Wines of the Week

Wine collecting made easy

How to Start Your Wine Collection

One thing that wine industry studies tell us is that Americans like instant gratification.  Over 95 percent of wine purchased in the United States is consumed within a week -- most of it is enjoyed within a day or two.

Winemakers are well aware of this fact, and most wines are intentionally made to be ready to drink fairly quickly.  It also means that most people can plan a dinner party or other event and buy the wine the same day they expect their guests to show up.

Still, it’s a nice idea to have more than a few bottles on hand, and a nice variety, too, so that you and your guests can have some choices, and maybe even a second bottle during your get - togethers.  Instead of frantically rushing to the local wine shop to pick up a bottle or two for the evening, you can have everything you need on hand.  Starting a small collection is easy…and highly recommended.  Here’s how.

You don’t need any sort of elaborate cellar or wine room to store those 30 or 40 bottles you’ll want to keep conveniently available.  You can invest $200-$300 in a decent under-counter wine refrigerator, or just keep your bottles in a dark place that has a constant temperature.  The main enemies of wine are heat, light, and vibration, so you don’t want them resting in a cute little wine rack on the windowsill.

Next, consider the assortment.  A good small collection will have a selection to accommodate a wide variety of tastes:  a few reds, whites, rosés, and sparklers.

For the reds, consider first the weight, or body of the wine, which is influenced by the tannins that come from the grape skins during crushing and fermentation.  The more tannic the wine, the fuller the body.  So, consider stocking some Pinot Noir, which will be on the lighter side, a Merlot or two for those who prefer a medium-bodied quaff, and Cabernet and Syrah for folks who like big, bold, fruity wines.

On the white side, the idea of body or fullness still applies, but instead of tannin we have to consider acidity.  Pinot Grigio is perfect for an aperitif during pre-dinner socializing because of its light body.  Then, add a Sauvignon Blanc or two, which has higher acidity but also more pronounced flavors of grapefruit, pineapple, and citrus.  Finally, of course, is Chardonnay, the world’s most popular white wine.  Stock both oaked and unoaked versions, and you’re sure to please all your guests.

Rosés are becoming more popular in the US by the day, and there is an enormous range of styles to choose from.  Judge your purchases by the color.  The deeper the pink, the more body and fullness the wine will have.

Finally, there are the sparklers.  You don’t have to spend a fortune on Champagne, though I do recommend having a bottle or two of reasonably-priced versions on hand for the more special dinners and occasions.  Prosecco, an enjoyable sparkler from Italy has soared in popularity recently.  Also consider Cremant, another interesting sparkler made in France and Germany.

When you store it, keep the bottles on their sides, which moistens the corks and prevents leakage.  And, as mentioned above, keep it in a dark place where the temperature doesn’t vary much.  The bottom of a closet is just fine.  Then, invite your friends and offer them a selection that will please every palate…like these new discoveries.

Secco-Bertani Red Blend Verona 2015 ($30)-- The varietal is Corvina, and the area is north and west of Venice.  Remarkably, this wine is aged in chestnut casks instead of oak, which seems to provide a minerality on the nose and palate.  The predominant flavor is raspberry, with hints of tobacco around the edges.  WW 87-88

McIntyre Chardonnay Santa Lucia 2017 ($38)-- A very direct style, true to type, with dimensions of vanilla and peach, and a slightly oaky overtone.  Pleasantly silky with a moderate yet pleasing finish.  WW 86

Abbazia di Novacella Grüner Veltiner Alto Adige 2018 ($17)-- This region high in the hills of Northern Italy was formed as a glacial valley, so it’s perfect for an interesting range of whites.  This refreshing example is round on the palate, with graceful notes of green apple and peach.  Easy to enjoy.  WW 85

Jerry Greenfield is the Wine Whisperer, a wine author, educator and consultant and an adjunct professor in the wine program at Florida Gulf Coast University.  Read his blog at www.winewhisperer.com


How to survive a professional tasting

As a wine journalist, and as someone who evaluates wines I believe many people would enjoy, it’s my solemn duty to sample widely, tasting and evaluating as many wines as possible.  It is, as you might imagine, a pleasant responsibility.  I’m required to swirl and sip the bottles sent to me by wineries and their public relations firms, and I’m also forced (forced, I say) to attend wine events where dozens, even hundreds, of wines are poured for appreciative and critical members of the trade, as well as everyday aficionados.

Recently, my wife Debi and I made our way to Miami to attend a major event staged by well-known wine critic James Suckling.  It was held in the Design District, and offered two floors of tables offering a vast array of Italian wines from every region in the country as well as the outlying islands.

Then, the very next night, we journeyed to the Boca Bacchanal, an annual wine and food blast that benefits the area’s historical society and museum.  The difference was that this event offered not only generous pours of wines from all over, but small bites provided by the area’s restaurants, so there was an opportunity for a bit of wine and food pairing practice.

There’s a certain…well, protocol…to sampling through events of this type.  First of all, the individual tables have small buckets on them. These are for dumping any sample you don’t finish, and also for spitting.  The spitting part is important, because even though you may receive only an ounce or two of each sample, they add up fast.  If you don’t spit, you might wind up going home in an Uber or an ambulance.  And by the way, this spitting thing is a subtle, reserved, decorous action.  It’s not polite to go for distance.

There are many chances for wine lovers to attend events like these, since most are open to the public (for a fee).  The Italian tasting sponsored by James Suckling was held in three cities.  Wine Spectator magazine also does “Grand Tour” events offering tastings of hundreds of wines in several cities every year.  And then there’s the Wine Experience, a three-day program of grand tastings and seminars held in New York every October.  We never miss it.

So watch for these events because they’ll give you an excellent opportunity to do what every wine lover should do:  sample widely.  Like these new recommendations.

Prisoner Eternally Silenced Pinot Noir California 2017 ($55)--  The first Pinot from The Prisoner company offers aromas of dark cherry, cranberry and cloves.  Richly textured and round on the palate with a hint of pine.  The distinctive bottle makes for a excellent gift idea.  WW 92

Brumont Petit Torus Madiran 2015 ($13) -- The Madiran area lies in the Gascony region of southwest France, and their signature red grape is Tannat.  This blend also includes a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, for added dimension and complexity.  The nose of warm earth and black plum is followed by sensations of subtle blackberry that’s very light on the palate with a subtle finish.  WW 86-87

L’enclos des Braves Gaillac 2016 ($12) -- Located in southwest France not far from Toulouse, Gaillac may be one of France’s oldest viticultural areas.  We’re way off the beaten track here, with this rich red blend being composed of 70% Duras and 30% Braucol, also known as Fer.  Very straightforward notes of red cherry and smoke.  Not very complex but a pleasant alternative to heavier reds.  WW 86

Ferraton Per & Fils Crozes-Hermitage “La Matiniere” 2015 ($26) – It means “early bird,” which is apparently a private joke in the Ferraton family.  Composed of 100% Syrah, it delivers a fully charged palate of red berries and currants, along with smoke, cedar and spice…and maybe a bit of raspberry.  WW 91