Archive for July, 2015

HOW TO STILL DRINK RED WINE WHEN IT IS STINKIN’ HOT OUT!

July 29, 2015

Okay, the heat is coming back up here…it has already been an amazing summer for weather, so hot for us, which is not the norm for sure!

But one drawback…while I have enjoyed the bevy (always wanted to use that word) of white and rose wines, the reds I truly love have been few and far between.

But I have had some…which got me to thinking about the title of this blog!

So how do you still drink red wine when it is stinking hot out?

Well, a couple of ideas that have worked for me this summer (and in the past).

First off, pick young, fruity and un-oaked wines. Gamay is one example (or Beaujolais in France), or a light Pinot Noir, a Barbera from Italy, or even a Marechal Foch (if you are from my home province of BC). With no wood or tannin, they just go down easier than bigger wines.

Another idea is to take the wines above…and chill them a bit! Now I’m not a fan of cold red wine, so don’t go that far. But in very hot weather, the term “room temperature” is kind of out of whack. So throw one of those wines in the fridge for 15 minutes (or put in an ice bucket). Then take it out, open it and set it on the table. The fruit should really shine through, and it will seem more refreshing in the heat.

How about trying your red wines later in the evening? This applies mostly to dinner parties, although anyone can try it. Once the sun goes down (and the temperature with it), it becomes more comfortable to drink red wines (along with a number other things).

Finally, take the above advice and try it with mature wine! With the tannins gone and the wine smoothed out, you don’t get the “kick” that can come from a big, young red wine. We tried that with a 15 year old Chateauneuf du Pape the other night and the result was amazing!

So when it is hot – and you still want to try to drink red wine – try some of the ideas above. They won’t replace cool whites and roses, but may give you an enjoyable break!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

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HOW TO DEAL WITH A WINE SNOB!

July 23, 2015

Okay, I admit it…I am a wine snob! I have strong opinions, I don’t like home-made wine, and won’t stand for people putting ice in their red wine…among other things!

But I also try to not to inflict my wine snobbery on people as much as possible. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, as long as they don’t force them on me (and vice versa). And being nice is a good policy…period!

Having said that, I have encountered enough wine snobs in my time to know how painful they can be!

So what is the best way to deal with them?

Well, the easiest thing to do – like with any unpleasant person (or person who is behaving unpleasantly) – is to simply walk away. If you can, do it…what follows is often not worth the effort, and life is too short!

But if you are stuck with a wine snob, at a dinner party or in a conversation you can’t get out of, there are ways to deal with him (or her) that can help “manage the pain”.

Note the word “manage”! I use it because you can’t usually change the behavior – or views – of a wine snob. But there are ways to manage him or her to minimize the impact.

The first strategy is to simply go along with what the person is saying. If he or she is pontificating on Bordeaux, or Riedel glasses, or natural wines…just nod your head, look interested, and perhaps ask for more information. Snobs love this kind or behavior! The problem, of course, is they will just keep talking…to you!

Another approach is to change the wine subject. Ask, perhaps, what the person things about another kind of wine. Or a certain vintage. Or even his or her favourite wine reviewer. Any wine snob will jump at the chance to keep talking about something new! But while that means the topic will change, you still end up listening to the bore!

A more tricky approach is to transition the conversation, just slightly. For example, if the wine snob is talking about French wine, ask whether he or she has been to France and if so, where. If they haven’t – and you have – you may actually be able to jump in and take over the conversation! If you haven’t, at least that may lead to a different discussion (around travelling, perhaps, which the snob may not be quite as opinionated about).

The last – and most daring, but dangerous, approach – is to actually disagree with the wine snob. This takes a combination of guts and wine knowledge (although more of the former than the latter). On the subject of Bordeaux, for example, if you don’t like it, think it is too expensive, too woody, etc….just tell him or her. Just the look of shock on his or her face is often worth it! But that may be followed by more bluster –which you must endure – or perhaps he or she may just walk away (which can be a triumph). This does take more effort, however…and it is up to you if want to exert it!

So there you have it…some wine snob strategies! Try one, try all…and let me know how it goes!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN A WINE IS TOO OLD?

July 15, 2015

I have blogged before about “how to know when a wine is off”…but a couple of experiences this week made me think that another good topic was how to tell if a wine is just too old!

The first? I was down in my cellar on Sunday…it was finally cool enough to open the door after weeks of scorching heat! I was moving bottles around, creating space, when I saw something…a 1994 Cotes du Rhone! Now, that made it 21 years old…and even for the producer – Coudoulet de Beaucastel – that is pushing it! What it really meant is that I had somehow forgotten about that wine. So I opened it and…

But wait! The second example. The ongoing white Hermitage debacle! Those who read my blog know about this conundrum…I bought a number of highly rated white Hermitage from the northern Rhone before ever having tasted them. Then, when I did…aack! More like Retsina than wine! So I just left them in the cellar…until now.

So what happened? Well, second example first (as I drink another glass…).

The white Hermitage – a 1990 Chante Alouette by Chapoutier – was so deep in colour it was almost orange! Did it have a resiny nose? Yes…but also nuts, wax…and in the mouth huge body, with no oak or obvious oxidation. Was it my favourite style of wine? No. But was it too old…certainly not (as today’s glass shows).

The ’94 Cotes du Rhone was an even better example. Still medium red, it had classic garrigue/dried cherries on the nose. And in the mouth? It could easily have been mistaken for a mature Chateauneuf du Pape – smooth, no tannin, dried fruit, herbs, but – again – no signs oxidation at all. Amazing!

So back to the question – how do you know if a wine is too old?

Well, if you take out wines that are just “off”, a big part of the answer depends on the style of wine you like.

If you like fresh, fruity wines the best, then any wine that is not like that will seem too old. That’s not a bad thing…just something to know. So don’t keep your wine too long, or drink wines that are more than 5 years old.

But if you do like mature wines, then look for some tell tale signs. Is there little or no fruit at all? Are there tea-like aromas on the nose? Is the wine dried out – meaning tannic and that is about it? Is there lots of wood and herbs…but that is it?

And, for white wines, has the oak completely overwhelmed the wine, leaving you with a mouthful of what tastes like sawdust?

If the answers to these questions are “yes”, then the wine is probably too old. Bad? Not necessarily. Not worth drinking? It depends on the style you like or can try to appreciate (says the man who is still sipping the ’90 Chante Alouette 2 days after it was opened).

So there is a bit of a guide for you on old wine. An acquired taste? Perhaps. But that doesn’t mean it is bad…you just have to be able to recognize it for what it is!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Correction to last blog on BC Pinot Noir Experience

July 9, 2015

Put it down to me needing to do a better job of research and the need for more complete media reporting…but I goofed up in the last blog on the BC Pinot Noir Experience. A couple of the wineries that I said should be there are…Blue Mountain, Averill Creek, La Frenz…no Kettle Valley, but good to see the others there.

Thanks to the reader who pointed out my error. I will be more diligent in the future!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Can You Have a Wine Competition…Without the Best Wines?

July 8, 2015

Those who follow my blog know that I have a problem with wine competitions in general. But today I saw something that almost put me over the edge! So I had to blog about it.

The third – I think it is the third – BC Pinot Noir Celebration is occurring in August. Not only that, they have coaxed international wine celebrity Steven Spurrier (he of “Bottle Shock” fame) to come. The purpose is to bring together great Pinot Noirs from BC and other parts of the world to “compare” – not compete – and discuss.

The problem? The list of BC Pinot Noirs that the judges have decided to have don’t include the best producers in BC!

Anybody who knows anything about BC Pinot Noir knows that two producers have historically made the best wine – Blue Mountain (with their Reserve Pinot Noir) and Kettle Valley (with their Hayman and Reserve bottlings). I have personal tasting notes from these wines going back over 10 years…they are not only stunning young, but can age for 8+ years.

And then there are the newcomers. La Frenz from Naramata? Averill Creek from Vancouver Island? Both make outstanding wines, capable of at least near term aging…but they aren’t there either.

That got me to thinking…why?

The simplest answer might be that these wineries declined to participate. And if that is the case, you can stop reading right now.

But if they did want to…submitted wines to the “judging panel”…and weren’t accepted, what does that say about the panel and those who are promoting BC wines?

And even if they didn’t submit wines, what will the general public think? The event has the opportunity to get huge publicity…but if the best wines aren’t there?

Perhaps the wineries in question don’t need to care. Blue Mountain and Kettle Valley don’t make a lot of their wine, so it won’t affect sales. La Frenz and Averill Creek? Probably the same.

But as a wine dweeb…it pisses me off! The wines that are missing can be outstanding …world class! And they miss out?

Makes me want to send some to Robert Parker…hey, now that is an idea!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST ROSE FOR YOU!

July 3, 2015

It has been hot for a while up here in BC, unseasonably hot for us. What that means from a wine perspective is lots of Rose…so a good time to blog about it!

So who do you choose the best Rose, which for my purposes means “the one you like the best”?

First off, what is Rose? It is simply a wine made from red grapes that the winemaker has left the skins on for a while…the longer they are on, the deeper the colour (and fuller the body).

Next, it is important to remember there are three general different kinds of Roses. The first category – which are generally to be avoided – are the “White Zinfandels” from California. While the right colour, they tend to be sickly sweet with not a lot of wine character. Cheap – for a reason – you should stay away from them unless you have a real sweet tooth when it comes to wine!

At the other end of the Rose spectrum (as well as the most popular) are the bone dry versions. They are most associated with the south of France, but are now made anywhere it is hot (like Spain, South America) or where people might buy them (just about everywhere else). These range in colour from a very light pink to a deep salmon colour, are very fruity on the nose, but very crisp on the finish, with no sugar. They are stunning in the heat, and pair amazingly well with food because some of them can be quite full-bodied.

That leaves the wines in the middle! They tend to have a touch of residual sugar to them (what is called “off dry”), in which the fruit on the nose carries through to the mouth. I have had some beauties from my home province, exploding with ripe grapefruit and strawberries…they can be incredibly refreshing and easy to drink on a very hot day (sometimes too easy to drink on the deck…in the sun…).

So that is style…very important…and you need to figure out which style you like and then stick with that. How will you know?

Well, the description on the back can help (“crisp” and “bone dry” are key words, as are “residual sugar/sweetness for the middle style). Another general way is by country, or at least some countries. If the Rose is from the south of France, it is just about guaranteed to be bone dry. I don’t think I have ever had a sweeter version from that country. Spain is almost as reliable. For other countries, though, you have to check a bit more on the label, or try to taste first.

Finally, though, there is the issue of cost. Rose was developed to be a cheap wine to drink in the hot summer/early fall months. And it still is in most of the south of France and Spain, so cheap that a pichet of Rose is often thrown in at no cost with prix fixe meals. Less than $10 a bottle is the price to shoot for “on the continent”…over here, under $20!

Some producers, however – like Tavel – make more expensive versions that cost over $10 more, and even claim that they age well. There are even celebrity bottlings (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie did one with Thomas Perrin). I have tried some, and they are okay but, for me, kind of defeat the purpose.

Rose – either bone dry or with touch of sweetness – should be quaffed with simple food in the summer time. Fruity, refreshing, it is a compliment to the season, not a wine to spend lots of time thinking about.
Buy, chill, drink up, repeat…that is what Rose is all about!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com