Etty Lewensztain is the owner of Plonk Wine Merchants, an online shop focused on small-production, artisanal and altogether great cheap wine. The food- and wine- obsessed Los Angeles native cut her teeth in the wine biz running a marketing campaign to promote Chilean wine in the United States, and is certified by the esteemed Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and the American Sommelier Association. Plonk Wine Merchants specializes in hidden gems from around the globe and every bottle in the store is priced below $30. Follow Plonk Wine Merchants on Twitter @ PlonkOnline.

Photo by Tania Burningham

Wine, on a very basic level, is made from fermented fruit. While people mostly associate wine with grapes, wine can be made from a wide array of fruits, so long as there’s enough sugar content in the fruit to convert into alcohol during the fermentation process. Fruits that can be made into wine range from the familiar (blackberries and pineapples) to the exotic (durians and mangosteens). (more…)

Posted by on September 4th, 2012

Photo by Draigg

Say you’re a novice wine drinker. You enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner on the weekends, or a glass of chilled rosé when you’re spending time on the patio with friends. You love the idea of being adventurous and ordering exotic wines when dining out at your favorite restaurant, but you lack the wine geek know-how to recognize any particular wine brand when you’re perusing a wine list, and find the whole process a bit perplexing. In terms of enthusiasm, you are good to go, but when it comes to actual knowledge and skills, you’re a bit rocky, and that’s an understatement.

Well this, my friend, is a post dedicated entirely to you. I’ve put together a wine region cheat sheet that will help you navigate a wine list by region alone, while having little knowledge about the actual wines represented on the menu. Following are several of the world’s most commonly known wine producing regions. Each region produces a vast array of wines in drastically varying styles from modern to traditional, sweet to dry, still to sparkling and so forth, so generalizing what a typical Spanish wine might taste like, for instance, is a very tall and perhaps impossible order.

Nevertheless, each of these regions is known for having success with particular grape varieties or particular styles of wine, and these tidbits can act as general guidelines when you’re attempting to narrow down your choices at a restaurant and land on a wine that you will enjoy. (more…)

Posted by on August 9th, 2012

Wine — what is, for all intents and purposes, an agricultural product — has become defined by certain segments of society as liquid gold. More than a weeknight tipple or even a celebratory treat, wine has become a monetary status symbol that can fetch more cash than any other comestible.

Why is that? What is it about wine that drives people to spend unthinkable amounts of money? To comprehend this seemingly insane trend in consumer behavior, you need to start thinking about wine not as what it actually is — a bottled beverage to be consumed and enjoyed — but as a financial asset that is bought, sold, traded, and auctioned off like high-ticket real estate property, fine art, stocks or bonds. (more…)

Posted by on July 24th, 2012

Photo by KTPhotoFun

Can you pour wine like a pro, without spills, splashes or drips? Etty Lewensztain demonstrates a simple technique for wine pouring, whether white, red, or sparkling! (more…)

Posted by on June 26th, 2012

Photo by Ceridwen M

I’m all about being resourceful when it comes to leftover food. I‘ve been known to transform last night’s seemingly dissonant dinner ingredients into tomorrow’s lunch masterpiece. But when it comes to wine, leftovers are an entirely different issue.

A very innocent friend of mine once served me a glass of Pinot Noir from the fridge that she said she had opened “a little while ago.” When I inquired further she confessed that by “a little while,” she meant three or four months! I quickly poured the entire bottle down the drain and embarked on an open wine diatribe. Needless to say, from then on my friend relied on me to provide the libations for our dinners.

If you ever find yourself pouring a glass of three month-old Pinot, this post is for you! Read on to get the complete lowdown on how to deal with opened wine. (more…)

Posted by on June 12th, 2012

Photo by Geoff Parsons

Decanters may seem like superfluous (not to mention pricey) wine accessories that are more about pomp and ceremony than actual utility, but decanters do, in fact, serve a technical purpose that can alter a wine considerably and make your wine drinking experience more enjoyable.

Besides their ability to instantly dress up your table, decanters are useful when you’re popping the cork on a wine that is very young and tannic, or alternatively, a wine from an older vintage that has a good amount of age on it and has deposited a lot of sediment. Decanting also oxygenates a wine, letting it bloom, so to speak, and allowing its aromas and flavors to emerge and develop to their fullest expression. (more…)

Posted by on May 24th, 2012

Photo by Hugo M Pereira

Port, Sherry, Madeira, Banyuls, and Marsala all hover in that all-inclusive dessert category of wine that most casual wine drinkers don’t take the time to ponder, leaving the dirty work to sommeliers and wine retailers. Others reach for these wines only when they’re busy in the kitchen, looking for something to deglaze a pan or to enrich a sauce for braised meats. While these wines definitely serve a culinary purpose, there’s so much more to explore within this often overlooked category of wine miscellany.

So what do all of these wines have in common and what makes them different from other popular dessert wines like Moscato d’Asti or Sauternes, for example? One word: Fortification. (more…)

Posted by on April 26th, 2012

Editor’s Note: Why is stemware shaped differently? How does a glass affect the way a wine tastes? Can your wine glass improve your drinking experience? Menuism’s Wine Expert Etty Lewensztain introduces you to the various types of stemware, when each should be used, and why. (more…)

Posted by on April 5th, 2012

Photo by Cristián Calaf Fuentes

Do screw caps on wine turn you off? Ever find yourself skipping right past a seemingly solid bottle at your local wine shop merely because it bears a decidedly unsexy twist top instead of a classic, old-school cork? Well let me tell you, you’re not alone!

The growing prevalence of screw caps as an alternative wine closure to corks has generated lots of dissent from savvy wine consumers who refuse to purchase wines sealed with screw caps, irrelevant of what’s in the bottle. The common complaint is that screw caps look cheap and that they’ve caused the demise of tradition. People, it seems, are missing that time-worn ritual of hearing the cork pop. Odd, perhaps, but true. (more…)

Posted by on March 20th, 2012

Photo by J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines

Wine is intrinsically related to the celebration of Valentine’s Day. Can you imagine a romantic V-Day dinner replete with an array of IPAs, porters, and stouts? How about some shots of añejo tequila or smoky Mezcal? Not quite what you had in mind, huh?

Libations of all types are said to release endorphins, boost our happiness levels, and loosen our inhibitions, and you know what that means. But what is it about wine specifically that speaks to the romantic voice in us and can instantly put us in the mood? (more…)

Posted by on February 7th, 2012

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