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Expert tips on selecting a good bottle at a great price.
January is an ideal time to shop for discounted wines, as storesclear older vintages from inventory. "Bargain-bin wines are usuallywines that are peaking, so it's a great way to find a wine to drinktonight," says Erin O'Shea, wine director at Clio restaurant inBoston. Follow these tips when shopping:
• Scoop up the reds. They have a longer shelf life thanrosés and everyday white wines, like California chardonnay andsauvignon blanc. "Most of these wines begin to decline after a yearor two," O'Shea says. To be safe, avoid whites that are pre-2005 orturning orange in color.
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• Check the fill level, O'Shea says. If it appears low,evaporation is occurring. That means the bottle has been poorlyhandled; you'll be better off selecting a different one.
• Make a little conversation. If you spot an amazing deal, getthe full story, says Jesse Salazar, wine director at Union SquareWines and Spirits, which recently offered a $50 wine from Spain forless than $20. "In this case the closeout came from the winery, andwe passed the savings along," Salazar says. "A responsible storeshould welcome the chance to have a conversation and build trustwith you."
The 23 best souvenirs from Mexico to bring home
Please only travel when and where it’s safe, and follow all local guidelines. Also double-check what's open before your trip.
We love a good bargain &ndash don&rsquot you?
If you like the idea of haggling like a pro and making out like a bandit, then buying souvenirs from Mexico is going to be one of the best times of your life!
Okay, perhaps that&rsquos a slight exaggeration, but shopping the local markets and stores is always one of the highlights of our Mexican vacations.
If you&rsquore planning a trip to Mexico, there are tons of cool things to buy, from hand-crafted mezcal to colorfully decorated maracas. You&rsquoll come across many unique mementos you won&rsquot find anywhere else.
These Are the Best Cheap Sparkling Wines, According to Experts
It’s that time of year again. Family, friends and a whole lot of holiday party toasts. If you find that you’re running up a crazy tab on your own bar cart, here’s a money-saving solution for you: Cheap bubbly that actually tastes amazing! We got recommendations for cheap bottles of sparkling wine from experts in the field — including some sommeliers — so you can pop bottles and toast every holiday party like it’s New Year’s Eve.
Moet Mini, $15.99
"These bottles come with sippers and are the perfect way to enjoy a personal bottle of champagne. The Minis elevate any gathering, making for great welcome drinks, table place cards or simply a festive way to ring in the new year."
- Maximilian Riedel, President and CEO, Riedel
Domaine Pinon Vouvray Brut de Brut, $18.99
"I always crave fresh sparkling wine on New Years to keep spirits light and able to party all night. Look for no dosage sparklers - labeled 'Brut Nature' or 'Extra Brut' - which have no added sugar. They're typically the sparkling wines you'll want to keep drinking long after the toast. A great example is this chiseled champagne-method Chenin Blanc from Vouvray with no wood and no dosage. It's tasty enough to be your first glass or fresh enough to be your last."
Tapiz Sparkling Torrontes, $21
"For someone looking to bring an untraditional bottle to the party, I recommend the Tapiz sparkling Torrontes. It has notes of honeyed apricot, melon, and lemon meringue, with crisp acidity that cuts through the rich fruit notes (and the richness of the meal!). This bottle would be a beautiful beginning or end to any holiday meal."
- Jesse Kirkpatrick, General Manager, Holeman and Finch Bottle Shop
Doro Nature Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, $16.99
"This is a single vineyard, vintage prosecco made entirely from the Glera grape by two sisters in the foothills of the Dolomite mountains. This prosecco is bone dry with no added dosage and brings both amazing value as well as amazing flavor to the table."
- Kim Stone, Beverage Director, Astersf.com
Raventos i Blanc 2016 Brut Sparkling NV, $22.99
"More comfortable than true Champagne, but drinks at a really high level of quality for about $20. Guests will think it's from Champagne because it has a high presence of generality and is bright and refreshing."
Chateau de Breze Cremant Rose, $23
"From one of the oldest sparkling producers in the Loire region, this wine is all Cabernet Franc grapes, but drinks like fresh flowers. Easy to crush all night!"
Presto Sparkling Rose Cans, $12.99
"Aromas of pink grapefruit, pomegranate and black currant with a hint of wild rose this rose features well-balanced acidity with notes of red raspberry and strawberry and a persistent perlage. It's best enjoyed on its own or paired with appetizers, fresh seafood, grilled fish and fruit, or chocolate desserts."
- Devon Broglie, Master Sommelier, Whole Foods Market
Scarpetta Prosecco 2017, $18
"A classic Italian sparkling wine coming from the Grave del Friuli, Italy’s newest DOC region for Prosecco. Scarpetta is the passion project of Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Patterson, former Master Sommelier and chef de partie at the famed French Laundry. Made in a vibrant, dry style with pretty aromas of calla lily, white peach and honeydew melon. It compliments any light fare from fresh ceviche to a bag of potato chips."
2. Molinillo Souvenir
After you’ve picked up your Mexican chocolate, make authentic hot chocolate with your souvenir molinillo. A molinillo is basically a wooden whisk for your hot chocolate, aerating it perfectly. If you know someone who loves kitchen gadgets, this is a unique one to gift.
I love shopping for unique kitchen utensils when I travel. This Mexican molinillo souvenir will whisk your hot chocolate to perfection and look pretty displayed in your kitchen.
Wine & cheese party tips
Nothing goes together quite like a robust glass of wine and a deliciously aged slice of cheese. Show your love for this fabulous pairing by hosting a party with your favorite wine- and fromage- obsessed friends. A wine and cheese pairing party is a great way to learn more about wine and cheese and try new varieties of both!
The best wine and cheese parties are those that encourage the guests to interact by bringing their favorite wines and cheeses for the rest of the guests to sample. If your budget allows, invite a sommelier to speak about the wines and their growth process, as well as recommend favorite pairings. If you can’t swing that, do a bit of research on your own and surprise and impress your friends with your knowledge of the grapes and cheese.
How to prep
Decide how many guests you want to invite and prepare invitations. Allow yourself at least two to three weeks for paper invitations (which also gives guests time to RSVP) and at least a week for evites. Once invitations have been received and guests have RSVP’d, shop for your stemware and cheese plates. What you’ll need for a party of 12 guests:
- At least 20 wine glasses (to allow for any extra guests who come, any breaks and anyone who’d prefer a different glass for white and red)
- Wooden cheese boards with knife sets (not absolutely necessary)
- Cheese and wine tasting labels
Although this party is primarily focused on wine and cheese, it’s important to also pick up palate cleansers, like fresh fruit, vegetables and water, so that guests can truly enjoy the differences in each sip and bite. Here’s a sample shopping menu that’s full of great variety and bargain cheese and wine as well:
- Bunches of fresh strawberries, grapes, blueberries, melons and apples
- An array of fresh vegetables, like broccoli heads, celery sticks, carrots and cauliflower
- A few meats, like prosciutto or spicy salami
- Blue or Gorgonzola cheeses
- Semifirm cheeses, such as cheddar, fontina or Saint-Nectaire
- A super-aged cheese, like Parmesan or Gouda
- A very pungent (“stinky” cheese like Langres or Livarot
- A mild and soft cheese, like Brie, goat cheese and Camembert
- A variety of dry and fruity reds, like merlot, pinot noir, zinfandel and rose
- A variety of dry and sweet whites, like pinot grigio, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc
- One or two bottles of sparkling wines, like Champagne or Prosecco
For each cheese, you’ll want to buy at least one ounce per person. For beginner parties, limit yourself to three to five cheeses and four to six wines, so as not to overwhelm the palate (and the guests).
When decorating for your party, keep things simple and classy since you don’t want to draw focus away from the main highlights of the evening — the wine and cheese! A great accessory to have on hand is a detailed book on wine and cheese, such as Cheese & Wine: A Guide to Selecting, Pairing and Enjoying by Janet Fletcher, so guests can look up facts on the wines and cheeses they are enjoying. Make sure the room is well-lit and even the addition of unscented candles (you don’t want to detract from the aroma of the cheese) will make an impact.
When setting up the cheese trays, put one to three varieties on each board to give guests a chance to try a few different kinds. Be sure to have labels in front of or inserted into the cheese so guests know what they are trying. Put a few different bottles of wine with each tray, varying from one tray to another, so guests can sample different reds and whites with different ripe cheeses.
Games and crafts
Although games and crafts are not necessary to a great wine and cheese party, they are a fun way to interact with your guests and learn new things as well. One great game you can play is a blind tasting. Buy an expensive bottle of wine and a cheaper bottle of wine and pour each one into an identical pitcher. Then have your guests sample each one and try to guess which one is the more expensive bottle and which one is not!
A fun craft for guests is to provide plain wine glasses and glass paint and have your guests decorate their own take-home wine glass. You can do this with plain ceramic cheese plates as well.
Hosting your own wine and cheese party is a great way to learn about wines and familiarize yourself with cheeses. Besides, do you really need an excuse to snack on fancy cheese and sip on delicious wines?
The Best Wines to Snag at Trader Joe's for Under $20
In fact, the majority of wines on this list are under $10, so don&rsquot feel guilty about stocking up.
Now that dry January is almost over—hey, I tried!—it’s time to kick off a very exciting series diving into how to find truly great, highly affordable wines right at your favorite grocery stores. Because wine should be easy, folks𠅏rom the buying to the drinking. So, we’ll be perusing the aisles of your favorite one-stop shops, divulging tips and tricks for scoring the best (and obviously, most budget-friendly) bottles, starting with Trader Joe’s.
For the longest time I bypassed the Trader Joe’s wine section, thinking that I needed to be in a boutique wine shop to get good wine. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to support local shops but there’s something magical about getting everything you need in one run, wine included. Most shoppers have heard of the infamous Charles Shaw “two-buck Chuck” wines (even Mykal Kilgore, a singer and songwriter, gives a shout out to this wine in one of his songs)𠅋ut after spending a good amount of time examining the aisles over the holidays, I was pleased to find that there’s a whole world of delicious, affordable wine waiting to be consumed.
Point being: Bookmark this page for your next trip to Trader Joe’s. There’s bubbles, highly drinkable whites, light reds and much more. And don’t forget to stock up on the $5 to $10 bottles. Honestly, after a few bottles have been consumed, no one is going to be able to tell if they’re drinking a $100 bottle or a $10 bottle. My entertaining trick? Start the evening with a more spendy bottle to really savor and enjoy and hit the TJ’s stockpile moving forward. Plus, it feels good to be that person who always has wine on hand for whatever occasion arises (or for absolutely no occasion at all).
On the following list you’ll find my personal favorites, picks from industry experts, and suggestions from longtime Trader Joe’s wine-loving friends. Together, there are recs for every taste, to make shopping for vino a breeze.
The Party Bubbles
Trader Joe’s Blanc de Blancs Brut is the cream of the crop. The king of cheap bubbles. The party trick. And quite frankly, something I vow to always have chilled and ready to drink in the fridge. I buy at least 3-4 bottles each Trader Joe’s trip, as these bubbles are a complete steal at $6 a bottle𠅊nd they’re quite tasty too. Think of it like this: You can have have 10 bottles of this or one bottle of Champagne. I love Champagne, but this is how you throw parties, people. Line em’ up and pop them open all night long. Your wallet will never freak out, I promise.
To back up my two cents on wine, Natalie Stewart, sommelier at Fin & Fino, also fan-girls over these bubbles. “I love to stock up on this bottle for brunch or to have on hand for a last-minute invite to a friend’s place,” Stewart notes. “The sparkling wine is crisp and refreshing, and perfect to drink alone or pair with oysters, cheese, or any appetizer with a little grease.”
You Might Not Know Albariño, But You Should
Luzada Rs Baixas Albariño, with a pretty turquoise label (and at $7 a pop), is a wine I keep in stock at all times. I gravitate towards Albarino (a delicious white grape grown in Northwest Spain), especially in the summer as it’s light and bright and an all-around good food drinking wine. Add seafood into the equation and it’s a no-brainer. I’m talking oysters on the half shell, peel and eat shrimp situations, grilled fish, and even seafood pasta.
An Easy Drinking Portugeuse White
Housed in a beautiful green bottle, Espiral Vinho Verde ($4.99) is another white wine (from Portugal) to buy by the mass. "Espiral Vinho Verde is a no brainer to add to your shopping cart at TJ&aposs,” says Chef Soo Ahn, executive chef at Michelin-starred Band of Bohemia. “It&aposs always refreshing and pairs with pretty much anything — grilled chicken, pasta, seafood, etc.,” noting that it’s even more palatable when super chilled.
A Noteworthy But Not-Too-Heavy Red
The duo behind JordAsh (Jordan and Ashley) are always entertaining and cooking on Instagram and such, so I tracked them down to see what red they’re drinking. Meiomi Pinot Noir, they told me, is “tried and true” and a bottle they always pick up. At $18.99 a bottle, it’s average price point for a red—just know that quality reds will often set you back a bit more as there’s more time involved in aging and all that jazz . But for the most part, pinot noir is a solid bet for a hearty but not overly aggressive red to pop out at dinner.
Anytime Rosé Bubbles
District lead bartender, Tony Gonzales, is an advocate of affordable Trader Joe’s wine, and come summer, Reserve des Chastelles Tavel Rosé is where it’s at. “With hints of strawberry,” Gonzales adds. For $9 a bottle it’s doable to invite friends over and actually drink (responsibly) #Rosບllday. I find that friends who don’t like regular bubbles often like pink bubbles as they’re a tad bit sweeter.
A Non-Traditional, &ldquoBreak Away&rdquo White
Chef Tony Celeste, of Whitestone Restaurant in California, buys Mbali Chenin Blanc-Viognier every Trader Joe’s visit. And at $5 a bottle, who can blame him? "It’s a decisive break away from traditional white wines without being too different,” says Celeste. “Mbali hits all the right notes beginning with bright flavors of melon and ending with a refreshing, crisp acidity."
The &ldquoDon&rsquot Feel Guilty&rdquo Table Wine
I turned to many friends when writing this piece as they’re the ones with honest palates or more so, they simply drink what they like𠅊nd that’s how you should always approach wine. My friend Josh Deal brought Green Fin White Table Wine to my attention. “It’s impossible not to add this wine to my shopping basket on any trip to Trader Joe&aposs,” says Deal. “I usually finish off a whole bottle at a time and never feel guilty about it.” At under $5 a bottle, it’s a bargain wine that’s “smooth with subtle fruit notes.”
You’ve likely had J. L. Quinson Côtes de Provence Rosé at a party or have passed the bottle in the wine aisle. Anyway, it’s in an aesthetically pleasing bottle (because yes, that sometimes matters too) and you can’t beat the under $10 price tag. “Wine-savvy friends pointed me in the right direction on my search for my rosé—made in Provence, spend a little more,” says Rachel Sutherland of Rachel Sutherland Communications. 𠇋ut I always felt like Goldilocks: this one is too fruity, this one is too sweet,” she adds, until tasting J. L. Quinson Côtes de Provence Rosé. “It was supremely refreshing in August last year during an outdoor community feast, ice-cold right out of the cooler (that screw top is a game changer).”
Working Mom Snacktime Wine
Everytime I pop over to Ivy Black’s house (a childhood best friend and interior designer), she’s got the most amazing snack spreads𠅊nd aways good wine to accompany. I’m constantly impressed as she has a full time job as an interior designer, a husband, two kids, and a gorgeous home… so naturally, I’m always intrigued with what she’s drinking. 𠇌hilean Sauvignon Blancs have always been my favorite,” says Black. 𠇊s a working mom and business owner with two kids I often eat a ‘snack supper’ while feeding them,’ she adds. “Kidia Sauvignon Blanc ($5.99) is citrus-y and refreshing and It pairs so nicely with Trader Joe’s dumplings and shelled edamame.”
For Oaky Chardonnay Lovers
When it comes to Chardonnay, typically you either like oakiness or ya don’t. And if you do, Rebuttal Chardonnay ($6.99) will tickle your fancy, but isn’t too aggressive. “Personally, I can’t get enough of a good oaky, super buttery Chardonnay,” says Black, noting that she is one of the few (I personally am anti-oak but I don’t mind a taste from time to time). 𠇋ring it out with your cheese board and pair it with chicken or salmon—you’ll convert your friends and partner.”
Porch Sitting Sauvignon Blanc
“I love Trader Joe’s for for a multitude of reasons, but especially for their wine,” says Kaylin Fulp, chef at Union Special. “I love that I can buy a bottle to take to a dinner with friends and it tastes like a $40 bottle and It only set me back $10,” she says, of Sauvignon Republic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($7.99). “This one is crisp, light and definitely leans towards a more stone-fruit flavor note,” she adds. “It gives serious Casamaro Blanco vibes and reminds me of summer porch sitting—just peachy.”
For a Good Red, Seek the Bottles with the Animals on the Label
Stacey Sprenz, a photographer, notes to seek out “the Spanish varieties at TJ’s with the animals on the bottles.” I’ll agree quickly La Granja is a go-to, as I simply love Spanish reds. They’re easier to dive into and, for the most part, are easy wines to drink with food. La Granja 360 Tempranillo (with a pig on the bottle) is a full-bodied but approachable red I grab on the regular.
The Wine Wednesday column has been missing for awhile now! But, we are back and we will do our best to bring you a bargain wine selection each Wednesday. Our first return to Wine Wednesday selection is an exclusive at Trader Joe’s, one of our favorite places for bargain wines. The 2010 Dark Horse Cabernet Sauvignon is an easy drinking Cabernet with tamed tannins and displaying that the grapes hail from a warm growing region. &hellip Read more
Buying Wine on a Budget Volume III – Warehouse Clubs
Warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club can be a great place to purchase wine on a budget. Warehouse clubs typically pass along great deals on wine as they have very little markup, buy in large quantities (to get the best prices possible) and get favorable pricing from distributors. While you may not be able to consistently buy your favorite bottle of wine (or favorite winery) at discount clubs, they offer a variety of wine &hellip Read more
Concha y Toro 2010 Frontera Malbec (Mendoza Argentina) – Wine Wednesday
One of our favorite bargain wine regions is Argentina. In addition to great deals thanks to the weakness of the Argentinian Peso, there is some great wine coming out of Argentina.
And Malbec is the King of Argentinian wine (with Torrontes being the Queen). A relatively obscure grape used in blending in the famed Bordeaux region and the main wine in Cahors France, Malbec has found its true homeland in Argentina and has flourished.
Bruscus Lambrusco Review – Wine Wednesday
One of my current wine obsessions is lambrusco. As I tell my husband, I love all things that sparkle with diamonds (hint, hint) and champagne is my favorite! I also love red wine. lambrusco is the perfect marriage of red wine and “the sparkle” and has quickly become an obsession. Who other than the Italians could have brought us a sparkling red wine?
This week’s Wine Wednesday is the Bruscus 2009 San Valentino Reggiano lambrusco &hellip Read more
I woke up remarkably refreshed, given my alcoholic intake the night before. I've been called a lightweight, so I was very pleased at my ability to recall the previous night. That was, until I ran into my sister.
Sister: "What was up with those texts last night?"
I had texted my family to let them know "Imgood." I'm a very responsible blackout.
In an attempt to wrap up loose ends, I also wrote to the makers of my favorite drunken red wine, Chateau Diana, and asked them if they could tell me the year my particular wine was bottled. Their quick response in Comic Sans font removed any hesitation I might have had in giving it top marks.
Drink: how to choose the right bottle to take to a dinner party
A friend was rifling through her wine rack the other day, trying to find a bottle to go with supper. The rack was filled with unwanted wines that previous guests had brought along. You might say my friend is a snob, but I assure you she isn’t: she’s just averse to wines that are the vinous equivalent of Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
There is a good argument for not taking wine to dinner at all, particularly if your host is in the trade. I’d much rather have some homegrown flowers, a homemade loaf or some chutney to go with the cheese, all of which would be cheaper (and more personal) than that wine “bargain” you grabbed off the gondola end.
But if you’ve asked what to bring and the host has said wine, what do you take? Find out what you’re eating, for a start. If that doesn’t help, you can – flagrant plug – look up my website. If it’s a Thai curry night – cue an off-dry, aromatic white such as Verus Furmint 2015 (£12.99, Real Wine Company 13% abv) from Slovenia – you’ll need a different bottle from the light red that would suit Thomasina Miers’ rabbit, chestnut and mushroom pappardelle dish this week – pair that with Joseph Drouhin’s delicious and well priced (for a burgundy) Laforét Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2013 (£13 Oddbins, in store only 12.5% abv).
Laforét Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2013: serve with rabbit pappardelle
Personally, I’d stick to my guns and take a full-sized bottle of beer or cider. Sussex-based Burning Sky does a seductively rich saison called Anniversaire (£10.57, Beer Ritz 6.2% abv) that is aged in chardonnay casks and comes in a beautiful bottle. Also, if your host wants to hang on to it, rather than share it, it will age until 2022.
If your friends are into their cocktails, rock up with a bottle of vermouth, such as Italian classics Antica Formula and Cocchi. More interesting still, how about a bottle of Sacred Spirit’s gorgeous English Spiced Vermouth (from £10.99 for 200cl, Solent Cellar and other indies 18% abv).
Even wine buffs are not averse to a bottle of sweet wine. Lidl has a couple in its latest French collection that goes into store next Thursday, including a lush, young 2015 Sauternes from Château Menota for just £9.99 for 75cl (14% abv).
And no one is going to feel short-changed if you take them a bottle of bubbly, particularly if they can sneak it into the fridge and treat themselves once everyone has gone home. When that Lidl offer opens, stock up on halves of the toasty Champagne Bissinger (12% abv) at just £6.99 and keep your friends (and yourself) happy for weeks.
Wine Scores: Misleading or Helpful to Consumers?
Introduction It’s unbelievable to consider that there’s a huge industry of specialists dedicating their lives to wine in the form of writers, sommeliers and critics. Why has wine inspired us in a way no other food or drink does? In this episode, I explore the questions around why we score wine in the first place, whether they really matter and if you should trust them. Highlights Can you really trust a score from someone who has just been drinking? Why do we rate wine in the first place? How does the Australian show system compare to wine scoring systems [&hellip]