Cover design by Jennifer Merrick
Like music, fashion and even food (think seared tuna, sushi and soup), wines go in and out of fashion. For instance, last season's Chardonnay might be this season's Gewurztraminer.
Mike Garcia, the director of operations for Sparrow Wines & Spirits, has a theory to explain the trends.
"The New York Times does a wine article every Friday," Garcia explained last week from the back office of Sparrow's at 126 Washington St. "So the next week everyone comes into [Sparrow] asking for that wine. But all in all, the trend is shifting to reds more than whites. A lot of that has to do with health. Red wine - in moderation - is good for the health. And reds are also more complex." (For a definition of complexity, see Five FAQ's).
As a long time wine enthusiast, Garcia knows exactly what he likes. Last week he confessed that he favors robust reds like Zinfandels - "not to be confused with white Zinfandels" - over more delicate whites. Unfortunately, those who don't know the difference between a Petit Sira and Pinot Noir might need a little help discerning what we like. According to Garcia, the best way to learn about wines is simply to taste them. And, lucky for us, Hudson County is home to several wine tasting venues.
Where, when and why ...
Sparrow Wine & Liquor Company, The Brass Rail restaurant, La Isla restaurant and Kings Fresh Ideas are sponsoring the fifth annual Holiday Grand Wine Tasting on Thursday, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. in The Bissinger Room on Stevens Institute of Technology's campus in Hoboken. The event, which costs $45 to attend, is being conducted by the Franciscan Aids Initiative To Help (FAITH Services), Hudson County's largest HIV and AIDS dedicated social service agency. All proceeds will help FAITH Services provide emergency services, medication and housing for Hudson County residents with HIV.
According to Mike Garcia, the Holiday Grand Wine Tasting will feature over 250 wines from over 25 vineyards from around the world, including wines from Argentina, France, Spain, Italy, Chile, Australia, California and Oregon. Experts from the vineyards will be on hand to answer questions and discuss their featured wines. To provide a base for the booze, The Brass Rail, La Isla and Kings Fresh Ideas will also donate hot and cold food.
"Wine is something that brings people out," said Garcia, who helped organize the event. "And people in Hoboken want to learn about wine and they use this event as a great time to taste what kind of wine they want to buy for the holidays. It's different than just having a ceremony or a dinner to raise money. Wine is a great way to attract people."
Peak Adventures, Hoboken's hiking and cycling organization, also offers wine-tasting opportunities. And not only do they hold outdoorsy wine adventures, like bike tours of New Jersey, Long Island and Connecticut Vineyards, but they also sponsor Wine Plain & Simple, a "gastronomic lecture series" by former Hoboken resident Anthony Giglio. Lectures include "The Wines of France: A look at France's major wine regions: Alsace, Burgundy, Rhone and Bordeaux," "Red Wines that Relieve: Who says we can't chill red wine in summer? Wine snobs not welcome," and "Best Bangs for the Buck: You will never spend more than 10 bucks for a bottle after this class. Period." For more information or dates for the series check out their web site at www.peakadventures.net or call 216-9998.
Cosimo, an Italian restaurant located in Jersey City's Newport Mall, also hosts seasonal wine tastings. A couple of times a year, the restaurant will offer a prix fixe five course dinner to accompany five or six wines from a specific vineyard.
"We go all out," said Bernie Aurelio, a manager at Cosimo. "We put out a special menu and have a representative from the vineyard come down and explain the wines. And the people like it. Because they like to know about what they are drinking."
Other venues that host wine tastings include, among others, Hoboken's Liberty Bar & Restaurant, The Madison Bar and Grill and Lady Jane's. This increased interest in wine delights Mike Garcia.
"More than ever before, people are interested in being educated about wine," Garcia said. "Which is great, because I'm a big fan of wine."
Armando Luis, a co-owner of The Brass Rail and La Isla and the President of Sparrow Wine & Liquors, along with Mike Garcia, Sparrow's director of operations, answer five Frequently Asked Questions about wine.
Current: Once a bottle of wine has been opened, how long does it last before going bad?
Armando Luis: It depends on the wine: a couple of hours to a couple of days.
Mike Garcia: But there are preservation systems that help take the air out. The air is what ruins the wine. But, ideally, you want to open it and drink it right away.
Current: When someone says a wine is complex, what to do they mean?
M.G.: It means that the wine has a lot of different characteristics, that the wine is multi-flavored. It will taste different in the front of the mouth, the middle of the mouth and the back of the mouth. Complexity is a good thing.
Current: Is the standard white-wine-with-chicken-and-fish /red wine-with-steak-and-game a hard and fast rule?
M.G.: It's a general rule simply because some red wines will overpower a fish. But, like anything else, there are exceptions.
Current: Do you really need to let a wine breathe (be exposed to air) before you drink it?
M.G.: It depends on the wine.
A.L.: Red wines need to breathe much more than white wines. And the heavier the style the more they need to breathe.
Current: If a sparkling wine is not from Champagne is it still called champagne?
A.L.: No! And in Europe it's illegal to call a sparkling wine champagne if it's not from Champagne.
Body - When it comes to humans, the word "body" may conjure images of curvaceous and bodacious dimensions. But in wine tasting vernacular, it simples refers to a wine's weight, which is usually said to be either "light," "medium" or "full."
Bouquet - Bouquet is simply a fancy, and dare I say pretentious, word for smell.
Buttery - Buttery has less to do with Land O' Lakes and more to do with a texture that is "silky" or "velvety." For instance, Chardonnays are often described as buttery.
Legs - Nice legs, in the wine world, have nothing to do with firm thighs or supple calves. Legs simply refer to the streams of wine that slide down a glass.
Woody - When it comes to wine, woody does not refer to the lovable bartender on Cheers. Woody is a term for an oaky wine in which wood characteristics dominate.