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The Grapevine 

Globe Trotting

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During the past month or so, I’ve been trotting the globe in search of interesting new wines. Well, actually I have been pretty much stuck in Utah. But my palate has been traveling the world, in a virtual sense, tasting vino from Spain to South Africa and Portugal to New Zealand. Here are some not-so-common worldly wines worth traveling for.

It was the groovy post-modern label on the clear glass bottle of Marco Real Garnacha 2006 ($7.50) from Navarra in Spain that first caught my eye. Well, that and the pretty strawberry color of this Grenache-based Spanish Rosé. Rosé from Spain keeps getting better and better and, at less than $9, this is an outstanding summer sipper. No tannins, lots of fruit, a hint of white pepper—perfect with a light lunch in warm weather.

Travel across the border into Portugal—where Dow’s Vale do Bomfim Douro Reserva 2005 ($12) is made—and you’ll discover that Portugal has more to offer than just Port. This is the second vintage of Vale do Bomfim, which is made from Tempranillo, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Barocca grapes. The result is a powerful, high-tannin, plump sumo wrestler of a wine, with dark notes of tobacco, black pepper and plums. Dense is the way I’d describe this portly Portuguese, yet its structure is so harmonious and well balanced that you’ll think you’re drinking a wine for three times the price. Plus, it’ll stand up to your wickedest barbecue sauce.

Two of my favorite discoveries this summer come from down in the Marlborough vineyards of New Zealand. Kim Crawford 2006 Pinot Noir has been marked down to a measly $8.50 locally, which means you could use it to cook with if it weren’t so tasty to drink. Not that I’d call the Kim Crawford Pinot exciting, but its ripe strawberry-cherry-raspberry flavors, soft tannins, light oak treatment and relatively low price make it a strong candidate for Pinot Noir lovers on a budget—like me.

Also from Marlborough hails my favorite new Pinot Gris, made by Thornbury ($7.40). Its zippy citrus, pear and apple flavors—all combined with good minerality and acidity—can easily cloak the fact that this is a 13.5 percent-alcohol Pinot Gris. I enjoyed it immensely with grilled bratwurst.

Another good bratwurst partner is my new Austrian friend: “Singing” Grüner Veltliner from Laurenz V winery. Winemaker Lenz Moser (aka “Laurenz V”) aims his wines at women. It must work, since the attractive label caught my wife’s eye and she bought a bottle. Laurenz V’s Grüner Veltliner ($13) has great acidity and is as fresh and bright as anything I’ve tasted lately. There’s even a pop of pepper on the finish, which for me makes this wine an unpredictable, but delectable, choice to drink with fresh oysters and mignonette.

I never thought I’d say this, but one of the best Chardonnays I’ve tasted in quite some time comes from South Africa. I’d stack a bottle of 2006 Glen Carlou Chardonnay ($16) from S.A. up against most California Chards and some French Burgundies in a heartbeat. There are a lot of technical reasons that this sophisticated, well-structured, Chardonnay full of New World fruit flavors is so luscious, having to do with special yeast strains, minimum sulphur added, cooler than normal temperatures during ripening season and so on. But I’ll leave that to Glen Carlou winemaker David Finlayson to explain. I’ve never met the man, but from tasting his wine, I’m inclined to think he’s a genius, a magician, or both.
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