Time To Try A New Wine

When we fall in love with a particular wine, we often are hesitant to try anything else. This is a pity, as this attitude closes the door to all sorts of new tastes and experiences. If you’re buying the same bottle of wine every time you shop – stop – look around – and consider trying something new and exciting.

Start by shopping lesser known regions. Many wine regions are becoming better known and have very nice wines at reasonable prices. Spain, Australia, Argentina and Chile are just a few that come to mind. If you always buy Italian or French, take a stroll over to these other regions and indulge in what could be a very pleasant surprise. Don’t forget the lesser known American wine regions, as well. Many fine wines are being produced outside of California!

Expand your horizon by trying wine from areas just beyond a well known wine growing region. Instead of an expensive Pomerol in Bordeaux, try Lalande-de-Pomerol. This wine is actually made from the same grape (Merlot) but grown just outside the region and is typically available at a much lower price.

Look for the “second labels” of more established wineries. These are quality wines sold under a different label at a lower price, a practice quite common in Bordeaux and gaining popularity in California. This is similar to a major department store having their own brand of clothing. The same manufacturers produce them but display a store-brand label and sell at a lower price.

Sometimes palates change, and can do so quite dramatically. A person who normally loves the burly red wines, may start enjoying the lighter, crisper white wines. This would be a good time to reassess your tastes and try totally new wines of all varieties.

Red or White

This is the basic decision that most people make. Choosing red or white wine is pretty much the starting point when looking for new wines for your particular taste. While both wines can offer a “full bodied” taste, it is important to understand the basic differences between red and white wines. Red wines usually have more of a dark fruit taste. These are fruits such as strawberries, cherries, blueberries and even a cranberry flavor component.

White wines have a higher acidity level, rightly so as they usually embody the citrus flavors of lemon, lime and grapefruit. These wines are usually more tropical in their bouquet and have a much lighter persona to them. The white wines also come with a little more “oak” flavor, as they tend to pick up the flavor of the barrel they were aged in.

Dry or Sweet

Dry and sweet are two categories of “mouth feel.” The drier the wine, the more tannin it has in it, usually. These tannic blends are usually a bit bitter at first, but are cut by the acidity of the wine, or are mellowed by the alcohol. Wines with a higher tannin content are better when left to sit and age, as the tannins will begin to fade after a while, becoming incorporated into the wine.

Sweet wines, on the other hand, can have a bit more sugar aspect to them. These wines leave the palate wet and usually ready for food. Higher sugar content will give the “nose” of the wine a bit more of a bite, but typically balances out with the flavor of the fruits.

Hot or Cold – Alcohol

While it would seem these two designations are based on the temperature the wine is served, this is not the case for this discussion. Hot and cold wines refer to the alcohol content in the wine. Typically done by volumetric ratios, hot wines will have alcohol content above the 12.5% level. The cooler wines will be below this, even down into the 9% range.

If you are struggling trying to choose a new wine, start by making the basic decisions first about whether you want red or white, dry or sweet, and then hot or cold. Once you have those factors in mind, ask your local wine shop expert for suggestions. Take a chance on an unfamiliar wine and surprise your palate!


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!


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.