Wine vocabulary must be taken with a grain of salt. If it helps you enjoy the wine, great; if not, consider just sipping it without comment. Likewise, with wine-food pairing. The point should be enhancing the food experience by tailoring the wine both to the food and to the mood you are in, regardless of whether it is a relaxing glass in front of the fireplace or a fancy dinner out. With that in mind, I want to make the case for Chinon, an affordable French Cabernet Franc-based red wine from the Loire Valley in Alsace that has yet to make much noise in America. Chinon tastes of crowberry, a small, tart, Scandinavian berry, and is wonderfully acerbic, restrained, almost like a cold winter's morning. If you are lucky, the fabulous acidity is complemented by light, floral notes. But the concentration is fantastic, the penetrating aroma is like a needle carrying wonderfully mild venom. Surely, Chinon was a precursor to intravenous penicillin-a cure of all ills, physical or temperamental. Any Chinon complements perfectly with poultry, lighter meat dishes, or cheeses.
Mood is everything in the wine experience. Over Thanksgiving in London, I was served a fantastic 2002 wine from Robert Biale Vineyards in Napa Valley. All Biale wine is Zinfandel, and theirs is opulent, peppery, yet still understated. The Robert Parkers among us would say it was a 92. I would simply call it divine. But then again, my family was together, it had been weeks since I had sampled a decent wine, the turkey tasted like it had stepped off the pages of Gourmet magazine and the mood was just right. As a friend of mine once said during a dinner with the Dalai Lama where he was expected to taste the wine in front of the Maître D', "Red, I believe this is red wine". Keep it simple and enjoy.
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