A timely marriage of wine and its long history of pleasure

  • A romantic dinner is made more pleasurable with the right wine.

    A romantic dinner is made more pleasurable with the right wine. GettyImages.com

Posted2/9/2022 6:00 AM

"Astonishing beauty" is how archaeologists describe one of the most important discoveries of recent years: the heads of Aphrodite (Goddess of love, lust and pleasure), along with Dionysus (God of wine), both created in about 150 B.C. But we don't need antiquity to tell us that wine and pleasure are natural companions. After all, wine hasn't become our oldest beverage -- along with water and milk -- by being boring. Here are a few of my recently favorite wines, along with food complements sure to stimulate your palate. (Check with your local retailer, using tips below for local distribution, as well as online sources.)

• Cabernet Sauvignon, "Napa Valley," Louis M. Martini, 2017 (California): My main beef with California wine is "too fruity!" Not so this plush, concentrated red. While deeply ripe and plump, there's firm muscle of tannin and alcohol, accented with exotic spice and herbs. The historic family Martini has coaxed the most satisfying and complex flavors from Napa and Sonoma since 1933, with vineyards and winery now owned by the Gallo family. Excite your gnash-and-tear urge by pairing with fine steak, rare, please. The $45 shelf price is a bargain for a wine of this stature, provenance and pleasure. (Distributed by Breakthru Beverage, Cicero)


• Lambrusco "Cadelvento" Rosato Spumante DOP, Venturini Baldini (Emilia, Italy): Caressing palate of teensy, lively bubbles; not too dry, not too sweet, but just the right flavors of tangerine and strawberries. It's drier than many Champagnes, with only 8 grams per liter of sugar. A yummy aperitif and the perfect partner to delicately sweet seafood and cuisines such as sushi and ingredients like roasted red peppers. Still lively after four days in the fridge, with a good stopper. Caveat emptor: The Lambrusco category includes 60 varieties, colors from the palest pink to inky purple and flavors from lilting berries to meaty funk. Purchase from a knowledgeable merchant. (About $18. Imported by Massanois Imports.)

• Cotes de Provence Rosé, Domaine Ott, Chateau de Selles, 2020 (Cotes de Provence, France): It is satisfying and sophisticated, from the feel of the traditional "Mae West" Provençal bottle to the enticing bouquet. Its round texture and flavors of ripe currants are accented by white pepper with focused acidity. Enjoy year-round with flavorful meals, including smoked foods, Indian and Creole cuisine (perfect for Mardi Gras, March 1) and the region's famous seafood soup -- bouillabaisse. While online sites list the wine as $50-ish, Chicagoland retail shows $19.99. (Distributed by Southern Glazer.)

• Pinotage "Single Block," L'Avenir (Stellenbosch, South Africa) 2017: This is dense and earthy, lush and texturous, with plump, darkest fruit flavor accented with tobacco, damp earth and meaty funk, all outlined with firm, exciting tannin. Suppose you've tasted Pinotage -- South Africa's signature grape -- before. In that case, you'll be surprised by the "lightning speed development of the variety," as I experienced in a recent Wines of South Africa virtual tasting. At less than a century old (an infant by the wine timeline), the grape's old "burned rubber" aspects have evolved to enticing flavors like crushed raspberries, brambles and cocoa. In Stellenbosch, you might enjoy the wine with ostrich fillet; in Chicagoland, create your own South African braai of beef, chicken, warthog, antelope or roasted rack of lamb with red wine-truffle sauce, featured in The Chopping Block blog: A Meat Fest Weekend in Chicago (thechoppingblock.com). (About $48. Available online at The Wine Connection and local boutiques. Distributed by Breakthru Beverage, Cicero)

• Sauvignon Blanc "Illumination," Quintessa 2020 (Napa and Sonoma Counties, California): I didn't want to like this wine. The hefty bottle, the luxurious label, the predominantly Napa address signaled a padded shelf price. But on the palate, the wine has none of the sluggishness of other Napa Sauvignon Blancs. Instead, it has a Twyla Tharpe-type of balance, nearly falling into sauvignon blanc's aggressiveness, then resolving just in time into a vivacious leap of flavor. Fermentation with native yeast in an array of oak, concrete and stainless, with lees stirring adds richness and complexity while maintaining purity. On day four in the fridge, the wine exhibits subtle oak accents. Serve with beef, lamb or pork involving salsa verde, pesto or green peppercorns for an exciting white wine with meat combo, as well as rich veggie and seafood dishes. (Available only at quintessa.com/shop/products/current-releases/, $50.)

• Mary Ross is an Advanced Sommelier (Court of Master Sommeliers), a Certified Wine Educator (Society of Wine Educators) and recipient of the Wine Spectator's "Grand Award of Excellence." Write to her at food@dailyherald.com.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.