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Wine trends: Choosing the best wines

Michele Howe is the happily bleary-eyed book reviewer for Publishers Weekly. Read Michele's parenting column at: www.bizymoms.com/experts/michele-howe/index.html and about her newest book release, Still Going It Alone: Mothering with Fai...

Wine trends

The up and coming trends in wine are specific in flavor, tied to local roots, and unconventional regarding the long-standing food and wine rules. Want to be "in the know" when it comes to wine this year? Here are the emerging wine trends according to star sommelier Belinda Chang, wine director of The Modern in New York's Museum of Modern Art and revered sommelier for the Wine Market Council's website WineAnswers.com.

Three Types of Wine

Wine trend #1: Wines with a sense of place

Chang, whose philosophy on wine is "There is a wine for everyone, every place and every time" says wine-savvy people are looking for wines that are terroir-driven. Terroir, a French term used for wine, coffee and tea, means "a sense of place" or the sum of effects that a particular geographical place or environment has on a particular product.

"Those in the know are no longer just looking for a glass of Chardonnay, they are looking for an expression of Chardonnay from a particular place. For example, Chardonnay from Chablis in France has a particular minerality and flavor of the sea that comes from its unique soils composed of fossilized sea creatures," explains Chang.

And it's not just with imported wines. Chang adds, "Chardonnay from the Central Coast of California displays an intense citrus and fruit character that announces its origin. And [the desire for terroir-driven wines] goes on and on!"

Wine trend #2: Love of local wines

No matter where you are, whether you are on home turf or traveling abroad, choosing a locally made wine is "in". Not only are local wines eco-friendly, they can add to your dining or wine-drinking experience.

Chang says, "Just as that Provencal rose that you enjoyed during a summer vacation in Provence was so much more delicious when you drank it there than when you drink it at home, often the right wine to order is the local wine."

Have the notion that locally produced wine isn't going to be as exquisite as wines from Italy or France? Think again. Chang enthusiastically states, "More and more American wineries are producing wines of note. We serve a fantastic Chardonnay here at The Modern in NYC from the Hamptons: Channing Daughters L'Enfant Sauvage. Delicious!"

So, next time you are searching for that perfect bottle of wine to serve at your next dinner party – or perhaps to simply sip as you wind down after a busy day – opt for a local winery. If you aren't sure which wine to choose, ask your local wine retailer for suggestions.

Wine trend #3: Break the rules

How often have you heard the food and wine pairing rule "red wine with steak and white wine with fish"? And how often have you struggled in the local wine gallery trying to figure out which wine would go best with your evening's meal? Well, labor no more. Food and wine pairing rules are meant to be broken.

"The true foodies and wine geeks know that there is no longer any reason to remain bound by the archaic food and wine pairing rules," Chang explains. "With all of the international influence and flavors that we see on any restaurant menu, all of those rules go out the door."

Instead of choosing wines based solely on color, Chang recommends that you look for balance. She says, "Any well-balanced dish will sing with a well-balanced wine." If you are dining out, take advantage of your restaurant's sommelier for the best wine suggestions for your meal. Likewise, if you are dining in, get suggestions for your meal from your local wine expert. You can also visit WineAnswers.com for delectable food and wine pairings.

Regardless of the meal or occasion, Chang emphasizes, "Here is the only rule that applies: Drink what you like! Wine and food are meant to be enjoyed together."

Wine trend #4: Steering clear of adulterated wines

"Savvy wine drinkers are so over adulterated wines," says Chang. "Over-oaked, acidulated, chaptalized, centrifuged and otherwise tortured wines are out. Modern wine drinkers are looking for pristine wines whose grape varietal identity, and sense of place or terroir character shine through." She adds that a Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley should taste like just that, not like it was synthesized to be something it isn't.

Chang mock pleads, "Dear winemaker, please don't molest my wine with too much heavy toast barrel character, artificial acidity, added sugars, and don't try to make it fuller-bodied by raising the alcohol. I can tell the difference!"

Wine trend #5: Refusing defective wines

Have you ever uncorked a wine with aromas of wet dog, moldy cardboard or barnyard wafting from the bottle? Chang refers to these wines as "dirty wines" and says they are most definitely "out".

She explains, "I don't mean over-the-top wines with high intensity color, weight and flavor; I mean wines that are made in unclean wineries with unsound techniques. These are essentially defective wines." And there is no reason to settle for terrible wines, the star sommelier emphasizes, "The great thing these days is that clean, correctly produced wines can now be found at every price level."

Wine trend #6: Affordable wines

Ordering or serving super expensive wines – also known as second mortgage wines because of their lofty price – is a trend that is past its prime. Chang says, "There is so much high quality wine being made in every corner of the world that it is not necessary to break out the Black Amex for a compelling bottle."

Affordable wines can be just as impressive, if not more so, as pricey wines. Chang suggests, "Get adventurous and try Blaufrankish from Austria, Pinot Noir from Argentina, Monica from Sardegna. You don't have to order Chateau blah blah blah to look cool in front of a client or your friends anymore!"

And you'll save enough money that you can enjoy really good wines, albeit less expensive ones, more often and with less stress on your wallet.

Here are a few more wine tips to try for the New Year


Dessert wines to drink after dinner
Frugal wines for the holidays
Wine and cheese pairings for your next party
Republican or Democrat? What your political party says about your choice of wine

Sexy wines for the urban chic
Why drink boxed wines?

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