Friday, May 23, 2014

Traditional Wine Blends

Sometimes a winemaker will blend varietals to make up for a weakness in the primary grape. But sometimes it's the style that they are going for:

  • Bordeaux is the most well known wine blend. The world famous red wine is made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, with maybe some Malbec, Petit Verdot, or Carmenere - all grown int he Bordeaux region of France. The white Bordeaux is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion. 
  • Meritage is a blend of the same grapes as Bordeaux, but from wine regions outside of France.
  • Champagne is another famous blend, usually Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, and often a blend of different vintages of grapes as well.
  • The red wines from the Rhone regions of France, including the world famous Hermitage and Chateauneuf-du-Pape can be a blend of up to 21 different varietals.
  • The reds wines from Rioja, Spain are usually a blend of Tempranillo and Grenache.
  • While the traditional wines of the Tuscany DOCG are made from 100% Sangiovese, young producers created blends with other varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, or Syrah to revitalize the region with the now famous Super Tuscan wines.
  • On the other hand, traditional Chianti wine allows for a blending in of other grapes, like Canaiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, or even some white grapes.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Quick Review: Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Chile, Colchagua Valley, Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
+ // Spicy  // Berry, Red apple // Leather, Tobacco, Cedar, Jalepno, Dried cherry // Full

An explosion in the mouth. Flavors are a bit scattershot.
Earthy when paired with pork and brussels sprouts.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Did You Know?... You Might be Drinking a Wine Blend

When you look at a bottle and see it labeled as Cabernet Sauvignon, you might think that you are getting nothing but the juice of Cabernet Sauvignon in your glass. But every wine growing region has rules for just how much of certain varietal needs to be present before you have to put it on the label or make clear it is a blend. A winemaker adds different grapes to a wine for a variety of reasons, usually to augment the primary grape, and usually in small enough quantities (1-2%) that it doesn't show up on the label.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Quick Review: Outer Limits CGM 2012

Chile, Colchagua Valley, Outer Limits CGM 2012
+ // Spicy // Blackberry, Old wood // Blackberry, Graphite, Cinnamon  // Full

A blended wine, made from Carignan, Granache and Mourvedre.
Aggressive right out of the bottle. Big flavors. Hot (high in alcohol content), but doesn't really taste like it.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Wine Wednesdays

We talk alot about using wine to make an evening special. But on a Wednesday night, with half a week of work remaining, we might turn to a good glass of wine to simply make the evening bearable.

Usually, we consider our wine and food pairing and try to plan an interesting meal for an interesting bottle of wine. But by mid-week, that can be hard to do. It is useful to have a few more flexible bottles lying around that will go with whatever you throw together for dinner. Blended wines offer you a comparatively neutral palate, with a mix of the flavors from multiple grapes. This is something easy to mix and match with a range of meals.

Cooking a real dinner mid-week can be overwhelming, so having a few simple recipes in your back pocket will help. Sometimes, a good crock pot stew can be lifesaver. You develop some deep flavors, and are still ready to eat as soon as you get home from work. Some beef, rice, tomatoes and some broccoli to round it out made for an loose take on Cuban Mofongo.

We picked a bottle of blended wine from Chile. A mix of Carignan, Grenache, and Mouverdre, we had no idea what to expect. But the complex mix of flavors from the mofongo--earthy, acidic, fatty, and a bit of green vegetable--meant we needed some complicated flavors from our wine. This blend of grapes gave us flavors of blackberries, with hints of graphite and cinnamon. The spice of the wine matched the hot pepper spice of the mofongo, while the flavors from the sweet and acidic tomato brought the sweet fruit of the wine to the forefront.

Blended wines are often mistaken for "table wines" (unless, of course, a Bordeaux). It is good to remember that winemakers might attempt to create a versatile blend of flavors that lend themselves to easier pairings... especially on those Wednesday nights where you just don't want to think too hard about it.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Quick Review: Sauvignon Blanc at Salud!

Chile, Quintay Clava, Sauvignon Blanc, 2010
++ / Crisp - Fruity / Fresh canteloupe, citrus, honeydew / Tart apple / Light bodied

Went well with the spicy appetizers we had - empanadas and spicy quacamole. Surprising to find such a fruity quality to what is normally a crisp wine.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Did You Know?... About the Wines of Chile

Like northern California, Chile relies on mountains to funnel sea breezes to cool its vineyards that otherwise might be too warm. Warm, sunny days tempered by cool evenings, with a long growing period means that a wide range of grapes thrive here.

Among red grapes, Chile grows most of the more popular varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Malbec. Most notably though, they also grow Carmenere, a European varietal that disappeared from the Old World, only to be found among Merlot vines in Chile a century ago.

For white grapes, the country focuses on Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Vintners are starting to explore other whites as well, creating fragrant and vibrant Gewurztraminer and Viognier, and bracingly crisp Rieslings.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Quick Review: Outer Limits Sauvignon Blanc 2013

 Chile, Aconcagau Valley, Outer Limits, Sauvignon Blanc 2013
++ // Crisp // Lime, Green pepper, Watermelon, Grass // Grapefruit // Med

Refreshing in a thirst-quenching sort of way. The grapefruit flavors were an unexpected surprise.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Outer Limits Sauvignon Blanc from Chile

One of the benefits of traveling is trying the local wines from new and interesting places. When we can't get away, we can always pick up a bottle and pretend we have. We might miss out on the local food or culture, that way, but at least we get to enjoy the wine.

We've enjoyed a few bottles of Sauvignon Blanc recently. So when a bottle from Outer Limits in Chile arrived in the mail, we expected crisp flavors with strong undertones of grass and herbs. In this case, it seemed like Chile's warm climate had given the wine an additional edge--some sweet and tropical fruit flavors to add to the natural herbal quality of the grape. In fact, hints of grapefruit pleasantly surprised us at every sip.

We paired it with baked lemon chicken on a bed of spinach and mango salad, with a side of vegetable biscuits. The crisp herbal flavors complemented the chicken, as thisnneutral white meat can always use some additional flavors. The wine was ideal with salad, as the sweet tropical flavors that were so unique to this style played with the tropical flavors of the mango, a needed counterpoint to the natural bitterness of the spinach. Unfortunately, the wine was a bit too big and bold to work well with the veggie biscuits, but not every course can be a winner.

We thought we knew Sauvignon Blanc. But thinking back, we've had others from Chile with a similar flavor profile. It just goes to show that there is something to the whole "terrior" business, as the geography and climate have a big part to play in the flavors of a grape.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Wines of Argentina

Argentina has a flourishing, internationally-recognized wine industry. The unique geography of its primary wine region, Mendoza, helps set it apart. The region is nestled in the foothills and slopes of the Andes, the arid environment exposes the grapes to amazing amounts of sun while the high altitude keeps the temperatures low enough to keep the fruit from over-ripening too quickly. While Mendoza produces about 60% of the nation's wine, other regions like La Rioja and San Juan are gaining renown.

Malbec is the grape that has earned Argentina its place on the world stage of wine. The climate helps the grape reach the pinnacle of ripeness, creating rich and round flavors. This works well for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and some Italian grapes like Barbera. These same conditions mean that white wines tend to be a bit soft and flabby, but Torrontes is the rare white grape from this country that thrives.

One other reason that the region has gained popularity is the cost of these great wines. Other than some small artisinal producers, the cost of a bottle from Argentina is considerably lower than most other wine regions, so great deals can be found in any price range.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Quick Review: Paumanok Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

US, Long Island, Paumanok, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007
++ // Smooth // Dried Cherries, Chocolate // Tart Cherry, Chocolate, Plum, Pepper, Jam // Full bodied

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Did You Know?... What We Mean By "Jammy" Wine

By it's very nature, wine tastes like fruit. But sometimes, wine reviews will say that it tastes like fruit jam, or cooked fruit, or even things like Maraschino cherries. What is the difference, you might ask? Sometimes the weather or the goals of the winemaker give us fruit flavors that are more concentrated and sweeter than in other wines. Usually, this is the result of a warm year that ripens the grapes excessively before they can be picked. Sometimes, it's just the nature of the grape. Cabernet Sauvignon tends towards very ripe flavors, and Zinfandel and Primitivo are often characterized as "jammy." And that's exactly how it tastes, like a spoonful of your favorite jam or fruit preserves. It's not a good thing or a bad thing: it's a definite flavor descriptor to keep an eye out for if you feel strongly one way or another.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Quick Review: Kaiken Ultra Malbec 2011

Argentina, Mendoza, Kaiken Ultra, Malbec 2011
+ // Smooth // Blueberry, Chocolate, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Slate // Blueberry sauce, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, White pepper  // Full

Big nose, like a zinfandel. Deep purple color.
A "hot" wine. Goes in smooth, finishes with a bite.
Could stand to be aged in bottle a few years. At the least, decant for 30-45 minutes before drinking.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Malbec and Ribs

Our annual vacation is coming up, and it was a struggle to decide where to go. We've decided on a simple beach vacation, but we gave serious thought to going to South America. We can still pretend we're there by sampling wines from that continent.

We don't know a lot about the wines of South America. One thing we do know is that Argentina is renowned for their Malbec. And the other thing we know: with their culture of barbeque, or "Asado" as it is called there, the Malbec is excellent for pairing with meat dishes. So with a bottle of Argentine Malbec on the wine rack, we opened up the grill and tried to embrace the culture where the wine was made.

We know that Malbec should be a big flavor, with a bit of spice. So we decided to pair it with some spicy pork ribs. Like with like, spice with spice. Pork can usually benefit from some sweet red fruit flavors. It's a pairing that makes sense, and it worked in this situation. We also grilled some fresh spring asparagus with a little lemon and chili. In that case, a wine with vibrant red fruits competed with the green vegetable flavor.

What did we learn this time around? Nothing much, just that what little we did know about Argentine Malbec served us well. It's good to know that a little knowledge can get you started, but we are looking forward to exploring South America more, even if from the comfort of our own home.

Friday, May 2, 2014

How-To: Pair Wine and Different Types of BBQ

Its that time of year again. Time to fire up the grill and cook some meat. While most people think you should stick to beer with BBQ, don't discount a nice glass of wine. Of course, what wine you pick is all dependent on what style of BBQ you are going for.

North Carolina: Whole hog smoked over wood coals with a light sauce of vinegar and pepper.
  Flavor  Profile: Smoke, Fat, Spice 
  Pair With: Look for something with a bit of a bite of its own, like Lemberger

South Carolina: Whole hog smoked over wood coals with a strong mustard sauce
  Flavor Profile: Smoke, Fat, Spice, Earthy
  Pair With: Bigger Italian reds, like Chianti Classico with a mix of fruit and darker flavors

Tennessee: Pork ribs, usually dry rubbed, but sometimes with a tomato and vinegar sauce
  Flavor Profile: Smoke, Fat, Acid
  Pair With: Some bigger, bolder flavors Zinfandel

Kansas City: The meat varies, but its usually smothered in a tomato and molasses sauce
  Flavor Profile: Smoke, Fat, Fruit, Acid, Sweet
  Pair With: Something with a sweet edge, like a Pinot Noir

Central Texas: Beef Brisket and pork ribs smoked over wood coals, with nothing more than salt and pepper.
  Flavor Profile: Smoke, Fat
  Pair With: The classic of a big Cabernet Sauvignon with the traditional meat flavors

East Texas: Smoked pork shoulder and beef brisket, with a light tomato sauce
  Flavor Profile: Smoke, Fat, Spice, Fruit, Acid
  Pair With: The rounder flavors of Merlot

Outside the US, the traditions are a bit different:
Korean: More grilling than traditional BBQ, this style tends to use meats marinated in a sauce of soy sauce, sugar, oil, garlic and pepper.
  Flavor Profile: Fat, Spice, Salty
  Pair With: a surprising range of whites, like Sauvignon Blanc

"Mongolian": Invented in Taiwan, this is a style of cooking a collection of meats and other ingredients with varying sauces on a grill.
  Flavor Profile: Smoke, Fat
  Pair With: almost anything, depending on the other ingredients you pick

Asado or Churrasco: The South American style of grilling piles of meat, carefully stacked so dripping fats work to keep the less fatty meats and offal moist. 
  Flavor Profile: Smoke, Fat
  Pair With: the big spicy flavors of Argentine Malbec

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Quick Review: Brooklyn Oenology Merlot

US, NY, Brooklyn Oenology Merlot 2006
/ // Spicy // Leather, Cherry, Petrol // Spicy, Cherry // Medium

Some balance against Portabello & Beet, sweet & earthy. An earthy wine should have gone better with the sliders.