Imagine blue-shadowed mountains rising out of verdant green pastures. Imagine the brilliant white façades of three-hundred-year-old Dutch homesteads. Imagine mile after mile of vineyards growing in an exceptionally friendly climate, producing grapes for use in some of the finest wines you haven’t yet tasted. Sure, this might not be the traditional setting for a grotesque gothic horror, à la Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but here in South Africa you’ll find a monster of the same name nonetheless.
With the new year arriving in full, the cold weather coming on in earnest (hello winter, where have you been?), and the return to usual routine, I’m tempted to spend every evening in the exact same fashion: parked on my couch in Queens underneath a cocoon of fleece blankets, listening to the radiator clank and spit, drinking a comforting red wine to stay warm. (Maybe I’m also watching Netflix.) Thus, the nightly question becomes, “What do I open?”
When the clock strikes midnight and the ball drops in Times Square, you'll want a flute or coupe of out-of-this-world bubbly in hand—delicious and festive—there’s no better way to say goodbye to 2015 and greet a brand new year, a clean calendar, a fresh slate where anything is possible.
I’ve selected a variety of options, each of which I’d happily uncork during my festivities this Thursday night, or of course, all year ’round.
There’s something ineffably cheering about drinking any sparkling wine, but the mere thought of champagne suggests celebration: a noteworthy event, happy news—a beautiful day. At this festive time of year, especially, champagne is a most welcome addition to any occasion: toasts, cocktail parties, or especially as a foil to rich winter fare. Alas, too much of the bubbly available in too many shops and restaurants is all fizz and no flavor, thin and charmless indeed, a far cry from the finesse, freshness, and remarkable complexity to be found in champagnes of quality and distinction, especially from grower-producers.
The holidays are here! It's already December 10th, and if you’re anything like me you’ve barely started thinking about gift shopping. Sound familiar? Never fear—we’re here to do the thinking for you. We’ve spent the last few months scouring the globe for the most interesting bottles we could find, the gifts we would want to get. Now we get to share those special finds, six of the coolest bottles available in New York City, with you!
This won’t surprise anyone, but I was a pretty awful twenty-one year old. Seriously, you wouldn’t’ve wanted to hang out with me. My cultural taste—in books, in movies, in music, in food—was carefully curated, most often in an effort to seem as “different” as possible. I filled my iPod with atonal music, hefted around gigantic tomes to show off my obscure literary taste, and made a hobby out of ordering the weirdest item on any restaurant’s menu. It was an embarrassing time. With some luck, however, I made a great choice when it came to wine. Sure, my motives were questionable at best, but the region I landed on, the plot of earth I lauded to my friends, turned out to be legitimately great.
The usual response when I recommend Pineau des Charentes is “Pinot what?!?” This is no fault of the consumer—Pineau des Charentes is a truly under-the-radar concoction neglected by most restaurateurs and retailers. But what a shame! It’s a beautiful spirit, versatile as a palate-perking apéritif or a supple, refreshing after-dinner drink, complex and interesting enough to appeal to a broad demographic, including fans of fine brandies—Cognac, for instance—as well as Port aficionados and anyone looking for more traditional dessert wines such as Sauternes or Tokaji.
Off-dry Riesling in America often gets a bad rap. To a certain extent, it’s understandable—we’ve all been to our fair share of bad college parties and disappointing adulthood get-togethers, complete with cloying Riesling experiences we aren’t eager to replicate. In these very basic, frequently mass-produced bottles, sugar is used to mask low quality fruit and industrial vinification methods, which keep production high and prices low. The end result is cheap, sweet, and frankly not that good. But here’s the thing: we’re being way unfair to most German winemakers. Believe it or not, the preponderance of bad Riesling on the market is largely our fault.
Thanksgiving is in two weeks! Two weeks! As hard as it is to believe, summer is history, we’re halfway through autumn, and the holiday season is already upon us. A festive time of year full of casual get-togethers, family celebrations, parties, and—let’s not forget—the big parade of very big balloons, which adds a distinctive NYC stamp.
All of these activities are enhanced enormously by good food and good wine, which is where we at Appellation come into the picture. We’ve perused our inventory for a stellar selection of six wines, three from the United States and three from the Old World, each a standout for both its performance at the table and (of course) sheer deliciousness.
Over the years, I have seen customers go for long periods of time focused on one region or one grape variety. Or, to a greater extreme, they will consume the same wine for months before trying another bottle and possibly transitioning to another wine where another streak of familiarity will begin. The adventure easily disappears, the excitement dissipates. That’s not necessarily the case at Appellation. As anyone who has ever shopped here knows, we’re constantly bringing in new wines, drawing attention to lesser-known and esoteric viticultural regions, corners of the world where natural producers are growing interesting, often indigenous grapes and making wines reminiscent of the soils, climates, and hands that create them.