Monday, December 19, 2016

2016: Favorite Wine-Related Items

What were some of my favorite wine related items of the past year?

Let me continue the lists of my best recommendations and favorites of 2016. I have already posted my Top Ten Wines Under $15Top 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 Top Ten Wines: In my three prior Top Ten Wine lists, I mentioned a total of 42 wines, which included wines from 10 different countries. At the top was Spain, with 10 wines (which was in second place last year). Portugal and Italy (which was in first place last year) are tied for second place, with 7 wines. Nearly 60% of my top wines came from just these three countries. Greece and France are tied for third place with with 4 wines. The U.S. has 3 wines, 2 from California and 1 from New York. Georgia and Cyprus each had 2 wines on the lists while Argentina and Slovenia each has 1 wine. As for wine types, the list is also broken down into 5 Sparkling, 12 Whites, 4 Rosé, 13 Reds, 7 Fortified and 1 Dessert Wine. Thirteen of the wines were first tasted at the Boston Wine Expo, where I often find a significant number of intriguing wines.

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 (which recently completed a major expansion). 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
Wine-Sense in Andover
Wine Bottega in Boston's North End
Central Bottle Wine & Provisions in Cambridge
Wine Press in Brookline
Beacon Hill Wine & Gourmet in Melrose (where I also work part-time)

Favorite Wine Lunch/Dinner: Champagne pairs well with food, but some Champagnes do it better than others. The Champagnes of Besserat de Bellefon are specifically produced to accompany food and lunch at L'Espalier helped to show its excellence with food pairings. The lunch tasting was educational and delicious, fun and informative. Two of the Champagnes also ended up on my Top Ten Wine lists. The secret of its versatility with food is its smaller bubbles, which makes the Champagne taste creamier, more unctuous, and lighter.

Runner-Up Favorite Wine Lunch/Dinners: This category was a tie, between an Italian wine dinner and a Cypriot wine dinner. The Piedmontese Wine Dinner at Osteria Nino presented several killer wines, three which ended up on my Top Ten Wine lists, accompanied by dishes from Gnocchi al Castelmagno e Noci to Bollito di Manzo. A Cypriot Wine Dinner at Committee offered several compelling wines, two which ended up on my Top Ten Wine lists, wines which you rarely see at other restaurants. The tasty cuisine was Cypriot as well, from Eliopites to Koupes. Both wine dinners helped to show how regional wines and cuisines pair well with each other.

Favorite High-End Wine Lunch/Dinner: Argentina would be hard pressed to find a better advocate for their wines than Laura Catena. At a special lunch at Bistro du Midi, Laura Catena shared with us some of the top wines from Bodega Catena Zapata, wines from the famed Adrianna Vineyard. From the White Bones and White Stones Chardonnays to three incredible Malbecs, we learned about this vineyard and its various expressions. The lunch was informative and inspirational, and the wines were stunning. And the food, from Lamb Carpaccio to Flat Iron Steak Frites, was delicious, pairing well with the two Malbecs at the table. One of the Chardonnays from this lunch also ended up on one of my Top Ten Wine lists.

Favorite Regional Wine Tasting: This category was also a tie, between Franciacorta, an Italian Sparkling Wine, and Georgian wines (the country, not the state). At the Wine BottegaJeremy Parzen was Spreading Love For Franciacorta, showcasing 11 wines and helping to give attention to this compelling bubbly. Jeremy is an excellent ambassador for these wines and it made sure the tasting was educational and fun. At Puritan & Co., there was a significant tasting of Georgian wines, which led to my post, Drink More Georgian Wine! Georgian wines can be delicious and intriguing, and it was fascinating to explore more of their wines. And both of these tastings had wines that ended up on my Top Ten Wine lists this year.

Favorite Large-Scale Tasting: This year, this award goes to the Boston Wine Expo, a huge consumer wine event. Thirteen 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. Check here for tickets for the 2017 Boston Wine Expo,

Favorite Private Wine Tasting: My good friend Adam, of Wine Zag, hosts a monthly blind tasting event which is always fun and interesting. There haven't been many tastings this past year due to a number of circumstances but it remains my favorite private event. A group of 15-18 people are assembled, and we taste through about twelve wines, usually with some type of theme. From Champagne to Southern Italian reds, the themes range wide and the wines themselves range in price and style. The attendees include wine newcomers and more knowledgeable tasters, but there is a lack of pretension and the casual atmosphere is one of fun and discovery. This is the fifth year in a row this tasting has garnered this honor. The house has changed, allowing a more intimate event.

Favorite Wine Travel Event: This past June, I attended TasteCamp Vermont, exploring the food and drink or Vermont. TasteCamp is always one of my favorite events as a small group of wine writers get together to explore a wine region, though the event has expanded to include additional alcoholic beverages as well. Vermont is a compelling destination, with delicious and interesting drinks from Hard Cider to Maple Syrup Beverages. There are a number of excellent Distilleries, producing wonders such as Barrel-Aged Gin. And I actually have more to write about this experience so look forward to more info about the delights of Vermont.

Favorite Wine Rant: Is wine simply a luxury, relatively unimportant? In one of my rants, I tried to answer the question, Wine Is Just Fermented Grape Juice? In one respect, it is just fermented grape juice, but there are other levels involved as well. Wine can be important, a key to bringing people together, creating friendships, and prolonging those friendships. Take a look at my Rant and think about its contents. Maybe you will see wine through a different lens.

What were some of your favorite wine-related items this year?

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