Fort Mill Times

Thoughts from the Vine - May 13, 2009

Jeffrey Cushing has been in the wine and alcohol beverage business for more than 15 years and is now a wine consultant at Frugal MacDoogal in Fort Mill.
Jeffrey Cushing has been in the wine and alcohol beverage business for more than 15 years and is now a wine consultant at Frugal MacDoogal in Fort Mill.

Springtime brings in many changes as our gardens fill with color and the vineyard managers are watching over the fresh green sprouts on the vines. It is a busy time for the vineyard managers as they start to prune the vines. Pruning is the act of cutting off some sprouts that would become grape clusters.

The vineyards do this to insure they do not produce too much fruit. The right number of grape clusters on each vine helps yield a better grape. Better grapes make better wine.

Looking for that better wine can be both fun and costly. There is nothing worse then splurging on a new wine and finding out it is awful. It could just be a bad bottle or some bad juice that went into the bottle. But don't let this stop you from trying new wines. There are some lesser known grape varietals that are delicious, moderately priced, and well worth exploring the next time you are willing to experience change.

Argentina has been in the wine news for several years now. The grape variety called Malbec continues to get wonderful reviews. "The Wine Spectator" (a magazine devoted to tasting and scoring wines from around the world) tasted 562 wines from Argentina and 327 scored at least 85 points out of 100 which would put them in the very good to great range. The Malbec grape produces a red wine that can be fruit forward with flavors in the berry category. Essences of blueberry, blackberry and raspberry are typically used to describe Malbecs in the $7 to $12 price category. If you are willing to spend more, the Reserve category offers you darker flavorss like tobacco, coffee, mocha or cocoa.

Argentina also makes a white wine worth trying that is made from the grape Torrontes. A Pinot Grigio drinker might especially like this change. The wines typically have a floral or perfumed aroma. The taste descriptions many times include honeysuckle and peach. Don't let these words fool you into thinking you are drinking something sweet. The wine is dry with good acidity, but the initial burst of aroma and flavor will make you glad you ventured out of your comfort zone.

The wines of Spain offer another area of value and new flavors. For seafood lovers, you should try a white wine made from Albarino. This wine gives you floral aromas mixed with zesty orange notes; the flavors show hints of pear, melon, minerals and citrus. Like the Torrontes, the words paint a sweet picture but these wines are dry, full of flavor and a nice alternative to Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay.

In the Spanish red category you might want to try a Garnacha, a wine exhibiting a lighter side with spice. The flavors will show plum, cherry, herbs and/or spice. They are fruit forward yet grab you. A Pinot Noir drinker may find the spice an exotic change.

Whether you try a new wine or a new recipe, like Joy's mashed potato salad (see her column in the Lifetimes section of this Web site), the spring is a time for change and new life. Explore the new flavors that await you.