Culinary Thymes

The Appeal of Piedmont

Piedmont is, without question, one of Italy's premier wine producing areas. It is located in the country's northwest corner, with Turin as its capital, and the cities of Alba and Asti as its most important wine making centers. Piedmont's reputation is based largely on its red wines, lending credence to the old Italian saying: "Wine is red." The four main red wines from Piedmont, in order of increasing intensity, are Dolcetto d'Alba, Barbera d'Alba, Barbaresco and Barolo.

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The Wines of Burgundy

Of all the world’s wine regions, Burgundy offers some of the greatest wine experiences possible, as well as the most daunting challenges in terms of topography and quality. Although a lifetime could be pleasantly spent, and with some invidious and fortunate individuals has been spent, uncovering the nuance of every square hectare of vineyard there, a brief overview of the region will suffice to allow an enjoyably successful choice of wine with dinner. Be forewarned, as lyrical and hedonistic as the wines are to drink, learning about them is a little bit of a slog.

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Springtime Wine

It's springtime and another bitter Houston winter is behind us. This is the perfect time to shake off frigid memories of days that dipped into the nippy fifties and once again get outside and commune with nature. It's time for picnics! While ice-cold beer may be the alcoholic picnic beverage of choice, I'd like to point out some wines that will also fit the bill.

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Beautiful Bubbles

I know of no beverage which more successfully mitigates my worries while simultaneously and emphatically reminding me of all that is right in the world than Champagne does. I'm not alone in this, and this is at least part of the reason so many dinners start with a Champagne reception. Certain styles are also the perfect aperitif, their crisp, bubbly acidity blowing the cobwebs off of your palate while improving your appetite. Other types pair beautifully with many foods and the biggest styles are almost a meal in themselves.

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Wine for the Holidays

The holidays are an especially good time to pick out some fun wines. First of all, you might be expected to, so why not enjoy doing it? Secondly, since holiday menus are often written in stone for years on end, you have a good excuse to choose some wines that might be a little more unusual, if for no other reason than to make it easier for some of your relatives to discern this year’s repast from the last ten. Luckily, most holiday foods are “wine friendly.”

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A perfect Punctuation

Let's say you've just had one of the best meals of your life. Maybe you started with Champagne and caviar, went on to Sancerre and lobster and paired your roast pheasant with a great white Burgundy. Then you enjoyed the saddle of veal with your favorite Bordeaux, had some impossible to find cheeses with an equally impossible to find red Burgundy and finished with crème brûlée and Sauternes. Or, instead of a six-course repast fit for a king, maybe you opted for a simple but perfectly grilled rib eye and a great California Cabernet.

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From Classic, Sublime Sherry

Sherry is probably one of the world's most misunderstood and under appreciated fine wines. In its various guises it can be the perfect apéritif, a classic pairing with certain soups, superb accompaniment to many seafood dishes, great with a variety of charcuterie and cheeses and a beautiful dessert wine. Along with Port, Sherry is one of the world's two best fortified wines. The term fortified means that at some point in a wine's production, alcohol, usually in the form of a neutral grape brandy, is added.

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Ordering Wine in a Restaurant

For many people, the process of ordering a bottle of wine in a restaurant is uncomfortable at best, debilitating at worst. They see the waiter as more of an adversary than an ally, the ritual as more archaic than helpful and the actual selection of a wine more reminiscent of a calculus problem than an opportunity to begin a fun culinary experience. I'd like to shed a little light on the subject and expose it for the simple exercise in hospitality that it is. Anyone who is sitting in a restaurant ordering wine has certainly, at some point in their life, mastered more difficult tasks.

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Do Summer Right

Extreme conditions call for particular responses, and I can't think of many situations more extreme than a Houston summer. With the next few months being balmy at best, our wine and food choices need to mitigate our climate as much as possible. The huge Amarone with osso bucco over risotto that made so much sense in December would likely give a guest pause in August.

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Wine with Dessert

Dessert wines, though rarely served, can be a great ending to any special dinner. There are a wide variety of these wines from all over the world, offering a sufficiently wide palette of experiences that can work well as a memorable closure to any meal. Many people say that they don't like dessert wines because they (the wines) are just too sweet. Often these are some of the same people that chug Coke like it was going out of style.

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