Archive for the 'Pinot Noir' Category

27
Jan
11

Pairing Food and Wine – Part 2


As we said – in the very first sentence – in the first part of this series, the one true rule of pairing food and wine is that such pairings are highly personal. The ethnic/cultural background and, specifically, the food one grew up with are influential on how taste is perceived by the individual. Someone who eats mostly spicy food will taste wine very differently from someone accustomed to more bland foods..

When you enter the differences of each individual’s taste buds into the equation you can understand that what may be a perfect pairing for one person, may not necessarily be so great to another. Rules are, at best, approximations based on the “average” person (read: “the average connoissseur,” often self-proclaimed, instead). I could find no scientific study ever conducted that definitely showed what is the “average” when it comes to taste matters. What is the point of this series, then, if the rules are subject to each individual’s preferences? That is a fair question! The answer is that all we intend to accomplish – here – is to give you, gentle reader, some departure points as you embark on your very own food and wine pairing journey. Just remember that wine should never overpower the food it accompanies but it should complement it.

Once again, winter has shown itself relentless and bombarded us with another big snowfall. Considering that wine can warm the soul and gladden the heart, considering that medical most studies now find the health benefits in drinking 2 daily glasses of wine (like the French do), isn’t this weather just right for sipping wine, especially if paired with a nice soup?

A street in Brooklyn today... comfort food and wine weather

How about a Chicken Noodle Soup, paired with a Pinot Grigio or a Chennin Blanc? Perhaps a Cream of Chicken Soup with a Sauvignon Blanc or a Viognier would fit your preference? Maybe a French Onion Soup paired with a Beaujolais or a White Burgundy?  Hmmmmnnn, my mouth is watering already!

Since we are only offering departure points here are some favorite pairings:

Fish

Sauvignon Blanc – Light, zesty and citrusy

White Burgundy –  Goes well with salmon

Chardonnay – Perfect for rich fish dishes

Riesling – It’s lime/lemon juice flavor make it a nice complement to any fish dish

Pinot Noir – Yes, it’s a red wine, but try it with grilled fish and see what it does!

Meat

Beef or steak – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Shiraz

Lamb - Bordeaux, or almost any Red wine

Poultry – Chardonnay

Miscellaneous

Fruit – Any Sauternes, Muscat or Riesling (especially Late Harvest)

Very sweet or heavy desserts – I prefer to pair these with a Moscato d’Asti

Pizza – Chianti is the perfect choice!

This does not pretend to be an exhaustive list, it merely reflects pairings I’ve tried and liked.

Enjoy, gentle reader, enjoy!

CS

24
Jan
11

How to Buy a Wine Glass and Enjoy Your Wine


What’s the best glassware to enjoy your wine in? Whether you buy a $125.00 Riedel Bordeaux Wine Glass at Nieman Marcus or a set of 4 Libbey Vina Red Wine Glasses – $15.49 for the whole, at Target – there are certain rules worth observing to maximize the enjoyment of a fine wine.

Pouring wine into the right type of glass shows off the bouquet and enhances the taste - Photo from: blog.andersonville.org

  • Always get clear glassAlthough crystal is preferred, it is expensive and only serious wine connoisseurs can justify the expense. Why clear glass? Seeing the color of the wine, unadulterated by any materials or colors from the glass is an important part of enjoying the particular potable. Besides, the wine color tells how old the wine is, what grape(s) it’s made of and more.
  • The glass should be large enough to release the bouquet – Never fill the glass more than half way, this allows the top of the glass to capture the bouquet or aroma of the wine as you give it a swirl. A quality wine glass tapers at the top.   The bolder the wine the bigger the bowl the glass should have. A delicate wine requires a smaller bowl to bring out its best features.
  • Always get a stemmed glass – This avoids your body temperature warming the wine, since you are holding the glass by the stem rather than by the bowl.

Riedel was the first company to introduce different size glasses to suit each wine type enhancing bouquet color and other fine qualities of the particular wine; many other companies, in almost every price range, followed. Not even the most fervent cognoscente will need every shape, but two or three types, especially when you know what suits which type of wine would add to the wine tasting experience.

The shape of this stemmed glass brings to the bouquet to the nose - Photo from: columbiatribune.com

Glassware used for a Pinot Noir or Red Burgundy are the widest and resemble a sniffer. These glasses direct the aroma to the nose while allowing ample room for the wine to air out. It’s really quite remarkable how wine that is allowed to air out (even for a few minutes) tastes different and far better than a wine that was poured and tasted seconds after.

Glasses for full bodied Bordeaux and other red wines are slightly narrower and less round, but still tapered on top. Chardonnays and White Burgundy are best enjoyed in midrange bowls and are even less rounded. Ideal glasses for Sauvignon Blanc wines are smaller yet, but have a wide bowl to fully show off the flavors and aromas of these wine types. Champagne (or any sparkling wine) is best enjoyed in a tall, narrow “flute.” This shape minimizes warming while letting you see the bubbles in the most attractive manner.

Various types of wine glasses - Photo from: http://www.all-about-wine.com

Non fortified dessert wines require smaller glasses, but are still rounded. Even smaller are Port glasses, which are also used for all fortified dessert wines, they show off the color while directing the bouquet to the nose through the relatively narrow top. While technically unnecessary, the Sherry glass has a more square bowl, it is smaller than a Port glass and very attractive.

Now that you have a nice collection of wine glasses, how do you care for them? Wash between uses, some experts advise washing only with hot water, while others suggest hot water with dish detergent as long as the glass is rinsed thoroughly to be free of all detergent remainder. Even a smallest amount of lemon or other such scented detergent can ruin the nose of any wine. When done, always hold up the glasses to the light to make sure they are clean. A superficially clean glass may be covered with a very fine scum which is very difficult to remove with a gentle rinsing. Such residue will adversely affect the wine especially if it is a champagne or other sparkling types, as they won’t show their fizz.

Once washed let the glasses drip dry, when dry polish them to remove any unsightly water marks. Store them upright in an odor free cupboard.

CS

16
Mar
10

Benyamina Wines Tasting, Getting Ready for Tomorrow’s Tasting


On the evening of  Thursday, January the 21st, I attended a wine tasting of Benyamina wines given by Avi Ashman’s Israeli Wine Lovers Club. Asaf Paz, one of the two wine-makers at the Benyamina winery, presented a selection of wines in all price ranges.

Some of the wines we would taste...

Eran Elhalal, the club’s chef, prepared a nice assortment of cheeses (sharp and mild), fruits and sweets. Raphael Sutton, who edited Israel Food and Wine magazine and wrote on wines for Globes (Israel’s premier financial publication) was the resident expert together with Eran and Avi.

Asaf started the presentation with a Chardonnay 2007, we tasted it first at room temperature. It was pleasantly tart, with hints of citrus, grapefruit and apricot. When chilled it became fruitier with peach and floral notes. It’s made in the Champagne style since the Chardonnay grape together with its red grape cousins, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier is part of the triumvirate of grapes used for Champagne. This grape which easily adapts to every climate, no matter how extreme, is also used in large proportions in the production of classic sparklers around the world.

We followed with Yogev 2007, that combined Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. With Cherry and berry notes, the Shiraz gave it a smoky spiciness. Made from classical warm weather grapes, it won’t age as well as other higher end wines.

We continued with another Yogev 2007 selection, also a dry red. This wine combines 20% Petit Verdot (grown in the Negev Mountains, it has high acidity and produces fruity tannins) and 80% Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s aroma brought out mint and black currant tones. Ages well and has a very unique strong personality.

Next we had a Reserve Merlot 2005, with hints of cherry and sweet spices. it goes well with lamb shanks and strong flavored meats. Next we had a delightful Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2006.

Some of the higher end selections

Sapir 2004 followed this wines is aged for 16 months in the cask and 4 years in the bottle before it leaves the winery. It has 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Shiraz, and 25% Merlot, fruity with floral accents and sweet spices.

Odem 2005 was next, this wine has 97% Syrah and 3% Viognier it has a nice smoky taste and goes well with charcouterie meats.

Finally we got to taste Benyamina’s top of the line, The Cave – Hama’arah 2006, a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend. A superior wine that is aged not in the main winery but in a 300 year old cave in the heart of the Carmel Mountains, hence its name. This top quality wine, a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot, the grapes were harvested in  the Upper Galilee. The wine was aged over 24 months in new French oak barrels and will continue to age well. Truly a superb wine.

Tomorrow, March 17, the Israeli Wine Lovers Club will be meeting again in Manhattan, at:
Quint, Miller & Co.
34 West 38th Street (between 5th & 6th Ave.) NYC
6th Floor
The buzzer, on the ground floor, is # 6.

As Avi’s email advised: “Earlier today I got the wines for the “How Sweet It ISrael” tasting from the Royal Wine Company (the largest Kosher wines importer/distributor). The list is great — Carmel Shaal, Gamla White Riesling, Carmel Moscato, and more. Eran (our Club’s Chef) promised to make special treats for the tasting…. So, are you ready for a sweet feast as I am? We’d like to see you at the event.

You can RSVP at their web site: http://www.meetup.com/Israeli-Wine-Lovers/calendar/12765713/ The cost for this tasting is $36 at the door. Hope to see you there.

CS

17
Feb
10

Enjoying your Wines – Part 4 – Grape Varieties


There are literally thousands of grape varieties in existence. Most wine grapes are made from the European species, which is considered to be superior to the American vine species. The reason for the numerous varieties is that grape vines have a tendency to mutate and cross breed with ease. Advances in genetic technology have allowed scientists to determine the origins of many well-known grape varieties. The following will give you an introduction to the world of most common grape varieties.

Red Varieties

Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon requires care and attention in the vineyard, with fruit exposure and yield directly related to fruit quality. However its thick skin makes it incredibly resilient to adverse climatic conditions. In the winery, winemakers often age Cabernet Sauvignon in a mixture of French and American oak.

Climate has a significant impact on the sensory characteristics of the variety. In cooler climates, minty and leafy characters are intermingled with blackcurrant and red berries. In warmer climates, chocolate and tobacco characters express themselves.

Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Franc
is a component of Bordeaux blends and Loire Valley reds. It has leafy red-berry characters.

Malbec
Malbec is a successful varietal in Argentina. Also used in Bordeaux blends.

Merlot
For Merlot to be good, it must be picked at optimum ripeness, to avoid the presence of herbal characters. Flavors of plums, red currant, mint, pimento, game, earth and leather can be found. Its tannins are invariably soft, making Merlot a good early drinking style, but this does limit its aging potential.

Merlot is most famous in its homeland of Bordeaux in France, where it is used to make some of the world’s greatest and most expensive wines. Over the last ten years, plantings have rapidly expanded across the globe, most notably into California, South America, Italy, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

Petit Verdot
Petit Verdot is a red grape variety that is traditionally used in Cabernet Sauvignon based blends. It is known for its intense color, vibrant flavors and firm tannin structure making it a good choice for true red wine drinkers.

Petit Verdot has an interesting flavor profile. It can be incredibly perfumed, having aromas of blueberry and violet. Sometimes it has an attractive herbaceous and spice element, giving the variety complexity. The acidity is often prominent and due to the thick skins of the grape, the color is very dense and the tannins are firm. Structural wines with intense flavors can age well in the mid term. Due to its strength of character, Petit Verdot can have a significant impact on a blend, even when used in small proportions.

Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir originated in the French region of Burgundy, where it is most renowned and revered. The true character of Pinot Noir is expressed when it is grown in a cool climate. In fact, its early ripening nature makes it able to withstand some of the cooler areas.

Wines made from Pinot Noir are typically lightly colored, with cherry-to-plum red hues. The aroma, which is often highly fragrant, can be composed of cherries, red berries, violets and spice when young, transforming into gamey, leathery, mushroomy characters with age. The palate is light-to-medium bodied with fine silky tannins.

As complexity is a vital attribute of good Pinot Noir, the winemaking process is very detailed. Some winemakers choose to include whole berries in the fermentation to increase the fragrance of the wine. Others allow crushed grapes to macerate prior to fermentation to increase the depth of color and flavor. Some choose to do this after fermentation. Oak is used as an important element in both the sensory and structural aspects of the wine, however due to the delicacy of the variety, care must be taken to ensure that it doesn’t dominate the wine. It is not unusual for a single batch of grapes to be processed in different ways to give a range of blending options for the final wine.

Syrah
The beauty of Syrah is that it can flourish in a range of climates. Syrah can be made into a range of styles, defined by the terroir of the region and the winemakers’ artistry. With its soft ripe tannins, black cherry, pepper and spice characters, it can be crafted into wines suitable for immediate consumption.

Zinfandel
Substantial plantings in both California as well as Italy. In Italy it is known as Primitivo. It produces full-bodied and richly flavored wines.

White Varieties

Chardonnay
The popularity of Chardonnay quickly rose, due to its generous flavors and its ease to grow and make into wine. In fact, it is often called a viticulturalist’s dream, as it is early ripening, naturally vigorous and is relatively resistant to disease. Most importantly, it can be grown in a wide range of climatic conditions, leading to a vast array of styles.

The base flavor of Chardonnay is generous, but relatively neutral thus the winemakers’ individuality can be expressed through the winemaking techniques used. Oak usage, yeast lees contact and malolactic fermentation are just some of the ways a winemaker can influence the style of Chardonnay.

Chenin Blanc
Chenin Blanc is a classic French variety. The basis of some of the world’s greatest and long-living sweet wines.

Gewurztraminer
Gewurztraminer is a spicy, aromatic variety. Its style ranges from the flavorsome and fruity, to fine and delicate.

Pinot Gris
There are many synonyms for Pinot Gris. In Alsace, it is known at Tokay Pinot Gris. In Italy, it is commonly referred to as Pinot Grigio and in Germany it is known as Ruländer or Grauburgunder.

Gris, meaning grey in French, refers to the color of the Pinot Gris grapes. As a result, wines made from Pinot Gris often have a slight coppery hue. They have a delicately perfumed aroma with flavors stretching from fresh pear through to tropical fruits. Pinot Gris is similar to Chardonnay in that it has good palate weight and flavor.

Riesling
Riesling is an aromatic variety that produces intensely fragrant and flavored wines of exceptional character. Notes of citrus, honeysuckle, blossoms, green apple and mineral are commonly seen. With concurrent high acidity and comparable low alcohol, the wines retain an enviable freshness which many other varieties lack. Oak is not used and the wines are very pure and clean.

Riesling is a variety that is much loved by winemakers and wine connoisseurs due to its intense flavors and its defined palate structure. Riesling is delightful when it is consumed young and fresh. However it is one of the few white wines that has the ability to age.

Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc
is a variety with increasing popularity in Australia. Although its plantings are quite small, they are expected to significantly increase over the next ten years. Sauvignon Blanc is used to make fresh, vibrant wine styles with none of the heaviness of Chardonnay or the floral tones of Riesling. Its flavor profile is in harmony with Semillon and consequently these varieties are often blended together.

The flavor spectrum of Sauvignon Blanc is quite diverse. Upon a backbone of herbaceousness lie tropical fruit, passion fruit and gooseberry. Look a little closer and you may see tomato leaf, spice and flint. The stronger styles have elements of asparagus, capsicum and gun smoke. And winemaking can add tones of oak, butter and yeast. They are a feast for the senses, especially during the heat of summer where their defined acidity adds freshness to the palate.

Semillon
Semillon is a unique minerally, lemony style, which is crisp and lean when young and is made without the influence of oak or malolactic fermentation. However the wine undergoes a transformation with age, evolving into a complex, nutty, honeyed wine of great depth and complexity.

Semillon is often seen blended with Chardonnay, particularly in mass-market wine styles. The freshness of Semillon provides a necessary balance to the often overly rich Chardonnay. It is a blend that has been very successful.

Viognier
The most distinctive attribute of Viognier is its stone fruit character, most notably that of apricot. It can also show considerable floral and spice tones. In cooler climates you can see citrus whilst in warmer areas there is more honeysuckle. It has good viscosity due to generous alcohol levels and is similar to Chardonnay in that it has a weighty mid-palate and generous flavour, making it a good alternative to this ubiquitous variety.

Aaron Zimmerman

[Mr Zimmerman owns and operates Liquors Galore, 1418 Avenue J (between 12th and 13th Streets); Brooklyn, NY 11230-3702; Telephone: 718.338.4166. The above post is the lastof a multi-part series we have been posting once a week on these pages]

RELATED POSTS

Enjoying your Wines – Part 3 – Storing

Enjoying your Wines – Part 2 – Tasting

Enjoying your Wines Part 1 Buying




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