a complete tub. Everything in moderation, however, including moderation. January is due some highlights.

'86 Les Pallieres Gigondas (close-out, $9 at Beacon Beverage in Brookline) A nice buy on a fading monster of a wine, still has lots of fruit and plenty of structure. Works with my new bill-paying philosophy.

'92 Alexander Valley Vineyards Dry Chenin Blanc ($9, available everywhere) Perfect winter white, nutty and dry, best a little warm.

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