Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Stuff Wine Lover's Stocking With Glassware

Wine is a great holiday gift but for the wine lover there is another option that is sure to make them smile.

How about a great crystal wine glass to enjoy their high end wines?
Picking up a gift bottle isn’t tough if you know what your wine lover’s vino preferences. Of course, gift certificates are great way to hook up your friend or family member with a great bottle of their own choosing.

But it doesn’t necessarily have to be wine to put a smile on those purple lips!
Wine glasses, particularly nice ones, are a great idea for any wine lover! There are plenty of choices from discount to department stores, to crystal from stemware manufacturers.

But for a real wine lover there is nothing more intriguing than fine stemware made by the Riedel family from Austria. Riedel is the dominant name in wine glasses worldwide. The company is widely credited with demonstrating how wine is best enjoyed in a glass shaped for a particular wine.

As goofy as that may sound, particularly if you have not heard it before, it’s been proven true repeatedly by skeptics in blind tastings.

There are many fine glass and crystal manufacturers but Riedel is the standard for wine glasses. The company dates back 250 years. The Riedel family has continued the glass-making tradition through 11 generations.

Riedel products are easy to find online and in most fine wine stores. The Austrian company has glasses around $10 apiece up through their finest crystal at more than $100 a glass. They have a glass for almost every common wine.

If your wine lover is new, buy the affordable “O” series that doesn’t have a stem. It will introduce them to the concept of matching the glass shape to types of wine. If they are a bit more sophisticated in their drinking and don’t own fine wine glasses, I’d recommend the Vinum line which runs about $20-$30 a glass. I’d suggest the Bordeaux-Cabernet Merlot glass or the Pinot Noir glass. You get two for $59.00 online.

These are special occasion glasses for the person really into wine. They must be handled and cleaned with great care. Unfortunately, I have broken a couple. But as silly as it may sound, there is something special about drinking nice wine from fine crystal. It just tastes better!

There is no way to convince anyone on the concept of the value of a particular shaped glass for a particular wine until they try it. But any wine lover will grin when they remove the wrapping and see “Riedel” on the box inside.

Riedel also makes the most beautiful decanters in the world at prices out of this world. The prices range $49-$495.

My second gift recommendation is a decanter but you don’t have to buy Riedel at all. A decanter oxidizes the wine and allows some of the bitter tannins to soften before drinking. Decant young wines an hour or two before you plan on enjoying it and you’ll be surprised how much the wine changes.

You can find decanters in any home store, wine shop, or specialty store. I have two which I paid $10 and $20 for a few years ago. Both of mine do the same job as Riedel’s $495 decanter, just not as stylish!

Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, is a wine enthusiast. He updates his wine blog throughout the week at: Or, write him at:

Friday, December 4, 2009

What's All the Fuss Over Beaujolais Nouveau?

Increasing wine knowledge requires stretching personal limits and tastes. The best advice received and repeated is to try different wines. Don’t hesitate to pop a cork on something new and embrace it!

And so that was my approach to France’s great gift to the holiday season, Beaujolais Nouveau. Any conversation about French wine starts with geography and ends with regulations – the French are really big on both!

The Beaujolais designation is north of Lyon, France, but very small. The region is just over 30 miles long and up to nine miles wide. But this tiny area packs in nearly 4,000 growers who nurture and harvest the Gamay grape.

Beaujolais Nouveau is a very light-bodied, fruity wine made to drink very young. The bottles on the shelves of your local wine retailer are made from the 2009 vintage and picked just a few weeks ago. By French wine laws, the wine is shipped and available for sale on the third Thursday of each November.

The wine’s selling point is its flexibility and drinkability.

“I tell people it’s a young vibrant, juicy fruity wine,” said Philip VanDuesen, proprietor of Pairings near Castleton Mall at Indianapolis. “If they approach it that way and not expect world-class wine they’ll enjoy it. It’s fun to drink with vibrant fruit and a deep dark purple color.

“It’s fresh and zingy and it has bright acidity. It’s beautiful with all types of food. It works well with all the holiday dishes. It has enough fruit to stand up to the cranberries and acid for the gravies but enjoy it with anything. It’s a fun beverage wine.”

Some suggest, not all agree, that Beaujolais Nouveau is a preview of each growing season’s grape crop. The word from many French vintners through various trade publications is 2009 is shaping up as a great vintage. Some Beaujolais reviews have called the 2009 less fruity but still a must buy for the holiday season.

The wine is low in alcohol, easy to drink, and affordable. It’s unusual to find one that isn’t in the $10-$12 price range.

Not only does the wine pair well with holiday meals of fowl and side dishes, it’s also a pretty good introduction to more serious wine for the wine novice.

The wine gets its easy-to-like characteristics from a different style of wine making. Do you wish to talk about carbonic maceration or whole berry fermentation? What that means is the process does not draw the tannins from the grape skins so you get a very refreshing wine.

Beaujolais producers also use the Gamay grape to make more traditional wines with a little aging and a little oak. I’ve recommended one of each below. Georges Duboeuf is the biggest producer in the region. His family has been involved in the wine business for more than 300 years. He works with more than 400 growers and produces about 30 million bottles of Nouveau annually.

Howard’s Picks:
George Duboeuf 2009 Beaujolais Nouveau
– This is the most popular and easiest to find of all Nouveau. It generally sells for $10-$12. The wine has a nose and taste of grape, not quite the Concord grape flavor of your youth but definitely grape. If you’re not sure your guests enjoy wine, Nouveau is a safe bet.

Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages 2008 – This is not a Nouveau but it is the Gamay grape. This is a better pairing with food if your guests are wine drinkers. It has the freshness of the Nouveau but has very mild tannins and a little more acid than the younger wine. This is a nice bottle of $13 wine.