Break Out The Oysters and…Red Wine?!?

I know. Oysters and red wine. It sounds so…unappealing. That is, to my particularly persnickety preferences. I do love white wine and steak. But that doesn’t seem as radical. Hey, I’m a drink-what-you-like kind of person, but bivalves and big reds are one of the very few things I can’t get behind.

So I was surprised while conducting interviews for my latest VinePair missive to hear about a red wine and oyster pairing from a winemaker. (Who heard it from a sommelier.) Valpolicella was the wine. This red blend from northern Italy’s Veneto region was one of my first steady wine loves and a killer, spot-on pizza wine.

If you are into chillable reds, get thee to a bottle of Valpolicella. Unfortunately, lighter versions are a little harder to track down. You might be confronted with the broader-shouldered, concentrated “Ripasso” wines. Nothing wrong with a little heft, but I want to beat the drum for the light and lithe Valpolicellas.  Anyhow, check out my VinePair article about a wine to chill (with).

Why Pinot Noir Fans Should Consider Valpolicella’s Crushable Classicos

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Valpolicella in Venice: The Talented Mr. Ripley

When I read Social Creature, then perused the reviews on Goodreads, I was surprised by the vitriol from folks calling it a cut-rate/derivative spin/lift of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. I really enjoyed Social Creature, but had no point of Ripley reference since I’ve never read said classic. But then fate intervened.

Well, not fate but rather my desire to find a reading group. I came across one at Brooklyn’s The Center For Fiction that would be exploring all five of Highsmith’s Ripley books. Which, I came to learn, are collectively referred to as “The Ripliad.” (Book nerds are so clever.) The books were published over the course of 46 (!) years, so I’m very interested to see how the character and writing develops.

I’ve not seen the movie staring Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jude Law. I can’t wait to pass judgement on Matt Damon’s casting and performance as Tom Ripley. Also Paltrow as Marge Sherwood. But I’ll say right now that Jude Law as Dickie Greenleaf is brilliant. As far as the book goes, Tom Ripley is a fascinating character. The way he is able to channel nervous anxiety into cool action, cover numerous bases, and be calculating all the while traveling in great style is remarkable. Well, the way Highsmith molds, shapes, and moves Ripley renders him indelible.

I’d say more but I don’t want to provide any spoilers. I’m curious to see what the folks in my class have to say about Ripley, particularly regarding his sexuality and how Highsmith writes about it. I’ll have to go back and review the key passages closely.

The Talented Mr. Ripley Contemplates an Italian Red Wine

After gracefully extricating himself from another (potential) jam, Tom’s in the mood for a reward:

He was going to have something luscious and expensive to eat—whatever the Grand Hotel’s specialty was, breast of pheasant or petto di pollo, and perhaps cannelloni to begin with, creamy sauce over delicate pasta, and a good valpolicella to sip while he dreamed about his future and planned where he went from here.

What would a Valpolicella taste like in the 1950s, I wonder? Today they have a tendency to be bigger and brawnier than I like, as if winemakers were trying to create a baby Amarone. (That’s why I love the Prà Morandina Valpolicella. A see-through, chillable red. Perfect for Ripley’s dinner, no? Cut through all that game and cream. AND DELICIOUS PLOT I WANT TO SPOIL!!!)

Circling back to Social Creature, I look at it more as a modern update replacing letters with Instagram posts as a plot device. If I had to do it all over, I’d read that book first then tackle The Talented Mr. Ripley.

But I have no regrets. Nor regrets over how I’m crushing my Goodreads challenge for the year. I’m at 24 out of 30 books, with three months left. And just a day or two away from polishing off book number 25. Read it and weep!

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If It’s Cold, It’s Sold: Prà Morandina Valpolicella

As a retail wine guy, one of the mantras of the business (and grocery in general) is “Stack it high and watch it fly.” For any beverage (beer/wine/cider/soda/water) the other old saw is “If it’s cold, it’s sold.” You don’t see red wine a lot, if ever, in the cooler, though. That’s changing, as more people are wisely chilling their reds. So kudos to Dandelion Wine, who actually had a bottle of Prà Morandina Valpolicella in their dedicated rosé fridge. (Yes, you have to love this shop.)

Prà is a superstar producer of Soave, the great white wine of the Veneto made primarily from the Garganega grape. When this wine popped up on my Instagram feed. I had two thoughts as my scrolling came to a screeching halt:

  • Wowzers! Look at this unicorn label, so cool.
  • Wait, Prà makes red wines, too?!?

Valpolicella also hails from the Veneto, and it’s a blend of grapes usually Corvina-forward. Let’s take a closer look at this wine.

Prà Morandina Valpolicella 2017

Price of this wine hovers around twenty bucks. It’s a blend of Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, and Oseleta from a vineyard planted in 2001. The grapes are lightly dried for 20 days, which I found surprising because it has no dried fruit characteristics. This wine is the opposite of Amarone, folks. It ferments in stainless steel then spends a few months in oak casks. The winery suggests serving the Morandina “slightly cooled” and advises enjoying a glass with “nibbles and salami.” I’ll double-down on  the first part and say drink it COLD. Especially if you dare drink red wine on a NYC day like this one where it’s going to be 90 and humid.

If you are looking for a wine comp, importer Polaner Selections has some good thoughts. “Think fresh, crunchy, Cru Beaujolais-like fruit with a bright, chalky core,” advises their website. It’s only 12.5% alcohol as well. One of the most purely pleasurable red wines I’ve drank in a while. Highly recommended. And people are going to flip over the label. This is truly a unicorn wine. Very pleasurable to drink sans accompaniment. But better with company.

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