Today is our intern's last day. She's been great and I'm sure will go on to do incredible things. Out with a bang. Viognier and Gewurztraminer.
Varietal Overview: Viognier
History and Cultivation
This white grape varietal has celebrity status in the Condrieu wine region of the Rhone Valley in France, as it is the only grape that is permitted to grow there. However important this grape may be today for Condrieu, its past happens to be relatively obscure as compared to other varietals. There is speculation that Viognier originated in Dalmatia, which is present day Croatia, and was brought over by the Romans to the Rhone Valley in 281 AD. However, a separate school of thought puts Viognier’s origin in the Rhone under much different circumstances. In this theory, Viognier grapevines were packaged along with Syrah vines that were en route to Beaujolais in France. However, a group of local outlaws intercepted the vessel and took the cargo near Condrieu, where Viognier grapes then were cultivated. Surprisingly, this theory has been backed up by DNA evidence in the recent years that shows a genetic relatedness between Viognier and Syrah grapes; a surprisingly linkage, since these two varietals produce much different grapes, and much much different wines. Even more surprising is that in recent years, winemakers who like to take a risk have been known to blend Viognier with Syrah red wine…An odd combination, but hey, apparently people have been drinking it.
Viognier may be the staple grape of Condrieu, but its acreage is by no means limited just to this region. Currently, Viognier grapes are being grown in the United States, South America, Australia, New Zealand, and even Israel. Although this varietal has been successful in a number of regions, it takes a skilled vintner to understand how to grow and harvest these grapes. Viognier vines are picky in that they must be harvested at just the right time in order to produce wine that is worth drinking. Harvest too early, and the grapes will have little-to-no aromatic qualities and minimal flavor. Harvest too late, and the wine produced tends to be too oily and again lack palatable aromas. In addition, these grapes are particularly susceptible to the vintner’s nightmare of powdery mildew fungus. This being said, much care must be taken in cultivating Viognier vines and harvesting the grapes at the appropriate time.
Tasting Profile and Pairing
Like most good wine with a relatively long history, Viognier has its Old World and New World differences. However, scientists have actually identified that Viognier vines in Condrieu are actually distinct from Viognier vines grown in the New World. The Old World strain is what one would typically associate with traditional Condrieu Viognier. Old World Viognier has an in-your-face floral aroma, and is often used in white blends such as with Chardonnay, Marsanne, and Grenache Blanc. These blends tend to have a softer, lighter style than Viognier wine alone, which has intense fruit flavors, predominately of apricot, but also including ripe peach. Viognier alone produces wines that are moderate in acidity, and fairly dry. French Viognier will pair beautifully with a wide variety of seafood, shellfish, and roasted chicken, as many whites often do. In addition, this wine will work wonders with vegetable-dominated dishes and salad.
New World Viognier can bring forward some tropical fruit flavors in addition to the rich fruit bouquet that the varietal already has. It is not uncommon to find a hint of pineapple mixed in with lychee fruit in warmer-climate Viogniers from the New World regions. In addition, it is more common in New World production of Viognier to introduce oak-aging to add complexity to the wine and flavors of vanilla and baking spice, and these wines tend to take on a slightly more creamy feel with a distinctive oiliness that is present but not overwhelming. The slightly heavier weight of New World Viognier makes it a great candidate for slightly richer dishes, such as chicken tagine with apricots and almonds.
Try this Recipe with a Glass of California Viognier
Moroccan Chicken Tagine
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 cloves garlic, minced
8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 4 pounds), trimmed of excess skin and fat
Salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, halved and cut into 1/4-in-thickslices
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-3/4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons honey
2 large or 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick coins
1/2 cup Greek cracked green olives, pitted and halved
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Combine the spices in a small bowl and set aside. Zest the lemon. Combine 1 teaspoon of the lemon zest with 1 minced garlic clove; set aside. Season both sides of chicken pieces with 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or pan over medium-high heat until beginning to smoke. Brown the chicken pieces skin side down in single layer until deep golden, about 5 minutes; using tongs, flip the chicken pieces over and brown the other side, about 4 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a large plate; when cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and discard. Pour off and discard all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan.
Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have browned at the edges but still retain their shape, 5 to 7 minutes (add a few tablespoons of water now and then if the pan gets too dark). Add the remaining minced garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the spices and flour and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the broth, honey, remaining lemon zest, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits. Add the chicken (with any accumulated juices) back in, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the carrots, cover, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the carrots are tender-crisp, about 10 minutes more. Stir in the olives, reserved lemon zest-garlic mixture, cilantro, and 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice; taste the sauce and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired. Serve with couscous.
Varietal Overview: Gewürztraminer
History and Cultivation
With a name as obviously German as Gewurztraminer, there is no doubt that this varietal would trace its origins to Germany…except it doesn’t. In fact, Gewurztraminer grapes were thought to have originated as a wine-producing varietal in France, particularly in the Alsace region. With a further dive into the history of this varietal, however, researchers found that this grape actually comes from the town of Tramin at the foot of the Dolomite Mountains in Italy. Why the German connection? This region of Italy is historically German-speaking, and therefore this solves the mystery of where this varietal got its name. Gewurz is German for “spicy”, and obviously the latter part of the name refers to the originating town of Tramin. Put this together, and we have “Spicy Traminer”, or a way to denote a spicier varietal of grape coming from the town of Tramin.
There are more than one Tramin-born grape varietal, however, an all are somewhat genetically related to the green-skinned varietal Sauvignin Blanc (not to be mistaken with Sauvignon Blanc). Eventual mutations in either the original Sauvignin Blanc or one of the Traminer grapes led to a red-skinned variety which eventually became Gewurztraminer (which still produces white wine, however). Somewhere along this genetic journey, the grapes were transported over to Alsace from Italy. It is unclear, however, whether the Gewurztraminer grapes we know today were already around before this journey took place, or after arrival in Alsace.
Today, Gewurztraminer grapes are still growing happily in their hometown of Tramin in Italy, predominately via a pergola system. In addition, these grapes are currently being cultivated in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and the United States. Although these vines are known to be vigorous in the field, they are fairly fussy when it comes to soil and climate. For this reason, the Germans have been attempting to cross-breed to create a Gewurztraminer clone which is easier to grow and care for. As it is now, Gewurztraminer grapes prefer a moderate climate that does not get too hot, but warm enough and dry enough in the summer to limit yield and add more balance to the grapes. If the summer gets too hot, the naturally-high sugar in these grapes becomes overwhelming and throws off the flavor profile of the wine. The vines are early to bud, but tend to come to ripeness unevenly. Therefore, vintners must keep careful watch over Gewurztraminer vines to ensure that the grapes are harvested at the right time; late enough that the valuable aromas have developed, but early enough that the grapes are not filled with too much sugar.
Tasting Profile and Pairing
Fierce and distinct aroma and flavor is the name of the game with this white wine. Lychee fruit is no doubt the main component in any good Gewurztraminer, followed by grapefruit, pineapple, peach, apricot, and orange as well. This wine often has a distinctive floral aroma of rose, allspice, cinnamon, ginger and honey, giving the wine its distinguishing “spicy” nature. Gewurztraminer typically falls on the sweeter end of the spectrum, but can also be made into a drier wine or off-sweet wine as well. Many people like to call Gewurztraminer “grown up Moscato”, since it is spicier an stronger on the palate, but has a similar flavor profile and ability to be made into a sweet wine. Old World production of Gewurztraminer is no exception, as French winemakers will make Gewurztraminer grapes into wine that falls on all ends of the sweetness spectrum, even as far as the sweetest dessert wines made from grapes with noble rot. Because of the tendency for sweetness and low acidity, Gewurztraminer is a home-run with spicier Asian cuisine such as spicy pad thai, middle eastern dishes or even spiced Moroccan dishes as well. Dishes that use ginger will bring out the ginger aroma in spicy Gewurztraminer and work exceptionally well.
New World winemakers must be careful not to plant Gewurztraminer in areas that get too hot in the summer. Because of this, some New World Gewurztraminer bottles have been criticized for being overly-sweet and not balanced (as opposed to the sweetness in dessert wine). However, of those that have perfected cultivation of these grapes, the wines have been wonderful. Mild oak-aging is typically used here, and brings a richness of vanilla that complements the sweet and spicy nature of this aromatic wine. Spicier cuisine is also a safe bet for New World Gewurztraminer.
Try this Recipe with a Glass of Gewurztraminer
Pad Thai with Ginger Peanut Dressing
1 pound udon noodles or linguine pasta
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 cup light soy sauce
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 Thai chiles, halved lengthwise, and seeds removed
4 chicken breasts, cut into bite-size cubes
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon chile oil
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 orange, rind removed, flesh segmented
2 Thai chiles diced, seeds removed
1 small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 bunch spring onions, thinly sliced
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the noodles according to the package directions for al dente. Drain the noodles, then transfer to a large bowl and toss with the sesame oil. Set the noodles aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and chiles. Add the cubed chicken to the marinade, toss gently to coat the chicken. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
For the dressing: In a small saucepan, whisk together the peanut butter, ginger, garlic, sugar, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and chile oil, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.
Pour the warm dressing over the cooked noodles, and toss to coat evenly. Set the noodles aside until ready to serve. In a heavy skillet, heat the grapeseed oil over medium-high heat, when the skillet just begins to smoke, add the chicken cubes and sear on all sides until they are browned. Saute the chicken cubes over medium heat until they are fully cooked, about 5 minutes.
Thread the chicken pieces and orange segments alternately on the skewers.
To serve the skewers, toss the noodles with the diced chile peppers and chopped cilantro. Sprinkle the chicken skewers with the sliced green onions. Serve the noodles with the chicken skewers and enjoy hot or cold!
Cru Beaujalois, it's beautiful. And it's Gamay.
Varietal Overview: Gamay
History and Cultivation
The first mention of the Gamay grape varietal dates back to the 15th century, however it is thought that these grapes actually originated much earlier. Many have postulated that the origin of the Gamay grape comes from the city of its namesake, Gamay, just south of the French wine region of Burgundy. Unlike many other grape varietals, however, this varietal was not greeted with open arms initially. In fact, in 1395, the Duke of Burgundy Phillippe the Bold issued a law that banned cultivation of Gamay grapes in French wine country. Why, you may ask, did he do this? Phillippe the Bold had it out for Gamay but was at the same time in love with Pinot Noir, which he thought to be the much superior choice of grape to grow. Therefore, he did not want this “lesser grape” clogging up all the useful land space.
Oddly enough, Phillippe wasn’t the only one who had it out for Gamay initially. Along came Phillippe’s grandson, Phillipe the Good (or not so good), who renewed his grandfather’s ban on Gamay grapes in Burgundy. His reasoning was quite similar, as he cited Burgundy’s high-quality reputation as a wine capital and feared that Gamay grapes did not produce quality red wines.
One small region of France was able to escape the ordinance and continue growing Gamay grapes, however. Just at the south of Burgundy, the region of Beaujolais was able to hold on to Gamay grapes. For years these grapes flew under the radar, and have remained in cultivation in Beaujolais to this day. In fact, Gamay finally got its day in the sun when it was recognized and popularized in the 1900s. Over time, grape growers have taken these grapes on in the United States, Canada, and Australia, where they have successfully taken root.
Gamay grapes can easily overtake a vineyard, as it has a tendency to be highly vigorous. When grown in alkaline soil, Gamay vines tend not to form deep roots but rather spread out, which leads to water stress that can cause highly acidic grapes to form, even more acidic than the grapes usually are. Planting on acidic soils, therefore, helps to soften this acidity in the grapes. For soils that do have a more alkaline base, carbonic maceration (carbon dioxide-rich fermentation prior to crushing of grapes) can help to soften the acidity of the grapes.
Tasting Profile and Pairing
Gamay wine is typically lighter-bodied for a red, with an emphasis on bright fruity flavors such as strawberry, raspberry, and cherry. This wine also is characterized by a distinctive bitter note on the end, which distinguishes it from Pinot Noir. Old World production of Gamay in France typically is done with carbonic maceration, as mentioned before. This process helps to preserve the delicate fruit aromas and flavors in the wine and keep it nicely light-bodied. A mouth-watering acidity is also distinctive in Old World Gamay, but is slightly toned-down by the maceration process. A great option when pairing food with Gamay wine is to incorporate Herbs de Province into a dish, such as on roasted chicken. This wine can also be paired with slightly richer meat too such as pork sausage, but not too rich since this has the potential to overpower the wine.
New World Gamay often times is oak-aged to deepen the flavor profile and add more body to the wine. Gamay ages beautifully, and when done correctly, the resulting wine will have darker fruit flavors, a spicy and earthy aroma, and a distinctive hint of black pepper. If there was a choice between Old World and New World Gamay for richer food, choose New World, as it can stand up to slightly richer flavors. Duck with plum sauce is one good option, as is meatloaf.
Try this Recipe with a Glass of French Gamay
Roasted Chicken with Herbs de Provence
1 whole roaster chicken 5 to 7 pounds, giblets removed, rinsed and dried well
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic finely minced
1 teaspoon onion finely minced
1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence
1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning optional
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Place the dried chicken in a large roasting pan. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Gently slide a spoon between the breast meat and the skin to separate the two. Do this on each side. Then using about 1 or 2 teaspoons per side, put some of the mixture under the breast skin and rub it around. Use the remaining mixture to rub all over the rest of the bird. Tuck the wings under the bird so that the tips don’t burn and tie up the legs with some kitchen twine to cook more evenly. Put the chicken in the oven and reduce the temperature to 375 degrees. Cook about 20 minutes per pound. For a 6 to 6.5 pound chicken, roast for about 2 hours. When the chicken is done, remove it from the oven and allow it to sit for at least 15 to 20 minutes.
Apple, hawthorn and honey notes. Albarino.
Varietal Overview: Albarino
History and Cultivation
Spanish vino blanco. If you ask a wine-loving Spaniard to name their country’s quintessential white wine varietal, they would most likely answer with Albarino. The name Albarino stems from the root words Albus (Latin), albar (Galician), and alvar (Portuguese), all meaning “white”. Also known as Alvarinho, this white wine was thought to have been introduced to the Iberian Peninsula in Spain sometime in the 12th century by French Cluny monks. Many believe that this white varietal is actually a clone from a Riesling vine from the Alsace region of France. However, this claim is highly speculative, as the earliest known mention of a Riesling wine came from the 15th century, well after the first known documentation on Albarino.
Currently, Albarino is grown most heavily in the Rias Baixas wine region in the western Galician coastline of northwest Spain. However, this white varietal is also being cultivated in neighboring Portugal, most commonly in the Vinho Verde region. Although these grapes are highly revered and are used to produce well-loved white wines, they have not been one to travel far-and-wide geographically, as many grape varietals often do. However, Albarino has made its way over to the United States, where it is currently being cultivated in California, Oregon, and Washington state, and even to a lesser extend in Australia.
Albarino is often grown with a unique method that can distinguish it from other grapes in the field. In Spain, Albarino vines are grown in pergolas above the ground. Vines will typically be spaced far apart, which ensure that each section of each vine has enough exposure to the sun and elements, ensuring even ripening. This practice was preceded by hundreds of years of these vines growing naturally and happily along the trunks of overhead poplar trees in Spain. Albarino grapes have been found to respond well to heat and humidity and often flourish. However, like many other varietals, vintners often use water stress in order to limit yield and instead maximize flavor in each grape. During harvest time, Spanish vintners must take meticulous care to quickly transfer the harvested grapes over to a temperature-controlled environment, as they are prone to quick oxidation. After this, fermentation is almost always exclusively carried out in highly controlled stainless steel chambers.
Tasting Profile and Pairing
Traditional Albarino from Spain is crisp and refreshing, with a distinctive botanical aroma of light flowers. This, therefore, is the perfect wine to drink on a hot summer day (but also is just as great year-round when paired correctly with food). This is one wine that should not be waited on. It is best to drink Albarino while its young, as it is not a wine that holds up well in the bottle. When fresh and at its best, this wine is delicate with citrus fruit flavors, hints of melon, peach, and nectarine, and a detectible hint of lees as well. It is high in acidity, and often has a lingering finish with a slight bitter note at the end due to the thickness of the grape skins. However, if left much longer than 16 months in the bottle, Albarino wine can taste stale and wheaty, so drink early! The best food pairing for this wine is undeniably in the seafood category. This makes sense, as the best Albarino grapes are grown in close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. Flaky white fish such as cod or tilapia is the perfect pairing for Albarino, as are seared sea scallops, grilled shellfish, lobster, or king crab.
Albarino produced outside of its native Spanish land has been made to appeal to the palates of those in Europe and America, which leads to wines that have noticeably riper fruit flavors, and are overall richer and slightly heavier in body. However, this is not to say that Albarino outside of Spain would not pair well with light fish, as it still very much is a match made in heaven. However, richer Albarino bottles can pair with slightly heavier fish dishes such as a swordfish steak.
Try this Recipe with a Crisp, Refreshing Glass of Albarino
Lemon Garlic Grilled Sea Scallops
Salt and Pepper
In a medium sized bowl combine olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and Italian seasoning. Salt and pepper the scallops and add to the bowl and toss in marinade to coat. Let marinate in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Place the scallops on a grill over medium high heat. Let cook on each side for about 2 minutes or until cooked throughout and slightly charred.
A little technical difficulty we've been dealing with so today 3 wines people! Carmenere, Grenache and Cab Franc.
Varietal Overview: Grenache
History and Cultivation
The Spaniards are to thank for this red grape varietal (where it is known by the traditional name, Garnacha), which is among one of the most highly cultivated red grapes in the world today. In addition, It is the chief varietal that is responsible for making one of the world’s most famous and high-quality reds; Châteaunef-du-Pape. It is likely that the Grenache grape originated in the Aragon region of northern Spain, where it was originally called Tinto Aragones, meaning “Red of Aragon”. Although it originated in Spain, today it is most prevalent in France in terms of acreage planted, specifically in the Rhone region, which is the first international land that Grenache grapes saw outside of Spain. After its introduction into France, Grenache grapes have spread to various wine-growing regions around the world, including Australia, the United States, and Italy.
Grenache vines thrive best in hot and dry climates, such as that of its native land in Aragon, Spain. Oddly enough, due to the vines’ thick, woody stalks (often growing in a “wood canopy”), these grapes grow well in regions that are prone to frequent gusts of wind, such as in the Mediterranean. Although not fragile, Grenache grapevines can be slightly picky when it comes to climate, and will only grow best in only the warmest viticultural regions. Yield on these vines is relatively high, so growers often induce water stress (most common in Old World European Grenache wine) to limit the yield of fruit and instead enhance the flavor of those grapes that do grow. These grapes are early to bud but almost always last to be harvested, and are exposed to ample warmth and sunshine which produces high levels of sugar within the fruit. In the wine-making process, this ample sugar translates over to a fairly high alcohol content.
Due to the high level of sugar in Grenache grapes, winemakers will often use them in the production of sweeter port wines or fortified dessert wines, especially in France.
Tasting Profile and Pairing
Often times, Grenache grapes are used as a component of red blends in order to add some sweetness and body. Grenache grapes are notoriously low in tannins, acid, and phenolic compounds. Due to the low level of phenols, Grenache wine can tend to oxidize fairly rapidly if not treated correctly during the winemaking process. If this occurs, the color of the finished product will be muted. In most cases, winemakers working with Grenache grapes will use a slow, drawn out fermentation that is carried out at a cooler temperature than average. Overall, finished Grenache wine will be tastefully sweet with a hint of spice, and full of juicy red fruit such as strawberry and raspberry, making it the perfect blending component with a bold, more tannic and harsher red like a Syrah.
Old World Grenache from Spain has plenty of this juicy red fruit and sweetness, but also displays a delightful herbal aroma. This wine will pair nicely with plenty of braised meat such as beef, pork, veal, or game. Due to the low tannins and acidity, spicier dishes can also be paired with Grenache wines. However, be careful not to pair with too much hot spice, as the higher alcohol content in Grenache can clash with overly-spicy food.
New World Grenache wines tend to have a distinctive aroma of licorice. Often times, New World American Grenache have slightly juicier and more in-your-face fruit flavors that can be used along with the detection of licorice to distinguish it from traditional Spanish Grenache.
Try this Recipe with a Nice, Fruity Red Grenache
Braised Chicken Thighs with Carrots, Potatoes, and Thyme
1 1/2 lb. (750 g) boneless, skinless chicken thighs, fat trimmed
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Sweet paprika, to taste
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 lb. (500 g) red-skinned potatoes, about 2 inches (5 cm) in
8 carrots, halved lengthwise and then cut into 1 1/2-inch (4-cm)
1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. gluten-free flour mix
1 1/3 cups (11 fl. oz./330 ml) low-sodium, gluten-free chicken
1/3 cup (3 fl. oz./80 ml) dry vermouth or dry white wine
1 1/2 Tbs. minced fresh thyme
Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper and then generously with paprika. In a large, heavy fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the chicken and cook, turning once, until browned, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. Add the onion to the pan and stir, then add the potatoes and carrots. Season with salt and pepper and sauté until the vegetables are beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the flour mix and stir to coat. Gradually stir in the broth and vermouth and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Return the chicken to the pan and bring to a boil. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the chicken and vegetables are cooked through, stirring and turning the chicken over occasionally, about 25 minutes. Stir in the thyme. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Divide the chicken and vegetables among 4 warmed plates and serve immediately.
Varietal Overview: Carmenere
History and Cultivation
Once again we have another grape varietal with ancient Roman roots! These Romans sure did like their wines…Carmenere grapes are among the most ancient of European grape varietals, and were thought to have been introduced into the legendary wine land of Bordeaux, France by the ancient Romans. Back during this period, Carmenere grapes were likely known by a different name, Biturica. In fact, this is the same name that the Bordeaux region was known by at the time. As of now, sadly Carmenere grapes have all but died out in the Bordeaux region, where it once was used to produce some of the deepest red wines, due to a devastating phylloxera vine plague. Therefore, Carmenere produced today is typically only thought of as New World Carmenere.
This is not to say that these grapes are nearing extinction worldwide, however. No, in fact, quite the opposite. In the 1850s, Carmenere grapes were introduced to Chile, where favorable weather and soil made for the perfect new home. These vines came to the country in disguise, however. At the time, Chilean winemakers had thought that these vines were Merlot, as they were mixed up in a shipment with this varietal. Over the next couple of decades, Chilean winemakers started to notice that this new “Merlot” was oddly different from the traditional Merlot wine that they were used to.
1994 saw the end of this grape’s run incognito, as a Frenchman by the name of Jean Michel Boursiquot made the alarming discovery that these “Merlot” grapes were actually an entirely different varietal that was virtually unheard of and thought to be extinct. What caused Jean Michel to question the identity of these vines? The truth came from the vegetative qualities of the vines themselves. Unlike Merlot vines, these Carmenere grapevines had twisted portions that distinguished them. In addition, as opposed to Merlot vines, Carmenere grapevines’ leaves turn bright red in the Fall much earlier than Merlot vines do.
This discovery posed a significant challenge for the Chilean wine community at this time, but also had the possibility of being a huge moneymaking opportunity. Over time, Carmenere grew to become Chile’s signature red grape varietal. These grapes favor a moderately warm climate which stays relatively warm for the duration of their long growing season, and Chile offers this perfectly. Winemakers have had no easy task in learning how to perfect the cultivation and harvesting of Carmenere grapes, however. If the weather is too hot, the sugar production in the grapes can overwhelm the formation of tannins, leading to an unbalanced wine. In addition, Chilean winemakers have determined that these grapes grow best when subjected to water stress, as overwatering has a tendency to produce grapes that lead to herbaceous and vegetal wine that is not as palatable.
Success in growing these grapes in Chile has thus inspired winemakers worldwide to try their hand at growing Carmenere. Among those producing include the United States, Argentina, New Zealand, Italy, and Australia. However, as of right now, Chile still claims the title for holding over 90% of Carmenere’s acreage worldwide, traditionally centralized around the Maipo Valley.
Tasting Profile and Pairing
Traditional Carmenere can be classified as a fairly easy-drinking wine, although more complex bottles do exist. Although this wine is approachable at a young age, oak-aging does lead to a more complex and full-bodied flavor, so often times aging is used for this wine varietal. All in all, the flavor profile of Carmenere is similar to Merlot, but is obviously different enough to have drawn suspicion in the past! Traditional Carmenere wine from Chile sports soft and velvety tannins, a delightful sweetness, plenty of ripe red and black berries and cherries, and a noticeable peppery flavor coming from hints of black pepper and green pepper. Some even say that the flavor profile of Carmenere wine can mimic that of dark chocolate in the chocolate world; sweet and rich with a hint of spice!
This wine pairs excellent with a wide variety of foods, due in part to the soft tannins and higher acidity, which allows it to pair with sauces that are naturally acidic. Great dishes to pair can include carne asada, chicken mole, Cuban roast pork, and even some richer fish
Try this Recipe with a Nice Glass of Chilean Carmenere
1 chicken (3 to 4 pounds), cut into 6 pieces
5 black peppercorns
1/2 cup sesame seeds
5 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon anise seeds
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
6 dried guajillo chile peppers
4 dried ancho chile peppers
6 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup whole blanched almonds
1/4 cup hulled pumpkin seeds
2 6-inch corn tortillas, torn into pieces
1 2.7-ounce disk Mexican chocolate, broken into pieces
Pinch of sugar
Put the chicken and peppercorns in a large pot, cover with water and season with salt. Bring to a gentle simmer over low heat and cook until tender, about 40 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a large plate and set the cooking liquid aside. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat, tossing, until golden, about 5 minutes. Set aside 2 tablespoons for garnish and transfer the rest to a blender. In the same skillet, toast the cloves, cinnamon stick, and anise and coriander seeds until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add to the blender.
Remove the stems and seeds from the dried chile peppers. Heat 4 tablespoons canola oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the chiles and fry until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover with hot water and set aside to soak until pliable, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, add the raisins, almonds, pumpkin seeds and tortilla pieces to the oil in the skillet and cook, stirring, until the seeds and tortillas are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add to the blender along with the oil from the skillet. Add the softened chiles and puree, pouring in 2 to 3 cups of the soaking liquid to make a thick, smooth sauce. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the chile sauce and fry, stirring, until thickened, 5 to 6 minutes. Add 4 cups of the reserved chicken cooking liquid and simmer until the sauce starts to thicken, about 20 minutes. Add the chocolate and simmer, stirring frequently, until the chocolate melts and the sauce reduces, about 20 more minutes. Add the sugar and season with salt. Add the chicken pieces to the sauce and warm through over low heat. Garnish with the reserved sesame seeds.
Varietal Overview: Cabernet Franc
History and Cultivation
As far as the world of wine is concerned, Cabernet Franc is a relatively newer varietal. It is thought that this grape originated in the Libournais region of Southwestern France sometime within the 17th century. Cabernet Franc grapes have a history rich in…well, history, as they were originally established in the Loire valley of the Libournais region by the prominent Cardinal Richelieu. At this time, however, Cabernet Franc was not known by its modern name, and was instead called by a different name, Bouchet. Why, do you ask, would a perfectly good French name like Bouchet be replaced with something which takes much longer to say and write? The fact of the matter is, Cabernet Franc was not called what it is today until it was cross-bred with Sauvignon Blanc grapes to produce Cabernet Sauvignon, which is this grape’s main claim to fame. When Cabernet Sauvignon grapes took off, Bouchet became Cabernet Franc and has henceforth been known by this name.
Today, Cabernet Franc grapes are one of the few main red varietals used in the famed Bordeaux Blends of France (along with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec). In fact, these grapes are used most often in red blends, even beyond those produced just in Bordeaux, such as California’s famed Meritage Blends. Outside of France, Cabernet Franc is grown in many wine-producing countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Italy, South Africa, the United States, and even Hungary and Canada! With the great array of climates that this grape varietal grows in, it has particularly been found to thrive in cooler regions, and is typically early to bud. The vines are thick and strong, as are the fruit which they produce. Cabernet Franc grapes are typically small in size, deep purple to black, and have relatively thin skins (which translates over to a slightly less tannic wine than that produced by the closely-related Cabernet Sauvignon; and often times, Cabernet Franc is thought of as the “feminine side” of Cabernet Sauvignon). Winemakers tend to classify these grapes as “yield sensitive”, meaning that although Cabernet Franc vines have the ability to produce a high yield of grapes, it is best to limit yield (often via water stress), as an overabundance of grapes can lead to wine that is vegetal, bland, and less flavorful overall.
Tasting Profile and Pairing
Cabernet Franc is what many would call an “easy drinking” red wine, and the more tame relative of Cabernet Sauvignon. Many will say that new wine produced from slightly under-ripe Cabernet Sauvignon grapes has a similar flavor to that produced by Cabernet Franc grapes, as these wines tend to be slightly lighter both in color and flavor profile. As far as wines go, Cabernet Franc can be classified as medium-bodied, with a very palatable and soft tannins (especially as compared to Cabernet Sauvignon). Sommeliers call this wine the perfect food-pairing red, as it has a delightfully savory taste, especially those Old World bottles, full of green bell pepper, tomato, raspberry, and even roasted jalapeno, which gives the wine a natural level of spiciness that sometimes offsets the mild tannins. Old World style Cabernet Franc typically is heavier on the spice and savory flavors than that produced in the New World, and can be paired easily with a variety of foods. Try pairing an Old World Cab Franc with dishes that have a tomato base and herbal components, such as spaghetti and red sauce, or even roasted root vegetables for a lighter dish.
New World Cabernet Franc tends to be richer and more full-bodied than Old World bottles when grown in a warmer climate, and therefore is less intense in the savory side, and instead enhanced on the fruit side (especially raspberry jam, cherry, and cassis). These wines are often times aged in oak, which adds flavors of baking spice and cedar. Often times, the warm climate brings out a slight sweetness in these grapes, which adds flavors of roasted red pepper instead of green pepper. All food pairings mentioned above will also work for New World Cabernet Franc.
Try this Recipe with a Nice Glass of Cabernet Franc
Spaghetti and Fresh Herb Tomato Sauce
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes(optional)
1⁄4 cup onion, finely chopped
1 (28 ounce) can tomato sauce
1⁄2 cup water
1⁄2 teaspoon sugar
1 1⁄2 teaspoons basil, finely chopped
1 teaspoon oregano, finely chopped
1⁄2 teaspoon thyme, finely chopped
1⁄2 teaspoon parsley, finely chopped
Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, and red pepper flakes (if using). Cook until onion is translucent (about 2 - 3 minutes). Add tomato sauce, water, and sugar. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 10 minutes. Add basil, oregano, thyme, and parsley. Cook for 5 minutes.
You've heard of Chianti right? Do you know what varietal it is? It's Sangiovese, so let's get to it.
Varietal Overview: Sangiovese
History and Cultivation
Now this grape is truly a “gift from the gods”, at least according to the ancient Romans. The name Sangiovese comes from the Latin term Sanguis Jovis, which literally translates to “blood of Jove”, referencing to the ancient Roman god Jupiter. As the story goes, the name Sangiovese was coined by ancient Roman monks of Santarcangelo di Romagna commune. With a name like that, it is no doubt that this grape varietal dates way way back to the time of ancient Roman winemaking.
Nowadays, this grape is still synonymous with Italian winemaking, and is the most highly cultivated red grape varietal by acre in Tuscany, but is also grown in various regions throughout central Italy and in isolated areas in the northernmost and southernmost parts. Sangiovese grapes are grown elsewhere in the world as well, including France, Argentina, the United States, and Australia. Although most grapes tend to express terroir differences in the wine in which they produce, Sangiovese is one of the most variable when it comes to terroir expression and variations in vintages (often based on yearly weather patterns and method of cultivation). In Italy, it is both the blessing and curse of the wine industry, as it has the potential to produce grapes that go into some of the finest wines, but also can produce some train wrecks if not grown by a skillful vintner. This isn’t to say that this grape is picky when it comes to soil, as it has the ability to grow in a fair variety of soil types. It does, however, do best in soils that have a high level of limestone or clay. The grapes tend to be early to bud and slow to ripen, and do best when temperatures during the ripening period are moderate to warm, but not hot.
The real problem that winemakers often face with Sangiovese wine as a varietal is a variable quality in flavor and overall body. Some Sangiovese wines can be too acidic, lack color, and lack flavor. Often times, this poor quality can be a consequence of a grape varietal which has an extremely high yield, often to a fault! Too many grapes can lead to too little flavor. To compensate, Sangiovese is often used in red blends, such as the famed Italian Chianti. All Chianti wines will contain Sangiovese, but also contain Syrah, Cabernet or Merlot for a smoother, silkier finish.
Tasting Profile and Pairing
Throughout its native land of Italy, Sangiovese is used in a variety of red “Super Tuscans”, some of the most notable red wines of Tuscany. Traditionally, Sangiovese produced in the Old World (Italy) emphasizes savory and earthy herbal flavors combined with leather, slight bitter cherry notes, and a subtle hint of tomato, and adds an interesting dimension to many Old World red blends. Typically dry, Old World Sangiovese is noticeably tannic with naturally high acidity. The savory nature of Italian Sangiovese makes it the perfect pairing with rare steak that is substantially marbled (since the tannic nature of the wine will cut through the fat nicely), as well as dishes with Italian sausage (which makes sense, since it’s an Italian wine), or potato gnocchi with a rich, earthy cream sauce or sage butter.
In the New World, winemakers tend to aim to extract more of the red, plush fruit flavors that Sangiovese grapes can have while balancing out the acidity. Fruit flavors tend to involve cherry, plum, and black currant. As opposed to Italian Sangiovese, New World wine are typically earlier drinking and are best consumed within 3 to 4 years of bottling.
Try this Recipe with a Rustic Tuscan Sangiovese!
Italian Sausage Lasagna
1 pound Italian sausage (bulk, remove the casings)
1 clove garlic (minced)
1 (14.5 ounces) can tomatoes
2 teaspoons basil (dried)
1 teaspoon oregano (dried)
2 1/2 teaspoons salt (divided)
2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste
10 ounces lasagna noodles (10 to 12 lasagna noodles)
3 cups ricotta cheese
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese (grated)
4 tablespoons parsley (fresh chopped)
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pepper
16 ounces mozzarella cheese (shredded or thinly sliced)
Gather the ingredients. Preheat the oven to 375 F. In a skillet, brown the sausage slowly; drain off excess fat. Add the garlic, tomatoes, basil, oregano, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and tomato paste. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, adding a little water if it gets too thick. In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add the lasagna noodles and cook according to the package directions. In a bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, parsley, eggs, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper. In the bottom of a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking pan or lasagna pan, place one layer of the noodles. Cover the noodle layer with a layer of mozzarella cheese and then spoon half of the ricotta mixture over the mozzarella. Spoon half of the meat sauce over the ricotta cheese layer. Repeat the layers (starting with the noodles), ending with mozzarella cheese. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove the lasagna from the oven and allow it to set a few minutes before serving.
Rough day at jiu jitsu. A little Nebbiolo might help
Varietal Overview: Nebbiolo
History and Cultivation
Nebbiolo grapes have a long history indeed, dating all the way back to the 13th century when they were first mentioned! The grape’s name is derived from the Italian nebbia, meaning “fog”. Peculiar as it may seem, the grapes likely got their name from the dusty white power that covers the fruit at the time of harvest, distinguishing these grapes from other varieties in the field. As the Italian name origin suggests, these grapes originate from Italy, native to the Piedmont region in the northwestern corner of the country. These grapes grew (pun intended) to great esteem in Italy throughout their history. In fact, in the 1500s, a fine was instituted to punish anyone who intentionally cut down a Nebbiolo vine. This fine ranged anywhere from a small monetary payment to having the offender’s arm cut off! The 16th century Italians didn’t play around when it came to wine apparently…
Sure enough, Nebbiolo grapes made their way out of the Piedmont in the 18th century, when they were planted by British winemakers. Other than that these grapes make fantastic reds, the British also got on-board with Nebbiolo because of a shortage of wine imports from Burgundy. Politics are to blame here, as a long-standing conflict between the French and the British led to the Brits looking for a new wine source after having severed ties with French importers; that source happened to be Nebbiolo in Italy. Since then, Nebbiolo grapes have been grown in the US, Mexico, Argentina, Australia, and even Switzerland, where they are revered for producing fantastic red wines.
Nebbiolo is picky when it comes to how it grows. It is an early budding variety, but late to ripen, leaving a wide range of time in between. Even during the ripening period, vintners struggle with un-even or hesitation of ripening, so careful watch of these grapes is needed to ensure that they are harvested at the right time. Nebbiolo grapes grow best in a warm and dry climate, as heavy rain and cool weather can have a negative effect on their growth. Since these grapes are naturally very acidic, the warm sun and dry weather allows a higher production of sugar which balances the flavor at the end of the day. It is for this reason that even within their home country of Italy and despite the varietal’s popularity, they are only grown in a very narrow strip within the Piedmont region.
Tasting Profile and Pairing
Traditional Old World winemakers in Italy take a very specific approach to the winemaking process when it comes to Nebbiolo. In this method, grapes are subjected to a long period of maceration, ranging anywhere from 30-70 days, in order to extract the optimal level of phenolic compounds and plenty of tannins. Fermentation is then carried out at very high temperatures, which tends to limit the fruit flavor and aromas of the wine initially. For this reason, in this traditional approach, Nebbiolo wine is best aged for quite some time to ensure that the final product is balanced. Often times this aging occurs for upwards of two years in order to let the fruit, tannins, and acidity get balanced out by the oak. The finished product is a lighter-colored, somewhat translucent wine that rivals Pino Noir in appearance due to the thinness of the grape skins (although has a slightly orange hue due to the aging), but is surprisingly full-bodied and highly tannic, with strong notes of bright cherry complemented by a noticeable acidity that makes this wine the perfect pairing for any hearty red meat dish such as braised veal or pasta Bolognese, just like the Italians like it! The grippy tannins and acidity of classic Old World Nebbiolo make it the perfect pair for dishes which feature olive oil and that are higher in fat.
New World Nebbiolo can come from many of the usual suspects when it comes to fine winemaking; California, South Africa, and Australia. Although unlike many other popular varietals, Nebbiolo’s geographic spread is fairly limited due to its finicky nature when it comes to growing. Many growers have expected to get results like Pino Noir when cultivating these grapes, but have been frustrated at just how tricky Nebbiolo is to master. Of those that HAVE had success, New World winemakers often tend to take a slightly different approach to the production of Nebbiolo wine, blending both modernist and traditionalist approaches and taking using an intermediate time-period of maceration and more moderate fermentation temperature. Therefore, New World Nebbiolo wines (not all, but most) often do not need as much aging as the traditional Old World Nebbiolo produced in the Piedmont of Italy. These New World Nebbiolo wines are noticeably less tannic, slightly more aromatic with floral notes of rose petals, and filled with plenty of fresh red fruit including tart cherry, plum and cranberry. New World Nebbiolo will also pair nicely with richer meat, but can also be paired with a charcuterie board with Manchego or Pecorino cheeses and prosciutto, as the more fruit-forward and less tannic structure makes these wines an interesting pair with various hors d’oeuvres.
Have you ever woken up sore? Maybe day after a workout or rough day at work? Oh, yes. I'm right there. So I wish I were in Argentina where it's warm and have a glass of Torrontes. What is Torrontes you ask?
Varietal Overview: Torrontes
History and Cultivation
Many who are new to the world of wine may not have heard of Torrontes, the aromatic white wine-producing grape which is native to Argentina and known to produce the flagship white wine out of the country. In fact, there are actually three distinct varieties of Torrontes grape grown in Argentina; Torrontes Riojano, Torrontes Sanjuanino, and Torrontes Mendocino. Of these three, Torrontes Riojano is the most common and popular, known for the high-quality wines which they produce.
Genetically speaking, DNA profiling has found that although these three grapes are EXTREMELY closely related, they are all slightly different, but all are the results from various crosses with Moscatel Amarillo (a form of muscat) grapes. Likely, the newly-minted crosses of Torrontes grapes grew unnoticed amongst their parental grapes for quite some time and were even blended into various wines. However, It is thought that the original wines produced from these Torrontes crossings were made sometime in the 19th century, as this is when the first original records mentioning the grapes date. Like most other popular grape varietals, Torrontes has ventured out of its homeland in Argentina and has found land in Chile and, surprisingly, Bolivia. Unlike many of the world’s most popular varietals, Torrontes grapes have not been cultivated in many of the most popular viticultural areas on the planet such as in France or in the United States. Although some other countries grow grapes that are similar to the three original Torrontes grapes from Argentina (such as Spain), it is unclear and unlikely that these grapes are a product of vine-cutting transport, and are likely just distantly related if that.
These three Torrontes grapes may all be remarkably similar, but there are some noticeable differences, especially when it come to the appearance of the grapes as they grow on the vine. Torrontes Sanjuanino and Torrontes Riojano tend to grow in large, loose bunches with light pale-colored grapes. Torrontes Mendocino, on the other hand, grows in smaller, more compact bunches with smaller grapes that are a darker yellow. Typically speaking, Torrontes grapes grow best in high altitudes and sandy soil, such as in the Salta province of northern Argentina. The sandy soil creates a dry environment that allows the vines to be water-stressed, which leads to a lower yield per-vine, but better quality and more concentrated grapes. Add in some hot sun and dry heat and these grapes flourish.
Tasting Profile and Pairings
All in all, these wines are best for early-drinking, tend to be highly aromatic (often with floral components such as rose petals), fresh and crisp but also with a nice smooth feel on the palate due to moderate acidity. The quality of the wine produced by these grapes is highly dependent on the skill-level of the winemaker, as maintaining an appropriate soil acidity can mean the difference between a bitter, chalking wine or a floral, crisp wine. Many say that the best Torrontes wines are produced from the Riojano variety grapes, grown in the high-altitude soil of Salta, Argentina. Torrontes wines are typically made in a dry style yet have a sweet nose that can give the illusion of a sweeter wine. The nose of Torrontes wines involves plenty of jasmine, rose, geranium, and honeysuckle. Typically, winemakers like to preserve the delicate floral aroma of Torrontes wine by using steel-barrel as opposed to oak-aging. These wines will pair nicely with most Thai peanut dishes, spicy empanadas, or other spicy Asian dishes. Due to the crispness, moderate acidity, and balanced fruit, Torrontes can stand up against dishes with some spice.
There are some slight differences between the varieties of Torrontes grapes in the wines that they produce. Torrontes Riojano is revered as producing the “best” and highest quality of these wines. These grapes tend to have enhanced aromas, and a good balance between acidity and sugar. Torrontes Sanjuanino has similar characteristics to the Riojano grapes, but most say Sanjuanino still comes in second as far as aroma and balance of flavor is concerned. These wines also tend to have slightly more minerality than the other varieties. Torrontes Mendocino is not nearly as revered as the other two varieties, and it is for this reason that planting acreage of these grapes is steadily in decline. This variety produces wines that are not nearly as aromatic or balanced. Therefore, wine experts will almost always recommend trying Torrontes Riojano first, as these grapes produce the Torrontes wines that are most representative of the fine quality Argentinian whites that can be produced.
Try this Recipe with a Crisp Torrontes Riojano!
Spicy Thai Peanut Noodles
Red bell pepper
Salted roasted peanuts
Creamy peanut butter
Cook noodles according to package instructions. While the noodles cook, whisk together the spicy peanut sauce. Drain pasta, then toss with peanut sauce, chopped veggies, cilantro and peanuts.
Garnish with peanuts and sesame seeds.
In my younger, crazier days I lived in Spain. I knew nada about wine, let alone the specific varietals available west of the Pyrenees. There is some truth to the saying that "youth is wasted on the young," but hopefully we learn and can pass it along. So today we're going to learn about Tempranillo. Also as a reminder we need to welcome Chris to the Wine Republic family as our new film guy and editor extraordinaire to help roll out vlog Jiu Jitsu Wine. Enjoy.
Varietal Overview: Tempranillo
History and Cultivation
Spain’s very own black-skinned Tempranillo grape isn’t often the first name that come to mind when thinking of common red wines, but it certainly can stand up to the classics like pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon. The history of these grapes dates back over 3,000 years ago, when the Phoenicians brought vine cuttings over to the Iberian Peninsula (modern day Spain and Portugal), where they quickly were established and remain as one of Spain and Portugal’s signature fine wines.
Today, Tempranillo grapes are most widely cultivated in the Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions in Spain, located in the north central portion of the country. Although these grapes are primarily known in Spanish and Portuguese wine production, they are grown in pockets around the world, including in the western coast and southwest United States, South America, New Zealand, Australia, and Argentina. It is thought that the introduction of this grape varietal to the western hemisphere occurred with the Spanish Conquistador travels in the 17th century. All in all, Tempranillo grapes are actually the fourth most planted grape variety worldwide. In fact, the grape is so revered that it is considered one of the “nine red noble grapes”, which are known to produce top-quality wines indicative of their native regions.
Tempranillo grapes typically grow best at higher altitudes (such as in the mountainous terrain of northern Spain), but is subject to show great changes in growth and flavor when grown in different climates. The climate of the grape’s native region of Ribera del Duero and Rioja is somewhat unusual, and therefore Tempranillo grapes are one of the few varietals that can thrive in a continental Mediterranean climate. In the summertime, daily temperatures can peak at over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, while still dropping massively to below 30 degrees Fahrenheit at night! This means that the grapes must be able to withstand these dramatic temperature fluctuations in such a short period of time. Oddly enough, these grapes are not necessarily considered hearty, as they are subject to viticultural hazards and issues in fruit quality during periods of draught or heavy rain.
The name Tempranillo comes from the Spanish word Temprano, meaning early. Obviously, this is indicative of the early ripening of these grapes. However, for those that love to look at fall colors, Tempranillo can easily be identified in a vineyard, as it is one of the few varietals of grapes whose leaves turn bright ruby red in the later months of the year!
Tasting Profile and Pairing
Tempranillo wines range in color from medium ruby to garnet, and the wines have low viscosity, moderate acid and noticeable tannin structure. The wine tends to appear more translucent than other full-bodied reds, such as Syrah, due to the thin skins of the grapes. Both New World and Old World Tempranillo tends to be medium to full-bodied.
Although Old World Tempranillo (Spain and sometimes Portugal) is often savory with a fairly even balance between earth and fruit, it is also often blended to produce sweet and fine Portuguese Port Wine known as Tinta Roriz. Most Old World Spanish Tempranillo has a fine balance between cherry and leather flavors, and is oak-aged in American or French Oak, giving more body to the wine. One of the key characteristics of many Old World Spanish Tempranillo wines is the muddled-orange hue that the color of the wine can pick up due to the longer aging process (common in the longest-aged wines, known as Gran Reserva). Fruit flavors in most Spanish Tempranillo range from dried fig to tobacco and dill. As the sommeliers say, “what grows together goes together”, and that is truly the case for this wine. That being said, the best pairings for Spanish Tempranillo include signature dishes such as Spanish roasted pork, chorizo, or baked ham. For Gran Reserva Tempranillo, try red meat with a little more char, such as grilled lamb, tuna, or veal. Vegetarian dishes can be put in the mix too, as almost anything with roasted red peppers or pimento will pair nicely.
New World Tempranillo can be just as full-bodied, but also offer up a greater variety of red-fruit flavors and tend to be more fruit-forward. Typical American Tempranillo, for example, will have less of an earthy body and lack the strong presence of leather that characterizes the Spanish version. What these wines lack in overwhelming earth, they make up for in fruit such as tomato sauce, strawberry, and cherry. As is the case with Spanish Tempranillo, the New World versions of this wine will pair nicely with red meat, but can also be paired with lighter dishes such as grouper, vegetable stew, and roasted chicken wings. The fruit-forward and slightly less complex body of this wine makes it perfect for pairing with starters such as aged cheese as well.
Try this Recipe with Spanish Tempranillo
1 lb pork loin cut into 1/8" slices
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
4 Tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp Kosher salt (paleo diet: sea salt)
3 tsp paprika Spanish smoked type is best
In a glass bowl mix all the ingredients except for the pork and greens. Place in a freezer bag or glass bowl and add the sliced pork loin. Refrigerate for 24 hours. To cook: Heat some olive oil in a large skillet and quickly fry the pork slices, This is the "a la plancha" method or quick frying over high heat. You can also grill over fire or "al carbon" on your outdoor grill. A minute or 2 on each side over high heat on the grill will be enough since the slices are very thin.
Do you know what quince is? It's a lovely fruit that features in Chenin Blanc. Let's go.
Varietal Overview: Chenin Blanc
History and Cultivation
This white grape varietal dates as far back as the 9th century to the Anjou region of France (where it was most likely known by the name Chenere), and from there it travelled within France to the Loire Valley in the 15th century, where wines made from this varietal are said to have originated. It was only after this establishment in the Loire Valley that the grape received its modern name, Chenin Blanc, after Mont Chenin, a specific wine region in the Middle Loire.
Although this grape varietal originated in the wine giant that is France (where it is still being grown today), it is most well-known today for its white wines out of South Africa. Chenin Blanc is South Africa’s workhorse, and is only growing in acreage. It is believed that Chenin Blanc arrived in South Africa in a shipment of vine cuttings sent to the Dutch Navigator Jan van Riebeeck in the Cape colony by the Dutch East India Company in the 1600s. Today, Chenin Blanc remains the most widely grown wine-producing grape variety in South Africa, where it is known by a colloquial name, Steen. This varietal is so famous in South Africa, in fact, that it has its very own website for the Chenin Blanc Association of South Africa (check it out at www.chenin.co.za )!
Chenin Blanc grapes bud noticeably early in the growing season, but the fruit ripens late. This can be somewhat difficult for wine growers in the Loire, which is one of the northernmost viticultural areas in all of France. The high risk of frost and freezing temperatures in between the time period from budding to ripening makes for great variation in the crop. Although this time gap could be seen as a negative, there are some positives. When hit with a particularly warm and dry Autumn in Loire, Chenin Blanc grapes are susceptible to what is known as “noble rot”. Although not a palatable name, this fungus (Botrytis cinerea)) is actually beneficial in the production of Chenin Blanc dessert wines. The fungus eats away at the outer portion of the fruit and allows the skins of the grapes to become permeable, causing significant water loss which leads to the grapes becoming shriveled and overripe with sweet juice. In a crude sense, noble rot turns wine grapes into primitive raisins. In South Africa, Chenin Blanc grapes are produced in a wide variety of locations, which allows great versatility in the overall product.
Tasting Profile and Pairings
Chenin Blanc truly is among the most versatile grape varietals out there (comparable to Riesling), as it can produce some of the sweetest of the sweets and driest of the dry. The Old World of the Loire is no exception. As we looked at before, noble rot due to variations in the autumn climate can lead to some killer sweet dessert wines, but this is by no means the end of the story for French Chenin Blanc. Grapes are typically picked by hand due to a tendency to ripen unevenly, and the earlier grapes are used to make highly acidic, dry whites with a high minerality with flavors of pear, quince, chamomile and even ginger. Grapes picked slightly later in the Loire Valley tend to produce off-dry, rich white wines with an aromatic nose and deeper flavors of ripe pear, jasmine, passion fruit and honey. When oaked, these wines tend to play like Chardonnay, with a butteriness that is not overpowering but definitely detectible. Ripe grapes picked in the Loire Valley are used to produce sweeter styles of French Chenin Blanc, which have flavors of dried persimmon, toasted almond, mango, and mandarin orange. Clearly, Chenin Blanc can be a chameleon in terms of flavor profiles when grown in France, even in such a narrow region!
Typically speaking, fresh and fruity early-harvest Chenin Blanc from France pairs great with vegetable dishes or crisp salads, as the flavorful minerality and crisp nature complements the veggies. For a main course, try a slightly-oaked or mid-harvest off-dry French Chenin blanc with a rich, meaty whitefish such as swordfish.
Due to the difference in climate between the hot and dry South African terrain to the cool and variable region of the Loire, there are some over-arching differences that distinguish the Old from New World bottles of Chenin Blanc. In South Africa, Chenin Blanc wines tend to take on a array of more exotic fruit, whereas French Chenin Blanc tends to be more minerally and often times a bit chalky on the palate.
South African Chenin Blanc is typically thought of as being notoriously fresh and fruity with a marked acidity. Some of the most characteristic South African Chenin Blanc wines have a floral aroma with complementary fruit salad flavors ranging anywhere from guava, melon, and apricot, to pineapple. As is done in many French styles, oak aging can add some noticeable depth to these wines and introduce a buttery richness that makes Chenin Blanc a great addition to a meal. Oak-aged South African Chenin blanc will include a host of rich flavors such as honey and nuts, and will perfectly complement Brie or Camembert as a starter.
Somm. This doc tells the tale of Court of Master Sommeliers. We're a crazy bunch. At least the real ones.
The School of Wine: Somm Movie
The term master sommelier carries a significant amount of weight in the world of wine and food. In fact, it is a term that signifies that a person has reached the premiere ranking when it comes to understanding all aspects of wine. Classically, a person is only called by the term sommelier when they are a dedicated wine steward in the restaurant industry. However, some may consider it more like earning a degree of sorts (although there are dedicated programs for that, too!), as becoming a sommelier requires extensive study not just in wine, but other consumable indulgences including spirits, sake, beer, and tobacco.
In order to become a master sommelier, trainees are required to pass an extensive comprehensive exam of 3 different parts:
1) Theory: The theory portion of the exam tests for a comprehensive knowledge of regions, sub-regions, districts, and villages which produce wine and other spirits/tobacco. An individual must be able to recall or correctly identify which wines, etc are produced in these geographic areas. This includes wine laws, understanding of specific wineries, and geographic variations. If this isn’t difficult enough, this portion of the exam is in 5 DIFFERENT LANGUAGES; Spanish, Portuguese, Hungarian, Italian, and German. In short, this is the component of the exam that is dedicated to culture.
2) Service: In this segment, a hypothetical restaurant is set up (including full table settings!). The Master Sommelier candidate must then be able to make appropriate wine recommendations for different food selections. However, the most important element of the service portion of the exam is the ability to maintain a cool, professional, and collected demeanor in a variety of situations that may occur when acting as a serviceperson in a fine restaurant. Students must be able to “act the part” in terms of etiquette, as is required by the high-end restaurants that employ Master Sommeliers.
3) Blind Tasting: Four minutes and ten seconds are allotted to accurately describe six wines; three whites, and three reds. The candidate must then be able to 100% correctly identify the structure, body, alcohol, Old or New World, warm or cool climate, possible varietals, possible vintages, and then make an educated guess as to what the wine is. There is no room for error in this portion, and it is this section of the exam that calls upon the most extensive array of knowledge. Generally, students are taught to go through this portion of the exam by using an organized methodology called “The Tasting Grid”. Simple in name but by no means simple in execution, this memorized table hits all aspects of wine tasting and systematically categorizes a wine so that the taster can then identify the bottle. Although taste and smell are subjective in nature, the tasting grid takes the subjectivity out of tasting. After all, specific tastes and smells come from tangible, objective chemical compounds formed in the process of winemaking. Tasting note descriptors can range from the standard and mundane cherry and strawberry to the strange and comical such as “grandma’s closet”. As somm students like to say, “wait you haven’t smelled that before?”. In fact, many say that going through the process of learning the taste and scent descriptors causes a person to realize just how little they have been exposed to. For example, who walks around all day licking wet rocks and sniffing dirt?
As the documentary points out, all three parts of this Master Sommelier exam takes place in less than 3 week’s time, with the tasting portion taking place in Dallas, Texas. Needless to say, in the world of wine, this exam rivals the bar exam in law, CPA exam in accounting, or board exams in medicine. Like these other professional exams, there is no room for waffling when it comes to deciding to undergo the strenuous path to become a Master Sommelier. Students must dedicate the whole of their lives to understanding wine, and many describe it as a way of becoming enculturated and an alternative way of travelling the world. They must have the necessary passion, drive, competitive nature, and desire to learn. When studying for the exam, a person is not simply learning a narrow breadth of information related specifically to wine. Instead, they are studying world climates, geography, consumption history, cultural food, social variations, and chemistry that goes into the production of wine.
Although the study of wine is an ancient one, the first Master Sommelier exam took place in the United Kingdom only 51 years ago in 1969. To date since this first exam, only 269 individuals in the WORLD have successfully passed and earned the highest title in the Court of Master Sommeliers. In short, receiving a diploma by the Court of Master Sommeliers doesn’t just certify a person to choose wine to pair with food, but recognizes years of tasting, learning, associating, and appreciating.