Saturday, November 10, 2012

To Screwcap Or Not To Screwcap...That Is The Question.

I know that most people have a stigma about wine when it comes bearing a screwcap but I have a wine that will help put your issues to rest.  First off, let's dissect why a winery would use a screwcap (known as a Stelvin closure).  Traditional cork comes from either Portugal (mainly) or Spain and is shaved from cork trees once the tree turns about 25.  After the first stripping, the tree is stripped every ten years until the tree dies when it turns 200, although the first 2 strippings are usually too poor to use for quality level cork.

Now let's think about the wine world in the last 20 years and how some many new regions are making quality wines, requiring quality corks.  Since the demand is so high for cork, more trees are being shaved prematurely and therefore the end result, the wine, suffers.  With this explosion of crappy cork on the marketplace, compressed and plastic corks started making an appearance.  If you have been the happy recipient of a plastic cork, you know how hard it is to pull out of the bottle, but what you may have not known, the wine tends to suffocate as plastic doesn't breathe.  The cheaper the wine, the higher possibility  of a plastic cork.

Well, with this increasing usage of subpar cork, the investment in Stelvin (the name of the brand) closures, seemed like the best possible alternative.  Usually, a screwcap is thought of as a true indicator of a poor bottle of wine (ie, Gallo, Franzia, Carlo Rossi, etc.) but a Stelvin is a different style of closure that actually helps a wine age without having to be laid down on it's side.  If you think about it, a cork allows a wine to age because it's porous and allows oxygen in, allowing the wine to breathe.  If you open a young bottle (the year you drink it is close to the year on the label) and notice that the longer it's open the better it tastes, it's because oxygen has oxidized the juice and, effectively, aged it.  Like all living things (yes, wine is living and breathing), wine does die and it's a truly sad thing to behold.  So, the Stelvin company decided to take the screwcap world to the next level with a neutral liner inside that helps preserve the wine.

Enough schooling and textbook talk and let's talk vino.  The wine that sparked this post is one that I brought home from my favorite region in the world for wine; Burgundy France.  The 2010 Domaine Laroche Bourgogne Blanc Tete de Cuvee is the perfect under $20 bottle of Burgundy.  See all the info about this wine here (

Thursday, November 8, 2012

First Date Wine That Can Equal SEX!

One of the most difficult parts of the dating world for me when dealing with a first date scenario is not the actual asking the other out, or deciding what to do, but when a meal is part of the equation (and when is it not on the first go around on the dating table) and deciding what wine to have to truly impress. I want to make a lasting impression in every aspect of this first meeting and generally try to not let something so small as the wine backtrack me. But what to choose?

The choice of the wine is the hardest part of all of the first date meal scenarios. Do I choose red or white? Do I throw in a rose wine? How expensive do I go? $10? $50? $100? And when I walk into the liquor store (if the dinner is at home), do I trust a recommendation or do I choose on my own knowledge? If I’m at a restaurant, do I trust the sommelier or do I again go with my gut? My goal here, if you remember, is to make sure there is a second date and the right bottle makes all the difference. So where to begin? 

Most people are firm believers that the “right” wine must be paired with the “right” food. I believe in a different philosophy; A good wine goes with anything, it’s all about the moment. The food helps but isn’t truly important. 

Let’s start with a dinner at home example, shall we? What do I go with? I personally like to be different. I don’t just want to pour a Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon. I want something that my potential partner may have never had. But I have to make sure I don’t seem like I’m cheaping out. Basically, no brand name wines (if you can think of a brand of wine, don’t buy it) and no trendy grapes (ie: Malbec or Montepulciano) because people associate both with a certain price point (inexpensive). Instead I like to pick something relatively unknown to my dinner partner and allowing me to use the history of the wine as an ice breaker if the conversation goes dull. I always need to have a backup, just in case. 

If I am going for a white, I will generally either go for a white Rioja from the Rioja region of Spain (made from a grape called viura) or an Italian grape called Falanghina from the Campania region of Italy. The white Rioja is a little more full bodied (similar to Chardonnay without the oaky mess some can have) while the Falaghina is more citrusy and floral and acidic (more akin to Sauvignon Blanc but not as grassy or as acidic). When the situation calls going for a red wine, I prefer to go to Italy and get a cannanou (grenache) from the island of Sardinia. This is more full bodied and tannic style of a wine. For a lighter/medium bodied wine, I love to get a Bourgogne (red Burgundy aka Pinot Noir), which is much more elegant and a layered. I like to do a little research on the wine if I want to and have small bullet points about the wines that I can drop slowly throughout the dinner. 

These wines generally will all retail under the $20 mark allowing me to save but be creative and impressive. If you are looking to save money here, ask yourself if $20 is worth the price of coitus? If you want to be cheap about the end game, go to the local bar and find a partner at 3am and enjoy your penicillin. Otherwise, open your wallet and pull out an Andrew Jackson and have an amazing evening and some amazing wine. 

Now what happens when our first rendezvous is out at a restaurant? Well, this requires a bit more thought and finesse. The first and most important rule here is don’t cheap out!  Never go for the cheapest bottle on the menu. If the restaurant’s sommelier is worth their salt, they will sprinkle in treats at the $40-$50 range. 

If I am going for whites, for a litter white, I will search out a Cheverny from the Loire Valley region of France, which is made from Sauvignon Blanc. For a more full bodied white, I will search out a Godello from the Galicia region of Spain as this wine is very similar to chardonnay but has a very unique and intriguing character. When searching out a red, I love going back to France and Spain. For my more medium bodied reds, I almost always go for a Chinon (100% cabernet franc) from the Loire Valley of France while with more full bodied reds, I head to Verona, Italy for a Valpolicella (which is a blend of three indigenous grapes) and very similar to the monster wine Amarone, without the price tag. 

To make sure I am not caught off guard or come off underprepared, I try to research the restaurant and get a copy of their wine list. This allows me to try and figure out a few possible wines that might work for the mood because, as you remember my personal motto, the wine must match the mood, not the food. All this requires about 10 minutes of work, max!

While all of the previous information is helpfully, please remember that this is not scripture. This is not meant to be taken as the end all, be all. This is one man’s opinion based on experience and track record. Substitutions are always allowed but the premise should always be the same; affordable but off the beaten track wines that allow you to make this dinner hopefully end with a wonderful breakfast. That is the goal here, right? There is a reason that Bacchus, the god of wine, is also the god of ritual madness and ecstasy.  All these things tend to go hand and hand. He might even be the god of safety words, but that’s another story, for another writer, for another day. In the meantime, when you meet that “dinner guest” of yours, make sure you don’t come off boring and dull in your wine choice, otherwise you will be going home alone.