Wine Corner

Feb 11

Chianti: A Great Compliment to Pasta

by Dan Paulus the Wine Guy

I would like to begin by apologizing to my followers as I recently had my wisdom teeth pulled and felt my palate was distant between the open cuts and healing medicines in my mouth. As luck would prevail, I survived and as we all know when you feel better a great meal is the best way to CELEBRATE!

This particular evening, I had a group of 4 friends come for dinner and I assumed my usual role as Dean Martin, who best describes it in his song, “Poor Little Old Wine Drinker Me.” I emailed my girlfriend Christine throughout the day to find out what she would be cooking.  She decided to make  Chicken Parm with Rigatoni, an Italian favorite of mine. Now that I knew what to expect for our dinner guests, I headed towards my favorite local wine shop with my knowledge guns loaded, gusto and enthusiasm towards finding just the right wine to compliment the coming meal my wonderful girlfriend was preparing.

Knowing that I was in the market for something to compliment a pasta dish, I instantly thought of a Chianti. Chianti is a wine region in the Tuscan hills of Italy that until 1995 had a strict recipe of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo and 15% Malvasia bianca. In 1995, the region decided that bottles labeled as Chianti could be sold containing as much as 100% Sangiovese and no less than 80%, a native grape of Italy. While we touch on Italy, I will say they are one of the most strict wine regions in the world about what grapes are grown and where. If you were to bring a Bordeaux grape, such as;Chianti Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec or Petite Verdot the wine would instantly be labeled a “Super Tuscan Wine.” The Tuscan wine region accounts for approximately, 1/5 or 20% of all wine production in the World!

I ran into the store and searched the carefully planned selection of Chianti’s and found two bottles of Castello D’Albola selling for $19.99 each and decided I would give a new brand a try. Earlier, I noted I knew to flock to Chianti because the wine has a tendency to bring your cheeks together, a perfect and natural way to prepare your mouth for pasta!

I read the rear label while standing in line and expanded my knowledge of the Chianti as I learned this region is home to nobile and famous families of the Renaissance era. The wine maker suggests that the wine is best consumed with cheese, pasta dishes and roasts. A perfect match for my dinner plans. I promptly returned home to open the wine and much like letting a Genie out of bottle – let this wine, breathe!

Opening wine and allowing it to breathe is a critical step in the enjoyment of wine. I liken it to taking a bite of an apple and letting it sit on a counter for approximately a half hour. When you return you find the apple to be turning slightly brown; much to this effect, wine is best consumed in a state similar to the “browning stage” of an apple. This process allows the aromas to expand and the wine to open up so its features are best exhibited. Recently, Vinturi created an aerator that drastically reduces the “browning” stage of wine and allows the wine to open more quickly, thus allowing a faster open to consumption phase.

My guests had finally arrived and as the 4 guests would expect I had prepared myself to tell them about the Castello D’Albola Chianti Classico vintage 2006 I chose. I overlooked one huge aspect, the marketing! “How come this bottle has a rooster on it?”… “What does Classico mean?”…”This bottle has a 12.5% Alcohol content – how does this compare to beer or a mixed drink?” I truly love talking about wine and these questions I was truly short on answers, but as my hobby has taught me – learning and story telling makes any brown, green or white bottle interesting.

How come this bottle has a rooster on it?

  • A) Roosters or gallo nero in Italian is used to represent wine makers of the Gallo Nero Consortium until 2005, which then was used to represent Chianti Classico.

Speaking of Classico, what does it mean?

  • Classico refers to Chianti that has been stored in barrels for a time period of 4-7 months. Other varieties also include, Riserva is stored in barrels for up to 38 months and Superiore which is planted and harvested with a lower yield, has a higher alcohol content and dry extract while produced under very strict rules of the region.

How does this wine compare to beer, or a mixed drink in terms of alcohol content?

  • Light beers generally contain less than 4.5 – 5.0% alcohol content, while a mixed drink containing Vodka could contain more than 40% by volume.

We toasted the meal, our health and great company and it was now time to stick our nose in the glass of Castello D’Albola and allow the aromas to be discussed.  The swirling motions began and the flowery talk of the aromas were discussed as the scent of Violets was interjected by one guest. Another thought it had hints of other fresh spring flowers. The observation of the color was that of ruby red fading to a deep garnet as you gaze into the wine glass. And, at first taste, my guests fell victim to an amazing wine they both enjoyed and now became filled with knowledge.

Until the next time – bottoms up!

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Feb 11

Guest Blogger Dan Paulus: Wine Knowledge Leads to Improved World Knowledge

As a continuation from my first post on my journey to wine, I wanted to finish up my story on my curiosity of wine and how it is has grown into a hobby that I’m very passionate about. You might never look at wine the same way again.


…I ventured back to the wine store with considerably more knowledge ready to give my new found hobby a second chance. I realized very quickly that once I purchased a periodical telling me about wine, I was doomed. I read articles in the Wine Spectator; I then purchased “Wine for Dummies” and soon was consumed with some knowledge and began tasting varieties to see which ones best suited my palate. I recall being taken back by the cost of my new hobby as wine has a very wide open pricing structure. Ex. Opus One sells for nearly $200 a bottle, while a bottle of Malbec sells for under $10.00.

My choice was based on economics, call me cheap, but I wouldn’t buy Tiger Woods golf clubs if I was just learning the game of golf, either.

I chose the Diseno, Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina. I knew nothing about the Malbec other than it had an attractive price point and I overheard another shopper saying it was an excellent wine. I made one commitment when I began drinking wine and that was to always buy two bottles of the same wine. Why? Because if I liked the wine I could try it again another evening to evaluate the complexity and consistency of the notes I took on each bottle of wine. Plus, as I soon learned, my new hobby attracted a neighborly following  that allowed for me to learn more about the culture of people around me.

I recall opening the wine, firing up my laptop and going to I am an information junkie – I wanted to know what others thought of my buy? Did I get a good deal? What is a Malbec? Where did it originate? What makes it different than a Merlot? Where exactly is Mendoza Argentina? What is there to do in Mendoza?

After pouring the wine, I examined the glass and noticed the dark hues of red from the skins of the grape used for this wine. I placed my nose in the glass and smelled the aroma’s. I took my first sip and I realized this hobby was EXACTLY what I was looking for at this time period in my life.

As I sipped away on my wine I looked up the answers to my questions, a Malbec is a grape that is native to France’s Bordeaux region and is considered one of the five native red grapes of this particular region. It did not grow particularly well in the Bordeaux region and was exported to the higher elevations of Argentina where it grew a most delicious grape for wine. I also found information about Mendoza, Argentina that lead me to believe the US Dollar, while struggling overseas, was actually able to provide ample buying power in this region and the cost of the wine was a benefactor of this purchasing power. I found maps of Mendoza and was soon able to locate exactly where my bottle originated. But with all my answers, I was only compelled to dive deeper into research as I had a plethora of new questions that needed answered.

At this point, I made another move in my life. I decided to relocate to the South Florida community of Boca Raton. It was here that I met a gentleman in Jim Stephanis that brought my wine studies full circle. To this day, I’ve never met a more talented, enthusiastic salesman than the 78 year old Greek gentleman that warmly greeted me at the local wine store. He educated me about the various ways wine is fermented, the geography of wine and most importantly the way wine can influence nearly every aspect of your life.

Jim will never get enough credit for his wine knowledge, but he holds designations from UC Davis, a leader in the wine industry. He once told me that he made his first batch of wine at age 7! Jim quickly took me under his wing as an understudy teaching me that wine can be fermented in three particular ways: oak barrels, cement barrels or stainless steel. Each way will significantly impact the way the wine tastes. For example, Chardonnay made in the United States can have an aggressive “oaky” taste as a result of placing the wine in an oak barrel and then adding oak chunks floating in the wine during fermentation. Or, that stainless steel if not properly grounded can be shocked through static electricity and will ruin the fermentation process. I truly enjoy seeing Jim to this day as I purchase wine and talk over my broadened wine knowledge; I think it has been rewarding to him that my interest has lead me to complete my own studies. Case and point, I was 26 years old, I now had a way to connect with a man who was nearly 3 times my age. Proof again that wine knowledge not only improved my general world studies, but also allowed me to relate to people with generational gaps.

My next blog I will move past the importance of knowledge of wine regions and actually venture into a specific wine. Until then – stay thirsty my friends!

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Jan 11

Guest Blogger Dan Paulus: My Journey to Wine

My name is Dan Paulus and I am a WINE ENTHUSIAST!

The event that brought me closer to the wine industry was the 2006 NCAA Final Four in Indianapolis, Indiana. I went with a group of men of who were either my college buddies or their fathers. We went to St. Elmo’s Steakhouse, a fine establishment with a wine list that would make most wine stores jealous. I recall sitting at a table listening to my friends’ fathers describe various wines and telling stories about where they first tried a wine, what they thought of it, as they debated over which wine would best compliment this evenings spread.

As I listened, I couldn’t help myself but think either I fell into a group of grown individuals that either had passion for wine or were complete con artists with excellent stories. It was then that I decided I needed to embark on my own wine journey and gain knowledge so that when we ventured to the next Final Four I would be aptly prepared to show off my wine gusto.

I got back to my apartment in Columbus, Ohio and got caught up in the business world again, but maintained committed that at my next vacation slated for June I would make a conscious effort to begin my exploration in the wine industry. June arrived and I recall walking into a grocery store and looking at all the varieties and not having a clue where to start. I recognized a few names; Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, but I was overcome by the vast selection. WHERE DO I START?

I walked out of the grocery store and ventured to a wine shop where I found the staff to be increasingly more helpful and much more knowledgeable. I explained that I wanted to learn about wine, but was “green” to my taste, knowledge, etc. They questioned me, do you like dry? Oaky? Full body? Aroma’s with nose? White or Red? Sulfite allergies? Etc. To the point that I just about had a crisis in the store, as I felt like I walked into a Chemistry test completely unprepared at Florida State University with my answering of questions laying in the balance of my future.

I remember saying, “I like sweet stuff.” The wine associate took me to the German section of wines and handed me a bottle of Riesling. He informed me to chill it and come back soon to tell him what I thought. Oh how I loved the sweetness of this particular Riesling – so much so that I drank the first bottle and quickly went back to grab two more. I felt like it was the death of a salesman that next day; my excitement for wine was quickly overshadowed with the hangover from hell, as I laid on my sofa questioning,  “why I did this to myself?”

Case and point made, I could have never drank another glass of wine and been completely happy. I went back to see my wine counselor and we began to make headway with the recommendation of the magazine, Wine Spectator. He quickly showed me why I felt like hell as he showed the alcohol content to be around 13% or nearly three times that of a Budweiser product I had accustomed myself x 3 bottles… I recall leaving the store with a magazine thinking is this really worth it?! I am now buying paper, not wine.

It was truly at this point, I realized I was moving beyond just wanting to get drunk. I wanted to know a product, a line, everything associated with a wine. I read the magazine in the next few days and like a kid who fell off his bike I ventured back to the wine shop and embarked on my new hobby – wine.

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