For almost 50 years I looked after restaurants and wine (usually at the same time). Now I find I am doing this blog more for me than the people who read it. I like to keep updated and interested in wine, as there are so many places making and selling wine these days! If you are enjoying the read, that is a wonderful added benefit for me.
It is almost Thanksgiving and we are in the middle of wine madness. A huge percentage of the yearly wine purchases take place between now and New Years. Over fifty per cent of the total wine purchases for the year are bought during this period. We all buy much more than we need during the holidays.
Obviously purchasing too much red wine is a better choice than too much white, as in many cases it will mature and might even taste better than the first time you tried it.
There is the likelihood of several bottles being left after the festivities are over, so keep them in top shape by laying them on their sides to keep the corks moist and in cool conditions (cellar temperatures 60 degrees and room temperatures 68 degrees). If you don't have a wine cooler or cellar, simply keep the extra wines in your refrigerator. For the reds, take them out of the refrigerator two days before you need them.
To make your wine buying as simple as possible, plan ahead and have an action plan. Impulse buying is a wine department's dream come true. Work to a budget and keep to it. Remember, you are choosing for your family & friends. Their favorites are not always the same as yours. Do not be intimidated by the buying process. I just read today of a billionaire who prefers $20 wines more than the $200 bottles.
My own Christmas purchases are likely to be as follows:
This is a full bodied wine with high tannins. That "puckering" feeling that you taste from tea is the same feeling you get from wines that are high in tannins.
Try to pick the Grenache at least four years of age, open an hour before drinking and pair with foods with a high fat content and rich flavors. Goose and duck come to mind, as does lamb and a nice standing rib roast.
As we are more and more led to the heavy hors d'oeuvres and tapas type dining, smoked meats, smoked fish, hams and olives also make great pairings. Of course, do not forget quality hard cheese to finish your meals.
Some of these wine are 100% Grenache grapes and others are blended. Since it is a warm weather varietal, it has the potential to produce good value wines with a high alcohol content.
"Grenache is an unlikely hero of a grape. Until recently reviled or at best ignored in much of the world, it is the grape chiefly responsible for two of the world's more celebrated reds, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and, a more recent star, Priorat."
Excerpted from Jancis Robinson
Faustino Gran Reserva Rioja 2004
I have been looking for this Rioja in English wine stores and supermarkets as it is an old favorite. At twelve years of age it is just perfect for drinking. The price of £25 and the current exchange rate make this great value!
What to expect from this Rioja? Red berries on the nose, a spicy taste, full bodied with a lengthy flavor in the mouth. To find this wine In the USA, try Wine Exchange in Santa Ana, CA, Yankee Spirits in Sturbridge, MA, Total Wine and More, Bellevue, WA and Saratoga Wine Exchange in NY - you may be able to get 2001 from these sources which are even older than the one I am looking for.
This is one of Spain's principal grape varieties, and is now grown in California and Washington. These grapes ripen early which is exactly what the word "temprano" means. They are thin skinned, and often blended with Cabernet. Tempranillo is usually matured longer than most reds, giving it flavors of toast, vanilla and smoke.
My own favorite red wine this year is Marques de Riscal Riserva from the Rioja region of Spain.
The vines were planted in the 1970's, and matured in American oak barrels for two years. Pasta dishes will work and lightly spiced chicken and/or casserole dishes, Mature cheese and quality hams also make a good pairing.
For those dreaming of a white wine or a sparkling wine for Christmas, here are some recommendations:
- Albariño - very popular in Europe, and available in forward thinking wine stores in America. The grape is thick skinned, ripens early, and is probably the best valued white wine grape in the market place. It has a light acidity and lower alcohol content than red wines. This makes it a pleasing way to begin a festive dinner. Drink these wines young, I prefer them less than two years of age. For those who drink European wines, Portugal also makes a great Albariño.
- Parellada is the grape that produces Cava, the Spanish sparkling wine made near Barcelona. This grape is late to ripen and is a nicely balanced wine. Good with lightly salted nuts or chips if you are serving your guests some "nibbles" before your big holiday meal.
Storing Partial Bottles of Sparkling Wine
For years people in Europe have used a silver spoon to preserve sparkling wines. The handle of the spoon is inserted into the partially used bottle of champagne/sparkling wines helping to preserve them for a couple more days. (While you can find arguments for and against this method, Stanford University actually did a study in 1994 and found that putting the handle of a silver spoon into an open bottle of champagne preserved the bubbles.)
For the hard to buy for person on your list, why not give them a gift of a personalized silver plated spoon for their champagne? See picture below.
One of my suggestions (don't laugh) is to place aluminum foil over the neck of left over sparking wines. It works as well as the silver spoon and It will make your bubbly last another two or three days in a refrigerator. Remember - you can use the unused sparkling wine to make some nice sauces for chicken and fish too.
What Karen and I will be doing this Holiday Season: Thanksgiving will be spent just outside London near the River Thames having an Italian meal with our nieces, Tonya and Abby who are also visiting the UK.
Christmas will be spent in the West part of London having a traditional British Christmas Dinner in a good London pub.
For New Year's Eve the planning is still in progress, but it will be partly spent seeing Les Miserables near the famous Soho district. Then probably a quiet dinner - if there is such a thing on New Year's Eve.
From our hearts to you and your families, we wish you a. . .
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Joyous Kwanz and a Blessed Holiday!
Be Safe and Have Fun
While you are at home with family and friends it is a safer place to drink stronger wines. Alcohol is the component in wine that helps the balance. It is that warm flavor you get in the mouth, and the great moderator of heavily flavored foods. It is also the culprit that makes us do and say foolish or dangerous things! Pay attention to the alcohol content of wine. From 8% for some German Rieslings, Zinfandels up to 16% and Ports at 20%.