BY RICK RIOZZA

Merry Christmas everyone! And thank you readers for your enlightening email responses and your continual support by sharing this column with your wine friends.

As one can imagine, there is so much excellent wine to recommend for the holidays that I’ll probably be mentioning a few of my favorites throughout the month in this column.  And then we have a bunch of bubblies for the New Year’s festivities to boot!!  Cheers to that!

But before we walk into any wine recommendations from our local wine wise purveyors, let’s check out some grown-up toys for the wine holidays.

Hello Üllo!

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So—one of my Christmas wine gadgets of the season is the Üllo sulfite purifier.  Fortunately, I do not have any sensitivity or bad reaction to sulfites in wine, but in the U.S. more than 3 million people or so do suffer degrees of and even major reactions, headaches, and problems when encountering sulfites in wine.  Some folks have such serious consequences that they have to give up on enjoying wine completely.

Well Merry Christmas baby!  The technology is here, bringing you back to good wine times!  Their website at ullo.com, among other statements, offers, “Üllo is a Chicago startup with a simple mission to bring wine back to its natural state.  Üllo is a revolutionary wine purifier that restores the natural taste of wine with Selective Sulfite Capture™ filter technology.”  The device sells for around $80, with additional filters sold separately.

With all the good discussion about organic wines taking place, the subject of “sulfites” is also being considered with mixed reviews certainly.  The more one gets into appreciating wine and learning the wine making progress, the more one learns about naturally forming sulfites and the usual process of particularly adding sulfites to keep the wines “fresh” and “preserved”.

The company contends that once your favorite bottle of wine is opened, you have no need for any sulfites remaining in the wine.  And the Üllo purifier does just that:  “Proprietary polymer technology filters away free sulfites and their bitter taste, while allowing other compounds in wine to flow through unaffected. Through Selective Sulfite Capture™, free sulfites are reduced to a more naturally occurring level for most wines.”

As your friendly neighborhood somm-at-large & steward at Total Wine & More, I can attest that many folks have told me the purifier works: those who’ve suffered headaches from wine consumption are not experiencing any problems when using the device.

Further, apart from the sulfite discussion, and more on the “flavor”  dialogue,  I personally tested the Üllo at the wine bar with customers and found the wine, both a white and a red, tasted a touch different, a bit fruitier and a nod tastier!  For sure—this was a limited group with subjective tastes and unscientific comments, but six out of seven found a positive distinction.   

After a few weeks off for knee surgery, I just came back to the wine store to find yet another product that works similarly.  It’s called The Wand by PureWine and comes in packages of 3, 8 and 24 wands (presumably one wand works for one bottle) and starts at $16 for 3.  I haven’t had the opportunity to try it.

Speaking about the world’s awareness to organic and “natural wines”, there is a brand new wine book for the wine lover’s holiday library right on point: Wine Revolution: The World’s Best Organic, Biodynamic and Craft Wines, $22, by Anne Anson.  Those that have read it says it brings you up to speed on the broad topic and you’ll be able to discuss matters like a pro.

For you millennials and those similarly situated, Marissa Ross, who loves hating wine snobs and over-the-top wine reviews, has written, Wine. All The Time: The Casual Guide to Confident Drinking.  Many a young (and hopefully elder) wine enthusiasts like the self-assured Marissa as she’s quick to emphasize that she’s had no formal wine education; her training is at the college dorm, so expect some fun writing. She too advocates for natural, less chemically manipulated wines. $20

Another book I’d recommend for adept wine comments is by acclaimed wine writer Jon Bonné who “explains everything you need to know in simple, beautifully illustrated, easy-to-digest tidbits.”  The New Wine Rules: A Genuinely Helpful Guide to Everything You Need to Know. A hardcover at just around $11, it’s the perfect literary stocking stuffer.

So this is Christmas and we’re ready to walk through a nice festive lineup of tasty wines from both my Christmas list and those from local wine shops, when I see I’m running out of column space!  Stay tuned for next week’s article!!

In the meanwhile, wine wise guy, Costa Nichols, owner of Palm Springs’ venerable and stellar Desert Wines and Spirits shop, heartily praises and commends the Balletto Pinot Noir at only $19.99.  It won Best of Class at the 2016 Sonoma County Harvest Fair and received 93 points from Tasting Panel Magazine.  (A publication for which I am their Palm Springs contributor)

This wine offers the essence of black cherry, blueberry and pomegranate fruit aromas and flavors accented with a pleasing hint of oak spice. A satiny texture and admirable harmony add to the enjoyment.”  Costa says however, that this wine is figuratively flying out the door, so please come by and pick it up soon!

My quick wine pick is Pecorino. I know—you foodies will correct me that Pecorino is a cheese!  But let’s all get along and realize it’s a wonderful white wine from places like the Abruzzo region in Italy.  Yes, “pecorino” means “little sheep”; the cheese made from ewe’s milk and the wine is from grapes both full of sugar & acidity and therefore makes a full-bodied dry white capable to be chilled up and served with holiday fare.  It’s this year’s sexy choice: 2016 Niro Pecorino Terre di ChietiBuon Natale!Cheers!

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