Is there a little black dress of the wine world?
The little black dress. Most everyone has one. Even gentlemen have the equivalent — the blue blazer. These clothing items dress up or dress down to suit and they are totally respectable for almost every occasion. In addition, they are easy to accessorize. In a word, these clothing items are versatile.
Is there one wine that fits the little black dress model? One single wine you could just as easily cart off to a picnic as to a formal dinner party? One wine that would bridge the gap between fish and meat?
I will actually put two on the table: Gruner Veltliner (my spring/summer pick) and Tavel Rose (my fall/winter pick).
What do these wines have that others don't? Versatility.
Gruner Veltliner is a welter-weight white. It's got body and texture, ample alcohol as well as loads of extract, flavor and grip. It's benchmark hint of chlorophyll makes it a natural with greens. It is mineral enough to substitute for unoaked chardonnay and performs just as expertly with all those butter-, cream- and cheese-based dishes. It's got plenty of guts and stuffing too, enough to handle poultry and game birds, veal, and pork. Beef carpaccio. No problem. Bring on the Brasaolo too. And fish and shellfish? Almost nobody does it better!
Tavel Rose is the reddest pink you'll ever drink. It too has body and texture, ample alcohol plus gobs of extract, flavor and grip. It's dry as a bone and tannin, while also maintaining a svelte welter-weight. It will pair well with fall and winter fare where root vegetables and winter squash dominate. There is fruit in this wine and that serves as perfect foil to the sweetness found in caramelized onion and braised dishes. It's big and bold enough to tackle beef bourgogne or goulash, but delicate enough to set beside a plate of fish and chips. It works well in most white-wine and red-wine scenarios without breaking into a sweat.
If you are ever in doubt about what to bring to a dinner party, these two fit the bill. They are also just perfect sipping with a sunset.
Try: Grooner Gruner Veltliner, Austria, $10. The label is hideous. (OK, we'll forego this one for the dinner party.) But the wine is great. And you can't beat the price. It's a snappy little number full of arugula and sugar snap peas. Just tantalizing.
Huber Gruner Veltliner, Austria, $12. This white is loaded with white pepper and leafy greens. Another Gruner that won't break the bank. Nicer presentation too.
As to higher ticket items, hunt for the following producers: Salomon, Berger, Nigl and Brundlemayer. None will disappoint.
In the rosé arena, Ch. D'Aqueria Tavel Rosé from France, $22, is just stunning. In this wine, there is plenty of structure and tannic grip within an explosive package of kirsch, cranberry and pomegranate fruit. It's one of my favorites.
Other pink picks include Domaine Maby Prima Donna, Prieure de Montezargues, Domaine Corne-Loup and Domaine de la Mordorée.