May 9, 2013

“So that’s what the spiral thing on my Swiss Army knife is for!”

The Loop > Magazine > Issue 1

By Holly Winewell

You may not care about wine. Wait: You probably don’t care about wine. That’s fine. Your interest in the world of noble libations that routinely launch ships, marriages, start-ups and spontaneous poetry readings may begin and end with Heineken (… Jim). That’s really okay. More for me, so say the selfish and/or alcohol addled.

But, here’s the thing (and this is coming from someone who only kind of enjoys telling people what to do): You really need to have just a little wine knowledge. Not a Level Five savant amount of information that pushes phone numbers and bicycle lock combination codes out of your head, but just enough to get you through some of life’s social situations.

Love wine or hate it, having the right bottle for a specific occasion goes a long way. Sure, you can mock and say the right bottle for that date/party/boss’s dinner is always a six pack, but you’d be fooling yourself — and not fooling your host.

Here are a few wines that you can keep in the back of your mind or in Notes on your iPhone, ready when needed. They will be needed. Trust me.

Non-Vintage Sparkling Wine

“Sparkling what?” You may be thinking. “Isn’t that Champagne?” Basically it is, but only sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France can really be called “Champagne.” (That’s mostly true. There’s a loophole in US law that means Korbel still sells something called “Champagne,” which makes many a francophile long for the days of the guillotine.)

Showing up to an event of almost any kind with a bottle of bubbly is a good call. The non-vintage (no “born-on” date, for you beer drinkers) is the way to go for two key reasons: 1) It’s almost always cheaper than “vintage” bottlings; and 2) it is made year after year to be consistent. Whereas some wine makers strive to express the differences a particular year’s weather delivered to the grapes, the sort of oak they used, what mood they were in, etc., non-vintage wines are designed so that you know what you’re getting today, next year and the year after that. Grab and go.

In the $20-and-under range, a bottle of Domaine Chandon will treat you right, but I’m a bigger fan of Gruet Brut. Not only is it a better wine, but it’s from New Mexico which is weird and makes it a nice conversation starter. Other options include La Marca Prosecco (that’s Italian sparkling wine) or Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Heredad. That last mouthful-of-a-wine is from Spain (where they call sparkling wine “Cava”) and comes in a bottle with an ornate metal base that would fit nicely into the scenery of a “Game of Thrones” episode. (Warning to professional set designers: That may not be true, as I’ve never seen an episode of “Game of Thrones”.)

If you want to show more love for whomever you’re visiting, bring real Champagne and pony up for Moet & Chandon White Star or Vueve Clicquot (both $50, and both often on sale for less).

If sparkling wine really isn’t your thing (it tickles your nose or makes you fart uncontrollably), there are many “still” wines that, even if they have a year on the label, you can buy year after year without too much worry.

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