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Beaujolais

The word Beaujolais can evoke a whole range of thoughts and associations: Thanksgiving, Nouveau, Gamay. The latter is the only grape used in this esteemed wine-making region of France, while the former is widely regarded as the season to consume said wine. Caught in between is a word that might make devout wine drinkers cringe, especially those who prefer the finesse of old-world, terroir driven wines, but there is an occasion for everything. Beaujolais is a small (we’re talking less than 40 miles long and less than 10 wide) area that is due south of the famous Burgundy region, and [...]

By | 2019-05-14T19:32:42+00:00 May 14th, 2019|

Italian Wine Labels by the Alphabet

DOC and DOCG Italy’s law of Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) regulates the production and labeling of a significant share of Italian wine. The law intends to give purchasers of a DOC wine a reasonable expectation that a wine labeled as, say, Barbera d’Alba will be both a Barbera d’Alba in fact and in style. That is, it will look, smell, taste, feel and age like a Barbera d’Alba—because it is. The words Denominazione di Origine Controllata roughly translate as “the name [of a wine] is governed [or set] by its place of origin.” The underlying idea of DOC is [...]

By | 2019-05-14T14:41:39+00:00 May 14th, 2019|

Margaux

Margaux has the distinction, among the Médoc’s six winemaking communes, of being both the largest in area and diverse in style. It alone sports estates at all five levels of the 1855 classification of Bordeaux wines. Too, the soil is the poorest of the Médoc; the amount of gravel, the highest; the climate, the warmest; and the yield per acre, the lowest. The 4th century Latin poet, Ausonius, while in residence across the Gironde from this area, wrote of the Gallo-Roman thermal baths here, the termes mauojaliques, also known as “Marojallia.” Hence, over time, the name “Margaux.” While unquestionably a [...]

By | 2019-05-14T14:41:30+00:00 May 14th, 2019|

Pinot Noir

La bête noire As a wine grape, Pinot Noir is the bête noire of its family, Les Pinots—Blanc, Meunier, Gris and Noir. Pinot Blanc makes respectable wines from Alsace and Northern Italy; Pinot Gris, from the same places. Pinot Meunier is a mainstay in Champagne. But while Pinot Noir grows more widely, it does so much more unsteadily. In a sense, it is the Mae West of the famille Pinot. When it's good, it's very, very good. But when it's bad, it's as bad as bad gets. Pinot Noir mutates capriciously (over 230 strains exist, some polar opposites). It benefits [...]

By | 2019-02-04T17:45:09+00:00 February 4th, 2019|

Wine & Cheese Pairings (Mad about ewe – and cow and nanny, too)

Perhaps the ultimate match of food with beverage is wine and cheese. They’re nearly twins. Both date to ancient times. Both are fermented. Both are governed, all over the world, by appellation and quality standards. And, most important, each reflects the place where it is born, its terroir. One translates its terroir via a vine. The udder, by an udder. Matching cheese with wine is the same as matching any food with wine. Matches work – or don’t – because of what’s in the wine and in the cheese, things such as acidity or fat. Region Many people follow the [...]

By | 2019-02-04T17:41:47+00:00 February 4th, 2019|

Riesling

Every wine professional, always and everywhere, adores Riesling. (It is possible to make such a claim because it is true.) So why doesn’t everyone else? In fact, so why do so few others? The World’s Greatest White Wine Winemakers, wine writers, cooks high and low, serious amateurs—people in the know about what makes a grape great—cannot slurp enough of Riesling’s purity of delivery, its juicy flavors or super-taut acidity, the latter quality its best feature at table. Dry, sweet, German, Australian, Austrian, it does not matter—many call Riesling the world’s greatest white wine. But certainly not the world’s most popular—that [...]

By | 2019-01-27T00:06:00+00:00 January 27th, 2019|

Merlot

In this country, the role that Chardonnay plays for white wine, Merlot plays for red. That is, it’s what’s asked for first. And it isn’t merely because Merlot is easier to pronounce than Cabernet Sauvignon—the wine not so long ago unseated by Merlot as America’s most commonly requested red. It’s because Merlot is just so appealing—plush, round, low in tannin, loaded with juicy tastes of black cherry, chocolate, ripe plums and licorice (or, if from Bordeaux, even an acceptable turn on the flavors of fruitcake). Merlot is the “wine without tears,” while, contrariwise, it often may seem that Cabernet Sauvignon [...]

By | 2019-01-27T00:04:08+00:00 January 27th, 2019|

Nebbiolo

Not only do Italian grape varieties frequently make for some of the world’s tastiest wines, but they also have some of the coolest names. Sangiovese, for example, comes from the Latin words sanguis Jovis, “the blood of Jove (Zeus).” Not at all a bad name for a red grape. The name Nebbiolo is thought to derive from the Italian word nebbia or “fog.” In the Langhe, a hilly area in Italy’s Piedmont, milk-white mists and vapors settle into the valleys during harvest time—hence, the name (made even more endearing because the diminutive suffix “-olo” makes Nebbiolo mean “little fog.”) Not [...]

By | 2019-01-27T00:02:23+00:00 January 27th, 2019|

How to Read a Wine Label

Trumping whatever esthetic value that a wine label may have, its main function is to impart information to the consumer. As such, both the bottler (or producer, winery or winemaker), as well as the legal authority where the wine is sold, have an interest in shaping that information. For their part, the people who put the wine in the bottle want the consumer to buy it. Consequently, wine labels may contain visually attractive or eye-catching graphics or art; descriptions of how the wine tastes, how it was made, or what foods it best accompanies; technical information (pH or acidity level, [...]

By | 2019-01-27T00:00:04+00:00 January 27th, 2019|

Chenin Blanc

We’ve all sipped some Chenin Blanc in our day— fine Chenin Blanc such as dry Vouvray, if we were smart, or all that California “chablis” that we may have swilled in the ‘70s and ‘80s, if we weren’t. No other white wine grape exists that, simultaneously grown in separate parts of the world, can make a ravishingly electric wine like the Loire’s Savennières, as well as the blandest, most lifeless South African Steen, in flavor only one wee step beyond water. Because it is a true workaday grape and, with even a modicum of skill in the winery, makes an [...]

By | 2019-01-26T23:58:06+00:00 January 26th, 2019|