Joe Abuso - Genuine Hospitality Consulting
Culinary Thymes
From 1999 to 2005, Joe Abuso was the wine writer for Culinary Thymes magazine. Here are his articles. To visit the current Culinary Thymes website, click here

Springtime Wine
Written by Joe Abuso   
2004-03 culinarythymesmarapr04April 2005

It's springtime and another bitter Houston winter is behind us. This is the perfect time to shake off frigid memories of days that dipped into the nippy fifties and once again get outside and commune with nature. It's time for picnics! While ice-cold beer may be the alcoholic picnic beverage of choice, I'd like to point out some wines that will also fit the bill.

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The Wines of Burgundy
Written by Joe Abuso   

2005-03_CT_CoverMarch 2005

Of all the world’s wine regions, Burgundy offers some of the greatest wine experiences possible, as well as the most daunting challenges in terms of topography and quality. Although a lifetime could be pleasantly spent, and with some invidious and fortunate individuals has been spent, uncovering the nuance of every square hectare of vineyard there, a brief overview of the region will suffice to allow an enjoyably successful choice of wine with dinner. Be forewarned, as lyrical and hedonistic as the wines are to drink, learning about them is a little bit of a slog.

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Beautiful Bubbles
Written by Joe Abuso   

2005-01 culinary thymes coverJanuary 2005

I know of no beverage which more successfully mitigates my worries while simultaneously and emphatically reminding me of all that is right in the world than Champagne does. I'm not alone in this, and this is at least part of the reason so many dinners start with a Champagne reception. Certain styles are also the perfect aperitif, their crisp, bubbly acidity blowing the cobwebs off of your palate while improving your appetite. Other types pair beautifully with many foods and the biggest styles are almost a meal in themselves.

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Wine for the Holidays
Written by Joe Abuso   

2004-11 culinarythymesnovdec04November 2004

The holidays are an especially good time to pick out some fun wines. First of all, you might be expected to, so why not enjoy doing it? Secondly, since holiday menus are often written in stone for years on end, you have a good excuse to choose some wines that might be a little more unusual, if for no other reason than to make it easier for some of your relatives to discern this year’s repast from the last ten. Luckily, most holiday foods are “wine friendly.”

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A perfect Punctuation
Written by Joe Abuso   
2004-09 culinarythymessepoct04

September 2004

Let's say you've just had one of the best meals of your life. Maybe you started with Champagne and caviar, went on to Sancerre and lobster and paired your roast pheasant with a great white Burgundy. Then you enjoyed the saddle of veal with your favorite Bordeaux, had some impossible to find cheeses with an equally impossible to find red Burgundy and finished with crème brûlée and Sauternes. Or, instead of a six-course repast fit for a king, maybe you opted for a simple but perfectly grilled rib eye and a great California Cabernet.

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From Classic, Sublime Sherry
Written by Joe Abuso   

2004-05 culinarythymesmayjun04May 2004

Sherry is probably one of the world's most misunderstood and under appreciated fine wines. In its various guises it can be the perfect apéritif, a classic pairing with certain soups, superb accompaniment to many seafood dishes, great with a variety of charcuterie and cheeses and a beautiful dessert wine. Along with Port, Sherry is one of the world's two best fortified wines. The term fortified means that at some point in a wine's production, alcohol, usually in the form of a neutral grape brandy, is added.

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Ordering Wine in a Restaurant
Written by Joe Abuso   

2004-01 culinarythymesjanfeb04January 2004

For many people, the process of ordering a bottle of wine in a restaurant is uncomfortable at best, debilitating at worst. They see the waiter as more of an adversary than an ally, the ritual as more archaic than helpful and the actual selection of a wine more reminiscent of a calculus problem than an opportunity to begin a fun culinary experience. I'd like to shed a little light on the subject and expose it for the simple exercise in hospitality that it is. Anyone who is sitting in a restaurant ordering wine has certainly, at some point in their life, mastered more difficult tasks.

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Do Summer Right
Written by Joe Abuso   
2003-07 culinarythymesjulaug03July 2003

Extreme conditions call for particular responses, and I can't think of many situations more extreme than a Houston summer. With the next few months being balmy at best, our wine and food choices need to mitigate our climate as much as possible. The huge Amarone with osso bucco over risotto that made so much sense in December would likely give a guest pause in August.

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Wine with Dessert
Written by Joe Abuso   

2002-11 culinarythymesnovdec02December 2002

Dessert wines, though rarely served, can be a great ending to any special dinner. There are a wide variety of these wines from all over the world, offering a sufficiently wide palette of experiences that can work well as a memorable closure to any meal. Many people say that they don't like dessert wines because they (the wines) are just too sweet. Often these are some of the same people that chug Coke like it was going out of style.

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Branching Out with Beer
Written by Joe Abuso   

2002-09 culinarythymessepoct02September 2002

I can't help but notice how often beer drinkers doggedly order the same brand over and over again. While I admire commitment and fidelity as much as anyone, the advantages of Bud Light over Miller Lite can't be so overwhelming as to prevent a person from ever branching out a little. As Michael Jackson (the beer expert not the Pop Icon) once observed, a person would never go into a restaurant and order "a plate of food," so why would they just order "a beer?" With just a little bit of exploration into what the world of beer has to offer, we can have a much better chance of finding the right beer to fit our mood, not to mention our menu selections.

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The World Beyond White
Written by Joe Abuso   

2002-05 culinarythymesmayjun02May 2002

One of the best things about drinking wine versus any other beverage is the almost limitless amount of flavors, styles and experiences available to enjoy and explore. That's why it makes me a little sad for people when they tell me that they only like white wines, or reds, or especially pink wines (I'm only kidding about the pink wines). Not that I'd ever force an orthodox white wine drinker to try a spectacular glass of red wine, but for someone who is open to the idea of branching out a little and giving something new a chance, I'd love to help.

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Springtime Sipping
Written by Joe Abuso   

2002-03 culinarythymesmarapr02March 2002

As the weather starts to warm up and the last vestiges of Houston's bitter winter dissipate, many of us have thoughts that drift to the fun of our outdoor grills, what to cook on them and, maybe most importantly, what to drink with the ensuing fruits of our heated labor. Everyone has their favorite backyard drinking and grilling combinations, and what follows are some of mine.

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Refined Bubbles
Written by Joe Abuso   
2001-11 culinarythymesnovdec01 November 2001

Of all the wines in the world, none suggest a celebration louder or more clearly than Champagne. As a generation fortunate enough to experience not only our own fin de siècle, but the end of a millennium as well, we all certainly have something to celebrate. There has been much talk of a Champagne shortage this New Year's Eve, but it's only partially based on fact.

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Cool & Fresh Sauvignon Blanc
Written by Joe Abuso   

2001-08 culinarythymesjulaug01September 2001

Wines made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape are perfect for hot Houston summers. Generally lighter, crisper and more aromatic than Chardonnays, they can be a great match for grilled foods, lighter Asian fare and bright chutneys. Sauvignon Blancs are also great for sipping poolside while trying to ignore the mosquitoes. The best are made in the Loire Valley in France, Bordeaux, California and lately, New Zealand.

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How to Host A Wine Tasting
Written by Joe Abuso   

2001-05 culinarythymesmayjun01May 2001

The enjoyment and study of wine is a satisfying lifelong avocation for many. Wine tastings, whether directed by a professional or just among friends, can be a fun part of the wine experience. The main thing to keep in mind when planning or attending a wine tasting is to not take it too seriously. Have fun, be open and don't let anyone intimidate you.

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The Pleasant Wines of Provence
Written by Joe Abuso   

2001-03 culinarythymesmarapr01March 2001

Although Provence is one of the oldest wine growing regions in France, it is also one of the lease appreciated and explored by wine drinkers. Mostly known for its Rosé, Provence produces some of the most distinctive, delicious and food friendly red wines available. The main grape varietal that gives Provencal reds their unique character is Mouvèdre. Other varietals playing their role in these wines' flavor profile are Grenache, Cinsaut, Syrah and Carignan. If you are looking to venture away from the familiar territory of Cabernet and Merlot, Provence is a good place to start.

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The Wines of Spain
Written by Joe Abuso   

2001-08 culinarythymesjulaug01July 2001

For many years Spain was known for producing large amounts of inexpensive bulk wines, full-bodied and high in alcohol, with tons of oak but scant subtlety or charm. All that has been changing. Since Spain has become a member of the EEC, strict wine making laws, similar to those of France, have been implemented, along with an orderly reorganization and demarcation of recognized fine wine regions. These factors, along with the introduction of closed stainless steel vats, cool fermentation techniques and overall higher expectations, have resulted in some real world-class wines. Not only are they delicious, unique in character and widely available, they are usually a great value.

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Affordable French Labels
Written by Joe Abuso   
2000-11 culinarythymesnovdec00

November 2000

France produces an amazing variety and quantity of wines that range from simple every day beverages to some of the most sublime wines ever conceived. The scope of France's output can be intimidating and confusing at first, but any effort you put towards understanding this family of wines will be richly rewarded. Remember, you get out of drinking what you put into it.

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The Appeal of Piedmont
Written by Joe Abuso   
2000-10 culinarythymessepoct00

September 2009

Piedmont is, without question, one of Italy's premier wine producing areas. It is located in the country's northwest corner, with Turin as its capital, and the cities of Alba and Asti as its most important wine making centers. Piedmont's reputation is based largely on its red wines, lending credence to the old Italian saying: "Wine is red." The four main red wines from Piedmont, in order of increasing intensity, are Dolcetto d'Alba, Barbera d'Alba, Barbaresco and Barolo.

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Great Grape Regions: California vs. France
Written by Joe Abuso   
2000-07 culinarythymesjulaug00

July 2000

While many wine drinkers confidently order their favorite California Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Cabernet, some are less certain about what to do when faced with selections from France. There are several reasons for this. One of the simplest is language. First of all, the French have a different word for everything. Then there is always the problem of pronunciation rearing its ugly head. Basic differences in wine labeling between the two countries also leads to confusion.

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The Pleasure of Port
Written by Joe Abuso   

2000-01 culinarythymesjanfeb00January 2000

Of all the different experiences the world of wine has to offer, Port is one of the most totally hedonistic and sensual available; especially when paired with something as equally indulgent as an exquisite chocolate. All Ports are sweet and highly alcoholic (for wine), and almost all are red.

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Sophisticated South American Wines
Written by Joe Abuso   

1999-11 culinarythymesnovdec99November 1999

When it comes to making their wine selection for the night, many people think of options from France, Italy and the USA. But the South American country of Chile produces wines which are some of the most pleasant, consistently tasty and good values available.

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Great Wines of Tuscany
Written by Joe Abuso   

1999-09 culinarythymessepoct99 September 1999

It's always nice to match the food of a particular region with its indigenous wines, and few places offer a more interesting palette of possibilities than Tuscany. As much fun as it will be for anyone to prepare Jennifer's Tuscan menu [see recipes in magazine], serving it with some great Tuscan wines will add to the enjoyment almost as much as sharing it with the right friends (whether they are from Tuscany or not).

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