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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

Cheap Wine Challenge

Lively and Smoky: Red Muscadet

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

Who: Noel Sherr, owner of Cave Taureau wine shop in Durham, North Carolina.

What: 2012 Domaine de la Pépière, Vin de Pays de Loire-Atlantique, Cuvée Granit, $16

Why: Muscadet is more known for its minerally white wines that pair brilliantly with shellfish, but the cool region also produces a small amount of lively red wines. This blend from the revered winemaker Marc Ollivier includes Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Côt (a.k.a. Malbec) and Merlot. Sherr says: “It’s just delicious: supple and slightly smoky.”

Kristin Donnelly is a former Food & Wine editor and co-founder of Stewart & Claire, an all-natural line of lip balms made in Brooklyn.

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This Old Wine

A Killer Port from a Top Producer

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.

1999 Niepoort Colheita Port: Though Dirk Niepoort is well known as the man who put Portugal's Douro Valley on the map for dry table wines, his family's traditional ports are fantastic as well. This one is a colheita, meaning it's made like a tawny port but comes entirely from a single year's harvest (rather than being made from a blend of vintages).

The (Wonderful) Effects of Age: Colheitas spend at least seven years in porous oak barrels before being bottled, which means they oxidize and develop flavors like dried fig and toffee. Both of those flavors are here, along with bright red fruit and black walnut, and they all mesh together to form an incredibly delicious, salty-sweet dessert wine. While some ports can be cloying, this one has plenty of acid to balance the sugar.

Pair it With: Fall dinner party desserts, like a giant fig pancake. (And if you're already planning for Thanksgiving, it's hard to imagine a better wine to pair with a toasted pecan tart.)

Best Price Online: $39 at We Speak Wine. (Find more stores.)

Related: More Affordable Aged Wines
The Radical Reinvention of Great Portuguese Wine
Our Favorite Fall Desserts

Dr. Vino's Verdict

Don't Fear the Sulfites

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 the risks posed by sulfites in wine are completely overblown? You’re right. Wines do contain the compounds, but they're not the reason you feel sick the day after overindulging. Sulfite reactions are both rare and severe; they include anaphylaxis, not a hangover. If you're still in doubt, here's a test: If you can eat five dried apricots without any adverse effects, then you don’t have a sulfite allergy. So, what's with the warning on the bottle? The intention of the phrase “contains sulfites” on wine labels was originally “not to inform but to frighten,” writes Thomas Pinney, in his book A History of Wine in America, Volume 2. Anti-alcohol lobbyists were trying to scare people away from wine in the 1970s and ’80s, and they found their man in Washington in the form of Strom Thurmond. The senator fought for the legislation that required the language. Of course, dried apricots don’t have warnings—because there's no anti-dried fruit lobby.

Related: More from Dr. Vino
Fantastic Australian Wine Values
How Wine Labels Lie About Alcohol

Wine Wednesday

Fantastic Australian Wine Values

2012 Yalumba Y Series Viognier

American wine drinkers, I think, largely labor under the mistaken idea that Australian wine can be summed up in one word: Shiraz. Not that I’ve got anything against the grape—Shiraz (known as Syrah pretty much everywhere else) is one of the great wine varieties of the world.

What people don’t realize, unfortunately, is the extraordinary variety of other wines that Australia produces. It’s not actually a surprise, when you think about it—after all, you can fit France into Australia about 17 times over, so wouldn’t it make sense that the Aussies might have enough different climates and terrains to grow more than one kind of grape? Besides, people have been making wine in Australia since 1791; if the only thing to put in the bottle were Shiraz, Australia’s winemakers would have long since expired from boredom.

With that in mind, here are a few great non-Shiraz Aussie values I came across on a recent trip there:

2012 Jacob’s Creek Riesling ($8) An appealingly juicy Riesling in a dry style, it’s got bright lemon-lime citrus flavors—simple, but tasty. The winery’s Reserve bottling (about $13) is a notch more complex, with floral notes and a lingering finish.

2012 Yalumba Y Series Viognier ($12) Viognier can easily become overripe and cloying, but Yalumba’s affordable Y series bottling comes off fresh and light-bodied, with juicy pineapple fruit.

2011 D’Arenberg The Stump Jump Red ($13) Chester Osborne, the guiding force behind D’Arenberg, is one of Australia’s most innovative winemakers (and marketers, for that matter). This spicy blend focuses on the deep plum-cherry flavors that are a benchmark of McLaren Vale Grenache.

2010 Heartland Cabernet Sauvignon ($15) Made by Barossa winemaking star Ben Glaetzer using fruit from the Langhorne Creek region, this is classic Aussie Cabernet: deep cassis fruit, firm tannins and a hit of spice on the finish.

2011 Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir ($17) Innocent Bystander is located in the Yarra Valley, one of Australia’s best Pinot locales, and this cherry-inflected, crisp red offers true Pinot character for under $20, a rare thing.

Related: Napa Valley Wineries to Visit
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Follow of the Week

Baller Wines Meet New York Street Style

Daniel Boulud’s star head sommelier Michael Madrigale fills his Instagram feed with photos that juxtapose New York street style with the magnums of amazing wines he serves at several of Boulud’s restaurants. Madrigale opens jumbo bottles every night to serve by the glass at Bar Boulud, Épicerie Boulud and Boulud Sud. Initially, he would merely tweet his picks and email them to a coterie of wine enthusiasts. But this year, he decided to fuse his love of wine, New York and photography and post the results to Instagram.

“I found myself becoming bored with the same ol’ up close bottle shot and decided to add a little color with New Yorkers on the street as a background. I’ve always loved to take pictures. My wife actually went to school for photography in Bogotá [Colombia], and we often discuss shots. I love Cindy Sherman—I actually met her once at Bar Boulud. She was with David Byrne who is a huge idol of mine. I was shaking as I was pouring them glasses of Chardonnay. I also like Terry Richardson and his fun, gritty, nonconformist style. I get a huge kick out of it and often find myself cracking up as I’m taking shots. If there’s someone who physically embodies the wine walking by I’ll use them. If it’s just an amazing character, I’ll use them regardless of the wine. I play it loose and just wait for someone who works. It’s all about having fun.”

See more of Madrigale's street-style wine shots here.

Related: Best New Places to Drink Wine
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This Old Wine

Spain's #1 Source for Old Wine

R. López de Heredia 2003 Viña Gravonia Blanco Rioja Crianza ($20) and 1998 Viña Tondonia Blanco Rioja Reserva ($38)

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.

R. López de Heredia 2003 Viña Gravonia Blanco Rioja Crianza ($20) and 1998 Viña Tondonia Blanco Rioja Reserva ($38): López de Heredia is no secret. It's long been a favorite of sommeliers and wine geeks, and with good reason. In the largely modernized Rioja region, this 136-year-old winery makes exceptionally good wines in a very traditional style and ages them longer than others do. López de Heredia's entire output—hundreds of thousands of bottles in most years—is sent to stores with significant age. (The 2003, from the Gravonia vineyard, is the producer's youngest white currently available.) As a source for reliable old wine that isn't so rare, López de Heredia should be on any wine drinker's radar.

The (Wonderful) Effects of Age: Because of slow exposure to small amounts of oxygen over years of aging in large oak barrels, López de Heredia's whites tend to have sherry-like qualities. Both the 2003 and 1998 bottlings are complex whites that smell a bit like almonds and dried fruit and taste slightly savory and olive-y. But they're otherwise very different. The Gravonia has a fresh, pineappley quality. The mellower Tondonia has scents of straw and honey, and its palate is loaded with flavors of hazelnuts and minerals.

Drink it With: These wines are at their best alongside salty Spanish snacks like Marcona almonds and Manchego cheese. The Tondonia would be an especially profound partner for Ibérico ham.

Where to Buy: Gravonia: Stirling Fine Wines. (Find more stores.)
Tondonia: Wine Library. (Find more stores.)

Related: Spanish Wine Country Travel Guide
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Dr. Vino's Verdict

Wine and Spice Don't Have to Fight

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 spicy foods taste best with sweet, low-alcohol wines? Because alcohol amplifies heat, a fiery dish with a high alcohol wine is the culinary equivalent of a shouting match. To tame the heat in spicy foods, try a white with low alcohol and a little sweetness, for instance a Spätlese Riesling or demi-sec Vouvray.

Related: Wine 101: Riesling
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This Old Wine

A Lush, Lemony White That Spent 7 Years Underground

2004 Domaine Michel Brégeon Muscadet Reserve.

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.

2004 Domaine Michel Brégeon Muscadet Reserve ($25): It's common for producers of Muscadet to age wines along with their lees (the yeast cells that are leftover after fermentation). What's not common is to keep the wine and lees together for 89 months in underground glass-lined tanks before bottling, as winemaker André-Michel Brégeon has done. The result is much more complex than a typical light, bright Muscadet. After giving it a sniff, F&W tasters said they might have mistaken it for a Sancerre, a white Burgundy or an aged Riesling.

The (Wonderful) Effects of Age: When it's young, minerally Muscadet is the classic pairing for raw shellfish because it recalls a briny spritz of lemon. This one is more like a bite of lemon curd: It's deliciously creamy and lush, with mellowed citrus along with ripe apple flavors. Aging on lees tends to keep wines tasting fresh while adding body, and that's just what happened here.

Drink it With: Grilled oysters, such as ones topped with chorizo or spicy tarragon butter. Muscadet is a good match for spicy foods because of its moderate alcohol (higher levels tend to clash with heat).

Where to Buy: Saratoga Wine Exchange. (Find more stores.)

Related: Ray Isle on Muscadet's Awesome Pairing Power
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Burgundy Wine Bargains

Tasting Room

Burgundy Wine Bargains

Red wine and charcuterie at Montreal's Joe Beef.

We all know hail. It always seems kind of fun, or at least surprising, those little pellets of ice dropping from the sky and bipping off the pavement. “Huh,” you think, “look at that—hail! What the heck.”

People in Burgundy don’t feel quite the same way about hail. I was made aware of this one time a few years back when I went to meet a Burgundian winemaker at his estate. I pulled in and parked next to his car, and did a kind of double take: It looked like someone had attacked the thing with a ball-peen hammer. The hood, roof, trunk, everything was covered in quarter- to half dollar–size divots. “What happened to your car?” I asked him.

“Hail,” he said, in a tone that would have made Eeyore seem cheery.

Unfortunately, the Burgundians were all fairly despondent this summer, when a severe hailstorm hit the region. Hailstones the size of ping-pong balls decimated vineyards in the Côte de Beaune, with some growers losing up to 90 percent of their crop. This is particularly disheartening because the region also had to deal with major hailstorms last year as well—for a small-scale grape grower, losing two vintages in a row is financially catastrophic. So, why not help out by picking up a bottle or two of Burgundy? Here are a handful of the best values from the region, both white and red:

2011 Jean-Marc Brocard Petit Chablis ($15) This white is a great, affordable introduction to the fruity-chalky nature of Chardonnay when it’s grown in the limestone soils of Chablis.

2010 Laroche Bourgogne Chardonnay Tête de Cuvée ($18) A range of growers, mostly in the Mâcon, provide the fruit for this pear-inflected, surprisingly complex Bourgogne white. (The 2011 will likely be arriving soon, but for the moment the 2010 is also available.)

2011 Olivier Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc Les Sétilles ($20) Although the label simply says Bourgogne Blanc, most of the fruit for this apple-accented, minerally white comes from vineyards in the prestigious communes of Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault.

2011 Maison Joseph Drouhin Laforet Bourgogne Rouge ($16) Grapes from a dozen different appellations throughout Burgundy go into this fragrant, red-fruited Bourgogne Rouge (which is made from Pinot Noir, as are all red Burgundies). And, a sign of change in a very traditional region: It’s sealed with a screw cap.

2010 Maison Roche de Bellene Bourgogne Pinot Noir ($19) Roche de Bellene is the new négociant company from the well-respected producer Nicolas Potel (who, confusingly, is no longer associated with his old company, Maison Nicolas Potel). Old vines that are farmed either sustainably or organically supply the fruit for this nuanced, aromatic red.

Related: Where to Buy Wine Online
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Dr. Vino's Verdict

How Wine Labels Lie About Alcohol

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 the percentage of alcohol on a wine’s label should accurately reflect what’s in the bottle? Often it doesn’t. The government's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau separates most wine into two tax brackets by alcohol level: 11 to 14 percent, and 14 percent-plus. Within those brackets, producers have wiggle room between what the label says and what’s really the case, up to 1.5 percent in the lower bracket and up to 1 percent in the upper. So a wine labeled 12.5 percent alcohol could really be 14 percent, and a wine labeled 14.9 might actually be 15.9. And a UC Davis study of more than 100,000 bottles of wine found that producers overall understate alcohol levels by 0.3 percentage points.

Related: More from Dr. Vino
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