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Wine Review: Drink like the gentry for Guy Fawkes Day

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Rapidly approaching is Nov. 5, a day when Great Britain celebrates Guy Fawkes Day.

With typical British tongue-in-cheek humor, it is the celebration of the man who in 1605 planned to blow up the House of Parliament when it was in session with kegs of gunpowder placed in a tunnel dug below the building. This holiday has been celebrated for centuries with fireworks and merry making, and it may have even been the model for our Fourth of July festivities. Whatever it’s called, however it’s celebrated, it’s a great excuse to party.

While the average Briton celebrates with fireworks and plenty of beer, the gentry celebrate in quiet isolation with wine. I see no reason why we should not emulate the British gentry and acknowledge Guy Fawkes Day. After all, they have accepted our game of football, chewing gum and McDonald’s.

So what wine is appropriate for that memorable day? I have picked out some varieties to look for because they are dark, which matches the motives of Guy Fawkes.

Malbec: This deep, dark red wine is my first choice. Malbec is a red grape, which originated in France and was used there primarily for blending and for making the dense and tannic wine that’s often called “the black wine of Cahors.'' I do not believe that there is any wine that is deeper in color. There also are many more restrained versions of this variety that have gained in popularity in this country in recent years. The dominant aroma is that of plums with under-flavors of cherries, dark summer berries, cinnamon and a hint of coffee. These carry over to the flavor where they mingle with hints of vanilla. The wine also has an incredible silky feeling while in the mouth. Malbec can accompany any red meats, as well as grilled salmon or tuna and, of course, cheese-based dishes.

Zinfandel: The next contender for darkest red wine is the zinfandel. No grape has had more incarnations than the zinfandel. Is primary use in years gone by was for inexpensive red wines often erroneously labeled as “burgundy.” It was the source of the famous or infamous, depending on your point of view, sweet white zinfandel. However, when the zinfandel was handled as a fine grape and made into wine by dedicated winemakers, its true beauty was brought to the fore.

Cabernet sauvignon: The king of red wines also is one of the masters of darkness. The aroma announces notes of cocoa, dark berries and spice, with a background of vanilla and oak. The flavor is, to say the least, massive and impressive. Milk chocolate, strawberry jam, cherry, licorice and oak also reside in the finish. While its exalted position often results in high prices, there are many good versions of this variety in the marketplace. Again, I must admonish the reader that the price is not an indication of quality and that there are many good and affordable versions of the variety in the marketplace.

To end this search for wines that can fit for Guy Fawkes Day, I offer you a Hungarian wine, Egri Bikaver, which translates to bull’s blood of Egri. This is a full-flavored dark red wine that is the most popular red wine of Hungary. The wine is little known here because of the Cold War, when all Hungarian wines were sent east.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at frojhe1@att.net.

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