Red Wine… White Wine… Orange Wine… Blue Wine…

bluewineWhen it comes to wine, I’m a bit of a traditionalist. I like mine to be red, purple, golden or salmon in hue. That pretty much covers most good red wines, white wines, sparkling wines and rosé wines.

So what’s the deal with these other colors that are finding their way onto supermarket shelves?

Let’s start with orange wine, which is not made from oranges, but rather from white grapes that are crushed, moved into a large vessel, and then left to ferment with very little to no intervention. It’s a natural process that many have embraced, but the resulting wines are an acquired taste — typically quite sour.

Then there’s blue wine, which is a blend of red and white grapes from Spain and France, to which indigo dye and anthocyanin (a grape skin pigment) is added. It’s sweet, meant to be consumed well chilled, and is somewhat reminiscent of Moscato — although the color may fool your taste buds into thinking it tastes more like concord grape or grape Kool-Aid.

Orange wine and blue wine would not be made if they did not have a market, which brings up a logical question: What will be the next big thing in wine? Which color will be next?

Honestly, I have no idea. But as a parent and a grandparent who has watched trends come and go more than a few times in the wine business, my best guess is: something that the parents of the next generation of wine drinkers is not drinking.

Kids may respect their parents, but they almost always gravitate to different types of food and different types of beverages. There are people far smarter than I who are hard at work trying to figure out what kind of wine the next generation will want to drink.

bluewineI’m just hoping it isn’t green-colored.

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Posted in Wine in the Glass

Does Your Taste in Coffee Dictate Your Taste in Wine?

coffeeNot to brag, but I believe I am uniquely qualified to tackle this particular topic.

I often start my work day at our neighborhood Starbucks coffee shop, where I typically order the featured dark roast with just a little bit of room, to which I add a splash of half-and-half. And, since I’m a long-time Starbucks gold card holder, I almost always go back for a free refill as I do my morning writing, which then gets sent to designated recipients with an assist from Starbucks’ complimentary WiFi service.

Since last I wrote about the coffee-and-wine connection, I’ve noticed that the two beverages are sharing an increasingly common language — especially when it comes to higher-end coffees and wines.

Since I’m a dark roast guy, I often try new coffees as they find their way to Starbucks shops or the company’s website. More and more, reading the description of a specific type of coffee is much like reading the description of a specific bottle of wine. Even terms like “Reserve” have found their way into coffee’s lexicon.

Case in point: Starbucks’ Reserve Panama Carmen Estate. Not only is the coffee designated as a “Reserve,” a term inferring higher quality, but its specific place of origin — the Carmen Estate in Panama — is noted.

Even the “story” of the coffee that Starbucks shares sounds much like one of our Vinesse wine tasting notes:

“For the first time, we have the opportunity to bring you an offering from Panama’s acclaimed Carmen Estate — a family-owned business that produces some of the world’s best specialty coffees. For three generations, the Franceschi family has taken great pride in selectively picking only the ripest, bright red coffee cherries at their absolute peak of flavor.”

If that makes you want to know even more about the coffee, Starbucks is happy to oblige: “The coffee is nurtured and milled in the Volcan Valley. This mountainous micro-region, on the narrow isthmus between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, offers rich, loamy volcanic soil. Cool, frost-free nights give way to dry, sun-drenched days, creating ideal conditions for growing the quintessential Panamanian coffee: a bright, lemony acidity in the cup with a nutty sweetness.”

“Bright, lemony acidity” is exactly the kind of description you’ll find for many Sauvignon Blanc wines.

“Nutty sweetness” is a common description of Cream Sherry and some Port wines.

Starbucks described its Reserve Brazil Fazenda Apucarana as having “subtle sweet berry aromas with flavor notes of raisin and chocolate.” That sounds like a zesty California (red) Zinfandel to me.

Generally speaking, people who like lighter coffees will gravitate to lighter wines. Those who prefer bold dark roast coffees will like bold wines (usually reds). And those who prefer sweet coffee drinks like the Starbucks caramel macchiato or a flavored latte will gravitate toward sweeter, dessert-style wines.

The more types of coffee you like, the more types of wine you’ll like. Keep an open mind… and an open palate… and you’ll open yourself up to many new and delicious vinous experiences.

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Posted in Wine Buzz

Pairing Wine With Australia’s Iconic Meat Pies

meatpieIf you’re like me, some of your most vivid memories of vacations revolve around food. When I traveled to Australia, for instance, I enjoyed several meals built around fresh seafood, and a couple involving Australian meat pies.

What, exactly, is an Australian meat pie? Quite simply, it’s a pie with meat inside. And it can make a tasty companion to wine — especially vino from the land Down Under.

The most famous purveyor of this Aussie tradition is Harry’s Cafe de Wheels. The outpost I visited sits just steps from the wharf in the Sydney neighborhood of Woolloomooloo. Sydney’s “Hopper” tour buses have a stop nearby, enabling tourists to join the locals in chowing down on this tasty treat.

Harry’s offers an array of filled pies. There were three or four selections available when I visited, but the menu has since been expanded and includes:

* Harry’s Tiger — Named after founder Harry “Tiger” Edwards, a chunky lean beef pie served with mushy peas, mash and gravy. Wine suggestion: Vinho Verde.

* Pie & Mash — Chunky lean beef pie with buttered mash potato. Wine suggestion: Merlot.

* Chicken & Mushroom Pie — Chunks of chicken meat cooked with fresh mushrooms and cream. Wine suggestion: Chardonnay.

* Seafood Pie — White fish, whole prawns, scallops and salmon cooked in a creamy and cheese sauce. Wine suggestion: Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, or Sem-Chard.

* Curry Chicken Pie — Tender chunks of chicken meat in a spicy curry. Wine suggestion: Gewurztraminer or an “unoaked” Chardonnay.

* Beef Pie — Tender chunks of topside beef in a rich, peppery gravy. Wine suggestion: Shiraz (a.k.a. Syrah).

* Pie & Peas — Chunky lean beef pie served with mushy peas, with or without sauce. Wine suggestion: Cabernet Sauvignon.

* Lean Beef and Curry Pie — Chunky lean beef pie with authentic Indian curry. Wine suggestion: Grenache or Zinfandel.

* Beef, Cheese & Bacon Pie — Chunky lean beef pie with fresh bacon and cheese, both cooked in and melted on top. Wine suggestion: Malbec.

* Veggie Pie — Fresh vegetables in a cheese sauce. Wine suggestion: Sauvignon Blanc.

* Beef & Mushroom Pie — Tender topside beef with rich gravy and mushrooms. Wine suggestion: Pinot Noir.

The Australian meat pie may be round, the shape of a half-circle or even square. But regardless of the shape, it’s intended to be hand-held and consumed without utensils.

That leaves the other hand free for holding a glass of Australian wine.

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Posted in Wine Region Profiles

The Most Expensive Wine in the World

winepourThere are two types of wine collectors:

  • Those who stock up on what are perceived as the world’s finest wines for their own future enjoyment (and perhaps to impress their friends and associates with a well-stocked cellar).
  • Those who buy wine as an investment — to sell at a future date for a significant profit, often to people who fall into the first category.

Price, of course, is not the sole arbiter of quality, but it is a legitimate starting point. If people are willing to pay an ultra-premium price for something, whether it’s wine or a car or something else, one should be able to expect an escalating level of quality.

Year to year, vintage to vintage, you’ll encounter many of the same names on the “most expensive” wine list. In 2017, according to The Telegraph in England, that list looked like this:

  1. Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – Romanee-Conti Grand Cru – Burgundy, France (average price per bottle: $15,789)
  2. Egon Muller – Scharzhofberger Riesling – Trockenbeerenauslese – Mosel, Germany ($10,956)
  3. Domaine Leroy – Musigny Grand Cru – Cote de Nuits, France ($7,797)
  4. Domaine Leflaive – Montrachet Grand Cru – Cote de Beaune, France ($6,963)
  5. Domaine Georges & Christophe Roumier – Musigny Grand Cru – Cote de Nuits, France ($6,584)
  6. Domaine de la Romanee-Conti – Montrachet Grand Cru – Cote de Beaune, France ($5,591)
  7. Joh. Jos. Prüm – Wehlener Sonnenuhr – Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese – Mosel, Germany ($5,184)
  8. Fritz Haag – Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr – Riesling – Trockenbeerenauslese Goldkapsel – Mosel, Germany ($4,248)
  9. Domaine Leroy – Chambertin Grand Cru – Cote de Nuits, France ($4,246)
  10. Domaine Leroy – Richebourg Grand Cru – Cote de Nuits, France ($3,799)

A few observations…

  • Only two countries are represented on this list: France and Germany. There continues to be a perception, at least among collectors and investors, that the highest-end “Old World” wines have greater value than their “New World” cousins.
  • All seven of the French wines are reds — Pinot Noir, specifically — from the Burgundy appellation.
  • All three of the German wines are whites — Riesling, specifically — and are crafted in a very sweet style.
  • All 10 wines can be aged for years and, in a few cases, decades. That factor increases both their collectability and their value.
  • The list will vary from year to year, depending on weather patterns in various appellations and the marketplace. In previous years, for instance, it was quite common to encounter a significant number of Bordeaux reds on the lists.

You can read more about the wines that made the 2017 Top 10 list here.

And if you know someone who has a bottle of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Grand Cru, tell them I’d be happy to share it with them.

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Are You Ready for National Rosé Day?

RoseEvery year as Thanksgiving approaches, people ask me what kind of wine they should buy to accompany the big feast.

Because there are so many flavors involved — from corn bread stuffing smothered in gravy to sweet potatoes to cranberry sauce to turkey to ham and on and on — a good default choice is always sparkling wine, which typically brings more refreshment than (competing) flavors to the table.

But over the past decade, another option has come to the forefront: rosé-style wines. More and more wineries — both domestic and international — are making dry or slightly sweet rosés out of a wide array of grape varieties.

Pretty much any red variety can be made into a rosé, and virtually all of them make great food pairing partners.

So it’s no surprise that rosé wines now have their own “day.” National Rosé Wine Day will be celebrated on June 11.

Although their marriage ultimately didn’t work out, the rosé created by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie under the Chateau Miraval label helped bring top-of-mind awareness to rosé. The attractive hues of rosés, ranging from light salmon pink to light garnet, also act like a magnet.

And when the weather warms up, nothing can beat a slightly chilled glass of rosé with a breathtaking sunset… or a feast of grilled meats… or a good novel. Talk about versatility.

I’ve already made plans for National Rosé Day. We’re going to open a couple bottles from different producers, slice a selection of cheeses and cold cuts, and propose a toast (or two… or three) to our good fortune.

And if we happen to get a gorgeous sunset as part of the deal, we’ll raise another toast to our good fortune.

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Posted in Wine Buzz

Oysters and Wine Pairing: The Ultimate Revenge

oystersIt’s amazing I’ve maintained my sanity given all the culinary mixed messages I’ve endured during my lifetime.

When I was a kid, I remember vividly that my Mom was not a fan of slurping. “Stop slurping!” she’d command if I’d make any noise while eating soup or drinking a soda through a straw.

“What about a Slurpee [from 7-Eleven]?” I’d counter if feeling particularly brave (or dumb).

“That’s different,” she’d reply.

It wasn’t until I visited Japan for the first time, some 30 years later, that I learned there are places and instances where slurping not only is accepted; it’s encouraged. There, slurping one’s soup and noodles is considered a sign of appreciation to the chef.

Then came a real revelation: It’s okay to slurp here in the United States as well: as long as you’re eating oysters.

According to Vanity Fair, the right way to eat a raw oyster is to “take your tiny fork and sort of move the oyster around in its liquid-filled half shell to make sure it’s detached. Then put down your fork, pick up the shell, and slurp down the oyster from the wide end.”

If you want to get a little more of the briny flavor, chew the oyster once or twice before you swallow it.

Because there are several different kinds of oysters — ranging from salty and chewy to creamy and sweet — recommending a single type of wine to pair with them is impossible. Your best bet is to find the type of oyster you especially like, and then try various types of wine with it.

My favorite pairing partners with salty and chewy oysters are Vinho Verde, Prosecco (or other renditions of dry sparkling wine), and dry or off-dry Riesling.

With creamy and sweet oysters, I like Sauvignon Blanc and a Chablis-like — meaning non-oaked — Chardonnay.

And if you feel like slurping your wine while you’re slurping your oysters… who’s going to notice?

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Posted in Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes

Vegan Wine!

thursdayThere are so many different kinds of wine today — and we’re not talking just about the array of varieties and blends from the various microclimates and wine regions of the world’s many winemaking countries.

Among other “styles” of wine, you may also encounter:

  • Natural wines — Made with minimal chemical or technological intervention, and that goes for both in the vineyard and in the cellar. There has been something of a natural wine movement in France in recent years, although I’ve found such wines — because they are not filtered to remove perceived impurities — to be an acquired taste.
  • Kosher wines — The definition of “kosher” varies widely when it comes to winemaking. In general, however, it could be said that a kosher wine is one produced according to Judaism’s dietary laws.
  • Vegan wines — We have a young vegetarian in the family (my granddaughter is 13 years old), and that can be challenging enough when preparing meals. Over time, I’ve gained a great deal of experience in pairing wine with vegetarian dishes — mainly so we don’t have to prepare two meals. I know that pairing wines with dishes that are vegan friendly would present a whole new set of challenges.

What I didn’t know is that there are vegan wines. Following vegan guidelines, these are wines that do not use animal products — gelatin, egg whites, milk products, fish bladders — for fining.

These also are wines made from grapes grown in vineyards where no animal products are used in the fertilizers.

I like to think of them as natural or organic wines taken to the Nth degree. And they are out there for folks really interested in tracking them down.

We’ve compiled a list of a handful of our personal favorite vegan wines:

Me? My next job is to start working on a few vegan dishes… just in case my granddaughter decides to take that next step.

I’ll worry about the wine pairings for those dishes later…

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Favorite Wines of the Top Celebrities

tuesday“Showman P.T. Barnum set the stage for modern celebrity culture by opening the curtain on mass entertainment in the mid-19th century,” wrote Amy Henderson in an essay.

“He dazzled in an era before technology could ‘broadcast’ performance — before the advent of the recording, radio, and motion picture industries; before the heyday of advertising; before the mass distribution of photography in rotogravure sections of the Sunday newspapers.”

Today, America obsesses on its celebrities, wanting to know every detail of their lives — including what kind of wine they like to drink. Those “details” are easier to uncover than ever thanks to Internet search engines and various social media platforms.

With just a little bit of online “investigation,” we were able to learn the favored wines of the following 10 celebrities. In some cases, we “uncovered” their favorite color of wine (white versus red). In others, we garnered much more specific information.

If your favorite celebrity isn’t on this list, simply Google their name and “wine,” and chances are good you’ll find out something you didn’t know about them. And isn’t that what America’s celebrity obsession is all about?

  • Katie Lowes (Scandal) — spotted sipping a glass of Cava (Spanish sparkling wine) while on a trip to Barcelona.
  • Ashley Tisdale — rosé, disclosed on Instagram.
  • Tracee Ellis Ross (Blackish) — undisclosed red wine, identified through a bathtub selfie.
  • Shemar Moore (S.W.A.T.) — undisclosed white wine, identified through a video of himself dancing with his shirt off.
  • Dua Lipa (“New Rules” singer) — undisclosed red wine, identified through an Instagram post of her “vineyard vacation.”
  • Alexa Ray Joel — Vermentino, as noted in a photo of herself at Lilia in Brooklyn.
  • Michael Strahan (Good Morning America) — Pinot Noir.
  • Sarah Michelle Gellar — rosé.
  • Drake — Moscato. (He even sang about it and helped introduce it to a whole new audience.)
  • Paul Stanley (Kiss) — Australian Shiraz.
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Posted in Wine Buzz

Time to Celebrate National Wine Day — It’s Tomorrow!

cheers_1For those who work Monday through Friday, I have good news: National Wine Day falls on a Friday — tomorrow, to be specific.

So unless you have someplace to be early Saturday morning, you can stay up a little later than usual Friday night and pour yourself an extra glass of wine.

Wine is an important beverage for millions of Americans, whether as a before-meal aperitif, the perfect companion to a main course, an after-dinner sweet treat, or simply for sipping after a long day at work.

Tomorrow, I will take advantage of National Wine Day by planning a wine-intensive experience for my after-work hours. It will involve four parts, each including half a glass of wine:

  1. A nicely chilled Rosé to kick things off, out on the patio if the weather is nice. No homework… no newspaper… no book… no nothing. I may even close my eyes between sips.
  2. Back inside, I’ll switch to Sauvignon Blanc, and sip it with a few crackers and small chunks of cheese.
  3. With dinner, which my better half informs me will be a simple roasted chicken with corn on the cob (lightly buttered, of course), I’ll pour a glass of Chardonnay.
  4. Then after dinner, the Mrs. and I will raise glasses of sweet Moscato in a toast to National Wine Day.

Best of all, we’ll have plenty of wine left over for the day after National Wine Day.

And we’ll save the red wine for another day — perhaps Sunday.

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Posted in Wine Buzz

How Much Do Scores on Wines Matter?

winedrinkingSome people are downright vitriolic in their disdain for scores being assigned to wines.

“You wouldn’t assign a score to a painting, would you?” is a common refrain. “Or to a piece of music?”

Painters and musicians engage in forms of artwork, and I would argue that so do winemakers.

So I’m agreeing with those dislike scores for wine, right?


In all the years I’ve been associated with Vinesse — which is all but the first year of the company — scores have been assigned to the wines featured in the various clubs, Cyber Circle collections, and wines sold on the Vinesse website.

We utilize the standard 90-point system that Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and others use. Why? Because it’s based on a grading system that a vast majority of us grew up with in school. It’s easy to understand.

The reason some don’t like the system applied to wine is that it is somewhat more arbitrary than the grades we got in school. You either got a math question right or you didn’t; you either identified a noun as a noun or you didn’t. With wine, there’s a lot more gray area in assigning numbers.

Complicating matters for folks on my side of the argument is that each person “experiences” a given wine uniquely. This is especially true when it comes to the perceived flavors, because everyone’s palate is unique.

Using a 100-point system, there are several ways for a judge — that would be anyone assessing the wine — to arrive at a final number.

Some start at 80 and award “bonus points” for things such as color, complexity of the aroma, mouthfeel, the mix of flavors and the finish. They’ll also ask themselves whether the wine is a poor, good or great example of the variety (presuming it’s a single-variety wine).

I’ve seen some judges start at 90 and both award bonus points for certain outstanding traits and deduct points for perceived imperfections.

Over my three decades of judging wines, I’ve come to three conclusions regarding scores:

  1. I believe we’re better off with them than without them. If nothing else, they provide a starting point of differentiation among wines of the same variety.
  2. I believe the scores of tasting panels are more reliable than those of individual reviewers, simply because four or five educated palates are better than one.
  3. Once you find a tasting panel or individual reviewer with whom you seem to agree more often than not, stick with them. It likely means your palate is similar to theirs, and that should be true with virtually every type of wine.

Me? I’ve been putting my trust in the palates of the Vinesse tasting panel for more than 20 years.

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Posted in Editor's Journal
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