New research has suggested that three glasses of Champagne a week can help to improve your memory.
Scientists at Reading University say that a regular dose of bubbles can help in the fight against brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Jeremy Spencer, a biochemistry professor who led the research, said: “Dementia probably starts in the 40s and goes on to the 80s. It is a gradual decline and so the earlier people take these beneficial compounds in champagne, the better.”
Professor Spencer’s team said that the compound phenolic acid is what can boost memories. Phenolic acid is found in the black grapes, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, both of which are used in the production of Champagne.
The professor told the Mail on Sunday that the research team had put Champagne into the food for rats every day for six weeks. The rats then ran in a maze to find a treat, with the test repeated after five minutes to see if the rats remembered where to go.
The rats that had no Champagne had a 50% success rate, but this went up to 70% in the rats that had Champagne in their diet.
Professor Spencer now hopes to take a trial to humans, with around 60 pensioners being asked to drink Champagne for three years. It’s hard to imagine there will be a shortage of volunteers for this trial.
Spencer told the Mail on Sunday: “The results were dramatic. After rats consumed champagne regularly, there was a 200 per cent increase of proteins important for determining effective memory.
“This occurred in rats after just six weeks. We think it would take about three years in humans.
“This research is exciting because it illustrates for the first time that moderate consumption of champagne has the potential to influence cognitive functioning such as memory.”
A spokesman for the Alzheimer’s Society told the newspaper: “This is an interesting study, especially for those who enjoy a glass of bubbly. However, people should not start celebrating just yet. This is the first time a link between champagne and dementia risk reduction has been found. A lot more research is needed.”
This research is the latest in a long line of possible alcohol-related health benefits, including battling lung cancer, lowering cholesterol and helping with arthritis.
Source: 7th May, 2013 by Andy Young – “The Drinks Business”
A great article by my friend, Bill Ward of the Star Tribune as to the ‘Do Not Do’s’ at your Next Wine Tasting Event
A not-to-do list for wine tastings
Article by: BILL WARD
May 8, 2013 – 2:36 PM
Not to put too fine a point on it — or encourage excess — but by far the best way to learn about wine is to drink it. And to drink a lot of it.
But not all at one sitting, of course. On the other hand, you can sample a good bit of it at one “standing,” especially if you’re willing and able to spit as you go.
The Twin Cities area has several public tastings every year, and one of the largest unfolds Friday at the Depot in Minneapolis.
In addition, retail outlets seem to have ramped up the number of sampling tables, especially on Fridays and Saturdays, when a savvy consumer basically could use these stops for their happy-hour imbibing before going out to dinner.
But all too often at these pouring events, Minnesota Nice takes a vacation. So here’s a not-to-do-list for public tastings, especially the big ones:
• Don’t wear too much perfume or cologne — and preferably not any. Others will want to sniff the wines, and every glass will smell the same if there’s fragrance in the air.
• Don’t hit on the person pouring the wine. They’re working, and they’re more interested in selling you their wine(s) than in getting your phone number.
• Don’t hesitate to spit (preferably into the bucket). The intent should be to sample a little bit of a lot of wines, not a lot of a few wines. With that in mind:
• Be satisfied with however much is poured. It’s also much more interesting and often more enlightening to sniff a wine when there’s only a small amount in the glass. And don’t be afraid to stick your schnozz deep into the glass to check out the aroma.
• That said, don’t strive to come up with descriptors. Even if you think you’re getting pencil shavings on the nose or kaffir lime on the palate, that’s a parlor game. What’s more important is the texture, the balance, the focus — and most of all, the tastiness — of the wine.
• Don’t have your glass attached to something around your neck. Even George Clooney and Anne Hathaway would look dorky wearing one of those “necklaces.” Plus residue inevitably will slosh onto your shirt. (We klutzes try to remember to wear a red shirt to tastings.)
• Don’t get schnockered. Mix in some water and food early and often. This is not about getting your money’s worth of wine; the experience is part of what you’re paying for, too.
• Don’t finish a pour unless you’re enjoying the wine. If you don’t like the wine, or even sorta-kinda don’t like it, dump it. Ignore the price, no matter how alluring it might be. If you’re not sure if you like it, the wine is worth exactly $0 to you. This is where Minnesota Nice can rear its sweet head at the wrong time, although making a “yuck, what stinks?” face is not advised.
• Don’t just talk; listen. And not just to the pourer but to other attendees. No matter how much you know (or think you know) about malolactic fermentation or native yeasts, there’s plenty to be learned. We’re all on a journey here.
• Don’t automatically start with lighter wines and move up to the “bigger” stuff. Consider reversing that course, trying out some full-bodied stuff and then gravitating toward more sprightly wines that can enliven your palate. This also allows you the option of finishing with Champagne.
Take heed, please
That plays right into my strongest piece of advice, which I consider almost as important as all the previous ones put together:
Always, always, always be aware and considerate of the people around you. Don’t ever hold court or monopolize the pourer’s time when there are people all around you waiting to get some wine. (This is made easier if you’re working your way quickly around the room, a certain regional or varietal at a time.)
So please, pay attention. It the tasteful thing to do.
A bottle of wine is always a welcome gift, and ’tis the season to give gifts! We’ve commissioned two of our favorite local sommeliers, Kristin Codding and Leslee Miller, to suss out the most interesting, festive and engaging bottles at various price points. We’ve divided them into red, white and sparkling categories. And if you want to bring something fun and casual to a party, check out the $15 and under category. All of these wines are available at Edina Liquor or France 44, and each one is sure to spark conversation and merriment. Cheers!
Leslee Miller is a dually certified sommelier through the International Sommelier Guild and the Court of Master Sommeliers. She is the sole owner of Minneapolis-based Amusée, a wine-consulting and event-planning business. After time in the Pacific Northwest as director of the Archery Summit Winery in Oregon and a board of directors member for sister winery Pine Ridge of California, Miller has returned to her Midwest roots. She consults for on premise and retail accounts nationwide, works with a number of International wineries worldwide to provide consultation from the cellar to distribution, teaches wine education classes, hosts private wine tasting parties, manages commercial and residential cellars, and is a personal wine buyer. Miller is also available for corporate and private event planning.
Best Reds Under $100
Gaja Sito Moresco, Piedmont, Italy
This wine is a blend 35 percent nebbiolo, 35 percent merlot and 30 percent cabernet grapes. Sito Moresco combines the complexity and longevity of nebbiolo with the refinement and accessibility of cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Pheasants are featured on Sito Moresco’s label to commemorate the beautiful birds that inhabit the forests adjacent to Gaja’s vineyards.
Miller’s pick: Gaja Sito Moresco, Piedmont, Italy
This wine is a blend 35 percent nebbiolo, 35 percent merlot and 30 percent cabernet grapes. Sito Moresco combines the complexity and longevity of nebbiolo with the refinement and accessibility of cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Pheasants are featured on Sito Moresco’s label to commemorate the beautiful birds that inhabit the forests adjacent to Gaja’s vineyards.
This cabernet has rich, chewy, intense licorice and cassis flavors with serious structure and backbone. It’s an extraordinary example of a Napa cabernet.
Best Whites Under $100
Miller’s pick: Domaine Didier Dagueneau “Silex” Pouilly-Fumé, Loire, France
The Silex delivers an almost inordinate diversity of floral, herbal, citrus (predominately grapefruit) and pit fruit elements (predominately nectarine), with the bitterness of fruit pits, the smoky pungency of red currant and crushed stone, as well as notes of shrimp shell reduction and iodine. It inflects a long, bittersweet yet vibrant, buoyant finish.
Codding’s pick: J.J. Vincent Château Fuissé, Pouilly Fuissé 2010
This wine has a beautiful golden color and a flavor with hints of melon, orange peel and honey. It’s backed by a soft minerality and acidity.
Best Sparkling Under $100
Miller’s pick: Domaine Carneros Ultra Brut ~ Carneros, California
This cuvée epitomizes the elegant Domaine Carneros style. With near-perfect balance, its incredibly fine mousse delivers aromas of honeysuckle, lime peel, lemongrass, lychee and toasted almond. Creamy, round and long, the wine’s mouth-feel belies its minimal dosage.
Quince, roasted nuts and spice are evident in this toasty bubbly with a focused, modest finish. Simply gorgeous!
Best Red Under $50
Miller’s pick: Numanthia Termes: Toro, Spain
This wine is 100 percent tinta de toro grape, also known as tempranillo. Fresh, fruity notes (black fruits, raspberry, dark sherry) are nicely integrated with spices, tobacco and toasted aromas (vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon). The palate has a silky texture and is concentrated, well-structured and elegant. The finish is long and complex, with spices, tobacco, raspberries and blackberries notes.
Codding’s pick: Benovia Pinot Noir 2009, Sonoma, California
This is a silky red wine with notes of sweet cherry, flowers and spice. It has a structured, well-integrated body with a finely woven aftertaste of mineral, oak and berry.
This wine is pale sunshine-yellow and has aromas of fresh floral, citrus, melon and hints of almond. An unoaked, dry, medium-bodied white wine with crisp acidity, the Arneis is a well-balanced, elegant wine with good complexity and a lingering finish.
Codding’s pick: Le Portail “Champalou” Vouvray 2009, France
Luscious mouth-feel with bright but even grapefruit, melon and peach notes. Creamy but acidic, this wine is an excellent food match, able to stand up to anything with spice, depth and weight. Heavenly with butternut squash soup!
Best Sparkling Under $50
Miller’s pick: Pol Roger “White Foil” Champagne, France
Yeast and toasted brioche surround the round, creamy nose of this delicious sparkling wine.
A mix of floral, apple and berry aromas and flavors highlight this firmly structured, elegant bubbly, which is harmonious and vibrant, with a lingering finish.
Codding’s pick: Argyle Brut Rosé, 2008, Oregon
These fine, focused bubbles lead to pretty, elegant dried floral notes. Simply delicious!
Best Red Under $25
Miller’s pick: Ernie Els “Big Easy Red,” Stellenbosch, South Africa
A blend of 60 percent shiraz, 20 percent cabernet sauvignon, 6 percent mourvèdre, 6 percent grenache, 5 percent cinsaut and 3 viognier grapes. An alluring kaleidoscope of black fruits, Christmas cake, licorice and cinnamon tempt your nose, leading to a dense and full-bodied palate. Abounding with spice from the dominant shiraz, cabernet sauvignon adds punchy tannins and a robust structure. Floral and savory notes from mourvèdre, cinsaut and viognier all contribute to the exotic rhythm of the Big Easy.
A sexy Spanish red laced with blackberry, currant, clove, and a hint of lavender. This one is hands-down my favorite wine find of the year!
Best White Under $25
Miller’s pick: Olivier LeFlaive “Les Sétilles” Bourgogne Blanc, Burgundy, France
The fruit in this wine comes from 70 percent puligny and 30 percent meursault aged with 50 percent older wood. The very fresh and intensely floral nose also reflects hints of lemon-lime and earth, both of which can also be found on the nicely rich, round flavors that are not only intense and delicious but also deliver better than average complexity.
Codding’s pick: Menetou-Salon, Domaine Jean Teiller, 2010, France
A delicious white from the Loire Valley, this beauty produces herbaceous notes of verbena, straw and gooseberry. The finish is clean and mouthwatering.
A mélange of 77 percent chardonnay, 15 percent pinot bianco and 8 percent raboso piave grapes. This brut spumante is fresh and elegant, with layers and layers of flavors. Elderberry, anise, Italian summer melon, beeswax and seashells live within so many tiny bubbles. Totally delicious!
Codding’s pick: Roederer Estate Brut, Anderson Valley, California
A delicate yet toasty sparkling wine with apple, acacia blossom, pear, and anise notes.
Best Red Under $15
Miller’s pick: A to Z “Night & Day,” Rogue Valley, Oregon
This wine is a blend of 30 percent merlot, 30 percent syrah, 14 percent sangiovese, 13 percent cabernet and 13 percent cabernet franc grapes. It has aromas of ripe blackberries, huckleberries, blackcurrants and graham crackers with honeycomb, dark chocolate, black pepper and tobacco. Full and generous, the wine opens to reveal flavors of these red and black fruits, as well as violets and cherry bark incorporated with ripe tannins and moderate alcohol that all harmonize on the palate and lead to a beautiful finish.
Soft, lush fruit focusing on cherry, strawberry, and plum laced over licorice, oak and spice. This is a phenomenal find in this category.
Best White Under $15
Miller’s pick: Tamari Reserva Torrontes, Mendoza, Argentina
This is a very elegant and delicate white with appropriate varietal aromas. Notes of white grapefruit are highlighted, as are white flowers like jasmine, with rose notes and some hints of tropical fruit. It is a wine with nerve and balance. The mouth is fruity, floral and spicy, with an enjoyable finish.
The nine Best Picture contenders for the 85th Academy Awards are a fine representation of the best films of 2012. Most of us have probably seen at least one of them, a few aficionados may have seen them all, but the movies assuredly grow even more entertaining when they’re paired with a wine demonstrating similar traits.
Minnesota sommelier Leslee D. Millerrecommends nine fabulous wines that correspond to all the Best Picture nominees. Miller is a graduate of both the International Sommelier Guild and Court of Master Sommeliers. She also owns Amusée, a wine consulting and event-planning firm, based in Minneapolis. Her energizing personality and great passion for wine and food are evident in her work with customers and friends.
Educated in the Pacific Northwest, Leslee returned to her Midwest roots and now offers services in consulting and staff training for restaurants, international winery consulting, personal wine buying, commercial and residential cellar management, wine writing, corporate and private event planning, wine education classes and private in-home wine tasting parties.
Miller enjoys film as well as wine. Her most-loved movie is True Romance, a zany 1993 crime story starring Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette. And topping her “food film” list: Ratatouille. As for her own bets on this year’s winners, she’s a big Tarantino fan and is hoping Django Unchained takes home “Best Picture.”
We tapped into her expert palate, enjoyment of films and passion for sharing the love of wine in these delicious pairings, which run the gamut from bold reds to delicate whites. On Sunday, pour the wine she matched to your favored Oscar hopeful and enjoy the culture that both wine and film bring into our lives.
Nine Top Film Contenders Meet Their Wine Match
Miller’s notes on the film: In the final months of her life, a retired music teacher and her husband of sixty years struggle with the debilitating effects of two strokes on both her health and her quality of life. Themes: true love, end of life, aging, care, France.
Miller’s notes on the wine: A movie based on true love only deserves something just as committed and extravagant.
What I love about older-vintaged Burgundies, especially those from Domaine Dujac, are their ability to transform any moment. This is truly a producer and wine that lends itself to not only to the meaning of ‘love at first sight,’ but to ‘the love of your life.’ Soft, supple and alluring – a spectacular wine with strength and perseverance.
Miller’s notes on the film: Set in Tehran during the 1979 hostage crisis; a movie of thrilling action, suspense and intrigue. Themes: intrigue, espionage, disguise, Canada, Iran, film.
Pairing: Inniskillin ‘Winemaker’s Series, Three Vineyards’ Cabernet Franc ~ Niagara Peninsula, Canada
Miller’s notes on the wine: A movie like this must be matched with a wine just as bold and spicy. This one is wildly spicy with handsome aromas of dark cherry, vegetal spice, black pepper and rich tobacco. An adventure in your glass!
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Miller’s notes on the film: A fantasy film filled with family ties, drama and adventure set in Louisiana. Themes: family ties, fantasy, ice, disaster, Antarctica, Louisiana bayous.
Miller’s notes on the wine: A movie as such deserves something as juicy and exciting as the characters of this venture. This wine is juicy and loaded with delicious aromas of blue and red fruits. Encapsulating and alluring, adventuresome yet at the same time, quaffable and exceptionally comforting. A wine for the senses.
Miller’s notes on the film: An unbelievable tale of brutality, heroism and revenge in the pro-slavery, antebellum South. Produced in pure Tarantino form, this is certainly not a movie for those faint of heart. Themes: antebellum South, anger, slavery, racism, violence, revenge, retribution, blood.
Miller’s notes on the wine: Bravo, Mr. Tarantino! While certainly one should only recommend a bottle of Jack to pair to this film, there is the strong possibility that a rich, over-the-top, highly loaded, fruit bomb Shiraz from Australia would do the trick. Obnoxious alone is its alcohol content, and in the same sentence it screams ferocity, with loads of black licorice, spice and sweet condensed cocoa. This wine should come with a warning label!
Miller’s notes on the film: A musical based on Victor Hugo’s epic novel of politics, justice, religion and familial love. Themes: French Revolution, uprising, friendship, love, running from the past, new identity, redemption, and grace.
Miller’s notes on the wine: A film derived of such pedigree only deserves a wine of the same. Champagne is a region within the wine world associated with history, identity and rigidity. One of my favorites and the oldest established house in the Champagne region is Ruinart. Their NV Blanc de Noir is literally one of the sexiest, most sturdy, luxurious sparkling wines of its kind. One that demands your attention yet begs to be understood.
Life of Pi
Miller’s notes on the film: A fantasy film jam-packed with thrilling adventure, paired with the essence of the true meaning to friendship and survival. Themes: India, zoo animals, tiger, ocean, storm, hope, adventure, friendship.
Miller’s notes on the wine: This bottle of cabernet has a sense of spirit, combined with a menagerie of bold, spicy aromas of juicy, jammy fruit – truly, an adventure from the first sip to its last.
Miller’s notes on the film: A film that speaks to the history of our country’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, based upon the final months of his presidency and the tumultuous journey of his endeavors that would forever shape America’s history. Themes: 13th Amendment, Civil War, politics, slavery, emancipation, family, peace, president.
Miller’s notes on the wine: Is there really a wine as noteworthy to pair in this era of history? A winery with such depth and history, one of the oldest in the country, is Freemark Abbey of California’s Napa Valley. This Cabernet has tremendous personality, depth and unbelievable balance. Firm, structured and absolutely a wine built year after year for the history books.
Silver Linings Playbook
Miller’s notes on the film: A heartfelt film based upon loyalty and love intertwined with an unexpected silver lining. Themes: bipolar, obsession, Italian family, gambling, silver linings, surprise.
Miller’s notes on the wine: A red wine based upon the same familial loyalty, truth and passion for its kind. This bottle is loaded with notes of licorice, leather, violet, spice and dark berry fruit – a wine built for the ages, derived from a true sense of commitment and passion for the industry.
Zero Dark Thirty
Miller’s notes on the film: A truly heroic film based on decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks. Themes: persistence, terrorism, CIA, intelligence, Morroco, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Navy SEALs.
Miller’s notes on the wine: Zinfandel, a grape that has truly made its mark in in the U.S. and a winery, in this case, with the most appropriate ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ paired name: Victory. This wine has explosive dark fruit character, enormous body and exceptional concentration. It is meant to be consumed by those of the same bold mindset.
The role of a Sommelier, a wine steward with exceptional knowledge and specialized training for wine, is a profession filled with many interesting professionals, not to mention heartfelt stories from people who started out in them. You may think that countries like France and Italy produce the ultimate pioneers for wine around the world. However, Minnesota is home to more than a dozen wineries and enthusiasts of the grape-based libation. To be a Sommelier, you have to be trained and certified. What they do exactly is identify what meals are best with what types of wine and educate wine fanatics on how to get the most out of every sip. This list calls out the best Sommeliers in Minnesota who are full of knowledge about the beloved beverage.
(credit: Jean-Pierre Muller/AFP/Getty Images)
(612) 655-4839 www.amuseewine.comSommelier Leslee Miller practices this unique profession and is certified through both the International Sommelier Guild and the Court of Master Sommeliers. She has her own business that can be found at www.amuseewine.com. She offers a plethora of wine events for any willing to learn or taste. Miller has worked as a certified Sommelier for eight years and believes wine has to be fun for folks and enjoyable for different kinds of drinkers. Her work includes other areas like cooking and wine classes, corporate functions, private in-home events, fundraising, auctions and restaurant consulting. She is also an international winery consulting and national wine writer.
Gina Holman has been working in the restaurant business for 15 years now. She currently works as a certified Sommelier and general manager at Wayzata Wines & Spirits. She arrived at the prestigious and elegant locale in 1994 where she worked at almost every post within the business. She completed the International Sommelier Guild Diploma Program in 2009 and traveled many parts of Europe to learn about regional foods. Holman is a firm believes that when it comes to which wine is the best, it’s a matter of personal preference and should never be frowned upon. She enjoys old-world wines, Pinot Noir and a favorite meal of her’s to make is a traditional chicken Coq au Vin to enjoy with family or friends (with a glass of wine of course).
Cannon River Winery is located between Rochester and the Twin Cities in the heart of Cannon Falls. This unique winery accommodates all kinds of specialty wine shoppers and experts alike. Vincent Negret, the wine maker and enologist for Cannon River Winery, believes the best wine is sold and made in this small town. When it comes to wine tasting or what is the best brand, it really comes down to the individual. The winery carries 22 different types of wines that are grown locally and the locale offers a beautiful facility with live music and a large selection to choose from.
(credit: Jupiter Images)
A Perfect Pint
3725 38th Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55406
(612) 724-4514 www.aperfectpint.netMichale Agnew, unlike the other Sommeliers in the business specializing in wine exclusively, has been noted as Minnesota’s first Certified Cicerone (beer Sommelier). His served as a National Beer Judge with the Beer Judge Certification Program and was deemed a unique award-winning brewer. He writes and publishes a monthly column on beer for the daily newspaper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Prior experience includes acting, directing and producing along with a decade in the food business. Related: Best Wine Bars In Minneapolis
Anthony Carranza is a freelance writer covering all things Minnesota related to tech, social media, news, and local happenings around the Twin Cities. His work can be found at Examiner.com.
Some restaurant trends are easy to embrace: lower prices, bigger portions, free refills, you get the idea. But other, more recent trends are bordering on the absurd. In fact, some of them are just downright annoying. Here’s a list of some of the most irritating restaurant trends – developed with some suggestions from our 30 Under 30 honorees – that have us shouting: “Dear God, make it stop!”
1. Communal Tables
Like Communism itself, communal tables are a great idea…in theory. But let’s face it, even Karl Marx couldn’t endure this much sharing. Sure, they’re great for the single diner who’s looking to make “friends,” but for the most part, if you start talking to the person next to you at a communal table, you’re probably interrupting a date or butting your nosy self into someone else’s business. If the restaurant has even an ounce of cachet, you’re most likely shoved up against the next table anyway – in which case you should still MYOB.
2. “The Civil War” Look
A hallmark of the “Brooklyn aesthetic,” more and more restaurants nationwide are being decked out in rickety furniture that looks like it got ganked from the home of a Civil War reenactor. Note to restaurants: wall-mounted wagon wheels and photos of dead bearded dudes don’t make the food taste any better. Live in the now!
Note to restaurants: The Civil War is over
3. Chalkboard Menus
We kind of got over reading off a chalkboard in say…pre-school? After a long day of staring at a computer screen, the last thing we’re trying to do is have to squint at a barely legible menu scribbled on a wall halfway across the room. Are restaurants doing this to make the prices appear fuzzier?
4. Mustachioed Bartenders
We’re not knocking all facial hair, but we don’t need Wyatt Earp mixing up our martini. The suspenders, the fedoras, the mustaches…nuh-uh. The more pretentious the whiskers, the more we just want to get wasted on Malibu bay breezes and be done with it.
5. “Gourmet punch”
There’s nothing like a $45 bowl of Earl Grey–spiked punch served in dainty crystal teacups to get the party started. Last time we checked, we weren’t attending a turn-of-the-century high school prom. Can we get a real drink, please?
6. Iceless Table Water
Whatever happened to ice? Just a quick note to restaurants: not everyone is an ice-hating European or a germaphobe who thinks all ice is contaminated. All of a sudden, it’s as if liking ice in your water makes you a T.G.I. Friday’s–going rube. What gives, man?
7. Pop-Up Restaurants
Pop-ups are to real restaurants what hot, emotionally unavailable men on motorcycles are to love-starved 38-year-old single women – a pointless tease. The allure of pop-ups is clearly their impermanence, but are they merely a way of dodging failure? Some brilliant person thought to himself: “Most new restaurants fail within the first months of opening, so, hey, why not just open one for only that long?” Note to that dude: um, no. The odds of anybody making a profit during such a short run are slim, and what’s worse, fans of the eatery will have to say buh-bye to it the second they get hooked. Le sigh. Pop-ups are a lose-lose for everyone.
8. “Comfort-Food” Menus
We’re all for indulging in comfort food when the moment strikes, but lately it seems like an alarming number of major chefs are opening eateries that serve nothing more than overpriced, overly gussied-up versions of dishes you could have learned watching Paula Deen. Eighteen dollars for some mediocre mac ’n’ cheese, $26 for a breaded pork chop, $22 for fried chicken. Can chefs please go back to being chefs?
Putting the word “slider” on your menu has been known to cause instantaneous food boners among middle-aged ex–frat boys. “Dude, they’ve got sliders on the menu…hook those up, brah!” And lately it seems like almost any meat item is being “slider-ized.” Crisped-up kernels of pork belly packed between two bready buns is no doubt delicious, but it’s definitely not a “slider.”
10. Bread Baskets You Have to Pay For
Restaurants that charge for bread are as irritating as airlines that charge for a bag of peanuts. We don’t care how many wheat-scything artisanal bakers it took to make it, there’s no way bread should cost as much as your appetizer.
Anyone who claims to be able to see into the future is often forecasting the past. (Isn’t that how history manages to repeat itself?) Since this holds true as much for wine journalists as anyone else, I’ll make my own backward-facing prediction: The hottest wine of 2012 will be Moscato. Just like it was in 2011. How could it be otherwise? Sales of Moscato grew by a mind-boggling 78% in 2011, according to a recent Nielsen survey, and major producers like Gallo and Trinchero (aka Sutter Home) are still searching the world for yet more Moscato to add to store shelves.
Gerald Weisel, proprietor of Weimax Wines, a shop in Burlingame, Calif., recently told me he had it “on good authority” that Gallo, the wine behemoth, had purchased “all the available bulk Moscato” in Northern Italy. Stephanie Gallo, the company’s vice president of marketing, would neither confirm nor deny the assertion, though she did tell me that her family’s company had been “pretty aggressive” in its efforts to find enough supply to meet the Moscato demand, and that included sourcing fruit from Italy.
While the Moscato grape is grown all over the world (i.e., Chile, Argentina, Australia, California, Spain and Italy) and goes by a variety of names and clones (from the fine Moscato Bianco to the plebeian Muscat of Alexandria) the Piedmontese version, Moscato d’Asti—a sweet, soft, low-alcohol, lightly sparkling (frizzante) wine with delicate notes of peach and apricot—is probably the most famous. And yet, Italian Moscato is just a footnote to the much larger Moscato story that’s unfolding in the U.S.
The story began just a few years ago, when Gallo introduced its first Moscato under the Barefoot Cellars label in 2008. With residual sugar over 6% (dry table wine is well under 1%) and an alcohol level close to 9% (four or five percentage points lower than most wines), it was an instant hit—Barefoot is the largest Moscato brand in the U.S. today. Three other Gallo Moscatos soon followed, all priced between $5 and $9 a bottle. And according to Ms. Gallo, her family’s company would introduce even more Moscato if it could find enough fruit. Some Gallo Moscatos are blended with inexpensive grapes like French Colombard, presumably to keep production up and prices down.
“One analyst says he’s never seen anything like the Moscato craze in more than 10 years of analyzing wine trends.”
Smaller producers like California-based Cameron Hughes have also had difficulties getting Moscato. When Mr. Hughes received a request for Moscato from a big retailer two years ago, he searched all over the world for suitable fruit. As soon as he found something acceptable, “the price would shoot through the roof,” though the quality was often middling at best. Mr. Hughes finally bought finished wine from a small Moscato producer in Italy and, priced at $13 a bottle, it quickly sold out.
The producer of Yellow Tail, Casella Wines of Australia, waited until last year to introduce its Moscato, in part because it didn’t have enough quality fruit but also because it miscalculated the Moscato appeal, according to Tom Steffanci, president of W.J. Deutsch & Sons, Yellow Tail’s New York-based importer. “The humble answer is that we should have seen it sooner,” Mr. Steffanci said.
How much did he figure the delay had cost? “I’d say if you missed a year, you probably missed selling a million cases of Moscato,” said Mr. Steffanci. The company is clearly making up for lost time: It sold 330,000 cases of Yellow Tail Moscato in just eight months last year and expects to more than double that number in 2012.
Who’s buying all this Moscato? According to producers and retailers, the audience is diverse—from middle-age Midwesterners to rap stars like Drake, who penned a paean to Moscato in his song “Do It Now.”
The biggest audience for Moscato is the “Millennial” generation between 21 and 30 years of age, according to Ms. Gallo. These drinkers “found their own way” to the wine, she added, noting that while Gallo did extensive in-store sampling, there was no formal Moscato ad campaign—”but we have a Facebook page.”
Bob Torkelson, president and chief operating officer of Napa-based Trinchero Estates, where White Zinfandel first appeared under the Sutter Home label, doesn’t see Moscato as White Zin’s successor, though his company produces plenty of both (four million cases of White Zinfandel and about three million cases of Moscato, some sourced from Chile, he says). “The Moscato movement feels more like the wine-cooler movement to me,” said Mr. Torkelson.
That didn’t sound particularly auspicious. The wine-cooler era was short, and I have yet to hear anyone wax nostalgic over Bartles & Jaymes. I asked Danny Brager, a vice president on Nielsen’s alcohol research team, for his view of the phenomenon.
Mr. Brager said he’d never seen anything like the Moscato craze in more than 10 years of analyzing wine trends. Nothing else came close, he said, except perhaps the peak of the post-”Sideways” period (2005), when Pinot Noir grew 66%. But Pinot Noir’s percentage growth quickly fell to the low 20s, Mr. Brager added, and the growth in sales is only 11% now.
I drank plenty of Pinot Noir both pre- and post-”Sideways,” but I can’t say I’ve done much to move the Moscato numbers. I don’t drink much Moscato, save an occasional bottle from small Piedmontese producers like Saracco and La Spinetta, whose low-alcohol, lightly sparkling, peach-inflected wines are among my favorite ways to end a meal.
I decided to broaden my horizons and purchased some 25 Moscatos ranging in price from $5 to $30 a bottle. They included big names like Beringer, Mondavi, Yellow Tail and Gallo, as well as smaller labels like Michele Chiarlo and Elio Perrone. And I invited some friends from different demographics (including middle-age Midwesterners, millennials and one rap fan) to taste along.
We found a lot of unbearably sweet offerings—wines that would put a diabetic into immediate peril—and some wines that tasted like canned pineapple or worse (Teal Lake). But there were also some delightfully sweet and off-dry wines that were lovely dessert wines or aperitifs. They were also incredibly reasonably priced—only one cost more than $14 a bottle and one of our favorites, the lightly sweet 2010 Beringer Moscato, cost a mere $6. Well-chilled, it would be a great aperitif on a summer day, said one friend.
Our favorites, perhaps predictably, came from Italy and included frizzante wines from Perrone, Marcarini, Mosca and Cameron Hughes. They had the bright, lively acidity, creamy texture and aromas of flowers and peaches that make Moscato such a beguiling and seductive drink.
As to the future of Moscato, it seems pretty well assured, at least for the short term. Mr. Torkelson, despite his rather dour wine-cooler analogy, had an optimistic, if rather corporate, view: “Right now there are probably a million people sitting around conference tables trying to figure out how to get a piece of the Moscato market.”