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Mar 28, 201312:14 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

Wonderful Wines, Weird Word

cyberiason, stock.xchng, 2006

Two completely distinct and separate topics today. First, the fun one, good wine. Then we’ll hit a strange one, authenticity.


Ode to Riesling

Here’s the way I see it: There are wines that really work with our cuisine. Certainly Champagne, which always goes with everything. Then there are the Sauvignon Blancs from America, New Zealand, and France that are tasty and quite a nice pairing with seafood. You can add to the mix everyone’s darling, Pinot Noir from the same places as the Sauvignon Blanc, and a few others.


Can’t leave out Cabernet Sauvignon and even Merlot which have been crowd favorites for as long as there has been a crowd.


Yet, we never consider one of the most ideal wines to accompany our fresh seafood, which is, admit it, a bit spicy, with herbs and tasty vegetables. The wine is … Wait for it.... Riesling. No joke.


Riesling has terrific aromatics, fresh fruit components, delightful acids, minerality and a clean finish, and it’s not expensive. We have, as a market, turned our collective backs on this grape varietal. The darn juice really sings with our food, but it’s a red-headed step-child when it comes to putting it alongside the plates on the table.


Maybe at another time you had a Riesling and found it to be too sweet. Maybe you can’t make out the label, with all that German writing. Maybe you are happy with all of your current wine loves and don’t want to begin another adventure into good taste.


Bogus. Every one of those reasons is bogus. Empty. Sad.


Obviously, I am a big fan of Riesling. And I am that way because it is a great wine to enjoy with crawfish, shrimp, crab, all manner of fresh fish. But here is the important thing: It’s a great wine with spice. We like to have our food bring us special character. We are not, for the most part, “just add a little salt” kind of people.


Riesling, with its beautiful bouquet, solid acids and clean taste, is ideal. Creole, Cajun, Thai, you name it. If the food has strong character, look to a Riesling. That’s not even noting that Riesling, a white wine, is excellent with a good chill. Just in case you haven’t noticed, it can get a bit warm around these parts. Cool wines go well with hot weather.


Here’s a bit of a bonus if you are still unconvinced: that German writing on the label you have been having trouble understanding, fuhgeddabboutit. Great Rieslings are coming to us from America, with a language you can easily understand on the labels: English.


Bonus No. 2: If you are concerned about having a sweet Riesling, which you evidently know you don’t care for (oh sure, have another Dr. Pepper), there are Dry Rieslings, noted right on the label. Lagniappe: The International Riesling Foundation has created a Riesling Taste Profile, featured on every label, which tells you in a simple to read, easy to understand scale, from Dry (not sweet) to Sweet, where the wine in the bottle ranks.


The whole picture is the perfect example of “user friendly.”   No wine is as uncomplicated to understand, easier to try and with no unhappy surprises than Riesling.


Oh, and Rieslings from a prime growing area, the Finger Lakes Region of New York, are low in alcohol (easier to drink and pair with food), about 11 percent, and reasonable in cost, about $15.  This Riesling thing just keeps getting better and better.


I’m not certain all these Dry Riesling wines are available in our market, but a few wines of note from the Finger Lakes wine-growing region of New York are:


  • Three Brothers Wineries – Geneva, New York
  • Dr. Konstantin Frank – Hammondsport, New York
  • Billsboro Winery – Geneva, New York
  • Lamoreaux Landing – Lodi, New York
  • Lucas Vineyards – Interlaken, New York
  • Red Newt Cellars – Hector, New York



I Don’t Think That’s a Good Descriptive Wine Term


Seems young people born in the 1980s and ‘90s are resisting some of the BS marketers are tossing at them. Smart group these Generation Y and Millennials, as they have become known in business schools all over the country.


William Price, a co-founder of the buyout firm, TPG Capital and chairman of Vincraft Group, has now hit upon what he thinks is the answer to encourage Gen Y members to spend their money on items, notably wines that he considers important.


“The key thing to the younger drinkers,” Price pontificates, “is being authentic. They have super sensitive noses about what’s authentic and what’s not.” Say what? Authentic? Does that really explain the situation about young folks? It sure doesn’t to me, but then I’m not… Okay, don’t make me say it.


If there ever was a beverage that’s “authentic,” it’s wine. And is one wine more authentic than another? If authenticity is important to this prime demographic group, how do you explain the huge sales volume of PBR? For those of you out of the demographic group, Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer.


Wine has a lot of issues to entice new drinkers/purchasers, but I don’t think authenticity is among them. Maybe lack of user education, tough to understand labels, too much alcohol, price, difficult to open packaging, and many other issues that are turn-offs in today’s consumer-friendly environment.  


But authenticity as a barrier to sales, applied to an adult beverage that is at its very core a fermented agricultural product, does not strike me as a reasonable reason for why more young consumers are heading for the craft beer taps. 


What do you think?



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Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans


In New Orleans, when the subject is wine and spirits, it is very difficult to leave Tim McNally out of the discussion. He is considered one of the “go to” resources in the Crescent City for counsel and information about adult beverages and their place in the fabric of life in this great city.


Tim is the Wine and Spirits Editor, columnist and feature writer for New Orleans Magazine; the Wine and Spirits Editor and weekly columnist, Happy Hour, for www.MyNewOrleans.com; creator and editor of his own website, www.winetalknola.com; all in addition to his daily hosting duties on the radio program, The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, on the air at WGSO – 990AM, every weekday, 3- 5 p.m, and streamed live on www.wgso.com.


Over the years, Tim has proved to be an informed interviewer, putting his guests at ease, and covering tactile and technical information so that even a novice can understand difficult agricultural and production concepts. Tim speaks with winemakers, wine and spirit ambassadors, distillers, authors, people who stage events and festivals, and takes questions from listeners and readers, all seamlessly blended together in a program that is unique in America.


Tim’s love of wine actually came about many years ago from his then wife-to-be, Brenda Maitland, a noted journalist in her own right, and together they have traveled to the major wine producing areas in the US and Europe, seeking first-hand information about beverages that give us all so much pleasure.


They were instrumental in the founding of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, a major national and international well-regarded festival of its type. They both continue to be involved with the planning and staging of this multi-venue, five-day event now over twenty years old.


Tim is also considered one of the foremost professional wine judges in the US, being invited to judge more than 11 wine competitions each year, including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (the largest competition of American wines in the world, with more than 6,000 entries), the Riverside, CA International Wine Competition, San Francisco International Wine Competition, Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition, Indiana International Wine Competition, Sandestin, Florida Wine Festival Competition, the State of Michigan Wine Competition, the U.S. National Wine Competition, and the National Wine Competition of Portugal.


Tim is a guest lecturer to many local wine and dine organizations, and speaks each year to the senior class in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama.


Staying abreast of the news of the wine and spirits world is a passion for Tim, and he is committed to sharing what he knows with his listeners and readers. “Doing something I love, with products that I truly enjoy, created by interesting people, coupling the experience with culinary excellence, and doing it all in the greatest city in America,” are the words Tim lives by.


It’s a good gig. 




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