The Saucy Sisters Blog

Sweet wines: The Boone’s Farm Backlash

September 18th, 2012

Sweet Wine Photo

Just say, “I like wines that are on the sweet side,” and you’ll get ugly, condescending stares.  It’s not fashionable to like sweet wines.  We don’t know why.  Maybe it’s a Boone’s Farm backlash.  But we think it’s just plain wrong.

When we say “sweet,” we’re not talking about dessert wines or the cloying, sugar-infused pink wines.  We mean elegant, well-made wines that just happen to impart the soft whisper of sweetness.  There’s a term to describe these wines that will disarm the patronizing wine snobs who are looking down their noses at you:  off dry.

We don’t know who came up with this descriptor, but we’re willing to bet that it was coined by wine marketers to sell more sweet-ish wines to buyers who were too embarrassed to admit they were looking for a bit of a sugar fix in their wines.  We’ve noticed in our wine classes, though, that most of the sweet wine drinkers haven’t heard of the term off dry.  So we’re here to let you in on that sweet little secret.

What wines might qualify as off dry? It’s hard to generalize because wines can be made in so many styles . . . but your best chances are with Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chenin Blanc and Rosé.  Sweet red wines that aren’t dessert wines are more difficult to find.  But to tell whether or not a wine is sweet, check out the alcohol content listed on the label.  A rule of thumb is that the lower the alcohol level (8-12%), the higher the residual sugar content and the sweeter the wine .

Do you have a favorite off-dry wine?  We’d like to know.  If you’re brave enough to confess you have a vinous sweet-tooth, email us with your recommendations.


Sending Wine Back

August 27th, 2012
That wine smelled of burnt marshmellows!

That wine was not to my superior taste!

Boy, have we heard stories of blowhards who order a bottle of wine and then reject it in a loud and animated fashion so everyone in the restaurant can see how much they know about wine. Who do they think they’re impressing?

Scenes like that make the rest of us reticent about sending a bottle of wine back – even when it’s warranted. So, when is it warranted?

When you stick your nose into your glass to get a good whiff of the wine you ordered, you’ll probably be able to tell if something isn’t right. Rather than being met with the fresh and fruity scent of berries, you’re greeted with smells that can be categorized, at best, as disagreeable.

Nine times out of ten your nose knows. If you’d prefer to rely on your palate, go ahead and taste. It won’t hurt you.  It’ll probably confirm what you already know: Anything that smells like that isn’t something you’re about to gag down.

Off aromas can remind us of other everyday smells. We just don’t want to smell them in our wine. Here are five aromas to look for. Even a hint of one of them could be good reason to send a wine back.

• Rotten eggs – from too much sulfur used in making the wine.

• Nail polish remover – due to a bacterial spoilage.

• Wet newspaper – resulting from a cork tainted with a chemical called TCA.

• Burnt marshmallow – from oxidation when the wine has been stored improperly.

• Sweaty horse blanket – caused by a yeast spoilage know as “brett.”

Rejecting a wine is justifiable when it’s flawed. And you don’t have to be timid about sending it back when you recognize those flaws.

Here’s to Your (and Our) Health!

June 14th, 2012

We attended a party last week where the recently married hosts touted the benefits of red wine.  It seems that the groom had been living with high cholesterol for many years and now, after six months of marriage, his cholesterol is normal – without medication.  The miracle?  The bride says that it’s the red wine.  Before the happy couple met, the bride was a red wine drinker and the groom a total abstainer.  As she puts it, “I told him right away I was not giving up my red wine!”  So beat ‘em or join ‘em?  He joined.

We’ve all heard about the heart healthy benefits of red wine, but what are they and are they real?  While we’re not medical professionals, we’ve done a bunch of research on the subject.  It seems that the antioxidants in red wine may help prevent heart disease by increasing levels of good cholesterol and protecting against artery damage and blood clots.  Antioxidants in red wine are called polyphenols.  One polyphenol that is constantly in the news is resveratrol, which is the strongest antioxidant found in nature.

The resveratrol in red wine comes from the skins of grapes used to make the wine.  While all wine – red, white and pink contain some resveratrol, red wine has the most because the wine is fermented with the grape skins, which remain in longer contact with the juice than a white or blush wine.

You can also get the benefits of resveratrol by taking resveratrol supplements or eating foods that contain some of this power antioxidant, such as blueberries and cranberries – and even dark chocolate.

Resveratrol has also been linked to the French Paradox – the general observation that the French population tends to consume a good bit of red wine and foods high in fat (cheese, butter and creamy sauces) yet maintains relatively low levels of cardiovascular diseases.

According to the Mayo Clinic, some research does verify that resveratrol is linked to a reduced risk of inflammation and blood clotting, both of which can lead to heart disease.  But they say that more research is needed since most research has been done on animals, not people.

While we’ve been doing our own research over many years, we can report that we both have healthy levels of good and bad cholesterol.  Whether we were just born with good genes or it’s actually our wine consumption, we don’t know.  But just in case…we continue to raise our glasses of red wine and offer a toast to its many benefits!

Tasting Pietra Santa Cab in their Hollister, CA Tasting Room

Tasting Pietra Santa Cab in their Hollister, CA Tasting Room

Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off

April 6th, 2012

A few weeks ago George Clooney announced he’s launching a tequila brand called Casamigos Tequila.  He’s partnering with restaurateur Rande Gerber, who happens to be husband to supermodel Cindy Crawford.  This got us to thinking about the lyrics to the Joe Nichols song (She can handle any Champagne brunch/Bridal shower with Bacardi punch/Jell-o shooters full of Smirnoff…But tequila makes her clothes fall off).  Okay, no disrobing for George, but the power of tequila can make a girl do strange things.

In a lot of ways tequila resembles wine.  Not the least of which is what happens after you open the bottle.  Like wine, tequila loses its zest when it’s exposed to the air.  An opened bottle may last longer than its vinous counterpart, but it’s best to drink it up within a month or two.

And we’re sure you know the concept that Champagne is a type of sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wines are Champagne.  Same principle applies to tequila.  Tequila is a type of mezcal, but mezcals aren’t tequilas.  Mezcal can be made from five different varieties of the agave plant.  Tequila is made only from the blue agave (which, by the way, is a succulent, not a cactus).

Tequila has way more cachet than mezcal…and the prices to prove it.  After tequila is fermented, it – by law – has to be distilled twice.  Most mezcal only gets one distillation.  Given the huge popularity of tequila, mezcal producers are getting smart and starting to produce premium products too.

Right now there are about 1,000 brands of tequila made.  If you’re looking for a premium product, make sure the label says “100% blue agave.”  If it doesn’t, it can have up to 49% added coloring and flavoring ingredients – usually caramel and sometimes oak essence.  These blended tequilas are known as mixtos. Cuervo Gold is an example, which is still one of the world’s best selling tequilas.

All tequila starts out clear right after distillation.  If it’s bottled immediately in this form, it’s called blanco or plata (white or silver).  Some people think it’s harsh…and others think it is more robust with more of the agave flavor.  Our opinion is that it makes the best Margaritas.

The color of other 100% agave tequilas comes from aging in oak barrels.  The longer the aging, the darker the color and the more the wood affects the flavor.  Reposado (rested) tequila is aged from two months to one year.  Añejo (aged or old) tequila is aged from one year to ten.  All types of tequila have about the same amount of alcohol – around 38-40% (76-80 proof).

Sharing a margarita with our saucy brother, Jeff

Sharing a margarita with our saucy brother, Jeff

And what about the worm?  No Mexican-bottled tequila has a worm.  Some – but not all – mezcals have a worm in the bottle.  It started out as a marketing ploy in the 1940s to try to get some attention.  Guess it worked.

The Saucy Sisters Wine Entertainers The Saucy Sisters Wine Entertainers