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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Why Would Anyone Drink Old Prosecco?

Primo Franco

I was surprised—kind of blown away, in fact—the other day when I went to a vertical tasting of vintage-dated, higher-end Proseccos from Nino Franco, one of the top Prosecco producers.

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Expert Lessons

How to Taste Wine Like a Pro

How to Swirl, Sniff, Slurp and Spit Wine Like a Pro

Wine-tasting has its own code of conduct. Here's what you need to know about all that swirling, swishing and spitting.

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F&W Calendar

Cronuts, Chocolate and Bordeaux Headline Food & Wine’s Art de Vivre Series with FIAF

This spring in New York, we’ve partnered with the French Institute Alliance Francaise to present a series of panels and wine tastings celebrating Art de Vivre and the intersection of French and American culture.

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Winemakers

All Good Things

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You know the rest of that line, right? Well, it's with some small amount of sadness that I am saying that about this blog: It must come to an end. I've had a terrific time writing it, but we've decided that in the end it's a bit strange, for a magazine that's all about bringing together food and wine, to have separate blogs on those topics.

So, from here on out, any wine blogging that I (and Megan Krigbaum, Kristin Donnelly, and various other stalwart folks) do will instead appear in F&W's primary blog, Mouthing Off. No less wine coverage, just a different venue. See you there.

Ray Isle

Wines Under $20

A Grape That Could Use Some Love: Dolcetto

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Mario Batali's Spicy Stewed Sausages with Three Peppers
Dolcetto has a tough time getting the attention it deserves. Mainly its problem is that it’s grown in Piedmont, in Italy. The other red grapes that are grown in Piedmont? Well, first there’s Nebbiolo, the grape in Barolo, which means Dolcetto is competing against a beverage that’s been known since as the mid-1800s as “the wine of kings and the king of wines.” Not a fair fight. Then there’s Barbera, which is kind of the Avis to Nebbiolo’s Hertz. It’s number two. It tries harder. Which leaves Dolcetto as, what, the Rent-a-Wreck of grapes?

When I am the emperor of reality, after the bazillion dollars and the private island and the sudden ascent to George Clooney-like savoir faire, I am going to give Dolcetto a little boost. It’s a nifty grape. It makes juicy, lively, affordable and delicious reds, with a flavor that suggests black cherries and a faint, intriguing touch of bitterness. Dolcetto isn’t meant for deep thought but simply for happy drinking. You can chill it lightly. You can serve it with burgers. Hey, you could put it in a CamelBak and take it up a mountain. Dolcetto is fine with that. It would make me think of my Italian grandmother back in Alba and her great homemade agnolotti, except that I’m mostly Irish plus some random Welsh-German craziness and the only thing I remember my grandmother cooking was toast.

So, Dolcetto. Go buy a bottle. Invite some friends over. Get a pizza. Drink the stuff. Don’t think about it—there are plenty of other things think about. Besides, how can you not love a grape whose name translates as “little sweet one?”

5 Dolcettos to Hunt Down

1.     2009 Elio Grasso ($17) The rich fruit here recalls pomegranate rather than cherry.

2.     2008 Renato Ratti Colombè ($15) Mild tannins make this a good candidate for a light chill; an ideal picnic red, in other words.

3.     2009 Cavallotto Vigna Scot ($16) Dark fruit and soft tannins make this a good introduction to the Dolcetto variety.

4.     2009 Borgogno ($20) An old-school producer making old-school wine: earthy and herbal, rather than fruity and ripe.

5.     2009 Massolino ($20) Clear, precise flavors define this streamlined red. 

Related Links:

Wine 101: Dolcetto

15 Rules for Great Wine and Food Pairing

Bargain Wines

Beyond the Mimosa: Sparking Wine Cocktails You’ve Never Heard Of

Cooking with Red Wine

Bottles from the Best Blogging Winemakers

(Pictured above: Try pairing Mario Batali's Spicy Stewed Sausages with Three Peppers with a great Dolcetto)

Wines Under $20

Three Great Burger Wines

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Cheddar-and-Onion Smashed Burger
Grilling season has started, and while there are certainly other things you can grill than burgers, why? A burger is an excellent thing. To that end, here are three great burger wines:

NV Lini Labrusco Lambrusco ($14) It’s purple, it’s fizzy, it comes from Italy, and it’s really good, the latter part being what separatesit from most Lambruscos.

2009 Crios de Susanna Balbo Malbec ($15) Malbec was made for grilled meat (that may explain its popularity in Argentina, where people eat something like 125 pounds of beef each year, per person). Susanna Balbo, one of Argentina’s greatest winemakers, has a knack for the grape, which this juicy, lightly spicy red makes clear.

2009 Foxglove Zinfandel ($14) Bob and Jim Varner make high-end, terrific wines under their own name, and inexpensive, also terrific wines under the Foxglove label. There’s a little Petite Sirah in this, which adds some backbone to Zinfandel’s lush fruit.
 
Related Links:
More Burger Pairings
Best Burgers in the U.S.
10 Favorite Burger Recipes
Top 10: Fast Burgers
15 Rules for Great Wine and Food Pairing

(Pictured above: Cheddar-and-Onion Smashed Burger)

Chefs

This Year's Pebble Beach Food & Wine

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I think I must have been dazed by an overdose of Montrachet (a statement that will get me little sympathy from anyone), because it's taken me several days to get a handle on this wrapup post for the big event at Pebble Beach a week or so ago, Pebble Beach Food & Wine. As in years past, several thousand wine lovers converged on this idyllic spot for three days of rampant wine tasting. Highlights for me were the various tastings I helped host:

 (1) an eight-vintage retrospective of Bordeaux's Château Palmer (deal alert: 2008 Alter Ego de Palmer, a thrilling wine that, at about $50, costs a fifth of what Château Palmer itself costs).

 (2) a tasting of 2005 and 1999 Montrachets from Drouhin, Bouchard, Marc Colin, and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (really non-deal alert: 2005 DRC Montrachet. Pretty much nectar of the gods but it does run a cool $4500 a bottle or so...)

 (3) a tasting of the wines of the Rhône's Château Beaucastel with Marc Perrin, one of the family members who own the estate. Beaucastel is arguably the benchmark Châteauneuf-du-Pape-the wines were unsurprisingly wonderful. I particularly like the aromatic, garrigue-y 2001.

 Finally, my other highlight event was the dinner we hosted—along with the good folks at Robert Mondavi Winery—to celebrate our top sommeliers of 2011 (click through for the article). Good wines, well-deserved applause for the somms, and fantastic food from some of Napa Valleys star chefs: Richard Reddington, Ken Frank, Tyler Florence, Jeff Mosher, and Masaharu Morimoto (who came out and sang, accapella, a traditional Japanese fisherman's song).

Anyway, the event is over for this year but it will be back next year. If you're in the Bay Area and you like wine, you'd be crazy not to go.

Wine Shops

Boundary-Pushing Wines

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WTF?! Tasting

© Lou Manna
WTF?! Tasting

I recently attended the WTF?! Tasting at Brooklyn Wine Exchange, hosted by a company called WineChap, which is known for its quirky, entertaining events like the astrology-themed Wines for Signs. We tasted six “boundary-pushing” wines, each breaking the mold of conventional winemaking in its own way.

NV Domaine Mosse Moussamoussettes Pétillant ($23) An unfiltered sparkler with no yeast or sugar added.
2008 Red Hook Winery The Electric ($45) The soul of a late-harvest Riesling in the body of a Chardonnay.
2002 Gravner Ribolla Gialla Anfora ($90) An “orange” wine fermented in underground clay amphorae.
2008 Domaine le Briseau Patapon ($28) Made from the rare Pineau d’Aunis grape, put through even rarer semi-carbonic maceration.
NV Pechigo Rouge ($22) An uncommon red blend from biodynamic winemaker Sylvain Saux.
2000 Domaine de Montbourgeau L’Etoile Vin Jaune ($71) An oxidized wine from the Jura, with fino sherry–like flavors.

The tasting booklet’s overall rating for each wine involved choosing its WTF?! Factor— illustrated with one to five unicorns—and came with photos depicting each wine’s wacky aspect (like a centaur for the unlikely blend in The Electric). You might love them or hate them, but you’ll never say they’re ordinary. One sip and you might blurt out…WTF?! 

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Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.

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