Monthly Archives: March 2011

The Top 10 Misconceptions About Wine

I did a presentation for a large corporate group last night and had some surprisingly questions/comments that I have compiled below in what I feel are the most common misconceptions about wine.  Feel free to add your own or expand on mine!

10. Fruity = Sweet
A lot of time we describe a wine as ‘fruity’ or ‘fruit-forward’ and the immediate response is ‘I don’t like sweet wines.’ Fruity doesn’t necessarily mean sweet.  For example, an Australian Shiraz has very fruity flavors of berry and plum which cause a smoother texture in the wine but still has low residual sugar (the stuff that causes the sweetness).  In contrast, Sauternes, which is a French dessert wine very high in residual sugar, ranks low on the ‘fruity’ scale.  It has more of a crème-Brule taste than any type of fruit.

9.  Your White is Too Cold!
Most people drink white wines at what we call ‘refrigerator’ temperature (between 35 and 38 degrees F), whites are drunk ideally at 45 degrees.  If a white is too cold it will lose a lot of its flavors and complexity.  Actually, when we open a white that isn’t so good we’ll chill it down more so it reduces the flavors we don’t like!

8.  Your Red is Too Hot!
In contrast to the white problem, most consume their reds at room temperature which depending where you live and what temp you keep your house can be anywhere between 65 and 80 degrees.  Hotter temperatures also reduce the flavors in red wines, and increase the appearance of alcohol.  Making your reds seem a lot more potent than they are!  Ideal drinking temps for reds is between 60 and 65 degrees.

7.  The Sulfites in Red Cause My Headaches
I won’t get started on this, and most readers/customers already know how I feel about this claim.  Read here for full disclosure.  Just two points.  1.   Sulfites are naturally present in ALL wines (red and white).  2. Less than 1% of the world population is allergic to sulfites (about 1 out of every 100,000 people).

6.  You Can Use Any Wine for Cooking
Would you use outdated milk in your brownies?  How about bad beef in your meatballs?  Then why would you use an old bottle of wine to cook with?  Don’t ruin your five star dish with a one star bottle of wine.  Dishes reflect the ingredients you put into it, if you use poor (or very very cheap) the dish will reflect that selection.

5.  You Have to Drink All Whites Young
Most white wines are meant to be enjoyed in their youth, however there are some whites (Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc) made in certain regions that can age and our meant to.  Some whites don’t even reach their potential into at least five years in!

4.  You Should Decant (Or “Vinturi”) all Wines
In my opinion that white wine Vinturi is one of the worst wine inventions.  Not all wines need to be decanted or aerated (using a Vinturi or Soiree).  All three devices mimic aging, basically exposing as much oxygen to the wine as possible to smooth out the tannins and enhance the aromas.  Wines that are meant to age need this process in their youth.  But those New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs and lighter Pinot Noirs don’t need those devices.  Unless you just need to use it for show.

3.  The More Expensive the Wine, the Better it is
Not necessarily true.  The price of a wine is tied to many different things – supply and demand, import/export taxes, cost of material to make the wine and transport it, ‘premium’ fees associated with celebrity winemakers, vineyards and high ratings – quality is just one of those items.  However, in general a high quality wine usually has a high demand, uses more premium materials during and post production and is made by an in demand winemaker or from an in demand vineyard.  The most important part is that you like it.  If it costs you $100 and you are in love with the bottle, it is worth every dime.  But if you are one of the lucky few that fell in love with a $20, cheers!

2.  Red Wine is made from Red Grapes, White are White
Wine gets its pigmentation from the skins of the grapes.  White wines are aged without skins giving a clear (yellow/white) color, reds are aged with the skins on which cause the darker red/garnet color.  Rose, actually is typically made with red grapes.  The winemakers ferment the wine with the skins for a temporary period of time (anywhere from 2 hours to 2 days) to achieve the color in the wine they want.

1.  Winemakers Add Flavors to their Wines
Wine has a pretty simple list of ingredients:  grape juice, water, sugar, alcohol.  That’s it.  The flavors and aromas you experience and hear about in wine are from compounds called esters create the aromas that you experience.  A lot of the aroma and flavor also has to do with memories we have associated to specific flavors we’ve experienced.  One person may experience plum, while another finds dark cherry.  Neither are wrong, they have both just formed different sensory memories around those two descriptions.

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What We’re Drinking

I just thought I’d through together a little post about what have been our favorite wines (and grapes) as of late.

Alban Viognier
If Al has brought this white home ten times over the last month, that is an understatement.  Although admittantly I am getting a little sick of seeing the bottle, I’m never sick of the flavors.  This Viognier is full bodied with flavors of lightly oaked peach.  This wine is made in the Central Coast of California, which is up and coming for unique varietals on both the white and red side.
$29

Michel Ogier Cote Rotie
Both Al and I have been on a Rhone drinking spree lately (see his blog article about this wine here).What I like about Cote Rotie, and this wine in particular, is its ability to change over time.  Not only years of storage but over the course of the night.  The Ogier may be one wine when first opened – restrained, big and tannic; develop into a second later into the night – forward fruit with a spicy finish; and even a third the next day – perfectly balance of white pepper, dark cherries and tannin on the finish.  Not many wines can claim three personalities, but this one can.
$120, sale $78

Jacuzzi Barbera
It’s been a busy season in Naples, which means a lot of pizza and grilled cheese nights for us.  And even though we have the pick of the litter when it comes to wine, I don’t always want to open up one of our premium selections for my slice of mushroom pizza (not the best wine pairing in the world).  I have relied on this great value for those nights.  Barbera is mainly know for the Italian wines from the northern Piedmont region that display high acidity and light fruit.  A different style, Jacuzzi Vineyards is located in the Carneros area of California, a slightly warmer growing region that is displayed in the wine itself.  Full fruit with lower acidity and flavors of raspberry and black cherry.
$15

 

Drink Wine, Stay Skinny

Two more studies have recently emerged that prove what we all have hoped for…drinking wine keeps you skinny!  Well not exactly, but it is definitely a better option than our other alcohol choices.

According to a recent issue of Wine Spectator, an new online publish by the British Medical Journal found that drinking white wine with a meal slowed digestion of individuals and was a better choice than black tea.  The study was held at the University Hospital of Zurich, where individuals where asked to eat a heavy Swiss meal first with white wine then with black tea.   The study found that digestion was significantly slower – and better – with the pairing of white wine.

The Swiss study also found that when alcohol is paired with meals, individuals tend to eat less.  This is in line with another study – the SUN project – a long term study conducted at the University of Navarra in Spain.  This experiment has followed 9,300 individuals over the course of six years and observed their drinking habits.  They believe that there is no association to wine consumption and weight gain.  Actually the study finds that while wine drinkers maintain their weight from year to year, beer and liquor drinkers actually gain about 4 ounces every year.

So cheers to us, and drink up!

What the Hell is Cote-Rotie

Michel Ogier Cote-Rotie, 2007

I’ve been on a Rhone buying (drinking) spree the past few months.  2007 Rhone vintage was questionably the best ever.  The Ogier Cote-Rotie is no exception.

  I knew very litte about Cote-Rotie until a few weeks ago we had a 1982 Cote Rotie; it tasted similar to  if I decided to chew on my Gucci loafers.  Cote-Rotie is in Northern Rhone, a wine of extremes…slopes, le mistral (wind for you Jersey people), blood/sweat/tears.  The Ogier has a great aroma of dark red fruit and white/black pepper.  It follows through similar on the palate balanced throughout…front, mid and finish.  This wine is 100% Syrah but by law they can have up to 20% Viognier.  This wine will be drinking excellent in 4 years but last for decades.  The bottle we opened at 11am today will be better tomorrow night at 11pm.  With a proper cut of beef this wine would have a flavor explosion in your mouth. 

You are missing out if you have not tried one of these wines.  We “stole” the last 10 cases in Florida at a substantial discount. Regular price $135/bottle, currently $65/bottle by the case (52% discount). Recently reviewed by Parker at 94 points.

Recap of the Century Club Tasting

Last night myself and forty-plus other individuals entered our journey into The Wine Century Club.  (For more on The Wine Century Club and our tasting series, click here.) Twenty-five wines and twenty-six grape varietals later we had all discovered a lot of new aspects of wine, and something we all loved that we hadn’t even known existed prior to the night.  Here are a selections of the favorites from the night.

Robert Foley’s Pinot Blanc, $30
Foley is no stranger to ‘unique’ varietals, he regularly works with grapes that most winemakers don’t go near.  His Pinot Blanc is no different.  Dry and crisp, fermented entirely in stainless steel with no malolactic fermentation (creates buttery taste) this Pinot Blanc has the classic flavors of citrus fruit and floral flavors.

Pinot Blanc is a mutual of the Pinot Noir grape, found most commonly in Germany where it can be made in either a dry or sweet style.  The grape can also be found in Austria, Alsace, Italy and Hungary where the dry style dominants

Owen Roe’s Abbot’s Table, $29
Speaking of winemakers going their own way….Dave O’Reilly is a the forefront.  Working with off the wall grapes for the United States such as Blaufrankish and Counise.  This blend includes everything but the kitchen sink – in a good way.  Zinfandel dominates the wine to give it structure, a smooth mouth feel and flavors of plum and dark cherries.  Many Prisoner fans found their new favorite in this wine.

Blend:  24% Zinfandel, 22% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Syrah, 10% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 6% Blaufrankish, 4% Malbec.  Blaufrankish, the most obscure of the grapes, is grown in many regions across Europe including Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Hungary (where it is known as Kekfrankos).  It is a thick-skinned, late ripening grape that can add tannin and spice to any wine with typical flavors of dark cherry.

The full list
For those interested, below is a full list of the wines (and grapes) tasted last night.

  1. Arneis:  Ascheri Langhe
  2. Barbera:  Ascheri Barbera d’Alba
  3. Blaufrankish:  Owen Roe Abbot’s Table
  4. Cabernet Franc:  Clarendelle Bordeaux Rouge, Owen Roe Abbot’s Table
  5. Cabernet Sauvignon:  Saddlerock Ranch, Clarendelle Bordeaux Rouge, Uppercut, Lapostolle Borobo, Orin Swift The Prisoner, Ch. Merville St. Estephe, Brancaia Tre, Brancaia IL Blu, Owen Roe Abbot’s Table
  6. Carmenere:  Lapostolle Borobo
  7. Charbono:  Orin Swift The Prisoner
  8. Chardonnay:  Saddlerock Ranch
  9. Corvina:  Brigaldara Amarone Classico
  10. Corvinone:   Brigaldara Amarone Classico
  11. Counoise:  Owen Roe Sinister Hand
  12. Grenache:  Orin Swift The Prisoner, Owen Roe Sinister Hand
  13. Malbec:  Orin Swift The Prisoner, Owen Roe Abbot’s Table
  14. Merlot:  Saddlerock Ranch, Switchback Ridge, Clarendelle Bordeaux Rouge, Brancaia Tre, Brancais IL Blu
  15. Mourvedre:  Owen Roe Sinister Hand
  16. Nebbiolo:  Ascheri Nebbiolo d’Alba, Ascheri Barolo
  17. Petite Sirah:  Orin Swift The Prisoner, Orin Swift Saldo
  18. Petit Verdot:  Lapostolle Borobo
  19. Pinot Blanc:  Robert Foley
  20. Pinot Noir:  Saddlerock Ranch, Lapostolle Borobo
  21. Rondinella:   Brigaldara Amarone Classico
  22. Sangiovese:  Brancaia Chianti Classico, Brancaia Tre, Brancaia IL Blu, Owen Roe Abbot’s Table
  23. Sauvignon Blanc:  Clark Claudon Wild Iris, Pomelo
  24. Syrah:  Lapostolle Borobo, Orin Swift The Prisoner, Owen Roe Abbot’s Table, Owen Roe Sinister Hand
  25. Viognier:  Alban Central Coast
  26. Zinfandel:  Orin Swift The Prisoner, Orin Swift Saldo, Owen Roe Abbot’s Table

The next Century Club tasting will be held at Decanted the third week of May, and will once again explore (at least) 25 different wines and 25 different grapes.

What’s The Next Big Thing in Wine?

What’s The Next Big Thing in Wine?

I recently read this article written by Mike Veseth from the Wine Economist.  As a wine professional (and marketer) at heart, I am always looking for TNBT (the next big thing as Mike describes) or the next big trend.

Mike offers a couple interesting options for the next trend in wine:  Torrontes and Moscato to replace White Zinfandel.  While I feel that White Zin doesn’t even belong in the same category as the other two varietals, I do see them replacing the White Zin for its particular market.

Here are some other observations on the trends in the wine market…

White Zin Drinkers: Moscato and Riesling.  Both wines deliver a similar residual sugar as Zinfandel’s even twin but with a bit more complexity.  Challenge, with these wines quality is reflected in price.  It is much harder to get a quality Moscato for $5.99.

White Drinkers: German varieties and Pinot Gris.  We’ve seen a climb in popularity of German wine varieties such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer along with Pinot Gris made in an Alsacean style.  The mis-nomer of these wines being flabby and sweet is being negated with higher quality products entering the market.

Red Drinkers: Interesting blends.  I’m not just talking your traditional Cabernet & Merlot blend, but people are experimenting with blends that include grapes such as Charbono, Carmenere and for the less adventurous Zinfandel and Malbec.  Just look to the success of Orin Swift (The Prisoner) who is a winery that is known to throw their drinkers for a loop with what they include.

James Beard Final Nominees, New Decanted Blogger

James Beard Announces Final 2011 Nominees

The James Beard Foundation has released their final nominees for the 2011 awards.  The “Oscars” of the food and beverage industry, the James Beard award is the most prestigious award an individual in this industry can receive.  We’d like to go ahead and congratulate some of our favorite individuals & groups in the industry just for the nomination….

  • Vetri, Philadelphia, PA; Outstanding Restaurant Nominee
  • Per Se, New York, NY; Outstanding Service Nominee
  • Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head; Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional Nominee
  • Merry Edwards, Merry Edwards; Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional Nominee
  • Wylie Dufresne, wd-50; Best Chef: NYC Nominee
  • Ryan Hardy, Montagna at the Little Nell (Aspen, CO); Best Chef: Southwest Nominee (we’re pulling for our second home here!!!!)

And of course congratulations to Kevin Zraly, winner of the 2011 James Beard Lifetime Achievement award.  Much deserved, Mr. Zraly has made arguably the biggest impact on wine education to date.

To view the full list of nominees, click here.


Decanted Welcomes New Blogger

We are excited to welcome our co-owner & wine buyer for Decanted, Al Fialkovich, to our ever growing blog!  Al will be keeping a micro-blog, “Big Al’s Wine Blog,” to keep us all up to date on what he’s tasting and what’s new and exciting in the world of wine as it applies to our store.  This blog will be slightly uncensored with brutally honest reviews…but for those who know Al personally, know that this is the only way we’ll be able to keep him interested!

Big Al’s Wine Blog posts will be published to the regular Decanted blog and can also be found here.  And to follow Al on Twitter, click here!

Congress & Florida Attack Direct Shipping…Again.

Yet another bill has been introduced to U.S. Congress that will limit direct shipments of wine, House Resolution 1161 resumes the battle that H.R. 5034 fought last year (and lost).  Introduced by Republican Jason Chaffetz, Utah (go figure) this year’s version of the CARE (Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act) fights to ensure state governments regulate control of alcohol and protect them from costly litigation challenging their laws governing direct to consumer shipments (basically provide immunity from the series of Supreme Court cases that have recently opened states like New York, Michigan and Florida to direct to consumer shipping).

Other sponsors of the bill include: Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.), Rep. John Conyers (D.-Mich.), Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fl.), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.), Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fl.) and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fl.).  Last year, although H.R. 5034 was sponsored by 153 representatives, it never was voted on the House floor and no similar bills have been introduced in the Senate.

The most concerning part of this bill is the fact that it is being introduced again.  Alcohol wholesalers are obviously not willing to let the concept of direct shipping to consumers die, and it looks like we have a long fight against them.  According to Wine Spectator…

Since 2005, the year of the Granholm decision, the nine sponsors of H.R. 1161 have accepted $185,000 from the NBWA (National Beer Wholesales Association) and $73,073 from the WSWA (Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America). In 2010 alone, the NBWA gave these congresspersons $47,500 and the WSWA, $35,499, or $82,999 total. Chaffetz received $6,000 last year from the WSWA and $5,000 from the NBWA.

Despite the seemingly government support, there are secs within the House that fully support consumers rights Congressman Mike Thompson (D-Calif) told Wine Spectator, “The federal government has no business picking winners and losers in the wine, beer and distilled spirits industry. Yet the Act would do just that by banning the direct shipment of wine and other forms of alcohol in the U.S. The impact of this bill would be devastating for brewers, vintners, distillers, importers and consumers across our country.”

I guess for now, we’ll just have to wait and see where this bill goes and how many supporters the House is able to gain.

To voice your opposition to this bill, please visit Freethegrapes.org; a comprehensive site dedicated to fighting for consumer rights by thoroughly informing us of minute by minute changes to direct shipping laws.


Florida Senate Bill Introduced to Overturn Direct Shipping into the State

With the strong influence of alcohol wholesalers in the state, its no surprise that Florida is not taking the direct shipping issue laying down.  Since 2006, Florida consumers have enjoyed shipments from wineries into the state from across the country.  Likewise, Florida wineries like Naples Winery and Eden Winery in Fort Myers, have been able to ship their products to out of state consumers.

Although still in the beginning stages, this state bill is closer than any other has been before…with similar bills both in the state House and Senate and strong backing by the wholesalers within Florida.

According to freethegrapes.org, “The bills would limit shipments to wineries that produce less than 250,000 gallons, excluding 90% of US wine from direct sales to Floridians. They would impose a shipping limit per household, rather than per consumer, which would be impossible for wineries to conform to. And finally, theywould require wineries to provide a written “warning” to their wholesaler representatives one year in advance of any direct shipments. In summary, the bills aim to overturn direct shipping in Florida.”

To all Florida residents who enjoy getting shipments from the California and other wineries across the country, please  visit this site and voice your opinion.

Winery Feature – Klinker Brick

Klinker Brick WineryWhen someone says ‘old vines’ in California, you might immediately recall the 60’s when the hippies first invaded Napa County or the 1970’s when California wine first made a name for itself.  But the early 1900’s?  Never in a 110 years would my mind go there.

But that is when the Fleten family settled in the Lodi district and planted their grapes including Zinfandel, Tokay, Carignane, and Alicante.  Since then, the Felten family has kept the winery in the family…currently owned and operated by Steve & Lori Felten (fifth generation winemakers), their team as includes extended relatives Barry Gnekow (winemaker) and Lynne Whyte Bernard (President).

Alluvial FanThe Lodi region of California is located on the edge of the San Joaquin Valley just east of San Francisco.  Although the region didn’t and AVA designation until 1986, the region has been growing grapes since as early as the 1950’s.  The region has a climate very similar to areas along the Mediterranean Sea’s coast with warm days and cool nights.  The region has a great variety of soil contents, although in most cases it contains deep loam and large rocks.  Klinker Brick grows most of their old vine Zinfandel in the sub appellation of the Mokelumner River, which is an area that follows the river from the Sierra Nevadas to the San Joaquin River (the heart of the appellation).  Soil here is deposits of sand and loam in an alluvial fan shape (see an example of an alluvial fan to the right).

Here are some of our favorite selections from Klinker Brick:

2008 Old Vine Zinfandel
From: Mokelumne River, Lodi, California
About (From the Winery): The 2008 vintage produced lower yields than the previous vintage resulting in wines with deep color and rich, explosive fruit. This wine offers aromas of black cherries and fresh strawberries and toasty oak. On the palate, there are layers of dark fruit intermingled with sweet vanilla and spice. This wine has an incredibly smooth and long, lingering finish. Our winemaker believes that it is the best Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel that we have produced to date.
$18

2008 Lodi Farrah Syrah
From:
Lodi, California
About (From the Winery): With aromas of black cherry, cedar shavings with just a hint of tobacco, the 2008 Farrah Syrah is a smooth, beautifully balanced wine with dense layers of spiced plum. The texture is supple and silky and the finish, long and lingering.
$20

Nutritional Labels for Wine – What’s the Big Deal?

Nutritional wine labelIt is not a recent argument, and it is probably one that will not end anytime soon…should the government require wineries to put nutritional labels on their wine?  But the concept has gotten a lot of people up in arms and spurred some pretty lengthy articles and blog posts.

I for one don’t really get the need, but I ask what’s the big deal?  What is everyone afraid of?

Sometimes its good to know what you are putting in your body.  Does wine have calories in it, yes.  Are they terribly high?  No.  I could name thousands of items we drink and eat everyday that have less of a nutritional value then wine.  A glass of wine has about 125 – 150 calories in it.  There are more calories in my Venti Latte with skim milk and two Splenda, that Starbucks must tell me has 170 calories and 23 g of sugar in it.  Does that stop me from spending $200 per month with the little green giant? Unfortunately not.

When it comes down to it wine is one of the most natural products we ingest.  Grapes, water, alcohol, sugar…that’s about it.  No added ingredients, no chemicals we can’t pronounce.  What scares you more, the ingredients and stats on this ‘mock’ wine label created by wineloverspage.com, or this label for a very common product we all use everyday…bread.  Check out the ingredients just on this whole wheat bread (do you know what Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate is?)

Actually on the positive side, maybe sulfites wouldn’t get such a bad rap?  It seems that ever since the government required that little statement ‘contains sulfites’ to wine bottles, the percentage of people with sulfite allegries went from less than 1 percent of the population to over 25 percent of the population.  I know we all think we are special but come on.  If wines had a traditional nutritional label maybe the poor little sulfite wouldn’t get blamed for so much?

So I ask you, the consumer, would nutritional information on a bottle of wine deter you from buying a bottle?  Are alcohol companies simply just assuming their customers are naive to the fact that there is (SHOCK!) alcohol and sugar in wine, beer and liquor?  Or is there really something to be said for just leaving it all a mystery…