Tag Archives: wine advice

Wine and food pairings 10: Lemon rosemary roasted turkey thighs

turkey thighsThe Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this occasional feature. This edition: three wines with lemon rosemary roasted turkey thighs.

The Wine Curmudgeon’s favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, which is uniquely American. How lucky are we, in the history of the world, to have what we have? And, given my appreciation of the holiday, I’ve never been able to figure out why we save turkey for one dinner a year.

Turkey is also uniquely American. In this, it’s plentiful, almost always inexpensive, is versatile, and is delicious when it’s cooked properly (something my mom mastered early on, which helped me appreciate turkey that much more). This recipe fits all the categories — it costs maybe $6 for three or four four adult-sized servings; the lemon and rosemary complement the thighs’ gaminess; and it’s a welcome respite from chicken.

Click here to download or print a PDF of the recipe. This is lemony and herbal white wine food (even rose, if it’s not too fruity). These three suggestions will get you started:

• Granbazan Etiqueta Verde Albarino 2018 ($20, purchased, 13.5%): This Spanish white is more nuanced than the albarino I prefer, the ones that are savory, practically salty, and taste almost lemony tart. The lemon fruit is still there, but it’s softer and much less savory. Having said that, it’s very well done and a fair price given the tariff and how much so many ordinary albarinos cost. Imported by Europvin

• CVNE Monopole 2019 ($11, purchased, 13%): Spain’s Rioja region is best known for red wine, but quality has improved considerably for its whites, often made with viura. The Monopole is a wine to buy, drink, buy again, and drink again. This vintage isn’t as quite as tart and lemony, but remains a  tremendous value. Imported by Arano LLC

•  Kruger-Rumpf Pinot Noir Rosé Dry 2019 ($13, purchased, 12%): This German rose may be difficult to find, but it’s intriguing: A bit of fizz, bright berry fruit, and refreshing acidity. Imported by Skurnik Wines

Blog associate editor Churro contributed to this post

Full disclosure: Once again, I forgot to take a picture of the dish; the one accompanying the post is from the Life Jolie blog. Imagine a little rosemary and lemon garnishing the turkey thighs.

More about wine and food pairings:
Wine and food pairings 9: Mushroom ragu
• Wine and food pairings 8: Not quite ramen soup
• Wine and food pairings 7: Classic roast chicken

Slider photo: “Rome Elite Event: wine, food and nice people” by Yelp.com is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

podcast

Winecast 51: Ray Isle, Food & Wine magazine and wine during the pandemic

ray isle

Ray Isle: “Producers are doing anything they can to keep prices from going up.”

“It’s a complicated time for sure, and especially complicated for small producers. … It’s not a time I’d want to be starting a winery.”

Ray Isle, the executive wine editor of Food & Wine, has a unique perspective on wine during the pandemic. He not only writes about wine for one of the country’s leading food magazines, but he brings a practical sense to the job that many of his colleagues don’t bother with. Or, as he said during our chat: “I got into wine as a poor graduate student, and my budget for wine was about $14.99 a month, and I’ve never abandoned that. You have to write about the affordable stuff. That’s what people like to drink.”

We talked about that, and Ray offered a variety of value wine suggestions, including the Sokol Blosser Evolution No.9 white blend (in a 1.5 liter box, no less, which I also liked); a South African red and white; and an $11 Chianti. We also touched on:

• Wine prices and availability during the pandemic — both seem to be better for domestic wines than for imports because of the tariff.

• The future of the tariff; he, too, is cautiously optimistic about getting rid of the 25 percent levy regardless of what happens in November.

• The state of restaurant wine, and why we should be worried about the future of the U.S. restaurant business because trouble there means trouble for or wine.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 18 minutes long and takes up about 12 megabytes. Quality is very good to excellent.

Ray Isle and everything you need to know about corkscrews

Food & Wine’s Ray Isle is spot on about which corkscrew to use and how to use it

One of my favorite moments teaching wine students came when I demonstrated the various corkscrews. The students, most of whom had never used one of any kind, were especially baffled by the waiter’s corkscrew, which is standard restaurant equipment. This video, from the great Ray Isle of Food & Wine, would have been a huge help.

Isle, one of the best wine critics in the country, covers all of the bases, showing how each corkscrew works and why the waiter is the best of a bad lot. Because, as regular visitors here know, all wines should have screwcaps.

Video courtesy of Food & Wine, via You Tube, using a Creative Commons license

Ask the WC 24: Wine tariff, grape harvest, wine blogging

wine tariffThis edition of Ask the WC: Could the wine tariff go away? Plus, how is California handling its harvest in the middle of the pandemic, and what’s going on with wine blogs these days?

Because the customers always have questions, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers in this irregular feature. You can Ask the Wine Curmudgeon a wine-related question by clicking here.

Hello, most cranky one:
Your post about the wine tariff not going up implied we could have some good news, like it might end soon. Or am I being too optimistic?.
Hoping for the best

Dear Hoping:
I’m cautiously optimistic about being cautiously optimistic about the tariff going away, but probably later rather than sooner. One top U.S. importer told me this week that it was incredibly significant that the Trump Administration didn’t extend the tariff to other alcohol and food products or increase it on existing items. That’s because it had been threatening to do just that, and just days before last week’s announcement. So maybe someone in Washington finally understands how much the tariff is hurting the alcohol business and the economy at a time when we need all the help we can get. Having said that, the importer and I agreed that trying to make sense of Washington these days is almost impossible. Hence, two cautiously optimistics.

Hi, Wine Curmudgeon:
Will the California grape harvest be normal this year? I mean normal in that the Covid thing won’t make it more difficult.
Wondering

Dear Wondering:
Everyone I’ve talked to says the harvest should proceed as planned, despite the pandemic. There might be some regional shortages of labor, but most California grapes are harvested with machines so labor isn’t as important as it used to be. But, given the way this thing strikes suddenly, all could change overnight if one of the wine regions sees a surge in infections. And none of this takes into account possible wildfire complications.

Hello, WC:
What’s the state of your wine blogging these days? Didn’t you say you were hurting at the start of Covid 19?
Inquiring mind

Dear Inquiring:
My traffic has slumped this summer, but who knows why? It usually decreases this time of year, and I have had some technical problems on the blog’s back end that probably didn’t help, either. And we all know how fickle our overlords at Google can be in driving traffic to the blog. My best guess is that the pandemic, the election, and all the rest over the past six months have given people other things to do than to check out wine blogs, sports blogs, and all the rest. But not to worry: I renewed the blog’s hosting for another year, so I’m not going anywhere for a least another year.

Photo: Ryan McGuire, via Librestock, using a Creative Commons license

Winebits 650: Canned wine, wine advice, half bottles

canned wineThis week’s wine news: Will aluminum shortage slow canned wine’s growth? Plus, sensible advice in a new book and the popularity of half bottles

Canned wine: Two blog readers reported an absence of canned soft drinks during supermarket visits recently, which seemed odd. Who runs out of diet Coke? Turns out the pandemic has screwed up the aluminum supply chain, thanks to increasing demand for canned beer during the duration. Says one supplier for the wine business: “We have to ensure that we don’t get into a toilet paper situation.” In addition, some beer and wine producers have seen price gouging from can suppliers.

Keep it simple: A new wine book has given the WC reason for hope. “‘How to Drink Wine” (Clarkson Potter, $17), by Chris Stang and Grant Reynolds, wants to make wine as accessible as possible. Says Stang: “Wine can be intimidating for some people. Some might think they don’t have the time to ‘be into wine.” You can learn by just drinking wine with friends and talking about it.” Sound familiar? And lots more welcome than most of the “advice”” we get from the wine business?

Bring on the half bottles: The 375 ml bottle, not especially common before the pandemic, is enjoying a resurgence. Reports the Wine Enthusiast: “Easily shippable for virtual tastings and a sensible substitute for by-the-glass service, the small-format bottle is especially suited to pandemic life.” One East Coast retailer increased his half-bottle inventory by 60 percent, and several retailers have told me they can’t keep the smaller size in stock.

Wine and food pairings 9: Mushroom ragu, since it’s so difficult to find meat

mushroom ragu

The Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this occasional feature. This edition: three wines with a mushroom ragu

The Wine Curmudgeon buys dried mushrooms, and then they sit on a back shelf,  almost forgotten. So, when I found a package while rummaging through the pantry, I thought: Why not use them to make a mushroom ragu, a dish ideal for dinner at time when even ground beef is in short supply?

In fact, almost everything in this recipe can be substituted for what’s on hand. I like spinach noodles, but almost any noodle or spaghetti will work. Less expensive dried mushrooms will work just as well as pricey shitakes. Don’t have dried mushrooms? Then just use more fresh and substitute vegetable stock for the mushroom soaking liquid.

The other thing about this recipe? No tomatoes or tomato sauce. You can certainly add them if you want, but given how many of us are eating spaghetti with red sauce with regularity these days, a pasta recipe without tomatoes is likely most welcome.

Click here to download or print a PDF of the recipe. This is light red wine food (or even rose), since you don’t want to cover up the subtleties of the mushrooms. These three suggestions will get you started:

• Santa Julia Reserva Mountain Blend 2018 ($10, purchased, 14%): I bought this Argentine blend of malbec and cabernet franc when the European wine tariff was wine’s biggest problem, but not because I wanted to drink it. Once again, don’t judge the wine until you taste it. There is sweet berry fruit (but the wine isn’t sweet), as well as some grit and body from the cabernet franc. Very well done for this style, and people who appreciate this approach will want to buy a case. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

• Badenhorst The Curator Red 2017 ($11, purchased, 13.5%): Nicely done Rhone-style blend from South Africa, with rich dark fruit, soft tannins, and a pleasant mouth feel, There’s not a trace of the pinotage in the mostly shiraz mix, which is not easy to do. Imported by Broadbent Selections

• Cheap Chianti: This post, featuring five Chiantis costing $10 or less, speaks to pairing wine with food from the region. Each of them show why this is such a terrific idea.

Full disclosure: I forgot to take a picture of the ragu; the one accompanying the post is from the What James had for Dinner blog. My noodles were fettuccine size.

More about wine and food pairings:
• Wine and food pairings 8: Not quite ramen soup
• Wine and food pairings 7: Classic roast chicken
• Wine and food pairings 6: Louisiana-style shrimp boil

Slider photo: “Rome Elite Event: wine, food and nice people” by Yelp.com is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The buying wine on-line checklist

buying wine on-lineHow to find value when you buy wine on-line

This is the first of two parts looking at how the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we buy wine. Today, part I: finding value when buying wine on-line. Friday, part II: Will the pandemic lead to changes so it’s easier to buy wine on-line?

More of us are buying wine on-line than ever before – Nielsen says e-commerce alcohol sales increased an unimaginable 291 percent in the 52 weeks ending in March. And direct sales from wineries were up by 40 percent over the same period.

But how do we know that we’re getting value when we buy wine on-line? Never fear; that’s why the Wine Curmudgeon is here. I’ve spent the past month buying wine on-line to see whether it’s a practical alternative during the duration. The answer, not surprisingly, is that it all depends, and it’s not necessarily about how much the wine costs.

Know, too that not all on-line wine retailing is the same. Buying wine directly from the winery has almost nothing in common with buying wine from a retailer — limited selection and different laws among them. In addition, your neighborhood wine shop is likely to offer better value than a chain retailer, if only because they’ve seen you in the store and don’t want to tick you off. To most chains, you’re nothing more than a digital account floating in the cyber-ether.

Keep these five points in mind when buying wine on-line:

• Vintage. Some retailers list the vintages for the wines; some don’t. If they don’t, there’s no guarantee you’ll get the current vintage. A Total Wine in Dallas sent me the 2016 vintage of a white wine; the current vintage is 2018. The 2016, not surprisingly, let much to be desired.

• Substitutions. Make sure you don’t allow the retailer to substitute its choice if what you want is out of stock. I was offered a California red for my Spanish tempranillo, which are hardly the same thing. Yes, the retailer is supposed to tell you about the substitution when they make it, but this doesn’t mean it always happens.

• Selection. Some retailers, like Spec’s in Dallas, only offer part of their inventory on-line. The Spec’s near me has one of the best wine assortments in the U.S.; on-line, though, it’s mostly supermarket plonk.

• Retailers vs. delivery services. Companies like Drizly and Instacart are delivery services that contract with retailers. This means limited selection and almost always higher prices. It should say on the website if a third-party delivers for the retailer.

• Shipping and delivery. Two things have traditionally slowed on-line wine sales – restrictive laws and the high cost of shipping and delivery. Sometimes, I think the latter is the bigger stumbling block. I bought 17 bottles from wine.com in March, and the shipping charge worked out to almost $3 a bottle. My order from Total Wine cost me $10 for delivery plus a 15 percent tip, again adding about $3 a bottle to the total. Is the convenience worth the extra money? Only you can decide that.

Image courtesy of The Healthy Voyager, using a Creative Commons license

More about wine buying and value:
The cheap wine checklist
How to find a good wine retailer
Follow-up: Just because it’s a cheap wine doesn’t mean it’s worth drinking