Living life, one glass at a time

Category: Whites

One last time before I go

Friends!

It has been quite a whirlwind since my last post, which seems like a lifetime ago. The last four weeks have included my last day of work, packing up the entire house, last-minute arrangements for the logistics of life and home ownership in our absence, trying to fit everything I need into a carry-on bag (yes, we are going to do 2 months in Europe with only carry-on), many teary goodbyes with loved ones, and not surprisingly, lots of wine. Continue reading

Intro to Bordeaux: an afternoon with Dourthe

On a beautiful, spring sunny day, I headed to the Andaz Hotel in Ottawa’s Byward Market for an exciting afternoon of wine tasting with Dourthe, a long-standing Bordeaux winery which prides itself on excellence and quality achieved by respecting the land. Established in 1840, the winery owns nine gorgeous châteaux in the Bordeaux region, each representing a distinct sense of place, i.e. terroir.

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Serendipitous Saturday Pairings: tilapia and chardonnay

As you know, I am in total denial that winter is here, so lately I have insisted on drinking summer-y wines, generally from the Southern Hemisphere. The sun sets at 4:30 these days, so you have to find ways to trick your body into not falling into a depression. Obviously, wine is the answer. Delicious food helps too. Put the two together and you can occasionally succeed in your anti-depressive measures.

This happened in a completely serendipitous way on Saturday night. Continue reading

Dreaming of warmer climes with great-value whites

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It is now day 4 of wearing the puffy coat and big snow boots

You know it’s bad when you start dreaming of warmer weather…in November.

That’s right, it’s not even officially winter and we already have a foot of snow in Ottawa…and it’s here to stay.

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View from the front door

In wine terms, normally as the cold weather settles in, you reach for fuller-bodied wines to accompany hearty winter meals like stews and roasts.

Me on the other hand? I am dreaming of warmer temperatures and my wine choices are reflecting that. Instead of stocking up on big, bold reds, I seem to be buying—of all things—lighter-bodied fragrant whites. Is it just a major case of denial? Winter is here, get over it, Mel! But no, I’d prefer to bury my head in the sand and pretend that nicer weather is just around the corner, despite all the signs to the contrary. By the way, whose idea was it to have the sun set at 4:30? Continue reading

Testing the LCBO’s Customer Favourites – Part 2

Hello fellow wine lovers!

As you will recall, a few weeks ago I blogged about an LCBO article listing its 2015 Customer Favourites. I ran out and bought 3 of the 4 most-bought wines to see what all the fuss was about. In the blog post I reviewed the Beronia Tempranillo, and last weekend I brought the 2 remaining customer favourites to dinner at my sister-in-law’s place. All in all, I think Ontario and I have different tastes, but I can see the appeal of both the wines I tried.

Let’s break it down!

Continue reading

Dill + Chardonnay = Taste Bud Delight

BACKGROUND

If you just want to read about wine, I’d suggest you skip ahead.

With the forecast calling for high temperatures plus insane humidity, and the calendar showing a whole weekend with no plans, the husband and I decided to pack up and take to the water. I had a secret errand to run in the morning: the husband’s birthday was the following week and I had ordered a book he wanted to the UPS store in Ogdensburg. This is what we do when we want something that is only available in the States and the cross-border shipping fees are more than the item itself. Sometimes it’s worth a trip to Ogdensburg.

I had done the grocery shopping for the weekend the night before, so I set off to the thriving metropolis of Ogdensburg and the husband was tasked with getting everything together for our weekend sailing trip. My mission went off without a hitch and I was back in good time so we could get to the boat. It always takes us a while to get ourselves and the boat ready for departure, plus we had to eat lunch at the club because I had been too lazy and otherwise occupied to make anything.

[You must be saying to yourself, Hey, I thought this blog was about wine! Ok, I’m getting there, I promise.] We had hoped to get away in good time, but after lunch, as we were making sure we had everything, I realized that we only had packed trout for dinner. Perhaps not the most balanced meal. After pointing fingers and trying to place the blame with the other person, we decided to both take partial responsibility and do a quick trip to Farm Boy. There we picked up a quinoa salad and a greek dill salad to go with the trout. Crisis averted.

To go with the trout, I brought along a Toasted Head Chardonnay that I had picked up on sale a few weeks before.

Toasted Head

MY PAIRING THEORY

Basically, if something is going to go on the barbecue, I am generally looking for something oaky to go with the smokey flavours from the grill. So if we’re having steak, I’ll go with a red that is heavy on the oak. Lately that means, any red from California, where they seem to barrel-age everything. Since we were having fish, I decided to apply this same logic to a white, therefore: an oaky, more heavy-bodied white from California.

RESULTS

The trout off the grill (in foil with olive oil, butter, salt and pepper, for those who are curious) was simple yet delicious, and the chardonnay went pretty well with it, though in hindsight the wine was maybe too much for the subtle flavours of the trout. The light S&P seasoning allowed the flavour of the fish to shine, and next time I may go with a lighter-bodied wine for a more delicate balance.

BUT when paired with the greek dill salad, WOW. Fresh dill is quite a powerhouse of flavour in the herb world, and boy is the Toasted Head a great match for it. It took me a while to figure out why this was. Obviously, powerful flavours in food need powerful wines to stand up to them. But it was more than that. It was not just a question of the wine’s body, but also of its flavours, specifically the oak component. When a wine is barrel-aged, the oak certainly lends a specific flavour profile to a wine. This can include vanilla, butterscotch, caramel, toast, smoke and butter. Some even argue that dill is an oak flavour component, and after tasting the dill–oaky chardonnay combo, I would have to agree! It was a match made in heaven.

OAKED WHITES: LOVE ‘EM OR HATE ‘EM

Now, oak in a white wine is an acquired taste. Generally, you either love it or hate it. When I first started my wine classes, I was definitely not a fan. But the more I tasted it, the more I grew to love it. What are your feelings on chardonnay? Are you a lover or a hater? I challenge you to try a chardonnay in the next little while. If you’re not a fan of the oaked version, try an unoaked chardonnay. I recommend Kim Crawford’s Unoaked Chardonnay as a gentle transition.

Kim unoaked

If you’re looking for a nice chard under $15, I also recently tried the staff pick at my local LCBO and was quite pleased with my purchase. Lots of citrus and stone fruit (peaches and apricots). Un chardonnay typique, quoi! 

http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo/product/jp-chenet-chardonnay-reserve-pays-d-doc/255885#.VdpLgq-COrU

JP Chenet Chardonnay (http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo/product/jp-chenet-chardonnay-reserve-pays-d-doc/255885#.VdpLgq-COrU)

P.s. I apologize for the lack of my own pictures in this post. We were so hungry we forgot to take pictures of the delicious trout! Rookie blogger mistake that will be remedied next time!

Beach Wining

There is nothing like being on a beach on a hot day, especially when you have gorgeous mountain views!

Jericho Beach in Vancouver

Jericho Beach in Vancouver

Finding a nice beach wine is not hard. But there are a few key characteristics I look for in a beach sipper:

1. High acidity

Acidity is the mouth-watering aspect of a wine, and is what makes you salivate even after the wine has left your mouth. High-acidity wines can be described as zippy or refreshing, and are great palate cleansers. Both reds and whites can be acidic, however for a beach day, my preference would be a white or rosé – something refreshing and light.

2. Low alcohol content

In general, the more body a wine has, the higher its alcohol content. That is why the fullest-bodied wines like cabernet sauvignon and shiraz tend to be higher in alcohol. On the other hand, lighter-bodied whites tend to have a lower alcohol content. And that’s the sort of easy drinking I’m looking for in a beach wine. I don’t like to dehydrate too quickly under the sun!

3. Twist-off cap

This may be shocking to some of you, but despite being a wine snob, I don’t carry a corkscrew around with me at all times. There are enough things to remember when packing for the beach: bathing suits, towels, hats, sunscreen, cooler, snacks, glasses, dishes, etc. When choosing your wine, think ahead and save yourself some trouble by getting a wine with a twist-off cap. It will facilitate matters significantly. I’ve witnessed people trying to get a cork out without the proper tools and it is not pretty. Add a beach to the mix and you will invariably end up with bits of cork and lots of sand in your wine. Not really the smooth mouthfeel I’m looking for…

Suggestions

Of course, personal preferences will come into play here, including price point and sweetness. In the lower range for price, an excellent value beach wine and excellent summer go-to is the Portuguese vinho verde. This slightly effervescent wine is incredibly refreshing, with the bubbles magnifying the already high acidity. I found this great vinho in Vancouver and it’s what I drank on our beach day:

The only thing about vinhos is they should be drunk COLD. Bring a cooler!

The only thing about vinhos is they should be drunk COLD. Bring a cooler!

In Canada, this particular bottle only seems to be available in B.C., so here are some you can get from the LCBO:

  • Aveleda – tried, tested and true for under $10!!
  • Gazela – I haven’t personally tried this one, but I hear that for $9, you really can’t go wrong!

This wine is generally dry, so if you’re looking for something sweeter, try an off-dry riesling or a moscato.

Rosés are also great on a hot summer’s day. A lot of people tell me that they don’t like rosés because they are too sweet, but we’re not talking about those ridiculously sweet pretty-pink zinfandels from Beringer that we drank in first year in our failed attempts to be sophisticated. Today, I can attest that there are a myriad of rosés to suit all tastes, ranging from extra-dry to sweet. I personally love rosés from the south of France, but I may be biased. They smell of fresh strawberries and raspberries and their refreshing acidity makes me feel like I am sitting in the shade of an olive tree with a view of Mont Ste. Victoire. My favourite appellations are Bandol and Tavel, so those may be a good place to start, but I encourage you to just get a bunch of bottles, invite some friends over, and taste a few to find your favourite!

Enjoy! And don’t forget to wear sunscreen!

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P.S. Just because this post is entitled “Beach Wining”, the consumption of the wines discussed herein is not strictly restricted to beach locales. “Beach” can easily be replaced with “Boat,” “Backyard,” “Patio,” “non-air-conditioned apartment” or anywhere else where a cool, refreshing wine is required.

Tricky pairings #1 – Curry

Wine pairing is an incredibly complex topic. There is no way to cover it in just one post, and I will delve more into it in future posts, but let me give you a brief overview.

Mel’s take on wine pairing

The general goal is to find a wine that complements your food. You don’t want your wine to overpower the flavours of your dish, but you also want it to be able to stand up to the food. There are the well-known pairings: steak with a big, bold red like cabernet sauvignon, where the tannins in the wine help cut through the fat of the meat; or fish with a light, crisp white like sauvignon blanc. But these are just the basics. In my experience, these generic pairings don’t always cut it. What if your steak is being served with a flavourful chimichurri sauce, or what if the fish comes with a mango coulis? Then your tyical pairings would go right out the window. The trick is to identify the most powerful flavour component on the plate, and try to find a complementary wine for that, not necessarily the protein it is being served with.

A tricky pairing

This brings us to today’s topic: the tricky pairing of curry.  There are different types of curry and I must say that I am unclear on the differences. I just know that I prefer a Thai curry to an Indian curry.  Then, there are red, green, and yellow curries, all of which have a distinctive taste and tend to be served with different vegetables for some reason. If anyone can enlighten me, please feel free to do so in the comments. My focus today, however, is on the wine to go with these types of flavourful dishes.

Let’s break it down

In any curry dish, what is the most powerful flavour component? The curry itself, and its accompanying spiciness. Spiciness, along with tanginess and sweetness, is one of the most challenging flavours to pair with wine. Just imagine you’re eating a spicy chili. Is there a wine that comes to mind that you would want to drink? Probably not. Maybe a light beer, like a Corona or a Tiger beer, something refreshing. Or something with some sweetness, like an iced tea. What if we could find a wine that was similar? Perhaps one with the refreshing aspect of the beer and the sweetness of the iced tea?

 Suggestions

The other night we went to a friend’s house, where two different types of curry were being served. One was a tofu red curry, and the other was a vegetarian yellow curry with peas and potatoes. I sent my husband to the LCBO with instructions to get an off-dry or medium riesling from Alsace (FR) or Germany. He arrived at dinner with a bottle of Rethink Riesling, from the Mosel in Germany ($12.80 at the LCBO).

Re-think riesling

On the nose, it is unquestionably a riesling, with the typical citrus and vinyl aroma (not at all a bad thing in this wine). On the palate, the same citrus, plus a bit of peach and green apple quite refreshing with just a hint of sweetness. It didn’t do bad things for the food, and managed to stand up to the spiciness. That said, according to the bottle and the LCBO, it is a dry wine, with the website indicating 15 grams of sugar per litre. However, it also describes it as “off-dry & fruity”. Go figure. Next time, I would probably choose a sweeter wine. Sweeter wines tend to envelop the mouth a bit more, which would balance out and cool off the curry’s spice. With that in mind, a German or French gewürztraminer would also have been a good choice.

A Thai feast, paired with a German riesling.

A Thai feast, paired with a German riesling.

So that’s what I drank with curry the other night. What do you think? What are your preferred pairings for spicy curries? Shall we do a taste test soon?

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