Archive for February, 2010



Meander into any wine shop and be bombarded with choices. Aren’t we lucky to find a host of old favs and potential new buddies. Labels attract us with spiffy new designs, (think critters). We have to reckon with new grape varietals. Malbec, once used in classic Bordeaux blends with Cabernet and Merlot, is now singing its own solo aria. It’s definitely worth looking into, particularly those from Argentina where it is the country’s signature grape. It’s a flavorful wine, intense, with a deep red color, flavors I particularly enjoy. I love wines with a hint of spice, herbal and earthy flavors. It’s a medium weight wine, with well-balanced acidity. While Merlot is currently Americans’ favorite red, (and I’m not knocking that grape) it’s nice to open our hearts and minds to a wine of a different character. Malbec is often touted as perfect for summer cook-outs, but it partners fabulously well with winter meals of steak, stews, lamb, venison, duck, and goose.
I’m always looking for a delicious red wine that will satisfy a wide range of palates. I try to avoid wines that put hair on my chest … ones loaded with tannins and the current rage for high alcohol. There are other reds that are tasteful, yet don’t overpower out taste buds. Beaujolais, Zinfandel, and Pinot Noir, and even our old friend Merlot, are generally good examples, often easier to quaff that some heavier reds. Argentinean Malbecs are easy to find, and best of all, generally reasonable. Don’t hesitate to find your own favorite. Make a new friend with a this increasingly popular grape varietal.



Julius Caesar drank wine, but the wine he imbibed is light-years different from the wine we know with today. Technology has changed both red and whites for the better, and that includes the development of modern containers that have undergone a sea change from their predecessors. Clay vessels, or amphorae, once the most common storage containers in the ancient world, were gradually replaced by glass bottles. Stoppers for glass bottles were often made from leather and cloth, but they allowed air to infiltrate and spoil the wine. Cork was a dramatic improvement, and has been a nearly perfect closure material for about 600 years.
It’s a in a costly process to air-dry sheets of cork that had been stripped from the bark of trees from Spain and Portugal are air-dried. Unhappily, bacteria-prone cork can taint the wine it’s meant to protect. Most corks do the job perfectly, but a problem of cork taint, which occurs about five and ten-percent of the time, causes wines to develop off-tastes and musty odors. It creates an expensive loss to wineries passed along to consumers.
Vintners have been looking for a substitute stopper for a long time. The latest solution? Twist off metal caps. “Horrors!” say many consumers who love the ceremony of hearing the gentle pop when a cork is released from the bottle one. They believe that is one of wine’s long-standing traditions. Twisting off a screw cap eliminates the difficulty and embarrassment of struggling with an old uncooperative, dry or splintering cork. In restaurants, customers admire an experienced sommelier who opens a bottle with a cork pull.
Unfortunately, many consumers associate screw tops with cheap wines, but the tide is turning. Producers of high-quality, expensive wines say that they see screw tops as a viable solution to avoid spoilage. It’s a mistake think only cheap wines are capped because many fine wineries are turning away from cork. So forget the correlation between quality and how a bottle is closed. Wine lovers may ultimately have to buy into the switch.