Archive

Posts Tagged ‘buying wine’

So, You’re at a Benefit Dinner… and the Wine is Terrible!

July 10th, 2012 No comments
What to do if the free wine is terrible

Image from Service Culture International: www.choosingservice.com

Perhaps you’re at a dinner to benefit a worthy cause, but the wine served with your prepared-in-bulk meal is mediocre at best, or in the worst situation downright undrinkable: what do you do?  Is there a graceful way to handle the situation?  If wine is being served with your meal, chances are you’re not out at the Eagle’s hall for a spaghetti supper benefit.  Therefore, if your benefit is in an established restaurant, you’re in luck!  Restaurants have wine lists, and that’s exactly what you need to ask to see.  Ask your server for the wine list, pay an additional sum separately for a bottle of something good, and share it with the rest of your table.  (They’ll thank you for it, and you’ll make some new friends on the spot!) If the restaurant has a walk-in wine room like the Vintage Series Wine Room 1300, perhaps it’s possible for you to take a peak inside?  It never hurts to ask.  Cheers to finding good wine!

The Easiest Wine-Pairing Rule

June 26th, 2012 No comments

Without referring to the internet (or your latest wine-pairing app), how can you tell what wines go “best” with what foods?  Here’s the simplest wine pairing rule that almost always produces yummy results: if it grows together, it goes together!  That’s right.  Tried-and-true wine and food pairings often originate in the same region, and because of this synergy many pairings (and wines themselves) have been “perfected” over hundreds of years to best match the local cuisine.Pair your food with wine characteristic of the region.

For example, goose and duck go great with wines made where they roam abundantly in Catalonia, Spain.  Try pairing them with a regional favorite like a bottle of red Vall Llach, Cellers Pasanau, or Clos Mogador.  Goat cheese, a common product of France’s Loire Valley, pairs superbly with Gerard Boulay and Henri Bourgeois. (See our blog post on wine and cheese pairings here.) Having bistacca alla fiorentina as an entrée?  Pair this classic Italian dish with Italian wine from the same locale: Brunello di Montalcino!

When in doubt, pair your dish with a wine produced in the same region.  Remember: if it grows together, it goes together.  A wine’s label usually presents valuable clues about its origin, so ask to see it if you’re unsure.  Your waiter or chef may also have excellent suggestions once you’ve narrowed down the options, so don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations.  If you do have a smartphone handy, check yourself with a program like WineStein Pro to see if you’re on track!  Cheers to easy pairing!

Some Dry Red Wines

June 5th, 2012 No comments

Are you new to the world of wine?  Unsure what wines are considered to be “dry?”  Read on!

Quite simply, dry wines have the greatest alcohol content; their juice ferments until almost all of the grape’s sugar is utilized.  Thus, dry wines contain little residual sugar and are not “sweet.”  What common wines are considered dry?  Here’s a little list for the eager wine student:

Host your own wine tasting event with a WineKeeper 4-Bottle Showcase preservation system.

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Pinot Noir (the wine that “goes well with everything”)
  • Merlot
  • Sangiovese
  • Shiraz
  • Tempranillo
  • Red Zinfandel (it’s the White Zinfandel that’s the sweet stuff!)

Keep in mind that some of these wines may taste “fruity,” but do not confuse a wine’s fruitiness with its “sweetness.”  Fruit flavors often naturally balance a wine’s absence of sugar.  Also, don’t confuse a wine’s tannins with how dry it is.  Tannins can give sweet wines a “drier mouth feel,” but their abundance does not make a wine dry.  Remember: it’s all about the sugar!  Curious about how these wines taste?  Why not buy a bottle of each and host a few mini tastings, yourself?  You can easily save any leftover wine with the WineKeeper 4-Bottle Showcase preservation system. Cheers!

Natalie MacLean’s Updated iPhone App

Wine Picks & Pairings: Natalie MacLeanInstead of giving traditional (and often non-useful) gifts to your folks this Mother’s or Father’s Day, considering celebrating with the gift of a good bottle of wine that will really make them smile!  Sure ties, socks, and ceramic hippo nicknacks are the norm when you’re not really sure what your parents want or need, but a bottle of wine–a classy touch of elegance–shows just how much you appreciate them, much more than any generic gift ever can.

Because Mother’s and Father’s Day meals contain all sorts of food items, finding the right wine to accompany your parent’s chosen dish may often pose a dilemma.  Fortunately, the app Wine Picks & Pairings: Natalie MacLean features a Mother’s Day Brunch matching option under the Pairings tab.  Simply selecting this option brings up plenty of perfect pairings.  For example, here are the top five:

  • Spanish omelette with Pinot Grigio
  • Spinach and bacon quiche with Sauvignon Blanc
  • Crepes Suzanne with Icewine
  • French toast and raspberries with Champagne
  • Smoked salmon and cream cheese on bagels with Pinot Noir

Curious about what to bring to the family’s Father’s Day cookout?  Select Father’s Day Barbecue from the list!  What are some sure-fire suggestions?

  • Seared Pepper Steak with Shiraz
  • Planked Salmon with Riesling
  • Flame-Broiled Hamburgers with Zinfandel
  • Grilled Chicken with Chardonnay
  • BBQ Pork Chops with Merlot

Mmmmm…  In addition to helping you select fantastic wines for your family’s fun holidays, the app allows you to access a host of tasting notes, scores, prices, and recipes.  You can search over 150,000 wines at retailers across the U.S.,  and create a wine journal containing your own notes and photos.  Wine Picks & Pairings: Natalie MacLean is available for iPhone, iPod Touch, Android, and BlackBerry, and allows users with other mobile phones access to a mobile site.  The latest version was updated on Feb. 04, 2012.

What’s Vintage Port?

April 24th, 2012 1 comment

Just as aged tawny ports are created from the “best” harvests, vintage port is made from only the finest harvests.  In fact, vintage port is the most desirable of all port wines, and collectors often proclaim vintage ports to be the pinnacles of their collections.   Vintage ports are very full-bodied wines with an abundance of sturdy tannins that make them loved and prized by port connoisseurs across the globe.  They are well-balanced, and contain gentle fruit flavors of cherries, figs, and hints of black licorice and chocolate.  (Don’t worry, even if you don’t care for black licorice you’ll probably still like vintage port; lots of folks who aren’t big licorice fans love it!)a bottle of vintage port from 1963

Vintage port is made from the grapes of the finest harvests of a single year.  After aging for two to three years in wood, the wine is bottled for at least fifteen years.  Unlike other port wines that are meant to be consumed at the time of purchase, some vintage ports are intended to be held onto.  For instance, the majority of vintage ports from 1991 to 2003 should be purchased and kept until their flavors peak.  Vintage ports that have “reached their peak” and should be enjoyed now are those from 1970, 1975, 1977, 1983, & 1998.  Some vintage ports can either be consumed now, or can be held until a later date.  These vintages are from 1980, 1985, 1987, & 1998.  (Be aware that the years of some vintages may be approximate, since not all port houses declare the same vintage year.)

Unlike tawny port, vintage port needs to be decanted when served.  Bottles of vintage port contain a lot of sediment, and decanting helps to remove it.  Consider using a sophisticated decanter like the Riedel Tyrol wine decanter to effectively aerate and remove the sediment from your bottle of vintage port.  If storing a vintage port in your wine cellar, make sure you store the bottle on its side (as you would any other wine), and keep it in a room with a maintained temperature.  Ideally, a steady temperature between 55 and 60 degrees is fantastic for port.  Cheers!

What Is Aged Tawny Port?

April 17th, 2012 1 comment

Aged tawny port is aged in years that are multiples of ten.

Like its younger cousin, tawny port, aged tawny port is one of the two most-popular wines aged in Portugal.  Both tawny and aged tawny port begin as ruby port, but instead of aging the wine between two to seven years to create tawny port, aged tawny port is kept at least ten years in wood.  Oftentimes, aged tawny port is held even longer.  The longer aged tawny port is allowed to age, the greater its complexity becomes.  It also tastes more smooth and mellow.

While just about any ruby port can be made into a tawny port, only the “best” blends of ruby port are utilized to make aged tawny port.  Aged tawny port is commonly aged for ten years at a time.  Therefore, you’ll find bottles indicating the wine has aged for ten, twenty, thirty, or forty years.  These numbers are good approximations of aging, since they indicate the age of the wine’s “average” blend.  (Read about how port is made here.)

The older the aged tawny port, the richer, softer, and smoother it tastes.  In addition to being a joy on the tongue, its level of complexity increases substantially with age.  Though many people try less-expensive tawny ports aged for ten years, first, I’d recommend having a twenty-year old bottle for your first taste of aged tawny port.  Why?  There will be a much more noticeable difference between your aged twenty-year bottle and a glass of regular, seven-year tawny.  Curious?  Have a glass, and see what you think!

What to Look for in Tawny Port

March 27th, 2012 No comments

Unlike its ruby cousin, tawny port’s signature color is a bit lighter, as is its body.  Simply put, it’s a more delicate wine that exhibits some of the softer traits of vintage port.  Unlike expensive vintage port, however, tawny port is available at a fraction of the cost.

a glass of tawny port

Photo by Jon Sullivan

Tawny port is produced by blending older port wines.  Similar to ruby port, tawny port is also aged before bottling.  The time spent aging is usually between two and seven years.  Unlike sweeter rubies, tawny port features flavors of darker fruits and berries, as well as ripe plums.  Comparatively, a glass of tawny is richer with tannins.  And compared to their older, vintage cousins, non-vintage tawny ports are less dry and their tannins, while robust, are more mellifluous.

If tawny port’s tannins are a bit much for you, it’s okay to let a bottle of tawny sit for a bit; its tannins soften substantially as it ages.  Because it’s not as “forward” as ruby port, be sure to serve tawny port in proper port glasses.  Riedel Sommeliers Vintage Port Glasses are ideal because they are designed to reveal port’s pleasant, subtle aromas that are often masked by the smell of alcohol when served in larger glasses.  If you’ve enjoyed ruby port, perhaps it’s time to give tawny a try?  Cheers!

Did you catch our post last week on ruby port?

What to Look for in Ruby Port

March 22nd, 2012 No comments

Of all the varieties of port, ruby port is arguably the smoothest.  Many wine drinkers unfamiliar with the world of port can easily enjoy glasses of this sweet, deep red wine.  Sampling ruby port is a fantastic way for wine drinkers to become familiar with port wine, and though often less complex than their tawny cousins, good ruby wines can also be appreciated by port connoisseurs.drink ruby port shortly after it is bottled

Ruby port (made from the grapes Toriga Francesca, Toriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Barrocca, and Tinto Cao) is a bright, deep red-colored wine.  Rather than being made from a blend of grapes harvested during one given season, ruby port utilizes grapes that come from many vintages.  The blend is then aged in wooden casks for around three years prior to bottling.  A sweet wine, you should expect your glass to be brimming with red cherry and fresh plum flavors.  Its finish should be long, smooth, and very warm; port is the perfect nightcap to a date on a cool, spring night!

Unlike most other wines, ruby port needs to be enjoyed shortly after it is has been bottled.  (Remember, it already spent nearly three years maturing in a wooden cask.)  Because of this, when looking for bottles of ruby port in your local wine shop, be wary of older bottles; they will almost always be disappointing.  If you’re unsure about which bottle of ruby port to take home, attend a tasting and try a few glasses of different rubies before making your selection.  If your area wine shop doesn’t offer many opportunities to taste port, consider ordering a glass of ruby with your dessert the next time you go out for dinner.  Bring a pad of paper, and take a few notes.  If you’re out with others, convince everyone in your party to order a different ruby port so you can sample and compare them.  (Now, that’s fun!)  Though less expensive than other port wines, ruby port serves as an excellent introduction to the world of port.  When you do find a bottle that suits your fancy, remember to enjoy it with appropriate glassware such as Riedel Sommeliers Vintage Port Glasses. Cheers!

Stay tuned for our next post–we’ll tell you what to look for in Tawny Port as well!

STACKED Wines: a New Packaging Concept

January 26th, 2012 1 comment

STACKED Wines

We’re the first to admit we love an interesting innovation in the wine world. Wine is full of tradition and history, and that’s great! We love old-world styled wine cabinets and stone-trimmed cellars, but there’s also a place for fun, modern things like sideways wine racks and this interesting new concept for packaging.

Currently a California phenomenon, this curious, creative method of wine packaging will be making its way to the other states in due time.  Created by former UC Irvine students Doug Allan, Jodi Wynn, and Matt Zimmer, STACKED Wines have made a splash in Newport Beach!  What are they?  Four single servings of wine stacked on top of one another, reaching regular bottle height.  The “four-stacks” contain as much wine as a regular bottle.  Basically, each container is a stemless “glass” containing pre-poured wine.  The containers pop apart easily, making it fun and simple to enjoy wine in numerous on-the-go scenarios.  No longer do you need to fuss with corkscrews, fragile bottles, or be forced to drink from cheap, plastic cups when hiking, biking, having a picnic at the park, or traveling.  STACKED Wines are convenient for other outdoor functions like barbecues, concerts, and boating, too.  Currently, STACKED Wines offer a Merlot and Chardonnay, but more wines will be added as the company expands.  Their first major retail launch is planned for this March, so keep your eyes peeled residents of Orange County!  (To the rest of the country: this packaging innovation will soon make its way to you, too.)

What do you think? Intriguing idea, or gimmicky nonsense? Have you tried the wine?

To Cork, Bag, or Seal Another Way?

January 24th, 2012 No comments

In 2011, over 60% of the most popular domestic wine brands were sealed with natural cork.  This statistic comes from the Cork Quality Council, a Napa-based organization.  Based on surveys of A.C. Nielsen data, the executive director of the Quality Cork Council, Peter Weber, claims that there has been “a sharp increase in the sale of wine sealed with cork.”  He further comments that there is “unwavering consumer preference for natural cork” and that there are “emerging problems with alternative closures.”  Although the majority of popular wines in 2011 were sealed with cork, note that a great number of popular wines were also sealed by other means (under 40%)!  And just because a wine is sealed with a cork does not make it “better” than a wine sealed with a screw cap.  The same is true of boxed wine. That said, the top bottles will probably continue to be sealed with natural corks for years to come. Tradition and time-tested methods persist strongly in the wine world!

While these “alternative closures” can pose difficulties (screw caps can trap excess gasses that naturally pass through and out of cork, synthetic corks can become difficult to remove after a few years, traces of plastic that makes contact with the wine can be ingested, etc.), a lot of popular wine is packaged with them.  The natural vs. synthetic cork debate will probably continue for many, many years.

The Rogar Champion Pewter-Plated Wine Opener with Hardwood Handle & Table Stand

The Rogar Champion Pewter-Plated Wine Opener

Why choose natural cork?  Possibly because of tradition, to take home a cork as “souvenir” of a meal or special occasion, to remember a particular wine, to use in a craft project, etc. Cork is also a renewable resource, and, of course, biodegradeable.

Why choose screw caps or boxes?  For convenience; if you’re on the go, no corkscrew is needed, and bottles can easily be capped to prevent spillage.  Boxed wine will “keep” on a trip, and it pours easily.

What works best for long-term storage?  Not boxed wine.  (If your box has a “boxed on” date, you should drink it within a year of that date.)  Screw caps or corks?  The verdict is still out, and even the experts cannot agree.  This usually means you’re pretty safe either way.  To solve the “hard to open” issue, if you’re opening a corked wine, no matter what the “cork” is made of, try using a Rogar Champion pewter-plated wine opener. This elegant, timeless piece makes opening any wine a breeze.  You can uncork (and even recork) a wine bottle in under a second.  No matter the material of your cork, a good opener like this is nice to have on hand.  Corks of some material will likely be a part of the future of most wine for many, many years.

What are your thoughts? Do you buy “alternatively sealed” wines? Would you ever consider them for aging, or are they strictly “table wine”?