Dining » Vol. 6

Worldly Wines

By Matt Shaw

Vinyards

Vinyards

In the name of journalism, I racked up my frequent flyer miles as, in the span of one week, I traversed the globe from Canada to Japan in pursuit of the finest wine that you’ve never heard of ~ and here is the result of my research, a run-down of the jewels collecting dust in your local wine shop’s international wine section.

Stone’s Original Ginger (Ginger flavored currant wine, 13.5% ABV) – London, England

But I’ll be darned if I know how to serve a brown wine. This particular vino comes on like good wasabi: it starts off sweet and spicy, turns slightly herbal, and then smacks you in the mouth with intense spiciness. The spices in question are predominantly ginger-related: pumpkin spice, nutmeg and cinnamon. After you’ve swallowed the full-bodied mouthful, on comes the white pepper, ginger and blackcurrant in an all-out assault of your palate. As pleasing as it is masochistic, this wine would pair well with a Thanksgiving dessert (pumpkin or apple pie) and a full compliment of extended family.

Fu-Ki Plum Wine (Grape wine with plum and other natural flavors, 9% ABV) – Japan

This light golden wine pours and immediately fills the room with the overwhelming smell of red Starburst candies. If you can get past the bouquet, this is quite the rewarding after-dinner drink. The wine carries some of the aroma onto the palate, maybe moving slightly from medicinal cherry toward artificial strawberry and hard candy sugar. But as it sits in your mouth, it develops the ever-so-slight acidity of overripe oranges or nectarines. The sweet finish lingers with more candy sugar, completely free of tannin or bitterness. Light and subtle, Fu-Ki Plum pairs well with fresh fruit salad, ripe apples and aged cheddar, or braised carrots in a raisin reduction.

Dalton’s Canaan Red – 2007 (Cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and shiraz, 13.5% ABV) – Meron Hagalil, Israel

Say what you want about the political climate in the Middle East, but I’m of the opinion that if more people got together and drank wine – particularly this humble little red blend – Israel would be like Napa, only with better food. This wine is definitely a quaffer. It’s elegant in its own way, but simple, almost to the point of being naïve. Flavors include the standard fare of red and black fruit, but nothing intense or complex. Completely lacking in acidity, the wine is a bit unbalanced and one-dimensional, but not at all unpleasant. Drink this medium-bodied wine by itself or with simple, unassuming fare. Like unleavened bread.

Boutari Naoussa – 2005 (Xinomavro, 13% ABV) – Thessaloniki, Macedonia, Greece

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of pouring a glass of very fine, vintage Bordeaux, you know exactly the color that this Xinomavro displays. The nose gives off hints of black fruit and dark soil, and these follow onto the palate with a pleasing lemon citrus acidity and hints of flowers. The finish is long and tannic, and it stayed tannic after being open for three days, which is a great indication that Boutari’s Naoussa could age upwards of ten years. A wonderful departure from the standard California red fare, Naoussa is a wine to drink by itself while pondering the mysteries of life (and wine).

Rachuli Wino’s Khvanchkara – Roni Gorge, Racha, Georgia

I’ll spare you the political jokes and just say this: if you like semi-sweet dessert wines, Georgia is worth fighting for. This is a deep ruby-violet glass of wine that is a sugar bomb from the pop of the cork. It’s aromatic with notes of currant, overripe red and black fruits and – get this – rhubarb. The flavors start out sweet, rekindling fond memories of Veryfine grape juice and grandma’s blackberry jam. Nectarines and green apples and caramel show up mid-palate, and stick around for the slightly tart, cinnamon-sugary finish. Follow this wine with a fine port and cheese, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a nightcap.

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