Learning to drink pink

It was perhaps the wettest June on record in the Pacific Northwest. Well thank goodness it was a record, because if this was normal I'd be moving back to California in a heartbeat. But summer did finally decide to show up and we even had a heatwave!

One of the reasons I missed this hot weather was because of my rose. I look forward to rose wine every summer, because while it tastes good anytime of the year, I find it very seasonal and it is one of my quintessential summer wines. And when temperatures are in the 80s it's all I want to sip – somehow it is not as appealing when it's 50 degrees and raining.

Consumers have come around for the most part in accepting pink wine as a quality beverage. Though rose has been made for decades – centuries actually – most Americans associate it with the sweet blush White Zinfandels that became so popular in the 1980s. Well, DRY rose is back on people's table. Thank goodness! And as we enter another high-temperature weekend, here are some fun rose facts – dry vs. sweet.

Dry Rose:
The traditional rosé method (for dry rose), saignée, creates a pink wine by pressing red grapes and allowing the juice only a brief period of contact the skins, retaining a bit of color, but lacking the heavy influence of tannins.

France is the only country to have a region whose production is restricted to rosé. One of the oldest appellations in France, Tavel is a pink only Appellation Controllée.

Dry rose is crisp and refreshing like a white wine, but with a touch of red characteristics in fruit flavor and texture.

Sweet Rose:
White Zinfandel is made with Zinfandel grapes, but with a faster process and added sugar. It's almost always sweet.

White Zinfandel hit its peak in the 1980s. Sutter Home White Zinfandel production went from 25,000 cases in 1981 to 2.9 million cases in 1989.

In 1991, White Zinfandel accounted for 34% of wine sales nationally. Today, it still accounts for 10% of wine sales in the U.S.

  

 

Patriotic Bottles

The Fourth of July weekend is upon us again, and as a history major, I love to ponder our founding fathers around this time. As a University of Virginia graduate, I am quite partial to all fun facts and notes about Thomas Jefferson. Though I don’t agree with everything he did as a politician or even a person, there is no denying his inventive mind and complex character. Plus the fact that he is what many like to call the first ‘wine connoisseur’ of our nation – or at least, the most well known.

But he’s not the only one who enjoyed wine – and other potent potables. During colonial times, alcoholic beverages, such as beer, wine and spirits, were considered more healthy than drinking water. Water contained bacteria and could be more dangerous to one’s health than alcohol. So when that is the case, best to find a signature drink! Here are some favorite tipples of a few founding fathers.

George Washington: Madeira is said to be his favorite drink, and it was in fact one of the most available beverages in the colonies (and states), as it was hard to ship European wine overseas without spoilage. But Washington also ran a distillery on his property at Mount Vernon. In fact, it was the largest whiskey distillery in the country in the 18th century. Granted, it was constructed in 1797, but it was able to claim that title!

John Adams: Again, Madeira was a favorite for this second president, but he also enjoyed cider and beer. Hard cider, that is. As an ambassador to France, he also had is fair share of wine, but was not known to indulge quite as much as Benjamin Franklin when hew as in the position.

Thomas Jefferson: Wine, of course! Not only did he collect wine from the famous Bordeaux chateaux, he also tried planting European grapes on his Virginia estate. Though that experiment did not take off back then, it certainly is growing now and the VA wine industry is improving every year. A few of his favorite chateaux in Bordeaux included Chateau Haut Brion and Chateau d’Yquem. He was a man with expensive tastes…

I’d love to know what Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Paine and Patrick Henry liked to drink most, but can’t seem to find much research out there on it. What do you know about our other founding fathers and their drinks?


This summer, you should drink more…. Riesling!

Most wine aficionados reach for a bottle of Riesling when temperatures rise (and many other times for that matter), and when I ask the favorite grape for summer, those who know the grape happily respond – Riesling. Unfortunately, that is only the answer from those familiar with the variety. Poor grape. It's so often misunderstood!

Riesling can conjure up images of sickly sweet, low quality wine, yet Riesling is a noble grape variety and has been making wine for centuries. It's one of the only white wine varieties that can make extremely age worthy wines, as well as some of the most highly sought after sweet wines. Perhaps that's why sweet and Riesling are too often deemed a pair. But what many don't realize is that most Rieslings are actually dry.

Riesling has high aromatics and high acidity – two perfect attributes for summer drinking, as well as for food pairing.
Which wines should you try that will help introduce you to the delicious world of Rieslings? Here are some suggestions.

You like dry, mineral-driven wines, like New Zealand or Chile Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio
Try Australian Rieslings – these wines display intense aromatics of lime, mineral notes and stone fruit. Very crisp, very dry. We love the Pewsey Vale (on sale for $9.99 right now at WineShopper) as it is a great value that displays all these characteristics. Look for the excellent Riesling examples from Clare Valley and Eden Valley.

You like fruity white wines and blends like Conundrum or Evolution
Try Washington State Rieslings. These wines have the same steely acidity, but with a bit rounder, riper fruit and occasionally a touch of residual sugar, though usually with a very tangy finish. We love the Eroica (even served it at my wedding!) and the Pacific Rim Wallula Vineyard (made with biodynamnic farming practices). Eroica has a bit more residual sugar, while the Pacific Rim has a touch of petrol (this is a GOOD thing) in the nose that makes it vibrant and a bit tangy. As I taste more Rieslings from the Pacific Northwest, I learn how perfect the region is for this grape. And Washignton State – as well as Oregon – are making some stellar Riesling.

You like sweet wine
One of the reason's Riesling is so good as a sweet wine is because of its excellent acidity. German Rieslings are probably the way to go on the sweet side, although Austria and Alsace are other excellent regions. Look for terms like Spatlese and Auslese on the label, which indicates a bit more residual sugar (usually). Maximin Grunhauser and JJ Prum are fantastic producers. There are plenty others though, so do some research.

For more, read Alma's take on reading a Riesling label! It's definitely helpful.

So this summer, try a Riesling. It's a diverse grape and there are sure to be some that fit your style!
And please do share your favorites.

Alternative Packaging. Or, the comeback of boxed wine & plastic bottles

No longer relegated to the bottom shelf in your grocery store, or to bad college parties with beer cups, wines in alternative packages (like boxes or plastic) are making a bit of a comeback.

We see two main reasons for this.
1. Environment – while plastic seems hardly more friendly to the environment than glass, the new PET bottles actually take less energy to produce and less energy to recycle than their glass counterparts. Who knew? Plus, by weighing less than glass bottles, they take less energy to ship. So, that's three environment-happy factors going with the plastic. Boxes are similar. They are recyclable, weigh less and hold more, meaning there is a lot less packaging waste. The Octavin series of boxed wine hold the equivalent of four bottles of wine.
2. Convenience. What do you do in the summer? You're at a backyard BBQ, at the beach, by the pool, maybe even on a boat if you're lucky! Some of these places are not ideal for glass bottles due to breakage. So bring a box! or a plastic bottle! Easy to transport and will not shatter. The Octavins are great for the backyard BBQ, too. It's like a little keg to keep going for all the thirsty guests. And again, less to throw away. If there's no big crowd, remember that the Octavins claim up to 6 weeks of freshness! They may not last that long, but the plastic bag inside the box keeps the wine from oxidizing as quickly as wine in an already opened bottle. So having a little wine keg in your fridge can last you for some time.
So we hope you give these new, alternative packaging options a try. We think you'll find that wine in a box (or plastic bottle) has come a long way.

 

WineShopper Launches Today: Incredible deals, limited time, members only.

If you are any sort of regular online shopper, chances are you’ve heard and seen “flash sale” sites. Most of the usual suspects, like Gilt Groupe and Rue La La, focus on fashion. But increasingly, these sites are showcasing items outside the fashion realm. This format has gained momentum in a number of categories, including travel packages, home goods and now wine.

The idea behind flash sales is to provide customers with a limited time, limited quantity item at a steep discount (up to 70% off the suggested retail price), which is a terribly attractive proposition. The new web site from Wine.com, WineShopper, is exactly that for wine.

What is WineShopper?
WineShopper is a members-only wine retail site, offering exclusive wine deals in limited quantities for a limited time. From well-known big brands to small, boutique wineries, WineShopper will have a diverse line up of wines. Sales will last from 24 – 72 hours, or until stock sells out.

Even better? The first 50 members to refer 50 friends to join WineShopper will receive four Riedel Ouverture Magnum Glasses worth $37.99. So sign up at www.wineshopper.com and start telling people that this where they’ll find the best deals in wine.


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