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Nov 8, 201708:00 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

Drinking Differently

Are you a "wine snob?" Or are you a "wine geek" (which may be the same thing only you don’t want to admit to being a snob. You are way too nice for that)?

One sure-fire “tell” of a wine snob/geek is ABC. In parlance, that means "Anything But Chardonnay." For some cluster of reasons, and they all have varying levels of validity, many wine drinkers associate the juice from the chardonnay grape as being beneath serious consideration. If you drink chardonnay, the reasoning goes, you are not serious about enjoying wine.

What makes that attitude all the more ridiculous is that for every 10 bottles of wine sold in the United States, 3-4 are chardonnay. Yes, this little-respected, often compromised grape comprises 34 percent of all wine devoured in the largest wine-consuming market on the planet. Aretha Franklin should be applying her Spelling Bee hit to chardonnay. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

White wines provide many attributes to those who appreciate quality adult beverages. First of all, whites are usually lower in alcohol and tannins than reds. This makes them easier to drink and more of the wine can be enjoyed without the serious effects of too much alcohol, tannins that start to overwhelm the palate and the allied effect of teeth-staining.

In addition, whites provide a wide-range of pleasant aromas, tastes, and they are quite compatible with many foods.

But let’s assume for a minute that you have some sort of mental block against chardonnay, earned over a long period of time with chardonnays that were of low quality or California chardonnays caught up in the “more oak” craze of a few years back that has, thankfully, receded. Not disappeared, but receded.

Anyway, let’s all of us move on and find some white wines, not chardonnay, which can create different impressions and provide enjoyment.


Sauvignon Blanc – the most logical alternative to chardonnay is sauvignon blanc. Maybe you don’t like SB. But the reality is that this grape from wildly diverse regions provides different expressions. Try sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley or Bordeaux, both in France, or New Zealand. If you want to stay in the USA, sauvignon blanc from Russian River, Oregon; New York State; or Washington State all present different aspects of this delightful grape.

Viognier – the white grape from the Rhone Valley of France that is used in the blend for red wines such as Chateauneuf du Pape. On its own, Viognier from the northern Rhone Valley, or northern California, Oregon or Washington state is a joy to behold.

Albarino or Alvarinho – the white grape from the northwestern corner of Spain and the northernmost area of Portugal is catching on in a big way, particularly in a fresh seafood eating town like ours. Fine acid structure means this wine is still identifiable alongside a platter of fresh trout topped with crab and a beurre blanc sauce. They are not eating that in Kansas City.

Roussanne and Marsanne – while these white grapes flourish in the Rhone region of France, lately we have seen a number of wineries on the West Coast of the US try their hand with these crisp styles. Not only are these wines quite delightful, but imagine the fun you will have with friends around the dinner table who have never even heard of these names.

Riesling and Gewürztraminer – don’t wrinkle your brow at the mention of these grapes. Sure, they can be a bit on the sweet side but not all are, Those that are not provide amazing palate sensations and long finishes.  Keep in mind that in their home countries, Germany and Austria, a lot of sausage is consumed. That does sound like a place some of the cuisines we all know very well and from quite close.   

Vermentino – put down the lacking, flabby examples of pinot grigio and try the other Italian white favorite, Vermentino. While this grape is very well-respected in northern Italy, it also enjoys considerable success on Corsica and Sardinia. 


One of the real points here is that we are entering a holiday season and we are going to be enjoying a lot of difference styles of food. We are, because of who we are, likely to be doing a lot of drinking, Wouldn’t it be wonderful to try some new beverages, lower in alcohol than the stuff we are accustomed to, and find something delightful or a selection of many somethings that are appealing?

That’s where a lot of the fun is - trying many different items and enjoying the voyage of discovery. Getting “stuck” on one answer can’t be the best we can be. If performing important research with adult beverages ain’t fun, what’s the point?




Read Happy Hour here on myneworleans.com every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed as well as stored (podcast), at www.wgso.com. Also, check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature every month in New Orleans Magazine.


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Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans


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; 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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