Wine Trends for 2012

Wine lovers are always asking the question, what should I be looking for now? What is that latest/greatest trend(s) in wine going to be? As we enter 2012, it seems appropriate to make a guess at what those trends will be and more importantly, what wines we should be looking for in this New Year? Here is my Top Ten List: 10. Malbec will continue to be hot. While the world will rediscover that France does indeed make some very good Malbecs (see Cahors ), Argentina will continue to lead the way in the number of offerings and value. If price is no issue, try the upper end wines of Archaval Ferrer. For value, look for the entry level wines of Susana Balbo, Archaval Ferrer or Altos, although there are many other very good wines. 9. Malbec quality will be variable. Unfortunately, a lot of producers, importers and distributors will want to cash in on the Malbec craze. Don’t assume that every Argentinean Malbec is created equal. As always happens with the “hot” grape varietals, Malbec will get over planted in poor vineyard sites. Others will allow the vineyards to produce at prolific rates diluting the quality of the wines. This will be especially true in Argentina, so beware. Try before you buy if possible by going to store tastings.

Best Wine to Pair With Spinach Salad

Although the origin of spinach salad is unclear, Germans who settled in Pennsylvania are credited with bringing a similar concoction to the United States. Food expert and humorist Alton Brown claims the original mixture comprised dandelions, bacon drippings, vinegar and hard-cooked eggs. Because dandelions were not necessarily appreciated in this country, they were later replaced with spinach.

Best Wine to Pair With Macaroni and Cheese

My intent for dinner tonight was admirable by any standard: green tea, salad loaded with nutrients and tomato soup. However, upon sitting down to start this piece, I watched a video of Greg Ng from eating and reviewing Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese. I immediately abandoned my plan and reached for my own stand-by Stouffer’s, then cracked a bottle of chardonnay. I pride myself on discipline, and have abstained from dish after dish even while editing mouth-watering, gourmet pairings described by the expert contributors to this column. Macaroni and cheese done me in.

Wines to Go Buy This Week: Sonoma Pinot Noir by La Follette, MacPhail, and Freeman

Since I wrote last week about how much I (used to) hate chardonnay , this week I am turning attention to the varietal I love: pinot noir. Friends and acquaintances frequently ask me for my favorite wine producers -and the list is long- so I am going to focus this week on my favorite Sonoma pinot noir producers. There are numerous producers of fantastic pinot in Sonoma so I'm sure I will get plenty of emails from people wondering how I could leave out so and so or who are incredulous that my recommendations exclude "less expensive" options. So let me respond in advance: The threshold for inclusion on this list is that the wine must be in regular rotation in my house and be the "go to" bottle of Sonoma Pinot Noir to serve to guests or to uncork to celebrate small victories (a concept I enthusiastically embrace..... life is too short not to celebrate good days with a fantastic bottle of wine. Who wants to die with a huge collection of great wine aging in the basement?). Must a good Sonoma pinot noir cost $40+? Of course not, though so often they do. With that said, the three wines to go buy this week are:

Best Wine to Pair With Beef Ribs...with a Quote and Recipe from Award-Winning Chef, Michael Chiarello

Rumor has it that beef ribs are often overlooked, as pork ribs are what most people visualize when they hear “ribs”. French politician Jean Glavany claims: “Those restaurant chains that are withdrawing beef ribs are . . . participating in this psychosis and should try to avoid it, . . . There is no question of banning beef ribs in our country.” And posts can be seen on American forums begging for good beef rib restaurant recommendations. Evidently, pork prevails in the ribs race.

Best Burgundy Red Wine Worth Seeking Out (for the money)

IntoWine asked our panel of experts to share their recommendations for the best Burgundy red wine worth seeking out (for the price of course): Two words come to mind when I think about Red Burgundy ­– Style and Focus. For those who know, when looking for Pinot Noir that expresses the true uniqueness of terroir and variety, you look at Burgundy. Really good Burgundy, unfortunately, does come at a price.

Best Wine to Pair with Grilled Chicken

IntoWine asked our panel of experts to share their recommendations for the best wine to pair with grilled chicken: Chicken is one of my favorite meats , because it is so versatile. When grilling chicken, the meat and the flavors take on a wholly different profile than if it were boiled or sautéed. Grilling adds a layer of flavor that is deep and broad with a savory spice character that is uncharacteristic for a white meat. For this preparation, we should think about the intense heat that comes along with grilling; the carmelization of the skin; the smokiness. For me, a grilled chicken pairs perfectly with Zinfandel. One really tasty Zin that is perfect for grilled chicken is Ravenswood’s Big River Zinfandel. Rich fruit aromas and soft velvety tannins are followed by a long, lingering finish that ties very nicely in to grilled chicken. At about $25, this wine is a best buy and a perfect choice for any grilled chicken recipe. – Ben Spencer is a diploma student with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and an IntoWine Featured Writer.