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Posts tagged ‘Pinot noir’

Finding the Perfect Match Beyond Champagne & Oysters



Finding the Perfect Match Beyond Champagne & Oysters

© The Collection-http://www.wine-searcher.com

In this excerpt from his new book, “The Scent of Champagne,” Richard Juhlin addresses the thorny issue of pairing Champagne with food.



“Champagne today is the best wine to pair with food created by the world’s leading gourmet restaurants. No other wine can so perfectly accompany and accentuate the subtle nuances that the multifaceted dishes made from locally produced delicacies have. In France, they unfortunately usually drink champagne for dessert, whereas the rest of the world drinks it as an aperitif. Admittedly, champagne is the perfect aperitif, with its mouth-watering acidity and fast-acting, refreshing effect, but with the right foods, one can get even more out of their drinking experience. 

The right balance of food and drink

When it comes to pairing food and wine, the old rule is that the heavier and stronger the dish, the heavier and fuller the wine should be, and vice versa.

Whichever way you choose to compose your meal, it is important to consider the balance between food and drink. It can be achieved so that the wine adds something that the food lacks, or by choosing a wine with similar flavors that are already found in the food. A wild game dish, for example, can be complemented by champagne’s animal tones, or a nutty caviar dish with an equally nutty champagne.

The aroma’s significance is usually forgotten when wine and food are paired. The wine’s combination with umami can often be negative, with a metallic and bitter flavor. This is avoided primarily by creating taste bridges by adding any suitable ingredients that neutralize the effect. Salt and acid are often useful ingredients in these flavor bridges.

Today’s fashion is entirely based on creating harmony between food and wine, so that no flavors are arguing with each other. I think, however, that I have noticed that many fine wines lose in definition and purity when combined with food in this way.

According to these principles, if I bought a Billecart-Salmon Cuvée NF [Nicolas François],the wine would balance with a dish rich in acidity and salt, and I would get a nice and smooth harmonic taste in the mouth, but the small nuanced tones of the vintage made by the producer would be smoothed out. It is similar to the way you work in the music studio world, which I previously did. It is popular to treat the sound image with a compressor and cut off all the tops and bottoms for a polished, impersonal, and slightly flattened sound. Personally, I am much more careful that my food does not have an overabundance of any of the basic tastes that otherwise would numb my taste buds. I always start with the wine and choose a gentle dish as a companion. 


Finding the Perfect Match Beyond Champagne & Oysters

© Skyhorse Publishing/Greg Gorman

What to avoid combining with Champagne

What are the wine’s worst enemies? The most critical ingredients are vinegar, raw onions, citrus, tropical fruits, grapes, lingonberries, sorrel, artichoke, Jerusalem artichoke, rhubarb, and fiery spices. Although these conflicts can be balanced when cooked right, flavor bridges and wine selection can circumvent the problems.

Eggs are interesting because they are not only rich in umami and sulfur, but also have such a fatty texture that the taste buds get covered and prevent you from tasting the wine. The fun part is that the high acidity in champagne neutralizes the sulfur, and the mousse cleans the tongue, so that even the raw egg yolk and champagne can be a good contrasting marriage. Bacon and eggs is my most common budget-tight suggestion with non-vintage champagne.

Many believe that you can drink champagne with all kinds of food, and it does not fit any better with a particular dish. It is true that champagne fits with most types of food, but the wine can also be elevated to heavenly heights in combination with the right dishes. The bubbles and the acidity cut like a knife through cream or butter sauces, purées, eggs, and other greasy, mild dishes. Vegetable dishes, fish, and shellfish are lifted by the elegant champagne, and the beverage in other cases can refresh the mouth after stronger flavors.

But you should beware of dishes with too much acidity. Citrus fruits with champagne or strong vinaigrette sauces give an acidic overall impression, and hot spicy dishes can be devastating for most wines.

Classic combinations

Sure, you can combine champagne with relatively simple and cheap meals, but I think you can treat yourself with more fancy food on the occasions when you open a bottle of champagne. Oysters and champagne are, of course, a classic as well as champagne with Russian or Iranian caviar. However, it is important to choose a young, dry, and light Chardonnay-based champagne to withstand the salty sea flavor. Oysters have a milder taste if they are baked in the oven and come with a cream sauce or mild cheese. All shellfish except crab and shrimp go well with champagne, but the question is whether or not scallops or lobster with champagne is the best combination.

Salmon and flat fish with white wine sauce and middle-aged cuvée champagne is another successful gastronomic marriage. The sauces that are to meet champagne should be made with light broths, especially fish stock or chicken stock that are either assembled or cooked with butter, crème fraîche, or cream.

Mushrooms – and more preferably truffles – taste wonderful together with a pinot-based champagne characterized by gentle animal and vegetal notes. Asparagus is generally considered to be difficult to bring together with wine, but champagne is a great exception. Asparagus with Hollandaise sauce or Parmesan accompanied by delicate cuvée champagne can be like drinking spring. The timid flavors of Japanese cuisine are very well suited for the bubbling beverage, but beware of Asian dishes containing wasabi, soy sauce, or hot spices.

A blanc de noirs suits game excellently. Personally, I think the most perfe
ct combination of all is old champagne and foie gras. The sweet, crunchy flavors of fully mature champagne are a much more refined option to liver than Sauternes. The acidity of champagne prevents the fatty liver from becoming too powerful an experience.

Salmon, shellfish, mushrooms and foie gras all go well with Champagne, says Juhlin

© Skyhorse Publishing | Salmon, shellfish, mushrooms and foie gras all go well with Champagne, says Juhlin

A simple Champagne menu

Because champagne has proven to be the most flexible of beverages, there are endless variations of food pairings. I work frequently with the top chefs and know that you can reach heavenly heights when everything is correct. To help you simplify it all, I have selected a small cheat sheet that you can always follow successfully unless you have the time and inclination to experiment yourself. My simple champagne menu contains many dishes, but it is only an attempt to make the dinner feel more luxurious without being too difficult to cook. That way, you can also serve more champagne and showcase the district’s entire records easily. This template can always be followed whether canapés are made from tin bread and caviar or Russian blinis and exclusive beluga caviar.

1. Canapés & Blanc de Blancs

Start with simple canapés and a blanc de blancs from any good grower in the Côte des Blancs. For example, Pierre Peters, Legras, Charlemagne, or Bonnaire.

2. Salad & Non-Vintage Champagne

Continue with a salad without too much lemon or vinaigrette, and non-vintage champagne from a famous house such as Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, G.H. Mumm, or Perrier-Jouet.

3. Fish & Vintage Champagne

A smaller dish with a simple butter sauce accompanied by vintage champagne in the medium-bodied style. For example, Henriot, Pol Roger, Billecart-Salmon, or Taittinger.

4. Game & Pinot Champagne

As the main dish, serve game with mushrooms and vegetables and a mellow, pinot-dominated, heavy champagne such as Bollinger, Gosset, André Clouet, or Egly-Ouriet.

5. Coffee & Chocolate

Finish with coffee or tea and some good dark chocolate, but skip the champagne for dessert.”

* “The Scent of Champagne,” by Richard Juhlin, is published by Skyhorse Publishing at $75. It will be published in the U.K. in January 2014 at 46.31 pounds.    



What to Drink in 2014 With Oz Clarke


In his new book, Oz Clarke selects "great wines that don't cost the earth," including Sociando-Mallet


Published by Wine-Searcher.com

© Pavilion Books/Wine-Searcher | In his new book, Oz Clarke selects “great wines that don’t cost the earth,” including Sociando-Mallet

In this excerpt from Clarke’s latest guide, he suggests the top end of the red wine world is out of control.



“You begin to wonder about statistics after a year like 2012. Everyone was predicting that wine production was remorselessly on the up, that global warming was releasing thousands of hectares every year for new vineyards where the grapes would never have ripened before, from Canada to southern Chile, from Scandinavia to the southern tip of Tasmania and, of course, in the vast, uncharted hinterland of China.


But it didn’t work out like that. 2012 was the smallest harvest since records began in 1975. If you were in northern and western Europe your crop was ruined by a murderous summer – it left growers gazing at a soggy handful of grapes at harvest time that could be as little as 10% of the normal crop. Some vineyards didn’t pick at all. Others, like several famous properties in the great sweet wine area of Sauternes, said they would release no wine, the quality was so poor. In New Zealand they didn’t think they’d have a crop until the sun finally came out after the date they’d usually finished picking.


Elsewhere, a vicious and ruthless drought decimated crops in central and southern Europe, and in considerable chunks of the Americas and Australasia. At least the quality is often good, but the volumes are frequently wretched. No one predicted any of this chaotic climate turmoil. And clearly no one is capable of predicting the next few years, let alone decades, either.


So what does all this mean? Well, for a start prices are heading upwards. But, please, let’s not all start weeping into our wine glasses. Too many wine producers are making no money. Too many are running at a loss. It’s easy for us to squeal and complain about the relentless rise in the cost of our Cabernet, but if we strip out the effect of duties and taxes, in most countries the typical price of wine is less than it was five years ago. Vineyard labour costs more, bottles, labels, corks cost more, transport and shipping cost more, but we still expect to pay less for the wine in our glass.


It can’t go on, and a small vintage, smaller than the global appetite requires, will force prices higher, and we will have to get used to the new reality. Wineries and vineyards need investment and profit just like any other business. Yet half the time we seem to think that the producers are in it for a laugh…


Clarke opts for the basic labels of Châteauneuf-du-Pape over the super-cuvées

© AFP | Clarke opts for the basic labels of Châteauneuf-du-Pape over the super-cuvées

Whenever I do consumer blind tasting tests, the majority of my recommendations are in the £7–10 ($10–15) band, which allows everyone to make some profit and gives us a fair deal at the same time as really tasty flavours in the glass. And over £10, over £20, does the wine keep on getting better and better? Well, yes and no. If you’re buying from a popular area like Bordeaux or Burgundy, Napa Valley in California, Yarra Valley in Australia, Ribera del Duero in Spain or Piedmont in Italy, you’re not going to find much that’s exciting to drink below £10; indeed, much of the good stuff starts at nearer £20, then sweeps off into the stratosphere. If you’re feeling flush, should you choose these trendy wines even higher up the price scale?


Actually, no. The top end of the red wine world especially is increasingly out of balance and out of control. The reputations of wines – and their prices – are increasingly created by the marks out of 100 doled out by a handful of übercritics, led by the American Robert Parker. The preferred style is rich, lush, alcoholic, oaky, thick in the mouth, frequently difficult to drink and surprisingly similar to other 95–100 pointers from all corners of the Earth.


The wines that are most rewarded are not those of arresting, original, unique flavours but ones that have understood the formula demanded for a juicy high mark. Many famous areas – such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Tuscany, Napa, Barossa – make super-cuvées to try to snaffle the magic 95–100 mark. They are hardly ever as good to drink as the basic label of the property.


Often nowadays you’ll find a wine labelled ‘Tradition’ or ‘Classic’ or some such term, and this, strangely, will be the cheapest offering. Buy it. This is the wine that hasn’t been mucked about with – over-ripened, over-oaked, over-extracted – to try to please a few globetrotting critics. This is the one the owner and the winemaker will drink. Old-fashioned French restaurants often used to hang out a sign saying ‘Le patron mange ici’ – ‘the owner eats here’. Well, the owners don’t drink the absurdly priced super-cuvées, they drink the basic wine. So should we…


That’s if Dr Scarborough will let us. We ushered in the New Year of 2013 with a report from a Dr Scarborough at Oxford University that said we should forget all that tosh about wine being good for us, that it kept the ticker going, calmed our stress levels and generally made us nicer people. My doctor reckons three or four glasses of wine a day is fine. Not so Dr Scarborough. A quarter of a glass of wine per day! I suspect he’d prefer us to drink nothing, especially since he described half a glass a day as ‘bingeing’. Whatever happened to the hundreds of years past when wine was thought of as good for you? Did we all get exhausted by proclaiming wine’s beneficial features and so dropped our guard just long enough for this cohort of thin-lipped puritans to slither out from the shadows? A quarter of a glass a day?


Luckily there are still universities that think three or four glasses a day are good for you. I’ve seen reports from Mediterranean universities suggesting a bottle to a litre isn’t a bad idea. And they live longer down there, don’t they?


So, with concern for my health to the fore, I’m delighted to try to reduce my alcohol intake – by giving up over-oaked, over-strong, heavy-bottled red monsters in particular. I’ll drink lower alcohol, but I’ll stick to 3–4 glasses a day, if the good doctor doesn’t mind.


Clarke is in the mood to drink sauvignon, chardonnay, and pinot noir from New Zealand

© Bob Campbell | Clarke is in the mood to drink sauvignon, chardonnay, and pinot noir from New Zealand

There’s no better place to start than New Zealand. 2012 has produced the best Marlborough Sauvignons for years – tangy, cool, refreshing. Add world-class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and I’ll be drinking Kiwi. Australia’s Chardonnays are the most restrained they’ve been for ages and Western Australia is creating tons of flavour in whites at 12.5% alcohol and reds at not much more. South Africa, too, is embracing fabulous cool Syrahs and Cabernets, and superb Sauvignons from all around the coast.


Chile’s reds and whites are glowing with balance and fruit right now, so I’ll be drinking Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet and Carmenère, and Argentina’s Malbecs and Torrontés are more scented than ever. I’ll need to up the alcohol a bit in California to encompass the rich delights of Paso Robles and Napa, but Lodi is my bargain tip and Sonoma’s coolest crannies are delivering some Chardonnay and Pinot Noir beauties. And don’t forget West Coast Syrah. On the East Coast, Virginia does highly original reds and superb Viognier to challenge the tangy Rieslings of New York and Ontario’s nutty Chardonnays.


France has a wonderful array of styles and vintages available. You can still find lush, ripe 2009s and elegant, focused 2010s, but although 2011 wasn’t thought of as much of a vintage, the wines are lighter, less alcoholic and deliciously refreshing. Great Beaujolais, juicy Rhône and Languedoc reds and whites, and easy-going Burgundies, Bordeaux and Loire reds will keep me happy.


There are signs that Spain is tiring of too much alcohol and oak, so count me back in for Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Garnacha, as well as Rueda and Albariño whites. Portugal has Vinho Verde – dry, tangy, low in alcohol – to balance rich but satisfying Douros and Alentejos. In Italy, Piedmont is producing a far more approachable style of red than even a few years ago. I’ll drink those, and Sicily’s reds too, with fragrant whites from Alto Adige, Marche and Campania. Greece is full of originals, Cyprus is starting to stir, Lebanon’s reds are lush and sultry, while Turkey’s are scented yet muscular. And at last Bulgaria is waking up again.


Further north, Austrian Grüner Veltliner and Riesling seem to keep improving – so refreshing, restrained in alcohol – and I’m discovering the delights of German Pinot Noir while rediscovering the beauty of pure, cool Rieslings from the Mosel and Rhine Valleys. While I contemplate all this – and still taste rather than drink offerings from India, Thailand and China for now – I’ll crack open bottles of Blighty’s best – England’s world-class fizz.”


Oz Clarke’s “World-Class Wines That Don’t Cost the Earth”




Dureuil-Janthial Rully Blanc, Côte Chalonnaise, France


Grosset Springvale Watervale Riesling, Clare Valley, Australia


Juliusspital Würzburger Abstleite Silvaner Kabinett, Würzburg, Germany


Gerovassiliou Malagousia, Halkidiki, Greece


McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon, Hunter Valley, Australia


Eben Sadie Palladius, Swartland, South Africa




Quinta do Crasto Touriga Nacional, Douro, Portugal


Fabre Montmayou Grand Vin, Mendoza, Argentina


Viña Leyda Las Brisas Pinot Noir, Leyda Valley, Chile


Man O’ War Syrah, Waiheke Island, New Zealand


Château Sociando-Mallet, Haut-Médoc, France




González Byass Una Palma, Jerez, Spain


Valdespino Fino Inocente, Jerez, Spain


* “Oz Clarke’s Pocket Wine Book 2014” is published by Pavilion Books at $14.95.


How to Host a Wine Tasting Party (Ideas)

wine folly



What’s the best format for a wine tasting party?


When you’re hosting your own tasting party there are a couple of things you’ll do differently than a professional trade tasting (sipping vs. spitting) but the basic format is the same. Most wine tastings feature four to eight different wines that have a common theme that ties them together.


In this guide, we’ll lay out a proven tasting format and a few wine tasting party ideas that are not only useful, but a lot of fun to try.

Wine Tasting Party Ideas


Formal Wine tasting Place Setting mise en place
A formal wine tasting with proper place settings in Rioja, Spain. Notice: even pro tastings will use 2 glasses per guest.

What You’ll Need


While there are a myriad of different techniques to decorate the table, if you have well-curated wines it doesn’t matter how the table looks. If you select wines based on a specific theme, people will pay closer attention to what they’re drinking. It also helps if you have wine tasting placemats to write on.


This pairing focuses on wines from a specific area. Try 4 top wines of Napa Valley or Piedmont
An in-depth way to understand a variety. Buy different price brackets of one type of wine grape (e.g. Grenache or Grüner Veltliner)
New World vs. Old World
One of the classic old world vs. new world tastings is Napa Valley Merlot vs. Right Bank Bordeaux.
Big and Bold Wines
Compare and contrast the biggest boldest wines from around the world.
Elegant Wines
Compare and contrast the lightest red wines on earth. Find out what we mean by ‘elegant’
The best way to do this is to ask for library vintages from your favorite winery.
Price Comparative
Crowdsource guests to spend less than $20 on a bottle of wine and blind taste them to determine everyone’s favorite.
Blind Tasting Party
Wrap bottles in aluminum foil if you don’t have enough wine bags. Find out what wines to select for a blind tasting.





Hosting a whole dinner party?


Perhaps you need some ideas for that too. Not to worry, we happen to have 13 wine-themed dinner party ideas



How should the wines be ordered?


HINT: Single Variety Tasting
Serve lighter alcohol wines before higher alcohol wines and Old World wines before New World wines.


While there are no rules for wine order (i.e. you can do whatever you want) there is a general understanding that, as we taste, our palates change. In other words, some wines blow out your palate and others are so nuanced that you won’t be able to taste them if they’re served later on.


Wine Serving Order:


  1. Sparkling wines (Champagne, Cava, -chill)
  2. Light white wines (Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño)
  3. Bold white wines (Chardonnay, oaked white wines)
  4. Rosé wines
  5. Light red wines (Pinot Noir, Gamay)
  6. Bold and high alcohol red wines (Cabernet, Shiraz -decant)
  7. Sweet wines (Sweet Riesling, Port, Dessert Wine)

Need more examples of wine styles? See the Basic Wine Guide
Types of Wines and Wine Glasses


How much wine do I need for a wine tasting party?


½ bottle per guest.


A little over a half a bottle of wine per guest is ideal. For instance, if you have an 8 person party, plan on having about 5 bottles of wine (each guest will receive a half-glass of each bottle). It won’t be too much to make people drunk, but enough to have a great party. In some of the best professional tastings, the first bottle is usually an ice breaker aperitif such as Champagne or Prosecco. People just seem to lighten up instantly with a glass of bubbles.



wine that is ruined by heat or high temperatures is called maderized

Wine Serving Temperature

The temperature you serve a wine will greatly affect how much it’s liked. Check out an infographic on wine serving temperatures for different kinds of wine.

Wine Serving Temperature Survival Guide




Politically Incorrect Food Pyramid for Wine Drinkers

Wine Folly



Let’s be honest here: when you’re out for a serious night of wine drinking what should you eat? Take a look as we tackle this question with a complete disregard to health (although Dr. Miller says the French Paradox Diet is legit!). The Wine Drinker’s Food Pyramid came to be whilst drinking with a group of winemakers and sommeliers in South Africa after a spirited Pinotage tasting. Naturally, it’s very scientific, because experts were involved.


Food Pyramid for Wine Drinkers




A proper night of drinking includes 5 sections




In the form of a sparkling wine or a mixed cocktail. Examples include: a gin and tonic, sparkling wine or beer.
White wine
Are you with mixed company ( you know, the ones you wouldn’t drunkenly skinny dip with)? Then pick something that won’t make anyone angry. Sadly, this leaves you only 2 varieties: Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay. However, if you’re with serious wine drinkers, you’ll be surprised how many of them will drool over a slightly sweet Riesling or Chenin Blanc.
Red wine
The better your friendship, the older the bottle.
Dessert wine
Substitute your desire for something sweet with a glass of dessert wine. What we’re drinking right now: Vin Santo, PX, late harvest Riesling, Pinot Noir and Port.
When you’ve become too hairy (or hoary) for late night coffee and need to settle the nightmare of drinks you’ve just put into your body, it’s time for an Amaro.


Tips on drinking well


  1. Forget ordering by the glass, make sure you’re with enough pals to get a bottle.
  2. Water is essential, drink a full glass with every serving.
  3. If you are sensitive to alcohol (something I’ve always had a problem with) portion control is your friend


6 Misunderstood Things About Wine



If you drink wine on a regular basis, you’ve probably already seen Sideways. While Sideways cultivated your love for Pinot Noir, you’ve only just come around to re-appreciate Merlot. As it happens, Merlot is pretty damn good.


Wine divorce My MontrachetIn the same vein, most wine aficionados know the term ‘ABC’, which means ‘Anything But Chardonnay.’ However, it’s a little ironic because one of the most talked about appellations in Burgundy is Montrachet (sounds like ‘Mon-trash-aye’). Montrachet is famous for its rich and buttery Chardonnay. Apparently hard-to-read words make the wine taste better. Perhaps it’s time to get some Krasnostop Zolotovsky (from Russia!)


Instead of letting misinformation about wine slide around and confuse everyone, this article will shed light on some of the current fictions floating around.



White Wine is Only For Girls


MYTH: Perhaps this myth is proliferated in this scenerio:


Man orders Chenin Blanc. Wife falls off seat laughing. Man feels embarrased and never does it again. The same problem happens with men’s pink shirts.


TRUTH: White wine is classy, nuanced and complex. It also has many more affinities to beer, which is traditionally considered a manly realm. Trying to avoid sweet white wine? Here are some savory white wine varieties:




High Alcohol Wines Are the Devil


MYTH: A very prominent wine writer blew his lid about high alcohol levels in wine recently. The argument is that winemakers are purposely over-ripening their grapes so that sugar content at fermentation is so high wines cap out at 17% ABV. The term ‘Ultra-High’ most likely is for wines at 15%-17% ABV.


TRUTH: This sentiment hurts both wine regions and wine grapes. Some grapes, such as Zinfandel, are wizards at making super high sugar-content grapes. When grapes like these get fermented to wine, it’s easy to get up to 16% ABV. For wine regions, look at alcohol levels in places like Spain, Southern Italy, California, Australia and parts of Argentina. These regions have more sun which makes more sugar and, thus, more alcohol. As much as a winemaker can go in and tinker with winemaking-magic or pick grapes earlier, sometimes the normal results taste great. Why fix it if it ain’t broke?



90 Point Wines Are Better than 89 Point Wines


Do you like Wine Folly?

MYTH: The Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Wine Advocate, Pinot Report, James Suckling, International Wine Cellar, Vinous, Beverage Tasting Institute, Connoisseurs Guide to Wine, and various blogs all have their wine ratings used in order to sell bottles.

TRUTH: Would it surprise you to know that there have been studies that prove wine scorers don’t have 100 point depth accuracy? For example, one day the wine is 90 and the next day it might be 89 or 88. So don’t let this pearl of knowledge weigh your choice if you’re picking wine only a couple of points away.



Old Wine > New Wine


MYTH: A professional wine curator for private cellars (you know, for the inexplicably rich) once exclaimed that he was depressed with the amount of over-the-hill white Burgundy he kept seeing in his client’s cellars.


There’s nothing more depressing than cellaring a wine
so long that it dies before you get to kill it.


TRUTH: Today, more wines are being crafted to be drunk when new. The market now is developing the two distinct styles of age-worthy and drink-worthy wine. Here’s a hint: the age-worthy stuff usually has high tannin and acidity and doesn’t taste that great until fully aged.



Old World > New World


MYTH: Since vitis vinifera came from around Armenia into Western Europe it’s now cultivated everywhere. Traditionally wine is split up between New and Old World.


TRUTH: In the last 60 years, so much has changed with the wine industry that the U.S.A. and Australia are no longer the new kids on the block. China, England, Canada, Thailand, Russia and India are all producing wine. The lines are getting more blurry stylistically as winemakers continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible. This is an exciting time to drink wine.



Huge Wine Glass Madeline Puckette of Wine Folly in Portugal

Wine Glasses: Bigger is Better


MYTH: Wine needs space to develop aromas in a glass, thus the bigger the glass the better.
TRUTH: Despite what many glass manufacturers tell you, there is a point when a glass is just too big. When the wine glass completely encloses your face, a wine glass is too big.


Want to know what wine glasses are the right type for you? Find out more about the different types of wine glasses.


Guide to Zinfandel Wine

wine folly



Let’s take a closer look at both red and white Zinfandel wine and learn the secrets to picking out your favorite styles.

Why is White Zinfandel so popular?


White Zinfandel is often the very first wine someone tries. Today, close to 85% of the total Zinfandel production is White Zin! As much as wine snobs bash it, White Zinfandel offers everything a beginner might want:



At $5 a bottle White Zinfandels taste fine, but most lack the complexity to be compared to the red version of the same grape. Red Zinfandel wine can offer serious presence and sophistication.



Guide to Zinfandel Wine


How Red Zinfandel Tastes


The primary flavors of Zinfandel are jam, blueberry, black pepper, cherry, plum, boysenberry, cranberry, and licorice. When you taste Zinfandel it often explodes with candied fruitiness followed by spice and often a tobacco-like smoky finish.


How Red Zinfandel compares to other red wines


How Bold? Zinfandel is lighter in color than both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. However, although a light-bodied red wine like Pinot Noir, Zin’s moderate tannin and high acidity make it taste bold. Generally speaking, most Zinfandel wines have higher alcohol levels ranging from about 14 – 17% ABV. Higher alcohol adds an oily texture and bigger, bolder body.


Did you know? Zinfandel is the only grape in the world with a festival dedicated to it? Find out more about the ZAP Zinfandel Festival

Guide to Zinfandel Wine

Zinfandel Food Pairing


Think curry spice. Since Zinfandel leans on the sweeter side of red wine, it’s a great pairing partner with spiced barbecue dishes and curry. Pro tip: Pick out the spices you taste in the wine and add them to your sauce.


Perfect Zinfandel Food Pairing
Pork tonkatsu is a Japanese dish served with a richly spiced curry sauce. The spicing and savory-sweet quality of this dish make it a perfect wine pairing partner with Zinfandel.


Katsu Curry Dish is perfect for Zinfandel

Pork Katsu Curry. A Japanese curry spiced dish perfect with Zinfandel. credit

Chicken Icon


Meat Pairings


Try pairing with lighter meats including Quail, Turkey, Pork, Bacon, Ham and Veal. Zinfandel works well with Barbecue red meats and lamb.


Herbs Icon


Spices and Herbs


Ginger, Garlic, Rosemary, Curry, Turmeric, Cayenne, Clove, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Vanilla, Cocoa, Black Pepper, Coriander, Fennel, and Saffron.


Soft Cheese Icon


Cheese Pairings


Look for hard and richly flavored cow’s and sheep’s milk cheeses such as Manchego, Bandage-wrapped Cheddar and Trentingrana.


Mushroom Icon


Vegetables & Vegetarian Fare


Use highly flavored vegetables to bring out the fruitiness in Zinfandel such as roasted tomato, red peppers, carmelized onion, roasted squash, apricot, peach, cranberry, spiced apple, and beets.



3 Tips to Buying Zinfandel Wine


Pay attention to ABV
Best trick when buying Zinfandel is to check the Alcohol by Volume (ABV). A lighter Zinfandel will have about 13.5% ABV whereas a bold and spicy Zinfandel will have around 16% ABV.
Who makes the best Zinfandel?
There are several sub-regions in California that make great Zinfandel. Currently, the most popular are Napa Valley, Dry Creek Valley (in Sonoma), Russian River Valley (in Sonoma) and Lodi.
Hot Tip! High Elevation
Look for Zinfandels from high elevation areas (such as Howell Mountain or El Dorado County). High elevation Zinfandels tend to have more savory intensity and richness.


Red Zinfandel (Primitivo) Wine Characteristics


FRUIT FLAVORS (berries, fruit, citrus)
Raspberry, Black Cherry, Blackberry, Blueberry, Black Currant, Black Plum, Raisin, Fig, Apricot, Cranberry Jam, Jammy/Brambly Fruit
OTHER AROMAS (herb, spice, flower, mineral, earth, other)
Licorice, Star Anise, Smoke, Black Pepper, Black Cardamom


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OAK FLAVORS (flavors added with oak aging)
Vanilla, Coconut, Nutmeg, Peach Yogurt, Mocha, Burnt Sugar, Coffee, Cinnamon, Clove, Tobacco, Fresh Sawdust
Medium – Medium High
Medium – Medium High
“Room Temperature” 62 ºF (17 ºC)
Grenache, Plavic Mali, Negroamaro, Blaufrankish (aka Lemberger), Sangiovese, Barbera, Counoise
Primitivo (Puglia, Italy), Crljenak Kaštelanski (Croatia) and Tribidrag (Croatia), Morellone (Puglia, Italy)
Zinfandel is sometimes blended to make a California red wine with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. In Italy, it’s not uncommon to find Primitivo blended with another local Puglia grape called Negroamaro.


Zinfandel Regions


Only 71,000+ acres of Zinfandel planted worldwide.


USA 50,300 acres
Paso Robles, Sonoma (Including Dry Creek and Russian River Valley), Napa Valley, Lodi (Central Valley, Modesto), Amador County (Sierra Foothills, El Dorado County)
Italy 20,000 acres


It's That Time of Year: Everything You Need To Know About Champagne and Sparkling Wine



Photo by Jeremy Parzen.
Some of the greatest and most coveted Champagnes are rosés, like this Bollinger Non-Vintage Champagne Rosé, one of my favorite wines of all time.

In the wine trade, they call it “OND”: October-November-December, the last quarter of the Gregorian calendar and the 92 days of the year during which more wine is sold than in any other period of the year.

And from the romantic dinner for two to the whole mispucha blowout, from the company holiday party to the Christmas eve family get-together, more sparkling wine is served this time of year than in the other months combined.


And, of course, it wouldn’t be New Year‘s Eve unless we tickled our noses and palates with some fine bubbles.

For many of you, the trip to the wine shop or supermarket to pick up that bottle of “Champagne” might be the only time you buy a bottle of sparkling this year. Therefore, I’ve created the following list to help you navigate the do’s-and-don’ts of sparkling wine (and so that you won’t feel like an idiot on your way to popping that cork).



Photo by Jeremy Parzen.
Just because it sparkles doesn’t mean that it’s “Champagne.”

1. Know How to Use the Word “Champagne” Correctly.

Technically, I should have called this post “Sparkling Wine: 10 Things You Need to Know.” But sparkling wine just doesn’t sound as sexy as Champagne, does it?


For a wine to be called “Champagne,” it must come from the region of Champagne in France and it needs to be made using the proper grapes and technique.


There are myriad kinds of sparkling wines out there: Prosecco, Franciacorta, Cava, Vouvray, Saumur, Sekt… Don’t call it Champagne unless it’s Champagne.


Only the French can write méthode champenoise on their sparkling wine (when it’s made in Champagne). Other appellations can make wine using the same technique. But then it can only be called “classic method” or “traditional method.”


Note that many unscrupulous American winemakers write Champagne on their labels. They are not bound by European Union regulation and so Champagne producers have no way of stopping them.


2. Most Champagne and many other sparkling wines are made from red grapes, not white.


Although some are made from 100 percent Chardonnay grapes (Champagne’s blanc de blancs or white from white [grape]s), most Champagnes are made from Pinot Noir as the primary grape.


Wine gets its color from the skins of the grapes. For the production of most Champagne, the grapes and skins are separated after pressing. As a result, the wine is “white.”


Many sparkling wines from France‘s Loire valley are also made from red grapes, like Saumur, which is produced using Cabernet Franc.


3. Don’t take anyone’s eye out when opening a bottle of sparkling wine.


Sparkling wine is pressurized, and it’s very easy to let a cork slip and fly when opening it. It’s a whole barrel of fun until someone loses an eye, as the saying goes.


Remove the foil from the cork. Holding your thumb on the cork, remove the wire cage by twisting it six times (it’s always six times). Immediately place your thumb back on the cork after removing the cage. Hold the bottle at a 45° angle, and with your palm securely over the cork, turn the bottle, very slowly, from its base (you don’t need to turn the cork). You’ll find that the cork will gently pop out.


4. Always have a nice kitchen towel or napkin on hand when opening sparkling wine.


If the wine has been agitated, it might overflow when opened. The towel will also come in handy to wipe the bottle down if it’s been in ice. And if you’re having trouble turning the bottle when attempting to open it, wrap the towel around the cork and hold it tightly. This will give you some traction.


5. Don’t serve sparkling wine too cold.


There’s nothing Americans love more than refrigeration. But sometimes we tend to over-chill our wines. Especially when serving expensive, fine Champagne, you don’t want to mask its nuance and complexity by serving it too cold.


If it’s on ice, let it sit on the table for 10-15 minutes so its not freezing cold.


We often open sparkling wine in company, and it’s consumed relatively quickly. You and your guests will enjoy it more if you serve it at a decent temperature.



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Twelve Wines of Christmas


Wine Enthusiast taps top sommeliers for their favorite gift-worthy bottles.




If you’re already scratching your head on the first day of Christmas about what bottle to gift your true love—or anyone, for that matter—we’ve got you covered. Wine Enthusiast picked the brains of some of the nation’s best sommeliers for the perfect wines to present to your loved ones on all 12 days of Christmas.







Bottle: Chartogne-Taillet NV Brut Cuveé Ste. Anne (Champagne), $40


“I always prefer giving Champagne as a gift, especially for Christmas,” says Patrick Cappiello, managing partner and wine director at Pearl & Ash in New York City. “My hope is that it won’t live to see the New Year, or just ‘til the stroke of midnight New Year’s Eve.”


Bottle: Alain Voge 2009 Vieilles Vignes (Cornas), $70


“When I think of wines I like to drink, share and gift during the holidays, I immediately go to wines that pull at my sensory heartstrings,” says Shelley Lindgren, co-owner and beverage director at A16, SPQR, and A16 Rockridge in San Francisco and Oakland. “Cornas has long been one of these special wines.”


Bottle: Robert Sinskey Vineyards 2010 Pinot Noir (Carneros), $38


“This Pinot Noir is incredibly versatile, and as Christmas parties can be a smorgasbord of dishes and flavors, a wine like this is necessary,” says Cappie Peete, beverage director at McCraddy’s Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina. “Robert Sinskey believes in producing elegant wines with bright acidity so that they can age beautifully. This gives the recipient the freedom to decide whether to share the wine during the holidays or tuck it away for another special occasion.”


Bottle: Grosjean 2005 Fumin (Vallée d’Aoste), $40


“Instead of defaulting to a cult Cabernet or—even though we love Champagne—a predictable bubble this holiday season, explore the wines of Vallée d’Aoste,” says Charlie Berg, assistant sommelier at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York. “There is something about [the region’s] snow-covered Alpine slopes and the spicy varietals that evoke a wonderful sense of the yuletide.”


Bottle: Montes 2011 Outer Limits Beyond Frontiers Apalta Vineyard Red (Colchagua Valley), $48


“This blend of 50 percent Carignan, 30 percent Grenache and 20 percent Mourvèdre shows beautiful aromas of dried figs, blackberries and warm cinnamon spice, all flavors that are perfect to complement any holiday gathering,” says Christopher Birnie-Visscher, head sommelier at db Bistro Moderne in Miami. “A wine of this complexity from one of the best vineyards in Chile is a fantastic way to unwrap the holidays.”


Bottle: Cobb 2010 Jack Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast), $150 (11.5L)


‪“Some people fear the size of magnums, although it is only two bottles of wine and typically wine in large format bottles tastes better as the wine has a chance to evolve slower and maintain its freshness,” says Michael Scaffidi, beverage director at Plume Restaurant at The Jefferson in Washington, D.C. “[This wine] is light in body, but the rich flavor of the Sonoma fruit shines through like a powerful dragon.”


Bottle: The Rare Wine Co. NV Historic Series Thomas Jefferson Special Reserve (Madeira), $60


“This legendary beverage would be great for a range of wine lovers from novice to professional,” says John Mitchell, beverage director/sommelier at Stella! Restaurant in New Orleans. “Madeira is eternally good after being opened so it isn’t a wine people would have to rush to drink: savor and enjoy it over the entire holiday.”


Bottle: H. Billiot NV Brut Rosé (Champagne), $55


“Champagne is an artisanal product,” says Neal Wavra, general manager and sommelier at The Ashby Inn & Restaurant in Virginia. “Giving such a gift conveys the message that the recipient is deserving of something special and unique.”


Bottle: Brovia 2010 Valmaggione (Nebbiolo d’Alba), $32


“While many of the Brovia Barolos improve with age, the Valmaggione is a complex and astounding Nebbiolo that can be had now or aged,” says Helen Johannesen, director of operations/beverage director at Animal in Los Angeles. “Its rich and welcoming nose, coupled with beautiful linear lines on the palate, are perfect for snuggling up by a fire or drinking with friends. It is an elegant gift that is perfect for this time of year.”


Bottle: Bergström 2011 Cumberland Reserve Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley), $40


“This is a medium-bodied wine, with notes of black cherries, cloves and cinnamon spices, macerated raspberries, all supported by a well-structured frame,” says Alpana Singh, master sommelier and proprietor at The Boarding House in Chicago. “Any wine enthusiast would be pleased to find this in their ‘wine stocking.’ ”


Bottle: Borgo del Tiglio 2010 Studio di Bianco (Collio), $98


“This bottling, made from Friulano, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc vines grown on steep slopes along the Italian-Slovenian border, is one of the estate’s brightest and also longest-aging, and it will grow more nuanced and layered with time,” says Jordan Salcito, beverage director at Momofuku in New York City. “Plus, it’s off the beaten path and likely to stun your recipient with something new for their cellar.”


Bottle: Quinta do Vesúvio 2011 Vintage Port, $75


Friends receiving wine as gifts never open them when they should. It’s usually on a visit many years later, when you find that bottle and say ‘you should have opened this five years ago,’” says Nelson Daquip, sommelier at Canlis in Seattle. “So, I went with a wine that will withstand the test of time and guilt of being opened too soon.”


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