I spent a few days of vacation in Amsterdam before heading to Bordeaux to coordinate James Molesworth's tastings of the 2010 Bordeaux barrels. I expected to enjoy the beauty of the charming canals and the houses that line them, and to decompress a bit before the busy schedule in Bordeaux. What I didn't expect was to find some very good wines in a town known better for its beer and nightlife.
On our first day, a typical brasserie yielded success number one, the Donna Marzia Primitivo from Conti Zecca. This juicy red from Italy showed fine balancing acidity and spiced flavors of blackberry, raspberry and plum. I rated it 88 points, non-blind, and found it a great match for my burger and pomme frites—as well as for my wallet, at only 4.10 euros per glass.
Next I uncovered another pleasant surprise—a stylish winebar, Vyne—during an extended walk that wound through the canals from the Rijksmuseum to our hotel. A sign-board out front announcing the arrival of Bibi Graetz's super Tuscan, Testamatta, set off my wine radar, and Vyne didn't disappoint. This narrow bar was lined with banquettes on one side and a plethora of votive candles lighting lots of familiar labels and bottles mounted on the other wall.
The wine list was diverse and well chosen, with solid selections from almost every major wine region in the world. I chose a dry red from Portugal, the Quinta do Passadouro Douro 2007, a creamy red with a nice minerally sub-note and flavors of grilled plum, candied black currant and a spicy finish. I particularly enjoyed the refined texture of this red, and the good kick of fresh acidity balancing the dark fruit and berry flavors. I rated it 90 points, non-blind. At 8.50 euros a glass, Vyne's prices were in line with your usual Manhattan bar, but more than worth it for the pleasure of a fine glass of wine and of being surrounded by familiar trappings while abroad—including copies of Wine Spectator!
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Quinta do Passadouro Douro 2007 (88, $30).