Something Old – Something New!

My latest store to visit is New England Beverage Company, 550 Boston Post Road, next to Trader Joe’s.{{more}}

I spent a very informative session with wine director and part owner, Michael Carleton. The store is 8,000 square feet with plenty of room for all liquor, boxed wines and large bottles, beers, brandies and grappa. When you enter the store the wines of the United States are represented by grapes or varietals (chardonnays, cabernet) and outside the States they are organized by country. The shelves have large and small bottles of wine while the racks can only hold small bottles.

What is different about this place is the special attention given to champagnes and wines. Michael is passionate about his wines. He has traveled the world visiting vineyards to buy his products.

We spoke about his travels to Champagne in France where he selected champagnes that represented unique qualities of that region or when he went to Mendoza in Argentina to sample malbecs.

It is important to him and other wine lovers to enjoy wines that express the land, culture and conditions of the place. The French call this terroir. I never really thought about this regarding wine but I do it about food. Are New Jersey tomatoes better or different than California tomatoes? Is Connecticut corn better or different than North Carolina corn?

We may like the differences in food products or only want one kind. But we have a choice. That’s how Michael chooses his wines for the store. All wines should not taste the same. They should represent the characteristics of the place they are made.

I tried two wines that were made with the same grapes but in different regions. The two wines tasted very different.

That was because of the terroir; place, soil content and the way it is made. One was much lighter in color than the other. One was less fruity than the other. They were both well balanced and earthy.

Michael and I also talked about old world vs. new world style of wines. Simply put old world wines tend to be lower in alcohol, have a balance between fruit and smoke, and are earthy. New world wines tend to be fruitier, higher in alcohol, and less acidic.

Old world wines come from Europe while new world wines come from the Americas, Australian and South Africa. I tried two different pinot noirs. One was from the Russian river valley in California and the other was from the Cote d’Or in France New world vs. Old world wine.

The California was a 2011 called Orbit. The French was a 2011 called Bourgogne, reserve grandee classe. The two were so very different. The Orbit was soft, rich and fruity.

The Bourgogne was very light with a balance of fruit to mineral. One wasn’t better than the other except that they each needed different kinds of food. The Orbit was wonderful with a spicy shrimp feta and tomato dish. The Bourgogne was delicious with a burger and fries.

I also tried two white wines. Sir Lambert, Sauvignon Blanc was made in South Africa and a Sancerre made in France. The Sauvignon Blanc had a strong distinct taste, more mineral than sweet. The Sancerre had a better balance of mineral and fruit flavor.

The Sauvignon Blanc tasted delicious with a fruit salad of sweet pineapple and bananas. The acidity of the wine balanced well with this salad. The Sancerre did not taste good with the salad but was excellent with the creamy eggs and bacon.

I learned a great deal about wines from Michael. All the wines I tasted ranged in price from $11.00 to $18.00. Tastings are every Friday and Saturday. Visit the store, sample some different wines, and enjoy the experience. I certainly did! Contact Rita with your comments and recommendations at