Tips for getting adventure and value from your wine

Samples of brewed tea illustrated the quality of tannins to members of the Boston Wine Meetup group at The Wine Bottega.

Kerri Platt, owner of The Wine Bottega wine shop in the North End, has her internal lie detector tuned to high.

All. The. Time.

Which means that when a wine rep comes into the shop hoping to sell Platt on some wines, most will quickly fail her sniff test. That’s because Platt stocks her shelves with wines from vineyards she has either visited herself or that she and her staff have gone to great lengths to find that meet her qualifications:

Small producers. Organically farmed. Biodynamically produced.

All popular catch phrases these days — lots of shops claim to support such practices — but Platt is serious about it and she can tell, easily, when sales reps are just paying it lip service.

That’s why you’ll find wines on The Wine Bottega’s shelves that you literally will not find anywhere else in Boston or all of Massachusetts: they take the time, and make the effort, to source wines that meet the small-producer, organically-farmed standards through and through.

That makes The Wine Bottega the perfect destination when you’re hunting for, say, a bottle of wine for someone who already knows a lot about it. You are bound to find something unique.

You are also very likely to find unique bargains. At a blind tasting Platt conducted for members of the Boston Wine Meetup group on Wednesday night, she poured five wines and four of them cost less than $15 even though they tasted, at least to me, like they were worth well over $25.

As Platt spoke to the group about the wines we were tasting, she also relayed tips that she and her staff have picked up recently. It was, in essence, a small treasure trove of helpfulness for those of us looking for adventure and value in our wine choices.

And who wouldn’t want that? Here are a few of the gems she shared:

  1. Keep an eye out for pinot noir from Provence. Not a typical grape from not a typical place but, if the wine Platt chose to pour on Wednesday night was any indication, we’re in for some things good.
  2. Look for Barbera on a wine list, as it tends to be a lovely, exceptional wine at a great value.
  3. It’s okay to ask for your red wine to be chilled for a bit before it’s served, especially if the bottle has been stored behind a restaurant’s bar and especially if the bottle in question is meant to serve as a nice early-summer red.
  4. The reason you add milk to your tea is the same reason a fatty steak goes so well with a tannic red wine: the fat (from the milk and the steak) balances out the tannins (in the tea and the wine). That’s why it works.
  5. Platt and her staff like to play with expectations, like light-colored tannic reds and reds that show pretty fruit and earthiness but then switch it up with a hefty dose of tannins. Anyone in the shop can point you directly to some examples on their shelves.

Cathy Huyghe writes the WGBH Foodie blog. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, in which Cathy explores myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

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