And -- Holy Mother of Vines -- the Vatican City State leads the world in per capita wine consumption! And we're not talking sacramental wine either.
So with that historical perspective about the bad old days, here are a few wines I've sampled recently that would not have been available just a few short years ago. Hope you like them.
2011 Concha y Toro Gran Reserva Chardonnay ($19): Rich, yet balanced chardonnay with just a kiss of oak and ripe apple flavors. Excellent pairing with roast chicken cordon bleu.
2011 Sur de Los Andes Torrontés ($11): Excellent floral aromatics along with crisp pear and melon flavors highlight this Argentinean white. This delicate Torrontés would enhance a meal where pan-fried, lemon- and butter-enhanced white fish was the feature.
2010 Annalisa Sparkling Malvasia ($13): A delightful effervescent wine with strawberry and raspberry flavors make this a delicious aperitif or a nice accompaniment to brunch-type foods such as omelets or quiches.
2010 Easton Amador County Zinfandel ($18): I must admit my fondness for zinfandel grown and produced in Amador County, and this one definitely does not disappoint. Deep, dark blackberry flavors are enhanced by excellent balancing acidity to highlight this full-bodied wine best served with fuller flavored foods such as beef stews or roasted pork loin rubbed with garlic, black pepper and olive oil.
2009 La Bastide St. Dominique Grenache ($16): From the excellent 2009 vintage in the southern Rhone Valley, this juicy Grenache with bright cherry flavors and leather and tack room aromas is a lively mouthful of wine. Try it with grilled baby back ribs in a tomato-based barbecue sauce.
For more on the art and craft of wine, visit John Brown's Vines & Vittles blog at thegazz.com.