Bubble, bubble, chasselas & cabernet

Gibellini “Tenuta Pederzana” 2004 Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro (Emilia-Romagna) – Rough-hewn purple berry slushie, with zingy acidity, lip-staining tannin and a delightful froth of bubbles. Soda for adults…but adults who own a good toothbrush…and more fun every time I drink it.

“Oh, even I know that wine,” remarked my non-wine drinking mother over the holidays. Well, no she didn’t…which is lambrusco’s problem. Too many sickly-sweet versions in decades past have pretty much ruined the reputation of this grape. But if zinfandel, Chablis and even Soave can be resurrected, why not lambrusco? Yet to call this a “serious” lambrusco would also be missing the point; little about good lambrusco is “serious” in the manner of, say, a fine Bordeaux. That’s what makes it great. Alcohol: 11.5%. Importer: Ideal

Zusslin 2004 Chasselas “Vieilles Vignes” (Alsace) – Skins, very light lees, and mildly milky beige earth. It takes work to make chasselas interesting, and I don’t know that the requisite work has been done here.

Chasselas is a grape without much of a future in Alsace. New plantings are prohibited on grand cru sites, those that exist can’t carry the names of their crus (though some producers resort to semi-arcane codes to get the information out there), and there’s not much of a market for it outside Switzerland (where they mostly drink their own chasselas anyway). So it takes a special sort of monomania to grow and vinify the grape. But chasselas needs something special to make it more than alcoholic water, and most of the best terroirs are already being better-used by grapes that are, probably, of greater inherent worth. It’s a dilemma without an apparent solution. Alcohol: 12%. Biodynamic. Importer: Violette. Web:http://www.valentin-zusslin.com/.

Roussel & Barrouillet “Clos Roche Blanche” 2002 Touraine Cabernet (Loire) – Not-yet-blended red and black berries with ripe but hard tannin and a chewy, food-devouring texture. It lingers and lingers on the finish, getting more balanced all the while, so one (rightly, in my estimation) expects ageability. And this is important: it plays much more nicely with the right cuisine. Thick slabs of animal work best.

It initially seems to important to know whether the “cabernet” of the label implies a varietal cabernet franc, which would be typical for the Loire, or a cabernet franc/cabernet sauvignon blend. However, one must ask: is it really all that important? Certainly the father-and-son grapes aren’t going to be so wildly different that the distinction is vitally important in this case. This producer makes a host of varietal and semi-varietal wines from the soils of the Touraine, and while not all of them are at the same level of quality, this is one of their more reliable performers…and from an excellent vintage in the region. I’d recommend stocking up.Alcohol: 12%. Importer: Louis/Dressner. Organic.

S. Stefano 2004 Moscato d’Asti (Piedmont) – The usual perfume truck crashed into the usual flower shop, but this time there was a fruit stand in the way. This is decidedly on the fruitier side of moscato d’Asti, and also decidedly less lithe; it’s thick and sweet enough that one could easily confuse it for a higher-alcohol muscat were it not for the sudsy bubbles. It’s tasty enough, if perhaps a bit lurid, but I’m not sure this is the correct goal for moscato d’Asti.

Like the above-mentioned lambrusco, moscato d’Asti carries the baggage of a bad reputation. Except that this one is particularly mis-applied. First, Asti is a place, not a grape or a wine style. Second, despite the generally low quality of Asti Spumante (the wine that leads to the lousy reputation) on U.S. store shelves, the only inherent difference between that and moscato d’Asti is the alcohol level. That said, the general industrialization of producers of Asti Spumante is, indeed, to blame for the aforementioned low quality. All of this is a grand shame, because moscato d’Asti is one of the most delightful beverages anywhere; pure fun in a glass. And while this example doesn’t show all its potential qualities to the fullest potential, a chilled glass of moscato d’Asti is – except at its very, very worst – never a bad thing. Alcohol: 5.5%. Importer: Clicquot.

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