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#62043 - 08/06/04 05:44 PM Wine is Bottled Poetry
Catness
Ching Shih


Registered: 04/02/02
Posts: 1863
Loc: Chicago, Illinois

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Like Classics, wine is an intimidating subject. Full of pretentions, vast historical tradition, and a muddle of rules that all seem to conspire to confuse. How does one bridge that gap without fear of sounding like a slack-jawed yokel or a sniffy dilletante?

In the grand tradition of chicklit, let's help each other out with wine, just as we do with books. Let's talk about the wines we like and why we like them; make recommendations and educate each other. What rules still apply? What would you drink with that dish? Is it a bad thing to be enamored of a $10 bottle of wine? What do all of those terms mean?

Since we're in the hot days of August, I'll start with light wines. (Besides, I don't want to make this first post an epic.)

Mr Catness is the food and beverage expert in our house. We like wine a lot. Our anniversary wine, Evolution from Oregon's Sokol Blossor Winery, is hard to find here in Seattle, but we love it and order it every year anyway. We put away two bottles of it the night we met. It's a beautiful, light summery white wine.

Wine doesn't have to be expensive to be good. Some of the stankest wines I've ever had have been really snooty expensive bottles that all the oenophiles in the room were experiencing spasms of joy upon the first sip. One of our regular wines is a white Cotes du Rhone. Reds are pretty common, but the white, again, is crisp, full and is great all year round. We use Guigal 2002 Cotes du Rhone Blanc as a daily or table wine. And see the price on that? That's about what we pay at our grocery store.

Getting darker now...

Rose? Until FishDreamer brought over a bottle last month, I would have said "no thanks." Too much of that in the Box o' Wine 80s, right? Well, check this out. Wow! I was sad that it was only one bottle, FishD, sunflow, and I plowed right through it. Mr Catness got one sip. Really, just go get a bottle.

I have found that one of the best ways to get to know wines is to find a nice, homey wine merchant. We have one up the street who has the best description cards I have ever read. We picked up a great, hearty red which was described as a "big bastard of a wine with a plummy finish." That sold me.

So go on, tell us about your wine!

(Many thanks to alizarin for the Robert Louis Stevenson quote. Wine is about the closest I get to poetry on a daily basis.)

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#62044 - 08/06/04 06:29 PM Re: Wine is Bottled Poetry
alizarin
Ching Shih


Registered: 01/17/02
Posts: 425
Loc: Boston, MA

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You're welcome for the quote, Catness , and thank you for starting the topic! I love wine.

My favorite place for good but cheap wine is Best Cellars , they have stores here in Boston and also in New York, Virginia and Texas, I believe. They are such a wonderful store, and a huge part of their selection is under $15 a bottle. The organize their wines by type and have detailed description cards for each. In nearly 2 years of shopping there I have yet to have a wine I didn't like. They always have new inventory as well.

I'm a red girl, myself, about 95% of the time. Favorites (all found at Best Cellars) include Painter Bridge Zinfandel-Shiraz, Muse Shiraz and Castle Rock Pinot Noir.

I like most reds, particularly Merlot and Shiraz, but I know next to nothing about whites, though I know I like Pinot Grigios, and I'm not good at all at pairing wines with food. Perhaps this thread will teach me a thing or two.

And there is absolutely nothing, nothing wrong with being enamoured of a 10 dollar bottle. The aforementioned Zinfandel-Shiraz costs $9.50 and I love it.

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#62045 - 08/06/04 07:12 PM Re: Wine is Bottled Poetry
cat
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/02/00
Posts: 1754
Loc: Northern California

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I am crazy about dry rosés, Catness. I really like French ones in particular--at my former work we recently did a tasting of 29 (!) rosés, most of them from the U.S. (We spread the tasting out over two days--and we spit, lest anyone think we were just getting hammered at work. Well, I spit. I can't speak for all my colleagues.) There were two French ringers in there, and I had no trouble picking them. Not that I'm any kind of expert, by any means! Anyway, I love to get a little pink wine in the summer, and it's very food-friendly with almost anything.

I tend to drink more whites and pinks than reds, and even then I go for lighter reds. Cabernet Sauvignons I find almost painful--I am not a tannin fan. Mr. cat does not like reds; he actually prefers sweeter wines, and I have been converted to the love of Riesling by him. The lightly sweet German ones are lovely, especially with Asian food, and I like them because of the low alcohol percentage. But I also love dry Rieslings--the ones from Alsace are excellent, and Australian Rieslings, especially the very crisp and sometimes citrusy ones from the Clare Valley, are fantastic. Great for summer. I have also recently really liked Gruner Veltliner. All those German and Austrian varietals are getting really trendy right now.

I have a horrible time remembering producers and vintages and such, so a friend recently got me a wine notebook put out by Wine Smarts. I need to get int the habit of using it more often!

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#62046 - 08/06/04 07:39 PM Re: Wine is Bottled Poetry
Catness
Ching Shih


Registered: 04/02/02
Posts: 1863
Loc: Chicago, Illinois

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I'm a red wine fan, really. Mad about French wines. In our house, French wines are and always will be the gold standard. And like your Mr cat, cat, I don't care for dry wines. I agree with him on the Riesling love. There's a silly little Oregon winery Riesling that we sometimes pick up.

The trendies are moving on from the Merlots and Shirazes/Syrahs, since they've been so over pushed for the last eight years.

Keckler had a really good entry at the Grub Report on matching wines and food, alizarin, I'll see if I can dig it up for you. Or maybe we can lure her in here.

South American and Spanish wines are starting to gather at the margins. Those wine regions haven't been exploited as of yet. We had a good Chilean wine a few months ago that a friend brought over.

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#62047 - 08/06/04 08:28 PM Re: Wine is Bottled Poetry
FishDreamer Administrator
Ching Shih


Registered: 08/27/01
Posts: 2804
Loc: Windy City USA

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Oooh, cat, I'm looking for a wine notebook for the same reason! I'll look for that.

I am a big fan of reds, and tend not to drink whites at all. That rose I brought over Chez Catness was the first I'd bought, thanks to some reading I'd done and a desperate need for wine in summer. I have a hard time drinking reds when it's warm.

I have spent the last few years exploring Australian Shiraz wines, starting with Windham Estates Bin 555 Shiraz. It varies year to year, but is always drinkable. The price has gone up a bit, but I've generally found the Australian Shiraz to be completely drinkable from $5 (US) and up. Other good ones are Yellow Tail, Stonehaven, Crocodile Rock, and The Little Penguin. Woop Woop and McGuigan are also good, but more expensive (still under $20 though).

Yes, I have samples of all of those in my wine cellar now, along with a more expensive Jacob's Creek reserve that I've found improves after a day of being open.

The whole breathing thing for wine is interesting. Mr D only likes sweet wines (mostly port), so if I open a bottle it's all mine. The taste is generally different the next day, and it's sometimes better. Our wine merchant (yes, we have one) said that wines are sold so much younger now than they used to be (i.e. bottled without as much aging) that letting them air for a while generally helps develop the taste a lot. There's a new little device with a glass tube and something like a pumice stone at the end that you can use to aerate wines which apparently has the same effect. Haven't tried it yet, but I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has.

I also like cabernet sauvignon a lot. I have not done much exploration here because good cabs tend to be a lot more expensive, but I found Babcock's troc last year which is amazing (and about $25 a bottle). If you're interested in trying cabs, the Australian ones are decent and generally cheaper. Washington cabs are also pretty good and can be found for less - I'd have to look them up but generally between $8 and $15 for some of the Washington ones is doable.

And I've been really happy to see more lembergers coming out. I've loved Kiona's lemberger for years, but now Covey Run has one that's really inexpensive. They're a bit more floral and go really well with flavored cheese (like garlic cheddar or welsh harlech).

So of those three reds, shiraz tends to be fruitier, cabernet is drier and somewhat chewy, and lemberger is dry with floral overtones.

I have a friend who used to sell wine and she'd get a case of wines to try. We'd sit down and go through them and take notes, plus eat different things to see how it affected the taste. There was one Chilean red that tasted awful until I took a sip right after biting a radish (spicy food), and then it tasted fabulous. So it really does make a difference.

Test, taste, and don't be afraid. I started drinking wine in 1990 when I waited tables and had to sell it, and all of this extra-long post has come from that beginning.

ETA: I remembered - two Washington cabs I've had that weren't too expensive and are decent were Columbia and Columbia Crest. Covey Run does them too, but I think they cost more.

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#62048 - 08/06/04 08:43 PM Re: Wine is Bottled Poetry
sunflow
Ching Shih


Registered: 09/12/00
Posts: 1156
Loc: Brighton, UK

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 Quote:
Is it a bad thing to be enamored of a $10 bottle of wine?
You mean, there are other kinds of wine? Huh. You learn something new every day.

Honestly, I am Trader Joe's slave. I can buy cases of wine for between $3 and $10 a bottle, and experiment to see what I like. Of course, I rarely find an exquisite bottle at that price, but it's nearly always drinkable, and some of it is quite good. Of course, the downside of discovering what good wine really tastes like is that the less impressive wines suddenly reveal themselves for fermented grape juice and become much less pleasant.

I love drinking the good stuff, but I also love finding a perfectly servicable bottle of table wine that I can drink without counting my pennies. Wine should be accessible to all. It is a divine pleasure, especially after a long day (says the woman who just uncorked a bottle of $3 Caravaggio on a Friday night).

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#62049 - 08/06/04 09:00 PM Re: Wine is Bottled Poetry
Catness
Ching Shih


Registered: 04/02/02
Posts: 1863
Loc: Chicago, Illinois

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 Quote:
Originally posted by FishDreamer:
The whole breathing thing for wine is interesting. Mr D only likes sweet wines (mostly port), so if I open a bottle it's all mine. The taste is generally different the next day, and it's sometimes better. Our wine merchant (yes, we have one) said that wines are sold so much younger now than they used to be (i.e. bottled without as much aging) that letting them air for a while generally helps develop the taste a lot. There's a new little device with a glass tube and something like a pumice stone at the end that you can use to aerate wines which apparently has the same effect. Haven't tried it yet, but I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has.
The wine experts (several sommoliers and stewards, and a couple of vinters if I recall correctly) over at egullet.com have tried several. In a nutshell: why bother? There is little to no discernable difference in taste from using a "aerator" or "opener" rather than just letting the wine breathe. The majority of them concurred that one of the principle joys of drinking wine is savoring it slowly. It takes a long time to become wine, why not take a long time to enjoy it?

Open it, wait five to fifteen minutes, you're good to go. Cork it overnight, and you're still good to go the next day, if not better off.

Lots of the "wine expert" toys are, to me, just that, fancy, spendy little toys. All I need is a decent wine key, a good bottle of Beaujolais Villages, and a glass (any kind), and I'm happy for the night. Hee.

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#62050 - 08/06/04 09:10 PM Re: Wine is Bottled Poetry
FishDreamer Administrator
Ching Shih


Registered: 08/27/01
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I agree, Catness. It was more for the typical patron of the store, who is much too impatient to take the time to let that $65 bottle develop on its own and had to try it the minute it was opened.

He brought it up because I mentioned that specific wine (the Jacob's Creek Reserve Shiraz) and asked him about it. I noticed the same thing with Waterbrook's cabernet. Me, I let it sit for a while and I take note of the ones that taste better next day. But I'm still curious about it.

Oh, and I have recently begun moving from the Australian shiraz over to the French beaujolais villages section for experimenting. It's also wonderfully drinkable and not too expensive. Like cotes du rhone as well, and that white one Catness had was really good.

(Sorry, typo!)

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#62051 - 08/07/04 02:27 PM Re: Wine is Bottled Poetry
betso26
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Registered: 04/28/02
Posts: 185
Loc: Vermont

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If you all like French wines, particularly Bauj. Nv., try to find a bottle of Château Saint Martin de la Garrigue Bronzinelle. I think you can get 2001 or 2002's now. It is one of Kermit Lynch's imported gems from the Languedoc area and is not only extremely tasty and drinkable (not all heavy and thick - but still lively and fruity), but also cheap ($15 - $18) and relatively easy to find - I can get it at the local "nice" grocery store in my little one-horse town in Vermont, so it can't be that hard to order... It was rated #29 of the top #100 by Wine Spectator last year and deftly gives the appearance that you know about French wines... even if you don't...

***Editing to add that a great thing to drink in the summer months is NV Zardetto Sparkling Wine, Brut Prosecco - which retails for the low low price of $9. It is like a really laid back sparkling wine - very refreshing and very in vogue right now. It isn't all sour like regular champaigne, and it isn't sweet. Just tasty tasty.

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#62052 - 08/08/04 05:16 PM Re: Wine is Bottled Poetry
Keckler
Ching Shih


Registered: 04/17/01
Posts: 266
Loc: San Francisco, CA

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Mmm, wine!

I don't retain as much wine knowledge as I'd like even though Dr. Mathra and I have tried so many times to keep wine journals.

My in-laws know so damn much about vintages and areas and the like -- they can look at a list on a menu and say, "We can't order that one, 1999 was a really bad year for that area of Italy."

It boggles me.

However, I have my faves. I ADORE Bonny Doon and even won a writing contest with them. They have an excellent tasting room in Santa Cruz, CA. It's totally free, you try about 13 wines and the people there are laid-back, knowledgeable, and so very nice. I don't think I've had a wine of theirs that I didn't like. I particularly love their Pacific Rim Riesling and their "pink wine" -- Vin Gris Cigare. Oooh, I could just go on and on about them -- their Charbono, Il Circo: Uva di Troia, "La Violetta," and Le Cigare Volant.

Moving out to CA has gotten me more into Washington and Oregon wines -- particularly Ponzi Pinot Noir. Back East we were more into French and Italian back East. I love Rose d'Anjous.

I'm also a big fan of certain "jug" wines because you can get really great table stuff for cheap. It's not complicated, it's not described in a line of adjectives. It's nice, it's easy and it's just out comfort wine.

I'm also freelancing as a cheese consultant and my first project with this caterer is designing a wine and cheese pairing for a Baccarat party. Should be interesting.

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