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Californian cool comes in a bottle

THE wine business tends to be awash with rumors at the best of times and positively ruthless with innuendo when economies are lean. Yes, the recession has put a cloud of uncertainty over many heads, but it's not going to get better just talking about it. Let's drink more wines, I say.

Summergate recently launched two additions from the Delicato Family Vineyards - Gnarly Head and Irony, both from California. The former plays on its "cool" factor, juxtaposing images of Californian surfer babes with their gnarly, head-trained old vines of up to 80 years old.

Well, marketing is marketing, but it's what's in the bottle that counts. The 2006 Old Vine Zinfandel is sensational value at about 180 yuan (US$26.40).

Zin truly is a love-it-or-leave-it varietal and it is unfortunate that many so-called connoisseurs turn their noses up at the mere mention of it.

This Lodi American Viticultural Area (AVA) offering is ideal with many local dishes and it's definitely the right color too. Big berries, spicy and a definite robustness from the small percentage of petite syrah all packed in a luscious layering of French, American and Hungarian wood. Not terribly complex but that's not really what you should be looking for in this one.

Slightly more expensive is the Irony line of wines. After a sip of the 2005 chardonnay I joked that it was a good BBQ wine; in response the wine guru chided me saying that the estate has "greater aspirations than that."

At 250 yuan a bottle this was true, but I failed to point out that being spoilt as a wine writer I have pretty fancy tastes these days.

The refreshing citrus and tropical fruits and rich creamy texture from the secondary malolactic fermentation made this a drop to sip on as someone "chucks another prawn on the barbie."


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