Wednesday, January 27, 2016

4 Tips for Scoring Great Wines On The Cheap

As with anything else, the price of a bottle of wine is subjective. In other words, "what the market will bear." That means that you can find an enjoyable bottle of wine without breaking the bank because higher prices do not guarantee a great wine. (They do guarantee a great advertising budget, though.)

Consider these tips next time you’re shopping for a nice bottle of wine on the cheap.

What’s In A Name
Many times wine drinkers identify themselves with a grape (I’m a Cab drinker; I love Chards; Pinot Grig is my “go to.”) But keep in mind that some of these grapes go by other names.

Muscat Grapes
Take the extremely popular Moscato. Regardless of what you call it,  Muscat (same grape) or Moscadelle (different grape, very similar flavor), that wine will provide those characteristics you love about Moscato, but at a cheaper price.

Other name changing examples include Rioja - Tempranillo. Rioja is actually the region where Spanish Tempranillo (the grape) is grown. But you’ll find wines labeled by either name. And we all know real Champagne only comes from France, but in Spain that bubbly beverage is called Cava, and it’s known as Cremant in France. In the U.S., we just ask for a sparkling wine.

Travel Off the Beaten Track
Lake Erie Wine Region
The holy trinity of wine-producing states in the U.S are California, with Sonoma and Napa Valley; Oregon, which has the Willamette Valley, and the New York Finger Lakes. But there are great wineries located in all 50 states. Explore some up-and comers in the Texas Hill Country; check out Lake Erie’s Wine Region, and don’t miss spending time in Loudon County, Virginia. Great wines, beautiful regions and lower prices.

Check Out The Neighbors
Wines crafted from grapes grown in highly revered wine regions (Think Italy’s Piedmont, or the Burgundy region of France.) come with a price. But you can enjoy these exquisite terroir-focused wines at a much cheaper price when you purchase from small, local wineries in that same region.

Private Labels
For some ridiculously cheap wines that are actually good, look for the private brand offered at your local chain grocery. Trader Joe’s made a name with their Charles Shaw brand almost 15 years ago, selling a bottle for $1.99. (Today the wine goes for an average of $2.49 a bottle.) The chain sells over 5 million cases of Two Buck Chuck per year; not bad for a wine that goes well with dinner.

Not to be outdone, Aldi, the global discount supermarket chain, offers their Winking Owl line, which always garners awards, at the tempting price of just under $3 a bottle. And Walmart sells a private label wine called Oak Leaf Vineyards for $2.97 a bottle.

Next time you’re wine shopping, take a chance on an inexpensive wine and see what develops!

~ Joy

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Calorie Content in Alcohol: Do We Really Want To Know?

A few years ago, consumers who were “counting calories” sent up a plea to the Food and Drug Administration that wine, beer and other alcohol products list the number of calories per serving on the label.

With the arrival of 2016, over 20 restaurant chains have complied. According to the Food and Drug Administration’s ruling, the amount of calories in alcoholic drinks must be listed long with other foods on the menu. But there are a few exceptions.

If you order a drink from the bar menu, you can escape “calorie guilt” because those menus are not required to list the calories. Neither are wine lists. And so far, most bottles and cans of adult beverages do not come with a full list of nutritional information.

The FDA is permitting restaurants to estimate the number of calories in that glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, Long Island Iced Tea, or mug of beer since it would be very difficult to list the current caloric number for every wine, beer and mixed drink out there.

After all, each wine vintage and varietal is different just as every craft brew is styled in a different manner. While bartenders mix drinks from a basic recipe, many add or subtract an ingredient putting their own regional spin on a libation. How do you possibly account for the exact calorie count in every variation, each new harvest, and every new batch of spirits? 

It seems that broad, generalized calorie labels may be the best the FDA and consumers can hope for. With that in mind, here are a few generalized caloric numbers from the USDA to keep in mind next time you order your favorite wine.


~ Joy

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A Look Back at the Food and Drink of 1916

What a difference a century can make! In 1916, J.L. Kraft received his first patent for making process cheese; the first electric refrigerators went on sale for the whopping price of $900, and the first self-serve Piggly-Wiggly supermarket opened in Memphis, Tennessee.

Dining Out
Dining out was just coming into vogue during this time. According to the Food Administration, more food was being served and eaten in restaurants than in homes. Courtship etiquette was changing; now a single working woman could meet a man at a restaurant for an afternoon or evening out. Hotel restaurants, lunch counters and tea rooms were popular places to enjoy a meal.

Menu items seldom seen on a modern dining list included consommé, turtle soup, sweetbreads, paupiette of sheep’s head, mutton, fricassee of chicken and venison along with Delmonico pudding, Indian pudding, and bisque ice cream for dessert.

Snacks and street food could be found in larger cities. Vendors with pushcarts or horse-drawn wagons sold freshly roasted peanuts or ice cream.

Classic Cocktails
The attitude against drinking was rapidly spreading across the country. Restaurants quickly crafted menus sans alcohol, offering instead tea, coffee, milk and "punch."

Those restaurants and hotels that continued to cater to the “drinking crowd” upped the ante and began serving cocktails with glamorous names. Here are just a few that were all the rage during 1915-1916. 

Aviation Cocktail
In celebration of manned flight, the Aviation Cocktail was created by Hugo Ensslin, the head bartender at the Hotel Wallick in New York in 1916. Ensslin made it with lemon juice, gin, Crème do Violette (which created the adored violet color), and maraschino over ice.

Dry Martini
The Dry Martini was crafted in the early 20th Century, so the story goes, at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York. Popular variations now include the Dirty Martini and the Vodka Martini.

French 75
The French 75 cocktail’s origins date back to 1915 at the New York Bar in Paris. Bartender Harry MacElhone mixed together gin, Champagne lemon juice and sugar for a drink that imbibers said kicked like a French 75mm field gun. Later variations of the drink used cognac instead of gin to make it more French.

The Alexander
Hugo Ensslin also crafted the Alexander cocktail abound 1915 using gin, crème de cacao and sweet cream. The well-known Brandy Alexander was an offshoot from his original recipe.

If you were ordering an alcoholic drink from a restaurant menu, the choices were usually limited to beer, wine punch, or Champagne. But cigars and cigarettes were given specially appointed places on some menus.

My how times have changed, but it makes you wonder, what will menus include, and omit, in 2116?


~ Joy

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

16 Wine Trivia Questions in Honor of National Trivia Day

National Trivia Day was Monday, January 4, but I just couldn’t pass up the chance to delve into some wine trivia as a way to celebrate the New Year.

Test your wine knowledge and see how many of the answers you know.

1. When were the first wines produced?       
Around 6600 B.C.

2. In the ancient world, what type of vessel held wine?         
An amphora

3. How long does it take for a grapevine to produce grapes?

Three to five years 

4. How many grapevines make up an acre?  

Around 400

5. One ton of grapes will make how many cases of wine?    
Around 60 cases or 720 bottles

6. How many grapes are in a bottle of wine?

600 – 800 grapes

7. How much wine is in a single barrel?   
60 gallons, 25 cases or 300 bottles

8. How many pounds of grapes does one bottle contain?     

About 2.8 lbs

9. A vintage wine is crafted from how many year’s harvests? 

One year

10. A non-vintage wine includes grapes from how many harvests? 

Two or more years blended together

Corkscrew Patent
11. When was the corkscrew first patented?

1795 in England

12. What temperature should white wine be served at? 

49-55º Fahrenheit

13. What temperature should red wine be served at?  

60-68º Fahrenheit

14. How many calories are in a 5 ounce glass of dry red wine?

About 110

15. What is the difference between a sparkling wine and Champagne?

Sparkling wine is any effervescent wine not grown in the Champagne region of France.

16. What are the top three U.S. states for wine consumption?        

California, New York, and Florida

Alright, you've earned a glass of wine.  Cheers to the New Year!

~ Joy