The Christiane Chronicles: For the love of wine varietals

Plus: Atlanta really needs a true meat-and-three restaurant

Christiane Chronicles

Illustration by Zohar Lazar

Falling in love with a “new” wine varietal

As a wine drinker who grew up in one of the world’s most revered wine-producing countries, I care about geography and climate more than I do about what grapes go into my favorite Burgundies, Bordeaux, and Champagnes. I might know my way around Mencia from northwestern Spain and Grüner Veltliner from Austria, but I’m not that attuned to varietals.

“What the heck is falanghina?” I wanted to ask when a friend with a wine palate far more sophisticated than mine ordered a bottle at Banshee, a smart new restaurant with a minuscule wine list. Two days later, I ordered it myself at Adalina, another chic, recently opened spot, one with a sophisticated wine program.

Less aggressive than a Muscadet from France, livelier and more aromatic than a Pinot Grigio, this little-known white varietal from the south of Italy’s Campania region traces its origin back to ancient Greece—and has, of late, become more visible among wine geeks. Falanghina’s growing popularity has as much to do with sommeliers and wine distributors always looking for something sexy and affordable to push as it does with the wine’s flavor profile. Imbued with healthy acidity, citrus and floral aromatics, and mineral intensity, straw-colored falanghina deserves to be all the rage.

Adalina and Banshee, along with stalwart Sotto Sotto, offer good values on Falanghina Terredora di Paolo and Falanghina Campi Valerio, usually from 2016 or 2017, and some wine stores sell it retail for around $14. Enjoy it reasonably chilled with assertive fish such as mackerel or sardines, or pair it with a mozzarella di buffala or relatively young Pecorino, and you might become as obsessed as I am.

The fall of the meat-and-three
Atlanta has never been a meat-and-three kind of town. Humble places that sell an entree with your choice of two or three vegetable sides are usually soul food restaurants, cafeterias, or Southern tea rooms—none of which are technically meat-and-threes.

We don’t have anything quite like Arnold’s Country Kitchen in Nashville, where customers have been lining up at the edge of downtown near a dodgy railroad bridge since 1982 for the joy of a freshly carved roast with mashed potatoes, creamed corn, and boiled cabbage. The closest we come to that kind of a meal is at places such as the much edgier Home Grown in Reynoldstown and the newer, fresher Rising Son in Avondale Estates.

Closer still was the recently shuttered Our Way Cafe, a modest mom-and-pop that opened three decades ago at the corner of College Avenue and Candler Road near Agnes Scott College (then relocated up the road to downtown Avondale Estates). Its demise is further proof that Atlanta doesn’t have enough love for the meat-and-three. The original Our Way was all about dishing up big portions of boiled corned beef or stewed pork plates. It cut its corn off the cob, and its translucent rutabagas were untouched by spice. The move to larger, duller digs in the Twin Oaks shopping center brought in largely blue-collar customers in search of unpretentious dishes such as Swedish meatballs in mushroom gravy with creamed spinach or lima beans from the steam table. A refined eater may well have described some of the food as “gloppy,” but I needed Our Way the way one needs a ratty blanket or a familiar old sweatshirt, something to wrap myself in when I didn’t want to participate in a scene that favors more flashy garb.

This article appears in our February 2019 issue.