Wine, love, soil, and poetry

One local wine merchant offers some recommendations

BRATTLEBORO — The metaphors that marry wine and love are as various as wine and love themselves: The effervescent giddiness of new love, the structure and power of mature love, the gentle familiarity and soul-friendship that can take root with enduring commitment - each has its analog in a bottle.

And wine regions, like people, have personalities - Burgundy, with its delicate mystery; Bordeaux, haughty and aloof (but, finally, to the patient and discerning, warm-hearted); Barolo, its lean Italian cousin, redolent of rose petals.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, Tony Hecht, wine and beer assistant at the Brattleboro Food Co-op, fielded a question about wines that might pair well with Valentine's Day.

His first thought was the Meinklang 2016 Frizzante Rosé, a distinctive bottle featuring a cutout of a cow on the label and a rustic string tied across the cork, rather than the sturdier wire cage required for the more vigorously charged spumantes.

Why this wine?

“Well, it's pink, for one thing,” Hecht said with a chuckle. “But it's also very festive. It's full of fruit, it's light, it's a really unique, cool looking bottle, and it's delicious. Everyone who has had it adores it.”

Meinklang, an Austrian winery located 40 miles outside of Vienna near the Hungarian border, practices biodynamic agriculture - meaning, among other things, that they do not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides. On their website, they also note that they keep 800 cows, allowing them to create and sustain fertile earth without resorting to inorganic measures.

“The cow remains the focus point of our labels,” they explain, “because we see it as the symbol of soil fertility and humus formation.”

Build soil, Robert Frost once wrote. Turn the farm in upon itself/Until it can contain itself no more,/But sweating-full, drips wine and oil a little.

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Hecht mentioned two other wines as well, the first an Azienda Santa Barbara Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi from the rolling hills of central Italy's Marche region, on the Adriatic. Made from hand-harvested grapes, Hecht said, the wine is fermented three months in stainless steel and aged two months in the bottle before release.

Wines made from Verdicchio can be crisp, lemony, vibrant, and delicious, but the greenish-hued varietal is still a lesser known grape in the U.S.

“People are used to drinking chardonnays, sauvignon blancs, pinot grigios,” Hecht said. “This is totally different and I think superior to a lot of things and really not that expensive. It's unusual, and people love it.”

For lovers of red wine, Hecht suggested another of his favorites, the Clos La Coutale malbec from Cahors, a town on the Lot River in southern France with winemaking roots that reach back to Ancient Rome.

More restrained than their better-known Argentinian counterparts, French malbecs tend to show more minerality and less of the opulent plum and blackberry fruit flavors that characterize the South American version.

But whatever his customers' palates or preferences, Hecht emphasizes the sociable nature of the fermented juice he sells.

“Wine is meant to be shared with good friends,” he said, “or someone you love.”

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