Wines worthy of the price if you choose bottles by the labels
"Tasting with the eyes" is a phenom familiar to all fine wine merchants. We can wax profound with our customers, discussing wine flavor, production techniques, food complements, ad infinitum, but once we walk away, the customer opts for a more intriguing label, with more or less satisfying results.
If you choose wine for its label, these wines will make delightful impressions on the eye, the palate, and the pocketbook.
Dry Muscat, Bonterra (Lake County, California): Interested in "natural" wine? Your first purchase should be Bonterra. Since 1987, Bonterra has married planet, plant, and man, evolving beyond organic into sustainable agriculture: biodiversity in soil yielding pure, vibrant wines generating consistent income for family grape farmers. Yes, Muscat is Moscato, but while our favorite Asti contains about 120 grams per liter of sugar, this wine includes zero. Enticing honeysuckle aroma and flavors of ripe apricot, honey, and white pepper make a satisfying cocktail and complement to salads, lighter seafood, and pasta. The label depicting the "daughter of the wind" anemone flower will be a beautiful addition to any Springtime table. (About $16.) Bonterra's newest project is eco-friendly canned wine; check with your retailer for arrival.
Rose Trevenezie, "11 Minutes", Pasqua (Trevenezie, Italy) offers pale salmon color, dry with fresh strawberry aromas and an interplay between mild fruit flavor, soft texture, and firm acidity. "11 minutes" is magic, according to Pasqua's winemaker, the optimum time to macerate grape skins with juice to extract the most pleasurable rose hues and flavors. It's also the time to derive maximum pleasure from your true love, according to regional poet Catullus (84 - 54 B.C.), who chronicled ecstasy, despair, and all the emotional states in between. Peer through the label to spy his love in her pleased, rosy glow. The traditional pint-shaped bottle gives satisfying heft to your pour. The cork gave this wine lover pushback on opening, but shouldn't deter anyone's enjoyment of this eminently satisfying wine. (About $20.)
Rose de Cotes de Provence (Cotes de Provence, France): Pale, star-bright color sparkles through a beautifully-etched bottle, with all sorts of repurposing possibilities. Ripe red berries, cinnamon, and white pepper accents and refreshing, dry finish make a dynamic complement a range of cuisine, primarily regional Mediterranean flavors of salads and antipasti, grilled meats and seafood. In bad form, this palate consumed this delicious wine so quickly; I had to ask for another bottle for notes! (About $21.)
Sangiovese di Toscana, Il Bastardo (Italy): Camp meets quality in this perennial excellent value red. From the most-planted grape in Italy (Sangiovese), grown in one of its finest regions (Tuscany), this fleshy, firm and fun wine has winemaking cred: Grapes are sourced from finest growers throughout top Chianti zones and harvested just as fruit flavors ripen to balance refreshing acidity. Crushed grapes macerate with skins for ten days for bright color, pleasing tannin, and eminently-drinkable berry and spice flavor. You don't have to be Italian -- and neither does your food -- to enjoy this wine as a cocktail and to wash down the broadest range of savory dishes including BBQ wings and chili, lamb curry, stuffed portobellos or your favorite pizza. Look for the new label with our favorite Bastardo on a zippy Vespa. (About $10.)
Ross' choiceName: Ricasoli Raritas 2015 Limited Edition
Region: Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy
Availability: Arriving in June; check with your fine wine merchant. About $300
Distributed by: Breakthrough Beverage, Cicero IL
Tasting Notes: Based on portions of Ricasoli's 1584 family tree, already deeply rooted in Tuscany, each label signifies a revolutionary concept -- 100 percent Sangiovese, single vineyard Chianti. "When the first Baron of Ricasoli created the Chianti recipe in 1872, it was a blended wine and has remained a blended wine," recounts the 32nd Baron. "We practice 'precision viticulture', fitting the finest clones and techniques to each 'genius locis,' what the French call terroir." Each of three bottlings expresses the mysterious perfume, dark fruit flavors, spice, complexity and power typical of the finest Chianti Classico, with personalities unique to each vineyard. Characteristically firm tannin melded deliciously with grilled Australian lamb chops, served by City Winery Chicago and will repay the patience of cellaring for 10 years. Packed in a collector- and gift-worthy wooden crate.