Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Skin Contact High

CoenobiumI come to praise mildness and not to bury it. It's obvious that "gobs" of anything in wine can, like ultra-hot 5 alarm sauces that some people insist on dumping over their food, obscure subtler flavors, destroy balance, and/or mask that there's no there there. But while I am certainly tuned in to balance, it's still easy to latch onto relatively strong characteristics — great stoniness, zesty acidity, etc. — as a hallmark of distinctiveness and somewhereness.

I think that's perfectly legitimate, but there are other wines that are entirely mild, with no particularly strong characteristics, that are nevertheless unlike any other. The 2006 Coenobium from the Monastero Suore Cistercensi, a convent located 60 km north of Rome, is just such a wine.

This blend of verdicchio, grechetto, and trebbiano toscano is a really lovely skin contact wine that's light on the skin contact. It's yellow and barely greenish, not orange. I think that's pretty cool, because while some skin contact whites hit you over the head, this stainless-fermented wine is both delicate and full. In fact, it's not unlike the Bea Santa Chiara in that regard (although the Bea is deeper, fuller, and still more delicate, if nearly twice as expensive), and when I found out that Giampiero Bea both consults the sisters and designs the label, I wasn't too surprised. Somebody's a good Catholic, and I ain't complaining.

Have you ever had a wine that tastes like apple skin consommé? Until now, I haven't. And this is what I mean when I say the wine is both mild and distinctive. It's clean rather than oily, but there's a quiet and almost brothy undercurrent of richness here. Apple is the primary fruit, yet there's a mild and juicy vegetable (celery?) in here somewhere, too. It's long and well-defined on the finish, and the aromas linger in the glass long after the last sip. It's great with fish, but I'd definitely serve this with any food that could be described as mild, complex, and savory. Egg pasta with mushrooms sauteed in butter and herbs, yes indeed...


Andrea said...

Oh, I love this wine! "Apple consomme" = awesome description.

TWG said...

The Coenobium is mentioned in Asimov's blog as a favorite

Wicker Parker said...

I was just reading James Wolcott's blog over at Vanity Fair, and of an Edie Falco dramatic series he writes, "Unlike so many premium cable dramas, Nurse Jackie doesn't lose stride or herniate itself trying to be transgressively hip or hiply transgressive; modestly scaled, it moves with a quiet, smooth gait, creating an island of mood and retrospection amid the emergency-room crises."

That would describe this wine pretty well, too, as long as you don't picture drinking this in the emergency room.