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Wine without Pretense: A toast to spring

POSTED: April 3, 2012 11:30 p.m.

It’s spring and time to deal with odds and ends from the wine world. Hope you find some of them of interest.

An American, an Englishman and a Scotsman sit down at a restaurant and order soup. When it arrives the American looks down to find a fly in his soup. "Hey, there’s a fly in my soup!" he bellows. "I’m going to sue you!"

The Englishman also encounters a fly. "Oh, dear, this won’t do," he mutters quietly, removes the fly with his soup spoon and carefully deposits it in his napkin.

The Scotsman reaches down gingerly and plucks the fly from his soup and says, "Spit, laddie, spit."

I can tell that story because I am of Scottish heritage and am proud of my ancestors’ reputation for thrift. And I tell you that to pass along a thrifty little hint that my bride worked out.

As my readers probably know, I enjoy boxed wines. Those are large-production wines of generally good quality for everyday drinking. You can find reds, whites and blush wines ... some are very good, many are acceptable, and there are a few barkers in the bunch.

Two good things about boxed wines: The price is right, and the wine does not spoil once you’ve tapped the box. The wine is contained in an aluminum bag inside the cardboard box that is not exposed to air. As you pour wine from the spout, the bag seals itself.

Here’s where the Scottish heritage comes in. When the box/bag is just about empty you have to hold the box at an angle and shake it gently to get to the end of the wine. But here’s the way to make sure you don’t throw wine away.

Pry open the cardboard box and extract the bag. You’ll be surprised to see how much wine is left — around two glasses. Put your glass under the spout, open it and squeeze the bag.

That’s the equivalent of "Spit, laddie, spit."


A fine Chinese wine?

Good news from the American wine industry. U.S. wine exports reached a new record of $1.39 billion in winery revenues last year. That’s a whopping 21.7 percent leap over 2010. And California accounts for about 90 percent of that business.

And, as with so many aspects of the U.S. economy, China is playing a big role in that growth. Calling China a "... top priority market ..." Linsey Gallagher, International Marketing Director for the Wine Institute, noted, "We have significantly increased our focus on and investment in the China market over the past year ...

"Our goal is to connect the lifestyle that is associated with our state with the understanding of California as a world-class wine-producing region."

The Wine Institute is the trade organization representing the interests of American wine producers. No word on whether any of that California merlot will be coming back from China to be sold in Wal-Mart.


Pass the pinot

I truly enjoy pinot noir. For those not overly familiar with it — meaning you did not see the movie "Sideways" — here’s a capsule look at this temperamental grape. Pinot noir is the red wine grape of Burgundy. It produces some of the world’s great red wines; elegantly structured, yet fruity with touches of velvet ... and huge price tags. Winemakers from around the world have capitalized on the growing popularity of this wine, and you can find some great examples ... and some stinkers, too.

I just sampled a pair of lovely pinots and want to share the good word with y’all. First is the 2010 Kenwood Vineyards Russian River Pinot Noir. Kenwood is one of my traditional favorite wineries, and this pinot noir shows why I hold Kenwood in such esteem. It comes from the Russian River area of Sonoma County, which produces great pinots and chardonnays. It comprises 99 percent pinot noir and one percent syrah.

Lush flavors with lots of cherry and strawberry notes highlight this lovely wine, which is generally available for about $17.

From Chile in the Southern Hemisphere comes the lighter, but well-made, Casa Viva Pinot Noir 2010. This is a red wine for folks who don’t think they like red wines. Pinot Noir does not have the tannins that give bigger reds such as cabernet sauvignon and merlot their structure. In fact, the Casa Viva, lightly chilled, should be a treat for sitting on the porch and sipping as the temperatures climb. The $11 price tag is easy to swallow, too.

Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. Have a question about wine? He can be contacted at His column appears on the first Wednesday of the month and on gainesville


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