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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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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

Belinda Chang Takes Over the Monkey Bar

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© kate krader
Belinda Chang is the Monkey Bar's new GM & wine director.

When last we saw Belinda Chang, she was accepting a James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine Service at The Modern in NYC.  When last we left the Monkey Bar, also in NYC, it was celebrity-studded, with those amazing Ed Sorel murals, but no significant food or wine to speak of.

Now let's celebrate the fact that Chang is back, as the new GM and wine director at—you guessed it—the Monkey Bar! Chang has big plans for the place. "We're going to turn things around, the wine list, everything, is going to be super fun," she says. "The Monkey Bar is a place where
you feel like you're going out, like you're special; the list will feel like that, too." So she'll introduce magnums of as many wines as she can think of, including special ones, made just for the Monkey Bar, served by the glass. She'll also have wines picked out for some famous names who might show up. "For Lady Gaga, I'll serve her some crazy Italian spumante. Maybe an older Erbaluce, which is nutty and voluptuous and decadent. I think she'd love it," says Chang.

Next, look for a notable chef to take over the kitchen, sometime soon.

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

Wine

Wines for Junk Food

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Yes, we all ought to be eating our locally-sourced, free-range, antibiotic-free, Mangalitsa porkchops or whatever, but sometimes, you know, you just want a Frito. Particularly if you’re doing something like watching a ball game on TV, or taking a break from hurling a Frisbee around a park. However, just because your cravings currently extend to chips, chicharrones, or Chung King noodles from a can doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a tasty glass of wine alongside. Here are a few off-the-wall (or off-the-convenience-store-rack) pairing suggestions.
 
Potato Chips
Or French fries, or Tater Tots—basically any kind of fried potato object with lots of salt. Go crazy: drink Champagne. The stuff was made for salty fried foods, whether the Champenoise want to admit it or not. (If real Champagne is too pricey, head to Spain for Cava.)
 
Doughnuts
Look, I don’t drink wine with doughnuts, but that doesn’t mean there’s not some madman out there cruising the streets at midnight, wondering what the heck will go with his bagful of Krispy Kremes. If you’re that person, the answer is sparkling wine that’s sweet. (Note: The same holds true for wedding cake, too.) Sugary pastries and cakes make dry sparkling wine taste like lemon juice. Go for ademi-sec Champagne, or the American equivalent thereof.
 
Slim Jims
Don’t even ask what these things are made from, but if you’re eating them and craving a glass of wine—or really if you’re eating any kind of dry sausage, beef jerky or charcuterie—go red. In fact, go red and Mediterranean. Spicy Sicilian Nero d’Avolas, ripe red blends from France’s Languedoc-Roussillon, and Monstrells from Spain’s southeastern coast are all great possibilities.
 
Spaghetti-Os
Seems like red wine would be the answer, but when’s the last time you had Spaghetti-Os? Those things are sweet. So a crisp white wine is actually going to be the better pairing, for instance a Vermentino or Soavefrom Italy (because, um, Spaghetti-Os are Italian. Er, right?) It’s the same rule-of-pairing-thumb that applies to Asian dishes that have a bit of sweetness, akin to squeezing lime juice on pad thai; match them with a white that has good acidity.
 
Deep-Fried Mars Bar
It’s a Scottish thing. Not really ideal for wine. I’d say if you’re self-destructive enough to eat deep-fried candy bars, go ahead and break out the Johnnie Walker with them. What have you got to lose, really?
 
Related Links:
 
15 Rules for Great Wine and Food Pairing
 

Recipes

A Reason to Celebrate Wine, Food and Friends

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Empanadas

© iStockphoto.com/jorgegonzalez


I’ve always believed that South Americans are the ultimate hedonists. Talk about a culture that knows how to live well. For example, in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, today, July 20, is Friend’s Day (El Día del Amigo). Locals celebrate by gathering friends around the table to eat and drink. That’s my kind of holiday. In honor of Friend’s Day, I’ll be drinking Bodega Elena de Mendoza Malbec (a fantastic wine from Mendoza that’s newly imported to the States), eating empanadas and watching the COPA semifinals soccer game being played in Mendoza. Here, some other ways to celebrate Friend’s Day:

1. Have an asado (barbecue) with friends. Try these recipes from South American grillmaster Francis Mallman.
 
2. Host an Argentinean wine tasting. Try these bottles.

3. Host a dinner party and make our delicious empanada recipe.

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.

Wine

NYC’s Summer of Riesling Cruise

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The Riesling-obsessed sommelier of NYC's Terroir, Paul Grieco, with the German Wine Queen.

© Steven Solomon
The Riesling-obsessed sommelier of NYC's Terroir, Paul Grieco, with the German Wine Queen.


You never know what you’re going to learn when you flip through sommelier Paul Grieco’s wine list at Terroir in NYC. In addition to wine descriptions and tasting notes, there might be a love letter to Spain’s FC Barcelona soccer team or a poem about Lindsay Lohan and Justin Timberlake. The other night I stopped in, and after flipping through pages of Rieslings, I came to a page about the Summer of Riesling concert and cruise, taking place July 19. The three-hour cruise around NY Harbor includes three awesome bands and tons of Riesling, and it will be captained by Grieco and the Deutschen Weinkoenigin (German wine queen) from the Ahr region. For tickets, click here.

Wine

A Floating Wine Tasting Along France's Coastline

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The bar area of one of SeaDream's ship's upper deck.

© SeaDream Yacht Club
The bar area of one of SeaDream's ship's upper deck.


Cruise-goers no longer have to endure cattle-call, surf-and-turf dinners and “red or white” wine choices aboard luxury cruises: Cruise lines are stepping up their culinary offerings with gastronomy-focused itineraries this summer. SeaDream Yacht Club will offer a seven-night journey from Amsterdam to Bordeaux at the end of July, with lessons on French wines and cuisine to prepare guests for their arrival in Bordeaux (and for their return home, where they can impress friends with their new wine-and-food cred). The ship stops along the way in Caen, where guests can participate in a tasting of local wines, and in St. Rochelle, where the ship’s chef will lead a market tour to shop for regional cheeses, fresh fish and vegetables to prepare for that night’s dinner. In the port of Belle-Île, bivalve-lovers can help the chef select oysters to pair with the afternoon Chardonnay tasting. Of course, cruisers who’d rather leave grocery shopping off their vacation to-do list can let the bounty come to them: Local winemakers will board the ship at many ports to host afternoon wine tastings.

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

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