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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Wine Wednesday

Bring on the Muscadet

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Courtesy of Domaine de la Pépière

Courtesy of Domaine de la Pépière

Ah, France. As was reported in the international press, France’s incoming president, François Hollande, is trimming back some of the bling-bling excesses of his model-marrying, Patek Philippe–wearing predecessor. Aside from brutal austerity measures like junior ministers being deprived of their bodyguards (imagine how terrifying this must make the day-to-day existence of the French Food Processing Industry junior minister, for instance), Hollande has apparently replaced Champagne with Muscadet at most official events. Sacre bleu! Madness! But actually I kind of like the idea, because I love Muscadet. »

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Wine Wednesday

California Wines Net $20 Billion

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California wine.

© Kate Mathis

 

 

Americans are drinking more California wine than ever before—nearly 212 million cases in 2011.

Here's how to choose a bottle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wine

Burgers and Wine Pairings

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Bacon Cheeseburger

© John Kernick
Bacon Burger on Brioche Bun

There’s a useful wine-pairing bit of advice which runs, “It’s not the meat, it’s the sauce.” What that means is when you've got a chunk of protein in front of you—unless you prefer your meat à la Cro Magnon, i.e. rare and dripping with blood—you're most likely pairing wine to the sauce or condiments on it as much as the meat itself. In other words, smother a chicken with mushroom-cream sauce, and you’ve got a whole different wine situation than if you take the bird, dip it in Sriracha, and roast it on a bed of limes (admittedly, I’ve never done that and it would probably taste godawful, but you get the idea). Same goes for burgers.
 
Basic Ol’ Hamburger (ketchup, mustard,lettuce, onion, pickle). Tanginess from the mustard, a little sweetness from the ketchup, a little sourness from the pickle, a whole lotta nothing from the lettuce. Plus meat. Star of picnics around the nation. I’d go with a not-too-tannic red. The plush, berry-rich 2008 Columbia Crest H3 Merlot ($12) would do the trick.
 
Bacon Cheeseburger. When I think of Heaven, I think of St. Peter at the pearly gates saying hello, and then some guy with wings next to him handing me a really good bacon cheeseburger (admittedly, I’m taking a different bus to the afterlife than the vegetarians of the world). What I’d drink with that, wine-wise, would be something with some pretty substantial tannins, which will help cut through all that bacon-cheese-beef fat. Côtes du Rhône from France: not a bad choice at all. Go for the 2007 E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône rouge ($13).
 
Avocado, Jalapeno, Pepper Jack Burger with Salsa. Spicy. The thing to know about spicy when it comes to wine is that tannic wines accentuate heat. Alcohol doesn’t help either. Barring a cold beer, I’d actually go with a juicy Pinot Noir with this burger, say from California’s Central Coast. The 2009 Redtree Pinot Noir ($10) is surprisingly good despite the modest price.
 
Barbecue Sauce Burger. Sweet, sticky, smoky barbecue sauce needs a red built like Santa Claus—massive, but in an embracing way, not in a now-Hulk-smash! kind of way. That, to me, is Zinfandel: big dark fruit, soft tannins, a kind of voluminous feel to it. The 2009 Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel ($12) has robust blackberry flavors and a dark, spicy finish.
 
Dry Turkey Burger with Nothing on It. Somewhere out there someone is trying to stay healthy by eating one of these. Madness knows no bounds. Drink water with it, then watch Papillon, the great Steve McQueen movie about being in prison on Devil’s Island in French Guiana—because that is what you are doing to your soul, my friend.
 
Related:Best Burger Recipes Ever
Best Burgers in the U.S.
Best Pizza Places in the U.S.
Best Fried Chicken in the U.S.

Wine

Chilling with Chilled Red Wine

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Beaujolais is very nice with a light chill.

It’s one of the big mysteries—up there with crop circles, the second gunman in Dallas, and why anyone on earth eats Marmite. Why don’t people drink red wine cold? It’s hot, you love red wine, so what’s the answer? A big warm glass of Zinfandel? Body-temperature Cabernet? The thing is, there are a number of red wines out there that chill down just fine. The main consideration is this: If you have a big, tannic red, serving it cold will accentuate those tannins and make it astringent and harsh. But a lighter red, not so heavy on the tannins and bright with fruit, well, chuck it in the cooler and go. Here are a few possibilities. Or you can just go on drinking that steaming glass of Syrah while you sweat in the blazing sun. Along with a big schmear of Marmite on toast.
 
Beaujolais
The perfect picnic wine, and so, unsurprisingly, nice with a light chill. The gamay grape, from which Beaujolais is made, is unprepossessing, not very tannic at all, and full of lively cherry-raspberry fruit. The 2009 Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages ($10) is a fine option. (pictured: 2009 Georges Duboeuf Domaine des Rosiers Moulin-a-Vent ($17) is also great.)

Bardolino
Italy’s answer to Beaujolais (though Frappato from Sicily is another strong contender). Bardolino comes from the hills near Lake Garda, uses the same grape varieties as Amarone (oddly enough, given that Amarone is one of the higher-octane reds around), and has a gentle wild-cherry-ish flavor. The 2010 Corte Giara Bardolino ($11) is a good one to seek out.
 
Pinot Noir
Some Pinots don’t chill well—more robust versions, for instance a good percentage of what California produces. But find a delicate, lighter style, and Pinot tastes great chilled down. Oregon’s a good place to look; among the best choices there is the floral 2010 Willamette Valley Vineyards Whole Cluster Pinot Noir ($20).
 
Sparkling Shiraz
Freaky stuff: black-purple in color, big and hearty in character, and fizzy. But for a cookout it’s a fun option, and it tastes far better cold than regular, non-sparkling Shiraz. Plus, when your friends see you holding a glass, they’ll say entertaining things like, “What the heck is that?” The best I’ve run into recently is the NV The Chook Sparkling Shiraz ($19).
 
Related Links:
Summer Drinks
More Great Summer Wines

Entertaining

Last Call for Summer's Best Wines

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East Coasters lost the last weekend in August to tropical storm (née hurricane) Irene, so the pressure is on to get outside for Labor Day. If the weather cooperates where you live, enhance the best summer activities with these perfect wines:

Sula's 2010 Sauvignon Blanc is light and cooling.

© Courtesy of Sula Winery
Sula's 2010 Sauvignon Blanc is light and cooling.


Seafood Extravaganzas: For lobsterfests and clam bakes, there are many options beyond the ubiquitous rich Chardonnay, like melony Godello and crisp, citrusy Vermentino.

Sunning Sessions: When the weather is genuinely hot, superlight whites, like Vinho Verde and Albariño, are good bets.

Park Picnics: Awesome portable dishes include shrimp-and-noodle salad in a gingery dressing, which is great with Riesling.

Backyard Cookouts: Grilled foods need assertive wines to stand up to strong flavors. Moderately oaky wines, which can otherwise be tough to pair with food, are often great with smokey meats.

Sunset Toasts: Try wine with some color, too. There are few things more refreshing than Provençal rosé, and low-tannin Beaujolais are among the best reds to serve chilled.

Beach Trips: Pulling corks with no leverage, while sitting in sand, can be troublesome. Try these 10 excellent boxed wines, plus 10 great-value screw-capped wines.

Wine

Wine Pairing Guide to Shrimp, Scallops, Crab and Mussels

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New York City is a sweat-slick, hideously hot, concrete-covered steambath right now, something that actually doesn’t make me think of wine so much as igloos. So maybe it’s the idea of summer—cool breezes off the water, sunlight on white sand, nothing to do but lounge around—that always gets me thinking about shellfish. Lobster rolls…crab rolls…shrimp on the grill…a big bowl of mussels in some sort of white wine sauce with a little garlic and parsley…scallop ceviche with cilantro and a zap of lime juice…anyway, you get the idea. Here are five suggestions for great summer whites to go with all those tasty, shell-covered denizens of the sea.
 
2010 Aveleda Vinho Verde Casal Garcia ($8) Vinho Verde really ought to be described with comic-book words: ZAP! POW! KA-ZING! It’s thrillingly tart, with a happy touch of fizz and a kind of cracked-oyster-shell mineral note that makes it incredibly refreshing. Casal Garcia is a classic: Chill the heck out of it, then serve with something messy like shell-on cold boiled shrimp.
 
2010 Chateau Ste Michelle Dry Riesling ($9) Washington’s Chateau Ste Michelle makes more Riesling than anyone else in the world—close to a million cases a year. Most of that is off-dry (lightly sweet), but I prefer the winery’s crisp, peachy, dry bottling. It’s a great crab wine—cracked crab, crab rolls, crab salad, crab-on-a-stick, you name it.
 
2010 Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc ($9) Chile tends to be known for inexpensive reds, but the real secret is the country’s terrific Sauvignon Blancs. The cold winds off the Pacific give Sauvignon Blancs like this one a finely-tuned citrus zestiness, perfect for ceviche (something else they do extremely well in Chile).
 
2010 Domaine Lafage Cote d’Est ($10) This floral southern French white tastes like it costs twice the price. It’s sealed with a screwcap, handy for picnics when you realize you forgot the corkscrew. It’s also cheap enough that you could use half the bottle for steaming mussels, and still have two glasses left to drink.
 
2010 Salneval Albariño ($12) Minerally Albariños like this one are the mainstay of Spain’s Rias Baixas region. The other big industry there? Fishing, and shellfish farming—the locals raise mussels, oysters and scallops on long ropes that stretch down into the water from eucalyptus-wood platforms called bateas.
 
Related Links:
20 Fast Shellfish Recipes
16 Bargain Wines
More Value Wines
Top 10 No-Fail Tips for Picking a Stellar Wine off a Wine List
15 Rules for Great Wine and Food Pairing

Wine

A Case for Boxed Wines

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2009 Bota Box Chardonnay.

© Courtesy of DVF Wines
2009 Bota Box Chardonnay.

People have been putting wine in boxes (or rather, in bags within boxes) for years, but it's a relatively new phenomenon that the contents be worth drinking. Last week, New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov covered 10 worthy reds and whites, and for this month's issue of Food & Wine, Ray Isle tasted a slew of boxed Chardonnays and named four winners.

Why look past the cheesy stigma this summer? Boxes are lighter (therefore greener) and easier to close than bottles. That portability makes them great if you're inclined to partake at beach picnics, and researchers in Spain recently suggested that wine could even protect against sunburn (though dehydration is still something to worry about when day-drinking). The biggest advantage is that whites will stay fresh in your fridge for weeks, making it easy to squeeze off a glass whenever a new heat wave rolls into town. Here, surprisingly good boxed wines to drink now.

Wine

A Grape That Could Use Some (Tough) Love: Chenin Blanc

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I have enormous respect for Chenin Blanc, but this is one grape that definitely needs to spend some time in a military academy. Left to its own devices, after a few years Chenin vines sprawl out, get all broad and flabby, and start overproducing like the Octomom. But with a little firm discipline (shoot- and cluster-thinning, which is vineyard-manager-speak for “drop and give me twenty, dogface!”) suddenly they're a source for crisp, complex—and underrated—white wines. Here are five that have been whipped into shape:

2011 Indaba Chenin Blanc ($10) Sales of Indaba’s wines support a fellowship for needy South African students interested in wine-related careers. Like growing more Chenin Blanc, because the place does it so darn well, for instance.

2010 Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Chenin Blanc ($12) This peachy wine comes from Clarksburg, in California’s Sacramento River delta. No oak here, just zippy stainless-steel-tank freshness.

2010 Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc ($13) More peach notes—it’s sort of a Chenin signature—and a nice hint of spice, from one of South Africa’s top wineries. Plus, how can you not love a place that also makes a wine called “Faithful Hound”?

2010 Pine Ridge Vineyards Chenin Blanc-Viognier ($14) The Pine Ridge folks add about 20% Viognier—another grape that tends towards sloth and dissolution unless you give it what-for—to this melony Chenin, giving it a nice floral note.

2009 Domaine Huet Le Haut Lieu Sec Vouvray ($30, more or less) “Sec” means dry, important to know with Vouvray, since many of the Chenins from this French region can be sweet. “Domaine Huet” means “I make the best damn Chenin Blanc on the planet,” basically. It’s a splurge, but once you’ve fallen in love with this grape, it’s one you’ll want to make.

Related Links:
Top 10 No-Fail Tips for Picking a Stellar Wine off a Wine List
15 Rules for Great Wine and Food Pairing

Entertaining

Wines for a Hot Summer Wedding

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Courtesy of Louis/Dressner Selections


Courtesy of Louis/Dressner Selections

On a hot, dewy day in Brooklyn earlier this month, I married my extraordinarily lovely wife, Liz. In what seems to be turning into a Food & Wine tradition, I thought I'd write up the bottles we served at the reception.
 

 

 

 

2009 Vittorio Bera & Figli Arcese ($15)
Before we'd even picked a menu, Liz and I were dead-set on this Italian white—just because we really like it. It's a little of a lot of things: peachy, salty, effervescent, and there's a touch of pleasing funk that mingles with a floral scent on the nose. On top of all that, it has a satisfying crispness that makes it great with food.
 
2010 Domaine de Pajot Les Quatre Cépages ($10)
We thought this southern French blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Gros Manseng, Ugni Blanc and Colombard would be a safe crowd-pleaser. It's straightforward, with apricot and zippy lime flavors, but also delicious (as well as quenching and thoroughly gulpable).
 
2010 Thierry Puzelat Le Tel Quel ($17)
This wine, from a brilliant Loire Valley winemaker, beat out a gorgeous Côtes-du-Rhône by Marcel Richaud, a brilliant Rhône winemaker. Puzelat's bottle won for one reason: We could serve it cool. Did I mention that this was New York City in July? A light chill seemed to focus this Gamay's intense raspberry flavor.
 
We'd been just a bit worried that guests wouldn't go for a chilled red or the slightly oddball Arcese, but they turned out to be big hits. Lesson: Pour what you love.

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Congratulations to Nicholas Elmi, winner of Top Chef: New Orleans, the 11th season of Bravo's Emmy-Award winning, hit reality series.

Run with chefs and wine experts in the Celebrity Chef 5K and dance all night at Gail Simmons’ Last Bite Dessert Party during the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen, June 20-22.