You met her in September, during her stint as a guest blogger, and you couldn’t get enough. We heard your pleas–and we’re thrilled to welcome Etty Lewensztain, owner of Plonk Wine Merchants, as our newest expert. Etty’s already given us the scoop on esoteric wine descriptors, essential wine geek terms and how to make sense of wine labels. Stick around for more wine wisdom straight from the source! We recently sat down with Etty to learn what makes her tick (OK, we also really wanted to ask her about wine!).
I think wine is meant to be drunk every day and shouldn’t be reserved only for special occasions. To that end, I seek out wines that are fresh (ready to be drunk now as opposed to needing time in the cellar) and that deliver great value for the money. If I’m going to drink inspiring wine every day, it needs to be affordable.
There’s been a huge surge in interest recently in obscure, offbeat wines from lesser-known regions of the world that feature unique grape varieties that are indigenous to their place of origin. These are the wines that truly excite me.
Malbec from Argentina is very hot. While I’m a big fan of specific malbec bottlings, many of them have become way too oaky, over-extracted, and sweet for my taste. They are starting to resemble big, jammy Napa cabs and are losing their sense of place or individuality.
I attended the Wine Spectator Wine Experience in New York a few years ago and had the opportunity to taste some of the world’s most celebrated and storied wines all in one evening. Château Angélus from the right bank of Bordeaux and Vega Sicilia’s Unico from Ribera del Duero still stand out in my mind.
In this economy, people want to spend less on wine but they don’t want to sacrifice quality and they don’t want to have to drink less often. I find there to be a real sweet spot between $10 and $30 where you can find wines that offer a ton of intrigue, discovery and incredible quality. You just have to know where to look to find these hidden gems and that’s what I’m here for!
I have always been extremely passionate about food (both eating and cooking), which served as a natural bridge into the world of wine. I also fell into a wonderful job running a marketing campaign in the US for the Chilean wine industry and once I dipped my toe in, I was sold.
I’ve learned that as much as I know about wine, my knowledge is still just a drop in the bucket. That’s what I love about wine—it’s endless and humbling. There is always something new to taste, some new appellation to explore.
I would go to Southern Italy: Campania, Basilicata, Puglia, Calabria and Sicily, and would drink bottomless glasses of Aglianico, Negroamaro, Gaglioppo, Nerello Mascalese, Frappato, Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo. I also love the cuisine that is native to this part of Italy. It’s very soulful and earthy, like the wines.
Wow, I could list about 30 different wines that could fit this bill. It might be a smoky, leathery Aglianico del Vulture from Italy, a funky bläufrankisch from Austria or a fresh and feminine Mencía from Ribeira Sacra in Spain. It’s definitely something red and from the Old World, and I would share it with my mom. The pairing would probably be something very simple like a stinky, mind-blowing cheese or a revelatory plate of cured meats.
I am constantly baffled by how many thousands of different wines can result from one elemental ingredient: grapes.
Wine is great alone and food is great alone, but together they introduce a whole other sensory experience. Match weight with weight, as opposed to white wine with fish and red wine with meat; lighter foods with lighter-bodied wines (regardless of color) and vice versa. It’s always fun to open two or three bottles of wine that vary in type and style and to experiment with the pairings. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll discover.
My favorite wine bar in LA is called Covell. The wine director, Matthew Kaner, who’s also a friend of mine, skips the whole wine list thing and simply asks people what they like or don’t like, and he does all the selecting. Brilliant. Mignon is another great new spot that opened recently in downtown LA. They have a stellar, nicely edited list of wines and fabulous cheeses to match. I also love Terroir in New York. I always have an eye-opening experience when I go there.
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.