I’ve had blinders on. With my head buried in the headlines about eating locally, sustainable food chain, organic v. affordable, I completely missed spotting a trend in wine shops in New York.
Just by fluke, I visited two wine shops yesterday, and both of them are very proud to say that they are actively seeking out and supporting smaller wine producers. They both boast that they don’t carry the big brands. You won’t find Veuve Cliquot or Yellow Tail Shiraz at either Chamber St. Wines or at Moore Brothers.
Chamber St. Wines is housed in an old fire station and has a tightly edited selection of small, naturally produced wines. And that doesn’t translate as: all wines cost $$$$, there are some well priced wines to be had. You may not find your favorite, old stand by selections, but you will be enticed to try and support some of these smaller vintners. They have a good selection of Italian wines, and that always makes me happy. I came home with two bottles of Verdicchio di Matelica, which is my preferred region for Verdicchio, as the wines taste more of minerals and are crisper than the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi which are more easily found. Verdicchio was the “Mateus” wine of the Marches. Remember in the late 70’s, early 80’s when that nasty Mateus wine was so popular and completely ruined the reputation of good Portuguese wine makers? Verdicchio did the same thing; it was generic plonk, in a quirky bottle. Its time to update your memory chip, and give this subtly nuanced and well balanced wine another try.
Yesterday evening, we walked over to the Moore Brothers on 20th St. where, they hosted a Barolo and Barberesco wine tasting, with wines from the Azienda Agricola Paitin di Pasquero. The Moore Brothers are passionate about wine, passionate about sussing out small winemakers who are using traditional methods and making ‘real’ wine. I’m sorry to say that I’m not sure which Moore brother we chatted with last night, David or Greg, but he’s the cowboy boot wearing, country music musician brother, and he is full of fire when he talks about the US wine industry and their slavish devotion to Robert Parker and his anointment of huge American wines. There is a huge difference between New World (read US) and Old World (read European) wines. Mr. Moore explained it this way, “The Americans like to dine with Pamela Anderson, and the Europeans with Grace Kelly.” I’m paraphrasing, but you get the gist of it. Without a millennium of established wine culture to fall back on, Mr. Moore contends that the US consumer got used to drinking “super-sized”, high alcohol content wines. While I may not be as didactic as Mr. Moore, I do agree that European wines are more civil and respectful than their boisterous American cousins. In Italy, there is tremendous, almost fanatical, respect for terriore. Not just in wine, but in food, as well; so the pairing of local foods and wines is not a political choice, but just a natural, organic, logical, symbiotic relationship. Of course you drink the 2005 Barbera d’Alba Serra Bella with the braised meat and game dishes found in Piedmonte! You would be questioning the wisdom of Bacchus to do otherwise! Regionalism aside, this wine requires meat, with some fat, to give balance to the tannins in the wine. After our lively discussion, we went down to the main floor of the shop; which is a perfectly chilled, temperature controlled ‘cave’. It was delightful to wander around the shelves, looking at all the wines that had been so carefully and thoughtfully selected. And what really tickled me was the area set aside for bambini. Can you imagine a wine store that actually sets aside valuable selling space to keep your kids entertained while you shop? My kinda place.