The truly exceptional wines that lie on the cusp between medium and full bodied
Wine is not so black and white, or if you prefer, red and white. We try so hard to help people make choices by neatly fitting wines into categories like full bodied, medium bodied, and light bodied. While this can be a great starting point to finding the right wine for the moment, we often fail to see the nuance of wines and we try to fit them into boxes that they do not necessarily apply to. I found that there are a few truly exceptional wines who's nuanced characteristics should not be described as medium or full bodied red wines, but rather as refined. They seem to exist among to worlds, capable achieving everything between their two roles, and for that we have to love them.
Dolcetto - An intellectual of the people
Dolcetto is a hero to many in Italian wine. While Nebbiolo reigns supreme in Piedmont, it is Dolcetto that quietly wins over the hearts of the people much like Barbera. Dolcetto is almost a counter balance to Barbera. Dolcetto is the Dr. King to Barbera's Malcom X, the Castro to its Guevarra, or the Professor Xavier to its Magneto. Dolcetto eschews the vibrant acidity of Barbera and replaces it with a warm fuzzy feeling of tannins. This is a wine that goes straight to your heart, and centers your soul with its flavors of dark berries and anise that make you feel like a socialist revolutionary entrenched in intellectual debate.
Nebbiolo - The thinking person's wine
When I was first introduced to Nebbiolo I knew I had found a wine that was going to make me obsess over it like that beautiful woman who kissed you, took your heart, but then seemed to vanish despite your feelings. You think for days on end what the fuck just happened. Was this something special? Was it just a fling? Much like Nebbiolo it is a study in beautiful contrasts. It is full bodied, yet translucent. Brutal tannins and yet a stringent acidity. Commanding you to drink it now, and yet best left alone and given patience for it to reveal its best self. I'm never surprised when somebody who has a deep connection with wine tells me their favorite wine is a Barolo or a Barbaresco, because then I know that they truly love wine, they can appreciate the nuance, and have had their hearts broken.
Tempranillo - For the brave
Spains greatest gift to the world, not just to wine. You may know it best as the star of Rioja, but it is fast becoming a worldwide phenomenon. California and Oregon are showing the world that Tempranillo made in the new world can be as brave and as merciless as the Spaniards. They take aim at the obscene French grapes because they are brave. They may seem rather square, but they are full of passion, and love. There is a grace in the bravery, but there is also the obscene joy in how elegant the wine can be. Perfectly structured, Tempranillo be a welcome friend who something rich, but also something that is brave and vibrant.
Zinfandel - A refined American
Zinfandel is as American a wine as they come. It is an immigrant of distorted origin known in its past life as Primitivo. But as Zinfandel it has created a new character that is celebrated by everyone. Like a Harley Davidson, a smoky BBQ, or a burger, Zinfandel seems like a brash and unrelenting rebel on the surface. When you examine it closer you find that Zinfandel is a refined wine that gives you everything you love about Americana and American wine in a subtle gesture. It is fruit forward with lots of dark stone fruits, but also packing a lot of heft, and just a hint of sweetness that makes it so delicious to drink. Like that big motorcycle, and that delicious barbecue, Zinfandel is made with its own sense of pride and elegance.
There are many more wines that seems to sit in between the worlds of medium bodied and full bodied red wines. They are powerful, yet refined. They are decadent and yet elegant. There is something about these wines that make you feel at home with yourself, comfortable, and yet so happy to be challenged. These wines that are to full to be considered medium bodied, but pale in comparison to Mouvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Petite-Sirah are some of the most wonderful wines in the world. To overlook them because they do not fit into a box that you desire would be a foolish thing to do.