Well, it’s about time! We wine lovers have been waiting for a few weeks now to have a chance to taste all the wines that won medals at this year’s Best in Glass Wine Challenge (BIG) and the unveiling is just about here. In January, some of South Florida’s top sommeliers got together to taste more than 300 wines to determine their suitability for featuring by-the-glass on their restaurant wine lists.
Wines that are poured one glass at a time can have different criteria than wines sold by the bottle. Many by-the-glass pours are aperitifs, so they need to show well on their own – that often means no hard tannins that would be softened by food but can be crushing on the palate when no food is present. Wines very high in acidity can be delicious with fatty dishes but seem very tart tasted on their own.
Another requirement for a wine to be successful by the glass is that it be reasonably priced. You might be willing to spend $100 on a special bottle, but would you spend $30 or $40 for a glass? You can’t just divide the bottle price by four for a six-ounce pour – what does the restaurant do if they open a bottle and only two people buy a glass – they’ve just lost that other half-bottle. For that reason, there can be a premium on by the glass prices, or restaurants will only go with safe bets they are sure will sell a bottle before the wine loses any of its luster.
Our sommelier-judges weigh all the factors – quality, value and availability – in choosing the wines they recommend by the glass. The have to take those elements into account because they will each choose at least two wines from the medal winners and put them on their wine list for the month leading up to VeritageMiami. Since VeritageMiami begins April 15, “Best in Glass Month” begins March 15…this Sunday.
So who is choosing what? Some of the sommeliers are still deciding or plan to mix up their selections and swap them mid-way through the month, so any listing will be partial at best, and it is also enticing. I’m already planning the best route to taste some of my favorite winning wines. To help you plan your own wine odyssey, you can download the list (thus far) of restaurants pouring BIG medal winners right here. And to get you started, here are some of my picks for wines that will be exciting to try:
Among the most popular wines with our sommeliers are:
Chapoutier Bila-Haut Rosé – this is from the south of France and an area called Roussillon. The wine is a carefully crafted blend of cinsault (bright red fruit flavors and aromas) and grenache (crisp mineral and citrus notes) – if your only exposure to rosé is rather sweet wines like white zinfandel, you owe it to yourself to try this wine and see just how alluring a rosé can be. It’s featured during Best in Glass Month at The Dutch at the W South Beach in Miami Beach, Mizner Country Club in Delray Beach, and Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink in Miami.
Markus Huber “Hugo” Gruner Veltliner – I know this is not the easiest wine to pronounce, but oh, my, it certainly is easy to drink. If you are a sauvignon blanc lover, please try this wine – it has the crispness you love and a refreshing green apple and pear quality to give you a change of pace. It’s delicious and wonderful with seafood, as you can find out at Market 17 in Fort Lauderdale, The Dutch at the W South Beach, and Il Mercato in Hallandale.
Mercer Estates Chardonnay 2013 – The Mercer Estate Winery won an unprecedented four gold medals this year at Best in Glass – that’s 10% of all the gold medals awarded! This chardonnay from Columbia Valley is beautifully fruity without tasting heavy or over-oaked. It’s a perfect chardonnay to drink on its own or with dinner, and that is clearly the intention of four sommeliers who are featuring it on their Best in Glass Month choices: John Kao at Echo at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Phil Fuentes at The Dutch at the W South Beach, Eric Larkee at Restaurant Michael Schwartz at the Raleigh, Miami Beach and Sylvie Gervais at Mizner Country Club in Delray Beach.
Some other wines to look for:
Ridge Three Valleys Red Blend – For decades, Ridge has been famous for making vibrant fruity and deep red zinfandel that is consistently considered among the best in California. By U.S. law, a wine has to be at least 75% zinfandel to be called a zin on the label, and this wine has 79%, so it could be labeled zin, but some years the number falls below 75% so Ridge builds the brand by calling it “just” a generic red blend every year. Nothing from Ridge is really generic, and this combination of zinfandel with three other varieties from three valleys in Sonoma County is a luscious, vibrant and totally satisfying red wine, whatever you call it. Give it a try at Zuma in Miami.
Ktima Gerovassiliou Epanomi White Blend – I have to admit this was my favorite white wine in the Best in Glass tastings this year. A blend of two Greek grapes, assyrtiko and malagousia, it is everything many sauvignon blancs want to be and never achieve – crisp, brilliant with food and on its own, and just fruity enough to be satisfying whenever you taste it. It’s my new favorite white for a cookout. Or a cook-in for that matter. You’ll find it by the glass at The Cypress Room in Miami’s Design District.
Chateau de Campuget Tradition Rosé – John Kao picked this gorgeous Provence-style rosé to feature at the Ocean Grill and The Beach Club at The Breakers, and I can’t imagine a better wine for oceanfront dining, or a walk in the sand. It is beautiful to look at and just as satisfying to drink and fruity enough so it has real flavor (a lot of rosés come off like white wines if you put them in a dark glass and can’t see the color – that will never happen with this wine). I love it.
Well, that should certainly get you started, and I’ll offer some more picks in a week or two once Best in Glass Month is well underway.