Aug 26, 201012:00 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

Intelligent, Inexpensive Wines and 100 Points

I love the headline writer’s art.

Headline writers can take the intent of a story and make it what they want it to be, placing emphasis on the wrong piece of information or completely misstating what the facts in the story are relating.

Take the headline on this story. You could easily receive the impression that I am going to recommend to you inexpensive wines that are worthy of or have earned 100-point scores and ratings.

I’m sad to note that in reality I am going to suggest to you wines that make a lot of sense and don’t cost a lot, and then I am going to rant about the ridiculousness of the 100-point rating system used by many national wine publications. There is no relationships or tie-ins between the two topics.

Even more, to make matters about the headline a bit dicier, suffice it to say I wrote the headline. Not only did I create the tempest, but I added fuel to the debate by suggesting devious intent, which I promise you I never possessed. And it only took 200 words to resolve the issue, from the time you did not even consider that there was an issue to complete solution. That’s better than most 30-minute TV dramas, with resolution to a seeming insurmountable life issue occurring in Minute 22. 

OK, on with the show.

Even though we are nearing the end of a really hot summer season, we are not done yet; we have at least another six weeks to go before significant relief, and we deserve refreshment to offset the meteorological situation.

I made a few suggestions earlier in the year for such wines, but we have a bit of a slight deviation from that earlier effort because we are tired of the scene and desire to be done with high heat and humidity.  Our patience is wearing thinner by the day. We have earned the reward; now give it to us.

Sometimes returning to old friends is a new thought. Along those lines, I have a couple of interesting suggestions that you probably have not considered, and –– bonus time –– they are incredibly low-priced. New suggestions, refreshing, cool, low alcohol and not expensive –– under $10, to be sure. OK, OK, you can thank me later.

Movendo Moscato comes to us from a region in Italy known for its ability to enjoy and create excellent cuisine, Emilia-Romagna. The sauce known as Bolognese, the cheese known as Parmigiano Reggiano, the ham known as prosciutto di Parma and the vinegar known as balsamic are just a few of the food items from this amazing area.

Add to that list a wine known as Moscato, which is made from the grape muscat, more traditionally from the Piedmont region but in this case from the more central province of Emilia-Romagna. The grape is white and not very complicated, so the wines do not require a Ph.D. to fully appreciate.

The Movendo label is under the Riunite banner, and those of you with more than a few years on this planet may remember the classic advertising campaign, “Riunite on ice, very nice.” Catchy. And still applicable.

Moscato has a slight frizzante quality, which means there is a light bubbly character. It’s not like a sparkling wine –– softer yet still perceptible. It has satisfying texture on the palate and not a lot of sweetness. The simple yet satisfying aspects of its character will please you.

First of all, the alcohol levels are very low, less than 9 percent. You can enjoy the wine a lot –– and you can enjoy a lot of wine –– without fear of completely embarrassing yourself. Secondly, you can chill the wine as low as you care to. The wine loves to be well-cooled. That makes it even more refreshing.

Then there’s the price point: about 8 bucks or less. This is warm-weather wine at its finest.

Another wine that makes sense to me this time of year is Lambrusco. Again, it’s a very simple wine that likes a good chill. Oh, did I mention that Lambrusco is red? I know there are those of you who will not drink white wine. We’ve had this discussion, but I don’t think I’m up to having it again in this heat.

From the same region in Italy as the Moscato, Lambrusco is an old wine. The name is derived from a Latin word meaning “wild vines” because the vines just grew where they wished without human intervention. Ahh, those crazy, mixed-up Romans. Just taking a wild vine from the fields and making decent wine. What were they thinking?

Actually, they were bright dudes, those Romans. Keep the price of the raw product down, and make a palatable final product. 

Lambrusco is also a frizzante wine, and it also will appreciate a good chill. It is also low in alcohol and is inexpensive, less than $8.

Maybe either or both of these fine wines make sense to your social gatherings instead of cool brews or sweet sangrias. And make no mistake, they are very good. Don’t forget the chips.

100 Points: The Conversation Gets Hotter
Ever since someone suggested that the 100-point wine rating system was a good idea, there have been just as many folks who don’t think so.

There’s probably no changing the structure. Certain large consumer wine publications are not about to give it up. But an article by a friend of mine, Michael Franz, writing in WineReviewOnline.com, has moved me to respond. Michael, I hope you are still a friend of mine after we respectfully agree to disagree.

Michael makes some very fine apologetic remarks as to why he is defending the 100-point system, although it does not appear his heart is in the argument. Still, he takes many of the counterpoints to the 100-point rating system and attempts to explain why the arguments against are not any better than the arguments for. Check out his thoughts at http://www.winereviewonline.com/Michael_Franz_on_Point_Scores.cfm.

My argument against the 100-point system, and why I don’t rate wines in any of the enterprises in which I am involved as a contributor, columnist or editor, is that I simply don’t care for ratings. I think that by highlighting products and providing rationale as to why the reader/viewer/listener should try the product, those consumers reading or listening to my views can make intelligent decisions based on their experiences, preferences or previous confrontations with my suggestions.

My view is that readers can provide their own “weight” to my opinions and then proceed accordingly.

Secondly, I think that any 100-point numeric system that begins with the number 50 as the lowest number is ridiculously slanted and provides an unnecessarily large playing field. Anything that is properly identified as “wine” will receive a minimum score of 50 in all the 100-point rating systems. When you start at 50 and then, as if the reviewer were a surgeon, finely define the difference between an 89 and a 91, it seems to me that there is too much wiggle room in the score-keeping process.

And if you think for a moment that all sorts of external factors don’t enter into the equation, then you don’t know humanity. Always a consideration in determining reviewers’ attitudes or scores are advertising dollars, times of day when tasted, what kind of mood they were in when they left the house and whether their glasses were properly washed from previous uses.

I know many of the wine raters.  These folks are thrown off their secure world positions by the temperature of the room and the height of the chair. Don’t even get me started about their attitudes regarding the temperature of the wine and the condition of the stopper/cork.

To be fair, I’m not certain that I would be happy with any numerical rating system. I guess that a 20-point scale is better than 100, and that ratings using five stars are also better. I like the tighter range. Sure, maybe the reviewer will want to give a wine a 17 instead of an 18, or maybe the reviewer will start to award wines with pieces of stars but not the whole star. There’s always going to be some quirk in any system.

Here’s my suggestion to you: Think. You are intelligent and aware of what you like. Don’t close your mind, but open your eyes and your nose. Maybe the review of the wine piques your curiosity, so then you trot out your wallet and give the wine a whirl.

From time to time, you will be disappointed. More often, I am willing to bet, you will be very pleased by the adventure. Use other people’s reviews sparingly, and when you taste a wine, provide it the most important score of all: The (insert your name here) Seal of Approval.

The Wine Show with Tim McNally can be heard every Sunday from noon to 2 p.m. on WIST-AM 690.
 

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Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

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In New Orleans, when the subject is wine and spirits, it is very difficult to leave Tim McNally out of the discussion. He is considered one of the “go to” resources in the Crescent City for counsel and information about adult beverages and their place in the fabric of life in this great city.

 

Tim is the Wine and Spirits Editor, columnist and feature writer for New Orleans Magazine; the Wine and Spirits Editor and weekly columnist, Happy Hour, for www.MyNewOrleans.com; the Executive Editor and monthly features writer for Gulf Coast Wine + Dine Online; creator and editor of his own website, www.winetalknola.com; all in addition to his daily hosting duties on the radio program, The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, on the air at WGSO – 990AM, every weekday, 3- 5 p.m, and streamed live on www.wgso.com.

 

Over the years, Tim has proved to be an informed interviewer, putting his guests at ease, and covering tactile and technical information so that even a novice can understand difficult agricultural and production concepts. Tim speaks with winemakers, wine and spirit ambassadors, distillers, authors, people who stage events and festivals, and takes questions from listeners and readers, all seamlessly blended together in a program that is unique in America.

 

Tim’s love of wine actually came about many years ago from his then wife-to-be, Brenda Maitland, a noted journalist in her own right, and together they have traveled to the major wine producing areas in the US and Europe, seeking first-hand information about beverages that give us all so much pleasure.

 

They were instrumental in the founding of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, a major national and international well-regarded festival of its type. They both continue to be involved with the planning and staging of this multi-venue, five-day event now over twenty years old.

 

Tim is also considered one of the foremost professional wine judges in the US, being invited to judge more than 11 wine competitions each year, including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (the largest competition of American wines in the world, with more than 6,000 entries), the Riverside, CA International Wine Competition, San Francisco International Wine Competition, Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition, Indiana International Wine Competition, Sandestin, Florida Wine Festival Competition, the State of Michigan Wine Competition, the U.S. National Wine Competition, and the National Wine Competition of Portugal.

 

Tim is a guest lecturer to many local wine and dine organizations, and speaks each year to the senior class in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama.

 

Staying abreast of the news of the wine and spirits world is a passion for Tim, and he is committed to sharing what he knows with his listeners and readers. “Doing something I love, with products that I truly enjoy, created by interesting people, coupling the experience with culinary excellence, and doing it all in the greatest city in America,” are the words Tim lives by.

 

It’s a good gig. 

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