Bottle recommendations and stories to tell

For the second installment of our miniseries on hosting a group wine tasting on a shoestring budget — ten dollars per person, to be exact — we’re starting with white wines. Which wines to select, that is, and the stories to tell that make it interesting.

First, a bit of logistics. The wines I name below were suggested to me by a local retailer in a town in North Carolina where the tasting was taking place. I don’t live in this city, so I relied on the help of the local store: not only do they know their inventory, they know their inventory at present. The inventory – and specific wine selections – available to you where you live will no doubt vary, but there is nevertheless a common guideline, which is that wines are made from unusual and lesser-known grapes grown in regions off the beaten track. -path locations, probably by producers you’ve never heard of.

This is precisely where the story takes place. Arguably, history is the trump card in a tasting where the budget is limited but the enthusiasm is abundant. The story won’t make up for “bad wine,” but it will certainly complement the experience of tasting in a group setting where conversation and exposure to unique wines are the main selling points.

Here are three white wines, chosen for their “fit” within a budget of ten dollars per person, which also meet the requirement of a great story.

2021 Douloufakis Estate, Dafnios, Vidiano, Crete (Greece)

You may already know about wine production in Greece since ancient times, but did you also know about Venetian rule over the island of Crete, the largest and most populous of the Greek islands?

This is the starting point when pouring this wine into your group tasting, with the balance of old and new. “Ancient” in the sense of the Greek myth of Dafne, which is the name of the village where this wine was produced as well as the name of the nymph Daphne who turned into a laurel after repelling the advances of the god Apollo. And “new” in the sense of young winemakers reviving the obscure, ancient, local grape variety called Vidiano.

The grapes were grown on hill slopes at an altitude of 350 to 450 meters above sea level, by a certified organic producer called Douloufakis who is one of the oldest vineyards on the island. It is priced at $14 a bottle and will remind some tasters of the moderately more familiar Albariño and Assyrtiko grapes.

2020 Donnafugata, Anthìlia, Sicily

I started this article by stating that the wines we recommend are made from unusual and lesser-known grapes grown in off-the-beaten-path places, probably by producers you’ve never heard of. The second choice of white wine fits that bill, except last: you may have heard of the producer, Donnafugata, whose name “donna in fuga” (or woman on the run) refers to the story. of a queen who found refuge in the part of Sicily where the company’s vineyards are located today. This specific wine, Anthìlia, is the most popular offering in the world that Donnafugata produces today.

Catarratto is the predominant grape, along with other varieties indigenous to Sicily as well as international varieties. It is priced at $16 a bottle.

2019 Floriography Blooming White Blend, South Africa

I’ve always liked the term “floriography”, or the language of flowers, which refers to the practice of communicating with others by sending secret messages coded in the arrangement of particular flowers. In other words, people used flowers to say what they wanted to say.

This is the inspiration – and origin story – for the latest white wine in this range, this time from South Africa. The ‘flowery white’ in the wine’s name is inspired by the flowers of Cape Town, a natural wonder that blooms every year in a semi-desert region of South Africa called Namaqualand. More than 3,900 species of seeds lie dormant in the soils of this region until summer, when the region turns into a floral paradise. Carpets of flowers of all kinds and colors stretch for miles in all directions.

It is an evocative image, whose “visual” is complementary to the very aromatic experience of this wine. It is made from four different grape varieties, widely known for their fragrance and bouquet: Bukettraube, Muscat D’Alexandrie, Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. It is priced at $11 a bottle.

For the latest installment in this series, we turn to three red wines and the stories to be told about them.

About Jean R. Manzer

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