With Wine, Endless Treasures Await

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 06-24-2015

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

As regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country.

These columns are hosted by Grape Collective. If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at – Terroirist.com).

In my latest column, I contend that most of the world’s finest wines are produced by small, unassuming, and largely ignored grape growers.

With Wine, Endless Treasures Await

On January 12, 2007, one of the world’s greatest violin players set up shop in the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station in Washington, D.C. Wearing jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt, and a Washington Nationals baseball cap, 39-year-old Joshua Bell pulled out his instrument — handcrafted by Antonio Stradivari in 1713 and purchased in 2003 for nearly $4 million — and played six classical songs for rush-hour commuters.

The setting of Bell’s 43-minute performance was unusual, to say the least. By the time he was 14, the violin prodigy was soloing for the Philadelphia Orchestra. At 17, he made his first appearance at Carnegie Hall. He has performed as a guest soloist for the New York Philharmonic three times and currently directs one of the world’s most celebrated chamber orchestras.

More than 1,000 commuters came within earshot of Bell that morning and witnessed a world-class performance from a musical genius on one of the finest instruments ever crafted. Yet among the mass of hurried Metro riders, Bell went almost unnoticed.

What does any of this have to do with wine? Quite a bit.

Giant corporate producers dominate the wine market. In the United States, three brands — E. & J. Gallo, the Wine Group, and Constellation — produced 172.3 million cases of wine in 2012, accounting for roughly 50 percent of wine sales.

Yet most of the world’s finest wines are produced by small, unassuming, and largely ignored grape growers. Unlike the big brands, these vignerons produce wines that reflect the regions and vineyards in which the grapes are grown. Their wines have a distinctiveness that can’t be matched by mass-produced alternatives.

In other words, wine consumers are surrounded by Joshua-Bell level brilliance. Serious wine enthusiasts are finally paying attention.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

Sabrage: Almost as Impressive as a Keg Stand

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 06-09-2015

(Source: Champagne Agrapart et Fils)

(Source: Champagne Agrapart et Fils)

As regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country.

These columns are hosted by Grape Collective. If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at – Terroirist.com).
In my latest column, I walk readers through the history of sabrage — and offer a how-to guide!

Sabrage: Almost as Impressive as a Keg Stand

Beer pong. Flip cup. Quarters. For beer guzzlers, there’s no shortage of ways to make drinking fun. Even if college is solidly in the rearview mirror, most of us can bank on one friend — or several — attempting to shotgun a beer at some point every summer.

Wine is more sophisticated. Oenophiles scoff at cans and red Solo cups and pooh-pooh drinking games — or at least that’s what we pretend.

But for wine enthusiasts, there’s one party trick that’s almost as impressive as a keg stand. It’s flamboyant yet distinguished, ostentatious yet noble. Sabrage, the ceremonial art opening Champagne with a sword, is always a hit. And it’s worth learning before your next barbecue.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

Rhone Rangers DC: Free Tickets!

Posted by | Posted in Wine Events | Posted on 06-01-2015

rhone_rangers_bannerIt’s no secret that I love America’s Rhone-style wines. So I’m thrilled that the Rhone Rangers will be visiting Washington, DC on Thursday, June 18! They’ll be visiting the Long View Gallery at 1234 9th St NW.

Terroirist is able to offer FOUR TICKETS (as two pairs) to the Grand Tasting. From 7:00pm till 9:00pm, attendees will have the chance to taste more than 80 wines from Rhone Rangers member wineries.

VIP tickets are $90 in advance. A selection of appetizers will be available for VIPs, who can arrive at 5:30. General Admission tickets, which cover the tasting from 7:00pm till 9:00pm, are $65 in advance. For a 20% discount, use the promo code “terroirist.”

Earlier that day, from 10:30am till noon, I’ll be leading a panel discussion exploring “American Rhone Wines for Summer Sipping.” The discussion will feature a tasting of eight different wines. If you can sneak away from your desk, please join! Tickets are just $35.

To have a chance to win a FREE PAIR OF TICKETS (a $130 value!), just leave a comment naming your FAVORITE American Rhone-style wine. For an extra entry, tweet to me (@terroiristblog) and the Rhone Rangers (@RhoneRangers) with your favorite American Rhone-style wine, using the hashtag #RRDC15.

The contest ends Wednesday, June 10, at midnight ET. Good luck!

Austrian Reds: Difficult to Pronounce, but Easy to Drink

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 05-26-2015

heinrich_salzbergAs regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country.

These columns are hosted by Grape Collective. If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at – Terroirist.com).

In my latest column, I praise Austria’s red wines — and predict that they could soon take off.

Austrian Reds: Difficult to Pronounce, but Easy to Drink

Blaufrankisch. St. Laurent. Zweigelt.

The names of these Austrian red grape varieties do nothing to put consumers at ease. Wine is intimidating. And consumers have always been most comfortable talking about wine when the words roll off the tongue. Few struggle with grape names like Merlot and Malbec or regions like Bordeaux and Mendoza.

Across the country, though, boutique wine merchants and sommeliers are falling hard for Austrian reds. Regular consumers will undoubtedly follow suit.

“These last three days have shown me that I don’t need to explain these grape varieties and their styles,” explained wine educator Andreas Wickhoff, founder of a group called the “Premium Estates of Austria,” during a recent visit to the United States. “Several of the buyers I met have already been tasting these wines. And I think we are slowly gaining momentum, especially in the more premium segment.”

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

For Easy Summertime Drinking, Reach for Txakolina

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 05-12-2015

Uriondo vineyard in Zaratamo Spain. Source: De Maison Selections.

Uriondo vineyard in Zaratamo Spain. Source: De Maison Selections.

As regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country.

These columns are hosted by Grape Collective. If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at – Terroirist.com).

In my latest column, I explain why Txakolina — a slightly sparkling white wine from Spain — is the perfect wine for summertime drinking.

For Easy Summertime Drinking, Reach for Txakolina

With summer approaching, the frequency of poolside barbeques, lazy picnics, and late nights on the patio is rising just as quickly as the mercury. This means lots more time outside, and consequently, a different cocktail menu.

Summertime drinking is about simplicity. Easy drinking beers like Budweiser, Corona, and Pabst Blue Ribbon pair perfectly with hot dogs and hamburgers. Pitcher drinks like sangria are quick and always a hit. Premixed frozen cocktails like strawberry daiquiris and piña coladas eliminate prep time and transport guests to the tropics.

For wine enthusiasts, finding the perfect summertime match can be daunting. With wine, simple has become synonymous with cheap — and serious oenophiles steer clear of mass-produced plonk. For outdoor entertaining, though, the good stuff is typically too expensive — and too fussy. Just as no one sniffs and savors a PBR, it’s nice to enjoy a glass of wine every now and then without taking things too seriously.

This summer, I’ll be reaching for Txakolina. Also known as “Txakoli,” the wine is unpretentious and refreshing — and virtually every bottle is well under $20. While the spelling suggests a tongue twister, “Txakolina” actually rolls right off the tongue. Say it with me: “Cha-koh-lee-na.”

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

Forget the Flute and Toss the Coupe

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 04-28-2015

Source: Wikimedia

Source: Wikimedia

As regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country.

These columns are hosted by Grape Collective. If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at – Terroirist.com).

In my latest column, I explain why most wine enthusiasts have grown to loathe Champagne flutes.

Forget the Flute and Toss the Coupe

“Flutes?” asked Sebastian Zutant, a leading sommelier in Washington, D.C., with obvious disdain. “We’re adults; we use real wine glasses.”

Zutant was helping pour wines at a charity wine dinner when he caught word that one attendee had asked for Champagne flutes. Since guests had brought a variety of impressive wines — about 100 collectors attended the bring-your-own-bottle event — Zutant and the other sommeliers had fixed every place setting with five “universal” glasses.

Several attendees arrived with Champagne, but only one requested flutes. Zutant, who has been managing beverage programs at some of D.C.’s best restaurants for more than a decade, was having none of it. Like most wine enthusiasts, he loathes flutes.

The flute gained popularity around 50 years ago as the coupe — the sherbet-style glass supposedly molded from Marie Antoinette’s left breast — fell out of favor. But like the coupe, it’s a terrible vessel for enjoying Champagne. And finally, sommeliers, retailers, and wine educators are beginning to say so.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

Stunning Wines on the Edge of American Viticulture

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 04-14-2015

finger_lakesAs regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country.

These columns are hosted by Grape Collective. If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at – Terroirist.com).

In my latest column, I praise the wines of the Finger Lakes region in New York — and highlight the collaborative nature of the winemakers there.

Stunning Wines on the Edge of American Viticulture

Finger Lakes’ wine pioneer Hermann Wiemer released his first wine 35 years ago. While his wines helped the New York region gain critical acclaim, he never curried much favor with local winemakers. And he had little patience for collegiality. In a 1985 interview with the New York Times, he described most Finger Lakes wine as “rubber hose” quality.

Things have certainly changed. Today, consumers everywhere consider Finger Lakes Riesling to be on par with the best offerings from Germany and Austria. Serious oenophiles recognize that other wines from the region show tremendous potential. And ironically, the region’s winemakers credit the collaborative spirit Wiemer shunned for the surge in quality.

Indeed, it’s a struggle to get vintners there to talk about their own wines. Virtually every Finger Lakes winemaker is more interested in promoting the industry as a whole — and praising colleagues — than talking about himself.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

Worry About Wine, Not Arsenic

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 03-31-2015

ArsenicAs regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country.

These columns are hosted by Grape Collective. If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at – Terroirist.com).

In my latest column, I find some good news in the allegation that some of the nation’s top-selling low-cost wines contain unsafe levels of arsenic.

Worry About Wine, Not Arsenic

In late March, two couples filed a class action lawsuit in California alleging that some of the nation’s top-selling low-cost wines contain unsafe levels of arsenic. “Just a glass or two” of wine from producers like Cupcake, Charles Shaw, Franzia, Rex Goliath, and Korbel “could result in dangerous arsenic toxicity,” according to the suit.

Many media outlets jumped on the story. CNN asked, “Should you be worried about arsenic in California wine?” Local CBS affiliates terrified viewers with breathtaking stories about “high levels of deadly arsenic.” But the coverage was grossly overblown.

For starters, the plaintiff’s analysis considered the EPA’s standard for arsenic in drinking water. If your Franzia consumption rivals your water consumption, you have bigger concerns than arsenic. Plus, as the Wine Institute, a trade group representing California wineries, explained, “arsenic is prevalent in the natural environment in air, soil and water… [so] wines from throughout the world contain trace amounts.”

So consumers should rest easy; winemakers aren’t topping up their tanks with the toxin. But the collective freak-out demonstrates that consumers are starting to pay attention to what’s in their wine. That’s worth celebrating.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

Rest easy, wine lovers. Perception is easily fooled.

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 03-17-2015

CC0 Public Domain.

CC0 Public Domain.

As regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country.

These columns are hosted by Grape Collective. If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at – Terroirist.com).

In my latest column, I explain why wine enthusiasts shouldn’t worry about academic studies that call baloney on oenophilia.

Rest easy, wine lovers. Perception is easily fooled.

One glass of Cabernet Sauvignon was described as “powerful and heavy.” Another was described as “subtle and refined.”  The only difference? The music that was playing while people drank the wine.

A few years ago, Adrian North, a psychology professor at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland, tested the impact of music on taste perception by pouring wine for 250 students. Some tasted the wine while listening to music identified by others as “powerful and heavy,” while others listened to music that was “subtle and refined,” “zingy and refreshing,” or “mellow and soft.” Other students drank without any music. After enjoying their wine for five minutes, the students were asked to rate how much the wine tasted like the musical descriptions.

The conclusion, as put simply in the British Journal of Psychology? “Background music influences the taste of wine.”

When North’s study came out, oenophiles were infuriated. Here was yet another academic calling wine appreciation into question.

Rest easy, wine lovers. Perception is easily fooled.

Widespread derision of wine criticism began in 2001 when Frédéric Brochet, a University of Bordeaux psychologist, poured one glass of red wine and one glass of white wine for 54 oenology students — and then asked them to describe each wine in detail. Students described each wine with the laundry list of descriptors one would expect for reds and whites. What Brochet didn’t tell the students? Both wines were the same. The white in one glass was simply dyed red.

Ever since, the media has jumped at any opportunity to call baloney on oenophilia. But psychologists have long known that humans are easily tricked, especially when relying on taste buds.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

In Its Greatest Moments, Wine Provides an Idealized Reality

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 03-03-2015

IMG_20150228_140315As regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country.

These columns are hosted by Grape Collective. If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at – Terroirist.com).

In my latest column, I write about the best California wine I’ve ever had — and what it teaches us about great wine.

In Its Greatest Moments, Wine Provides an Idealized Reality

Fifteen years ago, Stephen Tanzer, one of the world’s leading wine critics, described the Cabernet Sauvignon from Ridge’s 1991 harvest in Monte Bello vineyard as “among the top dozen made in California during the last 20 years.”

So when I tasted the wine on January 16, 2012, my expectations were high. A few friends and I had gathered at a local steakhouse to explore some of California’s top wines from the 1990s; bottles from producers like Seavey, Dominus, Chappellet, and Dunn were on the table. And the Ridge outclassed everything. The wine, grown in the Santa Cruz Mountains, exploded out of the glass with sweet, fleshy fruit, wild herbs, and graphite. It was concentrated but light on its feet. The finish lingered impressively.

The Ridge Monte Bello stopped us in our tracks. It was as if we had discovered the Holy Grail. Without question, it was the best California wine I’d ever had.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!