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Trials and Tribulations
Forget The Snobs—Good Wine Comes In Many Guises

By Stephen Eliot

There are those that believe no wine is worth more than $10.00, and that great wine and those who profess to recognizing it when tasted are as phony as a three-dollar bill. There are also those who will summarily dismiss any wine from a large producer as being manufactured, industrial plonk and big-distributor crap, and regard those who might actually find pleasure in them as pitiable, uncultured fools that live so far outside of the realm of real culture as to be beyond redemption.

I have little patience for either.

I have nothing but admiration and respect for those vintners whose painstaking pursuit of quality and singular style is manifest in involving, limited-production wines. I fully appreciate that such quality comes at a price, and, from time to time, I am willing to ante up for the best. On the other hand, I find the notion that all reasonably priced wines made on large scale are a priori failures that damage the winemaker’s art to be every bit as obnoxious and false as the claims that there is no substantive difference between two-dollar bottlings from Trader Joes and the better efforts of the world’s great wine appellations.

I would not argue that there are a lot of “great” inexpensive wines to be found, but experience teaches that there are plenty of good ones, and their discovery has always been one of the great pleasures for most of the real wine lovers I have known over the years. It has always been one of mine…and it still is.

The last week or two has been marked by some memorable meals and special wines for me and mine, but on yesterday’s muggy Labor Day afternoon, we wanted something simple and cheap that would meet the need in washing down roast chicken and a platter of fresh heirloom tomatoes without pushing us further into debt. We stopped by a local grocery to pick up said tomatoes and noticed a couple of good-sized stacks of Spanish Rosés priced at $9.99. We have been drinking a fair amount of California pink of late, so with our curiosity piqued and a quick nod of agreement – yes, we do drink wines other than those made locally -- we grabbed a bottle of each and headed home for dinner.

Now, the two wines in question were estate-bottled 2012 Grenache Rosés made by Bodegas Borsao, a very large producer in Spain’s Campo de Borja D.O. These are not wines of limited production, nor are they about nuance and discreet terroir. They did not speak to history and the culture of fine wines, and I suspect that they will never be championed by the apostles of “natural” winemaking. They were, however, downright delicious with the evening bird, and, at that moment, they were as appreciated as any wine could be.

I am regularly asked to name my favorite wine, and I always reply that I have none, that it very much depends on the meal and mood. I am partial to great Napa Valley Cabernets, Sonoma County Pinots and California Chardonnays from many points north and south. I am a dyed-in-the-wool fan of real Burgundies both red and white, and old friends from Bordeaux, the Rhône, the Loire Valley and Piedmonte still have a special place in my heart. That said, there are times when something more modest fills the bill, and, for a couple of hours yesterday, a pair of humble, wonderfully tasty rosés had a place on my list of favorites.


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