November 13, 2018

The Indestructible Wine, part 2

In my last column, I took you through some of the history of Madeira wine, and discussed its role in trade and the formation of America. Here, I continue with the topic and examine the drink itself – what it’s made of, how it’s made, and understanding what the labels mean. Madeira Island has an oceanic/tropical climate, so fungal diseases and rot are persistent problems. To combat this, grapes are grown on terraced hillsides, often trained on trellises called latada. There are four traditional grapes: Malvasia (Malmsey), Bual (Boal), Verdelho, and Sercial. The grape Tinta Negra Mole became the most…

The Water of Life

Typically, I prefer to be relevant to the season, its holidays and so on, when not writing about Arizona wines. That means Valentine’s Day in February. I debated on champagnes, maybe dessert wines for couples, or pairing fine wines with a romantic dinner. I’m single though, and Valentine’s is more like Singles Awareness Day for me. Plus, football season will have just ended and with it the addictive distraction of fantasy leagues and other such pastimes of the manly weekend warrior. Take all of this together, and I’ve decided to scrap all things feminine or couples related and focus on one…

The Indestructible Wine, part 1

There’s a book I was introduced to recently entitled A History of the World in Six Glasses. The premise of the book is that there are six key beverages that played a major part in shaping world history, as they were the crux of human settlement, the basis in forming major trade operations and trade routes that developed over time to supply those that lacked the beverage with ample amounts from those that made the beverage (or at least grew the ingredients), and the development of modern globalism and consumer culture. Now, I’m a history buff. Colonial and Revolutionary America…

5 Tips for Buying Wine

Having studied wine more than most people, I know many of the little tricks used to get you to part with your dollar and pour the beverage down your throat. Some of the choices I see customers make in their selections are head scratchers to me. I know to each his own, and that people have different tastes, but there are several general recommendations I would give people when making their selections so they get the best value for their money and aren’t stuck merely with something to drink, but rather a beverage to enjoy. I’ve decided to pass along…

No Toils or Troubles, Just Tiny Bubbles

Our subject goes by many names. The Germans call it Sekt. The Spanish use the term Cava. Italians have a few different names for it but generally call it Spumante. Some places say Sparkling Wine, but most of you know it by the name of its French home – Champagne. Champagne is a beverage that’s synonymous with celebration. The wines of Champagne were long heralded by the rulers of Europe, mostly because French Kings were traditionally crowned in the city of Rheims located right in the heart of the Champagne region. Since royalty liked to party, the local tipple became the…

The Juniper Tonic

There’s one particular drink I have yet to touch on in the six plus years of writing this column–gin. That fact mostly comes from my personal preference, as I’ve never been a particular fan of gin. Ignoring it simply out of bias though is a disservice, as gin is still quite a popular beverage. Many people may see it as a cocktail spirit of an older generation, associated with the speakeasy era of prohibition and bootlegging. Many craft distillers though consider a well-made gin to be the pinnacle of artisan spirits, as it requires more finesse and skill to make…

4 Booze Myths Demythstified

I’ve been dealing quite a bit with the public lately in regards to booze, and it surprises me how much the incorrect myths regarding beverages become entrenched in the minds of people. I wanted to set the record straight on a few things to better educate the readers who enjoy a tasty glass of EtOH (that’s the common chemical abbreviation for ethanol). Myth #1 – The Sulfite-Free Wine The first myth that needs dispelling is sulfites in wine. There is no such thing as sulfite free wine. All fermented beverages will have at least some amount of trace sulfites as they’re…

The Wisdom of Miyagi

by Joel Mann One of the great cheesey movies from the 80’s is The Karate Kid. Say what you will about the acting, the general plot line, or even the ability of a teenager to learn martial arts at a black belt level in a few months. The real gem of the movie is Mr. Miyagi and his philosophy of life. Balance is the whole key. It’s the old wisdom of all things in moderation. A bit apropos tied into a discussion concerning alcohol. I bring the topic up not to beat the drum of a teetotaler or neo-prohibitionist, as…

Blind and In the Dark

I’ve seen a few stories recently about trendy gimmicks in the dining world. My favorites are the restaurants that serve dinner in the dark or make patrons wear blindfolds as part of the meal. While I don’t advocate eating with the lights off, as it’s a recipe for spilling and slopping all over yourself, it does emphasize a key concept in the world of sensory perception. People in general are extremely visually dominant when it comes to the five senses. After sight comes hearing. That leaves the senses of  smell, taste and touch lagging behind. The average person is quite often pressed to describe the world…

Recent Adventures on the Drinking Trail

The winter season is always one of my favorite times of the year. In the booze world, it coincides with the release of all the fantastic seasonal beverages for fall and winter, particularly in the beer world. I’ve been busy as can be personally the last several months, so it’s always nice to take a moment to relax and enjoy the simple pleasure of a good meal and a tasty beverage. To start the New Year, I’m just going to recap a few of my recent enjoyable experiences in the drinking world, some seasonal, some not, that you hopefully get…

Remedial Beer

I’ve spent years educating myself on the topic of booze, and sometimes take for granted that not everyone may understand what, to me, seems like common knowledge. I encounter frequent misinformation from the average consumer as a result, so every now and then I just feel the need to give an education lesson. I almost debated calling this article Beer 101, but that titling format gets far too over-used, and let’s face it, this is information you should know well before you ever dream of college studies. So I went with Remedial Beer, because this really is the 1+1=2 basics,…

The 12 Sure Cures With Vodka . . .

To remove a bandage painlessly, saturate the bandage with vodka. The stuff dissolves adhesive. To clean the caulking around bathtubs and showers, fill a trigger-spray bottle with vodka, spray the caulking, let set five minutes and wash clean. The alcohol in the vodka kills mold and mildew. To clean eyeglasses, wipe the lenses with a soft, clean cloth dampened with vodka. The alcohol in the vodka cleans the glass and kills germs. Prolong the life of razors by filling a cup with vodka and letting your safety razor blade soak in the alcohol after shaving. The vodka disinfects the blade…

Please Do Burn The Wine . . .

One of my favorite things when the weather gets colder is bundling up and enjoying a warming beverage. I like dark winter beers, or a shot of tawny port. I’ll even break out the occasional mug of hot chocolate on a cold night. One beverage I don’t drink often, but goes well during the holiday months and cold nights, is brandy. So, let’s delve into wine distillates and introduce you to Cognac, Armagnac, and plain old American brandywine. Brandy comes from the Dutch word brandewijn, which translates as burnt wine. Traditionally it’s the distilled spirit of grape wine, but any…

Getting Your Just Desserts

The holiday season and its feasts are almost here. While an entire industry exists to help you pair your meals with an array of wines, one of the often overlooked parts of the meal is the digestif. I’d like to introduce you to some classic dessert wines, fortified wines, and some liqueurs that are not only exceptional beverages in their own right, but are the perfect end to any meal. Port Port wine is probably the easiest to get your hands on. Several countries make a fortified style wine that generically is called port, but I personally am a snob in…

Ye Olde Demon…

One drink I haven’t touched on much in my writing this column is the spirit, rum. That’s mostly because I don’t drink much hard liquor. I do enjoy a well-made spirit from time to time though, and when it comes to my tastes, my preferences include whiskies, tequilas and nice dark rums. Rum tends to be one of the more neglected spirits in the average person’s bar repertoire, as it gets relegated to cheap cocktails and fruity tooty drinks. Rum has a storied history though with influence around the globe. The drink has quietly earned a place amongst the world’s…

We Don’t Serve Miners!

Prior to the discovery of gold in California, a castaway Christian congregation, led by a Mr. Brigham Young, set up shop at most of Utah’s good watering holes. Mr. Young’s followers were farmers. They did not drink, at least not in the vernacular sense of the word. However, after the 1849 discovery of gold in California, waves of fortune hunters started showing up at the Utah watering holes. These fortune hunters were miners. In the vernacular sense of the word, they were drinkers, much like Jim and I. The farmers had adopted a no-drinking policy, and since the farmers were there first, they got to…

Eau, That’s Schnapps

I recall having a conversation with a woman while out wine tasting one day several years ago. She was very excited because she was taking a trip to Germany, and one of her scheduled events was touring about a few schnapps distilleries. I struck up a conversation with her on the topic since I’m a fan of all tasty beverages, had just been to Germany, and enjoyed a few schnapps while there. It seems she was a big fan of the sweet, syrupy, flavored liqueurs that most Americans associate with schnapps (we spell it with two P’s, the Germans only…

Hard to Starboard

The holiday season is a great time for food lovers. All sorts of delectable goodies find their way to the table. Beverages are no exception, and this time of year tends to see the dusting off of various specialty wines, that although great year round, usually are associated with the festivities of the holidays. One particular style has always been a favorite of mine. I’ve touched on it superficially before, but I want to delve into the world of Port Wine and bring you some knowledge behind one of the world’s great beverages. Port is what’s known as fortified wine. That…

Don’t Eat the Worm

In honor of Cinco de Mayo and all other great things Mexican, this month I’m going to talk about that exotic spirit from south of the border – tequila. Agave Tequila is the end product of fermenting and distilling the agave plant. All distillates produced from agave are actually known as mezcals (which is a whole other topic for future discussion), of which tequila is a special class. It’s like making the distinction between brandy and cognac. For a mezcal to qualify as tequila, it must come from a defined geographic area, which is mostly in the Mexican state of…

Beware Drunk Moose–and Other Blue Law Irregularities

                            One of the lasting legacies of prohibition is a mishmash of laws by the Federal Government and the states in regulating alcohol. It gets even more complicated when localities get involved and add another layer of regulation. Our elected officials, in their infinite lack of wisdom, do manage to come up with some ridiculous offerings when regulating one of their favorite targets for social control. This month, just for amusement, I wanted to look at some of the various alcohol blue law favorites from around the…

O’zapft is!

Even as a wine guy, I’ve always kept a fondness for beer (it does take a lot of beer to make great wine after all). Arguably the greatest beer event in the world, the annual Oktoberfest in Munich, will be ending as this issue goes to press. It’s an event that embodies what most people know of as stereotypical Germany. It’s one of my favorite holidays, not simply because beer is involved, but it’s a signal for the change in season that brings with it the robust flavors of autumn and winter: dark holiday brews, hearty cold-weather meals, holiday festivities…

Little Sentence for Little Man

LITTLE LEGAL NEWS: A Nebraska judge said a 5-foot-1 man convicted of sexually assaulting a child was too small to survive in prison, and gave him 10 years of probation instead. A drastic rise in serious crimes committed by “little people” in the state of Nebraska is expected. HIGH FASHION NEWS: An Indiana high school student, a male student who has worn women’s clothes to school all year, was turned away from his high school prom because he was wearing a dress. Kevin Logan, 18, went to the West Side High School prom on Friday in a slinky fuchsia gown…

The Little Pearl

Ever wonder what’s in a name? I worked in Portugal a few years back and recall a conversation with the English winemaker about the meaning of names. He told me about his Portuguese friend with a very proper and formal surname that basically happened to translate into English as “all day long, I ride motorcycles.” Most people think English names have little meaning, but if you research the origins of any name you’ll usually find some meaning behind it. Take Margaret Thatcher for an example. A thatcher is someone who traditionally built and repaired old straw roofs. Margaret actually comes…

Summer Bubbles Over

The champagne/sparkling wine category has some of the more underutilized drinks in the wine world. People for some reason only tend to break out a bottle of bubbles for holidays and occasions instead of grabbing a bottle for everyday use, despite the fact that most wines in this category are extremely versatile as a culinary pairing. Several wines in the sparkling category are light, crisp, and very refreshing since they’re effervescent and served at ice cold temperatures, so they make an excellent option for light summer drinking. Let’s take a look at some of the less common wines in the…