When my friend and current roommate Jenna and I were looking for our first apartment in New York, one of the criteria we noted for every apartment we looked at was its proximity to a decent-looking wine shop. Given that there is an alarmingly high abundance of wine shops in this city (seriously, I couldn’t even begin to understand how they all stay in business), we should have known better than to thrill every time we found our potential apartment sharing a corner with a liquor store.
Another factor under consideration during our apartment hunt was location – though on this small matter Jenna and I largely disagreed. Jenna was content to settle in uptown while I was rather stubbornly intent on finding a place somewhere south of 42nd street…until the only place our broker could find in our price range was in Times Square. To a resounding chorus of “aw, hell no!” (like in a rap voice) we shuffled into our broker’s air conditioned car and headed uptown without even looking at the place and I left all downtownly ambitions behind.
We ended up in on the 2nd Floor of an old tenement building on W. 88th squarely on the Upper West Side – a neighborhood I neither knew anything about nor had ever had any inclination to explore. As it turns it out, my neighborhood is great – especially for a wine geek. Due to its, ahem, more mature population (read: parents, parents of parents, and people about to become parents) there is an abundance of great wine bars all within easy walking distance from my apartment (score!) and each with a different focus and approach to their wine lists.
A couple of weeks ago, Jenna and I left the apartment to have a glass of wine for a change, and walked a mere block and a half north to Accademia Di Vino, which specializes Italian wines. Their wines-by-the-glass list was two pages long each for both reds and whites and offered something for every kind of wine drinker and from every major region. Our bartender was friendly (not to mention cute!) and gave each of us two different wines to try before we ordered – which meant that we both got to try four.
I was pondering whether to order a Sicilian wine that was a blend of Nero D’Avola and Syrah grapes or a single-varietal single-vineyard Montepulciano that was listed under the guise of a Rosso Conero from Le Marche, a region that occupies the eastern coast of central Italy.
Jenna, on the other hand, was torn between a Rosso di Montalcino, a single-varietal Sangiovese from Tuscany and a Barbera (made from the grape of the same name and always from Piemonte). As we tasted, Jenna asked what the difference was between the Sangiovese she had tried and a Chianti listed below it that also piqued her interest.
When I told her that they were actually both made from the same grape, but in different regions and in different styles, she, exasperated, asked why they had to make it so confusing!
In the end, I settled into a glass of the Sicillian wine, called ReNoto, in favor of the Rosso Conero. I was in the mood for a big challenging glass of wine and the latter was a bit of a fruit-bomb and too easy for me in that moment. Jenna however, found the Barbera too sweet and the Rosso di Montalcino not quite as delicious as the Rosso Conero I’d asked to try, so she ordered up a big glass of it.
While we were happily sipping and chatting we didn’t care what the red stuff in our glasses was called. Knowing, however, that the second wine she almost tried was made from the same grape as that of the first wine she didn’t like, though the wine list made no mention of it, steered her away from another bad choice.
This story introduces a new project that I want to include you all in! The nomenclature of wine is hard enough (what with all those foreign pronunciations) without even beginning to broach the subject of the naming systems employed by various wine-producing countries. That said, I’m going to do my very best to elucidate the whole thing according to country in the coming days. Just knowing what something is called can help you sort this whole mess out a little better and perhaps even impress a cute bartender some day (*wink*).
Rosso Conero, San Lorenzo, Umani Ronchi, Marche 2006
Region: Le Marche
Tastes like: The fresh and juicy flavor of wild cherries with a tinge of earthy wood notes and an herbal quality that the menu listed as “liquorice” which made my roommate turn her nose up at it at first.
Grape: Syrah and Nero D’Avola
Tastes like: Rich, spicy, full bodied, with lots of ripe fruit without being fruity, a touch of smoke and a strangely savory note of bacon that makes this wine deelish
Rosso di Montalcino, La Fortuna, Toscana 2007
Tastes like: On the verge of fruit-bomb but with big spice, bright acid, and a dry finish
Tastes like: Medium-bodied and on the sweet side with predominant flavors of ripe strawberries, a streak of vanilla, and a soft but dry finish