Thursday, September 25, 2014

Wines that Take You On a Little Vacation

By Liza B. Zimmerman

If you can’t get away this season, there are a handful of drinks that can help you feel as if you did. My family has always been a fan of dark rum, the older the better! Barbancourt has long been a favorite of my parents, and rhum agricole has also become a personal favorite of mine. On the beach in California I have also learned to love simple gin and tonics as well as a well-made Margarita or great Tequila straight up (or with a lot of lime in a drink).

However there are many wines that can make you feel miles away from home. Whatever you choose will depend on how your ideal vacation might unfold.

If You Love Classic European Destinations
We could all fight over Merlot- versus Cabernet Sauvignon-based blends when discussing Bordeaux, but let’s face it: they are all pretty divine. The better ones make you feel like you are walking on that rocky, sometimes wind-blown piece of land that has long been the mother territory for all wine production down through the centuries.

I tend to love the softer, Right-Bank Bordeaux wines that are made with more Merlot. Wines such as Château Tour Caillet and Virecourt Pillebourse represent these types of blends that give the drinker that soft, sensual feel that can transport you miles away.

Tuscany is another iconic wine destination, where the wines—at their best—can transport you to another time and place. Many of the region’s noted Chiantis can come with higher price tags, but Morellino di Scansano is a local gem and Tuscan-relative that comes at a great price point. The town also features a great sagra—Italian for food and wine festival—annually where guests can taste lots of local wines paired with great grilled meats and other homemade dishes.

To Approximate that Beach Vacation
A little cachaça or a well-made Margarita is always a good way to segue to a relaxing afternoon. If you don’t have the right at-home mixologist at hand—my dad is still so on his game at making cocktails at the age of 87—there are some wines that can recreate that same feeling.

Sparkling wine is eternally festive. You can bring out the big guns with Champagne for special occasions, but Prosecco and French sparkling (particularly from Alsace) can also fit the bill.

Those big, sometimes sweet red bubbles can also fit the bill in winter. The Aussie versions tend to be a little sweeter than Lambruscos. The Italian versions, such as the classic Lini, also generally have higher acidity levels and are more food friendly.

Experience a New Grape
Whether the varietal in question is the local Chilean Carménère, or something lean, clean and mean from Austria, taking a risk in a new wine experience is likely to be a refreshing experience.

The best-case scenario would be to take inspiration for a wine you love, if it’s California Pinot Noir, try one from Oregon or Burgundy. If you adore blends from France, try one from California or see how some of those classic international varietals are fairing in Italy (with or without a touch of Sangiovese).

Or you can even try completely new territory for blends, such as the amazing—and often Syrah- or Pinotage-based—wines that South Africans are producing. Rupert & Rothschild has long been a favorite of mine for its French style produced in New World territory. I also adore Vergelegen, which is much harder to pronounce that it is to drink.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

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