Building a good home wine cache

Friday, March 20, 2009

Most people that come over my house [and get to see my wine rack] know that I try to keep at least twenty bottles of wine in the house; this supply will dwindle depending upon my financial reserves, but I always try to keep some everyday drinkable white wines in the house.† And the question most asked to me is ďwhat should I initially start my wine rack off with?Ē† And to this, here is my first attempt at answering it.

You have six basic categories to group your wine in:† white; red; blush/rosť; fruit; dessert/fortified; and sparkling.† Now letís take them on for size. †

White wines:
For white wines, I recommend having a base of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.† The next thing to do would be to throw in a Chenin Blanc and maybe even a Viognier; the latter giving you a more exotic taste that might remind you of peaches and pears.† For sweetness, you can look at Muscat/Moscato, Reisling and Gerwurtztraminer (Note that Ironstone Obsession is a semi-sparkling wine made from the Symphony grape; it has great taste, is inexpensive and can double as a dessert wine).

After that, I would next go with a good Pinot Gris/Grigio and possibly a Pinot Blanco/Bianco.† The problem with these is that many of the latter have almost no real detectable flavor, however, Rex Hills Pinot Gris from Oregon State is great.† Chaddsford Winery has a great Pinot Grigio as well. †

Like anything else, there are a ton of white wine grapes out there, but before I would go to some of the more interesting grapes, I would try to get some white blends, like Evolution by Sokol Blosser (nine grapes), Seven Daughter white (seven grapes), or Buzz Cut by Shoofly (five grapes) or Adobe White by Clayhouse (four grapes).† If you want something a little stronger, there is always Condundrum by Camus. †

Red Wines:
The standard for red wines will always be Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah/Shiraz, Merlot and Pinot Noir.† However, there is also Malbec, and even better, Carmenere.† Miguel Torres and Montgras both make very nice and very affordable Carmenere releases, and youíll probably like it more than Malbec.† You can actually stock up using Rex Goliath for the four mentioned initially, as each bottle is less than $10 and most of them have ratings higher than 92 points. †

If you want dry, you can get into Rioja, which is made from the Tempranillo grape, or try a Salice Salentino or a Primitivo.† CodornŪu S.Aís Spanish Quarter red is a mix of Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon and is wonderful at around $10 a bottle (they also make a white thatís a mix of Albarino and and Chardonnay that is also divine). †

If youíre feeling adventurous, you can start to get into headier reds, or meritages (blends) like Alpha M by Montes (this one will run you, but itís totally decadent).† Both Sokol Blosser and Seven Daughters make red mixes as well.† You might also want to get deeper into some of the classical blends from Italy like Ripasso or Amarone.† Cesariís Mara is a great Ripasso that runs about $17, but for Amarones, note that older is better and a good one will come in around $50. †

If youíre feeling like throwing people a curve, try picking up a Cabernet Franc or a Pinotage.† Or, if you want to surprise them with a taste that doesnít match their typical expectations of the color, then go with some wines from Telavi, notably their Kindzmarauli and their Akhasheni.† These are both reds that are sweet and made from the Saperavi grape. †

Blush/Rosť wines:
Letís start off with this one: no white zinfandel!† No white anything; Merlot, Grenache, etc.† If itís a blush wine, and it starts with the word Ďwhite,í leave it alone.† Okay, okay, Iíll make some exceptions, and thatís for the wines produced by both ChaddsFord Winery and Penns Wood Winery, for the guys there are actually quality winemakers. †

Right now, I have had some lovely blush wines made from Malbec, Syrah/Shiraz, Chambourcin, and even Tempranillo that have been divine. †

Sparkling Wines:
Every woman loves champagne, or so they say, but sparkling wines are a great way to start a meal as well as to end one.† These days, the availability of great and interesting sparkling wines ranges from the traditional champagne, to sparkling Pinot Noir, Chenin Blanc, and Shiraz (Hardyís makes a great one that is less than $10).† There are two basic methods of making a wine bubbly; the traditional method of secondary fermentation in the bottle and also the method of secondary fermentation in a stainless steel tank (Charmat).† †

You have your choice of wines such as Champagne, Franciacorta, Cava, Asti, and Prosecco as well as just your nondescript sparkling wines.† Please avoid your Great Western, campy Freixenet (they actually make some great wines, but most of what you see on the shelves is all crap), and Cooks.† A wine doesnít have to cost much to be good, but I would definitely not put these in your collection. †

Fruit Wines:
Most people donít realize that there are actually some great fruit wines out there, and it is always interesting to present one to your guest(s).† There are some that are straight forward and some that are made in a dessert wine style with higher alcoholic contents.† Donít pass some of these by.† I canít wait to go visit Cardinal Hollow Winery and try out all of their releases. † Dessert/Fortified Wines: Everyone should have a nice bottle of Port around.† But then again, they can up their rep with both a nice Sherry and/or a nice Madeira. †

You could also go with any nice late harvest or ice wines, including Muscat, Gerwurtztraminer or Torrontes (there are a combination of good ones coming out of California, Canada, upstate New York and Pennsylvania, and Argentina). †

That said, starting with the basics, get two bottles of each type of wine and stick with the most known varietals.† Add on to that with some lesser knowns but still quite popular grapes, and then craft a couple obscure and unknowns to the common non-wine enthusiast.† Some of your wines will need to be either chilled or decanted (allowed to breathe) before serving, but thatís truly not the rule; do what feels good to you.† Sometimes a red wine might be nice chilled, and a white or sparkling wine interesting warm. †

Summarily, this should give you a nice overview of what to stock in your first wine rack, or how to go about making some of your choices. †


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