During the time of year when heating bills trump most other parts of my budget, I usually make a heavy-hearted but necessary sacrifice: seeking out and drinking bottles of wine that cost no more than $10.
This isn't a huge hardship, or course. At least I can still afford to drink wine, and to feed myself, which is more than some people can say this time of year. But I'm the type who will often postpone necessities, such as an oil change, in order to eat and drink well. I figure the only things I'll take with me when I leave this world are memories of great love, great friendship and amazing meals.
Still, drinking the low end of the wine spectrum is an invigorating romp. I get to explore an entire category of vino I usually pass over — and once in a while, find a keeper.
So it is with 2010 Jovly Chinon Cabernet Franc, which has popped up around the state (incuding at Healthy Living, Cork and Mike's Store, in Hartland, one of my favorite spots to buy wine) for around $9.99. Cabernet Franc was one of my first red-wine obsessions, a rustic wine that's unusually expressive of the place in which it is grown. A Cabernet Franc from the eastern end of Long Island, for instance, tastes utterly different from a version from France's Loire Valley, where it is the most widely-planted red.
Finding a decent bottle is hit-or-miss, though. When badly rendered, Cab Franc can have a stemmy, dirty rawness, or be as thin as rosewater. In the coolish Loire, however, many vignerons are masters at coaxing out the grape's savory charms, and the medium-purple Jovly takes that to the extreme — it's almost jammy, giving off intense aromas of red berries and violets. On the palate, it's like moving your tongue through a vat of sticky red fruit, wisps of grippy tannins dusting their way across the sides of your mouth.
And with just enough acid, it's incredibly versatile. I've sipped Jovly alongside a ragú sauce, with roasted chicken, with creamy potato gratin and a black bean soup filled with smoked bacon. The wine's only fault? It's so quaffable that I often end up polishing off the bottle faster than I should. And then buying another one.
Am I really saving money? I'm not sure. I'll just turn down the thermostat a few more degrees.