Tag Archives: wine advice

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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Winebits 195: Joe Bastianich, alcohol regulation, wine truth

Some really fine writing in the cyber-ether in the last week or so, and more than worthy of a second look:

? You're in big trouble, Joe Bastianich: The Italian Wine Guy's Mom is mad at you. What were you thinking, calling a rose — our beloved rose — a bisexual on The Today Show? I can't quote verbatim what Elissa Cevola told her son (since this is a family blog), but it's enough to note that one of the mildest words she used was fool. And that Mrs. Cevola thinks Joe is not nice enough to his mom, the chef and restaurant owner Lidia Bastianich.

? It's black and white: Tom Johnson at Louisville Juice wants to know why state regulators are threatening to ban an urban-themed alcoholic beverage, Blast, yet don't seem worried by a similar drink, which has no hip-hop connotations. Writes Tom: "Seventeen states attorneys general have banded together to protest Blast. Interestingly, none have joined to protest the recent release of Bacardi Classic Cocktail Pi a Colada, which, like Snoop Dogg ?s Blast, contains fruit flavors and sugar, but clocks in at a whopping 15 percent alcohol. The Pi a Colada mix is marketed primarily to white suburbanites. It ?s probably just an oversight. I ?m sure the attorneys general are going to line up against Bacardi soon."

? Right on, sister: Please, please, please read this, wine industry. Forget your focus groups and your scores and your shelf talkers. This, from the Hairpin blog, which is apparently aimed at your target audience — middle-class women of a certain age: "For some reason wine has become this thing. This huge inflated pompous thing that people have invented corny language around, jacked up costs for, and made intimidating as all hell. Then you find yourself retreating to your couch with whatever's cheapest and goes well with sweats, or smiling through a glass of something at a dinner party that you can't pronounce and aren't sure if you're supposed to enjoy, instead of actually enjoying the wine." The Wine Curmudgeon wishes he had written this. Boy, do I wish I had written this.

Buying wine for dinner

image from www.sxc.hu One of the things that too often confuses consumers is buying wine for dinner. They get hung up on pairings, they're flummoxed about whether to serve red or white, and wine pricing makes them nervous.

The Wine Curmudgeon has seen this many times, including an especially sad case several years ago when a youngish man stared helplessly at a liquor store employee and begged for advice on "buying wine for pasta." When someone needs help buying a cheap bottle of Italian red to have with spaghetti, we're all in trouble.

Though this confusion is understandable, given the way the wine business treats consumers, it's not necessary. Buying wine for dinner should be fun, and not approached with the same enthusiasm as mopping the floor. It's actually one of my favorite things about wine — going to the store, even a grocery store, and trying to see what I can find (and spending as little money as possible, of course).

After the jump, some tips on buying wine for dinner:

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Heat wave wine advice

Most of the country seems to be suffering from record-breaking heat: 108 in New Jersey, 101 in New Hampshire, 104 in New York. It's even supposed to be in the 90s this week in Indiana, where I'll be judging the Indy International Wine Competiton, always one of my favorites.

And we've even noticed the heat in Dallas — call it unseasonably warm. Today could be the 31st consecutive day that the temperature has exceeded 100 degrees, the second most on record. But what may be worse is that we have had only two mornings since July 6 when the temperature dropped below 80.

But never fear. The Wine Curmudgeon has a few suggestions so that you don't let the heat get in the way of your wine drinking.  (and no, none of them involve setting the thermostat to 68 — I'm even cheaper about electricity than I am about wine). More, after the jump:

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