November 26, 2011 · 8:58 pm
Question from Sherry: Nancy, my husband said that you are the only one he trusts with this question. What is the purpose of a punt in a wine bottle? Thank you so very much!
Reply: Thanks, Sherry! I’d better watch that I don’t get a big head!
Sherry’s asking about the dimple in the bottom of the bottle – it’s also called a “kick-up”. As far as I can tell, at this point in wine’s history, there’s no reason at all for the bottle to have a punt other than marketing. The punt makes the bottle look bigger and also adds weight so it feels more substantial in your hand – you think maybe it’s worth that extra dollar or two…
One of the many things I love about wine is that it brings together so many interests: History, art, religion, economics…
Antique glass collectors will know that the punt is all about history. The term is short for the “punty”, or the pontil rod used in free-hand glass blowing. This wooden tool was attached to the base of the hot bottle while it was being blown from the other end. When the punty was broken off, after the glass cooled, it left a “pontil scar”. If they attempted to make the bottom of the bottle completely flat, it often came out slightly convex and the bottle would tip, so they went ahead and pushed it in a little, forming the punt, to give the bottle stability. This also assures that the scar won’t scratch the table. These days, collectors look for the pontil scar on the bottom of old glass vases and perfume bottles as a mark of authenticity. Continue reading →
November 21, 2011 · 8:20 pm
Well! Hrumphh! What do you think they drank at the first Thanksgiving? I’m informed it was beer, not wine. Well, since the rest of the foods we think of as traditional weren’t part of that first Thanksgiving meal, I won’t fee too bad about knocking back a few glasses of wine 😉 To find out what they ate and drank (more or less) visit the Plimoth Plantation website. If you haven’t been there, next time you’re in the neighborhood of Plymouth, Mass, it’s a really fun place to visit!
If you’re having difficulty deciding which wine to serve, here ya go! Can’t help you if you’re planning on beer – guess I’d better do my due diligence! Happy Thanksgiving!
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November 17, 2011 · 8:36 pm
Question from Janice: Hi! I’m hosting 20 people for Thanksgiving next week. It’s my first time ever to host and I want everything to be perfect. What wines should I buy to go with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner?
Reply: Hi, Janice. Thanks for writing! Not pumpkin juice…
You know, with 20 people it’s really easy. There’s no way that all those people will like the same kind of wine so I’d go with serving a variety. Put out a bottle of white, red and rosé and let people choose for themselves. And, don’t forget that sparkling wine is extremely versatile, too, if you’re inclined toward bubbles!
If there’s a wine snob at the table who challenges your laissez-faire approach – all you have to say is that it’s impossible to find one wine that goes with the wild cacophony of flavors on the Thanksgiving table: savory turkey, spicy stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce plus the dishes that have become your own, unique family traditions. It’s impossible to be right – so it’s impossible to be wrong. Continue reading →
November 16, 2011 · 9:25 pm
Well, tomorrow’s a special day – the third Thursday of November – which means the bottles are jetting their way to us as we speak! Wine that was fruit on the vine mere weeks ago is bottled and ready to grace your table!
I’ve always been dazzled by the accomplishment, more than the wine itself. You have to be really organized to harvest, crush, ferment, press, clarify, bottle and get the wine on the shelves by November 17! Again, the grapes we probably on the vine as recently as mid-September.
What is Beaujolais Nouveau? A light-bodied red wine made from the Gamay grape. The trick to the super fruity aromatics is to load the clusters into the fermenter taking care not to break the berries. Then they pump in carbon dioxide gas so you have an anaerobic situation. The CO2 permeates the skins and sets off “intercelluar fermentation”. Fermentation without yeast! It’s called carbonic maceration. Anyway, it makes a very light fruity quaffing wine with a fragrance that might remind you of Aunt Martha’s ambrosia salad. Continue reading →
November 3, 2011 · 4:30 pm
Yes, it’s important for winemakers to concentrate on what they’re doing, but in the wine business the word, concentrate, has other implications.
How interesting that in Napa Valley, a region known for warm, sunny weather and generous alcohols, thanks to high grape sugars, right now winemakers are trying to get their hands on grape juice concentrate to supplement the sugar that’s lacking this year.
Concentrate for wine is unfermented grape juice that’s boiled down to be concentrated to nearly 70% sugar! Wine grapes at harvest usually come in, in the low to high 20s so 70% is extremely sweet and syrupy. The best is boiled in a partial vacuum, which reduces the boiling point so the juice isn’t too cooked in flavor. It can be added to the crushed fruit in the tank to bump up the sweetness which bumps up the alcohol.
I was talking with a grape grower/winemaker at choir rehearsal the other night and he said you can’t buy concentrate for love nor money at this point in this very difficult harvest. The 2011 growing seaon, here, has been extremely cool and the grapes need heat to ripen. We also had considerable rain in October which dilutes the sugar down. For those growers whose grapes didn’t rot in the rain, waiting for th sugar to come up in these cool temperatures is an exercise in frustration. Continue reading →