April 14, 2010

The Grape Escape: What’s in a (wine) name?

Wine appreciation can be an entrancing hobby for those who are into it and a frustrating source of confusion for those who just want a drink. Here’s why: Once you start paying attention, it can get complicated.

Consider the wine shop: Some organize their collection country by country: France here, Italy there, Australia over there and the U.S. right up front. Others, however, set up the shelves according to the wine grape: Here a Chardonnay, there a Pinot Noir, over there a $#%* Merlot!

The labels don’t make things much easier. Depending on law and custom in each wine-producing area, wines may be labeled by geographical region (“Chianti,” “Bordeaux,” “Napa Valley”) or by grape ... or sometimes by both (“Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon”) and occasionally by neither (“Conundrum” or “Opus One”).

What’s a thirsty wine noob to do? Read a little, surf the Web (I’ll immodestly suggest my www.WineLoversPage.com as one place to start), or easiest of all, get to know the wine expert at one of the metro’s many fine wine shops, from Gemelli on Brownsboro to the Wine Rack on Frankfort and many more.

Here’s a tasty Italian red bargain I picked up for less than $10 at Old Town (1529 Bardstown Road, 451-8591, www.oldtownwine.com). It’s a Chianti, a Tuscan place name. If you want to know more about the grapes (75 percent Sangiovese, 10 percent each Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and 5 percent Malvasia), just check the small print on the back label.

Caposaldo 2008 Chianti ($8.99)

This is a clear, dark ruby wine with a good, simple and fresh aroma of ripe black cherries and spice. Black-cherry flavors are balanced with mouth-watering acidity, the ingredients needed in a versatile food wine to go with steaks, burgers or red-sauce pasta.