Archive for December, 2008

Visit to “Terroir”

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Those of you who are regular readers are probably familiar with the term Terroir.  As such, you may be confused by my claimed ability to go visit what is loosely described as “a sense of place”.  Fear not, I haven’t COMPLETELY lost it – only partially…          

monkey-avatar

Having cleared that up, what I did visit last night was the WINE BAR “Terroir”.  Terroir is located on East 12th Street in what is considered to be the East Village, near Tompkins Square Park.  It is a pretty cool area, but the bar is in the middle of a block, a bit hard to find, and really in the middle of nowhere.  Yet, on a holiday weekend, Sunday night, IT WAS PACKED!  WHY????

The place is at first glance nothing special.  Some bizarre t-shirts adorning one wall combined with its somewhat psychedelic menu make this place original, but why is it packed??  The place probably only seats about 25 people between the bar and the 1 communal table so I suppose filling such a small place is easier than a space that seats 125.  The prices seemed a bit high and there is a clear biased to Rieslings – not that there is anything wrong with that.  At first, the crowd made very little sense to me…

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3182/2538660542_126f1ebcb5.jpg

But then I got down to business with my fellow wine club members and started tasting.  WOW!  To begin with, our server (Emily) was great.  She was warm, sweet, patient and quite knowledgeable (or so she seemed).  As a bunch of winos, rather than buying a bottle or even glasses we opted for tastes – 3 oz. pours that allowed us to sample a variety of wines.  I took my cue from Emily and a fellow wine club buddy when coming up with my choices.  And while all the recommendations weren’t perfect, having tiny samples before selecting ensured that I was happy with what I ended up with.

We finished the night with a pretty hefty bill, but I tasted 8 or 9 different wines, drinking 6 of them and really enjoyed myself.

The wines I tasted without tasting notes – sorry, wasn’t that kind of tasting…

Muscadet – Sevre & Maine, Cuvee Medaillee, Pierre Luneau, 1995, Loire Valley (100% Melon de borgogne).

Pinot Gris – Cuvee Cecile, Lucien Albreacht, 2004, Alcase.

Chablis – Bel Air Et Clardy, 2006, de Moor (100% Chardonnay)

Riesling – Spatlese, Rudesheimer Berg Rottland, Ehrhard, 1990, Rheingau.

All very nice wines, yet the Riesling was unbelievable, especially for a 1990 – or maybe because it was a 1990???

Moving on to reds, I was feeling pretty good at this point, and ended up trying about 4 reds.  I did not care for 2 of them that friends did in fact enjoy, but thoroughly enjoyed the other two.

Not my favorite was the dirty/barnyardy 2000 Moulin-Tacussel Southern Rhone Chateauneuf-du-Pape or the fruitless the 2005 Monthelie, Cuvee Paul, Paul Garaudet, Cote de Beaune.

Yet I did really enjoy two nice acidic and somewhat lighter reds.

The Saumur Champagny, Thierry Germain, 2005 Loire Valley 100% Cab Franc has nice subtle fruit, some herbaceous notes and a great acidity.

While the 100% St. Laurent (the name of the grape), Reserve, Forstreiter, 2005, Kremstat was a new varietal for me.  It was light yet it had some depth, minerality and a subtle fruitiness.

Overall a fun and educational wine tasting evening for the Wine Tasting Guy & friends…

Happy WACKY WINE BAR Wine Tasting!

WTG

Happy holidays…

Thursday, December 25th, 2008


http://data1.blog.de/blog/m/messyjessy/img/red-wine.JPG

http://janetsboutique.com/images/P1020158.JPG

Red Wine headache

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

There is certain to be lots of drinking this holiday season.  And with drinking comes the inevitable hangover headache.  Drink too much of anything, and you are sure to be hit with a hangover the next morning.

But forgetting about the hangover in general for a moment, what I want to discuss today is a common misconception regarding the cause and effect relationship between RED WINE and headaches.  There are many people who frequently come down with a headache following some red wine drinking.  This is indisputable.  What I want to clear up however is people’s fear of the RED WINE HEADACHE, and what those who suffer from said headache can do to avoid the uncomfortable after-effect.

http://tbn3.google.com/images?q=tbn:u2CXejxkTolf9M:http://www.winedefinitions.com/imageholder/articleimages/headache1624619.jpg

I have heard from countless people about their presumed allergy to red wine.  Or allergy to sulfites.  How they can drink white wine, but not red.  I have learned a lot about this, including the concept that in all likelihood many people who think they are allergic to sulfites probably are not.  FYI – dried fruit and salad bars contain a much higher level of sulfites than does red wine.  And oh yeah, white wine has plenty of sulfites as well, both naturally occurring sulfites and added sulfites (usually).

As always, if you have specific questions feel free to be in touch.  But without further ado, I’d like to reprint an article written by Jennifer Rosen (for localwineevents.com) titled Red Alert: taming the red wine headache.  A funny & informative read.  One that I hope clears up this issue for many of you who fear the RED WINE HEADACHE…

Happy holidays & HAPPY HEADACHE FREE WINE TASTING!

WTG

Judging by my e-mail, an alarming number of you have quit drinking red wine because it gives you a headache. Do not go gentle into that good night! As inventions go, red wine ranks right up there with indoor plumbing, novocaine and the wheel. More than a great pleasure, it’s been shown to prevent heart disease, osteoporosis, cancer, memory loss and memory loss. (Note to self: drink more red wine).

I’ll bet people nag you, “Oh, come on, try a little. You’re just being hypersensitive!” At last, you are vindicated, because now your condition has an official name. If you’re one of those folks who gets a pounding headache, perhaps with nausea and flushing, within an hour or less of drinking even a small glass of red wine, you have Red Wine Headache Syndrome.

Since RWHS research has nothing to do with weight loss or baldness, and it’s not sexually transmitted, it doesn’t get much press. But, rest assured, scientists are working hard on your problem, and the latest studies conclude…that they haven’t the slightest idea what’s going on. Which is a big improvement over when they thought they knew, and were wrong. But there is still hope for you. Let’s start by busting a few myths.

First, the culprit is NOT sulfites. All wine contains sulfites, or SO2. For thousands of years, winemakers have welcomed its stabilizing effect, adding it at crucial intervals during vinification. Only American labels require the ominous warning, “Contains Sulfites,” if the level exceeds ten parts per million. This happens to be about the level you get if you don’t add any, since SO2 is a natural presence on grape skins. That’s why another label you might have seen, “No Sulfites Added,” is a bit disingenuous. However, the point is moot anyway, unless you are one of the very few, severely steroid-dependent asthmatics who actually is sulfite-sensitive. If so, you react much more violently to dried fruit, hot dogs and many other processed foods, because they have thousands of times the SO2 found in wine.

Second, it’s probably not the histamines, unless your headache comes with itching, sneezing, shortness of breath and diarrhea. If so, red is indeed the enemy, since the devil is in the skins, which give red its color. Good news! Taking an antihistamine before drinking should prevent the reaction. Just make sure to choose a non-drowsy formula, if you want to remember the evening instead of being remembered as the one who slid under the table.

The latest theory is that RWHS is caused by prostaglandin, which certain people lack the wherewithal to metabolize. Scientists admit that it might be caused by yet another substance, probably something in the strains of yeast or bacteria found in red wine. But they vow to soldier on until they’ve cornered the enemy, despite the obvious strain of having to drink all that leftover red wine in the lab.

But, more good news! Former sufferers are getting results from prostaglandin-inhibitors, namely Ibuprophin & Nuprin, as well as the weaker, but workable, aspirin. Take them less than an hour before drinking and chances are no headache will develop. If you should wake up the next morning with a headache, what you’ve got is known as “a hangover,” a medical condition that definitely deserves more research.

Best bet is to test this preventative with just a few sips of wine. And since I’m not a doctor, though I play one in the bedroom with my boyfriend, you should certainly consult your M.D. first.

So, now you, too, can be a wine snob, with your very own Wine Syndrome! When the conversation turns to MLF or carbonic maceration, try tossing in, “I find the aggressive delivery of RWH in this Volnay surprisingly muted by the prosto-inhibitors, don’t you?” Then smile mysteriously and enjoy, at long last, your red.

Happy Holidays! Holiday Wine

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

happy-holidays

The holiday season has kicked into full gear and many people will be enjoying festive holiday meals in the coming days.  The joyous affairs often have several courses and can be nightmares for those attempting to pair the different foods with wine.

Before I even attempt to get technical please remember to enjoy a wine YOU LIKE.  Forget what the so-called “experts” say is a good wine or a good wine to enjoy with whatever food.  If you have a wine that you like and you want to drink GO FOR IT!

That said, there is a reason why wine & food pairing is done.  Certain elements in wine simply co-exists better with certain foods.  For example, my favorite pairing is red meat and red wine, as the tannic and often bold nature of a red wine goes quite well with the strong flavors and high fat content of red meat.

Without getting into too many wine pairing details, I want to make two suggestions for your holiday meals…

The first, go with a sparkling wine.  Said to be “food neutral”, sparkling wines are a fabulous compliment to spicy foods, fish (both cooked & raw), greasy foods (think potato latkes), sweet desserts…name it & it works.

The second is to go with a crisp, acidic white.  Similar to sparkling wines, these crisp whites (such as Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino or Riesling) provide a crisp & refreshing palate cleansing in between bites.  They help to cut through oily or cheesy dishes.  They are great sipping alone (although I think more of sipping one of these wines during the summertime months). And they are overall very versatile.

Feel free to send me a message or leave a comment if you have any specific holiday feast wine pairing questions.

happyeverything

Happy Holiday Wine Tasting!

WTG

Double blind wine tasting

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

This evening I participated in a FUN double blind wine tasting with members of my wine tasting club.  Not to be confused with a triple blind tasting…

blindtaste

…where one does not know anything about the wine they are tasting and they are not even allowed to see the wine.

A double blind is when you CAN look at the wine but you are not told anything else about the wine.

Our group organizer (and frequent host) put together a list of acceptable varietals/regions and set the minimum price at $20.  I suppose since we were working off a list of about 20 -30 varietals & regions that it was not a true double blind, but I tell you what – we sure were laughing at ourselves and having fun.

Anyway, each of 10 of us in attendance brought a wine that fit the list criteria, and brought it in a brown paper bag with a plain brown/tan rubber band.

brown-paper-bag-blind-tasting

We then numbered the bags and began the tasting with #1.

What added to the fun (besides the no pretension/expectation environment) was that we decided to score our tasting guesses (1 point each; per varietal, country & region) and tally total points.  We each also kicked in $7, and the person with the most points won a bottle of wine.

So how did I do you ask?  Let’s just say I could have traded in my “Wine Tasting Guy” moniker for “Wine clueless Guy”.

Of the 10 wines I successfully guessed two.  But one of the two was the wine I brought (A Sonoma Syrah) (2 points), so I really only deserve credit for guessing 1 of 9, an Argentinian Malbec (2 points – but I was unsure and thought it might end up being a Chilean Cab).

Of the other 8 wines I scored ZERO on four of them.  I thought a Washington Cab was a Grenache from Priorat, Spain (it seemed light to me).  I guessed a (stinky) NY Cab Franc was a Spanish Rioja.  I guessed a Gigondas was an Italian Piedmont Nebiollo.  And I guessed an Italian Tuscan Sangiovese was a Burgundy.  ZERO POINTS FOR ME.

Of the remaining four I guessed that an Oregon Pinot was a New Zealand Pinot (1 point), That an Italian Barbera d’alba was an Italian Sangiovese (1 point), that another Oregon Pinot was a Sonoma, CA Pinot (2 points – 1 for country and 1 for varietal).  And that an Italian Chianti was an Italian Dolcetto (1 point).

So for those of you counting at home I scored 9 points.  Two other guys scored 9 points…but someone scored 12, another 13, and the winner scored 14.

I was content with how I did, but (happily) realized I have a long wine journey ahead.  And a fun journey it will be.

Happy BLIND wine tasting!!!

WTG

Wine prices dropping???

Monday, December 15th, 2008

Given the economic crisis the world is experiencing,  I have been reading/hearing about the “trading down” phenomenon within the wine world – where people are spending less on the wine they are buying.  What I have not heard is that wine prices are dropping.  While this is simple economics (as demand drops and and supply remains constant price will eventually have to drop as well) it is not something I have seen or anticipated.

Now I must admit that I am not intimately familiar with the prices and market for high end wines, it seems that the high end wine market is experiencing said price decline.

According to Forbes.com article “Not-so-fine Wine” fine wine is suffering from a loss of investor appetite.  In fact, some prices have fallen so steeply that they are now available at nearly half their value from a year ago.

Thought this was interesting and I wanted to share.  Now all us financially challenged people need is for wine prices to drop on sub $100 (or $30 for that matter) bottles.

Happy more affordable wine tasting!

WTG

Healthy “GRAPES” & light pre-natal imbibing

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

Countless studies have declared the health benefits of red wine, citing compounds such as antioxidants, resveratrol, polyphenolic compounds, etc.  But for the most part it seems these benefits are said to come from wine, and often red wine in particular.  Well now (in a recent article in Wine Spectator online) I read that there are studies analyzing  whether or not these health benefits actually can be realized simply by consuming the grapes, or some other form of grape byproduct such as grape seed extract or grape powder (huh?).  The article loses me upon implying that drinking red wine to reap the health benefits is no longer necessary.  But I thought some of you might find it to be interesting.

On a separate wine & health related topic, one that stirred a bit of controversy the last time I brought it up, I found yet another piece discussing pre-natal wine consumption.

Found in a local paper and taken from the “New Science Magazine”, the study cites a University College London study whereby data was collected by more than 12,000 mothers and children in the UK over the last 7 years.  Apparently, “kids whose mothers had one to two alcoholic drinks per week during pregnancy had fewer cognitive and behavioral problems by age 3 than those of woman who abstained”.

A shocking revelation of the article, “light drinking could also help women to relax, making pregnancy less stressful”….ummm….REEEEEEALLY?!?!?!?  Husbands, stock your liquor cabinets!! ;)

I’m not taking a position here (although I have stated an unfounded opinion in the past).  Just saying guys & gals…if it helps the stress level and benefits the kids, what the heck are we making ourselves crazy for.

Seriously though, as always, pregnant women should definitely consult their physician before considering any alcoholic beverages during pregnancy.

Husbands of pregnant women however should DRINK AWAY (I hear pregnant women can be a bit…well, ya know, demanding).

Happy HEALTHY wine Tasting!

WTG

To OAK or NOT to OAK…and wine consumption is UP!

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

As many of you know I’m doing some Israeli wine sales these days.  And in general, I have seen a trend with regards to wines and their aging in oak.  It seems in recent years (maybe even just the last year or so) that the wine “professionals” (insert snobs/purists/aficionados/etc.) are shying away from those wines made with judicious use of oak (aging wine in a high percentage of NEW oak barrels for an extended period).  Almost as if they are seeking out any hint of oak in the wine, these wine “professionals” are stating (right or wrong) that oak seems to mask the fruit elements of wine – often where the oak treatment is done to cover a lack of fruit or a flawed wine in general.

I have participated in a discussion on a wine forum regarding oak usage and just today performed what I felt turned out to be a very interesting experiment.  I took out two Cabernet Sauvignons in a similar price range – one made completely without oak (fermented and aged in stainless steel) and the other aged for 6 months in American oak barrels (not certain of % of new oak – sorry).

I have always been a firm believer that different people have different preferences and everybody is RIGHT.  What is most important is listening to your own palate and being confident enough to proclaim that your palate prefers one style to the other.

Well, the experiment proved just that.  I think I probably had about an even 50-50 split in terms of preference.  Some people preferred the fruity unoaked cab while others preferred the less fruity oaked one.  And you know who was right???….  they ALL WERE RIGHT – CAUSE THAT IS WHAT THEIR PALATES TOLD THEM!  Pretty cool huh?!

On a separate note, we are in a recession folks, and guess what… WINE CONSUMPTION IS UPPPP!!!

Here is a little excerpt from SPECIALTY FOOD NEWS:

“Wine consumption in America continues to increase, according to the U.S. Wine Market Report. While the weak global economy slowed growth considerably, projections are for another all-time high for the 16th consecutive year. The hottest segment of that growth is the 118 brands from smaller producers. They surged more than 8% last year, while the 50 biggest brands gained only 2-tenths of a percent, reported California Farm Bureau.”

Happy un/oaked Wine Tasting!

WTG

Value brands & NY Wine

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Some quick wine stuff today…

Following my last post inquiring about wine buying habits, I found the following info. (from Wine & Spirits Daily) referring to Value Spirits:

After years of little or no growth, value brands are starting to gain share and grow at a faster rate, as seen in Nielsen numbers to October 18. Dollar sales of value spirits grew 2.4% in the 52 weeks, 3.2% in the 12 weeks and 4.3% in the four weeks.

The data showed evidence of consumers trading down from ultra-premium spirits, which lost a significant amount of share in October. The category gained 9.7% in dollar sales in the 52 weeks to October 18, 5.1% in the 12 weeks and 2.3% in the four weeks.

Growth of mid-priced brands stayed relatively the same and premium brands lagged slightly, growing 2.2% in the 52 weeks and only 1.2% in the four weeks.”

Yes Spirits are different from Wine, but I have seen much of the same of late.  People are still drinking, but they are spending less money doing it.  “Trading down” is not a phrase most wine industry professionals like to hear, but it appears to be the (sad) reality given the trying times we are in the midst of.

AND speaking of trying times, a NY icon has closed its doors.

Vintage NY was a NY ONLY wine bar/store.  It was unique in so many ways, and a pretty special place.  As a matter of fact there were at one point two such Vintage NY locations.  This past week Vintage closed its second of two locations, citing “rising rents, higher costs, thin profit margins, slow cash flow, credit (issues)”, etc.

Not much to add here.  Hope this wasn’t TOO MUCH of a DOWNER post.  Just a reality check…

Happy exciting yet affordable Wine Tasting!

WTG

YOUR wine buying habits

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

So believe it or not loyal readers there are apparently, on average, about 150 of you a day who come visit this modest wine blog of mine.  Not a huge number by online standards but a nice number considering my first month or two I was getting about 3-5 daily views.

Anyway, I bring YOU up as I am curious and want to hear from YOU!  Seriously, I really do.

Having fully immersed myself in the wine business I have a lot of daily interaction with people within the trade.  And there are some common themes in terms of wine buying habits, while others are not that common.

First and foremost there is a NEW magic number in wine.  Or range to be more exact.  The new range is $14-$18 (back in the good old pre-recession days it was $20-25) to be.  Apparently that is what consumers are (for the most part) prepared to spend on a bottle of wine these days.  Sure there are those that spend more or less money.  And of course we might still splurge for a special occasion.  But in general, this is what the greatest percentage of people are spending.

But I’m curious.  Are you checking out wines from new regions?  Are you trying new varietals?  How about blends?  Are you for them or against them?  Are there wines from countries that you favor?  Are there wines from countries you simply won’t touch?

We all know by now that I am all about Israeli wines.  And you can probably infer that I am also pretty down with trying new things.  Don’t get me wrong, Cab is still king in my book and I’ll go for a good Cabernet (or Bordeaux style blend) with my favorite bloody rare steak any day.  But for things other than red meat I’m pretty open minded.  I want to try a nice Sangiovese…from Israel.  Or a cool red blend with…pinotage.  Seriously!

How about you?  What do you spend?  What varietal do you look for?  Do you ask the salespeople for help or do you choose a wine yourself?  Do you prefer certain countries or regions?  If you do, is it because those regions have good reputations for wine production or because you are a proud supporter of a certain country (said the Zionist)?  Do you buy all your wines at your local wine shop or do you travel to the discount place?  How about online?  Do you buy wine off the web?

PLEASE leave a comment and let me know.  I’m super curious.  If you are shy, you can contact me directly (gary@winetastingguy.com) instead of leaving a comment for all of cyberspace to read.  I promise, I will not Spam you (at least not any time soon – KIDDING).  But it would be real informative and help me out.  If only 20% of you comment that should be about 25-30 comments.  I can’t wait to hear what you think…

I’ll start.  When I’m not buying Israeli wine I’m mostly trying wines from France or Italy.  I used to buy online but I get deals at retailers I work with so I buy mostly from them these days.  I prefer not to spend more than $20, but I have a wine buying addiction (that I am working on) so if something sounds/looks really good I may splurge.  I have been curious about Cab Franc these days and have been into Chinon.  In general I’m up for checking out new varietals.  I’m trying to better familiarize myself with highly reputed wines such as Burgundy & Brunello (hello wine tasting group & industry tastings).  Given the weather I prefer red to white.  Finally, nothing is better than enjoying a nice glass of wine with someone special.  Now if I can only figure out a way for the special young woman in my life to have a sip of wine with dinner and not pass out from it 10 minutes later.

I look forward to hearing from YOU!!!

Happy introducing yourself to the wine tasting guy…

WTG