BEIRUT: There is such a thing as yellow wine. Grape vines can live up to 100 years. And in Damascus you’ll find the oldest wine-making pressure machine in the world.
Wine enthusiasts for whom this is new information may well enjoy a day in the company of Carlos Khachan, wine expert, founder of Lebanon’s first wine-tasting group Club Grappe and owner of La Maison du Sommelier, a converted gallery and wine-tasting space in Beirut’s Furn al-Shubbak neighborhood.
For more than a year, Khachan has held events at this venue as part of his mission to nurture Lebanon’s wine culture – a culture he says originated thousands of years ago before being quashed under the heel of Ottoman rule. Today, it is blossoming again as small boutique wineries pop up across the country: Lebanon, Khachan says, is on the perfect latitude for the cultivation of vines.
To cultivate Lebanese wine consumers in tandem with this, Khachan hosts everything from cheese and wine evenings and wine-tasting classes to both national and international vineyard trips. But his “Wine Session for Wine Lovers” touches on a little bit of many things.
Scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and with the wine-tasting component billed as the day’s closing event, the session initially looks like it might prove a test of endurance.
Indeed, as Khachan distributes packages of diagrams to accompany “How to make wine,” the opening item on the agenda, the atmosphere in the chilly Furn al-Shubbak apartment is decidedly seminar-room like.
Khachan launches into his lecture, covering everything from Lebanese wine-making history (did you know Ksara is not the country’s oldest commercial wine?) to grape varietals, to what a consumer can tell from the material and length of a bottle’s cork.
He then makes his way through the first diagram: how to make red wine.
Attendees scribble notes, attentive but perhaps relieved when about an hour and 30 minutes in, the sommelier says the magic words: “Let’s taste some wine!”
Khachan, who also teaches a wine, spirit and cigar course at the Lebanese American University, starts with a bottle of white. Concealing the label, he holds up the cork. What does this tell you, he asks, testing how well his students have listened. He then pours a quarter glass of the dry French muscat and viogrier blend for each.
He talks incessantly. Offering comments and tidbits of information, and repeatedly asks for feedback.
Khachan is clear this is not a wine-tasting lesson, but nonetheless he guides his audience of enthusiasts, pointing out how to hold the glass, smell the vintage’s bouquet and then finally taste it.
But Khachan isn’t proscriptive about wine tasting. “You cannot buy a bottle of wine depending on the taste of an expert. I won’t be influencing you.”
Instead, as he serves the group a “pearled” Chilean white, an Australian Shiraz and then a Languedoc from France, he encourages each person to rate the wine, emphasizing all the time “it’s not the price that will decide [if it’s good or bad]; it’s your taste.”
Lunch, a spread of cheeses and cold cuts washed down with the already-opened bottles, makes for a good transition into the afternoon session: “How to match food with wine.”
Seated at the head of the table, Khachan directs his diners: The pate with the Languedoc, the gouda with the dry white.
He also demonstrates a schism between the British and the French when it comes to tasting wine with food. The British he says, hoisting his wine in one hand and bread and cheese in the other, do it like this: He eats, swallows, then sips.
“Now, for the French it’s like this:” Khachan takes a mouthful of cheese and immediately gulps the wine in atop it.
“Try it both ways,” he encourages.
After lunch it’s on to white wine-making and champagne-making, before an extended lecture on food and wine pairings – a veritable goldmine for overzealous dinner party hosts. In the packet distributed at the day’s outset, there’s even a very helpful chart provided to ensure you never get it wrong.
Among the helpful tips Khachan offers is to match food with wine that has the same aroma. He produces his sommelier’s box of chemical scents, and lets the day’s guessing games begin: “Is it peach?” “Is it lemon?” “No, it’s melon.”
The day rounds out with a sparkling Italian wine and the atmosphere and temperature in La Maison du Sommelier decidedly warmer.
Khachan’s “Wine Session for Wine Lovers” costs $100 per person. He can accommodate up to 15 people.
For more information on this and other events organized by Khachan, Club Grappe and La Maison du Sommelier visit carloskhachan.com or call 03-611-603 or 70-432-640.
Opposite our group, the houses of a small village were clustered round a medieval tower. The villa we were visiting had that necessary, slightly rundown look that declares that it has no need to impress.
“It looks just as I hoped,” Bill told me over the din of cicadas. The Farnhams run Constellation, a company that’s been producing and marketing wine in upstate New York since 1945. They had seized the opportunity to join this new Grand Italian Wine Tour to the spiritual home of European wine.
“We drink Rufina at home when we can,” explained Bill’s wife Jo, her eyes bright. “But now we’re here.”
Also getting out of the minibus were Adrian, a Manchester barrister travelling with his wife Miranda, and David and Felicity, retired cheese manufacturers from the West Country. Our tour guide, Silvia, was a wine expert from Turin who’d be leading this group of serious oenophiles from Chianti to the Amalfi Coast. Wine tourism is big business in Italy but most trips stay in one region. The Grand Wine Tour is a new idea, a crash course in drinking yourself all the way from Tuscany to Naples.
It was already far too hot. “Global warming,” said Federico Giuntini Massetti as he introduced himself to us. Slow and steady, Federico is responsible for Selvapiana wines up on this hilltop, east of Florence. His fattoria (farm) produces 220,000 bottles a year. I’ve seen them costing anything from £12-£35 in the UK.
“Heat creates more sugar,” Federico explained. “And that increases the alcohol content. Our wines used to be 12.5 per cent alcohol. Now 14.5 per cent.”
Given the temperature, our tour of the vines was kept thankfully short. Federico soon led everyone inside the villa that the Giuntini family purchased in 1827 from the bishops of Florence. An old man, very much the figure of a Tuscan padrone, waved his hat at me from where he was sheltering under an olive tree. “That is Francesco,” said Federico. “My adopted father. He is the fifth generation of the Giuntini family making wine here.”
Inside the villa we had a quick tour of the cellar, a pleasantly cool place full of French oak botti (barrels), dusty bottles and that familiar cold, stale vinegar smell that permeates all wineries. Bill wandered around in a daze of delight – but David and Adrian had plenty of questions for Federico. Had any of these wines been hidden during the war?
“No, here in Italy we did not take winemaking seriously in those days. Not like the French,” Federico explained. “I think we probably hid the cheese and meat instead!”
Upstairs the tasting room was set out with chairs around a white table cloth beneath a fresco by Ghirlandaio that Don Francesco had rescued from a dilapidated chapel on the Selvapiana estate. Federico’s Rufinas are strong and subtle. No wonder they’re not cheap. He’d agreed in advance to let us sample five wines but sensing the men’s enthusiasm and expertise Federico also uncorked his 2007 Riserva (which Silvia considered a fantastic year) and the 1980, “an excellent year” by all accounts. Appreciative noises were made. The wines were accompanied by a rustic lunch of crostini, bruschetta and guinea fowl lasagne prepared by Federico’s sister.
“You have a terrible job, Silvia,” David teased our guide as yet more bottles reached the table. Conversation was loosening up. Adrian asked about the economy. “This is a fantastic country,” Federico insisted. “I am very proud of being Italian but it’s very tough now.” Looking to the future he was hoping to send his son to one of the leading wine universities, such as Bordeaux or Davis in California. “It used to be that the father and grandfather taught the next generation how to make wine but now our sons teach us.”
Somewhat the worse for wear, but well pleased with our first visit, the group tripped back down to the minibus and the minibus returned us to Florence by early afternoon.
“That place was so tidy,” Bill confided to anyone listening. “Our winery is a disaster. Hosepipes everywhere!”
“We normally only drink at weekends,” Adrian told me almost apologetically. The afternoon was to be spent sleeping lunch off in our hotel overlooking the Arno.
The next morning everyone was up early for the first of two chianti classico tastings, the first up in the hills at a cantina called Isole e Olena. Its modern premises produce 200,000 bottles under the direction of Paolo de Marchi, an amiable Piedmontese interloper. Paolo is well known in Tuscany, not just for his rigorous production methods but also for his energy, which bowls you over. Imagine an Italian Robin Williams spouting philosophy and viticulture in equal measure.
“This is a wine that talks of a place!” he exclaimed as our group assembled in front of a stunning picture window overlooking forested hillsides. “The fingerprint of wine is in the soil.” As Paolo poured from a bottle of his beloved Cepparello, David pointed out that we were having our first drink of the day at 10am. “I can’t get over how decadent this feels,” admitted Adrian.
Paolo had much professional advice to impart, leaving Bill with a smile of happy fascination on his face.
“Never try to improve a bad wine by blending. You just get more bad wine!” Handing out more glasses Paolo added “And never try to sell a wine you yourself don’t like. I have learnt these things the hard way. And remember in viticulture no solutions come overnight!”
Unfortunately Paolo had double-booked himself this morning, so after an hour of quickfire anecdote and insight he went rapidly round the room shaking hands and leaving his wife, Marta, in charge of some gloriously sweet vin santo. His parting shot was to remind everyone that no one actually makes vin santo. “You just put it in a caratello (small barrel) and forget about it for seven years!”
The room was suddenly quiet. I asked Marta about her husband’s high energy levels and she admitted that on the rare occasions he relaxes, Paolo does feel very, very tired. Out of necessity, Marta takes life more gently. She escorted the group slowly round the extensive cellars, blasted recently out of the hillside and resembling Blofeld’s underground lair.
Wines at Isole e Olena proved to be no cheaper than at Selvapiana. In fact the vin santo cost €40 (£31). Despite expressions of delight, I noticed nobody bought anything – but with nine top winemakers to visit, and baggage allowance to take into consideration, it was still early days.
Leaving Isole e Olena our minibus plunged down out of the forests west of Siena to the yellow wheat fields that surround the city. At Fattoria di Felsina, lunch was laid on for us and we were joined by a group of 15 top sommeliers and restaurateurs who had arrived from England that morning. Miranda asked me which of the young men with shaven heads or spiky hair I thought had two Michelin stars under their belt.
We were then taken on a tour by Caterina, third generation of the Mazzocolin family at Felsina. We saw the cellars which open out from an ornate 17th-century barn where chianti classico is stored in huge elongated barriques, specially built in Slavonian oak to fit between the barn’s marble columns. Felsina, a baroque hostelry for pilgrims en route to Rome, sits right on the southern border of Chianti Classico. It has also started producing a chardonnay, I Sistri, which is quaffable but will never be great because, as Silvia explained, grapes in Tuscany ripen so quickly.
The meal turned out to be a lengthy affair. Caterina’s father, Giuseppe Mazzocolin, has raised this fattoria to near iconic status in Italy, but today he was keen to promote Felsina’s four kinds of olive oil. A single bottle should cost up to €50 (£39), he explained, but until now Tuscan wine has been subsidising the oil. “If you buy olive oil for a few euros at the airport that is not olive oil,” he insisted. Giuseppe grew increasingly generous towards the sommeliers, sending for older and older vintages for Caterina to uncork. You soon couldn’t move on the table for glasses. Adrian was delighted when a 1983 chianti classico was sent round.
“Opening a 1983,” murmured Silvia. “That’s the first vintage they ever made. It’s a real treat.”
An afternoon break in Siena had been arranged but the day was already getting late. As dessert had failed to materialise at Felsina, Silvia tempted us away with the promise of an ice cream in the Campo. It was a good day to visit, as the track for the Palio horserace had been laid that morning and restaurants were just putting out their tables again on the clotted yellow sand. Plunged in among non-oenophile tourists again, I was suddenly aware that our wine tour was giving us unusual levels of access to an Italy most visitors don’t normally see. Next up was Umbria for some Montepulciano, and beyond that Rome beckoned. Naples was 400km to the south. “If it’s Wednesday, it must be Montepulciano,” I wrote. Not your usual tasting notes.
Arblaster Clarke (01730 263111; winetours.co.uk) offers autumn wine tours of Tuscany from £1,499 per person, and Sicily from £2,399 per person, including BB and some meals with wines, all visits and tastings, coach transfer and wine guide, but excluding flights. This year’s 10-day Grand Italian Wine Tour cost £3,450 per person. Details of the 2013 tours will be available next month.
Adrian Mourby travelled to Florence with Railbookers (020-3327 0869; railbookers.com) which offers outbound rail travel, three nights in Florence and return flights via British Airways from £599 per person.
Napa Valley, California (PRWEB) June 18, 2012
Winemaking fraternity around the world is abuzz with the recent release of an e-book named Make Tasty Wine. This extraordinary wine making guidebook has been authored by seasoned wine expert Laura Brown and has become the talk of the town immediately after it hit the market. Many wine lovers are interested in making wine at home, but find it difficult to produce top class wine because they rely mostly on trial and error techniques. Fortunately, the embarrassment of serving sub standard wine to guests is a thing of the past for them because they can easily skip the trial and error stage by following Ms. Brown’s guidelines. For making mouth watering homemade wine, please visit http://www.maketastywine.com/.
Make Tasty Wine not only offers all necessary details about preparing top class wine at home, but it is also a reliable troubleshooting guide to solve any problem immediately. The readers of this e-book can also find out useful information about wine storage and different winemaking appliances. It needs to be mentioned here that the author has just partnered with Cynthia Cosco, an experienced commercial winemaker from California. Cynthia has been keeping the rich tradition of Italian winemaking alive in the United States for years, through her company Passaggio Wines. The great news for buyers of this book is that they would be receiving 12 month free support to make wine at home from Cynthia. Because of the level of support Make Tasty Wine is sold with, it not only stands out compared to only wine books, but is highly affordable with a price of only $47.
This new e-book has already started receiving accolades from industry experts. James Melendez, an expert in home wine making from San Francisco, strongly recommends this book for all wine enthusiasts.” If you have an interest in wine making, this is a comprehensive guide to start you on your journey. Great graphics and highlighted content like yeasts is especially helpful as you might want to review this many times. I keep viewing this well thought out guide”, he states.
About Make Tasty Wine: Make Tasty Wine is a comprehensive guide to make high quality wine at home. The book written by Laura Brown has just hit the market and is available for a price of only $47 including 12 month free support.
Greece’s economy is in shambles, but Nancy Mantzikos sees opportunity for Delfinia Group, her new travel agency that helps tourists experience Greek culture, history and wines.
While the media is focused on events surrounding the government’s efforts to implement austerity measures aimed at balancing its finances, life in the ancient nation goes on and offers wonderful opportunities for tourists, said Mantzikos, a Greenwich resident who regularly visits the country.
“My husband, Theodore, is a Greek American, and we’ve traveled to Greece for the past 15 years. It (Delfinia) caters to discerning travelers who want to see the best of Greece. This is for someone looking for the ultimate Greek vacation,” she said. “Greece is still one of the safest countries to travel to. It’s sad. What you see on TV isn’t representative of the average Greek.”
Besides assisting individual tourists with travel plans, Mantzikos works with a wine expert in Greece to arrange guided group wine tours.
Mantzikos, who also arranges food tours, plans to introduce her new venture from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Richards of Greenwich, 359 Greenwich Ave. RSVPs are required by calling 203-698-9244 or visiting online Info@DelfiniaGroup.com.
Mantzikos, who advises on archeological sites, hotels, villas, restaurants, wineries, guides and yachts, had been arranging trips to Greece for friends and family but thought it was time to take advantage of her experiences and transform them into a formal business.
“I’m unique. I’m an American looking in. Our standards are different than Europeans. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t love it,” said Mantzikos, who has an office at Greenwich Office Park. “I have done just about everything — windsurfed in the islands, hiked mountains, explored caves, toured wine country, relaxed on pristine beaches and dined at the full range of regional tables.”
Using the services of someone experienced in travel in Greece is the best option, according to Jonathan Huneke, spokesman for the U.S. Council for International Business.
“People still want to go to Greece. A lot of people are in difficult financial straits, but I haven’t seen an uptick in anti-American activity,” he said. “Businesses will be welcoming.”
A few months before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, I read a blog post by an Atlantic Monthly correspondent about Chinese wine.
I grew up outside New York City, where I ate hundreds of pounds of lo mein and pork-fried rice but didn’t see, taste or hear of Chinese wine. Even when I traveled to China in 2009 and 2010, I saw drinkers mostly tossing back beer and baijiu (Chinese liquor).
But Western-style wine is attracting the attention of China’srising middle class. Some Chinese buy red wine from Bordeaux, France, a purchase that wine experts say connotes high social status, and according to the Datamonitor Group, a London-based market analysis firm, China’s domestic wine industry generated more than $6 billion in revenue in 2008.
It’s hard to define the industry’s scope because no reliable data exists and some domestic winemakers use imported grapes, write Beijing-based wine experts Fongyee Walker and Edward Ragg, but it’s clear that China’s vineyards “cannot supply enough wine to meet the nation’s thirsty lips.”
In June, I booked a flight from New York to Beijing; I am not a wine expert by any stretch of the term, and I don’t speak Mandarin, but I thought it would be fun to visit Chinese vineyards and sample locally grown, Western-style varietals.
China Wine Tours, a California-based company, offers customized tours of Chinese vineyards and wineries for about $300 a day, but I decided to go the do-it-yourself route by emailing several Chinese winemakers with English-language websites — or at least websites with some English writing — to request private tastings.
The only soul who replied was Xin Zheng, winemaker at Chateau Huadong Parry, a Qingdao vineyard and winery named, in part, for its late founder, Englishman Michael Parry. The state-owned operation sits about halfway between Beijing and Shanghai on China’s east coast in what the China wine blog http://www.grapewallofchina.com calls the “Nava Valley” — a hotbed of up-and-coming vineyards.
Jackpot, I thought.
On a Saturday in New York, I booked a flight from Beijing to Qingdao and emailed Zheng to say my plane would arrive the following Wednesday morning. He replied cheerily to say he would meet me at the airport.
A Shandong chateau
The plane to Qingdao, a coastal city of 8 million, touched down in a fog. Zheng, 28, was waiting by the terminal with a driver and a company minivan.
Soon we were rolling past factories, construction cranes and drab, squarish apartments. As downtown Qingdao faded in our rearview mirror, a misty green hillside came into focus, and the minivan rolled into the driveway of a mansion that looked — improbably — like a French chateau.
For the next hour, Zheng walked me around the nearby hills, which were studded with trellises of Chardonnay, Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. It might have been May in France, except for the punishing July humidity, and the fact that the hillsides were set against a backdrop of peri-urban sprawl and bisected by a boardwalk whose white stone pillars were engraved with Chinese poetry.
The Huadong winery — which is the same age as its winemaker — produces 7 million bottles each year and targets Chinese drinkers. “This is a very old society, but more and more Chinese people have been overseas, and our country is opening to foreigners,” Zheng said. “[Chinese] people are starting to change their lifestyles, and they’re starting to realize the benefit of drinking wine, if you drink it moderately and responsibly.”
Zheng added that he organizes wine-drinking demos at local universities. Most students can’t afford to buy fine wine on a regular basis, he said, but when they grow up and earn big salaries, “They’ll think of us.”
He led me to a cool, dark fermentation room, where the casks were labeled in French, and into the chateau, where in Victorian-style dining rooms I marveled at glittering chandeliers, sparkling wine glasses and spotless white tablecloths.
In an ornate drawing room, bottles of Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon were sitting on a coffee table near a candy red piano. In spite of my jeans and sandals, I felt like a country gentleman out of a Flaubert novel.
Zheng handed me a glass of the Cab.
TORONTO, ONTARIO–(Marketwire – Dec. 1, 2011) -
Editors Note: There are two photos associated with this release.
The “Judgement of the Danforth” took place at Globe Bistro on November 8th, 2011. Similar to the startling results from the famous blind tasting held in Paris that put California wines on the map, Fermentations!, a micro-make your own wine store held a blind tasting challenge of Fermentations! made wines vs more expensive wines commercially bought from the LCBO. Overall 60% of the time the experts could not identify the Fermentations wine! The secret behind the high-quality wine at Fermentations! is the grapes—real grapes brought in from the Niagara region, California, and Europe. The wine experts proved it: Wine you can make yourself at Fermentations! is equal in quality to many popular wines you’re buying from the liquor store, and less than half the price.
Think you can tell the difference between a bottle of wine you make yourself at Fermentations! from store-bought wines? Think again.
On November 8, 2011 Fermentations! held a blind tasting challenge at Globe Bistro. Wines were organized into six flights by region and varietal, with each flight comprising four popular wines purchased from the LCBO and one wine made at Fermentations! The judges included wine expert Alan McGinty, sommelier and wine consultant Zoltan Szabo, and wine bloggers Michael Di Caro and David Fang.
Overall, 60% of the time the experts were not able to identify the Fermentations! wine as the non-commercial brand. Instead, they frequently identified one of the commercial brands as homemade. The score sheets also revealed that though the judges felt that it was “obvious” which was the homemade wine 73% of the time, half of those guesses turned out to be incorrect.
Fermentations! Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot were sampled alongside popular Niagara wines as well as imports from Italy and California. The store-bought wines ranged in price from $14 to $34. (Compare to approximately $7 per bottle at Fermentations!)
In the white wine categories, the experts preferred Fermentations! Chardonnay over Penninsula Ridge; Fermentations! Riesling over Cave Springs and Henry of Pelham; and Fermentations! Sauvignon Blanc over Jackson Triggs.
The red wines did even better. One expert wrote on his evaluation sheet that Fermentations! Cabernet Franc is “savoury and food-friendly” and scored it equal to the bottle from Inniskillin. In the category Merlot blends, another expert noted that Fermentations! Merlot was “full bodied, with good structure and balance, and oak finish,” and gave it the same score as the most expensive bottle of Italian Merlot in the flight. And in the flight of California Merlots, one expert preferred Fermentations! Merlot to Berringer Founder’s Reserve, which he described as “awful”.
When the experts gathered after the event to discuss the wines, Zoltan Szabo commented that the Fermentations! entry was best in the flight of Merlot blends, a flight which included a bottle of Bolgheri Micheletti that retails for $19.95, and said, “The Fermentations! reds could be mistaken for any commercial wines.”
Added Alan McGinty, “Several of the Fermentations! wines scored quite closely behind commercial wines averaging more than twice the price, but the big surprise for me was the Fermentations! wine beating four commercial wines in the Italian Merlot blends category.”
The secret behind the high-quality wine at Fermentations! is the grapes-real grapes brought in from the Niagara region, California, and Europe. The wine experts proved it: Wine you can make yourself at Fermentations! is equal in quality to many popular wines you’re buying from the liquor store, and less than half the price.
In business since 1993, Fermentations! is Toronto’s most popular brew-on-premises store for people who are passionate about great wine and beer. Fermentations! gives people the opportunity to produce micro craft wines and beer from premium raw materials, and to enjoy world class libations at a fraction of the usual retail cost.
Fermentations! is located at 201 Danforth Avenue.
To view the first photo associated with this release, please visit the following link:
To view the second photo associated with this release, please visit the following link:
Whether you are the host, a guest or a restaurant diner, choosing wines for Thanksgiving dinner can be a challenge. After all, the menu can encompass a wide variety of tastes and textures, from mild (white meat turkey) to gamey (dark meat turkey, sausage) to savory (Brussels sprouts with bacon) to sweet (cranberry sauce) to creamy (gravy).
Furthermore, while articles might suggest specific wines, what happens when you can’t find them on a restaurant list or at your local wine shop?
First, take a deep breath.
“The focus of the holiday is on getting together with family and friends, it’s not the time to go all ‘wine geek’,” said wine expert Hank Zona, owner of Swirl Wine Events and host of The Grapes Unwrapped. “That doesn’t mean you have to drink swill, but don’t sweat it.”
Reassured, I joined Zona at Above Restaurant the other day to talk turkey about how to simplify Thanksgiving wine pairings. Head Chef Mark Sokolofsky prepared a gorgeous plate of the roasted bird for us, accompanied by chestnut apple stuffing and cranberry pecan sauce — a preview of the restaurant’s Thanksgiving Day menu. (There is still space available if you haven’t yet made your reservation. Click here for information.)
Head bartender Robert LaVecchia poured us a selection of six wines, each available by the glass on the restaurant’s wine list. But in general, Zona advises not to get too hung up on specific labels on this day.
A few overall tips: first, consider the flavor of the whole dish rather than going crazy parsing individual ingredients. Also, while it might sound obvious, take into account your guests’ preferences. If your family hates white, there’s no point in serving it.
We kicked off the tasting with something bubbly. “My number one pick with food is always a sparkling wine,” said Zona. “It’s fun and festive but also practical and versatile.” The Gloria Ferrer Brut sparkling wine we sampled – lively and acidic with a hint of green apple — helped cut through the heft of the food.
A less orthodox choice was a glass of Magner’s Hard Cider. “Hard cider is somewhere in between a beer and a wine, so I often recommend it with a complex meal like this,” said Zona. “It’s a good palate-scrubber.” With its dry effervescence, the cider was a pleasant surprise.
Palates scrubbed, we tried a Relax Riesling. Although this one was a tad sweet for me, dry Rieslings in general tend to have a well-balanced sweetness that marries well with some of the smokier and spicier holiday dishes.
Sauvignon Blanc is always a good choice, but Zona tends to avoid Pinot Grigio (“too light”) and Chardonnay (“can be too oaky”).
As the tryptophan kicked in, I asked my host to solve a thorny etiquette issue: when a guest brings a bottle of wine, is the host obligated to serve it? “I would ask them if they would like me to open it or hold onto it.”
We moved on to reds. The classic Thanksgiving match is Pinot Noir, and the Trinity Oak Pinot Noir was excellent with the turkey. “But it can be hard to find good ones for under $20 a bottle in a shop,” said Zona. He is partial to one made by Gloria Ferrer.
A Terra Doro Zinfandel had a wonderful mouthfeel and a nice finish that zipped up my tongue. It’s a great value, too. Syrah and Merlot are other good choices.
For a vegetarian Thanksgiving meal, Zona is a huge fan of Gruner Veltliner. “Nothing goes better with vegetables.”
Although we didn’t have time for dessert, he recommended a Moscato or Muscat for apple pie and a nice port or sherry for pumpkin pie. “Lots of places have port by the glass,” he said. Hard cider is a nice accompaniment for a cheese course.
I asked Mario LaVecchia, Above’s general manager (and Robert’s dad) for his favorite holiday varietals. “I drink my own homemade wine,” said LaVecchia — a response that met with Zona’s hearty approval.
“In the end,” said Zona, “even if your pairings aren’t perfect, be thankful that you’re still eating better food and drinking better wine than most folks in the world.”
Anthony Giglio is a wine expert that wears many hats – he’s a sommelier, journalist, author and educator all wrapped in one.
Giglio currently serves as a wine columnist with La Cucina Italiana magazine, a writer with Food Wine magazine, and a contributing editor with Wine Spirits magazine. On top of that, he leads a number of wine classes and tours, has written a number of books and keeps a healthy list of side projects. No wonder he’s known as the “Wine Wise Guy.”
We caught up with Giglio to get his thoughts on the latest in wines and cocktails and to see what projects he’s working on lately. Check out the interview below.
You’ve written a number of books on cocktails. What’s your favorite cocktail?
I recently transferred my parents’ old Kodak 8mm films to DVD for their 50th Anniversary and discovered in one of them, entitled New Year’s Eve 1966, that my mom died her hair, smoked cigarettes and drank Manhattan cocktails — while eight months pregnant with me. This explains my proclivity for Bourbon. And Manhattans. And lately of Old Fashioneds. I got turned onto them while editing the Mr. Boston Official Bartender’s and Party Guide (I edited 5 editions) with Jim Meehan, a gifted mixologist, historian and partner in the much-celebrated New York City speakeasy/cocktail bar PDT. Jim and I would brainstorm while he mixed me amazing Old Fashioned cocktails, and I have been drinking them consistently ever since.
Here’s how Giglio makes an Old Fashioned: In mixing glass combine 2 oz. Bourbon; .25 oz. Maple Syrup; 2 Dashes of Angostura Bitters. Stir with ice and strain into a chilled rocks glass filled with one large cube. Garnish with an orange twist.
And what types of drinks are you concocting for this fall season?
Fall for me is a return to all the brown spirits, including dark, aged rums, bourbons and ryes, of course. You can find 50 great recipes in the Mr. Boston Holiday Cocktails.
One of your latest books is the Food Wine Magazine’s Wine Guide 2011. What’s new with this year’s guide?
I finished the Food Wine’s Wine Guide 2011 in the summer of 2010 (it debuts every Fall, in advance of the new year on the cover); the 2012 Wine Guide will be out any minute (and was compiled without me by a new team of editors). The 2011 Guide — still available! — reflected not just the “best” of the best wines from all over the planet, but, reflecting the economic mood, the “best values” from everywhere. We even tasted boxed wines to evaluate their quality and recommended at least a half-dozen of them because they were so good.
You seem to have a focus on Sicily. How did that come about?
I married a Sicilian! My ancestors were mostly Neapolitan. But I also focus on Italy in general because of my wine column in La Cucina Italiana magazine. I often joke that I’m a victim of ethnic profiling because people meet me and say: “Oh, you’re an expert on Italian wine!” And I say, “Why, because my names ends in a vowel?” I’d like to think that my 20+ years experience as a journalists, sommelier and author have given me a pretty wide spectrum of expertise throughout the wine world — not just my ancestral homeland. That said, I do love leading gastronomic tours of Sicily with my partners at Authentic Sicily. We have a tour planned for next summer (June 30 – July 7, 2012) and it sold out in two weeks!
I’m a big fan of Sicilian wines from around Mount Etna (especially Frank Cornelissen), and I hear you discovered some gems while writing FW Wine Guide 2011. Tell me more! Which varietals and wines should we keep our eyes on?
You simply cannot talk about Sicily without talking about its native Nero d’Avola grape, which shows up in many of the wines. For me it has a lot in common with Pinot Noir in its juiciness, but there’s also an earthiness that reminds me of Sangiovese (from Tuscany). You mention Frank Cornelissen, and I just wrote about him last summer in La Cucina Italian. He and a handful of other Italian winemakers are rethinking all the technological wizardry in winemaking and reverting back to ancient methods, like extended-maceration white wines (many of which are cloudy, amber-colored gems). They take some getting used to, but they are exceptional. From Etna I’m also a fan of wines made with the local Nerello Cappuccio and Nerello Moscalese grapes. I could go on and on…
You’ve also uncovered some affordable wines in Italy and France, I hear. Any insider tips?
Umm… buy my Wine Guide, perhaps? Okay, okay – the best advice I can give is to go to a great retailer (not a big box warehouse) and ask for a salesperson who has time to take you around. Explain what you like and what you want to spend — don’t be shy; it all shows up at the cash register! — and take a tour. If the retailer says they’re too busy, take your business elsewhere, and let them know that you’re leaving with your really, really big expense account budget!
Any other wines from around the world that we should be keeping our eyes on?
I have been telling anyone who will listen that Spain is where I find the greatest bargains because most Americans don’t take the time to search through the Spanish wine section of their stores (and if you don’t buy them, the prices stay reasonably low). With all due respect to California, France and Italy, I’m hard-pressed to find extraordinary wines for $10 – $15. But from Spain, I can find amazing wines in that range that would cost double or more if they were from those other more familiar countries. It also doesn’t help that many Americans buy “by the grape,” and none of the grapes from Spain are familiar; nor are the regions.
Along with being an author, journalist and sommelier, you’re also an educator. What do you teach?
Thanks to the good folks at Food Wine Magazine, I’ve traveled all over the U.S., as well as to Grand Cayman and Barbados, to conduct seminars on their behalf. One theme that we’ve repeated with great success is our Smack-Down series, which I came up with at the Food Wine Classic in Aspen a couple of years back, where we pit grapes, regions or even countries against each other. Everyone learns a lot — and laughs a lot — while tasting great wines along the way. I also teach occasionally at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. And at DeGustibus Cooking School in New York City, too, where we pass entire Saturday afternoons — three hours — tasting round after round of wines. They are too much fun.
What can tourists expect on your Authentic Sicily wine tours?
They can expect a decidedly unhurried tour where we mix food, wine and tourism with relaxation — something Sicilians do much better than we Americans. We stay at spa properties along the southern coast where we can golf, sightsee, work out or do nothing at all under the Sicilian sun. I’m not surprised at all that it sold out in two weeks.
What’s next for you?
I’m finally committing myself to blogging more regularly on my own website. And I’ve just signed on to contribute to my dear friend Sally Schneider’s website, The Improvised Life, where I’m currently billed as their “resident sensualist,” because they haven’t figured out how to define all that I do. Which leads to my “Next Big Thing” project: I’m currently working on a book that’s not just about wine because it encompasses all of my interests and talents: wine buying/tasting, cooking, entertaining, food shopping, improvising, making cocktails, travel, etc. It’s very much a giant mess of a work in progress right now, but I’m excited to finally be putting the proverbial pen to paper on this. Stay tuned…
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