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Why We Are Fans of Box Wine - and You Should Be Too

 Photo Credit: Haarala Hamilton

Photo Credit: Haarala Hamilton

We're fans of practicality as much as we are of convention and tradition when it comes to wine. Our post in support of screwcaps a while back is evidence: we believe technology has its place in the vinousphere. Wine packaged in a box is just another great example.

In addition to sticking with tradition and buying by the bottle, we’re excited about the affordable flexibility box wine offers us – for many an occasion. Here are a few to get you started:

 

Receptions + Dinner Parties. 

We're starting by giving up one of Rebecca’s hostess secrets: when you need wine for a group, box wine is a great option. A 3L box is equivalent to 5+ bottles of wine. That gives you plenty of bandwidth for your team's festivities.

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Workplace Bliss

The development team prefers red wine and sales and marketing prefer rosé or white wines for your Friday wine down. How about one of each? (Try this trick at home and you'll also have relationship bliss. Bonus – you can drink at whatever pace you like because it doesn't spoil quickly – a single glass on a Monday, maybe three on Friday…)



On a Budget.

In part because the carbon footprint is lower, box wine is incredibly affordable. For about $20/box, you’re getting tremendous value.
 

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Cooking.

If you’re looking for a recipe for success, this is it. Box wine stays fresh for about 4 weeks. That’s because as you dispense, the bag inside shrinks down, minimizing the spoiling impact oxygen can have on an open bottle of wine. If you just need half a cup of wine for your dish, you can dispense what you need (including a glass for yourself, we hope!) and stow the rest for your next endeavor.

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Certainly not all box wines are created equal. (The same is true for bottled wines.) It's always worth asking for recommendations. But you get the idea. Don’t go by the book. Go buy the box!

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3 Reasons Why We Drink White Wine – in Winter

Few think of white wines as a winning choice any time of year, let alone now in the heart of winter here in New England. Red wine somehow seems the natural way to soothe the impact of the cold, dark days we experience.

In fact, once we shed our own similar inclinations, we discovered a surprisingly wonderful coping mechanism.

Here’s why adding white wine to your repertoire right now will help assuage your winter woes:
 

1.   Dry Air Begs for a Palate Pick-Me-Up

If you’re like us, you’re heading for the water cooler on the regular. Nothing seems to quench your thirst. Guess what? Many white wines can. Add a little zip to your regularly scheduled wine-down and you can refresh your taste buds (and your spirits) with the natural burst of mouthwatering acidity whites are best known.

 

2.    Hearty Fare Hearts Robust Wines

The importance of texture should not be underestimated either. Just as you reach for that soft, cozy blanket to wrap yourself up in, many white wine styles offer the same satisfaction. Here we're talking about wines that have a touch of heft, and can be deemed oily, or fleshy.

Why?

Robust whites complement the weight of heartier fare. Think Chowder or thicker soups like pumpkin, cauliflower, butternut squash, etc. Gratin potatoes. A tangy, goat-cheese quiche. Monkfish or Swordfish. Chicken casserole. Even an old-school (or re-imagined, newer school) Mac & Cheese.

You get the idea. Just be sure the weightier wine you select also has that essential acidity we talked about above, too. You’ll need that element to cut through the fat of such bold dishes.

 

3.   Winter Helps Ensure Whites are Enjoyed at the Right Temp

One guest at an event we hosted said oh-so-sagely, he feels “whites have to work harder to woo” him. When he tasted the white wine flight we had curated, he mused at how much more depth the wines had – he could taste their nuance.

So often whites are served way too cold. Whites show more layers of aromas and flavors when they are served at the ideal 50ish degrees Fahrenheit. And in New England many of us are blessed with enclosed vestibules or unfinished cellars that naturally ensure wines are stored, and then easily served, at the right temp. You don’t have to fuss with the fridge. Nature works to your logistical advantage. Meanwhile you’re able to discover what so many whites really have to offer.

 

Certainly white wine is a huge category, just as red wine is. The winter simply proves an unsuspecting time to explore the possibilities.

Satiate your cravings for comfort food, resuscitate your senses and otherwise bring life back to your body and soul by giving whites the chance they deserve this winter!

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Champagne or Sparkling Wine? How to Select the Right Bubbles for the Occasion

If you’re confused about Champagne and Sparkling Wine you’re in good company. Questions come up at nearly every event we host, regardless if sparkling wine is even one of the wines we’re sharing.
 

  •    Can you call this Champagne?
  •    What is Cava?
  •    What about Prosecco?


Today we take things sip by sip, exploring Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, Sekt, and Crèmant sparkling wines in turn – so you will not only know the differences between them, but also which style is best suited for the occasion at hand. Let's dive in!
 

Champagne | Champagne, France
 

ONLY sparkling wine from Champagne, France is Champagne, and can be called (or labeled) as such. The northern most region in France, this incredibly temperamental, cool-climate locale with its chalky soils ensures grapes with very high acidity – exactly what you’re after when it comes to producing exceptional bubbly.

There are also only 3 legally permitted grape types that can be grown and included in a Champagne wine: Chardonnay (white), Pinot Noir (red) and Pinot Meunier (red). These can be blended (most often) or fly solo.

In addition to the tricky, cool climate (i.e. while you want ripping, fresh acidity, you also need grapes to ripen enough to give the wine some balancing fruit-mojo), the technique employed in making Champagne (méthode champenoise) is incredibly labor and time intensive. Winemakers must induce a second fermentation inside the bottle which, suffice to say, takes many, many steps over an extended time including, at the end, freezing the neck of the bottle to later disgorge unwanted sediment (key for flavor development, but not desired in the final product). The result is a bright, complex, layered and toastier/creamier style of wine.

Often Champagne is Non-Vintage (NV). Winemakers prefer to blend fruit from different harvests to achieve the “House Style” for which they are known. Only in exceptional vintages will wine be dedicated to a vintage year bottling.

INSIDER TIP.   While most of the Champagne we drink is dry (Brut), there are sweeter styles available. Extra Dry is actually slightly sweeter than Brut, followed by demi-sec and then, rarely, doux.
 

Cava | Penedès, Spain
 

Cava is the Spanish term for their own style of sparkling wine, and named after the cave cellars where the wine was aged.

It came into being in 1872 when Don José Raventos found himself tromping through Champagne, France and encountered their specialty. He was rightfully fascinated. Soon enough he had decided to employ the traditional French méthode champenoise technique at home, but wanted to put a uniquely Spanish spin on it.

First up, he used local, indigenous varietals: Macabeu (the dominant grape), Parellada and Xarel·lo – all white grapes – contribute their own unique characteristics to the blend and create a uniquely Spanish sparkler. (Producers today are also permitted to use Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Garnacha and Monastrell in the blend.)

Next was his approach to aging: Cava is aged for only 9 months on the lees (this technique helps give Champagne its famous toasty character).

The differences go on, but the important thing is the result: Cava is a cheery, slightly less robust, citrusy/fruity, sometimes slightly nutty alternative to Champagne.

INSIDER TIP.   Wander off the ubiquitous Cristalino or Friexenet paths and you’ll often find even more value, while supporting smaller producers.
 

Prosecco | Veneto, Italy
 

Venetians, for their part, turn to Prosecco – aka Italian sparkling wine – daily. And whether you know Prosecco yet or not, you’ve probably noticed it is certainly an affordable bubbly option.

What makes it different than its counterparts? This wine is named for the largest proportion of grapes used to produce it, Prosecco. It is widely considered more straightforward, lemon-limey and leaner than traditional Champagne.

Why? It’s snappy flavor and texture result because it is made using a different approach than its French and Spanish cousins. The Charmat method ensures the secondary fermentation (necessary to “trap” the CO2 and create the bubbles) occurs in large, pressurized tanks rather than in the bottle. This means the wine is oxygenated and bottled “on demand,” without a long aging regiment. And, since the wine is made in batches if you will, rather than bottle by bottle, this helps keep the price low.

INSIDER TIP:    Gravitate toward Prosecco if a sparkling cocktail is on the menu, too. It’s perfect for both sipping solo and for adding a little unobtrusive sparkle to your cocktail recipe.
 

Sekt | Germany & Austria
 

Fun Fact:   Germans drink more Sparkling Wine per capita than any other country. They also produce the most variety of options, all under the larger umbrella term “Sekt”.

Their bubbly can be made with any method described already herein. Naturally, pricier selections are made in the traditional méthode champenoise while cheaper offerings are bottled with the Charmat method. Stylistically you will taste the characteristics that each of these respective approaches imparts – leaner for the latter and toastier and richer for the former.

They can also be made from a wide selection of grapes, with the grape-type used also helping to dictate the flavor experience in the final product. E.g. Riesling Sekt tend to be more zippy with trademark high acidity; Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris deliver a fuller-bodied, rounder experience; and Pinot Noir rosé styles deliver more tang and berry fruit, with pretty aromatics.

While less widely known/imported, a German (and Austrian) sparkling wine experience is quite diverse – and certainly worthy of your interest.

INSIDER TIP:   Use your wallet as your guide. Spend more than $15 to avoid the plonk.
 

Crèmant de [Fill-In-The-Blank] | Non-Champagne Regions, France
 

You didn’t think France was having all of the sparkling wine fun in just one of its wine growing regions, did you?

Truth be told, French Crèmant is perhaps our favorite alternative to Champagne. Most often made in the same traditional method, each region in France has go-to varietals. These same grapes are pressed into service for their sparkling wines. For example, the Loire Valley is known for their Chenin Blanc. So Crèmant de Loire tends to be made from Chenin. In Burgundy they are world-famous for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, so that’s what you should expect in bubbly forms.

INSIDER TIP:   Artisanal or small production winegrowers that decide to produce sparkling wine make a BIG commitment. They need the resources – economic and otherwise – to do so. If they are going down this path, they are doing it for a reason. In our experience, passion pays. Crèmant wines are an uber-affordable alternative to Champagne, with many exceptional selections falling in the $16-$22 range.

 

What’s the moral of the story?
No matter which country floats your boat, sparklers are not just for toasting and gifting; with the variety of styles available worldwide they can be for every day. And perhaps they should be! With their essential, naturally high acidity, sparkling wine pairs superbly with any cuisine. Plus, they’re just F-U-N.

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The Secret to Holiday Entertaining – Celebrate Magnum Style

We shouldn’t need an excuse to pull out all of the stops when it comes to entertaining, but then what would the holidays really be for anyway?

Whether you’re a wine geek or not, our secret to dialing things up a notch is to Go Big – literally. A “magnum” of wine is what you call the super-sized bottle of wine you may have started to see more often since Thanksgiving. Said bottle contains the equivalent of two “normal” bottles of wine. It is a sight to behold, and certainly makes that statement we never mind to make.

No contest, magnums make for a fantastic gift for wine lovers. But how often do you have enough of a crowd to warrant actually opening a large-format bottle? Our staff relishes the chance.

Here are ten wines available in magnums we think are perfect for celebrating. Make an impression this holiday season!
 

Sparkling.

Adriano Adami Bosco di Gica Valdobiadene Superiore Prosecco| Veneto, Italy
The wonderful world of sparkling wine is global – you don’t always need to travel to Champagne, France for an enticing or satisfying selection! Here Adami over-delivers for the category, producing a lively, quaffable sparkler.
 

Billecart-Samon Brut Rosé  | Champagne, France
Behold, one of our absolute favorite producers of Champagne, let alone sparkling rosé. Seeing this wine packaged in a magnum – well, we caught our breath! Here the devil is in the details: tiny beads of joy oh-so-delicately deliver tangy red fruits first to your nose, and then to your palate. Notes of chalk-board erasers are a time machine back to less-harried, wonder-rich times.
 

Ployez-Jacquemart Extra Quality Brut | Champagne, France
Where Billecart-Samon scores high in the ‘delicious-subtlety’ category, Ployez-Jacquemart does so with equal enthusiasm in the ‘delicious-decadence’ category. Generous orchard fruits are lifted by citrus and quince – and that’s just the beginning! Toasty and lush with gratifying brioche elements, we just love how this wine wraps itself around your senses….
 

Rosé.

Bodegas Muga Rosado| Rioja, Spain
Nothing says party-perfect more effortlessly than a magnum bottle of sacred (read: somewhat scarce) rosé wine! Here the historic winery Bodegas Muga blends Grenache with white Viura grapes and a splash of Tempranillo. Aging the wine briefly in large oak vats adds body and nuance, while lees aging contributes subtle milk chocolate notes. The result is supreme – a dry but lifted, round-edged, winter-ready but refreshing style that can elevate holiday meals just as easily as it can coolly welcome friends. (Grab one if you see one – Rebecca did!)
 

White.

Chateau Montelena Winery Chardonnay | Napa Valley, California
This wine packs both a delicious and historic punch: established in 1882, Chateau Montelena is one of the oldest wineries in the United States –  and the 1973 vintage of this wine won the famous Judgement of Pairs in 1978! Is it still worth its muster? In a word, YES. The fruit for this wine was selected literally grape by grape. With only 10% new oak used and a cool growing season in play, this white is as dramatic as it is crisp!
 

Weingut Josef Leitz, Rüdesheimer Magdalenenkreuz Spätlese Riesling| Rheingau, Germany
There’s just something about colder days that beg for a glass of something decadent, something you can cozy up to, something that somehow also rouses your spirits and delivers a surprise. Here one of our absolute favorite German winemakers, Josef Leitz, delivers all of that in one uncorking. Minerality creates a snappy tension with the fruity, sappy, layered flavor profile of this wine – and it is delivered in an abundant(ly), delicious package.
 

Red.

Buena Vista Winery “The Count” | Sonoma, California
A blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon, “The Count” shows its innovative roots while showcasing the bold potential the Count himself saw in California wines. Medium bodied, this wine is as packed with purple and black fruits as it is with earth-driven nuance. Burnt caramel and cedar notes give it that touch of winter-time pizazz we all crave this time of year. Easy drinking and velvety smooth, this toothsome wine is a crowd-pleaser!
 

Burgess Cellars Library Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (2002) | Napa Valley, California
Properties like Burgess are what put the Napa Valley – and Cabernet grown here – on the map. Determined to make a style of wine expressive of terroir, Tom Burgess was wise to snap up this plot of land in the Howell Mountains. Here above the fog, vines 60+ years old have become one with the mineral-rich, volcanic soil. Opulent yet still ‘pretty’, this wine is a teenager, packed with dark berry fruit, dusty earth and just a hint of mocha.
 

Chateau de Saint Cosme Rouge | Cotes du Rhone, France
For (at least) two of us on staff, our love affair with European wine began with Syrah from the Rhone Valley, France. Wines like this iconic one are the reason why: fresh, purple-floral aromatics awaken your senses first, followed by a decadent palate rich with dark fruit, hints of spice and notes of saddle leather and bacon fat (yes.. bacon!). Welcome to the club!
 

Domaine Serene Vineyards Pinot Noir | Evenstad Reserve | Willamette Valley, Oregon
Oregon's Willamette Valley is thought “the Promised Land” for producing acclaimed, Burgundian-styled reds, aka exceptional Pinot Noir. And Domaine Serene is one of the darlings of this young yet heralded wine region. We were downright gleeful to discover their award-winning, flagship wine is available in magnums. Buyer beware: the Evenstad Reserve is a super-silky, complex wine that delivers a wallop of delight!

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Bro-sé: Why Men Drink Pink (Too)

BrosePushups.jpg

It’s long been true men who wear pink stand out in a crowd – they get automatic props for being “man enough” to strut their stuff in this soft-toned, physique-pleasing color. Some say they even make more money and are better educated! And yet, let’s face it, in the jargon-rich, equality-striving universe in which we live, “man enough” today is a term we guffaw, said only tongue in cheek. What we’re really getting at is that a man wearing pink is chic enough to be so bold as to be so softly adorned.

Rosé is finally getting the respect it’s due here in the U.S. of A. - with good reason.

But, if you’ve noticed, men have caught on; pink shirts and even pants are abundant, almost redundant. This former trend-setting maneuver is still wonderful to see, but unfortunately, officially, mainstream. Gasp!

And so it is time to ponder the next phase of manly chic-dom – something still operating largely under the radar, and arguably even more sexy than that first man to don pink because it is a signal he knows something more than the "average" guy….

Behold – it is the man across the room, drinking a glass of rosé!

Rosé is finally getting the respect it’s due here in the U.S. of A. - with good reason. Mouthwateringly refreshing, yet dry and incredibly food-friendly, rosé is as versatile as the many shades of pink you can conjure.

And, other than recognizing the possibility of Greatness therein, you know you can’t judge that bottle by its color, right? Some of the driest, most serious, in the bunch are so lightly hued as to be barely a shade of “salmon” pink.

With their kiss of drying tannin, thirst-quenching acidity and fruit nuances, these wines can be paired with grilled Bison sliders, dill-infused zucchini and feta roast chicken, seared tuna, tangy soft cheese, charcuterie…

Bros-in-the-know know that rosé is made from red grapes – extracted, essentially – it offers a touch of vinous muscle in a pleasing, quenching package. Are some more fruit-forward than others? Absolutely. But the fun is in tasting the rainbow, because rosé truly is the little black dress of wine – or dare we suggest, the pink shirt of it?

With their kiss of drying tannin, thirst-quenching acidity and fruit nuances, these wines can be paired with grilled Bison sliders, dill-infused zucchini and feta roast chicken, seared tuna, tangy soft cheese, charcuterie…. The list is endless! And the supply short. So the savvy gent, for his own part, knows rosé season is one to behold – for this vinous window is (too) brief, and one to capitalize on!

This summer before supplies run out (typically mid-September) saddle up to your favorite haunts or your local wine shop and get sipping!
 

Here are a few that pack a particularly muscular punch this year:
 

Heitz Cellars Grignolino Rosé.   Here the iconic California producer Heitz delivers a particularly robust style of rosé, with plenty of strawberry + black raspberry fruits. If you are an adventure-seeker by nature, Italian Grignolino is a grape to know!

Anne Amie Cuvee A Midnight Saignee Rosé.   Anne Amie takes great care with this wine… a virtual basket-full of red summer fruits, mitigated by a whisper of spice and everything nice. Grab the spicy Asian take-out – this wine is as fruit-forward as they come!

Ostatu Rosato.   Zesty Tempranillo and the fuller-figured Grenache are natural bedfellows – and after 250 years in the biz, the Saenz family knows how to deliver a measurably dry rosé buoyed by fruit and nuance. Have another bottle near!

Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé.  Mulderbosch was ahead of the times when it conceived of this rosé and first released it in ‘99. Pleasing aromatics are followed by red and dark fruits, cleansing minerality and a dash of spice. Cheers to trend-setting!

Calcu Rosé.   Calcu makes the case that Chile – famous for its distinct, powerful reds – is perhaps a natural to produce rosé wines. Both elegant and restrained in its fruit presentation, this wine is equal parts refreshing and bold!

Chateau Ksara Sunset Rosé.  Ksara is no new kid on the block – and they are serious about producing seriously delicious wines. If you are up for a little sass in a glass, their tart and textural rosé is just the thing. Go on – it’s date night!

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Choosing Wine for Any Big Event - Made Easy!

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Perhaps the biggest of them all, there's little more personal than planning your wedding - and, for many, when it comes to what you're serving you want to nail it. We get it! What's more, we know you're not the only one. Beginning around Memorial Day each year we get numerous inquiries from couples who care about what wines they will serve at their wedding asking for help. They are often stressed to the max about choosing wines for their big day. In another week the emails with the same burning questions will emerge, this time to ensure company outings and family reunions are well cared for.

While some events have specifications which call for a one-on-one consult (or Pros like us behind the tasting station ;) many others are more streamlined. For the latter case, let's start with the most common criteria hosts present:

1.  User-friendly.   We want wines that everyone will enjoy, whether they are “usually” an X-wine drinker or not.

2.  Food-friendly.   We want the wines to work with what we’re serving, whether someone opted for the fish, BBQ chicken or tenderloin.

3.  Cost-effect.   We don’t want to serve anything “cheap”, but if we could keep things under(?!) or around $15 per bottle, our budget will thank you!

Good news - you can address all of these concerns in just 4 deliberate steps!

Streamline your offerings. There are reasons (yes, plural) themed, or “His and Her Cocktails” are so popular… It’s festive, for sure, and fewer options for guests tightens up your liquor order (read: budget), focuses consumption, AND expedites service! So approach wine offerings similarly and CHOOSE YOUR OWN “HOUSE” WINES: offering a sparkler plus a crowd-pleasing white and red (with maybe a beautiful dry rosé thrown in for good measure) will satisfy the majority (if not all!) of your guests. Remember, these distinct options offer enough variety themselves. So have fun with it! You could even come up with creative, personal or company-culture-derived names for each choice.

Pick a Perky White.  Wines with higher acidity are food-friendly by nature; and their mouthwatering effect also comes in handy when your boss' boss is bending your ear about that big project you're working on, or your best friend just got stuck talking to crazy Aunt Edna. Sauvignon Blanc works, sure(!), but one of our other party tricks is to select grape varietals  guests may not have ever heard of, let alone tasted. Case in point: as popular as Austrian Gruner Veltliner and Spanish Albarino are becoming, these are not grapes that everyone knows (though they should!). Offering something people have no expectations about means they just simply sip and enjoy.

Select a Smooth Red.  When it comes to selecting your red offering, you want something that strikes a middle ground – something not too bold and dry, and something not too light. You also want something that goes down smooooth – something with nice fruit and soft edges. Here again, a way to work around the grape varietal fatigue (aka I only drink Cab, Syrah, Merlot…) is to choose wines that are named for their region, with no varietal labeling evident. Smart picks are red wines from the Cotes du Rhone or Languedoc (fabulous, food-friendly, people-happy, French red blends) or wallet-friendly Spanish Rioja (the more expensive options often mean the wine has spent more time in oak barrels, which puts the wine into the “too bold” camp). These regions have prolific, 100% delicious options that are exceptional values!

Save on Bubbles.   Some say you should splurge in this category; we don’t necessarily agree. While you certainly can go all out, remember that the nuances a higher-priced bubbly offer could be lost in the equation. More often sparkling wine is consumed to add an additional festive flare.  And there are many great (dry, aka Brut) options from beyond Champagne, France that lend exactly the helping hand you desire, with plenty of Delight on offer at oh-so reasonable prices. For some suggestions beyond the usual suspects Cava and Prosecco, check out alternatives here and see below.

Have faith! Less is more, especially when you trot off the beaten path. With this approach you’ll be setting yourself up for success!

Dying for some specific recs in each of these categories?? No problem! For the next several weeks you can find some widely available wines that check the above boxes via the Pour Favor Wine Events list available on the DRYNC wine app.Need more ideas? Get in touch directly!

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Thanksgiving Wine Selection - made easy!

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Thanksgiving Day is the ONLY holiday every single American celebrates.  It is a day observed ladling up traditions at every opportunity; even if you're not doing what historically you have done, admit it - you're thinking or reminiscing about those things! But when it comes to wine selection there tends to be less tradition in play. For some that is the best part of the holiday - the vinous world is your playground! For others, what to serve or what to bring can overwhelm. We get it.

As part of our "made easy" series, we are offering up a few suggestions for going home with a winner or two.

If we can help with your specific feast or preferences, whether a consultation or shopping or both, don't hesitate to Click 2 Inquire. We relish overturning every rock (no minerality pun intended) to find stellar wines perfect for this time of year. And our holiday special is in play NOW through December 31, 2014!

Winning Whites

Noble white varietals are thought the darlings of Thanksgiving. The best hail from cooler climates, offer mesmerizing aromatics which lure you in, are lower in alcohol, a tiny bit "fleshy," yet deliver a crisp, mouthwatering brightness.

- Et Fille "Deux Vert Vineyard" Viognier ~ Willamette Valley, OR

- Szoke "Mantra" Pinot Gris ~ Hungary

Weinguut Jurgen Leiner "Handwerk" Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) ~ Pfalz, Germany

Gundlach Bundschu DRY Gewurtztraminer ~ Sonoma, California

Rabble-Rousing Reds

We hang our hat on discovering earthy, lightER bodied reds - with backbone. Beware of selecting a wine that's too big, which will just weigh you down given all of the food before you.

- Ravines Pinot Noir ~ Fingerlakes, NY

- Dominique Piron Coteaux Bourguignons ~ Burgundy, France

- Elena Walch Schiava ~ Alto Adige, Italy

- Ameztoi "Stimatum" Txakolina ~ Getariako Txakolina, Spain

Remember, with such a big, intense meal with so many different parts and varied traditions, there are countless wines to choose from. When it come to Food & Wine Pairing, the endgame is BALANCE!

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Sparkling Wine: Your answer for All "Occasions"

Nicoise Salad
Nicoise Salad

In our line of work, I'm sure you can understand how naturally professional life overlaps with personal. Well, earlier this week I pulled out a bottle of sparkling wine to have with dinner. My husband asked, "What's the occasion"? The occasion was - I had been in the mood for bubbles! I wanted some flavor-filled, frothy goodness to embrace the gorgeous day and lingering, still-warm evening, and also assuage a good but very busy work week. Of course, it didn't hurt that I was serving nicoise saladfor dinner - with artichokes and eggs, two of the "buzz kill" foods in the world of wine because they are nearly impossible to pair successfully, unless you have bubbles, of course.

Indeed, sparkling wine has been on my mind of late. Next week we are hosting a spectacular wine tasting class at The Table in Cambridge. The theme is the Art of Food and Wine Pairing. I'm a big proponent of starting a tasting with some sparkling wine and do it as often as the occasion allows. It's both practical and palate-pleasing.

Think of it: guests almost never arrive all at once but a good hosts always wants to have something they can offer when people do arrive. I'm sure I've said it here before. Serving up sparkling wine is a great way to begin; it's festive and sets a tone and the stage for more excitement to come. And it's great when you're serving some harder to pair nosh, or when there's an assortment of items on offer. In its very make-up, sparkling wine is arguably the most versatile wine made.

Of course there is still tremendous variety within the category - which keeps things ever-interesting for us wine pros and enthusiasts! While over dinner we had a sparkler from the Limoux region of France, next week's tasting will feature Cava. Why? Well... you'll just have to join us!

~ Rebecca

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Buying wines for your wedding - made easy!

This time of year in particular we get numerous inquiries from anxious brides and grooms who rightfully care about what wines they will serve at their wedding, but are stressed to the max about choosing them for their big day. While some weddings have specifications which call for a professional consult, many others are more streamlined. For the latter case, we thought it might be time to write up a few How To's to take the stress out of this project!  

The three most common criteria couples present to us:

1.  User-friendly: We want wines that everyone will enjoy, whether they are "usually" an X-wine drinker or not.

Tess
Tess

2.  Food-friendly: We want the wines to work with what we're serving, whether someone opted for the fish, chicken or tenderloin.

3.  Cost-effect: We don't want to serve anything "cheap", but if we could keep things under(?!) or around $15 per bottle, that would be great...

You can address all of these concerns in just a few steps:

TIP #1: Streamline your offerings

There are reasons (yes, plural) "His and Her Cocktails" are so popular... It's festive, for sure, and fewer options for guests tightens up your liquor order (read: budget), focuses consumption, AND expedites service! So approach wine offerings similarly and CHOOSE "HOUSE" WINES: by offering your sparkler plus a crowd-pleasing white and red (with maybe a beautiful dry rose thrown in for good measure), you will satisfy the majority (if not all!) of your guests. Remember, these three options offer enough variety themselves. So have fun with it! You could even come up with creative or personal names for each choice.

TIP #2: Pick a Perky White

Wines with higher acidity are food-friendly by nature; but their mouthwatering effect also comes in handy when your best friend just got stuck talking to crazy Aunt Edna or you've got dancing on the agenda. Sauvignon Blanc works, sure!, but one of our other "sneaky" tricks is to select grape varietals that guests may not have ever heard of, let alone tasted. Case in point: as popular as Austrian Gruner Veltliner and Spanish Albarino are becoming, these are not grapes that everyone knows (though they should!). Offering something people have no expectations about means they just simply sip and enjoy!

TIP #3: Select a Smooth Red

When it comes to selecting your red offering, you want something that strikes a middle ground - something not too bold and dry, and something not too light so that guests use that dreaded wine word "thin". You also want something that goes down smooooth - something with nice fruit and soft edges. Here again, a way to work around the grape varietal fatigue (aka I only drink California Cab...) is to choose wines that are named for their region, with no varietal labeling evident. Smart picks are red wines from the Cotes du Rhone (fabulous, food-friendly red blends) or wallet-friendly Spanish Rioja (the more expensive options often mean the wine has spent more time in oak barrels, which puts the wine into the "too bold" camp). Both of these regions have prolific, 100% delicious options that are exceptional values!

TIP #4: Bubbles!

Some say you should splurge in this category; we don't necessarily agree. While you certainly can splurge here, remember that the nuances that a higher priced bubbly offer are likely going to be lost in the equation. More often sparkling wine is consumed per tradition, or to add an additional festive flare.  And there are SO many great options from outside of Champagne, France that lend exactly the helping hand you desire, with plenty of Delight on offer at oh-so reasonable prices. For some suggestions beyond the happy usual suspects Cava and Prosecco, check out other alternatives here!

So now the question of quantity: how much is enough?

The good news is, there is a formula for this quandary! While consumption as a whole tapers off over the course of the festivities, some people will hit it harder as the evening progresses. Taper-ers tend to beat the Hard-hitters, but either way, if you assume one drink per person per hour* you'll have more than enough to go around.

There are five glasses of wine in every bottle, six when it comes to a sparkling wine toast.

So if you have 100 guests and a six hour event, figure 600 total drinks. Divide 600 by 5 to figure out how many bottles are needed (120) and then by twelve to get the number of cases needed (twelve bottles in a case) = 10 cases of wine. You can then decide how many cases of each wine you'd like to have on hand based on your knowledge of your guest list, wedding date and venue (e.g. more red wine drinkers than white, hot summer day under a tent vs. cold and wintery, etc.)

*Note:  This is number of DRINKS, not just wine. If you are serving beer, wine and liquor, estimate the number of wine drinkers and go from there to gauge your wine purchase. Alternatively, you can adjust the number of hours you think people will be drinking wine, e.g. cocktail hour (1.5 glasses) + dinner hour (1.5 glasses) + dancing (1 glass) = 4 wine drinks per person, or 400 total glasses = 80 bottles of wine = 7 cases (always round up).

With this approach you'll be setting yourself up for success! Now all you have to do is taste a few wines in each of these categories and make the final decision.

Stuck or have a bigger wedding wine quandry? Give us a shout! We'd be happy to help you navigate this component. Rebecca@Pour-Favor.com

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12 Ways to Stay Ho-ho-Happy this Holiday Season: Pour Favor’s 12 Wines of Christmas!

For some people it’s all about getting through the holidays. Others embrace the season with aplomb. For wine lovers, it doesn’t matter which camp you fall into! Wine served is a life lived well. One of our clients couldn’t have agreed more, inviting us to consult on some holiday wine selections for them. The line-up was so worthy, we thought we would impart a little Christmas cheer by sharing with you, too! And so we bring to you Pour Favor’s 12 Wines of Christmas. Consider the holidays saved!

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me gentle rosé bubbles! Domaine Robert Serol’s “Turbullent” vin rose festif et petillant is as festive, lively and lovely as it sounds, featuring 100% Gamay. It’s earthy yet bright, red-fruited nature combined with just a touch of effervescence is the perfect thing to get you in the holiday spirit. Pop cork, trim tree!

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me single vineyard Carmenere and gentle rosé bubbles! Oveja Negra’s Maule Valley single vineyard Carmenere is one of our favorite single-varietal wines of the year. Robust and pure, this dark, smooth and brooding yet lifted wine is buoyed by Chilean earth and finishes with a dark chocolate espresso note. Sip and savor with the homemade fudge your neighbor dropped by – and relish looking at your trimmed tree.

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me Cali Grignolino(?!), single vineyard Carmenere and gentle rosé bubbles! ‘Tis always the season to embrace the wierdos, and Heitz Cellar’s Napa Grignolino is certainly that - until we saw/tasted this wine we didn’t know they were even cultivating this grape in California, one traditionally grown (in limited quantities) in Piedmont, Italy. After last night’s fudge fest, you’ll relish this charming, lighter-bodied, silky, slightly fertile wine with baking spices on the finish. Put out the bowl of imported strawberries and dive in!

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me Muri-Gries Mueller-Thurgau, Cali Grignolino(?!), single vineyard Carmenere and gentle rosé bubbles! A Riesling and Sylvaner hybrid grape, Mueller Thurgau is a gift in and of itself as opulent freshness is buoyed by all the main apple varieties - red, yellow and even tart green – and a thrilling herbal component comes into play. Tough day wrapping up projects at work before the end of the year? No worries! This killer white will tickle your tinsel-time fancy!

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me Montecucco Sangiovese, Muri-Gries Mueller-Thurgau, Cali Grignolino(?!), single vineyard Carmenere and gentle rosé bubbles! With just one week ‘til Santa is nigh you’ll need something with power and elegance to give you a mental timeout while you start wrapping presents. Sink your teeth into Campi Nuovi’s Montecucc Sangiovese and call it done! This unfiltered, organic certified wine is Old World bliss: blackberry and cherry tang are composed by worn leather and fresh earth. You’ll be mid-bow-tying and having a ‘damn! That’s good’ moment. Promise.

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me awesome Austrian Pinot Noir, Montecucco Sangiovese, Muri-Gries Mueller-Thurgau, Cali Grignolino(?!), single vineyard Carmenere and gentle rosé bubbles! After all that wrapping you’re thinking how much you’ve spent this month and wondering how you’re going to keep drinking well without breaking the bank. Enter Johanneshof Reinisch Pinot Noir. We’ll let this one speak for itself. It’s that good!

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me limited Napa Cab Franc, awesome Austrian Pinot Noir, Montecucco Sangiovese, Muri-Gries Mueller-Thurgau, Cali Grignolino(?!), single vineyard Carmenere and gentle rosé bubbles! Tonight you’re ordering pizza and uncorking a really special bottle to enjoy all on your own (partner optional). You’re so excited about it you even have the presence of mind to uncork before you head out the door to work. And why wouldn’t you be? Only 3 barrels of Hendry Blocks 9D & 26 Napa Cabernet Franc were made – and your true love was lucky enough to score one and smart enough to squirrel it away for you. Tonight Christmas comes early!

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me the best rosé in the world, limited Napa Cab Franc, awesome Austrian Pinot Noir, Montecucco Sangiovese, Muri-Gries Mueller-Thurgau, Cali Grignolino(?!), single vineyard Carmenere and gentle rosé bubbles! Tavel from the Rhone could rival Provence for historic rosé recognition. Here we are talking about wines that are outstanding when fresh, and mesmerizing when they have a little bit of age on them. Chateau d'Aqueria hits the genre out of the vineyard with a generous, winter-ready body, mineral-rich purity, lovely flowers (violets and roses alike) and a light spice note. Get out your charcuterie board and call it a casual night in while the family comes over the river and the through the woods to your house.

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me Bordeaux, the best rosé in the world, limited Napa Cab Franc, awesome Austrian Pinot Noir, Montecucco Sangiovese, Muri-Gries Mueller-Thurgau, Cali Grignolino(?!), single vineyard Carmenere and gentle rosé bubbles! It’s now Sunday night and you’ve been cultivating your beef stew in the slow-cooker all day while you were out doing last minute stocking-stuffer shopping. Fortunately you’re true love knew a good Bordeaux would be the perfect match! Chateau Bourbon la Chapelle offers all of the flinty magic of the Médoc, with graphite and tea adding interest to an otherwise pretty, black-fruited wine that’s not weighed down by wood-aging. Could Santa be your true love?!

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me a crazy Spanish red, Bordeaux, the best rosé in the world, limited Napa Cab Franc, awesome Austrian Pinot Noir, Montecucco Sangiovese, Muri-Gries Mueller-Thurgau, Cali Grignolino(?!), single vineyard Carmenere and gentle rosé bubbles! We all know Santa makes it to all ends of the earth on his sled, so it’s only natural to channel his exploration sensibilities this time of year. Anima Negra’s AN2 is mesmerizing, kind of like Rudolph’s nose. Hailing from Majorca, Spain, you don't see these too often, either! A blend of Callet, Mantonegre-Fogoneu and Syrah grapes it opens with floral aromas, and graces the palate with ripe, round red raspberry fruit flavors. It is refreshing yet firm, soft but juicy. It says, “Snuggle up to that roaring fire with me in your glass!”

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me White Burgundy, a crazy Spanish red, Bordeaux, the best rosé in the world, limited Napa Cab Franc, awesome Austrian Pinot Noir, Montecucco Sangiovese, Muri-Gries Mueller-Thurgau, Cali Grignolino(?!), single vineyard Carmenere and gentle rosé bubbles! For us seeing the Sugar Plum Fairy’s solo is a highlight to beheld this time of year – her grace, elegance and memorable strength and presence can’t be beat. The wine equivalent of this experience is Domaine Bachelet-Monnot’s Bourgogne blanc. Christmas Eve you’ll want to bring out something this magical. Uncork and hear the bells!

On the twelth day of Christmas my true love gave to me sexy Nebbiolo, White Burgundy, a crazy Spanish red, Bordeaux, the best rosé in the world, limited Napa Cab Franc, awesome Austrian Pinot Noir, Montecucco Sangiovese, Muri-Gries Mueller-Thurgau, Cali Grignolino(?!), single vineyard Carmenere and gentle rosé bubbles! Christmas can’t come without Nebbiolo being in the mix. And while many gravitate first (among the elite Piedmontese styles) to Barolo, our heart is aflutter with the more feminine Barbaresco. Ca’ del Baio’s revered cru “Asili” vineyard Barbaresco is one of our favorites in particular, offering pedigree (fine tannins and varietal zip) and panache as mulled cherry notes meet herbal lift in a generous and open package. Merriment indeed!

And with that, we wish you Happy Holidays from all of us at Pour Favor!

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