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Monday, December 30, 2019

Classical Winter Wine & Food Pairings


                                         Winter does not necessarily mean only red wine

With nearly three months of winter before us, it’s time to bring out the colder weather wines, as well as recipes for their accompanying foods.  Winter wines are bold and powerful, and the dishes served with them need to match the wine’s intensity.  For many this time of year means big reds, however, there are some formidable whites that can also work beautifully.   And, let’s not forget wines such as Port, both a perfect winter aperitif, as well as a gorgeous dessert wine for this time of year.

Below is my winter list, arranged in alpha order by grape varietal.

Barolo & Barbaresco
Both of these Italian red wines are made from Nebbiolo grapes grown at the base of the Italian Alps.  Nebbiolo harvested in the town of Barolo is called Barolo, while Nebbiolo harvested in the nearby commue of Barbaresco must by law be called Barbaresco.   Known for robust tannin and high acidity, these wines need equally substantial foods.   Julia Child’s veal with mushroom cream sauce, or a pasta with a cream sauce of porcini mushrooms and/or truffles are perfect matches.

Oaked Chardonnay
Winter is a time for full-bodied whites and an oaked Char fits the bill.  The oak barrel gives the Chardonnay structure by adding tannins to the wine’s profile, along with the addition of complex butter, caramel and nutty flavors.  Oaked Chars can support luscious cream sauces and rich shellfish such as crab, scallops and lobster.

Cabernet Sauvignon
It goes without saying that all Cabs should have some age on them.  Cabernet grapes are hugely tannic, thus time is required for this varietal to be drinkable.   A smashing wintertime pairing is either a prime rib or a rack of lamb.  But, another classical coupling is a Bolognese-sauced pasta, or even a pizza---no kidding, try it…you’ll like it!

Aged Riesling
With time in the bottle the Riesling varietal changes dramatically.  Young Rieslings offer a fruity profile----varying from lemon in cold growing areas to apricot nuances in warmer climates.   Aged Rieslings not only become fuller and richer, but the wine’s taste and aromatics morph into something with petrol nuances.  For some, aged Rieslings aren’t enjoyable.  However, for many, an aged Riesling served with the right foods can be nirvana.   Perfect pairings are a pork roast with braised cabbage, or duck and goose.

Port
There are many types of Port and one size doesn’t fit all for matching them with food.  Tawny Port, which presents rich and nutty flavors, works well with salty items such as Parmiggiano Reggiano and/or nuts.  Vintage Ports (which are extraordinarily powerful with intense fruits, chocolate and spices), can stand up against a blue cheese such as a Stilton, or a well-aged power-house Cheddar.

Zinfandel     
If there’s ever a classical winter wine, it’s a Zin.  As most Zinfandels are a heavy alcohol wine, they must be served with a food of equal weight in boldness.   Think rich, unctuous wine-braised short ribs, or a hearty beef stew with root veggies.  But, beef is not the only match.  Chicken can work but it’s all about how it’s prepared.  My favorite method is a recipe marinating it for 24 hours with balsamic and aromatic herbs, then cooking it with onions, prunes, capers and green Olives.  Here the recipe:  https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/8752-the-silver-palates-chicken-marbella

Have a wonder-filled wine winter.


Tuesday, December 17, 2019

World's Best Cranberry Sauce (Really!)


Nearly 40 years ago a dear foodie friend of mine shared her recipe for an ethereal cranberry sauce which she had learned in a San Francisco cooking class. (Thank you, Beth Izmirian).  It’s been on every Thanksgiving and Christmas table of mine ever since.  The recipe was developed by the culinary luminary Perla Meyers.  Perla was not only one of the pioneers of farm-to-table philosophy, but authored nine cookbooks over her illustrious career during the 1970's-90’s.

So what makes this cranberry condiment the best on the globe?   One of the reasons is that it has both apples and pears which give it great texture (plus these fruits add depth of flavor rather than a one note cranberry).  Another is the plumped raisins which offer a lovely sweet contrast to the tart cranberries.  The fresh squeezed orange juice, zest, and the Grand Manier further infuse multi layers of orange.  The last reason it tops the best-ever list is its color.  Humdrum cranberry sauce is all one color (also only one flavor profile).  The world’s best, however, offers a wide assortment of color due to the lighter colored apples and pears, as well as the golden raisins or the dark currants.

Recipe inventor Perla Meyers actually named this dish a cranberry chutney.  While chutney doesn’t quite ring true for me (they are spicy and/or have vinegar), I still refer to it as Perla intended out of homage to this extraordinary food personality.  The chutney keeps for a couple of weeks in the frig, and if there is any leftover (usually not) I serve it on top of a log of goat cheese…it’s magical and colorful pairing for a holiday appetizer.

CRANBERRY CHUTNEY
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 12 oz. fresh Cranberries
  • 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 2 TBLSN orange zest
  • 2 diced Pears
  • 2 diced Apples
  • ½ cup currants or light colored raisins
  • ¼ cup Grand Marnier liquor

Cook the first six ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat for 30-40 minutes (add currants/raisins during the last 15 minutes of cooking). Remove from the heat and let cool for approximately 30 minutes.  Last, add the Grand Manier.

BTW:  it’s best made several days before serving.

Enjoy the world's best, and have the best-ever Holiday Season.


Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Yule Love these 7 Bubblies for the Holidaze


       Representing 4 countries & ranging from $85-20, these bubbles are guaranteed winners

The holidays aren’t the holidaze without sparkling wine.  Below is my fave list for non-vintage bubbles.  There’s the real-deal Champagne, but there’s also a super-duper sparkling wine from Burgundy at half the price.  The wines are listed alphabetically by country.  One of my personal favorites is a bubbly from Italy’s premier sparkling wine district, Franciacorta.  England is also on the list…don’t laugh as British fizz has beat out some of the most respected French Champagnes in many blind tastings.  Last, there’s an American bubbly that I particularly enjoy.  All but one are under $55, and three are $25 or less.


ENGLAND 

          ~ Wiston Estate Brut:  this one has won more medals than any other English fizz.  $40

FRANCE

          ~ Billecart Salmon Champagne:  this one has been a long-standing winner in my book.   $85

~ Gosset Champagne:  Consistently well-made wine and a cut above the others in the over $50 category.  $55

~  Ployez Jacquemart Chamapagne:  one of the best price/quality I know of.  Difficult to find, but worth seeking out.  $50

          ~  Veuve Ambal Brut Cremant Grande Cuvee:  Made in Burgundy (which is contiguous with the Champagne district), Cremant is the legal term for any sparkler from Burgundy.   $20

ITALY
          
          ~  Ferghettina:  This winery’s vintage sparkling wines are the bomb, but this list is only about non-vintage.  Located in the lake district of northern Italy, Ferghettina’s non-vintage is an absolute delight. $40

USA: 
          
          ~  Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley:  this one is a perennial winner in my book and a great value.  $25


Enjoy the Holidaze with one of these bubblies. 



Tuesday, December 3, 2019

A Spicy Holidaze Cocktail

      
     This festive cocktail epitomizes the smells & delights of the holidays

On WineKnows’ recent trip to England to explore the country’s international award-winning sparkling wine industry, we also visited a gin distillery in the Cotswolds.  It was here that I was introduced to spiced gin.  Like a pumpkin pie that has just been removed from a holiday oven, this gin exudes pungent nutmeg, fresh ginger, just-grated cinnamon sticks, and decadent clove oil (all, of course, with the requisite backdrop of juniper notes).

I can’t take credit for this stunning holiday cocktail as it comes from a book I found in the distillery’s giftshop, Gin Tonica by David Smith.  Fortunately, one does not have to go to England to find the spiced gin as it is imported into the USA (call the importer, Palm Bay, at 561.893.9998 to find the store nearest you), or purchase it online.  Also available online is the Cranberry Tonic…it’s pricey but, come on….. it’s the holidaze!

Holidaze Gin & Tonic  (makes 4 cocktails)
  • 7 oz Darnley’s Spiced Gin
  • 2.5 C Double Dutch Cranberry Tonic
Decorate with fresh rosemary sprigs, fresh cranberries, and thinly sliced fresh ginger.

A few English tips for making any great gin and tonic:
  1. Use a chilled glass (or quickly chill it by adding a full glass of ice & stirring for 15 seconds with a spoon...be sure to pour out any liquid from the melted ice).  
  2. When adding the tonic pour slowly as this helps the tonic to keep its fizz.
  3. Let the drink rest for 30 seconds to allow flavors to integrate with one another.
Have a spicy and very merry holiday season!


Friday, November 22, 2019

Spice it Up for the Holidaze!


                            Poblanos when stuffed with cheese morph into chile rellenos 

With the holidays descending, many are looking for special items to prepare for pot-luck dinners, or for evenings at home with visiting guests.  I like to spice things up by serving peppers.  Not all peppers, however, are hot.  In fact, the three peppers below offer very little in terms of heat, but are chocked full of flavor and color for the holidays. 

Poblano

These large, bright green shiny peppers are best known for their use in chile rellenos.  While poblanos are the perfect vehicle for ooey-goey melting cheese, they can also can be stuffed with anything from meat to rice, veggies or poultry (relleno actually means “stuffed.”)   Topped with a red tomato sauce, chile rellenos make the perfect colorful holiday dish.   Poblanos are used as well in traditional Mexican dishes such as chile verde, a luscious pork stew.

                                        Anchos are simply mature, dried poblanos

Poblanos used in chile rellenos are young fresh chiles.  At maturity, poblanos turns dark reddish brown.  These fully mature poblanos are called ancho chiles.  Anchos have a raisin-like sweetness and are often dried to be reconstituted later in a sauce for items such as enchiladas.  Dried anchos are also a predominant ingredient in many classic chili recipes---and chili is perfect for any cold holiday night in which you're serving a crowd.

Piquillo

                       Super mild piquillos provide the perfect holiday backdrop for crab

I first learned of piquillo peppers twenty years ago when visiting Spain’s Rioja wine district during the autumn.   All of the elderly women in the wine villages were sitting outside in front of their homes cleaning piquillo peppers that had been first roasted over open air wood fires.  Every autumn menu in the Rioja features piquillos.  Most common is a simple preparation of these exquisite roasted peppers sliced, and served with olive oil and garlic.  The fancier the restaurant, the fancier the picquillo dish.  Some upscale restaurants stuff them with crab or wild mushrooms.   Michelin star establishment can even serve them topped with truffles.

                                   Fresh herbs & goat cheese scream holidaze

I particularly love piquillos for the holidays because of their brilliant red color.  While the US is not growing many, the peppers are becoming increasingly popular on upscale restaurant menus.   Roasted Spanish piquillos can be easily procured online, and increasingly are being featured in fancy grocery markets.  They come either packed in olive oil or simply water-packed.  I buy them by the case.  My favorite preparation is stuffed with crab for Christmas, but a goat cheese and wild mushroom stuffing topped with truffle oil is also a crowd-pleaser all year long.

Shishito 
                                          Only 1 in every 10 shishitos can be spicy

Shishito peppers are becoming a main-stay appetizer on many up-market restaurant menus in California.   Harvested while tiny and emerald green, these mild peppers are just the right size for a holiday nibble.   I love them prepared simply, sautéed quickly in some extra virgin olive oil with garlic, and topped with fleur de sel.  

Have a spicy holidaze season!


Friday, November 15, 2019

Taste & Aroma Profiles, Part 4


                                    Almond-like flavor is a classic profile of Champagne

This is the final in a four part series on the aromas and flavors of wines produced by chemical reactions during the fermentation process.  In review, we’ve discussed the buttery profile caused by the conversion of harsh malic acid to the softer lactic acid.  Next, the science behind a variety of fruit flavors in wine was detailed, followed by a discussion of the chemistry behind grassy aromas and smells.   This final blog will address another flavor component caused by a chemical reaction during wine-making.  It will also discuss other common flavors present in wine that have nothing to do with the fermentation process, but everything to do with the oak barrel.


Almond nuances are classically associated with sparkling wine.  This almond profile is caused by the release of a chemical component produced by yeasts during fermentation.  Sparkling wines that have rested “on their lees” (i.e. had contact with the dead yeast cells) often have almond aromas and flavors due to the chemical compound benzaldehyde.  This chemical actually has an almond aroma.  Wines that undergo batonnage (frequent stirring and mixing of the lees) also exhibit almond tones.

A final note of clarification:  not all aromas and flavors in wine, however, are related to chemicals produced during fermentation.  Oak barrels can play a huge part in influencing both a wine’s smell and taste.  The following are examples of chemicals in oak that can alter the taste and smell of wine:
  • Eugenol:  responsible for spices such as clove, nutmeg & cinnamon (note that this chemical is actually found in all of these spices)
    Vanillan:  the compound, also found in the vanilla bean, gives off vanilla aromas & flavors
  • Furfural:  imparts dried fruit flavors & coffee nuances (furfural is also found in coffee)
In summary, there are hundreds of chemicals found in wine.  Some occur because of chemical reactions in fermentation; others are present due to other factors (such as the use of oak).   What is interesting to note, however, is that most of these chemicals do not reach the threshold of one being able to distinguish them.  The majority of people have an average threshold for tastes and smells.   However, there are some people, who have a more sensitive threshold and may be able to distinguish tastes and smells more readily than others.






Friday, November 8, 2019

The Science Behind Grass in Your Glass


                     New Zealand's Greywache Sauv Blanc is one of the country's benchmarks
                                
This is the third in a four-part blog series on aromas and flavors in wine that are directly related to chemicals produced during the wine-making process.  Today, we’ll discuss the grassy smell and taste found in wine.  These isn't a figment of your imagination, but is a scientific fact that occurs as a direct result of chemical changes during fermentation.

Have you ever wondered why your Sauvignon Blanc (SB) is reminiscent of freshly mowed grass?  This classical grassiness taste and nose found in many SB’s is due to chemicals called aldehydes.  These compounds, released during fermentation as yeasts turn SB grape sugar into alcohol, evoke the smell of just-cut grass.  The SB grape has  the ability to produce high level of aldehydes.  The perception of grassiness is driven for the simple reason that these same chemicals are also found in grass.  Cutting grass releases these highly fragrant chemicals into the air.

The less ripe the SB grape, the higher the propensity is for aldehydes, and thus the stronger the grassy profile.  New Zealand SB’s are known for their traditional grassy notes.  Kiwi SB’s are purposely picked a little less mature for this reason, but also responsible is the moderate climate where this country’s SB grapes are grown.  The Loire Valley also is famous for SB.  As this area is fairly far north, SB often can’t ripen to its fullest degree, so Lorie wines classically also have grassy nuances.   In contrast, California SB has abundant sun and generally is picked more mature.  This translates to less intense grassy nuances.  In Cali’s warmer growing areas, SB’s actually can take on ripe tropical notes.

Next week we’ll finish this series by discussing one of the common flavors in sparkling wine which is also caused by the science during fermentation.


Friday, November 1, 2019

How Can Wine Smell like a Banana?


                 Banana, green apple & gooseberry profiles are the result of chemical reactions

Why in the world does a wine taste or smell like any fruit other than a grape?  This is the second article in a blog series on the science behind certain flavors and aromas in wine.  This particular article will discuss three fruit flavors/fragrances that can appear in wine.  In fermentation, yeasts eat the sugar in the grapes and convert it to alcohol.  In this process thousands of various chemical compounds are produced.  All three fruit flavors below are a result of these complex chemical processes.

Banana
The banana-like smell and taste is a result of a chemical compound by the name of isoamyl acetate, a by-product of yeasts during fermentation.  The isoamyl acetate also occurs naturally in the banana plant, as well as in pears.  It is present in most wines, however, it is below the threshold of one’s ability to taste it.  It should come as no surprise that artificial banana flavoring is made from isoamyl acetate.

This banana smell and taste can appear in both white and red wines.  Aromatic white wines that are fermented at cooler temperatures (lower temperature enhances the amounts of isoamyl acetate) often display ripe banana notes.  For example, that banana nuances can often be found in Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Albarino.  Beaujolais is one of the few red wines that has a banana profile.


Green Apple
This flavor and smell profile found in wines is due to the lactic acid which is created during malo-lactic fermentation.  Lactic acid gives off green apple-like scents and flavors, in addition to a creamy mouth feel.  Wines that have pronounced green apple character are classically cool climate dry whites such as Chardonnay, Riesling and Gruner Veltliner.


Gooseberry
Like green apples and banana nuances, this flavor and aroma is not part of the grape.  Gooseberry is created during alcoholic fermentation and is a by-product of yeast activity.   This fruit is typically less sweet so its taste is on the tart side (think pucker),  but gooseberries can also have a slightly floral scent.  Generally found in aromatic whites, gooseberry is classically associated with Sauvignon Blanc (particularly those from cool weather regions such as coastal New Zealand, or France’s Loire Valley).

Keep in mind that each person has a different innate level of tasting various substances.  It doesn’t matter what you taste or don’t taste in a wine.  The only thing that counts is if it pleases you.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Understanding “Buttery” Wines

                         Luscious, unctuous & buttery whites are magic caused by chemistry 

Ever wonder what’s the reason you smell or taste certain flavors in wine?   How do things such as “coffee,” “green apples” or “grass” appear in wine?  This is the first in a series of blogs on the science behind how these and other aromas and flavors develop.  Let’s start with “buttery,” a term often used to describe a certain style of California Chardonnay (although other white wines such as Marsanne or Roussane can also exhibit buttery characteristics).

The butter profile is caused by a common chemical reaction in wine-making called malo-lactic fermentation (ML).  During ML, bacteria converts harsh malic acid to the much softer lactic acid.  In this chemical reaction a compound by the name of diacetyl is produced.  Diacetyl is also found in dairy products like butter (diacetyl is even added to artificial butter to make it taste more like the real-deal product).
  
Butter nuances can be created, as well as manipulated, by certain interventions of the winemaker.   For example, winemakers can actually control the amount of butter-like character in a wine.  Different strains of ML bacteria produce different amounts of diacetyl so winemakers can pick and choose depending on what style of wine they want to create.  Winemakers can also control ML fermentation by raising and lowering the fermenting wine's temperature:  warmer temperatures activate ML, while cooler temps stop ML fermentation and arrest the production of the butter-like compound diacetyl.

The term buttery is used not only to describe flavor and aromas of wine,  but it is also used to describe the almost oily, unctuous texture of a wine.  Think creamy like cream...a smoother, rounder mouth feel.  This velvety texture is also a result of ML, and the diacetyl produced changes the feeling to that of a more dairy-like substance.  Buttery California Chars have this hallmark velvet-like texture.

There’s another factor that can create the buttery profile.  Aging in newer oak barrels imparts flavors and aromas but can also add to the creamy texture beyond that of ML.  The newer the barrel and the longer the wine is in contact with the oak, the more intense the butter and creaminess.  Stirring of the lees (batonnage), can also enhance buttery flavors.


Whatever the science, buttery preference is in the eyes of the beholder.  Some like it, others don’t.  Personally, I can swing both ways.  Some of my fave big fat buttery Chars are Dehlinger (Sonoma) and Cakebread (Napa).   



Friday, October 18, 2019

New Zealand---Benchmark for Quality/Price


                      Some of the world's best white wine values wine are in New Zealand

Outstanding quality and value wines can be found around the globe.   New Zealand, however, consistently knocks it out of the park for quality-to-price ratio.  For example, nearly 130 Kiwi wines recently reviewed by the Wine Spectator earned scores between 90-100 points, and the average price rang in at only 37 US bucks per bottle. Conversely, California Cabernets with the same Wine Spectator scores were $145 per bottle, while Cali Pinots were $63.  Similarly, high scoring South African wines (which are a huge value at the moment) were an average of $53 on Wine Spectator. 

Currently, Wine.Com (the world’s largest online store), lists a dozen New Zealand wines with Robert Parker scores of above 90 points for < $30---the majority are less than $20 and are Sauv Blancs.  WineSearcher.com, another behemoth of the internet wine world, also gives New Zealand major props for their high quality/low price wines.  In their recent World’s Top 50 Wine Bargains, several of them were from New Zealand.  Wine Enthusiast Magazine, lists three New Zealand Sauv Blancs in their Top 100 Best Buys which featured bargains from around the globe.  Forbe’s Magazine named New Zealand in 2017 as one of the most underrated wine regions. 

If you are coming with Wine-Knows to New Zealand for their harvest in February 2020, you’ll note that while the country has many pricey wines >$100 US, it also abounds with delightful values of superbly crafted wines.  Below are some of my fave quality/price Kiwi wines, all of which are available in the US.  Two are reds, but the remainder are whites.

<$20:
  • Ata Rangi Sauv Blanc   
  • Greywacke Sauv Blanc
  • Greywacke Pinot Gris
  • Loveblock Sauv Blanc
  • Whitehaven Sauv Blanc 
  • Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauv Blanc


$25-30:
  • Cloudy Bay Sauv Blanc
  • Quartz Reef Sparkling Brut
  • Te Mata Cape Crest Sauv Blanc
  • Trinity Hill Gimlett Gravels Syrah


$30-35:
  • Greywacke Pinot Noir
  • Te Mata Elston Chardonnay

 




Friday, October 11, 2019

Buried Treasure---Truffles


                     Truffles grow underground & specially trained dogs are required to find them

October is the beginning of the season for the world’s most expensive culinary treasure, the white truffle.  Only grown in a small area near the Italian Alps called Piedmont, the white truffle (tartufo bianco) is the most fragrant and most intensely flavored of all of the many varieties of truffles.  For this reason it is often called the “King of truffles.”  Its step-sister, the not-as-fragrant-black truffle, is grown in several parts of the world, but it is the highly prized white truffle which gourmands around the world not only covet, but pay mega Euros to feast on this buried edible masterpiece.

                             The tartufo bianco is the most aromatic & flavorful of all truffles

All truffles are a type of an exotic fungus that grows underneath the ground near the roots of certain trees.  In Piedmont, Italy the white truffle variety grows commonly near the roots of hazelnut, oak, pine or beech trees.  Truffles, a kind of distant cousin of wild mushrooms, are found by special dogs who have been trained to smell these highly fragrant edibles which are concealed several inches under the forest’s floor.

Piedmont in October is one big love-fest with the white truffle.  The charming medieval town of Alba is home to the Truffle Festival, a decadent food gala celebrating the area’s famous white culinary diamonds.  Weekends are grid-lock with aficionados from around the world descending on Alba for a smell and taste of the intoxicating white truffle.   There is pageantry with parades, music, and dance---all to honor the illustrious tartufo bianco.  

                                     Alba's Truffle Festival is a do not miss event for foodies

 If you can’t make it to Piedmont for the Truffle Festival, the next best thing may be dining at a Michelin star restaurant somewhere in the world during the months of October or November.    Be prepared, however, to spend almost $100 more per dish for the addition of the white truffle.  This means a $50 pasta will become $150 with the tartufo bianco.



Buon appetito!

Friday, October 4, 2019

The World’s Most Widely Planted Grape?


                                      
There are over 10,000 grapes on the earth, but not all of them are used in making wine. While numbers vary, most would agree that at least 1,000 of them are currently used to make wine.  Now, make a guess as to what wine grape is the most planted varietal.   If you guessed Merlot, you’re close…. it’s second.  If you guessed Cabernet Sauvignon you are right!  Cabernet Sauvignon accounts for >5% of the grapes for wine production around the globe.  There are more than Cabernet vines than both Pinot Noir and Syrah and plantings combined.

You may have been lucky on choosing Cabernet, however, for the most planted white wine grape varietal, what’s your guess?   Chances are >99% of you guessed incorrectly.  For white wine grapes, the world’s most widely planted variety is Airen.  That’s right…Airen.    This grape ranks 4th among both red and white wine grapes.  It is surpassed only by Cab, Merlot, and Tempranillo.  Airen vines account for more than both Pinot Noir and Sauv Blanc combined.

Airen is grown almost exclusively in Spain.  Up until a few years ago it was the world’s most widely planted grape.  If you’ve never heard of it, it’s because Airen is often used for Spain’s unpretentious wines.   The last five years, however, many of the Airen vines have been ripped out and replaced with Tempranillo, another grape native to Spain.    That being said, Airen and Tempranillo combined currently account for 45% of all of Spain’s wine grapes.

Below is a list of the Top Ten wine grape varietals across the globe:

1.     Cabernet Sauvignon
2.     Merlot
3.     Tempranillo
4.     Airen
5.     Chardonnay
6.     Syrah
7.     Grenache
8.     Sauvignon Blanc
9.     Pinot Noir
10.  Trebbiano (also called Ugni Blanc)



Friday, September 27, 2019

7 Facts Every Wine Lover Should Know About Cabernet Sauvignon



The harvest of Cabernet Sauvignon, one of the last wine grapes to be picked, is in full swing in most northern hemisphere vineyards.  There are many aficianados of wines made from this grape.  If you’re one of them, below are some must-know facts.

1. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely planted red varietal in the world. 

2. The varietal is also grown in nearly every wine producing country in the world.  From Napa to Bordeaux, from Chile to China, and from Australia to Italy, Cabernet Sauvignon can thrive in diverse terroirs.

3. There are many reasons, other than consumer demand, that Cabernet Sauv is so widely planted around the globe.   Its thick skin is impermeable to insects, its vines are hardy and low yielding by nature, and its late bud break allows it to avoid any early frosts.

4. Cabernet Sauv is an accidental grape.  It’s an unintentional crossing in the vineyard of the red Cabernet Franc with a white Sauvignon Blanc (grape vines used to be intermixed in the same vineyard).  It is thought to have occurred in the 17th century in the southwest of France near the Bordeaux region.


5.  Cabernet Sauv has a propensity to age well due to its tannin.  The varietal is usually aged in oak barrels which further augment the tannic structure and allow for long aging.  The flip side is the tannin make a Cabernet difficult to drink when young.

6.  When the grapes are under-ripe, Cabernet Sauv can taste of green bell peppers.  Over-ripe grapes move the wine to  raisin and prune-like flavors, as well as a high alcohol content.

7.  Caberet Sauv can easily overwhelm light foods.  Cabernet Sauv desperately needs fat and protein to neutralize its tannin.   A well-marbled steak, lamb with a cream sauce, or even pizza makes for an ideal pairing.

  

Friday, September 20, 2019

6 Facts for Syrah Lovers



Syrah grapes are already being harvested in the warmer regions of California.  The harvest in the coastal areas, however, won't happen for another week or so.  Here are some important things to know about the versatile variety Syrah. 

1.  Syrah is the exact same grape as Shiraz.  In Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, this varietal is called Shiraz.  In the US and Europe it is referred to as Syrah.


2.  Don’t confuse Syrah with Petite Syrah as they are completely different grapes.  That being said, Petite Syrah is actually the child of Syrah and a relatively rare grape by the name of Peloursin.

3.  Syrah is the darkest of all the red wines.  Made from a nearly black grape, the wine is opaque, an almost inky purple-black.

4.  Some of the world’s famous cult wines are made from Syrah.  For example, both Hermitage and Chateauneuf de Pape from France’s Rhone, as well as Penfolds Le Grange from Australia are made from Syrah.

5.  Syrah works well in both cool and warm climates.  In the cooler climates the spicy profile tends toward flavors of white pepper.  In warmer climates, the spicy character changes to black pepper with layers of espresso and dark chocolate.

6.  Syrah pairs great with bold foods:  think BBQ or spicy.  As with any pairing, try to match the wine’s weight and flavor intensity with that of the food’s weight and flavor intensity.