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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

Dr. Vino's Verdict

How to Talk to a Sommelier

Ever wondered where the experts stand on the best wine practices and controversies? In this series, wine blogger, teacher and author Tyler Colman (a. k. a. Dr. Vino) delivers a final judgement.

Don’t you think wine style is more important than grape variety? Consider Pinot Noir: Many of the finest examples from Burgundy are light in color, high in acidity and rely more on minerality than fruit, while some critically acclaimed California Pinot Noir is dark, lower in acidity, fruity and higher in alcohol. So ordering a Pinot Noir won’t necessarily get you the kind of wine you want. Same for whites: Saying “Chardonnay” can result in anything from lean Chablis to buxom, oaked-up New World versions. Instead, tell the sommelier what style of wine you want to drink. For example: Rich or lean, round or zippy, fruity or mineral-driven, modern or traditional.

Related: More from Dr. Vino
Wine 101: Pinot Noir & Red Burgundy
Wine 101: Chardonnay

Wine Intel

Aldo Sohm Sniffs the Cork

Aldo Sohm.

Earlier this week, a piece by Tyler Colman (a.k.a. Dr. Vino) provoked a bit of controversy on Twitter with the assertion that there's no point in sniffing a wine's cork when it's presented in a restaurant. Among those who took issue were Aldo Sohm (superstar sommelier at New York's Le Bernardin) and Jordan Salcito (beverage director for Momofuku). We followed up with Sohm, who offered his view that the cork should be sniffed, at least by sommeliers. Sohm's opinion is that the practice shouldn't be ignored as a technique for detecting 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (a.k.a. TCA), the wine-ruining compound that's responsible for a distinctive musty "corked" smell. "If you have a problem, you always go to the source," says Sohm, "and 90% of the time the source is the cork" (TCA can also affect a wine before bottling, but it's comparatively rare). Won't the wine also smell like TCA? Usually, but sometimes a wine will be affected only slightly, and the cork can offer valuable confirmation that something is wrong. "We had a bunch of sommeliers together for a lunch, and one said he thought the wine was corked," says Sohm. "A very prominent American sommelier grabbed immediately for the cork and smelled it."

Sohm does note that as a person selling wine, not just drinking it, he has a different incentive for catching a corked bottle at the earliest possible moment. But it's still useful to know: Somms trust the cork.

Related: How to Tell When a Wine is Flawed
Dr. Vino's Verdict
More Wine Posts

New Slideshow

Twitter's Top Wine Experts

Christy Frank

Blogger Tyler Colman (a.k.a. @drvino) combed Twitter and came up a list of the funniest, most informative wine personalities including wine merchant Christy Frank, sommelier Rajat Parr and New York Times writer Eric Asimov. Here, 16 must-follow wine experts.

Related: A Sommelier's Awesome Instagram Pics
Mike D's Wine Obsessions
More Wine Posts

This Old Wine

Pecan Pie in a Glass

Broadbent 10 Years Old Malmsey Madeira

You don't have to be a hoarder or deep-pocketed auction-goer to drink well-aged wine. Here, we spotlight affordable old bottles to buy now.

Broadbent 10 Years Old Malmsey Madeira: Here’s one great thing about Madeira: Once opened it will last unrefrigerated for months, if not longer, because it’s maderized. That means that during aging producers deliberately apply heat and oxygen to the wine to replicate the effects of an extended voyage at sea. Such conditions are far worse than anything the sweet dessert wine will encounter in your home. So drink a glass now while you bake pies to freeze, then serve the rest at the conclusion of Thanksgiving dinner. (And if there’s any left, you could probably get away with pouring it next year, too.)

The (Wonderful) Effects of Age: The 10-year designation indicates the age of the youngest wine that’s part of this bottle’s blend, and there are plenty of indications that this is indeed an old, oxidized wine: It’s brown, the fruit flavors veer toward dried and it’s incredibly nutty—pecanesque, specifically. There is a lot of brown-sugar sweetness, but it’s offset by just enough orange-zest acidity.

Drink It With: Pecan pie, not just for the matching flavors, but because this is one of the few dessert wine sweet enough to deal with a gooey corn-syrup filling. (It will be great with apple or pumpkin pie, too.)

Best Price Online: $35 at Wine House. (Find more stores.) 

Related: More Affordable Aged Bottles
The Radical Reinvention of Great Portuguese Wine
Top 10 All-Time Favorite Pies

The Food & Wine Diet

Spice-Roasted Carrots with Middle Eastern–Style Lentils with Côtes du Rhône

Spice-Roasted Carrots with Middle Eastern–Style Lentils

These healthy recipes are all created to pair with wine (a 5-ounce glass has anywhere from 110 to 150 calories)—all for 600 calories or fewer. Read more >

read more
Dr. Vino's Verdict

Seriously, Don't Sniff the Cork

Ever wondered where the experts stand on the best wine practices and controversies? In this series, wine blogger, teacher and author Tyler Colman (a. k. a. Dr. Vino) delivers a final judgement.

Don’t you think it’s absurdly pretentious—not to mention pointless—to sniff the cork at a restaurant? Looking at the cork makes sense. If wine has seeped all the way up the side of the cork, that may mean the wine has been damaged due to poor storage. But in general, there’s nothing to do with the cork other than leave it on the table.

Related: More from Dr. Vino
Alexandra Guarnaschelli's Tips on Cooking with Wine
Taste vs. Price: How to Find Wine Value

Drink This Now

Halloween Party Drinks: Scary Wines and Spooky Ciders

Ray Isle Vampire

F&W's executive wine editor is truly a good sport. He broke out his weekend gear (left) and popped by the Today Show this morning to drink Green Goblin Cider and The Velvet Devil Merlot with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb. Here, some of his top bottles to buy this Halloween.

Angry Orchard Crisp Apple: Cider has exploded in popularity over the past couple of years. Angry Orchard is from the same people who make Sam Adams. Widely available, it's an American type cider—that is, lightly sweet and crisp. Plus it's got spooky trees blowing in the wind on the label ($9 suggested retail for a six-pack).

Green Goblin Cider: How can you argue with a goblin-labeled cider for Halloween? He's a creepy looking creature, but the cider's great, in a classic English dry style ($5 for a 500ml bottle).

Charles Smith The Velvet Devil Merlot: A perfect Halloween wine, because (a) it's got a big black pitchfork on the label and (b) it's really rich and silky (or velvety), with lots of dark fruit flavor. It's from Washington State ($12).

Watch Ray bob for cider with Today's Kathie Lee and Hoda, here.

Related: Halloween Cocktails

This Old Wine

A Zippy, Delicious French White

You don't have to be a hoarder or deep-pocketed auction-goer to drink well-aged wine. Here, we spotlight affordable old bottles to buy now.

2002 Domaine du Haut Bourg Muscadet Origine: Like another old Muscadet on the market (Domaine Michel Brégeon’s 2004), this Loire Valley white spent many years in concrete tanks on its lees (inert yeast cells) before being bottled. The result is a complex aged wine at a price comparable to Muscadets that are just a few years old. Though it’s available from just a few sources, it’s such a terrific bargain that it’s worth ordering online.

The (Wonderful) Effects of Age: Tart and crisp Muscadet will sometimes get darker and rounder as it ages, but this bottling is still amazingly zippy. There’s not much fruit, save for some lime zest, but there is a useful expression of what wine writers call minerality: wet rocks, oyster shells and a definite salty quality. It’s a tasty and very dry wine that’s tremendously interesting for its price.

Drink It With: Oysters Rocafella, Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi’s fantastic dinner party appetizer.

Best Price Online: $17 at Crush Wine & Spirits. (Find more stores.)

Related: More Affordable Aged Wines
The Awesome Pairing Power of Muscadet
Awesome Oyster Recipes

Dr. Vino's Verdict

Wine by the Glass: Not Just for Suckers

Ever wondered where the experts stand on the best wine practices and controversies? In this series, wine blogger, teacher and author Tyler Colman (a. k. a. Dr. Vino) delivers a final judgement.

Don’t you think wine by the glass is a rip-off? It's true that the markup is high. You'll usually pay as much for the glass as the restaurant paid for the whole bottle. On the other hand, it's much less expensive to try something new by the glass than by the bottle, and most restaurants are happy to pour you a splash before you even commit to a full glass. With the advent of wine preservation systems like the Coravin, more sommeliers are offering individual pours from rare bottles, too. These choices usually are expensive, but they can be a fun way to taste a fantastic wine when the cost of a full bottle would be prohibitive.

Related: More from Dr. Vino
In Search of Good Cheap Wine
Gifts for Wine Lovers

Cheap Wine Challenge

The Wine Equivalent of Smelling Salts

2012 Domaine La Grange Tiphaine, Bel Air Touraine-Amboise Chenin Blanc

Here, wine experts reveal their favorite bottles costing less than $17. Many of the selections are lesser known but absolutely worth the search.

Who: Julia Weinberg, director of partnerships and alliances of the must-download wine app Delectable. Read more >

read more
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