I love wine shops. I can wander up and down the rows and stacks of bins, browsing the different regions, and asking the staff what their current favorites are for hours on end. So recently, when a friend of mine suggested I try shopping for wine online, I balked. I'm all in favor of supporting my local wine purveyors, so the thought of buying wine on the internet sounded completely unappealing. Furniture I've done, clothing, electronics, and books, no problem, but wine? It just seemed like it would take the fun out of one of my favorite pastimes.
Then, just a couple of weeks ago, wine.com ran a special on a bottle that I had read a bit about but thought I wouldn't be able to find locally. The 2000 Palazzo Della Torre by Italian producer Allegrini was recently rated 65th in the Wine Spectator's list of the top 100 wines of 2004. Now, I'll stick to the topic at hand and not launch into an exposition on how obnoxious I find the idea of a list of the 100 Best Wines in the World, but I will say that I was interested to get my hands on a bottle that they rated well and see if I found it agreeable or overrated. On top of that, the bottle just sounded interesting - made largely from varieties I'm not familiar with (70% Corvina Veronese, 25% Rondinella, and the remaining 5% Sangiovese) and vinified in a manner I've never come across, with a third of the fruit left to dry in the manner of an Amarone for a couple of months before being fermented and added back to the rest of the wine.
So I ordered three bottles and promptly forgot all about it, until I came home from work last week to find wine at my doorstep. What's not to like about that? I decided to serve it with a dish that would be able to acommodate a full-bodied, rich wine as well as a lighter, livelier wine since I wasn't entirely sure of what to expect from this bottle. Pork chops with cherry balsamic glaze fit the bill, and the wine... well, I have to say that the wine came through. I was all set to dislike it, to find all sorts of faults with it and denounce the 'Top 100 Wine List' categorically, but this stuff was good. Plenty of fruit, with blueberry and blackberry dominating, balanced acidity, tannins that are just on the young side and suggest the development of an even more velvety and supple mouthfeel in the next year or two, and a most delightful mineral flavor which was a nice counterpoint to the luscious fruit. And for under twenty dollars - all right. I don't have a 'Top 100 Wine List', but if I did, this wine wouldn't be out of place listed at, oh, I don't know, number 65?
Flush with my successful online wine shopping venture, I signed up for an account at winebid.com and promptly bid on and won a handful of wines, all under 25 dollars. I found interesting, fun stuff: a Chinon (Cabernet Franc from the Loire valley), a white wine from Spain's Priorat region, an older Bordeaux white, a bottle of Tempranillo from Valencia, plus a few others. One of the aspects of online wine shopping which I find appealing is the amount of information about any particular bottle that can be had with a quick Google search. Don't know much about this region or that variety? Not for long... it's so much easier than lugging a reference book out to the wine shop, or, worse yet, memorizing it all.
Which isn't to say that I've given up on my favorite wine shops. I still love to wander around stacks of bottles from around the world - it's a visceral pleasure that I don't intend on ever abandoning for online convenience. No matter how fun it is to come home to wine on your doorstep.