Saturday, March 26, 2011

Foppiano Estate Bottled Petite Sirah: Delish.

Petite Sirah is a tricky beverage: Too often I find a harsh, bitter note. A few hours at the 'PS I Love You' annual Petite Sirah event in San Francisco produces a substantial minority of this rich, black wine that sets my teeth on edge.

One friend claims this is because there are two distinct grapes planted in California as Petite Sirah, one of them mistakenly, and that one produces this bitter wine. But a winemaker at a recent dinner party insists that it's a matter of careful picking of the grapes when they are properly ripe.

Foppiano of Napa Valley must pick their PS grapes at the right time, because the bottle of Estate Bottled Petite Sirah, Russian River Valley, vintage 2008 they sent me is delicious in that distinctly PS way: rich, black as a sinner's heart, aromatic, with intense black-fruit flavors and a long smooth finish.

The tasting notes claim that winemaker Natalie West handles her PS winemaking more like Pinot Noir than like Cab, with a gentle press and fermentation in open-topped barrels. To manage tannins, she uses only 30% new oak.

This is a tasty example of Foppiano's flagship wine, retailing at a bargain $20, and I recommend it.

Foppiano Vineyards, 12707 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg, CA 95448.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Will It Blend? Aerating Wine with a Blender (Really)

Take a look at Robin Garr's experiment with aerating a big red in *a blender!*

Wow, what will they think of next??

Monday, March 21, 2011

Wine Tutorial Part 3: What To Drink (For Beginners)

By Mac McCarthy, Zenergo

Safe Wines for Beginners to Start With....

2008 BAWDY Wine Event

When you first try various wines, you quickly find that some -- well, many -- are hard to take, especially for a beginner. Many wines are acquired tastes -- you have to get used to them.

Especially for red wine, the tannin (a stinging, puckery sort of sensation on your tongue, similar to what you'd experience if you sucked on a teabag) is what makes it hard to take. Some red wines are very tannic, so they definitely take practice. And wines, especially red wines, can be acidic on top of that. And then there's the alcohol, which is not very high for wines (10% to 16%) compared to liquors, but liquors are hard to take too, aren't they? That's why you mix them with soda and fruit juice!

Luckily, there are a lot of wine types that are "approachable," which means easier for beginners to like right from their first taste -- they are much less tannic, less acidic, and lower in alcohol. So start with these wines that are safe for a beginner like you. NOTE: I indicate where these particular grapes and wines originate, but most are made in many places -- especially in the United States, which makes a version of almost every type of wine in the world.

[A good way to learn is to join with others to share and try wines. On, you can sign up for the Wine Tasting Activity, find others in your area with similar interests, join or start your own wine tasting Group, and find out about wine tasting events in your area. Give it a try.]

Safe Reds

Louis Jadot Beajolais-Villages
Beaujolais (and Beaujolais Nouveau) is an area in France that makes a very light, fruity, mild red wine from the Gamay grape, very easy to enjoy. The "Nouveau" is sold around Thanksgiving time. In fact, it makes a good turkey-day wine. (It's also supposed to be consumed before New Year's Day, as it doesn't age like the regular wines from Beaujolais do.)

Pinot Noir (but $$) Pinot Noir can be a light yet flavorful wine that's very approachable, with more interesting things going on with it than the simpler Beaujolais. It's tricky to shop for, though, for a few reasons. One is that good Pinots can be pricey. Some of the very best, from Burgundy (or "Bourgogne") in France, can have price tags that will take your breath away even more than the flavor does. And, to confuse things, many Pinots made in Oregon, Washington, and California are made in a more intense West-Coast style that's not much like the light Burgundies we're recommending here. So when you shop for a Pinot, ask the clerk if this is a "French-style" Pinot, or a "West Coast-style." Buy the French-style ones.

Rhones are blended wines made along the Rhone river in France; they can be light and easy to drink, but the flavors a highly varied – some like 'em, some don't. A famous example is Chateauneuf du Pape. Personally, I like the ones from Gigonda. Americans make Rhone-style blended wines too, and they also vary a lot in what they taste like. It's a good area for exploration.

Ruffino Chianti
Light Italian wines: Chianti (not in straw bottle), Sangiovese, Valpolicello  are light ones easy to drink. There are other Italian reds that are intense, that you might not be able to handle as easily. One clue: If it's a light red -- if it looks watered down compared to other, dark reds -- then it's probably lighter in taste, too, so it's worth a try.

Cheap Australian Shiraz wines can be great fun because they show a lot of fruit. Examples are Yellowtail and Rosemount, and best of all they are usually very affordably priced.

Any red wine from the Finger Lakes region of New York State. Light yet flavorful, they sometimes don't say what grape is in the wine; in many cases, they are native American grapes, not the French-sourced grapes all the rest of the wines are made from, and that can be very interesting -- a lost marketing opportunity, if you ask me.

Safe Roses
I've already lectured you about why Roses can be tasty wines that you should be trying at every opportunity, despite whatever you may have heard about White Zinfandel. There is more variety in Roses than in any other wine type -- from completely "dry" to lightly sweet. And, let's face it, folks, even White Zinfandel has the not-to-be-dismissed virtue of being very easy to drink -- light, with no offensive elements, it's a perfect starter wine, which is why it's so popular. Just know that you'll get tired of it after a while because it's bland and flabby, but until that day comes, you can sip it without concern for your tongue. And please remember that this is not what other Roses taste like, nor other red Zins, nor other sweet dessert wines, so when you do get tired of it, don't swear off the good stuff.

Safe Whites

White wines, lacking tannins, are easier for beginners to taste -- though there are still a few whites that have enough acidic tang to make your taste buds jump. Whites are often lower in alcohol than reds, too, which is a bonus. The real trick for a beginner is finding a white wine that actually *tastes* good -- not just doesn't hurt, but has a flavor that a beginning taster finds pleasant and enjoyable. Here are a few popular grapes.

Chardonnay – No longer "fashionable," but easy to drink, which is why it continues to be popular. When you get tired of regular everyday Chardonnay that you find in bars and nightclubs, you can graduate to the tasty White Burgundy from France, which is very different, and to the many new "unoaked" Chardonnays being made in the US, where the fruit comes forward in a delicious way. Americans are experimenting with the taste of Chardonnay, so taste around.

Kim Crawford New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc from the US or New Zealand – This grape makes a white wine with a little more character than oaked Chardonnays, so it's a popular next step for many drinkers. It has a little but of a tang, a kind of "stony" taste. It is fashionable, though. French versions (from Bordeaux and from the Loire Valley) taste different (and good). (The Kim Crawford on the left is a famous brand from New Zealand.)

Viognier and Pinot Grigio (Italian) or Pinot Gris (French) are light white wines that vary from maker to maker a whole lot. They can sometimes have a wonderful flowery or fruity aroma--and no particular flavor; or they can be very tasty -- it's a crap shoot. Experiment.

Italian Prosecco is a sparkling white wine, like champagne but much easier to drink -- slightly sweet, fruity, fun. In fact, you should consider it for your wedding reception in place of Champagne--it's easier for non-wine-drinkers to enjoy, and it's much less expensive.

Any white from Germany, Alsace, or Austria, such as Gewurztraminer (do yourself a favor and just call it "Gevoortz"), Riesling, or Gruner Veltliner, tend to be aromatic, light but with an acidic tang, and vary from very dry to lightly sweet -- to, in the case of late-harvest "Spaetlese" and "Trockenbeerenauslese," quite sweet. All these whites vary a lot from maker to maker, so don't give up if the first ones you try you don't care much for. Keeping trying; you'll find one you like. There's a whole world of white (and red) wines, from unique grapes most of which you've never heard of and probably can't pronounce, in the world of German, Alsatian, and Austrian wines; it's worth a lifetime of flavorful study. While all the wine snobs are festishing over in France, you could becoming an expert in a different, tasty world.

Safe Late-Harvest Wines

Dashe Cellars 2007 Late-Harvest Zinfandel Don't like sweet wines? Ha ha ha -- you're wrong! You just haven't had a chance to try a well-made one! Seriously, though, there are many, many so-called Dessert Wines (or, for fun, "Stickies")  that are unbelievably delicious -- like the best piece of liquid candy you've ever tasted. Look for Sauterne (a French white made from Sauvignon Blanc)), Tokay (Hungarian), Canadian or German Ice Wine (white), or Muscat (red). They mostly come in half-sized bottles and vary from a little bit expensive ($18 for a half bottle?) to oh-my-God expensive (hundreds of dollars for a vintage Chateau d'Yquem, also a half bottle). Try the cheap ones -- they are also tasty. And meant to be sipped--they can be very high in alcohol. (Left: Dashe Cellars makes fabulous late-harvest Zinfandels!)

Contest for Wine/Booze Bloggers....

France's Cognac Board is running a blogging competition among U.S. bloggers, with prizes including $500 -- and an all-expenses-paid trip to the Cognac region of France! (Assuming your situation allows you to accept such a prize!)

Here are the details.

U.S. wine bloggers are invited by The Cognac Board (BNIC) and The Palate Press Advertising Network to compete in the 2011 Cognac Writing Contest. Write a post about Cognac for a chance to wine one of these amazing prizes:

First Prize – An all-expenses paid trip to France for the Cognac Blues Passions Festival and tours of Cognac. From Asa to ZZ Top, an amazing five day festival of music, sponsored by the finest spirits in the world. Tour the vineyards and Cognac houses, listen to the music, find your next great story.

Second Prize – $500.00

Third Prize – Three bottles of fine Cognac.

The Rules

The contest is sponsored by The Cognac Board, with the support of the European Union and France. There are a few legal requirements for your story to be considered by the judges

  • Please, no talk of sex.
  • Please, the stories should not be about, or mention, “white” Cognac.
  • Stories should not relate to specific brands. The Cognac Board’s task is to promote the appellation, and cannot be seen to support an individual brand.
  • Only U.S. bloggers may participate.
  • Please submit stories to prior to publication. The Cognac Board’s legal department will quickly review, not to edit, but only to assure they can include the entry in the contest and affix their logos. Upon approval from the Board, we will respond with the logos and legal disclaimer to be included with the post, as well as unique StatCounter codes for each entry.
  • The first round of judging will be based upon how many page views the post receives, so the sooner you post, the more you can promote the post and get seen.
  • The second round of judging will be done by a panel of judges from the U.S. and France.
  • The last day to enter is April 10, 2011.




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Monday, March 14, 2011

An Interlude: BAWDY Wine Club report; March 2011 MERITAGE TASTING

[BAWDY] is one of our local San Francisco East Bay wine clubs -- founded by Allison Wright and Arnie Becker and dedicated to having a relaxed good time with wine and friends. BAWDY stands for Bay Area Wine Drinkers And A "Y".]

Hello Bawdies!

This is a brief report on the wines we enjoyed at Saturday's party, hosted by the gracious FLAGGS! Thank you, Myra and Allen - not to forget the charming musical interlude by the talented Mr Keenan Flagg.

Date: March 12, 2011

Note: Meritage (pronounced like "heritage") is a proprietary term created by U.S winemakers to characterize high-quality Bordeaux-style blended wines, made from a prescribed combination of the two or more of the same grapes as found in French Bordeaux, namely Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Carmenere, and, less commonly, St. Macaire and Gros Verdot for red Meritage; or for white Meritage, like white Bordeaux,  Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Muscadelle du Bordelais.

We had two whites at the party, a Meritage from Cosantino called 'The Novelist,' an 07 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon (misspelled 'Semillion' on the label!) that was a pleasant, quiet blend; and a Chariot Gypsy, which had a nice sweet note.

For reds, we had a Super Tuscan, Antico Classico, which at $8 was very pleasant. Other reds:

*Overture, Napa, a nonvintage (!) second label for Opus One, which was excellent.

*Clos Pegase 2006 Napa "Origami" Estate; grapes not stated; a nicely balanced and delicious Bordeaux-tasting wine.

*St. Clement Oroppas, 2006, a Napa Valley Cabernet blend that I rated an A.

*Ferrari-Carano Reserve "Tresor" 1997 (!), Sonoma - a very nice blend of Cab, Malbec, Merlot, Cab Franc, and Petit Verdot.

*Laraine, a 2005 Cabernet from the Sierra Foothills' Gerber Vineyard - nice!

*Chemin de Terre 2006 Southern Oregon nicely rounded blend of 44% Merlot, 17.5% Cab, and splashes of Petit Syrah, Cab Franc, Sangiovese (!), Grenache, and Pinot Noire (!!).

*Canterbury Vineyards "Beautiful Place, Beautiful Wine" 2006 Shiraz-Cab blend.

*Sterling Vineyards Vintner's Collection Meritage, Central Coast, 2008.

*Sterling Vineyards Pinot Noir, Oak Knoll Vineyards, 2006.

*Guenoc "Lillie's Victorian Claret," North Coast 2007, presumably a Bordeaux-style blend because that's what the English mean when they say Claret, but I didn't see anything on the label.

*Roth Alexander Valley 2007 Cabernet blend.

*Murrietta Wells 2007 Meritage.

As you see, I didn't make detailed notes on each -- I was drinking, you see. The foods were also wonderful. Please feel free to make further notes about your thoughts on the wines and the foods, round out this report for the group, ok? Thanks.

Mac McCarthy

Friday, March 11, 2011

Wine Tutorial Part Two: Roses, Champagnes, White Wines, Dessert Wines

By Mac McCarthy, Zenergo

Keywords: Rose, Pink, Blush, White Zinfandel, RAP, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, Reisling, Gewurztraminer, Prosecco, Champagne, Pierre Jouet, Veuve Clicquot,  Clairett de Die, Cremant d’Alsace, Domaine Allimant-Laugner, sparkling wine, fruit-flavored sparkling wine, dessert wine, Sauterne, Tokay, ice wine, Port, Madeira, Late Harvest Wine, Claret, learning more about wine.

Now let's talk about wines that aren't red.

As a beginner in wine tasting, don't fall into the trap of focusing only on one kind of wine. If you try a Chardonnay and like it, the temptation is to just drink Chards from now on. After all, there are so MANY kinds of wines, and it's confusing! Right?

Well Yes, it's confusing, but No, that's not an excuse to stop experimenting. You would miss out on some wonderful wines if you're not willing to try new things. This is a rich opportunity to find new fun things to taste.

A lot of them you won't like. But a lot of them you will. I promise!

Many people only drink white wines. An equal number of people only drink reds. Even more people think Rosé's are a bad joke, and too sweet -- and so they think they don't like roses. And also they think they don't like "sweet wines."

Don't be those people.

Open your mind, your palate, and your glass to lots of different kinds of wine. If you haven't already tried THAT wine, from THAT winemaker, in THAT vintage -- you don't know what it tastes like. Give yourself a chance to be surprised. (Or to confirm your suspicion that you won't like it!) Especially if it's being offered to you. (It's harder to justify blind experiment if you're paying to buy a whole bottle of unknown wine.)

We'll review white wines, champagnes, and dessert wines. Let's start with America's most misunderstood wine.....


Laughing Pig Rose Wine
Laughing Pig makes delicious Rose
There are pink wines – or blush wines, or ROSÉ's (that's rose-ay, with an accent mark over the 'e' -- because it's French -- and yes, it means 'rose'). These are very popular in France but have been out of style in the US because of White Zinfandel, which is a cheap, poorly-made Rosé. White Zin is sweet, but it lacks acid balance, so while it's very easy to drink for a beginner -- it has no offensive harshness to it -- after a while it seems flabby and boring. You're ready  to move on to better-made wines.

Unfortunately, when people get out of college and graduate from white Zinfandel, they learn all the wrong lessons -- they think what they don't like is Rosé, and sweet wine. This is wrong: What you get tired of is poorly made sweet roses. A well-made Rosé can be divine, as you will discover when you get a chance to try it. And roses come in everything from very dry to very sweet.

Rose is coming back in fashion in the USA, happily – so if you find a Rosé or two that you like, you can be leading-edge and hip. (Watch for a local Rosé tasting event if one comes to your area. "RAP" is an annual Rosé-tasting event in San Francisco, but they may have similar events around the country.)

Rose can be made from any red-skinned grape -- Pinot Noir (the standard in France), Cabernet, Merlot, Zinfandel, Barbera -- so there is more variety in Rosé than in any other type of wine--and more different shades and types of pink than you can imagine. Rose is usually mild and easy for beginners. It's an adventure. They can be completely 'dry' (not sweet), or lightly sweet, and everything in between, and can have a lovely aroma. Try them!

(A bonus: Since roses aren't popular in America, yet every winemaker loves roses, they will each make a little Rosé, just for themselves. Since there is no 'standard' for how Rosé should taste -- no 'market' they need to conform to -- each winemaker makes his or her own Rosé to suit his or her own taste -- so every Rosé tastes a bit different from every other maker's Rosé. And that, my friends, is the very definition of wine adventure!)

White Wines

The most popular white wine in America is Chardonnay, which can be an excellent wine but is widely manufactured to be cheap and enjoyable for those with unsophisticated palates. Chards can be too vanilla-y and oaky, so you can get tired of them after a while.

2009 Passaggio Chardonnay bottle
2009 Passaggio Chardonnay--Yum!

To show your sophistication, then, try the "unoaked" Chardonnays -- that's the new wave. And much more like French Chardonnays in how they taste. Small winemakers in the US are experimenting with Chardonnay, so keep tasting the new stuff -- there is getting to be quite a fascinating variety in the Chardonnay market.

Sauvignon Blanc has become the popular alternative to Chardonnay. It has more of an acidic tang, kind of stone and steel and mountain brooks sensation to the taste. New Zealand is noted for its SBs, especially the ones from the Marlborough area.

BTW, pronunciation: Being French words, there are extra letters not pronounced: "Soh – Vinn – Yohn." And while we're at it, the French leave off the last consonant when pronouncing a lot of wine words: Cabernet drops the T: "Cab-Ber-Nay" and so does Pinot Noir: "Pee-No No-are." Once you've mastered these, be sure to look pityingly at your friends when they mangle the words. It's mean, but it's fun.

Here are some other, even lighter and often fruitier, white wines -- but fair warning: How they taste varies widely from one winemaker to another. But none are harsh; at worst, they can be bland.

Luna Vineyards Pinot Grigio
Luna Vineyards Pinot Grigio

Viognier – pronounced: "Vee – own – eeyay" – light and flowery, sometimes not much actual taste.

Pinot Gris ("Pee-No Gree"), called Pinot Grigio in Italy (Pee-No Gree-Jee-Oh). Aromas of flowers and fruit like peaches and pears and grapefruit. Often not a very strong taste at all.

US winemakers produce these types of wine as well. Shop around until you find a version you like.

German/Austrian/Alsatian White Wines

2007 JW Morris Gewürztraminer
2007 JW Morris Gewürztraminer - $4

German white wines are in a class by themselves. They taste not at all like other whites; they are less acidic, for one thing; many of them tend to be slightly sweet, in a good way. They can be pricey (but see Trader Joe's 'JW Morrison' brand, which can be tasty and TJ-cheap).

Try any Riesling ("rees-ling") you see, or any Gewurztraminer ("Gay-VORTZ-tramminner" with the "tramminner" part run together in a burst; some people just say "GayVORTZ" and leave off the end part). You may be pleasantly surprised. The bottle labels are generally unpronounceable: "Spatauslese," for example. Don't even bother. My favorite German white wine is something called Bott Freres; from Alsace on the French-German border, about $25, and worth it. Another favorite is wines from the importer "Dr. Loosen" (pronounced, approximately, "Doctor Loow-zin"), a little pricier.

White wines from Germany, Austria, and the Alsace can be very dry, or medium-dry, or a little sweet. Everyone buys the dry, but you will be surprised how much you enjoy the off-dry/semi-sweet or medium-sweet ones as well. Tell the wine-store clerk "I'm looking for a Riesling, not too dry" and you'll get something pleasant.

Another fun white is the Italian sparkling wine called Prosecco – it's light, a little bubbly, a little sweet, and very easy and fun to drink; it's also somewhat inexpensive. Consider it as an enjoyable alternative to Champagne. (For one thing, it goes better with wedding cake....Hint hint.)


Cremant d'Alsace
Cremant d'Alsace is a Champagne alternative--Delicious!

Champagne is a tough one. A lot of 'girls' like Champagne, but I find cheap champagnes to be harsh, with a sharp edge. Good champagnes range from $35 to $95 for a decent one, and hundreds of dollars for spectacular vintages. If you absolutely have to buy a bottle of champagne and make an impression, here are brands and types you can safely pay $30--$50 for and not embarrass or disappoint yourself:
  • Chandon – At $12, a drinkable champagne at a surprising price (Shahn-Dohn).
  • Perrier Jouet makes very tasty champagnes at a midrange price ($50?) (Perr-y-aay Jooo-aay)
  • Veuve Clicquot (pronounced, approximately, "Vuuhv–Klee-Koh – good luck) makes a tasty champagne called Ponsardin.
  • A French nonofficial champagne called Clairett de Die - $13, actually, and I think it's as tasty as any bottle many times the price. Someone who knows French bubbly will be impressed that you've even heard of it. It's not "champagne" because it's not made in Champagne province, and it's made with a different process than the "methode champaignois." (Clair-ette deh Dee-aay)
  • Another non-Champagne champagne is a type called Cremant d'Alsace, also uses a different process and therefore is not "champagne," but tastes the same, but kind of creamier, not as sharp, and not awfully expensive. (Cream-ahnt duh-Al-say-s). One maker I've tried is Domaine Allimant-Laugner. In the U.S., Schramsberg makes a Cremant, at $32, that I find creamy and delicious.
In the U.S. you'll also find champagne-type "sparkling wines" made from various other grapes besides the traditional Pinot Noir of France. You'll also see Rosé sparkling wines, and (oh dear) flavored sparkling wines -- with peach, berry, or other fruit essences added. To make them taste good for those of us who haven't a sophisticated palate for real Champagne. If you come across this stuff, pretend to be amused or mildly offended (depending on the impression you want to convey of being superior to this swill) and then go ahead and hide your enjoyment. Because, sophisticated or not, this stuff is like soda pop and tastes great!

Dessert Wine

Do not, in my presence, announce that you "don't like" sweet wines. You are being silly. The only way you could "not like" all sweet wines is if you don't like sweets. You like ice cream, don't you? Have a favorite candy bar? Eat Lifesavers? Lollipops? M&Ms? Do you ever eat dessert? I mean, when you're not watching your waistline?

Of course you like sweet things. And you'll find you like well-made sweet wines too. Try some until you find which you like and which you don't.

Dessert wines are meant to be sipped, not swilled, and are often served in tiny glasses, for two very good reasons: First, they can be very alcoholic (not all, but many--check the label). Second, many are very VERY sweet, and are meant to be served at the end of the day, or winetasting, or after dinner--just like dessert.

Sauterne, Chateau Guiraud
Chateau Guiraud Sauterne, France--Wow!

There are both red and white dessert wines. The whites tend to cluster around a French white called SAUTERNE (so – tern). There are French Sauternes that are unbelievably expensive -- hundreds of dollars for half-sized bottles. But there are less famous French Sauternes that cost $15-$30 for those half-sized bottle -- and taste just as good, one advantage to having an unsophisticated palate! There is a Hungarian white called Tokay (toe-kay, also spelled Tokaj, but pronounced the same), with expensive famous labels. If you see either of these being served, get in line. At least try it.

Another famously tasty, very sweet white dessert wine is Canadian Ice Wine. Its tall, thin bottles are, sadly, pricey too. It is made from grapes left on the vine to freeze, and picked in February (what the birds haven't eaten). And. it. is. delicious!

Madeira 1922 and 1968
Madeiras from 1922 and 1968 ($$$!)

In the Reds category, the first big grouping is PORT. As a beginner, simply avoid Ports; they can be very good, but they can overwhelm the beginning drinker because they have a dose of brandy whiskey added at the end of the production process. Ugh. Sherry is also challenging for  beginners. Try Madeira instead -- it's very sweet, very intense, almost like liquid raisins, but much easier to handle. Older ones are expensive -- $500 for a 1960, anybody? -- but younger ones can be reasonably priced. An open bottle of any of the above will last for weeks, even months, without changing their taste.

Rosie Rabbit Late Harvest Zinfandel
Rosie Rabbit Late Harvest Zinfandel. Yes!

A better bet for beginners is a "Late Harvest" wine – these are made from grapes picked as late in November as possible, so they have started to dry out – drops are squeezed out to make this FAB-ulously sweet and tasty wine. American winemakers create late-harvest wines from a wide variety of grapes -- Zins, Cabs, Pinots, Syrahs, Muscats, or white grapes like Semillon and Viognier. Moderately pricey half bottles can be sipped, and left open for weeks. Yum!

Miscellaneous Factoids About Your Wines

Wine labeled as "Claret" is a Bordeaux-style wine; claret is the traditional English term for French Bordeaux.

Wine is made in every state in the USA; many are very nice, many are very interesting. A few are not nice or interesting but still worth trying just for the novelty. In New York State, in the Finger Lakes region they are experimenting with wines made from native American grapes such as "Cayuga," and these are very much worth trying, especially as a beginning wine drinker, because they are light and easy to drink.

Wines are also made in virtually every country in the world, with varying degrees of success. Lucky for us wine tasters, the science of winemaking has made such great strides in recent decades that you will see even more very good wines coming from apparently improbable places in the future. I've had very good wine from Mexico, from Sicily, and from Israel; I've had very bad wine from China, but I hold out great hope for an evolving Chinese winegrowing industry.

Australia, of course, has such good wines -- not just inexpensive, fun-to-drink supermarket wines, but sophisticated German-style whites as well -- that if you visit that land, you really must try to visit a winery or two. Likewise South Africa, which produces unusual wines as well as the usual.

Learning More--the Easiest Way

You can only really learn about wine by tasting it -- often and in variety. Luckily, this is a fun thing to do. Unluckily, it can be costly -- if you do it by yourself. It's also less fun that way.

So do it the easier and more-fun way: Taste with friends. Go to wine tastings with friends. Visit wineries with friends. Throw wine-tasting parties--this can be best of all because you can just declare a BYOB party, pick a theme (my group, BAWDY, has done everything from "California Cabs" to "Favorite Everyday Wines," and I'm lucky enough to belong to The Pompous Twits, which has members with real wine cellars (yes!).

Don't got no wine-loving friends? Not to worry: Go over to Zenergo (the host of this blog), sign up (easy and free), join the 'Wine Tasting' Activity, and search for others like yourself in your area. Search for winetasting groups. Search for winetasting events. Or start a group of your own and recruit local wine lovers and wanna-be wine lovers.

Our Next Post: What You're Likely To Like

There are more kinds of wines and winemaking areas than we've covered in these two blog posts so far -- but don't worry about it. Just scanning these two blog posts puts you ahead of quite a few of your friends and drinking companions! Congratulations! You are just a few more blog posts away from being a wine snob! (Just kidding. You are just a few blog posts away from being a wine enthusiast!)

In another post, we'll talk about kinds of wines that beginners are most likely to enjoy tasting -- and wines you are likely to dislike (because they have strong, aggressive flavors that take getting used to). Even better, we'll give you some tips on how to buy wine at a store for a party or as an impressive gift without wasting your money; and what to do when you're at a fancy restaurant and somebody asks you to order the wine! (Step one: Don't panic! We have a plan!)

Be sure to comment below--questions accepted, compliments welcomed -- and be sure to share with your friends!