Wine for Normal People

An end of year podcast to help you figure out stuff like: What wine to gift if you're on a budget, or not, what defines a "special" occasion, how to get the host to open the wine you bring, plus quick Christmas pairings & options for New Year's bubbles! 

 

Show notes:

  • Wine is an ideal last-minute gift -- don't get gadgets unless the person specifies they want them! 
    1. Ways to figure out what someone may want
    2. Budget and non-budget options

 

  • How to figure out how to make sure the wine you bring to a gathering gets opened and some other etiquette suggestions

 

  • Saving for a “special” occasion – notes on when an occasion is “special” enough 

 

  • Sparkling wines for NYE -- different options and ideas on drinking order

 

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year! Thanks for your support in 2016! Here's to an even better 2017!

 

 

Direct download: 147_Ep_174__Last_Minute_Holiday__New_Years_Wine.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:11am EDT

Sometimes I need a hearty, fruit filled, bone-warming wine to sip on. And when the weather is cool, that’s often all I’ll grab. But after I’ve downed big reds from warm places around the (mostly NEW) world with higher alcohol that will make me feel warm, I’m left wanting a little something with more complexity. Something that’s less fruity. A wine that seems hearty but has an element of surprise – maybe that hit of terroir or something that keeps on giving me something new with each sip. And that’s when I grab a Bandol (BAHN-dol), a Mourvèdre based red wine from Provence in Southern France.

 

Amidst the lavender, olives, soaps, and beautifully patterned fabrics oh, and rosé, there’s this small, high quality region.

 

If you know anything about wine in Provence than you probably associate it with rosé. And rightfully so: 80% of wine produced here is pink. The market demands it and Provence delivers, in spades. But there’s more than just those lovely salmon colored beauties here: 15% of the wine from Provence is red and it isn’t the refreshing, light partner of rosé. This is big, balls-out stuff mainly from three red wine areas: Cassis, Bellet, and Bandol, with the latter being the only one I’ve been able to find often in a wine shop in the US.

 

Bandol’s wines are mainly made from the very powerful, luscious Mourvèdre (moo-VED-rrr) grape. It’s a plummy, herbal, licorice-flavored, woodsy grape that’s rarely bottled alone because it is so powerful. Mourvèdre is so strong that it can’t be without oak aging to tame its tannins and in the bottle, wines made of it can age for 15 years and may still not be ready!

 

Growing in tight little bushes that can stand up to the heavy, ferocious gusts of cold wind that come from northern continental Europe (the Mistral) this tough, muscly grape produces a small amount of potent wine. And because of its power, the grape is mainly used in blends to add a kick to wines that otherwise may lack tannins and brawn (Mourvèdre is a big component in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, for example, and many Côtes du Rhône).

 

But when it’s the star of the show, it needs to be tempered so in Bandol, where wines contain a minimum of 50% Mourvèdre, but can be up to 100%, the grape is usually blended with Grenache and Cinsault, which soften up the bold, tannic, and kind of meaty flavors of the lead grape. Syrah can be used to add depth of flavor (black pepper and other types of herbal notes) and Carignan adds fruit and juiciness and softens the toughness of the Mourvèdre, which in addition to its strong flavor can be tannic and unforgiving. As an aside, if it’s listed, the percentage of Mourvèdre can be a tip off as to how long to hold it before you drink it – more Mourvèdre = more aging.

 

History

But let’s get off the grapes and onto the region, which I think needs a dork out moment of its own, since we HAVE TO give props to one of the oldest winemaking regions in France.

 

Winemaking started here about 2,600 years ago, most likely when the Phoenicians sailed from modern-day Lebanon and took over the area we now know as Provence. They saw great potential for one of their cash crops here (wine) and likely brought Monastrell from Spain (which is Mourvedre’s name in the Iberian Peninsula), where their Phoenician brethren had already been making wine for several centuries in a similar climate. 

 

When they arrived in the Gulf of Bandol, we can only guess that they were thrilled. They found the ideal place for vineyards: an area with a natural amphitheater created by mountains on three sides and easy access from the vineyards right out to the Gulf. Cha-ching! They could easily export their wine to far flung places and make cash without much transportation overhead (inland locales like Champagne or Burgundy required a trip down a river or over land— why waste the time when Bordeaux and Bandol were basically on the ocean?)

 

The Romans agreed with the Phoenician’s assessment of the wine quality and worked on painstakingly building stone terraces into the mountainside (which are called restanques and are still used today) and they further built the reputation of this small enclave.

 

Things trucked along for Bandol, with Louis XV being a famous fan, until the late 1800s when phylloxera hit and nearly all of the vineyards were destroyed.

 

But growers in this region weren’t giving up after that vine murderer came to town. The winegrowing areas were too good for that. They’d been extolled for millennia, not just for their warm coastal climates, elevation, and sun exposure but for the outstanding, diverse soils that yielded flavorful, bold but still nuanced wines. They used the phylloxera epidemic as a chance to reshape the vineyards and when they applied for their appellation in 1941, Bandol included an elite set of 8 communes that lie exclusively on hillsides and have limestone rich, low fertility, well-drained soils, creating the best wines. In addition, they went back to basics and replanted with a lot of Mourvedre – the grape that had fared best here, probably since the time of the Phoenicians.

 

Although you’ll find differences in the wines – depending on the exact terroir, the blend used, and the vintage, one thing is true of Bandol – I’ve never had a stinker. The wines always seem to be earthy, herbal, spicy, rich, and tannic and have a sense of place. They frequently taste like tobacco, licorice, and black fruit and some can verge on rustic, with a dusty note. Regardless or nuance, the producers have a dedication to quality in this small area and take the responsibility seriously.

 

Bandol is a little pricey – you won’t find one for much less than $25 US. But you get what you pay so if you have a few extra bucks, grab a bottle of Bandol and give it a go. Have food with it – something hearty and rich. You’ll find a new favorite rich red wine that’s unlike anything else you’ve tried.

 

And don’t forget to report back on this blog post and let me know what you think: winefornormalpeople.com/blog.

Direct download: Audio_blog_12__Bandol_a_red_wine_from_Provence.mp3
Category:French wine -- posted at: 3:12pm EDT

Pfalz is the region for you if you have the question: How do I get into German wine If I hate sweet stuff?

Overview:

  • Pfalz is an important region in terms of quantity and quality. It's one of the most promising German wine regions for Riesling and Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir)
  • In Western Germany, Between Rhine and lower lying Haardt mountains – continuation of Vosges, just south is Alsace
    • Warmer climate
      • Summers are dry, not too hot, winters mild. almost Mediterranean in some sections (almonds grow here)
      • Excellent viticultural conditions

History:

  • Pfalz is from the Latin for for palace and it's named for Palatine Counts of the Holy Roman Empire, who held court in the nearby city of Heidelberg from the 13th to the 18th century.
  • Traces of winemaking from 550 BC.
  • The region languished for a while after Romans left, viticulture was not a priority for a long time.
  • German wine route created in 1935 and is an easy path for tourists, great for Pfalz wine (Deutsche Weinstrasse) -- has helped with revival in modern times

Today:

  • Pfalz is one of the most innovative regions in Germany – young winemakers, less expensive land

Grapes

  • 60% white, 40% red
    • Riesling 25%
    • Dornfelder 14%
    • Muller-Thurgau 10%
    • Blauer Portugieser 9%
    • Spatburgunder 7%
  • Mittelhaardt – top Rieslings, South – increasing plantings of Riesling but also Spatburgunder, Portugieser, Dornfelder
  • Different from many German regions –
    • Dry wines, not sweet
    • Fuller bodied
    • Reds – can reach 13% alcohol (rare in Germany)

Pfalz is the place dry wine lovers should try first in Germany! So go explore! 

Direct download: 173_Ep_173__Pfalz_Germany.mp3
Category:wine -- posted at: 12:09pm EDT

Thanksgiving is a meal with so much complexity that you may just want to think about streamlining your wine choices. We offer a "one wine" solution -- versatile choices that go with everything -- so you don't have to stress! Here's the shortlist that we mention:

 

Whites:

Off-dry Vouvray and off-dry Riesling

Premier Cru Chablis

Alsace whites -- especially Riesling, Muscat, and Gewurztraminer

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc or Priorat Blanc

Italian whites

Bubbles! American Sparkling or Prosecco are fruitier and may be best

 

 

Rosé

 

Especially New World rosé that can stand up to the multitude of flavors

Bubbly rosé is a great pick too

 

 

Reds

Caveat Emptor, since red is less versatile for Thanksgiving. Pick something low in alcohol, low in tannin, and moderate in acidity

Top picks: Beaujolais, Cabernet Franc

 

 

We also welcome our first sponsor -- HelloFresh! HelloFresh is a meal kit delivery service that makes cooking fun and easy. Each week they create awesome recipes with step-by-step instructions that take about 30 minutes to cook. They give you all the ingredients in an awesome package with exact quantities you need. All the food is nutritionally balanced and it is darn tasty, as we will attest in the podcast.

 

If you want to try this amazing, easy service, you get $35 off when you enter the promo code WINE! Trust us, you won't regret it! We are hooked after trying some of their tasty meals that got us out of our cooking rut. 

Direct download: Ep_172__The_One_Wine_Thanksgiving_Solution.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00am EDT

Every year on the third Thursday in November at midnight, Beaujolais Nouveau hits store shelves, cafés, and restaurants around the world and (a declining number) of people rush out to get this invention of marketing genius.

 

The celebration of this hastily made wine, for which grapes are picked and then processed in a scant few weeks before you drink it (as opposed to quality wine which is made over several months, if not years) is the creation of producer/negociant Georges Duboeuf. This guy took the Old World idea of festivals that celebrated new/young wine —  wine made from grapes fresh off the vines — and put a marketing machine behind it to get the world to support Beaujolais Nouveau.

 

The problem: young wine is best when it’s fresh and sipped at the winery. When it travels overseas and is stored for a month the wine is terrible. But even then, I bet if we tasted it fresh, Beaujolais Nouveau tastes like bananas, bubble gum, and pear candy, with little acid or tannin. Apart from color, it has more in common with a white than a red. It’s fun, but it doesn’t taste that great and as we’ve become more sophisticated in our wine drinking, Beaujolais Nouveau has become less exciting to most people. 

 

Sadly this increasing sophistication has had terrible repercussions in the region of Beaujolais — forcing some growers out of business and creating tensions among those who depended on this product for their livelihoods. So the question for Beaujolais is: Now that Beaujolais Nouveau is on the rocks, what else is there?

 

Enter higher quality Beaujolais. This is the stuff wine people go nuts over but that few others know about: the 10 Beaujolais Crus that make distinctive, floral, fresh wine from the Gamay grape. Just south of Burgundy and north of Rhône, on a swath of granite, which is Gamay’s preferred soil, are scattered areas that make outstanding wine. From north to south these are: Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Côte de Brouilly, and Brouilly.

 

The wines produced in these Cru run the gamut — from floral and fruity to rich, earthy, and complex. Here’s a quick grouping of each type: 

 

  • Lighter bodied, more floral, less age worthy: Chiroubles 
  • Medium bodied, fruity with mineral notes:Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Régnié, Saint-Amour
  • Fuller bodied, spicy, earthy: Chénas, Juliénas
  • Even fuller and more age-worthy, spicy, and like a cross between Pinot Noir and more floral Gamay: Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent

 

Most of these wines are incredibly well priced for what they are — around US $20 or less — and they taste like nothing else you’ve ever tried. I don’t know of other wines that can boast flavors of iris flowers, violets, or lily of the valley and also have raspberry, earth, and spice notes. The combination of freshness and structure — most Cru have excellent acidity but also a round, soft texture — make these wines like nothing else you’ve ever had. 

 

So clearly, I love the stuff. Go get yourself one from an area I just mentioned that sounds best to you and report back on the blog: winefornormalpeople.com/blog and we’ll compare notes.

Direct download: Audioblog_11__Beaujolais_Cru.mp3
Category:French wine -- posted at: 6:08pm EDT

Ian returns as a co-host, talking about his latest venture -- starting an independent wine shop. We discuss the work that goes into this process, what you should look for in a indie shop, & economics of bottle pricing. Fascinating behind the scenes look!

 

Visit his site jadedpalates.com to see his selection and, if you're in the UK, to get the free shipping he's offering to WFNP listeners!! 

Direct download: 171_Ep_171__Ian_Renwick_Indie_Wine_Shop_Owner.mp3
Category:wine shops -- posted at: 11:19am EDT

A poem...because Halloween is our favorite holiday!

 

An Ode To Halloween Candy Pairing…

 

Halloween was fun, now it’s day of the dead

So don’t make a mistake that will mess with your head

Although some have an empty bowl where once there were sweets

Most of us have tons of left over treats

 

Whether you’re stealing from your kids or eating from the work trough

We’re here to make sure your wine doesn’t taste off

 

Because although some wine people recommend Cab

Malbec, Pinot Noir, and Syrah in their gab

We’ll remind you once more as we did in a podcast

That you should reconsider before you reach for a glass

Dry wine is nasty with Halloween candy

Regardless of your palate, it just doesn’t taste dandy

Bitter and gross with a hollow taste,

With delicious candy, it’s such a waste

 

Better for you is wine that is sweet:

Port, Muscat, Late Harvest anything you really can’t beat

Ruby Port with Snickers? Late Harvest Zin with Kit Kat?

We’ve told you a hundred times, this pairing is where it’s at

Sweet Sherry or sweet Vin Santo is nice

For Starburst and Skittles don’t think twice

Although I’d save the Sauternes and Tokay

With the sweetness of the candy, you could give it a try!

 

We know that sweet wine may not be in your cellar

But a wine sweeter than the dessert transforms things like Cinderella

So grab a sweet wine, invite some friends by

Choose some of these pairings, just give it a try

 

‘Cause Halloween comes just once a year

And this volume of candy will soon disappear

Don’t mess it up with a crappy pairing

That will leave you drunk and have you swearing.

Trust us on this one, we’re not trying to be beat

For candy, Post-Halloween, you better go sweet!

 

 HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Direct download: Bonus__An_Ode_to_Halloween_Candy_Pairing.mp3
Category:wine -- posted at: 2:57pm EDT

What is natural wine, exactly? Isabelle Legeron, Master of Wine and leader of the natural wine  movement & founder of the RAW Wine Natural Wine Festival explains it in great detail & talks about why it's so important for us to consider drinking natural.


There is a lot of buzz about organic and biodynamic farming but what is it? Why does it matter? Does it make sense? You judge after hearing this explanation of both practices. 

 

For the transcript and details, go to http://winefornormalpeople.com/blog

Direct download: 10_Audio_blog_10__Organic_and_Biodynamic_Wine.mp3
Category:wine -- posted at: 11:07pm EDT

A small production area of Spain, Priorat is one of only two DOCa (highest quality) regions of the country. These wines are expensive, but for good reason - they're in short supply & are outstanding.

We tell you how to get the best of the best of Priorat!

 

Go to winefornormalpeople.com/blog for more detailed show notes.

Direct download: Ep_169__Priorat_Spain.mp3
Category:wine, Spain, Priorat -- posted at: 11:37pm EDT