Friday, April 18, 2014

How-To: Pair a Wine with Multiple Courses

A good way to save a bit of money at restaurants is to buy your wine by the bottle. The price is still marked up higher than if you bought the bottle at a wine store, but significantly less than if you bought as much wine by the glass. The downside with this approach is that its tough to find a wine that will pair well with multiple courses, including dishes for several people.There are a few things to keep in mind if you are going to try:

  • Plan ahead: If you are selecting wines by the glass, you have time to choose while you select your dinner options. But it's difficult to pick a bottle if you have no idea what your entree will be.
  • Keep the food similar: It's tough to find any wine that will pair with both fish and beef.
  • Ask for recommendations: The restaurant may have wines specially selected to be served with multiple courses.
  • Keep the wine flexible: Avoid wines that are too light, too big, or that have simple flavors that need specific foods to bring out their best points. Flexible wines like Pinot Noir, Merlot, Semi-Dry Riesling, or Pinot Grigio can help you with a range of food choices.
  • Find something everyone enjoys: You might have to bow to the pickiest drinker at your table. Some people are just certain they don't like a certain type of wine or always and only drink another type. That's OK. Maybe this time you acquiesce, but your next dinner out, you push the envelope a little.
What does this look like in reality? Tina often chooses a delicate starter and then a heavier entree, or, vegetables at first and then meat to finish. She'll often select a light Pinot Noir, or, when feeling gutsy, a very rich, buttery chardonnay. She finds both quite flexible for this sort of pairing.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Quick Review: Bogle "Phantom" 2010

US, CA, Bogle "Phantom" 2010
+ // Smooth  // Chocolate, Leather, Cherry, Cloves, Nutmeg // Maraschino cherry, Leather, Pepper, Dark chocolate // Full

This is a Zinfandel. Whereas Italy has its Primitivo, California has the sister grape, the Zinfandel.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Did You Know?... About Wine Vintages

When winemakers release a new wine, they are careful to label the year the grapes were picked. That way, we wine drinkers can understand a little more about the wine. In addition to the natural characteristics of the varietal, the terrior of the growing region, and the style of the winemaker, the year the grapes were harvested gives us some clues as to its character. In this case, it all comes down to weather. An unseasonably warm year can result in extremely ripe grapes, giving bigger flavors than usual. An uncommonly rainy harvest season may mean that the grapes were harvested early, leading to under-ripe, tarter flavors. In most cases, it won't matter much. You will seldom find two different vintages of the same wine on the shelves of your favorite wine shop. In fact, you might be weary if you do find a wine more than 4 or 5 years old on the shelf, it's possible that wine didn't sell and might now be "off". But, some of the most impressive restaurant wine lists might have several vintages of the same wine to suit different situations. A less renowned vintage might keep the price point down on wines from famous producers, giving less discriminating drinkers the chance to try something, possibly still amazing, at a more approachable price point. When in doubt, as always, we'll advise that you ask lots of questions, just like we do.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Quick Review: Cantele Primitivo 2001

Italy, Salento, Cantele Primitivo 2011
++ // Smooth // Blueberry jam, Petrol // Blueberries, Blueberry jam,Nutmeg, Black pepper // Med-full

We're liking Primitivo more and more. It's juicy, fruity, and luscious on the tongue. The fruit makes it taste "sweet," although it's technically not so sweet in terms of Residual Sugars.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Coming Back for More at Bar Corvo

It's become important for us to have regular restaurants. If we find ourselves with a little free time on a Saturday, we can't waste it wandering the neighborhood trying to find something new. Every second seems to count these days. Instead, we rack our brains for the places we've had good meals recently, so we know where we can expect a good time.

We've been to Bar Corvo a few times. When the chef of renowned al di la Trattoria of Brooklyn opened a family friendly bar and restaurant around the corner, we could never manage to beat the dinner rush to get a table. Now, it's original "new-ness" having worn off, it's a bit easier to find a seat. Of course, it helps that we are now usually the first ones there at opening time. (We have early dinners now to ensure we can keep to our daughter's bedtime schedule.)  

The space is welcoming as you enter through the door, opening on to the bar and a large common table. Low lighting and smaller tables in the back keep the restaurant feeling intimate, and an eclectic selection of music keeps a pleasant background noise level when you have families and couples over lapping. And of course, the food is great.

Fritto Misto
We decided to share a bottle of wine for the evening, but that's always a bit of a trick to find a wine flexible enough to complement a range of dishes. Starting with a plate of fried veggies, or Fritto Misto, we needed something with a hint of acidity to cut through the fat oiliness. We had to consider how we'd pair deep fried lemon slices from the appetizer dish, refreshing and savory at the same time. Our main courses of pork chop with kale and polenta and wild boar pasta also promised fat, but instead of an acidic wine, we would prefer a red wine to match the pork.

We finally decided on a Primitivo, for its combination of fruit and spice flavors. In this case, our choice was too big for the light vegetable flavors of the Fritto Misto, as expected. However, the sweet red fruit flavors helped brighten the kale and the sauce for the wild boar, which were both on the bitter side.

That is the difficulty with picking one bottle for multiple courses--finding that flexibility. In this case, the appetizer was a miss for our wine selection, but the main courses worked well. Maybe we will have to go back soon to try a different combination.

Pork Chop with Kale and Polenta

Friday, April 11, 2014

How-To: Read an Australian Wine Label

Being a New World wine country, Australian wine labels are a bit more understandable to American wine drinkers. The name of the producer and the wine region might not be familiar, but most of the rest of the info will look the same

The label will always include information on:
  •  The brand 
  •  The name & address of the wine maker
  •  The  country of origin
  •   The region, where applicable
  •   The grape used
  •   The alcohol content
Same language. Same info. Not much different than any American wine label. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Quick Review: Cinquante-Cinq Viognier

France, Languedoc, Cinquante-Cinq, Viognier, 2010
/ // Smooth // Lemon // Butter // Medium Bodied

Much less crisp than the nose (lemon) would suggest, the crispness does come out with rich tomato sauce, adding the perception of spicy-heat.