Wine: April 2007 Archives

By Courtney Cochran

When I spent three weeks in the south of France last summer I chronicled just about everything I did in my blog. Besides documenting winery visits to tony spots like Bordeaux’s Château Margaux and Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s Beaucastel, I blogged about nightclubbing in St. Tropez, shopping in Cannes, and gambling in Monte Carlo.

What could be more natural, I thought?

To me, these experiences were integral parts of my wine country travels. But to others, I’m sure some of these activities – the clubbing, the shopping or the gambling (or all of them!) – may seem like hedonistic side jaunts unrelated to wine.

But these “extras” are exactly what I love about blogs (short for web logs). Unlike more traditional publications, blogs are highly personalized and often include eclectic commentary on authors’ unique experiences, impressions and opinions. They bring their subjects – whether they’re widgets or wine makers – to life in a way more mainstream publications simply can’t.

No question about it, blogs are now key players in the editorial landscape, and the opportunities they afford travelers to gain an inside look into the activities and personalities of places can’t be underestimated. And although there’s no shortage of wine blogs out there, a handful of them do terrifically well at showcasing wine country travel.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of my favorites:

Vinography
Founded in 2004 by San Francisco-based entrepreneur and wine enthusiast Alder Yarrow, Vinography may just be the most popular wine blog on the Web. In it, Yarrow ably canvases a broad swath of wine-related subject material including wine reviews, event listings, industry trends, and – yes – travel. His coverage of a trip to New Zealand in late 2006 is rife with amusing insights, beautiful photography and useful tips on tasting, touring and dining. Besides this and other travel notes, Vinography includes an extensive list of links to other wine blogs, publications, and resources, making it a dynamite jumping off point for your foray into the wine blogosphere.
vinography.com

Gang of Pour
Run by a wry group of wine writers located in Detroit, Ohio, California, and Canada, Gang of Pour takes on the subject of wine in decidedly amusing ways. With features like “Rednecks & Red Rhônes” and “Lot-a-Palooza” (about something called “lot” wine production), Gang of Pour puts an entertaining spin on its subjects that’s made it one of the Web’s most popular wine blogs. And with a rich cache of travel-related reporting, it’s a favorite of mine for tips on where to go and what to taste in off-the-beaten-path places like Niagara and Oregon. Watch for regularly updated wine travel features in Gang of Pour’s “Daze of Wine and Road Trips” e-journal.
gangofpour.com

Tom Cannavan's wine-pages
Wine-pages is the long-time passion of Tom Cannavan, whose day job is editing “Fine Expressions”, a glossy bi-monthly magazine devoted to wine and premium drinks. Founded in 1995, wine-pages is a veritable Internet dinosaur, but don’t expect antiquated design or features: The site is spiffy and up-to-date and includes a great archive of wine-related material, from a BYO guide and book reviews to tasting notes and travel guides. And with its detailed notes on excursions to wine country around the globe, Cannavan’s site is my pick for the most practical wine travel tips. Voyagers can expect to find advice on “eating and sleeping” and “wines and things to do” throughout Europe, in the US, and in South Africa. Bon voyage!
wine-pages.com

Fry Wines – What You Need to Know

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Fry Wines – What You Need to Know

If you think about it, our associations with wine and fries are worlds apart – gustatorially speaking. One we pick up in so-called upscale places where we feel obliged to pronounce the names of obscure producers and lands with just the right touch of accent and well-cultivated vinous savvy.

for example: “Why yes, Server Jeffrey, I’d like a glass of the 2002 Olivier Leflaive Corton Charlemagne. Oh, and please don’t serve it too cold. I hate it when I can’t pick up all the nutty nuances in my White Burgundy.”

Okay, Mr. Big Man, coming right up.

The latter, on the other hand, we’re accustomed to ordering at the local Mickey-dees drive-through, where the process couldn’t be less ceremonious.

e.g., take two: “Um, yes, I’d like the, uh, Big Mac - no onions - and a side of fries…Large. Oh, and please don’t forget the ketchup.”

It would seem, to the uninitiated, that these two twains just aren’t meant to meet.

Let’s Get Together
But that’s just where you’re wrong.

Wine and fries actually share a colorful and – if not remarkably long or widely celebrated – history together. A favorite combo in French bistros and their offspring around the world, wine and fries come together on the table more often than you might think, and often to great effect.

Steak Frites – This classic French bistro dish is just what it sounds like: a well-marbled steak alongside some greasy fries. Together, the combo is high in both fat and salt (fat comes from both, the salt mostly from the fries), which is a big reason why we like it so much. Note: the concepts of “light” and “low sodium” don’t exist in France.

Croque Monsieur – Another French favorite, a Croque Monsieur is a glorified grilled cheese sandwich dressed up with a slice of ham and some good bread, buttered and grilled - naturally. Fries on the side round out the wonderfully fatty experience and lend this already salty dish (thanks to the cheese, bread AND ham) still more salt. Mais bien sûr!

Make Mine a Fry Wine
Not just any wine will work with fries. Super salty and fatty, fry dishes call for wines that are low in tannin (salt makes tannins – the chalky, chewy substances found in red wines – seem stronger than they really are) and light in body. Light-bodied wines tend to have high levels of acidity, and fatty foods need zippy acidity to cut through all their grease.

Red Pick – Simple, straightforward fruity reds from Beaujolais in France make the best wines for meat-driven fry dishes like Steak Frites. These wines hit all the right notes: they’re light in body, high in acid and simple in structure – just like the bistro dish you’re tucking into. Even better, they’re super cheap – usually clocking in at $10 a bottle and under – putting them on a perfect price par with your grub.

White Pick – With its melted cheese and buttery bread, a Croque Monsieur calls for a crisp white wine, while its mega-high salt content cries out for something sweet (strange as it may sound, sweetness is the ultimate counterbalance to saltiness). This is why crisp, sweet German Riesling is the perfect partner for the Monsieur. Reach for one with the word “Kabinett” or “Spätlese” on its label for an unforgettable fry-wine combo.

contributed by: Courtney Cochran

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