Friday, March 29, 2013

Why Are There So Many Wine Regions in France?

In the Middle Ages, the monks in France grew lots of wine. Through a variety of methods, they acquired large plots of arable land, and filled them with vines. As they experimented with wine-making, they carefully documented where the best grapes grew, and broke down their vineyards into very precise plots of land. After the French Revolution, the Church lost most of its land holdings, but farmers kept the plots of land as laid out by the monks.

French wine regions can be broken up into increasingly specific grades:
  • Region: The major AOCs of France, extending mostly along the river valleys.
  • Village: Within the AOCs there are villages known for the quality of their wine, with specific protected status.
  • Vineyard: Within villages, the monks laid out very precise vineyards that have kept their status through the centuries, even as they have changed hands through the generations.
Any of this information can show up on the label, in addition to the specifics of the winemaker, so that makes for a lot of names that a French wine connoisseur must learn. This is one reason French wine can feel so confusing.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Quick Review: Afros Vinho Verde Espumante Brut 2006

Portugal, Casal do Paco Padreiero, Afros, Vinho Verde Espumante Brut 2006
+ // Sparkling // Cherry, Red Berry, Funk // Plum, Red Apple, Cider // Medium

Amazing with cheese, adds sweetness to the funk of cheese.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Did You Know?... About Vinho Verde

Vinho Verde is Portugese for "Green Wine." The name comes from the style of the wine, not the varietal. The wine is intended to be drunk quickly after bottling, typically with fresh, bright flavors. Despite the name, it is not actually green in color, but it can be white, red, or sparkling.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Quick Reviews: Wines at Terrior Park Slope

France, South Rhone, Chateauneuf-de-Pape, Domanie Moulin-Tacussel, 2001
++ // Fruity // Cherry, Cola // Cocoa, Earth, Raspberry, Old Leather // Full

Needed time to open up, but was worth the wait. Chateauneuf-de-Pape is one of the more prestigious wine regions in the world, and their wine come at a price. Typically outside our price point, Tina had decided one glass of wine for the evening was enough and hedged her bets on this one. It was worth it! 

France, North Rhone, Crozes-Hermitage, Domanie des Entrefaux, 2010
++ // Earthy // Mushroom, Cocoa, Oak, Currants // Earth, Stone, Blueberry // Full

Rounded flavor for such a young red.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Terrior of Brooklyn

Despite the amazing food scene in Brooklyn, we often look for simpler, "homey" food when we go somewhere local. But given the great time we had at Terrior Tribeca, we felt compelled to give their newest outpost in Park Slope a try once it opened up. And since we were to treating ourselves to something special, we decided to go all out.

Terrior stocks their extensive wine list full of everything we might look for, with some description to many of the wines. They carry US wines, including some of our favorite from the Finger Lakes, but they also stock wines from some of the most famous wine regions of France. And if you are going to splurge for wine, those regions can really live up to their reputation.

In contrast to the long wine list, the menu is short and simple. We picked a couple of wines from the Rhone region of France, deep with earthy flavors. Paired with some pickled mushrooms, the sweet fruit and deep earth notes of the wine balanced. With roasted beets with oranges, the citrus flavor cut through the more subdued flavors and the subtle balance of the wine was lost. With the rich, fatty and smokey paninis, it was again the earthiness of the wines that came through strongly to complement the meat, with and edge of tannin to cut through the fat and sweet fruit notes to add a layer of flavor. With the spice of the pulled pork, the normally subdued flavors of the wine really popped.

We were really impressed with the way we were treated. We were searching for a special night out, and the staff really obliged. Spending as much on a single glass as we often do on a bottle for home, we wanted to ensure that the bottles were fresh. Our waiter didn't batt an eye, assuring us that we would be getting wine from bottles opened that night. And as our wine ran out as we nibbled on a cheese plate, he brought us complimentary glasses of a very unique sparkling wine, a red Vino Verde, an extra special treat to end a special evening not far from home.

Friday, March 22, 2013

How-To: Enjoy Funky Wines

The wine tasting wheel from UC Davis has some strange descriptors that are a little off-putting to wine novices. For us, we classify those as "Funky" wines, aromas and flavors that don't necessarily appeal on paper, but can be really interesting:
-Petrol (a favorite in Riesling)
-Sweaty Saddle
-Dirty gym socks

These flavors can be dominating on the palette, and tough to pair with food. But if properly balanced with some other flavors, these wines can make an interesting drink on their own. They are seldom "easy-drinking" wines, so they are great for linger over those long evenings of conversation.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Quick Review: Wines at Terrior Tribeca

France, Languedoc, Domaine La Roche Buissiere, "Petit Jo" (NV)
+ // Funky // Barnyard, Wet Forest, Cherry // Lush Fruit, Old Leather // Medium
Made with grapes from 70 year old vines.

Italy, Sicily, Frank Cornelissen, "Contadina 8" (NV)
+ // Funky // Old Gym Socks, Blueberry // Blueberry, Leather, Chocolate, Cedar // Medium
Very tart. Makes you want another sip.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What Does NV Mean on a Wine Label?

"NV" on a wine label means "Non-Vintage". This means it is a wine made from grapes from more than one harvest. This is very common in Champagne, where the goal of the winemaker is to match a specific flavor and style, so wines are blended over the course of years to create a specific flavor. In other wines, it can be a method to deal with an especially poor growing year, to maintain a winemaker's quality standards.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Quick Reviews: Wines at Terrior Tribeca

France, Loire, Christian Venier, Les Hauts de Madon Cheverny Rouge 2010
++ // Fruity // Cranberry // Fruit, Rose, Bitter Herbs // Medium
Very complex, like a red muscat. Made from Pinot Noir and Gamay, while most red wines from Loire are usually Cabernet Franc.

Austria, Carnutum, Artner, Blauer Zweiglet "Klassik" 2010

++ // Spicy // Leather, Cherry, Currant, Cardamon // Black Pepper, Berry, Slate // Full
Fruit forward, long spicy finish. The earthy slate notes were very prominent with the pork.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Winter Wine at Terrior Tribeca

A cold mist hung over the concrete canyons, the tops of the skyscrapers obscured in a eldritch glow just barely illuminating two figures huddled under a hotel canopy. The dim light of a cellphone illuminated their huddled faces.

"It says 375 Greenwich St."
"Maybe it should be Greenwich Ave."
"Maybe its right around the corner."

The couple popped their umbrellas and darted down the street,checking each address as they passed. Finally, they found what they were looking for. Darting under the entrance vestibule, they found their way out of the cold winter rain into the cozy brick bar they sought.

For some unknown reason, it took us a long time to find the time to get to Terrior in Tribeca. It's not too far outside our usual neighborhood for dinner in Manhattan, and it is known for its vast selection of Riesling--our usual neighborhood for wine. Of course, when we finally decided to go it turned out to be a miserable night, but we had our minds set, and made it in despite the storm.

The wine bar itself was a bit different than our usual destination. Dark, loud, and trendy, we felt a bit out of place. But after we pulled ourselves up to the bar and chatted up the bartender on our options for the evening, we quickly felt at home. The wine menu was exhaustive, but organized and informative to make it easy to find something interesting. Chock full of Riesling from throughout the world, including some of our favorite Finger Lakes wines, we were a little sad it was so cold and miserable out, since it didn't feel like a night for white wine. But with selecting some dinner and asking the bartender for recommendations, we found some other interesting options.

The menu felt like elevated bar food, and we picked some big meaty sandwiches. Starting with some Pig's Head Bruschetta to start with, a rich and mineral meat that might scare some people away. Followed by a meatball sandwich and a pork sandwich, glasses of red seemed like the only choice. Fatty meat with some fruity, spicy red wines kept us warm on a cold, rainy night. The knowledgeable staff helped us find some interesting wines: for our second glass, we specifically asked for something "unique and different" and they encouraged us to try something new and linger over our glasses. Part of the adventure is going beyond what you're used to. Now we just have to get back and try their Rieslings.
Riesling "on tap" at Terroir Tribeca.

Friday, March 15, 2013

How-To: Pair Red Wine and Fish

If you were to ask most wine professionals what red wine to pair with fish, they would most likely tell you to stick to white wine. But the opinion around here is that that you should always feel free to enjoy wine your way.

The heavy tannins, bright berry flavors, or deep earthiness of some red wines can be too much for most fish, but there is still a lot of options that might work well, depending on the nature of the fish. Rich, fatty fishes can stand up to a bit of flavor, and can be complemented by a bit of spice or tannins. A fish dish with a tomato sauce can handle a bit of fruitiness. In either case, it may make the most sense to stick to lighter red wines, like Pinot Noir from France or Washington State, or an Italian Chianti.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What is Localvore?

With the advent of international shipping and advanced preservation techniques, modern society enjoys produce of all types year round. But some people are trying to get away from that for a variety of reasons. The goal of the localvore philosophy is to focus on locally grown produce, seasonal when possible. Many urban areas support this goal with farmer's markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs).

The Slow Food movement is similar. In a conscious contrast to Fast Food, the movement emphasizes local produce and small businesses. Slow Food is a larger, more organized effort, with an international membership of food professionals among hundreds of chapters, and hundreds of thousands of followers.

Ultimately, these movements are focused on food. Very few restaurants outside of California wine country will dedicate their wine list to regionally-sourced wine, even with their dedication to local beef and produce.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Monday, March 11, 2013

Downtown Local with Wall & Water

In some of the hotels around NYC hide some interesting restaurants. Hidden from the street by lobbies and bars, there are gems throughout the city that lack the street presence of most restaurants. But with just a little bit of research, they can be excellent finds.

With too many restaurants to choose from, we often look for some place where the philosophy of the chef matches our philosophy on wine. Luckily, more and more restaurants are embracing the local, at least when it comes to food. 

Wall & Water, located in the Andaz Wall Street hotel in Downtown Manhattan, fit the bill for us. Perched on the second floor, overlooking the busy after-work crowd schmoozing at the bar, this is not a place we would have just stumbled across. The contemporary design of the space contrasts the simple but elegant food. With dishes crafted from local produce, we should have ordered local wine, but instead we decided to try something a bit different than our usual Finger Lakes picks. A Californian Pinot Noir went well with our dinners: it was light enough to pair well with Tuna Nicoise but had earthy notes to play with the french beans and potatoes in the dish and the typical fruitiness of a West Coast Pinot Noir to complement the rich Mac & Cheese.

When looking for a special restaurant, it can be good to have a specific goal in mind. We never would have just run across this place on our adventures around the city, but looking for a good Localvore place helped us find this hidden treat.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What is Hard Cider?

Any fruit will ferment, given enough time. With a bit of help, many can be turned into alcohol. Grapes are the most common example, but there is a long tradition in Northern Europe of using apples to create Cider, known as "Hard Cider" in the US.

Cider can be made from almost any variety of apple, but often is made with special varieties. It can be made simply, by allowing apple juice to ferment, but, like wine, high quality cider requires careful attention and craftsmanship.

Contest: Win a Copy of BOOZE FOR FREE!!

Penguin Plume, the publishers of Booze for Free, have offered to give a free copy of the book to two lucky Local Vinacular readers. Read our review of the book, here.

To enter, either follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.* Deadline to enter is Thursday 3-6-13 @ 12pm EST. Winners will be notified shortly thereafter.

Good luck!

*For readers who already follow us, you may enter by emailing us at by 12pm EST Thursday 3-6-13. Write "Contest" in the subject in.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Quick Review: Glorie Farm Winery Lunar White 2011

US, NY, Hudson Valley, Glorie Farm Winery Lunar White 2011
+ // Fruity // Grapefruit // Red Grapefruit // Light

Made from a blend of Vidal and Cayuga grapes, this wine shows how Labrusca grapes can be used to add some sweet and fruity notes, without leading to a wine that tastes entirely of grape juice.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Booze For Free: A Quick Review

Nathan and I like going “back to the basics.” We always have a garden going, food prepared from scratch and from fresh ingredients, and, very early in our dating years, he shared a tasty glass of red wine from a home brewing experiment. So, we were excited to receive a review copy of Andy Hamilton’s Booze for Free: The Definitive Guide to Making Beer, Wines, Cocktail Bases, Ciders, and Other Drinks at Home (Plume, $16.00). Hamilton, a “self-sufficiency expert” provides details on equipment and supplies, tips for foraging for the best ingredients, and dozens of recipes—categorized by season—to get you started.

This is the only reference guide you’ll need if you are interested in starting your own home brewery. But, be forewarned: Booze for Free reminds us that making your own libations is serious work, requiring an investment of time, money, and energy. We were therefore pleased to find simpler recipes amidst the heavyweights, and look forward to trying Hamilton’s hard cider as well as a few of his fruit cordials, where we can use pre-made liquor. Our greenmarket sells lavender which will do well in the lavendar cordial recipe, and we always seem to have too much mint and look forward to trying Hamilton’s suggestion for Crème de Menthe.

Friday, March 1, 2013

What Wine to Pair with Gorgonzola Cheese

Gorgonzola is a soft cow's milk cheese from Italy. It is creamy with carefully cultivated streaks of mold. It tends towards a sweet and earthy flavor, with hints of funk from the mold as it ages. It is soft enough to melt easily, and is often incorporated into sauces for pasta dishes.

In a sauce, it has the tendency to dominate the flavor profile, so expect to pair it with a wine that can stand up to it. Look for red wine with some ripe fruit or earthiness to match:
  • Pinot Noir
  • Merlot
  • Zinfandel

Gorgonzola often shows up on cheese plates for dessert, and should be complimented by a hearty dessert wine:
  • Ruby or Tawny Port
  • "Late Harvest" wines
  • Sauternes (or other wine where grapes experienced rotting known as "botrytis")