Tag Archives: wine advice

Wine and your wedding

Wine and your wedding

It’s your wedding — pick the wine you want, not what others force on you.

This is the time of year when brides-to-be start planning for next spring’s weddings. And, since one of the most common questions that the Wine Curmudgeon gets from blog readers is about choosing wine for weddings, why not a post with just such advice?

Even better, I brought in two other experts ? wedding planner Linda Alpert of suburban Chicago’s Affairs with Linda, and my old pal Mr. Sommelier, who has been doing this sort of thing even longer than I have been writing about wine. And, yes, that is a nom de plume, since Mr. S. has a day job and his bosses might not appreciate this gig.

“They know they’re supposed to have wine, but they’re not sure what to do,” says Alpert, something we’ve heard on the blog before. Thank you, wine business, for confusing your customers. So don’t be afraid to ask questions, and don’t be afraid to tell someone you would like them to answer your questions in English, not winespeak.

• The people are attending your wedding because they like you, not because they want to tweet about the wine selection. In this, simple is usually more than sufficient. Make sure the wine more or less pairs with any food you’re serving (whether reception or dinner), make sure there is red and white, and don’t worry about spending trillions of dollars to impress anyone. Most people won’t notice.

• What specific wines to serve? That depends on your budget and local availability. But this is what brands like Rodney Strong, Hess and King Estate do best — give you value for money and quality wine that’s a step above the grocery store stuff.

• Mr. S. has your quantities covered with his interactive Drinks Calculator. Click a few boxes on the web page, and it generates a complete list of what you’ll need. As a rule of thumb, figure on a couple of glasses of wine at dinner.

• Hotels are not in business to help you save money on wine. They’re in business to make as much money as possible, and their markups make restaurants look reasonable. And, says Alpert, how does a $40 corkage fee sound if you want to bring in your own wine? The hotel’s house wine, because of this, is almost always your best bet, she says.

• Caterers, on the other hand, are more flexible, and are more willing to work with you if you want to buy your own, Alpert says.

• Yes, you should serve sparkling wine. And, no, it doesn’t have to be the expensive French stuff. Mr. S. likes prosecco, the Italian bubbly, which is reasonably inexpensive, while regular visitors here know my preference for cava, Spain’s sparkling wine. And, since so many future brides get hung up pouring a big-name Champagnes, the prices hotels charge are gouge-worthy.

Why most wine is not made to age

P4210035We ?ve talked about this on the blog, but a regular visitor makes the point dramatically with this picture. When you buy wine, drink it. Almost all of the world's wine is made to drink more or less when you buy it ? and not to age.

Sadly, the person who bought these three bottles of 1988 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau didn ?t know that. Which is not surprising, since most Americans (thank you, Winestream Media) still think that ?s true. But Beaujolais isn ?t made to age, and nouveau ? made quickly so it can be sold shortly after harvest ? is especially not made to age.

Hence 24-year-old bottles of wine that look like this. The wine has evaporated in the bottle and those gross splotches (mold, perhaps?) will not doubt enhance the wine ?s current post-vinegar flavor profile.

Thanks to Rich Liebman, who sent the photo and has been a loyal reader since the blog started. Where he found them (and it wasn ?t his house) is probably best left unsaid.

Wine terms: Wine glasses

wine glasses

Pretty pictures notwithstanding, wine glasses affect the taste of wine.

This may seem like a silly topic for a post. How are we supposed to drink wine unless we use a glass? Would that it were that simple. The concept of wine glasses can be as complicated as wine itself; how else to explain something like Riedel's $139 sommelier black glass?

The trick, then, is to approach glasses with the same skeptical eye that we approach wine with. Do you need a decent wine glass to get the most out of wine, even if you're drinking $10 bottles? Yep. Do you need to go overboard and spend hundreds of dollars on a glass? Probably not.

After the jump, a few thoughts on buying and using wine glasses:

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Easy ways to learn more about wine

Wine drinkers are creatures of habit. We tend to drink the same wines and shop in the same places for those wines. Which, frankly, doesn’t do much to expand our wine horizons.

This is an especial problem for beginning wine drinkers, whose lack of experience is compounded by the intimidation factor — wine can be a scary place for newcomers, who are overwhelmed with labels, names, terms, and the like.

Hence this post, part of my New Year’s resolution to write more items for people just getting started with wine. And a big tip of the Wine Curmudgeon’s fedora to Dave McIntyre, who has written about some of this and jarred me into action.

Four easy things anyone can do to boost their wine savvy:

? Drink more wine. Seriously. One of the things that people always laugh at when I talk about wine is the idea that they can learn more by drinking more. This, I’m convinced, has its roots in our post-Prohibition cultural outlook. Americans have been taught that liquor is different, and can’t be approached like other consumer goods. So we reserve wine for special occasions or let people who are supposed to know more about it than we do tell us what to drink. What we should be doing is drinking more (responsibly, of course), deciding ourselves what we want to drink, and not really caring what others think of what we drink.

? Shop in a different store. It’s amazing, as Dave notes, how this will change your wine-buying perspective. For one thing, there will almost certainly be wines that you haven’t seen before. For another, a store employee could recommend something you’ve never thought about. This is very important for people who only buy wine in grocery stores, where there are a lot of wines but mostly from the same old places made by the same companies and tasting exactly the same.

? Write down the names of the wine you enjoy. And even those you don’t. No one, including the so-called experts, remembers the name of every wine they drink. So we write it down (CellarTracker, the unofficial wine inventory software of the blog!). There is nothing wrong or snooty with this; it’s common sense. You don’t even need a computer or smart phone or iPad — pencil and paper work just as well. Record the name, price and what you thought about the wine (and, believe it or not, phrases like good and bad are perfectly acceptable). If you have that information, you can go into a store and ask an employee to recommend something similar to the wine you liked — or to steer you away from one you didn’t.

? Try a wine you don’t like. You don’t have to do it often. But every once in a while, if you don’t like sweet wine or red wine or whatever, taste one. Yes, there’s a good chance that you still won’t like it. But, given that your palate will change over time as you gain more experience, there’s also a chance you’ll find a new appreciation for a wine you didn’t like.

The photo is from luisrock62 of Argentina, via stock.xchng, using a Creative Commons license

Does wine make food taste better?

Does wine make food taste better?

Norton thinks Chianti makes all the difference in the world

Usually, when the subject of wine and food comes up, it’s about pairings — what goes with what, and often in such nuance that it scares the hell out of beginning wine drinkers. Which may be one reason why wine and food pairings are becoming increasingly less important to many wine drinkers.

The Wine Curmudgeon has been pondering this for a good while, trying to figure out a way to write about pairings that wouldn’t drive new wine drinkers crazy (as part of my resolution to make the blog more accessible to people who are new to wine).

Which led to the thought: Are we putting the cart before the horse? We’re telling people to pair certain wines with food under the assumption that the food will taste better. Is there any evidence to support this?

In other words, when I’m drinking an unoaked chardonnay with roast chicken, does the chicken taste better than if I had been pairing it with sweet tea or a soft drink (something I see very often in Dallas, where restaurant diners seem to drink more of the last two than the first). The answer: No one knows for sure. More, after the jump:

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Winebits 204: Thanksgiving 2011 wine suggestions

Thanksgiving wine wisdom from around the cyber-ether. My Thanksgiving wine suggestions are here.

? Food & Wine: The magazine's website offers a variety of categories (Thanksgiving box wines!) worth checking out, though navigating the Flash-handicapped site may make you give up before you find anything. Especially useful: 10 top Thanksgiving bottles, including an old favorite, Acrobat pinot gris (which almost showed up on my list).

? Jon Bonne in the San Francisco Chronicle: Once again, heads up advice (including another Wine Curmudgeon recommendation, Pacific Rim riesling). Says Bonne: "Drink whatever you like." There is lots of Inexpensive wine, including a Dibon cava, which I need to find, and even regonal wine (maybe we should invite him to the next DrinkLocalWine conference).

  ? Eric Asimov in the New York Times: An almost Python-esque look at wine for the holiday (The Argument Clinic) , since Asimov and several members of the tasting panel had completely opposite ideas of what they were looking for. Nevertheless, some fascinating wines: Regional wine (again — what's going on here?), a $9 wine from Hungary; and a chinon, a cabernet franc from France's Loire, which is a kind of wine that many of us are enjoying these days.

Wine clubs and what their success says about the wine business

image from www.sxc.hu The one thing that has seemingly not slowed, despite the recession in the wine business, is the growth of wine clubs. Everyone, it seems, is offering them: Wineries, of course, but also newspapers and magazines, wine retailers, discounters, and even non-profits and charitable causes. Zagat, the restaurant guide, has a wine club, and a club even advertises on the blog. And, believe it or not, there are sites that rate wine clubs.

The Wine Curmudgeon did a post several years ago about what to look for in wine clubs, and most of that advice still holds. Clubs, by themselves, are neither good nor bad; it's up to the consumer to figure out whether they're getting a deal or not. Are the shipping charges fair? Do the wines seem to offer value? I miss the old Virtual Vineyards wine club, while there are several others that I don't want to even get junk mail from.

Most importantly, read the fine print. That's where you'll learn that the New York Times' wine club is run by another company, and doesn't really have anything to do with the newspaper or its wine critics. Or that the wine club rating site noted above may make recommendations based on whether it is "compensated" by the wine club it reviews.

Having said that, the growth of wine clubs raises a larger question. What's going on, and why is it going on now? More, after the jump:

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