Mark Oldman – Wine for Spice Lovers

If it is a spirited discourse on wine you are seeking, then Mark Oldman’s class is the one for you.  Funny, smart and charming, Stanford educated Mark Oldman is a wine expert for Pottery Barn and wine columnist for the Food Network.  His two wine books, “Brave New World of Wine” and “Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine” are winners of the George Duboeuf Best Wine Book Award.  From the get-go, he promised to speak in sound bytes and to give us the good stuff while sparing the fluff.  Plus (actually a huge plus), he gave out party favors: a mini bottle of Tabasco, an “I Love You But I’ve Chosen Wine” pin, a luggage tag with two quotes by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “Not 100% sober” (on the front) and, “The dinner was so delicious it needed wine” (on the back).  The quotes are references to a viral photo of Justice Ginsburg napping during Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address…she revealed to an audience at George Washington University that she had been partaking in some good vino prior to attending the address.



“Not 100% Sober” Luggage Tag

I gleaned from the Tabasco freebie that he loves food with a kick.  And pairing spicy food with wine seems to be a matter of great debate.  What are the best wines for spicy food?  He highly recommends having a spicy “pot luck” and trying a variety of wines, as everyone might have their own thoughts.  Pairing six wines with some spicy foods, such as chicken wings, chili and curry, Mark gave us the following recommendations:

  • Rosé “bubbly” or champagne. Ever wonder why you crave a beer with spicy food?  Well, beer is cold, refreshing, and doesn’t clash with the many layers of complex flavors in spicy food.  Champagne, or any kind of “bubbly”, will produce the same effect.
  • Off-dry white wine with a tinge of sweetness and tropical fruit flavors.  The slight sweetness offers a contrast, a certain balance, to the spice, while at the same time highlighting the complex flavors.
  • Along the same vein of off-dry and sweet, we tried an Italian Gewurtztraminer from Alto Adige.  Oldman favors many foreign wines, as “the harder to pronounce, the better the value.”  Think about it…Albariño, Grüner Veltliner, Vouvray, Viognier, Riesling…there is definitely a pattern.
  • Pinot Noir.  Pinot is good with spicy food IF it doesn’t have a lot of oak AND is low in alcohol. The lighter, the better for spice.
  • The last two wines were chilled reds from Australia.  First, we tried a chilled Grenache with a hint of cherry on the nose and a smooth, delicious finish.  “Almost all reds taste better with chill,” suggests Oldman. “Shock the bottle with a 10 minute chill.  I don’t give a >>>>.”
  • Lastly, something I have never tried before, and what the Aussies call “morning wine”, or spurgle, was a sparkling Zinfandel by Molly Ducca.  It kind of reminded me of a Lambrusco..there we go again with the hard-to-pronounce wines.  I think he may really be on to something.  After all, aren’t most chili varieties foreign and hard to pronounce?

He then treated the audience to the “keys to sabering champagne”.  Sabering, or sabrage, is a technique for opening a champagne bottle with a saber, or, in our case, a large knife.  (This is where my friend Tom needs to start taking notes…lol).  So, make sure the bottle is very cold; if the bottle is warm, it is not as brittle. Also, there are two seams in every bottle.   Look for a seam, point the opening of the bottle away from body, line the knife up with the seam, and after a few practice swipes, go for it!


Find seam in bottle and point bottle away from body.


Line the knife up on the seam, take a few practice swipes…


…and go for it!


Oldman and a “wine bong”, aka wine decanter.

For giggles, google a video on YouTube with Mark being “caught in the act” of sprinkling Tabasco on a pizza while in Italy.  You may also find it on

Adios a July…I cannot believe how quickly this summer is passing.

xo M

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