Produced by America's most trusted and popular publication on the pleasures of the table, "Food & Wine" magazine's "Wine Guide" remains the most authoritative of its kind. This edition is divided into two major sections: Old & New World, each wine organized alphabetically by country with ratings for over 1,000 wonderful wines from major wine-producing regions around the world. Recommended wines cover all price ranges, with an emphasis on ones that offer the best value for the dollar. It includes: a guide to pairing wine with food; bargain wine finder; wine tasting guide; the "Year in Wine' Review"; handy at-a-glance vintage charts; and, fascinating sidebars written by local wine experts.
Do I really need to serve white wine with fish and red with meat?
Of course not! Think of it this way: If you like your coffee with milk and sugar and I drink it black without sugar, would we want to drink each other's coffees? I doubt it. Wine pairing suggestions should be considered as just that--suggestions. And they're usually based on some logical "universals" (e.g., because most fish are light--when compared with red meat--then a white wine would logically pair more easily), as well as the subjective tastes of the person making the recommendations (i.e., me!). Thanks to a wonderful book written 20 years ago called Red Wine With Fish: The New Art of Matching Wine With Food by David Rosengarten and Joshua Wesson, the whole notion of strict pairings was turned upside down. I tend to pair light reds with many fish dishes. Experiment and discover what tastes best to you. If you like it, it's a perfect pairing!I can never remember what years were good for the different wine producing regions. Are there are a handful of years/places that I can commit to memory and always be sure to get an impressive bottle of wine?
Unless you are a very serious collector, I'd recommend you pay more attention to producers/winemakers than vintage years. Why? There are too many appellations (wine regions) all over the planet to keep track of; and, because weather conditions vary so greatly from town to town (even micro-climate to micro-climate, as they say in wine lingo), vintage charts tend to be very generalized. Typically, producers of fine wine will not make their top wines in a bad year, so there's your indicator. But if you're really afraid of buying a good wine made in a clunker of a year, the best thing you can do is ask the retailer if they can discuss which years were better for a single producer or place (e.g., Tuscany, Napa, and Bordeaux).What is the difference between Old World and New World wines? Which is better?
Technically, Old World means Europe and New World means everywhere else, including North and South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Neither is better; but, if I were to make generalizations, I'd say that what separates the two camps is that Old World winemaking is based on tradition while New World is based on innovation and experimentation. Old World wines tend to be higher in acid (making them very food-friendly), while many New World producers favor fruit and power. Exceptions are the rule, of course, and many Old World regions (if not entire countries) are forever experimenting and tweaking their wines to attract an international audience. For example, Spain and parts of Italy (Sicily) are touted as "The New Old World."What factors make the same grape taste different when it is grown in one place rather than another?
This has everything to do with the French concept of terroir--a word that has no exact definition--which involves three natural elements of a region that impact grape growing and are generally considered to be outside human control, including the type of soil, the climate (wind, rain, snow), and the topography (southern-facing slopes, flatland, etc.). For instance, think of planting the same flowers in your front yard and backyard at the same time and then watching how differently they grow; it's the same thing with vines.I've been hearing a lot about screw-cap wines. Are they any better or worse than traditional cork closures?
Screw caps are becoming more and more common and for good reason: They are nearly flawless, as opposed to natural cork, which has a failure rate of around 12 percent (which costs the wine industry billions!). Screw caps hermetically seal wine exactly as the winemaker made it; whereas the porosity of cork allows gases to enter and escape from the bottle, so wine "develops" with cork (and eventually goes bad!). Modern thinking is that for everyday wines--wines we don't want to "age"--screw caps are perfect (not to mention a heck of a lot easier to open!). Given that most people drink wine within 48 hours of purchase, screw caps make better sense.What about boxed wine? Some people say it cuts down on glass bottles and shipping costs and is therefore eco-friendly. But are there quality boxed wines? Will I be the joke of the dinner party for bringing it?
Boxed wines have come a long way since they first hit the market 30 years ago, specifically because the technology inside the box has improved. Basically, inside the box is a bag with a tap attached, which, when pressed, allows wine to pour out while the bag closes ever tighter behind it. Air is what used to kill bag-in-box wines, but now they stay air-tight for around a month. The quality is rising, which is why we included a couple of boxes in this year's Wine Guide.I'm confused with all the "green" terminology regarding wine production. What is the difference between organic, biodynamic, and sustainable?
The terms are all interconnected with varying degrees of crunchiness. Organic, plain and simple, eschews all pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Biodynamic is sort of like organic crossed with feng shui, with the harvests timed around the position of the moon and the farm being totally contained (meaning nothing comes in from the outside, everything is recycled), which is sort of like sustainable, too. The problem is that getting certification takes years and can be expensive. Also, because farming is so fickle, many grape growers will go to every extreme possible--even if it's just short of perfect (by the above rules)--because that's the best they can do in their given climate. So, while many wineries will "practice" these principles, they may or may not list them on the label; however, such info is usually discussed on their websites or at the wineries by way of a visit.How do you know if a wine is corked?
If the cork has failed (meaning, it either dried up while the bottle was standing upright in storage, or it contained a microbe that ruins wines), the wine should have a distinctly strange aroma. The odor typically is of very wet, damp cardboard or cooked fruit (not in the positive sense). Sometimes these aromas can "blow off" after a few minutes, so it's best to smell first and then sip to confirm. At restaurants, you always can call over the wine director/sommelier/manager to ask for their opinion. If they are smart, they will be honest with you and tell you if the wine is or isn't bad, and then offer you another bottle regardless (and sell the other good bottle at the bar).What is the correct temperature for drinking different types of wine? Is it ever appropriate to chill a red wine?
The simple answer is no wine should ever be drunk at "room temperature," despite what anyone tells you. We tend to drink white wines a tad too cold in the U.S., straight out of our 38-degree fridges, when 15 minutes on the counter would warm the temperature up to the low--to mid-40s, which is better because the wine opens up a bit more and expresses more flavor. Bottles of red should be cool to the touch (not cold), which is why temperature-controlled wine refrigerators are typically set between 55 and 60 degrees. Once red crosses 68 degrees (still far below normal room temperature of 72 on average), it tastes distorted, with alcohol and tannin more prevalent than fruit and acid. To power chill a room-temp red bottle, put it in an ice bucket filled with both ice and water for 10 minutes.What is the next up-and-coming wine region or some varietals we should be on the lookout for as far as great values?
Go to your local wine shop and look at the bargain bins, typically near the door, and I'll bet you'll see a lot of wines from Spain (one of the best bargain producers on earth), as well as from South America and Australia. There are bargains to be had from every wine region on the planet; it's a matter of comparing prices and quality, looking at appellations (i.e., a general California address, rather than Napa Valley, on the label). Talk to your retailer and ask about values--he or she will tell you why they are relative to comparable wines from a specific place or producer.