Tag Archives: Commentary

What You Learn When Pouring for Others

8 Apr

I love pouring wine for others.

I recently donated several cases of wine to a fundraiser, and in addition to the wine, I poured glasses to the attendees.

They walked up to a wine bar, I asked them what they liked to drink, and then poured them a taste. Sometimes I poured them tastes from a few different bottles until they found something they really liked and wanted to enjoy.

 

I’ve done this on several occasions, and every time I learn more about people and how they respond to wine.

 

An invitation opens the door. If you ask “what do you like to drink” or “what would you like to drink” you get a very different response than “Would you like to taste one of my favorite winemaker’s wines?”, or “How about a quick sip of something delicious?”. That raises and eyebrow and it’s rare that someone turns down a taste of a quality wine.

How People Respond Tells You What they Know. If you ask a guest “What do you like to drink?” you will notice in a flash whether they are comfortable or uncomfortable in answering. They might have to think about the answer. Some people are deft in what they normally drink, others are embarrassed about their comfort wines, or not having one. Others are adventurous. But who doesn’t want a free adventure? Hence the taste. The taste, in my opinion, is key to helping people trust YOUR wine knowledge and learn about theirs.

Offer the taste as they approach. Once someone appreciates what is in their glass, be it an inexpensive, mass-produced bottle that shines or a small-batch, handpicked rarity, you are in the game. My last pouring session I’d say I had 70% of customers locked in on the first taste. A few asked for a second taste and then either went for what tasted best to them, or what was most comfortable. A very small number asked for a third or more tastes, some simply exploring my wares, and a few really not knowing their own palate. At this point, my questions are: “What do you normally like to drink”, and “Do you want to pair this with food, or just enjoy on its own?”

Only about 15% of my customers were real wine lovers who wanted to taste across my bottle selection, enjoying four or more glasses each, both reds, whites, rosé and sparkling. Many of my customers stuck with the same wine all night, the wines I selected for them based on pairing with the menu; with the next largest group started with white and progressed to red with the meal, again asking for my selected wines, and often returning for another glass, telling me how well the wine paired with their food.

Offer what you would drink yourself. It’s not a sales pitch, I really want to help people find wines they will fall in love with, and I want them to taste wines they will really enjoy. So even if I donate the wine, I never skimp on quality.

 

By far, most of the people who tasted the wines I suggested (and poured them a taste) simply loved them. Granted, I poured beautifully made, smaller-batch wines in ideal condition that were chosen to pair with the selected menu. But some folks wanted what they knew or liked- such as a fruit bomb, or a sweet white. But these were the exceptions to the rule. In general, when guests tasted a beautifully aged, decanted Barbaresco that sang on the palate and left it clean and refreshed, or matched both the passed appetizers and the meals, or the perfect Mediterranean style whites from France and Italy that left the palate refreshed, they asked for a glass and came back for more, time and time again.

I love to share wine and help educate consumers. I hope I get to share some wine with you. #WhatsInYourGlass?

à votre santé!

 

 

#WIYG? March, 2019 and #OTBN 2019

18 Mar

 

Here’s a sampling of what’s been in MY glass while I’ve been quiet:

 

A rich and savory old-vine chardonnay from Burgundy: Haut Côtes de Nuits, 2016 from Julien Cruchandeau. 13% ABV. $29/bottle street price.
#wiyg? #wineo #winetasting #winelovers #winestagram #burgundywine #whiteburgundy #wineoclock

 

Getting my #cabfranc and getting #francdup with this Fulkerson red blend of cab, cab franc and noiret.
Delightfully soft and dry, nice smoky cherry, tobacco leaf and toasted vanilla. 12% ABV, Street price $12/bottle. 
I’ve enjoyed the Spanish Tarima Monstastrell, a HUGE QPR with a $9/bottle Street price;  not to be outdone:
this lively and crisp white from Tarima is the essence of Spanish wines, quite a bargain at the $8/bottle price point!
Huge citrus with herbs and white flesh. Awesome tapas or mid-afternoon wine.

Now: check out the color before you scroll down.

What wine do you think this is?

Ready? 
It’s a 1971 Nebbiolo d’Alba. And it drank gorgeously. This was the highlight of 16 bottles opened by a small group in my home for #OTBN (Open that Bottle Night) 
The cork was extracted cleanly using an Ah-So corkscrew. Upon opening, it showed luscious red fruit and great acidity with a luxurious mouthfeel. After 30 minutes, the wine shifted enough that the fruit dissipated so that tannins and acidity were dominant. This was incredibly exciting as it was still an amazing wine, but entirely different than what we’d been tasting previously! The flavors dissipated as we finished the bottle. I believe if we’d aired it 90 minutes and then tasted it would have been nearly undrinkable. It was a great experience, and a wonderful highlight for #OTBN2019!
Well, after that, what can you say?
I’d say we found a few more things to mention…
…Like the 1995 Kistler Russian River Valley Chardonnay that drank like an absolute dream!
That’s correct, a ‘95 @kistlervineyards chard, still showing fruit and acidity. Just stunning and such a joy to have enjoyed with @anatoli.l @dracaenawines @stefschwalb and @drinks.i.drink on #OTBN! #cheers
Not so old, but one of the best values out there in Puligny-Montrachet (unless I keep telling people, perhaps)
you can get is from Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey.
He only makes Le Trézin rarely and when I can find it, I buy what I can afford.
Worried about premature oxidation, it was time to open this bottle from 2013- but no worries!
It drank beautifully, and was such a joy to share!
This ’96 Smith-Haut Lafitte took time to open. I mean more than a day, even after decanting.
But when it finally opened up, it was worth the wait. Monstrously ripe, succulent, and ripe with big black and blue fruit.  
Drinking this is like driving a seatbelt-less 1969 Porsche.
You hold the steering wheel in your hands, and you not only own the road, You ARE the Road! 
Last for this post, but not least…this 1996 Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Blanco Reserva. Succulent, savory, this is a wine that is timeless and can pair so gorgeously with eggs, fish, tapas, and all kinds of lighter fare.
You have to taste an aged Rioja blanca at least once in your life.  
And with that…

What is in YOUR glass?

Share your thoughts, your wines, your #OTBN treasures or your dream wines, in the space below!

 

 

à votre santé!

 

Jean Foillard Morgon 2016 “Côte du Py” Beaujolais

6 Mar

Jean Foillard Morgon 2016 “Côte du Py” Beaujolais. 13% ABV, Purchased @ $38/bottle from Crush Wine Co’s advance offer.

 

The color is bright, translucent ruby, while the nose is stunningly floral with ripe cherry blossom, rose bush, and violet. On the palate, bright cherry, strawberry, and sweet raspberry blend with stunning acidity. One sip reminds me why I collect Morgon, why every bottle is a treasure to me. Another sip, the flavors and balance make my eyes close halfway and it puts me on the hills outside Lyon, France. An unmistakable scent of the land, visions of the rolling hills, the low, un-trellissed vines, brown earth dotted with chunks of granite and schist that you remember from tasting in the glass. Small memories bring back larger ones, from the gentle rivers and byways to my first tasting of gamay then an actual Cru Beaujolais, compared to a serious Burgundy– and realizing what the differences and similarities are between these, and what everyone else thinks of: Nouveau Beaujolais. And how vastly different true Beaujolais is!

Getting back into the glass! Behind the fruit and sheer wall of vast acidity is a complex series of notes, hints of forest, leather, and earth hide underneath the fruit with chewy tannins exposed after more air. 

 

I steer myself away from the glass and open a laptop. Pull up the invoice from the seller and hit their online store: Gone. Trying a wide search shows decent amounts of the vintage available, as well as why it is harder and harder to find: scores of 96 from Suckling, and two 95’s from RP’s Wine Advocate and Vinous yet STILL under $40/bottle? Damn. I only bought a couple of bottles on the offer, and opened this tonight thinking I should let the 2013 get another two years to be perfect. THIS wine is going to be simply unbelievable in ten years- but my bottle will never grow that old. I’m too much of a sucker for great Gamay. It will be done in quick time.

I can just hear my friend and fellow wine blogger, Thea Dwelle say, “Well JvB, you should have invested in a Coravin.” You’re right, Thea, but at least I’ll have a few nights to really enjoy this fabulous gamay and empty this bottle, thoroughly!

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a decade, this wine will be unbelievable. The structure will be stunning, the fruit diminished and gossamer, the feel will be glamourous. But right now, this is a live performance at the Academy Awards: tasting raw emotion, a little terror with lust and joy and expression of starlight and rainbows and darkness and anger all at once. The wine is stunningly lovely, yet raw- just an adolescent full of emotion and SO MUCH TALENT. If you can wait ten years, then wait. If you can’t, you’ll enjoy every single note. A moment of brilliant mouthfeel, and series of unbelievable flavors. Raw beauty, unfiltered, aged vines, showing  intimacy, depth, and what is to come. An entire story shown in a fleeting moment.

 

What’s in YOUR glass?

 

à votre santé!

 

#OTBN 2019: R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanco ’96

26 Feb

#OTBN is a wine drinker’s holiday. OTBN (Open That Bottle Night) is a concept created by wine writers/critics Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher  in which you open a bottle with significance or meaning that you have been holding for a special occasion. After years of celebrating with friends electronically, I finally got my act together and invited a small group of industry folks to enjoy together!

With wine, as in life, not everything goes as planned. I broke a cork when we got to the aged reds (this was on bottle 8 or 9 of 16, to be accurate) then I spilled some of the 1996 Smith Haut-Lafitte when decanting it! But the wine I expected to be past is prime wasn’t, and the one I thought that would hold the line, didn’t. Or so I thought.

R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanco 1996, Rioja, Spain. 12.5% ABV.  

Made with 90% viura and 10% malvasia grapes, I first tasted this wine at Le Bernadin when one of Aldo Sohm’s wine team suggested it as a pairing for a fish dish served with a saffron-based sauce . Need I mention, it was heavenly? (It was!) I knew Viña Tondonia for their red wines, but the aged white blend was new to me back then, and I quickly sought out a few bottles and tasted one every five years or so. This was my last bottle, and a great choice (or so I thought) for #OTBN.

My mistake on #OTBN was to open this fifth position. We had already tasted stunning wines with powerful fruit and acidity, and this wine showed slightly flat and dull in comparison. I was disappointed. Of course, in retrospect, I did not decant. I should have decanted, and I should have given this bottle more time to air. Because on day 2 of this bottle being open, I tasted it again with tahini and grilled chicken and was very impressed by the flavor profile and thought, “did I simply miss this yesterday?” On day 3 of being open, the nose was present, the acidity and umami notes were right where I had hoped they would be (but weren’t) on opening!

 

 

 

Color is dark gold. Aromas of toasted almonds, sherry, and dried herbs make themselves known over time. On the palate, dried fruit and lavender are dominant with a strong acid backbone. As the wine resolves in the mouth, the savory and umami notes appear, pushing more sherry notes into the nasal passages. This is a wine that is beautiful to pair with lightly cooked fish, fresh salads,  avocado, and mediterranean dishes like eggplant, tahini or hummus, or by itself with a range of cheeses and fresh fruit.  

 

In retrospect, I realize that I had initially not giving the bottle a chance to really show its true colors. I tasted it right away and thought, “Yeah, its Viña Tondonia, but it might be past it’s prime. Maybe it had poor storage before it got to my cellar?”  Well, that’s not the case now. The wine is showing beautifully after a) getting enough air, and b) when my palate is fresh. And I still have another full pour left in the bottle to try tomorrow!

We live, and we learn. Remember that wine is a living, breathing, constantly changing entity.

 

And pour more slowly if you decant through a very fine strainer. Some fine wines require time to express themselves properly.

 

à votre santé!

 

Oh- as for the spilled wine…

I only spilled a half an ounce. But still, it felt like a crime, as this 1996 Smith Haut Lafitte was delicious!
Tonight I drank the last few ounces with grilled steak and was in absolute heaven. 

 

#WIYG? And did you #OTBN? What did you open? 

 

Beaujolais Rosé! Beaujolais Nouveau!

18 Nov

If you aren’t a huge fan of Beaujolais Nouveau, I understand. It’s not for everyone. OK, it is for everyone- but some oenophiles aren’t always fans. I get it- you know wine intimately, and maybe you feel that you need something special.  

Well, as a wine lover who spent decades celebrating the annual arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau, at some point in my 40’s I turned nearly entirely to Cru Beaujolais from this region. Let’s be honest, I might have even gotten a little snobby… maybe because I held a bottle of Nouveau too long (ugh), and then tried a bottle of CRU- and “damn, that tastes SO good!” After some time, when my wine merchants and friends asked me about Nouveau, I politely turned them down.

Well, not this year. Turn your attitude around, and get on the bandwagon. (I did!) This is a year to celebrate! This vintage will reward you, with great flavor, mouthfeel, and value for Nouveau. 

2018 is THE year for great gamay. And Duboeuf made a great Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé.

Let that sink in for just a moment. This rosé is the first of its kind sold in the USA.

So get thee to a wine merchant and buy some of the best gamay you may have in a lifetime. 2018 has been called “Legendary”  when it comes to Beaujolais Nouveau. So when this is a wine that you can get for $9-12 a bottle street price… why wouldn’t you? To share legendary wine that costs maybe $2 a glass? HELLO… no-brainer here.

“But what about your tasting notes?” You say? OK, fine. You got it!

Vins de Georges Duboeuf  Beaujolais Rosé Nouveau 2018,  A.O.C. Beaujolais; France. 12.5% ABV; SRP $13.99/bottle.

Pale pink in color, the nose offers rose bush and young red fruit. On the palate: notes of strawberry, yellow peach, lemon rind with grapefruit juice on the finish. Beautifully dry, with a pleasing, tart mouthfeel.  Made from 100% gamay grapes, which are pressed manually in whole bunches and fermented in stainless steel.

This is a wine I want to drink while cooking or watching football…I toasted a cheese quesadilla while pouring a glass, snacked while watching the game and looked down to realize I’d polished off TWO glasses, not one. This is that easy to drink, so don’t limit yourself to only one bottle!  This drinks beautifully by itself, with appetizers, veggies, pizza or similar light fare. For heavier protein, why not hit the classic gamay wine? (Below.) I know I would. This is a great way to start the evening and keep things moving. if you think you like rosé, you have GOT to get this in your game. But remember, it won’t last long. Nouveau is meant to be drunk young, so get it, and drink it.

Vins de Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2018,  A.O.C. Beaujolais; France. 13% ABV; SRP $13.99/bottle.

Color  is a bright, lively purple with ruby edging. The nose offers boysenberry and mixed fruit compote. On the palate are ripe raspberry, plum, and cassis. Along with a fuller body and mouthfeel, the finish has a hint more sweetness than the bone-dry rosé, and evokes a fruit bowl finish, with a touch of granite, bitter cassis, and youthful tannins. Yum! One of the most delightful Beaujolais Nouveau wines I have experienced, ever, hands-down. This is from 20+ year-old vines, cold fermented in stainless steel.

This gamay will pair with heavier proteins, from chicken and pork, to red meats and game. The hint of sweetness also links with the yam and corn from the season, or complements the leafy greens of collards, kale, brussel sprouts, even beets and  cauliflower.

Duboef reminds us on the label: “The First Wine of the Harvest!” and it’s important to remember that this is drunk by the pitcher in France upon arrival, celebrating the harvest and its completion. What could be better, in an ideal year, than to join in? You’ll enjoy it! This is a wine that calls to mind the decadence of the king’s hall from the Renaissance era, images of wines poured into a flagon and glasses always kept brimming. 2018 is definitely a year to enjoy, and imbibe. At this price, don’t miss out on one of the best values since the 2009 Bordeaux futures.

Serve these wines slightly chilled, and enjoy. Trust me, you will!  But as always, please drink responsibly.

à votre santé!

Pairing Fèvre Chablis Champs Royaux on National Oyster Day!

3 Aug

 


William Fèvre Chablis Champs Royaux SEA 2017 Ltd Edition, Chablis, France. 12.5% ABV, SRP $24.99/bottle.

 

What could be better in the heat of summer than a cold bottle of chablis? Probably the only way to improve that is with some freshly shucked oysters. Don’t panic, the old ‘R’ rule of only eating oysters from September to April no longer counts, as oysters are farmed carefully all year ’round and brought to market with massive concern for proper temperature maintenance. As a matter of fact, National Oyster Day is outside of the ‘R’ months entirely, on August 5th. It’s time to celebrate!

 

There are so many ways to enjoy oysters -Rodney’s Oyster House in Toronto, Canada has a two-oyster serving of deep-fried oysters that is a savory delight. The famed recipe from New Orleans for Oyster Rockefeller is a gorgeous example of taking oysters to the next level, in a town where there are plenty of specialty restaurants who simply charbroil them on a platter with a mix of garlic and butter. But nothing is as good as a sip of chablis, followed by a perfect, freshly-shucked oyster with a tiny squeeze of lemon, sucked into your mouth, a few chews to mix the salty belly together with the sweet muscle, and swallow. The oyster’s briny juice, the delicate meat, the essence of the ocean are elevated when Chablis provides an ideal blend of white fruit together with a breath of salt air, a lemony finish and a gently acidic aftertaste to follow and make you want more, more, more!

Pairing Chablis is easy, since the base of the Chablis region’s terroir is largely chalk, marl, limestone, and oyster shells from an ancient Jurassic seabed. That makes anything from the ocean an easy choice, along with warm and cold soups, salads, appetizers, or just a sunny day. So if you don’t love shellfish, try sushi or sashimi, freshly grilled octopus, pan-fried flounder, lobster, ahi tuna, or smoked salmon on a bagel- I can promise you, it’s delightful!

 

Jurassic-Era soil sample from Chablis: Calcified Oyster Shells, Limestone, & Marl

 

 

 

Wine Tasting Notes, Please?

Before I wax poetic on National Oyster Day, I promised you a wine review, didn’t I?

 

Color is deep straw with excellent clarity. The nose is a glamorously fresh bouquet of lime zest and sea spray. On the palate is a bright mix of apple, pear, lemon, and honeydew melon. Lovely acidity with a crisp yet delightfully silken and gossamer mouthfeel. The finish includes notes of chalk, flint, sodium, and the smallest hints of oak. This wine is so up my alley, it’s obvious how I adore it. But I have to admit: while I lust for the aged Premiere Cru wines from Fèvre in the $100/bottle category (much like my favorite white burgundies), this wine, -with an SRP of only $24.99 and street prices under $20- sates my palate and makes me SO very happy when drinking it!

Need I say it? This is a tremendous bottle and in my opinion, a superb value that you can get for a daily drinking price. Part of me wants to stop writing and buy all I can, but the greatest joy in wine and food is sharing with others! So now you know- this is the wine you want when you want to eat seafood, and absolutely, this is what you want to pair with oysters on National Oyster Day!

 

 

Summing Up? Bottoms Up With Chablis! 

Rowan Jacobsen is one of the foremost experts on oysters,  and if you ask him what wine to drink with oysters, he has three words: Chablis, Chablis, Chablis!  I have heard him say it before, and here’s a fun video where you can hear him discuss oysters and chablis!

 

Drop me a note and let me know: what are you drinking on National Oyster Day? And, what’s YOUR favorite #Chablis?

 

#PureChablis

 

à votre santé!

 

Five Reasons To Drink the Wines of Bourgogne

1 May

Maybe you already know to drink the wines of Burgundy, but maybe you don’t know WHY. While I was writing reviews of my recent tasting of wines from Bourgogne, I sat and wondered about the huge cross-section of my readers- from those who are wildly knowledgeable, to those just exploring about the wonderful world of wine for the first time. And I thought, “This is a good reminder we could all use from time to time!”

So here are your top 5 reasons (if you ever need them) to drink the wines of Burgundy/Bourgogne:

 

5. Chablis.  Maybe I need not say any more, but if you’re sadly unaware: Chablis is the Audrey Hepburn of white wine. Chablis is alluring, surprising, endearing, romantic, focused, yet wildly expressive! And the kiss of Premier Cru Chablis on your lips and crossing your palate is one you will never forget.

 

 

4. Simple grapes with the loftiest goals: There are only two main grape varieties grown in Bourgogne that account for over 90% of the wine from the area. If you don’t know already, they are Chardonnay (51%) and Pinot Noir (40%). But these AOCs produce some of the finest expressions found in wine and demonstrate some of the world’s best winemaking with just these two grapes.

 

 

3. Crémant. Just because there are two main grapes doesn’t mean the winemakers stop there. Their Crémant de Bourgogne is gorgeous. Effervescent, bone dry, delightful, elegant, and believe it or not, affordable! Blanc and Blanc de Blanc demonstrate beautiful floral, white fleshy fruit and toasted notes, while Rosé and Blanc de Noir show delicate red fruit and tiny hints of spice.

 

2. Terroir, Terroir, Terroir. Pinot Noir from Bourgogne tastes ethereal and mystical, while being grounded with notes that range from earthy to floral, tannins that range from silky to velvety. These wines can show the perfect balance of ripe red fruit, mouth-watering acidity, luscious tannins with oak influence and soil minerality on the finish.

 

 

1. Bourgogne IS “Burgundy”. Burgundy is simply the name for Bourgogne translated to English. And while you can find the world’s finest and most expensive wines here, you can also find tremendous value- be it Premiere or Grand Cru, Villages, or Regional AOC. Don’t be lost in translation on the label!

 

 

Before you goif you just learned something, then you’ll want to know this, too!

The five wine-producing regions of Bourgogne (and a few of they famed appellations) are:

1) Côte de Nuits (there are 81 Premiere Crus from Nuits-St-George, Vosne-Romanée, Gevrey-Chambertin alone!)

2) Côte de Beaune (including Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet)

3) Côte Chalonnaise (including Givry, Montagny, and Rully)

4) Mâconnais (including Mâcon, Saint-Véran, Puilly-Fuisse)

5) Chablis (including Irancy, Chablis, Auxerre, among others. Chablis is the source of Crémant de Bourgogne!)

 

Keep an eye out for my forthcoming reviews of the wines of Bourgogne I tasted last week- all in a practical & affordable price range! 

For more information, click on https://www.bourgogne-wines.com

 

à votre santé!

Konzelman Estate Winery Merlot #MerlotMe

18 Feb

Konzelman Estate Winery 2015 Merlot, VQA Niagara Peninsula; Canada. 13% ABV, Approx $15CAD/bottle at LCBO.

 

Color is magenta with ruby edging. The gentle nose shows delicate red fruit. The palate features mature cherries, boysenberry, red cassis with soft, velvety tannin, secondary notes of vanilla, potting soil, sour cherry and granite. Medium short finish, this is so easy to drink by itself and pairs easily almost all foods- my favorites include flatbreads, savory soups, and most meats- but it is simply heavenly with dark chocolate.

This could also be a good warm weather wine for those not into pinot or other bold, high acid wines. With an easy-access screw top, this is a great party wine, and one of the most generally ‘easy to drink’ Canadian reds I have tasted to date in the under $20/bottle price range. I’d absolutely keep a few bottles of this in my cellar for occasions where I want a subtle, drinkable red that is easy to serve anytime and then transition into dinner and stay through dessert, or to please the “I only drink red” crowd when I’m serving Puligny-Montrachet. (Hey, that’s OK- drink what you like!)

This wine is compatible and ubiquitous. like the dinner jacket that is flexible enough to dress up your jeans, or dress down comfortably on formal night.

Sorry about the scratch on the label. It in no way affected my enjoyment of the wine!

#MerlotMe

I like this wine. So should any smart wine drinker! But, it’s apparent that in the United States, the Merlot grape sometimes has a bad rap for no good reason. The reality is: Merlot is a great grape as a single varietal, as well as a tremendous red wine blending grape.

From time to time you might find merlot haters. For the average American, films and social media can have major and minor implications, sometimes even just subliminally. When my fellow YSD Alumnus Paul Giammati (as the character Milo) in the 2004 film “Sideways” gave merlot a bad name, yelling “I’m not drinking any (expletive) merlot!” Many viewers remember that scene fondly, while ignoring the fact that in the same film, Milo’s greatest wine treasure is a 1961 Chateau Cheval Blanc, which is a Bordeaux blend containing – yes, you guessed, it- 40% merlot.

Simply put, merlot is the second-most grown grape in the USA and is critical to many of the worlds greatest wines. We can’t love red wines without loving merlot.

We  know this: Miles was WRONG. Let’s all drink the merlot! Hit up your social media outlets with the hashtag #MerlotMe!

à votre santé!

Italy’s Newest Wine: SECCO!

19 Jan

You read that right. There’s a new sparkling wine in town, and its name is SECCO.

Let me give you the backstory, in short: Three Leading Italian Food & Wine Consortiums have just begun a three-year-long nationwide campaign called “Enjoy European Quality”. Now, who is to complain, when they are raising awareness of wines such as Moscato and Secco, salumi such as Prosciutto di Parma, Salame Piacentino, Capocollo di Calabrio, Speck Alto Adige, and cheeses like Provolone Valpadana Dolce and Piccante?

Getting back to ASTI– and ASTI is short for “Consorzio Per La Tutela Dell’Asti DOCG”, which, since its founding in 1932, has worked to protect, develop, and promote ASTI products around the world.

Moving forward, while Moscato has a throng of followers, there are those who aren’t as fond of sweet wines. So as of late 2017, Secco has been given DOCG status. And newly exported from Italy in 2018, is Secco, using the same Moscato Bianco grape, but providing a dry sparkling wine that will appeal to another segment of wine drinkers.

 

After years of drinking Moscato, I know what to expect from the wines, and I’m a big fan. Delicate effervescence, low alcohol (around 5-6% ABV) and a decidedly sweet, sunshine-afternoon, honey-tangerine flavor profile. So imagine my expectations when I heard this is made from the same grape.

But I promise to keep an open mind. Try as I might, it’s difficult to do. Until the decadent mousse and powerful effervescence hits your mouth.

 

 

Tosti ASTI DOCG Secco Non-Vintage; Milan, Italy.  11% ABV.

Color is pale straw; the nose offers sweet honesuckle and lilac. On the palate, a lovely and full effervescence with decadent mousse, exposing a surprisingly dry sparkling wine, with predominantly pear fruit, mixed floral and herb notes, with baking yeast and a lemon custard finish.

 

Well blow me down. This is not my beloved Moscato. It’s only a tiny bit similar, but delightfully different. While I enjoy the sweetness of moscato d’Asti, I would not be able to drink it all day long. But Secco? I could come back and back to this. And the more Secco I tasted, the more I liked them, and saw a place for them in the American Marketplace. 

 

And you will, too, when you taste Secco. 

 

As for food pairings, Secco is dry enough to pair with a wide swath of food choices. But for starters, let’s stay in Piedmont and Italy, and look at what grows together, since we know it goes together!

Salumi is not salami, but the Italian word for ‘deli’. This prosciutto (middle of the plate) is 14 month-aged perfectly salted slice of pork that simply melts in your mouth. As a matter of fact, each of these specialties are the finest of their kind, and culinary delights that make your mouth quiver and your tongue dance and ask for another bite,  Se tu per favore? 


Not to be outdone by meat, is cheese! Provolone Valpadana DOP dolce and DOP piccante, perfectly aged and again, to tease your tastebuds, both provide a perfect swath of gently salted and decadent, savory cream across your palate that Secco wipes clean- to leave your mouth wanting the next bite.

 

Don’t be surprised if Summer 2018 becomes the Summer of Secco!

à votre santé!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Gift Guide: PLONK Wine Club

16 Dec

Plonk Wine Club

The nitty-gritty: World wines, from 2-12 bottles per shipment, available monthly, quarterly, or bi-annually. Wine prices average in the mid $20-range, 2 bottle shipments start around $50 and have discounts with higher bottle counts. Recommendation: BUY for yourself, or GIFT to your wine loving friends & family!

Etty Lewensztain is a Wine Enthusiast “Top 40 Under 40 Tastemaker”, with PLONK, a wine club that is proudly hailed by Food & Wine, Forbes, Wine Enthusiasts, and Wine & Spirits just to name a few. Etty is also a sommelier with a WSET Level 2 Certification who sources delicious world wines at under $30/bottle. She curates artisanal, small-batch, sustainably grown,  organic and biodynamic boutique wines from around the globe for PLONK. Etty’s club is designed for both the new wine lover who wants to learn about wine, as well as those like myself- jaded oenophiles who know what they like but like trying new and exciting things, and LOVE finding new, small-batch producers who are making their way in the world offering tremendous values. I like Etty because her approach (much like my own, I’d like to think) is almost anti-wine club, and more along the lines of “best friend with killer wine sense”.

Ok- as a jaded New Yorker and admitted former Francophile, you’re thinking, How can you be so positive on this?  Yeah, I know. It’s not the kind of thing I’d usually support, because I get offers to join EVERY wine club in the industry… and almost every one I say NO to, because I tried many of them in my youth and found them lacking. Lacking style, lacking value,  lacking responsibility. Well, this is the first in a long time that I had ANY interest in a wine club that is not from a specific winery, because it comes down to a person with responsibility, taste, liability, and something to lose in the deal. Etty is fun, personable, and responsible. Her club is all about the customer’s comfort- and it shows if you read some testimonials. But let it be enough to say that this is the first wine club with wines in an every day price range where there is an individual’s name and face on the club, with both responsibility for your drinking pleasure and something to lose.  Why do I like her approach? Well first, I liked her wine choices. They’re great! Let me be specific: no where else have I seen this breadth of great independent winemakers: she vends Leah Jorgensen, MeinKlang, Chateau Saint-Amour, Tavel Rosé, classic Chablis…I could go on! But second, she’s an entrepreneur, a freelancer, and obviously it’s the same way I function, just like independent wine producers with limited production. For people like us, EVERY BOTTLE COUNTS!

 

OK, enough of that- let’s hit the wines!

 

Santomas Refosk 2015 by L.N. Glavina, Slovenia. 13.5% ABV, $22/bottle.

Color is deep garnet, with an opaque center. The nose offers dark red fruit, heat, eucalyptus, and forest floor. On the palate, I received full-bodied sour cherry, red plum, with strong tannins and mouthwatering acidity. Final notes of small stones, sodium and red currants.  This is a fascinating wine; I immediately wanted another sip. For a second time, getting that memory of the fruit and a hint of bitterness on the moderate finish, I wanted this with pizza or adjaruli khachapuri (Georgian cheese bread) but it would work with a myriad of flavors. It actually complemented both a wurst and dark chocolate so beautifully, but any flavorful or savory dish would complement nicely. At $22/bottle I’d like to open this with friends and some snacks just to discuss. This is a wine-lover’s delight, for sure- but a foodie wine as well. I’m going to need to find more Slovenian wines!

 

 

Vino de Terruños “Siete” 2015 Rioja, Spain, 13.5% ABV; SRP:Sold Out

Color is ruby with a translucent, magenta center. The nose offers raspberry, blueberry, green cuttings, forest floor, and clay. On the palate, the fruit becomes a reserved berry compote: luscious but restrained, with excellent structure and balance in fruit, acidity, and tannin. The gentle finish has a touch of bitter herb with more clay. This is a tapas-style wine that is easy to start the evening with, pairing nicely with a cheese and dried fruit platter, then olives, and cured meats. A delicate wine that is fun to drink and easy to go down, it is capable of sticking around with gentler main courses and can handle fish, fowl, and pork easily.

 

 

Lusenti “Il Nostro Gutturno” Vino Frizzante 2016, Emilia-Romagna, Italy. 12.5% ABV, $22/bottle.

Color is deep purple (near-opaque) in color. The nose proffers black fruit, wildflowers and effervescence. On the palate, this sparkling red is so much fun! Incredibly dry with black cherry, lilac and violet blossoms, sodium, limestone and pebbly granite, this is  the red you want to drink cold, ice cold- and it delivers back in spades! Perfect for red sauces, red meats from cured to grilled, spicy Thai, Indian, Mexican or Mediterranean dishes, and an ideal wine for vegan/vegetarians to pair with a veggie entree like eggplant, portobello mushroom, lentils, veggie meatloaf, broccoli and spinach. Did I mention it is simply fun to drink on its own?

 

Altos de San Esteban “La Perra Gorda” 2015, Bierzo, Spain. 13.5%ABV, $22/bottle.

Color is deep ruby, with a purple center. The spicy nose offers cassis and black plum, with hints of lilac, lavender, black pepper and clove. On the palate, condensed and reserved black fruit with searing acidity and powerful tannins; the wine is classical in style with elegance that is the polar opposite of the fun label and cork. A long, dry and tightly-wound finish with notes of sandy black earth, and wet leaves.  This is a wine that screams for food, and will complement salty seafood, delicate fish, fowl or vegetables, and can pair will pork chops or wild boar nicely, in addition to dark chocolate and cake for dessert.

 

 

Let’s Get Back to Brass Tacks:

As I said in my introduction to Plonk Wine Club, I like Etty’s approach because not only does she choose good-to-great wines from across the globe, but she is also offering an unusual breadth and history, with a solid value. But don’t forget: unlike corporate-style wine clubs, she has a personal stake in her business: Every bottle counts! As a potential customer, this is where you benefit. You vote with your wallet and your patronage, and this is one where you can cancel at any time, or buy more of any wine you like. It’s a win/win situation, or a wine/win situation if you’ve had enough wine to taste.

And here’s a special opportunity for JvBUnCorked readers: use promo code UNCORKED to get $10 off your first purchase.

 

Etty Lewensztain, PLONK Wine Club: Your Best Friend With the Killer Wine Sense!

 

 

 

à votre santé!

 

Samples were provided for my personal & accurate review in this article;
no promise of positive review given, and no payments offered or received.  
All opinions shared are solely those of the author.
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