Posts tagged wine

How to use Your Holiday Gift Card: Two Great Accessories for Wine Travel

If you’re taking a special bottle of wine to an event this year, you might want to invest in a VinniBag to carry it in your luggage. It’s inflatable and Made in USA!
With this accessory in my wheeled bag, I successfully toted wine on and off Amtrak and around New York City for the day, before arriving at my destination. (Yes, it’s a good idea NOT to juggle wine around very much, but in my case it wasn’t a priceless Bordeaux or Burgundy.)
COST: Around $25 each.
PRO: Cradled wine bottle well and did not leak; great for a really special bottle of wine
CON: Rather large thing to fit into a suitcase

Wineskin is a re-sealable bubble-pack made of durable plastic, and it comes in several colors too. If you’re traveling to a wine region where you just might bring back a bottle or two, tuck a couple Wineskins into your suitcase before you leave. It’s a safer alternative to wrapping a bottle in your dirty laundry on the way back. And it’s smaller and lighter – more of a “just in case” option.
COST: Around $10 for a 2-pack.
PRO: Thin enough to carry with you on just about any trip, and it’s recyclable
CON: Wish it was resealable – and not made in China

Surprises — good — with Pays d’Oc wines at lunch

I was kind of surprised at a luncheon last week to find that a former table-wine area of France has really grown up nicely. Several of the Pays d’Oc IGP wines I sampled were much finer than I had anticipated. This region (mainly in the Languedoc-Roussillon area) is also marketing their wines at a somewhat higher level, too: as more of the Pays d’Oc wines reach the US, they are targeting $10-$14 for many of their “entry level” wines, with some going a few dollars higher. Here are three of the wines that impressed me during our very French meal at Capsouto Freres in New York.

2010 La Forge Estate Sauvignon Blanc. One of the most successful wine and food pairings at this lunch: perfect with the Spinach Souffle. In fact, the pairing made both the food and the wine better. It’s a fairly low alcohol wine by current standards, at 12.5%. Floral and herbal aromas moved into the flavors, which had some sweetness. The palate and body showed more roundness than expected due to a touch of neutral oak. A light but longish finish had a persistent citric note.

2010 Domaine de Larzac Roussanne Chardonnay, surprised me by coming down on the flinty side of chardonnay – more austere than I had expected. Still, there was also some roundness, and the two grapes’ flavors were nicely integrated, and with balanced acidity.

2010 Domaine Gayda “Figure Libre” Cabernet Franc. Paired well with lamb and duck. Aromas of big, dark cherry made you want to put the wine in your mouth right away. A good idea, because the flavors did not turn out to be overly fruity, as might be expected. Structure and tannins were balanced, and there was a nice bite of acidity, too.

The Snail, the Bottle and the Coin: Slow Wine

These symbols are the keys to the new Slow Wine guide – finally published in English this month. For those of you wondering if this is related to Slow Food: yes.
The Snail is the Slow Food International symbol; for Slow Wine it indicates a winery that embodies the Slow Food sensibilities including “sensorial, territorial, environmental and personal values.”
In this guide, the Bottle points to wineries that have consistent high quality throughout their range of wines.
And the Coin, of course, designates wines that are “great values.”
Where can you get the guide? On, of course.

Wine glasses, ancient and modern

For me, it’s fascinating to see a wineglass, a decanter, a wine bottle that sat on a dining table hundreds of years ago. It might be plain and thick and unevenly shaped. It might be thin and delicate and rimmed with gold. At the Corning Museum of Glass in upstate New York, I was fascinated by their elaborate collection of glassware, ranging from ancient through medieval to modern times.

Whether you like to think of yourself as a former king or a former peasant, you’ll be enthralled with this collection. All the more so, because it’s glass, and there are so few glass items in the world that have lasted this long.

Bonus: take a workshop and create your own glass piece. This photo is the interior of the pulled-glass flower I made one afternoon — with plenty of encouragement from a patient teacher at the museum.

Muscadet May in Boston

Actually, I don’t think about Muscadet wine a lot. I’d rather it simply showed up in a glass so I could just drink it. So when I was given a chance to sample several Muscadets with oysters, of course I said yes. The SecondGlass people combined forces with Loire Valley Wines at a lunch in Boston yesterday, at the Island Creek Oyster Bar.

It’s a medium white wine, ranging from somewhat crisp to a bit fruity — elements in common with chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, meaning it can have tropical fruit, honey or grassy aromas. It’s not super-crisp, but has a strain of limestone citricity (is that a word?) running through it at the best of times, which makes it lively on the palate.

A classic pairing is muscadet and oysters – which really works. It was even more fun to have the Island Creek oysters with three choices for the first course, all in the $12-$14 range: 2009 Guy Saget “Les Clissaes d’Or” Muscadet Sèvre et Maine; 2009 Domaine de la Quilla Muscadet Sèvre et Maine; 2010 Domaine de la Louviere Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie.

“Sur lie” means the wine is left on the lees, or the dregs of the yeast cells and other grape particulate matter – which sounds awful but imparts a depth of flavor to the wine. Until now, it was common to leave the wine on the lies for no longer than a few months. Now, there’s a movement to leave the wine there for 17 months, and new regulations have recently been proposed (expect an update in a year or so).

Muscadet, by the way, refers to an appellation, an area of the Loire region. It’s not a grape, but so many more people know the word muscadet and so few people know the name of this wine’s grape (Melon de Bourgogne) that muscadet is now a stand-in name for the grape.

Three more wines were served with bright green pea soup with poached oysters. These, all under $18, were Michel Delhommeau “Cuvée Harmonie” Muscadet Sèvre et Maine; 2009 Domaine de l’Ecu “Expression de Granite” Muscadet Sèvre et Maine; and 2009 Domaine les Hautes Noëlles Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu. The best pairings for me were the first and third wines. The Michel Delhommeau started super-crisp, with the flavor almost disappearing on the palate, then finishing with lingering limestone. The Domaine les Hautes Noëlles had a big body that somehow lightened up with the food. Interesting.

For the final course, we had a few beautiful Scituate scallops with a sprinkling of gnocchi in brown butter sauce. The food was minutes old; the wines were at least a decade old. Most people think of Muscadet as a wine to drink young, but they aren’t all like that. We had three – and all were under $25 – each one a different hue of bright gold: 1995 and 1999 L d’Or de Luneau-Papin “Cuvée Medaillée” Muscadet Sèvre et Maine; and 2000 Domaine du Haut Bourg Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu.

The 2000 Domaine du Haut Bourg was a combination of youth and evolution with a cantaloupe nose, crispness, chalk and limestone throughout. The 1995 was calm and serene, with butter and vanilla-yeast notes, while the 1999 was hearty, reminiscent of wet beaches on the nose, and a big, long finish. Each one brought out different notes in the food.

I guess that means I need to keep trying more Muscadets. It shouldn’t be too difficult. At least in Boston the whole month is Muscadet May.

Amarone from any year? How about 1980!

One of my favorite things about Bertani, the Amarone producer, is that they make available their vintage Amarones from just about any year in the last half-century. Anyone can order one through the distributor, and the prices are in the $$ hundreds, not $$$ thousands – great for celebrating special occasions.

Recently, soft-spoken Bertani winemaker Cristian Ridolfi stopped in Boston for lunch, on his way back to Italy. Bertani produces a total 1.5 million bottles (125,000 cases) of about a dozen different wines all from their own vineyards. They don’t buy and they don’t sell fruit, emphasized export manager Stefano Mangiarotti, who was also at this lunch. But they could easily produce more than twice this amount of wine from their vineyards, if they weren’t so highly selective.

Bertani has not made any major changes in their winemaking since they started producing Amarone in the mid-twentieth century. Ridolfi still dries the grapes for 120 days, not just the required 90. He is convinced that this is what accounts for the longevity of the Bertani Amarone wines. Incidentally, he has also found that the anti-ageing compound resveratrol doubles in these grapes in the 120 days.

He is doing one bit of experimentation, this with the large wooden casks the Amarone matures in for six years. The winery is in trials with chestnut, acacia, and possibly more cherry wood, all sourced locally.

Ridolfi brought several Bertani wines, and several vintages of Amarone della Valpolicella DOC: 2003, 1998, 1980 and 1967. His favorite, he admitted was the 1967. Mine was the 1980. Bursting with life, this 30-year-old wine had huge fruit aromas. It actually smelled young. There was some minerality, a hint of bitterness to show that there was some structure here. The wine’s fruit flavors were well developed, continuing with prune and plum into the finish. Later, I found fresh herbs and a bit of eucalyptus coming out. Suggested retail price is $230.

The most astounding thing happened at the end of the meal. We had just finished our espressos when someone called for a toast. After raising a glass, a sip from it is required, so I did. And this wine from 1980 flashed out its flavors, firm with fruit, even after the coffee. I was impressed.