Crossover Dreams


Pinots, sparkling wines are a good compromise between red and white

October 25, 2007|By ROB KASPER

If I order meat and my wife orders fish, what kind of wine will work for both of us?

The answer that I got from several wine savants is a "crossover" wine. This is a style of wine that, in simplistic terms, is not too red and not too white. It is the happy compromise that we seek in so many areas of life.

In addition to producing marital harmony, picking a bottle of crossover wine from a restaurant wine list can make economic sense as well. Ordering a bottle of crossover wine that holds five glasses is usually much less expensive than ordering the same number of wines by the glass.

Moreover, now that Maryland law allow diners to recork partially emptied bottles, you can take leftover wine home.

That is what three wine pros who write blogs told me. I spoke with Mitchell Pressman, proprietor of Chesapeake Wine Company in Baltimore's Canton neighborhood and author of Pressman's Wine Journal blog; Tyler Colman, who teaches wine classes at the University of Chicago and New York University and writes the Dr. Vino blog; and Alder Yarrow, whose Vinography blog chronicles his food and wine adventures in the San Francisco area.

In general, they mentioned pinot noir, beaujolais, sangiovese and Loire reds and sparkling wines as good crossover candidates. But they also got specific and personal about how they eat and drink.

Pressman said a bottle of champagne gets his vote as the ultimate crossover wine.

"The longer I do this, and I have been in the wine business almost 30 years, the more I am impressed with the increasing versatility of champagne," he said. Rose champagne, he said, "has the intensity to stand up to steak," yet has finesse and doesn't "overpower seafood." In addition to French champagnes, Pressman said he is fond of several California sparkling wines, such as Schramsberg, J Wine and Domaine Carneros.

Sparkling wines from Italy and Spain are less complex, but more affordable crossover wines, he said. "Every Italian restaurant should have at least one good prosecco," Pressman said.

As for the Spanish sparklers, or cava wines, Pressman said: "It is hard to find a star cava, but it is also hard to find a really bad one."

In California, Yarrow said he has been drinking a lot of crossover wines.

"When I want to order Sole Meuniere and my wife wants Cassoulet, we compromise with a nice Gigondas or sometimes a Sonoma pinot noir. Other good choices include cabernet franc from the Loire region of Chinon, or lighter, less tannic wines from northern Italy like Barbaresco," Yarrow said.

Lately, Yarrow has been impressed by some unoaked red wines from southern France and Spain. Because they "are not aged in oak at all, they have a nice fruit character but are light enough to accompany any number of dishes," he said.

Colman, aka Dr. Vino, spoke up for pinot noir as a wine that "could keep a table of six happy." But he noted it could be pricey. "You do have to pay up to find a good one. The 2005 Maysara Jamsheed (about $25 in wine stores) from the Willamette Valley recently knocked the socks off some guests when we had salmon."

"Flexible" and "light" are not adjectives usually associated with French reds, but Dr. Vino said he has encountered such wines. "The Clos du Tue-Boeuf 2006 from Cheverny in the Loire has great purity of fruit and [that] means it can pair with lighter meats. The bottle was quickly drained at my house recently. In fact," he said in an e-mail correspondence, "I shouldn't even be telling you about this one because I haven't restocked yet."

Finally, in what might be called an extreme crossover, Dr. Vino said he found a wine that matches up well with ballpark hot dogs and sauerkraut.

"I recently went to a Yankees game and tried the cremant d'Alsace from Albert Mann with a hot dog, kraut and mustard -- and it worked," he said. He added that this culinary hookup occurred at a wine-tasting event held in the New York ballpark, not at a concession stand.

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