The Dimple in the Bottom of Wine Bottles? 

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Are they trying to shortchange you some milliliters of vino? Most likely no. But the real reason isn’t entirely clear.

Wine bottles are elegant. Their sloped necks come to a gentle peak. They’re supported by a stout but the understated trunk of a bottle. The color, typically rich sap green, absorbs color and emits a warm glow in the light of a kitchen or bar. The bottles themselves are sometimes as much a work of art as the wine that’s inside them.

But there’s one bit of the typical wine bottle that remains elusive: the bottom. The “dimple” or bulge at the bottom of many wine bottles is known as the “punt,” and it’s not entirely clear why it exists.

Wine bottles have had punts as long as the earth has had wine bottles, it seems, and until we have the capability to time travel, we’re left to wonder how the tradition of wine punts started and, perhaps more importantly, why we still do it today.

Do punts help winemakers cheat you of wine?

No, most punts are so small you’re not losing a single teaspoon. Some, yes, are more pronounced, but if this were really used as a cost-saving measure, you could bet most bottles would have exaggerated punts to make a good season’s wine supply stretch a bit more.

Are punts a sign of quality?

If you do a quick Google search on the theories behind wine bottle punts, you’ll quickly stumble across speculation that suggests higher quality wines have bigger punts because the bottle is more stout and sturdy. (More glass is needed for the longer punt, the theory goes, and wealthy winemakers can afford the more expensive bottles.) That’s just simply not true. A punt will tell you as much about the quality and taste of wine as the label will. That is to say, very little.

Do punts help wines cool faster?

This holds some merit. Punts increase surface area, so bottles in fridges or buckets of water might cool faster. But this theory is busted when you realize punts have been present on wine bottles long before anyone had heard of coolant for a refrigerator or even ice for that matter. So while it may help get your whites crisp and cool today, that’s not why punts exist.

Do punts collect sediment?

They actually do, but that’s not likely the reason they’re there. Sediment forms at the bottom of bottles as wine sits and ages. If you decant the wine, the sediment may remain in the valleys between the punt and bottle wall. That can help with flavor.

However, there’s no guarantee the sediment stays in place. It’s a happy byproduct of the punt’s existence, but it doesn’t seem that’s why punts were used in the first place.

So why do wine bottles have punts?

Truthfully, beats us. The best theory seems to be that wine bottle makers of yore needed a way to make sure their bottles stood flat on a table. The bottoms of hand-blown bottles may round out slightly as they cool. They may even have a sharp point because of the tools the glassblower uses. To keep this from happening (and bottles of wine from teeter-tottering off the table), glassblowers could have pushed up ever so slightly to create what we know today as the punt.

Now that most wine bottles are made by machine and are far sturdier than bottles made decades and centuries ago, the punt isn’t perhaps necessary. Instead, it seems to be a vestige of bygone days.

 

The Dimple in the Bottom of Wine Bottles? 

Choose the Right Wine:

Ray Isle

Overwhelmed. Baffled. Bewildered. That’s how most people feel when shopping for wine. Our executive wine editor went undercover as a wine salesman and uncorked seven solutions.

Suppose you walk into a grocery store looking for chicken soup. But instead of a few well-known brands, you find an entire wall of chicken soup—hundreds and hundreds of brands. Plus, the chicken soup ranges all over the place in price, from 50 cents to 50 bucks a can. And in case that isn’t enough, every year, every single chicken soup is slightly different. Some years are better (sun is shining; chickens are happy; great taste); some years are worse (chickens get hailed on and feel like hell; taste like it, too). So if you buy the wrong brand of chicken soup from the wrong year, you’re going to have a way less pleasurable soup experience than if you’d bought a different can. Anyone sane, walking up to a wall like that, would have to think to themselves, “Man, what is with all this ding-damn soup?”

Now, instead of chicken soup, think Chardonnay.

Recently I spent a few weeks working in wine stores around the country. I wanted to get an on-the-ground read on wine in America today. Way back when, in the antediluvian 1990s, I worked for a wine importer and spent a lot of time hanging out in stores. These days, the number of wines on the market is vastly larger, but at the same time, there’s far more information about wine available to anyone with an internet connection. I wondered: Were people more baffled by all those choices? Less? Did consumers stick to the tried and true, or had we become a nation of wine adventurers, lighting out for the territories with nary a look backward? I figured the best way to find out was to don an apron and start selling wine.

If you drive down Cotner between Pico and Olympic in Los Angeles and take a left just before the 405 on-ramps, you’ll find The Wine House. Big and warehouse-y, crammed full of wine (over 7,000 selections), it’s a destination for bargain hunters and Burgundy collectors alike. Jim and Glen Knight, whose family owns the place, thought it totally reasonable to let an itinerant wine writer parachute into their store and pretend to be a salesperson. (Possibly this was lunacy on their part, but who was I to argue?)

Ray Isle

But back to Chardonnay. The Wine House sells about 600 different Chardonnays. At Western Market in Birmingham, Alabama, where I also worked a stint, there are more than 300. Super Buy-Rite, outside the Holland Tunnel that separates New York City from New Jersey, sells 400, from nine different countries. And as Dwight Shaw, the manager of Total Wine & More in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, told me, “People come in and say, ‘Where’s your Chardonnay?’ and I tell them, ‘It’s this entire aisle.’ And they just freeze.” That’s because the Chardonnay aisle at that particular Total Wine is about 50 feet long.

When I asked customers to describe what they found the experience of buying wine to be like (once I ditched my disguise and revealed what I was actually up to), they used words like “daunting,” “overwhelming,” “confusing,” and “total crapshoot.” Even with all the easy-to-access wine knowledge out there on the internet and in magazines at their fingertips, people still feel like they’re drowning in an ocean of wine. (In case it’s any comfort to everyday wine shoppers, people in the wine business often feel that way, too.)

But here’s the other thing I learned from my time selling wine at these stores: There are some simple ways to get your bearings and become a more empowered wine buyer—starting right now. Wine shoppers of America, take heart! Here’s what to do.

How to Buy Wine at Any Store

1. Buy your wines from a store with employees who actually can help you. Skip the usual unstaffed supermarket aisles, and avoid places like a store I stopped into recently, which had all the soul-draining fluorescent charm of a methadone clinic and seemed to be staffed by the undead. And if anyone ever makes you feel dumb, walk right out and find another store.

The truth is, the best wine stores are the ones that are staffed by people who love wine. One reason I could sell some guy I’d never met before an entire case of German Riesling when I was in L.A. is because I really love Riesling, and he was getting into Riesling, and we got to talking—and when it comes to wine­, passion is infectious.

2. Ask for help. It is the first, best thing you can do. During a stint on the sales floor, I was surprised and amused by how gender roles shaped how people did their wine shopping. Men, when I asked whether they could use help, typically said no. Then they’d go off and look at random wine bottles, in case their lack-of-needing-help hadn’t been made fully clear, and then five minutes later circle back and say something like, “Actually, I was looking for…” Women, more often, simply said thank you and told me what they were trying to find, a far more effective strategy that I’d say everyone should learn from.

3. Be sign-savvy. Those little signs that hang on wine shelves (“shelf talkers”) typically are placed there by the wholesale rep who sells that wine. Their basic purpose is to convince you to buy this wine rather than that wine. (And handwritten ones work better—i.e. move more wine—than preprinted ones, something wholesale reps know.) But that doesn’t mean they can’t be helpful. Shelf talkers that say something like “staff selection” with a particular person’s name are most often there because some actual human being on the store’s staff really likes that wine.

4. Take a picture. If you ever have a new wine you like at a restaurant, or anywhere really, take a picture of it with your phone. Otherwise, you’ll forget what it was, and even die-hard wine geeks like me have a hard time narrowing down requests like, “I’m looking for this wine … I think the label maybe has elephants on it?” (Though I actually did know that one: Michael David Winery’s Petite Petit. Unfortunately, we didn’t have it in stock.) Consider using a free app like Vivino or Delectable to help keep track of the wines you try.

5. Be as specific as you can. If you say, “I’m looking for a medium-priced Chardonnay,” which I heard more than once, that’s hard to parse. Most good stores will have wines ranging from $5 a bottle to $500 or more, and your idea of “medium-priced” is probably not the same as a billionaire’s (unless, of course, you are a billionaire). By “medium,” one customer I spoke to meant $15; the next person who used exactly the same word meant $50.

But being specific doesn’t have to mean talking like a master sommelier. You don’t have to whip out your Burgundian terroir skills and say, “Ah yes, do you happen to have any Corton-Charlemagne’s from the Aloxe side of the hill, perhaps from the 2013 vintage?” Instead, try describing what you plan to cook that evening, and ask for a wine to go with it, or mention a specific bottle you had recently that you loved, and ask for something like it; or even mention a bottle you had that you didn’t like, and ask for something different. Think of the clerk you’re speaking to as a walking, talking Google search (though maybe don’t tell them that). The more specific your query is, the more useful the output will be. Katherine’s letter “C” wine is a good case in point. The price range she mentioned and the fact that the wine had been a gift were enough for me to suss out that she was probably talking about Caymus Special Selection Cabernet.

6. Be a wine buyer, not a beverage buyer. A lot of people shop for wine the way they do any other drink, they want a six-pack of beer, or a carton of orange juice, or a bottle of Merlot, and their hand moves to whatever brand name is most familiar. That’s beverage buying, not wine buying (at least that’s how I think of it). Being a wine buyer simply means being curious: about something new, about something different, about why the clerk talking to you thinks a certain wine is good or why it’s a great value, about what “Valpolicella” or “Assyrtiko” or “premier cru” means. Wine rewards as much interest as you put into it.

For instance, here are some of the subjects that wine professionals I know  are obsessing about right now: Corsican wines; offbeat Loire Valley subregions like Anjou and Saumur; “natural” wines; grower Champagnes; lesser-known and more affordable Bordeaux appellations; Ribeira Sacra and Gredos in Spain; cru Beaujolais; volcanic soils (and any wine on earth that comes from them); Chenin Blanc; Portuguese wines; winemakers exploring alternative California varietals—the list goes on. But aside from that orange wine request I got in L.A., the number of times anyone asked me about any of those things was exactly zero. Now, admittedly, that’s partly because people in the wine business are obsessed with esoterica. It’s because customers don’t know what to ask for, so they default to the usual suspects: California Cabernet and Chardonnay; New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc; Argentine Malbec; Pinot Noir, particularly $20 or under; Champagne (by which most people mean “any wine with bubbles”); and rosé, which is now a year-round phenomenon. Nothing wrong with that, if that’s what you like, but truly there is so much more to discover.

7. My final takeaway is for people who sell wine. After talking to a few hundred customers in several different states, I was blown away by how into wine people are these days. Sure, left on his or her own in an ocean of 7,000 bottles, someone may grab for the nearest name-brand Cabernet. It’s like reaching for a life preserver. But most of the time if I simply asked, “What kind of wine do you like?” that might lead us anywhere—to a small-production Valpolicella Ripasso from Italy like Tommaso Bussola’s Ca’ del Laito, or a Riesling from Germany’s great Helmut Dönnhoff, or a quirky Oregon Gamay from an up-and-coming young winemaker. Share your passion for wine with your customers—ask them what they’re making for dinner, or share your favorite varieties or regions (though maybe go light on wine-biz buzzwords like “soil character” and “minerality,” as most humans won’t have the slightest clue what you’re talking about). As Jim Knight of The Wine House said to me, “What I see this year more than ever is people being more willing to take advice, to be open to new things.”

Which gets me to the other word I heard customers use all the time: excited. We really are living in a golden age of wine in the U.S. today, with more great wines from more different varieties and places than ever before.

Let’s all go buy a bottle and drink to that, together.

Choose the Right Wine:

Summer Greek Salad

Greek salad

Wondering around in my favorite grocery store and thinking, “What’s for dinner”, Greek salad came to mind.  So on my iPhone, I looked up ingredients and as I was walking by beautiful ripe avocados, thought they are good on just about anything.  So here you have America’s Test Kitchen Greek Salad with avocado added.  Luckily I had grilled some peppers a week ago, put them in oil and saved what I did not use, so that saved a step.  I used two kinds of olives, instead of just kalamata olives.  We opened a nice bottle of Pinot Noir from Oregon.  Oh my gosh, the bottle is empty.  I think we liked it!

I served this with some simple barbecued Chicken chunks with a rub from Central Market!  Simple and quiet Friday night with a good book.

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Greek Salad

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS

“Most versions of Greek salad consist of iceberg lettuce, chunks of green pepper, and a few pale wedges of tomato, sparsely dotted with cubes of feta and garnished with one forlorn olive of questionable heritage. For our Greek salad, we aimed a little higher: We wanted a salad with crisp ingredients and bold flavors, highlighted by briny olives and tangy feta, all blended together with a bright-tasting dressing infused with fresh herbs. For a dressing with balanced flavor, we used a combination of lemon juice and red wine vinegar and added fresh oregano, olive oil, and a small amount of garlic. We poured the dressing over fresh vegetables, including Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers, as well as other ingredients, including fresh mint and parsley, roasted peppers, and a generous sprinkling of feta cheese and olives.”

By America’s Test Kitchen

INGREDIENTS

VINAIGRETTE

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice from 1 lemon
2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano leaves
½ teaspoon table salt
teaspoon ground black pepper
1 medium clove garlic, pressed through garlic press or minced (about 1 teaspoon)
6 tablespoons olive oil

SALAD

½ medium red onion, sliced thin (about 3/4 cup)
1 medium cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices (about 2 cups)
2 hearts romaine lettuce, washed, dried thoroughly, and torn into 1 1/2-inch-pieces (about 8 cups)
2 large vine-ripened tomatoes (10 ounces total), each tomato cored, seeded, and cut into 12 wedges
¼ cup loosely packed torn fresh parsley leaves
¼ cup loosely packed torn fresh mint leaves
6 ounces jarred roasted red bell pepper, cut into 1/2 by 2-inch strips (about 1 cup)
20 large kalamata olives, each olive pitted and quartered lengthwise
5 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (1 cup)

NSTRUCTIONS

SERVES 6 TO 8 ( We will be eating this for few days)

Marinating the onion and cucumber in the vinaigrette tones down the onion’s harshness and flavors the cucumber. For efficiency, prepare the other salad ingredients while the onion and cucumber marinate. Use a salad spinner to dry the lettuce thoroughly after washing; any water left clinging to the leaves will dilute the dressing.

 

1. Whisk vinaigrette ingredients in large bowl until combined. Add onion and cucumber and toss; let stand to blend flavors, about 20 minutes.

2. Add romaine, tomatoes, parsley, mint, and peppers to bowl with onions and cucumbers; toss to coat with dressing.

3. Transfer salad to wide, shallow serving bowl or platter; sprinkle olives and feta over salad. Serve immediately.

Per Serving:

Cal 180; Fat 14 g; Sat fat 3.5 g; Chol 10 mg; Carb 8 g; Protein 5 g; Fiber 2 g; Sodium 600 mg

Summer Greek Salad

Tapas for our Spanish Flavored Wine Group

Roasted Bell Pepper Salad

Roasted Bell Pepper Salad from a Tapa cookbook that does not post recipes online.  The recipe calls for red and yellow bell peppers.  I thought I would add orange ones too.  Can you tell?  I sure can’t see the difference.  Can you?  I cut the bell peppers in quarters, so I could broil them all at once and not have to constantly turn them.  I saved the ones I did not use and squished them to get the juice.  I thought it was a lovely appetizer, but not many people tried it.  Maybe too Bell Pepper intense.

Roasted Bell Pepper Salad Recipe

Next up was three different Cherry tomato stuffings.  I loved these little treats and they seemed to go over quite well.  It took a bit of time to figure out the easiest way to empty the baby tomato of its insides.  Best and easiest without destroying the tomato was to cut the edges of the center membrane and use a small melon baller to take it out.  That with a little help from my fingers.  (Don’t worry I did wash them & the tomatoes)

Stuffed Cherry tomato recipes

Cherry tomaoes page 2

I added a little brandy to the anchovy recipe to mellow it out a bit.

I must have been on a roll that day, as I also made these Latin Devilled Eggs (spelling from the book.  There were none of these guys left at the end of the evening.

devilled eggs recipe

Oh yeah, and I kept going. I put a spray of olive oil on the baguettes I posted the other day, put them in the oven for about 20 minutes and topped them with a Fennel and Fig Pesto from Fine Cooking Magazine.  That was my favorite! Not the prettiest, but pretty dang tasty.

Fennel & fig on Custini

Fennel & Fig Pesto

Ingredients

  • 1 medium fennel bulb (about 1 lb.), trimmed, cut lengthwise into quarters, and cored (reserve the fronds)
  • 1 large head garlic, top 1/2 inch cut off to expose the cloves
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 oz. dried figs (2 to 3), preferably dark
  • 1 Tbs. finely grated Asiago
  • 1 tsp. finely grated Ruby Red grapefruit zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh Ruby Red grapefruit juice
  • 1 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger

Preparation

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 425°F.
  • Put the fennel and garlic on a small rimmed baking sheet, toss with 1 Tbs. of the oil, and season lightly with salt. Cover with foil and roast until very soft, 30 to 40 minutes.
  • Transfer the fennel to a food processor. Squeeze the cloves from the garlic bulb (or remove with a knife), and add to the processor. Add the remaining 1/2 cup oil, the walnuts, figs, cheese, zest and juice, ginger, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Process until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the reserved fennel fronds and pulse until combined but with some green flecks, 4 to 5 times. Season to taste with salt. Use right away, or cover and refrigerate.

Boy, this is long blog.  I made a Spanish Flan too, but I had posted that previously.  I learned that you cannot skimp on the size of the water bath,  I tried to do a smaller one, and it took too long to cook, so was not as soft and delicious as my last one.  I decorated it with a little chocolate, so at least it was pretty.  Everyone loved it and ate the whole thing, but I know it could be better. It is hiding beside the pig’s but.  So this is the table and then every one came with lots more food and lots of great Spanish wine.

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Tapas for our Spanish Flavored Wine Group

Cooking is a passion

Cooking has always been a part of my life, and now as I look back I wonder just why I didn’t cook more: and then I realize I was a single mom with three sons, so life makes decisions for you sometimes.  As I become a little more seasoned as many of the seasons of my life are now behind me, I now have the time and a wonderful new kitchen where I can explore all sorts of new yummy foods.

This little display was for my friends that came to a Cabi Party.  Most of us, well over fifty had the time of lives drinking good wine, enjoying food and laughing as we realize things just don’t the same on us as they did when we were in our 20′, 30’s and 40’s.  But we all savor the moment and enjoy what we have, not what we had.

Life is too short to worry about what you didn’t do, just keep doing.

 

Cooking is a passion

Another project completed

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Another project completed before the fall of winter in the yard.  All those wine bottles put to a good use.  Took a while to cut off all the necks, but think the end look was worth the time.  Found a great glass scriber on Amazon (love buying by best rating) and collected wine bottles for a few days.  (ha ha)   No more dirt running onto my little tiny patio.

Another project completed

Newest Collage

Newest Collage

Love the idea on this but did not like how in the original some of the transfer was a little cloudy. This is great fun to do and watch art dvds while you are playing/working.

Thinking about developing card series using these and putting them on small blocks. Kind of sharing my sense of humor and view on life.

Would love to shear what you think.

Don’t forget my paintings and drawings can be seen and bought at http://www.dianakingsley.net

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Coffee in Paris

Coffe in Paris

My best friend and I have been friends for over thirty years. We have sons, the same ages, a daughter and son within two weeks of each other and two younger children. Then she had a wonderful surprise and her twins are also my God Sons.

I thought of her when I put this together, thinking we should have coffee in Paris some day before we are too old to enjoy it. Alexandra this is for you!!

Don’t forget to check out my website at http://www.dianakingsley.net

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