All Posts In Drinks

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.

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Alex Serves: New Year’s Eve Cocktails for All

by in Drinks, Food Network Chef, Holidays, December 30th, 2011

New Year's Eve CocktailsThis is a time of the year when my drinking rules and all “house” policies go out the window. I want something new. I will drink a cocktail through the cocktail hour and the dinner party instead of switching to wine. I sip smoky, tabacco-y scotch. I indulge in a snifter of brandy. Sometimes I mix drinks. Here are a few I’m enjoying this year for New Year’s.

Negroni

I really like this flavor — it rides the perfect line between bitter and sweet. It goes well with salty snacks or with a full meal. Make sure everything (including the glasses) are as cold as possible.

Get Alex’s cocktail recipes »

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 »