The "fruit forward" style associated with the "New World" wines of California, South America and Australia is gaining in popularity all over the world. These wines are great for drinking by themselves, but critics, like Rafael Espinal, the sommelier at Prego, contend that Old World wines go better with food.
Rafael Espinal: Generally speaking, I have a tendency to prefer "Old World" wines. I like a wine to be more mineral and earthy than fruity. The single most important quality for me is a wine's versatility with food. A wine should be able to stand up to the bitterness of a goat cheese and arugula salad, and also balance out the saltiness of the pancetta in a seafood linguini later on in the meal.
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Some wines are simply meant to be enjoyed by themselves with a group of friends who will appreciate them for what they are. And I also have included one of these in my list of five wines that will blow your mind:
$15 or less
Gaetano da Forino 2004 Greco di Tufo
Greco di Tufo is one of the most popular grapes in this part of Italy. This is a very unique wine in a medium-bodied style — a white wine that is light and dry and full of tropical fruit. With aromas of pineapple, mango and jasmine, this wine is great as an aperitif, and also goes well with salads dressed with vinaigrette.
$30 or less
Falesco, Ferentano 2002 Roscetto
Roscetto is a rare indigenous Italian varietal. There is only one acre planted in a vineyard just outside of Rome. If you are lucky enough to find this particular producer at a wine store, you absolutely must take advantage. This is a full-bodied white wine that spends three months in used oak, which gives it a hint of vanilla, with a nose that's tropical fruit, bananas and green pears. This wine can stand up to the heartiness of meaty dishes while enhancing the flavors in a creamy mushroom soup.
$60 or less
Keenan 2004 Cabernet Franc
Although Cabernet Franc is usually used as a blending grape, Michael Keenan does a great job using grapes from Spring Mountain. This wine truly stands by itself. It's a "fruit forward" red aged in new French Oak, which gives it flavors of cinnamon and vanilla spices. The aroma is eucalyptus and slightly floral. Although this wine might be good with something like Mexican mole, honestly, it's just one of those wines that should be enjoyed by itself in good company. If you can stand to wait, give this vintage a few years in the bottle. It will be worth the suspense.
$120 or less
Chappellet Pritchard Vineyard Hill Estate 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon
This wine is a full-bodied, single-vineyard Cabernet packed with plum and cherry fruit, with hints of cocoa and leather. It also includes velvety tannins and ends with a complex and long finish. Chappellet would pair well with an appetizer of black truffle risotto and match up quite nicely with heavy meats or wild game. The winemaker, Phillip Tytus, has been making wine for Chappellet for 17 years, and his dedication to quality and style have made them famous.
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Salon 1990 Brut Blanc de Blancs le Mesnil
This rare Champagne is the only wine the House of Salon produces. Creamy in flavor, it has a nutty and yeasty taste, with fine bubbles that burst on the back of your palate, slowly revealing its wondrous and unique character. You can enjoy this wine with everything from smoked salmon and caviar to an early afternoon brunch with eggs and bacon. This vintage tête de cuvée, blanc de blancs is made with fruit hand-selected from Le Mesnil-sur-Oger Grand Cru vineyard in the Côte des Blancs. Vintages are declared no more than four times a decade.