- Originally the most planted grape in France (grown primarily in the southern Languedoc region), the grape suffered from overabundance, poor stewardship, and a quantity over quality mentality. Until recently, it was most commonly utilized in harsh, prohibitively astringent, generic vin rouge blends and garnered little respect in the wine world.
- Over the past few decades, yields have dramatically decreased with about a 50 percent reduction in vine acreage, largely in part due to EU subsidies that encouraged vintners to pull up large crops of the grape, leaving behind primarily older-growth grapes. With this shift came an uptick in quality, as older vines tend to produce a more concentrated, less harsh flavor, as Carignane, like many high-yield grapes, tends to suffer from dilution of flavor.
Surely you know how to drink wine — but do you know how to really taste it? In week six, we'll show you how to expand your wine knowledge, learning how to better taste and understand the vast, complicated world of wine.
Stay tuned for features on everything from obscure wine varietals (Carignane, anyone?) to how to visit wineries and talk to sommeliers. Got any special requests for us? Be sure to leave them in our comments below.
Tasting and Pairing Wine
How to pair wine
To make wine explode, pair it with popcorn
Our favorite sparkling wines
Top white wines under $15
Best reds under $15
Top Italian wine picks
What to do with your leftover wine
Wine Varietals and Regions
Get into the Grüner Veltliner groove
Why you should care about Carignane
What to know about Grenache
Hail to Glera, the grape responsible for Prosecco
Champagne: how it's made
What you should know about New Zealand's Sauvignon Blancs
Why isn't Riesling found in most wine blends?
4 lesser-known wine varietals you should know
5 reasons you should be drinking wine from Rioja
Burning question: what's a meritage blend?
Further Suggested Reading
Learn how to make a basic red wine sangria
What makes wine kosher, anyway?
Wine by the numbers: what goes into the cost of a glass?
Eat, don't drink your wine: recipes to use up those reds and whites
Thankfully, Ryan Fitzgerald, tequila expert and bar manager at Beretta, led me through a crash course on tequila, complete with flight tastings and all. Two hours later, I felt equipped with all the knowledge I needed to dive right into tequila appreciation. The basics of tequila — where it comes from, the way it's made, and how to taste it — when you read more.
This past month we've been working on our culinary resolutions, which have included eating a little cleaner, cooking basics to make at home, and indulging in some comforting classics. From green juice to limoncello Champagne cocktails, buttermilk pancakes to truffle mac and cheese, take a look at all the jaw-dropping recipes we made this January.
Bourbon is experiencing a resurgence as of late. The American-made whiskey isn't just for cowboys or businessmen anymore. If you're curious as to what makes bourbon bourbon, here's the 411 for your 101:
- During the late 18th century, European settlers in America started making whiskey using corn as the main grain (since it was so readily available). These early producers aged the corn whiskey in oak barrels, keeping in line with traditional whiskey making. Because corn is a sweet grain, bourbon tends to be a sweet whiskey with oak, toast, vanilla, and toffee flavors.
- The American-made corn whiskey became known as "bourbon," because it was first made in the original Bourbon County of Virginia (present-day Kentucky). Even though bourbon technically can be made anywhere in the US, the Kentucky area is hailed for its incredibly pure, limestone-filtered water, which naturally removes any metals and minerals that could affect the way the bourbon tastes. About 97 percent of bourbons are made near Bardstown, KY.
- To this day, the US government regulates that bourbon must be made in America from at least 51 percent corn. The rest is malted barley and a flavoring grain — either wheat or rye. It has to be distilled at no higher than 160 proof and must be aged in new, charred-oak barrels for at least two years (to be considered "straight" bourbon). No additives are allowed (not even to change the color), except for pure water to bring down the proof; the bourbon has to be bottled at least 80 proof.
- Lately, bourbon makers are offering small batch or single barrel bourbons for a heftier sum. Small batch bourbons (a term coined by Jim Beam in the '80s) are made by mixing bourbon from several different barrels (though from the same batch) before bottling. For larger distilleries, this could equate to hundreds of barrels. Single barrel bourbon is made from bottling one single cask (aka barrel) of bourbon. The bottle of the bourbon will have the barrel number on the label to distinguish it.
Here's how it's going to work: I'll name a bar beverage, and you'll match it to the right glassware. How well you do might have something to do with how many you've toasted with in your lifetime. Ready to raise a (proper) glass? Then let's get started.Take the Quiz
Don't get us wrong: gin and tonics are great — particularly when employing top-notch ingredients — but gin's versatility lends itself well to a host of enticing cocktails that are more than worth exploring. Click through and try something new. Who knows? You may just find your new signature drink!
Most varieties of gin fall into four general categories:
- London dry gin is what most think of when gin comes to mind. Dry and heavy on the juniper and other botanicals (common additives include citrus peel and coriander, though the options include a host of barks, roots, leaves, flowers, seeds, and berries), it's in many ways similar to an infused vodka. London gins need not be produced in London — most are not — but are instead a style of gin defined by a lack of sugar and juniper-forward flavor. Some sip it on the rocks, but it's most commonly appreciated in cocktails like the martini, negroni, gin and tonic, southside, and a vast variety of others.
- Genever or Dutch gin may be less commonplace than its London dry counterpart, but it actually preceded the spirit and has experienced a revival as of late, with Bols Genever being the most widely available. Smoother and darker in flavor than other varieties, with less of an emphasis on the botanical notes, genever is distilled from either corn, rye, or barley malt, making for a spirit more similar to a light-bodied, botanical-infused whiskey. Try it sipped straight on the rocks, up, or as a substitute for whiskey or moonshine in cocktails — it's particularly great in an old-fashioned.