Are you an Oenophile?

Gosh, I have a love affair with wine.  What is it about wine?  Just one or two fabulous glasses of wine with a nice meal is pure joy  for me.  I’m really excited about Zinfandel lately and about Willamette Valley Pinot Noir – always.    However, while I am a wine lover, I am surely  not a connoisseur – so I’m not sure that I qualify as an oenophile.     I’m learning about wines as I go, and wanted to share  that the Wall Street Journal online has a wonderful section on wines:  how to buy, what to look for, on and on.  Here’s one of their latest pieces that I think is helpful, but I disagree with them on Chardonnay – I like it oakey!

The Answer to ‘What Can We Bring?’

If you’re going to a dinner party, you’ll please your hosts with any of the choices here


The holiday season is beginning in earnest—seeing all of those little ghosts, vampires and Miley Cyruses certainly tips us off—and that means it’s time for that annual angst-filled question: What wine do I take to a friend’s house for dinner?

The worst answer to that question is “Whatever the wine salesman throws at me when I run into the store on the way to dinner.” If someone has been kind enough to invite you to dinner and asked you to bring a bottle of wine, you should reciprocate by putting some effort into this. So here are some excellent wines that also happen to be trendy at the moment. They will show thought and care—and that you are on top of the latest trends in wine. Yes, you could show up with a bottle of Merlot or a wine with a critter label and a cute tale about the animal, but you could also bring an eight-track tape of the Turtles’ greatest hits so you could groove to the beat. 

Prosecco from Italy. Usually we’d avoid bubblies because your host is likely expecting a dry, still red or white. But Prosecco isn’t really a bubbly—it’s a lovely, easy, soft wine that happens to sparkle. Your host might want to open it for the appetizers, but it’s a very nice white wine to have with dinner, too. It’s also one of the most popular wines around at the moment. They are generally reliable and your host shouldn’t feel he or she has to break out the flutes; we serve these in all-purpose glasses. Mionetto is one big producer and its various Proseccos are winners. Another favorite is Bartenura, which is kosher. Some good Proseccos cost less than $10 and you’re unlikely to spend more than $20.

  Anything biodynamic, organic or sustainable. Obviously, all of these things are hot at the moment and there are more wines on the shelves every day that reflect this. You will more likely see “made with organically grown grapes” than actually “organic,” which means the wine was made with no added sulfites. Sulfites are used as a preservative. If you see an organic wine, make sure it is from a recent vintage and that you buy it from a store that cares for its wines well because organic wines often don’t have a great shelf life. No wine will seem trendy if it doesn’t taste good.

Malbec from Argentina. This spicy red continues to be the great success story of the past couple of years. Everybody seems to love it, so it’s pretty much a can’t-miss offering. You should be able to find some very good ones for around $15, but there’s certainly no reason to spend more than $25. Altos Las Hormigas is one of many good producers.

 “Naked” or unoaked Chardonnay from anywhere. Personally, we don’t think oak is the villain in the world-wide epidemic of bad Chardonnay; we think greedy, lazy winemakers and bad fruit are to blame. Nevertheless, all the trendiest people these days are proudly talking about how they drink “naked” or unoaked Chardonnay and the ones we have tried are perfectly fine. One standout is Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay from New Zealand (2008, about $17). Get these as young as possible because they are generally made for early consumption.

Oregon Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir isn’t quite as cool as it was in the immediate aftermath of “Sideways,” but it’s still trendy and the epicenter of its trendiness has moved north, to Oregon. It’s hard to go wrong with just about any Oregon Pinot Noir these days. Some can be quite pricey, but many excellent examples are $15 to $25. They also pair with just about anything your host is making for dinner.

2005 red Bordeaux from France. It wouldn’t seem that Bordeaux could ever be trendy, but a lot of people these days know that 2005 was a fine year in Bordeaux and that the wines aren’t selling briskly so there are great bargains. Value is trendy. If you want to spend big bucks and blow away your friends, go with midrange 2005 Bordeaux, such as Château Gloria or Gruaud Larose (probably around $45 to $60). But the miracle of 2005 Bordeaux is that you can pick up any bottle, even for around $10 or $15, from a reputable merchant and impress your friends.

Grüner Veltliner from Austria. This peppery white is super trendy—hot, hot, hot. It also goes well with a wide variety of food. There are plenty of fine examples for less than $20. And when you tell them you brought GROO-ner felt-LEE-ner, they are sure to be impressed.

2009 Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Chile or South Africa. Thanks to the emergence of Southern Hemisphere wines, we can all drink the current year’s vintage long before Beaujolais Nouveau is released. Bringing a wine from the “new year” is a very special way to celebrate the holidays and a new vintage—and these wines are generally both affordable and mouth-poppingly delicious. Beware: Many of these will have a screw cap. If you think your friends will think you are cheap for bringing a twist-off wine, do something else. But we think most people these days know that screw caps on good wine are, themselves, quite trendy.

Torrontés from Argentina. This is one of the most charming whites around, with a nose of orange blossoms, a taste of tropical fruits and a nice undertone of minerals. In fact, if you take a bottle of this, be sure to take two, and you can afford to do that because these will probably cost less than $15. Get the brand-new 2009 if you can. That will give you double points (see above).

Remember a couple of things. If you bring a white, chill it in your refrigerator before heading out. When you hand the wine to your host, it’s nice to say one sentence about the wine that shows care, such as “This is from the brand-new 2009 vintage.” Then shut up about it. You’ll know how much everyone appreciates the wine by how quickly it disappears.

Write to Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher at

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Date: Wednesday, 18. November 2009 14:57
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