A May Miscellany

Memorial Day weekend in Old Chatham with Carol and Ken starts tomorrow. There’ll be a dozen or more wines to review, so before I fall too far behind, here is a quick rundown of some of the bottles we’ve drained in the last two weeks.

It’s been a rainy spring in the country. After an hour or two in the muck and mire, yanking up weeds, raking out beds, planting, transplanting, we strip off our clothes, check each other for ticks, shower, then meet for dinner in the back room. These are informal meals, often consisting of items from the pantry. Like two weeks ago when we ate pasta with Margaret’s homemade tomato sauce, and pulled the cork on a 2009 Terredora Dipaolo Aglianico.

This fine varietal, roughly meaning Greek vine, thrives in the Campania and Basilicata regions of southern Italy, and has earned the nickname, Barolo of the South. In Roman times, it was the principal grape in Falernian, Rome’s equivalent to the cult wines of Napa, although the Roman’s wine was white, and was typically aged for a decade or more in clay amphorae, resulting in an oxidized Madiera-like brew.

Modern Aglianico is deep red, powerful and tannic, especially in Campania’s DOCG version, Taurasi, and Basilicata’s only DOC, Aglianico del Vulture. Our IGT version from Campania, at $15, was medium bodied, smelling of berries and violet. It made for easy drinking. Exhausted by our garden labors, we were in bed by 10.

During the week, Sandy came down with a lemon meringue pie. When she went back upstairs, half of it was gone, having been greedily consumed along with a bottle of 2010 Biancospino Moscato D’Asti. This is the same wine served during the September Wines Dinner at the Penn Club in February. We love the cleansing balanced freshness of moscato. At 5.5% alcohol, there was no excuse not to enjoy this light, sweet sparkler in mid-week. Sandy, who is always conscientious about giving her students the best she has to offer, allowed herself full measure, and reported, the next day, she was none the worse for it.

Last weekend, in Old Chatham, we opened a bottle of 2008 Anne Pichon Roussanne, a vin de pays du Vaucluse that we picked up at Chatham Liquors for $20. Roussanne is a southern Rhône varietal that is usually blended with other grapes in white Côtes du Rhône. This was our first taste of the unblended varietal, and we were not displeased. The wine smelled of apples and anise, tasted of wet stone and light oak, and had a long toasty finish.

On Tuesday, our friend Rikki took us out to dinner at Meridiana, our local Italian restaurant, where the food is wonderful, the wait-staff overworked and the wine list execrable. Nevertheless, we managed to put together a wonderful meal, consisting of various pastas and an appetizer special of Roman-style artichokes drowned in olive oil and garlic. After some negotiation with our waiter, we settled on a wine that was also off-menu, 2010 Babich Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

This wine is one more in a long list of perfectly acceptable New Zealand whites that show bright citrus notes, particularly grapefruit. At $9.99 at Martin Brothers, it is about as cheap as wine gets, and is far better than we have any reason to expect. Rikki called the next day to get the name; I think she has identified her summer quaff.

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