Wine for Normal People

Wine for Normal People

United States

A podcast for people who like wine but not the attitude that goes with it. We talk about wine in a fun, straightforward, normal way to get you excited about it and help you drink better, more interesting stuff. Back catalog available at


Ep 192: Hawke's Bay, NZ with Correspondent Simone Madden-Grey  

You know Marlborough and its tasty Sauvignon Blanc and you may know New Zealand makes Pinot Noir too, but Bordeaux blends and Syrah? YES! Hawke's Bay is New Zealand's second largest wine district and it rocks. Simone, our Australia and New Zealand correspondent, tells us all about it in this fabulous podcast!


First we give a Hawke's Bay Overview

It's the 2nd largest industry after Marlborough with about 10% of NZ total production It's New Zealand's leading producer of full-bodied reds: 88% of New Zealand's red production of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes in 2016.  The area makes rich, complex Chardonnays too Started in 1851, Hawke's Bay is one of New Zealand's oldest wine regions


Then we talk location and climate:

The area is on the east coast of the North Island in and around the cities of Napier and Hastings  The climate is maritime climate at coast and more continental as you move inland Hawke's Bay is one of the most versatile wine-producing regions in New Zealand -- with multiple mesoclimates, solis, slopes, etc. Sub-regions -- Coast, hillsides, alluvial plains (Gimblett Gravels),  river valleys, and continental areas

The grapes of the area:

Reds: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Pinot Noir Whites: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and other aromatic whites 


 And finally, the wineries Simone shared in the podcast:

1. Clearview Estate*

2. Greywacke* 

3. Elephant Hill*

4. Craggy Range*

5. Stonecroft**

6. Vidal

7. Villa Maria*

8. Bilancia**

9. Trinity Hill**


*= available in the United States

**=limited in the United States


Get on these wines! They are spectacular! 



Ep 191: Proving Terroir is Real with John Dimos of Biome Makers  

Is terroir a concept concocted by the French to hide flaws, as some suggest? Or is it a real thing that can be tasted and measured? John Dimos from Biome Makers and Wine Seq has a tool that resolves the question. In this nerdy, fascinating podcast we dig into the details and provide solid answers to the questions below! I never thought we'd see this in our lifetimes, but here we are! 


1. What is it?! John tells us the premise of Biome Makers and how it's an affordable and viable premise now vs 5 years ago

  2.  He answers terroir questions around... Why people have denied the presence of "terroir" in wine  How Biome Makers changed the game on the notion of terroir  How soil variation impacts on grapes The effect of the biomes v chemicals from winemaking in the final wine?    3.  We discuss the WIM (What it Means) and the impact of the tool on wineries... Who is this tool for and how will they use it? Given that terroir is a real thing and that it CAN be detected in many wines, why isn't expressed in all wine (or food for that matter)? How is this new tool going to change wine growing going forward?  Will it empower people to take more "risks" on farming organically?  Does this steal the "art" from grape growing/winemaking?

I encourage you to check out the site and to follow them on Facebook and Twitter. A company that surely will change the way winemaking happens!


A thanks to our sponsor: the Great Courses Plus! Sign up for a free trial!

Ep 190: The Birthplace of wine - The Republic of Georgia  

Where did vitis vinifera originate? Where do we think winemaking started? We think it's from the area that is now the Republic of Georgia. Once part of the USSR, this small, beautiful nation is reemerging as a wine power so it's time for an overview!


Here are the show notes:

Top level stuff...


Georgia is where Eastern Europe meets Asia. Between the Caucasus Mountains and the Black Sea As big as Scotland or Ireland 111,000 acres of vines ranging from the coast of the Black Sea to Kakheti, on the other side of the Caucasus mountains Outside Tbilisi, they only speak Georgian so when you go, you've gotta hire a guide



Russia to the north and Turkey and Armenia to the south Primary wine region of Kakheti—according to Georgians, the birthplace of wine itself The main wine regions, from Kakheti in the east and Imereti, Racha and Samegrelo in the west, are within a few hours’ drive from Tbilisi, the capital


a diverse climatic landscape that varies from temperate to subtropical

An Historical Relic: Qveri (Kwhere-vree)

Traditional Georgian fermentation: a clay vessel used for centuries to produce wine in Georgia. Qvervi: 1,000-liter beeswax-coated terra-cotta jar buried in the earth A qvevri is a thick-walled vessel buried deep in the ground in a marani, or Georgian wine cellar. naturally maintains wine at optimal temperature during fermentation and allows it to age for many years without spoilage. Once fermentation is complete, the wine can be racked into another qvevri, leaving the heavy sediment behind. Qvevri white wine is sharp, strong, amber. or in the case of reds, so dark it’s known as shavi gvino: black wine


 Grapes: 500+ indigenous grape varietals found in Georgia,

Red: Saperavi, Tavkveri and Chkhaveri plus Tavkveri, Shavkapito,  Chkhaveri and Ojaleshi. White: Rkatsiteli (r-kat-see-telly), Chinuri and Mtsvane (mits-vane) méthode Champenoise in Georgia since the late 1800s, with native grape Orange wine:  Friuli winemaker Josko Gravner makes his sought-after “orange” wines using ancient Georgian techniques/qvervri



Grapes and traces of wine residue have been found in archaelogical digs from 8,000 years ago. Vitis vinifera originated from the Caucasus mountains in GA Ottoman rule in west, Christianity in the east made east side of the country the wine powerhouse Georgia came under Soviet control a few decades later. Small vineyards merged into huge co-ops =CRAP Georgia declared independence in 1991 Russia's 2006 embargo on Georgian wine imports, lifted only in June 2013. Forced diversification into other, stronger markets


The wines of Georgia have a little ways to go, but they are a fascinating slice of vinous history and worth seeking out or trying if they are ever right in front of you! 


Ep 189: Navarra, Spain  

Navarra is in northern Spain and although a prolific, historic region, it's not well-known. Traditionally it's been associated with making fruit-driven rosé, but its reds are starting to come on strong and it's emerging as an excellent, high quality, high value region.

Fast facts on Navarra: Capital: Pamplona, home of the running of the bulls (Fiesta de San Fermin)! DO is south of the city Vineyards are around the foothills of the Pyrenees to the Ebro River in Northern Spain Navarra is part of the historic Basque country – but the Ebro River has the most impact on winemaking here (river valleys are essential to vine growing) We review the storied history of Navarra: From Romans to Moors to Catholics, we discuss the winemaking legacy We talk about the importance of El Camino a Santiago de Compostela -- a 400 mile walk to visit the remains of St. James (Santiago) in Galicia on the western coast 12th c – wine recommended in a guide book to pilgrims Reputation for wine formed through El Camino We discuss the French influence from the 14th century through the 19th c – (1892) when Navarra wines were in high demand post-phylloxera We talk about the modern efforts of the DO, and EVENA, the Estación de Viticulture y Enología de Navarra (Navarra Viticulture and Oenological Research Station), in the Ribera Alta sub-region and how that added legitimacy AND created some issues for Navarra.    We talk geography and terroir: Navarra is large and the climate includes areas with Atlantic-influenced, continental, and Mediterranean climates In the south-east is the Bardenas Reales National Park The Pyrenees mountains in the northeast w/other mtns in north, just below France Atlantic is an hour northwest, Ebro Valley in Southern Part Near Bay of Biscayne in Northwest/Atlantic Ocean


We discuss grapes and wines: Navarra was known only for Garnacha-based rosados EVENA allowed and encouraged French varieties in the 1980s to compete with Rioja (add diversity and it's own identity) — Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon 90% red varieties, 10% white grape varieties 70% of the grapes are native varietals Tempranillo – 33% Garnacha – 24% Graciano – 1.5% Mazuelo/Cariñena .5% (WHITE) Viura – 2.25% 30% of vineyards are planted to international varieties Cabernet Sauvignon – 15% Merlot – 14% Chardonnay – 5.4%


The Sub regions 

Tierra Estella: Northwest, borders Basque Country and La Rioja. Highest average altitude and notable Atlantic influence. Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay.

Valdizarbe:  Northern area with continental and Atlantic climate. Tempranillo, Garnacha, Cabernet and Merlot all occupy similar surface areas, with Chardonnay and Malvasía.

Baja Montaña: In the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains. Continental climate. Garnacha, Tempranillo, with little else grown. Known for rosados.

Ribera Alta: Continental climate transitioning from Atlantic to Mediterranean climate.Cereal plantings here (fertile soils!). Tempranillo, Graciano, Chardonnay, Moscatel de Grano Menudo


Ribera Baja: Mediterranean climate. Tempranillo, Garnacha, Viura, Moscatel. 


Finally we hit on identity issues: Too much diversity We decide that Garnacha expresses place and should be the horse they bet on in Navarra! We mention the DO de Pago producers: Señorio de Arínzano and Prado Irache in Tierra Estella and Bodegas Otazu in Valdizarbe.


Go get some Navarra! It rocks!! 





Ep 188: Kieran Robinson, Where Sonoma Meets the Rhône  

Kieran Robinson is a small producer of Rhone style wines in Sonoma --and his stuff rocks. A Philadelphia native, after working in the Northern Rhône he moved to Napa & worked for cult wineries going it alone. A great story from a truly talented winemaker!


Here are the show notes: 

Kieran tells us about his early life in Philadelphia, at Ithaca college, and getting his start in wineries in the Finger Lakes.

He takes us on his journey from Northern Rhône to Napa to Sonoma and details what it was like to work with everyone from Michel Rolland, Aaron Potts, and Paul Hobbs before going out on his own.

We address Kieran's real passion: making Viognier and Syrah. We talk about the current situation in Sonoma with grapes and more people looking at Rhône varietals as a viable and awesome option.

Kieran takes us through the differences between his wines, the wines' nod to Philly, and why they are so darn great! 


To learn more about Kieran, go to


And thanks to our sponsor, The Great Courses: 


Ep 187: Paso Robles (with some Sonoma)  

After a trip out to Sonoma and Paso Robles, we have much new information to share! In this podcast we chat quickly about the glammed up version of Sonoma we encountered and then take a detailed look at Paso -- its history, terroir, the 11  appellations, and the wine!  





Ep 186: My Trip to Mosel, Germany, A Wine World Wonder  

My recent trip to German wine regions included Mosel, which has one enormous advantage over any other place that makes Riesling: terroir. We talk about the geography, the slopes, the land, and the people, and why Mosel is really a wonder of the wine world.

Ep 185: Laura Maniec, Master Sommelier and Owner of CorkBuzz  

Laura Maniec, Master Sommelier and owner of CorkBuzz Wine Studio shares insights on being an MS, a restaurateur, and a hospitality guru. After she shares her fascinating story, we talk about our venture, and how we love wine shopping for you and treasure hunting for great values that hit the price point for an average of $70 for 4 bottles (a steal!). 


Here are the topics we cover on the show: 

First, Laura tells us about her childhood and how her grandmother shaped her mentality regarding hospitality.  We learn about how a Master Sommelier gets made! Laura talks about her path from cocktail waitress in Queens to MS and owner of CorkBuzz Wine Studio in Manhattan and Charlotte, NC.  We get Laura's take on the MS program and how much she loves it! We talk about who it's for and who it's not for.  We discuss Laura's awesome wine philosophy and how she wants to help normal people love wine! Laura shares with us the latest wine trends she's seeing in NYC We chat about the new project we're on together, Weekly Tasting and how it's an opportunity for us to shop for wines for you that you may not know about, have heard of or even knew you wanted (you do want these!)

Laura is @lauramaniec on Twitter and Instagram and you can find her on Facebook @CorkbuzzRestaurant&Winebar



Ep 184: My Field Trip to Rheingau, Germany (will make you WANT these wines)  

This podcast is based directly off a blog post on my site! So instead of trying to recreate the formatting and pictures, I'll just link to it here since there are no better show notes than this:

Ep 183: Jennifer Williams, Star Napa Winemaker of Arrow&Branch  

One of the rising stars of Napa Valley, Jennifer Williams is winemaker for Arrow&Branch in Coombsville, a cooler Napa AVA, as well as for her own brand, Zeitgeist, which she runs with her husband (also a winemaker).

Jennifer shares her story of working with and learning from legendary winemakers such as Rosemary Cakebread and Francoise Peschon and time working at cult wineries Araujo and Spottswoode, where she was head winemaker.

We talk about Napa's future, Cabernet, the importance of vineyard in Napa, and how Jennifer balances her busy life. 


Special thanks to this week's sponsor: The Great Courses Plus! Visit to learn more! 

Ep 182: Marina Marcarino of Punset, Organic Winemaking Pioneer of Barbaresco  

Continuing the Women's History Month winemaker series, I speak with Marina Marcarino of Punset in Barbaresco, Italy. She is one of Italy's most respected and influential female winemakers. In the late 1980's, she ignored the norm and converted her family’s estate into a 100% certified organic vineyard. She is a kind, smart, savvy woman in wine and I learned so much from her about Barbaresco and organic farming -- you will too!

Here are the show notes:

We discuss Marina's childhood in Piemonte, the town of Alba and what it's really known for (hint: NUTELLA!) and why being a "bad baby" led her on a path to making organic wine. It's Women's History Month so we spend some time discussing her experiences as a woman in the wine industry and what it's like to raise a child and be a winemaker. We learn all about Barbaresco -- the difference with Barolo, the unique geographic features -- the Tanaro River, the consistent breezes, the differences between the diverse winemaking areas, and why the wines are so consistently good. We pivot to discuss farming and Marina's passion for organics. We discuss her philosophies, why she must do organic farming (or else no farming at all!) and why, despite being called "The Crazy", she has persevered and now has others following her lead. We tackle the importance of certification in organics and the difference between certifying a practice (organic) and a philosophy (biodynamic). Finally we discuss winemaking and Marina's goals to make her beautiful, wonderful wine. Marina gives advice to future female winemakers and we agree to meet in Italy someday soon (I love this lady!)!

Here's where you can find the outstanding Punset wines in the US, Canada, and UK markets (use to see if it's available near you, if you live outside these countries):

The US: 
The UK:


And thanks to The Great Courses for sponsoring this episode. Get your free trial subscription at

Ep 181: Laura Catena, The Leading Lady of Argentine Wine  

The first in a series for Women's History Month, I speak to Laura Catena of Bodegas Catena Zapata in Mendoza, Argentina. We discuss her life as a doctor, a mom, and the head of a wine empire, the history of Malbec and how her family aided the meteoric rise of Argentine wine and of the comeback of the Malbec grape around the world. 

A fun, sharp-as-a-tack woman, you'll learn a ton about Malbec, Mendoza, and a few life lessons from this fascinating podcast! 


Laura’s History and Background on the Catena Family

Her life as a doctor and the bridge between medicine and wine Her career pivot to the wine and becoming “the wine doctor” for her country and family Historical perspective The Catena family history in wine The history with Malbec and history of Catena and Malbec Her dad and her homage to him: his pride of country and why he has been so successful


Malbec and it’s Rich History

Malbec Studies Pre-phylloxera clippings Flavors based on altitude/studies on altitude The sides of Malbec: the agebility factor, and the evolution of the grape Old v New vines: the real differences Luca: Laura’s own project of all old vine wine, managed separately and small and how it fosters Argentinean pride


Laura’s Advice on Doing it All

How she handles being a mom, a doctor, and running a major wine company The power of the B+ The balance of kids and work and life advice on spouses, marriage, and kids


Making Wine in Mendoza

High altitude growing and Catena’s role: Argentina has distinctive regions – b/c of the altitude huge variations in climates, move faster from warmer to colder Nicolas’s (her dad’s) altitude bet and its payoff – combination, altitude, latitude, plant material Sub-regions: Lujan de Cuyo= old vines, clay soils, makes some good stuff Uco Valley = Key region for quality Sub-regions: Tupungato, Alta Mira, La Consulta, Gualtallary


The Wine Culture of Argentina and the Wines of Catena

Alamos: Gallo family’s distribution and the benefits of the relationship for the Catenas. The importance of keeping the small producers alive. The paradox of being big and supporting small producers Lafite-Rothschild and Catena: Bodegas CARO wines Luca: Laura’s project Bodega Catena Zapata Catena – classic Malbec, $20 Catena Alta – historic rows of vines Catena Zapata/Adrianna Vineyards – small parcels, harvest plant by plant, hand harvested
Audio blog 14: Red Wine Headaches  

Red Wine Headaches: Ideas On Causes and Remedies (but sadly not real solutions…)

Nearly every time I do a speaking event, a familiar scenario transpires. After the wine class, a person who seemed very interested in what I had to say approaches me with a sad look on his or her face and says, “I love the taste of wine. I’m so fascinated by the subject but I just can’t drink that often. I get a horrible headache every time I drink, especially with red wine. Is there anything I can do?”


My heart always breaks a little for that person and I hope that despite my obvious lack of expertise in health matters (here’s my caveat, I’m an MBA, not an MD so I am only offering this article second hand) that I can solve the problem and get the person back on track to enjoy wine, headache-free.


Before I go down this path, I want to be really clear about the information that’s widely available and that’s repeated over and over again in major wine outlets and news publications. I scoured scientific journals and I found an even better source – a scientist who scoured scientific journals[1] – to see what conclusive evidence there is on this topic. What I and they found was a lot of half studies without a statistically significant result in most cases. The bottom line is that no one has funded a large-scale study on this topic. (And I get it: really, who is going to fund something like this, which is what it comes down to? Wine companies have other priorities and they would be the most likely cash source…).  So as I share this info, I want to tell you now that except for two of these solutions, one which I can vouch for and another which has scientific proof behind it, the rest is pure conjecture.


Still, we’re not operating in the dark. There are some strong contenders for what is causing that nasty pounding after drinking wine or more specifically, red wine. And, better yet, if you’re not averse to taking an over-the-counter medicine, you could solve the problem fairly easily in many cases.


Let’s run through the different potential causes and give ideas on how to tackle them.


The first thing that is killing most heads…

I’m not going to hold you in suspense. I want to tell you the number one thing that is probably causing your headache: alcohol. It dehydrates the body, or to quote the UK National Health Service:


“Dehydration can also occur as a result of drinking too much alcohol. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it makes you wee more.” (insert immature chuckle here).


And what a lot of us fail to realize is that most wine is somewhere between 12.5% and 14.5% alcohol by volume. That means that for a 5 ounce glass of wine, 12.5% to 14.5%, more or less, is made up of alcohol. Contrast that with beer, which is more like 3-4% alcohol by volume and you see that wine is not as innocuous as it seems.


So if you happen to have one or two glasses of wine, especially red, which tends to be higher in alcohol (because the grapes are riper and picked later, thus upping the sugar), AND you have no water in between and no food or nibbles, you are robbing your body of water. Dehydration gives you a headache, so there you go!  


The Solution?

First, try wines with lower alcohol content. If you can drink around 10% or 11% ABV versus 14%, that could help. Look on the bottle for the percentage – it’s required by law in most countries. Lower alcohol means more bang for your buck – 1 glass of this stuff won’t wallop you like one glass of a 14%’er will.


Alternately you can take a page out of the professional drinkers’ book people in the wine industry’s book. We’re usually downing water in between glasses or eating food to mitigate the effect of the high alcohol. It seems like our tolerances are off the charts (and they probably are to some extent) but a lot of that comes from experience and lots and lots of water.


Ok, that’s the number one cause of headaches. But there are several others, so don’t think I’m about to dismiss you if you’ve tried to drink water and it doesn’t work!


Next are the mean amines. Wines that go through malolactic fermentation release amines in the process, and have levels that can be 200% higher than in wines that don’t go through malo. There’s been some research done on the effect of the “amines” but nothing super conclusive. [2]


The second thing we’re pretty sure is causing pain: Histamines[3]

Histamines are compounds that exist in wine at varying levels. Red wine and bubbly tend to be higher in these pesky enzymes. That means if you have a sensitivity, you may have a terrible allergic reaction, e.g., a headache,

Ep 180:  Stellenbosch, South Africa  

Stellenbosch is the most prestigious, oldest wine growing region in South Africa. It's beautiful, diverse, and a bridge between Old World and New World styles. We talk about the details of the region and why it's much more obscure than it should be. 



Ep 179: Thomas Jefferson -- America's First Wine Nerd  

You know I'm a sucker for history, and this was a fascinating one to research. Through Thomas Jefferson's detailed records, we're able to learn so much about wine during the late 1700s and early 1800s in France, Spain, and northern Italy. Turns out, as much as we think things have changed, much of it has stayed the same. We need to thank the folks at Monticello in Virginia for making such awesome records available! Here are some notes:


Pre-Revolution wine was made up of Madeira, light red Claret, Sherry, and Port. The British dictated tastes and discouraged trade in French wine so Portugal and Spain dominated


Jefferson began his love of wine while at William & Mary College in Williamsburg, Virginia and developed more of an interest when he interacted with German prisoners during and after the Revolution


in 1784, Jefferson was newly widowed and moved to France to serve as an ambassador alongside John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. 


Adams loved Bordeaux and helped school Jefferson in wine, but Jefferson took his passion further, combining "public service with private gratification" on a number of long trips through Burgundy, Rhône, Piedmont, Loire, and Bordeaux. He toured Rheingau, Mosel, and Champagne later on. Burgundy was his passion.


Jefferson didn't want to leave Paris in 1789 but left and became Washington's Secretary of State, and he never returned to the continent. He became an advocate for French and Italian wines in America. 


While  president, he drank sherry Hermitage blanc, what appears to be Bandol, and a Roussillon wine that seems like a modern day vin doux natural and racked up personal wine debts that would be several million dollars in today's world.


Throughout his life, Jefferson kept immaculate records of his drinking, coming up with a tasting lexicon and a method for getting people more interested in trying these fine wines. We know that the best wines of the world remain so -- terroir is terroir -- and that the more things have changed, the more they have stayed the same in many regards. No amount of technology can make a better wine than a Montrachet from Burgundy or a first growth from Bordeaux. 


Hope you enjoy this bit of international wine history! Thanks to Monticello, Jane Anson and John Hallman's Thomas Jefferson On Wine for so much great info on which to draw! 

Ep 178: Slovenia  


Slovenia is small but it's up and coming! It's a fascinating place with a long winemaking tradition that should pique your interest.


Before you read on, a great thanks to our sponsor: The Great Courses Plus!

The Great Courses Plus has over 8,000 lectures on a ton of subjects, taught by experts. Well done and escapism that's addictive! You'll lear so much! 

Go to to get a free trial (the special URL lets them know you heard about it here!). As I mentioned, The Everyday Gourmet: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Cooking is mandatory for you wine education!!! Watch and get back to me!!


Slovenia's Wine Stats:

Population of two million people, who drink a LOT: 5th highest wine consumption per capita in the world About 75% of the country's production is white wine
55K Planted acres makes it the size of Sonoma County, in California Small portion of the wine is exported 70% of the wine is premium, most is made in the clean modern style  Some using ancient techniques (clay amphorae) to give the texture a tannic rasp and the wine a rosy, sometimes amber, hue (orange wines)

Slovenia's Wine History

Of Celts, Romans, Christians, and Napoleon By the end of the WWII, co-ops controlled nearly all of the region's wine production: Sucky bulk wine production with a few small private wineries in the Drava Valley region In 1967, the government established the PSVVS (Business Association for Viticulture and Wine Production) In 1991, Slovenia was the first to declare independence from Yugoslavia Dictatorship/Socialism/Communism separated countries from centuries of winemaking traditions but they are catching up now


At crossroad of eastern and central Europe bordered by Hungary, Italy, Croatia, and Austria  Important Rivers: Drava and Sava connect to the Danube Dynamic regions on borders

3 Main Regions

Primorska:  Near Italian region of Fruili Venezia Giulia, high quality whites and reds Sub regions: Vipava Valley, Goriska Brda (gore-ISH-KA BURR-DA), Koper (pr. Coper), Karst plateau district Grapes: Ribolla Gialla, Pinot Grigio, other whites, Refosco other reds Experimentation and blending of old and new: Orange wines, clay amphora, and long, long aging Drava (Podravje)  Botrytis affected whites, Welschriesling, Furmin
Nearly 97% of the wine made in the Drava Valley region is white wine Seven sub-regions Lower Sava (Posavje)  Only Slovenian wine region that produces more red wine than white, though not by a large margin Three districts, you may see Lower Carniola on a bottle Lower Sava Valley region is dominated by bulk wine, rather than premium wine, production Use of many native grapes

Hope you enjoy this off-the-beaten trail podcast. 


Ep 177: Bar Food and Wine Pairings  

Ok, we've done it. We did the primary research with unhealthy, kinda nasty bar food. Our findings were pretty simplistic but we figured it out through trial and error.

Here's a hint: our MVP is a wine we don't recommend often: lightly oaked Chardonnay!

Audio blog 13: Cool Weather Whites  

When the weather is cold, I often just want to reach for a red. It’s got higher alcohol, is served at a warmer temperature, and it’s great with hearty food.


But I’m here to tell you that there’s this underbelly of whites that few know about that you need to get on right away. They are usually a great price, often as satisfying as a red, and can pair perfectly with rich food (especially spicy food). The common theme is that they feel fuller and softer in your mouth and have good flavor. If you put them in a black glass and you’d swear they were red wines!


In the summer and with summer foods, we all want sippers that are refreshing and bright: Wines that are best colder and have high acidity are best (Sauvignon Blanc, unoaked Chardonnay/Chablis, Albariño or Verdejo from Spain). But as the temps go down, you need a bone-warming white. The three keys to finding one:


Lower acidity and softer, rounder textures, which mean these wines are from warmer, sunnier climates where the grapes get fully ripe and aren't as tart. 13.5% alcohol is probably the minimum you’d want for the right body.


Wines that are better served at 50˚F+ -- not ice cold. You'll need to leave these out of the fridge to warm up. 


Fuller flavored wines that have enough umph to stand up to richer foods -- soups and stews, poultry with herbs, pastas with richer sauces.


For me, the genre of grapes and blends that fit the bill are those from Alsace, , the Rhône Valley, and Southern Italy, and places that have similar climates to those areas. 


Alsace Whites: Take your pick! Any of the great grapes of Alsace are full, soft, rich, and great for warmer weather. 

The Riesling is opulent and almost oily in texture but still dry with peach, apple, pear, and mineral (think of being near a waterfall) notes. The wine has acidity but it's fuller in body than many dry German versions. The Pinot Gris is not so aromatic, but it's spicy -- like coriander or mild ginger -- with smoke, orange, apricot, pear notes and a rich texture. Good stuff and affordable.  I’ve actually had some awesome Pinot Blanc of late. Although it can be insipid and thin, the right producer in the right year makes it fat, round, and pear-like in flavor. Great versions can be had from $18 on up to hundreds of dollars.


Rhône Whites:

For Southern Rhône, Costieres di Nîmes Blanc, Côtes de Rhône Blanc, and Châteauneuf-du-Pape blanc are my favorites. The main grapes for these wines vary -- some are Grenache Blanc, some Marsanne, some Viognier, some Roussanne or Picpoul, but good versions share the same character: soft, luxurious textures that roll around in your mouth with enough acidity to keep them from feeling heavy or imbalanced. The flavors will range from peachy to honeyed to herbal, but the textures are consistent so they fit the criteria above. Outstanding versions of Costieres de Nîmes and Côtes de Rhône Blanc can be had for US$15 to $20. I’ve even had some great Picpoul for around $15 that has this same quality.


Châteauneuf-du-Pape will set you back at least $US40, but it’s well worth it, especially with halibut in butter herb sauce (the best pairing I’ve probably ever had!). You'll find similar wines from great producers in Priorat just south of Barcelona, Spain. These wines are often a better value than CdP and have a Grenache Blanc lead (and they are awesome with Spanish tapas!). You can get a great one for around $US25.


Northern Rhône wines are similar but they are more refined and much more expensive! Viognier from Condrieu is soft, and like a bouquet of flowers or bowl of peaches or apricots, and dry but decadent in texture. The white versions of Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Joseph are made with Marsanne and Roussanne grapes and may be the fullest whites you'll find -- like eating a honey comb, but not sweet, with lots of earthy, waterfall/stream smells and flavors.


Before I go move from the Rhône to Southern Italy, I should point out that California does some great whites with Rhône grapes too. I’ve had some Viognier from Santa Barbara that’s full of fruit flavor but with a touch of acid -- great with food and delicious on its own. Our friends at Tablas Creek in Paso Robles make a few outstanding white Rhône blends in the Rhône style. And one of the tastiest Rhône wines I've had out of Lodi was a Picpoul by Acquiesce Winery -- full, rich, soft, but with enough acidity to keep it from sitting heavy in your mouth. All of these will run you more than $20, not a great value but tasty nonetheless!


And to complete our tour of cold weather whites, on to Southern Italy...

The two amazing grapes of Southern Italy -- Fiano and Greco -- make rich, full, soft whites. Another warm, Mediterranean climate, these wines share a lot in common from a texture standpoint with the wines of the southern Rhône, especial
Ep 176: The Many Sides of Australian Shiraz with Simone Madden-Grey  

Simone Madden-Grey, our Down Under co-host, talks about the flavors of Shiraz & how it can't be pigeon-holed into one profile or type of wine. A refreshing look at Australia from an inside view, you'll want to run out to producers she mentions!

Ep 175: Tuscany Overview with Filippo Bartolotta  

We welcome our new Italy co-host, Filippo Bartolotta, a native Florentine, wine expert, writer, and travel company owner. This fabulous normal wine guy tells us about himself, about Italian wine culture, and about how to get the best out of Tuscan wine!


Show notes with links to producers we mention to come...

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