Posts Tagged ‘sparkling wine

Step Away from the Margarita: Great Wines to Pair With Mexican Food

I admit: my latest Food52 video on matching wine and Mexican food has me feeling conflicted. See, my hard alcohol beverage of choice is the margarita. That limey tang, the earthy, potent hit of tequila…really, it’s unbeatable. Can I really in good conscience recommend pairing Mexican food with wine instead?

Well, yes. Check out my picks for pairing your fave Mexican fare with everything from a juicy Argentine red to a sparkling wine from New Mexico and tell me if these just don’t hit the spot.

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Nice Day for a Wine Wedding: Planning Tips for the Bride-to-Be

Wedding planning season seems to be in full swing — I’ve had no fewer than 5 friends announce their engagements recently. I’ve also had a few of these lovely ladies hit me up for wedding wine advice, and I thought I’d share my thoughts for them with all of you:

1. Go indie. If possible, buy the wine directly from a store rather than going through a caterer or the event space. You’ll save money and have more control over your choices. Plus that way you can keep the leftovers — and bust out a bottle when you feel like reminiscing about the Big Day. My husband and I got married at a vineyard, and it’s always a special occasion whenever we open a bottle from there.

2. Options are good. Two kinds of white and two kinds of red will ensure that everyone is happy.

3. Say Olé. I often recommend wines from Chile and Argentina for weddings. They tend to have clear, bright fruit flavors that are good on their own as well as with food. You’ll want something your guests will enjoy while they’re waiting in line for the buffet, resting between courses, or taking a break from the dance floor. Also, they’re often crowd-pleasing wines that offer tremendous value. Think Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot from Chile, or Torrontés and Malbec from Argentina.

4. Don’t splurge on the sparklers. Please do not feel the need to spend a ton of cash on the finest champagne you can find. There are plenty of great value sparkling wines out there. If you’re doing the traditional post-dinner champagne toast, at that point in the evening, everyone will have had so much to eat and drink that their critical abilities will be somewhat impaired, shall we say. Of course, if you can afford Cristal for a crowd of 200, go for it! (And send me an invite, while you’re at it.)

5. Share. I have heard stories of wine-loving brides and grooms who served their guests cheap, mediocre wine while making sure their glasses were filled with pricey California Cabs and vintage champagne. This makes my skin crawl. You’ve asked your friends and family to fly in from around the world to be there for your Special Day and  you treat them like second-class citizens? Beyond tacky.

6. Don’t stress. There are many difficult decisions you’ll be making around your wedding day. This should not be one of them.

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A Mixed Case: Wine News Round Up

I’m adding a new feature to STBNY — an occasional, and highly unscientific, round up of my favorite wine news. I consume an embarrassing amount of wine media, and really I would feel less guilty about spending so much time reading all those articles, blog posts, Tweets and the like if I could share them with you. Plus, there’s lots of stuff here that even people who aren’t nearly as wine-obsessed as I am would find amusing, entertaining, and even useful.
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The Right Temperature(s) for Serving Wine

What with the frigid weather in New York, I’ve been thinking a lot about temperature lately. Wine, like people, wants to live within a narrow temperature range. I often get questions about the right temperature for wine storage, but the more pressing question for most of us is the ideal temperature for serving wine. Too cold, and the flavors are muted; too warm, and the alcohol runs roughshod on your palate. This is one of the reasons why I avoid drinking wine at bars — a bottle of white straight from the fridge, or a bottle of red at overheated bar temp do not make for pleasant drinking experiences.

Yes, white wine should be cold — but probably not as cold as you think. A good rule of thumb is to take the bottle out 10-20 minutes before you’re going to drink it, depending on the kind of wine. (The one exception here is sparkling wine, which is at its brightest and bubbliest right out of the refrigerator.) Crisp, high acidity, lighter bodied wines that are all about refreshment — Sauvignon Blancs or northern Italian whites, for example — are better on the cooler side, say from 45-50 degrees. Heavy chilling is also a great way to mask flavors in case you’re stuck with a mediocre bottle. Fuller bodied wines like California Chardonnay, white Burgundy, or whites from the northern Rhone show best when they’re a bit warmer, for example between 55-60 degrees. Cold mutes smells and flavors, and since these wines aren’t intensely aromatic, they need to be warmed up a bit to show off their character. Feel free to cup the wine glass in your hands and swirl to warm up the wine if it still seems a little shy.

For reds, try sticking them in the fridge 10-20 minutes before drinking. This is especially important in winter, when many of us crank up the heat. The idea of serving a red wine at room temperature comes from an era when room temperature was closer to 65 than the toasty 75 or so where we like to keep the thermostat now. As with whites, lighter, higher acidity wines, like Beaujolais, a lot of Loire reds, Pinot Noir, Dornfelder, Lagrein, Zweigelt and the like, really shine when they’re cool, as in 60 degrees or so. More complex and tannic wines taste better when they’re a bit warmer, closer to 65 degrees.

With both the whites and the reds I encourage you to play around with this. Experiment, and see what temperature makes the wine tastes best. And by temperature, I mean time in or out of the fridge. No need to invest in one of those wine thermometers — I usually discourage people from buying fussy wine accoutrements. One of the few exceptions: a temperature controlled cellar unit if, like me, you don’t have a cool place for long-term wine storage. And by cool I mean somewhere in the range of 50-60 degrees.

And, finally, a temperature-related programming note: I’ll be in Puerto Rico in vacation next week. It’s my goal to do a video or two while I’m there, including a mini tasting tutorial, but expect the pace of posting to be light.

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Champagne’s Best Friend

I’m just going to say it: I don’t like New Year’s Eve. True, I did meet my husband at a New Year’s Eve party back in 1998, but that great evening was the exception in a string of truly unfortunate December 31sts. The expectations are always too high, the weather is always too cold, and it’s impossible to find a cab.

I also have a NYE wine pet peeve: drinking too much champagne without food. As a drink on its own, a glass or two of champagne can of course be delicious. But after that, diminishing marginal returns set in. On their own, the wine’s high acidity and bubbles can be rough on the palate — but paired with food, they’re refreshing and restorative. This is particularly true if you’re drinking champagne with salty, fatty and/or fishy foods, which really need the cleansing bite of a sip of champagne. Let me go on the record here by saying that dry champagne with desserts and chocolate makes no sense to me: the sugar in the food will make the champagne taste tart and thin in comparison. No, champagne really comes into its own when paired with savory things. The solution to this New Year’s Eve dilemma then is to set out something salty and snacky before the countdown begins. Potato chips would do the trick nicely, but if you’re looking for something fancier, then I’d recommend this easy salmon spread. It’s champagne’s best friend, you can make it ahead, and any leftovers will be delicious on bagels the next morning.

As for champagne to pair it with, you can see some of my holiday sparkling recommendations here. And if you’re looking for the full multi-media STBNY experience, check out this video tasting of the Georges Gardet NV Blanc de Noirs ($39) I did on Food52. (It’s my first foray into video, so please be kind. Or not. Let me know what you think!)

The recipe comes from Patricia Wells’ The Food Lovers Guide to Paris, although I’ve modified some of the proportions and added a few of my own touches.
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STBNY Launch: We Have Lift-Off!

Saturday night’s Spin the Bottle launch event at Heights Chateau was, if I do say so myself, quite the success. There was a great crowd, the folks at Heights were so kind to let me host my event there, Sarah’s flowers were lovely, and oh yes, the wines. Savio’s wines are a little out there, in the best possible way, and I was thrilled to see that people responded so well to them. My favorite moment when I’m teaching a wine class is watching the expression on a student’s face as she tries something she’s never had before and she realizes just how interesting wine can be. It’s a mix of shock, curiosity, and delight. I got to see that expression many times as I poured Savio’s wines, all of which come from small producers who are very much looking to do their own thing.
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Holiday Fizz That Won’t Break the Bank

For my wine studies, I’ve been reading up a lot on Champagne* lately. One of the inconveniences of studying for these exams is that I constantly crave whatever it is I happen to be studying. Sadly, my lifestyle and my wallet don’t lend themselves to as much Champagne consumption as I would like. Fortunately for me (and you), there are some much more accessible options that should come in very handy as we approach this Recession-challenged holiday season.

First, a little explanation of why Champagne is so expensive. It’s made using a complicated, and pricey, technique, called “traditional method,” that involves fermenting the wine a second time in the bottle. (Bubbly wines get their bubble from this second fermentation, where yeast and sugar are added to wine, creating alcohol and carbon dioxide. By doing this in a closed container — like the bottle itself — you capture the carbon dioxide, which creates the fizz.) And second of all, well, it’s Champagne. You’re paying for centuries of expertise, prestige, and millions of dollars of marketing. So if you’re looking for bubbles for less, you should look to other regions and/or other ways of making sparkling wine.

So here are some good champagne substitutes, as well as the ideal time to use them:
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