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November 18, 2014

Holiday Party Planning Tips

 With the holiday entertaining season just around the corner, now is the time to prepare to be the host with the most.

Assuming a selection of tasty wine is part of the plan, consider the following suggestions to enhance the experience for you and your guests.

1. Start with a good wine glass. Even the nationwide discount store Target is now selling Riedel crystal, the gold standard for everyday wine consumption. For a few pennies more than what you might pay for mediocre stemware, you can sip wine from glasses that are functional as well as elegant. A good wine glass allows for proper aeration, which enhances aromatics and softens tannins where that is an issue.

2. Use a decanter or a wine aerator to prepare bold young reds prior to serving. Many young red wines are packed with astringent tannins, which either fade away or disappear entirely over time. But for immediate consumption, the pucker factor can be reduced through decanting from the bottle into a larger glass container (it need not be fancy) that will allow the wine to breathe. With air, the tannins round out and the pleasure factor is dramatically increased.

3. Invest in a deep and wide ice bucket that will hold at least four bottles. Sparkling, rose and crisp white wines lose their snap, and much of their appeal, when left to sit out and warm up as a party or dinner drags on. Many wine shops and department stores sell inexpensive clear acrylic "party" buckets that will keep multiple wine bottles chilled at the same time.

4. Don't hesitate to put a chill on your reds as well. Serving temps for reds should be about 65-68 degrees. Warm reds often come off as unbalanced and/or flat. Cooler (assuming the room temperature is about 75 degrees) reds are easier to drink and deliver more flavor. If a bottle of red wine is warm to the touch, which is often the case if it has been stored in the kitchen, five to eight minutes in the ice bucket should do the trick. It isn't necessary to chill the red as you would a white; simply cooling it down will suffice.

Let the festivities begin!
Posted by Robert Whitley at 12:32 PM

November 12, 2014

True Meaning of Beaujolais Nouveau

 Ready or not, Beaujolais nouveau is coming soon to a city near you. This annual rite of autumn is frequently dismissed as a shameless marketing ploy, which it is, but the disdain in certain corners is more often than not simply old-fashioned wine snobbery.

Beaujolais is a light-bodied, fruity red wine produced from gamay grapes grown in the least fashionable district of France's Burgundy region. Serious wine folk tend to not take it seriously. But in all seriousness, the scoffers miss the point, as well as the fun.

Beaujolais nouveau is the first wine made from the new harvest. It was always meant to be a celebration of the harvest, going back to a less serious time in wine circles when small amounts of nouveau were made within weeks of the harvest and only for local consumption.

Sometime after World War II the vignerons of Beaujolais turned it into a marketing opportunity, each striving to be the first to get their nouveau to Paris, where it was sold by carafe in bistros and cafes. The tradition spread to other parts of the world, including America, where Beaujolais is officially released for sale on the third Thursday of November.

Georges Duboeuf, the largest producer of Beaujolais, has almost personally kept the tradition alive in the United States, promoting wine dinners and tastings across the country built around his nouveau.

Truth be told, you will find better Beaujolais, particularly cru Beaujolais, later in the season. But the magic of Beaujolais nouveau is real. So set aside those lingering doubts, savor the festive and convivial aspect of this harvest tradition, and welcome with gusto the first wines of the new vintage.
Posted by Robert Whitley at 3:05 PM