No matter how tedious it gets. No matter how fatuous. No matter how they gut the stupid thing (this year, editing and cinematography will be honored during commercial breaks because, yeah, those are not important), no matter how many hosts step down in a miasma of social scandal and no matter how many self-admiring, virtue signaling, undereducated diatribe delivering honking bores seize the microphone, we apparently still love the Academy Awards.
I would posit that your best bet for getting through this event is to keep the drinks flowing. To that end, we’ve assembled a sample flight for pairing with Best Picture nominations.
Black Panther: 2011 Giacosa, Bruno Barbaresco Asili Riserva (Piemonte, $1,000)
Nebbiolo gets its name from the Italian word for fog-some will tell you this is because its native Piemonte is known for its valley fog at harvest time and others will say it’s due to the strong frosty bloom on the berries. Like vibranium, this stuff is rare, costly and precious. And like T’Challa, it’s a beautiful balance of grace and power with something a little bit animal about it. Full-bodied and complicated, it combines notes of leather and flesh with delicate rosepetal florals, herbs (not heart-shaped but still potent) and black cherries, with a balsamic quality and major staying power. Structured and muscular, but essentially friendly, with a tenacious finish.
(We understand if you don’t have a per diem from the Wakandan government and suggest Villadoria Barolo DOCG Sori Paradiso 2013 as a more accessible and also highly delicious Nebbiolo wine! Balanced and fruit-forward, lighter-bodied than the Giacosa but sharing the elements of roses, leather and herbs like fennel and sage. Strawberry and orange rind are prominent as well as dark cherry. It’s delicious.)
Bohemian Rhapsody: Moet & Chandon Imperial (France, $50)
In a pretty cabinet. Any questions? OK but in all seriousness, Champagne does have the ideal combination of effervescence and long aging, spotlight-gold hue, baroque harmonies and epic finish. And Moet & Chandon Imperial is a definite crowd-pleaser and a wine with range. In fact, if you look up 10 reviews of this stuff you’ll find 10 markedly different descriptions-some people find it smoky, some spicy, some fruity. Pastry cream? Ginger? Oranges? Hazelnuts? Brioche? Blackberry jam? Yes.
Need to dial it down? Lucien Albrecht Cremant D’Alsace will run you $20. Made from Pinot Blanc grapes and showing the soft green apple note characteristic of that varietal, this is an ultra-elegant, crisp, refined, layered and well-structured wine. A creamy texture, beautiful beading, and a long, light, lemony finish. It is sophisticated, versatile, and approachable.
The Favourite: Chateau Siran 2015 ($25-30)
Queen Anne was a Margaux gal, from what I can tell. Some wines from this storied appellation in Bordeaux have been made since her reign and some will not work for most of us who are not royalty (A Chateau Margaux 1787 will run you something like half a mil) but the region does have its values. Try Chateau Siran 2015 for $25-30, and toast the health of the Queen. Like the film’s portrayal of Anne, this wine’s a bit dramatic, with tannins in the “punchy” range and dense, vivid fruit notes (dried blueberry upfront, with blackcurrant, cherry and blackberry) and some more layered and ethereal aromatics like violet and lavender, cedarwood, plums, smoke, tobacco and chocolate. The finish is velvety but there is no denying the approach is pretty feisty.
BlacKkKlansman: Tank Garage’s Deliver Us From Evil ($65)
If Spike Lee is one thing, he’s… not one thing. Arguably this is a cocktail film, with its nuanced mix of suspense, comedy, drama and history. But if we’re sticking with wine, this film’s definitely a field blend. I might recommend Tank Garage’s Deliver Us From Evil ($65), a bottled plea for better days. It features a harmonious mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Merlot, a savvy blend that creates depth, complexity, hardness and softness in perfect counterpoint, and the kind of energy I’d call “virile” or “masculine” if gendered descriptors in wine didn’t kinda bug me. Dominant notes are fruits of the forest, black plum and cocoa.
Roma: Mi Sueño Chardonnay ($40)
Rolando Herrera began his Napa Valley journey at 15, working as a dishwasher at Auberge du Soleil and working his way up to Director of Winemaking at Paul Hobbs, and finally releasing Mi Sueño Chardonnay ($40). Fruit from Chardonnay paradise Los Carneros, it has a sugared quality (which I don’t mean in the sense of actual residual sugar; it just feels sweet. It is not the bony, austere style of Chardonnay though; it’s pretty extracted, with a concentrated, intense character and dominant notes of pineapple, guava, pear, vanilla and pastry cream. It’s rich and unctuous and mouth-coating and as a warning: it sells out.
Green Book: Tendril Cellars “The Pretender” Pinot Noir (Oregon, $65)
Not just because this movie is a meditation on skin color but also because it’s elegant and subtle and versatile and so is Mahershala Ali, I can’t say enough nice things about Tendril Cellars “The Pretender” Pinot Noir (Oregon, $65). Oregon Pinot Noir is aged in oak with no time on lees. The resulting wine is bright gold in color, complex and balanced. It’s full-throated and lithe and extremely food-friendly, though well worth considering on its own. Honey and greengage plum dominate the nose, which also displays peach, pear and alpine strawberry. Quince and nutmeg pop up on the palate, along with Meyer lemon zest and cream. It is unique and complicated and surprising.
A Star Is Born: Welsh Family Wines Blaufrankisch (Oregon, $20)
For the fourth reboot of a 1937 film about an up and coming songbird, I’m thinking about something very esblished that’s cast in a new context. Please say hello to Welsh Family Wines Blaufrankisch (Oregon, $20). Blaufrankisch is old news in the Old World, in fact it’s the second most broadly planted grape in Austria (it’s also grown in Germany, where it’s known as Lemberger-it goes by a number of names). But it’s a rarity in the States. Which is a pity because its spicy, lighthearted character makes it a likely crowd-pleaser. In Oregon this European standard definitely sings. Medium-bodied and spice-forward, it has a strong note of nutmeg and a little allspice and clove (or carnations maybe) up front and a core of cherry and forest floor notes and a slightly peppery finish. It’s juicy with firm acidity and it goes with pretty much everything.
Vice: Masseria Li Veli Orion (Italy, $17)
Ahem: Tenacious, potentially hotheaded, brash and unapologetic, and, hey-bush trained! Your Vice wine is Primitivo. You’re welcome. Specifically, I love Masseria Li Veli Orion (Italy, $17). Primitivo is genetically similar to Zinfandel but it has smaller berries which means more skin and more tannin. You get neat acidity and big, deep, dark fruit notes from this wine-berries and cherry-and persistent traces of cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s rounded (especially after a little air time) and sociable, but for sure it’s a feisty character with a hot streak.