Monday, January 29, 2018 / by Sean Zanganeh
A lighter varietal... :-)
Found this cool article in the Union Tribune. Now I know most of you are giggling of the fact you could actually find a good UT article but when many things are down, wine always cheers you up! Have fun!
Grape Expectations: A primer on what to pour
2:00 a.m. April 1, 2009
A survival kit with flair
A toast, to the recession.
It sounds odd, but the current economic crisis could be considered a boon for wine drinkers looking for value. While many industries are in decline, wine sales in the U.S. were up slightly by volume in 2008, meaning Americans bought more wine but opted for less pricey bottles.
Early sales projections for the first quarter of 2009 show further increases, as people continue to eat and drink on a budget by settling in at home.
Wine lovers, it appears, might be downsizing their tastes, but they still consider vino a necessity of life. Take it from Jim Laube, in a recent column in Wine Spectator:
“No one knows where this economic meltdown will lead us, when it will end or where we'll be by the time things achieve a new 'normal.' But for me and probably most of you, wine is going to be an important part of the survival kit.”
Before you reach for that two-buck bottle, consider these tips for building a survival kit that will keep you afloat and actually taste good.
Go exploring. It's time to break out of your comfort zone and discover new grape-growing regions. And as the economy goes south, so should you. Great value wines, where price and quality meet, are flowing from Southern Hemisphere countries like Argentina, Chile, New Zealand and South Africa. (Australia is an exception; to me, its cheaper wines generally taste that way. Two words: Yellow Tail.)
In Europe, Spain consistently produces pleasing value wines, as do the southern wine-growing regions of France and Italy – think Languedoc-Roussillon instead of Bordeaux; Puglia instead of Piedmont.
“There's so much juice, so many treasures out there – it's a wine buyer's fantasy world right now,” said Ellen Burke Van Slyke, corporate director of food and beverage for Loews Coronado Bay Resort.
Pick new grapes. Popular varietals like California cabernet and chardonnay are victims of their popularity – overpriced on the high end and of iffy quality on the low end.
Obscure grapes can be the hidden gems on store shelves. Skip the merlot and try a mencia from Spain. Pass on the pinot noir and grab that bottle of Austrian blaufrÄnkisch. If you're skittish, talk to your local wine-shop owner. Tell him or her what kind of wine you like and ask for a satisfying substitution.
With luck, you will be shown a malbec, torrontés, carménère, albariño, primitivo, aglianico, vermentino, nero d'avola, picpoul de Pinet, melon de Bourgogne, tannat or some other unpronounceable yet delicious lesser-known choice.
Get loyal. We Californians love our California wine. So if you want to support the state's battered economy, find a wine from a value brand with a proven track record for quality and buy a case. That way, you will always have something decent to open on a Tuesday night or if friends drop by. And with a well-stocked wine rack, you will avoid making bad impulse buys at the store. Brands you can count on include Bogle, Hess and McManis, with prices in the $9-to-$15 range.
Think small. We love the big boys (Costco, BevMo, grocery chains, etc.) as much as anyone, but forging a relationship with a local wine retailer can help you make smarter purchases. The staff is usually better informed and stands by its picks. Sign up for a store's mailing list to find out about special purchases and tastings. The San Diego Wine Co. in Miramar, for example, highlights dozens of bargains in its monthly newsletter and offers weekly tastings of many of them (sandiegowine.net). Alternative Wines in Carmel Valley spotlights its two “value bins,” with wines under $10 or $20 (alt-wines.com). Meritage in Encinitas recently alerted shoppers to an organic Chilean chardonnay on sale for just $6.75, down from $9 (meritagewinemarket.com).
Get over it. Admit it. You're sheepish about ordering the least expensive bottle on a wine list. But if you are patronizing a restaurant that clearly cares about its wine program (and you should be), never fear. Oftentimes the cheapest bottle on the list is a special find that the wine director or sommelier came across.
As Lettie Teague put it in her column in Food & Wine magazine, “Any wine professional can find great pricey bottles, but it takes a truly talented one to ferret out a great deal.”
One of my favorite wine lists in San Diego is at Mistral at Loews Coronado Bay Resort because there are exciting choices at every price point. That's not an accident; it's by design.
“Restaurants shouldn't put any wine on their wine list that they're not proud of,” said Burke Van Slyke. “If you've got bad wine priced reasonably, shame on you, because there are so many good wines priced reasonably.”
Mistral has also lowered prices on wines by the glass and is offering an “uncorked for half price” special every week, where a dozen wines, priced $60 to $600, are 50 percent off. If you want your survival kit to contain the occasional knockout Gaja, Quintessa or Robert Foley, this is the deal for you.
Taste, taste, taste. The best way to learn about wine – and identify value – is simply to drink it. Which makes San Diego's explosion in wine bars all the more exciting.
Many wine bars offer flights, small tastes to sample and compare, that let you develop your palate and zero in on what you like and what you don't. That's big payback for a small investment.
One of the more innovative new wine bars in town is Splash in North Park (asplashofwine.com). Its unique wine preservation system allows it to serve 72 wines by the 1-ounce pour or glass. The selection is an adventurous and well-chosen mix of high-and low-end bottlings from around the world. Tastes start at 95 cents and go to about $9. (On Tuesday nights, tastes are half off, up to $40 worth.)
How it works is, you load up a debit-type card with whatever amount you want, insert it into an Enomatic machine and push a button to get a splash.
And at least until the economy turns around, my Splash card has replaced my Amex in the survival kit.