Thursday, March 27, 2008
If you've found your way here after reading the article, thanks for stopping by! Have a look around. Kick your shoes off, pour a glass, and stay awhile. Hope you enjoy what I've got here for you.
Pop Quiz, hotshots.
a) A regional airline, formerly hubbed at
b) An geographical region of
c) An Italian region where some of the most expensive wine in the world is made.
d) All of the above.
The answer is, of course, "d" -- although "a" brings back memories. My family used to fly
The Piedmont is considered most of northwestern
From a viticultural (WineSpeak for "wine producing") perspective, the Piedmont's wines are quite a change from what you'll experience in Italian regions like
There are two other major grape varietals grown in the
As with most places around the world -- as winemaking techniques improved, Italian vintners have started producing higher end Barbera and Dolcetto instead of just using them for table wine. Piedmont Airlines' old slogan was "The Up-and-Coming Airline." The Piedmont region could also use that slogan with the increased quality. These wines are wonderful food wines and cost a fraction of Barolo & Barbaresco. Here are a couple of examples:
Michele Chiarlo 2004 Barbera d'Asti -- People see "
Mauro Molino 2005 Dolcetto d'Alba -- People see "Alba" and usually precede it in their minds (or at least many of my male and some of my female readers do) with "Jessica." Ms. Alba, however, is a Danish/Mexican blend, not Italian like the Dolcetto here. Dolcetto is a the lightest major red of the
Fontanafredde Langhe Eremo 2004 Barbera e Nebbiolo -- An interesting blend. Most wines from the
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Thanks to the good folks at A Taste Of Monterey, I'm now available for in-home wine tastings. The setup goes something like this:
The host/hostess purchases a six pack of wines at a discount. You provide some appetizers and the like, and I come to your place and lead a tasting. The wines span the spectrum, and they're all affordable -- most are between $15-20. If people like the wines, I'll take orders and these wines will be delivered to your front door. Yes, I get a commission -- but it's a whole lot more fun doing wine than Tupperware, Amway, or those "fun parties" that I hear women in my office whispering about.
In any case, if you're interested in hosting one of these things, or if you'd just like some information, drop me a line. The calendar fills up, so let me know!
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Watching the world come back to life after the long, cold winter is a personal favorite pastime. In addition to this wine thing, I also have learned to garden a little bit along the way, and watching the tulips come popping out of the ground always give me a sense of accomplishment.
Springtime means we get to be outside again. We get to bask on porches, in parks, on roofs, wherever. I feel a rush of energy and thankfulness when the sun is finally warm on my face again. Here in Vine-land, this winter seemed harder than many. Just seemed to be cold forever, despite our relative lack of snow (until the ten inches we got the first week of March).
Springtime also means we start turning away a bit from the big, bold tannic reds that help fight off the winter chill. It starts to make sense to crack lighter-styled wines again. (Unless you're my uncle Alan who drinks Amarone in the furnace of midsummer.)
The French figured this out a long time ago. Since they've got a wine for any occasion as is, it makes sense to me to look Gaul-ward to celebrate the springing of spring. Admittedly, most of these wines aren't produced within a couple hundred miles of the City of
Domaine Guindon Coteaux D'Ancenis 2006 Gamay Rosé -- This wine is made from the same grape as
La Noble 2005 Chardonnay -- Not a true white
Georges DeBoeuf 2006 Morgon Cru du Beaujolais -- I would have preferred to do a pinot noir based wine here, but I couldn't find a
Enjoy the sunshine…finally!
Monday, March 03, 2008
No one can work with wine without tipping back too much from time to time. The morning after. The headache, the nausea, and the sun, as Nicholas Klar wrote, "is like God's flashlight." Nobody to blame but yourself.
But what if the pain isn't your fault? What if you only had a glass or two and your head feels like John Bonham has been using your forehead for a snare? I've had more than one person say to me, "I like red wine -- but I can't drink it. If I even sip the stuff, I get a massive headache." At the wine salon, two different people told me versions of that very thing. The "red wine headache" is a not uncommon malady. I wanted to see if, as a public service, I could track down the cause. After all, what good is wine if you can't enjoy it?
The first explanation I generally stumble across: "It's the sulfites in the wine! Red wine has all these sulfites in the
I thought I'd solved the mystery. Find unsulfited wines and you're fine, right? There are some of them out there. Unfortunately, a little more research turned up one very interesting fact: White wines almost always have more sulfites than red wines.
There is such a thing as a sulfite allergy -- it usually causes breathing problems. It's also a pretty rare condition. These are generally people who can't eat dried fruit and the like, since it causes them breathing problems. Why more sulfites in whites? Sulfites are used as preservatives. Red wine has a natural preservative built in, generally. Tannin. Wines that age well are usually tannic, so…maybe avoiding tannic wines might stop the headaches.
For a low tannin wine, I used DuBoeuf Domaine de Grand Croix 2006 Brouilly Beaujolais. ($10-13) This wine is darker in color and somewhat richer than many
Tannins are known to cause a release of serotonin in the brain. High levels of serotonin can trigger a migraine. However, wine's not the only source of tannin in a diet, and no one's ever complained of a tea or chocolate headache. So, back to the drawing board.
A third possibility is histamines. Histamines can trigger an allergic reaction in some people, brought on by a lack of a certain enzyme in the bloodstream. This reaction can cause headaches, as well as flushing or runny nose. The levels of histamines in red wines are between 20-200% higher than in whites. Spanish reds are often lower in histamines, so I went with the Martin Codax 2005 "Ergo" Rioja Tempranillo. ($10-12) The Codax albarino went very well with New Year's dinner for us, and the Tempranillo was also quite positive. The nose was of dark fruit and spices, almost like cherry cobbler. The wine's lighter than it smells. Some nice berry flavors and well-balanced light tannins.The finish is easy and somewhat dry.
Histamines seem to be a somewhat more likely culprit for these headaches, although there hasn't been conclusive research on low vs. high histamine wines. Even so, defense against histamines may fight off some of the headaches. A person can drink a cup of strong black tea before drinking red wine. A compound in black tea suppresses a histamine response. Aspirin before drinking can also help, although aspirin after the headache kicks in won't help. An antihistamine might stop the headache. However, because of the alcohol, you might be in for a very short night if you pop a Benadryl and down a couple of glasses of wine.
If you are one of those unfortunate souls that suffer from "red wine headaches," there's a simple (potentially painful) test. Drink half a glass of red wine. If the wine is truly the cause of your headache, then you'll get one within 15 minutes. Otherwise, it's not the wine -- it's probably the amount of it that you drank that fateful night. B-12, Gatorade, ginger ale, and a sub from Penn Station the next morning are better bets to help you out. If you determine that it's actually the wine causing your suffering, try the black tea or the aspirin. After all, why should headsplitting pain be a barrier from enjoying the good stuff?
h/t to Dr. Tom for the post title...