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Tehran Testing

Analogy quiz: Iran is to wine as (1) oil is to water, (2) Brad is to Jennifer, or (3) the Rubaiyat is to Omar. If you answered "all of the above," you've put your finger on the complexity of this passionate, rocky, 7,000-year-old relationship.

Javid Kosari, who opened Las Olas Gourmet and Wine (111 SE Eighth Ave., Fort Lauderdale) a year ago, is happy to tease out the threads. The Iranian expat, who left his country in 1986, will tell you that the inexpensive bottle of Australian vino you served with dinner last night is made with a grape named for the great Iranian city of Shiraz. Shiraz is the birthplace of winemaking -- the Persians exported wine even to the Chinese -- and also of the great wine-quaffing poet Hafez. Same thing goes for the fancy French Syrah you gave your boss last Christmas: It's the same grape, and it comes to us courtesy of thousands of years of Iranian viniculture.

"The climate in Iran is almost exactly like California and parts of Australia and Argentina," Kosari says. It's the political climate that's the problem. The Muslim-run government is virulently anti-vine, but Iranian Zoroastrians (and Kosari counts himself among them) have always delighted in celebrating with plenty of wine.

If the Iranian government is canceling state visits over wine squabbles and censoring the words of its best-loved poets ("My lifelong practice is to praise the Vine/And round me have the instruments of wine," Persian Omar Khayyam wrote in the Rubaiyat), the Iran-Shiraz connection still shows no signs of drying up. "Only very few people in Iran have permits to produce wine," Kosari says. Others say winemaking in Iran today is much like the U.S. bootleg business of the 1920s.

Kosari points to a bottle from Darioush winery, a Napa vintner. It's run by Iranian Darioush Kaledi, who's named after an ancient Persian king, and it produces an acclaimed Shiraz. The Darioush is one of many bottles you might be able to sample during Friday-night winetastings, from 6 to 8 p.m., when Kosari pulls out a selection to serve with cheese and stuffed grape leaves. "I have a soft spot," he says, "for the underdog wines."

Las Olas Gourmet and Wine also delivers terrific lunchtime salads, sandwiches, and desserts (New Times staffers are gaga over their cheesecake). It also caters parties and prepares serious gift baskets. Call 954-768-0003.

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Gail Shepherd
Contact: Gail Shepherd

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