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Bob Lipinski

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By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

‘A glass of wine is a great refreshment after a hard day’s work.’ — Ludwig Van Beethoven, 1770-1827, German composer

Mendoza, a grape-growing province in the Cuyo region in the central-western part of the country, directly west of Buenos Aires, was founded in 1561. It is the country’s most important wine-producing area, and its main subregions include Uco Valley, Tupungato, Luján de Cuyo, and Maipú.

Vineyards are planted at the edge of the Andes Mountains, at some of the highest altitudes in the world, with the average site located 2,000 to 3,600 feet above sea level. The climate is desert-like with a mere 9-inches of rain per year, and irrigation is necessary to grow and ripen the grapes.

Mendoza is the largest and most important grape-growing province in Argentina, accounting for 70 percent of wine production, with over 375,000 acres of grapevines planted.

Red grapes account for over half of the entire province’s acreage. Mendoza’s red grapes include Malbec, Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Tempranillo, and Merlot. Major white grapes include Pedro Giménez, Chardonnay, Torrontés Riojano, Chenin Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc.

Some red wines from Mendoza to try are…

2011 Don Manuel Villafañe “Gran Malbec.” Intense violet color, complex nose with aromas of black fruit, raspberries, plums, and nuts. Medium-bodied and quite smooth with spices, licorice, and chocolate.

2018 Achával-Ferrer “Finca Altamira” Malbec. (The wine was aged 15 months in French oak barrels.) Inky in color; smells like raspberry jam, with dark fruit and spices. Full-bodied and tannin with flavors of espresso, blackberry, and bittersweet chocolate.

2016 Juan Gregorio Bazán Reserva “Blend Selection.” (Blend of Malbec 40%, Cabernet Sauvignon 40%, and Merlot 20%). Dark ruby color with a bouquet of raspberries and hickory smoke-flavored barbecue sauce. Medium-bodied with flavors of red plums and spices. Smooth finish and aftertaste of toasted oak.

2016 Cruz Alta “Grand Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep color, full bouquet of black tea, juicy raspberries, and figs. Complex flavors of cherries, plums, and blackberries. Hints of vanilla and cocoa appear in the aftertaste.

2018 Septima “Cabernet Sauvignon.” Ruby colored with a bouquet of blackberry jam, black olive, black pepper, and toasted oak. Medium-bodied with flavors of plums and roasted coffee, with subtle nuances of licorice and mint.

Other producers to look for are Catena Zapata, Doña Paula, Familia Zuccardi, Norton, Rutini Wines, Salentein, Trapiche, Trivento, Vistalba, and Bodegas Weinert.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected].

The Pinot Noir grape is believed to have originated in France over 2,000 years ago. Pixabay photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

If there is one wine that lovers of red and white wine can enjoy with equal pleasure, it is Pinot Noir. It’s light- to medium-bodied, with little bitterness (tannin) and loaded with plenty of juicy fruit. Unlike many red wines, Pinot Noir can be enjoyed by itself, perhaps with a cracker and wedge of your favorite cheese. Incidentally, Pinot Noir likes to be lightly chilled (like most white wines).

Pinot Noir is a thin-skinned, medium acid red grape variety believed to have originated in France over 2,000 years ago. It is grown principally in Burgundy and Champagne, France, and is also grown in other regions of France and most wine-producing countries of the world. Pinot Noir is genetically unstable, meaning that it mutates: the parent vine may produce offspring with fruit different in color, size, shape, and flavors.

Some of these mutations are Pinot Blanc (Bianco), Pinot Gris (Grigio), and Pinot Meunier, among others. Pinot Noir is known as Pinot Nero in Italy and Spätburgunder in Austria and Germany.

Most of the Pinot Noir wines are made from 100 percent of the grape. While others are blended with a small amount of Syrah (for color and body). The most famous Pinot Noir blend is champagne; a combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir grapes. The blend is generally 70 percent red grapes and 30 percent white grapes. A lesser-known champagne is called Blanc de Noirs, a white wine made entirely from black (red) grapes.

The Pinot Noir grape is believed to have originated in France over 2,000 years ago.
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Pinot Noir pairs with ahi tuna, broiled or blackened salmon, mushrooms, root vegetables, grilled vegetables (especially zucchini and tomatoes), or even a slice of your favorite pizza.

Pinot Noir is often referred to as feminine, a nebulous term describing wines that are soft, perfumed, charming, seductive, delicate, and elegant.

Some Pinot Noir wines I’ve enjoyed over the past few months are:

2016 Lauca “Reserva” Maule Valley, Chile: Light-bodied with a bouquet dominated by spicy cherry, along with mint, coffee, and mushrooms.

2018 Murphy Goode, California: Spicy black cherry and flavors of cranberry and cola with hints, tea, and cinnamon.

2017 Domaine Anderson “Pinot Noir” Anderson Valley, California: Bouquet of blackberry and mulberry with flavors of red currants, cola, and dried fruits.

2018 La Crema “Sonoma Coast” California: Bouquet and flavor of spicy berries, pomegranate, brown baking spices, and toasted nuts in the aftertaste.

2018 Aquinas, North Coast, California: Deep ruby color; a bouquet and flavor of pomegranate, plum, sandalwood, cherries, and cranberry.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected].

Goat cheese. Pixabay photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Goat cheese, known as chèvre in French, is a classification of cheeses made worldwide from goat’s milk, which vary in style, appearance, and flavor. Goat’s milk cheese is made in a variety of shapes, such as cones, cylinders, disks, logs, ovals, pyramids, wheels, and “buttons.” By French law, cheese labeled as pur chèvre must be made entirely from goat’s milk. Cheeses made from a blend of goat and cow’s milk are labeled mi-chèvre.

Goat cheese costs more because of the relative scarcity of the milk: cows produce around six times as much milk as goats do. Hence, there is less cheese at higher prices.

Some goat cheeses are rolled in paprika or chili powder to give it a brick-red, colorful exterior. Others are wrapped in chestnut or grape leaves and dipped in brandy, marc, white wine, red wine, or olive oil. The outer chalk white surface is sometimes coated in ash, black pepper, or herbs.

Although the most common goat cheeses are soft and spreadable, others are semisoft, firm-textured, dry, and crumbly, and occasionally very hard, which can be grated. Some goat cheeses are smoked, while others are flavored with garlic, black pepper, curry powder, fennel, rosemary, and various herbs. Goat cheese varies in flavor from mild to acetic, tangy, sharp, nutty, grassy, earthy, barnyardy, or mushroomy.

Goat cheese. Pixaay photo

Some recommended goat cheeses to try are Alicante, Banon, Bouton-de-Culotte, Bûcheron, Cabécou, Camerano, Capricette, Chabichou, Chevrotin, Crottin de Chavignol, Garrotxa, Ibores, Lormes, Montrachet, Pélardon, Picodon, Pyramide, Sainte-Maure, Valençay, and Ziegenkäse.

There are many red, white, and rosé wines that pair well with goat cheese. Some red wines are Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Grenache, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Zinfandel. Some white wines are Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Grüner Veltliner, Muscadet, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc. I especially enjoy goat cheese with a brut or blanc de noirs champagne, brut Prosecco, tawny port, a dry rosé, or a chilled glass of a fino (dry) sherry.

Some suggested wines to try are…

2019 Stephane Aviron Moulin-à-Vent “Vieilles Vignes” Beaujolais, France. Cranberry-colored with an aroma and flavor of blueberry, raspberry, plums, spices, and licorice. Dry and medium-bodied, with hints of roses.

2018 Murphy-Goode Pinot Noir, California. Ruby colored with an aroma of spicy black cherry and flavors of cranberry, plum, and cola with hints of cinnamon, earth, mint, and tea leaves.

2019 Greywacke “Sauvignon Blanc,” Marlborough, New Zealand. Straw-colored with a fresh aroma of citrus and herbs. Dry and medium-bodied with flavors of chamomile, grapefruit, passion fruit, white pepper, and stone fruit.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected]

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By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

I must confess … I love bubbly; regardless if it’s in a Mimosa for breakfast, a glass of Prosecco for lunch, Champagne as an apéritif, during dinner, or even a glass of Asti after dinner!

Sparkling wines are superb pairing partners with a multitude of international foods, from appetizers to main courses and finishing with desserts. Although all wine-producing countries make some type of sparkling wines, the most common styles or designations are: Brut, Extra Dry, Sec, Demisec, Rosé, Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs, and Vintage.

Some names of sparkling wines produced worldwide include Champagne, Crémant, Cava, Franciacorta, Asti, TrentoDoc, Prosecco, Sekt, and simply “sparkling wine.”

Dry sparkling wines pair with salty foods; fried and deep-fried foods; spicy hot foods; smoked foods; oily seafood such as anchovies, bluefish, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and tuna; chives, garlic, ginger, leeks, onions, scallions, and shallots; citrus and citrus-like ingredients; and fresh herbs such as cilantro, parsley, sage, and tarragon.

— Sparkling wine is an excellent an apéritif because of its refreshing, appetite-stimulating effervescence.

— Sparkling wines add excitement to the meal when served throughout dinner.

— Many Asian foods can be paired with sparkling wines.

— Dry sparkling wines taste thin and unpleasant with sweet desserts

— Avoid serving dry sparkling wines with desserts featuring chocolate or lemon sauces.

— Avoid serving dry sparkling wines with salads featuring tart or acidic dressings.

— Avoid serving dry sparkling wines with tomato-based sauces, whose acid interacts with the high acid of the wine, causing a tart, sometimes biting taste in the mouth.

Recently tasted sparkling wines include:

NV Moser 51,151 “TrentoDoc” Brut, (DOC) Trento, Italy: 100% Chardonnay grapes. Straw-yellow with a fruity aroma of blueberries and raspberries. Medium-bodied, dry, and crispy tasting, with hints of apples and cherries.

NV Codorníu Cuvée Clásico “Cava Brut,” Spain: Blend of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-Lo grapes; a bouquet of green apples, lemon, and brioche. Dry, clean, and crispy in the mouth with a pleasing aftertaste of almonds.

NV Ca’ del Bosco “Cuvée Prestige,” Franciacorta (DOCG) Lombardy, Italy: A blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Bianco grapes; crisp, delicate bouquet with hints of almonds, dried pears, and apples. Soft in the mouth with a crispy aftertaste.

NV Valdo Cuvée di Boj “Prosecco Brut,” (DOC) Veneto, Italy: Medium-bodied with a floral bouquet of stone fruits, apples, and citrus. Dry with hints of fennel and ginger.

NV Ruinart “Blanc de Blancs” (Champagne, France): Clean and crisp with flavors of green apple, pear, brioche, celery, and citrus.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected]

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‘The first taste of a wine is like the first kiss; you look forward to the second.’

­— André Tchelistcheff, 1901-1994, Legendary Winemaker

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Tasting is the art of consciously assessing a wine’s quality or identity and the activities or mechanisms involved in receiving the sensory impressions a wine can stimulate.

Just as with food, we have preferences for certain tastes and flavors in wine. Each of us has our own history of tastes and flavors. Much of this is due to where and how we grew up—there may be cultural differences in the experiences we had for certain foods and beverages. We all have personality differences. Some of us are very adventurous and others more averse to risk. Although tastes and flavors are subjective, they are not entirely relative—that is, we often agree on what we taste and smell.

There are ways to taste and evaluate wine that are generally accepted to provide a maximum impact on our palate—I call this the Five S’s: Sight, Swirl, Smell, Sip, Spit (or Swallow).

SIGHT: Wine should be clear in appearance; color and hue tell us a lot about the grape variety, oak treatment, age, and intensity of the wine. For example, a pale-yellow wine most likely did not receive any oak-aging while a golden colored wine probably did. Knowing which grapes benefit from oak-aging narrows the field for each grape variety. Chardonnay benefits from oak aging since it provides balance with bigger flavors and body.

SWIRL: Swirling wine in a glass will release the aroma, so once you stick your nose in the glass, you can smell it better.

SMELL: More than 80 percent of what we taste is actually smell. Smell describes the fruity, floral, earthy, mineral, spicy, herbal, and oak characteristics of some wines.

SIP: Now it’s time to taste the wine. Take a good sip and swirl the wine around in your mouth as if it’s mouthwash (evaluating differs from drinking). Your tongue tastes sweet, sour, salty, and bitter, but together with smelling, you get the complete picture of the wine. Some elements to note are acidity, alcohol, body, dry or sweet, flavor, tannin, and texture.

SPIT/ SWALLOW: the difference between “tasting” and “drinking” is that once you have sipped the wine, you spit it out into a cup or spit bucket (professional tasters do this). 

SWALLOW: Allows you to evaluate and describe the finish, length, and aftertaste of the wine.

Well, there you have it. Now open a bottle of wine and start practicing!

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected].

METRO photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Scotch whisky is a distinctive product of Scotland, made in compliance with the 1909 laws of Great Britain and the Scotch Whisky Act of 2009. The whisky can legally be called Scotch if it is distilled and matured in Scotland and made from water and malted barley (other whole grains may be added) and fermented by adding yeast.

Scotch whisky Regions

There are five classic regions in Scotland. They are the Highlands (which includes the isles of Arran, Mull, Jura, Orkney, and Skye), Lowlands, Speyside, Islay, and Campbeltown. The Highlands are further defined into Central Highlands, Eastern Highlands, Northern Highlands, and Western Highlands.

Aging of Scotch

All Scotch whisky must be produced in Scotland, distilled twice (or more), and aged for at least three years in oak barrels.

Age statement

When there is an age stated on the label of a Scotch whisky (12-, 15-, 21-Year-Old), it identifies the youngest whisky in the blend.

Blended Scotch whisky

A blend of single malt whiskies with grain whiskies. There are no fixed percentages of each, and a distiller can use as little as 1 percent malt whisky in a “Blended Scotch Whisky.” The general proportions are from about 30 to 70 percent grain whisky, with the remainder being malt whisky. Blended Scotch whisky constitutes over 90 percent of the whisky produced in Scotland. 

Single malt Scotch whisky

A Scotch whisky distilled in one or more batches in pot stills, at a single distillery from only water and malted barley without adding other cereals. These whiskies are then blended: barrel-to-barrel, to create a consistent signature flavor profile that represents the distillery’s style.

Unique smoky bouquet and flavor

Scotch’s unique flavor and character come from the water used in its production and the type and amount of malt whisky used. Its distinctive smoky taste generally comes from the peat fires over which the barley is dried.

Label terminology

Glen: A Valley (Glenlivet, Glenfarclas, Glen Garioch, and so forth)

Livet: The name of a river.

Spey: The name of a river as in Speyside.

Loch: a lake as in the place where the Loch Ness Monster supposedly lives.

The taste of blended Scotch whisky

It has flavors of black pepper, caramel, dried fruit, heather honey, nuts, pears, and toffee, with hints of spices, herbs, wood, and smoke.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected].

Pixabay photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

As a professional taster, I evaluate hundreds of alcoholic beverages (mostly wines) each month for articles I write. Most of these wines are good, some very good, and others outstanding. Unfortunately, a few wines rate “not very good,” and they are not included in my articles.

I have been writing for over 40 years and prefer to talk about the beverage rather than assign it an arbitrary number rating, so here are my picks!

2020 M.A.N. Family Wines, Chenin Blanc “Coastal Region,” South Africa. No, it’s not a sexist name! The wine is named after the first initials of the three owners’ wives—Marie, Anette, and Nicky! I love the smell and taste of red apples and that’s what you get in each mouthful of this delicious wine along with tropical fruit and melon. Bold citrus flavors balance the high fruit and keep you wanting another glass. I enjoyed this wine with curried chicken in a sweet and sour sauce.

2019 Kato Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand. An aroma and flavor of melon, passion fruit, herbs, and citrus with hints of green pea, dill, and tangerine. Serve with a salad of Romaine lettuce topped with plenty of goat cheese.

2018 Garofoli Farnio, “Rosso Piceno,” Marches, Italy. (Blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese grapes). Ruby-red with a bouquet and flavor of black cherry, licorice, plums, spices, and jam. The wine begs for a dish of pasta in a spicy tomato sauce.

2018 Tyrrell’s “Hunter Valley” Shiraz, New South Wales, Australia. Plenty of dark fruit… blackberries and black currants; dried plums, black pepper, and spice. I love a good Shiraz paired with veal chops rubbed with rosemary.

2016 Don Manuel Villafañe Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina. Bright ruby color with a bouquet and flavor of spicy cherry, brown baking spices, and leather. A dry-rubbed ribeye steak cooked medium rare says it all!

2004 Florio “Terre Arse” Marsala Vergine Riserva “Secco,” Sicily, Italy. Made from Grillo grapes, this beauty was aged for over ten years in ancient oak barrels. Amber-colored with an intense bouquet and flavor of dried figs, apricot jam, caramel, toasted coconut, and raisins. There are hints of smoked wood and hazelnuts in the finish and aftertaste. I enjoyed the wine with a wedge of Pecorino Siciliano and ricotta salata cheese, with slices of cantaloupe melon.

2021 Georges Duboeuf “Beaujolais Nouveau,” France. (Made from Gamay grapes). Candy-apple red; intensely fruity aroma and flavor of raspberries, bubblegum, red candy, cherries, and watermelon. A grilled cheeseburger with onions and fries were my choices.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected].

Pexels photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Chile has been making value-centric wines for decades and they are available in many restaurants and wine shops. Like California, Chile labels its wine by the name of the grape and this makes choosing one for dinner or just casual drinking a snap. 

Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and many other grapes flourish in Chile’s climate. The country is 2,650 miles long and about 150 miles wide, although most of it is a mere 100 miles in width. Red grapes account for 70% of the total acreage in Chile.

The country’s grape-growing season is six months earlier than the Northern Hemisphere’s. The vintage listed on a Chilean wine is the year in which the grapes were harvested, not the year in which the growing season began.

The below seven wines would be a welcome addition to any holiday celebration.

2019 Secreto de Viu Manent “Malbec,” Colchagua Valley. Enticing bouquet and flavor of cranberries, chocolate, black licorice, spicy cherry, and spices with a long aftertaste. Serve with grilled portabella mushrooms.

2019 Koyle Gran Reserva “Carmenère,” Alto Colchagua. Organically grown grapes. (Blend of Carmenère, Tempranillo, and Petit Verdot grapes). A bouquet and flavor of blueberry, green bell pepper, pomegranate, and tart-berries. Serve with roast duck brushed with a glazed orange or plum sauce.

2019 Concha y Toro “Gran Reserva Serie Riberas” Cabernet Sauvignon, Colchagua Valley. Dark colored with flavors of black currants, chocolate, blackberries, plums, licorice, and herbs. Very long aftertaste. A wonderful wine for roasted or grilled lamb chops.

2018 Viña Tarapacá Gran Reserva, Maipo Valley. (Blend of Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Carmenère, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes). Aged 12 months in American and French oak barrels. Flavors of blackberry, cherries, herbs, chamomile, and plums. Serve with hot and spicy sausage in a tomato sauce.

2018 Viña Maquis Cabernet Franc “Gran Reserva” Colchagua Valley. Ruby-colored with a medium bouquet of cherries, blueberries, spices, mint, green olive, and plums. A hearty beef and barley stew would be my choice.

2018 Viña Emiliana “Coyam” Colchagua Valley. (Blend of Syrah, Carmenère, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Malbec, Carignan, Tempranillo, and Mourvèdre grapes). Cherry-colored with a full bouquet of spicy cherries, raspberries, black pepper, herbs, and plums. Pair with a sausage and mushroom pizza.

2018 Marques de Casa Concha “Cabernet Sauvignon,” Maipo Valley. Dark-colored with full-flavors of black currants, black raspberry, spices, plums, dill, rhubarb, and roasted coffee, with a long finish and lingering aftertaste. Overall, a stunning wine! This wine begs for a porterhouse steak cooked medium-rare and a baked potato.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected].

Pexels photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Most people enjoy rum in tropical drinks during warm weather while lounging poolside with a bowl of tortilla chips, salsa, and guacamole.

I enjoy “sipping rums,” those dark (mostly), limited production rums, often aged many years in oak barrels. These rums are often the premium, “top-of-the-line” products a distillery makes. Like a well-aged Scotch or Cognac, they are often served in a brandy glass, lightly chilled after dinner. 

These rums are generally not used in cocktails because of their complex and full flavors, high price, and limited availability. Sipping rums may or may not have an age statement on the label.

Below are some of my favorite sipping rums, which hopefully will become your favorites too!

Appleton Reserve Blend, Jamaica: Amber-colored; bouquet of molasses, nuts, oil of bergamot, and burnt butter; quite dry with some burnt bitterness present; nuts, clove, allspice, and mace.

Bacardi “Reserva Limitada,” Puerto Rico: Aged in used Bourbon barrels. Amber-colored; bouquet of tobacco, citrus, honey, vanilla, and maple. In the mouth there is a certain sweetness, full sugar and medium-bodied, with a lingering aftertaste.

Brugal “Extra Viejo” Dominican Republic: Aged in used Bourbon barrels. Amber colored; muted nose with hints of citrus and molasses. Flavors of lime, grass, cinnamon, and molasses. It has a certain brandy taste: a very complex rum.

Diplomatico 12-Year-Old Exclusiva Reserve, Venezuela: Aged in used PX sherry barrels. Amber-colored; nose of citrus, toast, prunes, toffee, orange zest, and nuts; rich flavors of jasmine, toffee, and orange.

Don Q “Gran Añejo” Puerto Rico: Aged in used Sherry barrels. Amber color; closed nose with suggestions of citrus and grass; flavors of toast, vanilla, burnt sugar, cinnamon, banana, and butterscotch.

El Dorado “8” Demerara, Guyana: Amber-colored; nose of allspice, other spices, black pepper, caramel, and toasted marshmallow; the rum explodes in the mouth with nuts, sugarcane, and oranges; medium-body with additional flavors of dates and prunes.

Pyrat XO Reserve, Anguilla: Amber-colored; considerable orange peel, lemon, and lime peel; smells like an orange liqueur; syrupy in the mouth with hints of nutmeg and burnt orange peel.

Ron Abuelo 12 Year, Panama: Amber-colored; complex nose of caramel, molasses, nuts, and toasted oak; quite fruity in the mouth with hints of tobacco, toasted nuts, orange, honey, molasses, and dark cherries.

Ron Zacapa 23 Centenario, Guatemala: Dark mahogany, vanilla, almond, butterscotch, chocolate, and toasted wood with hints of spice.

Vizcaya VXOP “Cask 21” Dominican Republic: Spicy nose (cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, ginger) with flavors of honey, caramel, nuts, and vanilla.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected].

METRO photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Marsala is both the name of a city in northwest Sicily and the name of a fortified wine (around 18% alcohol) first made in 1773 by the English Port merchant, John Woodhouse. Marsala is made from a blend of local grapes and is fortified with alcohol either during or after fermentation, depending on the desired level of sweetness.

White grapes include Grillo, Catarratto, Inzolia, and Damaschino. Red grapes include Perricone, Nero d’Avola, and Nerello Mascalese.

All Marsala wines are available in three colors: ambra (amber), oro (golden), and rubino (ruby). Italian law has set production rules for three types of Marsala: Marsala Fine, Marsala Superiore, and Marsala Vergine. A 1984 law banned using the name Marsala for concoctions flavored with almonds, bananas, chocolate, coffee, eggs, mocha, strawberries, tangerine, and so forth.

Marsala Fine is made in a dry, semidry, and sweet version. This type must be aged for a minimum of one year in a barrel. It is the most consumed Marsala in the United States.

Marsala Superiore is made in a dry, semidry, and sweet version. This Marsala must be aged a minimum of two years in a barrel.

Marsala Vergine is made only in a dry version and is considered the finest Marsala. It is made from the best wines of the vintage and must be aged a minimum of five years in a barrel.

Dry Marsala is light amber with aromas and flavors of roasted nuts, cocoa, hints of tobacco, raisins, hazelnuts, and vanilla. Sweet Marsala is dark amber with aromas and flavors of nuts and honey, with cream, cocoa, tobacco, dates, hazelnuts, apricots, licorice, and vanilla and is an excellent apéritif served chilled from the refrigerator while sweet Marsala is excellent after dinner, served at room temperature.

Cheeses to pair with dry Marsala include Asiago, Camembert, Cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Provolone. Pair sweet Marsala with Blue Cheeses, Cantal, Gruyère, Havarti, and Monterey Jack.

Marsala usually comes in screw top bottles so they can be stored upright. There is no reason to age Marsala because it has been aged before bottling. Once opened it should be refrigerated, which will extend its shelf life to about six weeks.

When making recipes that call for Marsala, use imported brands for they are superior in quality. Dry Marsala is best to use for cooking, for it imparts a nutty-tangy flavor without a heavy sweetness. Cooking with equal parts of dry and sweet Marsala adds an extra dimension in taste. If using as an ingredient in desserts, then use the sweet style.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com OR [email protected].