About two years ago I started not just drinking, but truly enjoying wine. A year ago I decided I didn’t want to feel completely clueless in the wine store anymore and wanted to drink something other than Fat Cat Cabernet from Trader Joe’s, so I started trying to learn about wine in earnest. By “learning about it” what I mostly mean is drinking a lot of it while paying close attention to what makes one wine different from another.
The technical term for this in respectable wine circles would be “tasting.” However, most “respectable” tastings also involve a lot of spitting—people will take a sip of the wine they’re trying, swirl it around in their mouth as though they’re pretending it’s mouthwash, and spit it out. Call me unsophisticated, but I strongly favor the tasting and the drinking, so needless to say, those are not the kinds of tastings I tend to go to. But I digress.
Other than going to tastings whenever I get the chance and dragging Scott along with me, we’ve gotten more adventurous in our wine purchasing habits. Rather than just wondering over to the Cab section by default, we make a point to avoid it in favor of trying different grapes. Sometimes we end up with a bottle we don’t like but it’s rare, and since we limit “Mystery Buys” to bottles under ten-ish bucks, it’s no huge loss.
Which brings me to a wine we discovered recently that started out as a Mystery Buy and has become a favorite: A•Mano Primitivo 2006. A•Mano is a husband-and-wife run vineyard in Italy’s Puglia region, one of that country’s largest grape growing areas. It’s conveniently located, for the geographically challenged like myself, on the heel of the boot. The Primitivo grape is essentially the Zinfandel grape’s Italian cousin and shares its deep color and bold fruity flavors.
Another thing I’ve learned about wine the more time I spend with it is that the food it’s paired with can really make the magic and completely change the way the wine tastes. In the case of the heavy berry flavors of the A•Mano Primitivo, it does well when it’s paired (the “respectable” way of saying “served with”) a dish with some Ka-Pow. A spicy Italian sausage risotto, strong cheeses, and even a spicy chili would compliment this wine nicely, and vice versa. The strong flavor of these kinds of foods balances out the strong flavor of the wine so neither drown the other one out. Instead they just play nice.
But don’t take my word for it—experiment on your own. Try the Primitivo from A•Mano vineyard as your own first Mystery Buy, take a cue from the spicy-pungent flavors I suggest to go with it, and see what happens. Wine, after all, is supposed to be fun, right? It’s also supposed to be a bit of a surprise in every bottle. It’s a little bit mysterious, which is part of what makes it so exciting—and seductive.