Winter Rescue via Tormaresca Primitivo

It’s winter. I’m lying near the Khumbu Icefall on the Nepalese side of the Himalayas, my climbing gear crusted over with blue ice, my body a glacial mass so cold that not even a shiver can issue from my hopeless limbs. All turns to black as I fade deeper…deeper…deeper into my alpine tomb.

winter dog wine

And then, out of the corner of my icy eye, I see them.  A duo of Saint Bernards, yelping and bounding towards me, toting around their necks the ultimate rescue kit: a bottle of rich red wine and a container of steaming pasta with meat sauce.  I am saved…

…Ok, so maybe I’m not on Everest tended to by a pack of connoisseur rescue dogs.  But in the piercing frigidity that has seized New York City, I have discovered an antidote of similar efficacy: Tormaresca Primitivo and Tortellini con Ragu, both of which I wolfed down like a starving rescuee during a recent visit to the East Village’s funky trattoria, Il Bagatto.


Affordable, aromatic, and always a satisfying choice, Primitivo will light your primal fires with soft, spicy fruit and rich, sun-baked flavors.

prim2Producer: Tormaresca (Puglia, Italy)
Wine: Primitivo Torcicoda
Vintage: 2001
Cost: $19

Blood will rush back to your extremities with this wine’s potent, medium to full bodied embrace.  Big, blackberry fruits join with hints of licorice and cedar, followed by an enduring, velvety finish.  As with so many Italian reds, it shows a slight edge of tannin and acidity, but they are well-integrated and help the wine match beautifully with rich winter fare.

Tormaresca is owned by Antinori, the celebrated Italian producer based in Tuscany.

"Waiter, Chill My Red": A Lesson from Beaujolais Nouveau

Chill out: While dining out a few nights ago, I ordered a bottle of the 2005 Beaujolais Nouveau, the feel-good elixir released annually every third Thursday in November.

When the bottle was delivered to the table at room temperature, I asked our server to put it on ice for a few minutes.  She eyeballed me as if I asked her to transgress the laws of nature, then shot me a “suit yourself” look and swiped the bottle back.

What my server didn’t know – and many wine lovers never learn — is that light reds like Beaujolais Nouveau carry a chill as jazzily as Aretha Franklin carries a tune.  Not only will time on ice make these wines more refreshing, but they will become less overtly alcoholic, or “hot,” in winespeak.  And because wines like Beaujolais are low in tannin (the main source of bitterness in red wine), you don’t have to worry about the cooler temperature accentuating their sensation of tannin like it would with more richer, more astringent types like Cabernet Sauvignon and Barolo. So versatile are these gentle reds that in Oldman’s Guide I call them the “Very Chillable Crossdressers”: they are like whites masquerading as reds.


Don’t hestiate to ice down your reds a bit if they are light-bodied and spare on tannin.  Qualifying reds include Beaujolais Nouveau (and other types of Beaujolais such as Beaujolais-Villages and Fleurie) as well as light-style renditions of Pinot Noir, Dolcetto, Chinon, and Rioja Crianza.

chill your wineProducer: Georges Duboeuf
Wine: Beaujolais Nouveau
Vintage: 2005
Cost: $9
Track it down: virtually everywhere

This wine is the real zing, with sling-shot hits of raspberries, blueberries, and other exuberant, shirt-staining fruits.  Its abundant (but not excessive) acidity gets your juices revved up for all manner of bistro fare, including onion soup gratinee, coq-au-vent, and boeuf bourguignon.  It also makes a perfect quaffing partner with lobster rolls, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, pulled pork, and other medium-weight dishes that cotton to the wine’s zesty-berry ebullience.