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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What Wines to Pair With Soup?

because you don’t already have enough liquid in you.

There are a lot articles out there talking about the challenges of pairing soup with wine. Yes, the last thing you need when you’re working on a nice soup belly is more liquid. And, the interplay of broths, bases, and ingredients can leave even a seasoned gourmand stumped.

But you know what? Pairing soup and wine doesn’t have to be so hard. In fact, it’s actually pretty simple if you apply the basic concepts of food and wine pairing. We, over here at Wine Folly, talked it over and came up with the soups we’re hot on this season and the wines we’d drink with them. Read on. (But not with an empty stomach.)

Pairing Wine with Soup

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Chili Con Carne with Tempranillo

This hearty, spicy Tex-Mex favorite begs for an equally muscular and meaty wine to ride alongside it. That’s why we picked Tempranillo, specifically a Rioja Reserva (or Gran Reserva, if you’re feeling fancy). If you really want to be legit, try a Tempranillo from Texas (a specialty!).

Why? The dusty, leathery Tempranillo wines from Spain offer enough spice and meatiness to work as a congruent pairing with the dish, and when served alongside, the chili will actually make the wine taste a little more fruity (kind of like cherries and figs). There were many great recent vintages in Spain, so you’re pretty safe here, except for the 2012 and 2013 vintages (which were “meh”).

Chili Wine Pairing Alternative: Bubbles! Believe it or not, a bottle of Brut Cava is surprisingly great. The acidity, effervescence, and bitter backbone mesh with the scant cheddar cheese sprinkled on top (if you do so), and make the whole taste engagement more creamy. It’s like having sour cream, minus the sour cream.


 
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Beef Stew with Carménère

Thick, tender, and familiar, we’re all bound to be Crock-Potting this bad boy at some point this winter. Though it’s popular to combine with full-bodied reds like Cabernet Sauvignon (and rightfully so), we instead want to make the case for Carménère.

Why? Whereas basic Cab can belly up to the hunks of beef and potatoes, medium-bodied Chilean Carménère can add a much needed dimension to this dish, especially if its trademark peppercorn and herbaceous notes are front and center. Of all the recent vintages in Chile, the only one we’re not excited about is the 2016 vintage, so keep that in mind when hunting for wine.


 
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Chicken Tortilla Soup with Grüner Veltliner

What wine has the power to cut through chicken broth, roasted tomatoes, corn, and chiles? Survey says: A less-than-ripe Grüner Veltliner. Notes of lime zest and white pepper, as well as head-turning acidity, make it a shockingly good companion to Mexican soul food. (Supertasters, do brace yourselves before trying at home!)

Got No Grüner? Try Sauvignon Blanc. New Zealand styles bring complimentary passionfruit and jalapeño flavors to the table, while grassy Loire Valley interpretations (Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé) can really highlight garlic and cilantro.


 
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Butternut Squash Soup with Gewürztraminer

So, what’s one supposed to pair with this comforting crowd-pleaser? It’s gotta be Gewürztraminer. While haters are gonna hate on this semi-sweet, aromatic white wine, its notes of cinnamon, ginger, and honey mesh wonderfully with the spice and silky texture of this soup.

On Finding Good Gewürz: While there are plenty of affordable example in your local supermarket, we recommend springing for a Grand Cru from Alsace, or one from Trentino-Alto Adige of Italy (for more crunchy bitter notes). The quality is unmatched and, even better, the prices are down-to-earth, relatively speaking.


 
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Split Pea & Ham Soup & Riesling

Whether you like it thin or thick as fog, we went with Riesling for this simple, yet satisfying dish. While more and more people are singing the praises of Dry Riesling, we actually recommend more classic, off-dry German Pradikat styles.

Why? The honeycomb and beeswax notes found in these offerings go hand-in-hand with the ham (like a glaze), with the minerality and sweetness being a nice palate cleanser between bites, and heightening an otherwise humble meal.


 
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Indian Red Lentil Soup with Cinsault

While we often recommend white wines or Gamay when pairing with Indian Cuisine, we’re going to get a little wine geeky with this recommendation: Cinsault. Rarely made into a single-varietal wine, Columbia Valley interpretations are fresh, fruity, and even a touch smoky, elevating an already delicious experience to something else entirely. If you can find it, try it. You’ll like what you taste.

That’s too wine geek-y. Recommend better, sir: Juicier, fruit-forward American Grenache will do nicely, too.

Can’t have lentils without that sausage, though.: A gamey, but balanced Spanish Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre) should suffice nicely.


 
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French Onion Soup with Cru Beaujolais

Classic French comfort food deserves a classic pairing: Beaujolais. Not just any Beaujolais, though. It has to be a Cru, preferably one known for producing a lighter style. The Fleurie, Saint-Amour, and Chiroubles AOCs are the first three to come to mind, with just the right flavors (plum, cherry, and peach) to complement the distinct sweet flavor of maillard reaction caused by slow cooked onions. While some may say it’s too light for something so rustic and brothy, the acidity in this wine should cut right through without an issue!

Fresh out of Cru Beaujolais over here: food-friendly Gamay has got you.


 
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New England Clam Chowder with Muscadet

Lean, green, and at times, downright saline, Muscadet (aka Melon) is a peerless match for a supper of New England Clam Chowder and oyster crackers. The slightly more expensive (but still usually around $20) lees-aged Muscadet has an almost lager-like taste and texture that sounds downright tempting. But you know, an even more basic example will perform quite nicely, even if you’re eating from a soup carton and sipping out of a mason jar.


 
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Italian Wedding Soup with Primitivo

For a soup known for its clear broth, leafy greens, and fennel-tinged sausage, it seems a little crazy to recommend something so big and boozy to step all up in its grill. So why did we pick Primitivo? The Pugliese interpretations tend to be rustic, hearty, with a dollop of earthiness, compared to its Californian cousins. In a sense, it’s the perfect spiritual accompaniment to this unfussy Italian-American favorite.


 
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Pho with Crémant Rosé

Maybe more than anything else on this list, Pho feels impervious to pairing. We’ve had plenty of spicy and savory soup dishes on this list, but few things are more filling than this heaping bowl of this goodness. Does one even want a drop of anything else before or after? Well, we thought about it and if you’re up for it, we think we found the one thing that can cut through this fragrant umami bomb: Crémant Rosé.

The fizzy body, creamy mouthfeel, and notes of cherry and almond easily stand up to intense ranks of star anise, black cardamom, and oxtail aromas. The result? An unexpected, but nevertheless magical match.


 
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Tom Yum with Grenache Blanc

Lemongrass, kaffir limes, galangal. Quick: Are we describing Tom Yum or the flavor profile of Grenache Blanc? It’s hard to pair wines with complex, spicy dishes, but unoaked Grenache Blanc and Tom Yum, is, well, it just feels like destiny. Drink early in life, chill a little bit, then brace yourself because you’re on an express trip to Flavor Town. Population: You.

Pro-Tip: Be on the lookout for the ABV. Grenache Blanc tends to be 13-15% and with a spicy Tom Yum; your mouth is gonna burn, child.

Grenache Blanc too hard to find?: Try an Unoaked Chardonnay or Riesling, for a great alternative.


Pairing Wine & Food Poster 12x16 by Wine Folly

Curious how we came up with the list?

You can learn the concepts used to create these pairings from our popular food and wine pairing guide. Try making your own great pairings! (and definitely let us know!)

Wine Folly’s Guide to Pairing Wine and Food

 

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Columbia Valley: Washington’s Biggest Wine Region


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If you think Washington is all clouds and rain, think again.

If you’re into bold, fruit-forward red wines and good values, then you’re going to love the Columbia Valley AVA. This statement might seem counterintuitive at first, because admit it, you’ve probably thought of Washington as a place where the sun doesn’t shine. That couldn’t be any further from the truth. The eastern side of the state receives about 300 days of sunshine a year. (Compare that to the Napa Valley, which receives about 260 days/year.) Washington also often enjoys a long, consistent growing season which allows it to produce some of the boldest red wine varieties around, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and even limited plantings of Petit Verdot, Mourvèdre, and Petite Sirah!

This guide to the Columbia Valley AVA will quickly get you up to speed on what wines are worth seeking out and what you should know about Washington wine.
 

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300 days of sun at the cult plot at Cayuse Vineyards in The Rocks of Milton-Freewater in Walla Walla. WA Wine Commission/Andrea Johnson

6 Quick Facts About The Columbia Valley

  1. The Columbia Valley AVA was established in 1984 and is located on the eastern side of Washington State and a small part of Oregon.
  2. The region contains 50,316 acres of vineyards representing 99% of Washington wine country, making it just a touch bigger than Napa Valley (45,000 acres.)
  3. The Columbia Valley contains 12 other AVAs including the well-known Walla Walla Valley, Horse Heaven Hills, Red Mountain, and Yakima Valley.
  4. Annual rainfall in the Columbia Valley averages 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm.) To put that in context, that’s about as dry as the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, which sees about 7.6 inches!
  5. The Columbia River, as well as snowmelt from the Cascade Mountains, supplies the region’s water for agriculture (including apples, of which Washington is the world’s largest producer.)
  6. Columbia Valley soils are predominantly loess (wind-blown silt and sand soils created by the Missoula Floods) and result in wines with increased aromatics.

Wine grape distribution of Washington State by Wine Folly from 2016

Wines of the Columbia Valley

Originally known in the 1970s for its aromatic Riesling and Gewürztraminer, the Columbia Valley rose to prominence in the 1980s and 90s when a slew of producers (Leonetti Cellars, DeLille Cellars, and Woodward Canyon) impressed critics with their Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Today, nearly 60% of the region’s vineyards are dedicated to full-bodied red wine varieties with Cabernet Sauvignon representing the state’s top grape. What makes Columbia Valley red wines unique? Plush, fruity flavors paired with sweet-tart acidity and balanced tannins.

USA-WA-Columbia-Valley-wine-varieties

  • Red: Expect fruit-forward wines with notes of cherries, currants, cassis, and ground, dried herbs. The region’s best red wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Grenache, Tempranillo, Cabernet Franc, as well as Bordeaux- and Rhône-style Blends.
  • White: Lemon, lime, green/golden delicious apples, white peaches, nectarines with moderate acidity. White varieties that do well in Washington’s dry climate include Riesling, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and of course, white Bordeaux-style Blends.
  • Rosé: Dry, crisp, and refreshing with cranberry, strawberry, melon, and herbal notes, with an easy-drinking mouthfeel. Producers have taken to using many different varieties, but it’s the Sangiovese-, Cabernet Franc-, and Grenache-based rosé wines that we feel really shine.

One wine that shows amazing potential in the Columbia Valley is Syrah, though it can really depend from one region to next. Where you may get notes of flower, cocoa, and blackberry jam from a wine made with grapes from the Western Yakima Valley, A Walla Walla Valley Syrah may send you in a totally different direction, offering notes of roasted meats, olives, and iodine along with a more lavish texture.

Read more about why we selected specific wines as prime examples of Washington wine.


Washington Wine Map

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Wine Regions of the Columbia Valley

Because the Columbia Valley is so large it’s continually being split up into smaller AVAs. This is good because each area has a specialty and distinct characteristics you can taste in the wines. Here are the most important AVAs to know:

yakima-valley-wine-map-wine-folly

Yakima Valley

Established in 1983, it is the Pacific Northwest’s oldest AVA, predating the Columbia Valley by about a year. Incredibly diverse in terms of climate from west to east, the region produces all manner of red and white varieties with wines encompassing a broad range of styles. It also encompasses three distinctive sub-AVAs in its own right: Red Mountain, Snipes Mountain, and Rattlesnake Hills.

  • What it’s known for: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Riesling, Grenache, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Sangiovese, Viognier, Petit Verdot, Bordeaux-Style Blends, GSM Blends, Mourvèdre.
Red Mountain

Small, but mighty: Tiny Red Mountain is one of the hottest, if not the hottest wine growing region in Washington State. This sub-AVA is known for producing dark, tannic, red wines that have garnered significant critical acclaim.

  • What it’s known for: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot with high tannins as well as Chenin Blanc and a little Chardonnay that’s somewhat low acidity.
Snipes Mountain

Home to some of Washington State’s oldest grapevines, it features rather unique soil: Fist- and melon-sized gravel deposits left behind by the ancient flow of the Columbia River.

  • What it’s known for: Recent AVA-designated releases of Grenache are stupefyingly good.
  • Cool fact: Snipes Mountain has several Muscat of Alexandria vines that have producing grapes since 1917!
Rattlesnake Hills

Evenly split between red and white varieties, the higher elevation of this growing region guards against spring and fall frosts and even hard winter freezes.

  • What it’s known for: Mostly known for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Riesling and some Chardonnay.
  • Cool fact: Mostly centered around the town of Zillah, which, if you can believe it, has a place of worship called the Church of God-Zillah.
  • Cooler fact: The church is actually older than the very concept of Godzilla.

walla-walla-wine-map-winefolly

Walla Walla Valley

Known locally as “Napa Valley in Blue Jeans,” this agricultural hub was first famous for its wheat, asparagus, and sweet onions before becoming wine’s next big thing. Unable to be defined by one kind of terroir, soils, precipitation levels, and elevations vary from the west to the east to the south.

  • What it’s known for: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Sangiovese, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Bordeaux-Style Blends, Lemberger.
  • Cool fact: Washington wine got its start here in the 1850s with Cinsault plantings by Italian immigrants.
The Rocks of Milton-Freewater

Technically located in Oregon, this seemingly inhospitable region became an official AVA in 2015 and is the brainchild of the Champagne-born Christophe Baron of Cayuse Vineyards. He saw immense potential in “The Rocks” which describes an ancient riverbed of of baseball-sized cobblestones. How prized is this young growing region already? From Baron himself, its drawn comparisons to Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Wine from this region can be expensive and difficult to find with seemingly every offering being elevated to cult-like status.

  • What it’s known for: Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, Malbec, Viognier.

Horse Heaven Hills

This expansive, desolate region is home to large vineyards (1500+ acres) that are a sight to behold. Not only is this place known for quantity (25% of Washington’s total grape production), it’s known for quality: this is the home of Washington’s first, second, and third 100-point wines from old vines on Champoux Vineyard made by Quilceda Creek Vintners. It’s here in Horse Heaven Hills that you’ll find Columbia Crest, which is one of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates prized winery brands.

  • What it’s known for: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Riesling, Syrah.

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Mercer Estate in Horse Heaven Hills – one of the driest regions in the state. WA Wine Commission/Andrea Johnson

 

Lesser-Known Regions

Some of the best values in Columbia Valley are found from its lesser-known wine regions.

  • Wahluke Slope: Vies with Red Mountain as one of the driest and warmest climates in the state. This quiet, remote region is responsible for producing consistently great Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot at great prices.
  • Ancient Lakes: Technically called Ancient Lakes of the Columbia Valley, this AVA is named after glacial lakes that pothole the region. Expect crisp, citrus-tinged Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Gris.
  • Lake Chelan Valley: Often thought of a sunny getaway for Vitamin D-starved Seattleites, the stunning, glacier-fed lake stabilized temperatures in the area, saving grapes from extreme temperatures hot and cold. Seek out its Malbec, Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer, and sparkling wines.
  • Naches Heights: Sitting just outside of the Yakima Valley, this region is notable as all vineyards are farmed either organically, biodynamically, or salmon-safe, with some a combination.
  • Lewis-Clark Valley: Established in 2016, this AVA mostly sits in Idaho, but creeps into Washington State and Columbia Valley. Though it is still developing its present-day personality, the Lewis-Clark Valley once had a thriving industry before Prohibition. Our guess: As this area is cooler, it will likely deliver us more elegant reds and white wines.

Red-Mountain-Wine-Region-Fall-Andrea-Robinson
Red Mountain AVA along the Yakima River in the fall season. WA Wine Commission/Andrea Johnson

Last Word

The Columbia Valley is a wine region that everyone should know about. Thanks to its unique terroir, it offers freakishly elegant, aromatic wines that are well-developed in both body and structure. However, as a region, it has a few noticeable traits that separate it from both Old and New World regions, firmly placing in what can only be called the Wild West of wine. Let’s get to the nitty-gritty:

  1. Unlike most Old World wine regions, nearly all vineyards in Washington are irrigated. While essential for the production of wine in the Columbia Valley, this is considered a somewhat controversial practice in viticulture as it can artificially inflate yields, place undue stress on water resources, and create less variation across vintages.
  2. The region is notoriously windy and most vineyards are planted so that the winds can pass through the rows. Wind reduces disease pressure from pests and fungus and causes grapes to develop thicker skins.
  3. Despite the largesse of natural benefits, very few Washington vineyards are organic and even less are biodynamic, but there are notable exceptions. (See: Cayuse Vineyards, Wilridge Winery)
  4. There’s an interesting separation between winemakers and growers–in that some are exclusively winemakers and growers. While there are a number of true estate wineries in Washington, many winemakers choose to have their grapes shipped to their facilities by trucks from growers in the Columbia Valley. This comes with some inherent risk: Freshly picked grapes are sensitive objects and transporting them from a semi-arid steppe environment, over a mountain range, and into a cool, marine-based climate can place undue stress on them.

Are you familiar with Washington State or Columbia Valley wine? We’d love to hear your thoughts.


Wine Folly Maps

Explore more of the wine map collection. Maps are printed on spill and tear resistant paper and made in Seattle, WA, USA.

View Maps

Sources
Washington Wine Commission
Walla Walla Wine
Great Northwest Wine
Seattle Times article about Lewis Clark Valley
The Oxford Companion to Wine, Jancis Robinson for irrigation facts.
Major thanks to Madeline Puckette for all of her guidance.

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9 Must-Try Wines For Fall

Put down the #PSL and pick up one of these.

If you’re anything like the Wine Folly crew, you’re lamenting the end of summer and all the white wines and pink drinks that go with it. (See you next year, Albariño, Rosé of Cabernet Franc, and you taco-friendly Verdejo. Thanks for the memories. Much love.)

Understandably, we’re in need of comfort. Comfort that goes beyond sweaters, binge-watching Netflix favorites, and Pumpkin Spice Lattes. We need wine. While we’re not quite ready for Cabernet Sauvignon, Sagrantino, or Tannat to carry us through winter, we need something more to get us through shorter days and all this rain (or, mental thunderclaps).

While we may get some heat for not including traditional favorites, (We see you Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and we love you) here are the nine wines we’re bullish on this autumn.
Semillon White Wine Taste & Food Pairing Illustration by Wine Folly

Sémillon

Fall isn’t just red wine season. It’s full-bodied white wine season too. This Bordeaux-borne grape is often blended with Sauvignon Blanc, giving an otherwise lush, mouth-filling wine a welcome hint of zippiness to make an excellent white pour for those dark green fall veggies. Find one with some age or oak on it and be prepared for notes of honey, almond, and an unctuous texture.

  • Regions to Checkout: Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux; Napa and Sonoma, California; South Africa; Columbia Valley
  • Pro-Tip: While Australian varietals are similarly phenomenal, their leaner bodies may have you looking elsewhere for the fall season.

Marsanne and Roussanne White Wine Taste & Food Pairing Illustration by Wine Folly

Marsanne/Roussanne

Ah, the whites of the Northern Rhône. Yes, these are two different grapes with Marsanne being notably bigger-boned and Roussanne leaning on the more aromatic side. But, it really feels like you can’t have one without the other. They’re often blended together to make a rich, medium-to-full-bodied white with striking perfume aromas, creamy pear and nut flavors, and a downright filling finish.

Barbera Red Wine Taste & Food Pairing Illustration by Wine Folly

Barbera

Though it doesn’t quite have the bonafides of Nebbiolo, Barbera is Northern Italy’s wine of the people and is never too far from a Piedmontese dining table. This wine can be a bit of a conundrum. Due to its pigmentation, it can taste both rich and light-bodied, offering the berry and cherry notes in bigger wines, but goes down like a treat, thanks to lively acidity. Oak-heavy styles have an extra touch of chocolate, vanilla and spice.

Dolcetto Red Wine Taste & Food Pairing Illustration by Wine Folly

Dolcetto

We must be feeling Piedmont’s everyday drinkers, because we’re definitely sweet on Italy’s little sweet one. Despite the name, this wine is known for being on the dry side with more tannin than Barbera, but less acid. Expect delightfully fruity, licorice, and bitter sensations with this quaffable recommendation.

  • Regions to Checkout: Langhe, Piedmont; Lodi, California
  • Pro-Tip: Seek out Dolcetto di Dogliani, and Dolcetto di Dogliani Superiore for a more elevated experience.

Carignan Red Wine Taste & Food Pairing Illustration by Wine Folly

Carignan

Known for its cranberry, cured meat, and baking spice flavors, this affordable medium-bodied red is finally starting to shed its low-quality reputation. Many producers are reinvigorating old vineyards and making tremendous wines that pair so well with foods, the wine is practically its own ingredient. As Carignan vines are productive, you’d do well to seek out old vines where you can.

Grenache (aka Garnacha) Wine Taste & Food Pairing Illustration by Wine Folly

Grenache

When it comes to fall-friendly wines, this is arguably one of the friendliest. So much so that we wonder if it shouldn’t be in the obvious column. Character, of course, varies from region to region with raspberry and clove (Spain, Australia, U.S.A.) in some, and dried strawberry and herbs in others (France, Italy.) But really, it’s hard to go wrong, at least in our humble opinion. Occasionally, Grenache can be prone to a higher ABV, but hey, when it’s this cold, who’s complaining?

  • Regions to Checkout: Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes du Rhône; Cannonau-Sardinia; Paso Robles; Columbia Valley; South Australia; Aragon-Spain
  • Pro-Tip: The highly praised Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Chateau Rayas, is 100% Grenache!

Grenache Syrah Mourvedre Wine Taste & Food Pairing Illustration by Wine Folly

Rhône/GSM Blends

You love Grenache. You can’t get enough of all those berry and clove notes. But maybe you need something more. A little more tannin here, acidity there. Something a bit more robust to pair with a foggy, chilly night. Enter the classic GSM (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre) blend. Plush and opulent, one can expect additional flavors of lavender, baking spice, and even some green herbs.

Cabernet Franc Red Wine Taste & Food Pairing Illustration by Wine Folly

Cabernet Franc

If you’ve just about had it with fruit-forward offerings, then Cabernet Franc is here to save your wine drinking day. Yes, you’ll still find strawberries and plums among the dominant flavors, but if you go the cool-climate route, you’ll also come across chili and bell pepper notes, as well as some peppercorns, making single-varietal Cabernet Francs one supple, savory enterprise.

Zinfandel Wine Taste & Food Pairing Illustration by Wine Folly

Primitivo/Zinfandel

This wine right here, this is our definitely intended jam—pun. Though we are fans of the lighter, low-ABV styles with rose petal, sage, and black pepper flavors, it’s the richer styles that inspired us to write this article. Jam and smoke. Notes of cinnamon, raisin, chocolate, and tobacco. ABVs north of 15%. This, ladies, gentlemen, and aspiring oenophiles, is fall in a glass.

  • Regions to Checkout: Lodi, Napa Valley; Sonoma Valley; Sierra Foothills-California
  • Nah, That’s Too Rich for Me: Puglia, Italy

OK, Wine Folly fam, you know we didn’t catch all of them. What else would you add to the list? Inquiring minds want to know.

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Source: Wine Folly News & Entertainment

The Rise and Fall of Wine Coolers

They were huge in the 80s and then they disappeared. What happened?

The late-age millennials here at Wine Folly are having a serious case of déjà vu right now. The eighties are alive again. Radical. The music, the fashion–it’s back. Have you noticed the shoulder pads and “mom jeans” back on the streets? It feels like at any moment we could see our parents coming around the corner wearing neon and polyester, sauntering to the sounds of “Call Me,” and getting crunk (or drunk) on wine coolers like there’s no tomorrow.
 
wine-coolers-girl-wine-folly
 
Then we thought of something: Whatever happened to those wine coolers? You remember them, right? They were the fizzy, brightly colored libations that combined the flavors of “Chablis” with fruit punch (back then we called it “sha-bliss”). Brands like Bartles and Jaymes, Seagram’s, and California Cooler were inescapable. We can’t be alone in having memories of two old men, downing four-packs on the porch or Bruce Willis telling us “this is where the fun starts.”

It’s not that we miss wine coolers, mind you. We really, really don’t. (Find out why below.) We just genuinely wonder how a seemingly unstoppable fad could bite the dust so quickly.
 
Wine Cooler production gif
 

The Rise of the Cooler

OK, so maybe you’re not quite a late-age millennial or the term “wine cooler” means nothing to you. Wine coolers were a riff on the spritzer, a chilled white wine cocktail with, well, a spritz of carbonated water for easy, refreshing drinking.

Originally, wine coolers were home-made from light white wines (dry Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio) and lemon-lime soda. However, in the early 1980s, they were bottled and sold commercially by some pretty heavy hitters (guys like E. & J. Gallo and Seagram’s.) Marketed as sort of soda pop for adults, they contained pulp, artificial fruit flavors, cheap wine, and about as much alcohol as your average craft beer (4-6%).

Wondering what could possibly be the appeal of such a beverage? Well, aside from a sessional ABV, one didn’t have to open a whole bottle of Chardonnay to enjoy something on the lighter side. Not to mention the easy twist-off cap was a convenient feature in the go-go decade. Combine that with all the flavoring and it’s no surprise wine coolers became a full-blown phenomenon–especially in an era of sluggish beverage sales.

And a full-blown phenomenon they were. According to the Chicago Tribune in 1985, they accounted for close to 10% of all wine consumption in the United States! Yeah, we know. We couldn’t believe it either.
 

1991 Marked the Wine Cooler’s Untimely End

So where did it all go wrong? Was it Zima and the onslaught of alcopop brands that did coolers in? Not exactly. The answer was taxes, taxes, taxes. On New Year’s Day, 1991, Congress more than quintupled the excise tax on wine from $.17/gallon to $1.07/gallon. This made wine blending bad business and effectively ushered in the era of the malternative beverage. (Thanks a lot, Congress.) Zima and Smirnoff Ice mercifully, briefly reigned supreme and our friends, Bartles & Jaymes and Seagram’s had to jump on the malted bandwagon to remain viable.
 
wine-coolers-malt-beverages
 

The beer tax doubled, the wine tax quintupled… just sayin’.

Why exactly did Congress raise the excise tax on wine to such an absurd amount? It was the beginning of a five-year, $490 billion deficit reduction package worked out by both the industry and President Bush. Aside from everyone feeling the tax hit on their income, gas, and smokes, they felt it in their wine. More than wine, it also affected beer and liquor, but to a much, much lesser degree. Still, as wine people, we have to wonder if there’s more of a conspiracy afoot. (We’re looking at you, beer industry.)

 

And…They’re Back!

The world may be returning to the eighties, but when it comes to beverages, its moved on to bigger, better, and tastier things. Right? Well, we’re not so sure. The Kitchn thinks wine coolers are cool again. So does Travel + Leisure. Dang Kanye and Rhianna, you too? Oh, s***, even Zima is making an appearance. What is happening right now?

Wine Coolers Spritzers Cocktails 2017 Wine Folly

Actually, it’s not too much of a surprise. (Well, the Zima is.) Wine coolers did have some things that are certainly trending now: lower ABV and sweet without feeling too sweet. (That sugar content, though… watch out!) Combine that with a less snobby drinking culture and a wider availability of artisan ingredients (we’ve seen flavorings like yerba mate and mint), and maybe companies and mixologists can rebuild the wine cooler and make it better than it was before.

Oddly enough, we’ve seen a few pieces of legislation asking to raise the excise tax for wine and beer yet again. Just great, right?

So, what do you think? Are we (as humans) ready to do wine coolers right?

Sources
We asked this question once before on the Wine Folly blog.
Chicago Tribune article from 1985
Orlando Sentinel covered coolers once, and then twice.
Baltimore Sun article about the excise tax on wine from 1991.
Dr. Vino talked about them too. Go doc.
Illustrations and animations by Madeline Puckette.

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Source: Wine Folly News & Entertainment