Drink Like a Founding Father this Independence Day

Back in the early days of  America, when water wasn’t always safe to drink due to lack of proper sanitation, our Founding Fathers needed to find some way to stay hydrated. Ingeniously, those clever men who brought us the Declaration of Independence also came up with a foolproof way to consume liquids without the risk of water-borne disease: alcohol. It was widely understood that alcohol killed bacterial contaminants, and while it came with its own set of risks, it was deemed much safer (and much more fun) to drink.

While distilled spirits and beer were popular choices, our Founding Fathers (especially noted connoisseur Thomas Jefferson) often turned to wine as their beverage of choice. Early attempts at planting grapes in the New World were unsuccessful, as the European grape varieties brought over by colonists were not suitable for surviving American pests and vine diseases. Therefore, imported wines were widely preferred. In honor of Independence Day, raise a glass of one of the following wines to our Founding Fathers:

Port

While today we think of this sweet, fortified Portuguese wine as an after-dinner drink, our Founding Fathers would often consume Port alongside the meal itself. If you prefer bright, fresh red fruit flavors, try a Ruby Port. For more complex notes of caramel, nuts, and dried fruits, turn to a Tawny style.

Sherry

Like Port, Sherry was also frequently drank with dinner. This fortified wine from Jerez, Spain comes in a wide variety of styles ranging from bone-dry to sticky-sweet, but the sweet-toothed  colonists tended to have a preference for the sugary stuff. Dry styles, like Fino, Amontillado, and Oloroso, can pair beautifully with a meal, while sweeter styles like Pedro Ximénez and Cream Sherry are perfect for dessert.

Scuppernong

You won’t find Scuppernong in many wine shops today, but in colonial times this was one of the few Native American grape varieties to be planted successfully with appealing results. In fact, Thomas Jefferson was so fond of it that he planted it at his Monticello estate. It is still produced by some wineries in North Carolina, where it is the official state fruit.

Bordeaux

This French import which is associated with class and quality today has maintained that stature since the days of our founders, when it was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and John Adams. Back then, Bordeaux was also known as “Claret” – named as such for the pale color it took on in the early days of its production (the word is derived from the latin for “clear”). By the Colonial Era, it had come to resemble the deep red hue we know today, but the name stuck, and is still commonly used in the British wine trade.

Madeira

While Madeira’s heyday in America has long since passed, it was actually one of the most important alcoholic beverages in the days of our Founding Fathers. So important, in fact, that it was used to toast both the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. George Washington is said to have drank a pint of Madeira every day with dinner. And with good reason—that stuff is delicious. Whether you prefer the searing acidity of the Sercial style or the candied sweetness of Malmsey, this intentionally oxidized and cooked fortified wine from the eponymous Portuguese island deserves to make a comeback. Why not give it a try this July 4th?

The Next Great Grape: Garnacha From Cariñena

At times, it can be a little bit tricky to keep up with the world of wine. Ancient grapes like Saperavi and Trousseau cycle back into fashion just as quickly as brand new regions are planted with vines. Learning about wine can sometimes feel a bit like waiting in line at Disneyland—once you’ve made it through the room of Cabernet, Pinot, and Chardonnay, you turn the corner and there’s a whole other room filled with obscure varieties and appellations to learn. In fact, the more you learn about wine, the more you realize there is still left to learn!

To help you stay ahead of the curve, we’ve done our homework on one of Spain’s most exciting up-and-coming regions. It’s still under the radar, so even your wine-loving friends will be impressed by your discovery. The region is Cariñena—open any reference book like the Wine Bible or the Oxford Companion to Wine, and you might find one mere sentence about this northeastern Spanish DO. Located in Aragon between Catalunya and the Pyrenees Mountains that form the border between France and Spain, wine has actually been made there since the Roman era, and DO status was achieved in 1932. So in reality, the only thing that’s new about this region is the public’s interest in it.

When we think of Spanish wines, we typically think of Rioja or the much younger DO Ribera del Duero. But with its signature Garnacha-based reds and other high-quality reds and whites, Cariñena is poised to become the next big thing from Iberia due both the affordability and crowd-pleasing approachability of its wines. While Garnacha is the most widely planted grape, Mazuelo (known elsewhere as Carignan, or Cariñena—a grape that originated in this region with which it shares its name), Syrah and Tempranillo are also common. These are used to produce smooth, fruit-forward red wines (often made from old vines) as well as bright, red-fruited dry rosés. White wines are commonly made from the Viura grape.

Since these wines are so budget-friendly, you have nothing to lose by giving them a try! Add a bottle to your next order and before long, you’ll be singing the praises of Cariñena to your uninitiated friends.

 

Wine-Buying Tips for Father’s Day

This Father’s Day, shake things up and give Dad the gift of wine inspired by his hobbies and personality. It’s a given that a variety of occasions can influence the purchase of a flashy wine bottle, but buying wine based on Dad’s personal passions offers up a lively avenue to celebrate dear old Dad this Father’s Day.

The Golfing Dad

Whether it’s wrapping up 18 holes or going for an easy nine, avid golfers can sip vinous inspiration from some of the best in the business. Cart jockeys and mulligan-makers alike can share the green and the grape with high flying pros like Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman, Jack Nicklaus or Ernie Els. Got a Dad that tends to be a “King of Cabs?” Then reach for Arnold’s California-based Cabernet Sauvignon, carrying dark fruit and layers of spice and herbs alongside dusty, easy-going tannins.

Looking to escape to the “Land Down Under”? Greg Norman can get Dad there with his signature red, a bold wine spotlighting plenty of forward fruit dominated by blackberry with a mix of mocha and a wisp of smoke. Dubbed Limestone Coast Shiraz, this bottle is easy on the budget and ultra food-friendly.

With vineyards situated on the granite-layered soils of Stellenbosch, South African pro golfer Ernie Els makes the most of his roots (and vines) by digging deep to build Bordeaux and Rhone-based blends. Known in golfing circles as “The Big Easy” thanks to both his signature swing and solid stature, Els’ bottle by the same name is built on the sturdy back of Shiraz (60%) and well-rounded by Cabernet Sauvignon (20%), with a healthy mix of the Rhone’s finest varieties singing backup.

The Grill Master Dad

Whether he really is master of the grill or just wants to be, giving Dad a bottle or two of versatile wines that promise to make the most of grilled grub will thrill any fire-loving, tong-bearing man this Father’s Day. For burger lovers, whether it’s bacon-wrapped, bison-based or simply beef with a slab of cheddar, opt for the dense fruit and laid back structure of California Zinfandel. A best bet is Seghesio Zinfandel 2014, which comes straight from the cattle-driven country of Sonoma’s Alexander Valley. Or scout for Lodi’s Michael David Earthquake Zinfandel 2013. The name is a nod to San Francisco’s devastating earthquake of 1906, and made with grapes planted around the same time, promising a truly “old” vine wine.

Dad, the Adventurer

If Pop is the type that likes to bust paradigms and climb mountains (or ladders), dreams of living off the grid (or simply offline), and looks for adventure in life whether it’s new routes or new grapes, then we’ve rounded up some wines that are often off the radar. Got a white-wine loving Dad? Shake it up with Sardinia’s Vermentino, a lively, crisp wine that typically gets along just fine sans oak. This Italian darling promises heady aromatics and a remarkable propensity for all sorts of food, especially shellfish, pesto, and veggie themes. Check out the 2014 Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino for some serious Sardinian love delivered via exotic tropical fruit, bright acidity and a clean, crisp finish.

Prefer an out-of-the-box red wine discovery for Dad this Father’s Day? No worries, with over 800+ grape varieties, Italy promises more wine adventure than virtually any other wine growing region on the planet. Pushing way past Chianti and Barolo, the Veneto wine region, bordered by Venice and the rugged Dolomites, produces an easy-going red wine blend that stems from an ambitious trifecta of grapes: Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. Want to give this classic Valpolicella style a swirl? Then look for the fuller-bodied, red cherry flavors of Allegrini Palazzo della Torre 2011. Prefer to go full throttle with the same grape trio? Then opt for the deeply concentrated, stouter-styled Amarone—enter Masi. As an innovative producer of world class Amarone, Masi’s appassimento methods produce top notch wines from semi-dried grapes. To offer Dad a high-octane taste of the Veneto, there’s no better ambassador than Masi Costasera Amarone Classico 2010. Ready to roll now or happily held for another decade, Masi’s Amarone is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

Dad, the Intellectual

If Dad leans more towards brains than brawn, then Burgundy begs for consideration this Father’s Day. Known for highly cerebral wines that thrive on taking a specific speck of soil and fanning it into a concentrated conversation piece, not to mention an all-senses-on-deck tasting experience, the best of Burgundy guarantees the essence of time and space, history and geology, culture and conscience. Burgundy offers a thoroughly classical education in one delicious glass. Diving into Burgundy is a no-brainer for Dads possessing a penchant for the scholastic, and a top pick on the Burgundy wine trail is Albert Bichot Aloxe Corton Grand Cru Clos de Marechaudes 2013. From this engaging red wine diplomat of organic origins, expect complexity with a serious side, and well-developed fruit supported by fine tannins. If Dad’s palate steers toward Burgundy’s whiter side, then check out a classic from premier producer Louis Jadot, in the 2013 Louis Jadot Chasagne-Montrachet Abbaye de Morgeot, which comes with a round of dried flowers, subtle citrus, and vivid minerality.

So, which wine will I give my golf-course-living, grill-loving, airplane-flying, Soduku-playing Dad this Father’s Day? Good question. It will likely be an older Amarone (with some selfish strings attached).

 

 

 

Provence: The Prescription for your Pink Wine Phobia

Do you suffer from a crippling fear of rose-tinted wines? Do you wander the aisles of the wine shop, shielding your eyes from bottles filled with cheerful pink liquid? Do you find yourself frustrated on a hot summer day when a glass of room-temperature red is insufficiently refreshing yet white seems insubstantial for pairing with your barbecued fare? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be suffering from a debilitating condition known in the oenophile community as “roséphobia.” If you or a loved one is suffering from this disorder, do not despair—hope is on the horizon.

The most effective treatment to combat roséphobia is exposure therapy. Many sufferers are simply unaware of the breadth and depth of styles of rosé wine available on the market, especially those who are traumatized by flashbacks of saccharine Mateus and other similar products popular in the second half of the 20th century. However, these distressing memories can quickly become a thing of the past through the discovery of dry, high-quality rosés, particularly those hailing from the Provence region of southeastern France. This treatment may be administered under the counsel of a skilled professional, but roséphobics may also explore these wines on their own, taking comfort in the knowledge that just about any bottle is a safe bet.

Unlike the nearly neon-hued, sugary blush wines of (mostly) yesteryear, the rosés of Provence possess an appealing pale salmon color that is easy on the eyes. This visual aspect is important, as the first sensory interaction a roséphobic will have with a wine is the observation of its pigment. The delicate appearance of Provençal rosé can provide reassurance to those undergoing therapy that they may expect to consume a wine of balance and finesse.

Interference with treatment may occur if a roséphobic makes the false assumption that the muted shade of these wines bears a correlation to a lack of flavor. In fact, these rosés can be quite substantial and structured. Almost always blends, they combine the best assets of various locally grown varieties for a superior flavor profile and mouthfeel. Grenache gives fresh berry aromas, Cinsault adds bright fruitiness, Carignan and Syrah provide body, color, and structure, Tibouren contributes elegance and aromatics, and Mourvèdre lends spice, floral notes, and firm tannins. Awareness of the capabilities of these grapes is an important step in preparing the skeptical roséphobic for the first sip.

The next phase of treatment is the tasting. Though it may seem intimidating, former roséphobics have been known to look back on this part as the moment they realized they were cured. It is recommended to combine this step with a proper Provençal meal in order to enhance enjoyment of the wine. For best results, try a traditional bouillabaisse—a seafood stew flavored with olive oil, garlic, saffron, and fresh herbs. Provence’s dry, structured, and zippy rosés with notes of red berries, watermelon, orange citrus, stony minerality, and the local garrigue (a mix of wild Mediterranean herbs including lavender, rosemary, and thyme) are the perfect accompaniment to such a hearty, flavorful dish. On their own, they are equally enjoyable, providing plenty of refreshment without sacrificing substance.

Once you have consumed your first glass of rosé from Provence, you are well on your way to recovery. In fact, you may very well eventually find yourself experiencing symptoms of rosé addiction, which include seeking out high-quality rosé wines from other regions, frequently planning picnics, and compulsively checking the internet for reasonably priced airfare to warm-weather destinations. This should not be cause for concern—eleven out of ten wine professionals agree that a moderate case of rosé addiction can be beneficial for your enjoyment of life. Though the initial diagnosis can be alarming, roséphobia is easily treatable and the prognosis for recovery is strong. If you know someone who is suffering from roséphobia, please help spread the word so that no wine lover is forced to live with this unnecessary and tragic condition.

 

 

 

 

 

Summer in a Bottle: The Albariño of Rías Baixas

Many regions throughout the world are known for a particular specialty—gastronomic or otherwise—but some more than others have the ability to conjure up vivid sensory memories. One such region is northwestern Spain’s Rías Baixas. To the uninitiated, this may just look like a confusingly-spelled set of words. But to those who have visited or tasted the wines and cuisine of this region, the phrase “Rías Baixas” is enough to make the mouth water, evoking the sensation of salinity in many different forms: a refreshing glass of white wine, a briny seafood meal, or the crisp, fresh air of a picturesque oceanside vista.

The wines of Rías Baixas owe much of their personality to the geography and terroir of the lush, verdant region. Situated along the Atlantic Coast, the relatively modern DO (established in the 1980s) is unique within Spain for its focus on white grapes, which thrive in this relatively cool, damp corner of the country. The name “Rías Baixas” (pronounced “re-ass by-shuss”) comes from Galician—”rías” is the word for the sharp estuaries that cut in to the “baixas,” or the lower-altitude region of southern Galicia. These narrow, finger-like bodies of water that stretch inland from the Atlantic Ocean contain a mix of fresh and salt water, making them an ideal home to an incredibly diverse array of delicious maritime creatures that make up the cuisine of the region. Hard granite soils combined with mineral-rich alluvial top soils provide optimal growing conditions for top quality white wine production.

The other key component of this region is its star grape variety: Albariño. While other varieties are permitted, Albariño makes up the vast majority of plantings, and with good reason. It has the ability to produce distinctive wines that maintain their unique varietal character in a wide range of styles, owing both to the diversity of the five different sub-zones and to winemaking decisions such as maceration length,  the use of wild yeast, barrel fermentation and ageing, malolactic fermentation, and lees contact.

Texturally, Albariño typically falls somewhere between a Sauvignon Blanc and a Chardonnay, while flavor-wise, floral perfume, zesty citrus, stone fruit, and minerality are ubiquitous. In the warmer sub-regions of Rías Baixas, ripe melon and peach flavors dominate, while bottlings from cooler climes are often marked by lean acidity as well as grapefruit and lemon notes. An undercurrent of salinity runs through most examples, making them an unparalleled pairing with the region’s plentiful seafood offerings. The Albariño grape is so integral to the style of the wine produced in Rías Baixas that the name of the variety is printed on every bottle—a practice rarely seen elsewhere in Spain (or most of Europe, for that matter).

Thanks to the adaptability of Albariño and its friendly, near-universal appeal, the Rías Baixas DO has something to offer just about every white wine drinker. These wines can be enjoyed year-round, but are especially delightful during the summer, when warm, sunny weather calls for a crisp, refreshing beverage. They sing when paired with any kind of marine life—particularly oysters or scallops—but are equally fantastic on their own. If you can’t make it to Spain for a vacation this summer, a bottle of Rías Baixas Albariño just might be the next best thing.

 

 

 

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