This week, we asked Antonio Gianola, wine wizard at Catalan Food & Wine and former wine guy at Da Marco, for his thoughts on the subject and for the names of Five Wines That'll Blow Your Mind.
Antonio Gianola: Wines blow my mind when the purity of the grape is in the glass, and when the winemaker knows that it's his or her job to accurately reflect the conditions of that vintage year not to interfere with what the earth gave us.
$15 or less
2006 Domaine Skouras Moscofilero
This wine just astounded me. As a grape, Moscofilero is the Blanc de Gris of Greece. Since it's light and refreshing, it would be great as an aperitif, but it has tart acids. This is a perfect wine for when the day is hot, the sea's a deep blue and lunch just came from the water.
$30 or less
2005 Hirsch "Heilgenstein" Grüner
This Grüner Veltliner is a fabulous vinous mirror of the Austrian mountains, where it is grown. This wine might remind you of a Riesling crossed with a Viognier. It would be perfect with a cold asparagus salad or boiled crawfish. Long live the screwcap!
$60 or less
2001 "Clos du Papillon" Savennières
Loire Valley, France
The Loire Valley is known as the "garden of France," and the Chenin Blanc grape is its most prized fruit. The amazing different styles of Chenin have wooed me back to regular drinking of white wines. Dom. des Baumard's 2001 "Clos du Papillon" Savennières is a real gem. Savennières may be a wine geek's rarity, but is easy to enjoy with seared scallops or soft-shell crabs.
$120 or less
2002 Gevrey-Chambertin "Au Vellé"
The late Dennis Mortet was a rock star of a wine producer. He may no longer be with us, but his 2002 Gevrey-Chambertin "Au Vellé" lives on. It was unfortunately his last vintage of Pinot noir. The wine is sumptuous, with notes of cherries and raspberries. It is masculine, concentrated, exotic and meaty, like simmering beef stew in your glass. It would be heavenly with grilled lamb chops.
1995 Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva Veneto, Italy
Giuseppe Quintarelli's 1995 Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva is undisputedly brilliant. Quintarelli is the master of the traditional style of Amarone. It is made from grapes that are dried under the eaves of the winery after the harvest. I have only tasted it once. I imagine sharing this bottle with good friends over an artisan cheese plate. I heard a rumor that someone in Houston may carry his wines soon. Let's hope it's true, because right now you have to travel all the way to the Italian Wine Merchant in New York and pay $565 for a bottle.