Monthly Archives: July 2011
With the debut of our new (and might I add fabulous) section, Cooked, I thought it would be appropriate to post a few wine and food pairing basics. While we don’t all have time to spend crafting our meals to a particular wine (which is why Cooked is only posted once a week), a few simple tips can take any meal to wine pairing stardom.
1. The key is balance.
Balance is probably the best word to describe any good wine OR wine and food pairing. Imagine your dish, will your tomato base sauce overwhelm your Sauvignon Blanc…probably. So don’t pair a light white with it. Food and wine should match each other in terms of body and acidity. Reach for a medium to heavy bodied red instead, say a Chianti?
2. Never, ever pair oil with tannin.
A great example of this is serving a food bodied Napa Valley Cabernet with Salmon, it just doesn’t work. Again the two elements are out of balance.
3. Sweet and spicy.
I know this goes against my whole balance concept, but hey it works. The sweetness in wines (i.e. Riesling, Gewürztraminer) balances spice in most dishes and pairs perfectly with Asian flavors.
4. Think flavors, not protein.
Most pairing descriptions go something like this…”Best served with poultry and pork.” It’s a good start, but very wide open. I like to tell people to think more in terms of flavor. Pork may be great with Pinot Noir but if you sear it with a black pepper crust, the food flavors will pummel the delicious and fragile flavors of the wine. Instead of focusing on the type of protein you are serving with the wine, focus on any sauces and herbs that will be the star of the dish.
5. If all else fails, serve Pinot Noir.
It’s the most food friendly wine out there, most likely it will serve as a great compliment to your meal.
You can find our food and wine pairing section, Cooked, here every Wednesday. Cooked is written by Jackie Poole, Decanted’s Marketing & E-Commerce Manager (and my sister). She has been into food and crafting custom recipes for as long as I can remember, although I did not inherit any of that talent!
I recently finished up the Intermediate Level of the Wine & Spirits Education Trust’s (WSET) certification course. What does that mean? I have made a habit of telling people who I now have a piece of paper that certifies my drinking habit. All kidding aside, I learned a lot from the course that I didn’t already know about the beverage industry. Many of the facts that were new to be were based on spirits – as I am not a spirits drinker – but I did also pick up some tidbits about wine that I did not already know. Here were the top 5 ‘surprises’ to me:
5. Glera is the real name of the grape used for Prosecco. Although, Prosecco is still the popular named used for the grape that produces Italy’s sparkler, Glera is the proper name.
4. Some inexpensive German ‘Rieslings’ are actually blends of the Riesling grape and another inexpensive German varietal – Müller-Thurgau. Some of these wines are even 100% Müller-Thurgau.
3. Per British standards, women should only consume 1-2 units of alcohol per day (equivalent to one, medium-sized glass); men 2-3 units per day (equivalent to one, large-sized glass).
2. Argentina has actually been producing large quantities of wine for hundreds of years. The reason for the increase of Argentinian wines in the U.S.? They recently just discovered that they can make money producing quality wines, not just ‘jug’ or inexpensive table wine.
1. Even after much reading and studying I have found that German wine labels still not only confuse me, but confuse me even more so after trying to understand them!
There is no doubt in the wine industry that South America is the new ‘hot’ (in terms of popularity) growing region of the world. One of my favorite finds has been not the signature Malbec, but a relatively unknown white grape – Torrontes. See the details below and taste my recommendation at our Century Club Tasting this Thursday.
Grape Name: Torrontes
Pronunciation: Tor RON taze,
Color: Green skin grape, produces white wine.
From: Torrontes has recently become the standout white grape from Argentina – namely Mendoza. It can also be found in small quantities in Chile, as it is successful growing at high altitudes.
History: Torrontes is actually a general name used for three different varieties: Torrontés Riojano, Torrontés Sanjuanino, and Torrontés Mendocino. Torrontes Riojano is the most common and has come to be referred to as simply ‘Torrontes.’ This is the majority of the white wine that you will see in the U.S. All three varieties are native to Argentina from the Criollas grape family, an American born family with roots from the European species -vitis vinifera. Recent DNA testing has found that Torrontes is a cross between Muscat of Alexandria and the Mission grapes.
Climate: Torrontes prefers a high altitude climate with dry and windy conditions.
Characteristics: Torrontes can produce two very different styles of wine: crisp and light or full-bodied and fruit forward. The crisp and light style is most similar to an Italian Pinot Grigio with amble acidity, citrus flavors and a light body. The second style features flavors of honey suckle, tropical fruits and citrus. It is most comparable to a unoaked,warm climate Chardonnay.
Pairing: Depending on the style, this wine does best with seafood and poultry with light sauces that are lemon or white wine based.
Recommendation: Goulart Torrontes, $15
Today’s post is more of an inquiry, as we are finishing up some updates on decantedwines.com for a site relaunch (shhh!), I’m working on a new section to be announced to help individuals weed through the information about wine and beer. So I ask, what confuses you about wine? I’m looking for honest questions which will be kept completely anonymous. There is really truly no stupid question, especially when it comes to such a confusing topic.
We were sitting at Amis in Philadelphia last weekend waiting for my sister, husband, and in-laws to join us for dinner. Grabbing a drink at the bar we thought best to order some local brews. Al spotted one of our favorite beers (not available in Florida) – Allagash White Belgian Ale – and decided on that. I spotted an unknown DFH beer (at least to me) brewed with cocoa and ancho chiles? Now I had to try that. After a sip of each beer, Al was holding the Theobroma hostage from me.
For those unfamiliar with Dogfish Head, they are the epitome of what makes craft beer great. They push the envelope, do things others wouldn’t, and are slightly crazy. But all great creations come from people that are just a little nuts. Dogfish Head got its start in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware serving microbrews and great food to summer vacationers in 1995. It wasn’t long before those vacationers craved the beer at home – mainly in the Philadelphia and DC areas. Year after year, they grew. Soon enough they were nationally recognized and distributed, their 120 minute IPA even created a phenomenon of its own. Today you can find DFH in 25 different states, although the majority of their brews stay at that Brewpub in Delaware.
Now about Theobroma…whose story may be more interesting than the beer itself. To quote the Dogfish website,
This beer is based on chemical analysis of pottery fragments found in Honduras which revealed the earliest known alcoholic chocolate drink used by early civilizations to toast special occasions. The discovery of this beverage pushed back the earliest use of cocoa for human consumption more than 500 years to 1200 BC.
Pretty deep for a beer, huh? Based on this discovery, Theobroma which means “food of the gods” is brewed with Aztec Cocoa Powder and Cocoa Nibs. Honey, ancho chiles and annatto (fragrant tree seeds) are added to the mix which deliver most of their flavors on the end of the palette. The beer is medium bodied with a low-hop, smooth finish. We paired this with a spicy pasta dish with jalapenos and sun-dried tomatoes. The sweetness from the cocoa balanced the spiciness of the dish on the front but didn’t overwhelm it because of the chile kick in the beer on the finish.
Overall, an interesting and complex beer and not surprisingly one of our new favorites. Want to know more? Check out this video DFH created about the beer, informative and fun!
I’ll start this post with a quote from my sister, Jackie, (and fellow blog contributor for the ‘Cooked’ section), “that wine was so good, but it went so fast.” The true sign of a good wine? It is consumed fast and fights break out over the last drop. It has happened on more than one occasion between Al and I, but I’ve never seen it occur with more than a group of four. Now I won’t call it a fight but over dinner with my sisters, my sister’s new husband, his parents, Al and I all seven of us did reach for that last drop.
The Mad Hatter is the second label of Dancing Hares. Dancing Hares Vineyard is an impressive team with Andy Erickson (Screaming Eagle, Favia, Leviathan) at the helm as head winemaker with assistance from Michael Rolland and renowned vineyard manager David Abreu. The 2007 Dancing Hares Proprietary Wine is an exquisite blend of 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc, 37% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, at about $125 per bottle. Exquisite, yes but not quite your every day drinker.
The Mad Hatter is a similar blend at a friendly price point – about $60 per bottle – that is if you can find it. The vineyard itself seems to produce impeccable Cabernet Franc and Merlot which balance each other perfectly in the blend and give only the best characteristics of each varietal. In taste, the Cabernet Sauvignon almost seems subdued and restrained allowing the other varietals to come through. Erickson says, about the wine:
“The 2008 Mad Hatter is a bold, ripe expression of the vintage. Those lots from our estate that show upfront fruit, soft tannins, and immediate appeal form the core of this wine. This vintage is enjoyable from the outset, with plump, ripe fruit character and a lingering intensity. Notes of darjeeling tea leaves, ripe blueberries, brown sugar and cream lead the way for this hedonistic wine.”
It’s a wine worth grabbing, enjoying and fighting over if the situation presents itself. And, I am proud to say I did get the last drop.
I’m often asked ‘what is your favorite wine in the store?’ The truth is I never have a favorite, maybe a favorite at the time but not one overwhelming wine I’m in love with. Now, it may be different for some but I am not a creature of habit. I like to travel, to explore and that spills over to my wine selections. Sure I love a good Napa Cab and even more a Oregon Pinot Noir, but once in a while I crave a Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Teroldego, or some other unique varietal. In preparation for our Century Club Tasting (coming up on the 21st) I’m going to explore some of my favorite unique grapes….today’s topic Gewürztraminer.
Grape Name: Gewürztraminer
Pronunciation: guh-VOORTS-truh-MEE-nur, audio link here . Also can be called “Gewurz” for short
Color: Pinkish skin graped, produces white wine
From: Probably most famous is the Gewurz grown in Germany & Austria, but it is also produced in Australia, Canada, France, Italy and the USA as well as some lesser known wine growing regions (Bulgaria, Hungary, Luxembourg, Czech Republic).
History: The grape was originally found in the Alsace region of France (which is known for more German style varietals and wines than French) along the Rhine River. The name translates to “Spice Traminer” for its spicy character and family history in the Traminer variety, an ancient green grape. Through a number of different (and confusing) mutations, the grape variety came to be what it is today just after the phylloxera epidemic in Europe when a single variety/mutation was selected and then grafted on phylloxera immune vines.
Climate: Gewurz is rather a moody vine. It hates chalky soil and is very prone to disease. It also buds early increasing the chance of frost affecting its growth and in a warm and dry summer climate ripens late. If over ripened (in a warm climate) the sweetness of the grape gets out of control, whereas under ripening inhibits aromas and sugar.
Characteristics: Gewurz is a highly aromatic varietal often with strong floral notes (roses) and sweet fruits (lychee, passion fruit). It can be made either in an off-dry (slightly sweet) or dry style.
Pairing: One of the few perfect wines to pair with Asian cuisine, it balances anything spicy as well and does well with smoked salmon.
Recommendation: (my favorite Gewurz) Villa Wolf Gewürztraminer, Germany, $15