Archive for September, 2009

Sex by the Glass. Chapter I: The Shiraz Wine Rep

September 29, 2009

SEX BY THE GLASSsexy_wine[1]
Eight Short Stories of Wine und Sex
By Ivan Loyola

“Let me introduce you to the world of Shiraz”. The woman standing in front of me was tall, prepossessing, self confident to the point of being aggressive and definitely red, both in hair and personality, fiery and determined, voluptuous and with an unlikely touch of spice showing through the mischievous glint of her tea-green eyes. Her accent was thick as the wine she poured for me in the long-stemmed chalice she held in a hand that had less of a hand than of an eagle’s claw. It fashioned a gold band around one of its fingers, which made me think she was married, which she was, although, as I would understand later, in her own words, “it didn’t matter”.

I had met her a month earlier, at a wine tasting to which I, a firm believer in European lager when times were good and local piss when cash -strapped, was dragged by a friend whose girlfriend had left him a few days earlier. “The bitch” he growled “went for this young uneducated buck who struck it rich working in construction”. He paused and looking distant he mumbled “the damn Olympic Games.” Hmm…. I thought my friend might’ve been a bit jealous. I knew he had applied –without luck- for a couple of jobs in the booming construction industry of Vancouver’s first decade of the third millennium. “Wine tasting? Forget that”, I said, with a resolve that only a Neocon willing to launch a bombing campaign on a Muslim nation could boast. “I’m not drinking that stuff, it gives me headaches”, I added, thinking myself out of the hook. “Sorry man” he said, with a confidence that reminded me of the monies I owed him. “Tomorrow you’re supposed to pay back the interest. I could forgo it if you come”. I didn’t have a bargaining chip. “Ok”, I said. “With the condition that we will go and drink ourselves silly with beer before hitting the snob crowds”. “No problem”, he grinned. As it usually happens in my life, I had let somebody else decide for me.

The great 1998 Australian Shiraz wine tasting. That is where I met Jennifer Audrey Sarah Wilkinson, the potent red beauty that kept looking at me with piercing eyes while I sipped the mesmerizing, ruby red liquid. The Convention Centre at Canada place gleamed like a jewel under the twilight of that wondrous summer night. I looked at the reddish stuff, feeling like a sacrificial lamb. I took a deep breath and lifting the glass, I tried to detach from myself, in the way prostitutes are instructed to do while exercising the trade of the flesh. “Wait!” She said, with a commanding energy in her voice that would have been impossible not to obey. Her hand grabbed my forearm and removed the glass from my hand, with the simultaneous determination and gentleness that only the daughters of Aphrodite can wield, either as a weapon or a charm, depending on the situation. Tall enough to lean over the table she pulled me toward her, putting her mouth a few inches from my ear. A whiff of eucalyptus came off her hair, a scent that –I would find later- was the hallmark of her favorite Australian shampoo brand. “First you have to swirl it” she whispered, or I thought she did, half drunk as I was. “Yeah, just like that, give it a few good swirls”. Her voice was now soft and velvety, her eyes followed the circular motion of her hand holding the glass. One would have said she was enamored with the whole ritual. She looked at me with all the intensity of her eyes, the green tea tone of her irises highlighted by the dark mascara she had artfully applied. This I learned later, when dating a Mediterranean woman who, in spite of her rather paltry beauty, made herself into a radiant female through the masterful use of make up. I tried the swirling myself, clumsily, my hand going back and forth in a choppy fashion. Then something incredible happened. “Hold on” she said, and her hand landed on mine, and holding the glass together she showed me what she meant. “See, it’s easy if you just do it gently, from one side to the other, in wide open circles, just like that”. As she said this I felt the warm pressure of her hand on my knuckles, the dexterity of her wrist bending mine back and forth as we swirled, together. In that moment I knew this woman who insisted to be called by all three given names would teach me much more than just wine tasting. Or at least, that is what I thought. What do you see? She asked me. I looked up and saw her healthy, beautifully layered hair. Red and thick? I ventured. She stared at me approvingly. “A quick learner, aren’t you?”. She was talking not about wine, I figured, but about herself, and so was I. Soon I would learn the joys and sorrows of drinking Australian Shiraz….

stay tuned….

Import Vintners & Spirits Association New Products Salon Part II

September 23, 2009

Import Vintners & Spirits Association
New Product Salon
4 Seasons Hotel
Vancouver, September 21, 2009
Part II
Let’s continue with more white wines that hit a good spot.

Mc William’s Pinot Grigio 2007, Australia. $15.99. A nice effort but at this price, and with the declining reputation of Australian wines, it might have a hard time getting off the shelves. Agent: NA.
Campagnola, Le Bine Soave. Garganega Trebbiano. Veneto. $19.49 Spec. Delicious, chalky, refreshing and with a wonderful long finish. Agent: Red Dog
Cantina Breganze. Terracrua Bianco (100% Friuliano). Veneto. $14.99 Spec. Low alcohol (10%) may be an attractive point for a decent Friuliano, lacking a bit in acidity but at the price point could move. Agent: Vinoallegro.
Sartori Marani Bianco Veronese 2007. Garganega. Veneto. $24.99. Spec. A soft, plump, refreshing Garganega. Agent: Pacific Wine & Spirits.
Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2008. New Zealand. $19.99 Specialty. A tasty, citrusy Sauvignon Blanc with the quality that Marlborough wines always deliver. Agent: Calibrium.
Michel Torino Cuma Organic Torrontes 2006. Salta, Argentina. $13.99. A serious competitor in this class. Intense, fruity and organic. Agent: The Kirkwood Group.
Sileni Cellar’s Pinot Gris. Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. $19.99. Pear and citrus, ripe and with very good texture. Agent: The Kirkwood Group.
La Sauvageonne Sauvignon Blanc 2007. Les Ruffes, Languedoc, France. $22.99. Spec. Intense nose, good acidity and balance. Agent: Barbara Mills.

IVSA New Product Salon, Sept. 21st. Vancouver

September 22, 2009

Import Vintners &; Spirits Association IVSA
New Product Salon
4 Seasons Hotel
Vancouver, September 21, 2009

This wine tasting show, put out by the Import Vintners and Spirits Association, was, like the previous ones, a success. A large selection of wines and spirits were poured, together with snacks. Importers, retailers, wine writers, aficionados, they all gathered at the Four Sesons Hotel. This event, which takes place every quarter, can’t be missed by those Vancouverites who love wine or those who want to get into the trade. Visit the IVSA website for details and be on their mailing list for the next event at: http://www.ivsa.ca.

On this occasion I tried several wines but focused on whites for good part of the show. Here what I found and what I recommend. Note that they are not in any particular order.

Shoofly 2007, Buzz Cut. Viognier, Riesling, Chardonnay, Verdelho, Semillon. South Australia. $19.99 Spec. Agent: Old Bridge Cellars. Excellent value. Think of the popular “Conundrum” blend, but 10 dollars less.
Poggio al Tesoro. Bolgheri “Solosole” IGT Vermentino. Toscana, Italy. $29.99. Excellent. Rich, deep and citrusy.
Prosecco Extra Dry. Villa Sandi. Italy. $22.95 Spec. Crisp, lemony, minerality. Highly recommended!Agent: Enoteca Bacco.
Verdicchio di Matelica, 2008. Vignetti del Cerro. “Belisario”. Verdicchio. $17.99. One of the stars of the night. Fresh, clean, crisp, every possible positive adjective for a white comes in here. Plus a great price. Agent: Enoteca Bacco.
Poggiobello. Friulano Colli Orientali del Friuli 2007. $24.99. 91 pts Wine Spectator 31/08/08. Beautiful. If I only had had some Prosciutto I wouldn’t have left that table. Agent: Wine Quest.
Flying Kiwi, Sauvignon Blanc 2008. Marlborough, NZ. $15.95. A good effort to bring famed NZ Sauv Blanc with good quality at a lower price. Agent: Peacock & Martin.
Gerarado Fiorile Pinot Grigio 2008. Cesari Veneto, Italy. $17.99. Delicate floral nose, good acidity will make this a serious competitor in the under $20 PG class. Agent: Peacock & Martin.
Domaine de Grachie. 2008 Cote de Gascogne Blanc. France. $11.99 Spec. At this price this funky-nosed, mineral Sauvignon Blanc based wine should fly off the shelves. Agent: Liberty Merchant Company.
To be continued….

Food and Wine Matching For The Un-initiated

September 17, 2009

This is an almost esoteric subject for most. So much has been written about it that you may think -I do think- why write another line? Well, I do it because it is fun and because I love food and I love wine. So there you go. Like everybody else, I guess, except for those who like chips out of a bag, burgers out of a fast-crapfood joint and prefer carbonated drinks to accompany their “fare”.

“White wine is for fish, red wine for meat”. Who hasn’t heard this from people who are in the wine “know?”. And the reality is that there is certain validity to the claim. But as a guideline only. Remember Captain Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean? Same idea. It is not a code, it is just a guideline. You need to know a bit more than that, basic, intuitive (we all have tastebuds after all) understanding. And you need an imagination, you need to let it soar, you have to exercise it.

For instance, every time I eat, I am thinking mmm….what could I pair this with? I was just thinking about this when a few days ago, I had a plate of lentils on white rice. The lentils were seasoned with sauteed chopped garlic, onion, tomato and pureed roasted red pepper. So, very tasty indeed, and sprinkled with chopped fresh parsley and generously splashed with olive oil at serving. One of my favorite brunch meals indeed. Viognier, I thought, almost intuitively, bringing to mind the moderate acidity of that varietal matching the dish’s. A little more acidity in the wine to cut through the olive-oily film coating my palate? Perhaps an unoaked Chardonnay. Something with a bit of body to go with the weight of seasoned lentils.

So, there you go. White wines would work well. But what about red? Some people, as we know, cannot tolerate white. Not too much body here. A big heavily oaked Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Shiraz would suffocate the rather bland character of the dish. Unoaked? Check. Medium to light medium body? Check. Low alcohol? Check? I figured something like Periquita, a Portuguese table wine made of Castelao, Tinta Roriz and Trincadeira grapes. Easy, smooth, fruity, uncomplicated. Perfect. It could be anything like that. Don’t bring the heavy artillery for this small infantry job.

To conclude this note, keep in mind things that are no mystery: Acidity of the dish, acidity of the wine. Let them run together. Weight, or body. How strong is the imprint of the food on your palate? The wine chosen should be equally strong, or weak. And it must be added, you don’t need a great wine to do pairing. White wine for fish, red wine for meat? Yes, but as a guideline only, not code. Don’t be intimidated. Is no rocket science.

Wrongo Dongo, Wrongo Wine Marketing

September 11, 2009

There are thousands of new ideas on how to attract the attention of customers wrongo_dongoto a particular wine. Some are brilliant, some work, some don’t. Wrongo Dongo, a decent Monastrell from Jumilla, Spain, falls in the last category.

The color scheme for the label and skirt showcase a very bright yellow. A bit in the Yellowtail style, which was very successful in its moment but that was over a decade ago. Also, the face depicted on the label is rather disturbing. It seems obvious that the creator of the label wanted it to look funny but it is rather strange, the face of a man who looks crazy or a bit distressed. Not what you want to get from drinking a glass of wine. But the worst blunder here is the name. If the idea was to strike a witty note for English speaking customers, the tactic backfired. Wrongo suggests wrong, and wrong has a very negative connotation which is hard to twist and reshape. No wonder this Monastrell languishes on the shelves.