Category Archives: Learn About Wine

How To Throw A Blind Wine Tasting Party – New And Improved!

A few years back we published a step-by-step instructional on how to throw a blind wine tasting party that featured a selection of red wines. It’s been such a hit – year after year it’s our most popular blog post – we’ve decided to reprise the original with the addition of a few new themes for your tasting pleasure.

The wines in each of our new tastings are related, though distinct enough to allow you to differentiate them from one another. By tasting similar wines side-by-side, you can really learn how to focus your impressions and perfect your tasting chops. By tasting them blind, you’ll lose any preconceptions you have about particular labels and styles, and really allow yourself to understand what you like.

You can use our guided tastings, or you can just select a few bottles that you like, and use our free, downloadable WINE SCORECARD and WINE TAGS to create your own tasting.

1. To get started, pick one of the tasting themes below, make your way to Bottles, and have one of our team members help you select the wines to match the theme and your wallet.

2. Have at least 1 wine glass for each guest, with a bottle of water and dump bucket nearby so they can rise out between tastings and easily dispose of tastes they’re really not into.

3. It’s also a really good idea to have light snacks on hand. Not only will a few bites keep your pals from getting too tipsy, they’ll also provide the opportunity to taste the wines with various flavors. Cheese is the natural wine pairing partner – and it’s easy to find a good selection at most all grocery stores these days. Look for a wide variety of cheeses, such as a mix of something soft (brie), something spreadable (fresh chevre), something aged and hard (aged gouda), sharp cheese (aged cheddar) and a blue (gorgonzola).

4. Put each wine in a brown paper bag (ask for them at Bottles!), and afix our numbered WINE TAGS to identify each bottle.

5. Use our printable WINE SCORECARD so that guests can record their thoughts on each bottle. Be sure to have a few pens/pencils on hand. Share with your guests the theme of each tasting so that they have a general sense of what they’re looking for.

6. Once you and your guests have tasted each wine, take turns guessing what each bottle is before you do the big reveal.

7. Once you’ve unmasked each wine, feel free to use our guide and general descriptions to see if your guests’ impressions are in sync. BUT: It’s incredibly important to note that this is not a graded test! If what you taste doesn’t match what we’ve written – that’s ok! What’s most important is that you and your guests explore different wine styles and enjoy each other’s company.



 

A Rosé Tasting!

This is a great, fun tasting to have with friends at a summer barbecue. Just open a handful of delicious rosés and see if folks can guess which is which! Here’s a hint: with rosés, look for color as a good indicator of weight. Typically the darker the color, the heavier/more bold the wine.

Wines to Purchase
1. A light rosé from the Cotes de Provence – It’s the birthplace of rosé, and experiencing Provence is essential to getting to know good rosé. Made from a blend of grapes, Provencal rosés can range wildly in terms of style and quality, but a good mid-teen priced example should do just fine. Provence is in the South of France, and these wines will be light, dry, lean and minerally.

2. A heavier rosé from Tavel or Bandol – Now Bandol is actually sub-region within Provence, so this may seem silly to be listed in here, however the folks here make a very distinct style of rosé.  Bandol rosés tend to be fuller and more bold. They are, however, somewhat pricey. An alternative that will still deliver the heavier body would be a wine from Tavel. Both Bandol and Tavel tend to be darker in color.

3. Rosé of Pinot Noir – These can be really fun, as they tend to be light and easy drinking. They can be pricey as most pinot noir is, but in a blind tasting they can often act as a curveball.  Look for some out of Oregon or California.

4. A rosé from the Loire Valley – These delicious wines are made from cabernet franc which creates a unique rosé that should stand out from most other styles.  Look for a touch of weight with less acid than the others.

5. Your favorite – Select your ‘go to’ rosé that you already love and see if you can pick it out from the field, and see if you still love it more than the others!

 

White Wine!

Have fun with this tasting, where you and your guests will try to tell one classic white wine from another.

Wines to purchase
1. Chardonnay – This classic white can have many different faces. For this tasting, you’ll want to select one that has been oak-aged. Tasting Tip: You’ll find round, buttery flavors in this wine, all due to the oak-aging.

2. Pinot Grigio – This one may give you the most trouble to nail down. It’s a bit of a chameleon, and can have lots of the characteristics of other whites, but you should be able to place it, given its light body and restrained fruit flavors.

3. Sauvignon Blanc – These tend to have higher acid levels than most, and you will know this because they will make the back sides of your mouth water after your first taste.  New Zealand examples tend to have very pronounced grapefruit-like flavors so may be another give away.

4. Chenin Blanc – There are many grapes you could pick for this fifth spot, but we like to use chenin blanc, the main grape in like Vouvray in France or Steen in South Africa (or just “Chenin Blanc” in the USA). Its floral aromas and light body are delicious — this is a curveball bottle, for sure!

5. Riesling – Look for one with a medium sweetness level so as to further differentiate this wine from the others. You’ll likely find floral notes and ripe fruit flavors like peach or lychee.  

 

Old World vs New World – A Red Wine Tasting

This is a classic blind tasting that can really sharpen your skills. The idea here is to take two wines made from the same grapes, though from different regions of the world, and taste them blind, side by side, and to guess which was made where.

Here are a few clues:

Old World Wines are typically from countries that have been making wine for millennia, and adhere to strict wine-making rules (Italy, France, Spain). The wines are usually drier, earthier, with balanced fruit, acidity and tannins. Old World wines dazzle you with elegance and finesse.

New World Wines are generally from countries that discovered wine making during a more recent century and are not typically bound to traditional wine-making methods (USA, New Zealand). They tend to be bigger-bodied, and have much bolder fruit flavors. New World wines blow you away with their power.

Wines to purchase:
1. Pinot Noir from the Old World. We suggest a relatively youthful ‘Bourgogne’ style from Burgundy, France. The trick here will be price point, as Burgundy can get expensive, but you should be able to find a good bottle for around $20 – Bottles is a great place to look! Tasting Tip: In the Old World pinot, you’ll find more earthy, leathery and restrained notes.

2. Pinot Noir from the New World, either California or Oregon would be great picks, as long as the wine is made from 100% pinot noir grapes. Tasting Tip: In the New World expression, you’ll find brighter, fruiter notes.

3. Old World Red Blend. The classic to look for here would be a Bordeaux blend, ideally one from the Left Bank, which will tend to be more Cabernet Sauvignon based.  All Bordeaux wines are blends, and each sub-region has its own style, but for your tasting here that shouldn’t make a difference. Tasting Tip: This wine will be more fuller bodied than the pinot noirs, with lean fruit flavors, balanced by fresh tobacco and earthy notes.

4. New World Red Blend – California has a tremendous amount of red blends, but Australia and South Africa will have lots as well. Try to find one that has a good amount of cabernet sauvignon if you can. Tasting Tip: This wine will have more pronounced fruit flavors than the Old World red blend.

5. Old World Nebbiolo-based wine. This is a fun curveball, as it has flavor profiles similar to both Old World and New World styles. You’ll find fruit notes, as well as earthy, floral aromas.

We hope you have fun with your party – tag us with your photos!

Cheers & Enjoy!

Which Rosé is Right For You?

It’s midsummer and the wine world is swimming in a sea of rosé. Let our life-raft of a chart help you pick the one that’s right for you and your palate.

Do you solely drink light whites? Stick with those in the lower left quadrant. Like reds and wines with savory notes? Make the bottles in the upper right your new BFFs.

Enjoy!

Prices subject to change

The Top 5 New-In-Store Rosés

Last week we gave you a list of our no-fail rosés, those that have proven to be, vintage after vintage, reliably delicious.

Today we introduce you to a few of the newest additions to our rosé stable, those that Nick and Kate tasted for the first time just a month or so ago. They were the favorites among the many bottles that we opened a few weeks back at our annual all-staff rosé tasting, and we think you’ll love them.

mermRabble Rosé, Paso Robles, CA
A big, round, fruit-driven joy of a wine. It’s not sweet, but it’s ripe, and it’s made by Rabble, formerly known as Force of Nature, also known as one of our store’s most popular vintners. $14.99

assobioEsporao “Assobio,” Douro, Portugal
Refreshing with a delicate juiciness. It’s a crowd pleasing glass of red berries and minerals and a sister wine to the Assobio red, another of our store’s year-after-year most popular bottles.
$11.99

louPeyrassol “#Lou” Provence, France
From the classic Chateau Peyrassol comes this approachable, and lower-priced, bottle. It’s crisp with delicate notes of citrus, tart red fruits, and some peach. It will pair perfectly with summer Saturday afternoons. $14.99

bourgogneDomaine Gueguen, Burgundy, France
A rosé made just a few steps away from one of our favorite wine regions, Chablis. It’s dry with hints of thyme and rhubarb, peach and apricot. It’s 100% pinot noir and a steal at this price.
$18.99

tibourenClos Cibonne Tibouren, Provence, France
Elegant & bone dry, light but luxurious, lingering licks of bright fresh strawberry. This one will likely go down in the record books as our all-time favorite. It’s. That. Good. $27.99

All prices subject to change.

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Bottles’ Classics: Our Go-To Rosés

You know, we’ve been in this business for a long time now and we’ve seen a thing or two. And yet we’re still amazed by the phenomenon that rosé is. And with good reason: there are hundreds of bottles that are finely-crafted, extraordinarily food friendly and absolute true pleasures to drink. Yet there’s also a sea of rosés that miss the mark. We’ve found far too many that just wouldn’t deliver for your hard-earned dollars.

To help guide you to those that are reliably delicious year after year, we’ve selected those that we can confidently say are true classics: they’re well-made, trustworthy bottles (and a can!) that over-deliver superior enjoyment vintage after vintage. And here they are:

vinoCharles Smith “Vino,” Washington State
Deliciously tinged with tangerines and rose petals. “One sip and you can feel the summer sun on your face.” $13.99

 

bridgeBridge Lane, North Fork, New York
Guava, peach blossom, watermelon & strawberry. A North Fork of Long Island stunner.
$15.99

 

montaudChateau Montaud, Provence, France
So very light. So very strawberry. So very awesome. $12.99

 

under
Underwood, Oregon
It’s the clown-car of rosés: so much fun in one little vessel. It’s fruity, refreshing and dare we say a touch sweet. $7.99

 

goblesGobelsburg, Austria
Spritzy, pure, delicate and oh-so food friendly. In fact we’re not sure there’s a dish that wouldn’t pair well with this Austrian rosé.  $17.99

 

peyrassolChateau Peyrassol, Provence, France
The king of the classics. Round with flavors of peach and pear skin. It’s pure elegance in a bottle. $29.99

Stay tuned next week for more of our favorites, all new to Bottles this year.

All prices subject to change.

The Top 9 Spring & Kosher Wines, Part I

For some reason, it seems as if all of our guests are looking forward to the arrival of true spring weather this year more than ever before. We don’t have an in with Mother Nature, but we can certainly help you set a springtime mood with the wine you put on your table. Here’s what we think are the best of the bunch to do just that this year, as well as those that will be excellent at your seder.

spring22Our Kosher for Passover Picks

The Butcher’s Daughter, Bordeaux, France, $19.99
A great wine that just happens to be kosher for Passover, this Bordeaux blend is ripe with a bouquet of cassis and raspberry fruit, and a deep cocoa character. Made to drink with your brisket or lamb roast.

Notte Italiana Prosecco, Veneto, Italy $17.99
These semi-sweet, happy bubbles pack a punch of bright green apple, but finish creamy and smooth with hints of vanilla. Wonderful with light appetizer fare for any spring festivity.

Lanzur Chardonnay, Valle del Maule, Chile $11.99
A big, bursting, round and juicy chardonnay with an oaky backbone that lends tons of structure and depth. Serve chilled next to an overflowing platter of latkes or pan-fried potatoes.

Looking for more kosher options? Come by or call the store to shop our expanded selection of over 75 seder-friendly wines.

spring1Non-Kosher Picks

Elk Cove Pinot Blanc, Willamette Valley, Oregon $19.99
Pinot Blanc is a grape you need to try for its vibrant, round and fruity notes. The Elk Cove has a tropical fruit flavor tinge that is balanced by an underlying, subtle, lemon zing. We love this wine for its incredible food-versatility, especially with lighter fare.

Zorzal ‘Terroir Unico’ Pinot Noir Rosé, Tupungato Valley, Argentina, $14.99
The grapes for the lovely Zorzal rosé were picked earlier than usual for this region, thus resulting in a wine with zippy acidity and a young (aka ‘green’) vibrancy. It’ll be superb with grilled or roasted meats & veggies, legumes and fish.

Tune in next week for the remaining bottles on our Top 9 list.

Cheers & Happy Spring!

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5 Questions with Kate

kateMeet Kate Miceli, our newly minted wine assistant. Kate’s been with us for just over 6 months, and thanks to her extensive wine knowledge and uncanny ability to help customers find what they’re looking for, she was a no-brainer for this new role. As part of our ongoing efforts to help you drink better, she’ll be helping Nick manage our expanding wine collection, spending all of her time on the floor helping to understand your needs so that you leave with the perfect bottle.

Kate hails from Pleasantville, New York and is a graduate of Johnson & Wales, where she studied wine, culinary arts and nutrition. She’s an accomplished cook with professional experience, knows all about cheese, is a master oyster shucker, and loves to cook at home for her family and friends, and her pug.

Here’s more on Kate’s current wine thoughts:

What’s your favorite style of wine?
Dry white wine is my favorite style. Especially whites from Saint Joseph in the Northern Rhone Valley from the grapes marsanne and roussanne that are vibrant and golden in color, and have a lot of body and flavors of ripe nectarines, tropical fruits, and white flowers.  I find these wines to be perfect with a variety of foods.  Fried chicken, Thai curry, stuffed pork loin with pancetta, and roasted Cornish game hens are just a few things that I would love to drink with a good Northern Rhone wine.

What’s your go-to bottle of wine for dinner on a Tuesday night?
On a typical Tuesday night, I am probably cooking tacos for dinner. Spicy chicken or pork tacos! Ice-cold Pullus sauvignon blanc from Slovenia is delicious and makes for a great pairing. The wine has flavors of cape gooseberries and zesty limes!  It goes exceptionally well with avocado and fresh homemade Pico de Gallo too.

What bottle on our shelves do you most covet today?
One wine that brings me pure joy is Taurasi from the producer, Mastroberardino. This fantastic  ruby-red hued wine hails from Campania in Italy. This is what they drink in Naples!  It is comprised of 100% aglianico grapes and is multi-layered and very complex.  It is powerful, but quite elegant with flavors of bitter cherries, flint, fresh herbs, and cherry wood.  Drink with hearty meat roasts, truffles, fancied up pizza, and Bolognese.

In your opinion, what’s the most underrated wine style?
Wines from South Africa often get a bad rap.  My newest favorite vineyard from South Africa is Stellekaya. They make a fantastic Sangiovese called Hercules. The winemaker, Ntsiki Biyela, is the first female African American winemaker in South Africa.

What in the wine world are you most excited about today?
I’m excited about how natural wines are gaining popularity up here in New England.  They have been the real ‘it’ thing in Brooklyn and NYC for many years but now I see more and more of these fun ‘natural’ wines here in RI. To me, these wines are like drinking art. I also find it very exciting how many women are now a part of the wine world.  While it used to be a male dominated career, many strong women are changing that.

 

If you’re in need of a great wine recommendation, come by and find Kate – she’ll be glad to help you!

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Why Nick Put These Wines on Sale

casatripleThe stunning CasaSmith wines are on sale – a full $5 off – through April 30. Why’d Nick do such a thing?

  1. He wants you to drink better in 2017, and with these wines you can do just that.
  2. They’re a truly delicious old world/new world mashup, made with classic Tuscan, Piedmontese and Pugliese grape varieties grown on single vineyard estates in Washington State.
  3. You’ll get so much more than a $20 bottle of wine.
  4. They’re well crafted wines, meant to be enjoyed today.
  5. The wines are highly-rated (if you’re into that sort of thing).
  6. Just look at those labels.

Buyer Beware: Winemaker Charles Smith makes the CasaSmith wines in limited quantities, so try them early. If you like them as much as we do, be sure to pick up a few bottles before the vintage (and our sale) is gone.

casa_buck
2015 CasaSmith Cervo Barbera: Silky, plush, dark cherry, dried sage, mineral driven and earthbound.

casa_pig
2015 CasaSmith Cinghiale Sangiovese: Layer upon layer of Italian cherries, fresh herbs, rolled tobacco and blackberry. Depth for days and a finish that is an eternity.

casa_pine
2015 CasaSmith Porcospino Primitivo: Blackberry, boysenberry, pie crust and black tea. Ripe fruit, fresh oregano and fine tannins to boot.

Cheers!

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Rare, Collectible and Affordable Wine in The Cellar

thecellar-WEB-1One of our resolutions this year here at Bottles is to find new ways to help you drink better. And we’ve started by expanding our cellar of special wines: the bottles that are iconic and collectible, as well as those that are rare, highly-rated, and have achieved cult status.

Our new Cellar list, over 600 bottles strong and growing, is made up of wines hand selected by Nick, Josh and Eric. Not only are they the wines that you’ll want to buy today and drink in 15 years at your daughter’s college graduation, they’re also the affordable, ready-to-drink-now bottles produced by indie winemakers whose talented work has garnered them a dedicated following.

Some require a minimal monetary commitment, such as a $49 bottle of limited-allocation 2012 Elk Cove “Five Mountain” Willamette Valley Pinot Noir that you could drink this weekend. Other wines at a similar price point are terrific for those just starting to build their home collection.

Then there are those that are certainly an investment in time and money – the $1199.99 2010 Lafite Rothschild that will be great to drink in 2022 comes to mind.

But what all of our Cellar wines have in common is highly-competitive pricing. It’s our goal to get them on your table or in your cellar by offering them to you at better prices than you find most everywhere else. And by you we mean you the everyday wine lover who just wants to drink better, as well as the serious, informed wine collector who’s filling your 3,000+ bottle cellar.

We invite you to come in and browse our new list. Our team members are at the ready to help you select the perfect bottle for your special occasion, whether it be big (a 50th anniversary) or small (take-out with a cherished friend on Saturday night).

Visit our complete list here, and check back often for new additions. For the stories behind these and other bottles, email our Wine Director Nick Shugrue at (401) 372-2030 or nshugrue@bottlesfinewine.com.

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The Top 3 Wine & Chocolate Pairings

Drink wine with chocolate, we say. Not just because it’s Valentine’s Day. But because the two are great together – when you choose wisely – and they should be enjoyed in tandem whenever you’re in the mood. Not just on February 14th.

How to Pair: Though wine and chocolate are great on their own, it can be challenging to make them sing together. For a balanced pairing, select a wine that is sweeter than the chocolate (the percentage of chocolate will give you an idea of its sweetness: The higher the cacao, the lower the sugar/sweetness). When in doubt, pair milk chocolate (high sugar %) with lighter-bodied wines. Pair fuller-bodied, fruit-forward wines with darker chocolate (high cacao %).

And as always, toss all guidelines out the window if your palate tells you otherwise. The best pairing is the one you like.

To help you get your creative juices flowing, here are our top three chocolate and wine pairings:

chocolatecake_wineDark Chocolate Cake with Marenco “Pineto” Brachetto d’Acqui

A prime example that illustrates the beauty of choosing a wine that’s sweeter than the chocolate. This bright red sparkling wine from Piedmont is slightly sweet, with fine citrus blossom and stone fruit notes, all of which complement the cake’s dense, rich flavors and mouthfeel.

chocolatepieces_wineValrhona Chocolate with JL Chave “Mon Coeur” Cotes-du-Rhone

This is a fun one for all you serious dark chocolate lovers. It’s rooted in the trusted “What grows together goes together” wine pairing adage, as Valrhona chocolate is made just miles from where the wine in made, in France’s Rhone Valley. Use the chocolate in your favorite (not so sweet) homemade dessert, or simply let a minimum 70%-cacao square melt on your tongue while sipping this bone dry grenache/syrah blend.

chocstrawberries_wineChocolate Dipped Strawberries with Tintero Moscato d’Asti

Though this fizzy, slightly sweet wine can stand on its own as dessert, we love it when paired with fruit! The fresh, lively character of this white wine, again from Piedmont, is a natural partner to the light, tart strawberry fruit, and the creamy chocolate.

We hope you enjoy our pairings – and encourage you to share your thoughts or ideas on others!

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Comfort Wine for Comfort Food, Part II

Fact: More comfort foods are eaten per capita in January than in any other month. Post-Fact: OK, we have nothing official to back that stat up, but it certainly feels right, doesn’t it?

Because it does so to us, here are more Comfort Wine and Comfort Food pairings that get our team through trying times and blustery weather. They’re the equivalent of the down-filled couch you lose yourself in, the cozy sweater worn fireside, and the hug from a life-long friend.
meinkklang

Meinklang Frizzante Rosé ($19.99), with Chicken & Waffles 
It’s about balance, people. You’ll find me at my happiest when eating piping hot fried chicken with waffles smothered in maple syrup and butter while simultaneously sipping ice-cold, light-as-air, pink bubbles. The fizz cuts through the dish’s richness and the entire composition can make any bad day do a 180. By the way, your chicken & waffles aren’t complete if you’re not drizzling them up with Cholula’s just before consuming. Just sayin’. – Alex

pujol

Pujol Izard Minervois Vieille Vignes ($15.99), with Shepard’s Pie 
The herbal notes you get in every Languedoc wine, combined with the bright lively fruit in this particular bottle, make the Pujol Izard extremely food friendly. It’s particularly great for medium bodied casserole-type dishes, and my favorite, Shepard’s pie.  – Nick

pegoes

Pegoes Red Blend ($6.99), with a Grilled Cheese Sandwich 
I use a ton of butter (and sometimes mayo) on the outside of the bread when making my grilled cheese. To balance all of that rich, creamy and salty goodness, I drink this jammy red, which is bursting with juicy, ripe fruit. And that it is under $7 a bottle is a comfort to my post-holiday wallet, too. -Katie

ciacci

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Toscana Rosso ($14.99), with Chicken Parmesan 
Ciacci Piccolomini is in the town of Montalcino in Tuscany. The house is best known for their Pianrosso, which is one of the world’s most renowned brunellos. They can’t help but make great wine and this one, their most affordable option, is spectacular! It’s a blend, and has all the elegance of a brunello, but with a bit lighter and fruitier finish. It’s my go-to wine for my favorite comfort food: Chicken Parmesan. Be sure to load up the cheese! – Kate

borealis

Montinore Borealis White Blend ($14.99), with Sauerkraut with Roast Pork and Dumplings
A match made in my own perfect heaven!  Borealis is an organic wine made in Oregon from grapes more traditionally found in Alsace.  Brimming with both ripe fruit and savory flavors, this beautiful wine sings and dances around the rich sauerkraut, dumplings and pork.  This is where New World wine and Old World food collide!  Bam!  -Eric

Comfort Wines: Now, more than ever.

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