April 14th, 2014
08:15 AM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

Yep, it’s true. Mere days before Passover, Manischewitz, the most well-known maker of kosher wine (not to mention matzos), has been sold. The announcement came this past Tuesday; the buyer was Sankaty Advisors, an affiliate of Bain Capital.

Never mind that Bain’s most famous co-founder was, of course, Mitt Romney, who’s Mormon and a non-drinker—there’s some sort of cosmic unlikeliness there that’s just too strange for the brain to handle. But I am going to go out on a limb and say, regardless of who will now profit from all of those many bottles of Manischewitz Concord Grape wine, there are other choices out there for Passover. And some of them are actually very good.

Here are five to look for.
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Filed under: Content Partner • Food and Wine • Passover • Sip • Wine


April 9th, 2014
12:05 AM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

What do Arinto, Baga, Castelão, Alfrocheiro, Rabigato, Códega do Larinho and Esgana Cão (which, rather evocatively, translates as “dog strangler”) all have in common? They’re all Portuguese grape varieties, which means they are grown in the place that is currently winning my award for most exciting wine country in the world that the U.S. doesn’t know enough about.
 
Wine’s been made in Portugal for at least a couple of thousand years. Wine lovers here tend to know about one or two Portuguese categories—the crisp whites of Vinho Verde, sweet port from the Douro Valley, fizzy pink Mateus in its oddly shaped bottle.

But there are terrific wines being made up and down the length of this country, white and red, from a plethora of local as well as international grapes. Plus, the quality of the country’s winemaking is at an all-time high.

Here’s a start: Four Portuguese regions worth looking into, with a recommended wine or two for each.
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Filed under: Content Partner • Food and Wine • Sip • Wine


March 25th, 2014
06:00 AM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

Take that, Italy and France. With the 2013 vintage, Spain stomped on its grape-growing European counterparts to become the biggest wine producer in the world. According to the Spanish government, Spain produced roughly 6.7 billion bottles of wine last year - more than a bottle apiece for every single person on the planet, at least if you subtract kids.
 
Here’s the hitch: Spain, despite making all this wine, isn’t drinking it. According to the secretary general of the Spanish Wine Federation, Spain has the lowest per capita wine consumption in Europe, except for Norway. (What the Norwegians are doing, who knows, but one thing they aren’t doing is sucking down tanker loads of wine.)

This means, in order to prevent a civilization-threatening worldwide glut of Spanish vino, we all need to start drinking as much Spanish wine as possible, immediately. To aid you in this noble and humanitarian goal, here are some great Spanish bottles to seek out. I suggest buying them by the case. Otherwise, lord knows what disasters might occur.
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Get to know Prosecco
March 19th, 2014
12:30 AM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

The news that Prosecco outsold Champagne - 307 million bottles worldwide compared with 304 million - may flabbergast some fizz fans, but it’s really no surprise. Prosecco is as hot as a cold, sparkling white wine can be, with sales in 2013 up more than 24% over 2012.
 
That 307 million stat, by the way, came from OVSE, an Italian wine “observatory” (essentially an industry research group, though you have to like the idea of white-coated scientists spending their time watching bottles of Prosecco through massive mountaintop telescopes), so perhaps one should take it with a grain of salt. Regardless, it’s hard to argue with Prosecco’s overall appeal.
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Filed under: Bubbly • Content Partner • Food and Wine • Sip • Wine


March 12th, 2014
04:00 PM ET
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The wine industry is in love with the word "terroir," but there's a note of ambiguity about what it actually means. Simply defined, it conveys a sense of place – the complete environment from the soil to the climate that gives each wine a distinct flavor. It’s the vines’ calling card.

In addition to the agricultural boundaries, many people broaden that landscape to include all the living creatures that exist within it. By that definition, a Labrador retriever named Willow has been a bedrock at Bedell Cellars.

She’s been riding shotgun in a pickup to the winery since she was 10 weeks old, alongside her owner Donna Rudolph. A dozen years later, she’s become the self-appointed patroller of the vines, chasing deer, groundhogs and rabbits.
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Filed under: Favorites • Sip • Wine


Chianti gets all classy
March 11th, 2014
01:00 AM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

News last week that the powers that be in Tuscany’s Chianti Classico region have created a new, super-duper designation for the region’s wines - Chianti Classico "Gran Selezione" - got me thinking. I’ve got no problem at all with a special category of top-end Chianti Classico (about 10 percent of the region’s wines will qualify); in fact, I think life would be excellent if various of my relatives and friends took it upon themselves to buy me cases of high-end Chianti. Why not? But I do have to admit: My real affection for Chianti has more to do with the fact that so many of the region’s affordable wines are so appealing.
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Filed under: Content Partner • Food and Wine • Sip • Wine


February 28th, 2014
12:00 PM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

I had the good fortune last week to be in California for Premiere Napa Valley, a glitzy shindig for which the valley’s top wineries produce special, one-off cuvées to help fund the Napa Valley Vintners (the local trade association). Usually five or 10 cases, but sometimes up to a full barrel, these cuvées are then auctioned off to wine shop owners and the like for, ideally, huge heaps of cash. Nothing is ever cheap at this event, and at this year’s auction—which demolished previous records for revenue—some things were very, very expensive.

Take, for instance, the top lot: five cases of wine from the beloved-by-billionaires cult–Cab favorite Scarecrow. It sold for $260,000. That’s about more than four grand a bottle, give or take. Or, you know, for normal people, a house.
 
However: It should be said that despite the glow given off by extravaganzas like this one, Napa Valley does produce some very good wines that are also, actually, affordable. People tend to forget that fact in their concentration on the region’s famed Cabernets, but it’s well-worth remembering.

Here, for those of us (wine writers included) who could no more spend four thousand bucks on a bottle of wine than we could fly to the moon on the backs of magical swans, some ideal Napa bargains.
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February 14th, 2014
01:30 AM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

This Valentine’s Day it’s very important to keep in mind that there’s a paranoid conspiracy floating around our world to the effect that red wine goes well with chocolate. This delusion isn’t quite on the order of believing that the moon landing was a hoax, but it’s pernicious nonetheless.
 
Here’s the deal. Anything you eat that is sweet (e.g. chocolate) is going to make a dry red wine taste more sour and astringent than it already is. So, basically, if you give your date a nice box of chocolates and then serve her (or him) a big ol’ glass of Cabernet, the reaction is likely to be along the lines of “bleah!” And I’m here to tell you, “bleah” is not the word you want to hear at the end of the evening on Valentine’s Day.
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Filed under: Chocolate • Content Partner • Food and Wine • Sip • Valentine's Day • Wine


On Valentine's Day, stick with the classics
February 13th, 2014
12:15 AM ET
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Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.

Sometimes it’s worthwhile taking the classic approach. If you’re a cowboy, skip saddling up an emu—just ride a dang horse. If you are a lion, do not attempt to browse the tender shoots of the mokukutu bush—just chomp the neck of a zebra and have done with it.

Similarly, when Valentine’s Day comes along, why try to wow your honey with some oddball concoction when bubbly works so well?
 
The choices are vast but the basic equation is simple: If you want actual Champagne, from the Champagne region in northern France, prepare to pay more. Champagne runs from $30 or more a bottle, on up to a couple of hundred dollars a bottle for top wines.

For more affordable wines in a similar mode (i.e., made the same way, and with the same basic grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) look to California sparkling wines. There are many good, affordable choices in the $20 to $25 zone.

And if bargains are what you’re after, both Prosecco (from Italy) and cava (from Spain) produce terrific sparkling wines in the under-$20 price range—possibly not the price point to pop the question with, but good value if your evening is going to involve drowning the sorrows of a gang of embittered single friends.

Here, some excellent possibilities:
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Filed under: Bubbly • Content Partner • Food and Wine • Sip • Valentine's Day


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