Wine column no. 26: Betting interests

It makes sense, really. I mean, who among us hasn't opened a new bottle of wine they've never tried before, only to discover that it was a complete waste of time and money? Maybe it was too acidic. Maybe it didn't taste like anything at all. But in any case, you didn't like it, and now you can't get your money back.
Welcome to the world wide casino of wine roulette. You placed a bet, and you lost. Better luck next time.
But wait. Don't give up on wine, because there are bright lights out there. They may not be spouting sirens or tossing out coins, but there truly are jackpots. And we'll tell you a little secret: You don't
always have to bet the farm to find them.
Here's a little tip on gaming the system that worked to my benefit when Greg and I walked into a hotel bar in Lexington, Ky., last month. We'd recently arrived from Evansville after a four-hour drive, and it was
late. We wanted to relax, safely. So when the bar menu offered a very chilled glass of 2010 Brancott Estate Sauvignon blanc, it was an easy choice. Since this was a bar, the glass's $6 price tag was highly
inflated -- compared, at least, to the price of the entire bottle itself. (We later learned you can get this exact bottle at Varsity Liquors for $14.99.) But to me, and to anyone else whose main goal is to discover new, enjoyable wines, this by-the-glass method was a way to get the best of both worlds: The opportunity to spend a little money to try something new without losing more money on something that I might very well hate.
It was a good wager: I thought this New Zealand creation from the northeastern tip of the South Island in Marlborough was aromatic, with some grapefruit and passionfruit. And while the grapefruit became more pronounced as it warmed up in the glass, that didn't make it any less refreshing, I thought. Greg, meanwhile, couldn't stand this. But he's never been a fan of grapefruit to begin with, and he's obviously not the market Brancott is selling to. That's because grapefruit flavors and high acidity are what this version of Sauvignon blanc is known for -- at least according to the Brancott Estate website. Marlborough, the site said, is the sunniest part of New Zealand in most years. But its proximity to snow-capped mountain peaks and a relatively large land mass cause temperatures to drop at night.
"This high diurnal temperature variation locks in unusually high levels of acidity in some grape varieties, most notably Sauvignon blanc -- and without compromising flavor development, is a key
ingredient in the success of Marlborough wines," the website went on to say. So if young, grapefruity Sauvignon blanc is your thing, this 12.5 percent alcohol bottle may be for you. It certainly was for me.
The score? Me: 1. House: 0.
Here's another glass of wine I had at a bar. The 2010 Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling from the Columbia Valley of Washington state was very honeyish. Greg and I have had a good amount of German Rieslings lately, so I was unprepared for how little -- if any -- lemon or pineapple flavors were included in the glass. Described by the winery's website as its "every day Riesling," this 11 percent alcohol speciman would be a good pairing with chicken, mild cheeses, crab and fresh fruit, the winery advised. This wine whose grapes were grown in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains was sweet (or off-dry, a term some wine experts prefer). But it was also quite smooth and soothing,
and I'd get this again in a heartbeat. You can find this at Varsity Liquors, too, for $9.99.
Me: 2. House: 0.
And finally, here's a glass of Kloster Neuburg Gewurztraminer that I had at the Taj Mahal, an Indian restaurant off of Burkhardt Road. Nothing against my delicious butter chicken simmered in an onion and tomato cream sauce. But this wine was a better pairing with Greg's lamb rogan josh, which was cooked in yogurt, herbs and spices. I think it was the medium spicy heat of the rogan josh sauce that really got this Gewurztraminer to open up, since once it did, it seemed a bit sweeter and more crisp -- a cool, soothing foil to the heat of the dish.
From what we've been able to determine, this wine was produced on the German vineyards of Eberbach Abbey, a former Cistercian monastary located in the Rheingau Valley. Those vineyards were, at one time, the largest in medieval Europe. But now most of them are managed by Hessische Staatsweinguter GmbH Kloster Eberbach, which is described as a powerful player in wine production in Germany.
Meanwhile, not every wine is going to go perfectly with your dish, and next time, I'll be sure to ask for the waiter's recommendation. Still, the fact that I was able to have this wine at all -- it doesn't seem
to be sold at any of the local wine shops we visited recently -- was a safe bet for me. I got to try something new, and I was nowhere close to breaking the bank.
Final score? Me: 3. House: 0

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