Thursday, September 22, 2022

Dan Berger: Free Wine

 There are many reasons that the phrase "There's no free lunch" usually is accurate, but there are ways to save money when it comes to wine -- and to say that this column ought to be called "Free Wine" isn't really a stretch.

        To make this case meaningful, here are some issues that are at play with most of today's California wines and why my solution, stated below, is valid.

        --Far too many wines have higher alcohol contents than they really need for enjoyment. Historically, most of California's wines used to be at 12% to 13% alcohol at the most. We never saw percentages higher than that through the early 1980s.

        --Most California wines today are made with low acid levels, making them fine to be served as aperitifs or for before-dinner or patio sipping. But they're not as great as they should be with meals.

        --The way most California wines are being made today, most taste much better when they're slightly chilled, including many red wines. Sure, this is counterintuitive, the opposite of what we've always learned about red wine being served basically at room temperature.

        Taken individually, these three truisms aren't really an indictment of many of today's wines, but all three, if found in a single wine, can make it a little too bland and not particularly balanced or interesting with food.

        A fourth fact: Many people now seek wines with lower alcohol levels to improve their health. Zinfandels with 16% alcohol really aren't twice as good as 7% alcohol German rieslings.

        The solution is found in your freezer. It's ice.

        I can't imagine a single winemaker or wine critic telling you that you should put small ice cubes into every wine you attempt to consume for maximum enjoyment.

        For one thing, adding an ice cube to your wine is absolutely anti-romantic, not to mention a purist's laugh line. I probably wouldn't do this with any truly great wine, such as a classic Bordeaux, a Le Montrachet or Dom Perignon. When it comes to special wines, most should be sampled on their own to determine the winemaker's intent, the vineyardist's art, and to watch as the wine evolves in the glass.

        But for everyday wines, like a $10 bottle of chardonnay or a $12 bottle of cabernet sauvignon, adding a small ice cube to your glass does several things. One is to lower the alcohol slightly, and another is to cool the wine down to more enjoyable levels. 

        If this is done carefully, making certain not to add too much ice because of the dilution effect, many wines can become more enjoyable for midweek sipping with simpler meals. I do this frequently with red wines that exceed 14% alcohol. It works very effectively for wines above 15%.

        Again, I caution against doing this with exalted wines, but even there, an ice cube can work wonders. I've often tasted some expensive reds that had 16% alcohol or more. In those cases, some dilution and chilling can bring them into a state of more pleasure.

        Before adding ice to a wine, one tactic that could be tried is to add frozen plastic ice cubes that are specifically made to cool beverages without diluting them. I keep about a dozen gel-filled plastic cubes in my freezer and use them often.

        Stainless steel or rock chilling cubes can be found in specialty shops and online. I find that the gel-filled plastic cubes hold their temperature longer. Such gadgets won't dilute the wine, but some wines do need to have their alcohols lowered a bit.

        Wine of the Week: 2021 Raeburn Rose, Russian River Valley ($20) -- The gorgeous aroma of this wine starts with wild raspberries and includes red cherry and a delicate hint of spice, perhaps from the zinfandel that makes up a third of its blend. Although the wine is dry and perfectly fine with food, it is also succulent based on a brilliant structure and is exceedingly well made. It is often seen for about $15.

        To find out more about Sonoma County resident Dan Berger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at



Anonymous said...

In southern Spain, they often serve a mediocre Rioja with ice and gaseosa, which is a carbonated but not-too-sweet lemonade. Called tinto de verano, literally "red wine of summer". Keeps the alcohol content down so you can have several glasses, and totally refreshing.

Kingsized said...

Frozen grapes do the trick for me all summer and you get a healthy snack at the end of each glass!

Anonymous said...

I enjoy adding ice to wine. I've been adding 2 cubes to a glass of red wine (12 - 14%) for years.

Bill Dees said...

"Room temperature" for red wines means cellar temperature (56 degrees) not the air temperature in a house or restaurant. And in my 76 years California zinfandel has always run 14-15% alcohol. But I guess everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS