Cool Yule

November 25, 2009

Christmas is one month away as of today. I’m stunned, to be honest. I really can’t believe that the year is almost over (life is moving so fast that I almost feel like it’s flashing before my eyes!)

Given the symmetry of the date, I’ve chosen today to launch my holiday gift guide series that I’m calling Cool Yule. Anyone can toss a bottle of wine in gift bag and make a gracious offering; however, giving gifts that are on trend and show off your good taste is so much better, don’t you think?

At about $300 I’ve chosen a high ticket item to kick off Cool Yule 2009; however, it’s just so perfect for the oenephile (that’s a wine lover, btw) on your list. This wine essence set features 40 aroma flasks that can be used to help train your nose and isolate the aromas in wine.

Besides being a great gift for a wine lover, it’s also fun to pull out at a wine tasting, so if you’re planning one during the holidays, it might make a good gift for yourself, too.

Smaller kits featuring 12 aromas commonly noted in white or red wine are also available at a considerably lower price.

Contact Browne & Co. in Canada for information on availability in your area.

Double-duty packaging

October 23, 2009

bird house wine boxReduce, I support. Recycle, I support. But, reuse, I love!

Check out this great ‘green’ package. It’s a wine gift box that is also a hummingbird house! So clever.

As we proceed into the holiday dinner and cocktail party season, many people will pick up gifts, flowers or bottles of cheer to take to their hosts. What other smart double-duty packages can be used to carry a gift and then be used for something else? Gift bags don’t count – I want you to dig deeper today, dear readers.

PS: Here are instructions on how to make a wine bottle birdhouse.

The bubble man

July 23, 2009

hotchampagneDo you like champagne? I love it! In fact, if I could afford it, I’d drink champagne pretty much every time I have a glass of wine.

I wish my idle moments were spent pondering philosophical questions or formulating meaningful responses to problems such as poverty, disease and global warming. But, the truth is, I’m a pretty superficial person. Instead, I find myself on the subway or doing the dishes thinking about why some glasses of champagne are ‘hot’ (i.e. very bubbly) while others display just a gentle stream of bubbles.

The glasses in the photo above are identical but the one on the right has many more active bubbles. Why? These glasses of wine were poured at the same time from the same bottle. Shouldn’t the wine behave the same way in each glass?

Answering this dilemma led me to research by Gérard Liger-Belair, the world authority on wine bubbles (seriously, that’s his full time job!) As it turns out, the bubble and flow patterns you see in a glass of champagne can be affected by tiny flaws in a particular glass. In fact, some glasses are even etched to create pits in the glass that will create different flow volume and patterns. The intention isn’t just to give vapid women like me something pretty to look at while they get drunk, but to influence the way the aroma and taste of champagne are experienced.

Obviously, in the case of these two glasses, the effect wasn’t intended by the manufacturer but was the result of inconsistent workmanship. Regardless, it led me to learn something new (if not something useful)! Gawd, I love my job!

What food questions occupy your idle moments?

When should you decant wine?

March 27, 2009

winebottle-sedimentHow many of you own decanters but don’t know what to do with them? I love this picture (thanks for taking it for me Martin!) because it shows you exactly why you need to decant some aged red wines.

See that sludgy stuff up near the neck of the bottle? That’s sediment. Sediment forms as highly tannic (read dry) wine ages. It is the grainy deposit that is the result of the separation of bitartrates (acids), tannins and colour pigments that occurs as wines age.

Although sediment is not a bad thing to find in a wine bottle (it can indicate that a wine is well enough aged to be ready to drink), you don’t want to drink the sediment itself. So, here’s how to decant a wine so that you get just the good stuff in your glass:

1. If a wine has been laying on its side in a wine rack, it’s best to stand it up for several hours or overnight to let the sediment sink to the bottom.
2. Uncork the bottle gently so that you don’t disturb the sediment and redistribute it throughout the wine.
3. Light a candle or position a strong light behind the wine bottle. Set a clean, dry decanter or pitcher next to the bottle.
4. Gently and slowly pour the wine into the decanter keeping an eye on the light shining through the bottle to ensure that you are pouring only liquid into the decanter (the light will shine through the wine but not as well through the sediment).
5. As you get closer to the sediment, slow down your pouring to ensure the sediment doesn’t flow into the decanter.
6. If any sediment does make it into the decanter, let it stand for a few minutes and settle to the bottom.

Besides sediment there’s another common reason to decant red wine. “Tight” wines (the ones that make you pucker and crave a glass of water) can sometimes benefit from being decanted since the process of transferring the wine from one container to another can aerate the wine so that it goes down more smoothly.


Breakfast wine

March 18, 2009

breakfastwineDon’t panic! I don’t need an intervention just yet. I’m still miles away from reaching the rehab centre door (although I do seem to be taking crooked pictures!). That said, breakfast was all I could think about when I tasted this new wine that Martin brought home from Vintages.

One sniff and I could pick up the delicious aroma of the coffee beans in this affordable pinotage (it’s $13.95 at the LCBO) wine that is short on fruit but has a soft, round, mocha finish.

It would be the perfect choice if you’re having eggs for supper, heading to a mid day brunch or just can’t decide between having a coffee or a glass of vino.

What do you think? Is coffee flavoured wine a good idea? Or, should coffee mugs and wine glasses keep to their respective corners of the kitchen?

“Open That Bottle Night”

February 27, 2009


I’ll embrace almost any reason to open up a bottle of wine. Most Friday evenings the fact that Battlestar Galactica is on is reason enough for me to pop a cork. So, when I heard that February 27th is Open That Bottle Night, I was instantly intrigued.

The event, which has taken place on the last Saturday of February for the past 10 years, is meant to prompt wine lovers to uncork the bottle that they coddled and ogled until now it’s the perfect age or just let sit and collect dust waiting for a special occasion that either didn’t come or didn’t include people who would appreciate the wine.

I love this idea since I think that in the current economic climate we all need a treat and what’s better than a treat you paid for years ago? My husband Martin has always said that wine cellars are for when you’re broke and, as you can see from the picture above, we’ve been broke many times!

Do you have a bottle in your wine cellar or liquor cabinet that you’ve been saving for special occasion? Will you open it tonight?

Valentine’s Day musings

February 13, 2009


With Valentine’s Day just hours away, there are likely people reading this post who are wondering how to commemorate this marketer-made occasion. While I personally would love to get flowers (although not roses – maybe a tightly bound bouquet like the stunning arrangements at Joel Robouchon – you can see a picture of them in my facebook group photo album) from my honey, there are a lot of people who would rather have chocolates.

In fact, according to a poll conducted by Nestlé (makers of much-loved sweets such as Kit Kat candy bars and Haagen-Dazs ice cream), 59 per cent of Canadians agree that chocolate is the ultimate food indulgence. Their study also showed that while more Canadian women would prefer a gift of chocolate from their partner, men by far prefer a bottle of wine as a romantic token.

Personally, I’d rather not choose. In fact, why not snack on some chocolates and then wet your whistle with a few glasses of vino while you admire your flowers?

What about you? Will you give a Valentine’s gift to anyone? And, almost more importantly, do you expect to receive one?