Let me continue the lists of my best recommendations and favorites of 2015. I have already posted my Top Ten Wines Under $15, Top Ten Wines Over $15 and Top Wines Over $50 lists. This post will now concentrate on some of my Favorite Wine-Related Items, which are not specific wine recommendations. This is certainly not a complete list but it is more a sampling of compelling and memorable matters I have experienced and posted about over the past year.
This is also a purely subjective list, based on my own preferences, and makes no claims about being the "best" of anything. But all of the items here have earned my strong recommendations and I hope you will enjoy them as well. For more wine related items, you can just search my blog posts for the past year.
Analysis Of My Favorite Wines: In my three prior Top Wine lists, I mentioned a total of 38 wines, which included wines from 10 different countries. At the top was Italy, with 11 wines. In second place was Spain with 6 wines and third place went to France with 5 wines (three of them from Alsace). About 60% of my picks came from just these three countries. Uruguay made a strong showing with 4 wines, and California had 3 wines on the lists. South Africa, Brazil, Uruguay and Bulgaria each had 2 wines on the list while Greece had a single spot. As for wine types, the list is also broken down into 15 Reds, 9 Sparkling, 7 Whites, 6 Fortified and 1 Rosé.
Favorite Discount Wine Stores: Consumers always want bargains, excellent value wines which won't stretch their wallets. You can buy the cheap, mass-produced commercial wines which can be found in almost any wine store or instead, you can seek out excellent, value wines which put to shame those cheap wines. Certain discount wine stores provide not only excellent prices but also an interesting selection and good service. I want to highlight three such stores which continue to do an especially good job, places where I go to seek bargains: Bin Ends in Braintree & Needham, Wine Connextion in North Andover, and Rapid Liquors in Stoneham. Shop at any of those stores and you won't be disappointed.
Favorite Wine Stores: This is a small list of wine stores which consistently impress me with their selection and service. Each shop is worthy of your patronage and wine lovers should make the effort to visit these places if you have not done so yet.
Lower Falls Wine Company in Newton Lower Falls
Winestone in Chestnut Hill
Wine-Sense in Andover
Wine Bottega in Boston's North End
Central Bottle Wine & Provisions in Cambridge
Beacon Hill Wine & Gourmet in Melrose (where I also work part-time)
Favorite Wine Book: It is one of the most ignored wines, seen more as a cocktail ingredients rather than a compelling wine on its own. A compelling new book, Vermouth: The Revival of the Spirit that Created America's Cocktail Culture by Adam Ford, provides a fascinating look into this fortified wine, giving you plenty of reasons to explore Vermouth. You'll find a history of Vermouth, an exploration of some American producers, and plenty of Vermouth-based cocktails. You'll realize the complexity and diversity of Vermouth and see why it is a special wine worthy of your attention.
Favorite Wine Dinner: It is extraordinary that for the third year in a row, an Alsatian wine dinner took the honors in for this category. Dining with Dominique Schoenheitz and her son Adrien, of the Schoenheitz Winery, at Bergamot was educational, fun and delicious. As usual, the fine wines of Alsace impressed, showing diversity, complexity and value. In addition, three wines from this dinner were mentioned in my Top Ten Wine lists. The food, from the Salmon Head, to the Popcorn Ice Cream, was creative and tasty, exactly what I expect from a great restaurant like Bergamot. And our conversation was stimulating, covering a diversity of topics including wine, Alsace, vinegar flies, sexism, taxes and more.
Runner-Up Favorite Wine Dinners: This category was a tie, with wine events at restaurants which are very close to each other in Inman Square, Cambridge. First, there was a Natural Wine Dinner at Puritan & Co. The good folks at Mise Wines presented five intriguing natural wines which paired well with the excellent cuisine, from Black Bass to Crispy Duck. One of the wines from this dinner ended up on one of my Top Ten Wine lists. Second, there was a Greek wine dinner, with the Parparoussis Winery, at BISq. Once again there were five wines which were paired with a Greek inspired dinner, including a stellar Roast Leg of Lamb. One of the wines from this dinner also ended up on one of my Top Ten Wine lists.
Favorite High-End Wine Dinner: As I've mentioned before, pairing Sparkling Wine with every course of dinner works very well, It should be more than a mere apertif or celebratory drink. At Sorellina, I had the pleasure to meet Marcello Lunelli of Ferrari Trento and he shared some special Italian Sparkling Wine, including three vintages of their Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore. The 1993 Vintage (about $400) was amazing, one of the best Sparkling Wines I've ever tasted. Marcello was a fine dining & drinking companion, enhancing the experience of the evening. This is serious Bubbly and you really need to seek out these Sparkling Wines.
Favorite Regional Wine Tasting: On two occasions, I was able to delve into the wines of the Montefalco region of Umbria, Italy. You can read about those explorations in Umbria, Montefalco & Sagrantino: Wine Rising From The Shadows and Montefalco Rosso & Sagrantino: Winter Wines. The history of this region fascinated me and the wines were compelling and delicious, with several of the wines ending up on my Top Ten wine lists. These wines don't get enough recognition, often being overshadowed by better known Italian wine regions. The tastings opened my eyes and I hope that many other wine lovers discover the wonders of Montefalco.
Favorite Twitter Wine Tasting: At a Twitter wine tasting, people from all over the world drink the same wines and then discuss them at the same time on Twitter. I have been participating in these tastings for years, and they can be lots of fun. This year, I participated in two fun Twitter tastings of Franciacorta, a Sparkling Wine from Italy, and you can read my reviews in Franciacorta: Serious Bubbly You Should Be Drinking. Two of those wines ended up on my Top Ten wine lists. Franciacorta may not be on your radar but it should, offering excellent taste at a very good value.
Favorite Large-Scale Tasting: This year, this award goes to the Boston Wine Expo, a huge consumer wine event. Several wines from this event ended up on my Top Ten Wine lists. It has its issues, primarily due to the large crowds that attend, but there are ways to maximize your wine exploration and enjoyment, from attending the Seminars to focusing your tasting on certain regions and/or wine styles. Early next month, I'll be posting my suggestions and advice for attending the Expo, which should help to improve your experience.
What were some of your favorite wine-related items this year?