Another attempt to maximize the weekly wine. Oh, ello No. 2.
Muscadet is a special type of wine that can be paired with both hard and soft cheeses. One of my favorites, Bucheron (a French goat cheese), is amazing for padnahing with this wine. A tip that I’ve learned: if you’re trying to pair food with wines, your go-to is usually going to be foods from that region.
Bucheron cheese hails from the Loire Valley–just like our wine. Like o-m-g, we’re so French drinking our wine and eating Bucheron right now. Even Regina George would be jealous.
Bucheron is a pretty neat little goat cheese that I can only explain in this way: It is similar to the feeling of being ten-years-old and shopping the buy one get one free special on Limited Too socks with my mom. I wore the hell out of those things because I felt so cool in them. Added bonus: my mom’s relief from not having to step it up to overpriced track suits and expanding shirts. That’s Bucheron–a beautiful two-for-the-price-of-one anomalous gift from the cheese gods.
Its outside layer is a lovely bit of tangy hard cheese that hides the surprise gooey mushroomy middle. Such bang for your buck from the Loire Valley–c’est magnifique!
As we learned last week, we padnah light wines with light fare. In accordance with this mantra, mussels are a perfect compliment to Muscadet. They are delicious and, quite frankly, easier to make than we think. Try this simple recipe to make your roommate covet your epicurean adventures. Sayonora, Lean Cuisine.
Asparagus rules–even if it makes your pee smell funny. At least, my brother makes this claim every time my grandmother puts it on the table for family dinners. Whip some up using your No. 2 for a really delicious vegetarian option. The sauce in this SugarLaws recipe—Buerre Blanc–is so Loire Valley. Cool fact: It was accidentally invented by a female chef named Clémence Lefeuvre. Many legends surround this kick-ass woman. Buerre Blanc away while reading about this haphazard French staple.
Whether meeting at the bar last weekend, back in college, or on match.com–the lucky ones find themselves aimlessly wandering around looking for the other half of their hermaphroditically complete selves. The others are too busy climbing an obnoxiously ambitious social ladder to notice their own notifications on OK cupid. But hey, c’est la vie pals. We all still need to impress our boss (or future lover) in order to move out of that gray cube and up to the seventh floor office (or fresh fling’s apartment). Inevitably, a time will come when a fancy dinner date is either warranted, expected, or black-mailed out of us. The reasoning behind this logic puzzle is simple: If there is a fancy dinner, there will also be wine. And if there is wine, then you will most likely be forced to order it.
Gasp! But how? I saw you the last time you were in a public eating space. Stressed and overwhelmed by the prices and quietly mumbling beneath your breath, “What the hell is a Pinot?” You were loosening your tie and fidgeting with the table cloth as it skimmed the tops of your tucked under legs. You ironed your damn pants for this. How could you have forgotten about the wine?
Let it go and please stop sweating–it’s gross. Here are some steps to keep yourself from looking like Bill Clinton circa 1998 next time you find yourself gorging on overpriced fare.
1. Do a little homework. If you are really nervous about this moment (and slightly neurotic), do a little research before you go to the restaurant. Most restaurants put their menu online so it is easy for you to take a look before you go. Sometimes wine can be an investment, so it might help to know what you are getting into first. Usually, just google searching the name of the vineyard and the vintage (that’s the year, guys) will yield enough information about what it might be like.
2. Know how to read the menu.
3. Think about what you might be eating. A good rule of thumb is that heavy wine padnahs (that means pairs for you snotties out there) with heavy food–light wine goes with light food. If you want to get more serious, check out this info graphic that essentially everyone has been posting and re-posting and easily google searching lately. I think my dog even found it. If you haven’t seen it–you quite possibly live under a rock.
4. Ask for suggestions based off of what you prefer and what you are eating. There is someone in that place who knows what they are talking about. If you don’t possess stealth one-handed under the table google searching skills–ask for suggestions.
And, for the love of god, do not have this conversation:
You: Um, yo. What wine do I want?
Them: Well, what kind of wine are you looking for?
You: Um. Something? I don’t know. Just, well, what do you like?
EHH! WRONG ANSWER.
Obstacle 1: What someone else “likes” is not going to be what you like. Remember that asshole frat-daddy your roommate dated in college? She was in love? He looked like a easter egg hunt? Right. So don’t let other people pick your tastes. Next.
Obstacle 2: If you don’t know what you are eating or what you care for, then how in the hell is your waiter or sommelier (that’s wine speak for head wine bitch in charge at a restaurant or bar) going to know what will be good for you? They are not clairvoyant– despite the misleading size of their egos.
Do These Things Instead:
- Tell the waiter what you are having and ask him for recommendations.
- Let your waitress know if you are looking for a particular type of wine. Describe your tastes. Maybe you feel like a red? Perhaps you hate Chardonnay? Give her some boundaries or at least something to play with. It makes it more fun, anyway.
- Learn something. Chances are, if you are reading this, these guys know more than we do about wine. At least, we can pray to the wine gods that they do. This is your chance! Don’t let it pass you by. The only way to become more comfortable with wine is if you explore it.
- Keep an open mind to new varietals. Basically, try new things and be adventurous. Duh.
5. Use this sneaky price trick. There is just no way that you (or me or my parents or anyone I know) can pay $7,000,000 for a glass of wine. But, we also want to make sure that we’re getting a good pick. In these moments, muster all restraint and refrain from screaming out, “Please don’t choose the one that will force me to trade in my deceased grandmother’s wedding band!” Simply tell him that you would, “like something similar to these wines,” and circle the price range with your finger on the menu. If the guy isn’t totally dense, he should get your signal and will make a recommendation accordingly–without letting your date or boss notice that you are actually calculating how many granola bars you’re going to have to eat for lunch next week in order to pay for this.
6. By the glass or bottle? This is really up to your table, time, and available funds. Discuss accordingly. Please weigh in your wallet–but do so privately. Don’t be a dumb ass.
Taking Part in an Ostentatious Wine Ceremony
You ordered–but wait, here comes the bottle. Oh. Shit.
1. The waiter will show you the label. Check it out and make sure it is actually the one you ordered–as if they’re going to get it wrong, anyway. Essentially, this is a formality. But, it does make you look (and feel) like an in-charge badass. The key thing to look for is the vintage. That could possibly be the only thing that could easily become shuffled.
2. He will open it. And if you ordered it, you go first (inside celebration commences, now). Basically, you just chill and the waiter will pour you a little tiny bit in your glass. Don’t be alarmed, you will be getting more alcohol soon. Breathe. In case this moment stresses you out, you may need to contact AA.
3. Swirl, smell, taste. Swirl your glass around on the table for a few seconds. Then, smell it. Don’t stick your entire nose in there, people. Just sniff a bit. Finally, taste it.
4. Accept it. MOST IMPORTANT INFORMATION IN THIS POST. DO NOT SEND A BOTTLE BACK. This is not a moment for a wine tasting, darlings. You are not the Bachelorette of the wine list–you’re marrying the one you picked for keeps. Dating took place back with the menu. Party’s over. The only way you divorce your bottle is if it is something called corked. This just means that the wine has turned into shitty vinegar tasting sludge.
5. He will serve your guest (or guests) first, then top you off last. It’s coming, I promise. Wait patiently as the waiter works his way around the table clockwise, say a little cheers after everyone has their glass, and bottoms up (by the stem)!
Bravo and Breathe, darlings.
Occasionally–I discovered in the midst of my second week of winebbling–walking into wine shops as a twenty-something snoobie can be something like this (please click hyperlink and listen to receive the full effect of this post).
At first, you stand at the doorway of a brand new wineventure. Young. Fresh. Broke. With not a care in the world and not a penny to your name. You’ve got style though–in that I don’t care how uncool I am to the point of actually becoming too cool sort of way.
And then, the perfect moment greets you at the threshold of purchase and peruse. You, winebbler, are certain–beyond any measure of a doubt–that you will leave this place happy as a clam. Directly resulting from an encounter with the gaping and mysterious vats of knowledge made available to you by the woman behind the counter. But, this moment is fleeting my friends. (Stop music here).
And, reality sinks in. Hence, the second realization intrudes upon a brief detour past Rosé and the safety nets of Argentinian Malbec. All the things that could have happened in there aren’t happening, and you really are just some poor kid trying to move up in a world that has no more room at the inn. Just ask China.
That jazzy theme music playing in your head is now abruptly revealed as the show-boat it truly was. And any ideation of impending glory is crashing down like an old familiar Thursday afternoon where you left that (would be) enchanting person who works on floor six in an elevator as the music traveled down and down with the closing cold metal doors. In such a space–there is no hope. Only the bitter truth that being in a wine shop can be really damn boring.
Sans the knowledge I sought and sans $16.20, I left H&F bottle shop in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta with a metaphorical empty-handed purchase–to no fault of the wine selling lady. Only my own pitiful attempt to appear to understand her jargon is to blame. For speaking wine speak is a tough game to play–and can oft times turn the biggest of fish into the tiniest of guppies and make the nosiest of bloggers forget all of the right questions.
Alas, home I went with the first bottle recommended to me: a 2011 Château l’Oiselinière de la Ramèe in a little red bag twisted at the top. Worried of what I was getting into at two in the afternoon, I uncorked (and nearly broke) the Muscadet wine which hails from the confluence of the rivers Sévre and Maine in the northwest of France. This wine is crafted by the Chéreau family–who apparently has privy to a house amazing enough to receive the nomenclature of Château and the ability to consume their wine on a hilltop overlooking the banks of a rather (I can only imagine) picturesque riverside. Lucky bastards.
The head guy in charge of the whole Château enterprise is named Bernard Chéreau. This seemingly benign French gentleman possess a tinge of badass as he spearheaded the creation of an export market. Merci beaucoup monsieur from all of us wanna-be winos over here in ‘Merica.
The wine hails from Appellation Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Contrôlèe and boasts the seal of French legitimacy (and stuck-up-edtry (kidding!)) that we learned of last week. Evidently, the family is highly loyal to the Melon de Bourgogne varietal from the Loire Valley region and is also highly partial to Muscadet grapes. Basically, this just means that they stick with what they love and keep it simple. Makes sense.
The cool (and kind of gross) thing about this wine is that it goes through a special process known as Sur Lie. Basically, this just means that the newly created wine ferments ( the process of turning sugar into ethanol) on top of dead yeast for an entire miserable winter. Apparently, this makes it “enriched and full-bodied” (whatever the hell that means). To me, the idea of drinking something that has laid soaking in dead anything is mildly repulsive. I try not to think about it too much as the sparkly taste is still quite dazzling.
Well, gang, let’s get down to business.
Pale straw-yellow–a bit like the sunshine I am currently missing.
Floral, fruity, and fresh. Did I mention longings for summer? While refreshing, it did accidentally invoke the overhanging fear of being a sweet wine–a thing I loathe more than Lindsay Lohan on a Friday night. Die, Arbor Mist.
The beginning: Smooth and foreshadowing of surprises to come. (So Robert Parker right now.)
The middle: Apple and citrus. Oh! It bursts like spring and has just the slightest bit of…salt? Perhaps?
The end: Made me want another sip–and I am usually not a white wine drinker. But this tingles and sparks like pop rocks.
The verdict: For all those Februaries that made me want June back, I’ll take it as a worthy fill-in. This wine is well worth the freshness it brought to rainy gray winter days this past week. Thanks H&F for recommending a bit of fun, after all.
Introducing the wine padnah series: Tahdah! The term “pairing” is simply for the birds, in my humble opinion. Therefore, if you are feeling too stuffy for this nouveau non-riche corner of Winebbler, then please excuse yourself to go blow your nose!
This is an experiment for those of us who have yet to know the glory of drinking savvy glasses of vino with a high society-approved bite. The rubber is hitting the road, kids. We can no longer be those guys downing our glasses o’ chardonnay with a slab of steak. Oh, the humanity of such mistakes! The horror! the teroirr! (Wine Notes: By the way, teroirr is a so-called loaner-word from the Frenchies about the dirt that grapes grow in. We’ll get there. For now, just enjoy the shameless wordplay and laugh knowingly under your breath.)
But, I digress. Here are a few suggestions for your investigation of bottle No. 1–garnered from one am Google searches, Food&Wine, and my own (laughably non-existent) expert meanderings .
I think they will prove to be decent catches, particularly when all you want to do is throw your work-bag on the floor and hike up those sweatpants from high school over your belly button.
Typically, with a Malbec or any bold red (or in our case, a blend) your best bet will be to stick with a hard cheese. The term “hard cheese” literally means what I am writing. The shit is not squishy. Back away from your go-to Brie. You can do it, I promise.
A solid (and relatively inexpensive) recommendation would be a Manchego cheese. Manchego cheese is made from the milk of a rare-breed of Manchees. Just kidding. It does actually come from some pretty bad ass sheep, however. These mountain climbers live high up on the La Mancha region plateau in Spain and may or may not have palled around with Don Quixote (see painting included above in case you forgot what he looks like). Made out of 100% sheep’s milk, the nutty flavor of this cheese is delightful with our Malblot (the Merlot/Malbec blend). No scandalous flag needed for this Spanish-French alliance, either.
I’ll be honest. Unless you are showing off (and by that I mean hanging out with friends), spending a Friday evening without any intention of shamelessly stumbling home from a bar at some point, or you really don’t want to do anything but wait to eat—for, oh say, longer than it normally takes to heat up a lean cuisine– then, I’ve got nothing. But, wait! Generally speaking, darker wines are going to call for heavier meats. And after a little cost-benefit analysis, it is going to be well-worth the time investment. Try this amazing(ly easy) barbecue recipe so that you can be flashy with your wine padnah-ing skills. The recipe is really not difficult to master–so just sit there, eat your damn cheese, and wait it out!
Bold reds are great pals with roasted vegetables. If you’re still an aspiring pseudo over-achiever (that is reaching for what is beyond the waves which are micro), try out these roasted potatoes with the No. 1 and barbeque. Patience is a virtue…that we can all occasionally muster.
Hope you enjoy, and let me know if you give it a go.
Week One. A Saturday evening–slightly before closing–my trusty roommate agreed to wander into the Little Wine Shop in Decatur, GA.
We walked into a space no larger than my living room and were met by a man skipping down the stairs.
About mid-skip and stair, he asked if I needed help.
Me: Well. I’m doing a little “project.” I know nothing about wine and after a flight home where I was forced to face myself for a bit, I decided it was time to learn.
Me: I know. This is strange. But, I have some parameters. It has to be under and $20 and it has to have a high rating. (Rookie mistake #1).
Him: Hm. (Scoffing–yet still cordial) Points. They don’t matter. See…
He proceeded to explain that (disclaimer: these are my words, not his) a guy named Robert Parker had created said points for losers like me who had previously invested in the idea that we could just find “good” wine using a number system and a pretentious older man’s manufactured critical taste. And because he rose to a place of such elitist wine snobbery–a cheap ass wine for $8 had the potential to become the next big thing at $80 within the next vintage (that’s wine talk for year).
Being the naturally intelligent beings they are, Vintners (that’s wine talk for the people who make wine and also sell it) caught on to this. Thereby selling their souls and their tastebuds to craft wine that would appease the palate of the self-made wine god Sir Robert Parker.
Eventually though, (lucky for us) the hipster and punk-rocking vintners decided to stick it the man and make their own damn wine, whether Robert Parker liked it or not. And priced it properly to boot.
This all goes to say, that I ended up with a bottle of wine imported by a guy named Kermit Lynch who–as the son of a non-wine drinking preacher family–imports wine, writes, and produces alternative albums with titles like “Donuts and Coffee” and “Kitty Fur.” I think I like him.
The bottle suggested to me by Little Wine Shop is not ranked higher than any other wine I might have naively pluck off the shelf for less than $20, but I walked away satisfied that I was starting off on the right foot. On top of that, the wine-guy at Little Wine shop made a small victory for those idiosyncratic nonconformist ragers against the egoists in the wine machine. Bitches.
I was given a bottle of 2010 Clos La Coutale, which originates from a place in the south west of France called Cahors. In the wine world, you would say the appellation of the wine is Appellation d’origine Protégée. Apparently, it used to be called Appellation d’origine Contrôlée. But, a law was passed in 2009, that some vintners had to switch over to use the word Protégée instead. People were sort of pissed about this. Anyway, that just means that where the hell they got their grapes from is a legitimate grape-growing place, according to the French government. So woohoo for Cahors.
Cahors is a really old region of France complete with a satanic bridge and an ancient reputation for producing some pretty magical grapes.
The bottle of Clos Las Coutale is made of 20% Merlot and 80% Malbec–both grapes originating from that region. That’s right, Argentina, France made Malbec first–you thieving wannabes. Kidding, you guys (sort of). But the blend, much to my delight, made my usual Argentinean go-to wine taste ordinary in comparison. There are a few steps to taste wine appropriately (according to my google searches). So for all of my fellow snoobs (newby snobs) out there, here is the general break down:
1. Look: Apparently you hold your glass up to the light, preferably against a white background and describe what it looks like. My glass of Malbec/Merlot–Malblot we can nickname it (Robert Parker is dying slowly somewhere right now)–looks really dark purple in the middle and has a bit of a red tinge on the outside. Because it hails from 2010, it is not going be as orange around the rim as it may have been if it were a bit older.
2. Smell: Alcoholic. Just kidding. You have to swirl your glass around for about 10 seconds, you fool. It smells a bit earthy and definitely flowery.
3. Taste: Begin at the beginning (swish it around), go through the middle (pause to think), and notice the end (swallow and judge the aftermath).
The Beginning: Definitely soft at the beginning.
The middle: Tangy and fruity in the middle.
The end: Bitter and warm.
The verdict of a novice wine drinker: At $17.99 a bottle, I wouldn’t pick it up to drink alone on a rainy Tuesday night on the couch. But for a hot date or for cooking a meal with friends that is a bit on the heavier side–most definitely. Overall, a yummy glass of wine for less than $20. Blown out of the park? Not entirely. Try it again? Absolutely.
That’s all folks. Next week, we shall venture into the land of the whites. Thanks Little Wine Shop for helping me out!