Mead On Wine
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© 1998 JDM Enterprises
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by Jerry D. Mead

If you are a cork-sniffing connoisseur who considers any wine priced under $20 to be plonk and who derides all sweet wines which have not been infected with the "noble rot" as the vinous equivalent of Kool-Aid, then this is probably not a week you're going to enjoy "Mead On Wine."

If, on the other hand, you don't know one wine grape from another, consider anything over $5 a bottle for a beverage to be a serious investment and it had better taste really good, or you've just crossed over to wine from soda pop and beer, you may enjoy what's to follow.


Dry (the absence of sweetness, which is not the same as sour, though some might disagree) wine is an acquired taste, I don't care what anyone says. People are not born with a natural taste for Chateau Latour, Pouilly Fuisse or Opus One.

Just as most folks aren't crazy about their first taste of avocado, artichoke or a Belons oyster, serious wine is also an acquired taste. Fun wines? That's a different matter. They can be enjoyed by almost everyone from first sip on.

Beginning wine drinkers in general have several things in common. They tend to start out drinking white or pink wine and most often wine with some significant sweetness.

It is also very normal for folks to like drier and drier (less and less sweet) wines as time goes by, not unlike young coffee drinkers who start out with half milk and four or five sugars and end up drinking black double espressos in their maturity.

That was my own beginnings many years ago. I grew up in a beer and whiskey household and my only wine experiences had been with some of granddad's cheap Sherry.

For years I drank nothing but white wine. I not only drank it with fish and chicken, but I drank it with steak and spaghetti, too. Red wine tasted bitter to me. I'll never forget the first dry red wine to please my palate. It opened an entire new range of dining flavors and pleasures that are still expanding nearly 40 years later.

But there was one exception to what I've said about my wine drinking history. There was one red wine that I found palatable even in my white wine days. It was an Italian wine and certainly was the first foreign wine I ever drank regularly. It wasn't nearly as sweet in those days as it is now (if memory serves correctly), but it still had sweetness and grapiness that covered that red wine bitterness (caused by the tannins in grape skins) that I found so offensive at the time. And it was affordable in my salad days. It still is.

The wine I'm talking about is Lambrusco, and although there are numerous brands there is only one leader. Reunite Lambrusco has been the number one imported wine in America for 25 consecutive years!

Reunite NV Lambrusco (about $5) You don't need a corkscrew to enjoy this wine, it comes with a screw cap. And if one of the things you don't like about red wine is that it is served room temperature, you'll like the fact that Lambrusco likes to be served well chilled. It even has enough flavor and sweetness to stand up to ice. And while we're listing positives, it only has about 8 percent alcohol, a third less than most table wines. That means you can drink more for refreshment without alcoholic effect. If you buy it in the even more economical 1.5 or 3 liter sizes, it makes a great base for Sangria. Just add fresh fruit and citrus to taste along with the ice cubes. Its taste is definitely grapey with a kind of perfumey (I get violets) undertone. You'll definitely be aware of the 5 1/2 percent residual sugar, but there is quite lively acidity to help prevent cloying and a bit of spritz (light carbonation) adds to the lively mouthfeel. It's a really dandy entry level red wine for folks who think they don't like red wine. Rating: 84/90

My suggestion will probably fall on deaf ears, but I have told company officials that they should consider producing a version called "Dry Lambrusco," that might not be totally bone dry, but by reducing the sugar below the two percent level it would appeal to an entirely different audience, and to all those millions of existing Lambrusco drinkers as their taste just naturally gets drier.

Reunite NV Lancellotta (about $5) This 100 percent varietal wine is from an ancient grape variety that has almost disappeared. It grows in the same area as the Lambrusco grape and Reunite makes a similar style of wine from it. Even the sweetness and alcohol levels are almost identical. The perception, though, is somewhat less sweet and there's none of that perfumey quality. I prefer it. It's also darker in color and has somewhat more serious, wine-like flavors. Still not a wine for the cork-sniffing crowd, but more likely to be enjoyed by regular wine drinkers. Rating: 86/90

For once I don't need to tell you where to look for a wine I've reviewed, or give you the phone number of the importer to help you track it down. Reunite Lambrusco is everywhere, including most likely your neighborhood supermarket or convenience store.


Ballatore Spumante (about $5) If the only time you drink wine with bubbles is on New Year's Eve or at someone's wedding, then you haven't tasted this delicious wine that in many years is America's medal-winningest sparkler. Imagine taking a bite out of a crisp, icy cold fresh Muscat grape, with just about the same level of sweetness, with bubbles added for fun. You'll have trouble finding anyone who doesn't like this delicious beverage. Rating: 90/100


Korbel Rouge ($12) One of my favorite red champagnes in the world. It's made from 90 percent classic Pinot Noir grapes, with the addition of 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon for color and added body. This is perhaps Korbel's smallest production wine at about 3000 cases, so it will be difficult, though not impossible, to find outside the winery tasting room. Rich flavors of ripe strawberry and black cherry with soft edges from the roughly one percent sugar level. You can drink it all by itself, but it's the perfect wine for roast turkey or red meats with Cajun seasoning. Rating: 92/90

Wines are scored using a unique 100 point system. First number rates quality; second number rates value.

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