A summer red and a good book

My recent rumination on red wines that satisfy during summer heat mysteriously brought us a brief cool spell.

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But we’re back into the 90s today, so let’s consider another light, simple but appealing red wine that can be served gently chilled.

Berger 2013 Niederösterreich Zweigelt, a light, food-friendly Austrian red that comes in a liter bottle with a beer-bottle cap, isn’t intended for cellaring or, perhaps, for fancy dining. But if any of your friends snicker about its downscale look and feel, offer them a glass and watch them recalibrate their attitude.

No, it’s not a classic variety from a sought-after territory. It’s not a wine that will make you hear choirs of angels sing. But it’s a fresh, drinkable and food-friendly red that you can enjoy with dinner on a steamy night, then put back in the fridge and draw from again for a few more nights before it begins to show the inexorable effects of time.

Berger Zweigelt comes with a beer-bottle-style crown cap.

Berger Zweigelt comes with a beer-bottle-style crown cap.

At a price of $10 to $15 for a liter in most markets – which works out to well under $10 if it were a standard-size 750 ml bottle – it’s quite a buy. See my tasting report below for the details.

While we’re at it, let’s have a look at a familiar little wine book that catches our eye with an annual update: Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book is coming out with its 2017 update in about two weeks. It’s the 40th anniversary edition, a fact that is somewhat alarming to me, since I’ve been following it from almost the very start, and it doesn’t feel as if I’ve been writing about wine and food for quite that long.

Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book 2017This little pocket guide has grown quite a bit over the years: It’s up to 336 pages now in a volume that’s still technically “pocket size” but that might be a tight fit in a small pocket, and the tiny type has grown even smaller to make that possible. But it still offers a quick and easy way to look up short details about almost any wine, grape or wine region you could imagine.

Content has come quite a way over those years, too, reflecting similar changes in the world of wine. As I recall, the books in the early 1980s had a lot about France, and broke out a separate section on Bordeaux. It still does. It had a section on Italy, a section on Germany, and a few pages each about California, South America, South Africa and Down Under. Now it truly ranges the world, with sections on 20 separate U.S. states, Canada and Mexico, North Africa and the Near East, and even essays on the emerging wine scenes in India and China.

Even in the age of the Internet when you can use Google to find just about anything, including all the details you can imagine about any wine in the world, I still enjoy having this little book in hand, and getting my updated edition every year to see what’s new with Hugh.

But if you just have to have the info in your portable device, you can do that, too: Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book is also available for Kindle or the Kindle app on your smartphone.

You can pre-order Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book 2017 from Amazon.com for $12.74, a 25 percent discount off its $16.99 list price, for shipment on September 6, 2016.

The Kindle Edition is $7.99, and will be delivered to your Kindle reader or app on September 8.

If you buy the book or Kindle using the links above, WineLoversPage.com will receive a small commission to help us pay the rent, and for that we will be grateful.


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Berger 2013 Niederösterreich Zweigelt ($16.99/1 liter)

Berger 2013 Niederösterreich Zweigelt

Here’s a tasty introduction to Zweigelt (“Tsvy-gelt”), a modern Austrian grape developed in 1922 as a red grape that would produce well in Austria’s climate. It’s a clear cherry red color, not overly dark. Pleasant aromas of cherries and red berries lead into a mouth-watering flavor, fresh and tart, cranberries with hints of fresh cherry and raspberry. Mouth-filling and ripe, 12.5% alcohol, it has a distinct edge of tannic astringency that lingers with tart berry fruit in a very long finish. U.S. importer: Skurnik Wines, NYC., a Terry Theise Estate Selection. (Aug. 10, 2016)

FOOD MATCH: Fine with fennel-scented Italian-style sausages sauteed with green peppers and onions.

WHEN TO DRINK: With its simple style and beer-bottle cap, I wouldn’t cellar it long-term, but this 2013 is holding up well and should last another couple of years without losing its pleasant flavor.

My local price is well above the $12 U.S. average retail price reported by Wine-Searcher.com, but my $17 liter price translates to $12.75 for a standard bottle, and I have to admit I’d pay that price again.

Here’s an importer’s fact sheet on Weingut Erich & Maria Berger. This page offers links to all the Berger wines, including the 2013 and 2014 Zweigelt.

Check prices and find vendors for Berger Zweigelt on Wine-Searcher.com


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