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Archive for August, 2011

Wine Review: Oracle of the Wind Western Cape Sauvignon Blanc 2009

August 10th, 2011 No comments

Oracle of the Wind Western Cape Sauvignon Blanc 2009This delicate white hails “from the sun, the rain, the wind, and the soil” of South Africa.  Though described as a “light yellow with flashes of green,” my glass appeared a surprising golden yellow of medium intensity, usually indicative of mature, concentrated whites.  Being a very affordable wine (I only paid $7.99 for a bottle), I knew not what to expect.  Although the nose is pleasant-but-weak, and somewhat plain, the wine makes up for it with a soft, creamy body and light crispness.  Flavors are subtle and playfully elusive.  They include guava, gooseberry, subdued mango, and other tropical flavors.  There are even light hints of lime and lemon.  This is not a “big” wine, and so it must be remembered that although this wine is well-structured, it is very delicate.  It will take many sips to appreciate and, like all wine, it gets better as it opens.  It is also a wine that can only be fully appreciated when chilled.  Serving this wine at room temperature will ruin it.  We recommend serving this wine between 46ºF and 48ºF.  For wines such as this, a Marvel Wine Refridgerator like the 23-Bottle Wine Grotto Wine Cellar  will help you attain the perfect serving temperature.  As a final note, if you’ve been following our blog, remember that long-term storage temperatures differ from serving temperatures, so don’t confuse the two!  Enjoy!

30 Bottle Marvel Wine Grotto wine refrigerator

Oysters and Chablis

August 8th, 2011 No comments

Oysters have, since ancient times, been regarded as potent aphrodisiacs.  While this belief may be partially attributed to myth and sympathetic magic, a group of Italian and American researchers found that oysters, along with certain other shellfish, are “rich in rare amino acids that trigger increased levels of [arousing] hormones.”  History’s most famous lover, Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798), were he alive today, would probably cheer at this finding; Casanova championed the idea that sharing succulent oysters was the best way to lead to an evening of sensuous delight.  But oysters don’t do it for all couples.  Some people love them, some don’t, and still others are allergic to shellfish.  But even if your companion can’t (or won’t) slurp down the smooth, slippery, succulent little sea critters, he or she can certainly share a good bottle of white wine with you while you enjoy them!
Because there are many kinds of oysters, you will find that certain whites pair better with different varieties.  However, there is one wine that goes with them all, swimmingly: Chablis.  Because its grapes are grown in France’s Burgundy region where the soil is rich with fossilized oyster shells, the aroma of Chablis contains limestone, peach, and (you guessed it) oyster shells!  Its flavor, too, often contains traces of sea salt.  If your lover is into literature, perhaps a passage from Hemmingway’s A Moveable Feast may help encourage him or her to partake with you: “As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”  The next time you order oysters, consider asking for a bottle of Chablis, too.  Enjoy!

Oysters paired with wine

Image courtesy of mailintalks.com

Natalie MacLean Wine Picks & Pairings: Recently Improved!

August 5th, 2011 2 comments

Natalie MacLean holding a glass of wineAlthough we’ve already given this app our stamp of approval back in May, its continued popularity and recent improvements have made it emerge as one of the most practical wine and food apps ever.  Renamed from Nat Decants to Natalie MacLean Wine Picks & Pairings, and updated to version 2.2 on July 19th, the app’s already convenient barcode scanning logic was vastly improved.  This means it’s even easier to use your smartphone to scan a picture of a bottle’s barcode.  You’ll then get instant tasting notes, wine scores, recipes and pairing recommendations.  What is more, you can also see how many bottles of the wine in question are available at nearby stores, better helping you decide whether to buy a bottle now, or later!

Natalie comically describes how her app can assist during a common wine-buying situation: “You’re in the liquor store wondering if you should buy the bottle with the castle on its label or the one with the fluffy squirrel.  Now you just point and click to find out if that shiraz actually is a good wine to go with your pepper steak, or if the sauvignon blanc would work with your grilled veggies. No more guesswork based on castles and critters.”

In terms of publicity, Natalie compares having an app featured on Apple’s App Store Homepage “almost as good as being interviewed by Oprah for your book.”  If this is truly the case for app developers, Natalie certainly made quite the splash; Nat Decants is also the only wine app to make appearances in both Apple’s top 10 “Food & Wine” apps and “Date Night” categories.

In summary, Natalie MacLean Wine Picks & Pairings is a free app that provides thousands of wine reviews, wine articles, and winery listings.  It also possesses the miraculous ability to recommend some of the most perfect wine and food pairings this blogger has ever tried.  In addition, all of Natalie’s pairings were personally tested.  No automated, computer-driven approximations or “tricks!”  For more food for thought, the app contains thousands of original recipes with matching wine recommendations, and you can easily keep track of your own wine cellar inventory with a simple-to-use, intuitive interface that has even won over wine lovers who sometimes feel “technologically-challenged.” (And may I mention, again, that this app is absolutely free?)

Natalie MacLean Wine Picks & Pairings is available for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad devices with iOS 4.0 or later.  It is also available for Android, and BlackBerry devices with an OS of 4.3.0 or later.

App shot from Natalie MacLean's wine app

All About Champagne

August 3rd, 2011 No comments

Champagne is a summertime wedding necessity, or rather a necessity at any wedding!  But, is your toast made with the “real” deal, or with a different wine called by the same name?

Champagne toast with champagne glasses

Photo by Mike Gifford

In the U. S., the label “Champagne” is used generically to denote almost any sparkling wine (some good, some bad), but in almost all other countries it is used specifically to identify a sparkling wine made in France’s Champagne region.  Champagne used to set the worldwide standard for sparkling wine, and the wine consists of three grape varietals: the white Chardonnay grape, and red Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir grapes.  Today, there are quality sparkling wines produced in California and Australia that are giving true “Champagne” a run for its money.  Still, in countries other than America, these wines are not called Champagne.  The “Champagne method,” however, is used by quality, sparkling wine producers worldwide.  The method includes a secondary fermentation process that happens right inside the bottle!  Because quality sparkling wine (which my or may not be, technically, “Champagne”) is created this way, a wine’s label often reads “Traditional Method” instead of “Champagne Method.”  (And has your Champagne ever looked a little more on the red side?  If so, you probably drank Champagne rosé, which is just a type of rosé Champagne made by creating a blend of red and white wine.)  While in America, “Champagne” is used generically to denote a good, sparkling wine, true Champagne only comes from the Champagne region of France.  This does not mean, however, that other sparkling wines from California and Australia are inferior in taste and bouquet.  It just means that, technically, such wines should be called “sparkling wines.”  Cheers!

Want to learn more about sparkling wines, how to store sparkling wine, or the “traditional method” that produces them? All that and more can be found in the Wine Storage Education Center!

Map region of Champagne, France

Champagne, France

What’s the Optimal Wine Storage Temperature?

August 1st, 2011 No comments

Designer Wine Rack Series Veneer Diamond Cube With Face TrimAs we’ve discussed in previous blogs, the temperature at which a wine is stored (and served) can bring out the best (or Traditional Redwood 2 Column Individual Wine Rack With Displayworst) of a given bottle, but an entire wine collection can be at stake if “ideal” storage temperatures are not maintained.  Many big collections have been unnecessarily damaged because of such unstable temperatures.  For example, temperatures above 65ºF encourage wine to age too quickly, causing their flavor and balance to suffer in the process.  Contrariwise, cellars that are too cold cause wines to lose their characteristic aromas and flavors. Rapid temperature fluctuations, too, can damage a wine’s cork and, thus, the wine as well.

Though the common temperature range for storing red wine has been between 50ºF and 55ºF, with whites stored as low as 45ºF, wine cellar expert David Spon (and Vintage Cellars!) recommends keeping a cellar at  55ºF, and at 60% to 75% humidity.  If the air is too humid, mold can grow and even damage your cellar’s wood.  If too dry, corks can crack.  David also notes that some people keep their cellars a little bit warmer if they store mostly young wines, and slightly cooler if their collections consist of older ones (since wines age more slowly in colder temperatures.)

If you don’t want to see your wine collection ruined, it’s a good idea to invest in a decent wine cellar or specially-crafted wine storage cabinet.  Stylish wine cellars can be built easily and affordably using designer wine racks or traditional redwood wine racks. Wine storage cabinets, like regal wine credenzas, also offer affordable (and classy) options.  Remember to store wine horizontally to keep the cork moist, and never freeze a bottle of wine!  When stored properly, and at the ideal temperature, your wine collection will age gracefully and provide anticipated delight.

Want to learn more about the correct storage conditions for your wine? Head over to the Wine Storage Education Center to read more about temperature, humidity, cooling systems and more. We’ve even done separate articles on the right storage conditions for red wine, white wine and sparkling wine/Champagne.

Vintage Series 4 Door Single Deep Credenza Wine Storage Console