6.23.2009

Friday Night Wine Down : Chardonnay

Featured wine: Chardonnay

Wikipedia description:
Chardonnay is a green-skinned grape variety used to make white wine. It is believed to have originated in the Burgundy wine region of eastern France but is now grown wherever wine is produced, from England to New Zealand.

For new and developing wine regions, growing Chardonnay is seen as a "rite of passage" and an easy segue into the international wine market. The Chardonnay grape itself is very neutral, with many of the flavors commonly associated with the grape being derived from such influences as terroir and oak. It is vinified in many different styles, from the elegant, "flinty" wines of Chablis to rich, buttery Meursaults and New World wines with tropical fruit flavors.

Chardonnay is an important component of many sparkling wines around the world, including Champagne. A peak in popularity in the late 1980s gave way to a backlash among those wine drinkers who saw the grape as a leading negative component of the globalization of wine. Nonetheless, it remains one of the most widely-planted grape varieties, with over 400,000 acres (175,000 hectares) worldwide, second only to Airén among white wine grapes and planted in more wine regions than any other grape – including Cabernet Sauvignon.

I've tasted:
Hobnob (France) $9.49
Smoking Loon (United States, California) $10.95
SalmonRun (United States, New York) $11.49
Fat Bastard (France) $11.79
Yellow Tail (Australia) $7.99

Food pairings:
avocado
butter or cream sauces
creamy goat or sheep's milk cheeses
chicken
shellfish
ham
salmon
tropical fruits
pasta/risotto
seafood with rich sauces
Avoid chiles, cilanto, tomato sauces and dill

Notes:
Being a relatively neutral grape, Chardonnay styles can vary tremendously from one producer/region to another. I was first exposed to chardonnay in the 80s, when the heavily oaked California style was becoming quite popular. I found this style to be rather unpleasant to drink on its own, and not at all food-friendly, and as a result, Chardonnay fell to the bottom of my list for quite some time.

Fortunately for me, the pendulum is swinging the other way, and the less manipulated, lighter tasting, steel-aged Chardonnays are gaining in popularity. I particularly enjoy it with lobster ravioli in a cream sauce, or sauteed scallops.

Cheers!

6.18.2009

Friday Night Wine Down : Rosé

Featured wine: Rosé (Rosado, Rosato)

Wikipedia description:
A rosé (From French: rosé, ‘pinkish’) wine has some of the color typical of a red wine, but only enough to turn it pink. The pink color can range from a pale orange to a vivid near-purple, depending on the grapes and wine making techniques.

There are three major ways to produce rosé wine.
skin contact
The first is used when rosé wine is the primary product. Red-skinned grapes are crushed and the skins are allowed to remain in contact with the juice for a short period, typically two or three days. The grapes are then pressed, and the skins are discarded rather than left in contact throughout fermentation (as with red wine making). The skins contain much of the strongly flavored tannin and other compounds, which leaves the taste more similar to a white wine. The longer that the skins are left in contact with the juice, the more intense the color of the final wine.
Saignée
Rosé wine can be produced as a by-product of red wine fermentation using a technique known as Saignée, or bleeding the vats. When a winemaker desires to impart more tannin and color to a red wine, some of the pink juice from the must can be removed at an early stage. The red wine remaining in the vats is intensified as a result of the bleeding, because the volume of juice in the must is reduced, and the must involved in the maceration is concentrated. The pink juice that is removed can be fermented separately to produce rosé.
Blending
Blending, the simple mixing of red wine to a white to impart color, is uncommon. This method is discouraged in most wine growing regions except for Champagne. Even in Champagne, several high-end producers do not use this method but rather the saignée method.

I've tasted:
Il Mimo Rosato (Italy) $15.49
Sur de los Andes, Rosado Malbec (Argentina) $9.95
Ombra Rose di Pino - sparkling rose (Italy) $14.99
Big House Pink (California) $10.95
Wolffer Rose (Long Island, New York) $12.95

Food pairings:
Anchovies
Barbecue
Charcuterie
Crab (boiled or steamed)
Eggs
Fish
Pizza
Pork
Seafood
Turkey
Veal
Vegetables

Notes:
Because it can be made from so many different grapes and methods, there is a tremendous variety of rosé on the market. At one local wine shop I counted over 20 different offerings today. This is another wonderful summer wine, but I find that it can be enjoyed year-round with just about any food. One of my favourites is the Il Mimo, which has grown in popularity (and price) over the years. The Ombra is another that I enjoy regularly. I goes nicely with sushi and turns any ordinary weeknight meal into a celebration. Cream sauces and oysters don't play very will with rosé, but just about everything else does. Try it with roast chicken, with fish 'n' chips, with a dinner omelette, with a picnic in the park. It really is an everything wine.

Cheers!

6.06.2009

Friday Night Wine Down : Grüner Veltliner

Featured wine: Grüner Veltliner

Nickname: Gru-Vee

Wikipedia description:
Grüner Veltliner is a variety of white wine grape widely grown primarily in Austria and widely also in the Czech Republic, but almost nowhere else. It has a reputation of being a particularly food-friendly wine – notably, it is the classic pairing for the otherwise hard-to-pair asparagus..

..The steep, Rhine-like vineyards of the Danube west of Vienna produce very pure, minerally Grüner Veltliners intended for laying down. Down in the plains, citrus and peach flavours are more apparent, with spicy notes of pepper and sometimes tobacco.

I've tasted:
Grooner (Kremstal Niederosterreich, Austria) $9.99
Berger (Kremstal Niederosterreich, Austria) $12.99
Grun (Austria) $11.99
Gustav (Wachau, Austria) $12.99

Food pairings:
Artichokes
Asparagus
Rich, fatty cheeses
Fish
Lobster
Pork
Poultry
Scallops
Sushi
Thai food
Veal Wiener Schitzel

Similar wines:
Sauvignon Blanc
Pino Grigio

Notes:
I first discovered Gruner last summer when my sweetie came home with a giant bottle of Berger. Of course, the first thing that struck me was the size of the bottle (1L), since we rarely go for the super-size options. The other thing that stood out with this particular brand was the bottle-cap (yes, like on a beer bottle). Clearly, this was meant to be consumed in large quantities, and all at once, due to the fact that the bottle could not be resealed once opened. Always up for a challenge, I dove in, and was treated to one of the most refreshing sensations ever!

Gruner, to me is an ideal summer wine. Light and acidic with an effervescent feel. Along with the aforementioned food pairings, I think it would be a great wine to accompany an outdoor summer brunch - eggs Benedict (with smoked salmon or the traditional Canadian bacon), a delicately dressed green salad, fresh fruit and a chilly glass of Gruner sounds like a great way to start a lazy Sunday.

Of the four I've tasted, I think my favourite would have to be Grooner, which showed up in my local wine-store a few weeks ago. It has a pronounced grapefruit flavor, and a bit more complexity than the others I've had. But any Gruner at all would be among my list of go-to wines for 'chilling out' in the summer time.

Cheers!