Posts Tagged ‘sauvignon blanc’

Seafood + Wine = Perfect Pairing

July 25, 2010

Summer has arrived in Vancouver. Although the sun has not shown up as much as we would love it to, temperature is creeping up and with it comes the need for lighter, fresher meals to keep the heat at bay. And when it comes to light, cold dishes, nothing like seafood! Lucky for us, we live right on one of the cleanest maritime areas of the world and the quality and diversity of our fruits de mer is second to none. Seafood is still a bit of terra incognita for a large proportion of consumers and when it comes to choosing the best wines to pair with a fish or shellfish dish, the subject can be outright obscure. “White wine with seafood, red wine with meat” goes the old saying, and for the most part it is a solid guideline. Having been raised sea side in Lima, and having worked for my family’s ceviche restaurant, my diet relies heavily on seafood. After moving to Canada, and being a wine apasionado, I have had no alternative but to test and try wines and local seafood in my adoptive homeland, findings that I now share with Everything Wine blog readers.

First of all, and before the season is over, get your hands on some spot prawns, sustainably harvested off the coast of British Columbia. Garlic butter is one of the most popular sauces to accompany this beautifully tender, naturally sweet tasting crustacean. A classic match is a lush, full flavored Pinot Gris, like New Zealand’s Sileni (15.99), Argentina’s Lurton (13.99) or Hungary’s Dunavar, which, at 9.99 offers tremendous value. More adventurous seafood lovers may like to add some wasabi and soy sauce to their garlic butter, which results in a delicious mélange. The cooking temperature takes away some of the wasabi’s aggressive heat but keeps its flavors. In this case a wine with more weight on the palate is in order. Kettle Valley’s Pinot Gris (24.99) is a good call. Even better, try Alsace’s Hartenberger (23.99) or Pierre Sparr Reserve, which at 29.99 has a massive presence on the palate and abundant, flavor-packed fruit that stands up to the spot prawn challenge.
 

Oysters deserve a post of their own. The mind boggling diversity and their aptitude to reflect the “sea-rroir” make the bivalves analogous to wine. East and West coasters taste different, and within the West Coast, they will have different taste and texture depending on whether they come from farms in Washington, Oregon or British Columbia. Keep in mind that in the case of oysters, farmed is better than wild for a number of reasons that would take too long to discuss here. Suffice to say that environmentally farmed oysters take the pressure off natural stocks, besides the fact that they are fed only clean ocean water and nothing else, no vitamins, hormones, antibiotics or dyes. Although Chablis (the real thing, from France, not the spurious sweet plonk made in California) is the classic match, we will look here at the best pairing for West Coast slimes: Sauvignon Blanc. Effingham oysters have a distinct savory taste, which calls for a wine that reflects that character. Wither Hills Rarangi, from Marlborough (26.99) comes immediately to mind. For the budget minded, Southern France’s Tariquet (15.99) will rise up to the job. Kumamotos and Kusshis have a sweeter, fruitier profile. Riper fruit is what you should look for in your Sauv Blanc. Napa Valley’s St Supery (37.99) is an excellent choice. A bit pricey, point taken, but then you are slurping the aristocracy of mollusks. Not convinced? Go for Argentina’s Mapema (20.99) or Paula (16.99). If you are rooting for Chile and not Argentina in the World Cup and don’t want to buy a Tango wine, then grab Casas del Bosque (17.99), a delicious Sauvignon of high fruit profile and persistent acidity.

Dungeness crab is another critter that British Columbians love to have on their table. The white, firm meat is packed in both legs and body. It is so tasty that for the most part all you need to do is cook it in boiling water (crustaceans have well developed nervous systems so please put them to “sleep” in the freezer for 20 or 25 minutes before you scald them). Dungeness, like King Crab, has a distinct touch of sweetness sparkling over the rich flavor and texture. Find a wine of analogous fat character, like a good Chardonnay. Los Alamos (14.99), Liberty School (23.99) or Oyster Bay (19.99) will do the job. For those who don’t mind a touch of sweetness in their wine, the Madrone (which is blended with 8% Muscat) should be the perfect match at 18.99.

Before closing this note, how can you write about West Coast seafood without mentioning the king of our waters, the mighty salmon? Here is when you can bend the white-for-fish-red-for-meat rule. Barbequed or poached salmon will be enriched by a fleshy Chardonnay but it has enough flavor to stand up to lighter reds. First in line, C’est la Vie, an idiosyncratic Southern French blend of Pinot Noir and Syrah is a great candidate at 16.99. A soft Pinot Noir, like the Tabali Reserva (29.99) or the Coldstream Hills (33.99) are also great picks. For the budget minded, the J.P. Chenet Limited Release (1.99) or the Morande Pionero (15.99) are the ones to look for. Look for troll caught salmon, as it is the tastiest and the fishing method is environmentally responsible.

 Grenache (aka Garnacha) is another red that enhances strong flavored fish. Seared Albacore tuna, which is harvested sustainably in British Columbia (barbless hooks minimize bycatch of other species) pairs wonderfully with a light Grenache like Vive La Revolution or Spain’s No Time Garnacha (both at 15.99). Not into light reds? No worries. You would still have a good pairing with something like the Wallace Shiraz Grenache (29.99).

Seafood and wine pairings are a bit tricky but when you find the right match, they are so terroir oriented that the synergy is rarely found in other pairings. And when you go seafood shopping, don’t forget to look for sustainable harvested fish and shellfish. That is the only way to keep the bounty of our oceans healthy and available for us and for future generations.

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Sauvignon Blanc is In

July 6, 2010

When it comes to wine, nothing says summer like Sauvignon Blanc. Well, there is Pinot Grigio, Unoaked Chardonnay, Tocai, Moschofilero, and all those delicious whites. But talking about Sauvignon Blanc, what a wonderful grape it is. Regardless where the wine is made, it always welcomes your nose with a brushtroke, an aromatic draft of vegetable nature, be it freshly cut grass, rue, lemongrass, gooseberry or a myriad other herbs. Properly made it delivers on that promise, lightning up your palate with shiny acidity and more or less fruit, again, depending on the origin. Some make your eyes tear with citric, limey quality; others are apt at imparting fully ripened apples, pears and peaches, while others offer subtle -or blunt- tropical flavors like guava, banana, passion or even dragon fruit.

More minerally versions, where terroir is highlighted and fruit -though firm- is more subdued, come from the Loire Valley, in the heart of France. Sancerre -right guess- but not the only apellation in the area where you will get delicious Sauv Blanc.  Try Chateau de Sancerre, Pascal Jolivet, Levin. A little less mineral and also riding an deliciously acidic wave, Northern Italy can be home to lovely Sauvignon Blanc. One bottle of Bastianich B will send you looking for more good renditions from the top of the boot-shaped country.

There’s no need to say much about New Zealand’s Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, not much that haven’t been said already. Perhaps the most popular appellation for Sauvignon Blanc these days, the region’s wines are easy to drink, with a purity of fruit that is seldom found elsewhere. A Kiwi winemaker once told me that the high level of aseptique technique developed in the farm and dairy industries was behind this. Apparently, when New Zealand farmers lost some of their international markets due to competition, they redirected their skills at the wine industry. True or not, memorable whites come from the land of tongue-show-off warriors, unidentifiable national flag and bad soccer. Try the spark-studded  acidity of the Matua’s Paretai. Or the savory backdrop of the Wither Hills Rarangi. Or Jackson’s Stich. Not to mention the well known Kim Crawford, Scott or Villa Maria,plus all kind of  wines by names of critter and small mammals pissing on gooseberry bushes or monkeying around bays. Whoa, they sure  are taking after their Australian cousins when it comes to label originality.

Chile does a great job too. Their Sauvignon Blancs are second to none, except to Sancerre and Marlborough, and Pouilly Fume. And…just kidding.  Casas del Bosque is a gem of a finding at 17 dollars. Firm fruit, impeccable acidity (Impeccable. Im starting to sound like Bobby Parker) and 90 WE points make my point. Brilliant. Veramonte and Errazuriz make truly good stuff under 15 dollars. They will shine any night at any party.

Malbec comes next. Er, I meant to say, Argentina. Who would’ve thought they can make anything other than red? Well, think again. Mapema (the only thing going against this delicious wine is its name. And its price @ $21) is a big surprise. Ripe fruit weaved into the firm acidic frame, this Sauvingon Blanc is a sign of better whites to come from Mendoza. And from further north in the country. Paula is another solid Sauv Blanc, leaner on the fruit and with remarkable, kiwi-esque acidity. Trophee winner Pascual Toso, after delighting us with Cab Sauvs and Malbecs, makes a pretty decent SauvBlanc for 13 dollars. And a solid rose, although, that is another matter.

How to finish this without a mention of California? With a touch of oak, Grgich makes a simply beautiful Fumee Blanc. Beautiful, memorable, remarkable. The similarly lightly oaked Supery comes close. And for those with deeper pockets, don’t let the summer go by without trying the superb Spring Mountain Sauvignon Blanc. We’ll taste vicariously through you.

Salud!

Playhouse Wine Festival 2010: Let’s the Games Begin

April 23, 2010

Wow! the new Vancouver Convention Center is really awesome. Great sweeping views of the North Shore mountains and the Burrard Inlet and spacious, huge hollow rooms that may feel cavernous if it was not by the skillful use of wood bricks covering the walls, giving it a warm maple syrup brown feel to this great indoors. Light years away from the warehouse feeling that the old Convention Center has. The first trade session was packed, with kilometric line ups to pick up tickets and to complete registration.

To the wines. I ignored the siren calls of Italian reds, elegant Champagnes, appealing Oregon whites. I went straight for the theme booths, Argentina and New Zealand. The latter country was very popular and many of its booths were beyond reach. Rant: C’mon Vancouverites. This city has been a wine city for over a decade now. When are you going to learn the most basic etiquette of wine tasting? Blocking spittoons, chatting endlessly with your pals blocking access to tables and wearing perfume are all no, no, no and no.

Ok, I got that out of my system. As a result, a limited tasting of New Zealand with two wines that stand out like two lonely stars in a dark southern sky. The Ostler 2008 Audrey’s Pinot Gris is a complete sensorial assault of pleasure. Starting with the nose. It was so intoxicatingly delicious that it made it hard to follow Jim Jerram, Ostler’s rep telling me about their terroir. Close to Otago but not as far inland, limestone soils and ocean breezes influence Ostler’s vineyards. The nose is intense, thick, a prelude to what is to come. Wow! I said after my first sip. It’s like a lady with curves. Chardonnayish. Jim agreed, with excitement. “Exactly, we make it like a Chardonnay, but on a diet.” A Chardonnay in a weight watchers program. A Chardonnay on a fast bike. There is a feeling of something that grows fatter and fatter on the palate but then whooosh! it’s gone and back to a leaner, trimmed up texture. “It’s the acidity, idiot.”  Brilliantly made, this Pinot Gris has a distinct spectrum of nose, flavors and texture and it may not be your accessible everyday wine at $38 but definitely one of those wine styles that set trends and change paradigms. Bravo for Ostler and thanks Jim and Gord for all the information.

The other white from Kiwi land that made my head turn was -not surprisingly- a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Matua Valley’s Paretai 2009 is as good as it gets for the grassy and minerally sassy style from South Island. At 29.99 this vibrant and fresh SB delivers all the goods one expects from the appellation.

Changing country, I expected a lot more whites from Argentina. The offer is still dominated by Torrontes. In my humble (not) opinion, there should have been a lot more quality Chardonnays. Anyway, less whining and more wining. I found one remarkable white by Bodega Lurton. The 2007 Gran Lurton Corte Friuliano, is a somewhat idyosincratic blend of Sauvignon Vert, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Torrontes, accomplished to notes of high delight. Aromatic on the nose, agile, playful and fruity on the palate, satisfying on the endless aftertaste. As in the case of the Ostler Pinot Gris, this Friuliano may have the limitation of price (29.99) to become popular. Nevertheless, an excellent effort by Lurton, which entry level $13.99 Pinot Gris is a promise of what this winery can do with the variety.

Red wines to follow on next post.

Kicking your Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc Addiction: Italian Whites

April 21, 2010

Wine addiction? No worries, we all have been there. I hit rock bottom when for a while, I refused to drink anything but Kendall Jackson Chardonnay ($22.99) which is very good by the way, keeping its quality consistent through the years. When I thought I was on my way to rehabilitation wham! I stumbled upon Kiwi Sauvignon Blancs and the Jackson Estates “Stich” kept me semi-comatose for a while, with its charming fruit and exciting acidity.

However, a true wine lover must be an explorer. So I went back to the wine roads of the world, wide and long and branching off at every turn. There was Greece with its refreshing, intriguing Moschofilero, Argentina with its potent Torrontes and France with its Rousanne-Marsanne-Viognier blends. I decided to go Italy. No regrets. Here is what I found.

Poggio al Tesoro 2008. Bolgheri Solosole IGT Vermentino. $29.99. Tesoro means treasure. Solosole goes for “only sun.” This wine honors both its monikers. Rich, deep and audaciously citrusy.

Primo V Prosecco 2008. Treviso. $22.99. Your buds will dance to the lemony, bright, chalky music of this sparkling darling.

Plozner Tocai Friuliano 2008. DOC Friuli Grave. Very fragant nose, a bit grassy and mellow on the palate. Loved the finish, a tad almondy-bitter.

Verdicchio di Matelica Vigneti del Cerro 2008. “Belisario”. $17.99. Stupendous Verdicchio. Fresh, minerally and with a large acidic footprint. Don’t look further for your next salmon barbeque white. Where can you buy it?

Feudo Arancio Grillo 2006/07. Sicily. $16.99. Mango leads the tropical fruit charge, followed by a refreshing palate with slightly creamy texture. When you get tired of Grigio ask for Grillo.

Of all five, for quality vs value I recommend the Belisario Verdicchio di Matelica. If there is only one you could taste before trashing your monthly wine budget, that would be the Plozner Friuliano. If you do, get some good quality Prosciutto, perfect Italian match.

Chi Veddiamo!

IVSA November 9. The Whites.

November 10, 2009

The last IVSA New Products Salon of the year was fun, crowded and full of new, tasty wines. The usual suspects were around and for the first time in a while I got to see the Wine Diva, Daenna Van Mulligen, tasting some sparkling wines of the Vino Allegro portfolio. For Daenna traveling has been intense recently and between flying, events and writing for her website, there is little time for anything else. As usual she was fun, friendly and looking spectacular. Oh, well, let’s not get carried away and onto the wines I tasted. I tried to taste more reds this time, as the three hours that these events last seem to shrink into some sort of time warp  and you never get to taste all the wines you planned.  I will cover the whites first, then bubbles and reds.

First I visited the Stewart Wine & Spirits booth, where I kicked off the night with the Bollini 2008 Pinot Grigio Trentino DOC. No surprises here, as the product is well established in the BC market. Fresh fruit and refreshing acidity held up by a slightly creamy texture. Always nice to find a Pinot Grigio which is not just another one. Under 20 dollars, this wine is an excellent pick any time. I followed with a Sauvignon Blanc by Bastianich, the “B” 2008. Compact and snappy, this would be a good alternative to Kiwi Sauv Blanc, especially on these cool days when the grassy character is not as attractive, and a more savory, almondy , less acidic wine seems to fit better the weather and gris November mood. This different Sauv Blanc will set you back 19.99. Give it a try. 

I have been waiting for a while to taste the Cuvee Claude Seigneuret Vielles Vignes Macon Bussieres AC 2007 by Domaine de la Saraziniere (what a mouthful of a name here) and I was not disappointed. Electric minerality upholds the….. (illegible!) fruit, better described as a touch of lemon juice squeezed through a filter of flint. Nice acidity and can see why this is a Liquid Art staff favorite. Now is one of mine too at 28.99 per bottle.

Wine Rhapsody brought a small yet tasty set of wines to the show. From the beautiful Loire, two Chenin Blanc offerings proved to be great wines for the season. The Chateau de Varennes Savennieres 2005 renders a textbook tasting of the appellation, with plenty of character, honeyfloralspicyacidity (did you get that? Im playing Faulkner here) at 30.00 dollars.  Also from the Loire and also Chenin Blanc but this time noblerotted, the Chateau Belle-Rive Quarts de Chaume 2003 is as beautiful as the sound of its name. This is all about texture texture and more texture against which fruit flavors, not-cloying sweetness and sober acidity plus a touch of minerality move in a seamless dance. 70.oo dollars for a 750 ml bottle is not bad at all, considering other similar products in the market. I wish I had had some blue cheese to go with. Hmm.

 

Among the most delicious whites of the evening was the Marina Cvetic 2007 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. Represented by Burrows, Luongo & Associates, this high alcohol (14.5%) white surely stands up to its 62.99 dollar price tag. Audacious in its aroma spectrum and bodacious in mouth, this wine is round, intense and satisfying. For those lovers of good west coast halibut baked with herbs and rich sauces, this is the bottle to pick. Having been in the halibut fishing industry for several years, I guarantee it. Your money back? Go see the agents! ; ) 

Wine Quest never fails to surprise and this time they did it again with a delicious Ribolla from Colli Orientali del Friuli. This 2007 Gialla by Poggiobello salutes with a heap of wet hay, melon and pomme aromas followed by a medium bodied, crisp, clean-finish sip. 25.99. Also at this table, the unoaked 2007 IGT Prato Grande Chardonnay by De Angelis was fresh, flinty and fersistant. I meant persistant but got caught with the flow of f’s. Go figure. Figure it out. Ok, enouf –enough- of that. 18.52 for this interesting wine from Marche.

 

Legacy Brand Management treated me to their 2003 Eikendal Stellenbosch Reserve Chardonnay. I have been curious about the new South African Chardonnays that (like the Ataraxia) seem to be harvesting awards left, right and center. This one had a remarkably skillful use of oak giving structure to rich lemony flavors that persisted in the finish. Truly delicious at 30.99 almost ten dollars below the aforementioned Ataraxia Chardonnay.

 

The only Muscadet Sevre et Maine of the night I tasted was brought by La Boutique du Vin. The Chant de la Mer indeed carried some marine reminiscence in its briney nutty leesy minerality. I thought of oysters and kisses. Oh, well, maybe shouldn’t go there, but they go together don’t they. 18.99 makes perfect for a nice seafood dinner for two any evening.

 

Lanigan & Edwards Wine Merchants import the wonderful 2006 Estate Chardonnay by Trefethen, the house that produces famed Cabernet Sauvignon. A mouth coating, unambiguously Californian Chardonnay, at 34.99 this creamy white puts La Crema in the back seat. Chard lovers pay attention.

 

That’s all folks.

Ciao for now.

Ivan

Grassy Sauvignon Blanc by Errazuriz

June 10, 2009

The invasion of drinks appropriate to this premature summer, which promises to be scorching in mid July, continues. From the Casablanca Valley, Chile’s powerhouse of white wine, comes this aromatic Sauvignon Blanc by the always reliable Errazuriz winery. Intense nose of sweet grass and gooseberry precedes a medium body with integrated acidity, refreshing and tongue-tingling. Flavors of green apple and lime reverberate in a medium finish for this good value summer sipper.

Product: Sauvignon Blanc

Variety: Sauvignon Blanc

Vintage: 2008

Winery: Errazuriz

Origin: Casablanca Valley, Chile

Alcohol: 13.5%

Price: 13.99 (Everything Wine)