There is one question I hear more than any in my daily dealings with the wine-drinking public:
“What wines are you drinking these days?”
I figure most people asking this question are more interested in getting an insider tip-off on the next big trend in wine than a tour of my personal cellar. Lately I have been a big fan of ‘underdog’ grapes, and I think the trend is growing. By ‘underdog’, I am referring to perfectly delicious wines that often don’t get the acclaim they deserve because they aren’t well-know as a major player. Not every wine can be a complex, intellectual experience, and sometimes it is actually better when it’s not; this trend is all about rediscovering simple joys, a concept suited for summer. A great thing about these unsung pleasures is that they often come with smaller price tags, so gas prices don’t have to prevent indulgence in anytime joy.
Italy is a great source of underdog wines; Barbera, an approachable, versatile, light-bodied red grape from the Piedmont region, is often in the magnificent shadow of the Nebbiolo-based Barolo and Barberesco wines from the same region. Fontanafredda’s 2006 Briccotondo is a shining example of what Barbera can be when treated with respect. Currant, cranberry, and black cherry are steeped with pepper, clove, and dried flowers, and the mild tannin and pleasantly tart acidity make this wine almost impossibly good for under $20.
Prosecco, the current “It” sparkling wine flowing in gallons from by-the-glass lists all over the country, is a great example of the upswing of the underdog. Most quality proseccos have the taste of delicate honeydew melon laced in lime zest, with a puritanical kiss of sweetness. Bisol makes a delicious example for under $20.