Self-Guided Wine Tour of the Willamette Valley

Considering a trip to Oregon wine country? Get tips on where to taste, stay, as well as what you need to know before your visit.

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Morning mist in Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Stoller Family Estate.

Home to distinct and shockingly elegant interpretations of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay, Oregon’s Willamette Valley is quickly becoming the spot for wine enthusiasts.

This pastoral landscape may seem picture-perfect, but growing grapes in this cool corner of the world is not easy. Sunlight is scarce for much of the year, frosts occur at the most inopportune times, and the number one grape here (Pinot Noir) is notoriously sensitive. It requires passion to make wine in the Willamette Valley—literal passion, as in something you’re willing to suffer for.

Fortunately, the region is filled with determined, forward-thinking producers and careful stewards of the land. They all come from different backgrounds—farming/viticulture, tech, journalism—but they have one thing in common: they’re all tinkerers. They’re the kind of people who passionately debate the use of native yeast in wine, play with the microclimates in their own backyards, and are constantly seeking to perfect Pinot—or try their hand at something that grows even better.

Willamette Valley Wine Region Map - Overview - Oregon Wine Board
The Willamette Valley’s wine regions. Map courtesy of Oregon Wine Board.

Getting A Lay of The Land

Sitting on the same latitude as some of the great wine regions of the world (Bordeaux, Burgundy), this valley stretches from north of Portland to south Eugene. Idyllic as it may seem, the Willamette Valley sits on the Pacific Ocean’s Ring of Fire, and is defined by a rather dramatic past. Think crashing tectonic plates, volcanic eruptions, and a two-thousand-year cycle of floods. The end result: a diverse mix of marine sedimentary, volcanic, and loess soils.
 

Oregon Wine AVAs for Pinot Noir Map of the Willamette Valley by Wine Folly
6 sub-appellations within the Willamette Valley each produce a unique style of wine.

Within the Willamette Valley, there are six distinct sub-appellations:

  • Dundee Hills – A warmer spot in the Willamette Valley nestled between the Coast Range and Chehalem Mountains, featuring Jory volcanic soils.
  • Eola-Amity Hills – Defined by the Van Duzer Corridor, which provides a gap for Pacific Ocean winds to blow through in the later afternoon. Predominantly volcanic soils.
  • Yamhill-Carlton – Features warmer temperatures as well as some of the earliest harvest dates in the Willamette Valley. Composed entirely of coarse, ancient marine sedimentary soil.
  • Chehalem Mountains – Home to the highest point in the Willamette Valley. Shelters vineyards from strong winds, and features a mix of the region’s major soil types.
  • Ribbon Ridge – A small, island-like region in the Chehalem Mountains composed entirely of marine sedimentary soil which holds water well, but is low in nutrients—ideal for viticulture.
  • McMinnville – Weathered soils, marine bedrock, with cool ocean winds sweeping through the Van Duzer Corridor to maintain the grape acidity in the late afternoons and evenings.

What’s the Van Duzer Corridor? This substantial gap in Oregon’s Coastal Range mountains allows for cool ocean winds to pour into the Eola-Amity Hills and McMinnville, quelling extreme summer temperatures and keeping the acid in grapes extra tight. (Also, a great geographical moderator for a grape as sensitive to extreme cold and heat as Pinot Noir.)


Styles of Oregon Pinot Noir based on sub-region - Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, Yamhill-Carlton, Ribbon Ridge, Chehalem Mountains, and McMinnville - by Wine Folly

The Wines

You knew Pinot Noir was big here, but maybe you didn’t know just how big. It takes up almost three-fourths of all plantings in the Willamette Valley! However, don’t be fooled into thinking if you’ve tried one Pinot Noir from Oregon, you’ve tried them all. Wines can drastically differ from one Willamette Valley sub-region to the next. A temperature difference of just 3°C can greatly affect how the grape develops! (Damn, Pinot, why you gotta be so touchy?) This is why the wines can seem worlds apart from say, their Burgundian, Californian, or Tasmanian cousins. “Jammy” and “dense,” these wines are definitely not.

So, what’s the right Pinot Noir for you? Consult the guide below and carefully consider the label for an idea of what you’re going to get.

  • Dundee Hills – Bright red fruit, elegant structure, forest floor, cherry cola, truffles.
  • Eola-Amity Hills – More firm, with darker fruit and a brawnier texture.
  • Yamhill-Carlton – Ripe, textured wines with more spice and floral notes than your average wine.
  • Chehalem Mountains – Strawberry, cherry, and red fruit in cool vintages, with darker fruit in hotter years.
  • Ribbon Ridge – Rose petal, black cherry, damp earth with baking and Chinese five-spice flavors.
  • McMinnville – More tannic than your average Pinot Noir wine, with dark fruit flavors and mineral, earth, and spice notes.
  • Willamette Valley – A mixture of fruit from various sub-regions or a specific site elsewhere in the valley.

(For more on how the AVA [American Viticulture Area] classification system works, please see here.)

While you may have come for the Pinot Noir, it’s the white wines that may surprise you the most. Pinot Gris from the region is outstanding, boasting flavors of creamy pear, melon, and cinnamon, with minimal sweetness. Chardonnay has also made some significant headway in recent years, often creating structured wines with zesty citrus flavors and notes of nuts and fir. Another pleasant surprise was the Riesling, which we found had surprisingly juicy fruit flavors and taut acidity.

Pro-Tip: During your tastings, you may hear the phrase “Dijon Clones.” Brought into the United States via the University of Oregon from France, these specific Pinot Noir and Chardonnay clones (a vine variety selected for specific qualities) are well-suited for cool-climate growing and produce fruit with intricate flavors.

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Jason Lett of The Eyrie brought a Chasselas out to lunch.
A very rare variety in the U.S., but common in Switzerland!

 
If you’re looking for wines outside the norm, however, you’re in luck. Willamette Valley producers have been doing some pretty delicious things with varieties like Pinot Blanc, Aligoté, Melon de Bourgogne, and Trousseau. However, what got us most excited was Gamay Noir, which seemed to burst out of the glass with cranberry and raspberry flavors and a spice-driven backbone. However, we should probably temper your expectations a bit: plantings and wines are far from prevalent. But you know, it never hurts to ask around…

Fun Fact: Oregon has some of the strictest wine regulations in the United States, with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris needing to contain at least 90% of the variety, as opposed to other regions, which require 75%.


How Did Wine Folly Do The Willamette Valley?

We gave ourselves a little over two days for our trip, coming down from Seattle to McMinnville, in a smooth 3 1/2 hour drive. We were lucky that The Oregon Wine Board and Willamette Valley Wine helped us craft an itinerary to show us the range of what the valley has to offer and helped us maximize our time.

We want to thank all of the winemakers who took time out of their day to meet with us. We’d also like to give a special thank you to Emily Petterson, Sally Murdoch, Bree Boskov, Tom Danowski, Kate Payne-Brown, Jason Lett, Madison Rountree, Michelle Kaufman, The Oregon Wine Board, Willamette Valley Wine, and Stoller Family Estate.

Here’s where we went:


Day 1

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Stoller Family Estate
Sustainable, environmentally-sound winemaking in the heart of the Willamette Valley.

Kate Payne-Brown is fighting a cold, but it’s not keeping her down. Her enthusiasm is infectious. (Pun not intended). She’s taking us on a tour through Stoller Estate’s one-of-a-kind facility. We try Amphora-aged Syrah, Beaujolais-style Pinot Noir, whole-cluster Pinot Noir—all made with Dundee Hills fruit from their estate, all a bit different, all delicious. “We have an identity [in Oregon Wine]” she says, “but we’re still soul searching.”

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Kate Payne-Brown is fighting a cold, but it’s not keeping her down. Her enthusiasm is infectious.

Stoller Estate’s facility is something else. Really something else. Deep in its cool underground catacombs, Payne-Brown tells us all about the facility’s LEED Gold Certification—the first of its kind in the winemaking world and an international symbol for sustainability achievement. Toss in the fact that the vineyards are LIVE-Certified and Salmon Safe, and it’s everything we expected Oregon wine to be. Maybe a little more.

Our tour wraps up late in the day and it’s already pitch black in Dundee Hills. But somehow after all the information and all the wine, we’re reenergized. It is somehow revealed that a few of the Wine Folly staff have never seen a sabered bottle of sparkling wine. Payne-Brown picks up a butter knife from the charcuterie board, pulls a sparkling Pinot Noir from the fridge, and happily obliges.


Day 2

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Elizabeth Chambers & Vista Hills
Kicking off our day with a glass of orangé.

Dave Petterson is having a busy day. He’s in the middle of prepping for a wine dinner in Portland, testing barrel integrity, and then these wine bloggers show up. Still, even then, we don’t feel the slightest bit rushed. We could never be so zen. “I’m envious of my beer friends,” Petterson jokes. “Beer you can make quickly, but wine, you only get about 30-40 chances in a lifetime.” He starts off our day with something a bit different from Pinot Noir: Orange Pinot Gris and Muscat Dessert Wine, both successful experiments in our opinion.


“We’re not trying to be France,” he says. “We’re more about the spirit of adventure.”


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Our visit is brief and concludes with a slip of the tongue from one of our own. “Thank you for the orangé,” we say. We’re off to a great start on this junket. Petterson just chuckles and wonders if he can use that.

 

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The Eyrie Vineyards
Pioneers of Oregon Pinot Noir.

The Eyrie needs no introduction, but we’re going to give it one anyway. Founder David Lett (a.k.a. “Papa Pinot”) was the first to plant Pinot Noir vines in the Willamette Valley in the 1960s. It was his wine, a 1975 South Block Reserve Pinot that placed among the top 10 at the 1979 Gault-Millau Wine Olympiad in Paris, proving the wines of the Willamette Valley could belly up to the best of Burgundy.

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Today, we’re being showed around by Jason Lett, David’s son and current head winemaker. Knowing the winery’s history, we were a little intimidated beforehand, but we see right away he’s friendly, approachable, and down-to-earth—the Willamette Valley in a nutshell. After Lett gives us the 101 on Willamette Valley terroir, he kicks us off with a knockout old vine Pinot Gris, one to that’s sure to appeal the most vitriolic of white wine haters. While it’s been joked that Pinot Gris is what winemakers drink until they can figure out which Pinot Noir to open, Lett feels otherwise. “In my opinion, the other side of the Oregon flag should be Pinot Gris.” In that moment, it’s hard to disagree.

We elect to indulge our inner wine geek with samples of Melon de Borgogne, Trousseau, and Chasselas, the latter of which he brings to lunch with us. As we chow down at the Valley Commissary, Lett seems excited about how revitalized McMinnville is now, especially when it was so empty in the nineties. He does lament one thing before dismantling his chicken and waffle: “Four years ago, we never would have had trouble finding a parking spot.”

 

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R. Stuart & Company
A tasting room straight outta Bretagne in Downtown McMinnville.

“Whoa, déjà vu.” First words out of one of our staffer’s mouths upon entering Maria Stuart’s tasting room in downtown McMinnville. The staffer, who we must note, had spent some time in Nantes in her youth, remarks, “I feel like I’m in my Bretagne auntie’s living room.” While no one else could speak to that, it was hard to disagree. Be it the decor, lively proprietor, or affordable wines, everything about R. Stuart & Company is pleasantly familiar and approachable.

“We pride ourselves on not being stuffy,” Stuart says. “We want to make wines you can have every day with dinner.” We sample everything, because well, seemingly everything in the Willamette Valley can be had here. Beyond Pinot Gris and their sparkling wine (which is seeing a bit of a resurgence in the area), we try Pinot Noir sourced all around the valley (Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, and Yamhill-Carlton) and get a reminder of just how different Pinot, even from the same place, could be.

 

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Coeur de Terre
Organically-farmed vines in the diverse McMinnville AVA.

We wish we were as passionate about anything as Jacques, Coeur de Terre’s sales manager, is about soil. But when a site is as dynamic as theirs is, it’s not hard to see why he’s so enthusiastic. The McMinnville AVA features a mélange of soils—marine sedimentary, marine bedrock, volcanic—and Coeur de Terre seems to have it all in their backyard. Add in various elevations, slopes, and winds of the Van Duzer Corridor, and you get an extra dimension of fun.

Scott Neal, co-owner of the winery, is a passionate man too. When you insist on planting every vine by hand and farm using only organic and sustainable methods, we don’t know if you can call that anything but passionate. (Our backs ache just thinking about it.) His wines are an excellent reflection of the sub-region, but it’s his trio of reserves that capture our attention: All are made from Pinot Noir, all from the same vineyard. The key difference? Fruit in these wines come from specific blocks, each with their own predominant soils, elevation, and exposure. As you can imagine our tasting notes, were quite different.


Day 3

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Goodfellow Family Cellars & Matello
“Oregon winemakers are wildlife photographers. Capturing a moment, rather than creating one.”

Marcus Goodfellow and Megan Joy make us feel lazy. (Which is fair, because we are.) They’re already hard at work, wrapping up the last of his harvest business when we enter in an un-caffeinated daze. It will be a busy day, so he wastes no time in running through his wines, each from specific sites throughout the Willamette Valley.

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As in France, Goodfellow relies solely on non-irrigated vines and prefers a gentle touch in the vineyard. No pesticides. No unnecessary spraying. “So many things are put together for perfection,” he says. “Not just for what they are. Our goal is not to create a Lexus, which is a great car, but more of a ’67 Mustang, quirks and all.”

 

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Brick House
“Buzz, he’s a horse guy. He’s 90 years old and still castrating horses. To me, that’s Yamhill-Carlton.”

Those are Doug Tunnell’s words, not ours. We’re in his dining room, enjoying a vertical of Gamay Noir, a more reliable, more forgiving alternative to Pinot Noir. We know Tunnell from somewhere, but can’t place it. (We’d later learn that the he was a war correspondent for CBS, likely on our television screens every night in the early nineties. It would certainly explain his smooth, broadcast baritone and penchant for good quotes.)

After spending time in some of the more embattled parts of the world, he’s settled in nicely in this Beaujolais-like spot in Ribbon Ridge as the head of this fully organic and biodynamic farm. As you might expect, he knows his land well and can paint a picture. “In summer, we can see the [marine sediment] soil, silica glittering in the light,” he says. “Rough on farm equipment though.”

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We go through nearly a decade’s worth of Gamay Noir, flavors transitioning from fresh and tea-like to an increasingly more spiced and robust profile year to year. He remarks that people are always trying to force Pinot Noir, even where it doesn’t grow best. Tunnell smiles and keeps pouring.


“For Gamay, this might just be the place.”


 

Craft Wine Co. Oregon Grüner Veltliner, Gamay, Aligoté

Craft Wine Co.
The adventurous side of Oregonian wine.

Humming equipment, wet concrete floors, a burly, bearded affable man who can’t wait to tell you about his product—are we in a winery or microbrewery? No matter. We’re into it and we’re into Chad Stock and his unique wines.

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While Craft Wine Co.’s Omero Line focuses on more traditional Willamette Valley offerings, we’re here to get a little weird. “This is America,” Stock jokes. “I can do what I want.” On our drinking docket: Aligoté, Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Gouges, Gamay Noir—all wines made from extremely limited plantings—some of which were smuggled into the valley.

“Oregon is starting to diversify,” Stock says. “There are way more varieties here, but you have to be here to experience it. It’s a behind-the-scenes secret.” We’re beyond grateful to have a peek.

 

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Erica Landon talks terroir while I furiously scribble notes. Photo by Bree Boskov.

Walter Scott Wines
Perfecting the art of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Eola-Amity Hills.

While Oregon wine may be diversifying, Erica Landon thinks the work has only just begun with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. “Chardonnay is having a bit of resurgence, after once being an afterthought,” she says. “Growers back then were not paying attention. Fruit quality was lower than it is today.”

Walter Scott’s wines are exclusively from sites in the Eola-Amity Hills, where the Van Duzer Corridor draws in wind from the coast, cooling the grapes at night and toughening their skins. The wines are bigger and fruitier than other sites, but still have the region’s trademark elegance. Landon jokes that she finally let her husband grow Pinot Blanc, but she remains steadfast.

“If you want to be in the conversation of Oregon wine, you’ve got to concentrate and focus on making the best product possible. We’ve only scratched the surface.”

 

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Brooks Winery
Willamette Valley Riesling for days. Literally days.

We’ve had no shortage of excellent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on this trip, but for our last stop, we’re going all-in on Riesling, a variety that flies under the radar here.

There’s a party going on at Brooks today, but winemaker Chris Williams, along with grower liaison Claire Jarreau, make time to sit with us and go over their full lineup. Williams, too, makes an excellent, entry-level Pinot Noir that sells for a surprisingly low price point. (“I can make an expensive wine, too,” he jokes.)

However, it’s the Riesling that has us extra jazzed. Brooks’ offerings cover the whole spectrum of sweetness (dry, medium-dry, medium-sweet, sweet), with multiple offerings from every level. The dry, acidic Riesling is a nice pick-me-up, but it’s the sweeter, riper stuff that we’ll end up writing home about. We suppose we’ll always hold a torch for sweet wine done well.


What To Eat

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Every winemaker we asked recommended to check out Thistle Restaurant in McMinnville.

Seemingly every winemaker we ran into recommended Thistle. (Always a safe bet, by the way, listening to the winemakers. They know their stuff.) All local, all fresh, all in-season cuisine in a warm setting with a thorough wine list featuring Oregon producers and beyond. We enjoyed an incredible meal of bread and fat, field greens, rockfish, and quail before topping off it with an elderberry tart. Holler.

 

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La Rambla also offered a warm, vibrant setting–but with authentic Spanish dishes. We chowed down on creamy piquillo peppers, patatas bravas, and seafood paella. Aside from having an outstanding Spanish wine selection, they also have a few Oregonian takes on Iberian varieties. (We opted for a Southern Oregon Tempranillo with our feasting. #KeepItLocal)

 
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European-inspired baked delights are found near Yamhill-Carlton. Photo Credit: Carlton Bakery

If you’re tasting out near Yamhill-Carlton and need something hearty to sop up all the grape juice, keep your eyes peeled for the European-style Carlton Bakery. We’re still dreaming about their sandwiches and macarons.

Also, hazelnuts, y’all. Oregon produces 99% of the United States’ crop. Do not leave here without them.

 
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Last, but definitely not least, we must recommend The Valley Commissary for breakfast and lunch. It has the distinction of being the only place Wine Folly visited twice. With local ingredients, scratch-made dishes, and universal winemaker approval, how could we not? Pro-Tip: The fried chicken and waffle was heartily recommended to us and lived up to the hype.


Where To Stay

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We opted for the quirky, centrally-located Hotel Oregon-McMenamin’s in Downtown McMinnville. For those of you who don’t know about McMenamin’s, this un-chain-like chain of properties takes old, historical buildings across the Pacific Northwest and converts them into more idiosyncrantic accommodations. Every room is unique, with this writer in particular enjoying a stay in the UFO Room.

(For those of you curious about McMinnville and its connections with UFOs, please read here.)

The compact, colorful rooftop bar was the perfect place for a nightcap and they charged us a very modest corkage fee when we brought our own bottles in. That view, too. Whew.

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Be Warned: A large number of the rooms are shared bathroom only, something we brushed aside at first with our can-do attitude, but came to regret later. (Though they were very well maintained!) Fortunately, there are a handful of rooms with more, shall we say, traditional accommodations and an elevator for those who went H.A.M. with their bottle purchases.

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You can rent an entire cottage at Stoller Family Estate. Photo Credit: Stoller Family Estate

If you’re coming with a large group or simply prefer a stay outside of town, the cottages and houses at Stoller Family Estate will place you smack-dab in the middle of wine country. Added Bonus: It’s a short walk to their winery and tasting room. Though, you may have a hard time leaving. It’s almost too easy to sit on a couch with a Reserve Pinot Noir, a block of cheese, and get into a whole It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia marathon.


What To Do When Wined Out

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Old timber barn in McMinnville’s Granary District, home to Flag & Wire.

When we needed a kick, we visited Flag & Wire, a wholesale coffee company over in the up-and-coming Granary District. In a region that’s already known for knockout coffee, this little roastery stood out in a big, big way. Whereas sometimes the more elaborate descriptions of coffee can fail to deliver, these ones were true to form. When they say it’s like a blueberry dipped in acid, it tastes like a blueberry dipped in acid.

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Good coffee can really make the entire day better. Photo Credit: Flag & Wire.

After a day of drinking (and spitting), we stumbled into The Bitter Monk, a cozy little brewpub with board games on McMinnville’s main drag. We know you’re in town for wine, but make room for Oregon beer. Maybe we’re biased, but we think what’s coming out of the region is truly world-class.

Also, did you know that The Spruce Goose, (the airplane with the largest wingspan ever built) can be found in the Willamette Valley? If you need a break from all that snacking and imbibing, we heavily recommend a visit to the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. It’s hard to miss: it’s on the main road into town and has a Boeing 747 on top of it.


Best Times to Visit

We visited in fall, just at the tail end of harvest. While it was a little cold and damp, the spectacular autumn scenery and reduced crowd size suited us just fine. Zero complaints here.

If you prefer some sun with your wine touring, Memorial Day Weekend through early September will be the best time to go. Even then, there’s no weather guarantee, but ’tis life in the Pacific Northwest. If you really need sun, shoot for late July and early August… temperatures sometimes spike up into the 100s! (That’s 40 ºC, btw.) Also, you might investigate the International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC) which is held annually in late July for a jam-packed, educational, Pinot-filled weekend.


What’s The Vibe?

Both the product and the people are incredibly approachable. Just a little over 30 minutes outside the ever-bustling, ever-more crowded Portland, you’ll be treated to an open landscape of farmland, vineyards, and charming towns like McMinnville and Carlton. This isn’t Napa where you’ll be judged on your looks. No $50 tasting fees. Not a château in sight. Everyone’s welcome here. So do like a Northwesterner: put on a waterproof jacket, strap on some Gore-Tex boots, and taste.


Sources:
The Oregon Wine Board
Willamette Valley Wines

Wine Folly – Learn about wine.

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Nebbiolo in a Nutshell

Recommendations, flavor profiles, & facts about the grape behind Barolo and Barbaresco in a quick five-minute read. Let’s go!

If you like your wines big, bold, and red, Nebbiolo needs to be on your radar. Hailing from Northern Italy’s Piedmont region, this grape is known for producing powerful, full-bodied, and mercilessly tannic wines—all while looking as pale as Pinot Noir! Most famously, it’s the grape that goes into Barolo and Barbaresco, two of the world’s most revered (and more expensive) wines. Though as you’ll soon find out, Nebbiolo is also in a number of more affordable, entry-level styles of wine from Italy and beyond.

So, whether it’s your first time trying it or you’re looking for a little more information on a wine that’s got you hooked, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about Nebbiolo. Let’s get started!


Nebbiolo Wine Facts


Seal of Nebbiolo - by Wine Folly

  1. Nebbiolo is an old, old grape, first being referenced as far back as the 13th Century!
  2. The name Nebbiolo derives from nebbia, the Italian word for “fog.” This is likely from the white, powder-like natural bloom on the grapes that appears during harvest season. Or, from the fact that the best Nebbiolo sites are located above the fog that collects in the valley.
  3. Even though Nebbiolo only makes up ~8% of all the grapes grown in Piedmont, more of this grape is grown here than anywhere else in the world.
  4. Despite being an essential part of two of the country’s premier wines, Nebbiolo is rarely grown anywhere else in Italy.
  5. Much like Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo is an incredibly fussy variety to grow. It flowers early, ripens late, and can struggle to ripen fully. It also seems to prefer specific hillside locations and clay- and silt-based soils.
  6. Also like Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo is considered to be a “terroir-expressive” variety, in that it picks up more of the earth, soil, and climate characteristics versus other grapes, which means it can taste wildly different depending on where it’s grown.

Nebbiolo Taste Profile and Food Pairings

Not only do Nebbiolo wines look light, they also smell light too, with disarming red fruit and rose aromas swirling around the nose. That all changes the second it goes into your mouth. If you didn’t understand the concept of “grippy tannins” before, you will now, as leathery goodness clings to your teeth, tongue, and gums. Expect that to be followed up with striking flavors of cherry, coffee, anise, and primordial earth.

Nebbiolo wine facts - taste profile radar chart by Wine Folly

With such a large amount of tannin, you’ll want to pair these wines with foods that feature fat, butter, and olive oil, and nothing too lean. Your first thought will probably be rustic, Italian fare, and that’s a great place to start! Nebbiolo also goes surprisingly well with savory Chinese dishes and spice-driven Asian cuisine.


Piedmont Italy Wine Map by Wine Folly 2016 Edition

Nebbiolo Regions

By now, we’ve probably talked your ear off about Barolo and Barbaresco as the premier Nebbiolo spots of world. There are other places that make Nebbiolo and here are the other regional wines of Piedmont (and Lombardy) that use Nebbiolo:

  1. Boca Nebbiolo is called Spanna here and wines also blend in Vespolina and Uva Rara. Earthy, rustic wines with high acidity, high tannin and often iron-like aromas from the region’s soils.
  2. Bramaterra Nebbiolo is called Spanna here and wines also blend in Vespolina and Uva Rara. Wines are lighter in style with simple fresh red berry and rosé aromas with medium tannin and ample acidity. Many consider it a sin to open a bottle before 10 years.
  3. Canavese Nebbiolo A single-varietal Nebbiolo (with a minimum of 85% Nebbiolo, but often with more) coming from Northern provinces in Piedmont where the rare white, Erbaluce, grows. Wines seem to be equally floral and earthy with strong tannins and licorice notes. For quality, seek out those serious examples with around 14% ABV.
  4. Carema Another Northern Piemontese gem that produces Nebbiolo on the lighter side – imagine roses, violets, truffle and wild strawberries. Aging must be at least 3 years and the Riserva bottlings require 4 years!
  5. Fara Nebbiolo is called Spanna in Fara Novarese and wines include Spanna, Vespolina and Uva Rara. Fara is thought to be a very ancient wine, grown in the hills west of Milan. Wines have rich dried fruit and rustic leather aromas.
  6. Ghemme DOCG and Gattinara DOCG Two neighboring Northern Piemontese regions producing single-varietal Nebbiolo wines with rich dried fruit aromas and rustic earthy notes.
  7. Langhe Nebbiolo Langhe is the region that encompasses Barolo, Barbaresco and Roero. Vineyards in sites outside of the DOCG regions are positioned in the lower hills or on North-facing plots that are harder to ripen Nebbiolo. Still, on outstanding vintages, this is a great place to hunt for values.
  8. Lessona The best Lessona is 100% Nebbiolo although some include a blend of Vespolina, Croatina and Uva Rara. The region’s sandy soils produce wines of lithe elegance with perfumed floral notes of roses, peony and violets. On the palate, Lessona has high acidity and is very structured making it wise to age wines 10 or so years to reach their pinnacle of taste.
  9. Nebbiolo d’Alba An even larger region that encompasses much of South-central Piedmont produces a great deal of value-driven Nebbiolo wines. Nebbiolo d’Alba ranges in taste from fruity and floral to herbaceous and rustic. This is a wine where the right vintage will really make a difference.
  10. Roero DOCG A region for Nebbiolo (and the local white, Arneis) that continues to fly under the radar even though it was recently elevated to DOCG status in 2004. Wines are every bit as intense and structured as Barolo and the Riserva level requires a minimum of 32 months of aging, including 6 months in barrel. Quite the find.
  11. Valtellina, Lombardy In neighboring Lombardy there is a transverse valley that opens to Lake Como. Here, in the south-facing hills you’ll find Nebbiolo is called Chiavennasca. The region is much cooler and produces wines with tart, earthy berry notes and high acidity. This is where you’ll find the rare Sfurzato or Sfursat wine which is essentially a Nebbiolo made in the style of Amarone della Valpolicella.

If you’re feeling adventurous, New World Nebbiolo can be a pleasant surprise. Wines from California (Central Coast, Santa Ynez, Paso Robles) and Mexico (Guadalupe Valley) have shown promise with a less brooding, still tannic styling, as well as with sweet floral notes and fresh fruit characteristics. (Though, if you go with Mexico’s Nebbiolo, it’s possible you will get a blend!)

If you like your wines especially juicy, floral, and aromatic, Nebbiolo also grows well in the Victoria State of Australia, where it gets the sunshine it needs to flourish.


Lombardy Italy where Valtellina Nebbiolo wines come from
The Valtellina region where Nebbiolo is called Chiavennasca and produces one of the most elegant styles.

Did You Know?

  1. Curious why Nebbiolo wines look so light, despite being so massive and tannic? Believe it or not, young Nebbiolo wines do have some rich color! It just fades really quickly. Speaking broadly, Nebbiolo’s anthocyanins (water-soluble pigments) contain few stable colorants and more easily oxidized peonidin and cyanidin glycosides, resulting in a rapidly decolorizing wine over a short period of time.
  2. The waiting game used to be the hardest part with top Nebbiolo wines (with some people saying they needed to be aged for a decade or more!) But, new styles of winemaking have made them softer and more approachable younger. Wines often used advanced winemaking techniques such as extended maceration to soften tannins.
  3. Barolo and Barbaresco have a little more in common with Burgundy than their regional Italian counterparts. Not only do they focus on a single variety (our bud, Nebbiolo), but they even produce single-vineyard wines from designated Menzioni, which are essentially classified vineyards much like Burgundy’s Grand Crus.
  4. During the 1800s Barolo was a sweet wine. (Gasp.) This is likely due to the fact that Nebbiolo is harvested late in the season and colder temperatures halted the fermentation.
  5. Though Nebbiolo is definitely Piedmont’s grape today, where it originally comes from is a little more unclear. Some say it’s Piedmont, while others think it may actually come from Lombardy in the alpine foothills close to Lake Como.

Curious about the differences Barolo and Barbaresco? Learn more here.


Sources include:

  • Wine Grapes, Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding, Jose Vouillamoz (pp. 701-707)
  • The Wine Bible, Karen MacNeil (pp. 331-338)
  • Color/Pigment info via Dr. Paul Smith, Australian Wine Research Institute

Wine Folly – Learn about wine.

Source: Wine Folly News & Entertainment

Love Beer? Then You’re Gonna Love These Wines

32 wines for beer lovers. 32 beers for wine lovers. Everybody wins with this comprehensive guide.

We’re not just wine geeks at Wine Folly, we’re beer geeks, too! Why wouldn’t we love beer? Much like wine, there’s a rich history behind the drink, endless variations and styles, and countless flavor compounds to sift through.

Also, most importantly, it just tastes good. Like, really good.

If you’re a beer drinker looking to make the jump from the taproom to the tasting room—or a wine drinker looking to do vice versa—this is the read for you.

32 Wines for Beer Lovers

 
Crisp Clean and Light beers: Bitburger Pilsner, New Glarus Spotted Cow, Weihenstephener Brauweisse, Avery White Rascal, Reissdorf Kolsch, Delirium Tremens

Crisp, Clean, & Light

Lager & Pilsner

  • Example: Czechvar Budvar, Bitburger Pilsner
  • Typical Flavors: malt, baked bread, mineral water, fresh flowers, grain
  • Wine to Try: Cava (Brut Nature)

Lovers of all things light, crisp, and refreshing need to trade in their steins for a flute of Cava Brut Nature. This extra bright, extra dry Spanish sparkler is an affordable, approachable gateway into the world of wine and pairs well with all manner of salty pub fare.


Cream Ale

  • Example: New Glarus Spotted Cow
  • Typical Flavors: corn, malt, lactose, cream soda, coconut
  • Wine to Try: Muscadet et Sur Lie

Made from the fruity, acidic Melon de Bourgogne variety and aged on suspended dead yeast particles, this style of Muscadet develops a more robust and bready character that’s an easy entry point for lovers of the thirst-quenching ale.


Hefeweizen

  • Example: Weihenstephaner Bräuweisse
  • Typical Flavors: banana, bubblegum, citrus, cream, clove
  • Wines to Try: Beaujolais, Schiava

If you love the more classic banana esters found in German Hefeweizen, you’ll find a similar flavor (and easy-drinking structure) in a younger Beaujolais. However, if you dig more of the bubblegum notes, you may want to say buongiorno to the obscure Italian grape, Schiava.


Witbier

  • Example: Avery White Rascal
  • Typical Flavors: coriander, orange peel, white tea, honey
  • Wine to Try: Gewürztraminer (Dry)

Only one wine comes to mind for the cloudy, quaffable Belgian-style ale with a spice-driven kick: Gewürztraminer. Preferably a dry, somewhat aged one to get not only those citrus and floral notes, but a hint of warm spice as well. Much like Witbier, Gewürztraminer also pairs well with Indian and Arabic cuisine and more exotic fare.


Kölsch

Consider in lieu of this clean, pleasantly bitter ale from Cologne, Germany a Brut or Extra-Dry Prosecco. The drier Brut will have a similar mouthfeel and finish to most Kölsch, but if you’re all about those cracker and bread flavors, go for the somewhat sweeter, misleadingly named Extra Dry style.


Belgian Golden Strong Ale

  • Example: Delirium Tremens
  • Typical Flavors: white spice, citrus, flowers, hops
  • Wine to Try: Grenache Blanc

Nicknamed the “Devil’s Ale” in Belgium, these beers earn their reputation by looking as light as a lager does, while packing a graceful, but significant alcoholic punch (7-12% ABV.) Grenache Blanc does a similar dance by also looking light and approachable, while having a similar hidden kick (13-15% ABV.) Plus, these wines can be just as fruity and floral as a Belgian Strong Pale Ale, and even a bit hop-like with the characteristic green notes!


Malty, Medium-bodied, hoppy beers: Troegs Nugget Nectar, Samuel Smiths Brown Ale, Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Bells Two-Hearted IPA

Malty, Medium-Bodied, & Hoppy

Amber Ale / Red Ale

  • Example: Tröegs Nugget Nectar
  • Typical Flavors: malt, caramel, whole wheat bread, mild fruit
  • Wine to Try: Sherry (Amontillado)

Time to get fortified. It is difficult to find a wine that’s on the same wavelength as the occasionally hoppy, malt-forward Amber/Red Ale. In making the correlation, our minds went right to Sherry, more specifically, Amontillado Sherry, for its nuttiness, richness, and fine oxidized flavors. Just make sure you pour yourself a smaller glass with that elevated ABV!


Brown Ale

  • Example: Samuel Smith’s Brown Ale
  • Typical Flavors: earth, dark fruit, caramel, biscuit, dark spice
  • Wine to Try: Teroldego

Big on the browns? We’re going to give you an hip variety to consider: Teroldego. This Northern Italian red grape is known for making dark, bitter, and balanced wines with earthy and flowery backbones. As it’s known for being somewhat astringent, it’s not the smoothest of parallels to brown ale, but we’re banking that like us, you’re all about those earthy flavors.


Bock

  • Example: Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock
  • Typical Flavors: plum, crystallized fruit, molasses
  • Wine to Try: Malbec

This thicker-than-your-average lager begs for a bolder wine. Plummy, dark, and full-bodied, you’ll have no problem swapping one out for a smooth Argentine Malbec.


Pale Ale

Get the clean and grassy flavors you crave with Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Loire Valley, and Chile. Trust us, it’s like taking in a freshly mowed lawn. If there’s a wine that is certain to turn you from a budding hop head to a serious white wine enthusiast, this just might be it…

Pro-Tip: If you’ve already experienced the unreal Pale Ale-Sauvignon Blanc connection, make the leap to lean Vermentino from Sardinia or springy Soave Classico.


India Pale Ale

Hopheads and New England-style obsessives, please bring your attention to Grüner Veltliner. This Austrian variety is known for producing dry, acidic, citrus-driven wines that have been known to make IPA drinkers say, “Whoa.” Careful, one sip and you may never go back to drinking beer again…

Pro-Tip: If Grüner is just a little too hard to find, snap up a nice dry Riesling and join us in wondering how anyone can not love this grape.


Dark Beer Wine Alternatives: Deschutes Black Butte Porter, Guinness Stout, North Coast Thelonious Monk, Orkney Skullsplitter, Great Lakes Christmas Ale

Succumb to the Dark Side

Porter

  • Example: Deschutes Black Butte Porter
  • Typical Flavors: coffee, bittersweet chocolate, smoke, black bread
  • Wine to Try: Sagrantino

Bitter, swarthy, palatable…wait, are we describing your modern-day Porter or Sagrantino? However, consider yourself warned: you may find the beer to be a bit of an easier drink. Sagrantino di Montefalco makes for one of the most tannic wines on the planet! Your mouth may not know what hit it.


Stout

Known for gravelly soils and Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant red wines, the Left Bank is where you want to look when switching from stout, specifically the Médoc region. The wines from this section of Bordeaux are known for being bold, concentrated, and filled with complex secondary aromas/flavors (cigar box, leather, tobacco) that will be music to any stout lover’s, uh, mouth.


Dubbel & Belgian Dark Strong Ale

The Dubbel and Belgian Dark Strong Ale can be considerably different beer styles, and normally we wouldn’t loop them together. The problem here is that we found the perfect wine to hit all those delicious dark sugar, plum, and date flavors on the nose: Port. Specifically, Ruby and Late Bottle Vintage styles that are more fruit-forward, affordable, and meant to be enjoyed young.


Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy

  • Example: Orkney Skullsplitter
  • Typical Flavors: caramel, malt, peat, tea, heather
  • Wine to Try: Cognac (V.S.)

As Scotch Ales are smooth, malty, and beg to be savored instead of quickly thrown back, we recommend reaching for a younger V.S. (Very Special) Cognac. With notes of caramel, toffee, leather, coconut, and spice notes, Cognac is pretty much guaranteed to be your thing. Get the right glassware, swirl, and enjoy. Maybe even get a mirror to see how cool you look as you drink it.


Winter Warmer / Christmas Ale

  • Example: Great Lakes Christmas Ale
  • Typical Flavors: cinnamon, orange peel, vanilla, cloves
  • Wine to Try: Mulled Wine/Glühwein

Beer drinkers use winter warmers to get through the cold season. Wine drinkers use Glühwein. Why not drink both? If you’re looking to make your own from scratch, go with a full-bodied red wine like Syrah or Malbec.


High ABV Alcohol Beer and wine alternatives: Tripel Karmeliet, Alchemist Heady Topper, North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, Goose Island Bourbon, Trappistes Rochefort 10, Great Divide Old Ruffian

High-ABV Territory

Tripel

Golden, dense, and complex, the singular Tripel is one of our favorite beers here. Gorgeous as it may be, it needs to be consumed with some caution. Much like the Belgian Golden Strong Ale, it looks deceivingly light, but packs enough of an alcoholic punch to cut a night out short. So if you’re craving those sweeter, fruiter flavors and a similar creamy mouthfeel, consider a lower-octane Rosé Sparkling Wine, either domestic or from France’s Cremant stylings.

Pro-Tip: Cost not an issue? Investigate the nuttier, breadier, and oh-so-decadent Vintage Champagne. Yes, it could break your budget. But it will also break your brain (in a good way.)


Double/Imperial India Pale Ale

  • Example: Alchemist Heady Topper
  • Typical Flavors: pine, grapefruit, tree sap, resin, cannabis
  • Wine to Try: Retsina

Grüner Veltliner and Dry Riesling will still do the trick for most IPAs, but if you like them extra dank and sticky, we’re gonna send you in Retsina’s general direction. This Greek wine isn’t for the faint of the heart (even for those who love wine), with its pine, resin, and lime peel flavor profile. But hey, if you love DIPA/IIPAs, we probably had you at “not for the faint of heart!”


Double/Imperial/Russian Stout

  • Example: North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout
  • Typical Flavors: strong coffee/espresso, burnt sugar, hearty oats, dried dark fruit
  • Wine to Try: Australian Shiraz

Big, brawny, and known for its aggressive flavor profile, this souped-up stout needs something that’s equally broad-shouldered. Enter Aged Australian Shiraz. Rugged and animalistic, this style of Syrah features flavors of mocha, graphite, savory meat, as well as a high alcohol content thanks to the abundant Down Under sunshine.


Bourbon-Barrel-Aged Stout

  • Example: Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
  • Typical Flavors: bourbon, wood, burnt sugar, vanilla, fudge, char
  • Wine to Try: Sherry (Oloroso)

Expensive to produce and requiring some serious patience to brew, the Bourbon Barrel-Aged Stout is often the gem in any beer enthusiast’s cellar. They’re rich, complex, and one of the surest bets to get better with age. For wines, Oloroso, the beautiful mistake of the Sherry business, is a great go-to. Occasionally, the flor (a special yeast used to make Sherry) dies, and then that Sherry is taken into barrels to age. The end result is a deep, dark, and dry fortified wine with parallel wood, fudge, and burnt vanilla notes.


Quadrupel

  • Example: Trappistes Rochefort 10
  • Typical Flavors: raisins, dates, fruitcake, gingerbread, earth, anise
  • Wine to Try: Sherry (Pedro Ximénez)

The brawny, yet delectable Quadrupel may have fit under the “Belgian Dark Strong Ale” umbrella, but we found that in our experiences with Rochefort and Westvleteren, we got something even a little more heavy. After we nailed down flavors of fruitcake, raisins, and even some gingerbread, we thought there was a better fit than Port. Syrupy Pedro Ximénez (a grape, not a person) Sherry won our hearts with its luscious profile of figs, dates, and fireside spices.


Old Ale & Barleywine

  • Example: Great Divide Old Ruffian Barleywine
  • Typical Flavors: alcohol, English toffee, treacle, hard candy, butterscotch
  • Wine to Try: Madeira (Bual)

There’s nothing subtle about Barleywine or even Old Ale, its more sessionable equivalent. There’s often not even an attempt to hide the alcohol and it is absolutely thick with fruity esters, malts (English) and hops (American.) The fortified Portuguese island wine, Madeira, is a great go-to with its flavors roasted nuts, stewed fruit, and toffee. We especially like the sweeter Bual style with its additional salted caramel, golden raisin, and date smells and tastes.


Sour Funky Beers Saison-dupont-Gueuze Tilquin, Lindemans Framboise Lambic, Duchesse de Bourgogne

Sour ‘n’ Funky

Saison / Farmhouse Ale

Ooh, tough call. There can be quite a range in tastes when it comes to Saison, but we’ve got some good options for one of our personal favorite styles of beer. If you like the more peppery style of Saison, consider Rosé of Tempranillo or Syrah. You’ll find these specific styles of rosé more herbaceous and savory, rather than abundantly fruity.

Pro-Tip: If you’re all about the farmhouse funk/brettanomyces in your beer, you might be game for a more untamed natural wine (wine made with minimal human interaction.)


Sour (Gueuze, Gose, & Berlinerweisse)

  • Example: Gueuze Tilquin
  • Typical Flavors: lemon juice, lime peel, grape must, apple cider, salt
  • Wine to Try: Orange Wine

This one is a no-brainer. Orange wine, which is white wine made by keeping the skin and seeds in contact with the juice, is designed for the sour beer lover. It’s acidic, tart, and assertive with atypical aromas and flavors (jackfruit, linseed oil, brazil nuts, sourdough). Sound like any beer you know?


Fruit Lambic

If you enjoy fruit lambic beers (Kriek, Cassis, Framboise), then you should, nay, MUST try Lambrusco. This sparkling red wine comes in a range of dry and off-dry styles, but always with up-front fruit flavors. Depending on the style, you can even find some additional cream, chocolate, and floral notes! Who can resist?

Pro-Tip: Made the Lambic-Lambrusco connection? Dig a Beaujolais Nouveau! (Bojo Nouveau, if you’re nasty.) This ultra-acidic, quickly-made wine features lush, juicy aromas of raspberry, cranberry, candied fruits, banana, and even bubblegum.


Flanders Red Ale & Oud Bruin

  • Example: Duchesse de Bourgogne
  • Typical Flavors: green apple, balsamic vinegar, sour grapes, oxidized fruit
  • Wine to Try: Blanquette de Limoux / Mauzac

With strong vinegar, green apple, and earthy flavors, these two sours can be a bit of a curveball to the uninitiated. Fortunately, the wine we’re recommending is way more accessible, if but a bit overlooked! We submit to you: Blanquette de Limoux, a dry style of sparkling wine from France’s Languedoc-Roussillon region that prominently features the ancient, esoteric Mauzac Blanc variety. Peachy, grassy, and flush with green apple notes, you best be getting to your local wine shop right now.


Weird Beers and Wine Alternatives: Schneider Weisse Tap 6 Unser, Wookey Jack, Black Boss Porter, Dogfish Head Sah’Tea, Marooned on Hog Island, Rauchbier,

Let’s Get a Little Weird

Weizenbock

  • Example: Schneider Weisse Tap 6 Unser Aventinus
  • Typical Flavors: vanilla, clove, malt, nutmeg, cinnamon
  • Wine to Try: Vin Santo

Fans of this malty, ester-apparent, bock-strength Dunkelweizen should seek out Vin Santo, an intriguing Italian dessert wine known for its vanilla, caramel, honey hazelnut, and dried apricot flavors. Like Weizenbock, it’s a wondrous balance of deliciousness and intensity that will stick to the side of your glass. Drink up.


Cascadian Dark Ale / Black IPA

  • Example: Firestone Walker Wookey Jack
  • Typical Flavors: coffee grounds, lime peel, tree resin, roasted grain
  • Wine to Try: Carménère

Already a beautiful blend of the fruity, sweet, and bitter, this dark-grained IPA is a little more smoky and complex. (Best description? Like a lime squeezed into a cup of coffee. Yum.) Savory, herbaceous, and equally fruity South American Carménère might be just what you’re looking for.


Baltic Porter

Originally designed to withstand colder climates and conditions, these lagers (yes, they’re bottom-fermenting!) have all the body, alcohol, and flavors you’ve come to expect from heavier stouts — with a little something extra. Something so hearty, so brooding needs a wine to match. That’s why our hive mind went to Aglianico, a full-bodied, high-tannin red wine with notes of smoke, game, and spiced fruit. Aglianico del Taburno and Aglianico del Vulture make for great, affordable gateway wines.

Pro-Tip: While we doubt we can convince anyone to switch out their Baltic Porter (~$8) for the rich and heady Amarone della Valpolicella ($50+) of lore, if you’ve got the money, go for it.


Sahti

  • Example: Dogfish Head Sah’Tea
  • Typical Flavors: juniper, resin, peppercorn, cardamon, twigs
  • Wine to Try: Vermouth

Boasting an aromatic head and broad-shouldered body, this primitive Finnish beer is a unique treat. We’re going to assume if you’re crazy about Sahti, you’re probably crazy about its signature juniper character. That calls for Vermouth. Open and shut case.


Oyster Stout

  • Example: 21st Amendment Marooned on Hog Island
  • Typical Flavors: mollusk, brine, sea salt, dark grain
  • Wine to Try: Muscadet

Dry stouts make for a hell of a pairing with shellfish. They also make for a hell of a pairing in the beer itself, giving a briny and saline character to a dark, easy-drinking brew. Recommending a light, refreshing white wine like Muscadet feels like a far cry from a black ale—that is until you realize it too is dry, saline, and goes great with the treasures of the sea.


Rauchbier

There’s a lot of drinks that could be described as smoky, but few are as in your face about it as a Rauchbier. It’s not just smoky, either. It’s also spicy, savory, and meaty with some people even noting a bacon flavor! The smoke and leather of an aged Rioja sounds like an excellent substitute, but you’d also do well with an Old World Syrah and its earth and bacon-fat characteristics.


Last word: Did we miss your favorite style of beer? Looking for a wine to pair with it? Let us know in the comments and we’ll try to work our recommendation magic!

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Source: Wine Folly News & Entertainment

Stop Saying These 12 Things About Wine

It’s high time that people stop saying these 12 things about wine.

Sooner or later in your wine journey, you’re going to come across, shall we say, certain people: certain people who say certain things. They may be going for refined, but we both know they’re coming off as something else. Let them say their piece, pity them quietly, and be content in taking the high road.

  1. only-drink-cabernet-comic-winefolly

    1. “I only drink…”

    “I only drink…” / “I don’t drink…”

    There’s no way this sentence ever ends well. The world of wine is so big! There are over 1,400 identified grape varieties and thousands of unique wine regions. Why anyone would limit themselves to just a tiny fraction of it, simply doesn’t make sense. Maybe it’s no big thing, though. They could be in a wine phase and not even know it!


  2. txakolina-comic-winefolly

    2. “Actually, it’s pronounced…”

    Pronouncing Alicante Bouschet, Gewürztraminer, and Txakoli (or Txakolina) without breaking a sweat is pretty cool. But you know what’s even cooler? Not giving people a hard time if they pronounce it wrong! (Lord knows we didn’t do it right on our first try.)


  3. riesling-blues-bros-resevoir-dogs-illustration-winefolly

    3. “Sweet wines? What are you, five?”

    We’re adults. And, adults can enjoy wines like Port, Sauternes, and Tokaji Aszú—sweet wines that rank among the most complex and revered wines on this planet! Yes, the wines that get most people into the world of wine in the first place tend to be sweet, so we see where that “beginners only” mentality comes from. Funny how that changes the further you get in your wine journey…


  4. 4. “Ew, screw cap wines. Pass.”

    The wines of Australia and New Zealand are almost exclusively stoppered with screw caps. Take it from us, they are producing some effing dynamite stuff. Plus, screw caps have shown to age wines just fine (in fact, you don’t even have to store the bottle on it’s side). Why would someone let a flimsy, unfounded closure preference prevent them from tasting great wines? Tsk tsk.

    Learn more about the difference between corks and screw caps.


  5. aged-white-wine-comic-winefolly

    5. “Pssh. White wines aren’t meant for aging.”

    Sure, most white wines aren’t meant for long storage (but neither are most red wines for that matter!). However, when you get to top-tier Champagne, White Bordeaux, White Burgundy, White Rioja, Italian Soave, and German Riesling, you’ll discover they develop some surprisingly rich and luscious flavors with a little bit of age.


  6. no-love-for-merlot-comic-winefolly

    6. “I’m not drinking any #$&@ing Merlot!”

    OK. Even now, this is still a very funny scene and quote. But what isn’t funny is dismissing some of the world’s greatest and most acclaimed wines for no good reason! Also, if this is said in reference to Sideways, the ironic inside secret was that Miles lusted after a bottle of 1961 Chateau Cheval Blanc, which is a Merlot blend from St. Emilion. See? Even Miles loves Merlot!

    (Also, if you’re still saying this, you should definitely watch some newer movies about wine. Some of them have been pretty great. Just sayin’.)


  7. champagne-is-a-region-winefolly-comic-illustration

    7. “Champagne isn’t Champagne unless it’s from the region.”

    While it’s true that Champagne can only come from Champagne, it’s been the universal word for sparkling wine for beginners for a long time. So instead of clobbering your compatriots with knowledge bombs, let them taste first and learn later. The sparkling wine might actually help smooth things over. They’ll get there, and we can all help.


  8. red-wine-and-fish-illustration-comic-winefolly

    8. “You never, ever pair red wine with fish.”

    We believe we speak for Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Beaujolais when we say, “Excuse moi?”

    Read more about pairing wine with fish here.


  9. tasting-leather-in-wine-comic-winefolly

    9. “How do you know it tastes like _______?”

    “Have you ever eaten a baseball glove? Doubt it.”

    A signature note of aged Tempranillo, and one that’s echoed by wine experts worldwide, is leather. Do these wine experts sit around gnawing on baseball gloves and the sides of couches? We doubt it. (But you never know.)

    We often encourage people to taste not only wine, but any number of things, be it vegetables, animals, and minerals, to expand their palate. But there’s no denying it: smell has a gigantic impact on taste. For the things we haven’t yet tasted, we’ll naturally try to relate them the best we can. That relation typically comes in the form of smell.


  10. all-i-get-is-wine-comic-winefolly

    10. “You’re not getting all that acid/tannin? Ugh, it’s so obvious.”

    Oof, bad form. Detecting primary flavors is hard enough. Learning how to detect and describe acid and tannin is whole new ball game. What do productive members of wine society do? That’s right – emulate your grandma. If someone is looking adrift or openly lost, gently educate, rather than flagellate.


  11. red-wine-comic-winefolly

    11. “There’s only one kind of wine: red.”

    Sing the praises of bold red wines all you want. We’ll join along. Right after we sing the praises for Viognier, Assyrtiko, and Albariño. All are great; all in different ways.


  12. 12. “This wine tastes like morning mist, rolling down the hillsides, transforming into dewdrops on the grass…” 

    Not a half-bad tasting note, but let’s pump the brakes. We’re talking about wine, not writing the sequel to The Leaves of Grass! Now, there’s no wrong answer when it comes to taste and it’s important to remember feelings and sensations when drinking. But, it’s also equally important to put wine experiences into something that can be quantified—real tastes, real flavors. Wine is still a product and each has a specific flavor that can be (more or less) defined.

    Want to write useful wine notes? Check out this guide.

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Source: Wine Folly News & Entertainment

14 Winter Wines You’ll Love

14 wines that are perfect for holiday celebrations, rich cuisine, and evenings in with Netflix.

Break out your ugly sweaters, digital Yule logs, and Game of Thrones references… winter is here. And here’s what we’re hot for when the temperature drops.

14 Winter Wines

First things first, the classics:

  1. Barolo-winter-illustration-winefolly

    1. Nebbiolo

    Whoever came up with the phrase “appearances can be deceiving,” must have had Nebbiolo in mind. Yes, it looks pale and pleasant like Pinot Noir, but this Piedmontese beast has high acidity and grippy tannins that will make for an experience you won’t soon forget. Decant for 45 minutes and your palate will rain complex rose, cherry, and leather flavors. You won’t know what hit you.

    • Classic Regions: Barolo, Barbaresco, Roero, Valtellina, and Gattinara
    • Food Pairings: risotto, charcuterie, winter squash, mushrooms, truffles, fancy silverware, and food cooked in quenelles

    Micro Guide to Nebbiolo Wine

  2. Shiraz-winter-illustration-winefolly

    2. Shiraz

    ‘Tis the season for something rugged. Best described as big, brooding, and boozy, Australian Shiraz is known for its powerful black fruit flavors, savory undertones, and high ABV (14%-15%), thanks to plentiful Down Under sunshine. It’s not for the faint of heart or palate, but it’ll warm you up in a hurry.

    • Classic Regions: Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale
    • Food Pairings: grilled meats, venison, boar, leather club chairs, and snow banks

    Barossa Valley and The Wines of South Australia

  3. brunello-di-montalcino-wine-illustration

    3. Sangiovese

    We promise to keep high-acid and high-tannin Italian wines to a minimum on this list. (OK, we can’t promise that.) But can we gush about traditional Sangiovese for a minute? Earthy and rustic, it goes with all kinds of winter eats and even vegetarian fare. Added bonus: Its complex nose is perfect for sitting, sniffing, and contemplating New Year’s resolutions. BTW, resolve to drink a Brunello this winter. You’ll thank us later.

    Guide to Sangiovese

  4. f-cabernet-sauvignon-illustration-winefolly

    4. Cabernet Sauvignon

    We can hear you now: “Thanks for the rec, Captain Obvious.” Still, just how awesome Cabernet Sauvignon is this time of year bears repeating. We’re all eating rib-sticking dishes, accumulating mass for hibernation, and Cab is a no-brainer pairing. But it’s also more than a eating companion, it’s a thinking person’s wine. It’s layered, complex, and if you go Old World, surprisingly subtle. Maybe it’s just us, but you never really know Cabernet Sauvignon. You just continuously rediscover it.

    • Classic Regions: Médoc (Pauillac, Saint-Julien, Margaux), Graves, Napa Valley, Maipo, Coonawarra
    • Food Pairings: pepper steak, brisket, holiday roast, duck, goose, lentils, and mashed potatoes

    Bordeaux Wine Primer

  5. puligny-montrachet-illustration-winefolly

    5. Chardonnay

    It’s so cool to hate on oaked Chardonnay. No, we can’t get behind that. Every wine has a time and a place. The time is now for rich, buttery Chardonnay. Full-bodied with dominant flavors of vanilla, butter, caramel—and a touch of citrus—it’s quite an alternative to egg nog and hot buttered rum.

    • Classic Regions: California (North Coast, Central Coast, Santa Barbara), Burgundy (Puligny-Montrachet, Meursault, Grand Cru Chablis, Pouilly-Fusé), Willamette Valley, New Zealand
    • Food Pairings: chicken, turkey, sea bass, lobster, comté and gruyere cheese, mushrooms, cream sauce pasta, and cream-based soups

    Guide to Chardonnay Regions and More

  6. champagne-illustration-winefolly

    6. Champagne

    Tell us, friend: are you a person who drinks Champagne year-round? If so, come in for a fistbump. (Go ahead, bump the screen.) We’re not really sure why so many relegate their Champagne drinking just to New Year’s Eve. It’s light, refreshing, and insanely versatile when it comes to food. Sure, it’s expensive, but there are affordable alternatives. Plus, we can’t think of a better way to cure winter blues than with a bit of the bubbly.

    • Classic Regions: Montagne de Reims (for depth), Côte de Blanc (for Blanc de Blancs), and Valée de la Marne (for Blanc de Noirs)
    • Food Pairings: New Year’s Eve, fries, bacon, Christmas ham, potato chips, popcorn, latkes, cheese, and nuts

    How to Choose Champagne the Right Way

  7. port-lbv-illustration-winefolly

    7. Port

    You say you don’t like Port. We say you don’t like Port yet. There are a lot of wines we’ll be sampling this winter, but this is the one we’ll be reaching for after celebrations, by the fireplace, and on the longest of winter nights. We’ll likely kick off with a Ruby, the least expensive and most fresh-faced of the styles. It probably won’t be long before with get to the more expensive, more aged Vintage and Tawny Ports, with all their rich, concentrated flavors. Our mouths water just thinking about it.

    • Classic Regions: The Cima Corgo is known as the most classic section of the Douro Valley
    • Food Pairings: blue cheese (stilton, roquefort, gorgonzola), creme brûlée, black forest cake, cherry pie, chocolate truffles, and walnuts

    Guide to Port Wine


But wait, there’s more!

Try these winter wines when you’re ready to go beyond the classics:

  1. 8. Viognier

    Why would we recommend a classically flowery white wine known for peach, tangerine, and honeysuckle flavors? By Late January, you’re probably going to need springtime in a glass.

     

  2. 9. White Rioja

    Seek out rare aged Rioja Blanco, then prepare yourself for welcome notes of roasted pineapples, caramelized honey, and hazelnuts.

     

  3. 10. Valpolicella

    Pair your red meat, mushrooms, and dark umami flavors with a full-bodied Superior Ripasso, one of Italy’s better values. If you can spring for Amarone, make it happen, Captain.

     

  4. 11. Mourvèdre

    (aka Monastrell) A gamier, more untamed alternative to Cabernet Sauvignon, seek out wines from Jumilla and Bandol for shining examples of this unctuous mother.

     

  5. 12. Sagrantino

    Grown on the small hillside of Montefalco in Umbria, deeply opaque Sagrantino is about as bold as bold red wine gets! Just make sure you have fats and proteins when drinking to counter all that tannin.

     

  6. 13. Orange Wine

    It’s hard to get going when it’s cold and dark. Reach for one of these when smelling salts are in short supply. (Kidding – kind of.) If you like to warm up with more exotic dishes (Korean, Middle Eastern, African), think orange.

     

  7. 14. Sherry

    Scoff at Sherry all you want, but the preferred drink of bullfighters makes for one of hell of a winter nightcap. Try an Amontillado or an Oloroso Sherry for a rich, expressive alternative to whiskey.

winter-wines-illustration-winefolly

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Wine Pairing With Thai Food

One of the world’s great cuisines calls for a great wine. Here’s what to pair with Thai–a food that combines the sweet, the sour, the salty, and the spicy in perfect harmony.

Thai cuisine is unique. Take a moment to see if you can sum it up in one sentence.

No, seriously, try it. We’ll wait…

Time’s up! Not so easy is it?

What goes into your favorite Pad Thai or curry isn’t a random assembly of ingredients. It harmonizes sweet, sour, salty, and spicy, as well as bitter and aromatic flavors.

 

Wine Pairing with Thai Food - Pad Thai and Riesling Illustration Wine Folly

Wine Pairing with Thai Food

Is there a wine that can pair with such intricate fare? Of course there is! In fact, we’ve got several for the next time a Thai craving strikes.

Best Option: Riesling

If Thai cuisine is all about harmony, a nice off-dry Riesling is a welcome addition to the chorus. It’s almost too perfect: dynamite tropical fruit flavors, acidity and sweetness cut the spice. There are even some Rieslings that feature jasmine in their bouquet! Plus, if you’re sensitive to heat, the low ABV will ensure the fire doesn’t get too out of control.

 

Great Alternatives

So, you’re still anti-Riesling. (You’ll get there if we have anything to do with it!) Fortunately for you, there are plenty of delightful alternatives, both rare and common for pairing. There are even a few reds that work well if you’re not all that into white wines.

  • Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio

    A viable alternative to Riesling, Pinot Gris has less-intense tropical fruit flavors and more subtle acidity. Seek out one from Alsace for spice notes of clove and ginger, as well as a long, tingly finish.

  • Chenin Blanc

    Inherently sweet, with medium-high acidity, Chenin Blanc-based wines were born to pair with Southeast Asian Cuisine. Dry, off-dry, and sweet examples will have complementary flavors with Thai Cuisine.

  • Grenache Blanc

    Flavors of Asian pear, unripe mango, lime zest, and lemongrass make this a knockout combo with Thai food. Just watch the ABV: it’s often 13-15% and will make the capsaicin in chilis burn extra bright.

  • Grüner Veltliner

    Light, zesty, and acidic food deserves a light, zesty, and acidic wine.

  • Sparkling Rosé

    We love pairing Sparkling Rosé with one dish in particular (found below), but fizz, fruits, and sweetness play nicely with all kinds of popular Thai dishes.

  • Pinot Noir

    Fruit-forward and acidic characteristics aren’t limited to just white wines. If you can’t stand any of the above, Pinot Noir will be your godsend.

  • Zweigelt

    Sweet, sour, and spicy, with a thirst-quenching character, we’re amazed that this light Austrian red wine isn’t more highly recommended for Thai eats.

 
Thai Food Wine Pairings - Illustration by Wine Folly
It’s hard to go wrong with wines like Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, Chenin Blanc, Sparkling Rosé and Pinot Noir…

Thai Food Flavor Palette

Thai cuisine has several base ingredients that will inform you of it’s flavors. Read the guide on flavor pairing to create your own wine matches with the ingredients below.

  • Sweet Palm Sugar, Cane Sugar, Sweet Chilies, Tamarind
  • Sour Tamarind, Kaffir Lime, Lime Leaf, Tropical Fruit
  • Salty Fish Sauce, Sea Salt
  • Spicy Hot Chilies, Peppercorns
  • Bitter Bitter Melon, Bok Choy, Various Vegetables
  • Aromatic Cilantro, Lemongrass, Galangal, Ginger, Thai Basil, Holy Basil

Thai dishes are also a careful blend, one that emphasizes the balance of ingredients instead of having one standout star. (Here’s looking at you chili peppers! Not all Thai food is or needs to be this spicy.)


Specific Thai Dishes

legit-pad-thai-Thanakrit-Gu
by Thanakrit Gu

Pad Thai and Off-Dry Riesling

These sweet-and-sour noodles need no introduction. Place your order and pair it with a classic Halbtrocken (or Feinherb) German Riesling and take your tongue on a wild ride.


Pad See Ew - Thai Noodle Dish by Ernesto Andrade
by Ernesto Andrade

Pad See Ew and Pinot Noir

We’re thinking red wine for this wide noodle, umami-driven meal. Oregonian or Marlborough, NZ Pinot Noir has the right blend of elegance and freshness to round out this more savory alternative to Pad Thai.


Red-Thai-Curry-Bang-Chop-Cindy-Kurman
by Cindy Kurman

Red Curry/Green Curry and Gewürztraminer

These two different kinds of curries traditionally have the same base of coconut milk, with the color of the chilies being the key separator. While they may differ in spice, they don’t differ in fragrance. Where there’s fragrance, there needs to be Gewürztraminer.


massaman-curry-by-jules-ribs
by Jules

Massaman Curry and Carignan

It may be a Thai curry, but it’s nothing like it’s red and green cousins. With ingredients like carrots and potatoes and spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, and cumin, this rich curry needs something with a little more muscle. A Carignan from Languedoc-Roussillon is more than up to the task.


taling-pling-thai-spring-rolls-legit-dan-lundberg
by Dan Lundberg

Thai Spring Rolls and Sparkling Rosé

Crunch and bubbles make for one hell of a one-two punch. The rosé sparkling wine style imparts the right amount of fruit and sweetness for the delicious bitter vegetable filling.


torbak-hopper-thai-spring-rolls
by Torbak Hopper

Thai Fresh Rolls and Torrontés

Featuring more freshness and crunchy vegetables than other dishes on the list, you’ll want something a little different: Argentine Torrontés. Especially from Salta. Sweet smelling, but drier than you’d expect, it’s the lean, mean pairing you want with this healthy option.


kao-pad-thai-fried-rice-julia
by Julia

Thai Fried Rice (Kao Pad) and Brut Nature Champagne

Honestly, our first thought for this was a cool, crisp Singha for this messy bit of deliciousness. But this isn’t Beer Folly. So instead, go for the next best thing: an impossibly minerally and dry sparkling wine with no added sugar.


Tom-Yum-Thai-Soup-Lummmy
by Lummmy

Tom Yum Soup and Grenache Blanc

This pairing is so good, we’ve actually written about it before.


legit-authentic-green-papaya-salad-by-alpha
by Alpha

Green Papaya Salad and Grüner Veltliner

Sweet and sour. Fruity and savory. Crisp and firm. Green Papaya Salad (or Som Tum) showcases what Thai cuisine is all about. Riesling is the #1 stunner, but the unripe fruit flavors in Grüner make us want to stop writing and revisit this pairing right now!


mango-sticky-rice-thai-dessert-stu-spivack
by Stu Spivack

Mango Sticky Rice and Late Harvest Riesling

“Nuts to harmony,” you say. “I’m all about that sweetness.” The popular Thai dessert of sweet mango and creamy rice actually has an excellent pairing partner: late harvest Riesling from Germany, New York, and Washington State. Expect aromas of lemon, ginger, and jasmine, and stimulating acidity.


Last Word

If you DO come up with the perfect sentence to describe Thai cuisine, leave a comment and we’ll wallow in its glory.

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All About Tempranillo Wine in Just About Two Minutes

You’re getting into red wine. You’re craving something different. Something savory. Enter Tempranillo, Spain’s #1 wine grape. With the structure of Cabernet Sauvignon and meaty nature of Carignan, Tempranillo is an experience to behold. When young, it can be surprisingly fresh and fruity. However, with oak and age, you’ll find more of the dust, tobacco, and leather flavors serious wine fans crave.

Read on for recommendations, flavor profiles, and facts that illustrate the special nature of this wine variety.

Tempranillo Wine Facts

Tempranillo Wine Seal by Wine Folly

Grape Facts

  1. It’s the dominant red grape in Rioja, which was Spain’s first region to become a household name.
  2. The name, Tempranillo, comes from the Spanish temprano, meaning “early,” which is fitting as it ripens earlier than other grapes native to Spain.
  3. Tempranillo vines are one of the easiest to identify in the vineyard because of their jagged, deep-lobed leaves.
  4. In love with fall foliage? Tempranillo is one of the few varieties where the leaves turns bright red in the fall. It’s one of the most beautiful sights in the vineyard.
  5. There exists a small, white mutation of Tempranillo called Tempranillo Blanco. Authorized for use in White Rioja, Tempranillo Blanco has a similar growing cycle to red Tempranillo and even faces the same growing challenges. Unlike its red counterpart, Tempranillo Blanco wines are noted for their tropical fruit flavors.

Did You Know?

  1. Tempranillo is a very old variety. While the earliest official mention of the variety is from 1807, the general theory is that Tempranillo was introduced to the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) by the Phoenicians over 3,000 years ago. A bizarre clue that questions Tempranillo’s Iberian origin is the scattered plantings found in Tuscany and Basilicata, Italy.
  2. Tempranillo is the fourth-most planted variety in the world and is considered one of the nine red noble grapes.
  3. Tempranillo is one of the top varieties blended into Port wine from Portugal, where it’s called Tinta Roriz.
  4. Aged Tempranillo wines are delicious and easy to identify with Spanish wine aging terms.

Tempranillo Taste Profile and Food Pairings

Dominant flavors include cherry, dried fig, cedar, tobacco, and dill. Age impacts the flavors of Tempranillo significantly, with Roble and Crianza examples imparting juicy fruit flavors and heat. Reserva and Gran Reserva examples feature deeper, darker fruit notes, dry leaves, and Tempranillo’s signature leather flavors.

While famed for pairing with red meat and ham, Tempranillo is a surprisingly versatile food wine that can match well with roasted vegetables, smoke, starch, hearty pastas, and even Mexican food.

See the complete guide to Tempranillo

 
Spain Wine Map
The Spanish wine regions of La Rioja and Castilla-León are the first places you should look for excellent Tempranillo wines.

Classic Tempranillo Regions

Tempranillo is Spain’s top red wine, but it can go by many, many different names depending on the region. Rioja is arguably the easiest to find and recommended when first wading into Spanish wine.

  • Rioja and Navarra: Regions that deliver pepper, red cherry, and subtle cinnamon notes with ample structure (a.k.a. tannin).
  • Ribera del Duero, Toro, Cigales: (in Castilla-León) These are typically deeper, darker, and more brooding than Rioja with more blackberry fruit flavors and intense, gripping tannins.
  • La Mancha and Ribera Del Guadiana: Larger regions in Spain’s central plateau producing some of the best value Tempranillo wines in all of Spain.

On Aging: In searching for Tempranillo, you’ll likely come across the following terms: Roble/Tinto, Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva. These are aging terms, ranging from little to no oak all the way up to 18-24 months with an additional four years of bottle aging. Broadly speaking, the more oak, the better the quality, and the more you should expect to pay accordingly.

Drink Spain: If you want to see what Spaniards are drinking, check out decantalo.com – a great source for Spanish wine buying. Additionally, Peñín Guide To Spanish Wine is the foremost guide on Spanish wines and producers.

Off-the-Beaten-Path Tempranillo

Portugal also has significant plantings of Tempranillo, notably used as a blending grape in Port. However, full-bodied, single-varietal examples are starting to gain traction in Dão and in the Alentejo, where the grape is commonly labeled as Aragonez.

A number of New World producers are doing Tempranillo as well (Argentina, California’s Inland Valleys and even Texas!) But if we’re going to go off the beaten path, we’re going with Southern Oregon and Rogue Valley as the terroir there lends to wines that can be just as rich and peppery as their Spanish equivalents.


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5 Merlot Wine Facts

Love Cabernet Sauvignon, but crave something more smooth, lush, and less aggressive? Go with Merlot. With upfront fruit flavors, moderate tannin, and balanced acidity, Merlot is an ideal food pairing wine and a safe bet for any occasion. Yes, it doesn’t command the respect that a bold Cabernet Sauvignon often does, but it doesn’t command the same price tag either, often leading to a better quality-value ratio. So, if you’ve been put off by cheap commercial interpretations or an off-hand Paul Giamatti quote from over 15 years ago, we strongly recommend revisiting a wine loved by beginners and experts alike.

Merlot Wine Facts

Merlot Wine Facts Seal by Wine Folly

Classic Merlot Regions

Great Merlot starts in Bordeaux. Some of the best examples come from The Right Bank, specifically appellations of St. Emilion, Pomerol, and Fronsac, where it is the dominant grape. Expect more tannin, as well as earthier, tobacco-like flavors from this region, which are unlike those from the New World. The other classic place to look for this variety is in the North Coast AVA (American Viticultural Area), which includes both Sonoma and Napa Valley.

Off-The-Beaten-Path Merlot

If you’re looking to move beyond the cool climate examples of Merlot in Bordeaux, consider the warmer climes of Chile, Western Australia, and Washington’s Columbia Valley. While there are some regional differences in the wines they produce, you can generally expect more fruit, softer tannin, and a silkier texture when compared to a more full-bodied one.

Still too familiar? Try Italy, specifically Veneto and Tuscany. Merlot has a surprisingly large presence in the Italian Peninsula, although quality does vary. Definitely check out the Super Tuscans!

How bold is Pinot Noir vs Merlot vs Cabernet vs Shiraz

Merlot Taste Profile and Food Pairing

Expect your palate to be greeted with flavors of black cherry, plum, chocolate, dried herbs, and cedar. Most Merlot wines sit in the middle of the red wine spectrum, with medium levels of tannin, acidity, and alcohol. Exceptional Merlot wines are so bold, they can be confused for Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ideal pairings include turkey, pork, root vegetables, winter salads, stews, and all manner of harvest foods. Avoid pairing Merlot with fish, leafy greens, or spicy foods, where it can either overwhelm or be overwhelmed.

Grape Variety Facts

  1. Merlot is second-most planted grape in the entire world. (Cabernet Sauvignon is number one.)
  2. However, Merlot is the leading grape in terms of total production in Bordeaux.
  3. Cabernet Franc is the father of Merlot, but do you know the mother? (That’s OK, most people don’t.) It’s Magdeleine Noire des Charentes, an old, esoteric variety discovered through DNA testing.

Did You Know?

  1. Merlot translates to “little blackbird” in old regional Bordeaux French. Apparently, they too are big fans of the grape.
  2. Pétrus, one of the most highly coveted (and counterfeited) wines on this planet is made almost entirely of Merlot! Interested? A bottle will run you somewhere between $2,000-$5,000.

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Fried Chicken Wine Pairings

Take a peek at these sommelier-approved wine and fried chicken pairings for your next bucket of extra crispy.

Fried Chicken and Wine Pairings - Champagne Illustration by Wine Folly

“Crisp, crunchy, yet succulent… fried chicken pairs ‘awesomely’ with sparkling wine.” –Madeline Puckette

Fried Chicken Wine Pairings

When it comes to pairing wine with fried chicken, your best bet is sparkling wine. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll never go back to pairing fried chicken with coke, lemonade, or sweet tea ever again.

Why? There’s a lot of oil, salt, and fat in fried chicken. (Sad, but true, and also so delicious!) With abundant acidity, effervescence, and complementary flavors, sparkling wine effortlessly cuts through all of it, cleansing and refreshing your palate with every bite – sans the bloating. Consider the following and look for Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry, and Dry examples were you can. (Dry is sweeter than you think!)

  • Champagne – If you’re going for broke.
  • Crémant – If you’re already broke.
  • Cava – If you want something dry, lean, and with zesty aromatics and a great quality-value ratio.
  • Prosecco – If you want something a little more on the sweeter, fruiter side that’s also fairly affordable.
  • Sparkling Rosé – If you’re dealing with spice and heat.

Wine Pairing Alternatives

Need more options? Check out these utility players for your fried chicken.

  • Tempranillo – Savory notes and fat-softening tannins make this wine a winner.
  • Riesling – Aromatic sweetness and high acidity in Riesling cut through fat and embellish the umami notes in fried chicken.
  • Lambrusco – The tannin and acid in this oft-maligned Italian red wine plays well with fats.
  • Furmint – Whether dry (smoke, pears, lime) or sweet (stone fruit, sugar), this thick, but acidic Hungarian wine is worth your consideration.
  • Grüner Veltliner – You’ll need acid with fried chicken. You’ll get it with Grüner.
  • Sparking Shiraz – What you want with anything sweet and tangy, like you like.

Fried Chicken Wine Pairing Examples

southern-fried chicken

 

Southern Fried Chicken with Champagne

Seasoned chicken, rolled in flour, with just a bit of paprika, garlic, and black pepper, and fried in vegetable oil. Champagne (or Crémant) cuts through the grease like a sharp, acidic blade. High-low dining at its finest.


nashville-hot chicken

 

Nashville Hot Chicken with Extra-Dry Prosecco

Marinated in buttermilk and cased in a paste of fiery cayenne, this is the bird that bites back. For this, we’re thinking an extra-dry Prosecco with its sweet-smelling aromatics and smooth mouthfeel will help quell the heat of capsicum and other tingly sensations.


buffalo-wings

 

Buffalo Wings with Sparkling Rosé

Sparkling Rosé. Fuller, more unctuous than leaner sparklers, the sweeter, more intense red fruit notes (think strawberries, white cherries) easily holds its own against this tart, buttery take on fried chicken.


maryland fried chicken

 

Maryland Fried Chicken with Sparkling Riesling (aka Sekt)

It may look light, but this Mid-Atlantic take on a Southern classic is fried in lard until golden with gravy to go on top. Yowza. For this heavy hitter, we’re calling on sparkling Riesling for its pronounced acidity, orchard fruit notes, and aromatic sweetness. Sekt is the German and Austrian word for sparkling wine.


 

Korean Double-Fried Chicken with Lambrusco

Try a dry or semi-sweet Lambrusco, a sparkling Italian red wine with cherry and blackberry notes that match well with chicken marinated in soy sauce, ginger, and sugar.


kara-age-japanese-fried-chicken

 

Japanese Fried Chicken (Chicken Karaage) with Chablis

This delicate Tempura-like chicken dish from Japan calls for mineral-forward, lemon-driven white wines. For us, it’s a two-way tie between Chablis and Assyrtiko. Seriously, flip a coin and you can’t go wrong.

Fittingly, you could also try: Junmai Daiginjo. This is a premium Sake made from pure rice without any additives.


taiwanese-fried-chicken-wine-pairing

 

Taiwanese Fried Chicken Steak (Xiange Ji Pai) with Grenache

Hey there, red wine fans! Thought we forgot about you? Never. This fried chicken dish is rather unique: it’s not marinated, it features sweet potato starch, and it comes with a dusting of five-spice powder. The unique flavor profile calls for something just as spiced, earthy, and complex, which is why we were evenly divided between Grenache and Zinfandel.


chicharrondepollo

 

Chicharron de Pollo with Cava

With dominating lemon-lime flavors and zap-your-mouth acidity, Cava is the only real pick for this delicious recipe that features olive oil, lime juice, adobo, and cilantro.


kfc

 

KFC with Korbel

The preferred pairing of wine writers everywhere. 😉


Last Word

It’s hard to find a place that serves fried chicken with fine wine. (It’s downright criminal, really.) But hopefully, with this guide, we’ve helped you take this soon-to-be classic pairing into your own hands.

Didn’t get the answer you need or simply disagree on a few of our calls? Don’t be a chicken. Let us know in the comments.

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13 Classic Horror Movie Wine Pairings

Because you’re too old for candy anyway.

And so are we. Not to mention, there are plenty of wines that will satisfy your sweet tooth far beyond what candy will do. (See: Serious Sweet Wines, and Port Pairings, and Ice Wine, please.)

So instead of bingeing on sickly sweet candy this Halloween, sip along with one of these 13 classic flicks and get your heart pulsing this All Hallow’s Eve. Submitted for your approval: Scary good horror movie wine pairings to consume in-between (if you must) all your candy dispensing.

13 Classic Horror Movie Wine Pairings

Carrie and Uruguay Tannat Horror Movie Wine Pairings

Carrie – Uruguay Tannat

It’s a little shy, a little awkward compared to other well-known wine regions. But trust us, this Tannat is bigger and badder than everyone’s favorite cheerleader. (Better watch yourself Cabernet.)

  • Pro-Tip: Find out why Tannat is the next “it” wine. Click here.

 


Silence of the Lambs with Sangiovese Chianti Horror Movie Wine Pairings

The Silence of the Lambs – Chianti

Perfect if you’re having friends for dinner, we mean, over for dinner. (What’d we say?) Pairs better with pizza than liver and fava beans, in our humble opinion.

  • Go Further: As Chianti is made from Sangiovese, there’s a wealth of similar wines to try.
  • Pro-Tip: Splurge on Chianti Classico Riserva if you’re looking for great quality.

 


Shaun of the Dead Red wine Horror Movie Wine Pairing

Shaun of the Dead – Red Wine, Any

Like Shaun, maybe you’re trying to be more refined. Don’t get us wrong, a lager with your best friend is hard to beat. Maybe all you need is a nudge in the right direction…

 


Stephen King's It and Lambrusco Horror Movie Wine Pairings

It (original and remake) – Lambrusco

Though, we understand that some of you will never, ever like it.

  • Dig deeper: Which Lambrusco wines are complex and delicious? Find out.

 


Twin Peaks and Syrah Horror Movie Wine Pairings

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me – Syrah

Such an engaging and bizarre show deserves a wine up to the task of following the last seven days of Laura Palmer’s life. What will we learn? Will it taste like coffee and cherry pie? Or are we going somewhere darker than expected? With Syrah, it really, really depends. May you find something strange and wonderful that leaves you speaking in reverse.

 


28 Days Later and Madeleine Angevine Horror Movie Wine Pairing

28 Days Later – Madeleine Angevine

With a happy ending, you’d think we’d recommend Champagne for celebrating. But as the zombies are A.) extremely fast and therefore, B.) extra scary, you’re going to want something light-in-alcohol and refreshing to keep you on your feet.

  • Can’t find Madeleine A.? Try a Vinho Verde instead.
  • Pro-Tip: Speaking of England, did you know about its rapidly growing wine scene? Learn all about it here.

 


Exorcist and Vin Santo Horror Movie Wine Pairings

The Exorcist – Vin Santo

We compel you to try this classic holy wine.

 


It Follows and Rose Horror Movie Wine Pairings

It Follows – Rosé

Like the horror genre, you may have thought rosé was the same ol’ schtick. Well, this movie sure showed you. So will the types of rosé coming out today.

  • Pro-Tip: Made a bad decision and need to bolt from something both intangible and inescapable? Try rosé in a can! Very portable.

 


Psycho and Riesling Horror Movie Wine Pairings

Psycho – Pradikat Riesling

At first, we thought Barolo. Iconic, powerful, with an agonizing wait until it reaches perfection. A pure psychological thriller. But part of what makes Psycho such an iconic film is the way it was made. It was unpretentious, visceral, and satisfying, despite having a limited budget. Something so strangely basic calls for sweet Riesling.

Plus, Mother always loved Riesling.

 


Evil Dead and Zinfandel Horror Movie Wine Pairings

The Evil Dead – Californian Zinfandel

Relentless, absurd, and completely lacking in subtlety, you’ll need something just as preposterous. Enter big and juicy Zinfandel. Try not to have too much fun knocking back glasses as you watch this singular splatterfest.

  • Added Bonus: Coping with a recently severed hand? The signature high ABV will really help with that.

 


The Shining Napa Valley Cabernet Horror Movie Wine Pairings

The Shining – Napa Valley Cabernet

Do you have the slightest idea what a moral and ethical principle is? Do you? Because we do. (Occasionally.) Credit for this recommendation goes to Christopher Sawyer over at the Sommelier Files. “And like the classic film: the wine is not only bold and powerful, but age worthy as well!” So well put.

  • Dig Deeper: Do you know how to find excellent Napa Cabernet? Find out.

 


Orange Wine and Cube Horror Movie Wine Pairings by Wine Folly

Cube – Orange Wine

A puzzling, thrilling horror film calls for an equally brain-bending style of wine. Stunningly natural, surprisingly tannic, orange wines are unlike anything you’ve ever put in your mouth. A perfect pairing with the surreal, tortuous film that is Cube. Why would anyone do this to themselves? Ah, because you love it.

 


The Babadook and Cannabis Horror Movie Wine Pairings by Wine Folly

The Babadook – Cannabis

You’ve been warned, The Babadook is too nerve-wrecking, even for most adults. Recommending more euphoric experiences instead.
 


Did we leave out your favorite horror movie and wine pairing?

Tell us about your favorite horror movie and we’ll come up with a pairing. And wine pros, we know you love horror (ahem, you work in a restaurant!) We’d love to see your favorite horror movie wine pairing (you too GK!). Leave your note in the comments below! We’re dying to read them.

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Source: Wine Folly News & Entertainment