One of my biggest wine writing pet peeves is comparing a wine to a woman. And not just any woman. It’s never “this Pinot Grigio reminds me of my middle school lunch lady” or “that Merlot is a dead ringer for my dad’s third wife, the one who collected Lladró and bred Bassett hounds.” No, it’s always some woman who is mysterious and elegant, naïve…yet precocious, docile and tempestuous all at once. Do you know any women like this? I sure as hell don’t. These comparisons offer much more insight into the psyche and relationship history of the wine writer than they do into the wine itself. Seriously guy, I have no way of knowing what your personal fantasies and anxieties are about the fairer sex, so incorporating them into your tasting notes is totally unhelpful to me–and to anyone else who’s not you.
That’s why I am going to compare this 2009 Torre dei Beati Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Cerasuolo ($16.99) to a well-known woman, one who should be familiar to even the most casual student of early 21st century American film: Elle Woods, heroine of Legally Blonde.
First, there’s the color. I’d call this something between dark Barbie-pink and light cherry. “Cerasuolo” refers to a category of deeply colored, often fairly intense Italian wines that are somewhere between rosé and red.
Here’s a picture. Apologies that the lighting and glass don’t quite do it justice. We brought this over to a friend’s place, and I didn’t want to make a whole production about photography.
Just as Elle’s wardrobe choices made it impossible for anyone to take her seriously–who could forget when she shows up to her first law school party wearing a Playboy bunny costume?–the color of this wine practically screams frivolity.
Then there’s the aroma, which I can only describe as perfumed. Sticking my nose in the glass was like smelling a bouquet of flowers, with roses front and center. I was reminded of the scene where Elle passes her pink and perfumed resume along to her law school professor and soon-to-be swain Luke Wilson. “I think it gives it that extra something!” she says of the scent and really, who are we to disagree.
Based on first impressions, we’re expecting something inconsequential, dumbed-down and even cloying. But anyone who’s well-versed in Hollywood conventions (or the winemaking of Torre dei Beati, a small, organic estate, as well as the high-quality potential of the Montepulciano grape) knows what will happen next.
It turns out–suprirse!–that this wine is far from lightweight. There’s some real tannic structure here, as well as good acidity. Yes, there’s a touch of sweetness too, but nothing overwhelming. Ripe red fruits–strawberries in particular–are matched with a little earth and minerality. Just as Elle ultimately shows her smarts and prevails, with highlights and manicure intact, this wine manages to be charming and serious at once. And just as our heroine must hold her ground against any number of challenges, from a lecherous professor to catty classmates to lying witnesses, this wine can stand up to a lot. Tomato and mozzarella? Sure. Grilled chicken? Absolutely. Barbecue? A platter of cured meat and cheese? Why not.
So I invite you to pick up a bottle, pair it with pretty much anything that goes down easy on a hot late summer day, and raise your glass to toast the twin delights of Cerasuolo and Reese Witherspoon.