Recession Edition: Wines to Brood Over

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By Courtney Cochran

With the Dow marching steadily south, unemployment on the up and deflation dangerously near, it's easy to feel there's little source for cheer these days.  Still, if there's anything a trying economic clime coupled with an already frigid winter welcomes, it's uncorking a wine worth brooding over.  Read on for a list of our top picks for wines with which to weather the current season - whether your portfolio is up, down, or you just can't bear to look.  No matter what, we've got you covered.
Liberation Libation
Orin Swift Cellars "The Prisoner" Napa Red Blend ($35)
Just when you've started to feel like a prisoner of your own recession-induced depression, take heart: there's a wine out there with your name on it.  Named one of Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines of 2006, "The Prisoner" is a brooding blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Charbono and Grenache whose dark depths may recall your sagging state of mind, but taste positively liberating.  

pinotevil.jpegCost Advantage
Pinot Evil Vin de Pays de l'Île de Beauté Pinot Noir, France ($5)
Should you find yourself with little or no funds in the bank, reach for another kind of bank - your piggy bank - because there's a good chance you can buy our next wine with the change you knock out of your, er, alternate source of funds.  Widely available for $4.99 a bottle, Pinot Evil Pinot Noir hails from a place in France called "l'île de Beauté" (that's beautiful island, as in Corsica), and boasts charming notes of cherry and spice at a refreshingly reasonable price.   

Back to Basics

Dr. Loosen Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany ($30)
If tales of ponzi schemes and banks gone bust have you wondering whatever happened to a little thing called integrity, reach for a wine with substance to counteract your growing disillusionment.  For this, nothing is better than an assertive, nuanced German Riesling like Loosen's.  Its layered flavors of flowers, pears, slate and spice couldn't be more true to the terroir in Germany's famed Mosel, and its lingering finish is proof this wine's got nothing to hide.    

Sinful Zinfandel
Wild Hog Vineyard Porter Bass Zinfandel Russian River Valley ($30)
If hearty Zin's your sin of choice, then look no further than Wild Hog when it's time to transgress.  This limited production unfiltered Zinfandel - just 268 cases of a recent vintage were produced - boasts enormous substance in the form of jammy red-black fruit, clove spice and licorice.  In all, it's a full throttle bottle that's just what you need when all signs point to taking solace in, well, the bottle.    

Cheap & Cheerful
Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes, Argentina ($12)
If wallowing's not your thing, a so-called cheap and cheerful sipper could be just what's needed to bolster your spiraling mood.  We like Torrontes, Argentina's own assertive, prettily perfumed white that's as easy on the palate as it is on the wallet.  Watch for heady floral aromas backed by flavors of tangerine, peach, honey and a hint of tropical fruit in this charmer that'll have you saying "What down economy?" faster than the Dow can drop another 100 points.

blackbubbles.jpgShock Therapy
Shooting Star "Black Bubbles" Lake County Syrah ($16)
Drastic times can call for drastic measures, and if there's anything we've learned from the wine world, it's that a glass of something unique can go a long way towards easing the stress of the outside world.  An American take on Australia's wildly popular Sparkling Shiraz, Shooting Star's sparkling Lake County Syrah serves up savory flavors and healthy tannins - making it appropriate for mid-meal sipping - alongside a shockingly - nay, delightfully - dark hue.

Seeking Serenity
Wild Horse Bien Nacido Vineyard "Unbridled" Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley ($24)
Your dwindling 401k may have you desperately down, but that doesn't mean your palate has to go down with you.  When things seem really bleak, reach for a bottle of Wild Horse Winery's flagship Chardonnay, a wine whose sumptuous flavors and full body marry seamlessly with the bright elegance of Central Coast fruit.  In all, it's a whole lot of Chardonnay for the money - something that should make even the most disconsolate drinkers reconsider their remorse.

henricharud.jpegPanic Button
1999 Henri Giraud Cuvée Fût de Chêne Aÿ Grand Cru ($275)
When the legendary Titanic went down, a band made history by playing breezy tunes as the ship descended into the frigid waters south of Newfoundland.  This brazen playing in the face of peril inspired our next choice, a luxurious, vintage-dated Champagne whose complexity - it's made mostly of Pinot Noir and aged for 18 months in oak barrels - makes it a wine worthy of savoring while our own economic ship is heading south.  Here's to sparing no price while sinking!

Heart of Darkness
Plaimont "Plénitude" Madiran, France ($35)
The monstrous inky-black wines made from the Tannat grape in southwestern France's Madiran should be in a brooding category all their own - say, super-sized brooding wines.  We like this one from Plaimont, which includes 20% Cabernet  Sauvignon and marries its sturdy tannins with notes of fleshy, forward blue-black fruits, forest floor and clove. Given Tannat's proven heart-health benefits, this is a merry monster with which to weather the economic storm.

Medicine for Melancholy
Municipal Winemakers Santa Barbara County "Bright Red" ($20)
Young winemaker Dave Potter's debut effort blends Grenache, Syrah and Cinsaut in a peppy, pizza-ready red that recalls the cheerful fruit- and spice-driven reds from France's Rhône Valley.  Watch for a pleasant hodge-podge of aromas and flavors including high-toned red and black berry fruits, rose petals, deli meat and smoke before a lip-smacking finish.  It's a combination that'll put a smile on your face and some pep in your step, no matter the number of the Nasdaq.  Cheers to that.

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As an interesting follow-up, a blogger who reviews wines by mood. Check out -

If anyone has seen any other similar wine reporting, please chime in!

Cheers Everyone, Courtney

Thanks for the review Courtney. Glad Bright Red could pep you up.

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