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Monday, December 8, 2014

Myth Busted: The Top 5 Myths about Sulfites in Wine

“A myth is a way of making sense in a senseless world. Myths are narrative patterns that give significance to our existence.” ― Rollo May

Invariably any number of folks who work in the wine-biz or wine-trades, whether it's your favorite tasting room in Napa or the wine-bar down the street, will be asked about the health effects of sulfites in wine and its supposed link to headaches.This has become even more a question in our health-conscious nation, where even the question of where their food comes from and whether it's ethical are a topic of daily discussion. Since food and wine are so tightly tied together, it's only natural that questions about chemicals that perhaps is potentially lurking in our vino, should also be addressed. Thus the focus on sulfites has become more mainstream, especially since a law was introduced and passed forcing producers to add the phrase "contains sulfites" to the ominous warning label found on wine bottles.

The team at Vine Crowd has compiled a list of the top five myths about the sulfites found in wine we all drink everyday. Done in I believe to be a similar style or fashion to the folks on the once popular show Mythbusters; where they take a common sense approach to prove or disprove popular recurring myths. So, sit back, buckle-up as it's going to be a bumpy ride in the wine-wagon today on our way to discover together what is really going on in our wine and like some popular nineties show once proclaimed, "the truth is out there".

1. You or someone you know is allergic to sulfites.
NOPE, not true. Someone’s been badly misinformed. Sulfites are something that our body naturally produces at a normal rate of about 1,000mg a day. Compare that to the average 10mg per glass of wine and it’s pretty clear that if someone was allergic to sulfites, their problems would be a little more severe than a life without wine. There are, however, individuals that have high sensitivities to sulfites. We’ll get to that in a second.

2. The sulfites in wine are extremely high.
Again, not true. Sulfites are a part of the winemaking process all around the world. They are added in moderation in order to preserve wines for aging. They are also added to other foods for the same reason – anything from the vegetables in a salad bar to dried fruits will contain added sulfites. Sulfites in an average glass of wine will measure 10mg, whereas a 2oz serving of those bright orange dried apricots typically has 112mg. Yep, over 10 times as much as a glass of wine.

3. Sulfites give you headaches.
FALSE. Probably the biggest myth of all. There has been no link to sulfites and headaches in research groups – even among people with high sensitivity to sulfites. Even among the highly sensitive people, adverse reactions (mainly asthmatic) only presented themselves when subjects were given four times the normal amount of sulfites in a single glass. This is not to say that some people don’t get headaches when they drink certain types of wine or alcohol, it just shows that it’s not the sulfites that are causing them. New research is showing that headaches may be related to the type of yeast used in fermentation.

Clarification: "I wanted to clarify that the infamous ‘red wine headache’ is very real for some people, but as mentioned above, it’s not the sulfites that are causing them." ~ Jennifer Kaplan

In the June issue of the Harvard Health Letter, it says ''The red wine headache is a real if poorly understood phenomenon." and according to Marian Burros that quote is what she would call "a masterpiece of understatement."

4. There are less sulfites in white wine.
It’s probably safe to say that we all know someone that doesn’t drink red wine “because of the sulfites.” In reality, white wines have slightly more sulfites than reds.

5. There are more sulfites used in American wines.
Surprise, things listed in bold are still NOT TRUE. Though winemaking practices differ in each country and region, the amount of sulfites used in winemaking tends to be the same among Old World and New World countries. Several studies show that sulfite levels are similar throughout Europe and the US specifically. The fact that the US has a sulfite warning label but Canada and European countries do not tends to add to this myth.

Other Resources: For more information on the topic there's a great article posted entitled; Eating-well the puzzling red-wine-headache by Marian Burros who writes for the NYT. And one other insightful article on the subject; Red Wine Headaches vs. Sulfite Allergies.

This article is cross-posted at Vinecrowd.com and posted here courtesy of the author Jennifer Kaplan who was gracious enough to allow the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog to post it here in its entirety. I believe the information contained in this article is important and will be helpful for the vast wine swirling and slurping public to get their heads around this sometimes controversial topic. Jennifer Kaplan article, does just that with a very common sense approach to dispelling the myths about sulfites.

I hope everyone found this article at the very least helpful and make others feel a little more comfortable about the sulfites found lurking in their wine glass. I believe we can say this myth was emphatically busted. So until next time, remember to sip long and prosper, cheers!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Bubbly, Sparkling Wine or Champagne?

"Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right" Mark Twain

"In victory, you deserve Champagne, in defeat, you need it." -- Napoleon Bonaparte.

"Champagne is the only wine that leaves a woman beautiful after drinking it." -- Madame De Pompadour

"Champagne, if you are seeking the truth, is better than a lie detector. It encourages a man to be expansive, even reckless, while lie detectors are only a challenge to tell lies successfully." -- Graham Greene



Thursday, December 4, 2014

Orange is the New Black

“Women think of all colors except the absence of color. I have said that black has it all. White too. Their beauty is absolute. It is the perfect harmony.” ― Coco ChanelChanel

While l love to quote the rather outspoken Ms. Chanel, I have to disagree with her this time, because in the case of Pinot Gris Orange from Beauregard Vineyards [Santa Cruz Mountains[ orange is the new black. This is a standout wine, for it's unique approach to Pinot Gris, its unique aromas and flavors. This was the first time, I've had the opportunity to sample a wine like this, frankly I had no idea what to expect. I really did like where it took me tho. 

This wine represents the perfect last review of the month of August, while it's hot and steamy outside, my insides were treated to the summertime sipping delights of the Regan Vineyard, Pinot Gris Orange. The nose itself I thought was quite captivating, it again reminded me of another Chanel quote. 
"Perfume “is the unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory of fashion. . . . that heralds your arrival and prolongs your departure,” Chanel once explained.
The nose is pretty unique, burnt dried orange-peels, new baseball mitt [freshly oiled] but not off putting, a funky-monkey that will captivate and compel sip after sip and perhaps even the occasional slurp. It's a wine best served chilled, but not too cold. On the palate, bone-dry, high-acid, more citrus and a distinctive dried orange skins, textured tannins and a fine ground minerality. On the long lasting finish, a very compelling blood orange thang. 

For those who like to keep scores, I gave this wine a crisp 88 points. I've not had enough wines of this style to form much of an opinion, but this wine was extremely well executed, firing on every cylinder. If you'd like to grab a bottle of this wine, it can be purchased directly from the winery for $33.

In response to the question posed via #winechat "as whether this style of wine is a love and/or relationship" my immediate thought was that, "it's definitely a niche item, but a great #wine for adventurous minded vino-sapiens."
"Typically, red grapes are left on the skins during fermentation, while there is no skin contact when making white wines. However, sometimes a winemaker will choose to let macerated white grapes ferment on the skins. The result of this process is known as an orange wine."
But I'd definitely say further, most wine drinkers don't use the word the word "hate" when speaking of wines they don't like, [with the possible exception of cheap bulk wines posing as the real thing] they tend to use words or phrases like, "that's not my cup of tea" or I don't prefer that style of wine. Something greatly akin to my general disdain for much of the domestic Sauvignon Blanc I encounter. 

The recommend pairing for this wine is Havarti Cheese, because of its creamy texture, wines high acid and red wine like tannins are perfect pairing partners. I unfortunately did not have any of that cheese on tap, seeing I'd not done the required shopping ahead of time. But what I did have was, what they call in Hawaii plate lunch something which is varied as the islands themselves. 
“The cultural significance of the plate lunch is that it illustrates Hawaii as a special place where all of our mixed cultures share their foods with one another,”  Matthew Gray, Hawaii Food Tours
Thanks to the lovely and fetching Mrs. Cuvee I've got this dish dialed-in good as any you'd find while traipsing across the islands. I had prepared fresh made Chicken Katsu Curry. I use fresh chicken breast instead of thighs, it's a bit healthier. It's served with white/brown rice, that's sprinkled with Nori Komi Furikake and the "golden" curry [which comes in different heat levels] which comes in bricks you break off, and bring to a boil in water. 


The preparation of the chicken is key; cut the breast into strips, rinse in water, dredge in flour, dashes of salt and pepper, then the chicken is then thrown into a bowl of beat eggs [1-2 max] and then it hits a bowl of panko [Japanese style bread crumbs]. Once those steps are complete, then it's time to "fry" best done in a large skillet, filled with 3/4 cup Avocado Oil. The fillets cook rather quickly over moderate heat, so have a paper towel lined plate ready to go take on the perfectly cooked fillets. 

As for the rice, that is so easy. First put away that box of Uncle Ben's and bust out that rice cooker you received when you were married the first time. Bust out the bag of Cal-rose [Japanese rice] pour in two cups and then add water [rinse twice] from tap, put your finger into the bowl touching the top of the rice. The water level over the rice should meet the first crease [critical] of your finger, hit the cook button and in about 20-25 minutes you'll have perfect sticky rice. 

You're now ready to get those fillets on the cutting board, take a sharp knife and cut the fillets into bite size pieces. Cover it with piping hot curry, add a small scoop of rice, hit rice with the Furikake, add some steamed edamame and you're all set to have plate lunch perfection. Now going back to the wine, its dryness and crisp acidity paired perfectly with the dish. It's now my recommended go-to pairing. Give it a try yourself, and let me know what you think. Until next time folks, remember life is short so sip long and prosper cheers!

Full Disclosure: This wine was sent as a sample for the review process. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wine of the Week: 2009 Foradori Granato




It has been said, "Wine buffs write and talk as though the food and wine will be in your mouth at the same time, that one is there to be poured over the other.  This is bullshit.  Gustatory enjoyment comes from food and wine and cigars of your liking.  So far no one has said that a Monte Cristo is the only cigar to smoke after Armagnac, Romeo and Juliet after Calvados ... but the time may yet come." ~ Clement Freud

Clement here makes some good points and he is right who am I tell you what to drink or eat for that matter? I mean c'mon we can all agree, that each of us should drink/eat what we like. But like the patrons who visit the wine store where I work, who often look for my recommendations and or opinions on certain wines before making their purchase, I only offer my impressions for your and their consideration; what you or they do with that advice is ultimately in your hands. 

I can tell you this though; many customers over the years come back to the shop and tell me how happy they are with my recommendations. I've even recommended wines while working the wine demo scene in a local San Diego Costco, only to have a customer who was visiting from Atlanta and who had purchased quite a few cases based on my recommendation to enthusiastically thank me via an out of the blue phone call. But again, please drink what you like, but if I may be so bold, if you'd like to drink better than the average vino-sapien, then please stick around for this review and the many to follow.


After being uncorked on a Thursday evening, and sealed up via a vacu-vin at the end of [COB] evening, opening the bottle again on Friday evening brought much joy. This wine improved significantly, the fruit was far more accessible, the tannins had mellowed and the fine ground minerality was much more evident. It's a bottle that just needed a few hours of decanting or uncorking the day before, to be fully enjoyed the next. I'm so glad I had another opportunity to get to know this fantastic Northern Italian gem better.

The 2009 Granato is 100% Teroldego [a new grape to me] comes from three different vineyards of the Campo Rotaliano in the Trentino-Alto Adige region in Northern Italy, very near the border of Slovenia in the appellation of Vigneti delle Dolomiti [IGT].


Many other reviewers have given this wine outstanding scores and praise, I echo a few of those sentiments but slow my roll just a bit, when it comes to the use of the word phenomenal or other jumping up and down adjectives. This wine is a beauty no doubt, offering gorgeous aromas of blackberries, dark cherries, herbs, and stiff but drying tannins. You also may notice subtle hints of coffee and lovely fine ground minerality and a vivid underlying acidity bringing the balance.

While this wine demonstrates amazing depth, underlying power and a medium sized finish, it does require patience. It’s not a wine that comes dressed to impress right away, it’s a bit of a wallflower. To fully enjoy this wine, bust out the decanter many hours before you plan to get out onto the dance floor via your empty wine stem. 

This wine is a real beauty, consider honestly seeking it out. It's a unique experience that will bring you much joy. I can't go 94 points on it, like so many have, but I'd give it at least it a solid 91 points. It sells for $54 most places and is bottled under a cork closure. Until next time folks please remember life is so short, don't settle for the ordinary when you can have the extraordinary, slurp long and prosper cheers!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Wine of the Week: 2011 Elk Cove, Mount Richmond Pinot Noir

“He who knows how to taste, does not drink wine, but savors it secrets” ~ Salvador Dali

There were more a few secrets which needed to slowly be unfolded from what turned out to be quite the tasty Pinot Noir I had hoped it would be. It did take two bottles tho to discover it, as Capt. Obvious was no where in sight the first time I uncorked this wine. Some wines while excellent [or at least very good] like the one pictured above take time to understand the distinctive character they possess, if we are patient enough to see them unfold. 

After uncorking this wine and pouring myself a glass into an expressive Riedel Pinot Noir stem, the wine seemed very closed and quite standoffish to the point, that I knew I'd have to open something else until this wine was ready to go. I grabbed my handy-dandy Riedel decanter in hopes that a bit more air would/could coax this wine out of acoma. I knew there was still a pulse, but it was slow and shallow. As I leaned into close to the wine being decanted I thought I could hear it faintly saying, "Decant me for two hours or more first, then enjoy all my rustic charms long into the night!!". It was this wines rustic charms, which convinced me to feature it as the Wine of the Week [a highly coveted title]. Yes indeed, a classic example of what can often be expected from the 2011 vintage. 
“The 2011 Willamette Valley Pinot is a perfect example of a wine that has tons of fruit, but still has great characters other than fruit.  That’s when you know you’ve had low yields and hillside farming on great vineyard sites” – Winemaker Adam Campbell
I know it was two years ago, but if you will recall that 2011 was the year the entire West Coast had no real summer. The majority [blanket statement: meaning most, but not all.] of the growing season was bathed in only cloud-covered sunlight and as we all know, sunlight plays a major parting in the ripening process. 

"Mount Richmond Vineyard sits on Willakenzie soils in the heart of the Yamhill Carlton AVA. Mount Richmond sits at 300-500 feet elevation, lower than the vineyards planted at the winery, which allows for earlier ripening."
After a couple hours of decanting; the nose became much more expressive, and very pretty. I'd even say it became elegant, a vibrant note of elegance, possibly hinting at the lovely complexity waiting to surprise me? On the palate, notes of cranberry and other dark berries, spice, black-tea and briar nuances add some tantalizing breadth. I found the wine light, with raspberry fruit hitting a nice drum solo mid-palate, while veins of stem and earth play bass in the background. It’s nicely balanced, a bit rustic, but true to the variety. The finish was a bit short and sweet, but the gentle tannins and the lingering floral influences and [baking] spice notes bring it all home. Once I had this wine paired with a brilliant mushroom risotto and baked chicken drizzled with a light plum sauce, I thought the wine soared to its highest point of the evening, quite good.

Winemaker, Adam Campbell, comments,“the late and cool vintage really highlights why we choose to grow grapes on the viticultural edge. Extremely long hang time gave us wines with concentrated ripe fruit flavors, beautiful freshness and lower alcohol. These wines are why we love Oregon!”
  
I did receive this wine as a sample earlier this year and this is the second bottle I'm enjoying. But I'd have to say, to be quite honest that after having rested the second bottle another few months, it's showing much better than my previous experience.This vintage is unfortunately sold out; it was available through their website, selling for $43. The release of their 2012 should be due out very soon, [being a relative term] so stay tuned. If I had to speculate about the possible quality of the soon to be released 2012, it would be "wow" followed by you'd better hurry to place your order before they all disappear. 

For those of you interested in scorekeeping, I scored this wine 90 points. A wine well worth the price admission and a wine worth seeking out if you could get your hands on it. Until next time folks remember life is too short to drink bad wine, so choose wisely, drink only what you like, then sip long and prosper cheers!

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