Our wines of the week consist of three delightful dinner companion wines, all under $20: a juicy 2006 red blend from Chile (Veramente) named Primus; an old world French red, the 2007 Henry Brouilly Cuvee Georges Fessy and a wonderful 2006 Chardonnay from the Bodega del Desierto in La Pampa (Argentina) called 25/5.
We’ll start with the Primus, a very good value at $17.99 that exhibits all the tell tale full-bodied attributes of a more expensive cabernet, merlot or malbec, but at reasonable price. One thing we’ve noticed in recent years is how the South American wine makers have taken the best of the old and new world philosophies to create some incredible red and white wines, all at prices that would make the French cry, “sacre bleu!” We tried the Primus several years ago and instantly fell in love with its complex flavor profile, which consists of a quad of familiar grapes: cabernet sauvignon, syrah, malbec and carmenere. This is a good stand-alone wine, but works well with meaty dishes, including beef, lamb or even the rich and spicy barbecue pork we enjoyed.
Though some old world wines can seem earthy or chalky, even, the Henry Brouilly Cuvee Georges Fessy was a pleasant surprise when paired with our mushroom ravioli and vodka sauce. Rule of thumb with many French and Italian reds: give them a little time to open up and stretch their legs, as it were. Don’t let the dubious “cow pasture” scent fool you…many of these wines (this one included) develop slowly and need to be aerated (an hour, if possible), so be patient and give them a chance before enjoying.
The Bodega del Desierto 25/5 is one of the best-tasting chardonnays we’ve come across in some time. This Argentinean’s best attribute is its drinkability. Though many California chards can seem overly oaked to the point of tasting like butterscotch pudding in a glass, the 25/5 strikes the perfect balance between oakiness and crispness, without being cloyingly sweet or overpowering. It paired remarkably well with the shrimp Creole and buttered biscuits we enjoyed for dinner.