MWS Decants


90 Seconds to a Sweeter You

Wine and Chocolate Pairings

90 Seconds to a Sweeter You

In the next 90 seconds you will learn all you need to know aboutChoc  Wine wine and chocolate pairings. After seven years of, ehem, "practice", I have condensed (the sweetened milk kind, of course) all of that experience into 3 simple rules. This is it... ready?

Rule #1: To play it safe with any food and wine pairing, you should always choose a wine that is at least as sweet as your food, which in this case, is chocolate.

So choose sweet wines, preferably red, like port and other desert wines.

Rule #2: Feel free to break Rule #1 and choose a dry red wine, but it MUST satisfy the following three requirements...

1) Very fruity, even "jammy"

2) Low Tannin

3) Velvety, Soft, Plush Texture

Purchasing Tip: Look for wines that retail for $12-24 to ensure it has enough flavor to stand up to all that sugar and flavor in the chocolate, but not too much tannin found in some higher end wines.

Try Australian Shiraz, California Zinfandel, Chilean Carmenere, and Spanish Garnacha.

Rule #3: When all else fails (i.e. Rule #1 and Rule #2), drink any wine you can find. After all, its just sugar and alcohol.

I can all but guarantee you will be happier with a less-than-perfect wine than no wine.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Categories: MWS Decants


Millions of Disco Balls in My Wine

What's in YOUR Sparkling Wine?

We had much to celebrate at my Sparkling Wine Tasting Class on PLATEBavette 33aDecember 17. The holidays, babies, my return to teaching wine classes, and my first class at my sister's new restaurant, Bavette in Milwaukee's Third Ward.

We often associate bubbly wine with celebration, but why? Perhaps it has something to do with a small region in the north of France called Champagne. That's right, Champagne is a region and a sparkling wine. This region is not only home to the King of all sparkling wines, but also to several French King's first moments on the throne, as Champagne was the coronation site of French kings for over 1,000 years. Hmmm, I wonder what they were drinking at those lavish soirees?

Or perhaps we connotate celebration with sparkling wine because of all those bubbles, 50 million per bottle, to be exact. Those glittery, vivacious bubbles remind me of tiny little disco balls. On Tuesday, we consumed around 800 million of those miniature "disco balls". Now, that's a "good time" in a bottle!

So, how do those little "disco balls" get into a bottle of wine?Champagne

First, we must digress to the fundamental premise of winemaking; live yeast consumes grape sugar, yielding alcohol... and carbon dioxide. All eight wines at my class had begun their vinous life as still wines, void of bubbles, because the first, or primary, fermentation had occurred in an open container. All carbon dioxide dissipated into the air.

The wines then underwent a secondary fermentation. More sugar and yeast were added to the still base wines, but this time the fermentation occurred in a closed vessel. The carbon dioxide had nowhere to go but back into the wines, and, voila, the wines now "sparkled" with bubbles.

I used the first two wines of the night, a Cava from Spain and a Prosecco from Italy, to demonstrate the two major ways wines are made sparkling.

Cava uses the same method used in Champagne, known as the TRADITIONAL METHOD around the world. In this process, the secondary fermentation happens in the bottle that is sold to you. A small amount of yeast and sugar is added to each bottle of still wine. That means there are literally thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, little "fermentation tanks" in every sparkling wine house using the TRADITIONAL METHOD.

Prosecco, on the other hand is the poster child for the TANK METHOD, whereby the secondary fermentation happens in a large tank. After sugar and yeast are added to the still base wine, the tank is sealed and bubbles are created in larger volumes. The wine is then bottled under pressure to maintain its effervescence.

As you may suspect, the TRADITIONAL METHOD requires more care, space and money than the TANK METHOD. As such, traditional method sparkling wines are usually higher quality and more expensive than tank method wines... and yet, the wine world is full of enigmas.  Cavas available in the US and Proseccos are usually of comparable quality.

The Cava and Prosecco we tried were both about $20 and of similar quality. What's more, about half the class preferred the lesser expensive, more fruit-forward Cavas and Proseccos to the toastier, more minerally... and much more expensive Champagnes. Which style and/or price point do you think you would have preferred? Join us for our next tasting or check out our list of wines below and let us know your thoughts on our facebook page or twitter.

Txacoli photoIf you like Cava, come on our Spanish wine tour in October 2014, where we will drinking A LOT of Cava and other fabulous Spanish wines.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Below are a few of the favorites from our tasting. Wines available at Bavette La Boucherie. Limited supplies. Please call ahead to ensure availability.(414)273-3375

Les Mestres Reserva 1312 Cava, Spain $19
Fantinel Sparkling Rose, Italy $18
Bertrand Ambroise Cremant, Burgundy $28
Pierre Peters Blanc de Blancs, Champagne $59
Gonet Medeville Blanc de Noirs, Champagne $56
Vilmart Grande Cellier, Champagne $75


Categories: MWS Decants


Racheal Ray, Bourdain... and Me for Thanksgiving!

Which wine would you bring to Julia Child's Thanksgiving Soiree?

thanksgiving dinnerLooking for the perfect Thanksgiving wine? Not an easy task given the wide range of flavors from salty and savory to sweet and sour – and all on the same plate! If you want a real challenge this year, try pairing your wine not only to the food, but also to this year's Thanksgiving host.

Below I have analyzed some of the world's (and Wisconsin's) most iconic culinary legends, and have selected wines based on their cuisine... and personality!

Rachel Ray – Traditional, Simple, and Fun
This "Bubbly" "All-American" "Chef Next Door" keeps it simple, from food prep and price to presentation. A value-driven crowd-pleasing American sparkling wine would set the mood for a fun and informal holiday. Gruet's Blanc de Noirs from New Mexico (~$15), made from Pinot Noir, has the weight and berry flavors to complement any Thanksgiving. An upgrade to Roederer Estate Sparkling Wine from California (~$25) may even elicit a "Yum-O!" or "Delish!" from the exuberant host. "How good is that!?!" Try more sparkling wines this December at MWS's class, Bubbles, Bubbles, Bubbles.

Julia Child – Traditional, Rich, and Classic
Julia and I would have gotten along fabulously. She once said, "I would happily die with a bottle of white burgundy in my mouth." Me too! JM Boillot Bourgogne Blanc (~$35) and its crisp autumn apple flavors with a touch of vanilla and butter would have complemented Child's butter-and-cream-laden Thanksgiving soiree. In spite of her devotion to French culinary technique, tradition, and wine, Child was no wine snob. A red French Chinon made from Cabernet Franc, like J Mellot's Les Morinieres (~$17), would have shined bright with intense black cherry fruit, herbal notes and crushed granite, offering elegance without pretension. Both wines are available at Bavette Le Boucherie for your Thanksgiving feast.

Tory Miller – Traditional with a Local Flair
Tory Miller, chef/owner of L'Etoile and Graze in Madison, Wisconsin, took home James Beard's award for Best Chef-Midwest in 2012. Our very own food hero is a strong advocate of sourcing local, including wines and beer. Wisconsin's Wollersheim Prairie Fume (~$10) or King Fisher White Whisper (~$16) both have snappy acid with a touch of residual sugar, making them the perfect foil for everything from cranberries and sweet potatoes to stuffing and turkey.

Juan Mari Arzak – Traditional and yet Modern
As long as I am fantasizing about my attendance at the intimate holiday gatherings of A-list celebrities and deceased culinary icons, I may as well imagine the Thanksgiving feast of a TelmoVinesman who probably doesn't celebrate this holiday. World-renowned Spanish chef, Arzak roots his artistic creations in the traditional and then updates them with a modern twist. Although your friends and family may not be serving mashed potato foam, they may, say, experiment with turkey breast butterflied and then grilled over hot coals, served with pancetta, sourdough and apple stuffing. A modern-style wine from the traditional Spanish region of Rioja, like Baigorri Reserva (~$40) with its dark fruit, sweet baking spices and velvety texture, would pair wonderfully with an Arzak-inspired spread. If you can't find this wine locally, come and visit the winery with me in 2014.

Anthony Bourdain – Non-traditional, Irreverent and International
Mr. Bourdain travels the world seeking extraordinary edible stories. I imagine this maverick isn't likely to be stateside for Thanksgiving, but even if he were, I wonder if he would opt for African, Korean or some other international cuisine in place of the traditional Yankee fare. Not knowing what Mr. Bourdain may elect, I would suggest a Georgian wine due to the diversity of wine styles available within its borders, from sweet fruity reds to dry earthy reds, or light fruity modern whites to tannic orange qvevri wines. Regardless, Bourdain would appreciate the back story – Georgia was the first country to make wine. Read more about my work with the world's "inventor of wine."

Happy Thanksgiving!


Categories: MWS Decants


New Wine Ideas for Your Summer Table

"Patio Pounders"

I spend nine months of the year waiting for warm breezy nights, and dining on the deck. To make every night count, I have amassed an arsenal of recommendations for the quintessential “patio pounder”.

These aren’t your ho-hum sauvignon blancs or chardonnays you pop open the rest of the year. These wines have vibrancy, character and best of all, a palatable price tag so you can crack open one or five, depending on your company, every night of the summer, and not break the bank.

I am optimistic there will be one or two suggestions included which may be new to you, while others may already be well stocked in your fridge. In any event, here’s the shortlist…

Fill Your Tank with “Gascogne”

Whites from Southwest France, particularly from Gascogne, are some of the best thirst quenching deals around. Dry, crisp and priced right from $8-12, theses wines often come from uncommon grape varietals such as Colombard and Folle Blanche or more consumer friendly names like Sauvignon Blanc.

Recommended/Well-Distributed Producer: Tariquet

Be Keen to Choose Green

Vinho Verde from Portugal literally means “green wine”, but the only thing green about this wine is its age… Best drank young, these wines even have an intentional (and mandatory) spritz of CO2 at the end of production to give it a most refreshing prickle on the tongue. Its effect is like well-placed Botox for wine - you swear its refreshing nature is different from other young wines out there, but you just can’t put your finger on what’s different. Even better for summer, alcohol is relatively low at 10-11% and they don’t cost much. So “pound” away!

Recommended/Well-Distributed Producer: Broadbent

POP Open a Bottle Tonight

If you’re in the mood for more than a tickle of the tongue (see above), check out “cremant”, which is French for “affordable champagne” in my book. Cremant uses the same process, sometimes even the same grapes, as Champagne, but with slightly less stringent rules for production, resulting in a champagne look-alike at a Canal-Street-quality knock-off price tag.

Recommended/Well-Distributed Producer: Jaillance or Lucien Albrecht

The Black… er, Red Sheep

If bubbles are your thing, but you prefer to seek out new experiences, see if you can find some dry… red… sparkling… Lambrusco… I know, I know… does it exist? Yes it does, but due to a lack of demand for the dry sort (due to the once and still popular sweet version) it can be difficult to find. But hey, since you enjoy being the odd man out, the search will be well worth the effort. Trust me, a dry, red Lambrusco paired with a charcuterie plate or steak tartar is absolutely BAAH-tiful!

Recommended Producer: Here are some suggestions from the New York Times

Take Time to Sip the Roses

Hopefully by now, you have been exposed to the other side of Rose… the dry side. Not all pink wine is sweet and the leader in dry wine is Southern France, particularly from Rhone, Provence and Languedoc. Dry roses from the Mediterranean are a staple in my household… the top of my grocery list regularly reads as such: milk, bread, eggs, rose wine.

Recommended/Well-Distributed Producer: Bieler

Oh, I could go on, but I won’t … Or maybe just a little. Here are a couple more quick tips… If red is your thing, try a lighter style Beaujolais Cru like Fleurie or Chirobles with a slight chill, or French Chinon made from Cabernet Franc, or if you are more of domestic drinker, I challenges you to find a Cabernet Franc from New York State… oh, and don't forget Italian whites like Greco di Tufo or Fiano…

Hope these tip helps improve your summer sipping!

Hit me up with more questions and suggestions below in the comments suggestions. Would love to know what you are drinking these days!

Categories: MWS Decants


Romancing the Wine

Wine and Chocolate Pairings for Valentine's Day

The end of January brings with it a deep sigh of relief. It takes me the whole month of January to get back to my pre-holiday routine, pre-holiday stress levels and, if I am lucky, pre-holiday weight... just in time for Valentines Day!

Clearly, Valentines Day is nowhere near as chaotic, stressful or calorie-ridden as the holidays, but the all too recent memories of the holiday season trigger an automated, and yet unfounded, response of panic.

Well, panic no more! Here are some Valentine gift ideas for your honey, which spark smiles, laughs and, perhaps even some euphoric highs... of course, it doesn't hurt that these gifts include alcohol and loads of sugar.

Wine and chocolate is the perfect gift that you and your loved ones can share together. After all, the basis of any lasting relationship is shared experiences. Let me rephrase that... shared happy experiences, which these pairings, all but guarantee. Below are three suggested pairings based on your objectives for this season of love: Red Hot Romance, Sweet Romance or I WANT You!

Red Hot Romance
Most people believe that dry red wine and chocolate pair well together. This is like saying Super Man and Lex Luther are best buds. Chocolate is chock full of sugar. Dry red has little to no sugar. This imbalance will make your wine taste like a garlic-and-fish-laden kiss. Ok, maybe not that bad, but the wine will lose its flavor and taste bitter and/or tart.

That said, I do agree there is something very sensual about a dry red wine and chocolate. It's up there with oysters, strawberries and champagne (another horrible "classic" pairing)... They all make you want to snarl your lip and growl like a tiger. So in honor of your inner cat, I have found the perfect chocolate to pair with dry red wines like Merlot, Syrah or Zinfandel (steer clear of Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir – too much acid and/or tannin!). Any chocolate with chipotle spices, such as the one at Atomic Chocolates (address below) will set your palates, and perhaps passions, on fire. Your wine will still lose some flavor, but the heat in the chocolate's spice will be ignited by the wine's alcohol. Hopefully, the fire on your palates will migrate north to your eyes... and then the rest is up to you!

Sweet Romance
Perhaps you prefer lace to leather? This pairing is for you. Atomic Chocolates also makes a chocolate called Rose & Honey – it doesn't get any sweeter than that! If you can't find this unique chocolate, try looking for chocolates with red fruits like cherry and raspberry, or citrus fruits, like orange or lemon, or even floral essence, like lavender or rose. Pair this chocolate with a semi-sweet Moscato. For under $20 you will have a very suggestive "message in a bottle".  The floral and citrus notes of a Moscato pair well with the chocolate's fruity and floral notes, and the perception of the wine's sweetness actually lessens when paired with this chocolate. Magic? Nah, just a match made in heaven!

Perhaps the other two pairings are too subtle for you? In all fairness, this last pairing has been known to create near orgasmic reactions. Please use this pairing with discretion - The last thing you want is to be shown up by a chocolate. Atomic Chocolates offers some of the best sea salt caramel chocolates around, which when paired with a decadent port wine, yield the definition of "pleasure". You can either look for a simple ruby port from Portugal or a lesser expensive port from Australia. The increased levels of sugar and alcohol in the wine, matched with the combination of sea salt, caramel and chocolate will make your lover's hair stand on the back of his/her neck and see stars... My work is done here. The rest, my friend, is up to you!

Happy Valentines Day!

Watch here to see Jessica talk about Valentine's day wine and chocolate pairings and make specific wine recommendations on TMJ4's The Morning Blend with Molly Fay and Tiffany Ogle.

Chocolates Suggestions
Atomic Chocolates
(It is found in the gas station, in Times Square Pizzeria... yes, you read correctly. Trust me, you will not be disappointed!)
605 S 1st St
Milwaukee, WI 53204

Wine Suggestions
If you can't find the wines recommended in the video, ask your local retailer to help you find these types of wine, priced between $12-$18.
California Zinfandel
Washington Syrah
Chilean Merlot
Italian Moscato
Portuguese Port
Australian Port

Categories: MWS Decants

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