by Dave Nelson
While scanning the World Cup groups in order to plan our daytime drinking over the next month, Gut Check noticed that most of the great wine-producing nations are represented in the tournament field, including all of those with a reputation for crafting good, value-priced wines. Because Gut Check never saw a value we didn't like, we resolved to stage our own tournament to determine the 2010 World Goblet Champion.
One moves on to the championship tilt, one goes home. Each nation sends something out of the ordinary for the occasion. For the Aussies it's a white blend of viognier and pinot gris; the French offer a marselan, an offspring of cabernet sauvignon and grenache. Both are uncommon options, both come well-recommended. Let's see which of these dark horses comes through and propels its nation to the finals.
Next: We know, we know, the suspense is killing you...
2007 Heartland Viognier/Pinot Gris South Australia ($12) From its color to its delicate aromas of peach, almonds and flowers, this $12 wine exudes elegance. Only the viscous texture gives away the grapes -- the ratio is 77 percent viognier, 23 percent pinot gris -- but is that a good thing? The combination of light scent and heavy body leaves you in limbo, with the actual imbibing likely to overwhelm dishes that the aroma would complement, and the aroma insufficient to stand up to dishes the richness demands. Perhaps it's best suited to sipping on its own, but even that is an out-of-synch experience.
2008 Domaine de Couron Marselan Vin de Pays Des Côteaux de L'Ardeche ($12) Dark purple; more cabernet than grenache in hue. Ripe blackberries and a bit of earth are inviting to the scent sense, but this baby really gets going when you taste it: perfectly ripe fruit, lively acidity and a soupçon of tannin providing a rustic edge. A wine only the French could make, and very versatile at the table (we can vouch for its suitability to a sausage, onion and minced garlic deep-dish from Pi). Even better the second day with more seamless integration of its elements and an even longer finish.
The marselan was definitely a surprise. It sounded more like an alternate version of the French national anthem than a cross of two grape varieties. As prices of French wines continue to creep up, it's nice to find new entries of this quality and "Frenchness." The untraditional blend of viognier and pinot gris, though, didn't fare quite as well. Both the aroma and the flavor were fine on their own, they just didn't combine into a remotely coherent whole.
So: Our World Goblet final comes down to France and New Zealand!...