Best Box Wines To Try

Running out of clever disguises to wear in the boxed wine aisle at your local supermarket? Well, sneak them into the house no more! Boxed wines are finally cool?! Yeah, we said it!

We’re talking innovative packaging, longer storage times and upgrades in both quality and overall consumer value.

SO WHAT’S A BOX WINE ANYWAY?

A box wine (a.k.a. boxed wine, bag- in-a-box wine, cask wine) is a wine packaged as a bag-in-box. Essentially, a plastic bladder protected by a box, usually made of corrugated fiberboard and then filled with wine – historically, not so great wine, but that’s all changing!

WHY DOES THIS EXIST AND WHOM SHOULD WE THANK FOR IT?

Thomas Angove, a winemaker from Australia, invented and patented the idea of boxed wine back in 1965. Go Aussies! A big cost saving measure for the winemaker: it was cheaper than bottles and much easier to store and transport, not to mention considerably lighter and more environmentally friendly.

5 REASONS TO TRY BOX WINE

1. Stays fresh longer:

As boxed wines are housed in airtight bags, oxidation is prevented during dispensing. As a result, the life of the wine is significantly preserved. If stored at the right temperature, a box wine can be kept fresh for 4-6 weeks after opening

2. Cheaper:

As expensive corks, closures and heavy glass bottles are not used in the packaging, boxed wines tend to be cheaper per Liter than bottled varieties

3. More bang for your buck:

A typical 3 Liter boxed wine container holds roughly the equivalent of 4 bottles of standard sized wine and will probably run you the cost of 3 of those bottles. Enough said

4. Less accidental spoilage:

Wave goodbye to common spoilage issues such as cork taint

5. Environmentally friendly:

Less traditional packaging means less material to recycle!

WHICH BOXED WINE SHOULD I TRY?

1. Domaine Le Garrigon Côtes-du-Rhône 2010

Winemaker’s Notes:
Aromas of red fruit and herbs, fresh and lightly tannic, lingering flavors of fruit and minerals.

2. Bandit Pinot Grigio 2008

Winemaker’s Notes:
Clear, brilliant and light straw in color. The aromas are of citrus, apple, and pear with citrus and apple in the mouth. The body is light and crisp, with perfect balance of sweet and tart. The Pinot Grigio is beyond delicious with any kind of food.

3. Yellow and Blue Malbec 2009

Winemaker’s Notes:
A medium to full bodied organic wine with fine tannins and a long, mineral laden finish.

4. From the Tank Côtes-du-Rhône Vin Rouge 2007

Winemaker’s Notes:
From a wine cooperative of local growers in the south of France comes this high quality, powerful blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan grapes. Delicious from beginning to end, it has dark cherry notes that make it particularly tasty with meat hot off the grill.

5. Würtz Riesling 2008

Winemaker’s Notes:
Light citrus, herbal and floral aromas; serve well chilled.

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5 Tips For Preserving Left Over Wine

Alright, I’ll admit, I have found myself facing this predicament once, or twice in my storied wine drinking career (shame on me!)

 

However, with the help of a few resourceful wine preservation tips, ye olde drinking pride was quickly restored and those few remaining glasses finished up in good form with head held high the following evening!

So, let’s begin at the root of the problem. What is it that turns great wine into vinegar literally overnight? Yep, you guessed it! Our good friend, Air…

Air is beneficial to most wines when first opened (see our post on Getting The Most Out Of That Next Bottle)

However it can quickly change sides in a day, or two becoming your open bottle’s worst nightmare!

But, fear not my friends because…

Just follow a few of our wine preservation tips and you’ll soon be master of your very own wine domain quicker than you can say “malolactic fermentation”…

Tip 1: Keep and reuse the original cork, or screwcap

If you haven’t invested in a wine preservation gadget, your bottle’s cork, or screwcap is probably the best ‘re-corking’ option you’ve got.

Of course, if the cork, or screwcap is destroyed when opening (Houston we have a problem!) this tip is a no-go. So, be mindful and gentle with that corkscrew or twist!

Tip 2: Decant ½ the bottle and place the remainder into the refrigerator 

Know your limits (who are we kidding?) If you know you’re not going to finish an entire bottle in one sitting, immediately pour off and decant ½ of it for now, then gently replace the cork, or screwcap on the remaining ½ (still in the bottle) and place it in the refrigerator for later.

Tip 3: Stand the bottle up in a cool, dark place

Counter tops are generally too warm, especially if you live in a city like our hometown of Miami. As mentioned in Tip 2, the fridge is ideal – just don’t freeze your wine! About 55 degrees is just right for storage. Why standing up? Because now that air has been introduced, the wine may become tainted from the cork. Also, it’s just common sense – you have an open bottle half filled with liquid – why would you store it sideways and risk it spilling out?

Tip 4: Invest in a Wine preservation device 

You want more firepower and guaranteed reusability, most definitely invest a few bucks in a wine preservation device.

Generally these devices work on 2 basic principles:

1. Removing air in the bottle to leave a vacuum

2. Putting an inert gas (usually nitrogen with a little carbon dioxide) onto the surface of the wine

I personally recommend the air removal/vacuum devices. Have used a few and always get great results. They’re quick, clean, easy to use and more cost effective than the gas options.

Tip 5: Share truly grand bottle in one sitting

If you’re lucky enough to own a truly grand, or rare bottle and the occasion is right, there is no question, the best preservation method upon opening is to have no preservation method.

Just drink that bad boy down! Highly recommend inviting a few good friends over to share! Of course, I can always be made available with advanced notice.

5 Money Saving Tips for Ordering Wine at Restaurants

We all love to eat out, but that doesn’t mean we have to loose our shirts when it comes to the liquid refreshment part of the evening…

The next time you’re staring down the business end of a wine list, follow these 5 money saving tips and you’re sure to have a few bucks left over in your pocket for dessert.

Play your cards right and there may even be a cheese plate in your future? That’s right, I said “cheese plate” baby!

TIP # 1. Pass on glass

Typically, restaurants price their single glasses high enough to cover the entire cost of a bottle! Does $12-$14 ring a bell? Yes, it’s a business not a charity, but what’s not acceptable is being served old wine that’s been sitting around way too long (happens all the time) and to that we have 1 word: “Booh!” If the idea of buying an entire bottle is a bit daunting, go with a ½ bottle, or carafe. Do the math, it’s worth it!

TIP # 2. Say No, to the second cheapest

Hey, we all know NOT to buy the cheapest wine on the list. But, guess what? Restaurants do too, so they pick and price wines at the second cheapest level with higher profit margins for them because that’s where the money is. Think twice before automatically going for the second cheapest, it’s likely not the best value on the list.

TIP # 3. We’re not drinking $%# Chardonnay!

Chardonnay is arguably America’s favorite wine. It’s easy to drink, versatile and comfortable, like an old shoe. It is for these very reasons that Chardonnay tends to be overpriced on most wine lists. Word to the wise, think twice before ordering that Chardonnay, take a minute to step out of your comfort zone and try something new! Preferably from a country, or region you’ve never tried before.

TIP # 4. B.Y.O.B

Make sure you check with the restaurant in advance to figure out if they even allow this and do inquire about the corkage fee. In some States, this practice may even be illegal, so do your homework. If all systems are a go, it’s a great way to enjoy your favorite wine, or two at a restaurant. PS. Make sure you offer a glass to the sommelier, owner, or chef as a gesture of good will!

TIP # 5. Pay tribute to the house

In the US, house wines are typically avoided, largely due to quality perceptions (almost the opposite to the way our friends in Europe roll). In reality, house wines are normally great deals and in most cases, pretty fun and delightful. If you’re dinning at a restaurant that takes pride in their wine list, it’s likely their house wine is a good deal and a fine choice. Make sure you go for a bottle or carafe if you do!

5 Easy Tips to Help You Pair Food with Wine

Ever ate something really spicy then washed it down with a nice warm Coke?

I can still painfully remember my first childhood food and drink pairing lesson. Hmm…guess this explains why I hated Chemistry.

Flash forward…

In reality, not everything goes well together, regardless of how much you might love it!

Making an unwise food and drink pairing decision will impact the overall taste and flavor experience of your meal.

This being said, who am I to tell you which wine to pair with your meal?? Drink what you like, when you like, is probably the first lesson you’ll learn from anyone that knows anything about wine. Can’t say I disagree, but like with anything in life, a few common sense guidelines never hurt. Hey, it’s why we don’t wear our pajamas to work…right? Right?

SO HELP ME ALREADY?!

Firstly, start thinking about wine like food…

Still with me?

Enter Acids and Tannins…

What are Acids?

Acids are important components of winemaking that influence: color, balance, taste and preservation. They add sharpness to a wine’s flavor and can be described as that prickly, mouthwatering sensation you feel on your tongue whenever you drink wine. Kinda zingy and tart, like sucking on lemon, or lime.

A wine with too much acidity will taste excessively sour and sharp. A wine with too little acidity will taste flabby and flat, with less defined flavor.

What are Tannins?

In winemaking, tannins are natural chemical compounds found in grape skins, stems, seeds and even the wine barrel itself, particularly if it’s a new one. Tannins affect the color, texture, structure and preservation of a wine. How can you identify them? Think that pleasantly bitter, drying, puckering feeling that rolls down the middle of your tongue almost coating your mouth when you drink wine. Similar in sensation to what you experience when drinking tea that’s been steeped for way too long.

WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT TANNINS AND ACIDS IN WINE PAIRING?

Pairing Tip #1: Acids love Acid

When it comes to pairing, try the ‘Acids love acid’ theory as a first rule of thumb. If you think a squeeze of lemon, or lime would take a dish to the next level i.e. Roasted snapper – it’s very likely that dish will pair well with a wine that is more on the acidic side. Again, acids love acid.

Pairing Tip #2: Tannins love fat

As a second rule of thumb, try the ‘Tannins love fat’ theory. If a dish has some fat i.e. Rib-eye steak, it’s very likely it will pair well with a wine that is more on the tannic side. Why? Because fats help balance and soften tannins. Easy right?

So, if you’ve got fat – pair with wines that have higher tannic levels!

Want more?

Here are some other great pairing rules of thumb!

OTHER PAIRING RULES OF THUMB

Pairing Tip #3: Dominant Flavor is King

Whites with fish; reds with meat? We’ve all heard this at some point. It’s not a great tip. Why? Because we rarely just eat meat, or fish without some form of preparation: sauces, stews, stir-fries, casseroles etc…You need to factor in the overall dominant flavor of the dish as a whole, and not just it’s main meat, or vegetable component.

Pairing Tip #4: Spicy loves Sugar

For anyone that knows food and loves to cook, this one is a bit of a no-brainer. When something is spicy, we can temper and mellow those flames with sugar. Same principle would apply to wine pairing. Go for a slightly sweeter wine with those hot and spicy dishes.

Pairing Tip #5: Sweet loves Sweeter

Lastly, when it comes to deserts, which are generally sweet, go for a wine that is even sweeter. It will greatly enhance the richness and flavor of the dish and the wine!

5 Tips for Finding Great Wine on a Budget

The US wine market is literally overflowing with great product. A buyer’s paradise, where tremendous value can be had, especially if you know where and how to look and aren’t shy about asking for a great deal!

The following 5 tips should earn you value-hound status before you can say “Charge it!” Just make sure you have enough room in your home for all the sweet deals you’re gonna sniff out!

TIP #1 – SECOND LABELS

Most premier wine makers have what they call second labels. The idea is similar in concept to clothing designer second labels i.e. Armani / Armani Exchange.

The big difference however, is that these premier winemakers produce these second labels themselves, applying the same winemaking principles, methods and quality assurance that went into their premier first-label wines, whereas in the fashion industry second labels are likely farmed out under lesser production standards to other manufactures in favor of quantity not quality.

The upshot for us, the consumer, is an excellent wine at an affordable price. Great deals and quality wines can be had from second labels such as 90 + Cellars (buying surplus wines from anonymous premier wineries and in turn rebranding them), Allegrini Palazzo della Torre (second label for Allegrini Amarone Classico, Catena Malbec (second label for Catena Malbec Adrianna)

TIP #2 – SHOP AT WAREHOUSE CLUBS

 I love warehouse clubs, like Costco. They’re are always great deals to be had and some interesting varietals from all over the world. Granted, the individual selection may not be as vast as a large retail wine store, but the deals available certainly make up for it! Don’t have a membership? No problem, go with a friend as a guest.

TIP #3 – TAKE ADVANTAGE OF RETAIL SALES

Most large retailers designate a day per week, or month to place certain inventory on sale. Here you could grab savings of 15% per bottle if the pickings are good.

TIP #4 – SEEK OUT BIN END SELECTIONS

Bin end selections are generally bottles of wine that a retailer was not able to sell. Now this doesn’t mean that these wines are no good, it could be anything, from a damaged label, to the arrival of a new vintage. Generally, always a great find! If it’s not prominently displayed in a store – ask!

TIP #5 BUY BY THE CASE AND NOT THE BOTTLE

May sound a bit daunting if you’ve never done this, but do the math and you’ll see that it just makes sense – particularly if you’re a weekly wine drinker.

Most wine retailers will even let you mix the case (can’t beat that for variety). Generally, going by the case as opposed to the bottle will save you around 10-15%. If a retailer is not offering a discount on a case, don’t by shy – ask for it!

Why You Should Try Organic Wines

What is Organic wine?

Organic wine is wine made from grapes grown in accordance with principles of organic farming, which typically excludes the use of artificial chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides.

Organic vs. 100% Organic wine (US) 

100-percent organic wine must contain 100-percent organically produced ingredients and have been processed using only organically produced aids. This does not include added water and salt. Additionally, a winemaker cannot introduce added sulfites to 100-percent organic wines, as the USDA considers sulfites to be a synthetic food additive. 100-percent organic wine may have naturally occurring sulfites, but the total sulfite level must be less than 20 parts per million. Wines marked “organic” must be made from at least 95-percent organically produced ingredients, not counting added water and salt, and cannot have added sulfites. Like 100-percent organic wine, organic wines must list their certification agency and may carry the USDA organic seal.

What are sulfites and why can they be bad?

In winemaking, sulfites, or sulfur dioxide, is a preservative that has been used for centuries to prevent spoilage and bacteria growth, as well as to preserve a wine’s natural flavor. Any wine containing more than 10 parts per million (ppm) of sulfur dioxide must affix to the label ‘contains sulfites’. About 0.4 percent of the US population is highly allergic to sulfites, while others with a low tolerance for sulfites may be considered sulfite-sensitive.

Tip for buying organic wine

Read the label! Make sure that it features the name of the agency that inspected and certified the wine producer’s practices as ‘organic’. Look out for vague terms such as ‘sustainable’, ‘natural’ and ‘green’. If you want 100-percent organic wine, be sure to look for statements such as ‘100% certified organically grown grapes’. It must be noted that the US and the EU have different standards and definitions for classifying organic wines.

 4 reasons why you should try organic wine? 

1. They’re typically no more expensive, if not cheaper than the same varietal of conventional wine

2. Ever get a headache after drinking wine? Chances are you may be allergic to sulfites or other chemical residues in wine. Organic wines contain no added sulfites and a minimal amount of naturally occurring sulfites

3. Rest assured that due to strict USDA organic regulations you are buying an extremely well crafted and cared for wine from a dedicated wine producer

4. A great way to be kinder to the environment and your body

Some Organic Wines We Love!

Bonterra Chardonnay 2009

Winemaker’s Notes:
An initial impression of rich, buttery cream turns to aromas of honey and toasted almonds, quickly followed by pineapple, lemon and crème brulee. This wine has a refreshing, bright, clean minerality with a vibrant tartness and lemon zest that is distinctly Bonterra Chardonnay.

Korbel Winery Organic Brut

Winemaker’s Notes:
The ultimate blended wine. We blend multiple varieties from multiple appellations and even multiple years. The goal is to make a champagne that consistently delivers a lot of quality for the price. Korbel Brut is crisp and refreshing, with a light citrus and fresh pear-like note in the finish.

Frog’s Leap Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Winemaker’s Notes:
Aromas of wet stone, peach blossom and Meyer lemon zest. Across the palate the varietal’s fruit character moves forward with more citrus and a touch of stone fruit all supported by the wine’s minerality and crisp, bracing acid. This refreshing wine has a lingering finish that is sure to satisfy on a warm summer’s day.

Quivira Grenache 2009

Winemaker’s Notes:
Made from 92% Grenache, 6% Mourvedre, and 2 tiny percent Syrah, this juicy Grenache serves up a complex but undeniably ‘pretty’ nose of dried strawberry spiked with fresh raspberry and pie cherry. Typical overtones of mild black pepper and roasted meat jus join in for added depth and complexity, followed up by flavors of savory/spice.

Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Syrah 2009

Winemaker’s Notes:
Deep inky ruby red color. There is an attractive and complex nose full of ripe red fruit with white chocolate, cherries and tobacco aromas. The palate is full of red fruit and tea leaves flavors with juicy tannins and a long lasting finish. Made with 100% Syrah grapes.

 

 

 

Top 4 Wine Myths vs. Reality

Myth 1: Older wines are always better than newer wines?

Reality Check:

Maybe when Ike was president, but not today. Most wines these days are made to be consumed and enjoyed within 1-2 years of their release date.

Myth 2: Sulfites in red wine cause headaches

Reality Check:

Survey says…Not true! Sulfites can cause allergy and asthma symptoms, but most doctors will attest that they do not cause headaches. In fact, most wines contain sulfites, particularly the sweeter ones, which actually have more sulfites than reds. By comparison, dried fruits i.e. raisins and processed foods i.e. lunchmeat, have more sulfites than red wines – so, if you can eat a hot dog without falling on the floor in agony, you’re probably not allergic to sulfites.

Myth 3: Only cheaper wines use screwtops?

Reality Check:

On the contrary, many leading wine producers have started to use screwtops on their best and most expensive vintages. Why? Because screwtops provide the most consistent and reliable seal for a wine, prior to opening, and help eliminate “corked” and oxidation problems. It’s actually not uncommon for some leading winemakers to mix-it-up and split the bottling of their top vintages between corks and screwtops.

Myth 4: Red wine must be drank at room temperature and never chilled?

Reality Check:

As we’re all well aware, room temperature is different all over the world. Hotter in some places, colder in others. How could this be true? In reality, red wines are at their best at temperatures ranging from 58 F to 65 F depending on their varietal. If you happen to live in a part of the world where room temperature is within this range, then you’re golden! Otherwise, it’s perfectly acceptable to either warm up your reds, or chill them a bit, to get them within the right temperature range to enjoy them at their best!

How Wine Gets Its Flavor

OK, so I’m no Chemistry major, but how can something made soley from grapes smell and taste like Vanilla, Coconut, Mocha, Green Candy Canes, Sugar Plumbs and Leather?

Are winemakers adding fruits, herbs, spices and left over Christmas candy to their wines to impart these amazing, sometimes unexpected, yet distinctly non-grape aromas and flavors?

NO!? Then, where on earth are these aromas and flavors in wine coming from?

Drum roll please….

Take a bow Fermentation, Oak Aging and Lees Contact.

FERMENTATION

Wine is essentially grape juice without the process of fermentation.

In winemaking, there are 4 basic types of fermentation: Traditional, Bottle, Carbonic Maceration and thanks to the movie Sideways, crowd favorite: Malolactic Fermentation (A secondary fermentation)

During fermentation, the yeast involved (added/cultured or natural/wild) eats the grape sugars, converting them to alcohol (Oh yes!).

As a result, literally thousands of complex chemical compounds are formed.

It is these chemical compounds that our nose and brain pick up, translate and categorize as familiar aromas and flavors. Different yeast strains are responsible for different types of flavors. For instance, with Chardonnays, certain cultured yeast strains may be responsible for imparting tropical aromas and flavors, whilst others more citrusy notes.

SECONDARY FERMENTATION

Also known as Malolactic Fermentation (ML), tends to impart flavors of butter, and/or butterscotch.

To initiate ML, lactic bacteria is added to the wine, which essentially converts the malic acid (tart tasting) to lactic acid, leaving a smooth, soft and creamier final product.

OAK AGING

Oak barrels, depending on their origin, age, oak-type and toast level, may also contribute certain aromas and flavors to wine while adding richer, fuller impressions and complexity. Typically, Oak will impart flavors of Vanilla, Toast, Caramel and the various Spice notes detected such as Clove, Nutmeg, Allspice and Cinnamon.

LEES CONTACT

Lees is the yeast sediment found after the fermentation process is completed. The French term ‘Sur lie’ literally translates to ‘on lees’. Sur lie wines are bottled directly from the lees without racking. Leaving white Wines on their yeast sediment (Lees) can produce pleasantly tangy, yeasty, pastry like flavors. Some premium wineries, particularly in Burgundy, opt to stir the lees (a tradition called batonnage), imparting further flavors and creamy taste to their wines.

How To Tell If Your Wine Is Corked

WHAT IS A CORKED WINE?

A “corked” wine is a wine that has become tainted by the presence of TCA (trichloroanisole), rendering it pretty much undrinkable, unless of course you’re into the aromas and flavors of damp cardboard, or a wet dog?

HOW DOES A WINE BECOME CORKED? 

TCA, or Trichloroanisole is a natural by-product of a common airborne fungus (found in corks) and is formed when this fungi comes in contact with certain chlorides typically found in bleaches and other winery sanitation/sterilization products.

TCA can be transferred from the cork to the wine, or through the cork to the wine.

Studies have shown that between 7-8% of wines bottled with natural cork can fall victim to cork taint.

IS IT SAFE TO DRINK CORKED WINE?

Good news! Though the intended aromas and flavors of a “corked” wine are significantly impaired, and in most cases the wine is pretty darn unpalatable, drinking a “corked” wine is harmless.

HOW TO DETECT A CORKED WINE

Follow these three common sense rules of thumb and you’ll be sitting pretty:

Rule 1: If it smells bad, don’t drink it

If it smells like damp cardboard, a wet dog or musty sweaters – don’t drink it! It’s probably “corked”. And NO, don’t smell the cork! It’s a myth! Smell the wine instead! Smelling the cork is no indication of a tainted wine. The only indication a cork can provide is: (a) whether the wine was stored properly, (b) who produced it and (c) the vintage year.

Rule 2: If it tastes bad, stop drinking it

This one is a bit of a no brainer. If you don’t like the taste of something, why would you continue drinking it?! Now, this may not necessarily mean that the wine is “corked”, but if it does taste like damp cardboard, it probably is!

Rule 3: Always ask questions

Don’t be shy. If you have questions, or suspect a wine may be “corked”, speak up! Have it changed immediately. Most fine retailers and restaurants will graciously exchange a bottle, or glass of wine that appears to be “corked”.

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