Posted by: Laurent | February 7, 2011

Best Wine for a PEPCO Moment

We recently asked our readership to tell us what the best wine for a PEPCO moment would be and why. Here are a few of the most interesting responses that we received:

Obviously the best wine for a Pepco moment is….

big, bombastic, lasts forever, hints of smoke and minerals…

needs time to breathe…

clearly a red…

disappointing today, but expected to improve over the next 5-10 years!


Menage a Trois red wine is best, because three makes more body heat than one. ūüėČ



In my opinion, the best wine for a ‚ÄėPEPCO Moment‚Äô would have to be a rich, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon.¬† Its slight hint of oak gives the wine a toasty overtone, and toasty is definitely what you want to feel when the power goes off.¬† Given recent history, PEPCO should really stand for ‚ÄėPeople Enduring Painfully Cold Outages,‚Äô and what better way to endure than with a magnificent glass of Cabernet, with its warm, spicy undertones.¬† As the legs of this brilliant wine gently coat the sides of the glass, one is reminded to go grab a coat, as the frigid, powerless night slumbers on.¬† Cabernet Sauvignon also ages well, which makes it a perfect wine to have on hand as a vital part of my CHILL (‚ÄėCause Heat Is Likely Lost) emergency kit, and it pairs very well with all the comfort food (i.e., pizza) that we have delivered.¬† Oh, if only it were PEPCO ‚Äėmoments,‚Äô that occur each winter and not days and days of dark, bone-chilling cold.¬† On second thought, maybe I should store a case of Cab in my ‚ÄėCHILL‚Äô kit, rather than a single bottle.¬† Salute!



I’ve weathered three major PEPCO outages in the last 12 months of durations ranging from 11 hours to 3 1/2 days.¬† Contrast this to having lived in 6 states over the last half century, suffered through blizzards with over 6 feet of snow, major earthquakes, and Category 5 hurricanes with but three outages in all of that time (and no outage from the blizzard), and I wish to submit the following as a PEPCO suitable wine:

Thinking of PEPCO I’m reminded of a gallon of Thunderbird in a beautiful but cracked cut crystal decanter.¬† Pretentious, very expensive, incredibly fragile. Tries to look fabulous but is ultimately unimpressive. Bright cheesy notes with overtones of smoke-filled back room deals, the stale dust of long-forgotten promises, and an aftertaste of deep rot and corruption. Even the smallest sip never fails to turn the stomach.



The best wine for a Pepco moment is definitely a deep dark red, like a cabernet sauvignon. Pour into a big saucepan, add 4 cups of apple cider, some honey, cinnamon sticks, fresh orange juice and zest, cloves and star anise, then light your gas stove with a match and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain your mulled wine into some big mugs and warm up by the fire. Perfect for the next thundersnow!



And the winner: Amarone

1) It is rich and warming. So, when the heat is out and you are lighting the Express in your trashcan to stay warm, at least Amarone heats from the inside.

2) It should only be drank slowly and contemplatively. Therefore, if the ‘moment’ turns into 4 days…. you don’t have to worry, no rush… you have Amarone.

3) Unlike Champagne, white wine, rose or some reds, Amarone is not served chilled, cool or at any other temperature rather than the temperature your house will be without power. Therefore, even hours after your wine fridge has gone warm, your ice bucket has melted and the only cold can be found in the snowbanks developing outside your window, Amarone keeps on rocking.

4) If you aren’t wasting money on silly utilities, you might as well spend your savings on something nice, something you might not normally drink. Amarone.

5) You dont have food in the fridge? Too cold to go get that carry-out? Amarone goes great with chocolate, cheese or just a glass.

6) No more excuses. If you aren’t already convinced, then you MUST not like Amarone. In which case, PEPCO outages is the least of your concerns! Just kidding there, but still, come on!



Posted by: Laurent | January 4, 2011

Five Wine Trends to watch in 2011

Instead of summarizing what happened in 2010, I preferred discussing 5 trends that I think should be watched (and enjoyed) in 2011:

  • Accessorizing the wine experience: In many ways, the consumption of wine is accompanied by a number of accessories: corkscrews, glasses, decanters, and of course food. In that last category, GiraMondo is quite enthusiastic about savory cookies designed to accompany a wine tasting. A local company, Cookie Zen, has launched a line of savory cookies to accompany sparkling wines, red wines and white wines. It is called Cookies and Corks ( Just to give you an idea, our preferred cookies are Parmesan Thyme, White Cheddar Rosemary and Apricot Sage. These cookies are now available at Wholefoods and in fine wine stores around the DC area.
  • Beaujolais becoming a diversified appellation: Watch the Beaujolais Appellation, as it is morphing from a marketing experience (Beaujolais Nouveau) to a more diversified appellation. In addition to the 10 crus of Beaujolais that represent the excellence the Gamay grape, the appellation is pushing for ‚Äúnew‚ÄĚ products on the market including White Beaujolais (Chardonnay and Aligote), Beaujolais Ros√© (Gamay), and even sparkling Gamay! For sparkling Gamay, I recommend ‚ÄúMade by G‚ÄĚ from Domaine des Nuges, available at Cleveland Park Liquor Store
  • Local trending: we hear it everywhere: buy local. We have a lot of very talented local wine professionals and wineries. My selection of wineries to look for in 2011 are Boxwood in Virginia (, Black Ankle in Maryland ( and Thibault-Janisson ( for sparkling wine, also in Virginia.
  • Sparkling wines bubbling even more: The action in the sparkling category has been amazing over the past few years and it will continue. The success of Cava and Prosecco have really re-energized the category. We are getting even more Cremant from all over France as well as many more recoltant-manipulant (small houses) references. Both Cleveland Park Liquor Store and Wide World of Wine have a wonderful selection of sparkling wines. At Wide World of Wine, you can get vintage champagne from a small house for the same price as non-vintage champagne from large brands. I would pay a visit to Elliott and Hugo to learn more. My biggest recent discovery is Tedeschi Vineyards Hula O Maui Sparkling Wine, a pineapple sparkling wine made the champenoise way. Thanks Andrew Stover for bringing this to us. Thanks to Antony for selling it at Cleveland Park liquor store.
  • Good deals in 2011: In an economic recession, we are all looking for deals. The challenge is to find good value for the price. I would like to suggest two little known appellations that I think do offer a good value for the price: Rosso Piceno (DOC) from Italy and Minervois-La liviniere (AOC) from France. Both offer complex, juicy and well-structured red wine that are so lovely during the cold months of the winter. Go to Wine Searcher to find out where they are sold close to you.

Happy New Year and all the best for 2011!

Posted by: wineatlunch | July 28, 2010

Sparkling Rosés!

Sparkling rosés exhibit different types and size of bubbles depending on the fermentation process they went through. There are three methods to create bubbles; natural fermentation in a bottle (Champenoise or traditional method), in a large tanks (Charmat method), or as a result of carbon dioxide injection (we do not want to speak about this one). The classic example of a sparkling rosé is Champagne where rosés are considered the nicest champagnes and are rare and more expensive on average than white champagne. But many other great rosé sparklers are produced in other countries and regions at much more affordable price points.

Champagne is responsible for only about 8% of worldwide sparkling wine production and ros√©s represent just a fraction of that. Many other regions emulating the “Champagne style” in both grapes used (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir¬†and¬†Pinot Meunier) and production methods-sometimes referred to as the “Champenoise method”. Blending is the hallmark of Champagne wine, with most Champagnes being the assembled product of several vineyards and vintages. Ros√© Champagnes are no exception.

Sparkling ros√©s designated Cr√©mant are produced using the traditional method, and have to fulfill strict production criteria. In France, there are seven appellations for sparkling wine (white or ros√©s) which include the designation Cr√©mant in their name, including Cr√©mant d’Alsace and Cr√©mant de Bourgogne. French appellation laws dictate that a Cr√©mant must be¬†harvested¬†by hand with yields not exceeding a set amount for their¬†AOC. The wines must also be aged for a minimum of one year. The¬†Loire Valley¬†is France’s largest producer of ros√© sparkling wines outside of the Champagne region, called Cr√©mant de Loire. ¬†Other fun names in France to describe sparkling wines include Roussette(from Savoie and Bugey) and Clairette (from Die or from Bellegarde), Blanquette(from Limoux) and of course the almost generic Mousseux name (as in Saumur, Tourraine and Anjou)

Cava is the name of a type of Catalan sparkling wine both in white and rose style and is typically made out of.  Austria has great roses made out of the Zweigelt grape.  Other interesting rose sparklers include blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir (and sometime Poulsard) and can be found in the Bugeyarea under the appellation of Cerdon and Bugey.

Sparkling ros√©s produced in the United States can be made in both the m√©thode champenoise and the charmat method. The overall quality of Californian sparklers increased with the introduction of the more traditional Champagne grapes into the production. As the sparkling wine industry in California grew, foreign investments from some of the Champagne region’s most noted Champagne houses¬†came to set up wineries in the area. These include¬†Mo√ęt et Chandon’s Domaine Chandon,¬†Louis Roederer’s Roederer Estate, and Taittinger’s Domaine Carneros. You can also find sparkling ros√©s in place like New Mexico where the French family Gruet emigrated to establish a well respected winery specializing on sparkling wines and propose great value for the price, including on their ros√© sparkler.

Posted by: wineatlunch | July 21, 2010

Sizzle and Sip!

Wine Facts and Trivia: Sizzle and Sip!
Grilling and wine pairing is not difficult due to the simplicity of grilled foods. To choose a wine to pair with something off the grill, consider first, how hearty is the food, and second, what’s the dominant flavor?

For lighter foods-white-fleshed fish, vegetables, chicken breasts-pick a lighter wine. For heartier foods-sausages, burgers, steaks-choose a more robust wine. (Both reds and whites can be light-, medium- or full-bodied – so selection is taste specific.)

Now think about flavor. For steaks and butterflied legs of lamb-even if they’re marinated beforehand-the dominant flavor will almost always be the meat itself. But with foods like chicken slathered in barbecue sauce or shrimp with a fiery garlic-habanero vinaigrette, the sauce or seasoning is by far the main flavor of the dish. The dominant flavor is a key thing to consider when selecting a wine.

Here are some suggestions for wine once you’ve establised the flavor of your grillings: Crisp, fruity varietals such as sauvignon blanc, gruner veltliner, and viognierare refreshing wines with great values. Look for un-oaked chardonnays for a lighter, crisper taste and finish because oak can make a wine heavy, buttery, and creamy.¬† For grilling that calls for a red, try a pinot noir and even serve it slightly chilled to make it more refreshing on a hot day.


Posted by: wineatlunch | July 14, 2010

Carried Away By Carignane!

Carignane¬†is a red¬†wine¬†grape that originated in¬†Cari√Īena, Aragon¬†and was later transplanted to¬†Sardinia, elsewhere in¬†Italy,¬†France,¬†Algeria, and much of the¬†New World.¬†Carignane is a late budding and¬†ripening grape¬†which requires a warm climate in order to achieve full ripeness. The grape is a difficult one for winemakers to work with being naturally high in¬†acidity,¬†tannins¬†and¬†astringency¬†which requires a lot of skill to produce a wine of finesse and elegance.

The popularity of carignane is largely because it produces very large yields in the range of 11 tons/acre. In winemaking the grape is often used as a deep coloring component in blends.

The grape is most widely found in south France, particularly in the Languedoc regions of Aude, Gard and Hérault where it is often made as Vin ordinaire and in some Vin de pays wines. Also, in the Languedoc, the grape is often blended with cinsault, grenache, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, mourvèdre and merlot. In California, the grape is rarely used to make varietal wines, but some examples from old vines do exist. In Australia, carignane is used as a component of blended wines.

This grape is also used in production of rosé wines. The predominant grapes used for rosé wines include:  syrah, grenache, mourvèdre, cinsault, carignane, and pinot noir. Wow! Rose is a complicated wine and definitely deserves a try at your next summer meal!

Posted by: wineatlunch | July 7, 2010

Serious about Cinsault!

Cinsault is a red wine grape. It may be blended with grapes such as grenache and carignane to add softness and bouquet. Cinsault appears to be an ancient variety that may have originated in the Hérault, but could equally have been brought by traders from the eastern Mediterranean. Cinsault is very drought resistant but can be susceptible to disease, so appreciates a dry climate. It produces large cylindrical bunches of black grapes with fairly thick skins.

Cinsault is the fourth most widely-planted grape variety in France, and is especially important in¬†Languedoc-Roussillon. ¬†A lot of cinsault is grown in¬†South Africa¬†under the name hermitage, much of which is blended with¬†cabernet sauvignon. It holds a special place in the country’s viticulture as one of the parents of pinotage. In Italy, it is known as¬†ottavianello. There is one tiny¬†DOC¬†devoted to cinsault –¬†Ostuni Ottavianello, with a total production of less than 1000 cases. Some cinsault is planted in¬†California¬†as black malvoisie. In Australia, cinsault is grown under a variety of names such as black prince, blue imperial, oeillade and ulliade.

All Star!Cinsault is also found in rosés. How many grapes does it take to make rosé wine!? Think about it while sipping some refreshing rosé in the sun this weekend!

Posted by: wineatlunch | July 1, 2010

The Great Grenache!

Grenache (pronounced gren-ash) is one of the most widely planted red wine grape varieties in the world , Grenache is most likely of Spanish origins, with the northern region of Aragon being its likely home. This varietal prefers hot, dry soils that are well drained but it relatively adaptable to all vineyard soil types. It also ripens late, so it needs hot, dry conditions such as those found in Spain, the south of France, and California’s San Joaquin Valley. Grenache is also used to make ros√© wines in France and Spain, notably those of the Tavel district in the C√ītes du Rh√īne.

Grenache is generally spicy, berry-flavored and soft on the palate with a relatively high alcohol content, often north of 15% ABV, ¬†but it needs careful control of yields for best results. It tends to lack acid, tannin and color, and is usually blended with other varieties such as Syrah, Carignan and Cinsaut. The high levels of sugars and lack of harsh tannins, makes Grenache well adapted to the production of fortified wines, such as the vin doux naturels (VDN) of the Roussillon region and the “port-style” wines of Australia.

Grenache’s use in its principal wine regions of Spain and France is changing. In the late 20th century, total acreage of Grenache in Spain has been on the decline with the vineyards being uprooted in lieu of the more fashionable varietals like Tempranillo. In France,¬† as of 2000, Grenache was the third most widely planted red wine grape variety in France, behind Merlot and Carignan. From French nurseries, Grenache has become the fourth most widely propagated vine. Notably, in 2010, 270 Representatives from 22 Countries debate and create a blueprint for the future of the Grenache grape at the world’s first Grenache Symposium held in La Verri√®re, Crestet, Rh√īne Valley, France.

Grenache has a home in other countries as well. ¬†It was one of the first varieties to be introduced to Australia in the 18th century and eventually became the country’s most widely planted red wine grape variety until it was surpassed by Shiraz in the mid 1960s. In Australia it is typically blended in “GSM” blends with Syrah and Mourv√®dre. Grenache is also found in Catalonia, Sardinia, and the United States, although Grenache’s colonization of the New World has been limited apart from strongholds in Australia and California.

Some synonyms for Grenache are: Alicante, Garnatxa Negra, Retagliadu Nieddu, Roussillon, Tinto Menudo, Uva di Spagna.

Posted by: wineatlunch | May 21, 2010

Wines of Greece!

All Star!Greece is one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world. It is home to the second oldest grape wine remnants as well as the earliest evidence of crushed grapes discovered in the world. Dating back 6,500 years, Greek wine was a pioneer in the global wine industry.  In ancient times, Greece exported wine as the sale of wine became more frequent and extensive. Greek wines were esteemed in Italy under the Roman Empire and continued to garner high prices for trade throughout Northern Europe. The Greek god of wine is Dionysus and worship of him spread with the Greek civilization. Some of the vines introduced by the Ancient Greeks include Vitis vinifera, which thrives in temperate climates near coastal areas with mild winters and dry summers. This vine helped produce some of the most reputable wines of ancient Greece, including Chian, Coan, and Mendaean.

The Greek climate is ideal for the production of high quality wines. The climate is moderate, with plentiful sunshine, low average rainfall, and soils of moderate fertility. This allows forthe growth of more than 300 indigenous grapes, which makes Greek wine so unique. The red varietals include: Agiorghitiko, Xinomavro, Mandelaria, and Mavrodaphne; and the white varietals include: Assyrtiko, Aidani, Moschofilero, Savatiano, and Tsaoussi. All Star!Wine making regions are located in Macedonia, Epirus, Thessalia, Sterea Ellada, Peloponnese, Aegean Islands, and Ionian Islands.

The Greek wine market is growing by the day. Thanks to investments in modern wine making technology, Greek wines are receiving the highest awards in international competitions with much deserved world-wide recognition and attention. In order to assure consumers of the origins of their wine purchases, a system of appellations was implemented. Wines are categorized as Appellations of Origin of Superior Quality or Controlled Appellations of Origin. Some of the most notable Greek wines are: Attikos Topikos, Ktima Hatzimihali, and Kouros.

Growing vines at the foot of the Andes, Chile has a unique climate perfect for grapes to thrive. Spanning over an 800 mile stretch along the Andes, the wine growing regions of¬†All Star!Chile range from hot and dry in the north to damp and cool in the south. Being so narrow, Chile has a climate influenced by the ocean and breezes from the mountains. Grapes thrive from the air currents that cause hot days and cool nights. Additionally, Chile irrigates its vineyards using runoff from the mountains as the main source of water. Chile’s wine growing regions are categorized into 5 main regions including Atacama, Coquimbo, Aconcagua, Valle Central, and Southern Chile. Valle Central is located across from Argentina’s main region for vineyards, Mendoza and Valle Central produces the most wine that is exported abroad.

As the most widely planted wine producing nation, Spain is home to over 2.9 million acres of vines. Spain has over 600 varietals ofAll Star!grapes with many of them being native to the country. Tempranillo, garnacha, Albari√Īo, macabeo, monastrell, and xarel-lo are some of the most commonly planted varietals. With a winemaking history dating back thousands of years, Spain prides itself on producing quality wines. Its microclimates and regions allow winemakers to produce both world class high end wines as well as everyday value wines.

Historically, Argentine winemakers were traditionally more interested in quantity than quality with the country consuming 90% of the wine it produced. Until the early 1990s, ArgentinaAll Star!produced more wine than any other country outside Europe, though the majority of it was considered un-exportable.However, the desire to increase exports fueled significant advances in quality. Argentine wines started being exported during the 1990s, and are currently growing in popularity, making it now the second biggest wine exporter in Latin America behind Chile. The devaluation of the Argentine peso in 2002, following the economic collapse, further fueled the industry as production costs decreased and tourism significantly increased, giving way to a whole new concept of wine tourism in Argentina. The past years have seen the birth of numerous tourist-friendly wineries with free tours and tastings. The Mendoza Province is now one of Argentina’s top tourist destinations and the one whose economy has grown the most in the past years.

Uruguay is South America’s 4th biggest wine producer after Argentina, Chile and Brazil. There are around 9,000 hectares of vineyards, with the largest concentration in the regions of Montevideo, San Jos√© and Canelones, within about an hour from the capital. There are other vineyard areas to the west, near theAll Star!town of Colonia del Sacramento, and more scattered around the country. The vineyards are generally like much of the country, on flat land or very gently rolling hills. The climate is maritime-influenced, with ocean breezes, generally warm, or even hot in summer, but rarely experiencing extremes. The biggest hazard is disease brought on by weather-inducing humidity or rainfall at the wrong time, close to or during harvest. Vintages vary quite widely. Soils tend to be quite rich and fertile so vigor can be a problem. Over the past 20 years, considerable advances have been made in vineyard management, especially changing the vine training systems to cope with the vigor/disease issues.

Posted by: wineatlunch | May 5, 2010

Chile- great values, great wines!

All Star!With a history of winemaking dating back to the 16th century, Chile has some of the best value wines you can find in stores today. Originally started by Spanish conquistadors and missionaries, viticulture in Chile was practiced to produce wines to be used in religious ceremonies. Much of the wine produced over the centuries was meant to be consumed in Chile. It wasn’t until the late 20th century that winemaking shifted its focus to quality over quantity and to making wines that would do well in the world market.

Growing vines at the foot of the Andes, Chile has a unique¬†All Star!climate perfect for grapes to thrive. Spanning over an 800 mile stretch along the Andes, the wine growing regions of Chile range from hot and dry in the north to damp and cool in the south. Being so narrow, Chile has a climate influenced by the ocean and breezes from the mountains. Grapes thrive from the air currents that cause hot days and cool nights. Additionally, Chile irrigates its vineyards using runoff from the mountains as the main source of water. Chile’s wine growing regions are categorized into 5 main regions including Atacama, Coquimbo, Aconcagua, Valle Central, and Southern Chile. Valle Central is located across from Argentina’s main region for vineyards, Mendoza and Valle Central produces the most wine that is exported abroad.

While winemakers have traditionally focused on single varietal wines, recent years have seen a rise in winemakers experimenting with blends. These are fast becoming the stars of Chile’s exported wines as the winemakers learn and perfect their techniques. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Carmenere are some of the most widely planted grapes. Carmenere, has become Chile’s standout grape in recent years as it thrives at the foothills of the Andes.

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