Monday, March 22, 2010

The Joys of Good Wine

OK, I'll admit it: Like so many novice wine consumers, I'm easily influenced by the artwork of a wine bottle's label. The more colorful and clever a label is, the more likely I'm going to be tempted to buy the wine and try it. Fortunately, more often than not, the price for colorful and clever usually fits most novice wine consumers' budgets like mine.

I'm also influenced by wines produced in non-traditional locations ~ like Croatia, for instance. Sure, I'm highly aware of the American influence of the northern California wine country in Napa and Sonoma, living in close proximity to it. I'm also somewhat familiar with the various wine regions of France and Italy, thanks to purchasing many bottles of French and Italian wines at Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant in Berkeley. Croatia? Not so familiar.

Following are a couple of instances where artwork and a non-traditional wine-producing location factored into my wine purchases ~ and, I'm happy to announce, both produced wonderful results.

On a recent weekend, while shopping for produce at the Berkeley Bowl West market in Berkeley ~ ~ my wife and I came upon the wine aisle on my way to check out. One particular bottle of wine immediately caught our attention ~ Goats Do Roam, a 2008 South African Red, produced and bottled by the Goats Do Roam Wine Co. ~ ~ and imported by Vineyard Brands, Inc. of Birmingham, Ala. Its price hit my sweet spot ~ under $10.

Of course, the joy and pun of the wine's name, Goats Do Roam, is a play on words after the Côte du Rhône wine region of France. Ha! Ha! Not only were we immediately hooked by the artsy label, but also by the wine's name as we're big fans of the Côte du Rhône wines.

The bottle's label touts the 100 percent balanced South African red as: "The art of blending creates many of the world's greatest wines, with only a perfect blend of grape varietals making a wine of true balance. Our timeless goat icon, inspired by an ancient Mesopotamian artefact, symbolises the importance of balance and composition, the core of our winemaker's art."

OK, so not only is it balanced, but we also get a bit of a Classics lesson, too!

It is with this same spirit of adventure that brought us to purchase a bottle of 2007 Bibich Riserva, a Croatian red wine, during a recent visit to one of our favorite wine shops, Vintage Berkeley ~ I had never heard of the wine and, quite honestly, didn't realize that Croatia was a wine-producing country. When you think of European wine regions, you think of France, of Italy and of Spain ~ not Croatia.

We had the occasion to enjoy a first taste of Bibich Riserva the other evening with our dinner, which consisted of turkey burgers, greens salad and sliced fresh fruit. I'm happy to report that it was a very enjoyable tasting experience.

Here's what we learned about our newly-found red from Croatia:

Bibich Riserva is produced by the Bibich Winery in Skradin featuring an eclectic blend of grapes native to Northern Dalmatia that are related to Zinfandel. According to the label, "it's aged for a year in American oak, light, smooth with lively acids and aromas of cooked dark fruits and spices and black pepper. Serve with meats, tuna and cheese."

The wine, imported by Fruit of the Vines, Inc., New York, N.Y., consists of 34% Babich, 33% Lasin, 33% Plavina. A total of 2,000 cases were produced. We paid $19.00 ~ a very reasonable price when you stop to consider that we bought the wine from a small wine shop and not from a large resale outlet like Beverages & More. Importantly, the Bibich Riserva enlivened three dinner meals last week.

In a year in which we have tasted many reds and whites from near (Napa) and far (New Zealand and South Africa), we decided to travel outside of our comfort zone. Like the famous Robert Frost poem, "The Road Not Taken," puts it:

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."

1 comment:

  1. I'm going to look for the Goats Do Roam wine here on the Cape--great name and clever concept. Thanks for sharing Mike! Thanks too for the Robert Frost mention--what a great perspective. Keep up the good work!