All Posts In Drinks

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 »

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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