People often come into our shop and, after explaining they are looking for a nice bottle, immediately offer up the caveat “But I don’t really know anything about wine!” These are some of my very favorite people to help. The vast and endlessly complex world of wine is as yet unknown to them, yet the possibilities are still endless.“I just want something I like,” they tell me. Here, here.This can of course be a tricky thing to determine for someone else, and even for yourself. Where to begin? How to describe and define those elusive elements of enjoyment that you get from a bottle of wine that you like? Palate and structure analysis and even common flavor descriptors may not be helpful in this situation without a baseline reference, but hey, we’ve got to start somewhere.I often like to begin with one of my favorite elemental distinctions: Old World vs. New World. While this concept is rudimentary for anyone in the industry, its meaning is not self-explanatory. It is a relatively unknown concept to many general consumers, even some that have a decent amount of basic knowledge. Living in California is both a blessing and a curse; we have a plethora of world class winemakers in our backyard. Yet for many California residents, this is all they know. However, this simple distinction between Old World and New World helps to define in a very broad sense two particular styles of wine.This is where it becomes exciting - at least for a geek like me. I'll use this distinction to help my customer find a unique and exciting bottle of wine they will enjoy at any price point.Geographically, the Old World refers to Europe and the Mediterranean basin. The New World refers to everywhere else they make wine. Stylistically, Old World wines tend to have higher acidity, lower relative alcohol, and - most significantly - more minerality and earthy components on the nose and palate.New World wines tend to have more generous fruit, slightly acidity and generally more alcohol. My straightforward explanation is: stick your nose in the glass. If you smell fruit first it’s probably New World. If you smell dirt or rocks or other funk, it’s probably Old World.Of course, these days, with so much progress in both the technological and philosophical sectors of wine making, we are starting to see more crossover in these two styles from a geographical standpoint. Yet the styles themselves still maintain their original distinction.So, what makes Old World wines old world? A lot of it has to do with the climate. European wine-growing regions often have a cooler climate and a slightly shorter growing season. This means grapes grown in these regions will naturally retain more acidity and produce less sugar – which also leads to lower alcohol levels – than grapes grown in warmer regions.The old world also has history. Grapevines have been cultivated for the purpose of making wine since the Roman era, on the oldest soils of our planet. This ‘terroir’ is something that is unique to the Old World and cannot be replicated or faked. And, of course, with all that history comes an awful lot of regulation. Old world countries have some of the strictest laws out there regarding how a producer can make his or her wine. These laws help to identify and regulate quality and expectations, and also create a huge headache for the consumer who doesn’t know how to interpret them.Overall, if you like to taste in your wines a bit of tartness, leafy forest floor or wet rock minerality, then Old World wines are probably right up your alley.Given all that, the New World seems like a pretty big place…and it is! So-named for the fact that all these areas were initially colonized by the Europeans, and thus christened as nouveau. This is also an important fact to consider because the species of vine we make wine from is indigenous to Europe, meaning that these colonizers had to transport the vines to their new outposts in order to continue their vinous enjoyment.So, New World winemakers got a later start to the game. Specifically in where they chose to plant their vines, discovering the best areas that produce the highest quality grapes, and attempting to use European techniques that maybe didn’t work as well with their new environment.The New World has indeed evolved into an entrepreneur’s paradise! Free of the traditions of Old World winemaking, producers can explore, experiment and define their own style of wine with their entirely unique geographical situation. Much of the New World tends to have a warmer climate, resulting in naturally riper grapes that yield higher levels of sugar, and therefore higher potential alcohol as well.One often defining through-line of New World wines is an identifiable purity of, and focus on, fruit. Pure fruit on the nose and pure fruit on the palate. It is a point of pride to many New World winemakers to protect this expression of fruit quality in their wines. New Zealand is an excellent example of a New World country as a whole that often seeks the purest expression possible of their fruit.There are also a lot of New World wines that experiment in other ways through enhancements available on the market, such as additives, shortcuts and fancy gadgets – options not available in most of those regulated Old World areas. This, combined with the fact that these such “experiments” are usually not required to be disclosed to the consumer, can lead to extreme variation of quality from any given New World region.However, if you tend to enjoy fruit forward, easy drinking wines that are lush on the palate, then New World is likely your style.Does that mean one style is better than the other? Absolutely not! When it comes down to the nitty gritty, drinking what makes you happy is the right thing to drink. Yet, it’s always great to branch out and try something new every once in a while. You will likely be surprised. This is an easy assignment for newbies to wine, but an even better challenge for consummate wine professionals stuck in their ways.If you are a die-hard white Burgundy fan, grab a bottle of Margaret River Chardonnay one night just to test it out. Big, bold Napa Cab drinker all the way? Head over to Rioja and check out a Gran Reserva. Or look around for the grape you have never heard of from the country you didn’t know made wine and have that bottle with dinner tonight. Even ask your local wine shop attendant, they’ll likely be chomping at the bit to offer you several new options.The world of wine is vast and fabulous; our job is to enjoy as much of it as possible while we can.
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The Okanagan is an exciting up-and-coming region in the province of British Columbia in Canada. The terroir screams diversity and tension - which is understandable given the fact that it teeters right on the 50th parallel.One of the promising grapes of the region is Riesling. It shows best in the Northernmost sub regions of the Okanagan Valley and is often found basking in the sun on sloped sites overlooking Lake Okanagan. Riesling grapes thrive in the Okanagan because of the vast diurnal swings and cool moderating breezes that are created by the Lake; ensuring the grapes reach sugar ripeness while still attaining lively acidity. The Okanagan also boasts some of the longest sunshine hours during the growing season in the world due to its Northern latitude. Let's take a look at some of the best Riesling it has to offer:Tantalus’ Old Vines RieslingA winner for all Riesling lovers. The vines that grow this wine were planted in 1978 on a promising slope in Kelowna, British Columbia. The Tantalus Riesling guarantees a deep and concentrated experience — mouthwatering to say the least! Wet stone and slatey flavours balanced by floral tones, a limey spine and ripe apple flavours that are sure you want to pour more. One of my favourites in the whole province.Synchromesh Winery’s Bob Hancock RieslingSynchromesh winery maintains a well respected commitment to minimal intervention with their wines. All their wine growing and making practices are done with utmost integrity to the planet and to showcase the fruit in its truest (and inherently tasty) state. It’s easy to agree with winemaker Alan Dickinson’s philosophy when the resulting wines are this tasty! The grapes from the Bob Hancock vineyard are grown on the northern tip of of the Naramata Bench overlooking breathtaking views of Lake Okanagan and the city of Penticton. This wine is bright with puckering lime, fresh apricot and a touch of RS that makes you crave another sip. Quail’s Gate BMV RieslingThis off-dry beauty is the perfect companion to South East Asian food that has a little kick of spice and deserves a wine that can kick it right back. The Bouchrie Mountain Vineyard (BMV) in Kelowna has grown this fruit to speak to the terroir of British Columbia and proves its ability to age. This is a wine that has the delicate floral tones and bright acidity we all crave in Riesling. A wine to enjoy now and stock up on for later!Alex Anderson is a Vancouverite with a passion for wine, communication and design. She is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, holds a WSET Advanced certificate with distinction, and was the runner up in the 2018 Aspiring Sommelier BC competition. You can connect and follow her vibrant and insightful wine endeavours on Instagram @wine.with.alexx
There’s something intoxicating about a piece of music that baits you with one chord, and then leads you like an aroused schoolgirl into something completely unexpected. The likes of Coltrane & Zeppelin come to mind when thinking of music that keeps you on your toes, zig-zagging you around until you’re dizzy with melodious ecstasy. The most primal of pleasures lend to that kind of experience; music, sex, and the most hedonistic pleasure of them all, wine. While many have a hard time verbalizing that journey, a bottle of wine of that caliber is hard to forget.Barolo is a region in northeastern Italy synonymous with the grape Nebbiolo, as it is the only red grape the region grows & (like Burgundian Pinot Noir) is never blended. It is a wine that evokes a kind of existential ebb & flow. It reels you in with notes of rose petal, lilac & tar. 15 minutes later, it’s dried mulberries, fresh tobacco leaf & dusty leather boots. It is equal parts sensual & barbaric. Like a woman who knows how to direct her lover, Barolo evolves more every time you lift the glass. As if the bouquet wasn’t enough to entice, the sheer mindfuck of the palate redirects your senses.While Nebbiolo’s thin skin doesn’t cause it to act as controlling (read: unsexy) as your self-conscious fucktard ex, it does cause it to create a wine as pale in color as Pinot, yet packs the tannic punch of a Cabernet Sauvignon or Petite Verdot. (Tannin creates the effect of dryness on the palate, sucking all the moisture from it like that sixth cup of black coffee you had this morning.) Most wines with high tannin come from thick-skinned grapes as that’s where tannin is primarily found. There is tannin present in seeds & stems, but high-quality wines are de-stemmed since their tannin is much harsher than grape skin tannin. Anthocyanins are the chemical component that dictates a wine’s color intensity, and thin-skinned grapes have low anthocyathnin’s, just like they (usually) have low tannin.When blind tasting, you first analyze a wine’s color & opacity before even smelling it. Seeing a pale colored wine sets your brain on a path. (Imagine hearing the Black Keys first couple, very blues driven albums...) You’re already racing towards Pinot Noir/Gamay/Cab Franc/Grenache, then you get hit hard with that mouth-draining tannin. (And then hearing the Brothers album & Dan Auerbach’s falsetto...) MINDFUCK. A young Nebbiolo reminds me of my brother's garage punk band when they started out; each instrument competing with the other, none able to stand on their own or come together in cohesion. An aged Nebbiolo, on the other hand, can be orchestral; every individual aspect of the wine coalescing together in unison like Amy Winehouse’s voice enveloping your ear canals. Pure fucking magic. And thus, the love affair with Barolo continues...
Recently, a reader of I like this grape. asked us to recommend a wine to celebrate getting a promotion.Some more context: she is a 5th year software engineer at a mid-size company in California that builds high-end websites and apps. She’s in her late 20's and this is her first job out of school. So the promotion is a big deal. She plans on having a little celebration with family and friends at her house.We asked some of our sommelier and wine expert friends to weigh in and help our dear reader. Here’s what they said:Alex Sanchez, Certified Sommelier and a Somm Next Door!"I’d recommend the 2011 Mascot Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley for $115.The story of this brand is really interesting. Will Harlan, the son of legendary Bill Harlan, created this brand as an experimental project focusing on the younger vines of Harlan Estate. The Mascot has had incredible success since its beginnings in 2008 and it represents the younger generation of winemakers in Napa Valley. This is the perfect wine to enjoy and treat yourself to for your big promotion. After all, you deserve it!"Lisa Strid, Winemaker at Aridus Wine Company in Scottsdale, Arizona"I think you have to go for a fun wine - after all, it’s a celebration! If you’re someone who loves bubbles, go for a Franciacorta - they’re Italian bubblies made in the same method as Champagne, and they encompass a huge range of styles at very friendly prices. Get a Riserva if you love bready, biscuity aromas and flavors. But, if you’re a fruit lover, an NV (non-vintage) should satisfy.If you’d rather have a red, seek out an old vine Grenache from Australia. I’m sorry to say that this will probably ruin all other Grenaches for you. Oh, well. Now that you’ve been promoted, you can become the old vine Grenache person that was always there inside you.I especially like the Clarendon Hills Kangarilla. And if you really want to mark the occasion, why not invest in a vintage port, use a marker on the bottle to remind why you bought it, and then hide it from yourself in a place that you won’t bother to look for the next 50 years? Then when you retire and decide to clean out the crawlspace and find the bottle, you can pop it open and praise yourself for being so wise at such a young age to invest in your own future enjoyment."Andrew Cullen , Founder/Editor, CostcoWineBlog.com (no affiliation with Costco)“Since this is a young developer, I’m going to put $100 cap on the wine since that will likely seem like a lot to drop on a wine unless they are really into wine. Given that range, I’d go Old World with something that isn’t the standard Napa Cabs which they might have had at company dinners and see all the time.I would also want something with a little age on it so the wine can change and develop over time in a decanter. That way, this person can really savor and enjoy the wine as well as the fruits of their hard work. So my pick would be a second or third growth Bordeaux, which would fit the bill on all of these points.A Pontet-Canet ($95) from an off year might fall in this price range, as would a Duhart-Milon ($120). You could also move to the right bank and go for something like the Canon La Gaffeliere ($85) or La Dominique ($45) which would save a few bucks.I’d pick one of the above, toss it in a decanter and cook a fantastic meal enjoying a small taste every 30 minutes paying attention to how the wine develops while savoring your success.”Cassandra M Brown, Certified Sommelier, CSW, CWAS, CSP"If money isn't an issue, I would say splurge and pop a nice bottle of Champagne. "Champers" ranges from dry to sweet and works for every occasion.If budget is an issue, popping a bottle of delicious bubbles doesn't always mean you have to pop a bottle of Champagne. It's totally fine to go for something more moderately priced like Prosecco from Italy or Cava from Spain.Cremant de Bourgogne or another 'Cremant' is also a nice choice. 'Cremant' is French Sparkling wine made outside of the Champagne region but produced in other regions of France and is made in the traditional Champagne method.There are also some beautiful domestic sparklers from California and even New Mexico that should not be overlooked. Bubbles...always the way to go!Here are some to try. Great rec's other than Champagne. All these producers have an amazing assortment!:Lucien Albrecht - France, $19Schramsberg - California, $32Roederer Estate - California, $45Gruet - New Mexico, $15Bien Vivre et Boire le Meilleur!"Naushad Huda, founder of I like this grape. (not a sommelier, just a wine geek with an opinion)"I’d go with a Cru Beaujolais. Beaujolais is a region in France and the grape used in these red wines is Gamay.Now, don’t confuse Cru Beaujolais with Beaujolais Nouveau, which are uber popular wines that are released the 3rd week of November and heavily marketed.Beaujolais Nouveau wines are bottled just a few weeks after the grapes are harvested, have very little tannins and are typically purple/pinkish in color. It's simply spiked grape juice! They are meant to drink and have a jovial time - think Pirates of the Caribbean! (Nothing wrong with them, but save the Nouveau for Sunday brunch.)The Cru regions of Beaujolais, of which there are 10, produce wines that are very diverse in flavor - though all the wines are made from the same grape: Gamay! It’s fascinating to experience how the same grape can express itself so differently.You can get some vibrant, juicy wines from a region in Beaujolais called Chenas all the way to slightly heavier, minerally, stony wines from regions such as Morgon. You can easily pick up a Cru Beaujolais wine for under $35. They pair with just about everything you eat, can be stored for years, and will be a fun wine to pronounce when you’re tipsy.Tip: buy 3 of the same bottle, one to drink for the celebration and 2 to hang on to for future so you can reminisce about this wonderful achievement in your life years later.Here's one I dig: Duboeuf Morgon Jean-Ernest Descombes 2015 ($19)"If you have any suggestions for our young reader who is climbing the corporate ladder then please join the conversation Twitter: www.twitter.com/ilikethisgrape
I'm here to tell you everything you need to know about Bordeaux. It's really not too painful. I promise.Bordeaux is a region in France, and you can't call it a Bordeaux if it comes from anywhere else in the world. It can be white, it can be red, dessert, rose. All colors of the wine f**king rainbow.First, a little about France being a controlling mom. There are rules. France has laws that dictate what types of grapes can grow where, and what they can use for wine. After hundreds of years, they've figured out which grapes grow best where and they don't want to mess with that.The BanksBordeaux is divided into two areas known as the Left Bank and the Right Bank."I only drink wines from the Right Bank. I don't know why.""Ew you drink from the Left Bank, you peasant?"Left and Right Bank wines taste very different because the blend of grapes is very different.Also, why are the labels hard to read? What makes reading French labels difficult is that they name the wines by the place. Since the country has specific laws that indicate where certain grapes can grow, they just label it by the place. Because, obviously, that grape would grow there. You with me?PC:http://wineknowstravel.blogspot.com/2016/02/bordeauxs-right-left-banks.htmlThe tricky part is they expect the consumer to just automatically know what their laws are and which grapes are planted where. It's confusing. For instance, instead of saying Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot on the label, they'll say Bordeaux...the place.Sound complicated? It was, until now. The Left Bank is made up of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, making the wine more full-bodied and darker in color. Like the Pauillac region, for instance.(Editor's note: Take a sip of the Chateau Durhart-Milon 2008 from Pauillac, Bordeaux. It's a soft, dark fruit Cab Sauv/Merlot drop that's an absolute steal of a price point for the region.)The Right Bank is more Merlot dominant, which means the wines are usually lighter bodied and more pale in color. Easy, right?White wines and dessert wines are made up primarily of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. The bottle says Pauillac? OMG it's from the Left Bank! It's probably more Cabernet Sauvignon then. If the bottle says "St. Emilion", it's on the Right Bank and probably going to be more Merlot-dominant as a result.The BuyOh, that wasn't so hard - agreed? Some Bordeaux is very expensive and collectable, however, most are between $10-25. So go out, try something, and use your fancy buzzwords. Oh, can I have a Left Bank? What about a Right Bank? Right Bank? Left Bank?(Editor's note: A very tasty example of a Right Bank, Merlot-dominant Bordeaux is the Chateau Peymouton 2012. And for just over 20 bucks? Woop!)There it is. Your super basic intro to Bordeaux!Cristie Norman is a certified sommelier and currently helps diners at the acclaimed Spago Beverly Hills as a resident Sommelier. She’s a bikini athlete and her wine creds include CMS and WSET Level 3. Check out her Instagram!
Burgundy Wines for BeginnersThis is a real basic primer on a complicated topic. Burgundy is like next level confusing. Yes, I've cried at times when studying Burgundy. Just, like, a little tear. Just one...I'm here to tell you some foundational information you need to know about the Burgundy wine region and why it's one of the most amazing wine regions on the planet. (Also, one of the most expensive! For example, recent vintages from the iconic Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, often abbreviated to DRC, go for tens of thousands of dollars per bottle!Firstly, Burgundy is an area of France. You can only call wine a Burgundy if it comes from the area of Burgundy. Over 200 million years ago, there was a tropical sea where Burgundy is today, and it left millions of fossils that created a soil that's unique and rich in limestone. The soil actually makes the wine taste brighter and more mineral. It's like this rocky thing that you can't really describe, nor find, anywhere else in the world.What regular person needs to know about wines from Burgundy.Chardonnay is the major white grape in Burgundy, and Pinot Noir is the major red grape in Burgundy. Burgundy is a big, general area of France that has a lot of different places in it that you've probably heard of, a lot of really famous areas.You also might notice that a lot of Burgundy producers have the exact same last name. That's not a coincidence. They're probably related. Napoleonic inheritance laws in France basically said that if a man owned property, like a vineyard, when he died, it would be split evenly among his children. A couple of generations later, each kid had, like, two rows of vines each. Not exactly conducive to excellent wine making...So, some winemakers, called negociants, would go up to all of the little vineyards, the little, tiny parcels, buy all of their wine, and create their own wine under their own name. Efficiency!Styles in the major areas.Chablis is the northernmost area of Burgundy. Known for super-crisp, minerally white wines made of Chardonnay with a little to no oak. Next area is the Cote d'Or. "Cote" means slope or hill, and Cote d'Or means "golden slopes" in French. Sounds fancy already. The Cote d'Or is divided into two areas, the Cote de Nuits and Cote de Beaune.(Editors Note: This is a great intro Chablis that's sure to please most any wine drinker. It's a Premier Cru for $35 - delicate, no butter-bomb here, flowers, lemon, and that Burgundy minerality. Take a sip here!)Cote de Nuits, or "Hill of Nights" is known for Pinot Noir. Super famous areas for Pinot Noir include Gevrey-Chambertin and Vosne-Romanee are in the Cote de Nuits, so that's kind of easy to remember. The Cote de Beaune is known for Chardonnay - easy to remember, because it sounds like bone, which is white. Cote de Beaune. Super famous areas for oaked Chardonnays like Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet all are in the Cote de Beaune.Feelin' fancy yet?(Editors Note: Giving Vosne-Romanee a try can be a bit pricey, but well worth the exploration. Do it in the name of discovery! For around $70 try a Louis Latour Vosne-Romanee. Enjoy this while listening to Khalid's layered, soulful, and addicting voice while enjoying a pleasant conversation with a couple of friends. Take a sip here!)Beneath the Cote d'Or is the area of Cote Chalonnaise, which makes a really great range of red, white, and sparkling. Below that is the Maconnais, which is known for a more full-bodied Chardonnays, because as we get closer to the equator, it's hotter. Just bigger, riper styles. Maconnais is probably best known for the area of Pouilly-Fuisse, and not to be confused with the area of Pouilly-Fume.(Editors Note: For a great expression of the chardonnay grape from the Pouilly-Fuisse region, look no further than most any bottle produced by the Drouhin family. They've been producing top quality Burgundy wines for over 130 years, and the house is now run by the their 4th generation. Try Joseph Drouhin Pouilly-Fuisse 2015. For around $26 you're getting a delicious, solid representation of the region by a top quality producer. Take a sip here!)The last thing that you need to know about Burgundy if you want to be a serious, certified wine geek is the area of Beaujolais. Is that fun to say? Beaujolais. Beaujolais. Beaujolais. Beaujolais. The area of Beaujolais actually doesn't use Pinot Noir. It uses the grape, Gamay. It's lighter-bodied like Pinot Noir, but it has more of a grapey flavor.Beaujolais is made in a lot of different styles. There's Nouveau that comes out in November every year, and it's meant to drink young. Then there's Cru Beaujolais that is made from really, really special producers that are meant to age. Beaujolais is a gateway wine. It's delicious. You've got to try it.(Editor's Note: Cru Beaujolais wines come from 1 of 10 designated areas. So when searching for Cru Beaujolais look for these 10 areas; Brouilly, Régnié, Chiroubles. These three are known to be lighter in body. For medium body Cru Beaujolais, look for Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, and Saint-Amour. For bolder, heavier Cru Beaujolais that can age in your cellar go for these regions: Chénas, Juliénas, Morgon, and Moulin-à-Vent. For under $20, go for a critically acclaimed Duboeuf Morgon Domaine Mont Chavy 2015. Take a sip here!)That's it, my super-basic entry to Burgundy. I hope that wasn't too overwhelming. I know there's a whole lot more to cover. We'll get there. Don't worry.Now, check out my video episode below on Burgundy!Cristie Norman is a certified sommelier and currently helps diners at the acclaimed Spago Beverly Hills as a resident Sommelier. She's a bikini athlete and her wine creds include CMS and WSET Level 3. Check out her Instagram!