Spring is the most pleasant time of the year. Days start to get longer and warmer, and spending time outside suddenly feels very inviting. The green gets greener, the blue sky turns brighter and flowers blooming everywhere it all seems magical. Well, and it is, at least in Portugal!Did you know that Portugal is the European country with more sun hours? Yes, it is true. And is also under the radar so it is the Europe’s hidden-gem, traditional yet modern and innovative. Its wine tradition is older than its borders and in 1758 was established the first wine-producing region of the world.It´s great to be outdoors during the Spring months. To take a walk along the lavish green Douro's landscape taking your time to relax or to sail the Douro river and breathe for a while. And if you are thinking that the perfect setting would include wine tasting, maybe you would enjoy a Port wine tasting paired with delicious food, Wine Tourism in Portugal is going to make that happen.1 – Sleep in a Barrel This is the perfectly quirky accommodation option for all the wine lovers out there. You may now spend the night in a giant wine barrel, which offers all the comforts granted by modern-day standards. Each of these wine barrels - there are 10 of them - are about 270 square feet (25 square meters) in size and come with a double bed, fully equipped bathroom, and air conditioning. On the outside, there is a deck from where you can enjoy a rolling as-far-as-the-eye-can-see-view of the valley.In addition to the round glass door, there's also a skylight through which the sun shines and you can enjoy the star-filled nights, all the more visible away from the city lights.You can also take a winery tour here, enjoy a wine tasting session paired with cheese and jam, have a picnic in the vineyards, a wine course or - best yet - a cooking class where you will learn traditional techniques while preparing your very own meal. 2 - Picnic in the VineyardsPicnics are a fun thing to do. But when do you have the opportunity to do it right in middle of secular vineyards sightseeing the snake like river Douro in the background?Some wine estates in Portugal are able to provide that unique experience perfect for everyone. Enjoy it with your family, friends or even in a romantic getaway. Go ahead choose your spot in the vineyard and make that the moment when you reveal your feelings to your love ones and then unveil what is inside your basket to celebrate the moment. Everything you are about to taste was carefully selected and the wine will be the perfect pairing. Only the best regional wine and delicacies (or in Portuguese: Petiscos) combined with some charming and distinctive details selected for you will be inside your basket. Immerse yourself in the magnificent scenery and enjoy each flavor and each minute.3 - Cruising 2019 in Portugal Wine cruises can be relaxing, fun, romantic, you set the tone we provide all you need on board for the smoothest sailing either for a short escape of one or two hours or to spend the night on board.The view is stunning and the wine, by the moment you already know how it is, unique and produced in the man made slopes along the Douro river as far as the eyes can see. A truly delight for those who need a moment out of the real world, a moment of indescribable beauty.To set sail in Douro river you will be able to go on board of modern sailing boats or boats with a vintage feel. Also if you are visiting Algarve in the south of Portugal a Yacht cruise will take you along the immense bright blue of the Atlantic ocean and you will be able to spot the secret beaches hidden between the rocks.Wine Tourism in Portugal has cruises that are able to suit your particular taste. Everything for the perfect spring day!4 - Cultural Tours - The Locals ChoicesYes, cultural tours can be exhausting, if the only thing you do is to walk around a town and visit platitudinous churches or museums. But what if this tour takes you only to the most beautiful european historic sites and shows you the true cultural heritage? A cultural richness that adds up some top quality wines and delicious petiscos. Yes, your cultural tour magically turns into a once in a lifetime experience. What about now? A Wine Tour in Porto with a River Cruise and Tour to The Port Wine Cellars, or a Full-day Wine Tour in Alentejo? Maybe you are more into a city feel, and if that is so: Wine and History Tour in Lisbon.5 - Adventure and sustainable toursAs a wine lover you know wine goes with any activity, mostly if you are on your Spring vacations. So, why not to mix it up with some adventure and nature experiences? OK, as long as the only thing you are driving is a Bike or a Kayak! And since spring is also the last chance you have to stay fit before summer, we have some excellent suggestions for you, that goes from an unique Wine and Golf Tour to Health and Wellness stays. In fact you can mix them and do it all during you stay. What about Bicycle Tours and Bird Watching, Kayak and Bike Tours or get the adrenaline running in the 4x4 Wine Tour?Probably many other experiences could be on this top as Portugal have so many incredible experiences waiting for you all year long. So now, it is time for you to see, taste, and feel for yourself. Create your own unforgettable memories of 2019 in Portugal.For more information visit http://www.winetourismportugal.com
While the new year technically marks the end of the holiday season, it also means the start of a whole new year of hashtag wine holidays.To help you ring them all in in 2019, we've compiled a 12-month calendar that includes a comprehensive list of each and every wine holiday, from legit ones like Beaujolais Nouveau Day to those that are just for fun (#DrinkWineDay). You'll also find some bonus holidays that we think will pair well – here's to looking at you National Chocolate Day. Download the calendarIf you find this helpful, please share it and make sure to tag us on Instagram at @millennialsdrinkwine!
Just imagine the mouth-coating richness of a fatty Wagyu steak being cut by the grippy tannins of a powerful Barolo. It sets the stage for a contrasted dance between savory red meat and elegant cherries, coupled with dried roses. Similarly, picture a contrast between the brambly berry flavors of a Dry Creek Zinfandel and the aggressive gaminess of venison. Or perhaps the intensity of a strawberry-laden Willamette Pinot Noir against the acrid smokiness of cedar-planked salmon. Sometimes the dance is more compliment than contrast, like the harmony of fruit flavors between duck a l’orange and Alsatian Gewurztraminer. Or even the simple brininess of oysters and the chalky minerality of Chablis.In the best cases, the relationship between wine and food is a happy mix of both. But the stage doesn’t always have to be a ballroom, and the dance doesn’t always have to be a waltz - or in our case, the pairings not as fancy-shmancy. Sometimes the venue is little less classy...saaaay a Taco Bell, KFC, or maybe an In-N-Out (for those of you readers lucky enough to have one around). Rest assured, the pairings can be just as stellar, and that date night you have planned can still go off without a hitch, at least in the department of gastronomy. It is in this article that I hope to arm you with the knowledge I believe can make everyday meals outstanding. There’s enough information to flood pages, but I’ll keep it simple with this metaphor. Picture two salsa partners on the dance floor or perhaps two boxing opponents in a ring. Think of a scenario where these partners have similar builds, and another in which they have dramatically different ones. It’s safe to assume that the first scenario would yield a harmonious, thoughtful, aesthetically pleasing, coordinated interplay while the second results in an undesired black eye. That’s what pairing wine & food is like. The better the match, the better the interaction. Another thing to consider is a wine’s structure (I’ll spare you the metaphor for this one). Fat in any dish is quite an amazing thing. However, it takes up lots of space on our palates, and blocks the way for other things that SHOULD be making an appearance - most notably flavors. Luckily, wine’s answer to this is acidity & tannin, as both precipitate fat, thus clearing the path for all the other cool stuff to make their way to our taste buds (and for all the beer lovers out there, carbonation acts similarly). Using this as context, let’s dive into the delectable, guilt-ridden world of fast food and search for some stellar wine pairings. For the sake of practicality, I will discuss wines that you can find at your local grocery, rather than having to go to a specialty wine store (although if you have one within proximity, then by all means go).With the biggest, heaviest redsUsually the stuff that first comes to our minds. Cabs, Zins, Malbecs, Syrahs, Blends, and the like. They have the most flavor, the most body, the most tannin, and the most of a whole lot more. But just because they’re the most obvious doesn’t mean they should always be first choice. Remember that metaphor from earlier? Keep in mind that these reds represent the far end of the spectrum – the Schwarzeneggers of wine selections. More specifically, the tannins in these wines are extremely abundant, and their weights are all at the top of the (fast) food chain. To keep the interaction balanced & engaging, we must make sure we partner with take-out that’s just as substantial. The most obvious partners to these are heavy duty hamburgers. However, since were discussing the biggest reds available, think BIG like Carl’s Jr (Hardees) Six Dollar 1/3lb Burgers, the Five Guys Double Grilled Cheeseburger, and certainly In-N-Out’s Double-Doubles and 4x4s. Other drive-thru contenders, again, remembering to think big, would be chili cheese fries, Philly cheesesteaks, & fattier iterations of Mexican dishes like barbacoa or beef burritos with gratuitous cheese. In any of these cases, do be careful with anything spicy (jalapenos, red pepper flakes, etc) as tannins in wine, as well as alcohol, tend to exacerbate them for the worse. In the realm of barbeque sauce-slathered red meats, Syrahs (especially Australian Shiraz) & Zinfandels get a notable mention as they have inherent peppery/savory flavors that compliment meat, and fruit intensities that match the sweetness of the sauce. Regardless of which guilty pleasure you may choose, keep in mind that the interaction at play remains the same – your palate will be covered in fats from cheese, fats from meat, fats from rich sauces, you get the idea. When your tongue is coated in so much richness that you can no longer taste the nuances of other flavors, it’s actually those same rough, burly tannins (culprits of the bitterness we so vehemently avoid) that cleanse the palate and restore order to your taste buds - the best partners will bleed grease through the wrapper, clog the arteries, and most importantly give the wine’s structure something more substantial to spar with (although it wouldn’t hurt to schedule that checkup with your cardiologist).With reds that aren’t as bigThink Grenache, Gamays, Pinot Noirs, Sangioveses, and more. When going lighter we naturally become more flexible with our pairings as our drinks are less demanding & aggressive (in the best cases, with no sacrifice to flavor). We no longer need look for entrees that coat our palates in fats & protein, as these reds will be less substantial. Lighter items like deli sandwiches and protein + rice (or other grain) plates can find their way back to our passenger seats. First, Pinot Noir can indeed work with fast foods but a good number (often domestically made) are oaky, bearing notes of vanilla, cinnamon, coffee, and more. While that does sound fantastic, flavors reminiscent of Grandma’s kitchen aren’t the most flexible for pairing. Sweet spices can tend to clash with the saltier, more savory tones of cured meat, or the lively flavors of condiments like ketchup or mustard, or the raw flavors of vegetables, and even peppery spices like cayenne and paprika. However, this same acrid character makes a perfect partner to the deeply charred flavors from grilling, searing, roasting, and so on. Thus, if your meal is just roasted chicken or pork, without excessive salt, spice, or vegetal tones Pinot works great, so long as there aren’t any of the aforementioned flavors to oppose. If you’re a devout Pinot follower, than opt for versions that don’t stress the usage of oak, and are therefore more flexible (“excuse me, I’m looking for a Pinot that isn’t oaky”). A bit more obscure, but a fantastic alternative, is to reach for a bottle of French Beaujolais, which is based from the Gamay varietal. This red has a structure and berry-tinged character like Pinot Noir, but is unencumbered by a copious amount of oak flavorings. With the primary flavors being red berry fruits, Beaujolais makes a great contrast to cured meats such as ham, roast beef, and pastrami, as well as a match for livelier sauces like mustards, ketchups, and spicy mayos. The applications of Beaujolais extend far beyond conventional sandwiches, as its vivacious fruit tones serve as a great match to strongly flavored and/or spicy foods like Cajun and Middle Eastern – just think of how notes of fresh strawberry & cherry would wonderfully contrast against a savory mouthful gyros from Halal Guys. Another French alternative for pairing would be a bottle of Cotes Du Rhone (based from Grenache) which is delivers loads of baked/dried red fruit flavors alongside secondary notes of herbs and spice, and a fuller body when compared to the former reds. Just like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone does well when matched with menu items that put the savory flavors of meat at the forefront, such as those deeply charred chicken & steak bowls from Chipotle or mixed piece meals from El Pollo Loco. Whether it’s Beaujolais or Cotes du Rhone, you have wines that are not very tannic and have livelier red fruit flavors. With this in mind, Mexican dishes that dabble with red pepper flakes, cayenne, chilis, and the like become outstanding partners to either wine as their piquancy will not be offset by an excessively tannic structure (the structure of wines from the former category would make your palate feel like a flamethrower). I will also quickly note that Indian cuisines work with these reds by virtue of the same principle. From another part of the world, Italian Sangiovese, often in the form of a bottle of Tuscan “Chianti”, works great with tomato themed dishes, whose inherent flavors are often hard to pair with. Sangiovese’s own flavors of tart cherry and tomato make it a natural partner to anything that dabbles in marinara sauces – think of your favorite pizza place, or perhaps Subway’s flagship Meatball Marinara. Regardless of the choices in wine or food, lets remember to take the bird’s eye view and repeat our mantra of matching the overall weights & characters of both participants. After conceptually scaling both partners mentioned above, can we see how they make fine dance partners?With Whites & RoseAlthough not often our first thought to accompany fast food, the opportunity for a home-run pairing very much does exist in the realm of whites, and in many more ways than you think. For a good number of these wines, the dynamic is simple – the acidity in whites contrasts with the lighter flavors of white meats & seafood, emphasizing their simplistic character. As MS Evan Goldstein put it in his fantastic book “Perfect Pairings”, the acid in these wines act as “gastronomic highlighter”. Obvious examples of this are Sauvignon Blanc, Spanish Albarino, and lighter iterations of Pinot Gris/Grigio, which prominently feature a lively acidity as well as vibrant fruit tones. When pairing with lighter whites, Tex-Mex-themed joints like Baja Fresh, Rubio's, Wahoo's, and El Pollo Loco are perfect as much of their menu revolves around simply prepared poultry and/or seafood, with minimal intervention from spices or sauce. Again, simple with simple right? However, be advised that when entrees include grilled vegetables or tossed greens, Sauv Blanc usually takes the edge as it has an intrinsic vegetal/herbaceous character that is complimentary. For those of you making New Year’s resolutions to be healthier, yes you should certainly pair Sauv Blanc with your salads. Beyond said varietals, there are a few that have a modest amount of sweetness to them – what is known as “off-dry”. While sugar isn’t always desired in our whites, and a lot of us prefer dry (supposedly), sugar does have its niche in the world of pairing – a prime example being German Riesling (look for “kabinett” or ‘spatlese” on the label when available). Its sugar nullifies heat, thus calming the palate and allowing us to enjoy the other wonderful flavors of a dish without breaking a sweat. Ethnic items that emphasize exotic flavors, like Tikka Masala and Chicken Curry, work great with Riesling as it has plenty of its own perfumed aromas to match the flavor intensity, as well as ample sugar to tame the heat. Another example of this dynamic would be a partnership with Szechuan entrees like Kung Pao Chicken or Mapo Tofu – for those of you who don’t have a local authentic Szechuan joint nearby, much of Panda Express’s menu offers items that dabble in both spice & sugar to dance perfectly with Riesling. Another fast food/wine niche that you might not have thought of (unless you’re German) would be pairing Riesling with hot dogs as the interaction becomes a playful contrast of salty against sweet. The ubiquitous Chardonnay, contrary to its popularity, is actually not as flexible as the other whites mentioned – at least not the oaky, butter-laden iterations from California that we all know and love. Just as in the case of Pinot Noir from earlier, Chard’s hedonistic character of oak driven spices cause it to clash with the saltier and/or vegetal tones often found in drive-thrus (although it should be noted that the case is quite the opposite when discussing dishes in the arena of fine dining). When Chardonnay in unoaked however, it can be treated just like drier whites mentioned before; with simple recipes that put protein at the forefront. Lastly we have Rose to consider. While it is indeed lighter, it's sort of an “in between” style – from its assertiveness & intensity of flavors, to its fullness in texture, and even having a small presence of tannin. The style is characteristically a vino middle ground, never fully committing to either side, and therefore yielding implications in pairing that are synonymously “in between”. Any meal that hearkens to one color of wine, but flirts with another makes a perfect candidate - lighter variations of the items in the earlier sections work swimmingly such as single patty cheeseburgers, sandwiches with chicken or charcuterie, and most ethnic cuisines when the proteins are leaner cuts (like white meat & seafood). Even BBQ sauce items match well against Rose’s sweeter impressions of fruit, again so long as the proteins aren’t big slabs of red meat. More contemporarily, many of the vegetarian themed fast-casual spots that have rightly gained much popularity (like Veggie Grill & Native Foods) are also very much “in between” as they are based on vegetables, grains, and alternative proteins, but aslo have a ramped-up weight & flavor profile, due to their often generous, additions of sauce & seasonings. As we exit the drive-thru As a parting note, the knowledge presented above represents a foundational approach to pairing food and wine - much of these theories are long honored and time tested. However, the world of wine (and food of course) is dizziyingly immense. When attempting to pair our meals & beverages remember that, like a game of chess, there are many moving pieces, and our logical minds may often oversee exactly how intertwined even one piece may be in relation to the rest of the board, leading to minor, and even monumental blunders (last metaphor, I promise!). What I’m trying to say is that sometimes the pairing may not always work out, despite our best calculations. Inevitably our food will be much fattier than we anticipated, or the wine not structured enough, or the flavors just won’t play well together. Regardless of the hiccup, asking why a pairing failed to work teaches us just as much (if not more) than why something did – with the often-crippling amount of choice available, this approach will serve you well (it certainly has for me). Lastly, remember wine should always be, above all else, the fun part of our day, and we mustn’t let the ever-expanding abundance of information impede our enjoyment - or inebriation. Much like tone of this article, keep in mind to approach the subject of vino - and gastronomy for that matter - with a healthy degree of merriment. Don't forget to check out Drive Through Napa, a modern primer on Napa Valley. The quickest and coolest way to learn about Napa Valley. Bonus content from 16 of Napa's top wineries + industry's first Price to Value charts powered by Vinvo.
I'm excited to share our latest project, a series of books under the name "Drive Through". The first book in the series is titled Drive Through Napa, the essential modern primer on Napa Valley. The process of creating the book from ideation to fruition was exciting and for me personally the most rewarding part. I wanted to give you a peek behind the curtains of the process and thinking that went into this unique project. If you have visited, plan to visit Napa Valley or you drink Napa Valley wine, then this book is for you! Drive Through Napa (pre-order now!)Creative Direction and Design of Drive Through NapaFrom the start of the project we knew the design had to stand on its own. It had to be award worthy. I have never done a book cover let alone a book in wine! I'm a brand strategist who's worked in digital my entire career. Thus, I had to push myself and think about our brand at I lIke this grape, what it stood for, who was our audience, and how we could disrupt the way knowledge of Napa Valley wine was currently being communicated. A simple technique that helps me is to frame a question that may seem a bit silly, but forces outside the box thinking - the answer to this question would define our 'north star' for the project:"If Pharrell or Complex Magazine were to write a wine book, what would it look like? What would it sound like?"It was obvious from that question that our book had to look bold, cool, and different than any other wine book in the market. It had to visually scream, yet be subtle and sure of itself knowing it was timeless. Most importantly the book was not going to have a single photo of a vineyard! Honestly, no one can tell one vineyard from another. Not to mention it's cliche, unimaginative, and Pharrell wouldn't do it!When thinking about our audience the primary attributes of the book is that it could be cover to cover in 1-hour. The challenge here is that the content of the book must also remain highly valuable so taking short cuts or leaving out information was not an option. The solve came from using iconography and font treatments for simple data visualization, along with use of spacing and design elements to help manage a readers pace. Thank goodness the designer behind the book, Kathy Lajvardi, is a multi award-winning art director and graphic artist! Content Ideation So now that we have a killer creative direction, we then tackled the task of focusing the book's content. The 'watch-out' is that this book could have become another guidebook telling consumers where to go while visiting Napa and what to drink. We absolutely didn't want this to be a guidebook. Working with an award-winning wine author and professor of journalism Paul Hodgins made the process easier. Most visitors to Napa Valley and those that drink Napa wines know very little about the 16 AVAs (American Viticulture Areas) or “Napa Neighborhoods” that make up Napa Valley and house the nearly 500 wineries there. An AVA is an officially designated wine grape-growing region in the United States. Currently there are about 242 AVAs in the U.S. These 16 AVAs in Napa Valley have distinctive attributes that are purley their own such as soil, climate, elevation, and grapes that can be grown there. Their unique histories also play a big part in the wine that's produced there. Think of it this way, if before visiting Southern California you knew just a little bit about Santa Monica, Downtown LA, and San Diego, then your experiences when visiting those cities would be richer. Thus, the focus of Drive Through Napa is to provide fundamental information of these 16 AVAs and be a valuable resource for anyone that drinks Napa Valley wines.Taking it to Another Level, 2 BonusesNow that we had clear creative and content directions, the book had to jump to another level so it's clearly an I like this grape project and not just another book on Napa Valley. Bonus #1: Each of the 16 AVAs are being introduced by 16 prominent wineries. Think of these participating wineries as stewards who have a deep relationship with their AVA. These introductions help readers understand, from the point-of-view of those that work the land, what makes each AVA so special and how it impacts the wine. I'm grateful to announce the wineries who are participating thus far: Alpha Omega, Cade, Chateau Montelena, Darioush, Dyer Vineyards, Grgich Hills, Hess Collection, Italics, Raymond, Rombauer, Silverado, Smith Madrone, and Trefethen.Bonus #2: I was discussing the project with Heini Zachariassen, Founder of the Vivino App. I asked him, given Vivino's vast community of wine lovers (over 30mm!) if he would allow us to display the average consumer rating for each AVA in the book. He did me one better and came up with what is now called the "Price to Value" index charts in the book! What we're able to show is the value for money you will get for each dollar spent, for each AVA. Say you're willing to spend up to $30 for a bottle of Napa Valley wine. Our charts will show that a wine from Spring Mountain averages 4.1, but only 3.8 for a wine from Yountville. This means, you will get more value for money in Spring Mountain at that price. The charts do not mention any wineries, but instead are focused on the AVA.Valentine's Day 2019I'm excited, proud. and thankful to see this project come to fruition. The book will start shipping in time for Valentine's Day with pre-orders available now. Pre-order copies are $15 (nearly 20% off the list price of $18), plus each pre-ordered copy is autographed by Kathy, Paul, and myself. Pre-order at http://drivethroughnapa.com The printed book has the beautiful color front and back cover with vividly designed black and white on the inside. The eBook is currently planned to be full color. We plan on having Q&A sessions around Southern California. Click here and tweet us to stay in the loop: http://bit.ly/2LEn5px or email me: firstname.lastname@example.orgThank you for your support and I hope you truly enjoy the book as much as we loved creating it!
Sherry - it's more than your grandmother's beverageWhile on the rise in popularity with some inner circles of imbibers, Sherry is still a relative mystery to most drinkers. A lot of people associate Sherry with a sweet beverage sipped by grandmothers or used for cooking or as a vinegar. The reality of this exceptionally diverse and unique beverage, while complicated, is well worth diving in to. From where it originates to how it’s made to why you should try it, Sherry is a definitely a drink you should get to know.What is Sherry wine?So what exactly is Sherry? Sherry is a fortified wine. Sherry producers first make a base wine and then add 96% abv neutral spirit to the finished product, raising the alcohol level of the wine before aging it. The aging process is the hallmark of Sherry, but before we get to that let’s talk about where it comes from.Where can Sherry wine be made? Sherry can only be made in Spain, specifically in the DO of Jerez-Xérès-Sherry. Geographically this area is located in the in the southwest corner of the country anchored by the three cities of Jerez de la Frontera, Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlúcar de Barrameda, commonly referred to as the Sherry Triangle. Jerez has the distinction of being one of the oldest wine-producing towns in Spain. The whole region of Andalucía was actually the base of exploration for Christopher Columbus, and the port town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda became of great importance to the new trans-Atlantic trade in the late 15th and early 16th century. It is not unlikely that Sherry was the first wine to enter North America.It’s hot in this region, and dry. Proximity to the Atlantic does offer mitigating climatic assistance, but that help doesn’t reach very far inland. The main varietal grown here and used to make Sherry is Palomino Fino. It’s a neutral grape with moderate acidity; not much to shout about on its own, but perfect for creating a neutral base for the process of Sherry-making. The process is really the star of the Sherry show.Process of making SherryAs mentioned earlier, Sherry starts its life as a base wine, most made from the Palomino grape. Depending on where the grapes were grown for the wine and how it evolves during fermentation, the base wines are classified in one of two ways: as a Fino or as an Oloroso. After this classification the wines are fortified and begin the aging process in their designated solera.What? This is the key right here: solera. Solera is both a system and the elements which physically makeup that system. The solera system is one of fractional blending over time, one that defines the characteristics of every Sherry made; the solera is also the name for the grouping of barrels that the wine is aged in. Think of the newly fortified wine entering the top of a pyramid made up of barrels with many layers, and the wine finishing aging at the bottom layer of the pyramid. The finished wine is drawn from the bottom layer to be bottled, but whatever amount of wine is removed from the bottom layer is replaced with the same amount from the layer of wine above it; so on and so forth all the way up to the top of the pyramid, where newly fortified wine is continuously being introduced. In this way a little bit of every addition every harvest is in every layer and constantly being blended.Type of Sherry & alcohol percentage So what does this process do besides blend and age the wine? This depends on whether the Sherry is a Fino or an Oloroso. Lighter colored, more delicate wines classified as Fino Sherries and only fortified to 15% ABV before entering their solera. The richer, heavier wines are categorized as Oloroso and fortified too. In both cases, the barrels are only filled 5/6 of the way full capturing air inside. In the Fino Sherry solera, this extra space of air at the top allows for a thin film of yeast known as “flor” to form over the wine, protecting the wine from the oxygen in the barrel, and feeding off of the alcohol and glycerol in the wine. Aging in solera with the presence of flor is known as “biological aging”, and this process creates lighter colored wines with delicate, nutty flavors and aromas, along with a very lean mouthfeel from reducing the amount of glycerol (glycerol is an odorless, tasteless substance naturally occurring in wine that lends a smoothness to the mouthfeel) and introducing acetaldehydes. Acetaldehydes are naturally occurring chemical compounds also found in coffee, bread, and ripe fruit, and are imparted to biologically aged Sherry through the presence of flor. The flavor profile of these wines is usually savory, austere and very surprising to someone who has never tasted it before; there is nothing quite like it, and people can be taken aback or dislike it at first. I say give it a chance. 😊Now for Oloroso Sherry, no flor develops in the barrels of the solera because flor cannot survive at 17% ABV. This means that throughout the entirety of the blending and aging process, Oloroso Sherry is exposed to and interacts with oxygen. This process is therefore known as “oxidative aging”. These wines take on deeply nutty and rich characteristics, are darker in color and have a fuller mouthfeel.A third category of Sherry is Amontillado. These wines begin the same way as Fino Sherry, aging biologically under flor. However, if somewhere along the way the flor begins to die off and the wine begins to be exposed to oxygen, the wine will be re-classified as an Amontilldo, and finish the aging process oxidatively like an Oloroso. Because it sees both types of aging processes, Amontillado Sherry contains qualities from both: some of the bready, yeasty acetaldehyde aroma of a Fino with a richer, fuller mouthfeel, landing the final wine characteristically between a Fino and Oloroso.Lastly, a rather elusive and highly prized category known as Palo Cortado is said to have the elegance of Amontillado and the power and richness of an Oloroso. This intermediary style occurs when flor fails to develop properly in a Fino solera, and the wine begins aging oxidatively. Typically a high quality Sherry, the production process is natural but based on a fluke, and can be very difficult to replicate intentionally. Pairing Sherry with food & sweet SherryAll of these wine styles are naturally dry at the end of the solera process, and these dry styles of Sherry are made to pair with all types of food. The general rule for which style to drink with what food is “If it swims – Fino, if it flies – Amontillado and if it walks – Oloroso”. While this is of course not a hard and fast rule, it is a good way to start thinking about how you might introduce a Sherry to your next meal. A classic pairing is Marcona almonds and Manzanilla (a Fino Sherry made only in the city of Sanlúcar de Barrameda) which also happens to be a great pre-cursor to just about any dinner.Now, some Sherry is definitely sweet. Sweet Sherry comes in two classifications:Naturally sweet Sherry made from fermentation stopping early, either by fortification or because there is just so much sugar in the must the yeast die off, usually made with the other two varietal of Jerez: Pedro Ximenez or Moscatel.Dry Sherry as discussed previously sweetened by the addition of naturally sweet Sherry or grape must. Sweetened sherries are known as cream sherries, named for the insanely popular Bristol Cream, a thick and sweet blended Sherry developed in Bristol around 1860. The category, however, varies in style and levels of sweetness:Pale Cream Sherry is made with a biologically aged wine – Fino or Manzanilla. Will contain between 45 and 115 grams per liter of sugar.Medium Sherry will have between 5 and 115 grams of sugar per liter, so therefore the range is quite wider in level of sweetness. Often based on Amontillado.Cream Sherry will contain between 115–140 grams of sugar per liter, the sweetest style of the three, usually made with Oloroso and sometimes Amontillado.Sweet Sherry, like dry Sherry, can be exceedingly complex and of high quality, and it makes an excellent dessert beverage. That being said, there are many cheap, syrupy sweet knock offs that can easily turn you away from your potential new favorite after dinner drink. Why I love SherryWhy do I love Sherry? I love its versatility and uniqueness. For me, the nuttiness and austerity make it an excellent food pairing wine in all categories. It is not a shy beverage, it is bold and complex and either you love it or you hate it. The most important takeaway is not to be scared of it. The best way to sample it is the way it was made to be enjoyed: with food of the region. More up and coming restaurants are beginning to revive interest in Sherry through dedicated and thoughtful beverage programs. Vaca Restaurant is a great example in Orange County where the knowledgeable staff can guide you through a Sherry tasting experience with your meal. Sherry use in cocktails is also on the rise. Many new opportunities to try Sherry are popping up in our ever-progressive dining culture, and I encourage to give it a shot the next time you see it on the menu. I hope you will be pleasantly surprised.Want some more detailed information on Sherry? There is a ton of info out there. In fact, the region’s website https://www.sherry.wine/ can answer pretty much any question you may have about Sherry. The website Sherry Notes is also a site full of great resources and information: https://www.sherrynotes.com/. Of course, if you prefer a hard copy of something to read, I would recommend investing in the book Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla by Peter Liem.Salud!Photo credit: Deb Harkness
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The bakers are baking, the gift wrappers wrapping, and the families and friends are gathering. Everyone is busy with holiday plans and knocking out their end of year work goals. We are now counting down in the single digits to Christmas, and there is a lot happening.All the more reason to optimize the quiet moments for maximum relaxation and enjoyment. For when you foresee (or even need to plan for) your evening ending up with a movie night on the couch with a bottle of wine, here’s our recommended shopping list to pair with some of our favorite holiday movie choices: Elf For this delightful Christmas tale full of cheer and singing loud for all to hear, I suggest you pick up an Ice Wine - extra points if you find one from New York state! While I’m not sure if Buddy would want to put this in his coffee, this wine would surely align pretty closely to the 4th elvish food group: syrup. But this syrup is for adults only, and it is as sweet as Buddy the Elf himself. For those with less of a sweet tooth, seek out a prosecco - The big, clean bubbles mirror Buddy’s pure, effervescent personality.For max enjoyment, pair with a treat from one of the other main elvish food groups: candy, candy canes, or candy corns.The Nutcracker Ballet The Nutcracker ballet, along with The Christmas Carol, are the holiday performances you and your family are apt to make the special trip out to the theatre for. However, if you can’t make the trek out, just tune into Netflix for a performance narrated by Kevin Kline and featuring a young MaCaulay Culkin.For this classic, first performed in St. Petersburg, Russia, on December 18, 1892, I have to recommend another classic - Champagne. Of course, such a prestigious wine region usually comes at a price point that may-or-may not fit the everyday budget. In that case, why not try a traditional method sparkling wine from Moldova? They share history with The Nutcracker’s homeland, and you can find a decade-old Grand Vintage for only $20. For max enjoyment, have sugar plums and chocolate on-hand. It’s a Wonderful LifeThis beautiful Frank Capra exemplar was the Christmas tradition in my house growing up, and I appreciate it more-and-more the older I get. For this, I’d like to pair with a ruby port (tawny if you prefer). Port is refined and elegant, and simultaneously comforting, and you’ll certainly need some comfort as you progress through George Bailey’s Christmas crisis and revelation. The ending is sweet and triumphant, just like the finish of your port. For max enjoyment, have tissues and dark chocolate handy, and watch on Christmas Eve. A Christmas StoryFor this all-American, Cleveland classic, I’d pick up a US-produced rosé. I’m a huge proponent of enjoying rosé all year long, so wine not? It’s the pink bunny of the wine world (but one you’re actually happy about)! Plus, rosés are best in their youth, much like Ralphie’s active imagination. If you can’t find a US rosé at your local package store, you’ll certainly enjoy one from Provence or Languedoc.For max enjoyment, don your favorite onesie in solidarity with Ralphie.Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReindeerPlayful and bright, I want a young, fruit forward wine for this wholesome movie. Look for an Oregon Pinot Noir or California Zinfandel produced in the last 1-3 years, preferably with red cherry and/or strawberry notes as bright as Rudolph’s nose. If New World isn’t your thing, consider a Crianza Tempranillo from Rioja.For max enjoyment, snuggle up for your viewing party with that toy or stuffed animal from your youth we both know you still have. How to Grinch Stole ChristmasAh, what to pair with Mr. Grinch, whether he be animated or Jim Carrey? Baring my husband’s appropriate, but non-grape based suggestions of Absinthe and Gin, I’m going to recommend you seek out the dark horse of the sparkling world: sparkling reds. Give an Italian, secco (dry) Lambrusco di Sorbara a try, with descriptors like tart and tangy red fruit; or if you like the darker fruit spectrum, a sparkling Shiraz from South Australia ought to do the trick. The red fruit in your glass will be festive, plus those bubbles will give you the warm-and-fuzzies when Mr. Grinch’s heart finally grows up from two sizes too small. For max enjoyment, sing out loud and proud when the Who sing their “Welcome Christmas” song because you know you want to. Fah Who Foraze, Dah Who Doraze...The Holiday For this subtle holiday favorite, I’d hands down pair with a California Chardonnay! In THE Let-Go-Bar-Scene Amanda is seen drinking a deep gold, white wine, and I’m making an educated guess it’s a Chard. Plus, Iris’s holiday takes place in Amanda’s home state of California...so off to the white wine aisle you go!For max enjoyment, turn your living or bedroom into a pillow fort (absolutely bedecked with some holiday lights) from which you can enjoy watching the movie. White ChristmasWhite Christmas is a Christmas classic for old Hollywood romantics, with music, fabulous dancing, romance, war-time camaraderie, and costumes to die for. It was released in 1954, and since that was long before the new world markets started to grace the wine world with their presence, I have to recommend pairing an Old World wine with this vintage film. Look for an older vintage Medoc red Bordeaux blend for you red wine lovers, and for the jazzier scenes, maybe consider a Condrieu Viognier to mix things up a bit!For max enjoyment, set up shop next to a cozy fireside and wear something sparkly. Hallmark Christmas moviesGo to your fridge. Pick a wine (any wine). Grab some crackers on the way back to the couch. Voila! You have the perfect wine and snack to pair with all of that CHEESE!! (I can say it, I’m obsessed with these movies)What are some of your favorite holiday movie and wine pairings? What should we try next?