Wine: Springtime: Transition Wines
By Kay Pfaltz
At the end of March or the start of April, and of late sometimes in February too, there is something in the air that signals spring is imminent. This something has less to do with warm temperatures than it does with a subtle shift and softness that speaks of winter’s ebbing tide and a new season about to be born. Or perhaps more accurately, about to give birth: to buds, blossoms, butterflies and bunnies…to life. In the predawn hours there’s the cool new air, and as dusk descends at the close of the day there’s the promise of the peepers.
What does all this have to do with wine? Perhaps nothing and everything. As we mark the passage of time with tradition and ritual, we seek also to differentiate time past from time present and time yet to be, giving us a sense of control over what will always be unknowable. For millennia, wine has been used in symbolic ceremony and ritual. In spring the ancient Greeks celebrated their new year and the Anethesteria, one of four festivals which made up the Dionysia in honor of Dionysus, wine, inspiration, creativity and fertility. The Anethesteria was the Festival of the Vine Flower: three days of festivities celebrating the opening of the wine jugs from the previous crop. For the Greeks it was not only the final product which was sacred, but the vineyard and the process whereby wine was created from earth through the changing of seasons.
Perhaps in modern times, the seasons more than anything else mirror back to us the paradox of change. April means transition time. But no need to renounce your flannel P.J.s for the flimsy nightie anymore than you must renounce red for white or rosé. Drink all three:
Nativ Falanghina, 2011 – Falanghina thrives in southern Italy, in Basilicata and particularly in Campania where the vineyards around Mount Vesuvius offer rich volcanic soils adding minerality to the wines. This ancient vine is most likely the basis for Falernum of classical Rome, so prized and esteemed by the Romans. Clean, crisp yet round and smooth with distinct notes of honeysuckle. Organic. $14
Domaine de Fontsainte, Gris de Gris, 2012 – A vin gris is a rosé yet differs from rosé in color (usually paler) and weight (usually lighter.) This one comes from the Languedoc’s Corbières where summers are hot and the perfect antidote is a chilled glass of rosé. This wine is testimony to the high quality possible in the hot and sunny region of so many vines. Although bone dry, look for aromas of raspberry followed by exotic notes of pineapple and mango. $19
Nativ Aglianico, Irpinia, 2009 – A favorite red grape of mine, again from Campania. Aglianico, pronounced ah-LYAH-nee-kohl, was planted in the region as early as the 7th century BCE and is seeing a bit of a revival. Medium-bodied, with juicy cherry fruit, it’s smooth with slight notes of coffee and chocolate. Quite stunning. Organic. $20
And gentle April comes and goes and we are still its fools.
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