All Posts By Mark Oldman

Every week, Mark Oldman — wine expert, acclaimed author and lead judge of the series The Winemakers — shares with readers the basics of wine, while making it fun and practical. In the coming weeks, he’ll tell you what to ask at a wine store, at what temperature to serve it and share his must-have wine tools.

Fright Potions for Halloween

by in Drinks, Holidays, October 26th, 2012

shrunken head strawsFor Halloween I often advise people to find one of the many wines available with scary names, such as Sin Zin, Dead Arm or Devil’s Lair. Given the festive nature of fright night, however, it can also be rewarding to whip up a big-batch wine that is sure to give your guests the creeps — in a good way.

Red Punch: The color of villainy, of course, is blood red, so the easiest way to add fright to your night is to mix up a simple Red Wine Punch from Food Network Magazine.

Sangria: With a little more work, you can make a traditional red sangria, whose name appropriately derives from sangre or blood in Spanish. I show you how in this video.

Go Green: Equally impressive would be to surprise your guests with a concoction the color of ghastly green. Obtain some green food coloring and add it to Paula Deen’s Mimosa Punch or Giada’s Apple and Mint Punch.

Accessorize with Sandra’s Shrunken Head Straws

$7 Brings You Instant Wine Coolness on St. Patrick’s Day

by in Drinks, Holidays, March 15th, 2012

wine for st. patricks dayIf you crave coolness, sometimes the best plan is to swim against the stream. Everyone eating steak? Order the shrimp scampi. Friends dressing up? Go ahead, wear your ripped jeans.

And with St. Patrick’s Day being so famously beer-soaked, your against-the-grain cred will come from drinking wine. Not any old vino, mind you, but one particularly suited to this casual, joyous occasion: Vinho Verde (VEEN-yoh VEHR-day), a light white wine from various native grapes in Portugal.

Here are five reasons why

Two Lessons From Perfect Wine

by in Drinks, March 1st, 2012

romanee conti wineIf there’s one estate in the world that can make perfect wine, it is Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (“DRC” to insiders) in France’s Burgundy region. So special is its Pinot Noir that tourists make pilgrimages there just to gaze thirstily at the vineyards behind its low stone wall. It is so coveted that some careful collectors will scrawl an “X” on bottles that they have drained to prevent counterfeiters from reusing them.

This is the kind of juice that Miles from Sideways would pursue to the end of the earth, even if it meant making like Thelma & Louise and rocketing his red Saab over a canyon into the blue beyond.

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6 Tequila Myths, Busted

by in Drinks, Events, February 26th, 2012

tequila shot with lime
Admit it — you don’t drink tequila because of that one regretful run-in in college. You remember it: Shots were slammed, the room seemed to crater, porcelain was embraced, and the next day your head endured a piñata pounding.

So I understand your hesitation. But please hear me out: Today’s high-quality, nuanced, “sipping” tequilas are a world away from the syrupy firewater that you used to hide from your RA, who, it turns out, had his own stash of the stuff.

In fact, I’m so into fine tequila that I discussed it at my seminar with Food Network’s very own Marcela Valladolid at the South Beach Food Network Wine & Food Festival today. Whether you attended the seminar, or just read on, I aim to make you a convert, too, by dispelling these tequila myths:

1. All tequila is heavy and sweet: Not so. The “blanco” or “silver” category of tequila is clear and pure tasting. Citrusy and herbal, good blancos are like a high-alcohol Sauvignon Blanc — perfect as an appetite or joy-stoker.

Five more tequila myths busted »

Does a $10,000 Bottle of Wine Taste Like $10,000?

by in Drinks, January 25th, 2012

expensive wine bottle
When you write about wine, you sometimes get to taste the really expensive stuff. I’m not talking filet mignon or even white-truffle expensive. I’m talking splurging like Diddy-in-a-diamond-hoodie-on-a-yacht expensive.

When a collector shares one of these bottles with me, friends later ask, “Does it taste like [insert obscenely expensive price]?”

The honest answer: It doesn’t, at least not to the untrained palate, and probably not even to most trained palates.

The lesson here is that while the price is often reflective of a wine’s quality, it is so only up to a point. And even when a wine is of high quality — from the best grapes handled by the most talented hands — it doesn’t mean that you are going to automatically taste its full price. In fact, some of the most-prized bottles can evoke qualities — think soy sauce or pencil lead or even a barnyard in August — that are off-putting to the uninitiated.

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Why Screw Caps Are No Longer a Stigma

by in Drinks, January 12th, 2012

screw cap wine bottle
If anything should convince you of my position on screw caps, consider the stated location on my Twitter profile: “wherever corks pop and caps snap.”

Yes, I give equal status to corks and screw caps because both are perfectly fine bottle enclosures. Just a generation ago, the thought of packaging wine like soda pop would have prompted connoisseurs to raise their corkscrews in a vampire cross.

These days enthusiasts know that quality wine is often packaged with twist-off tops, making the wine not only easier to open but also protecting it from cork taint, which is that basement-floor, mildewy smell that experts estimate affects at least 5 percent of all cork-enclosed bottles.

Continue reading »

How to Outsmart New Year’s Eve With Bubbly at Home

by in Drinks, Holidays, December 29th, 2011

New Year's Eve Champagne at HomeThere’s so much pressure to have fun on New Year’s Eve that it’s easy to find yourself overpaying at a restaurant or bar for the right to experience tepid beer, viciously thumping music and the crush of overindulging strangers. Happily, you can easily outsmart this New Year’s outcome by having the kind of home bubbly celebration described here:

Bubbles of Any Kind: Whether it’s real Champagne from France or one of the less expensive types I call “bubbly stunt doubles” — Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain — bubbles are the cornerstone of a home New Year’s celebration.

Throughout the Night: The key is not to save the bubbly for the midnight ball drop, but to drink it throughout your festive night. A lighter-style blanc de blancs Champagne (from white grapes) works perfectly as an appetite-stoking aperitif or with lighter bites, such as Ted Allen’s Crudo on the Half Shell. But a richer, people-pleasing Prosecco or American sparkler would provide a cleansing lift to entrees such as Alex Guarnaschelli’s Oven “Fried” Pizza.

Learn how to saber a bottle like a pro »

5 Myths of Buying Wine in Supermarkets

by in Drinks, December 7th, 2011

supermarket wine
“Who is buying this stuff?” I always wonder when I pass by one of the wine aisles at a certain 24-hour supermarket in California’s Silicon Valley. Past aisles of everyday wine and not far from a display of pet flea and tick collars and a table of diapers, is a display cabinet of bottles of fine wine, some of it under locked glass. You have to wonder: Do the Mark Zuckerbergs and Larry Pages of the world really need to make 4 a.m. runs for Heitz Cabernet?

Apparently so, or else the supermarket wouldn’t stock it — or at least stock so much of it. What it also reminds us is that a great deal of the world’s wine is purchased at supermarkets and, contrary to common conception, many of these stores sell more than supermarket wine.

Five myths about supermarket wine »

Wines for a Special Occasion — Outsmarting Wine

by in Drinks, November 18th, 2011

special occasion wine
With the holidays looming, the wine mind naturally turns to occasions where we can break out the special stuff. Here are four of my favorite options:

Older Champagne: While most sparklers are meant to be drunk soon after release — when bubbles are vigorous and the taste shades to the citric and snappy — a good wine merchant can steer you to a bottle of mature Champagne (i.e., 10 years or more of bottle age). Its delicate bubbles and haunting, hazelnut flavors will make your important occasions seem that much more memorable.

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5 Ways to Drink Devilishly This Halloween

by in Drinks, Holidays, October 27th, 2011

wine for halloween
When there’s a chill in the air and a jack-o’-lantern on the porch, it’s time for wine that’s spooky in every place but inside the glass. Here are five wine options that will have you laughing like Vincent Price:

1. Wine for Candy:
A sweet-seeming red like an oaky Shiraz, Zinfandel or Cabernet will pair nicely with mini-Snickers or a fist-full of Jujubes.

2. Hard Cider:
If your Halloween will include bobbing for apples or caramel apples, ask your local wine merchant for their best hard apple cider. Recently fashionable among wine hipsters, hard cider has a delicious, farm-fresh taste joined by a light sparkle and a low alcohol content.

Wine with scary names »