Under the Weather Wining

Going to the dentist. Taking a flight. Going on a first date. Having no kleenex/soup in the house.

All things that SUCK when you are sick.

That’s right. Yours truly has come down with a cold. And considering the subject of this blog, I must add to the above list: drinking wine.

Just like going out for a nice meal when you are sick, drinking a nice bottle of wine when you have a cold is such a waste. It just takes all the enjoyment out of it. And yet, some research shows that moderate consumption (8-14 glasses per week) of wine, particularly red wine, may help prevent the common cold.

Now when I first read these articles’ claims, I pshawed*. First of all, that seems pretty high for a “moderate” weekly consumption. And second of all, I drank wine all week and look what good it did me! However, after a bit of thought, I realized that 8-14 glasses is likely exactly where my weekly consumption is at so I clearly need to stop being so judgmental. And secondly, I had a glass (or two) of red wine every night this week until last night, which is when the sinus explosion hit me. Maybe this research is onto something and I should be increasing my red wine intake.

So my friends, learn from my errant ways and go ahead and drink that second glass of immune-boosting red wine tonight. Otherwise soon you may be the one sitting at home in sweatpants with a blanket and a box of kleenex at 8 o’clock on a Saturday night.

* Although Google Chrome disagrees, “pshaw” is actually a word, thank you very much. The fact that the Oxford Dictionary considers it dated makes me think I maybe read too much Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie as a child.

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Luckily, I drank a couple of nice bottles before getting sick (over the course of the last week, not one right after the other in the name of prevention), so I at least have something to report this week. They may or may not have played a pivotal role in me making it through the work week before this cold hit.

  1. Gérard Bertrand La Clape 2011

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This wine was the perfect way to start a weekend. This Coteaux de Languedoc from the south of France boasts a lovely blend of syrah (aka shiraz), carignan and mourvèdre (one of my favourite varietals, FYI, and a key component of Côtes du Rhône wines). Medium ruby red in colour, there is definitely a hint of garnet, which is sometimes a sign of age (how was 2011 already 4 years ago??). On the nose, it’s quite fragrant, showing dark fruit, floral notes and spices.

The structure of this wine is really nice and quite balanced: medium bodied, medium tannins, medium acidity. On the palate, same dark fruit, with cedar, black pepper and those spices again (Kim Marcus describes them as “savory herb flavors”).

We paired this with some leftover Moroccan beef stew and the pairing was surprisingly fantastic. I wasn’t sure how the Moroccan spices would work with the wine, but they actually brought out its fruit flavours, which was delicious.

There aren’t too many bottles of this left in Ontario (we’re pretty much out in Ottawa – I bought this bottle a couple of months ago). So check stocks at the LCBO nearest you, and maybe grab me a bottle (Mom?). This wine is also available at the SAQ for those of you in Quebec.

  1. Viña Bujanda Rioja Reserva 2010

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A delicious pairing at Das Lokal

Earlier this week, the ladies in my yoga class and I decided to reward ourselves with a nice glass of a wine. A restaurant in the area called Das Lokal offers half-priced bottles of wine on Tuesday, so we decided to check it out! We were not disappointed with this decision. We ordered the abovementioned Spanish rioja and could not have been more pleased.

It was pretty dark in the restaurant, but the wine’s colour seemed dark ruby  to me, and smelled of dark fruit (by this I mean plum, blackberry, blueberry, black currant, etc.), cedar, tobacco and sweet spice. This is the type of wine aroma that makes me swoon a little. This particular rioja spent 20 months in oak so that really brings out the last three aromas.

On the palate, this rioja was very dry, but with juicy tannins. There was dark fruit here too, specifically blackberry and red currant, and it had a loooooong finish.

Though we had it with the typical German sausage dish pictured above, I found it went really nicely with the balsamic/oil the restaurant served with their sourdough bread.

Keep well, friends. Keep taking your vitamins and a healthy dose of red!

 

 

 

 

Beaujolais Nouveau: A Worldwide Celebration

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Source: lefigaro.fr

The third Thursday in November is a big deal in Bourgogne (aka Burgundy). At midnight, just north of the city of Lyon, the latest vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau is released. And there is much rejoicing in Beaujolais, all over France, and all over the world.

Source: http://www.viticulture-oenologie-formation.fr/vitioenoformlycee/degustation/photos/beaujolaiscarte.jpg

Map of Beaujolais region

Beaujolais is made solely from the gamay grape (full name: gamay noir au jus blanc, i.e. black-skinned grape with white juice), a thin-skinned variety that yields light, fruit-forward reds. Gamay represents 98% of the vines grown in Beaujolais (chardonnay makes up the other 2%).

Beaujolais Nouveau wines are strictly made from hand-picked grapes from the most recent harvest. Generally, grapes are harvested from late August to late September, depending on the weather (the longer you have nice weather, the longer grape growers will leave the fruit on the vine). Given that they have to be ready by November, the winemaking process is expedited. This means very little to no ageing, as well as the use of carbonic maceration. Without getting too technical, this process involves putting the grapes in a tank which is then filled with carbon dioxide. The berries at the bottom are crushed and start fermenting. However, due to the lack of oxygen in the tank, the uncrushed berries at the top begin fermenting within their skins (anaerobic intracellular fermentation—sorry, I said I wasn’t going to get too technical). This technique decreases tannins and acidity while increasing fruitiness.

After two to three weeks, you have a pale red wine with hints of blue that has fun aromas of banana, cotton candy, cola, bubble gum and candied fruit. What’s not to like!

These wines are not meant to be cellared. In fact, they should be consumed within 6 months.  But they are easy to drink, and well marketed. In fact, the Beaujolais Nouveau trend only started in the 1970s, and was a genius marketing gimmick to popularize Beaujolais wines. And clearly a successful one as well, considering that these celebrations are repeated from year to year, and the wines sold around the world (France consumes more than half of the Beaujolais Nouveau produced, and the rest is shipped off to other countries, with Japan, Germany and the US  being the top importers).

And I wasn’t kidding about the rejoicing. The release of the year’s Beaujolais Nouveau calls for a big party in France, with the  5‑day Sarmentelles de Beaujeu as the main event. During the day, there are tours of the vineyards, and local food and wine is served in large heated tents, and in the evening, there is a parade honouring the grape growers. At midnight, fireworks are set off to mark the official release of the wine,  which is then sampled in mass quantities until the wee small hours of the morning. Traditionally, the party celebrated the end of the harvest, and in 1985 the French government declared the third Thursday in November the official release day of Beaujolais Nouveau wines, and now the parties have spread all over the world. What better way for Beaujolais winemakers to sell off their wines quickly to make room in their cellars for other wines, as well as make some much-needed cash after the harvest.

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That said, I have a confession: beaujolais is not one of my favourite wines. I much prefer the fuller-bodied wines. But in honour of Beaujolais Nouveau day, I figured I should join in the festivities and grab a bottle. Unfortunately this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau was not yet at the LCBO earlier this week, so I settled for a bottle of Beaujolais-Villages to get into the spirit of things.

[side-note: Beaujolais-Villages is still made from Gamay grapes, but only those from a few select villages, which form their own AOC appellation. These wines do not undergo carbonic maceration and are allowed to age longer than the barely-off-the-vine Beaujolais Nouveau. However, they should still be consumed within 2 years].

 

Domaine de la Madone – Le Perréon Beaujolais Villages 2014

Beaujolais

This wine is a medium ruby red in the glass, and is quite light on the nose at first: light fruit, red cherry, a bit jammy, dark fruit and a hint of spice. On the palate, the dry, light-bodied wine is very unassuming, and reminds me a bit of pinot noir, which would make sense since the two varietals are actually related. However, with its high acidity and light fruity flavours, it is extremely food-friendly. In fact, beaujolais is the “quintessential food wine”.

To test this out, we drank it two nights in a row with a variety of different foods.

Night 1: Pan-fried salmon, roasted squash and broccoli

Night 2: Morrocan beef stew

Conclusion – To my surprise, the Beaujolais-Villages went well with both meals, as well as each of the individual components of said meals. I was impressed! At under $15 a bottle, that’s one to remember for dinner parties where you don’t know what will be served. It’s also an easy-drinking red for meals you might normally pair with a white wine (the LCBO’s recommended pairing is grilled chicken). And for the record, yes, I often choose my meals based on what wine I have on hand, and not the other way around.

As you know, it’s been a difficult week for France (and the rest of the world, mind you), following the terrible terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday. Not that an annual oenological celebration is going to fix things, but I hope it provides a distraction and the levity the French need right about now.

P.S. Tonight I will be attending an event here in Ottawa featuring Ontario wines, so I hope to report back with some new local favourites!

White wine recommendations – from California to New Zealand

Hello fellow wine-lovers!

It’s been a while! The three of you who read this blog must be wondering what to drink this week. This week’s post will be focusing on white wines, so if white is your wine of choice, read on! If red is your preferred quaff, read on anyway and try something new this week! I have two excellent wines to recommend, for any budget!

  1. Big House WhiteBig House

A medium-bodied blend that is fairly complex considering it is an under-$10 bottle of wine. It’s rich and bright, all at the same time. At first, apricot and pineapple, which evolves into a refreshing and zippy citrus on the finish (due to a stainless steel fermentation). I always thought it was mainly a chardonnay-based blend, however it’s made of malvoisie, muscat and viognier, all lesser-known grape varieties. I had to look up the first one, since I was unsure what it was. According to wine expert Jancis Robinson:

A wide range of often unrelated varieties are called Malvoisie although most are light-berried and make full-bodied, aromatic white wines. Perhaps it is most commonly encountered, in the Loire, Savoie and Switzerland, as a synonym for Pinot Gris. The Languedoc’s Bourboulenc and Maccabéo, Roussillon’s Tourbat and Corsica’s Vermentino have all been called Malvoisie in their time, however.

Well that’s a bit confusing, though the “full-bodied, aromatic” bit explains why I always thought it was chardonnay.

The best part of this wine is the price. Recently discontinued at the LCBO, it is now available, while quantities last, for only $7.95. I know you’re probably already halfway out the door, but if you are in the National Capital Region, I must warn you that you’re probably out of luck. I already went on a wild goose chase trying to scoop up the last bottles, and only managed to snag three. Those of you in the GTA will have better luck. That said, Ottawans, don’t despair. You’ll be happy to hear that the Big House is available at the SAQ, though the price is double the discontinued LCBO price. Plus, if the 750 mL format is not enough for you, there is a 3L box available. Perhaps something to keep in mind for your next Christmas dinner…

2. Auntsfield Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($20.95)


When my husband doesn’t know what to get me for my birthday, he buys me wine. He knows that the way into a wine snob’s heart is through her palate. This bottle was part of my lovely birthday present this year. New Zealand sauvignon blancs are very popular in our household. I’ve already mentioned our love of Kim Crawford (both the unoaked chardonnay and pinot noir), and the sauvignon blanc was probably the wine that started my snobbery in the first place. Both the Kim Crawford and the Auntsfield are from the Marlborough region in New Zealand.

Let’s take a minute to talk about “terroir”. These are the geographical, environmental and climatic elements that allow the same grape grown in two different places to make two completely distinct wines. We’re talking about soil types, hours of sun in a day, amount of precipitation, type of terrain, etc. Marlborough sauvignon blancs tend to be very distinct in relation to their counterparts from other countries. And this Auntsfield serves as an excellent benchmark.

Auntsfield Tasting Note

Nose: Very grassy and fresh, with tropical fruit aromas like passion fruit. Essence of pear, and some minerality. Also, the smell is irresistible. I just wanted to keep smelling it.

Flavour: Similar to the nose, so again, very grassy, with tropical fruit, this time, more pineapple than passion fruit. Lemon. Asparagus flavours or canned peas, pear with a hint of white flower.

Body: Light-bodied. So acidic it almost feels effervescent at first sip.

Finish: Fairly long citrus finish considering the acidity, which would normally eliminate the flavours on the palate fairly quickly.

Food pairing: White fish, seafood, buttery/creamy pasta.

This is all very typical of a Marlbourough sauv blanc. These wines are often identifiable just by their aroma, which is very addictive for me. If the asparagus or grassy flavours sound unappealing, rest assured that the tropical fruit and citrus flavours balance them out nicely. Just trust me on this one and try it. You’ll be hooked at first smell.

[On a side note, the above is an example of my tasting note, in case you are interested. Tasting notes vary from person to person, but these are the main elements to take note of when tasting a wine. The food pairing is a bonus.]
Lastly, as a parting gift for those of you who, like us, have a ton of leftover Halloween candy today, here is a helpful chart from Vivino:

Happy wining!