Pool juice and patio pounders
“Quaffable” was the buzzword of the afternoon at the last Omniboire panel tasting. So much more appealing than any of the other faintly derisive descriptions applied to simple wines made to be enjoyed in hot weather — preferably alongside a body of water. A wading pool will do in a pinch. (A goldfish bowl is probably a little too minimal, though white wine does classically go with fish … )
The only water present at the event held at Cappy’s on Broadway was iced, but the wine came in a wide variety, much of it selected from outside the mainstream. Present with palates at the ready were Suzy Lawton, restaurant doyenne and wine program director; Tina Mencio, Cappy’s restaurant manager; Chris Dunn, musician and food and wine writer; Dale Blankenship from Avante Beverages; and your (occasionally) humble scribe.
Almost immediately out of the gate we encountered a seriously corked wine, a Portuguese vinho verde selected by Omniboire for its summer appeal. Damn. As this bottle was under cork (it’s from Portugal, one of the world’s biggest suppliers, after all), the contentious topic of screw-cap bottling was immediately raised. Since most of the wines we tasted wouldn’t have benefitted from any appreciable ageing, there was no rational reason for them all not to have been screwcapped. But here’s the rub: The only two that were also failed to make the necessary cutoff score. One was a South African sauvignon blanc Omniboire has had no trouble drinking and recommending in the past. The second, from a respected Burgundian producer, was simply out of place in the lineup. A fourth failed wine was perhaps the greatest disappointment. Hailing from the slopes above Santorini’s wine-dark seas, this was to have been an introduction to one of Greece’s excellent, modern whites. Alas, also corked.
2008 Hermanos del Villar, Ipsum, Rueda, $10
Light grapefruit and hay with vibrant acidity and delicate but long finish
This blend of verdejo and viura grapes was also the value leader of the afternoon. “Grassy but palate cleansing,” thought Mencio, and she was seconded in a rousing chorus by several tasters who could have sworn it was a New Zealand sauvignon blanc, light grapefruit aromas included. Most also complimented the wine’s long finish, not always a factor in easy-drinking wines at this alcohol level (12.5 percent). The wine is still frisky as this is being written, two days later — plus it has Granny Smith components.
2008 Botani Sierras de Málaga Moscato Seco $18-$19
Perfumed and floral with dry peach & pear flavors, long finish
Nobody knew what to think of the origins of the moscatel. Blankenship thought it might be a viognier, “dry and exotic”; Omniboire found petroleum, peach, and flowers and hazarded a riesling guess. Lawton even detected a slight effervescence — a quaffability plus. “It’s just beautiful; everything fell into place,” summarized Mencio.
2007 Ravines Finger Lakes Dry Riesling, $20
Smoky minerality with light petroleum, green fig notes, long finish
“Faint petrol, like a dry riesling” Dunn had noted of the Ravines, only to be seconded by Blankenship. Mencio, on the other hand, got “fig and honey,” two qualities that might have inspired Dunn to comment that “this wine will age — though then you’d serve it indoors with crystal and china.” Omniboire also found a smoky minerality.
2007 Bigi Vipra Bianca, Umbria, $12
Light nose of peach and melon, fennel and peach on palate with slight spritz
“It’s not in your face, yet there’s a full mouth and a hint of sweetness,” said Lawton. “Your palate wouldn’t get fatigued `an important consideration for lazy afternoons by the pool`; the acid helps it out,” thought Dunn. “Licorice and peach,” suggested Omniboire — perhaps somewhat improbably. “I get a tingle on the palate,” ventured Mencio.
2007 Don Rodolfo Viña Cornejo Costas, Torrontés, $16
Raisiny muscat nose with orange and mineral, “green” finish
Blankenship suspected it was a muscat and praised its “nice floral character,” while others thought sémillon, vouvray, viognier … But it was actually a 2007 Torrontés from Don Rodolfo Viña Cornejo Costas. Torrontés is Argentina’s signature white equivalent to malbec, and it does exhibit muscat’s golden-raisin qualities, blended here with orange and mineral components. But “it didn’t play through on the finish,” mentioned Lawton. “Bitter” said Dunn. “Green,” admitted Omniboire.
2007 Viña Godeval D.O. Valdeorras, $18-$20
Light flowers and almond with crisp citrus, some minerality
We’re back to Spain and another unfamiliar (and once almost extinct) grape, godello, with the final wine. “A big mouthful,” said Lawton succinctly. “Crisp but balanced … and good with seafood,” said Dunn. (A plate of chilled shrimp would be nice about now — maybe with a little sliced Persian melon.) “Green almond, citrus, and mineral,” offered Omniboire. But Mencio was having none of it. “Too herbaceous, tastes like medicine,” she said.