Here it is, residents of metropolitan Washington. Contrary to grass-roots opinion, we are in step with the rest of the nation. Our annual Wolf Trap lawn survey indicates we are drinking three bottles of white wine to one of red. And that mirrors the national market, where whites are increasing their share, mostly at the expense of California reds. Pause for an instant, put down that chilled wine, and reflect on the reason. It is, we are told, a matter of temperature, rather than of color. The majority of Americans prefer cool drinks. And you can't chill a full-bodied red wine. Well, I suppose you can, but not at Wolf Trap, where our random sample shows the quality of the wine is in inverse ratio to the quality of the seats. Or: the closer the ground and further the stage, the wetter the picnic and shorter the cultural concentration span.
On what are the least dressed people at Wolf Trap supping this year? Our lawn respondents are eating anything. As long as it's chicken. And for drink, they are favoring today's bargains in Italian and French whites; beaujolais, light rh.ones and zinfandels, in reds; a few chenin blancs and sauvignon blancs; and a bundle of chardonnays, especially the lighter weight burgundies from the Ma.con.
Not every ma.con is a winner. In the large crop of 1982, there's a tendency toward flabbiness. A ma.con should be crisp, fresh, marginally fruity, with no woodiness, oakiness or serious complexity--like the '82 Ma.con-Priss,e Les Clochettes, Caves de Priss,e, $5. It's a standout for this summer. For the fancier chicken, there's the fancier and fuller '81 Pouilly-Fuiss,e, Domaine Manciat-Poncet, $10 on sale at Schneider's.
David Bruce: Dr. David Bruce: call him iconoclastic and idiosyncratic. Others have. I have a sneaking admiration for the man. Up in the Santa Cruz Mountains near Los Gatos, south of San Francisco, he's an eccentric personality in an industry of personalities. But that's the problem with his wines. They are eccentric too. While some are winners (I loved a '71 late harvest zinfandel), others have been decidedly odd. You could sense the idea, but couldn't always swallow the result.
It was, therefore, with relief that I tasted his new releases. There were no surprises, except those of overall enjoyment. In the chardonnays, the '81 California, $10, is on the crisp, lemony side, with a touch of oak--an all-rounder. The '81 Santa Cruz Mountains, $18, although given a bigger-wine treatment, is not overdone. It's drinking well now and will develop into a full, smooth wine over the next two to four years. The '80 Zinfandel, Amador County, $6.50, is my idea of a medium-weight zin. It's brambly and not too rich, nor too tannic for drinking now. The '80 Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintner's Selection (not yet here) is big and spicy, in the same style as the appreciated and available '79, $10.
Chianti Success: These are not the happiest of times in Chianti. Large harvests, soft prices and a decline in prestige add up to overfull cellars and slow sales, even for better known classicos. So it's good to be able to recommend a wine from the Montalbano zone. The '79 Pulignano, $9, due here in September, is technically not a chianti. Made only in the best, sunniest years by the owners of Bibbiani, the wine has a naturally higher alcohol content than regulations permit. It's firm now and will soften into a delicately fragrant, medium-bodied wine in a few years.