Courtesy of HarperCollins/Amazon.com.
The gift-giving season roared toward us like some mammoth sleigh piloted by a crazy old coot in a red coat, so it’s the last chance to make some choices. For the wine lover in your life—or simply for yourself—here are fantastic new wine books that make great gifts.
Ah, brunch. People go bonkers for brunch. Say the word “brunch,” and your friends will say things like, “Yeah! Great! Let’s do it!” Unless they have kids, in which case they’ll look sort of morose, because instead of going to brunch with you they’re going to be at a birthday party for five-year-olds. But that’s the human condition: Sunday-morning cocktails, then offspring, and finally death.
Be that as it may, in terms of drink options, folks tend to default to one of three things: a mimosa, usually made with some Minute Maid and a bottle of random sparkling wine that someone brought over six months ago; a Bloody Mary (which I’m not knocking at all); or Champagne. Yet because life is short and the human condition is dire, why not experiment while you still have a chance? 3 Fantastic Brunch Drinks. »
Potato Chips with Nori Salt. © Frances Janisch
Keep your carrot sticks and jugs of juiced kale, I say; give me potato chips. As far as I’m concerned, they’re the ultimate snack food. And, in general, America seems to agree, since we eat about 17 pounds per person per year of them (according to the USDA). And—the key consideration here—they actually go well with wine. So in a kind of nod to public service, here are some suggestions for potato chip pairing. »
The truth about wine grapes is that they rarely have one name—Pinot Noir, for instance, may be Pinot Noir to you and me (and to the French), but to the Austrians it’s Blauburgunder, to the Italians it’s Pinot Nero and to the Croatians it’s either Burgundac Crni or Modra Klevanyka, though I’m a bit vague on why it’s sometimes one and sometimes the other. In any case, here’s a handy guide to some of the more common of wine’s identical twins »
Australia has more than 65 wine regions, each of them with its own climate and soil type. As a result, the wines from each region have their own distinctive characters. Here’s a geographic guide to Aussie Shiraz:
Shiraz: A Regional Guide. Art © Alex Nabaum.
Warm Climate (Pink Dots)
Regions: Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Heathcote, Langhorne Creek
Character: Ripe blackberries, massively rich, lots of power
Wine to Try: 2010 Torbreck Barossa Valley Woodcutter’s Shiraz ($22)
Food Pairing: Braised short ribs
Moderate Climate (Green)
Regions: Eden Valley, Clare Valley, Margaret River
Character: Tangy blackberries, substantial body, licorice and black pepper notes
Wine to Try: 2010 Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Clare Valley Shiraz ($19)
Food Pairing: Lamb chops
Cool Climate (Blue)
Regions: Great Southern, Yarra Valley, Coonawarra, Frankland River
Character: Raspberries, medium-bodied with higher acidity, herb and white pepper notes
Wine to Try: 2010 Innocent Bystander Victoria Shiraz ($20)
Food Pairing: Roast duck
Related: In Defense of Australian Shiraz
It’s easy, with wine, to drown in the details. Most of us want to know what grape a wine is made from—Cabernet Sauvignon, say—and where it’s from. Knowing the vintage doesn’t hurt either. And before buying a wine, people usually would just as soon have some idea of whether it’s any good. But beyond that, there’s a hyperabundance of information that is fascinating to the few (wine writers, for example) and mind-numbing for almost everyone else. Try saying “You know, it's kind of amazing, but the grapes for this Central Coast Syrah were grown on a combination of decomposed granite and sandy loam soils!” to someone you're on a first date with. You’ll definitely be watching TV later, alone. 5 refreshingly unpretentious reds that are just plain good. »
Here’s the deal with Thanksgiving. You need a wine that goes with turkey (easy enough, turkeys don’t taste like anything). You need a wine that goes with stuffing, green beans, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes with marshmallows melted on top (a concept I find revolting, personally, but what can I say?), creamed onions, mashed potatoes with gravy, brussels sprouts, you name it. And, because who wants to make more than one trip to the store for this crazy holiday, you need wine that goes with pizza, too, because pizza is the single most popular food for the night before Thanksgiving. To put it more briefly, what you need is a wine that goes with everything. And that’s a dry rosé. "It’s not too big, it’s not too small; as Goldilocks would say, if she were old enough to drink, it’s just right." »
Fruit-based sauces like the apricot-onion pan sauce in this recipe pair well with a ripe Chardonnay from a warm region. / © Lucy Schaeffer
Admittedly, pairing wine with chicken breasts is kind of a pump fake topic, since as anyone with a nose or a tongue (or both) knows, chicken breasts on their own are about as intensely flavorful as water, or air. But it’s a fine way to illustrate one of the basic wine pairing rules, which is “Sometimes it isn’t the meat, it’s the sauce.” Since we have about nine billion chicken breast recipes on our site at Food & Wine, I’ve hijacked some favorites as examples. »
Illustration by Kathryn Rathke.
We don’t usually think of wine and the US military as going hand in hand (I doubt many of our guys are pouring themselves glasses of Napa Cabernet while on duty in Afghanistan), but there are actually a quite a few top-notch winemakers who also served in one of the branches of the armed forces. Why not buy one of the wines they’ve made and lift a toast to them—and everyone else who’s a veteran this week? 5 great veteran-made wines for Veteran's Day. »
Pair chef David Burtka's frighteningly human-like beef back ribs with one of these spooky Halloween wines. / © John Kernick
Here’s the way I see it with Halloween wines. There are plenty of wines out there that are propelled by some sort of marketing gimmick—Dracula’s favorite Transylvanian Zinfandel, 2012 Mr. Bones Bug Juice, what have you—but there are also some wines that more organically have a spooky Halloween vibe to them. Here are a few possibilities that would be appropriate served out of black glasses in a Haunted House, and that also actually taste good. The list of Halloween-ready booze. »