Choosing A Wine For Ham Or Turkey – Tricky Pairings

Holiday meals are special occasions which usually call for a festive bottle of wine. Traditional holiday meals often include either ham or turkey, which causes some debate, and confusion, over what wine should be served.

Pairing wines with these two main dishes can be a little tricky. Let’s take a look at these holiday meals and see if we can break them down and determine which wines would pair well.

Ham – Glazed or Smoked

Many holiday hams are cooked using a heavy sauce of some sort, glazed to form a crispy crust, which makes them sweet to the taste. There are also hams with more of a smoky flavor, the type that are cured and aged. In general, the heavier flavors of a glazed ham should be paired with a wine that has higher acidity levels, such as a Riesling, or a simple White Zinfandel. Lighter hams, those that have a smoky flavor usually go well with a Pinot Noir or a Vouvray.

The reasons these different flavors go well together is that the meal becomes more balanced. The acidity of the Riesling will help cut through the sweet, sugary flavor of the glazed hams, while the fruity undertones of the Pinot Noir will help taper off the smoky flavor of the cured or smoky ham. Heavier wines will drown out the flavors of the ham by overpowering them with either heat from the alcohol or too much pizzazz from the rich flavors.

Turkey – White or Dark

The white meat of a turkey has a drier texture than dark meat. In order to balance out the texture of white meat, it would not be wise to serve a dry wine as this would not help to quench that need for moisture. Sweeter wines are generally the go-to for white meat as they force the palate to salivate. Any light, sweet wine will do. You may wish to try a sweet German wine.

Dark meat of a turkey retains more moisture when cooking. Because it is a more tender, juicy meat, it pairs well with a drier wine which helps cleanse the palate. Wines like Riesling and White Burgundy have a dry, oakey flavor that pairs well. You may want to try a Gewurztraminer which will also pair well with dark meat.

Let Common Sense Prevail

The most important thing to remember when selecting wines for a party is to know your guests. What do they prefer? Having a variety of wines available for your guests to choose from may be the simplest answer.

Sample a few different types of wine a few weeks before the big event. While wines can help enhance the experience of a meal, it all comes down to individual tastes. Stop worrying about the wine and enjoy the company!


Reasons To Explore Your Local Wineries

The current wave of excitement in the “Go Green” movement is to “eat local.” This movement advocates eating food grown locally to help support farmers in a “farm-to-table” cuisine.

This movement sometimes fails to recognize the “drink local” portion of the equation. However, for those of us who like to have a great glass of wine with a meal, drinking wines from local vineyards and wineries is a worthy cause, as well.

By no means does this say we should completely forget about that Port or Champagne and only request to be served local wine. However, a subtle change in attitude to begin incorporating these local wineries into our search for great wines makes sense, both economically and environmentally. Let’s take a look at why choosing wine from a local winery is a good idea.

Terroir – Celebrating Uniqueness

Pronounced tear-wah this French term is used to describe the terrain in which something is grown. In this case, the “something” is the wine you are about to enjoy. Exploring local vineyards and wineries allows you to know exactly what type of climate the grapes were grown in, which gives you a great understanding of what to expect when it comes to flavor.

The climate and area in which the grapes were grown create the unique flavor of the wine. By enjoying a local wine with local food, you get the full experience of really living in your area. Many smaller wineries are trying to preserve a sense of unity and territory, along with the farmers. When you purchase a local wine, and eat locally grown food, you are helping to sustain your region’s way of life.

Travel Weary Wine

A bottle of wine from across the country or world may have traveled thousands of miles to get to your door. During this travel, your bottle of wine had to withstand difficult elements. However, a bottle of wine you just uncorked from a local winery has fewer miles to travel, perhaps even just across the vineyard. Chances of deterioration from the long travels and uneven conditions increases the further away you go for your wine. Proper storage is less of an issue when the wine is delivered to your table from across the street instead of from across the globe.

Your Price, Your Community, and Your Planet

Ordering from local wineries can also stretch your dollar. Generally speaking, local wineries are not rated by top critics, so they go largely unnoticed. In order to compete with the larger names in the industry, these smaller vintners keep their prices down to get noticed. Also, since there is not a large shipping cost involved, the consumer doesn’t get the additional charge added into the price of the bottle of wine.

Don’t forget the number of jobs the local vineyards create within your community. This helps to keep the local economy stable. Don’t you feel better knowing you are supporting your neighbor while you enjoy sipping your favorite local wine?

Consider the waste of precious fuel resources shipping a bottle of wine around the world when a perfectly lovely bottle of wine may be waiting for you right around the corner. Conserving resources is a very large part of the movement to buy products locally.

Giving more of your wine dollars to local vineyards and wineries just feels good. This will keep your money in the local community, help to provide much-needed jobs, and help you stay within your budget. Everybody wins when you buy locally. Why not give your local wineries a little support by enjoying the fruits of their labors!


Choosing Wine At A Restaurant

Imagine sitting at a fancy restaurant with important clients and your boss, and of all the people at the table, the waiter asks if you would like to choose a bottle of wine for dinner.

Panic sets in and your mind starts racing, trying to figure out how to pull off this task for which you were unwillingly volunteered. What do you know about choosing a wine? What if you choose the wrong wine? How do you keep from losing face in front of your boss?

So how exactly do you go about picking a wine at a restaurant? Let’s take a look at the proper steps.

Choosing the wine

Your first glance at a wine menu might just have you blanking out completely. Just relax and take this step by step. You’ll want to initially look at how the wine list is arranged. Some wine lists are separated into reds, whites, and dessert wines, while others are simply categorized by region, such as Italy and Napa Valley. Wine lists may include local wineries if available.

Once you have a feel for how the wine list is arranged, you want to decide what type of wine your guests might like. The easiest way is to ask who prefers red wines and who prefers white wines. If there is no general consensus, you can always summon the restaurant’s sommelier, or wine expert, to ask for a suggestion based on what each person might choose as an entree. Your food server may also be trained to offer suggestions as guests order about what wine pairs well with what food.

A good tip is to point to a general price range on the wine list when you ask the sommelier or server. That way, they are clued into the price point in which to recommend a wine. Most better restaurants are not going to serve a wine that’s less than satisfactory, so when in doubt, don’t be afraid to choose a ‘house’ Merlot, or ‘house’ Chardonnay when that seems like the safest move.

When the wine arrives

Once the server or sommelier returns to your table, they will present you with the bottle of wine. At this point, make sure the label matches what you have ordered and check for any signs of dirt or deterioration, even mold, on the label. Don’t be distracted at this point by conversation. There have been instances of wine being poured that wasn’t at all what was ordered just because the person did not take time to read the label when presented. If the wine is wrong or shows signs of not being kept properly, send it back for a different bottle. It’s better to error on the side of caution than to serve your guests a bad bottle of wine.

If you approve of the wine presented, give your waiter the okay to uncork the wine. Once uncorked, the waiter will set the cork in front of you. Please do not smell the cork. You will not ascertain anything about the wine from the smell of the cork. It is the look of the cork that you need to observe. You may want to lift up the cork and examine it to see if it feels moist, meaning the wine was stored properly. If the cork is dry or crumbling, be sure to point this out to the server and request a new bottle. However, after a quick look at the cork, if it appears moist, you don’t need to do anything with it other than just let it be.

The waiter will pour a small amount into your glass. At this point, you are not tasting the wine for flavor, but just to make sure it is still good. You will have to pay for the wine you ordered, as long as it has not turned bad. If the wine is good, give a nod and the server will pour wine for your guests, finishing with your glass.

Receiving a pat on the back

Congratulations, you have successfully ordered wine for a party using your keen senses and impeccable taste. Delight in the moment and rest assured that you have passed the test in choosing a wine for dinner. The next time you’re at a fancy restaurant, show off your skills and offer to choose the wine with your newfound confidence!


Are Boxed Wines Worth Trying?

Boxed wines and Tetra packs are becoming more and more popular. A few years ago, when these packaging techniques first hit the market, the wines contained inside were generally not very good. With few exceptions, these wines were extremely on the tannic side or contained copious amounts of alcohol which only served to dilute the flavor of the packaging that inevitably came through.

There are a large number of points to consider when talking about boxed wines, or in more general terms, alternatively packaged wines. We will go through some of the pros and cons of these wines and try to decide whether boxed wines are the wave of the future, or just a splash in the pond of the present.


Take a look at any box of wine you find in a store and one of the first things you will notice is the larger fluid volume in the container. While most wine bottle are 750 ml, a box of wine can hold the equivalent of four bottles of wine. This packaging typically forces down the price due to manufacturing cost savings.

The boxes, or rather the sealed bag within the box, help the wine retain its fresh taste for longer. The airtight bag within the box is never opened to air, and only deflates as the wine is poured. This method maintains the freshness of the wine up to four weeks as opposed to four days in an open bottle. By keeping the air out of the wine, the oxidation process is avoided and the wine maintains its delicate flavors.

Not having a cork in the wine is also a big selling point when it comes to freshness. No cork means no chance of letting in mold and musty tastes.

The big advantage of boxed wine is that the design of the packaging allows the wine to ship more efficiently and safely from anywhere in the world. Because the storage container is not glass, there is no breakage. Because more wine makes it safely from freight to table unbroken, there is less profit lost in damaged shipments, passing that savings on to the customer.


Of course, with any deviation from the norm, there are stigmas. Change usually is met with some hesitation. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t some truth to those original feelings about boxed wines. Five years ago, boxed wines were usually substandard and so the stigma was justified. Boxed wines were considered cheap, undrinkable wine and typically received a turned up nose from guests. Today’s boxed wines are much more palatable and can often stand toe-to-toe with a bottled counterpart.

Another detractor from boxed wines seems to be the lack of varieties. Since boxed wines are not fermented the same way as bottled wines, in oak barrels, very few wineries are set up to ferment the wine, thus cutting down on the available options for boxed wine.

Wine manufacturers are coming up with new ways to store and ship wine every year. While boxed wines take some getting used to, these alternative packaging methods are improving, often resulting in a good quality wine at a very reasonable price.


Hints and Tips for Your Tassimo

The Tassimo is a great little machine, but to get the most out of it, you might find the following hints and tips helpful.


The water filter needs to be changes about every three months. Set the dial on it so you will remember when you last changed it. If it floats for any reason, then the little waterproof red rubber ring around the part that fits into the machine is missing. I have had some faulty ones from the factory. Just send it back for a replacement. It is part NP1.


The disk piercer.

It can get stuck/completely wedged sometimes in one of the disks, especially the hot milk ones, which tend to use hotter water/steam and seem to make the plastic piercer expand and get jammed. So do look at your disks before you throw them away! You can get replacements on line, it is PART NP8, but you really don’t want to do without hot drinks while you wait for it to come in the mail. Consider keeping a spare of it and the water filter on hand just in case!


Tassimo membership

We joined the monthly Tassimo club at club so we get autodelivery with free shipping on the disks every month, and so you can set your monthly budget and needs and let the clud to the rest. You can also get the parts mentioned above quickly and easily. They showcase the newest discs here first, so you can phone any time and add to your order.

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The Tassimo club standards are made by Gevalia, via Kraft Foods, and I have to say, while the Cappucino and latte seem very fattening, the Cap is made with 2% and the latte with skim. There are many different flavors now, and European brands like Jacobs and Carte Noir.

They have just introudced Swiss Hazlenut and a macchiato as well, so the site is great for seeing what’s new. The Twinings tea, including the chamomile with orange flower, and Earl Grey, and the Tazo black, are real winners.


Really fast shipping:

I use the monthly service, but for emergency orders I use <a href=”” title=”Cybercucina” target=”_blank”></a>, a great online gourmet store where you can get fast service, a discount on the t-disks, and collect points which add up to a discount every time you get past the 250 point level.


They are prompt, fast, courteous, and usually have everything in stock I need. If you order over $100 at a time, it is free shipping, and the order flow smoothness and customer service are really the best I have ever seen.


It is a great site too because as the name suggests, they have great kitchen stuff, and they also have some very yummy European style treats. Often have really good sales on luxury food stuffs. So if you are looking for any great gifts for people, and want free shipping, this is the place to go.


Review: Tassimo Hot Beverage System

4 1/2 out of 5 stars
The Tassimo hot beverage system is really outstanding. I have one at work, and one at home, and they have put up with a lot of heavy wear and tear for over 15 months now.

In the office, we have about 25 people making multiple cups per day and the best of all, here is no wastage. People get exactly the cup they want without getting thrown away because too strong or weak the way they used to do before we got the Tassimo. Or thrown away because it has been sitting anf stewing for hours

I like the fact that we city dwellers, so concerned about tap water, get a water filter built right into the design, and how easy it is to change.

And how easy the machine is to use. We just show our guests to the office where the t dics are, and let them go at it!

I am a bit concerned environmentally with all the little plastic empty discs not being recyclable, and the unit price might be consideres a bit high for some people. These are the only reasons I have not given it 5 out of 5 stars.

But there are a number of inexpensive on line places you can buy from to keep up a regular coffee supply.

The hot chocolate is my favorite, but the cappucino and latte are awesome. In addition, the teas are very good alternatives, especially the green and the chamomile. There is literally somehting for every one in the office no matter what they are in the mood for.

They have even introduced a Starbuck’s line recently which is not much more epensive that the regular disks. Certainly all the beverages are hot tasty, and best of all, cheap by comparison, plus you don’t have to wait on an endless line for to get your drink,”except maybe at 9 am by our water cooler!

For anyone with a serious coffee habit I definitely recommend the Tassimo, and I recommend it above the Keurig which is huge and bulky by comparison and does not have a nice water well with a good capacity like the stylish Tassimo.

Make sure you comparison shop on line. The average list price appears to be about $169, but I managed to get both my machines for under $100, with a rebate as well! The best money I have ever spent, and it has really helped us save on the hot drinks bills. Enjoy.