Michael Bray

Wine Columnist Michael Bray

Welcome back to this month’s “you-ask-and-I’ll-answer.” This month I received the largest number of questions to date. As a result, and in an effort to include more of your questions, my answers will be a bit shorter than usual.

Q. What new trend(s) do you see for spring/summer?

A. Cans, cans, cans. Especially in shore communities, where the beach, boat and pool are the lifestyles — cans are all the rage. We’ve witnessed it in beer, beer crawlers, pre-made cocktails and now wine. Be on the lookout for canned wine. Two notable producers to check out are West & Wilder and Scarpetta.

Q. What do you like in terms of sparkling wine?

A. While Prosecco (from Italy) still dominates the category due to its price-quality ratio, averaging $14 per bottle, some other regions and styles are increasing in popularity. For starters, check out a Crémant. This refers to sparkling wine grown in France, but outside of the Champagne region. For example, you’ll see Crémant de Loire and Crémant de Alsace on a label. It is made with the same production method (i.e., secondary fermentation in the bottle), but allows varietals noble and permissible to each specific region. Secondly, I highly recommend a category of sparkling wine referred to as Pét-nat or pétillant natural. Ask your local retailer about this.

Q. I like full body red wine but don’t want the high acid and super dry tannin. What do you recommend?

A. I recommend you try a Valpolicella from the Veneto region of Italy. Also referred to as a “baby Amarone” for the (Ripasso) style in which they are made. These wines will high in fruit, subtle tannin and offer refreshing (but not bracing) acidity.

Q. What do you recommend for a college graduate interested in wine and food & beverage?

A. I have three options for you: 1) Gift the book “Wine Folly Magnum Edition” by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack. This is the best book on the market for beginner-to-intermediate wine lovers. 2) Find an educational event, class, tasting experience or wine dinner (preferably with a winemaker) where guests have the opportunity to taste, as well as ask questions of someone that is extremely knowledgeable. Venues to check out: Knife & Fork Inn, Steve & Cookies and Borgata to name a few. Lastly, 3) for a $150, you can select a mix case of 12 outstanding wines with the help of your local wine store. In addition, ask your retailer if they would include tasting notes on all of the wines. This will provide a great education/guide as the recipient tastes their way through the selections.

Q. What happened to Meiomi Pinot Noir? The price has increased and the quality, in my opinion, has gone down.

A. For those of you not familiar with Meiomi, it was founded by Joe Wagner in 2006, while working for his family business, Caymus Vineyards. This wine was an enormous success, so much so, that in 2015, Wagner sold the brand for a whopping $315 million to Constellation Brands. Like all products that sell out for a giant multiple, they undergo a massive evaluation in order to remain profitable. Could this be the turning point that you’re tasting? Quite possibly, in my opinion. Here’s my suggestion. Recently, Wagner created BOEN Pinot Noir. This wine sells for $20. Give this a shot and let me know if it reminds you of the “early days” of Meiomi.

Q. How do I know if a sparkling wine is sweet or dry?

A. The terms used to designate the level of sweetness in sparkling wines are a bit confusing. The most common terms you’ll see on bottles are Brut Nature, Brut and Extra Dry. Brut Nature is the driest of the bunch (“bone dry” is an accurate descriptor here); Brut is still very dry, and the most common style you’ll encounter; and Extra Dry is still dry, but not as dry as Brut. If you’re not satisfied and want to know a bit more, here’s the complete list of terms, in order from driest to sweetest: Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry, Sec, Demi-Sec, Doux. The ripeness of the grapes and the amount of sugar added during dosage will impact the sweetness of the finished wine. A must try wine is Gruet Brut from New Mexico, made in the traditional method.

Lastly, we finish with me asking YOU a question. Email me the answer, and I’ll reply with a prize. Q: What are the permissible white grape varieties in Bordeaux, France?

You keep asking, and I’ll keep writing …

Drink passionately,

Michael

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