Drink This: Wine Made Simple

byDara Moskowitz Grumdahl

Hardcover | November 24, 2009

Drink This: Wine Made Simple by Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl
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Ever been baffled by a wine list, stood perplexed before endless racks of bottles at the liquor store, or ordered an overpriced bottle out of fear of the scathing judgment of a restaurant sommelier? Before she became a James Beard Award—winning food and wine writer, Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl experienced all these things. Now she presents a handy guide that will show you how to stop being overwhelmed and intimidated, how to discover, respect, and enjoy your own personal taste, and how to be whatever kind of wine person you want to be, from budding connoisseur to someone who simply gets wine you like every time you buy a bottle.

Refreshingly simple, irreverent, and witty, Drink This explains all the insider stuff that wine critics assume you know. It will teach you how to taste and savor wine, alone, with a friend, or with a group. And perhaps most important, this book gives you the tools to learn the only thing that really matters about wine: namely, figuring out what you like.

Grumdahl draws on her own experience and savvy and interviews some of the world’s most renowned critics, winemakers, and chefs, including Robert M. Parker, Jr., Paul Draper, and Thomas Keller, who share their wisdom about everything from pairing food and wine to the inside scoop on what wine scores and reviews really mean. Readers will learn how to master tasting techniques and understand the winemaking process from soil to cellar. Drink This also reveals how to get your money’s worth out of wine without spending all you’ve got.

At last there’s a reason for wary wine lovers to raise a glass in celebration. Savor the insider’s viewpoint and straight talk of Drink This, and watch your intimidation of wine transform into well-grounded, unshakeable confidence.
Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl is senior editor of Minnesota Monthly and editor in chief of Real Food. She is a regular contributor to Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Condé Nast Traveller, Metropolitan Home, USA Today, Wine & Spirits, and other publications. She has won a number of awards, including four (out of seven nominations) James Beard ...
Title:Drink This: Wine Made SimpleFormat:HardcoverProduct dimensions:384 pages, 9.56 X 5.94 X 1.06 inShipping dimensions:384 pages, 9.56 X 5.94 X 1.06 inPublished:November 24, 2009Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0345511654

ISBN - 13:9780345511652

Appropriate for ages: All ages

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Read from the Book

Chapter OneThe Nuts and Bolts of Drinking, Buying, and Tasting WineHow do you drink wine? As Lauren Bacall might put it, you just pucker up your lips and sip-right? After all, meaningful, authentic, even enviable wine experiences have been had by millions-and especially millions of peasants involved in harvesting grapes-who did no more than that. However, since our goal here is to learn, gain insight, and class up the joint, we''re going to do a little more.Two at a TimeThe fastest way to learn about wine is to taste two similar wines at the same time. If you''re a haphazard or casual drinker, it''s really hard to remember what that Sauvignon Blanc you had six months ago was like. However, if you have two in front of you at the same time, it''s easy: This one is lemony, this one is fruity. This one smells of pepper, and this one smells of pepper. Drinking two bottles at a time- two Sauvignon Blancs, two Zinfandels, whatever-will put you on the fast track.What You Will Need to Get Started TastingNitrogen or Argon in a CanOf course, drinking two bottles at a time leads to the problem of having two bottles open at a time. The reason wine goes bad when it''s open is oxygen. You''ll probably remember from your high school chemistry class that oxygen causes all sorts of problems in the world. It''s what makes rust, fuels fire, and generally changes stuff. One stuff it really changes a lot is wine, via a process called oxidation. Don''t believe me? Leave a glass of wine on the counter overnight and taste it the next day. Blech. Oxidation.A little oxidation can be good-that''s more or less what you''re doing when you decant wine, or let it "breathe"-but a lot is bad. You can slow or prevent oxidation in an opened bottle of wine in a couple of ways. You can try to suck all the oxygen out of the bottle, using something like the Vacu Vin system or another gizmo that pumps the air out, or you can try to put a little blanket of a gas that''s heavier than air on top of the wine to keep the oxygen from getting to it.Some respected wine professionals prefer the vacuum, but for my money the gas works better. You can buy cans of wine preserver that are mostly nitrogen from just about any wine store. They go by all kinds of brand names: Private Preserve, Cork Pops, and Winelife are the biggest. They cost about $10 and will get you through about a hundred uses. Most of the big, fancy wine bars use a very expensive version of this nitrogen preservation system; that''s how they can have so many bottles open at one time.After you pour your glasses of wine, you stick the little hose jutting out of the top of the can into your wine bottle and spray. Now you''ve got at least a couple of days to finish it-more if you stick the bottle in the fridge. So for 10 cents you get another week or so to finish your wine. (Champagne and other sparkling wines provide their own gas to prevent oxidation, so there''s not much benefit to gassing them. Use a lever stopper, discussed below, to preserve those.)Put a Cork (Back) in ItOnce you spritz a little nitrogen into an opened bottle, you need to seal it. If it''s got a screw top, that''s easy enough. If it''s a regular bottle, replace the cork. If you don''t like wrestling with corks, invest in a couple of lever bottle stoppers. They cost between $1 and $7, depending on how high-design they are, and seal bottles with an airtight seal. I like the Zyliss ones because they cost about $3, and last forever. I''ve had some in my kitchen now for eight years and they''re still going strong.Speaking of CorksMuch ado is made about corkscrews, but any one that works for you is good enough. I like the traditional one with the little arms that lift up; they usually cost less than $10 and will follow you to your grave. I''ve had a couple of the ones with the Teflon-coated helix (the curly goes-into-the-cork part) that makes pulling corks effortless, but they cost a lot and they always break. They''re convenient, though, if you''re frequently opening a lot of wine bottles. I admire people who can use a waiter''s corkscrew effortlessly, but I''m not one of them (though I keep one in the car for picnic-related emergencies).All that being said, if you spend more than five minutes in this lifetime thinking or reading about corkscrews, you''re wasting your time. Magazine editors periodically assign stories about them, but I think this is mostly because they go to the store and don''t know which one to buy, so they think it''s an issue that needs getting to the bottom of. It isn''t.DecantersSpeaking of stuff you don''t need, add decanters to the list. Decanters are for people who have old wine-as in, aged wine-that has developed sediment on the bottom. When you decant it, most of the sediment stays behind in the bottle, and then most of the rest stays behind in the decanter.Sediment is a good thing, by the way. It''s the sign of unfiltered, high-quality wine. In the bottle it adds flavor, settling to the bottom as harmless fine silt. (It''s more common in reds than whites.) However, it''s not particularly fun to have in your mouth. It''s like earthworms in the garden: good, but best left in place.Mostly, wine decanting is about sediment, but the pro-cess also gives the wine time to "breathe," or to come in contact with oxygen, as described above. Wine can breathe just fine in a plain old pitcher, however. I''d guess 90 percent of the decanters in this country are owned by people who think they should own them. If you want to try decanting, just pour your wine into any handy pitcher, or even a vase. Try the wine. Has it improved? If not, congratulations! You just saved $30.Wine RacksSometimes in home-furnishing store catalogs I see adorable little wine racks carefully arranged in the sunny front window of a dream kitchen, and I settle back in my chair and muse: "What dopes." Sunlight and its partner, heat, are the absolute enemy of wine. If you want to destroy wine, a cute wine rack in a sunny front window is the fastest way to do that. The ideal place to keep wine is in a cool, dark cellar. Cool is imporant to avoid enemy number one, heat; dark is important because you skip enemy number two, light. If you''re living without a cellar, some good places to store wine include: under your bed, in a closet, in a cupboard, in a file cabinet, or under the sink. Wine bottled under a cork is best kept on its side so that the cork doesn''t dry out. Corks do dry out: I talked to the sommelier at a super-fancy steak house once, the kind that lines the walls with stock-pot-size ultra-prestigious bottles of wine, and he told me that they used to lay down all the bottles overnight once a month to let the corks get moist-until the morning he came in to find $7,000 worth of Champagne soaked into the rug. All you need to know? Keep your bottles on their sides, in the dark!WineglassesThe one bit of wine paraphernalia that I do believe in is nice wineglasses. Nearly all of a wine''s nuance is in its fragrance, in the little molecules that waft into your nose where you detect them as roses, pineapple, saddle leather, or what not. If you use a juice glass for your wine, those little volatilized molecules coming out of the wine simply dissipate into thin air, leaving you nothing to smell and enjoy. Wine in a tumbler, a juice glass, a rocks glass, a lowball? No matter how cute the glass, you just can''t smell the wine. And if you can''t smell it, you can''t taste it.Now I know some of you are thinking, "Wait a minute, I''ve been to Europe and I was served wine in a jelly jar and it was just fine." Indeed, the nice-glass paradigm only holds for nice wines: If you''re drinking two-euro-a-gallon wine, by all means, stick it in a jelly jar, that''s the best way to make lousy wine go down easy. (Also, put ice in it, which helps prevent the scent compounds from volatilizing.)However, if you actually want to enjoy the wine you drink, you need a glass with a stem, which keeps the wine in the glass from warming in your hand, and a bowl that is broader at the bottom and narrower at the top. That gap between the top of the glass and the surface of the wine is where the aromatic compounds get trapped so that you can smell them.How much you spend on a good wineglass is up to you. Personally, I really like drinking wine out of nice Riedel stemware, and I think I like it half because it improves the wine and half because it makes me feel special and fancy. I get the basic ones that run $10 to $15 a stem; I don''t think there''s a great difference between those and the bigger, more expensive ones, which break more easily and therefore stress me out more. However, the point of a wineglass is the same whether it''s an $8, $15, or $50 stem: They''re there to keep the wine at the right temperature and to capture its fragrance. The big difference between the $10 ones and the $50 ones tends to be the quality of the glass itself, and whether it was machine-made or handmade. If it makes you happy to have a $50 handblown stem-have that thing! If it doesn''t make you happy-skip that thing! I''ve gotten lovely Riedel glasses at Target and seen charming ones at Pottery Barn. If you told me there were good-enough glasses at Wal-Mart I wouldn''t be surprised. The basic Riedel white wine stem is wonderful for whites, and I think it''s nice to have both a Burgundy ball shape and a taller Bordeaux shape for reds. My final thought: Get some nice wineglasses. You won''t regret it.Smell is such a huge part of taste that you should swirl if you want to get real pleasure from wine. When you swirl the wine in the glass, what you''re basically doing is creating a tiny little tornado, a bit of uplifting wind over the glass that moves the scent of the wine- t

Editorial Reviews

"If you haven''t lived with reading Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl every week, you have missed the reason why we humans have opposing thumbs. They''re there so you can keep turning her pages. With Dara doing a wine book, the days are over of buying bottles because the labels match your home team colors. Be bamboozled and intimidated no more. Dara is about to give you the best and easiest kind of wine smarts, and gift you a good read in the bargain." —Lynne Rossetto Kasper, host of The Splendid Table®, public radio''s food show from American Public Media (NPR)"Most wine books have left me feeling like I am bringing a knife to a swordfight, completely underprepared. Not this one. Drink This is what I''ve been waiting for. Finally, a must-have book for the vino-challenged! For over a decade I have relied on Dara Grumdahl''s insight and common sense wisdom regarding all matters related to food and wine, and now luckily, so can everyone else with this helpful, funny and accessible guide to determining your favorite wines." —Andrew Zimmern"Dara Grumdahl is right about absolutely everything. If she calls me up at four in the morning, says ''Get dressed, get some money—and a gun—you''ll need it where we''re eating,'' I don''t ask any questions. I just go." —Anthony Bourdain"Dara Moskowitz''s writing comes across immediately; it also gets under your skin. Whether writing about restaurants, food, wine, travel, art, literature, music, architecture—or all of those things in a single piece—she is always writing about a milieu, the manners, expectations, fears, and desires of a particular place and time. She is alluring and instructive; as much as Pauline Kael or Lester Bangs. Her work shows what a critic can do and what she can be." —Greil Marcus"Straight-forward, clearly organized and ambitiously witty, [Drink This]  makes reading about wine fundamentals interesting again. Includes many "conversations" with bigwigs in the industry, provocative sidebars, and a clever "what''s to love/hate" approach to major grapes. —Epicurious.com