By Courtney Cochran
Let’s face it: the recession taught us many of things, perhaps the most important: you’ve got to appreciate the small things in life. And with 2009 drawing to a close, we can all look forward a renewed perspective (not to mention uptrending economic indicators, whew!) in the new year. To go along with this reinvigorated view of things, we offer the following ten wines that are destined to be hot in 2010. Because if another thing is altogether clear as we head out of this strange era: wine is and always will be a hallmark of the good times. And, it’s time for each and every one of us to start living the good life again.
So go on: The little things in life are beckoning – and go down swell with a swill of some excellent vino
The Versatile White: German Riesling
Whether you’re serving fast food (it’s out of this world with a burger and salty fries) or foie gras, Mosel Riesling from Germany’s got you covered. A laser-focused white with super brisk acidity and show-stopping exotic fruit notes, Riesling’s hint of sweetness makes the perfect foil for fatty AND salty foods – making it one of the world’s criminally underappreciated wines. A sommelier fav, it’s also a crowd pleaser and sure to “wow” even the most jaded oenophiles.
Try: 2007 Bollig Lehnert Tritenheimer Apotheke Riesling Kabinett ($15)The Well Edited Chardonnay
Today’s quotidian chardonnays are run amok in over the top oak and butter notes – so where to turn when you like a bit of body in your glass but fear the blow of the overdone? Turn to a Chardonnay in today’s hottest style – a style that includes a touch of ML (that’s malolactic fermentation – the winemaking process that creates those infamous buttery notes) and just a kiss of quality French oak. This wine demonstrates that it CAN be done – and that Chardonnay of today is in fact elegant, restrained…but still a bit opulent. Cheers to that
Try: 2007 Neyers Carneros Chardonnay ($25)The Portuguese Player
Here, here! Dry Portuguese wines – as opposed to the country’s famous stickie, Port – are the new big thing where wine in the country is concerned. Enter Vino Verde, a precocious white from the northern reaches of the country that packs exhilarating lemon soda-like zip alongside hints of salinity thanks to vineyards’ proximity to the nearby Atlantic. It’s perfect for seafood and spicy Mexican fare, and heartier versions of the wine will pair well with poultry and richer foods.
Try: 2008 Ferreira “Soalheiro” Alvarinho Vinho Verde, Portugal ($20)Oregonian Initiation
Attention oenophiles: Oregon is officially on the list. As in, Oregon is definitely the next big thing where domestic wine is concerned, and it’s got a lot to show you all. Take, for instance, the region’s super elegant Pinots, which eloquently (and improbably) marry Old World French (read: restrained) elegance and structure with opulent New World fruit – making for a vinous match in Pinot heaven if ever there was one. And while stellar cuvees come from all over the Willamette, many of the best are clustered in the volcanic Dundee Hills AVA.
Try: 2007 Adelsheim Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($32)The Minty Messenger
Now is definitely the time to get to know Chile’s signature red grape, Carmenère, which has been on our radar for some time but is just truly breaking out in a big way thanks to growing awareness of wines from the region and more imports available on store shelves. A mid- to full-bodied red with silky tannins, it totally charms with its singular minty aroma and flavor backed by cool notes of bramble berries and tobacco; in all, it’s the perfect companion to meats made with mint sauce, herbed stews and the like.
Try: 2007 Montes Alpha Carmenère Colchagua Valley, Chile ($22)The…Ahem…Mature Red
If there’s one thing 2009 taught us, it’s that value is the new black. But with economic climes looking fairer, we’re also looking for stellar quality to go along with that value. Enter Spanish reds – specifically, Spanish reds that hail from la Rioja. Arguably the country’s most famous winemaking region, northern Rioja reds benefit from a mandatory aging in oak and bottling before they’re released – which means they often hit the shelves with enviable age (and nuance!) already in the bottle. Even better: these beauties are from Spain, home to some of the best values in wine today.
Try: 2001 Lopez de Heredia “Viña Bosconia” Reserva Rioja ($35)The Israeli Upstart
Some 30 years ago Israelis planted grape vines on the Golan Heights – a region the country won from Syria during the Six-Day War in 1967 – and slowly but surely, a quality wine revolution has been taking place there ever since. Take, for example, the classy offerings in red from the Golan Heights, which offer up decadent aromas and flavors of deep berries along with silky texture and a hint of spice. They’re proving that Israeli wines are here to stay, and whether you keep kosher or not, you ought to give them a whirl; if nothing else, they make a shoe-in for the “exotic region” selection at your next tasting.
2005 Galil Mountain “Yiron” Cabernet-Merlot, Galilee, Israel ($25, Yarden) The Secret Sauce Syrah
Psst: Syrah in California is getting better…MUCH better. And thanks to a handful of vintners making the stuff from vines grown in fringe vineyards (spots on the edge of cultivable land, where Syrah thrives), we’re now able to enjoy simply stellar Syrah grown in our backyards. We recommend the following wine from one of the foremost up and coming Syrah producers in California – recently awarded 94 points and stopping traffic – vinously speaking – wherever it’s poured.
Try: 2006 La Fenêtre Élevage Reserve Santa Barbara Highlands “South Mesa” Syrah ($45)The Comeback Kid
Lambrusco. It’s what your parents drank when they didn’t know any better, and following a wave of serious overexposure it’s been shunned to the status of White Zin-like pariah of the wine world for decades. But heed this, adventurous wino: Lambrusco’s back, and it’s taking palates by surprise across this fair land with its food-friendly dryness, lip-smacking berry flavors, eye-popping red color and effervescent bubbles. It’s not complex, it’s not long on the finish, but it IS absolutely fabulous when paired with cured meats, lunch time ‘wiches and even pizza. Just be sure you pack an extra bottle, ‘cuz where a glass of this stuff is swilled, a second is sure to follow. (Oh, and did we mention it’s cheap?)
Try: Ca Berti Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro “Tipico” Dry ($10)Just For Fun…
And there’s something undeniably fun and worth celebrating in dessert wine. That’s right: sweet wine. A natural companion for salty cheeses of all sorts, sweet wines like Bordeaux’s storied (and super rare) Sauternes are sure to turn heads in a tasting crowd – and not be soon forgotten. To wit, this final wine all about celebrating the sheer pleasure of an unctuous – yet still laser-focused and refreshing – stickie, and along with it, a reinvigorated perspective heading into 2010.
Try: 2005 Rieussec Sauternes ($45, half bottle)