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Tag Archives: Wine Education

Warm Reds for Cold Nights, Part 4

Will this winter never end? Just when it looks like spring weather may be here to stay, blam! Hit by another storm. Fortunately, there is no shortage of great red wine to keep you warm on these cold nights.This is the fourth and final edition of our series on Warm Reds for Cold Nights. Our global journey takes us, this time, to Italy. Italy is home to many wine regions, some famous, some obscure. All of them producing excellent, food-friendly wines. For our adventure to round out this series, we explore Valpolicella.

Valpolicella is one of those more obscure regions. Located in Veneto, in the northern part of Italy, Valpolicella is known both for easy drinking reds, and for the intense, concentrated wines known as Amarone. Regional grape varieties include Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Molinara. For this trip, our selection is the Bertani Valpolicella 2017.

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The following wine was provided as a media sample for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.

The Bertani winery was established in 1857, by brothers Giovan Battista and Gaetano Bertani. An innovator and early adopter of bottled wine, the Bertani winery invested in the technology of the day to produce, bottle, and export their wines. By the end of the 19th century,  the Bertani name was known in cities all across the United States. Today Bertani has more than 200 hectares under vine, and continues its reputation for fine wines across Europe and the New World.

The Bertani Valpolicella 2017 is made from 80% Corvina Veronese, and 20% Rondinella. The wine is fermented in wide, shallow steel tanks; this allows for more skin contact during fermentation. After fermentation, the wine is aged in concrete vats for about eight months, then bottle aged for at least three months.

Wishing spring upon us, we tried to will the weather by grilling ribeye steaks and zucchini to pair with this. While we didn’t have any influence on Mother Nature, we did find an amazing wine and food pairing, and enjoyed a delicious meal on a cold night, warmed by this spectacular wine. Read on for our tasting notes.

 

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Brick red color; lighter than we had anticipated. As it rests in the decanter, there are aromas of ripe raspberry, clove, and baking spice. On the palate, flavors of raspberry, cherry, plum, and cranberry with smoky overtones, and warm, oaky notes of vanilla, caramel, and spice. Medium body with bright acidity, making it the perfect food-pairing wine. Elegant and balanced, with deep complexity and smooth tannins, this was excellent with a ribeye and grilled zucchini. Vivino average price: $14.99.

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We hope you have enjoyed this journey ‘round the wine world in search of rich, robust red wines to make those long winter nights more cozy. While spring and summer are on the horizon, as the world turns, winter will be back before you know it. Stock up on some of these delicious warm reds for those upcoming cold nights.

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael

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Warm Reds for Cold Nights, Part 3

Well, we’ll admit that as we write this, it’s sunny and 72 degrees at our home in Northern California. Spring is definitely upon us here. However, other parts of the country as still in the harsh grip of winter. Besides, it was a couple of weeks ago when we opened and enjoyed this sample; on a cold, rainy, winter’s night. Plus, readers in the Southern Hemisphere are headed into winter, and will be needing some Warm Reds for their Cold Nights, soon.

For the third in our four part series of Warm Reds for Cold Nights, we travel to France. When most people think of big red wines from France, they think Bordeaux, Burgundy, or the Rhone. Yet in our ongoing quest for the lesser-known, our travels today take us to the Loire Valley, specifically to the communes that make up the region of Chinon.

The red wines of Chinon are crafted from Cabernet Franc grapes. Many of you may know Cabernet Franc as one of the two parents of Cabernet Sauvignon. (The other half of the greatest marriage in viticulture is Sauvignon Blanc.) Used as a blending grape in Bordeaux and other regions, Cabernet Franc stands, and shines, on its own in Chinon wines.

The following wine was provided as a media sample for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.

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Chateau Courday-Montpensier dates back to 1090 AD, though the current castle on the site was built in the 14th century. There are 30 hectares of vineyards at the chateau, all planted to Cabernet Franc. The Chateau du Courday-Montpensier Chinon Rouge 2016 is 100% Cabernet Franc, that spent between 6 and 12 months in barrel before bottling. It is a classic representation of Chinon, quite delicious and food friendly.

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Rather than going with a more traditional food pairing with this Cabernet Franc, we opted for more of a Franco-Asian fusion menu: homemade Thai Basil Beef. The pairing was exceptional, with the exotic, savory beef complementing the rich, hearty wine, and vice-versa.

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Inky purple color. Aromas of ripe blackberry, raspberry, and black cherry. On the palate, fruit forward with blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, and cherry, with secondary notes of licorice, black pepper, and vanilla. Tannins are big and chewy, but melt away with food. Brisk acidity livens the senses and further enhances the food pairing. Excellent this winter’s evening with Thai Basil Beef. Definitely warming and satisfying. Wine Searcher average price: $16.00.

Even if spring has sprung in your neighborhood, don’t overlook the opportunity to enjoy a big, warming red wine with your BBQ or other hearty meal. Until next time…

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael
  • Photo credit: Robyn Raphael

Odfjell Vineyards Organic Wines

What do a Norwegian ship owner, a verdant Chilean valley, and sustainable farming  have in common?

Wine!

What did you think we were going to say? This is a wine blog, afterall.

More than 25 years ago, Norwegian Armador (that’s “ship owner” in case you were wondering) Dan Odfjell discovered the Maipo Valley in Chile. Well, not discovered in the Viking explorer sense; he found it for himself. Dan fell in love with this little corner of the planet, far from home both in distance and climate. He settled in the valley, and began pursuing his passion for wine.

Today, sons Laurence and Dan Jr. are at the helm, managing 284 acres of 100% certified organic and biodynamic vineyards in the heart of the Chilean wine country. They carry on the family mission of  producing unique quality wines in a sustainable way.

Recently, we were given the opportunity to experience their craft. Odfjell Premium Organic Wines are offered in three different tiers, with labels representing Land, Water, and Fire. We were fortunate to receive samples of each.  

The following wines were provided as a media samples for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.

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I really don’t know what happened to our photos. Sorry, but it’s your loss. The marinated flat iron steak was delicious with this Cabernet!

2016 Odfjell Armador Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $15)

From the website: In the bygone days of sailing ships, wine was the drink of choice on long voyages. Today Dan Odfjell, a Norwegian shipowner, perpetuates his legacy by making wines to sail from Chile across the seven seas.

Winemaker’s Tasting Notes: Ruby-red in color with a hint of violet. Red-fruit aromas recall strawberries and plums, along with notes of licorice and anise. Perfectly balanced on the palate with ripe tannins and a long, refreshing nish.

Here’s what we thought:

Inky purple color in the glass. Aromas of blackberry, bramble, and cassis. On the palate, there are flavors of ripe blackberry, raspberry, bramble, black currant, and cherry, with oak, cedar, tobacco, and black pepper, with earthy notes mid-palate. Tannins are firm and chewy, balanced with bright acidity. Full bodied with a long, spicy finish of black fruit, earth, and smoke. Outstanding paired with balsamic marinated flat iron steak.

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2017 Odfjell Orzada Carignan (SRP $23)

From the website: When the Norwegian shipowner Dan Odfjell founded our winery, he embarked upon adventure filled with challenge and promise. Orzada is a nautical term for sailing up against the wind before setting a direction. Our Orzada wines reflect our staking a course in pursuit of a beautiful and memorable wine.

Winemaker’s Tasting Notes: Dark red in color. Intense and complex on the nose, with spices and ripe red fruits such as cherries, raspberries, and plums mixed with aromas of blackberries and anise. The palate is juicy and powerful with velvety-soft tannins and a long finish.

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Now we’re talking!

Here’s what we thought:

Deep purple color with a brick rim. Aromas of fresh-picked cherry, oak wood, and spice. On the palate there are flavors of raspberry, boysenberry, tart cherry, licorice, cedar, and black pepper. Soft tannins, medium body, and bright, lively acidity. The finish is long, with red and black fruit, oak, and spice. We paired this with grilled, chili-rubbed pork chops and it really complemented the meal nicely.

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2013 Odfjell Aliara (SRP $44)

From the website: In the age of sail ships, safe and healthy provisions were crucial for the success of the adventure. A “liara” was a tin cup measurement for the crew´s daily ration of wine. Our Aliara is an assemblage made in small and precios quantitites as a tribute to this tradition.

Winemaker’s Tasting Notes: Concentrated deep violet in color. The nose is attractive and intense with a range of aromas from the different varieties in the blend, including nuts such as hazelnuts, dates, and dried figs, as well as floral notes recalling jasmine and roses. The palate is sophisticated, intense, and juicy and complemented by chocolate, coffee, and tobacco leaves. The finish is long with ripe and velvety tannins. An unforgettable experience.

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That’s some dark, inky wine.

Here’s what we thought:

A blend of 65% Carignan, 20% Syrah, and 5% Malbec. Deep, inky purple color. Aromas of blackberry bramble and plum. On the palate, flavors of blackberry, cherry, blueberry, and plum, with white pepper and cedar. Tannins are big and chewy. Medium acidity. Long finish of black fruit and black pepper. Outstanding with spice-rubbed grilled steak tacos.

​The Odfjell is doing some remarkable things with organic, biodynamic wines in Chile. If you get the opportunity to try these wines, don’t let it pass you by!

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds
  • Creative Inspiration by Robyn Raphael

Getting Cozy with Mulled Wine

I think most would agree that a crisp, refreshing, chilled white wine just isn’t what we’re looking for on a cold winter’s day. Those big, bold red wines are more suitable for this time of year, and there are plenty to choose from for all the different occasions.

But what happens if you’re just relaxing by the fire, wrapped in a blanket, binge-watching your favorite Netflix show, and you want something to warm you up? Enter Mulled Wine.

What? You’ve never heard of Mulled Wine? Or you only think of Mulled Wine as something they drank in Dickens’ time? Well, it’s time to re-think this tasty winter’s drink. (Hey, I rhymed!) Mulled Wine is essentially warmed, spiced wine, often revved up with some type of spirit; brandy, rum, etc.

You can often find pre-made bottles at your wine shop. I found this bottle, and it’s ready to go; just warm it up and start sipping, or add some addtional spices, fresh fruit, or spirit to suit your taste.

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If you have a more time, and are feeling a bit more adventurous, you can gather up the ingredients, and make your own Mulled Wine. Our friends at I Love Wine prepared this informative post on Mulled Wine, (scroll down to read it) complete with history, and several delcious recipes your can make at home for family and friends this holiday season. Check it out, and if you make any of the recipes, let us know how you liked them!

Happy Holidays, and Cheers!

Tis the Season to be Jolly: Fa-La-Fall in Love with Mulled Wine

Not that we ever need a reason (or a season!) to sample delicious new wines, but the holidays are particularly a treat when it comes to trying different traditional vinos from around the world. While wine is typically best served room temperature red or perfectly chilled white, hot wine is also a “thing.” Yes, HOT WINE! If you have never tried mulled wine, do yourself a favor and put that on your list of holiday season must-do’s.

What is Mulled Wine?

Mulled wine is a spice-infused red wine served warm and best enjoyed in the colder months. It goes by different names in various regions; such as Glogg in Sweden, Glühwein in Germany or Vin Chaud in France. Ingredients for this comforting beverage depend on the region, but typically consist of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, anise, vanilla and allspice. Bitter orange, figs, apples, raisins or ginger can be added as well for additional sweetness. Other liquors are often added to the mix; with vodka, rum, brandy, sherry and cognac popular choices for an extra kick. The ingredients for mulled wine are simmered, allowing flavors to infuse, and then strained and served immediately. The wine can also be refrigerated for 24 hours to allow for further infusion then reheated before serving.

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History of Mulled Wine

The origin of mulled wine came about in pre-refrigeration days, where the purpose was to use wine on the verge of spoilage and not let it go to waste. The addition of other liquor, spices, fruit and sugar made it more pleasant to drink.

The history of mulled wine dates all the way back to the Ancient Greeks. Said to be invented by Greek scientist and Father of Medicine, Hippocrates; the wine (red or white) was spiced and sweetened with honey and not always served hot. The drink gained its name from the Old English word meaning “muddled” and has been popular throughout Europe for centuries.

The oldest recipe dates back to 1834 and was found in a recipe collection in the State Archives in Dresden, Germany. The collection belonged to Count of Wackerbarth, Augustus Christopher. However, wine was first recorded as spiced and heated in Rome during the 2nd century. The Romans traveled all across Europe, bringing wine and their recipes with them to the Rhine and Danube rivers, and to the Scottish border.

While it can be served throughout the winter months, mulled wine is more traditionally a Christmas beverage. Charles Dickens is credited with making mulled wine synonymous with the holidays, thanks in part to his mention of the beverage (a mulled wine punch known as the Smoking Bishop) in his timeless classic, A Christmas Carol.

“A merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you, for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob!”

– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843)

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Recipes for Mulled Wine

There are quite a few recipes for mulled wine floating about. We will list a few of the traditional favorites here, should you wish to whip up a batch of this delicious winter treat:

Smoking Bishop:

Ingredients:

  • 2 bottles of strong red wine
  • 1 bottle of port wine
  • 5 sweet oranges, unpeeled
  • 1 large grapefruit, unpeeled
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 30 cloves

Directions: Wash the fruit and bake it on a foil lined baking sheet until it becomes light brown, turning once. Heat a large earthenware bowl and add the fruit. Stud each fruit with five cloves. Add the sugar and the red wine, and store covered in a warm place for about a day.

Squeeze the fruit to extract the juice, and strain into a saucepan. Add the port and warm thoroughly, but don’t boil.

Serve in heated glasses.

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(NOTE: Download our Free Wine & Food Pairing Guide. Enhance the Enjoyment of Your Meals!CLICK HERE) 

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Clarence’s Mulled Wine:

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 1 glass of brandy
  • 1 lemon, peeled
  • 1 lime, peeled
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Sugar, to taste

Directions: In a saucepan, gently heat the wine and spirit. Using a speed peeler, remove large parts of rind of the lemon and the lime. Be careful not to remove the pith. Toss peels into the saucepan.

Add the cinnamon, cloves, orange slices and sugar.

Simmer for 15 minutes then ladle into glasses and enjoy.

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A Modern British Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 bottles of fruity, unoaked wine
  • 150ml ginger wine
  • 2 un-waxed oranges
  • 1 lemon, peel only
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 5 cloves, plus extra for garnish
  • 5 cardamom pods, bruised
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Directions: Peel and juice 1 orange, and add to a large saucepan along with the lemon peel, sugar and spices. Add enough wine to just cover the sugar, and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally. Bring to the boil and cook for 5 – 8 minutes until it turns into a thick syrup.

If you are serving the mulled wine immediately, stud the second orange with 6 vertical lines of cloves, and then cut into segments to use as a garnish.

Turn the heat down, and pour the rest of the wine into the saucepan, along with the ginger wine. Gently heat through and serve with the orange segments as a garnish.

Alternatively, there are several good options available for purchase in your local store if you don’t feel up to the task of mulling your own. A notable, tasty and affordable option is Mrs. Beachley’s Mulled Wine, at a cost of about $10.

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Enjoy Après-ski after a day out on the slopes, warm up while strolling Christmas markets on a chilly night, or heck…indulge to make those holiday family gatherings a bit more bearable. Mulled wine is sure to comfort and warm you from the inside-out during this festive season!

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Review: Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut

Just in time for the holidays, bubbles! Who doesn’t love to celebrate with sparkling wine? From Champagne, to Cava, Prosecco, or California Sparkling Wine, a bottle of bubbles is at home on every holiday table. And with such variety as we have today, bubbles don’t have to break the bank. Take, for example, this Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut. It is rich, creamy, and delicious, and retails for just $23 per bottle.

Crémant refers to a French sparkling wine, made in the same way as Champagne, but from other parts of the country. In case you didn’t know, because of an 1891 law, “Champagne” can only come from the Champagne region of France. (Yes, there are a few California sparklers that, thanks to loopholes and lawsuits, can still use the name on their labels.) Anyway, as I was saying, Crémant is made using the méthode tranditionalle, in which the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle, producing those fine bubbles we all know and love. Though made in the same way, Crémant does not have the panache, the swagger, the reputation, or the price tag as Champagne. That doesn’t mean it is any lower in quality, in my humble opinion. Call it marketing prowess.

Lucien Albrecht is one of the preeminent wine producers in the Alsace region, located in northeast France. Dating back to 1698, when Balthazar Albrecht settled in the area, the family has been making high quality wines, widely renown and recognized. Predominantly a still-wine producer, with the familiar slender bottles with the yellow labels, Lucien Albrecht makes Alsatian standards like Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Gewurztraminer. In 1971, Lucien Albrecht, the 8th generation of this wine growing family, became one of the pioneers of Crémant d’Alsace, when he introduced this sparkling wine. Available in both Brut and Rosé, Lucien ALbrecht Crémant d’Alsace is sure to please.

The following wine was provided as a media sample for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.

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Terrific! Golden straw color. Vigorous tiny bubbles as the wine fills the glass, and the bubbles continue throughout. Aromas of apricot and pear. On the palate, luscious flavors of brioche, almond, pear, apple, and a hint of pineapple. Bone dry, with a rich, creamy mouthfeel, and a long clean finish.

With Thanksgiving approaching, and more holidays on the way, consider a bottle of Lucien ALbrecht Crémant d’Alsace to grace your table and accompany your meal. Heck, at just $23 per bottle, grab two. You don’t want to run out mid-celebration, do you?

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds
  • Photo Credit: Robyn Raphael

Down Home with Farmhouse Wines

More and more wine producers are embracing environmental consciousness. Whether out of concern for conserving our planet and its resources, or reacting to consumer and market demands, there is no doubt that organic, sustainable, natural, and biodynamic wines are on the rise and here to stay.

It’s not just the small, boutique, dare I say “hippie” or “hipster” wineries that are turning toward Earth-friendly farming practices. Many well known, large production producers are getting on board, and at converting at least a small percentage of production to sustainable farming, most with an eye toward long-range growth and conversion.

Recently, we received an invitation to sample two natural wines, Farmhouse Wines, produced by Cline Family Cellars. If you don’t know Cline, you really ought to get out more. Fred Cline founded Cline Family Cellars in 1982. He started in Oakley, California, in the Delta region, east of San Francisco. In 1989, he moved the winery to Sonoma County. One of the original Rhone Rangers, Fred Cline helped establish Northern California as a serious producer of Rhone varieties like Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne. Cline Family Cellars has gone on to expand their portfolio to include a plethora of grape varieties, and produces some stellar wines.

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Photo Credit: Cline Family Cellars

Fred Cline and his Soil Manager, Bobby Cannard (aka The Soil Whisperer) have developed biodynamic practices they dubbed the Green String method. A significantly environmentally friendly farming process, it minimizes pollution of the air, soil, and water, and minimizes the overall environmental footprint. Utilizing natural weed control (sheep and goats), cover crops, aviary pest control (owls and hawks), and ar power, they have made big inroads in sustainable farming. They established a farm, the Green String Farm, in Petaluma, CA, to foster these practices, producing a variety of crops for consumers. They even established an internship program to expose farming students to these practices.

There are two Farmhouse wines; a white blend and a red blend. Both are natural, sustainably produced wines. They are unpretentious, user-friendly, sealed with screwcap, and easy drinking. Oh, and they retail for just $10.99! That’s wallet friendly, too!

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Photo Credit: Cline Family Cellars

Winemaker Charlie Tsegeletos wants the grapes to take center stage in these wines. He uses minimal oak, and incorporates blending to bring out the best of each variety and vintage.

The following wines were provided as a media sample for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.

The 2017 Farmhouse White is a blend of Palomino (41%), Muscat Calelli (25%), Rousanne (22%), Marsanne (6%), Viognier (5%), and Riesling (1%). Cold fermented in stainless steel tanks, the resulting wine is light and fruity, with balance and finesse. Here’s what we thought of it:

A very interesting white blend. Don’t serve too cold or the bouquet and flavors will be muted. Pale peach color. Aromas of peach, honeysuckle, mango, and tangerine. On the palate, there are flavors lemon curd, guava, mango, and peach, with a touch of honey on the finish. That’d be the Muscat! Medium body and acidity. Fruity, mildly sweet. Pleasant for sipping, structured enough of fish, chicken, or spicy Thai.

The 2017 Farmhouse Red leads with a punch of Zinfandel (59%), followed by Syran (15%), Carignane (9%), Mourvèdre (6%), Petite Sirah (5%), and the remaining 6%, splashes of other red varieties. Fermented in stainless steel tanks, the wine is racked into 40% new French oak to enhance the flavors as it ages. Here’s what we thought:

Inky purple color. On the palate, aromas of raspberry, fresh blackberry, clove, and spice. On the palate, boldly fruit forward; bordering on jammy but there is enough complexity to bring some balance. Flavors of ripe blackberry, black cherry, cassis, and black plum, with licorice, baking spice, black pepper, and caramel. Rich and full bodied with round mouthfeel and bright acidity. The finish is very long with black fruit, ripe plum, and black pepper.

For more on the Farmhouse line, check out their video from the Farmhouse Wines website:  

Both Farmhouse wines would be at home on your Thanksgiving or other holiday table, and equally comfortable snuggled up on the couch in front of a warming fire, binge-watching your favorite Netflix show.

Let us know, in the comments, what you paired it with, and what you’re binging on Netflix!

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael

Size Does Matter!

Anybody who has purchased a bottle of wine is familiar with the standard, 750 ml bottle. The vast majority of wine is sold in these bottles. Some may be familar with the Magnum bottle; at 1.5 liters, it is equivalent to two standard bottles. These are great for parties and other group gatherings, but what if you are alone and don’t want to drink a whole 750 ml bottle? You could grab a half-bottle, 375 ml, which is about 2 glasses. All fine options, depending on your circumstaces.

But did you know there are at least 17 different size bottles for wine? Yes, seventeen! From the “split” – about 1/4 bottle at 187 ml, to the massive “Midas”, holding 30 liters – about 40 standard bottles!

To read more about these various bottle sizes, and the stories behind them, check out this article from our new friends at I Love Wine: Understanding Wine Bottle Sizes. We hope you enjoy the article! Let us know what you think in the comments.

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael