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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|

Cabernet Sauvignon

Like Chardonnay—but far more dependably—you’ll find Cabernet Sauvignon nearly everywhere wine grapes grow. Because it can. Stick some Cabernet Sauvignon wood in the ground and out pop leaves—in Bordeaux, famously; in California and Italy, famously and infamously; and in Washington State, Australia, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Spain, even Uruguay and Mexico. (And many other places, too.) What Cabernet Likes About the only thing that Cabernet Sauvignon needs is warmth. Too cool a soil or climate and the wines it makes are vegetal-tasting and green, with flavors such as bell pepper or asparagus. (Too warm, and it comes off jammy and [...]

By | 2019-01-27T00:08:45+00:00 January 26th, 2019|

Cabernet Franc

One night, many hundreds of years ago, the grapevines cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc nuzzled up to each other, somewhere in the Bordeaux region of France, and made a baby. They took the first halves of each of their names and called the kid “cabernet sauvignon.” As with so many children, cabernet sauvignon has mightily outshone its parents. It is the most sought-after red wine grape on the globe and, unlike either of its parents, is planted in nearly every country that grows grapes into wine. It ripens later than either of its parents, developing more color, structure and flavor. [...]

By | 2019-01-26T23:52:57+00:00 January 26th, 2019|

LINGUINE SCALLOPS LEMON CREAM

Why do so many cultures dine on fish for dinner on New Year’s Eve? Some say because fish prefigure prosperity (their scales resemble coins and they travel in multitudes called schools); also that they swim only in a forward direction. Scallops and caviar aren’t fish like that, although one is countless and the other resembles a stack of coins. So, at this year’s end, go for the gold with this elegant preparation. Any number of dry, off-dry or sparkling white wines, crisp with acidity and refreshing in character, would do nicely with this preparation’s elements of fat, salt and acidity. [...]

By | 2019-01-08T15:52:55+00:00 January 8th, 2019|

GARLICKY CRAB WITH PASTA

Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve dinners tend to be deluxe, even sumptuous affairs. This crab-and-pasta preparation fits the bill. It would seem fitting to pair such fare with wines equally rich and opulent. But nuanced, aged reds or buttery, oaky whites also overplay and tire the palate. Sometimes simple and clean is better, as a yin to the (in this case) crab’s yang. And the unique white from the south of France is the perfect, humble “background” wine to let the dish shine. Garlicky crab with pasta Add 2 pounds king crab legs to a stockpot of salted boiling [...]

By | 2019-01-08T15:46:36+00:00 January 8th, 2019|

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc does one thing overwhelmingly well—it stands out in a crowd. Of all the world’s wines, there’s no mistaking a pure Sauvignon Blanc [SOH-vee-nyawn BLAHNGK] for any other wine (unless, sadly, as some winemakers now make it, in imitation of an oaky Chardonnay). What It’s Like = Where It’s Grown Sauvignon Blanc from a cool climate—its most classic rendition—is possessed of a notably acidic edge and the memorably piercing aroma of one or more of these: gooseberries (admittedly, not something with which most Americans are familiar), grapefruit rind, lime zest, fresh-cut green bell peppers or passion fruit. Riper Sauvignon [...]

By | 2018-11-29T21:33:26+00:00 November 29th, 2018|

Chardonnay

Chardonnay is easily the most ubiquitous fine wine grape grown on the globe. Wherever wine drinkers go, Chardonnay wine was there before them. (Except in Bordeaux, where both the law and local vainglory consign its wine to the shops.) Chardonnay is everywhere for two reasons: it is relatively easy to raise, and, of itself, is fairly neutral—a perfect canvas on which to paint depth and variety of flavor. Terroir Like Pinot Noir, its red counterpart (and father), Chardonnay reflects its terroir. In cooler climates, its wine is lean, crisp and high in acidity. In warmer places, Chardonnay gives up [...]

By | 2018-11-29T21:26:22+00:00 November 29th, 2018|