Arlington, VA

Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Doug Rosen, owner of long-time Arlington wine store Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

Why drink wine? If liquor is quicker and beer cheaper, what makes us go to such lengths to understand, collect and treasure wine?

The answer is simple: no other beverage — alcoholic or not — has the ability to convey the unique flavors of its birthplace. Wine and wine alone, when deftly made, speaks of the flavors of a unique plot, climate, and growing season.

Have you ever wondered why an Oregon pinot noir doesn’t taste like a Burgundy?  Or why a Bordeaux doesn’t taste like a California cabernet or a Cahors like an Argentine Malbec? Terroir is the first place to look. It’s the expression of a unique signature, of an address that can’t be duplicated; the elusive specificity, driven by the confluence of grapes, soil, and sun. It’s the notion that only fermented grape juice has the ability to sign its own birth certificate.

Even identical grapes planted yards apart can yield different flavors.  The undulating hills of Burgundy’s Côte d’Or (golden slope) are the world’s most famous example. Wine enthusiasts can spend lifetimes trying to understand and master the subtleties and nuances of each of the hundreds of parcels. Each of these parcels can have a slightly different soil structure due to its location on the slope, sun exposure and drainage, creates thousands of unique microclimates that affect everything from taste, to aromas, to longevity.

How to explore the notion of terroir? Taste, taste and taste some more, but don’t just taste one bottle at a time. Taste with a purpose. Select at least four different wines of the same varietal (e.g. cabernet, pinot noir or chardonnay) and taste them at one time (a great party theme), noting the differences in color, aromas, texture, flavors and finish. All four can be from the same viticulture area (e.g. Napa Valley, Willamette Valley or Burgundy) or you can choose to tour the world, and select one from each area (e.g. pinot noir from California, Oregon, Burgundy and New Zealand).  For an even more challenging tasting, select four from the same village and note the differences that can be found within an area of only a few square miles (e.g. Chambolle Musigny in Burgundy).

Have fun, but pay attention to your preferences. Was it the aromas, mouth-feel or flavors that you especially liked? Try to dissect exactly what about those components drew you in. Armed with that information, your local fine wine merchant can serve you better on your next visit.

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Editor’s Note: This column is the first in a series of sponsored articles written by Doug Rosen, owner of long-time Arlington wine store Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

Every year around late November, the phrase “Okay, you bring the wine for Thanksgiving” strikes fear into the hearts of millions of Americans. Thanksgiving dinner is the culinary equivalent to Dante’s Inferno and poses a distinct pairing challenge.

Why is Thanksgiving dinner so difficult? Well, let’s face it — turkey is pretty bland. We brine it, marinate it, stuff it, spice it, and perhaps even deep-fry it. Then we throw the entire kitchen pantry at it in an effort to add some flavor to the Thanksgiving meal.

To further complicate the Thanksgiving conundrum, the meal can be completely different in every home. It’s not easy to try to find the right wine for the hodgepodge that is each of our Thanksgiving dinners. Like a favorite pair of jeans, each of us has familiar and comfortable “traditional family” dishes, without which Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be the same.

From my experience, most Thanksgiving meals are distinctively sweet. Adding sweetness in any form — cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, marshmallows — changes the wine equation.

So here’s the vinous equivalent of a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card: If anything, and I mean anything, on your Thanksgiving table is sweet then you can’t serve a bone-dry wine. It doesn’t matter whether it’s red or white, if there’s anything sweet on the plate, a bone-dry wine will clash with the food.

A great wine selection would be a fruit-focused or fruit-forward California or Oregon pinot noir that is not oaky, like the 2010 Angeline (California) or 2009 Artisanal (Oregon). If you want a little wood, try a California zinfandel like the 2009 Quivira, which has lots of fruit.

If your Thanksgiving dinner is truly savory, then I would opt for a delicious glass of food-friendly Beaujolais like 2009 Chateau Prety, or Red Burgundy (Bourgogne) like 2009 Jean Michel et Laurent Pillot. Another delicious French pinot noir is the 2009 Grosbot-Barbara Chambre d’Edouard from the Loire Valley. Overall 2009 was an outstanding vintage throughout France.

Be sure to stay away from reds with aggressive grape tannins such as young red Bordeaux, Argentine malbecs or most California cabernets. The tannins make turkey taste metallic.

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