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What makes a great wine? Of course, classification, region, and variety of grape are all weighty influences. With more than 5,000 wine labels available for retail sale in the U.S., selections should be dictated by personal taste. “It’s just wine!” says Curtis Green, president of TenFolks, a New York City-based organization that conducts wine tastings and education forums. Green emphasizes, “It should be fun to drink. The adage about red wine with beef and white with fish or chicken doesn’t hold true anymore.” A better method is selecting a wine that either complements or contrasts with your meal. And it’s all about the grape.
Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot are among the most popular. Chenin Blanc is a versatile white and is available fruity, dry, still, or sparkling. South Africa produces some of the world’s best. Malbec, once a blending grape in Bordeaux, has come into its own in Argentina as a full-bodied red.
High prices may indicate the popularity of a brand or a rare vintage, but not necessarily great taste. According to Green, wines costing as little as $8 — $10 are the largest selling category of wine.
WINE TASTING AT ITS BEST
Oxidation improves red wine. It is best uncorked an hour before the meal. Because white wines are delicate, they are best when served immediately after opening. Oz Clarke’s New Wine Atlas (Harcourt; $60.00) explores the vineyards of the world — from the western Balkans to South America. This coffee table book covers wine laws for each region and gives historic and updated descriptions of grape varieties, soil, and climate.
Wine holidays: Many old world vineyards, like those in France’s Loire Valley or Italy’s Chianti region, offer itineraries — paired with regional foods — that provide an epicurean introduction to a subject that is, arguably, inexhaustible.
Visit TenFolks at www.tenfolks.com. You may also find some useful information through the African American Wine Tasting Society (www.aawts.org) and the Association of African American Vintners (www.aaavintners.org).