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Anthony Dias Blue's Pocket Guide to Wine 2006

Anthony Dias Blue's Pocket Guide to Wine 2006

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Anthony Dias Blue's Pocket Guide to Wine 2006

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7 ore
Oct 4, 2005


From the expert who promises to avoid winespeak comes an unfussy guide that focuses on American wines and on up-and-coming wineries from around the globe.

For novices and afficionados alike, Anthony Dias Blue's Pocket Guide to Wine 2006 will lead you to the best choices -- and values -- without pretense or hyperbole. With a special eye for American wines and those that are unheralded yet not to be missed, Blue makes the process of choosing wine in a store or restaurant simple. He provides:

  • Extensive listings of wineries on six continents, from Mexico to South Africa, from Long Island to Israel, and even from China to India
  • Outstanding and cult wineries -- and wineries to watch
  • Profiles of each region that focus on key characteristics and varieties
  • Ratings, succinct descriptions, and opinions about each producer
  • Updated vintage reports
  • Advice about what to drink now
Oct 4, 2005

Informazioni sull'autore

Anthony Dias Blue is the author of several books, including The Complete Book of Mixed Drinks and American Wine: A Comprehensive Guide. For twenty years he has been Wine and Spirits editor of Bon Appétit. His reviews have appeared in magazines and newspapers across the country, including Wine Spectator, Robb Report,, American Way, and Decanter. Mr. Blue's Lifestyle Minute is broadcast several times daily on CBS radio. He lives in California.

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Anthony Dias Blue's Pocket Guide to Wine 2006 - Anthony Dias Blue





Despite influences from climate, geography, and winemaking techniques, the base flavor in wine comes from the grape.Varietals are wines made from, and named after, one specific grapevariety. A wine labeled Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay is a varietal. Depending on local regulations, a certain percentage of other grape varieties may be allowed in a wine labeled as a varietal wine, but ideally a varietal should taste predominantly of the main variety from which it’s made.Blends, on the other hand, derive their flavor profiles from a mixture of different grape varieties. Rather than striving for pure varietal flavor, blends generally aim for synthesis of varietal flavors.

Most New World wines are varietally labeled, but this is a relatively recent phenomenon in the wine world. Traditional wines from France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal more often follow the European practice of naming the wine after the region, not the grape.

However, some European wines that are not labeled as varietals may, in fact, be made entirely from one grape variety. Most red Burgundies, for example, are made from Pinot Noir but are not labeled as varietal Pinot Noir. If you enjoy the taste of varietal Chardonnay, you’ll be happy to know that this is the grape found in white Burgundy and Chablis.

Most grape varieties have very specific signatures. Chardonnay has a nutty quality, while Sauvignon Blanc is citrusy and grassy. Viognier is a burst of apricot and flowers. Cabernet Sauvignon is filled with blackberry fruit and Pinot Noir with red cherry. There are literally hundreds of grapes grown commercially for wine. Here are profiles of the most frequently encountered grape varieties.

AglianicoPredominantly found in southern Italy, this grape is believed to have its early origins in ancient Greece. The best-known version is Aglianico del Vulture, from the Basilicata region. Younger versions can be highly tannic and very concentrated, making it an ideal candidate for cellaring.

AlbariñoCan be as aromatic as Gewürztraminer, but the grape’s thick skin keeps it from ripening fully, leading to extremely light wines with high acidity. Grown predominantly in Spain, the grape is also grown in Portugal, where it is known asAlvarinho orCainho Branco.

AleaticoGrown in Tuscany since the fourteenth century and used in the production of deeply perfumed, ruby-colored wine that is often sweet and highly alcoholic. It is quite common to find fortified versions.

AligotéAfter Chardonnay, the second most predominantly grown white grape in Burgundy. Produces a light white wine with high acidity and very little aging potential. Along with cassis liqueur, Aligoté is a classic component of the Kir cocktail.

ArneisA white variety indigenous to Piedmont in northern Italy, where it makes dry, aromatic wines with notes of herbs, almonds, and pears.

BarberaA highly adaptable grape grown most popularly in Italy’s Piedmont region. Often aged in oak, the wine has a lively cherry flavor and good acidity. The grape grows particularly well in warm climates and has branched out from its native Italy into Australia, Argentina, and parts of California.

BualAlso calledBoal. Any of several white varieties used to make Madeira; richer than Verdelho and Secial.

Cabernet FrancA predecessor of Cabernet Sauvignon and a well-known component of the red wines of Bordeaux. On its own, produces a dark, rich wine with good levels of tannin, rich blueberry flavors, and a smooth texture.

Cabernet SauvignonArguably the best-known grape in the world, Cabernet Sauvignon has taken the wine industry by storm. The grape’s ability to grow almost anywhere and still produce a fairly consistent and recognizable flavor appeals to consumers looking for the Starbucks of wine. The best Cabernets are dense and filled with dark black currant fruit and the aroma of pencil shavings and cedar. Look to stock your cellar with long-lived Cabernet-based Bordeaux or varietal Cabernet Sauvignons from Australia and California, particularly those from Stags Leap District, Oakville, and Rutherford in Napa Valley, as well as Alexander Valley and Sonoma Valley in Sonoma.

CarignaneOften used in to strengthen blends, a dark red grape with lots of tannin and acidity and very little of anything else. When given proper exposure and good drainage, the grape can produce nicely fruited wine with a rustic character. Grown in France asCarignan, in Italy asCarignano, and in Spain asCariñena.

CarmenèreTransplanted from Bordeaux to Chile in the nineteenth century, Carmenère was originally grown as a field mix with Merlot. It’s low in acidity and high in ripe berry and plum fruit, and grown most successfully in Chile.

CharbonoA rustic red variety grown in California. The grape is also grown in Argentina under the nameBonarda and is possibly related to theDolcetto grape from northern Italy.

ChardonnayMost popular of all the white grapes, responsible for both the gorgeous, minerally white wines of Burgundy and the rich, tropical fruit flavors of California Chardonnay. Planted first in Burgundy, this extremely adaptable grape is now grown in nearly every wine-producing region in the world. Look for some of the best examples of what this grape can do in wines from the Côte d’Or and Chablis regions of Burgundy, Margaret River in Australia, and California’s Santa Barbara County.

ChasselasA white variety with a long, checkered history, now used for serious winemaking only in Switzerland, where it is the most planted variety. Also known asFendant.

Chenin BlancOriginally grown in the Loire Valley of France but now also found in South Africa, Australia, Chile, and California. Often found in inexpensive blends, Chenin Blanc can create a very nice, minerally, aromatic white wine with the subtle taste of green apple. Dessert versions are common.

CinsautAlso spelledCinsault. A huge cropper but so-so grapes. When successful, the end result is sweet and lush with supple fruit.

ColombardOriginally used as a base for Cognac but now found mainly as a varietal in South Africa, Australia, and California. There are lots of everyday jug versions, but more reputable producers achieve good results. Drink early.

ConcordNamed after Concord, Massachusetts, by the early planter Ephraim W. Bull, an American hybrid grape most commonly made into grape juice or jelly. The flavor is often referred to as foxy, a derogatory term for Concord’s intense, gamey flavor.

CorteseUsed in Italian Gavi; performs well in hot climates. Its generally high acidity requires that crop size be kept small to balance the flavors.

CorvinaUsed in the production of both Valpolicella and Bardolino from the Veneto region of northeastern Italy, the grape on its own has very little color. Used in its dried form to make amarone-style wines.

DolcettoProduces dry Piemontese red wines with considerable black cherry flavor and often a bitter cherry finish. Drink it young when the fruit still feels fresh. Some think the grape is related to theCharbono variety grown in California.

FianoAn ancient white variety recently revived in southern Italy’s Campania region, where it makes Fiano di Avellino, a sturdy, aromatic wine that ages well.

FurmintA lively Hungarian white variety that makes crisp, dry wines and, more famously, the celebrated dessert wines of Tokaj.

GamayAlso calledGamay Noir. Grown in Burgundy since the third century and used in the production of red Beaujolais. Planted in small quantities in California, Italy, and eastern Europe.

GewürztraminerGrown predominantly in Alsace, France, the grape originated in Germany. The prefixGewürz means spiced or aromatized. Produces highly scented, even cloying, wines with delectable flavors of citrus, stone fruit, and lychee. Both sweet and dry versions are common.

Greco BiancoAn ancient variety of Greek origin best known for Greco di Tufo, a full-bodied, minerally white.

GrenacheAlso calledGrenache Noir. Planted exhaustively in Spain (especially in Priorat) under the nameGarnacha Tinta, this heat-loving grape is also used in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Extremely high in alcohol and rich in spicy flavors of pepper, gingerbread, and coffee.

Grüner VeltlinerAustria’s main white variety, Grüner produces tart, teeth-clenching whites with high acidity, light body, and little color. Generally consumed young and fresh.

LagreinA hearty red variety grown in the Trentino–Alto Adige region of northern Italy. Deeply colored and often tannic, it is experiencing a modest revival with some quite charming versions.

MalbecRooted in southwestern France but now associated with Argentina, where it is used to produce rich, deep purple wines with lush fruit and great structure.

MalvasiaNot just one grape but a family of grapes, Malvasia is grown predominantly in Italy, where its white variety is often blended with Trebbiano. In Madeira, Malvasia is used to produce Malmsey, an intensely flavored aged wine.

MarsanneA sturdy northern Rhône white varietal used primarily in blends from Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, Saint-Joseph and Saint-Péray. Produces mineral-laced wines with citrus overtones and high acidity.

Melon de BourgogneUsed in the production of the Loire Valley’s Muscadet and sometimes calledMuscadet. Best consumed when young.

MerlotOriginally grown in Bordeaux and often used to soften the character of Cabernet Sauvignon in red blends, Merlot has taken center stage in the United States as a smooth, soft, drinkable red, low in tannins. The best French examples can be found in Pomerol and Saint-Emilion, with fine versions now produced in Italy, Australia, and Chile. Sometimes derided as Cabernet Sauvignon on training wheels, but the best examples are superb.

MontepulcianoLending confusion to the Italian naming of varietals, this grape has nothing to do with the production of the fine Vino Nobile di Montepulciano; instead, it is used in Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, a bargain red with good tannins and a rich, plummy flavor.

MourvèdreKnown in Spain asMonastrell but is more prominent in southern France, where it is blended with Grenache. The best wines are meaty with dominant blackberry fruit. Known asMataro in Australia and California.

MuscadetSeeMelon de Bourgogne.

MuscatA family of grapes rather than a single varietal, Muscat can be divided intoMuscat Blanc à Petits Grains, Muscat of Alexandria, andMuscat Ottonel. The wines run the gamut from pale golden to deep garnet and can be dry, sweet, or fortified—usually elegantly perfumed with a delicious scent of orange. Dry, sweet, sparkling, and fortified versions are all common.

NebbioloProduces rich, luscious, blackberry- and rose-scented wines that demand a few years of age—the better ones can last several decades and only deepen with time. Both Barbaresco and Barolo are 100% Nebbiolo, but the grape has had little success outside northern Italy.

NegroamaroA dark red blending variety widely planted in southern Italy, particularly in Apulia near Salento. On its own, robust red wines worthy of aging.

NerelloA high-alcohol-content Sicilian grape generally blended with Nero d’Avola to make a soft, rich red blend.

Nero d’AvolaSicily’s best red variety—a deep, richly flavored grape making hearty wines that can be complex, elegant, and ageworthy. Also known asCalabrese.

Palomino FinoGrown to the exclusivity of any other grape in southwest Spain, Palomino Fino is used in the production of Sherry, the fortified wines of Jerez.

Petite SirahA genetic cross between Syrah and Peloursin originating in France and now widely grown in California. Its savory blackberry fruit flavor and deep color mix especially well with Zinfandel, but on its own it tends to be rustic and simple. Also known asDurif.

Petit VerdotThis late-ripening grape found in the Medoc and Margaux regions of France adds color and structure to blends made in Bordeaux and is becoming increasingly popular there. The violet-scented grapes are now used for single-varietal wines in California and Australia.

PinotageA South African cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut used in the production of deep red, blackberry-flavored wine. Its high concentration of tannins can make it difficult, but adept winemakers are turning out some quite good wines. The best examples still come from South Africa.

Pinot BlancKnown asPinot Bianco in Italy andClevner in Alsace, a bright, dry, though often rather thin wine. Referred to frequently as the poor man’s Chardonnay, the best examples come from Italy and Alsace, where the grape is given its due.

Pinot GrisGrown widely in Italy asPinot Grigio and making hugely popular, fresh-tasting whites, this grape is also a success in Alsace, Germany, Oregon, British Columbia, and New Zealand. Bright and filled with honey and sweet fruit, it’s a great summer quaff.

Pinot MeunierAlso known asMeunier. Often blended with Pinot Noir and/or Chardonnay in the Champagne region of France. Lighter in color than Pinot Noir, the grape is also grown in Australia and New Zealand and sometimes appears as a varietal in California.

Pinot NoirThe oldest cultivated variety of the genusVitis and possibly grown as early as the first century. Producing some of the world’s most magnificent wines, the gold standard for the varietal is wines from Burgundy’s Côte d’Or. The best New World locations are Oregon, California’s Russian River Valley and Santa Barbara regions, and, more recently, New Zealand’s Central Otago. Climate and soil changes bring out different characteristics in Pinot Noir, but you can often expect red and black cherry fruit, earth flavors, and an elegant sweetness on the tongue.

PrimitivoA southern Italian varietal, widely planted in Puglia and making robust reds. Nearly identical in lineage to theZinfandel of California.

RefoscoPlanted predominantly in northeastern Italy and Slovenia, where delayed ripening often cranks up the acidity and can result in wine with a green quality. The best versions are deep in color, with a nice berry flavor and a bit of grass on the nose. Drink young.

RieslingA highly undervalued variety capable of producing stunning whites of amazing intensity, depth, and finesse. Versatile Riesling is at home in the cool Mosel and Rhine regions of Germany as well as the blazing heat of South Africa and Australia. Styles range from extremely dry to fragrant and sweet, with dessert versions made with the help of the fungusBotrytis. Sometimes calledJohannisberg Riesling after the German estate where it came to prominence.

RoussanneSimilar to Marsanne and grown in only a few of the Rhône regions, where it is generally used in blends. California varietal versions can have aromatic pear and herbal flavors.

SangioveseThe mainstay grape of Chianti turns out wines that range from drinkable table plonk to magnificently regal powerhouses. Grown throughout Tuscany in numerous local clones, Sangiovese is often blended with other local varieties, or with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to produce Super Tuscans. The large-berriedSangiovese Grosso clone is the basis of the celebrated Brunello di Montalcino wines, with amazing flavors of bitter cherry and violets. Also grown in California and Australia.

Sauvignon BlancA staple in France’s Loire Valley, where it excels in appellations such as Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé; also a component of many white Bordeaux wines. New Zealand came late to Sauvignon Blanc but has become a major producer of quality wine from this variety. Also planted in Spain, Chile, Australia, California, and South Africa. Grassy herbal and tart citrusy-gooseberry flavors are characteristic.

SemillonA high susceptibility to botrytis makes this grape ideally suited for the sweet white French wines of Barsac and Sauternes. In Bordeaux and elsewhere, Semillon is often blended with Sauvignon Blanc. Australian versions can be compelling. A bit of age is useful to bring out the honeyed fruit.

SercialA white grape variety whose name now indicates a light, delicate style of Madeira.

SylvanerFirst planted in Germany, this white grape produces a dry, earthy wine that at its best has good acidity but extremely light body and weight.

SyrahThis huge, juicy, powerful grape grown in the Rhône Valley has become one of today’s most popular international varieties. Enjoys great success in Australia (where it is known asShiraz ), is undergoing an explosion of planting in California, and is becoming important in many other regions as well. While it is often blended with Grenache or Mourvèdre, Syrah’s flavors of blackberry and chocolate make it a standout on its own. Appellations to look for include Hermitage in France, McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley in Australia, and Santa Barbara and Paso Robles in California.

TannatAn astringent, black-skinned variety used in southwestern France to make Madiran. Also becoming identified with Uruguay and, to a lesser extent, Argentina.

TempranilloThe workhorse of Spain’s Rioja and Ribera de Duero. A grape of many names: in Spain it is variously calledTinto Fino, Cencibel, Tinto de Toro, andOjo de Liebre, while in Portugal it is known asTinta Roriz. Makes juicy wines that are terrific when young and become deep and rich with a few years of age. Luscious strawberry fruit is a characteristic.

TeroldegoGrown predominantly in Trentino, Italy, but often overplanted. Needs careful control to produce wines with good plum and cherry fruit.

Tocai FriulanoThe main white grape in the Italian regions of Collio, Friuli Grave, and Friuli Isonzo, where it is used to make a peachy white wine that is best drunk in its youth. Also grown in Chile.

Touriga NacionalA main component in Port but also used to produce delightful red Portuguese table wines, either as a single varietal or in blends. With its high tannins softened somewhat, the massive fruitiness of this grape shines through. Known asTouriga outside Portugal.

TrebbianoRuns rampant over most of Italy and is used extensively for white wines that are high in acidity but otherwise rather bland. Its best claim to fame is its use in the making of Cognac, where it is known asUgni Blanc.

ValdiguiéAt one time grown excessively in France, but only small vineyards remain. Is grown mainly under the nameNapa Gamay in California and has also made its way to Australia and Brazil.

VerdejoSpanish law requires that this grape make up at least 50% of white wines from Rueda; also grown in Toro and Cigales. The wine ages well, gradually taking on a deeper honey flavor and great roundness.

VerdelhoA white grape that is a staple of Madeira. The wines fall between the dry Sercial and the richer Bual varietal Madeiras. Also used in the Douro to produce white Port.

VerdicchioPlanted mainly in Italy’s Marche region, this grape produces food-friendly white wines redolent of citrus.

VermentinoThe most widely planted white grape in Corsica; a lively, aromatic variety also grown in Sardinia, Liguria, and France’s Languedoc-Roussillon.

VernacciaMany Italian grapes, both reds and whites, are known locally as Vernaccia. The best-known version of this variety, however, isVernaccia di San Gimignano, which makes a crisp Tuscan white wine with lovely citrus fruit.

ViognierPlanted originally in the Rhône region of France and kept alive in the small but important appellation of Condrieu, Viognier is now grown with great success in Australia, California, and Italy. The best wines are lushly floral and filled with apricot fruit, with wonderfully smooth texture, bright acidity, and a relatively high alcohol content.

ViuraAlso known asMacabeo. Used in white Rioja in Spain and in the production of Cava in Catalunya. In the Languedoc-Roussillon, the identicalMaccabeo orMaccabeu is used in white blends. Used everywhere less for its flavor than for its structure.

ZinfandelGenerally associated with California, Zinfandel’s origins have been traced, after decades of research and many red herrings, to Croatia, where the same grape is calledPlavac Mali. ThePrimitivo of Italy is genetically identical. Big, bold, and jammy, Zinfandel works best when ripest, so it is not uncommon to find Zinfandels with extremely high alcohol content. Zinfandel is also being grown with success in Australia’s Margaret River region.

XinomavroA slow-maturing red variety grown throughout northern Greece, where it makes deep, rich, substantial wines.


Tasting wine should not be intimidating, but there are certain basic guidelines that will enhance your enjoyment and understanding of wine. These are not hard and fast rules, but simply suggestions to help you get the most out of your wine-drinking experience. Whether sipping a glass with a meal or sharing a selection of wines with friends, the true enjoyment of wine comes from slowing down, paying attention, and honing your awareness.


One of the simplest things you can do to help a wine show at its best is to serve it in an appropriate glass. The ideal glass should be wide enough to provide a good evaporation surface, while narrowing at the mouth to focus the aromas. Look for transparent glasses made of colorless glass. While those etched, cobalt blue numbers may match your wedding china, they make it impossible to see the color of the wine. A thin-walled glass with a cut and polished lip smooths the path of the wine as it travels from your glass to your mouth. The polished lip will ensure that on your first sip, the wine will flow over your entire tongue, allowing you to taste it fully.

Although short café-style glasses are fine for casual quaffing of less expensive bottles, glasses used for premium wines should always be stemmed to prevent the heat of your hand from influencing the flavors of the wine. Traditionally, the best glasses are made from lead crystal, which has a slightly rougher surface than glass and helps concentrate the aromas of the wine. If you are concerned about lead, look for lead-free glassware.

When purchasing wineglasses, don’t buy glasses that are so expensive you’ll be afraid to use them. Glasses can, and most often do, break. Buy only what you can afford to lose. While there are whole lines of glasses designed for use with specific varietals, few of us have the cupboard space for such luxury. Instead, look for a multipurpose stemmed glass with a generous bowl and a narrow rim. Generally, red wine is served in a larger glass than white, so you may want to find two sizes of all-purpose stemware.


The best way to ensure that your wine is worthy of your new stemware is to keep it at an appropriate temperature. I can’t tell you how many decent Chardonnays have been blunted by extreme chill and how many perfectly acceptable Cabernets have been dulled down by serving temperatures high enough to poach a small fish. While cooler temperatures can improve the quality of mediocre wine simply by numbing your taste buds, don’t sacrifice the quality of good wine to extreme chill. Sparkling wines and rosés should be chilled to between 42° and 54°F. White wines need a bit more warmth and should never be served below 48°F or above 58°F. The quickest way to chill a bottle of white wine is to place it in a bucket filled with ice and water for about 15 to 20 minutes. Alternatively, 35 minutes in the freezer can also do the trick. Red wine is best served between 57° and 65°F, and should taste cool and refreshing to the palate.

What Is the Best Glass for Champagne and Sparkline Wine?

Do Champagne and sparkling wines require a separate set of glasses? Perhaps. The wide, shallow Champagnecoupe was once popular, but the wide surface did little to preserve the bubbles in the wine. In order to remedy this, the tall, slim Champagneflûte was born. In a narrower glass, the Champagne remains sparkling from first pour to last sip. Opinion seems to be in the process of changing once again, however. Some even prefer drinking Champagne from a Chardonnay glass, which allows the wine to breathe more freely than it can in aflûte. Perhaps the best compromise (and my own personal preference) is to use a Champagneflûte with a relatively wide opening.


You have a glass of wine at the proper temperature. Now what? Truly savoring the wine begins before the liquid even hits your tongue. First look at the wine. Notice the color. Hold the glass against a white tablecloth or napkin to see the true shade. White wine can be pale straw–colored, greenish, or golden. A red wine may range from light pinkish to deep purple. These colors provide clues to both the wine’s origin and its age. Each grape imparts a specific color to the wine. Pinot Noir is a usually a light ruby red, while Zinfandel can be almost black-purple. Color also shows a wine’s age. Years of cellaring darken white wines and lighten reds.

Gently swirl the wine in the glass. This movement releases the wine’s aromas. Try to pick out specific scents. In white wines, you may find intense floral qualities paired with the refreshing zest of citrus; red wines may smell like berries or black pepper. Notice the rivulets of wine (known also as legs or tears) that run down the side of the glass after you swirl. Their thickness can be a clue to the viscosity of the wine. Thicker legs generally indicate a heavier wine with a higher alcohol content.

And now, taste. Take a small sip, and swish the wine gently in your mouth so that it hits all parts of your tongue. Before you swallow, think about what you are tasting. Is the wine sweet or dry? What is the acidity level? A higher acidity makes a wine refreshing and bright, while lower levels can flatten the flavor of a wine, making it seem flabby. Take a moment to let the body of the wine register. A heavier wine can seem almost creamy; others may be described as silky or velvety on the palate. Lighter-bodied wines may be racy or crisp.

The many flavors of wine tend to fall into several broad categories. Look for fruit, vegetable, spice, herb, nut, flower, earth, and wood flavors. Both white and red wines can contain elements from these categories. For example in the herb category, a Sauvignon Blanc may taste of grass, while a Cabernet Sauvignon has hints of eucalyptus.

On your next sip, look for balance. How do all the qualities of this wine relate? Is the texture rough or smooth? Does it complement the body of the wine? Is there enough acidity to bring out the flavors of fruit and spice but not so much that the wine seems overly tart? As you swallow, notice whether the flavor of the wine lingers in your mouth. This aftertaste is known as the finish. A high-quality wine will have a lengthy finish. When aroma, flavor, acidity, texture, and finish work together in perfect harmony, you have a wine with lovely balance; this is a wine worthy of your time!

The Devil Cork

Ideally, a cork provides a nearly airtight seal that allows a wine to age gracefully. But stopping a bottle with a piece of tree bark invites all sorts of evils to visit your wine. Even if storage conditions have been perfect, about 5 percent of all the wines you buy, regardless of cost, will be corked, or contaminated by mold on the cork. A corked wine smells musty and moldy and tastes flat and dirty (the culprit is TCA, or 2,4,6-trichloroanisole). A reputable merchant will replace a corked bottle free of charge; just take it back with most of the wine still in the bottle.

Many vintners now use plastic corks, which eliminate cork taint but have drawbacks as well. They can be hard to remove and hard to get back into an unfinished bottle. Some even impart a plastic taste to the wine.

Once winemakers get over their romantic illusions and start using screw tops, most of these problems will vanish. Fortunately, more and more forward-thinking vintners are putting screw tops on even their finest wines, and the early results of aging tests have been encouraging.


Red wine with red meat, white wine with fish and chicken, right? Not necessarily; matching wine with food is much too subjective to be governed by such a black-and-white rule. My general line of thought is If you like it, drink it. But when you are dining on something a bit more complex than a slice of pizza, it’s nice to have a few guidelines. Notice that I say guidelines, not rules. Remember, the only hard and fast rule is to enjoy.

The first thing to think about when pairing wine with food is the flavor of the wine. Every wine possesses different flavor characteristics. A Sauvignon Blanc, for example, may be filled with herbal notes and bright, citrus flavor, while a Cabernet Sauvignon can taste almost like berries and chocolate. Think about how these flavors will blend with the taste of your food.

You may want to choose a wine that shares flavor characteristics with your entrée. Serve an earthy Pinot Noir with roast chicken stuffed with mushrooms, and see how the wine echoes the rich, foresty flavor of the mushrooms. On the other hand, you may want to contrast your food with the wine. A rich cream sauce can be delightful when paired with a similarly rich, creamy Chardonnay, but see what happens when you lighten it up with a burst of bubbly Champagne or the acidity of a dry Riesling.

Too light a wine will be overpowered by the strong flavors of hearty cuisine, such as veal daube, just as a heavy wine will drown out the symphony of tastes in a delicately spiced fish dish. When serving a series of wines, I suggest you start with the lightest and work toward the heaviest. This progression allows your palate to warm up to tasting the big wines and will add to your enjoyment along the way.

With a basic knowledge of the flavors and textures of wine, you can begin to understand why some classic combinations of food and wine work so well. Some standbys to consider include Sancerre and oysters, Port and Stilton cheese, Sauternes and Roquefort, and Pinot Noir and duck.


Vintage, when applied to wine, does not mean old and extrawonderful; instead, it simply refers to a wine that lists on its label the year in which the grapes were grown and harvested and the wine was produced. True, weather does affect wine, but in many instances, vintage doesn’t matter quite as much as some wine snobs would have us believe. Because of developments in winemaking technology and today’s well-educated winemakers, wide differences among vintages are less likely to occur than in the past. If you don’t want to be bothered with remembering which vintages are good and which are bad, a safe bet is to stick to wines from areas with fairly stable climates. California, Spain, Chile, southern France, and Australia are generally less susceptible to wide variations between vintage than are cooler, more capricious climates such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Piedmont. Refer to the Vintage Chart at the back of this book for general guidelines.

Wine with Cheese

Contrary to popular belief, wine, particularly red wine, does not automatically pair well with cheese. In fact, most cheeses are too creamy for a dry red. The cheese dulls the flavor of the wine and creates a kind of smudgy quality on the palate. If you must drink red wine while eating cheese, stick to drier, hard or semihard cheeses such as Dutch Edam or, better yet, switch to a different red. Port is an ideal match for Gorgonzola and other mold-laced cheeses. White wine often pairs quite well with cheese. Riesling is lovely with semisoft cheeses such as Morbier, while a Sauvignon Blanc meets the tart acidity of goat cheese head-on. I love the supersoft French cheese D’Affinois with a glass of extra-dry Champagne.






Europeans have spread themselves around the globe as conquerors, colonists, and immigrants. Wine is now produced wherever European culture meets suitable climate and soil, which means enophiles can buy bottlings from nearly every continent.

Old World vintners found much to like in the New World, climate-wise. Milder, sunnier weather, especially in California and Australia, meant consistent results, in contrast to Europe’s wide variations in quality from vintage to vintage. Of course it would be many decades before wines from these new regions approached the transcendence of a great vintage from Bordeaux or Burgundy.

The United States

When Europeans arrived in North America and saw lush grapevines climbing the trees, they thought they’d found a wine paradise. They soon discovered that these grapes made wretched wine. But all their efforts to growVitis vinifera in the eastern United States failed due to the phylloxera root louse that infested the soil and to unsuitable climates, conditions to which American grape varieties had adapted. In the 1800s growers in Ohio and New York had some success with accidental hybrids of European and American grapes.

Much earlier, Spanish missionaries had planted Mission grapes, a rustic type ofVitis vinifera, in Mexico, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, with drinkable results. Sometime before 1770 the missionaries moved into California, planting vineyards as they went north, and discovered the continent’s true wine paradise.


The great majority of American wine—some 95%—comes from California, and three-quarters of that isvin ordinaire from the vast, hot Central Valley.

The Golden State’s quaffable quotidian wine is made in areas where sea breezes and summer fog from the Pacific Ocean cool the coastline and nearby inland valleys. Some areas right on the coast are too foggy for viticulture—the grapes must get enough sun to ripen fully. California’s varied topography creates complex eddies and flows of cool and warm air, producing a wide range of suitable climates. Soils also vary, due in part to the state’s ongoing lively seismic activity.

By the mid-1800s, European immigrants in California had moved away from Mission grapes and were planting fineVitis vinifera, from Los Angeles to the Bay Area. When the gold rush of 1849 greatly increased California’s population and the demand for wine, vineyard plantings grew apace.

Phylloxera reached California’s vineyards in 1874, necessitating the replanting of thousands of acres of wine grapes. Vintners used resistant rootstock, but other diseases, such as Pierce’s disease, plagued the vines. In 1919, Prohibition dealt the fledgling California wine industry another body blow. Most of the state’s wine grapes were torn up and the fields re-planted with other crops. By the time Americans came to their senses and repealed Prohibition in 1933, only a few wineries remained.

The California wine industry gradually got back on its feet, with the help of scientists at the University of California at Davis. Techniques widely used in Bordeaux and other European wine regions gained acceptance. The last half of the 20th century saw prodigious growth in vineyard plantings and marked improvement in the wines. By the 1970s, California wines were besting their finest European counterparts in blind tastings.

But California’s travails were not over. Another bout with phylloxera in the 1980s and 1990s took its toll, and Pierce’s disease still threatens vineyards today. The state’s vintners now face falling prices caused by a wine glut and stiff competition from less expensive South American, Italian, and Australian wines. But what’s rough on producers is a boon to consumers, and there has never before been so much good wine available at such low prices.

California winegrowers have had just a few decades to work out what European vintners have been fiddling with for centuries: which varieties grow best in which areas. This lack of experience has been offset by the absence of rigid laws and traditions and the willingness to try anything. A few matches of grape and region have emerged as unquestionably made in heaven.

Here are the state’s most important winegrowing regions, north to south:

Mendocino County:Zinfandel, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir do well here. But the real gold, from the cooler areas such as Anderson Valley, is superb Riesling and Gewürztraminer, both table and dessert styles. Sparkling wine can also be stellar.

Sonoma County:Early in California wine history, Sonoma produced the state’s best wines. Although its reputation has been undeservedly eclipsed by Napa’s, Sonoma is on the rise again. The county itself is several times the size of Napa Valley and extends from the edge of Napa to the Pacific. There’s tremendous climatic and geographic variation, from warm (Sonoma Valley, Alexander Valley) to cool (Russian River Valley and part of the Carneros). This diversity means that Sonoma produces excellent examples of many varieties, particularly Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.

Napa Valley:California’s most prestigious wine address produces many world-class wines, but is best known for Cabernet Sauvignon that rivals Bordeaux’s finest. A few producers have made great Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc in this small but famous appellation as well. The valley is warmest in the north and gets cooler the farther south you go. It shares its southernmost district, Carneros, with Sonoma. Here the salubrious effects of fog and breezes off San Pablo Bay create ideal conditions for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Sierra Foothills:On the east side of the Central Valley, in Amador and El Dorado Counties, elevation cools the weather enough to grow wine grapes. Zinfandel does especially well here.

Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey:The rough, remote Santa Cruz Mountains are home to some of the state’s oldest wineries, most eccentric winemakers, and most distinctive wines. Cabernet and Zinfandel grown here can be among the state’s best. In Monterey County, the Salinas Valley is primarily a source for bulk wines. A handful of fine wineries dot the nearby arid hills, producing truly great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo:The up-and-coming Central Coast is another geographically and climatically varied region. Paso Robles to the north is quite warm, which suits Zinfandel and, increasingly, Rhône varieties. Farther south, near Santa Barbara, the Santa Ynez and Santa Maria valleys are among California’s coolest, driest wine regions, with very long growing seasons. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah flourish here.

Temecula:Halfway between San Diego and Los Angeles lies a relatively new wine area, Temecula Valley, where a gap in the Coastal Range creates grape-friendly cool nights. This area, recently decimated by Pierce’s disease, has been most successful with white varieties.




*Abreu (1986) Napa • •CS • Top-notch vineyard manager David Abreu makes two excellent estate Cabs—Madrona Ranch and Thorevilos—sold mainly via mailing list.

Abundance Vineyards(1994) Sonoma • • CHAR, PN, SYR, ZIN;Abundantly Rich Red • Sonoma-based producer of Burgundy and Rhône-style varietals from numerous northern, central, and Southern California vineyards.

Acacia Vineyard(1979) Napa • •PN ,CHAR • One of the original Carneros wineries; now part of Chalone Group; top-quality vineyard-designated Chards and Pinots.

Acorn Winery(1994) Sonoma • • ZIN, SANG, DOL, SYR • Russian River Valley winery specializing in traditional field-blended varietals.

Adelaida Cellars(1981) Paso Robles • • CS, CHAR, PN, SYR, RB, WB • Veteran winery has slowly expanded production, vineyard holdings, and pricing; wines are quite good but a bit expensive overall.

Adler Fels(1979) Sonoma • • SB, GEW, CHAR, SANG, SYR • Sauv Blanc and Gewürz specialist now branching out; newer wines include a rich, plummy Syrah.

Aetna Springs(1989) Napa • • CS, SYR, CHAR, MER • Family operation with proprietary vineyard sources in Rutherford and Pope Valley.

Ahlgren Vineyard(1976) Santa Cruz Mountains • • SEM, CHAR, CS, MER, CF, PN, SYR • Home winemakers turned pro long ago and never looked back; unpredictable quality with occasional flashes of the right stuff.

*Alban Vineyards (1989) San Luis Obispo • •SYR ,GRE ,RB , VIO, ROU • John Alban now makes some of California’s most exciting Rhône-style varietals and blends; wines can have amazing extraction, concentration, and layered complexity but are always balanced.

Albini Family Vineyards(1991) Sonoma • • MER, ZIN • Ultrasmall-production family winery produces well-regarded Zin and Merlot from Russian River and Dry Creek.

Alderbrook Vineyards & Winery(1981) Sonoma • •CHAR ,PN , ZIN, CAR, MER, SB, CS, SYR;OVOC Zinfandel • Sonoma producer now part of large Paterno portfolio; Pinot, Chard, and Zin are standouts.

Alexander Valley Vineyards(1975) Sonoma • • CS, CF, MER, SYR, CHAR, VIO, PN, SANG;Sin Zin • Pioneering Alexander Valley producer with reliable offerings; Syrahs and

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