February 3rd, 2014
08:00 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.

And there it is. The game is over, the year is over, the winners have won and the losers have been consigned to the polar dark for their hapless betrayal of everything we hold dear, and you, you poor sad former human, are in rough shape.

Either you spent last night drinking the potent margaritas of victory, the 11.7 percent alcohol Imperial IPAs of triumph, or you scoured the miseries of defeat from your body with, well, pretty much the same stuff. You hurt. Your brain is a half-dead fish, floating in a polluted ocean. And now you have to go to work. Life, bah. It’s truly unfair.
 
Here are your options. The classic hair of the dog might be a possibility, but it depends on what your job entails. If you are a wine writer, for instance, no worries. If you are an air traffic controller, on the other hand, please avoid this option.

And the truth is, it doesn’t work all that well. Your body is still processing what you drank last night. Additional alcohol, while it may numb the pain in the short term, in the end will only extend your misery as your overindulged system deals with the added booze.
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Filed under: Content Partner • Food and Wine • Hangovers • Sip


January 27th, 2014
08:00 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.

Last week the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission announced that it wants every single vineyard and winery under its purview to be certified sustainable within the next five years. There’s some question what the method of enforcement will be—since the program is voluntary, running over refusenik farmers with tractors or bunging them into big tanks of bad juice and laughing at them as they splash around helplessly is probably right out. But the whole plan’s a noble goal, and would make Sonoma the first wine region in the country to hit that target.
 
What sustainable means is another question. Essentially, it’s an approach to farming (and winemaking) that uses economically feasible, environmentally sound and socially equitable methods. That, obviously, covers a lot of ground—but generally speaking what the goal includes is reducing water and energy use, minimizing pesticide use, recycling natural resources, maintaining wildlife habitats, providing employee education and other strategies.

Given there are over 1,800 vineyards in Sonoma County, some 1,500 individual growers and/or owners and more than 59,000 acres of vineyard land in the county—according to the estimable Karissa Kruse, president of the Sonoma County Winegrowers—it’s an ambitious project. But it’s also an impressive one. And until every last renegade vine is on board, here’s a quartet of sustainably produced Sonoma wines to tide you over.
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Filed under: Content Partner • Environment • Food and Wine • Sip • Sustainability • Wine


January 13th, 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.

Thank you, University of Adelaide. It turns out that a researcher there, Professor Kym Anderson, has been engaged in a lengthy project analyzing the world’s grape-growing regions and has determined - among many, many other things - that Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely planted wine grape in the world.
 
Of course, there are variations by region; in Kazakhstan, for instance, Rkatsiteli is the most widely planted variety. In Thailand, somewhat mysteriously, it’s Syrah. But overall, Cabernet wins. Be glad. Twenty years ago the world’s most planted grape variety was a Spanish white grape called Airén, notable primarily for being incredibly bland.
 
And so, seeing as how there’s so much darn Cabernet in the world, a little advice about which ones to buy seems in order. Here are a few top bargains. (And, if you truly want to indulge your inner wine geek, Anderson’s wine-grape study is available for free as a PDF e-book.)
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January 7th, 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.

Bird-booze lovers take note: Recent news has revealed that Napa Valley producer Duckhorn Vineyards has gotten in a snit and is suing the makers of Duck Dynasty’s Duck Commander wines. This, of course, casts a dark and ominous pall over what, for a couple of days, was looking to be a bright and cheery 2014; who can guess what will happen to us now. 

Regardless, there are a surprisingly large number of other good, bird-bedecked wines that are good enough for people who don’t care about birds at all.
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Buying bubbles for New Year's Eve
December 27th, 2013
01:30 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.

Among the great divides in the world - red states vs. blue states, vegetarians vs. carnivores, the Yankees vs., well, pretty much the world - there is also the great split amongst wine with bubbles. Essentially: There is Champagne, and then there is everything else.
 
Champagne is the victim of its own success when it comes to names, much like Xerox or Kleenex. You can say, for instance, “I need to blow my nose, please pass me a Kleenex,” and people will no more bat an eye than if you’d asked for a glass of water. Say, “I need to blow my nose, please pass me a nasal tissue,” and they’ll say something like, “Ew!”
 
Ditto Champagne. Ask for Champagne, and people will happily pass you a glass of whatever kind of wine with bubbles is at hand. Ask for a glass of sparkling wine, and you sound odd. They will say, “Um, perhaps you’d like a nasal tissue to go with that?”
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Filed under: Bubbly • Content Partner • Food and Wine • Holidays • New Year's • Sip • Wine


Think outside the bottle for wine gifts
December 23rd, 2013
10:30 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 simplest answer to the eternal question of what to get your wine-loving best pal for a gift is, of course, a bottle of something. But where’s the originality there? No, the real trick is to find some supremely nifty, never-before-seen, wine-related doodad, so that the recipient will be filled with warm, generous feelings in return - and will immediately open bottle after bottle of grotesquely expensive grand cru Burgundy for you. After all, what’s the holiday season about if not shameless emotional manipulation?
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Filed under: Christmas • Content Partner • Food and Wine • Gifts • Holidays • Sip • Wine


Spirited gifts for cocktail lovers
December 16th, 2013
01:00 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.

The gift-giving season is upon us, and amid the stress of dealing with family members for whom it is perennially impossible to find an appropriate gift (here, Dad, have another tie!), we should give thanks for cocktail fanatics.

The reason for that is that there’s an endless and ever-changing world of cocktail-related widgets, tools, ingredients, glassware and whatnot out there, and cocktail fanatics never tire of adding new items to their collections. Of course, there are limits. An antique silver punch bowl like the one that sold at Sotheby’s back in 2010 for $5.9 million seems a little over the top to me. Similarly, you could fly him (or her) to Vegas, jump into a limo to the Wynn’s XS Nightclub and splurge on a couple of Ono cocktails at $10,000 a pop. But honestly, why bother? There’s so much out there that’s so cool for so much less money. Here, for instance, are some great cocktail-related gifts for those on more modest budgets.
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Filed under: Christmas • Content Partner • Food and Wine • Gifts • Hanukkah • Holidays • Sip • Spirits


In praise of vermouth
December 9th, 2013
08:00 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.

When it comes to the contest for “least respected, most versatile alcohol in the world,” there’s no question that vermouth has a fair shot at the prize. Without it, there would be no Manhattans, no martinis, and (as if things could get any worse) no Negronis - the latter somehow having become the cool-kid cocktail of the season, in addition to being just plain great.
 
Cocktails aside, good vermouth can also be delicious poured straight over an ice cube or two. But what is the stuff, actually? The first clue comes from the name, vermouth, a French bastardization of the Old High German wermuota, or wormwood, an aromatic ingredient once used to flavor it (and absinthe, too).
 
There are two main styles, sweet (originally Italian) and dry (originally French). Both are made with wine that has been infused with herbs, roots, spices and other botanical ingredients; the specific recipes are usually secret. These days most brands make both styles. Because vermouth is wine-based, it should be kept in the refrigerator after it is opened, and will last for two to three months before losing its character (use what’s left for cooking).
 
Noilly Prat and Martini & Rossi tend to dominate store shelves, along with Cinzano. All are fine for everyday use. Recently, though, there’s been an explosion of new brands, as well as higher-end offerings from the big names, some of which are extraordinarily good. Here are five that would make great gifts this season.
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Wines that give back
November 28th, 2013
12:30 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 year there are endless wine columns about what to pair with a holiday meal. They take three main forms: What to pair with turkey; what to pair with everything else, since turkey has no taste; and “This year, be off-the-wall and try X,” X being anything from Beaujolais to Riesling to Maine blueberry wine.

Enough is enough. This holiday season, here’s an idea. Don’t worry about pairing a specific wine with your meal. Instead, since the holidays are all about giving thanks (at least that’s the idea, right?), why not extend that sentiment a little and pour a wine that’s about giving back?

There are a growing number of charity-friendly wines out there, and here are a few that would be particularly good with a special holiday dinner - or really, with any meal at all.
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Filed under: Christmas • Content Partner • Food and Wine • Holiday • Holidays • Sip • Thanksgiving • Thanksgiving • Wine


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