Thursday, July 25, 2013

A New Voice for Wine Lovers

For those of us who live in the DC area, we all know the maddening patchwork of different liquor laws that exist in Maryland, DC and Virginia. Anyone who has stopped off at a grocery store before crossing the Bay Bridge, for example, knows that if you want a bottle of wine with your fruits and veggies, you have to make two stops because in Maryland, you still can't buy wine in a grocery store.  

Travel further north to Pennsylvania and you are still pretty much in the era of Prohibition - except that the colorful gangsters have been replaced with mid-level bureaucratic functionaries who have the final word in what wines can be sold in their state in their state-controlled liquor stores. And to make matters that much more confusing, beer is sold under totally different rules. You see, in Pennsylvania, a state-run tribunal knows what choices consumers should and can make far better than the consumers do themselves.

Each state, county and even city can come up with their own alcohol laws, which is fine in practice, but it is usually the consumers who lose in the end. 

Enter the American Wine Consumer Coalition, a new advocacy group that wants to give wine lovers a voice in ongoing policy debates on the state and federal levels. Or, to parrot that AWCC's website:

For too long wine consumers have been ignored as special interests fashion wine laws and regulations that dismiss the needs and desires of the consumer. By joining AWCC you raise a glass and raise your voice for the rights of wine lovers.

The AWCC aims to give wine lovers and wine consumers a seat at the table when laws that restrict, limit, or prevent a free market to flourish when it comes to wine. In Virginia, Governor Bob McDonnell has been a huge champion of expanding access to wine - with good reason. The more open the Virginia's wine market is, the more likely it is that Virginia's wine industry will flourish. True, there are still some confusing rules that wineries must follow to stay within the three-tiered system, but slow, steady progress is better than no progress at all. 

In other states without a burgeoning wine industry, the status quo prevails, limiting choice and access in a myriad of different ways. Luckily, the AWCC is working to help ensure that a free wine market becomes the norm across the country. 

If you want to see how your state stacks up, you can check out their state-by-state interactive map here.

While the AWCC is a new organization - only launched in the last month - it is growing, and with the more members it gains, the louder the voice of the American wine consumer becomes. The cost of membership is only $35, but every member makes the interests of American wine lovers that much louder. 

Hopefully you will consider joining today. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What to Drink when it's This Hot and This Humid

Washington, DC has a unique characteristic during the summer. When it rains in the summer, it doesn't cool things off but rather adds to the swelter. 

As Kermit the Frog - or anyone within the Beltway can tell you - drinking heavy reds in the humidity of a swamp in the summer is not always the most pleasant. So what is the wino to do during the summer months?

First, anyone who "only drinks reds" needs to shut up. Obviously, everyone has their preferences, but to shut out three quarters of wine available is just absurd. Be open-minded to whites,  rosés and sparkling wine. When it's 95 degrees out with 80 percent humidity, do you really want to pour that thick, jammy Zinfandel? Try some wines you wouldn't other. Not only will you likely be surprised, but they will actually be refreshing and enjoyable.

Second, be willing to try pink wine. White Zinfandel has done more to destroy the otherwise good name of rosé than we may ever know, but those willing to try these oft-maligned wines will be not only surprised, but become fans. Every year I feel like Sam-I-Am on this topic and every year, there are a couple of converts who admit that rosés are much better than they thought. For those skeptical about trying rosé, Rosé d'Anjou is a great place to start. Made predominantly from Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley, these light, crisp and dry rosés are perfect for everything from a BBQ to a day at the park. And at $8.00 - $12.00 for a decent bottle, they are French, pink wines that won't break the bank.

When it comes to whites, Sauvignon Blancs are the perfect for the summer. Even though New Zealand has put these wines back on the map, I prefer the ones coming out of Chile, Bordeaux, the Loire and the domestic ones. These all tend to be less intense with respect to the gooseberry and citrus flavors that the New Zealand ones have, yet still have the balance and crispness that make these wines so perfect for the summer.

Finally, there are sparkling wines. Not all sparkling wine needs to be champagne, nor does sparkling wine need to be for a special occasions only. Spanish Cava is great this time of year. Not only are they crisp, complex and refreshing, but they work in any budget and are versatile enough to go with just about anything.

Any of these options work extremely well during the summer months - and with Virginia Viognier still coming into its own, and more producers making dry rosés - there are plenty of local options for grat wine to drunk during the summer as well.