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A Luscious Portuguese Red for a Winter’s Night

A Luscious Portuguese Red for a Winter’s Night

Portugal’s claim to fame in the wine world has historically been tied to the production of one of the world’s classic dessert wines. And then, of course, there was Mateus and Vinho Verde my entry level introduction to wine like many others during my university years. But in the past few decades the improved quality of Portuguese table wines has served notice that they have arrived with a big bang on the world stage. Modernization of winemaking techniques has left the foot stomping behind producing better quality and more consistent results. The first wave saw Port winemakers in the Douro vineyards simply using the same grapes that they used to make Port and transforming them into high octane table wines. This jump started a movement that spread to other historic wine regions in Portugal. The wine that I am recommending this week has an unorthodox mixture of grape varieties and comes from Alentejo-Portugal’s biggest grape growing region in the south-east of the country bordering Spain.

This region also supplies about half of the world’s supply of cork.

This wine currently featured in your LCBO Vintages section is robust and concentrated with flavours of black fruit, dark chocolate and raspberries. The grapes are Syrah, Cabernet and Alicante Bouschet-a Grenache clone. Checking in at 14.5% alcohol, aged in French oak and coming in at just a little less than $16:00 this is a great opportunity for you to expand your palate. Works well with spicy chicken or a rich stew.

Chardonnay Revival 3 Stories

Chardonnay Revival 3 Stories

The last decade or so chardonnay has lost its’ lustre as the “go to”
white in North America. There has even been a snarling attack by wine
snobs on the alleged mediocrity of the grape –with its’ own caustic
acronym: ABC (Anything But Chardonnay)
Pinot Grigio to some extent has knocked chardonnay off its’s top
leaderboard position but wine lovers are also discovering and learning
to experiment with other unique white grape varieties.

That’s a good thing. However there is much to be celebrated if you take
the time to revisit the diversity of styles available in chardonnays from

different international terroirs.

Macon Lugny Bouchard Pere & Fils Burgundy $16.00

A real bargain for a white burgundy from a reputable House. You can
taste the chalky terroir with intense fruit and a nose of apples and
biscuits. I paired it with some raw Malpeque Oysters -perfect.
Chardonnay Cave Spring Niagara VQA $16.00

A terrific chardonnay made from 25 year old vines in Niagara. Soft
peach and pear flavours with the scent of vanilla. Served by the glass at
Fellinis. I matched it with a slab of grilled swordfish with a lemon caper

butter…delicious.

Kendell Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Sonoma County $19.95
This rich and exotic blockbuster - in your face. Beautifully balanced
though. I drank it with a big fatty centre cut pork chop from Farm Boy

with a mango chutney on the side. That worked!

Note: Word to the wise:

Macon Lugny and Kendell Jackson are currently $2 off at the LCBO.

 

Malivoire Gamay vs Cru Beaujolais

Malivoire Gamay vs Cru Beaujolais

This time of year brings thoughts of Vendage and the grape harvest in Beaujolais in the Burgundian vineyards of France. While the celebration of Beaujolais Nouveau has lost its’ lustre as a marketing juggernaut it still remains the most famous celebration of grape picking and early fermentation in the world.

The grape in question is Gamay and in Burgundy the top Beaujolais are represented by 10 “Crus” “or designated wine growing regions. Each one has a distinctive character based on its’s terroir and the skills and stylistic intentions of the winemakers.

The Niagara wine region in Ontario in its own young grape growing history has always cultivated the grapes of Burgundy: Chardonnay, Aligote, Pinot Noir and Gamay.

I thought it would be interesting to compare a locally grown Gamay from our wine list with the best: A Cru Beaujolais. In this case I chose as our candidates for a blind tasting comparison a Gamay from Malivoire in Niagara and a Cru Beaujolais- a Brouilly from the “King of Beaujolais” winemaker Georges Dubouef.

I drafted my Saturday night serving crew for the tasting.

I chose a Brouilly as my Beaujolais example because it is somewhere in the middle of the 10 Crus in terms of body, power and flavour.

The typical flavour profile of a Cru Beaujolais is this:

Light to medium bodied, fragrant, nose of cranberries, raspberries, and violets with a touch of that unmistakeable Burgundian earthy nose.

Well in terms of preferences the taste contest turned out to be a tie.

My preference was actually the Brouilly-a bit denser, and darker but the mere fact that a Niagara Gamay held its’ own against a Beaujolais Cru is worth noting.

Also the bottle of Malivoire was 3 dollars cheaper ($15.00) than the Brouilly .

Do not be afraid to chill your Gamay or Beaujolais for 20 minutes to bring out the flavours.

Follow this link for more information about Cru Beaujolais.

Matching Food and Wine 3 Simple Rules

Matching Food and Wine 3 Simple Rules

There are reams of articles and book meticulously preaching the art of matching food with the right wine. I’ve read most of them but at the end of the day these three simple strategies work for me.

1.Match the wine with the country and the region it came from.

With hundreds of years of tradition-how can you go wrong?

A meaty tomato based pizza?-Sicilian Red…

A fatty grilled Ribeye?-Californian Cabernet or Zinfandel…..

Weiner Schnitzel?-an Austrian Gruner Veltliner or Reisling

Warm Goat’s cheese salad?-a steely Sancerre from the Loire.

2.Determine what the strongest flavour element is in the dish and either Attempt to match it or contrast it.

Whatever the recipe-meat, poultry or fish it is the sauce or marinade that you are actually trying to complement. Big flavours demand big reds

Delicate flavours call for lighter whites

3.For dishes with Spicy and Complex Flavours :

(Thai, Szechuan, Curries etc.) If there is not an accompanying wine culture that is a part of a culinary tradition I say “let it go”- that belies a simple truth- wine isn’t perhaps an appropriate beverage partner for that style of cuisine. Often “off dry” Rieslings, Viognier or Gewurztraminer are the standard wine recommendations to pair with these more exotic flavours. 

But I find that they are a bit of an arranged marriage. 

Try these matches: with Japanese Food - Sake with Serious Curry-Beer- 

or Lassi-(a non-alcoholic yogurt based beverage) (alcohol doesn’t really work with Curries) with Chinese/ Asian dishes-Beer preferably Toboggan.

Barbecue ( Grilled Meat Fish or Chicken) a chilled Beaujolais or Gamay.

Vermentino

Vermentino

Branu Vermentino di Gallura

Vur-Men-Teeno

Well, this may be the new “it” grape folks”. There has been a buzz about this Mediterranean variety for some time but I have not been successful in finding a sample that lived up to the advance hype until now. Branu comes from Gallura a northern province of Sardinia. Gallura is also renowned for its cork production so you are not going to find a screwcap on these bottles. It is a lovely white on the light side-recalling flavours of pears, peaches, lime, and citrus with a clean mineral finish. This floral white with a hint of roasted almonds is most similar to Sauvignon Blanc and surprisingly tastes a lot like a gin and tonic. In France (where as Steve Martin once said “they have a different word for everything”) Vermentino is called Rolle. Rolle is an important component of many of the best Rose wines in the south of France. Vermentino does not deliver a blockbuster kind of experience but for me the wine tastes like where it comes from-a crisp lively white from close to the sea. And not surprisingly it pairs best with fresh seafood. Vintages at the LCBO # 455246   $21.95.

A Spring Gem from the Loire Valley

A Spring Gem from the Loire Valley

If this Blog were to have a Mission Statement (well it does now) it would be to share little wine discoveries past and present. Sometimes when you veer off the beaten path of your wine comfort zone you find a little gem. Safe to say when we think of the classic wine regions of France Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Cotes du Rhone are foremost in our thoughts. But the unofficial Vin de Pays wines that French consumers are drawn to say in the bistros of Paris are more than likely to come from the Loire Valley. Why? Because the Loire is home to some of France’s best well-made value wines red and white. Yes the Loire is renowned for some iconic whites that are on the expensive side such as (Sancerre, Pouilly Fume-made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes and Savenierres made from Chenin Blanc grapes. For the value conscious consumer look for reds from Bourgueil and Chinon-made from Cabernet Franc grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon’s more visceral cousin).

But the bottle that kick started this piece was at terrific little wine from a sub region of a sub region in the Loire called Saumur. It is made from Chenin Blanc grapes and has lovely nuances of quince, chamomile, honey, cream and citrus.

Nice fruit with a crisp dry finish.

It is called Moulins de Turquant about $18.00 in the Vintages section of the LCBO. It’s a real authentic taste of France from an off the beaten path part of France.

 

Riesling in Winter

 

So last week I picked up a bottle of Riesling from Alsace in Northern France.

It was from a good house (Willm)-no relation and it was on special for less than $15.

Riesling is made in a wide gamut of styles –from excruciatingly sweet (Ice Wine) to bone dry (Alsace).In the middle, you will find off-dry fruity incarnations most famously represented by wines made along the Rhine and Moselle rivers in Germany.

Many of us in our university days kicked off our wine drinking history with accessible sweetish wines such as Black Tower and Liebfraumilch

Niagara has some great Rieslings as well. Here at Fellini's we carry a terrific off-dry version from Angel’s Gate. Niagara’s Cave Spring Cellars makes a superb “Alsatian style” version called Dolomite. These wines have a full bodied viscosity similar to a barrel-aged cool climate chardonnay. There is a pear and petrol perfume on the nose which is strangely intoxicating.

Alsatian Riesling pairs nicely with the regions’ most iconic dish-Choucroute Garnie. Over the centuries Alsace was off and on a part of Germany and this dish (composed of various sausages, potatoes and rich juicy cuts of pork on a bed of sauerkraut) has strong German roots. Here’s a delicious shortcut version of how to make it!

 

http://www.presidentschoice.ca/en_CA/videos/videolisting/choucroute-garnie.html