Tag Archives: wine retail

WHAT MILLENNIALS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT WINE

Millennials (LINK) are in the process of redefining the wine industry, just as the Baby Boomer (LINK) generation has done over the past 40 years or so. But this post is less about large-scale trends than about individual decisions based on some experience and knowledge.

The wine world contains a vast number of possible wines to drink, from many countries and many more wine regions. There are hundreds of varietals and tens of thousands of wine labels. These numbers are steadily increasing, along with total wine consumption (LINK). No one is going to know them all.

“Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine, a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.”

~ Benjamin Franklin

Few young wine drinkers have had any instruction or experience as they have come of age to drink wine. Most will grab something cheap off of the shelf in the grocery store and look for sweetness and fruit in the flavor. This is understandable when you combine a desire to spend as little as possible with an untrained palate.

But now you are in your twenties (or thirties), and it’s time to craft your drinking patterns and preferences (if you drink at all, that is, and I assume that if you are reading this, you do).

In other words, it’s time to evolve.

“A bottle of wine contains more philosophy than all the books”

~ Louis Pasteur

Here are my recommendations for Millennials or anyone new to wine:

UP YOUR GAME: Get some knowledge about what you are consuming. If you eat organic food and drink cheap wine, the additives (LINK) in the wine will likely more than offset the benefits of the organic food. Find good value wines that are organic or biodynamic which you like and support them.

DEVELOP RELATIONSHIPS: Connect with the employees at your local wine shop and let them know your preferences and budget. They will be able to direct you to what you want. Note – most supermarkets will not have knowledgeable staff in the wine department (there are exceptions to this).

EXPLORE: Try different varietals, different regions, different winemakers. Branch out a bit and see if there are more areas of the wine world that appeal to you. You can also include wine exploring in your travel. There are wonderful wine regions all over the world that you can visit and expand your experience with wine.

GO DEEP: Settled on a varietal or a region? Study it, explore the wines offered, and learn as much as you can.

ENJOY: The number one rule of wine appreciation is to enjoy what you drink. Find your own sweet spot (or spots) and make a nice glass or two of wine a part of a very good day.

Wine enjoyment should be just that – enjoyable. Whether it is researching what to purchase, purchasing, tasting, drinking, or pairing, it should first be something to enjoy. If you aim for that, you will not go far wrong.

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans”

~ Ernest Hemingway

Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard

WHAT KIND OF WINE DRINKER ARE YOU?

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans”

~ Ernest Hemingway

There are a lot of ways to categorize oneself (or, for more fun, someone else) as a wine drinker. Let’s look at a few . I will provide some recommendations for those in each category to enhance the wine experience based on personal habits and preferences. It is important to have some balance, I think. I realize that all of us may cross categories from time to time, or as part of our evolution as wine drinkers. But, just for fun, let’s explore this idea a bit.

“All generalizations are false, including this one.”

~ Mark Twain

So as a caveat to any categorization scheme, I will acknowledge that this is in no way representative of anything approaching ultimate truth. It’s just for fun, and it may contain just enough truth to make it humorous.

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1. THE CREATURE OF HABIT DRINKER

This kind of wine drinker is predictable to a fault. She may always drink the same varietal, even label, just about every time she has wine. She always drinks at the same time of day, for example, only with dinner. She may be a bit expansive and drink the same varietal from more than one region, but probably not. The wine shop employee knows just what to have on the counter when she comes in to purchase.

RECOMMENDATION: Break out of the box, at least a little. Add a varietal to your routine, such as Merlot if you drink only Cabernet Sauvignon. Or, create a day of the week or of the month when you explore other wines.

“his lips drink water but his heart drinks wine”

~ e.e. cummings

 

Travel - Suitcase

2. THE EXPLORER

This kind of wine drinker seeks variety in all ways. He may drink a different wine every time, exploring different varietals, regions, decanting techniques, glasses, etc. While he may have a few favorites, he returns to from time to time, he is on the prowl for something new and interesting. He badgers the wine shop employees to get in some more interesting wines, and likely explores the shelves of every wine shop in town.

RECOMMENDATION: Find a couple of favorite wines or, better yet, varietals. Then explore them in greater depth to get a deeper knowledge and appreciation of the variety within them. You might try Sauvignon Blancs from a number of producers, regions, and countries to get a sense of how that varietal differs across the range of viticulture and wine making techniques.

“I rather like bad wine. One gets so bored with good wine.”

~ Benjamin Disraeli

Wine - Old Bottles in Storage

3. THE COLLECTOR

This wine drinker is primarily focused on developing a wine cellar that will be the envy of some target audience, or that will appreciate as an investment. He drinks around the edges of his collection, waiting until wines are “ready to drink,” or are on the downside of their life-cycle and no longer as valuable. He is driven more by the labels and the calendar than by his palate. The wine store employee never sees this wine drinker, as he purchases mainly via auction and directly from high-end wineries.

RECOMMENDATION: Have a little fun. Set your concerns for increasing the value of your cellar aside for a bit, let the urge to wheel and deal go and settle in with a couple of bottles that you really enjoy and have some friends over. Wine is a social lubricant and good wine is best enjoyed with friends. Do this occasionally and see how it feels.

“I drink Champagne when I am happy and when I am sad.  Sometimes I drink it when alone.  In company I find it compulsory.  I sip a little if I’m hungry.  Otherwise I don’t touch it — unless I’m thirsty of course.”

~ Lily Bollinger

wine-drink-up

4. THE WINE SLUT

This wine drinker will drink whatever wine is being offered. He has no sense of appreciation of wine. His desire is to be sociable and get buzzed. If his host is serving Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw or Screaming Eagle, he will drink it all the same. The wine store employee points him to the sale bin and the bulk wine shelf in the wine shop.

RECOMMENDATION: Take a course on wine. Your wine shop or store may offer one, or the local community college. Increase your knowledge and learn to cultivate a better palate. Realize that a lot of the cheap wine you guzzle is full of additives (LINK) that you may not want in your system.

“As you get older, you shouldn’t waste time drinking bad wine.”

~ Julia Child

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5. THE WINE SNOB

This drinker is all about image – being seen as an authority on fine wines. She may also be a collector, but that is not the driver of her wine consumption. The Wine Snob is about seeming to be the authority in the room. She will spout grandiose tasting notes (including characteristics that no one else seems to taste or smell), turn up her nose at “everyday wines,” and let others know when their wine choices or opinions don’t make the grade (her grade, of course). See will name-drop wine makers, labels, authorities, and distant vineyards that she has experienced. The wine store employee has a happy/sad relationship – she will be a pain to wait on, but will buy expensive wine.

RECOMMENDATION: It may be hopeless. But if you can, try saying NOTHING about wine in a social setting. No, really. A winemaker friend of mine once attended a dinner at one of the premier Burgundy wine estates. Wines worth thousands of dollars a bottle as old as 100 years were served. He said that the amazing thing was not there was no mention of the wine at all during the dinner. The conversation was about other things. Try that sometime.

“This wine is too good for toast-drinking, my dear. You don’t want to mix emotions up with a wine like that. You lose the taste.”

~ Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises  

 

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6. THE SOCCER MOM/DAD

This drinker is looking for a reliable wine that meets three criteria: consistent, inexpensive, and gives a buzz with minimal hangover. The primary reason that this person drinks wine is as a reminder that there is more to living than the stresses and routines of everyday life. Wine is to relax and forget. The wine store employee sends cases of the same everyday wine home with this drinker a few times a month.

RECOMMENDATION: Learn to manage your life without self-medicating. You may be using wine in a non-beneficial manner. And you are missing most of the joy of the beverage. Read a self-help book, maybe see a therapist. Then, drink wine for enjoyment.

“Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine, a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.”

~ Benjamin Franklin

wine-young-lover

7. THE YOUNG MILLENNIAL

Think Yellow TailBarefoot, and box wines. That’s pretty much all you need to know.

RECOMMENDATION: You will likely grow up anyway, but you can hasten the process. See the recommendation for The Wine Slut above.

“I went to the hospital for a blood transfusion and they gave me a wine list.”

~ Dean Martin

 

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8. THE OLDER MILLENNIAL

On the path of The Explorer, but not in a traditional sense – seeks out wines from obscure or emerging regions as long as they are organic or biodynamic. A wine gets extra credit if it comes from a third-world country. Enjoys paring wines with trendy and ethnic foods. Talks more about the “vibrations” of the wine than fruit vs. minerality. The wine shop employee needs to be up on the ecology of the wines in the shop.

RECOMMENDATION: You are driving the wine market. Keep seeking out wines produced sustainably with little or no additives. Keep expanding your pairings and urging winemakers and restaurateurs to be more creative. If anything, take yourself a little less seriously, but you are on the right track. Oh, and find ways to honor the great traditions of wine making while you create a new future.

“We are all mortal until the first kiss and the second glass of wine.”

~ Eduardo Galeano  

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Wherever you fall in or beyond any of these categories, may your wine drinking bring you great pleasure and add to the overall quality of your life. That, after all, is what it’s all about.

“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.”

~ Ernest Hemingway

 Your comments are welcomed!

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Text Copyright 2017 – Jim Lockard;  some images are re-posted. If your image is here and you do not want it here, please let me know and I will remove it.

DEMYSTIFYING YOUR WINE ENJOYMENT

The wine world is filled with possibilities. There are dozens of nations, hundreds of regions, thousands of appellations, tens of thousands of vignerons and wine makers, and probably hundreds of thousands of wine outlets if you count restaurants. You can add to that all of the wine knowledge, science, literature, publications, websites, bloggers, and well, it’s a lot. Can you imagine walking into a restaurant, asking for a wine from a specific label which you happen to like, and them actually having it?

How is one to make choices about what to drink and when?

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Dorianne at Gallerie Lafayette’s Chateau d’Yquem Display – Paris

And there are price points to consider, wine rating points (should I order a 91 or an 88?), sometimes snooty sommeliers and wine shop employees, various vintages of differing quality, and labels, labels, labels. And those labels are on bottles with corks, bottles with screwcaps, boxes, cans, casks, and more. And by the way, how should you store that wine?

Wine Angst
Too many options can be frustrating.

Oh, and what wines to serve with which foods? Which wines to sip alone? What kind of wine opener should I use? What other wine accessories should I buy? What temperature at which to serve the wine? In what kind of glass (or slipper)? Bubbly, sweet, dry, demi-sec? Port or late harvest? And ice wine!

wine-redness
Many “experts” are just guessing.

All of this can be seen as a huge obstacle to wine enjoyment, or it can be seen as a vast array of opportunities to enjoy wine. Like much of life, it all depends on your attitude.

Entry into the world of wine is really quite easy. Wine is practically ubiquitous – it’s pretty much everywhere. I was just in eastern Ukraine and had local wine, some of which was delicious (LINK).

One way to view the many options in the wine world and all of the different types of knowledge and skill that goes into the whole process of bringing wine to your table, is to see an opportunity for almost endless exploration. You can have a different wine every day and never repeat yourself (assuming varied wine retail options in your area and online).

Another way to approach the wine world is to find a few wines that you like and stop there. I have a friend who rarely drinks anything beyond Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay; another who will only drink oaky chardonnays. Some may only drink Port wines; others Napa Cabernets.

wine-pouring-gig

You can study broadly or do a deep dive into a narrow range of wine knowledge and experience. Most will be somewhere in between the extremes, but there is a niche for everyone. The key is not to pay too much attention to what the “experts” or the marketing forces tell you as they try to steer you toward their own preferences. Find your own way – if it isn’t interesting or fun for you, you’re not doing it right.

Me, I have some favorite wines, some favorite producers, some favorite growing areas, and some favorite countries. I also like to experiment with wines I have not tried yet, but I tend to favor a known quantity with a good meal. For example, we were in Kraków, Poland recently (LINK), dining at Padre, a local Polish restaurant. I was having lamb and noted that there was a very nice French Malbec from Cahors on the list. Knowing how a rich, inky Cahors Malbec would go with lamb made my decision easy – so I passed on some Polish wines. I picked a favorite over the chance to explore – that time. At other times, I will make a different decision. But that is me. You may well do something different.

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Visiting Wineries can be both Fun and Educational.

My point is that the bulk of the effort in learning about wine should go into learning what YOU like about it. Then go from there. You may become an expert in Cabernet Sauvignons from the east side of Paso Robles; or you may be the go-to person for advice on Hungarian reds. Or, you may be that person who always drinks Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay.

So, if you are new to wine, consider building yourself a starter case (LINK) to see what you like. Let your local wine retailer know your preferences, including if you like to try new things or stick close to what you already know. If you travel, check out the local wine scene, either in town – wine bars, urban wineries and restaurants; or head out into the local wine country to taste and explore. In an airport? Stop at Vino Volo and try a wine that you’ve never had before. Sign up for an online service like WTSO.com (LINK) and opt for something new to you.

Starter Case Slide
A Starter Case is a great way to find out what wines you like.

Maybe you are a long-time wine consumer who is ready to spread your wings a bit. You might begin with your local wine shop – tell them what you like and ask them how you can explore some new wines that have a similar profile. Go to a Greek restaurant with good Greek wines on the wine list, and try some if that is new to you. See if there are some small producers of wines in your local area and give them a try. There are lots of possibilities. Try not to be intimidated by the experts or by too many choices. Take your time and stick to what you like – and maybe explore around the edges.

The world of wine is literally at your feet. Enjoy!

wine-young-lover

Text Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard

 

AUSTRALIAN WINE TASTING IN LONDON

I was invited to an industry-only tasting in London yesterday. Titled “Artisans of Australian Wines,” it featured 43 labels being introduced by 15 British distributors. Held during the day at Cargo, a trendy nightclub in the Shoreditch area of London, the event was both fun and very interesting.

I had heard of exactly none of the 43 labels before the tasting. Indeed, most are smaller producers who do not export to the U.S., and who are just trying to break into the British market. I spent about 3 hours exploring, tasting, speaking to the people pouring (sometimes someone from the winery/vineyard, but most frequently someone from one of the distributors). I did not taste everything (there were at least 200 wines), not even close. But I will give you my impressions of what I did taste and who I did meet. And I will list all of the labels at the end of the blog post, in case you happen across any of them.

General impressions: there were some very nice wines here; in fact, most were very good or better. That would make sense, as they had been vetted by the distributors. Australia has no restrictions on who can grow what grapes where, and no blending rules, like there are in France and Spain, therefore, there is a great variety of both the varietals grown and the blends that are produced. There were a couple of wines that did knock my socks off, but only a couple. That said, pretty much all of these wines could have a place in my cellar or on my table or both.

So with my apologies to those labels that I did not get to taste (mostly in that really crowded section in the front room), let’s see what I did taste.

Adelina and VineMind Wines: The winemaker, Col McBryde was here pouring wines from his two labels. He produces about 2,000 cases/year and has been exporting to the UK for 6 years. Of most interest to me are his Rieslings, one from each label – both nicely balanced with minimal residual sugar.

Yangarra Estate: Nicely polished, well-crafted wines from a producer owned by Jackson Family Wines of California. Winemaker Peter Fraser (Australian Winemaker of the Year for 2016), has crafted two wonderful McLaren Vale Grenache wines from single vineyards. The 2013 High Sands Grenache is of particular note.

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Chalmers Wines: Kim Chalmers, daughter of the owner, was pouring the Chalmers Wines at the tasting. I tasted four of the ten Italian varietal wines (3 labels) on hand – a 2014 Vermentino, which was one of the best whites I tasted all day – smooth, velvety, with green fruit and a hint of minerality on the finishsimply excellent. The 2013 Fiano, a varietal I had not previously encountered, was like a younger sister to the Vermentino in character – which makes me think that the winemaker has a large influence on the wines. The red, I tasted, a 2015 Nero d’Avila, was well-structured but young – it needs some time. The 2016 Schioppettino, under the Chalmers Project label, was tannic and bold, with red fruit and a strong finish. Another varietal that is new to me.

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Castagna Wines: The father and son team of Julian and Adam Castagna were presiding over their table with aplomb. Their Rhône-focused vineyard & winery deliver the goods. Their wines were consistently well made and nicely balanced. I tasted 8 of 9 wines available (choosing not to taste their Shiraz Vermouth). Standouts were the 2016 Rousanne, bottled a week ago, and already moving toward becoming a great white wine. The highlight, however, is their 2008 Sparkling Genesis Shiraz-Viognier, a dark red sparkler that delivers great taste and can be paired with just about anything, including meat. This is an amazing wine.

Bill Downie Wine: Apparently, Bill Downie is fairly well-known in Australia as a producer of small quantity, high quality wines. The lone representation of his work, sitting at the end of a table where about 5 other labels were being poured by distributor reps, would have been easy to overlook – in fact, I did on my first pass. Only after reading about it in the catalog did I return to try the 2015 Riverland Biodynamic Petit Verdot. This was my favorite wine of the day. I liked everything about it – the nose was beautifully balanced, inviting you to taste, the mouthfeel was like velvet, with red and black fruit, some leathery tones, and a smoothness that carried into the finish. If I could have purchased a case, I would have. Be on the lookout for this wine.

 

L.A.S. Vino: Aside from good marketing and design (something that was in abundance here – no doubt a reflection of the assistance that a good distributor can provide) this winery makes some good wine. I only tasted the 2013 ‘Portuguese Pirate’ Margaret River Blend made with Touriga Nacional, Tinto Cao, and Souzao grapes. I cannot honestly attest as to whether this blend is on a par in style or quality to a similar blend in Portugal, but I can say that this wine is of very high quality and would be an excellent companion to a leg of lamb, a steak, or a good cigar. Think smooth, a bit jammy (but not too much), and rich in black fruit. Very nice.

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Vinteloper Wines: This Adelaide Hills winery is operated by winemaker David Bowley, who was present and pouring. I tasted three of his excellent wines, two Pinot Noirs – which were nicely crafted and very good, especially his 2012 OPN Lenswood Pinot Noir, a single vineyard beauty. We had a good discussion about Pinot Noir, and I told him about some of the great Burgundian style wines coming out of the Santa Rita Hills AVA in  California.

Bowley’s other wine, the 2015 ‘Urban Winery Project #3’ Shiraz/Malbec comes with a story. This nice table wine is the result of a project that Bowley undertakes every year at harvest time. He moves parts of his winemaking operation to a city and, for one month, opens the operation to the locals, who can do everything from stomping grapes to blending wines. It is a great marketing idea – and a great way to invite people into the winemaking process. Kudos to David Bowley.

Sami Odi Wines: Two wines from this small producer were available for tasting – both are a bit unusual in packaging and presentation. The distributor rep, a very nice young woman, spoke so fast that I did not get a lot of information from her (my issue, being an American – she was speaking The King’s English after all). But the wines were very good – a ‘Little Wine #5’ Syrah and a 2014 Syrah ‘XIV’. The former comes from a vineyard with vines planted in different years. Both bring out the best aspects of Syrah.

Chaffey Bros Wines: Producing in the Barossa and Eden Valleys, Chaffey Bros make a number of wines. I would say that their strength is in their whites. I tasted 5 of 7 wines available. Their Rieslings were very good, the best being a 2015 Tripelpunkt Riesling, with fruit from three vineyards – dry with a hint of sweetness, floral notes, and smooth finish – what I like to see in a Riesling. Of interest is a true field blend, called 2015 ‘Düfte Punkt’ with Gewürztraminer, Riesling, and Weißer Herold (Kerner). The field blend was nicely balanced – not a great wine, but of interest because of the willingness to experiment.

S.C. Pannell/The Other Wine Co.: Side-by-side on the tasting table, these wineries bring good tasting wines at value price-points. I tasted the 2014 S.C Pannell Adelaide Hills Syrah (McLaren Vale)  – very rich, even for a Syrah, almost jammy; but nice red and black fruit notes with chocolate and slate later on. Long finish. I tasted the 2015 The Other Wine Co. Adelaide Hills Pinot Gris (before the Syrah) – a decent table wine with notes of lemon grass and pear.

Again, I did not taste them all – my bad – but suffice to say that there were a range of good quality wines on display. Aside from a growing tendency to call Syrah by its original name, instead of Shiraz, the most remarkable thing about this group was the winesgood quality and individual character. The UK wine market will be looking up thanks to these Aussie newcomers.

As promised, a list of all of the producers present:

Lethbridge Wines      Deviation Road           Adelina         VineMind           Yangarra Estate     Mac Forbes          Chalmers     Gembrook Hill     Teusner        Eden Road        Ruggabellus   Eperosa        Strenua        Ochota Barrels       Jamseed Wines        Luke Lambert Wines           Timo Mayer        Delinquente Wine Co.      Si Vintners       Patrick Sullivan Wines           Xavier          Gentle Folk Wines           Castagna      Jauma        Bill Downie      La Línea           L.A.S. Vino              S.C. Pannell         The Other Wine Co.         Chaffey Bros                     Bellwether          Vinteloper           Bremerton Wines   The Pawn Wine Co.     smallfry        BK Wines Massena           Sami Odi           Byrne             CRFT            David Franz                     La Violetta           Ministry of Clouds

You may be seeing some of these labels in your area soon.

Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard

THE EPICENTER OF WINE CULTURE IN MÀLAGA, SPAIN

I went to Los Patios de Beatas on Calle Beatas the other evening to check out the wine scene there. It was recommended by Kelly Kannisto of Tannin Trail Tours (LINK) (LINK TO PREVIOUS POST), when I contacted him about recommendations for wine experiences in Màlaga.

Although Màlaga is a wine region, the wines made here are generally sweet. The great dry wines of Spain are made elsewhere.

Los Patios de Beatas is a combination restaurant, tapas bar, wine tasting room, wine retailer, and event location. It is beautifully appointed, has indoor and outdoor seating, and a good selection of wines, almost all from Spain, on sale. Since being in Màlaga, we have had some difficulty finding a good wine shop.

I looked around the space a bit, and asked if I could do a tasting. Àngel, the head waiter told me to sit anywhere in the tasting room/tapas bar area. He and Christina made sure that I was well attended to, even though there were other customers – the exterior seating was full. The main restaurant is staffed separately.

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There is a Enoteca Machine that dispenses wines and keeps them at temperature. The wine list had over 15 tintos (reds) and half a dozen blancos (whites) available by the glass. Eight of the reds were in the Enoteca. I started with a 2005 Tilenos Pagos de Posada, 100% Mencia from D.O. Bierzo (LINK) in northwestern Spain. This wine has a great minerality with hints of dark fruit, chocolate, and leather. Very nice. It retails for 33€ or about $36. Another great value from Spain.

Next, I tried a 2009 Alma de Luzon, Monastrell blend of 70% Monastrell, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Syrah. This wine is from D.O. Jumilla (LINK), in southern Spain not far from Valencia, where the Monastrell Grape is very popular. This wine was rich and chewy, with medium tannins and a smooth finish. It retails for 36€ or about $39.

Next, Àngel brought four bottles to the table – all chilled. Three were Sherry, and one was a local Màlaga sweet wine. There were two sweet Sherries and one dry Sherry from D.O. Jerez (LINK) (LINK TO PREVIOUS POST), where Dorianne and I visited last year. I tasted these side by side while waiting for my tapas to arrive.

The Màlaga sweet wine, a Trajinero (LINK), made from 100% Pedro Ximénez grapes and fortified, was semi-sweet, with a nutty flavor and a nice smooth finish. The stand-out was the Fernando de Castilla Antique Oloroso Jerez Sherry (LINK), probably the best dry Sherry I have ever tasted. Over 20 years in the barrel (they rotate Sherries through a series of barrels so that each vintage is similar – taking some out, leaving some in, and adding the more recent vintage), this wine was smooth, with traces of coconut, vanilla and pear. Really special. This wine retails for 22€, or about $24 per 500ml bottle.

Then, my two tapa arrived. The first, a cod in a sauce that include coconut milk, was an amazing sensation of flavor. The second, pork belly, slow cooked and then the fat removed and a slice of pork chorizo inserted, accompanied by fennel and an apple puree. Amazing! The kitchen here is wonderfully creative and executes that creativity beautifully.

To accompany those, Àngel suggested a 2008 Mauro “Sin D.O.” from Castilla y Leon, made from 88% Tempranillo and 12% Syrah. The wine was a decent pairing with the cod (the coconut made it tricky), but perfect for the pork belly.

Then, to round of a great experience, Àngel brought out two local digestifs. They retail for about 7€ for a ½ bottle. Both were nice, if not exceptional.

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My tab for the whole thing was 50€. I know that a couple of things were comped. One of the more expensive evenings I’ve had in Màlaga, but a bargain anywhere outside of Spain.

So if you find yourself in Màlaga, find Los Patios de Beatas and have a great wine experience. I was solo on this trip, as Dorianne is out of town – so I will be taking her there when she returns.

As always, your comments on all things Spanish and/or wine are welcome.

 

Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard

CREATING A STARTER CASE OF WINE

On a recent visit to New York to visit our daughter, Grace, we decided to purchase a starter case of wine for her and to set up an account at a wine shop. There are a number of very good wine shops in Manhattan, as you might imagine. We chose Union Square Wine Starter case -USQLogo_WBShop (LINK) after some online and in-person research, because of proximity to Grace’s school, a good selection of value-priced wines, and free delivery in the city when you purchase $95 or more worth of wine.

Grace, at 22, has developed a pretty good palate. She has been to France a few times and enjoys French wines very much, especially Bordeaux blends. My thoughts in filling the starter case were to take that preference into account and expand her experience a bit with reds, plus add some whites and rosès since summer is just around the corner. I also wanted to keep the prices under $25, being mindful of the budget of a starving aspiring Broadway star.

After discussing our goals with some of the sales staff, we (Dorianne, Grace and I) began to fill the case. I wanted to find some French wines that she would like first, which we did – one Bordeaux red blend, a Pomerol, two Sancerres, a Burgundian Chardonnay, and a wonderful rosè from Tavel, the only French A.O.P. that produces Au Bon Climat only rosès. To this, we added a reliable California Pinot Noir from, a favorite of ours; a nice Oregon Pinot Noir to  compare to the Au Bon Climat; a wonderful Rhône-style blend from Tablas Creek in Paso Robles; a Spanish Tempranillo blend; an Italian Barbara d’Asti and a Nebbiolo from Langhe; and an Australian Shiraz.

Here is the list:

Starter Case Chart
There is nothing here from Germany or eastern Europe, no New Zealand or South America, etc. Fortunately, Grace has a long future to explore these and other options as she chooses.
Now, you can argue with any or all of these selections, but this starter case was built with some preferences in mind. That is the idea – you decide the parameters of the selections and then you find the best representatives of those parameters based on availability, price, and certain intangibles. Our bias was toward France, with an additional parameter of expanding outward from there and focusing on the Old World with some New World representation as well. That is a lot to cover in twelve bottles.

Starter case -USQ
Union Square Wines and Spirits Shop

My suggestion to her was to make tasting notes of each wine as she drinks it and then replace bottles with a balance of things she likes and things she would like to try. Having a set of preferences helps when she is at a restaurant or a party and there are a variety of options. She already knows to steer clear of the bulk wines and the cheap “critter wines” that populate lots of party bars among people her age (and, unfortunately, people my age as well).

To create your own starter case, for yourself or for your children, my suggestion is to begin where you, or they, are. Start with what you already like and populate part of the case with those wines, then expand outward from there. The value of a good wine shop is that they will have staff who can make good recommendations – something you will not get at most supermarkets or places like Target and Costco (with some exceptions).

I can’t overemphasize the importance of finding a wine store employee or owner who you feel comfortable with. I was recently in an independent wine shop in Baltimore that stocked many wines with which I was unfamiliar. When I asked for recommendations from the owner/manager, he told me that he could only help me with Kosher wines; “That’s all I taste,” he said. No one else in the shop had tasted any of the non-Kosher wines! Interesting business model.

A good wine shop staff member will be of great assistance, especially when deciding what to add to your own preferences. He/she will have the experience needed to make recommendations that are very similar to those, or that are different enough to give you a new tasting experience. Good wine shops will also have tastings that you can attend to expand your wine experience.

It is important that you be clear about what you want. Don’t let the sales staff give you a wine that you are not interested in, or one that is too expensive for your budget.

Keeping these things in mind, creating a starter case can be a really great experience. Your comments, as always, are appreciated.

Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard

THE BERKELEY WINE SCENE – A GLIMPSE

I was in Berkeley, CA for a week on business and I did a bit of exploration of the wine scene here. This is not my first time here, and I have blogged about Berkeley before (LINK).

The big news here is the possible scandal associated with the Premier Cru Wine Store bankruptcy (LINK). You can read about that if you wish. Of course, the great Kermit Lynch is here with his legendary wine shop (LINK) – I visited there in May. There are a lot of very good restaurants here with wine lists of varying length, breath an depth.

The wine highlight of this trip was two visits to Vintage Berkeley (LINK) a wine shop on College Avenue in the Elmwood neighborhood (I was staying nearby). The owners of Vintage Berkeley also own Solano Cellars Wines.

The shop on College Avenue has a focus on wines of the world priced under $30. There is a “back room” with more pricey bottles. I saw a lot of wine labels that were new to me, and a few that I recognized. Most of the latter were in the back room.

There is usually a wine tasting going on, and on my first visit, the proprietors were offering a couple of French wines from the Rhône Valley. There were about eight customers tasting and shopping. I had a good conversation with several of the customers and the staff. I was told that there would be a winemaker tasting of Clos Saron wines on Saturday.

On Saturday evening, I returned and met Gideon Beinstock, the winemaker for Clos Saron, which is located in Yuba County, California, in the northern section of the Sierra Foothills AVA. The total production of Clos Saron is 800 cases, so don’t be looking for these at your local supermarket. They are currently re-planting some of their vines, so they are only bottling estate Pinot Noirs, three of them. The rest of their wines are sourced elsewhere. Here is the list from the tasting, which is most of the wines that they produce:

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I found the Cinsaults and the Carignans to be very interesting wines. The Cinsault vines were planted in 1885 and the Carignan vines in 1900. The blends that featured these wines were well-structured with relatively high acid and moderate tanins. They should age well and are interesting on a number of levels.

I was not a big fan of any of the Pinots, but to be fair, they are all young. Perhaps with a few years in the bottle, they will soften a bit. There was too much acidity for my taste, although each did have a distinctive nose and flavor range.

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Gideon Bienstock

I bought a nice bottle of Terra Sanctus Priorat Blend from Catalunya and went home. The wine was excellent – well balanced, just short of chewy, with a nice viscosity and dark fruit and notes of minerality. I know I only scratched the surface of the Berkeley wine scene on this trip – but I will return!2016-01-17 17.53.02

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The Tub at Vintage Berkeley Wine Shop

HEY, IT’S THE HOLIDAYS – GIFT GIVING GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED WINE LOVER

Wine-related gift giving is always a bit of a challenge. Do you give wine, wine gadgets, wine books, wine experiences? Do you have some entry-level wine lovers on your list? Some experts (God forbid a Wine Blogger)? Is price a big concern? Are you a bit panic-stricken in the wine department?

Wine Angst

Well, I know how you feel. The thing to do is to approach your holiday gift giving with a calm sense of purpose and a willingness to give someone something that they may not fully appreciate. Or even like.

Now no one wants to disappoint a loved one or a business colleague, but you’re not a mind reader are you? So do your best, be willing to be flexible, and relax. ‘Tis the season to ENJOY giving and receiving gifts. After all, you are probably more likely to receive a wine basket full of Barefoot Wine than you are to give one, right? (HINT: Do not give Barefoot Wine, Two-Buck Chuck, or “critter wines” – you know, the cheap Australians). No one wants those (they really don’t & they are filled with additives that nobody wants either) and you look, well, cheap and thoughtless for giving them. They are the equivalent of the fruitcake in Holiday wine gift giving.

My recommendation is to give wines that you personally enjoy and that, ideally, have a story. Maybe a little Syrah that you enjoyed at a restaurant or found at a winery that was off the beaten path somewhere; or a gadget that you particularly cherish. When a gift has a personal touch, it is both more fun to prepare and give and more special to receive.

If you live near wine country, or if your gift recipient has a trip planned to a wine region, you might consider the gift of a private tasting that includes a bottle of wine to take away. Most wineries can accommodate such a purchase and you get or make a certificate to give to the recipient. You can gift a wine class to a beginner, or a special wine pairing dinner to someone with more knowledge. And I can help you with the gift of a wine tour in France (if interested, PM me at JimLockardTravels@yahoo.com).

Gadgets are good gifts up to a point. A nice decanter or a set of nice wine glasses are good choices; it tends to go downhill from there. I probably do not keep about 2/3 of the wine gadgets I receive, either because I already have one or because they don’t work, or because it is something I just don’t use. Here is an example:

Wine - Wine Stopper Novelty

This stopper-thing is goofy and was given in fun. It might be okay except that it did not provide a good seal on the bottle. I would rather use the cork or twist cap that came with the wine bottle, because the goal is to preserve the wine.

Wine openers are a good choice, but a personal one. We all have our preferences. Here are links to posts about two openers that I have blogged about that I can recommend. However, you should remember that wine openers are personal and your gift may not be used.

 

(LINK TO CO2 GAS OPENER)

(LINK TO TRAVEL OPENER)

Wine - Santa Wine

What about wine as a gift?

Always a welcome idea, however, there are some inherent issues in giving wine that you may want to pay attention to.

  1. Shipping. If it needs to be shipped, this can be an issue. There are all kinds of restrictions, most importantly that the USPS, UPS and FEDeX do not take alcohol shipments from private parties. You can have a winery or a wine shop ship for you, but that will often cost more than the wine. I would stick to wine gifts that can be given in person or dropped off. Ship the gadgets.
  2. Shipping Part 2. One exception (and it’s too late for this Christmas) is to use an online service like WTSO.com (LINK) to ship gift wine. You are limited to what they are offering, so you may have to check the site repeatedly, but it is an easier way to ship wine.
  3. Giving the wine. If you take your gift of wine to a holiday party given by the recipient, it may just become part of the bar for the party. That may be fine, but it is not ideal. So bring a bottle for the bar and put your gift, well wrapped, under the tree.
  4. Selection of the wine to give can be a minefield (see the idea of being willing to give something that the recipient may not enjoy). I try to avoid their favorite wines because I know that they will get them for themselves. I go for something unusual for them. Maybe a Petite Sirah for a Cabernet drinker or a Semillion for a Chardonnay drinker. Or a Port or Sauternes, and even Champagne or Cava or a local sparkler for anyone. If they like whites or reds, give them that, but help them to explore a bit. You can also get something like an Australian Cabernet for a Bordeaux drinker. Another idea is to get a mixed case for a new wine drinker; or for me for that matter.
  5. Wine Baskets. The key to a good wine basket is the wine. Rather than picking up a pre-made basket, ask the staff at your wine retailer to make you one that you design yourself. (HINT: Instead of cheese, get a gift card for the cheese and put a description/photos of the recommended cheeses in the basket). Avoid the kinds of cheese that are usually in baskets that are full of preservatives and other non-cheese stuff.
  6. Labels. it is said that 80% of wine purchases are made because of the label. Fine, do that if you must. Get some Skinny Bitch as a joke for a female friend, or some Fat Bastard for that male friend with the not-too-sophisticated sense of humor. Just be aware that it only encourages the bottling of mostly bulk wine with clever labels, thus entrapping another generation of new wine drinkers in rivers of barely drinkable wines full of additives. I’m just sayin’.
  7. Price. It is easy for you to go overboard here. Those top-shelf wines are awfully appealing, especially when you want to impress someone (and many have nice labels, too!). I recommend that you know your budget and stick to it; that will make for a happier January when the credit card bill comes.
  8. Get help. Your local wine shop, or even Costco (but probably not Target – don’t buy gift wine at Target) has someone who knows wine and will help you. Get their advice – you don’t have to take it, but a good wine department employee can be a big help. The same is true if you are buying from a winery. Tell them what you are looking for, they love to talk about their wines and will be helpful.
  9. Status. I know that some are getting wines to give as corporate gifts. I will leave that to you, because you are clearly trying to impress people, which is fine, but that is not what the individual giver should be doing. The sad part of corporate wine giving is that many, if not most, of the wines go to people who do not appreciate them. I had a friend who does not drink wine and who received a case of Joseph Phelps Insignia Cabernet Sauvignon one year. He gave some away and used the rest in spaghetti sauce.

In short, wine-related giving is a field rich in opportunity with a few land mines here and there. I recommend again that you give thoughtfully, within your budget, and that you do your best to enjoy the process. Use your gift-buying time on-line or in stores to explore and expand your own wine experience.

Thanks so much for visiting this site, or even following it, this year. And have a very Happy Holiday Season and a Prosperous and Wine-filled New Year!

Wine - Christmas and Drink Wine

 

POURING PENFOLD’S GRANGE DOWN THE SINK? ONE WINE RETAILER DID

As some of you know, my primary bucket list wine is Penfold’s Grange – the classic great Shiraz from Australia. One of these days, I will get a well-aged bottle and enjoy one of those legendary wine experiences, hopefully with a good friend.

Note to self – probably NOT the 2011 vintage!

Apparently, the latest vintage of the wine is not up to normal standards. In fact, one Perth, Australia wine merchant poured two bottles down to sink to show his distaste for the current vintage (and to get a bit of publicity), according to an online article in the Australian Financial Review.

A sad state of affairs. I just want to let the good people at Penfold’s know that I am available to give a second opinion on the 2011 vintage of their Grange.

I live to serve.

You can read the story for yourself at the link.  (LINK TO ARTICLE)

Wine - Penfolds Grange Poured Out

A DAY IN THE COTSWOLDS – BEAUTY, HISTORY, FOOD, FRIENDSHIP, AND WINE

Last Saturday, we took a mini tour of the Cotswolds region, a beautiful rural area of southwestern England dotted with picturesque towns. We spent a week in one of those towns, Fairford, which is very friendly and beautiful.

On Saturday, our friends, Charlie and Avril, who live in Broughton Poggs, picked us up and took us out for the day. The first stop was in Lechlade, a town between Fairford and Broughton Poggs. While Dorianne and Charlie went to the store, I spied a little wine shop called Vin Est . . .; I told them to stop on their way back and pick me up.

The Vin Est . . . shop (LINK) is very small, a front room stocked with wines on shelves, in bins, on tables, and three casks for those who want to bring their own container. In the back are a couple of more rooms, one empty on this visit – about to become a beer room and to be used for tastings, and a smaller room where the premium wines are kept. They also distribute wines to a number of restaurants and pubs in the area.

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Some of the Good Stuff.
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Fill Your Own Bottle.
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Nice Wine Shop in Lechlade.
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The Main Shop Floor

I spoke with Rachel Jenkins, who owns the place with her husband Mike. They moved out from London to this idyllic spot and noticed a hole where a premium wine shop should be. The shop is inviting and intimate, and the Jenkins’ know their wine. If you are in the area sometime, this is the go-to wine shop once you get away from Oxford. I bought a nice bottle of Pouilly Gris that is sitting comfortably in the fridge now.

Back in the car to Charlie and Avril’s beautiful home in Broughton Poggs. A cup of tea or coffee and some conversation, then we are off to The Plough Inn (LINK) in Kelmscott for a hearty lunch. Sauvignon Blanc for Dorianne, grapefruit soda for Avril, and the local Buttcombe Bitters for Charlie and me. Great food in a really nice spot – and you can book a room if you like.

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The Plough Inn Barroom.
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Some Wine Choices at the Plough Inn

Then a walk down the lane to Kelmscott Manor (LINK), the former home of the great arts and crafts movement’s William Morris and his family.

After a tour of the stately home and grounds, we headed back to Broughton Poggs, where we examined a very old stone barn that Charlie and Avril are reconditioning into a home. A remarkable transformation is done with these old buildings, keeping the historic charm while remaking them with all the current conveniences.

Then to their home, which is in a converted 15th Century mill, with about an acre plus of gardens on the property – truly a remarkable place. We toured the gardens with a nice glass of Crémant (my fault in not noting the maker) from near Macon in France.

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Glasses of Crémant for our Garden tour.
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Jim, Avril, Dorianne and Charlie. Well into a Very Good Day.

Then more tea and conversation before heading out to dinner at The Five Alls (LINK), a pub about 50 meters from Charlie and Avril’s home. The same management as The Plough Inn, it is a nicely appointed pub with a barroom and several dining rooms. We were seated in short order and I perused the menu and the wine list. The list is interesting, mostly French, of course, but with a number of New World wines from South Africa, New Zealand, Chile, and Argentina. And, the wines are sourced thought our friends at Vin Est . . ., mentioned earlier. The only U.S. wine is a (cringe) White Zinfandel. But, we’re in England after all.

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Door to the Gents Room at The Five Alls.

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Charlie asked me to select the wines, so I chose a 2014 Picpoul de Pinet from Racine (LINK) in the Languedoc, France. Charlie cringed a bit at my choice, noting that the Picpouls had been pushed in England as an alternative to Pinot Grigio and that he found most of them lacking in any complexity. So we would see. At the same time, I also ordered a 2012 Crozes-Hermitage from Domaine du Colombier (LINK), to go with the venison that we had all chosen for our main course. This rich Syrah with a peppery, dark fruit, favor and good structure proved a success with the venison. I had asked that the second wine be decanted when I ordered it, however, this did not happen, so it took some time to open up nicely.

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But back to the Picpoul de Pinet. When it arrived, I was wondering if Charlie would be right, and we would be getting a vin ordinaire with little to no character. Right off the bat, it had a strong minerality on the nose, with hints of pear, citrus and lemongrass – similar, except for the heavy minerality to a New Zealand Sauvingnon Blanc. The taste was strongly earthy with hints of floral notes, pear, and a saltiness around the edges. It opened up a bit more after about ten minutes in the glass – it smoothed out and the complexity showed through. Charlie approved.

This is a beautiful region, becoming more gentrified by the minute due to its proximity to London, but retaining much of its charm – and getting some very good restaurants in the bargain. We have thus far not had an English wine – we plan to do that next week in London, but we have stuck pretty much with the French, with a couple of forays into South America and New Zealand at the supermarket. I would love to hear comments about your wine experiences in the U.K., and any recommendations for London would be appreciated as well.

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