Holy carnivore diet. Even the Pans were cancelled. I was so ready. But you know what, I'm grateful that I got to train and prepare. Plus now I can drink a little more vino. So if you're stuck in the house we can send you some tasty organic wine. Take care.
The thing with training with me is that I am neurotic about how many of this I'm eating and how many of that. Are my macros in line? I'm always juggling a loose version of keto, paleo, carnivore but I always account for some carbs because, wine. After training I'll choose 2 glasses of a cold weather varietal like a trocken riesling, guwurtz or gruner veltliner. I'm competing in the 168 lb division and let me tell you it's no bueno sometimes when you're not currently 168. That's why typically only the two. Plus, after a day of working out you need to replenish the carbs you did burn, whether in your muscles or liver. Then maybe just 2 more reds later on with diner. Don't judge. Check out our wine dinner video with Vann.
One thing about wine and jiu jitsu is that they both keep you humble. You think you know everything about wine then one pops up that knocks your socks off and you are clueless about it. In jiu jitsu it's a little more obvious because if you're not up to snuff you're gonna get tapped out (made to submit). This is easier said than done because we're human. And the daily struggle seems to be always to keep yourself in check so you can learn a lesson whether it be vitis vinifera or perfecting and arm bar, both being extremely beautiful. It's funny too because while I can talk about jiu jitsu to wine people I can't do it to them, at least most of the time. It is frowned upon to just slap a Rear Naked Choke on a wine customer because he or she is behaving in a shoddy manner. Though I'd like to. For instance let's say a douchebag customer comes in with his toxic attitude (we'll call him AK) and is rubbing you the wrong way. Practicing patience is valuable so you can try to add kindness and value to his day by exposing him to incredible wine even though inside my mantra is that "as soon as this person is no longer a customer I'm going to rip his head off." Can you see why patience is a great virtue? By going the extra mile one can put out joy to the world and make a living. But even though wine is fantastic sometimes people are not, myself included. So let's practice some patience in wine, giving ourselves time to understand how botany, soil chemistry and the art of winemaking give us so much joy and additionally patience with others so we don't have to slap on the Rear Naked Choke. I'm talking to you AK. Peace.
. Hey everybody, hope your February is going well. We at Wine Republic are having a great time and looking forward to the rest of the year but specifically coming up is the dinner with Vann. This guy Erik Skaar is skilled. At first glance this guy might have just rolled out of a Mixed Martial Arts gym. My type of guy already! And this man can cook. Even beyond that is his wine policy. Now I'm not the biggest fan of corkage fees at restaurants but I get it. Not this guy, Erik says that if you bring a wine in and share a glass with the owner and head wine person there is no fee. Now this may seem like not much but this to me shows an establishment that is constantly about aquiring knowledge. And when I'm talking about knowledge I'm talking about four courses starting out with a little Cremant de Limoux (What?!, don't know what Cremant is? Think Methode Champenoise except not from Champagne), Smoked Sturgeon with Chenin Blanc, Scallops and black truffle with Penedes (Spanish!) vino, Dry aged duck with green apple rolling with Alsatian Pinot Noir then winding down with Milk Chocolate cremeaux (I don't even know what this is!) with mountain huckleberry and caramel, paired with Dulce Monastrell. Is your mouth watering? Mine is. So join us here. Also we're editing our 2nd video for Jiu Jitsu wine clips of past matches and interviews with winemakers at original and talent as Erik Skaar. We look forward to seeing you soon. Peace.
So I've been talking smack about Jiu Jitsu Wine for so long it was time to put up or shut up. And today is the day that I posted my first video on Jiu Jitsu Wine channel on Youtube. It premiers this afternoon at 4pm on my channel. It's only 2 minutes and some change but the next ones will be longer when I figure out the shooting schedule. You can watch it here. Also our Red tasting is coming up drinking up some lovely vino from Italy and Spain. Organic wine at Wine Republic. Stay tuned!
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.