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Posts Tagged ‘wine reference’

A Brave New Pour

Never heard of wines like Moschofilero (that’s Mo-sko-FEE-leh-ro), Txakoli (ummm… Choc-OH-lee), or how about the delicious, caramel-filled-center dessert wine known as Madeira (Me-DEER-ah)?  Fret not because Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine will navigate you through the racks of lesser known wines.  Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine offers wine lovers of all experience levels a real good buzz on these and many other unfamiliar gems.

As author, wine educator, and consumerist, Mark Oldman sheds light on the wines that have had both industry insiders and wine lovers “in the know” grinning from ear to ear for some time now.  Much in the same fashion that Oldman used in his last book, Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine, Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine is a guide with lots of easy to swallow advice.  It’s much like a friend sharing with you how these “new” wines taste, how much you can expect to spend, their availability, and what kinds of foods to pair with them.  In addition, Oldman shares little nuggets of information about the wines (via “cheat sheets”) without boring you to tears with a bunch of information only needed by hardcore grape-nuts for the WSET exam.  :)

The short and sweet of it is this – there’s a great big world of wine out there beyond Bordeaux, Burgundy and California.  Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine is a full glass of rich, new wine discoveries that will help to expand your wine horizons and build your confidence when exploring your favorite wine store.  No more will you be left holding the same old 1.5l bottle of Chardonnay and Merlot in the checkout line!

Poosh It!  If you have a wine enthusiast in your life, this is a great book to give this holiday season!

Book Review: The Wine Trials 2010

I love wine books that are fresh, easy to digest, and challenges your personal beliefs or thoughts about wine.  The Wine Trials 2010, in a nutshell, tries its best to answer one simple, yet difficult question:


“Do expensive wines taste better than cheap wines?”



According to the results of a rigorous study conducted by Robin Goldstein & Alexis Herschkowitsch, the authors of The Wine Trials 2010, the answer was a resounding – NO.  The majority of wine drinkers that participated in the Wine Trials’ blind tastings actually preferred the taste of wines costing between $6 and $15 over those costing $50 or more.  


Yep, sounds kind of funny and made up.  However, in a series of blind tastings conducted around the country, with more than 6,000 glasses of wine poured from brown bagged bottles, and three book pages full of willing and ready tasters up for the challenge – the cheap stuff came out on top!


Before the authors unveil there killer values, the first 58 pages of The Wine Trials 2010 is dedicated to providing readers with all the necessary “nuts and bolts” that went into the actual experiment.  Within these pages, it also explores the psychological side of why we all have the tendency to associate cost with a particular level of quality – The Placebo Effect, as it’s called.  In this particular scenario, “A more expensive wine must taste better than a cheaper one”.  Before turning the spotlight on the wines themselves, the authors also weigh in on the industry and the folks that write about it.  Without giving away any juicy details, you’ll see why at least one of these industry movers would have much rather gone unmentioned in this book.  Finally, the authors get on with the show and take you for a ride with the 150 value wines that they say beat out the pricier stuff.  To this point, my only real beef with The Wine Trials 2010 is that the authors fail to reveal the identity of all of the expensive wines that bit the dust against their Top 150 values. The only high dollar wines that are mentioned in the book are Dom Pérignon, Beringer, Cakebread, Veuve Clicquot and a Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru from Louis Latour.  Which leads me to assume that these wines were only mentioned because they were the most recognizable high-end wine names?


Overall, I found The Wine Trials 2010 to be a great read!  It’s like getting two books for the price of one:  The Wine Trials Story and a guide with 150 wines under $15.  Several, if not many, of the value wines recommended in it are truly outstanding and certainly worth trying.  Pick up a copy, keep it in your car glove box and pull it out each time you go wine shopping.  At the very least, it’ll give you some very affordable picks that you might have otherwise passed on merely because of the price tag.  


The German Way of Classifying Wine

german-flagOn the heels of my first ever “Germans are the Best” taste challenge.  I thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at how Germany actually classifies its white wines.


In Germany, a single wine estate will in most cases, make several different individual wines – mainly utilizing the native Riesling grape.  These wines can run the spectrum of being off-dry to tasting rich and very sweet.  For this reason, German wines are classified by law based upon the ripeness or “sweetness” level during a given harvest.  All German white wines can be broken down into three categories:


  1.  Light and Off-Dry – These wines will have low alcohol content, be light in body with some degree of residual sugar to give it a clean and refreshing taste.
  2. Dry and Full-Bodied – These wines produce higher alcohol content (somewhere between 11 and 13%), the body of the wine will begin to get heavier and the wine will also be more assertive and aromatic.
  3.  Rich & Sweet – These German wines will display the highest alcohol content because the berries are left to wither on the vine to the point of becoming raisins.  These raisin–like berries are then individually selected and hand-picked to produce some of Germany’s finest dessert style wines.


Taking this ripeness level concept one step further, Germany designed a wine classification system which would further break down its white wines into specific categories of ripeness.


When shopping for a German white wine – which in most cases will be a Riesling wine, you’ll see one of these German wine terms listed below on the bottle label.  These terms are meant to be a road map to help guide you towards a German wine that will either be light and somewhat dry or to a wine that is super rich and sweet.  Here are the options you’ll encounter when considering the purchase of a German white wine:


  • “Tafelwein” or Landwein” – This just means “German table wine”. 
  • “QBA” – When a German label lists “QBA”, its telling you that this particular wine is a basic level “quality wine”.  It will possess a degree of sweetness, but look for this wine to be more on the drier and lighter side.  
  • “QmP” – this German wine term literally means, “Quality wines with distinction”.  This classification is meant to tell shoppers that this German wine is of “superior quality”.  These superior quality wines are broken down into 6 “Prädikats” or wine classifications to provide consumers clues as to what style of wine a particular German wine might taste like.
    1. “Kabinett” When a German wine labels lists the word “ Kabinett”, it’s trying to tell you that this particular wine will be light bodied with some degree of residual sugar to give it a touch of sweetness.  “Kabinetts” are best drunk alone or with light seafood and shellfish.
    2. “Spatlese” When you see this term on a German wine label, it means that this particular wine may be either dry or sweet (Consult your wine retailer to ask if they’ve tried the “Spatlese” you’re considering to find out if its on the drier or sweeter side).  Good food choices for the sweeter ones are spicy dishes.
    3. “Auslese” This means that the grapes used to make these wines were very ripe and a fraction of them were almost “raisin-like” before they were hand-picked off of the vine.  Again, a German wine label that indicates “Auslese” may be either dry or sweet.  I would recommend talking to the wine clerk to ask if they’ve tasted the wine that you’re considering.  “Auslese” will however be a richer, more complex style of German white wine.
    4. “BA” or “Beerenauslese” This wine term is meant to tell you that the particular wine that you’re looking at is a rich, sweet, dessert-style of wine where there hand-picked berries (“Beeren”) were left on the vine until they achieved a rainsin like state.
    5. “TBA” or “Trockenbeerenauslese” This German wine term means “very rich and sweet”.  Just think of honey when you see this on a German wine label.
    6. “Eiswein” This German wine term literally means “Ice wine”. German Eiswein is a super sweet and rich dessert – style wine made from grapes that have been left on the vine until they have shriveled up like raisins.  These berries are hand-picked in the winter and pressed into wine while still frozen.  Many Eisweins will even tell you when they were harvested.  Look for “St. Nikolauswein” which means harvested on December 6th or “Christwein” which means harvested on December 24th or “Dreikonigswein” which means harvested on January 6th.


As a final word of caution, all German white wines classified from “Table wine” to “Auslese” can be dry to bordering on sweet.  Try asking the wine clerk for assistance if you’re not sure whether or not the German white wine that you’re considering leans towards one or the other.


For more information about the German Prädikat System and other interesting stuff about the Riesling grape, visit the Riesling Rules website  and request a free copy of the Riesling Rules book.  This paperback book is chock full of terrific Riesling information and helpful information.


Wine Dictionary – Viognier

viognierMany guides differ slightly when giving the pronunciation of this native Rhone Valley white grape.  Some say vee-own-yay, while others say vee-on-yayVee-on-yay with a short o is actually the correct way to pronounce it.  But hey, it’s all good no matter how you say it.



This awesome white grape that was originally born in the Rhone Valley of France is now being planted all over the globe.  In it’s native France, the majority of Viogniers are sold as  “Vin de Pays“, or “country wine” in the Languedoc wine region of France.  In the Rhone wine region, the Viognier grape is often blended with other native French white wine grapes like Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache blanc, and Rolle.  Finally, in Northern Rhone, Viognier is sometimes blended with the Chardonnay grape.


Most Viogniers exhibit a rich, flower shop aroma that is similar to the Torrontes white grape from Argentina.  Most also have an apricot and citrusy flavor.  They’re usually made in a dry style with a hint of sweetness, and leave the oak in the woods where it belongs.

Viognier is a great summer sipping wine.  It partners very nicely with a variety of different foods and I really think it goes great with spicy ethnic dishes, too.  In addition, this white wine is also pretty darn good with soft French cheeses, such as Brie.

One piece of advice to remember when considering purchasing a bottle of Viognier – buy the youngest ones that you can find.  Most Viogniers don’t typically age very well.  


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