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.

How to Order Wine in One Sentence — Outsmarting Wine

by in Drinks, October 18th, 2011

how to order wine in one sentence
You won’t find me wearing a bowtie or a tweedy jacket. I don’t speak with a lilting English accent or raise a pinky when I drink. In other words, I don’t look like the prototypical wine expert. This is good news for you, because I don’t get special treatment in restaurants; in fact, you might say I have a front-row seat to the nerve center of wine anxiety. The idea that we’re supposed to make the right choice from a long list of foreign names, years and prices — and do so in the stolen moments of glancing down at a wine list — is a game for Don Quixote.

Assuming that your server or sommelier seems informed, here are three ways to stack the deck in your favor by ordering wine with just one sentence.

Three ways to order wine »

How to Taste Wine — Outsmarting Wine

by in Drinks, How-to, October 7th, 2011

how to taste wine
“I’m not good at wine,” is the sheepishly exasperated refrain I always hear. “I just don’t get all those things — the plums, the oak, the butter — that stuff experts talk about.”

My response: You’re not alone and frankly I just don’t know how some enthusiasts detect things like tomato leaves, sweaty saddle and other exotica in their fermented grape juice. There are, however, useful descriptors that many experts use, like oaky, crisp and soft, that can help you communicate to store clerks and sommeliers what kind of wine you really like. Here are three ways to build your wine-tasting vocabulary.

Three ways to build your wine-tasting vocabulary »

What to See and Say in a Wine Store — Outsmarting Wine

by in Drinks, September 21st, 2011

wine store
Every week, Mark Oldman — wine expert, acclaimed author and lead judge of the hit 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.

Come clean: In a wine shop, you choose by the label. Not to worry — I, too, am seduced by alluring packaging. But what if you want to make sure that the wine also tastes good? Here’s a plan of attack that even a novice can conquer.

First, you need to maximize the chances that the store has smart, helpful clerks and not the snide, zoned-out clerks that make me head straight to an online seller. If you don’t already know the shop’s reputation, do some reconnaissance. Are the bottles cool to the touch or are they baking in the sun, on the road to ruin? Does the place use homemade shelf signs, or just plastic cards with canned advertising copy? Does it host free tastings? All are clues that the merchant takes its business and its customers seriously.

What to see and say in a wine store »

Terroir: Does Your Wine Taste Like Somewhere?

by in Drinks, September 14th, 2011

terroir
Every week, Mark Oldman — wine expert, acclaimed author and lead judge of the hit 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.

My friend Carl is an apple-cider savant. If you put three different glasses of cider in front of him, after a few sips of each, he can tell you which one is from Gravenstein Apples in Sonoma, which originated in Canada and which came from the Jonagold apples of central New Jersey. This is because the taste of each cider reflects where the apples come from — their geography and growing conditions — so each possesses a distinct aroma and taste.

So the same goes with wine.  Enthusiasts often talk of a wine’s terroir (tare-WAHR), the consistently identifiable taste that reflects where the grapes came from. A terroir-driven wine expresses not only its grape type, but also all of the natural conditions in which those grapes were grown: the soil type, the angle of slope on which it was grown and the particular micro climate there. Certain wine types, like from France’s Burgundy and Alsace regions, are known to express their terroir — that is, these wines have a unique personality that conveys the natural conditions from which they came. They express a “sense of somewhere,” which is how the term “terroir” is often translated from French, though there is no precise definition in English.

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How to Send Wine Back — Outsmarting Wine

by in Drinks, How-to, September 7th, 2011

how to send wine back
Every week, Mark Oldman — wine expert, acclaimed author and lead judge of the hit 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.

Contrary to common conception, it isn’t easy being the “wine guy” in restaurants — your tablemates assume you always have a divining rod to the best bottle. But what happens when you don’t get a good bottle? Or when you get a spoiled one? How do you politely send it back without being a jerk?

It was with extreme caution last week that I was in this exact situation: I sent back a bottle of wine at a New York restaurant. Although the server didn’t know of my connection to wine, she had already generously offered me tastes of two other wines they had by the glass. I turned them down gently and instead went with another, a red that she swore by.

Find out how to send a bottle of wine back politely »

Affordable Weeknight Wines — Outsmarting Wine

by in Drinks, August 31st, 2011

boxed wine
Every week, Mark Oldman — wine expert, acclaimed author and lead judge of the hit 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.

A word of reassurance to casual drinkers: Even wine pros like to drink simple, affordable wines most of the time.  While high-dollar, prestigious juice is always appreciated (especially when it’s on someone else’s dime), the eternal, ongoing quest is for delicious bottles that are as affordable as they are easy to come by.  Here are three types that will enchant any night of the week:

Vermentino: If you’re up for a more interesting alternative to Pinot Grigio, look no further than this fun-to-pronounce white from Italy. Increasingly in stores and restaurants, Vermentino is medium weight, with sassy notes of citrus and a clean, appetite-stoking finish and rarely a trace of oak.  Typically ringing up less than $15, it makes fast friends with seafood of all sorts, including this tangy, toothsome Red Mullet Wrapped in Paper.

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Tangy, (Sea)foodie Whites for Anne’s Scallops

by in Drinks, August 24th, 2011

wine for seafood
Every week, Mark Oldman — wine expert, acclaimed author and lead judge of the hit 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.

Anne Burrell’s Seared Scallops With Citrus, Arugula and Pomegranate Salad represents the best of both worlds: It’s light and citrusy enough to refresh the summer palate, but it’s also deeply delicious thanks to its caramelized scallops and garlic and onion accents.  These three white wines will harmonize beautifully with this sumptuous seafood salad:

Sauvignon Blanc: Because the dish is dominated by lip-smacking notes of lemon, grapefruit and pomegranate, your primary goal should be to choose a wine with a tanginess to match that in the recipe.  Sauvignon Blanc — especially plumper versions from California and New Zealand — will provide the citric snap that this dish deserves, while bringing enough weight to stand up to its piquant flavors.  Moreover, the wine’s famously herbal “grassy” quality in wine-speak makes it a bull’s-eye choice with greens like arugula.

Pair seafood with Chardonnay and Albarino »

Some Like It Cool: Serving Temperature and Wine

by in Drinks, August 17th, 2011

wine in bucket
Every week, Mark Oldman — wine expert, acclaimed author and lead judge of the hit 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.

The serving temperature of wine is like weather conditions in a city: Small differences can vastly change your attitude about what’s in front of you.  The following guidelines will cast your wine in the most flattering light:

White wine: It’s no surprise that most of us like our whites — along with our rosés and sparklers — fully chilled.  It’s just more refreshing that way. At the same time, if you are drinking a special white — say, an expensive California Chardonnay or French Pinot Gris — in a setting where you really want to appreciate its subtleties, you might allow a cold white to warm up 15 minutes or so before serving. As eating a frozen Snickers bar demonstrates, coldness numbs our perception of flavor.  A slightly warmer temperature, therefore, unleashes a fine white wine’s aromas and flavors.

Tips for red wine after the jump »

Sips for Hot Summer Nights — Outsmarting Wine

by in Drinks, August 10th, 2011

summer wine
Every week, Mark Oldman — wine expert, acclaimed author and lead judge of the hit 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.

There’s no shame in the expression, “I don’t want to have to think,” when it comes to selecting wine for the sizzling soirées of summer.  At this steamy time of year, even wine aficionados want their pleasure immediate and their price tags moderate.  When contemplating which corks to pull, strive for the alcoholic equivalent of a steel drum or the Black Eyed Peas’ exuberant “I Gotta Feeling” — these wine types are guaranteed to make “tonight a good night.”

Prosecco, Vinho Verde and Beaujolais »

3 Sizzling Wine Types for BBQ — Outsmarting Wine

by in Drinks, August 3rd, 2011

rose wine for bbq
Every week, Mark Oldman — wine expert, acclaimed author and lead judge of the hit 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.

The aromatherapy of summer is the sweet perfume of a fired-up grill, accompanied by wine that complements whatever happens to be sizzling and smoking above the coals.

If burgers or steaks are your ‘cue of choice, you’ll never go wrong with a rich, fruit-forward red, preferably one with hints of smoke to match the food’s flavor and a tinge of oaky sweetness to flatter the meat’s marinade.  Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and simple versions of Cabernet Sauvignon get the job done with aplomb, often with a slightly dry sensation that pairs so well with the protein and fats of red meat.  If the weather is as sweltering as your grill, don’t hesitate to make these reds more refreshing by giving them 10 or so minutes of refrigerator time.

Wine recommendations for hot dogs, chicken and more »