“Would you like to try them and see which you like better? It’s for our own ‘Sweet Sixteen’ contest.” Each year, In Fine Spirits makes a bracket of wines in honor of March Madness. Customers vote on their favorites, and the field of wines narrows in concert with the basketball tournament.
Never able to resist a blind tasting, or really any tasting, I sipped Mystery Wine A.
With a brick-red color, it tasted less of fruit and more of leather and earth, with a hint of iron at the end. Not bad, but I fell hook, line and cork for Wine B, with its deep color, broad berry flavors and bold spiciness. I unhesitatingly chose B. “B!” I proclaimed.
As the paper covering the labels was removed, the scales fell from my eyes. Wine A turned out to be a decidedly unusual and obscure 2007 Argyros Atlantis, a Greek blend of 90% Mandilaria and 10% Mavrotragano. In short, exactly what I should like.
And Wine B? A 2008 Yard Dog Red, an Australian critter quaffer! (I borrow the term from Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, former wine critics for the Wall Street Journal. They generally disdained wines with animals or animal parts on the labels.)
I felt betrayed by my apparently Robert-Parkerized palate, seduced by the dog’s bold, racy fruit. I had ignored the Atlantis’s sense of terroir as surely as if it had been swallowed by the sea. I looked from one bottle to the other, shoulders tensing.
Some calm returned when I looked more closely at the Yard Dog label, which indicated it was a blend of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. An Australian Bordeaux-style blend was something I could get behind more so than, say, a Shiraz. Yard Dog Red may not count as unusual or hard to find, but at least it’s not run-of-the-mill.
As unprejudiced about wine as I like to imagine I am, it seems I can be as narrow-minded as someone who never dares to venture past Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio. It’s always good to be reminded that what I think I should like and what I actually do like are not necessarily the same thing.
2007 Argyros Atlantis Red ($15 at In Fine Spirits) — Earthy, with restrained fruit.
2008 Yard Dog Red ($11 at In Fine Spirits) — Big, bold, fruity, fun. A good value.