Raise your hand if you need a glass, okay let’s be real, a bottle of wine after this week? Tasting Thursday’s got your back!
This week we’re talking about the grenache grape with 2 European wines, a French 2018 Dames de Bonpas Côtes-du-Rhône Villages Plan de Dieu and a Spanish 2017 Proyecto Garnachas La Garnacha Salvaje del Moncayo. Notice neither have grenache in the name? Garnacha is simply the Spanish word for grenache, and grenache is the predominant grape of the Côtes-du-Rhône wines.
So what should we expect from a grenache wine? You’ll typically smell some red fruit, cinnamon, and perhaps tobacco. You’ll often taste that fruitiness plus tobacco, leather, oak, maybe dried herbs or licorice. It’s often medium-full bodied, medium tannins, medium acidity, and high alcohol. Warmer climates like Spain will have higher spice, body, and alcohol. It’s going to be a great wine to drink with meat or spicy foods.
Let’s start with our Côtes-du-Rhône. This one is from Southern Rhône, which is the majority of CDR wine, often blended with Syrah and Mourvedre. Immediately you’ll smell the bold pepper and candied blackberry, very typical grenache. Smooth with medium tannins. Dry and bold with medium-full body, medium plus acid, and heat coming from medium plus alcohol. This one could use a little more balance and would be a good candidate to age more and to decant. Not overly jammy but definitely fruity, complemented with earthiness, cinnamon, and dried herbs. Smooth finish but not complex. I’d recommend drinking this wine with dinner.
You may have heard of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which is the most famous and most expensive CDRs and grenaches. Grenache there and in other regions can go for several hundred $$, so keep an eye out for good values with this grape.
Now onto our Garnacha from Spain, which is where the grape originated. It’s a little lighter in color than our Côtes-du-Rhône. Smelling plum, honey, and a little oak. Medium body and velvety, tasting of more fruit and oak with a hint of pepper lingering. Medium tannins. Medium plus acid. Fruity but off dry with high alcohol.
I’m still feeling festive over here, and the cold weather is just getting started. Warm yourself up with some mulled wine! If you love red wine and apple cider, this will be your new favorite winter drink.
I first tried mulled wine at a Christmas market in Paris at the Eiffel Tower. I was on cloud nine strolling through the stalls, and those memories stick with me every time I drink a mug. Cheers to making new winter memories with this recipe to sip at home!
Mulled wine recipe Serves about 6
1 bottle red wine (I used cab) 3 cups apple cider 1/4 cup honey 2 cinnamon sticks 1 orange, zested and juiced 4 whole cloves 3 star anise 1 orange peel, for garnish
Combine all ingredients except garnish in a large saucepan and bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve in mugs with an orange peel as a garnish.
If you’re not a big anise/fennel/licorice lover, leave out the anise and add more cinnamon sticks.
Enjoy your mulled wine all winter long. Tag me if you make the recipe or comment below with your favorite mulled wine mems!
Alright fam, we know how to taste wine & order it at a restaurant now, but how on earth are you supposed to figure out what wine to buy at the store without getting overwhelmed by all the options and aisles?
As you’re new to wine and learning what you do and don’t like, start where you’re familiar. If you usually like California pinot noir, go to that section and try something different in the same price range. Perhaps try a pinot noir from a different region like Oregon, New Zealand, or even France.
Is white wine more your speed? Let’s say you normally drink chardonnay. The same rules apply as above. Try a chardonnay from a different region or a new one at the same price point.
But let’s say you’ve done that and you’re ready to try new wines and want to do better than a stab in the dark. First, be wary of judging the wine by a pretty label. This is classic marketing at work. That being said, it can give you an indication of the audience they’re going for. Wines like Cupcake, Barefoot, and Ménage à Trois are targeting people new to wine who are attracted to the fun names and branding. If you like these wines, that’s great. Drink them! But don’t limit yourself.
Most wine labels will fall into 1 of 3 categories: the entry wines with fun labels like the ones mentioned above, traditional wines with informative labels like Old World wines from strictly controlled regions like France and Italy, and non-traditional or newer wines with sophisticated or artistic labels. I suggest trying more of the latter 2, as those will usually (not always) be higher quality than the kitschy wines of the first category.
So once you get past the look of the label, what information will help you actually pick a wine you’ll like? The 2 most helpful factors are what grapes are in it and where the wine is from. The label will always include this information, and the wine will be organized by one of those categories.
Let’s start with the grapes and go back to our examples above. We already discussed trying a different wine of the same grape from a different region. We can even go a step further though. If you like pinot noir, a light-bodied red varietal, you could try another light-bodied red wine like a beaujolais made from gamay or a garnacha from Spain.
Let’s say you’re a chardonnay fan, which is a full-bodied white wine. You could also try a different full-bodied white varietal like a viognier or a roussanne.
If you’re not sure what’s similar to what you like, one of my best pieces of advice is to simply ask the people at the store. They are almost always helpful and definitely know their selection the best. This works especially well in wine shops, but even folks at the liquor store can be helpful in pointing you in the right direction. At the grocery store you’ll usually be on your own and won’t have a wide selection, so avoid picking up wine there when you want to branch out.
If all else fails, just search “wines similar to X” (grape/style you like) for some suggestions. And of course stay tuned here for more on this topic.
The other way to choose a wine is by where it’s from. This is helpful as the winemaking style and the terroir (the soil and mineral elements) are often similar, especially in highly regulated Old World regions (European countries where modern winemaking began). It can be fun to try a few different varietals from the same area, such as Oregon or Argentina.
Old World wines can be a little tricky as they often label their wines by the region rather than the grape, since all white or red with that regional designation often must be of the same varietal. As you get started learning more about wine, simply googling “chardonnay from France” would tell you to look for a bottle of white wine labeled Bourgogne (Burgundy), since all white Burgundy must be chardonnay. As you learn more about what wines you like and wine in general, you’ll begin to pick up how different varietals are labeled around the world. Stick with me, and I’ll guide you here.
We’ll get into the nitty gritty of reading a wine label soon, but for now use your wine tasting basics to try out those bottles you bought knowledgeably!
And don’t forget, drinking wine is fun!! You won’t love every bottle you try, even with the advice of your local wine seller and me. But if you taste it mindfully you’ll learn more about what you do and don’t like in wine, and that’s helpful, too!
I’d love to hear how your wine shopping goes and how you used my advice. Please leave a comment with your approach and how it turned out! I hope you shopped with confidence!
December 20th is National Sangria Day, and over here I started the celebrations a little early to make sure all of you are prepared! Sangria is one of my favorite wine cocktails, and so I’ve made a winter-appropriate red wine sangria to share.
Sangria can be a little all over the board on the specifics. It can be made with either red or white wine and can vary widely on what fruit is mixed in. It will have at least some sweetness because of the fruit juice but some will be very sweet. Personally I prefer it on the less sweet side.
Looking for a fun way to celebrate? Check out Airbnb Experiences for their Sangria & Secrets class with Dragtaste! With drag queen hosts coming to you live from Portugal to perform and guide you through making your own traditional Portuguese sangria in an interactive format, it just might be the most fun you’ll have in quarantine. We still talk about how fun it was 3 months later!
Until you get their traditional recipe, here’s one to make for your own celebrations on Sunday. A lot of sangria recipes will use brandy, but I love the way spiced rum blends with the other flavors in this one. Tbh it was a happy accident when I forgot to get brandy before a Sunday party. If you like brandy, feel free to sub it in for the rum.
For the wine, I used Campo Viejo’s garnacha. You want to use something you would drink on its own but on the less expensive end since you’re mixing it into a cocktail.
Winter Sangria Recipe Serves about 4
1/8 cup sugar 1/8 cup water 1 bottle Spanish red table wine 1/2 cup spiced rum 1/4 cup triple sec 1/2 cup orange juice 1/2 cup pomegranate juice 1 orange, sliced 1 apple, sliced 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
Boil the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. I usually do this in the microwave. Stir all ingredients together in a pitcher and put in the fridge overnight for about 24 hours. Serve with the fruit for a garnish in the glass. Makes about 4 servings.
Don’t forget to eat any leftover fruit for a snack with a kick. Comment below what you’re including in your sangria. Yassssss, bbs!
Raise your hand if you’ve been out to dinner with friends or clients and had no idea where to start when the waiter handed you the wine list? I’ve been there. The wine list can be intimidating at first, especially if it’s more than a page, but with these tips you’ll be ordering like a pro.
Let’s start with ordering wine for yourself. The first and best way to narrow your options is to look at what’s sold by the glass, meaning you can order a glass at a time rather than buying a whole bottle. This list will often be much shorter than the full offerings. Usually there are 2 prices listed on a menu for a wine sold by the glass, or there may be a section just for by the glass options.
Okay, you’ve narrowed the choices. Now what? Start with red, white, rosé, or sparkling. Then consider what kind of wine you feel like tonight. If you know a specific grape, perfect. The lists will usually have them sorted by varietal or at least list them together.
If you’re price-conscious, avoid ordering the second cheapest selection. Usually it’s no better quality than the cheapest choice. If you’re familiar with that wine and like it though, go for it. Otherwise I’d suggest branching out and trying a wine you haven’t had before. The beauty of by the glass is it’s not a big commitment if you don’t like it.
Not sure what you want but want to seem like you know what’s going on? This is where the tasting tips from my previous post will help you. Talk to the waiter or bartender and let them know what you usually like or are interested in tonight. Do you want a dry or sweet wine? Light-bodied or heavy? Crisp and refreshing or heavy on tannins? The more you add here, the more you’ll impress your friend and help the waiter find a great wine for you.
If you’re not familiar with those terms yet, I’ve still got you. Decide what you’d like to eat and then ask the waiter what would pair well with it. For example, “I’m ordering the rainbow trout and would like to drink a white wine. What would you recommend?” or “Do you have any wine pairing suggestions for the filet?” Don’t forget to tune into Tasting Thursday over on my Instagram to learn more about describing wine for next time, too.
Now let’s get into ordering by the bottle, especially if it’s for a group. First you should find out the basic preferences of the group on red or white and order accordingly. Each bottle will have about 5 glasses, and you should assume an average of 2 glasses per person, meaning for 5 people you would order 2 bottles. You can always order more wine if you drink it all, so best to start with this average and go from there. If you end up ordering again, take into consideration if you loved what you already drank or if you want to try something different.
When ordering by the bottle I suggest branching out and trying new wines that aren’t available by the glass. Not sure where to start? That’s okay! Find a grape you like and try a wine from a different region. If there’s a wine on the menu you love, ask your waiter for a recommendation of something similar. The bigger the wine menu, the more your waiter should be prepared either to offer suggestions or send over the sommelier to help you out. They’re going to know the menu best and can let you know which wines are their favorites or hidden gems.
I love French wines, so I’ll often skip over to that section of the menu and try a bottle from a lesser known region. If I’m at a restaurant of a particular country’s cuisine, like Italian, I usually like to order wine from that country also. Wine and food from the same region tend to go well together!
Alright, you’ve chosen a wine and now the waiter is pouring it and staring at you. What are you supposed to do? First, don’t panic. All that’s expected is that you acknowledge it’s the correct wine you ordered and confirm it hasn’t gone bad. You don’t need to do a full Look, Smell, Taste, Decide tasting. Just give it a quick smell and taste for a basic impression. If it smells musty or like rotten eggs or tastes especially like vinegar, it may have gone bad in the bottle. Simply let your waiter know, and they should offer either to get you a different bottle or a new wine altogether. If it tastes normal, let the waiter know it’s good, and they’ll serve it to the rest of the table.
If you simply don’t like the wine or it’s not as expected, explain that to the waiter or somm and they should be able to guide you to a wine you’ll like more. If this is the case and you already ordered a full bottle, you should probably drink the wine but explain what you did and didn’t like about it to find a better bottle for the next order or avoid opening more of them if you ordered several for the table. Sometimes the waiter or somm will offer to get you a different wine, and in this case they shouldn’t charge you for the bottle you don’t drink.
Those are the basics for ordering wine at a restaurant and taking charge for the group. That wine menu shouldn’t intimidate you anymore! Leave a comment if you used these tips and how it went for you.
Holiday music is playing in all the stores, decorations are up, the weather’s getting chilly…which means the time for stressing about what to get your loved ones is also here. The list below includes 50+ ideas curated to help you find the perfect gift for your favorite wine lover. From basics for the newly initiated to the coolest gadgets to help your near-and-dearest enjoy their wine to the max and some items that are just cute and silly, I’ve got you covered.
Don’t forget small, local boutiques near you with cute knick knacks, too. A lot will have wine glasses, tea towels, unique bottle stoppers, and other small items in the wine genre. I strongly encourage you to use this list for inspiration and buy locally. Happy shopping!
One quick housekkeping note. Prices listed are as of the time of the original post and may change. Check the links for the current pricing. All of these recommendations were made with no influence from advertisers or sponsors, but I may receive compensation if you use the links below.
That was obvious, right? Whew. If you’re apart this year, your best bet is Wine.com to handle all your shipping needs. If you want to find something a little out of the norm, Helen’s Wines has an incredible selection of unique wines, is known for her natural wines, and ships affordably for a flat rate of $20 + $1 per bottle across the country.
The most basic item after wine, but let’s jazz it up. Here are a couple classic options plus some upgrades, whether you’re going for fab or fun.
The less glamorous cousin of the Tiffany glass, Riedel is well-known and high quality for your everyday wine glass. They also have a glassware set for your white wine-drinking friends. They’re dishwasher safe, making cleanup after wine night a breeze.
A beautiful gift for newlyweds or first-time homeowners. Made from imported glass and dishwasher safe. Choose any letter to personalize them. This set is normally $72, so grab them now while they’re on sale.
Shopping for someone who loves to picnic or can’t be trusted with actual glass? Look no further than Tossware plastic wine cups, complete with 6 different wine puns, including one of my faves, “Wine not?”
If you’ve ever picked up a delicious bottle only to realize you don’t have a corkscrew, you know how important this step is. The go-to staple will forever be the waiter corkscrew in my eyes, but sometimes you just need something easier.
This set is great for that someone who won’t finish the bottle in 1 night. It includes an electric wine opener, vacuum wine preserver, aerator, 2 bottle stoppers, and a foil cutter, all contained in the charging base.
Looking to level up from the Ivation gift set above? In addition to an electric opener, it comes with an automatic dispenser and aerator, 2 vacuum bottle stoppers, and a foil cutter, all fitting within the charging base.
Here’s where wine really gets fun! Invite the crew over for a wine night with these new hosting accessories.
Looking for something elegant but without the hefty price tag? This gorgeous wine decanter hits the mark. Made with hand blown lead-free crystal glass, it’s sure to impress friends at the next dinner party.
Serving white or rosé for your dinner party? Keep it chilled in between refills with this classy grey marble chiller. It can also repurpose as a vase or kitchen utensil holder when not being used for wine.
Speaking of picnics, this set has everything needed for a distanced visit with friends. It includes 2 acrylic wine glasses, 2 wine glass stakes, 2 cloth picnic napkins, a corkscrew, a bottle stopper, and the insulated carrying bag. Just add the wine!
This book is a must-read for those new to wine and looking to learn more about it. The Magnum Edition showcases that info in an expanded hardcover beautiful enough to feature on the bookshelf or even the coffee table.
Who doesn’t need a little stress relief this year? With over 40 pages of wine-inspired pages, it’s plenty of fun to pour some wine and color it out, either with the fam or or hiding out for some alone time.
When you just need a little something extra, these are your best bets.
An adorable gift for your best partner in wine. Personalize the hair color, wine type, and skin tone. Check out more from Roxy’s Illustrations for other options, including different outfits and backgrounds.
The more wine we drink, the harder it is to remember which ones we liked and why. Keeping a wine journal provides notes to refer back to and helps identify patterns about which wines we prefer. This one also includes a helpful tasting guide.
Can we please talk about how adorable this bag is?? The perfect reusable bag for all the holiday party wine bottles you’ll be carting around. It holds 2 bottles, so it’s perfect for the classic partygoer: 1 for the host and 1 to share.
A classic dual-purpose gift. It starts out as a unique ornament for the holiday tree. Then when the tree comes down, pour the spices into a saucepan with your favorite seasonal beverage for a holiday treat.
I’m a sucker for a silly bottle stopper, and this one is simply a must-have. Bust out this reindeer when you’ve already drank several bottles of wine with the crew and mistakenly open another before calling it a night.
Looking for a nice gift for your significant other or going in together for a group gift? Every wine lover needs a way to store their top bottles to ensure they age to their peak.
This small wine fridge is an excellent starter to store those few special bottles at the proper temperature. It holds 6 bottles to get your collection started and features a see-through door to check which bottles you have on-hand without disturbing them.
So you’ve been drinking wine for a little while now, and you’re starting to get curious about it more and more. How do you taste wine as you hear people talk about? Maybe you’re starting to notice a difference in the wines you’re drinking but have no idea what people are talking about when they start mentioning the acidity or tannins. And where the hell are they getting flavors of earth or aroma or tennis balls?!
Take a breath and have a sip, babe. I’m here to help. Wine tasting is actually pretty straightforward, and I’ve got 4 simple steps to get you started. The main key to it is slowing down and really savoring and thinking about the first few sips. And yes, I said sips.
Besides that, it comes down to practice. I promise as you drink wine thoughtfully more often, you’ll start to notice aromas and flavors that Today You would be v impressed by. I recommend actually writing out notes on the wines you try, what you noticed, and if you liked them. Not only will you have a record of that wine you tried that one time that you liked (been there), but you’ll also be able to look back at your progress!
Okay, let’s get to the steps. You got this. Pour yourself a small glass—I’m talking 3 sips or about 1-2 ounces—and let’s begin!
1. Look – Hold the wine glass up to a white background and look at the wine. Tilt your glass so the wine goes up the side as you observe the wine. You’re looking at the color of the wine and its transparency. Generally the darker the wine is, the heavier-bodied it is. If you already know if you prefer light- or heavy-bodied wine – great! If not, start noticing if you tend to prefer one over the other. PS. This is why tasting mats are often on white paper.
As you set your glass down and level it out, notice if the wine leaves streaks down the glass and how thick they are. These are called legs or tears. They really only indicate how alcoholic the wine is, which you can taste or read on the label, but some people really love to talk about the legs of a wine. The more legs there are, the higher the alcoholic content. Now you know.
2. Smell – This is important as a lot of your taste starts with your smell, so don’t skip this step! I promise you’re missing out if you don’t. I like to start by first getting a smell before swirling it…and I mean really getting your nose into the glass. Then swirl the wine a few times before smelling again. You’ll notice the aroma, or nose as it’s often called, is a lot stronger now. It may feel silly or pretentious to swirl your wine at first, but it makes a difference!
Once you’ve swirled, note what you smell. This may be hard at first, but following the tasting notes or asking the staff what they smell is a great place to start identifying these aromas.
3. Taste – Here’s the part I know you’ve been waiting for: TASTING the wine. We’re going to do this is 3 steps. First take a small sip and drink it slowly, giving it time to sit in your mouth for a second or 2 and noticing the taste and feel.
Now take a second sip and swirl the wine around in your mouth. You’ll want to really get it all around your mouth to taste all the flavors. It’s often suggested to act as though you’re chewing it. Again, this may feel funny at first, but it does make a difference in what you’ll notice about the wine!
Now the third sip is really where things can get weird if you’re not around other wine people, but you can do it subtly. As you probably know, smell is actually a major player in what we taste. To maximize this effect and help you really taste everything in a wine, you’ll want to suck in a little air while you swish the wine around in your mouth on this sip. It’s called trilling, and it’s amazing how this affects what you taste!
So what are you actually supposed to taste beside “red or white”? There are 5 categories you’ll want to take note of: sweetness, acidity, tannins, alcohol, and body. We’ll dive into these categories even more in an upcoming post, but start with this overview.
Sweetness is relatively straightforward and will be one of the first sensations you notice. Does it taste sweet or not? This is usually described on a scale from sweet to off-dry to dry.
Acidity is next up. A wine is high in acidity if it’s tart or sour and makes your mouth water. Low-acidity wine can taste creamy. If that doesn’t make sense now, just note if you would describe the wine as either as you keep tasting.
Then we have tannins. You’ve probably heard about tannins, but may not really know what on earth they are. They can come from the grapes themselves or even the barrels the wine was aged in, but mainly they give wine some texture. They can also add bitterness when there are a lot in a wine. Your mouth drying out is a hallmark sign of a high-tannin wine.
People tend to blame tannins for their wine headaches, which can happen if you drink too much of any alcohol, tannins or not. I’ll leave it at that for now. Stay tuned for a longer opinion.
Alcohol is literally how alcoholic the wine is. A wine high in alcohol will warm the back of your throat. As mentioned above it’s also indicated by the legs and most notably, the label, so don’t worry about nailing this one unless your goal is the blind tasting level.
Body is a good one to practice savoring with, as this one is really about mindful tasting. This is how light or heavy the wine feels in your mouth. That may seem like an odd concept at first, but as you taste more wine you’ll understand the difference. Cabernet sauvignon is a classic example of a heavy wine while pinot noir is light-bodied. Sangiovese is in the middle and is medium-bodied. Pretty easy. If you’re tasting multiple wines in a flight or proper tasting, you’ll almost always drink the wines from lightest to heaviest.
As far as flavors, this part will come with time and practice. Be patient with yourself! It may seem hard when you first start, but this is why I suggest comparing what you taste to the tasting notes or the back of the bottle.
To guide you, I also recommend the Vivino app and the book Wine Folly. Vivino lets you keep track of your own tastings while also seeing what others thought about and tasted in the wines. Wine Folly breaks down many types of wine, or varietals, with the expected breakdown of the 5 categories mentioned above, as well as common flavors and aromas of each and more. Both are excellent resources to help you understand what to look for as you learn to identify flavors on your own.
4. Decide – Okay, you made it through the hardest part! To wrap up the tasting, you’ll want to note two overall qualities of the wine. The first is if the wine is balanced. For example some unbalanced wines are overly sweet, and that one note overpowers the other aspects of the wine. Again, maybe that’s what you’re into, but most wines that are considered high quality will also be well-balanced.
The final thing to note is the complexity of the wine. Do you notice many aromas and flavors? Does it linger on your palate? Maybe it even has an initial impression and then develops more fully as you taste it. Those are signs of complexity, which is also considered an indicator of a high quality wine.
Last but not least, what did you think about the wine? Most importantly, did you like it? There are plenty of great wines that may not be for you, and you may find a gem in a cheap or unpopular wine that you love. First and foremost, wine is meant to be enjoyed!
You did it! You’ve tasted a wine. Pour yourself a full glass of wine to congratulate yourself. The first few times you taste wine this way might take a while, but soon you’ll run through these steps like a pro. Now go enjoy your wine and appreciate what you just accomplished!