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.
The first blind tasting that involved California wines and French wines shook the world. Because at the time it was assumed that only the French could make great wine. An English fella by the name of Steven Spurrier changed all that. And here's the story. A couple of things though, there was no boxing ring and a couple of the characters were made up. But it's still awesome.
The True Story of California Wine’s Coming to Fame: “Bottle Shock” Movie Synopsis
The wine industry makes an appearance in the world of Hollywood film in this 2008 movie, based on a true story, starring A-listers Chris Pine and the late Alan Rickman. As many good wine stories often do, this one begins in France, with Paris-based British ex-pat wine expert Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman), the founder and owner of the high-end pretentious Académie du Vin, established in 1973. L’Académie (which has been re-launched today in an online version) holds the title as France’s first privately-held independent wine school, and was established in a brick-and-mortar location adjacent to Spurrier’s pre-existing wine shop, Caves de la Madeleine.
At its naissance, Académie du Vine was established to educate eager learners on the world of fine wine, with special emphasis on teaching British and American ex-pats, as Spurrier himself was at the time. His tastings (and sales through Caves de la Madeleine) were heavily dominated by French wine and therefore had extreme bias to domestic wines. This trend wasn’t specific to Spurrier’s shop, however. In the early 1970s, the fine wine world was heavily dominated by European winemakers, typically the producers of Old World wines. Although wine surely was being produced in countries outside of Europe, the predominating school of thought at the time was that the only “good wines” came out of Europe.
Spurrier himself was among those who believed in the supremacy of European wine. That being said, in 1976, Spurrier hopped across the pond to America, where west-coast winemakers were attempting to make a name for themselves in California. At this point in time, California wines were nowhere near as revered as they are now. In fact, America was relatively non-existent on the world stage of wine. So why would a snobby European sommelier such as Steven Spurrier waste his time in the Golden State? Well big things were set to happen back at Académie du Vine on May 24, 1976, namely a blind taste test which would come to be known as the “Judgement of Paris” (more on that in a moment!).
So Spurrier made his way to the US of A to pick up some scrappy young California wine to bring back over to his shop in Paris (and to taste some of the Colonel’s Kentucky Fried Chicken as shown in the movie, but that may have to be fact-checked…). Hence the name of the movie, “Bottle Shock”, which refers to the strange alteration or dulling of wine flavor that can occur when wines are shaken up during travel. In reality, the cure to this “wine ailment” is simply time. The pros will tell you to give the bottles time to rest before opening them up after travel.
Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon would be the two varietals of choice for the 1976 showdown. Spurrier played fair, and made sure to pick up a selection of California wines from a variety of winemakers and cellars; Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Ridge Vineyards, Heitz Wine Cellars, Clos Du Val Winery, Mayacamas Vineyards, Freemark Abbey Winery, Chateau Montelena, Chalone Vineyard, Spring Mountain Vineyard, Veedercrest Vineyards, and David Bruce Winery. No shortage of selections there, and likely an extra bag-check or two at the airport. In the Hollywood adaptation of the story, Spurrier (Rickman) and local Napa vintner Bo Barrett (Chris Pine) recruit fellow patrons at the airport to grab a few of the bottles to carry-on themselves to lighten the load!
California vintners who spoke with Spurrier were hesitant of the reasoning behind the tasting, however. Many called Spurrier out for attempting to humiliate the Americans by putting their amateur California wines up against the well-established and renowned French bottles. Although we can’t really blame the Californians for this hesitation. After all, up until this point, American wines were nothing more than a blip on the radar, and the chance of a “big break” coming in the form of a blind tasting at one of the world’s most prestigious wine capitals was slim-to-none (with the emphasis on slim!).
Come May 24, 1976, and a set of 11 judges of mixed French and American origins sat down for a blind taste test to critique French and Californian wines. Judges were asked to rate each wine out of a possible 20 points, with 20 being the highest score. In each category, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, the highest rated wine (taken by an average of scores between the 11 judges) was Californian. Talk about a world-class competitive upset. Needless to say, EVERYONE was surprised, and the result was an overwhelming command of respect for the New World American winemakers, especially given the fact that a reporter from TIME Magazine was in attendance. Although the French were not great sports when it came to the loss, which resulted in Spurrier being banned from the French wine tasting tour for an entire year as a punishment for supposedly tarnishing the French wine reputation. As we know now, French wine has been A-OK. So has American wine, however. In fact, many cite this event as the single most important moment in the upward trend in American wine history, which gave California the world-renowned name it has today in the world of wine. The implications go much further than just respect for American wine, however. After the results of the competition hit the mainstream, wine lovers worldwide began to take a more open-minded look at where good wine can be grown, which allowed the industry to expand to the geographic level it is at today.
Oh the joys of Minnesota. Tons of snow people, that's all you need to know. And because it's cold as balls out we're gonna talk about a wine for such times to warm the soul. Zinfandel to the rescue.
Varietal Overview: Zinfandel
History and Cultivation
When us wine-lovers hear Zinfandel, we think of good old home-grown American wine, particularly out of California. However, Zinfandel is no rookie to the world of wine. In fact, evidence places the oldest known mention of Zinfandel grapes to around 6000 BC! Archaeological evidence links these ancient vines to the Caucasus region, situated between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea near modern day Armenia, Georgia, and Russia. Genetic testing at the University of California-Davis recently found that Zinfandel grapes are actually genetically identical to the Primitivo variety, which is traditionally grown in the south of Italy. Nowadays, Primitivo has become synonymous with Zinfandel, and can therefore be thought of the Old World production of wine from the same grapes. Further testing showed that the modern Zinfandel grape is actually genetically similar to other red varietals grown in Croatia. In fact, both Zinfandel and Primitivo were found to be genetic clones of the Croatian grape, Crljenak. Therefore, Zinfandel’s ancient past is somewhat peculiar in that genetic relatedness has been found in grapes which are grown in many regions throughout Europe. Historians proposed, therefore, that the varietal is originally indigenous to the Caucasus region, and only spread throughout the ancient world after the first winemaking was introduced shortly after 6000 BC.
How was Zinfandel introduced into the United States (where, afterwards, many would long believe it was an “American Variety”)? Historians proposed that Zinfandel vine cuttings that were Croatian in origin were brought over to California during the gold rush in the 19th century and were then cultivated.
Due to the climate diversity in the regions where Zinfandel is/was grown, It is no wonder that these vines are hearty and formidable. However, the fruit of these vines is somewhat picky, in that it is best that grapes be grown in climates that are warm but not overly hot, since the fruit has a tendency to shrivel up in extreme heat. This is due, in large part, to the thin skins of these grapes, which allow water to easily evaporate out during hot, dry weather. They tend to ripen somewhat unevenly, which can be difficult for viticulturalists and winemakers, but in general tend to be an early-ripening varietal. In addition, these grapes tend to grow in large, clustered bunches which sometimes can make it difficult to determine if some grapes in the bunch are over-ripe or under-ripe.
Tasting Profile and Pairings
Old World production of Zinfandel typically refers to the (differently labelled) identical Italian grape varietal Primitivo, which produces dark, inky wines which are high in tannins and alcohol. Oak aging is typically used to add body to the wine and stabilize the deep color of the product. These wines are typically grown in a coastal region at the “heel” of Italy known as Apulia, and tend to be juicy yet not over-ripe, fuller bodied, with a slightly sweet finish. This sweetness and juiciness makes sense and can be used to distinguish this Old World Italian version of Zinfandel, as the temperature in Apulia remains warm year-round, and therefore is conducive to growing lush, rich grapes which produce jammy wines. Fruit notes tend to include blackberry, cherry, and strawberry, among others. Often times, a later harvest can be used to produce sweeter dessert wines from these same grapes. When paired with food, it is best to choose a dish with a good degree of richness, such as a grilled steak with balsamic glaze, eggplant parmesan, or a moderately-spiced curry dish which complements the fruity nature of the wine.
American (New World) Zinfandel typically is slightly lighter in body than the Italian version which tends to have a slightly earthier flavor, but is by no means lacking in body and character. As is done in Italy, winemakers tend to harvest these grapes on the early side and use oak-aging, but can also use a later harvest to produce sweeter dessert wines. Alcohol tends to be fairly high in American Zin, as are tannins, giving a dry wine, but a wine that still has plenty of fruit. Due to the higher alcohol content and tannins in both Old and New World Zinfandel/Primitivo, it is best not to pair these wines with overly hot spicy foods. As opposed to the Old World production of Primitivo, terroir variations tend to give Zinfandel a slightly different flavor and fruit composition, with a hint of black pepper and licorice complementing fruit notes of blueberry, plum, boysenberry, and cherry. New World Zinfandel will also pair well with rich meat dishes such as glazed ham, steak, or even pulled chicken sandwiches on a cold winter day.
Try this Recipe with a Classic California Zinfandel
Pulled Chicken Sandwiches
2 cups cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons dry mustard
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
One 3 1/2-pound rotisserie chicken
4 hamburger buns, split
In a medium saucepan, combine the cider vinegar with the water, white wine, vegetable oil, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, sweet paprika, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper and boil over high heat until reduced to 1 1/4 cups, about 15 minutes. Remove the warm vinegar sauce from the heat. Meanwhile, remove all of the meat from the chicken and shred it. Discard the skin. Add the chicken to the warm vinegar sauce and heat through, stirring gently. Pile the pulled chicken on the buns and drizzle with extra vinegar sauce.
We're learning about Shiraz today. Strap in.
Varietal Overview: Syrah and Shiraz
History and Cultivation
While Syrah and Shiraz are both produced by a grape that is genetically identical, there is a reason that winemakers have given two different names to the wine produced from the same grape; the wines produced are certainly not identical! The history behind the grape that produces these wines is somewhat of a legend. However, genetic tracing has linked the origin of the grape to somewhere in the southeastern wine region of France close to the Rhone. Further research showed that the Syrah/Shiraz grape we know today is the result of a cross between two varietals that are mostly obscure today and grow almost exclusively in that region.
Although botanical genetic research has conclusively found France to be the origin of this grape varietal, other legends have been told that links the secondary name of wine produced by this grape, Shiraz, to the ancient capital of the Persian Empire. In this legend, Shiraz grapes were brought over to the Rhone region of France and it is these grapes produce modern-day Old World French Syrah. This tale is not backed up by scientific evidence, however, which is why wine experts now almost unanimously agreed that this grape varietal originated in France.
In the Rhone region today, Syrah continues to be the main grape varietal grown, and is used to produce wines such as Hermitage, Cornas and Côte-Rôtie. These grapes have thick and deep red skins that translate over to the dark ruby-red to purple color of the wines they produce. Growers tend to cultivate these grapes on high ground with limited soil and ample drainage. Some like to say that Syrah likes to “reach for the sky” due to the vines’ affinity for mountainous terrain. The grapes have a tendency to be late-ripening, and can be harvested as early as September but also are picked well into Autumn. Climate-wise, these grapes have been successful in a variety of temperature ranges worldwide and in most of the world’s premiere wine-growing regions such as in Australia, the United States, Greece, and Portugal.
Tasting Profile and Pairings
So obviously one grape variety with wines of two different names must produce a spectrum of flavors. This is indeed the case with Syrah and Shiraz, but more importantly these terms are used to distinguish Old World from New World bottles. French bottles will be names “Syrah”, while Australian wines of the same grape will be labelled “Shiraz”. Although these names originated as simply nominal differences for the same wine, they have evolved to form characters of their own and carry with them a connotation of much different flavor.
Old World Syrah is frontloaded in flavor, massive, and masculine. It is one of the deepest and boldest reds in existence, and as such has a strong tannic presence, medium acidity, and a heavy feel on the palate. Fruit is evident in this wine, but these fruit flavors are deep and dark, and balanced by non-fruit notes such as tobacco, smoke, chocolate, vanilla if oaked, allspice, and even bacon (for some!). Among the fruits that can be detected in a French Syrah are blackberry, blueberry and boysenberry. As a bold wine, Syrah pairs well with equally bold foods, and one of the best ways to do this is by having a bold dish that incorporates flavors from Syrah’s native Rhone home, such as fennel, lavender, or thyme. Obviously this deep dark red can handle well with rich, fatty meats such as a New York strip, or even barbeque spareribs. For a vegetarian twist, try a grilled veggie burger!
New World Shiraz, particularly that which is produced in Australia, is typically more syrupy and fruit forward. Make no mistake, however, this is still a rich wine! Fruit in this wine is typically ripe and jammy, such as plum, and often has a hint of pepper. Some can even detect savory flavors such as leather and dry earth in Shiraz as well. Barbeque spareribs are also a great choice to complement this wine, but try adding a bit more spice such as anise and clove.
Try This Recipe with a Bold French Syrah
12 ounces eggplant, cut into 1x2-inch wedges
12 ounces yellow squash or zucchini, cut into 1x2-inch wedges
12 ounces sweet peppers, cut into ½-inch strips
1 pint cherry tomatoes
6 cloves garlic, smashed
12 leaves fresh basil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon Espelette pepper or fresh-ground black pepper
2 cups fine-grated Parmigiano
Position rack in upper third of the oven and heat to 400˚F.
In large bowl, combine eggplant, squash, sweet peppers, cherry tomatoes, garlic, basil and thyme. Drizzle with oil, and add salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Mound in 2-quart baking dish, and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Place on large rimmed baking sheet, and bake until vegetables give up some juices, about 30 minutes. Uncover and cook until vegetables are very tender, about 25 minutes.
Remove pan from oven and heat broiler. Salt, to taste. Sprinkle cheese on top in thick layer. Broil until cheese is deep golden brown and crusty, 5–7 minutes. Cool at least 5 minutes before serving.
So last night we had a killer Australian wine tasting and a big shout out to everyone that came. Also, let's think positive thoughts about the land down under because there is quite a bit of it on fire at the moment. Today let us read about Rose wine.
Deep Dive into Rose Wines
So today I believe we at Wine Republic have found an editor to help with my videos. I'm quite pleased. And on top of that the intern has written about Riesling.
Varietal Overview: Riesling
History and Cultivation
A great number of the world’s most believed wine varietals originate in France, yet many forget that there is a different European source that produces one of the sweetest (although not all sweet), sparkling, and most aromatic white wine varieties; German Riesling. Riesling grapes are thought to be native to the Rhine River region in Germany, with first notable mention of the varietal happening in 1435, which outlines the sale of several Riesling vine cuttings to German Count John IV of Katzenelnbogen. Interestingly enough, modern DNA fingerprinting has traced the parentage of Riesling to a Medieval peasant wine known as Gouais blanc.
Since its first mention, Riesling vines have been a staple in German wine country, and have only grown in popularity. This popularity skyrocketed in 1787, when the Archbishop of Trier, in a push to increase wine quality, sent an order that all “bad” vines of any varietal be replaced by Riesling vines. Today, Riesling continues to stand tall as Germany’s signature and most popular grape variety.
Riesling is thought to have first spread out of Germany around 1477 when it was first introduced into Alsace, France. Here it was highly lauded by the Duke of Lorraine, and has stuck within the region ever since. Introduction into other world regions appeared much later, particularly around the 19th century when it was introduced to such wine-growing giants as Australia, New Zealand, and the United States (cooler regions such as Washington state, the Finger Lakes region in New York, and Michigan).
Riesling grapes themselves are delicate in composition, and this understanding is carried forward into the wine production process. However this is not to say that these grapes cannot withstand the elements. From a vinicultural perspective, Riesling is fairly hearty in the field and is able to withstand frost, pests and rot, which is why this varietal can grow in many regions where other grapes cannot; namely the Rhineland. The white varietal grapes are naturally acidic, highly aromatic and perfumed, which translates over to the finished product. This aromatic wine is almost always unoaked to preserve the pure flavors and scents of fruit and flowers. Producers tend to use late-harvest in order to tone down the acidity of these grapes. Overall, Riesling grapes are known to have a high affinity for terroir, meaning that the grapes are apt to pick up strongly on the flavors of the land within which it is grown. The grapes are relatively small and grow in fairly compact clusters, and thrive most often in cooler climates such as their native land in Germany.
Tasting Profile and Pairings
Due to the grape’s affinity for picking up the flavors of the land, there are noticeable differences that help to distinguish Old World (German) versus New World Riesling. However one thing is common amongst these different wines; Riesling is almost never used in a blend. As mentioned before, it is a delicate wine, and therefore these unique flavors must be preserved and can easily get lost when combined with other grapes. In all Riesling production, extreme care must be taken not to crush or bruise the skin of the grapes. Doing this could release unwelcomed tannin into the juice which would produce a bitter flavor that would drown out the delicate fruit notes.
German Old World cool-climate Riesling often has strong notes of green apple and other delicate green tree-fruit, yet there is a wide spectrum of flavor possibilities and it is difficult to find a one-size-fits-all description for Old World Riesling. These wines can range anywhere from dry (trochen) to sweet (suß), depending on differences in production and harvest (with later harvest being optimal for a sweeter wine). “Trocken Riesling” or dry Riesling, is the most common variety produced in Germany. This wine tends to have a higher minerality, crisp, light, and refreshing. These aspects of the wine make it great with hard-to-pair food such as Chinese dishes, Tex-Mex with cilantro, salads with vinegar-based dressings, sushi, and Thai food. It is best not to overpower this wine with dark, heavy meat, but it can handle a variety of light-yet-flavorful sauces and spice.
New World Riesling tends to be associated with slightly warmer climate production, and a cornucopia of tropical and stone fruit. As expected, these wines also have a great degree of variation in flavor and therefore it is difficult once again to use a single set of descriptors to describe such an array.
Riesling has a unique quality when aged, and this is the formation of petrol notes. From a chemical standpoint, this phenomenon occurs due to the formation of a chemical known in short as TDN. For those who are expecting a sweet, floral wine, this can be slightly off-putting and seem misplaced. However, some of the most highly regarded and expensive Riesling bottles are aged to this character. German Riesling drinkers tend to be more averse to petrol flavor than those who drink other Riesling (such as that from Alsace), which has caused the German Wine Institute to go so far as to eliminate the descriptor “petrol” as a possible aroma in German Riesling. However it is important to note that if a bottle of Riesling smells somewhat like your cars gas-tank, it may just be a high-end wine!
You want organic or biodynamic wine? You've come to the right place. Today our super intern is speaking about Malbec.
Varietal Overview: Malbec
History and Cultivation
Yet another well-loved grape that traces its origin to French wine country, Malbec is a native of the town of Cahors in the south of France. The first reference of the grape dates as far back to the 16th century, where the varietal was originally known by the name Auxerrois. Originally, the first Malbec vines were grown inland of Bordeaux on the bank of the River Lot. However, somewhat forced migration occurred when a major frost devastated 75% of the grape crop particularly near Bordeaux in 1956. Although some vines were replanted in Cahors and used in red blends, Malbec acreage in France was steadily declining, which made it prime-time for introduction into other wine growing regions throughout the world.
One of the most important immigration stories in Malbec’s history is that which brought the varietal to Argentina in the 1800s. The provincial governor in Argentina at the time, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, instructed a French agronomist to bring vine cuttings overseas. Here it found success being grown in Mendoza, the country’s premiere wine region. This one is a massive success story, as Malbec quickly became Argentina’s most widely-grown grape variety and has become known as the country’s signature red grape.
With Southern France and Mendoza being two highly distinct growing climates, it is easy to see how versatile Malbec vines are. In its homeland of France, vines grow in a temperate climate regulated highly by the River Lot. In Mendoza, however, Malbec vines are subjected to much warmer temperatures and a greater variety of terroir, being grown from the foothills of the Andes to low country plains. This being said, wine enthusiasts can tell the difference in these grapes not only in the finished product, but in the raw grapes themselves. Malbec grapes grown in France are typically medium-sized, growing in semi-loose bunches. In Argentina, however, these grapes are noticeably smaller and grow in tighter bunches. Due to this difference, it is thought that the original vine cuttings brought over to Argentina in the 1800’s were a clonal variety from French Malbec that eventually went extinct in France but flourished across the pond. Although Malbec is grown in many other regions throughout the world including the United States and Chile, it is still very much known for its differential production in Argentina and Cahors, France.
Tasting Profile and Pairings
In general, Malbec is characterized by the deep coloring of the wine which it produces. This translates over to a flavor profile that is also distinctly deep, although there are noticeable differences between the two best-known Malbec wines; France and Argentina. This is not surprising, as these regions have much different growing conditions and differences in the grapes themselves as discussed above. French Malbec is medium to full-bodied, dark purple in color, and much higher in tannins, leading to a drier, inkier wine with aromas ranging from tobacco to raisin. Compared to a Cabernet Sauvignon, however, the tannins in these wines are much lower and therefore can be paired with leaner red meat. French Malbec can stand-up against bold spices as that which is found in Mexican, Cajun, Thai, or Indian preparations. In the cold months of winter where comfort food is king, try a nice dry French Malbec with hearty beef stew!
Argentinian Malbec is much more fruit-forward and with a plusher, juicier taste. This can be attributed to the warmer climate which brings out the sugar and fruit in the grapes. These wines have significantly less acidity and instead are characterized by dark and sweeter fruit notes such as plum and black cherry. Argentinian Malbec is publicized as easy drinking, well-rounded and with plenty of fruit, and can still be paired with plenty of red meat. A blue cheese burger is a budget-friendly and easy meal that can amplify the slightly-lighter body of Mendoza Malbec and bring out the dark fruit. For a more formal occasion, try roasted lamb with mint.
Try this Recipe with Malbec on a Cold Winter Night!
Hearty Beef Stew
3 lb. (1.5 kg) boneless beef chuck (trimmed)
4 thick slices Applewood-smoked bacon, chopped
2 Tbs. canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 carrots, cut into chunks
3 celery stalks , cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) lengths
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
6 Tbs. (2 oz./60 g) all-purpose flour
4 cups (32 fl. oz./1 l) beef stock or broth
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme
1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 1/4 lb. (625 g) red-skinned potatoes
Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 325°F (165°C). Cut the beef into 1 1/2-inch (4-cm) cubes and set aside. In a large Dutch oven, cook the bacon in the oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is crisp and browned, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain and set aside. Pour the fat into a heatproof bowl. Return 2 Tbs. of the fat to the pot and heat over medium-high heat. Season the beef cubes with salt and pepper. In batches to avoid crowding, add the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer the beef to a plate.
Add another 2 Tbs. of the fat to the pot and heat over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Stir in the butter and let it melt. Sprinkle with the flour and stir well. Gradually stir in the stock, and then stir in the tomato paste, the 1 Tbs. parsley and the thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Return the beef to the pot and bring to a boil. Cover, place in the oven, and cook for 1 1/2 hours.
Cut the unpeeled potatoes into 1-inch (2.5-cm) cubes, add them to the pot, stir, re-cover and continue cooking until both the meat and potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes more. Season the stew with salt and pepper. Serve at once, garnished with parsley and the reserved bacon.