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Wine & Prejudice

Time to retaste a much maligned bunch.

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We've all come across a wine that has left a bad taste in our mouths, and that bad taste more than likely has led to a distrust and prejudice against all wines of that grape type or hailing from that region.

First among the misunderstood bunch is Riesling, which is one of the most food-friendly wines out there. Contrary to what people assume, Rieslings don't just equal sweet. They can also be bone-dry with palate-searing acidity. Those from Washington and Austria are some of the tastiest wines to try. Their acidity matches so well with fresh shellfish that they act as the lemon one would normally squeeze over such a dish.

The second most maligned grape is Chardonnay. Bashing Chardonnay is almost passé and not even fun anymore. But there is still a multitude of people who hold a grudge against this noble grape. More often than not, it is due to some overly oaked Chardonnay that expressed nothing but its malolactic fermentation. This kind of wine can exhaust the palate after half a glass, which is why many wine drinkers shun this grape.

But why discriminate against an entire grape because of a few misguided winemakers? That would mean never tasting wines from the Macon, Chablis, or unoaked American Chardonnay. These are perfect examples of what this grape can do. Those big, butterscotch-laden, oak-bomb Chards are nearly impossible to pair with food unless you have something equally rich and heavy. However, a nervy, bright wine from the Macon or a stainless steel Washington version can go with a multitude of dishes, from salad to main course.

One wine prejudice that I take personally is the one against Merlot. I absolutely adore this grape, and, thankfully, the prejudice is starting to wane due in large part to the magnificent wines coming from Washington state. Merlots from the many growing areas in Columbia Valley are dense, dark, brooding, round, and gripping.

The factors that make the varietal so interesting in this area are the soils, longer growing season, longer days, and especially the steep diurnal swing. Daytime temperatures might reach 80 to 90, while they can drop to 50 at night. This allows the grapes to rest and for the acidity to catch up to the sugars. The result is a wine with depth and acidity to keep it lively and long-living.

One of the most hurtful prejudices that a wine drinker can have is one against rosé. Memphis summers are oppressively hot and disgustingly humid, and there is nothing more thirst-quenching and delicious than a good dry rosé during the season. The quality ones can exhibit delightful fruit, mouthwatering acidity, and a freshness that can electrify the palate. They also fulfill the yearning that a red wine lover has in the summer when it is sometimes difficult to sip a bold tannic red.

At a tasting I was leading in the summer, a woman said to me, "No thanks, I don't want any rosé." I responded by pouring it in her glass and saying, "Well, you are at a tasting, so I guess you're going to have to at least taste it."

If you have the opportunity, why not try something new and different, or again try what you might have disliked? No one would have ever started drinking wine if they didn't start exploring in the first place.

Recommended Wines

Apex Riesling 2008 Yakima Valley,

$16.99

Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2009 Evergreen

Vineyard, $13.99

Domane Wachau Riesling 2008 Wachau,

$20.99

Domaine des Gerbeaux 2009 Macon-

Solutre, $20.99

Four Vines "Naked" Chardonnay 2009

Santa Barbara, $14.99

Charles Smith "Eve" Chardonnay 2009

Washington, $13.99

Seven Hills Merlot 2007 Columbia

Valley, $24.99

Northstar Merlot 2005 Columbia Valley,

$42.99

Ponzi Rosato of Pinot Noir 2009

Willamette Valley, $17.99

Librandi Ciro Rosato 2009 Calabria,

$17.99

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