Monday, June 25, 2012

Wine to Go; Wines for Summer

Wine by the glass is a novel concept that has nothing to do with that expensive pour you recently had at a restaurant.

Perhaps you’ve noticed the displays in your local town’s pharmacy. Single-serving wines are now available at some of the major drug store chains.

The Oregon based company behind the little glass to go is Copa Di Vino, or wine by the glass. The glass is made of recyclable plastic. It has a plastic cap and a foil seal.

Founder James Martin got the idea while in France, according to the product’s website. Martin was traveling on a high-speed train in when he first saw wine bottled by the glass.

Locally, the pharmacy had the Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Merlot. But the company also offers Riesling, and White Zinfandel. You can buy it by the case for around $36 or individually for about $3.

I tasted the Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Grigio for this column. The Cab was a typical under $10 a bottle Cabernet. The wine was varietally correct with a bit of unpleasant astringency. But it also was not unlike many under $10 Cabs I’ve tasted. The Pinot Grigio was equally okay. I thought it was a bit on the tart side for the normally mild mannered wine .

Would I recommend either strictly based on taste, no way. But for convenience knowing, what you’re going to get, perhaps.

Obviously, the idea is to enjoy a fresh glass of wine without opening an entire bottle. You can do the same thing though with the much-improved boxed wines now available.

But who is the target audience for this product? If the family is headed out on a picnic and you don’t want to mess with cups, glasses, a bottle and opener then it makes some sense. Do we need wine by the glass at the corner drug store? I’ll leave that for consumers to decide.

Great Summer Sippers – Summer time is white wine and Rose time. Here are a few I’ve sampled lately that are widely available and very affordable: Santa Barbara 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, $12, light wine with good acid; Clayhouse Adobe White, $14, a rich smooth blend ; Arona Sauvignon Blanc, delightful with crisp acidity; Gerard Bertrand 2010 Gris Rose’, $14, wonderfully dry Rose’, Bieler Pere et Fils Rose’, $11-$14, Southern France blend that tastes like expensive wine.

Off to Bordeaux – Check out my wine blog ( between June 27-30 for updates from France during the Bordeaux Fete le Vin or Bordeaux Wine Festival. I’ll be there as a guest of Bordeaux producers for the every other year celebration of the world’s most famous wine region’s wines. I usually blog each night during such trips and try to post lots of photos. This festival draws more than a half million visitors. Our press group will be visiting a couple of Chateau in the Saint Emilion region near Bordeaux and learning about the burgeoning wine tourism.

Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, IN., writes about wine every other week for 18 Midwestern newspapers.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Rosso di Montalcino a Great Wine Buy

Wine made from the Sangiovese grape may be the most diverse in the world.

The little black grape is closely associated with Italy and rightfully so. But it is also grown in Argentina and California. But in Italy, Sangiovese is king – the most widely planted grape in a country that ships more wine to the U.S. than even France.

Perhaps some readers have never heard of the grape? But if you’re a regular wine drinker it’s highly probably you have consumed wines made from Sangiovese.

That popular 60s and 70s bottle with the basket covering – that’s Sangiovese. If you’ve ever consumed a Chianti or Chianti Classico in a restaurant or bought a bottle – that’s Sangiovese wine.  Perhaps you’ve picked up a Rosso di Montalcino or the high-end Brunello. Both of those wines are Sangiovese.

I recently returned from Italy on a business trip and had the opportunity to drink a good amount of Rosso di Montalcino, or ‘baby Brunello’ as some will call it.

But first, let’s do some geography for novices. Florence sets in the north central region of Italy. Tuscany starts north of Florence and runs down through Siena. Just south of Florence you find the Chianti region of Italy and at its heart is the Chianti Classico designation. Remember, old world wines from France and Spain are named by region and not the grape.

Italian law dictates the blend for Chianti and Chianti Classico has to be 75-100 percent Sangiovese, up to 10 percent Canaiolo and up to 20 percent  of any other approved red grape variety such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Syrah.

A little farther to the south you enter the Montalcino region, centered around the lovely hilltop town of that name crowned by an ancient castle. The grapes there are also largely Sangiovese. Montalcino is the region for Sangiovese’s best representation in a bottle, Brunello wines.

Brunello is 100 percent Sangiovese and must be aged in oak at least two years. The wine tends to be silky smooth and full-flavored with considerable acidity which makes it perfect for food.

The problem with Brunello for many consumers is you can barely touch a bottle in the U.S. for $50.
The better alternative for most will be Rosso di Montalcino. The differences are, frankly, easy to understand. The winery owner or winemaker selects the very best grapes from their vineyard to make Brunello. The remainder of the crop goes into the Rosso which is often referred to as ‘table wine.’

Rosso di Montalcino is aged for just one year so you get a wine that is less tannic. The Rosso is richer and easier for wine novices to drink than it’s big brother Brunello.

I’m nearing the conclusion that Rosso di Montalcino might be the best value-for-the-money wine that you can pick up off a wine shelf. You can find Rosso wines anywhere from $15-$30. There are plenty of great selections at $15-$20.

You’ll get a great food wine but also a wine that can be sipped. The taste will have a smooth and often silky flavor. It will feature a recognizable cherry flavor from the great Chianti-styled Sangiovese wines. It will be less tannic and more rewarding for novice wine drinkers.
Sangiovese wines are great with red sauce Italian dishes, pizza and red meats.

Rosso di Montalcino is a wine you might never find in a supermarket and few liquor stores, but it’s worth the search. Most wine shops with a good selection of Italian wine will have a few bottles of Rosso di Montalcino.


Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, IN., writes every other week about wine for 18 Midwestern newspapers. Follow his wine blog at:

Monday, June 4, 2012

Not Your Granny's Pink Wine Any More

Those silly looking pink wines in your favorite wine shop or liquor store are gaining respect through robust sales. Rosé is perfect for the summer’s hot weather and sales are even hotter.

The numbers are staggering. Since 2009, overall consumption of Rosé wines has increased 160 percent.

Arguably, the best Rose’ in the world comes from Southern France. Exports of rose’ wine from the Provence region to the U.S. grew 62 percent in volume last year compared to 2010. Value of exports for the 2010-2011 period increased nearly 50 percent to a record high of nearly $10 million Euro.

The booming growth can be dated back to 2003 when Provence exported 146,000 liters of Rosé to the U.S. Last year that number easily passed 1.7 million liters.

But the U.S. isn’t the only major importer of the salmon-pink Rosé wines. Sales have also increased significantly in Brazil, Russia and other countries.

“What we’re seeing in the U.S. market reflects a global trend,” said Julie Peterson of the Vins de Provence U.S. office, which provided the statistics above. “Those who appreciate great wine and the Mediterranean lifestyle are turning to Provence rosé for its versatility, food friendliness, and gold standard quality.”

Midwestern wine retailers have also noticed the explosion in growth. “Rosé sales increase more and more very year,” said Bethann Kendall, wine buyer at Vine & Table, Carmel, IN. “Last year was probably almost three times more than what I sold my first year here.  And right now, in May, I’ve already sold more than what I sold all of last year. It’s looking great. It’s going to be a huge increase probably 15-20 percent.”

Provence Rosé is made from a blend of basically six grapes. Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvedre, Tibouren, and Carignan can be found in Provence’s signature wine. But around the world you can find Rose made from just about any grape varietal imaginable. Oregon, home of some of the U.S.’s best Pinot Noir, makes great Rosé of Pinot Noir wines.

For years “pink wine” was soiled in reputation by white zinfandel but no more. “I think there is still a huge misconception on Rose but we taste it every Saturday,” Kendall said. “I’m always opening a bottle to try to sway people in the right direction. It’s not all sweet. I tell them if they don’t like Provence Rose they’re just not going to like it from any region at all.”

Howard’s Picks:
2011 Bieler Pere et Fils Rosé - Simply Unbelievable Provence for a miserly $11-$14. This dry delicious Rose is a blend of 50 percent Syrah, 30 percent Grenache, and 20 percent Cabernet. Bigger than some Rose' but the cranberry color and wonderful taste of red raspberry makes it a real must buy. “I was excited to finally get it into Indiana,” Kendall said. “It sells out every vintage and it’s just true to the area with very beautiful strawberries and raspberries and a nice chalky texture which comes from the soils of Provence.

2011 Mas de Gourgonnier - Cherry and classic Rosé strawberry with hints of spice make this Rose a real treat for around $15. While a little lighter in style than the Bieler, it's equally dry. This wine is 60 percent Grenache (my favorite) with a 40 percent blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, and Cabernet. This is a perfect hot weather wine and gorgeous pairing for lighter foods.

More choices: Chateau Revelette Provence Rose' (Wine critics: 89-90 Points and the best I’ve tasted this year); Acrobat Oregon Pinot Noir Rosé, $15; and closer to home Butler Winery’s Rosé of Chambourcin, $14-$15.