A guide to decoding wine jargon paired with amazing recipes like crisp-skinned chicken with crème fraîche.
Food & Wine
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Biodynamic agriculture views the farm as a single organism, with plants, animals, soil, air and celestial influences all interconnected. Essentially, this boils down to organic farming plus additional practices, such as linking harvesting to the phases of the moon. Adherents say it makes better wine, and it's undoubtedly true that some adherents make excellent wine, such as the NV Brut Tradition Champagne by Larmandier-Bernier.
Pairing: Poached eggs with parmesan and smoked salmon—all ingedients that are terrific with Champagne.
The world's most popular grapes, like Cabernet Sauvignon, have become global varietals. But today, many overlooked indigenous grapes (those native to the place they’re grown) are being made into world-class wines. Some examples are Italy's Nero d'Avola and Spain's Albariño. For something more obscure but equally delicious, try the 2008 Ajello Grillo-Catarratto, a blend of two indigenous white grape varieties from Sicily.
Pairing: Grilled swordfish, which is excellent with this fish-friendly white.
Wines that undergo malolactic fermentation (a chemical process that changes a wine's acidity) may feel smoother than ones that don't; they might even seem creamy. That's because "malo" transforms tart malic acid into softer lactic acid (the same kind in milk). To taste the result, look for the 2007 La Crema Los Carneros Chardonnay.
Pairing: Grouper with corn, which matches well with the lightly buttery note of a Chardonnay that has gone through malolactic fermentation.
A small, strict, mostly French movement, natural winemaking uses organic grapes that are farmed and picked by hand and are fermented with native (not manufactured) yeasts. No sulfites or other additives go into natural wine. Look for the 2008 Terres Dorées Beaujolais Blanc.
Pairing: Crisp-skinned chicken with crème fraîche from Racines, a Paris wine bar that specializes in natural wines.
It's possible to make wine without owning a vineyard, building a winery or, sometimes, even hiring any staff. From the French word for merchant, négociants purchase grapes or finished wine, then blend, bottle and sell the wine under the négociant's own name. Over the years a lot of forgettable wine has come from huge négociant companies, but lately that has been changing. A terrific négociant Pinot Noir is the 2007 Joseph Drouhin Laforet Bourgogne Rouge.
Pairing: Open-faced sandwiches topped with nutty, bubbling hot Gruyère cheese.
Oak—like wine itself—is a fine thing in moderation. However, many wines produced in recent years—Chardonnays especially—have tasted more like vanilla-saturated wooden planks than like wine, thanks to a fad for aging wines in nothing but new-oak barrels. The current oak backlash has produced great wines in a lean, crisp style by aging in older barrels or stainless steel tanks. Look for the 2007 Domaine Chandon Unoaked Chardonnay.
Pairing: Braised pork loin with grapes and pearl onions.
Resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red wine, has been linked to the formation of nerve cells, and may be useful in preventing Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. There's even some tentative evidence that, thanks to resveratrol's benefits, red wine may prolong life. Try a light, spicy Pinot Noir, like the 2007 Chehalem 3 Vineyard.
Pairing: Pizzas topped with cherry tomatoes, leeks and delicious truffled pecorino cheese.
Sulfites have long been blamed for headaches, though the average package of dried apricots contains radically more of the compounds than a bottle of wine. Still, some people are allergic to sulfites, which occur naturally in wine. To limit your exposure, seek out wines labeled "organic," which by law must contain very low levels. Try the 2008 Badger Mountain N.S.A. Organic Cabernet Sauvignon.
Pairing: Cheddar-topped BLT burgers, which need the tannins in a firm Cabernet to cut through all the richness.