Review - Bruno Porro

August 17th, 2008

Type: Red

Name: Bruno Porro

Vineyard: Bruno Porro

Variety: Barbera

Vintage: 2003

Country of Origin: Italy

Region: Piemonte

Price per Bottle: $18.99

Rating: 7

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Review - Funtanin Barbera D’Alba

August 17th, 2008

Type: Red

Name: Barbera D’Alba

Vineyard: Funtanin

Variety: Barbera

Vintage: 2001

Country of Origin: Italy

Region: Alba

Price per Bottle: $11.00

Rating: 7

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Review - Barbera del Monferrato

August 17th, 2008

Type: Red

Name: Barbera del Monferrato

Vineyard: Terre del Tartufo

Variety: Barbera

Vintage: 2000

Country of Origin: Italy

Region: Monferrato

Price per Bottle: $14.00

Rating: 7

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Review - Luigi Barbera

August 17th, 2008

Type: Red

Name: Luigi

Vineyard: San Marziano

Variety: Barbera

Vintage: 2002

Country of Origin: Italy

Region: Piemonte

Price per Bottle: $7.20

Rating: 8

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Wine Region: South Africa

March 11th, 2006

South Africa Wine MapGeneral
In honor of my upcoming trip to South Africa, I’ve decided to feature it in today’s article. Although the first vineyards in South Africa were planted as far back as the 1600’s, wines from this area have only recently become popular in the United States.

There are actually several distinct wine growing regions within South Africa. The 3 most well-known are the Coastal region, Breede River Valley and Broberg. Others include Olifants River, Piketberg, Swartland, Tulbagh, Paarl, Stellenbosch, Overberg, Robertson, Worcester, Klein Karoo and Suid-Kaap. All of these areas are clustered in the southwestern portion of the country (indicated in purple on the map to the left) where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet at the Cape of Good Hope.

The region receives a cool coastal breeze due to its location at the meeting point of two Oceans. The terrain is fairly hilly and moderately hot, requiring irrigation throughout much of the region. A wide range of soil conditions is present, from sandy to mineral-rich.

Some regions such as Stellenbosch experience climate conditions that are favorable for production of “noble rot”, which results in some very good Sherry-style wines. The Paarl region is also know for its Port-style wines.

Grape Varieties
Roughly 90% of the vineyard acreage in South Africa is dedicated to the production of white wines. The most widely planted is chenin blanc (steen); other white-wine grapes that are grown include palomino, muscat, semillon, chardonnay, riesling, sauvignon blanc and gewurtztraminer.

Most of the red wine that is produced in South Africa comes from the “pinotage” grape, which is a cross between pinot noir and cinsault. Other red-wine producing varietals that are grown in South Africa include syrah, merlot, cabernet franc, pinot noir, and cabernet sauvignon.

Controlled Label Terms:

  • Any wine labeled as a single varietal must contain at least 75% of that grape; 85% if it is intended for export.
  • “Superior” must contain 100% of the listed varietal.
  • “VTG” must contain grapes that are 100% grown from the estate’s own vineyards.

Food Pairing Tips
Many South African wines have high acidity, resulting in refreshing wines that are excellent with light fare on a hot day. Many of the different varietals are well-paired with vegetables, seafood and poultry.


March 7th, 2006

Zinfandel is a fantastic varietal that unfortunately got a bad name in the wine community when it was used in the (frustratingly) popular “white zinfandel”, which thankfully seems to be on its way out of style these days. This article will discuss the attributes of zinfandel as a red wine, which can be a great addition to a wine list or collection.

Zinfandel is a fairly flexible grape, and can produce red wines that are somewhat light and fruity like a beaujolais, or more substantial and tannic like a cabernet. My favorite zinfandels fall in the latter category, and for my money most zinfandels are tastier and a better bargain that most cabernet sauvignons. Flavors that are typically associated with zinfandels are:

  • rasberry
  • blackberry
  • black cherry
  • licorice
  • cinnamon
  • black pepper

Although I am often one to advocate more delicate wines with low alcohol content, zinfandel is a robust grape that can stand up to 13-14% alcohol without being overbearing.

Where is it From?
Zinfandel is a hearty and adaptable grape that can survive in many climates and can sometimes produce more than one crop in a year. Because of these conditions, it is not uncommon for zinfandel vines to last well over 100 years when properly cared for. However, because of the size and shape of the grape clusters they are susceptible to certain types of grape rot, so they tend to be more successful in dry climates.

In my opinion the best zinfandels come from California, while equally flavorful grapes can be produced in Italy under the name “Primitivo”, which is genetically identical to Zinfandel. While you can find zinfandels from outside these two areas, I would recommend sticking to California Zinfandel and Italian Primitivo for the most part.

Pairing with Food
Zinfandel goes wonderfully with barbecued food, spicy beef dishes, smoked meats, meat stews, or other hearty dishes.

How Long Will it Keep?
In general, Zinfandels are at their best during their first five or six years. There are a select few that will continue to improve for as long as 8 or 10 years, but it would be difficult to predict that ahead of time. I would recommend drinking less-expensive zinfandels within the first couple years of purchasing them, and drinking the higher-end zinfandels within five or six years of purchase.

Sugar in Wine

March 3rd, 2006

You’ll often hear a wine described as “sweet” or “dry” or somewhere in between. But what does that really mean? In a nutshell, the sweetness of a wine is determined by how much sugar (glucose and fructose) is in it; if there is very little sugar, the wine will be “dry”.

There’s actually a few defined categories of sweetness that can be applied to wine:

  • Dry: Wines that do not taste sweet and have a sugar content of less than 0.4%
  • Low Sugar: Wines containing between 0.4% and 4% sugar
  • Medium Sugar: Wines containing between 4% and 10% sugar
  • High Sugar: Wines containing over 10% sugar (dessert wines)

Sugar content also explains some of those words that are associated with sparkling wines, so next time you pick up a bottle of champagne, look for these descriptors:

  • Natural: No added sugar
  • Brut: 1.5% sugar
  • Extra Dry: 1.5% to 3% sugar
  • Sec or Dry: 3.5% sugar or less
  • Demi Sec: 3.5% to 5% sugar
  • Doux or Sweet: 5 to 10% sugar

An especially useful tip to keep in mind is that sugar and acidity can work to balance each other out. So if you have a wine with medium sugar content that is very acidic, you can expect it to taste fairly dry; on the other hand, if your medium sugar content wine is low in acid, it will have a much sweeter taste.

One last sugar-related tip: white wines with high sugar content will generally age better than those with a low sugar content. So, if you want to put a case of riesling in your cellar for a decade and you have a choice between two of them (where all other variables are equal,) go with the one that has a higher sugar content. Having a high sugar content will not guarantee that your wine will age well, but it does increase its chances if the wine has other age-worthy properties.

Wine Region: Alsace

March 2nd, 2006

Map of Alsace

Alsace is a region in the northeast corner of France bordering on Germany and Switzerland. The best vineyards in this region are in a two-mile wide strip of land extending about 60 miles from Strasbourg to Mulhouse, whith the Rhine River to the east.

Alsace has a microclimate caused by its proximity to the Vosges Mountains, which disturb the region’s wind patterns producing a dry climate. The average rainfall is less than 20 inches a year. The growing season is long and cool which allows white grapes to develop a high sugar content.

Grape Varieties:
93% of the grapes grown in Alsace are used to produce white wines. Approximately 80% of these whites are rieslings, pinot blancs, gewurtztraminer and sylvaner. A smaller amount are made up of Tokay d’Alsace (Pinot Gris) and Muscat. The 7% of grapes that are used to produce red wines in Alsace are typically used in Pinot Noir.

Controlled Label Terms:

  • When an Alsatian wine is labeled as a particular varietal, 100% of that variety must be used to make the wine.
  • “Vendage Tardive” uses late-picked grapes.
  • “Selection de Grains Nobles” indicates the use of Botrytis addected grapes to produce a very sweet wine.
  • Terms such as “Reserve”, “Personelle”, “Cuvee” and “Special” are not regulated.

Food Pairing Tips:
Most white wines from Alsace go very well with seafood, poultry, veal or pasta. Rieslings and gewurztraminers also go nicely with many Asian, Mexican and Indian dishes.


March 1st, 2006

In my opinion, riesling doesn’t quite get the attention it deserves here in the United States, so I thought I’d write the inaugural article for this website about this underappreciated grape.

Some of the defining characteristics of a good riesling are a pleasantly structured fruitiness with high acid content and low alcohol (11.5% or so). Rieslings can range from very sweet to bone dry, making it possible to choose a bottle to fit just about any occasion. Some of the categories of riesling that you are most likely to encounter include:

  • Trocken (very dry)
  • Halbtrocken (”half” dry)
  • Kabinett (a little less dry)
  • Spatlese (sweet)
  • Auslese (very sweet)
  • Ice wine or “eiswein” (very sweet dessert wine)

Where is it From?
The best rieslings come from relatively cold areas with slate-based soils. All of my favorite rieslings come from Germany, generally from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwar area. You’ll also find some very good rieslings from Alsace, and occasionally from the Fingerlakes region of upstate New York here in the United States. In general I would stay away from rieslings from California or the Pacific West which tend to be overly fruity or floral and lack the structure which makes the German rieslings so tasty.

Pairing with Food
If I could pick only one type of white wine to drink with my dinner for the rest of my life, I would not hesitate to choose riesling. The wide range of dryness/sweetness available gives this wine a great flexibility when pairing with food. My favorite companions for riesling are seafood or chicken dishes that incorporate fruit or are very spicy.

How Long Will it Keep?
If you find yourself a nice bottle of riesling from New York or Alsace I would recommend that you drink it within two years of its release. Most of these wines will not benefit from aging, and will start to degrade in a couple years. However, some German rieslings with high amounts of residual sugar can age quite well and last for decades when properly stored. As a general rule I would drink most rieslings sooner than later, but if you find a really great case of riesling from Mosel-Saar-Ruwar don’t hesitate to store a few bottles in the cellar for the next decade or so.

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