7.29.2009

Friday Night Wine Down : Viognier

Featured wine: Viognier

Wikipedia description:
Viognier (vee-ohn-yay) is a white wine grape. It is the only permitted grape for the French wine Condrieu in the Rhone valley.

Viognier wines are well-known for their floral aromas, due to terpenes, which are also found in Muscat and Riesling wines. There are also many other powerful flower and fruit aromas which can be perceived in these wines depending on where they were grown, the weather conditions and how old the vines were. Although some of these wines, especially those from old vines and the late-harvest wines, are suitable for aging, most are intended to be consumed young. Viogniers more than three years old tend to lose many of the floral aromas that make this wine unique. Aging these wines will often yield a very crisp drinking wine which is almost completely flat in the nose. The color and the aroma of the wine suggest a sweet wine but Viognier wines are predominantly dry, although sweet late-harvest dessert wines have been made. It is a grape with low acidity; it is sometimes used to soften wines made predominantly with the red Syrah grape. In addition to its softening qualities the grape also adds a stabilizing agent and enhanced perfume to the red wine.

I've tasted:
Smoking Loon (United States, California) $8.99
Cline (United States, California) $10.99
Brooklyn Oenology (United States, New York) $18.49

Food pairings:
Asian/Indian/Thai food
butter sauces
cheese
cream based sauces
curries
fish and seafood
lobster
nuts
roast pork
veal
smoked fish

Notes:
I must admit that it took me a while to warm up to Viognier. I was a bit put off by the floral aroma, which mimicked a feeling of sweetness on my tongue (I'm not a fan of dessert wines). To combat this sensation, I prefer to drink this wine very cold, and with spicy food, which plays well against the aromatic nature of Viognier.

Cheers!

7.24.2009

Friday Night Wine Down : Shiraz/Syrah

Featured wine: Shiraz/Syrah

Wikipedia description:
Syrah is a dark-skinned grape grown throughout the world and used primarily to produce powerful red wines. Syrahs enjoy great popularity in the marketplace, relatively often under the name Shiraz.

Syrah is used as a varietal and blended into other wines. Following several years of strong planting, Syrah was estimated in 2004 to be the world's 7th most grown grape at 142,600 hectares (352,000 acres).

DNA profiling in 1999 found Syrah to be the offspring of two obscure grapes from southeastern France, Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche. It should not be confused with Petite Sirah, a synonym for Durif, a cross of Syrah with Peloursin dating from 1880.

I've tasted:
Indaba (South Africa, Western Cape) $7.95
Yellow Tail (Australia) $6.99
Yellow Tail Shiraz-Cabernet Blend (Australia) $6.99
Black Opal (Australia) $14.99

Food pairings:
barbecue
cheese (aged and/or hard)
chili
duck
grilled meat or vegetables
hamburgers
lamb
steak
grilled tuna
venison

Notes:
Nobody really knows why this particular grape goes by two names. It's commonly called Shiraz in Australia and South Africa, but is generally known by its 'old-world' name Syrah in the rest of the world. Either way you spell it, this wine is a nice accompaniment to grilled or barbecued meats and vegetables. Lovely with burgers or a steak, it's the perfect thing to grab and go when you're invited to an impromptu backyard gathering - no chilling required.

Cheers!

7.14.2009

Friday Night Wine Down : Gewürztraminer

Featured wine: Gewürztraminer

Nickname: Gewürz

Wikipedia description:
Gewürztraminer is an aromatic wine grape variety that performs best in cooler climates. It is sometimes referred to colloquially as Gewürz, and in French it is written Gewurztraminer (without the umlaut). Gewürztraminer is a variety with a pink to red skin colour, which makes it a "white wine grape" as opposed to the blue to black-skinned varieties commonly referred to as "red wine grapes". The variety has high natural sugar and the wines are white and usually off-dry, with a flamboyant bouquet of lychees. Indeed, Gewürztraminer and lychees share the same odorant compounds. Dry Gewürztraminers may also have aromas of roses, passion fruit and floral notes. It is not uncommon to notice some spritz (fine bubbles on the inside of the glass).

Its aromatic flavours make Gewürztraminer one of the few wines that are suitable for drinking with Asian cuisine. It goes well with Hirtenkäse, Münster cheese, and fleshy, fatty (oily) wild game. Smoked salmon is a particularly good match.

I've tasted:
Hogue (United States, Washington) $9.99
Trimbach (France, Alsace) $18.99
Covey Run (United States, Washington) $8.95

Food pairings:
asian food (spicy)
cheese (strong and/or soft)
chinese food
curries
tropical fruit
ginger
ham
cinnamon
indian food
sweet onions
duck
smoked food
sausage

Notes:
Gewürztraminer holds a special place in my heart, being the very first wine I ever bought for the purpose of pairing with food. I was spurred on by David Rosengarten, the self-taught chef, author, restaurant critic, and host of one of the very earliest Food TV cooking shows Taste. I watched, spellbound, as he assembled a lovely choucroute garnie, an insanely delicious Alsatian dish made with sauerkraut, potatatoes, and pork in every imaginable form, which he paired with an Alsatian Gewürztraminer. Not yet being confident enough to undertake a choucroute, I decided to pair this wine with a shrimp curry, which Mr. Rosesengarten also recommended as an accompaniment to Gewürz. I was quite impressed with myself, and Mr. Rosengarten, to say the least!

Since then, I've managed to produce many plates of choucroute, curry (both Caribbean and Asian), and lots of other tasty treats to go with my Gewürz. I hope you enjoy this wonderfully aromatic and food-friendly wine with as many great meals as I have.

Cheers!

7.05.2009

Friday Night Wine Down : Chenin Blanc

Featured wine: Chenin Blanc

Nickname: Steen (in South Africa)

Wikipedia description:
Chenin blanc (also Pineau de la Loire and Gout fort), is a variety of white wine grape from the Loire valley of France. Its high acidity means it can be used to make everything from sparkling wines to well-balanced dessert wines, although it can produce very bland, neutral wines if the vine's natural vigour is not controlled. Outside the Loire it is found in most of the New World wine regions; it is the most widely planted variety in South Africa, where it is also known as Steen.

Chenin blanc (or simply Chenin) is a particularly versatile grape that is used to make dry white wines, sparkling wines, dessert wines and brandy. It provides a fairly neutral palate for the expression of terroir, vintage variation and the winemaker's treatment.

In cool areas the juice is sweet but high in acid with a full-bodied fruity varietal palate. In the unreliable summers of northern France, the acidity of underripe grapes was often masked with chaptalization (the addition of sugar before fermentation to increase alcohol content) with unsatisfactory results, whereas now the less ripe grapes are made into popular sparkling wines such as Crémant de Loire. The white wines of Anjou are perhaps the best expression of Chenin as a dry wine, with flavours of quince and apples. In nearby Vouvray they aim for an off-dry style, developing honey and floral characteristics with age. In the best vintages the grapes can be left on the vines to develop noble rot, producing an intense, viscous dessert wine which will improve considerably with age.

I've tasted:
Koopmanskloof (South Africa) $9.95
KWV Steen (South Africa) $8.99
Indaba (South Africa) $5.99

Food pairings:
asian food
seafood (especially sauteed and/or with lemon)
smoked fish
fried foods
spicy food
vegetables
roast pork

Notes:
Chenin Blanc is another grape that lends itself to a wide variety of interpretations. I tend to enjoy the dry and citrusy styles most common in South Africa, but I've been told that this grape also makes lovely dessert wines as well. I think it makes an excellent match with many of my favourite Caribbean foods - jerk pork, curry shrimp, stewed chicken, etc., so it will certainly be a frequent and welcome addition to my dinner table year-round.

Cheers!

7.04.2009

Man Does Not Live by Wine Alone

As you may have deduced, the holiday weekend's activities have pre-empted the weekly Wine Down session. However, I managed to squeeze in a trip to the local greenmarket. The offerings were not only tasty and fragrant, but rather photogenic.

This may be your only serving of vegetables on this hot-dog, hamburger and barbeque filled day, so I hope you enjoy.

Happy 4th of July!

Sweet red peppers.


These strawberries smelled divine.


Fish was going really fast (making a mental note to get there earlier next time).


Almost too pretty to eat. Almost!


I figured it would have been rude of me to totally ignore the wine.


Zucchini and yellow squash.


Garlic scapes. Possibly my favourite summer veggie.