Friday, August 31, 2012

How-To: Tell the Difference between Old and New World Wine

Of course, the easiest way tell if its a bottle is an Old World or New World is the read the label. But there are some differences in styles between the two as well.

In a general sense, Old World wines seem to adhere more closely to the idea of terrior, and manipulate the grape less to allow the sense of place to shine through. Often, tradition defines how grapes are grown, and how wines are made in each region. Especially in France, the style of wines can often be described as "austere" or subtle in their flavors.

In contrast, New World regions tend to more technical wines, as each different region without a long history of wine making works to figure out what grapes and styles of wine work best. Science often plays a bigger part than nature, and the personal style of an individual winemaker may have more of an opportunity to show through. The style of wines seem to lead to younger, full-flavored wines.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Quick Review: Glorie Farm Winery Synergy

US, NY, Hudson Valley, Glorie Farm Winery, "Synergy," 2010
+ // Earthy, Smooth // Plum, Chocolate // Plum, Chocolate, Berries // Full

A Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, this was a smooth red with no real bite of tannins, perfect for sipping on a summer evening.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Did you know? . . . Old vs. New World Wine

When we talk about "Old World" wines, we talk about areas of the world that have been growing wines for hundreds of years. Italy and France are great examples, as are most other European wine regions.

"New World" wines are much younger growing regions: these are the wines of the "discovered" world and include regions in the United States, South America, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Old World
New World

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Quick Review: Paul Jaboulet Aine 'Les Cypres' 2007

France, Cote du Rhone-Vacqueyras, Paul Jaboulet Aine, 'Les Cypres' Rouge, 2007
++ // Earthy // Forest floor, Cherry // Cherry, chocolate, white pepper, sage // Medium bodied

From the Cote du Rhone area in France, the sub-appellation is Vacqueyras and the producer Paul Jaboulet Aine.

This is a Red Southern Rhone Blend, which the producer is calling "Les Cypres." A blend from this region generally consists of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, in varying proportions, although typically Grenache and Syrah are the dominant partners. We were told this was mostly Grenache.

This wine really opened up well - the white pepper soon mellowed out and the fruit came forward. Very smooth.

Paul Jaboulet Aine Vacqueyras 'Les Cypres' Rouge, Rhone, France

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Fancy French White Wine

We pride ourselves in enjoying good, everyday wine. But when special occasion calls for it, we feel we must step up and play with the big grapes. For Tina’s birthday last fall, we enjoyed dinner at Veritas Restaurant in New York City’s Flatiron District. We chose this restaurant namely because the wine menu was so extensive, and because the food menu features dishes comprised of locally grown ingredients. We were not disappointed. After a funny faux pas in which Tina tried to show off her wine skills to the waitress, and almost immediately learned she shouldn’t play in the Big Leagues - at least yet, anyway - the big wine book came out over which Nate and the sommelier hunkered and discussed various options for dinner. We’re not embarrassed to say, we chose the cheapest of the wines discussed, and it wasn’t even that cheap!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Can You Add Ice to Wine?

During this blazing summer, it has been tough to keep a glass of wine chilled. The question sometimes arises: Is it okay to add ice to wine? The answer, of course, is yes, if you really want to. Just keep in mind a few things:
  • It will dilute the flavor (duh). So, we don't t recommend this for an expensive, quality wine. For a casual drinking wine, it can be okay. Drink quickly!
  • Add just one cube at a time to prevent diluting and to keep the wine cool.
  • Aim for a strong, crisp wine. The colder the wine, the less flavors you'll be able to taste. 
  • Try it with lighter reds, too, that do OK chilled.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Did You Know?... About Wine Bottles

With modern considerations about the environmental impact of wine, some manufacturers are starting to address the issue of glass wine bottles. While glass can be recycled, the fact is that the glass alone makes up 40% of the shipping weight of a bottle of wine.

There is long association between boxed wine and cheap quality, but some producers are hoping to overcome that, to address packaging issues. Bag-in-box technologies are cheaper to produce than glass bottles, weigh considerably less, and stack easier for transport and storage.  The seals involved can maintain freshness in young wines. On the other hand, the very fact that they are so well sealed means that they will not allow the minimal air infiltration needed to age a high quality wine over time (meaning, wines in boxes cannot be cellared). Most vintners would agree that the quality wines still need the glass; the use of bag-in-box technology is appropriate for wine meant to be consumed shortly after bottling.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Boxed Chardonnay Adventure

Like most industries, the wine industry is works hard on research and development. In addition to seeking out new and better ways to make wine, they are also looking at better ways to package wine. Glass bottles are expensive to produce and heavy to transport, so much work has gone into developing other forms of packaging, and working on the much maligned option: boxed wine. 

One of the big selling points for  boxed wine, for the casual wine drinker, is that it provides a better seal. Once opened, wine in glass bottles begin to oxidize and lose flavors. Boxed wine should remain protected from oxygen, thereby remaining fresh longer. We decided to compare a boxed wine to a standard bottle, to see what differences we could find, and see how each held up over the course of several days.

Friday, August 17, 2012

How-To: Picnic with Wine

We have talked in the past about what wines to pair with picnic food, but if you are going to enjoy a bottle of wine in the great outdoors, there are logistics to be concerned about as well.

  • Selecting Your Wine: You should always pick something you enjoy, but think refreshing flavors for summer-time, and balanced flavors (for a wide range of tastes in a group).
  • Keep it Cool: Reds are always enjoyable, but for warm weather and sunny days outside, a cool, refreshing drink is heaven.
  • Glassware: Its not impossible to bring along your favorite stemware, but there is no shame in breaking out the plastic cups. If you bring glass - stemless is easy to cart around.
  • Gear: There are entire kits available to help you prepare yourself for a picnic with wine. But make sure you remember a corkscrew. Or just go with screw-tops, for when you inevitably forget the bottle-opener.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Quick Reviews: Brooklyn Winery Merlot Rose

US, NY, Brooklyn Winery, Merlot Rose, 2011
+  // Earthy  // Earth, Blueberry // Earth, Stone, Berries // Medium bodied
A hint of effervescence.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Did You Know?... About Chambourcin

Chambourcin is a red hybrid grape from France, created in the 1960s. Despite the fact that it is a hearty and productive vine, in France it can only be used in French table wines. It can be found, if rarely, in other New World regions like Australia and the East Coast of America. It tends to create a fairly balanced wine, with some sweetness typical of a hybrid, but with an aromatic and dry backbone.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Quick Review: Arrington Vineyards Firefly Rose

US, Tennessee, Arrington Vineyards, Firefly Rose 2010
+ // Funky // Strawberry // Strawberry, Plum, Spice, Stone, Tobacco // Medium bodied

A refreshing wine, good for a warm night. Good chilled, but could even handle being iced. It had a little something for everyone; strong fruit for the sweet wine drinker, tart fruit flavor for the dry red drinker, and a bit of tobacco funk for Nathan. None of us were smokers, but it seemed like it would pair well with a cigar.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Wine in the South: Arrington Vineyards

"I think that was the turn."
"There wasn't any sign, but I will check the map. Yup, that was it!"

Hidden in the hills 30 miles south of Nashville, TN, our family took us to Arrington Vineyards on a recent visit. Putting together a picnic dinner and packing the kids into the car, it seemed a great way to spend our last vacation night together. And apparently we weren't the only ones with this clever idea. Short of the Wine and Balloon Festival in Virginia last year, we have never seen so many people gathered together to drink wine. A large parking lot, across from the vineyard was mostly full, and the  sprawling field in front of the tasting room was packed with families sitting among their picnic spreads. Children read and played, while families and friends shared bottles of wine.

We spread our for our dinner, and enjoyed the warm summer evening, enjoying time with our family. Once the children wandered off to play, making new friends, a few of us adults ventured up the hill to seek a glass or two of wine, on the basis that Tina and I are obligated to share our adventures with you readers. Unfortunately, we were stopped at the door when we asked for details, and were told that there was a three hour waiting list for the free tasting, and, since they closed in two hours, it was unlikely that we would get in. But there was the wine shop back down the hill, where we could buy some wine. There, we were stopped short when we learned that they could sell us a bottle, open it, and provide us with some plastic cups, but since they were selling under an "agricultural" license--not a liquor license--they couldn't serve us a glass of wine.

We struggled with the decision, since our hosts weren't really wine drinkers, but the wine list was too interesting to pass up. Of course they offer Chardonnay and Merlot, but there was Viognier and Gewurtztraminer, Roses of Chambourcin, and even a Port. Given the warm weather, we agreed on the dry rose. Grabbing a bottle, we settled back on our picnic blankets, we shared our bottle of wine while we watched the kids play while the sun set.

While we wish we could have tried more of their wines, it was still a great evening. Those who were more in the know seemed to make a day of it, large groups sharing the picnic tables and a number of bottles of wine. It seemed a great way for families and friends to spend a wonderful day outside.

Friday, August 10, 2012

How-To: Develop a Taste for Wine

We realize there is a whole group of people out there who don't like wine--even though they really  want to. Maybe entertaining clients seems to always involve wine. Maybe friends are planning a tour of wine country. Maybe a glass of wine to toast a special occasion sounds perfect. Maybe it just seems fun. They say the grass is always greener; in this case, it truly IS pretty green over here. So, what can you do if you really don't like wine, but wish you did?

  1. Recognize it's an acquired taste, just like vegetables.
  2. Wine is complex and big: if your entire conclusion that you don't like wine is based on a small number you've tried, well, that's like cutting vegetables out of your diet because you didn't like the few you tried, as well. We're confident there is something for everyone.
  3. Start with sweet wines. We hear that people new to wine prefer sweeter wines.
  4. Try fruity wines: people often mistake fruity for sweet. For a new wine drinker, this goes hand-in-hand with the last fact.
  5. Try light-bodied white wines. The flavors won't linger too long, or overwhelm your tastebuds.
  6. Ask for wines that are "drinkable." This will indicate to the waiter or salesperson that you want something that "goes down easy."
  7. Finally, avoid big reds. Tannins (from the wine barrels and grape skins) can overpower the tongue. The tannins are what produce the burning and scratchy feeling in the mouth. This can be unpleasant to someone new to wine.

Ultimately, it's about experimenting and trying new things. In our mind, the worst thing a wine drinker could do is limit him or herself to the one bottle they've found that they like. How can you discover the next best thing if you always stick to what you know?

Good luck!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Quick Review: Brooklyn Winery Rose of Zinfandel

US, NY, Brooklyn Winery Rose of Old Zinfandel 2011
+ // Fruity  // Berry, Plum, Vanilla // Tart cherry, Sawdust // Medium
Layered, not too sweet

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Did you know? . . . About Cotes du Ventoux AOC

Learning about wine gets difficult when you begin to explore the various AOC regions in France.

AOC stands for "appellation d'origine contrôlée" and signifies a designated quality area. It is important to learn your AOC's because French wines are almost always labeled by AOC, not by grape varietal. This is where wine gets particularly confusing. Our wine bottle from James read only "Cotes du Ventoux" and the winery name. From that, we were to know that, by regulation, grapes grown here for red wine must be Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvèdre, and Carignan and that red wine from this AOC is almost always a blend. While this area does grow grapes for white wine, red wine is the vast majority of production out of this AOC.

Cotes du Ventoux is in the southeastern edge of the southern Rhone Valley. The Rhone Valley is split into two regions - Northern and Southern. Reds from this southern area are mostly blends.

The Rhone Valley - Cotes du Ventoux in the southeast

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Quick Review: Wine at James

France, Rhone Valley, Cotes du Ventoux, Chateau Valcombe, "Signature," 2008
+ // Fruity // Strawberry, Petrol // Berry, a long leather finish // Medium to Heavy

Red wine from this region (Cotes du Ventoux) is composed of a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Cinsault grapes. Oz Clarke notes in his book Let Me Tell You About Wine that 2008 is a vintage to be avoided--but we would never have known.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Dinner at James

An interesting development in the food scene is the idea of the “locavore” restaurant. Using local ingredients whenever possible, they work to procure the best and freshest produce, and support the local farming community. We love this, because it mirrors own goal of supporting local wine growers as much as possible. We’ve stumbled across a few of these restaurants in our travels, and now we are working on seeking them out.


Friday, August 3, 2012

How-To: Store an Open Wine Bottle

It's not always feasible to finish a bottle of wine in a single sitting. In addition to knowing how to store your unopened bottles, it's important to know how to store the one's you've opened, so you can enjoy them later.
  • The cork: Often, the cork can be flipped over and pushed back into the bottle. This can be very useful for resealing a bottle of wine while you enjoy the first glass, or even overnight.

  • Stoppers: There are many commercial stoppers available, from basic corks to complex sealing devices. The tighter the seal, the longer the original flavors of the wine will last.

  • Improvised stoppers: Most improvised solutions will do nothing to stop air from getting in, and won't really help preserve your wine. The more air that gets in, the quicker the wine spoils.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Quick Review: Barbera d'Asti Le Mondianese

Italy, Piemonte, Barbera d'Asti, Le Mondianese 2006
+ // Smooth // Petrol, Chocolate, Cherry // Black Pepper, Sweet Cherry, Red Grapefruit, Vanilla // Full bodied

This was a powerful wine, surprisingly aggressive on the attack considering its age, almost crisp, but with a long, smooth finish.

Note: "Piemonte" is the Italian word for "Piedmont," a province in Northwestern Italy.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Did You Know?... About Negroamaro

Negroamaro is a red grape from Italy, most often found in the Puglia region. With deep colors and heavy tannins, it is often used to create "rustic" red wines, but can also be used to create some nice rose wines, as well.

For more information, visit a great post on By the Tun.

Negroamaro gets it name from two words that both mean "black." Photo (c) By the Tun