All Around, Mediterranean Countries Produce Worthwhile Reds
Copyright 1994 The Chicago Tribune
From Knight-Ridder Newspapers/Tribune Information Services
Selected and Prepared by Tribune Media Services
By William Rice
One of the key elements in the Mediterranean diet -- along with olive oil and bread --
is wine. Wherever the Greeks and later the Romans went in their efforts to conquer the
Mediterranean world, they took along wine and the grapes to produce it.
Even in recent years, wine has continued to play a strong dietary role. Ancel and
Margaret Keys, in their 1975 book ``How to Eat Well & Stay Well The Mediterranean
Way,'' write: ``... the use of wine at every main meal and as an aperitif now and then
means that the average man gets close to 10 percent of his daily calories from alcohol.''
Consumption has diminished considerably in Italy and France, still the world's
leading producers and drinkers of wine, though it is still far greater than wine
consumption in the United States. But in the wake of the widely publicized ``French
paradox'' report, which advocates two glasses of red wine a day, researchers continue to
link the moderate consumption of wine, especially red wine, to lower incidents of heart
disease and other illnesses as well.
Many Mediterranean wines deliver considerable pleasure along with whatever
healthful properties they may possess. The term ``Mediterranean diet'' doesn't really
apply to inhabitants of northern France, northern Italy and central Spain, where more
meat and dairy products are consumed. So, to remain true to the concept, I'm limiting
recommendations in those countries to growing regions near the sea.
While France and Italy lead the region in volume and in reputation, Spain, Portugal
(which stands just outside the region, but is linked to it culturally), and Greece are major
Greek wines are plentiful in Greektown restaurants, but elsewhere the selection may
be limited to bottles from large-production wineries such as Achaia-Clauss and Cambas.
Israel's Yarden winery exports very good reds and other wines under the Gamla and
Golan labels, while Carmel sends us cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and dry muscat.
In the south of France, a radical change in direction has led to the planting of classy
varietals such as chardonnay, merlot and cabernet in the Languedoc-Roussillon region
that stretches along the Mediterranean shore west of the Rhone toward the border with
Spain. Many wine shops and restaurant wine lists now carry wines from one or more
small producers in the region and two large-scale efforts are producing wines of
exceptional value. Look for Fortant de France or Reserve St. Martin, both of which offer
cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, viognier and syrah.
In Provence, if we include the southern Rhone Valley, a vast selection of red wine
ranges from the pricey estate wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape to small producer and
cooperative wines from various ``Cotes'' or ``Coteaux'' appellations with names such as
Ventoux, Luberon, Provence, Aix-en-Provence, Baronnies and Rhone or
Rhone-Villages. Among the most dependable and widely circulated wines from this
area are those from La Vieille Ferme.
Crossing into Italy, one sees a good deal of white Gavi and red Cinqueterre on the
Italian Riviera. Wines made to the south, along the west coast, may have charm but
most are too ephemeral to export. The white wines of Orvieto are an exception, but the
reds don't shine until we reach the southern peninsula. There, in Campania, the
aglianico grape makes superior reds and the white fiano and greco di tufo wines stand
out. The region's outstanding producer is Mastroberardino, whose labels include
Lacryma Christi and Taurasi. In Apulia, to the east, grapes such as primativo,
negroamaro and malvasia nera make dark, fruity wines, all too often robbed of character
by overcropping. The outstanding red of Basilicata, Aglianico del Vulture, is worth
seeking out, however. Most of Calabria's wine is drunk there, but Sicily exports
considerable wine to the United States, most notably Corvo.
In Spain, the most important region facing the Mediterranean, is the Penedes in
Catalonia. It is the center of the country's sparkling wine industry and also produces
very serviceable reds, whites and roses. The region's leading producer of still wines is
Torres. To the south, inland from Alicante, some good wines are coming from
vineyards at Jumilla.
I'm not sure whether, in a health sense, rose is midway between red and white, but
for matching with Mediterranean food during summer or simply sipping as an aperitif,
those from the best producers are not to be ignored.
Less wine, but some of very good quality, is produced in Turkey, the North African
nations of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco and islands such as Cyprus and Crete.
In search of some taste treats from the Mediterranean? Here are some
Greece: Boutari Naoussa non-vintage, $6.49; Boutari Naoussa Reserve, 1987, $11.49. Also
Boutari Nemea, 1989, $6.99; and white Kretikos, 1992, $6.99.
Lebanon: Chateau Musar, 1986, $15.95.
Spain: Mediterranean Red non-vintage Rene Barbier, $3.99, also Rene Barbier
Mediterranean white and rose, $3.99 each.
France: (Corbieres) Chateau Grand Moulin (syrah), 1991, $7.50; (Bandol), La Bastide
Blanche (mourvedre and grenache), 1990, $14.
Italy: (Sicily) Regaleali Rosso, 1989, $8.99.
Spain: Onix red (grenache and carignan), 1992, $7.
France: (Minervois red) Chateau de Gourgazaud, 1990, $6.98. (Coteaux
d'Aix-en-Provence), Mas de Gourgonnier, 1991, $8.98. Italy: (Campania) Mastroberardino
Avellanio (light red), 1991, $10.95.
Spain: (Jumilla) Taja (mourvedre), 1990, $7.49; Torrente (white blend), $6.98.
France: (Languedoc-Roussillon) Reserve St. Martin (marsanne), 1992, $4 a glass or $16 a
bottle; Les Clos de Paulilles rose (syrah and grenache), 1991, $22 a bottle.
Italy: (Sicily) Corvo Bianco, 1992, $4.50 a glass or $18 a bottle; (Apulia) Taurino
Notarpanaro, 1986, $6 a glass or $24 bottle. Spain: (Jumilla) Carchelo Monastrell
(mourvedre and merlot), 1993, $4.50 a glass or $18 a bottle.
Italy: (Liguria) Groppo di Riomagiore Cinqueterre white, 1992, $24 a bottle; (Campania)
Feudi di San Gregorio Greco di Tufo white, 1992, $23; (Apulia) Candido Salice Salentino
Riserva red, 1989, $18.