Everything is coming up rosés
April 29th, 2014
07:00 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.

There was a time, and it wasn’t that long ago, when you couldn’t give away a bottle of dry French rosé wine in the US. The zillions of bottles of White Zinfandel on store shelves had somehow worked a kind of evil spell on wine buyers’ minds, convincing everyone that if a wine was pink, then it must therefore taste like soda pop and be sweet.

That’s changed, and nothing attests to it more than the fact that shipments of dry rosés to the US from Provence—the homeland of great dry rosé—shot up more than 40 percent last year. But it’s no surprise, when you think about it. Provençal rosé, which is light, crisp and not sweet in the slightest, is one of the best springtime (and summertime) wines around.
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Filed under: Content Partner • Food and Wine • Sip • Wine


Gee, this wine tastes hamtastic!
April 18th, 2014
01:45 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.

Easter and ham. Sure, there are plenty of people whose idea of Easter dinner is roasting up an herb–crusted leg of lamb (or chowing down on a bucketful of Peeps), but if you ask me, ham is the classic Easter food. The rest of the country seems to agree—U.S. ham sales climb to 10 times normal during the week leading up to Easter.
 
This situation, of course, leads to the question: What wine do you pair with ham? The answer is easier once you know a couple of the basic facts about pairing wine and food, specifically regarding salt.
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Filed under: Content Partner • Easter • Food and Wine • Sip • Wine


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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Singling out single-hop beers
March 27th, 2014
07:30 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.

Every once in a while, gazing out at the world of beer, it’s hard not to throw one’s hands up in the air and cry, “Good gracious, what wild fantasies these madmen have wrought!”How, for instance, is one supposed to choose between a beer made with yeast cultured from prehistoric whale fossils (Lost Rhino Brewing Company’s recently announced Bone Dusters Paleo Ale) and one that includes bull testicles (Wynkoop Brewing’s Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout)?

In Oregon, an intrepid brewer has supposedly fermented a concoction using yeast culled from his own beard (Rogue’s Beard Beer; no offense to brewer John Maier, but, blech). In Canada, a clutch of intergalactically-minded marketers have launched a crisp Klingon brew for Star Trek kooks (Federation o Beer’s Warnog).

Faced with all this, it’s important to remember that beer, when you come right down to it, only requires four ingredients. Organs from unfortunate bulls or prehistoric whale bones really don’t come into it. Water, a starch (typically malted barley), yeast and hops are all you need. And if you ask me, the coolest of that quartet is the hops.
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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


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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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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