Earlier tonight, my friend, Stacy, and I got together with some neighbors of hers to attend a wine pairing dinner at a fantastic local restaurant (Bistro 18, for those of you in or near the Montclair, NJ area).
The dinner was focused around budget Italian wines. Admittedly, Italian wines are among my least favorite. I generally find them a bit dusty and earthy for my taste. Tonight didn't change my mind, BUT, one of the wines we tasted was a Super Tuscan (which is one of the few Italian wines I generally enjoy). This surprised me because Super Tuscans tend to be pretty pricey so I wouldn't expect to have one at a budget Italian wine pairing dinner. It was still a little young and very dry, but for $12.99, it's worth buying a bottle or two to age for a few years: Ciacci Piccolomini Poggio Della Fonte Toscana Rosso 2006.
The other highlight was the Moscato D'Asti, which was served with dessert. Though Italian wines tend not to be my favorite, Moscato D'Asti is one of the exceptions. It's a light, sweet white wine with a little bit of fizz (or frizzante, as the Italians call it). It's generally tastes like syup soaked pears or apples (or for some, a late harvest Riesling) but the fizz cuts the sweetnes just enough to make it a very light wine. Also, it helps that the alcohol tends to be only 5 - 5.5% by volume.
I encourage anyone to try this wine. It's generally in the $10-$20 price range. The one we had this evening was $17.99: La Spinetta Moscato d'Asti Biancospino 2008.
Wine pairing dinners are a wonderful experience for anyone who enjoys wine or food, or ideally both, as I do. Moreover, it's a great way to taste a lot of different wines in the way most wine should be drunk - with food. They also tend to be pretty good values (4-5 glasses of wine and 4-5 courses for anywhere from $50 - $200, and upwards for the real specialty stuff). The dinner I went to tonight was around $75 per person with tax and tip - 5 wines, 5 courses. For the NY Metro/Northern NJ area, that's a terrific deal.
I have honestly never been to a wine pairing dinner where I didn't enjoy myself and didn't come away learning something new. If you have a bad experience with a wine pairing dinner, I'm truly sorry. But don't give up hope. You've got to give it another shot because for anyone who knows wine, loves wine or wants to know or love wine, it's one of the life's truly simple pleasures.