'Diva' Says It's all About the Beverage

When firing up the grill, many find themselves pondering which beverages compliment certain foods. Callie Crossley of Divas Uncorked weighs in on her favorite Labor Day wines.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

So if you're firing up the grill, you're probably considering the eternal question: What to drink? To help you make some Labor Day cookout choices, we decided to bring in our friend, wine connoisseur Callie Crossley. Callie is a founding member of Divas Uncorked, a wine appreciation club in Boston dedicated to making you wine savvy and not wine snobby, as they say. And she will soon be blogging at the Crushed Grape Report. She joins us from member station WGBH in Boston. Hi, diva.

Ms. CALLIE CROSSLEY (Founding Member, Divas Uncorked): Hi, how are you?

MARTIN: I'm great. Now, of course, when people think Labor Day cookout, they're probably thinking, you know - for those who aren't vegetarian - steak, ribs, red meat. So I'm thinking beer.

Ms. CROSSLEY: Well, you know, here's what's interesting about that: For the first time, wine has overtaken beer as a drink of choice in America. You know, that's long been happening in Europe and other parts of the world, but that's a big deal in America. So, actually, more people this weekend will be opening up a wine bottle than a beer bottle around the barbecue.

MARTIN: That's interesting.

Ms. CROSSLEY: That's pretty interesting.

MARTIN: Yeah, that's really interesting. Why do you think that is?

Ms. CROSSLEY: I think what's driving it are the college students and young professionals - really, the young professionals, not so much college students. But really taking a look at what the different kinds of wine, not being so intimidated by it, understanding that it can be fun and that you don't have to take a college course to understand it and being willing to experiment, which leads me to one of the biggest trends in wine today, which are wine bars that allow for tasting of wine by the glass.

MARTIN: Well, earlier, we were cooking up some grilled pork chops with James Page at B. Smith's. What wine would you suggest with that other white meat -with pork or grilled pork chops?

Ms. CROSSLEY: Well, this is truly a taste question, and then it boils down to being more specific about what exactly you're putting on the pork chop. Is it a simple grill with really no other kind of sauce on it but it's still heavier, then you might go white. If you are doing something with a lot of heavy sauce, then you might go red. Now I would probably do a rosette. We're not talking that wine - that's not a wine, white zinfandel, a dry rosette, which would be a perfect compliment.

MARTIN: So you're looking for something that will stand up to the flavor, something a little bit more robust with a red meat.

Ms. CROSSLEY: Yes, with a red and with a heavier meat. And with chicken and fish, then you want to go a little bit lighter. You can do a Chablis. You can do a white Bordeaux, which is a little bit heavier white wine. Remember, you can drink anything with any food, that's a given. Now there are no rules, really, and what I like to say isn't - other people say it too - is the wine is never wrong. It's usually the food that's wrong.

Ms. CROSSLEY: So if you have a combination and you think, oh, that didn't go well. I didn't like that. People tend to blame it on the wine. No, no, no. It was probably the choice of food.

MARTIN: I don't how take that sentence. I am generally the cook.

Ms. CROSSLEY: The wine is never wrong. The food is wrong.

MARTIN: Because I am generally the cook, I'm not really sure I appreciate that perspective, but we'll go with that. So you have chosen a couple of things for us to try today, right?

Ms. CROSSLEY: Right.

MARTIN: So what have you picked for us?

Ms. CROSSLEY: Well, one of the things that is, you know, right now, Labor Day -it marks the end of a season, if you will. And if we think about it like fashion where this is - and I'm a Southern girl, no more white after Labor Day. Okay? We got to really move into the winter white, you know, something that's a little bit heavier.

Look at the Riojas, the Spanish wines that are very popular now from the rosettes that are pink to the reds, and think about it as a transitional wine, much as you would have transitional clothing into the fall.

MARTIN: Oh, okay. Shall we have a sip, Callie?

Ms. CROSSLEY: Have a sip.

MARTIN: Shall we have a pour?

Ms. CROSSLEY: Here we go.

(Soundbite of wine pouring)

MARTIN: Okay. And this is a Spanish Priorato, correct?

Ms. CROSSLEY: Spanish.

MARTIN: Okay.

Ms. CROSSLEY: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

MARTIN: How much should you expect to pay for this?

Ms. CROSSLEY: Well, Rioja is generally - if that's all that's on the label, generally, that means that's the youngest wine, so that should be in the, you know, $10, $15 range category.

MARTIN: Okay, works for my budget.

Ms. CROSSLEY: (unintelligible)

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CROSSLEY: Exactly. If we go up to the other end and when you see the word Reserva, that generally means expensive or more expensive.

MARTIN: I'm going to have a little sip.

Ms. CROSSLEY: It should be ripe.

MARTIN: Mm-hmm.

Ms. CROSSLEY: What are you tasting?

MARTIN: Girl, you don't know I don't know what I'm tasting. Go ahead.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CROSSLEY: It's probably a little drier than you have with some of your lighter…

MARTIN: Mm-hmm. I think, yes.

Ms. CROSSLEY: Okay.

MARTIN: Yeah.

Ms. CROSSLEY: And that's going to be a perfect match with some good grilled food. (unintelligible)

MARTIN: But it's not too heavy. It's not too heavy. I see what you mean…

Ms. CROSSLEY: Exactly.

MARTIN: …about being sort of transitional. It's kind of like that lightweight sweater - not the big, heavy fisherman knit, but the light sweater that you toss on. And you have a white course you've chosen. Tell me - you know, I can't pronounce this. It's Moscato?

Ms. CROSSLEY: Moscato d'Asti.

MARTIN: Moscato d'Asti.

Ms. CROSSLEY: Yes.

MARTIN: Did I get it kind of close?

Ms. CROSSLEY: It's from Italy.

MARTIN: Okay.

Ms. CROSSLEY: This is a dessert wine. It's more concentrated flavors. It's sweeter. The bottle is smaller. It's meant to be drunk sipping alone at the end of the meal, or with any dessert of your choice. If you love sweet, this is the way that I've tried to get my aunts, for example, who are only into sweet wine, and to get them to try something other than rotgut, we start here.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CROSSLEY: This is actually a good wine, well made.

MARTIN: All right.

Ms. CROSSLEY: What do you think?

MARTIN: Let me have a little pour.

(Soundbite of wine pouring)

MARTIN: Oh, it is sparkly. It's funny, it doesn't look sparkling in the bottle, and it smells delicious. It smells really fresh. It smells fruity.

Ms. CROSSLEY: Isn't it good? Ooh, yummy.

MARTIN: Is that sort of fruity?

Ms. CROSSLEY: Yes, very fruity.

MARTIN: Mm. Okay. Have a little sip.

Ms. CROSSLEY: Isn't that good?

MARTIN: I'm going to have a little sip. Mm. Even I like this.

Ms. CROSSLEY: Okay.

MARTIN: And my idea of a good one is Sprite, so…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CROSSLEY: All right. Well, I'm putting you in the category with my aunts. Okay. So you can start there.

MARTIN: This is nice.

Ms. CROSSLEY: Isn't that nice?

MARTIN: Mm-hmm.

Ms. CROSSLEY: You can just have it as dessert alone. That's the great thing about it.

MARTIN: My producer said put the glass down.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: They're saying put the glass down.

Ms. CROSSLEY: You can go through it, uh-huh.

MARTIN: You have other work to do today. Put the cup down. Okay.

Ms. CROSSLEY: Okay. Yeah, it's very drinkable, and it has a fairly high alcohol content so you want to be at the end of the meal and have your wits about you and all of that.

MARTIN: Well, that raises a question again, as a host - hostess - if you see someone indulging in a way that concerns you - have you ever been in that situation? How do you handle it? What do you do?

Ms. CROSSLEY: Stop serving and make certain they have a lot of water.

MARTIN: Stop serving everyone?

Ms. CROSSLEY: Well, I mean, you know, that's probably the easiest thing so as not to embarrass people. But if everybody is drinking water and you've made that a part of the wine drinking, food-eating experience, then I don't think you have to worry about it as much. And again, if you're pouring a reasonable amount of wine in the glass and not trying to fill up those huge bowl glasses as if that's a serving, then you start off in a better place as well.

MARTIN: All right. Thank you. Good advice. I appreciate that. Callie Crossley, soon to be wine blogger and founding member of Divas Uncorked, joined us from member station WGBH in Boston. Thanks, Callie.

Ms. CROSSLEY: Thank you.

MARTIN: For a list of Callie's wine picks, you can visit us online at npr.org/tellmemore.

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