Marry, Bang, Kill: Old World Wines

Oh Germany- we love you for your beer, your strudel… but unfortunately, your wine doesn’t quite make my heart sing- and that’s why I’m just going to have to kill you. Sorry, you have given us some truly delightful wines- I genuinely enjoy Blaufrankisch- similar to Pinot Noir but with a bit more backbone, a bit more drama and spice, and your take on Pinot Noir (spatburgunder) is almost as elegant as many Burgundies I’ve had; Silvaner sure as hell is an interesting grape (a finicky grape, difficult to grow, but when done right has a passion fruit and peach flavor along with some really herbaceous thyme and spice)- it’s fun  one to casually toss around in conversation with wine lovers and look like a bona fide badass. I can even move past my vendetta against your ubiquitous Riesling and try to just respect that everyone has their own likes. (Before I start getting hate mail and pipe bombs mailed to me, look, I’ve honestly just never had one and thought, “yum, I would like to continue putting this flavor in my mouth.”)

But my dislike for Riesling isn’t really what killed you- no, I’ve spent weeks studying, reading, podcasting… and I still just can’t seem to figure out your wine laws. Seriously, I’m as baffled as ever. I mean, we’ve got pradikatswein, qualitatswein… you have 200 wineries that are “invited” to be VDPs, which seems to be like the Cru system in France, but with less history and definition. There’s Trocken, Halbtrocken, Feinherb that all tell you how ripe the grape was (how much residual sugar), and so far as I can tell, you can have up to five of these kinds of descriptors on the same label. So, basically, I’m confused- and I don’t like being confused. I’m a smart person, but you just don’t make me feel like it. And no, I’m not letting that deter me, one day I will master your weins and the 7000 laws you have to go with them, but in the meantime, I’m sorry, you’re dead to me.  But hey, don’t take it too hard, it was a tough category and I think a lot of experts will disagree… but I’ve never minded being a rebel.

So now, who would I do? Ummmm, easy- France. Oh France, so much temptation- we’re talking like Eliot Spitzer level prostitute at $10k/night kind of temptation.  And where even to begin? Seriously, from the rich, intense, complex Rhone Valley GSM blends (think Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas… powerful but velvety hedonism in a bottle) to the irresistible, bubbly luxury of true, classic Champagne- is there a more beautiful sight than the perfect, tiny little bubbles beading up towards the surface? (Hint: nope, it’s definitely the most beautiful thing in the world).

And then, if I’m dabbling in the world of Sauvignon Blanc you can be damn sure I’m going with a perfectly-balanced Sancerre or Pouilly-Fume from the Loire Valley- bone dry, minerality and somewhat astringent without being too austere or overly tart. (BTW, New Zealand, you can keep your overpowering notes of “lawn trimmings” to yourself, no thank you). And honestly, I don’t think I can even get started on the ridiculously amazing things coming out of Bordeaux and Burgundy- I’m going to have to do an entire blog post on Medoc alone! But basically, yeah, France is going to be one of the best nights of your life- but it’s not necessarily meant for the day-to-day, it’s a little too fancy, a little too perfect and exact and wonderful- even the most brilliant diamonds begin to lose their sparkle and shine after a time.

But for longevity- for a true life partnership, well- for me it’s Spain. Spain is the country that never fails me; it meets every single one of my needs-:food pairings, aperitifs; if I need something to sip by the pool in the summer I’ve got my slightly frizzante, tart and refreshing Verdejo from Rueda or an intensely aromatic and bracing, mouth-watering Albarino. Then, in the winter I can always count on my Priorat or Ribera del Duero blends those spicy, tannic, fruit bombs made with that luscious grape Tempranillo;  these wines help keep me warm as I sit in the house, annoyed by the falling snow that’s going to make traffic into the office tomorrow a real bitch.

Oh, and it never hurts to remember that these wines are generally so reasonably priced- I can afford a lifetime of memories with these bottles while still managing to pay my almost crippling student loan debt, (aka another reason why I drink).

Spanish wines are something you can bring to your in-law’s Thanksgiving or Christmas celebrations and they’ll please even the pickiest palates (oh, you know who I’m talking about Cramers). You can bring some to your high school reunion and impress the hell out of everyone by your refined tastes and out of the box thinking- finally, your crush from back in the day is going to see what he missed out on. OH- and don’t forget, for any and all celebrations, bring on the Cava- it may be made with different grapes than its French cousin Champagne, but it’s made using the same method- fermenting a second time in the bottle for a rich, complex sparkling with notes of pear and melon, a hint of citrus zest- and, of course, the rich, nutty, toastiness that I just need in my life, constantly. Like, there is a restaurant in London where you can hit a button for more champagne- I would easily pay upwards of $5,000 to have that installed in my house but filled with Cava. And again, at $8-12/bottle for genuinely great bottles- I can, and have, counted on it on a daily basis. It’s always in my bar, in my fridge- just like sour dill pickles, tons of unsalted butter and half and half for my coffee, it’s a staple of my diet and my life.

Spanish wines got me through my divorce; the first bottle of wine I ever drank with my soon-to-be husband was a Rioja with my infamous lasagna on our third date. I have enjoyed a wide variety of Cavas over brunch with my girlfriends and toasted a dear friend at her memorial service with a particularly vibrant bottle- zesty and refreshing, just like her. And I’ll never forget the day that I turned in my thesis for my Master’s degree, instead of a fancy schmancy French, we popped open a bottle (or two or three… whatever, my Masters wasn’t in counting) to celebrate the massive milestone.

And that’s what I’m talking about. For all of the best and many of the toughest moments in my life, Spain was there for me- and if there is one thing I learned from my divorce, that’s what makes for the best marriages- consistency, loyalty, support. So, yeah, apologies to the future Mr. SommBitch, I do genuinely love you- but you need to know and respect that Spain will always be in my heart (and probably my stomach, liver and blood stream)-  eso es el amor de mi vida.

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