A teinturier grape is red wine grape with dark skins and flesh. In contrast, regular red wine grapes have dark skins, but clear flesh. Fittingly, the word “teinturier” comes from the French “to dye or stain.”
Teinturier grapes are not a common site in the vineyard.
When the skins are soaked in juice, anthocyanin (color pigment) is released, literally staining the wine. That’s why there are such things as rosé (limited skin contact) and white Pinot Noir (zero skin contact–made like a white wine.)
Like most things in wine, though, there’s always an exception to the rule. It’s near impossible to make a white Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon because the skins stain the juice almost immediately. Included in this group of “always red” wines are teinturier grapes with black skins and red flesh.
Why Do Teinturier Grapes Exist?
It’s a natural mutation. It’s thought that these red-fleshed grapes were grown to add visual depth to Aramon wine. Aramon (which is still in existence today) is a highly productive, mildew-resistant red wine variety from Languedoc-Roussillon.
Beginning in the 19th Century and spanning into the 1960s, Aramon was supposedly France’s most widely-grown grape. Unfortunately, Aramon was used during a time when grapes were used for quantity – not quality – and it was mostly used for cheap rosé.
3 Examples of Teinturier Grapes
If you already knew about teinturier grapes, this is likely the grape you had in mind! Originally cultivated in 1866 to add visual depth to Aramon, Alicante is known for producing being deep, dark red wines when used alone. It hasn’t always enjoyed the best of reputations. (Always the blender, never the blendee, eh, Alicante?) However, that’s changing fast in Spain and Portugal where they grapes are now known for producing textured wines with rich blackberry flavors and spice notes.
The pride of Georgia (the country, not the state) and widely planted throughout the former Soviet Republic, this teinturier grape makes, yep, you guessed it, deep, dark red wines with ample acidity. Unlike Alicante, Saperavi is mostly known as a single-varietal wine with finer examples boasting age-worthy potential. It’s the wine you want when you’re chowing down on a stuffed, meaty pasta.
(“Sham-boor-sin”) Not only is cold-resistant Chambourcin a teinturier grape, it’s also a French-American hybrid! (Good ol’ North American melting pot!) You may have noticed a “deep and dark” pattern with these wines, but Chambourcin is actually more akin to Cabernet Franc. If you can get your hands on it, expect robust black cherry flavors, along with some tobacco and green pepper notes. It may even change your opinion of wines produced from hybrid grapes…
History of Teinturier: Robinson, Jancis, The Oxford Companion to Wine, pg. 13, 31, 645-646, 732
One classic white. One classic red. Plus, a few others for those looking to go beyond simple chèvre for goat cheese wine pairing.
Don’t overthink goat cheese wine pairings! Just remember the following: What grows together, goes together. Goat cheese is the pride of the Loire Valley of France. So, try pairing it with wines from the Loire Valley. Sauvignon Blanc if you like whites. Cabernet Franc if you like reds. Here’s why.
Why Sauvignon Blanc? Because your average piece of goat cheese is a blank slate, ready to be impressed upon. (A tart, earthy blank slate, but a blank slate nonetheless!) Sauvignon Blanc wines are the perfect chisels. Acidic, mineral-driven, and citrusy as hell, they impart all that goodness into the cream, giving it the extra herbal flavors you didn’t know it needed to have. Plus, it preps the palate for the next bite, which is a given, because who does a “one and done” with this combination? Seriously.
Short on Sauv Blanc?Chenin Blanc, the Loire’s most widely grown white grape is an excellent, excellent alternative. Look for white wines with Vouvray or Touraine on the label for standout examples.
Going French? Look for Chinon, Bourgueil, Anjou, Coteaux du Loir, Saumur
Why Cabernet Franc? Since you simply insist on red wine with your goat cheese, Cabernet Franc is a great choice. The Loire Valley produces lighter styles with more herbaceous notes and tart acidity. Bigger, fruitier wines may sound nice with this gamy cut of curd, but in practice, it overwhelms the soft, impressionable nature of goat cheese.
Cab Franc a little scarce? Red wines from cool-climates like (Gamay, Malbec, Merlot, and Syrah) are often a safe bet with their higher acidity and delicate flavors. To learn more and fine great cool-climate wines yourself, check out this article!
More Goat Cheese Wine Pairing Options
So, you’ve tried the chèvre log. You love it and it will always a place in your heart (and in your fridge). But you’ve been there and done that. You know goat brie, gouda, and cheddar is where it’s at. You’re a full-blown Humboldt Fog enthusiast. (Respect.) Heck, maybe you just want a break from the Sancerre-chèvre connection. (Also respect.) Here are some more options:
Creamy and Spreadable Goat Cheese:Crémant de Loire (Florette, Chavroux) Sparklers from the Loire region that are made primarily with Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir.
Standard Chèvre: Malbec (Crottin de Chavignol, Le Chevrot, Buche De Chèvre) You know how Goat Cheese is often served with berry jam? It’s like that, but better. Try Côt and Cahors from France for an earthier Malbec style.
Goat Cheddar:Pinot Noir
(Mt. Sterling Raw Milk Goat Cheddar, Redwood Hill Farm Aged Goat Cheddar) Loosen up this firm, funky interpretation with something equally earthy.
Goat Gouda: Syrah (Cool-Climate) (Murray’s Goat Gouda, L’Amuse Brabander Goat Gouda) Like people, firm and nutty needs a deliberate, delicate touch.
A surprisingly complex, affordable alternative to the same ol’ Sauv Blanc.
Blue Goat Cheese:Natural Wine
(Humboldt Fog, Bleu du Chèvre) Might as well turn this pairing into a full-blown funk blast.
Aged Goat Cheese: Merlot (Tomme de Chèvre, Aged Garrotxa) Deeper, earthier cheeses need a wine with bigger shoulders.
A new study has headlines shouting “wine will clean your brain!” So, what does this study really signify? Find out the real story.
“Wine Will Clean Your Brain!”
You might have noticed talk about a recent study. It’s something that should be of interest to drinkers everywhere about the long-term effects of alcohol on your central nervous system. Some of the reporting out there has come with some pretty snappy headlines (e.g. “Wine will clean your brain!) Naturally, you’re probably a bit skeptical. Let’s take a closer look.
A recent study studied alcohol’s effect on the brain’s waste removal system (the glymphatic system). The results were surprising.
The Alcohol Brain Study
In February 2018, The Center for Translational Neuromedicine (at University of Rochester Medical Center) published a study about the effects of prolonged alcohol exposure on the central nervous system. In their study, they exposed mice to various levels of ethanol (alcohol) in small, intermediate, and high doses. They were trying to pin point how much alcohol it takes to damage central nervous system function. For their metric, they observed the glymphatic system. The results were unexpected.
What Is The Glymphatic System? Think of it as the waste removal system of your brain. It’s the distribution network of crucial compounds (glucose, amino acids, neurotransmitters) through your central nervous system.
What Did The Study Find?
Low:(0.5 g/kg) = 2.63 Glasses of Wine (Moderate Drinking)
Findings showed that the glymphatic function in mice improved with a low-dose exposure to ethanol. In human terms, it would be equivalent to about 2 and a half glasses of wine (for a 155 lb / 70 kg human). The exposure to ethanol also reduced inflammation and increased efficiency of waste removal in the brain.
Medium:(1.5 g/kg) = 7.9 Glasses of Wine (Binge Drinking)
High:(4 g/kg) = 21 Glasses of Wine (Sheer Insanity)
Unfortunately, the intermediate- (1.5 g/kg) and high-dose (4 g/kg) exposures majorly decreased the glymphatic function of the mice, resulting in suppressed activity, misallocation of compounds, and induced an injury reaction in the cells. The authors suggested that these adverse reactions likely increase the risk of dementia.
This article is designed to break down this study to be as digestible as possible. If you’re interested in learning more and getting specifics, see the full study.
Last Word: Drink Smarter
People are saying incredible, half-true things about wine all the time. It’s wise to keep your guard up, look past the clickbait headline, and get to the facts. Wine may taste magical, but it isn’t magic.
Yes, wine at this stage has some interesting central nervous system benefits and hazards—in mice. Though it should go without saying that testing on mice, despite similar genetic and biological behaviors, isn’t the same as testing on humans. There’s still a way to go, so it might be wise err on the side of caution and moderation.
It’s good to see more and more discussion about alcohol’s impact on human health. As wine drinkers it’s essential to understand alcohol’s quantifiable effect on our immune, digestive, endocrine, and cardiovascular systems.
Live long and prosper.
What is Moderation?
Moderation is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as one drink per day for women, two for men. Why do men get to drink more than women?
Who wants some lasagna? That’s a silly question. The answer, of course, is everyone. Everyone wants lasagna. You. Me. That guy on the bus over there. Few can resist this holy trinity of cheese, sauce, and pasta. It may be time-consuming to make, but the effort is what makes it feel like home and worth sharing with others.
So what’s the best wine to pair with a piece of Italian soul food?
Why? Because tart and savory Sangiovese drinks well with the intensity of lasagna. This is because the high acid and rustic flavor profile cuts through creamy fat and tarantellos with tomato at the same time. Heck, if you want to go the non-traditional route (Tex-Mex Lasagna anyone?), Sangio is up for the challenge.
Sangiovese is delicious, ubiquitous (it’s Italy’s top grape), and drinks well with every style of lasagna. We both could be talking about lasagna, but we might be talking about two different things. Maybe in your head, it’s red sauce all the way, stuffed with ricotta, sausage, and eggs like Nonna made. Maybe it’s thick with Béchamel and Bolognese, an oozing testament of indulgence, best enjoyed sparingly.
Of course, there are some other wines well worth considering…
The Style Made Famous in Naples, Southern Italy, and Italian-American Households
Stuffed inside and out with mozzarella, ricotta, meatballs, sausage, eggs, and olive oil, this epic, salt-of-the-earth meal calls for Aglianico, the champion grape of Southern Italy. Not only does the wine’s high tannin content complement rich and fatty dishes, but the high acidity and dried fruit flavors beg to paired with a hearty red sauce.
Try classic white Lasagna with a lean, olive driven white like Arneis. By Oliver H.
Signature Style of Emilia-Romagna, Popular in Northern Italy, & Europe
Wine of Choice: Arneis
If you’re all about lasagna made with Béchamel and Bolognese in perfect balance with noodles, you should be all about pairing it with Arneis. This Piedmontese grape is a pain in the ass to grow. (Arneis doesn’t literally translate to “little rascal” for nothing). When done right, though, it becomes a zap-you-in-the-mouth wine that acts like an herb, infusing Béchamel and other creamy cheeses with unmistakable green notes. You’re gonna love it.
Expect to Spend: $20 Names to Look For: Langhe Arneis, Roero Arneis Also Try:Chablis, Nebbiolo
Try Pesto Lasagna with a richer, green-themed white wine like Vermentino. By Wei-Duan Woo.
This pesto-driven interpretation combines parmesan cheese, basil, pine nuts, and olive oil (and more lightly baked noodles) for a lasagna full of flavor and aroma. Sure, this Ligurian specialty isn’t as well-known as the above, but that doesn’t make it any less delicious. Pairing with an equally lean, green Vermentino is an excellent option. It’s dry, a touch oily, and just bitter enough to hang with this style’s fragrant nature.
Expect to Spend: $20 Names to Look For: Vermentino Toscana, Vermentino di Sardegna, Vermentino Bolgheri Also Try:Soave, Grechetto
Try Moussaka with a fruity, spice-driven red wine like Grenache. By Namealus.
The Lasagna of the Levant, Middle East, & Eastern Europe
Maybe your favorite lasagna isn’t really lasagna at all. Maybe it’s Moussaka, a lasagna-like dish with a custardy Béchamel topping, eggplant filling, as well as cinnamon and nutmeg spices. (Served room temperature and cold in Turkish and Arabic countries!) It was a close call, but in the end, we had to go with Grenache. These wines make an excellent companion to herb- and spice-heavy dishes that emphasize roasted vegetables.
Expect to Spend: $25-50 (for starters) Names to Look For: Garnacha, Cannonau, Côtes du Rhône Villages, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Expensive) Also Try:Syrah, Priorat, Grillo, Retsina
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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:
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Erica Landon talks terroir while I furiously scribble notes. Photo by Bree Boskov.
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.”
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
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.
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)
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Nebbiolo is an old, old grape, first being referenced as far back as the 13th Century!
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.
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.
Despite being an essential part of two of the country’s premier wines, Nebbiolo is rarely grown anywhere else in Italy.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Ghemme DOCG and Gattinara DOCG Two neighboring Northern Piemontese regions producing single-varietal Nebbiolo wines with rich dried fruit aromas and rustic earthy notes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Valtellina region where Nebbiolo is called Chiavennasca and produces one of the most elegant styles.
Did You Know?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Example: Avery White Rascal
Typical Flavors: coriander, orange peel, white tea, honey
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.
Example: Reissdorf Kolsch
Typical Flavors: cracker, bread, crisp, mild orchard fruit
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
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
Amber Ale / Red Ale
Example: Tröegs Nugget Nectar
Typical Flavors: malt, caramel, whole wheat bread, mild fruit
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!
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.
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.
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.
Succumb to the Dark Side
Example: Deschutes Black Butte Porter
Typical Flavors: coffee, bittersweet chocolate, smoke, black bread
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.
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
Example: North Coast Thelonious Monk
Typical Flavors: caramel, dark sugar, plum, dates, figs
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.
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.
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.
Example: Tripel Karmeliet
Typical Flavors: pear, lemon, white cherry, white bread, cream soda
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
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!”
Example: North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout
Typical Flavors: strong coffee/espresso, burnt sugar, hearty oats, dried dark fruit
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.
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.
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
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 ‘n’ Funky
Saison / Farmhouse Ale
Example: Fantome Saison
Typical Flavors: hay/straw, barnyard, white pepper, orange, lemon, lime
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
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?
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
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.
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
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.
Example: Black Boss Porter
Typical Flavors: roasted grain, alcohol, black licorice, balsam, sarsaparilla
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.
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.
Example: 21st Amendment Marooned on Hog Island
Typical Flavors: mollusk, brine, sea salt, dark grain
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.
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!
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. “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. “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. “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. “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.
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!
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.
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. “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. “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. “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.
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
‘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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
“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.
If you DO come up with the perfect sentence to describe Thai cuisine, leave a comment and we’ll wallow in its glory.