The only thing these wines shared, in fact, was subtle enough to not be immediately noticeable: these were wines that did not glitter.
There is a category---and a very healthy category, praise be to Bacchus---of wines that do not vogue in the spotlight. They don’t demand or command celebrity attention. They don’t crowd everything else off the table, and they don’t dominate the discussion. These wines usually don’t appear in curated collections or get featured in mailing lists. You don’t have to join clubs and kiss up, and you don’t have to mortgage your house to afford one bottle of these wines.
What wines are these? Well, to give you an idea, here’s a short list, plucked from memory, of the wines I’m talking about:
Bodegas Beronia Rioja Alta
Lapierre Raisins Gaulois VdP (Beaujolais)
Can Feixes Blanc, Catalunya
Cellers Can Blau, Tarragona
Ribolla Gialla I Clivi, Friuli
Sanct Valentin Sauvignon, St. Michael-Eppan, Trento
And in almost every case---certainly every instance of late for me---these wines have charmed because they are so accommodating with food, whether it’s ‘per picar’ finger snacks or sumptuous multi-course meals.
Any of these can be fine without food, of course. Their honest amiability guarantees that. It’s that the wines embrace the foods, and vice versa, that turns a pleasant wine into an admired companion, thus elevating the merger to a higher complimentary level.
These are wines that don’t shout; they murmur. They don’t grandstand or showboat. They do not strive to be outrageous, exaggerated, over the top blockbusters, and they don’t attempt to be so bombastic as to command attention and points.
And I am thankful.
Here’s one in particular I am thankful for today:
Falanghina Dei Feudi di San Gregorio
What to serve as the white wine for the most difficult food and wine pairing dinner of the year. With the cacophony of flavors on the table at Thanksgiving, you have two choices, either to ignore the situation entirely and simply pick out a good wine, or make a careful, deliberate decision to throw a wine as a sacrifice in the great coliseum of flavor overload (little Greco-Roman metaphor there).
I did both. Pick out a good wine? Check. Carefully select a wine that would be quite satisfying but would also deal with the flavor assault without particular difficulty, remaining, light on the palate, lively, refreshing and, above all, drinkable? Check.
Falanghina is the grape, Campania is the place. Feudi di San Gregorio is the winery. Falanghina, purportedly from Greece originally, is a premier variety best grown on the volcanic slopes of Mt. Vesuvius in Campania, outside Naples. It is said to be the base for the legendary “Falernian,”most famous wine of the antique Romans.
In the hands of Feudi di San Gregorio winery, Falanghina is a superb non-glitter wine. Mostly an abbondanza of fruit---apples, pears, pineapple, even banana---the rest is delicate white flowers supported with mouth-watering citrus acidity and crisp minerality.
This is downright enticing wine, difficult to drink in restraint, simply because it smells so fresh and vital with flower and fruit, is lively on the palate, and lingers delicately, never heavy, never dull in the long finish.
The turkey, the fat-dripping gravy, the herb-laden stuffing, the cranberry with orange zest, the sautéed onions and green beans, the sweet potatoes and brown sugar? Hey, don’t worry about it. This wine handles all of those, singularly or together, with aplomb (which translates in youthspeak as “Dude, not a problem. It’s all good.")
And it is. All good.