Garden Rosé Tasting #6
Chino 2005, Cuvée Réné Couly, Couly-Dutheil (saq...$16.60)
Against the backdrop of creeping thyme in full flower, this lip gloss colored “rosé de saignée’ was a bit of a surprise. Composed of 100% Cabernet Franc, the first whiff announced a full-on fruit assault with the accent on fresh strawberries still with their green tops. The first sip confirmed an almost precocious adolescence, with a hint of sweetness on top of slight ‘perlance,’ fine little bubbles dancing playfully over your tongue. But with some time, this little Lolita shed some of her coyness, showing a more floral side, an elegant mix of poppy and lilac alongside an admirable depth. While I, like many, admire the fragile and enticing beauty that comes with youth, here is a case to wait and see what a little maturity will bring.
I am stocking a couple of bottles for next summer.
Next post...Vin Gris is dethroned!
2006 rosé ranking
1. Vin Gris de Cigare 2005, Bonny Doon
2. Toscana Igt 2005, Rosato, Carpineto
3. Chino 2005, Cuvée Réné Couly, Couly-Dutheil
4. Coteaux du Languedoc 2005, Château de Lancyre
5. Costières de Nîmes 2005, Domaine Saint-André
6. Saint Chinian 2005, Clos de L'Orb
Wine Blog Wednesday #22
Light Alcohol Reds
Alcohol is up. Turely, Rolland, Parker and many other influence peddlers have without doubt left their mark, promulgating a super (over?) ripe style of wine. But don't shoot the messenger, rising alcohol levels are not their fault. When Tim at Winecast proposed the low alcohol reds theme, and setting the cut off at 12.5%, I was confident that I could rummage through my collection of organic Beaujolais and be faced with that beautiful dilemma of which one to choose.
Wrong. Metras, Thevenet, Foillard, Lapierre, names synonymous with the ‘vin nature’ organic movement in France all had abv levels ranging from 12.5% to 13.5%. Metras’ Fleurie 2002 had an alcohol level of 12%, coinciding with the one of the weakest years France has witnessed over the last decade. If any group of winemakers can be counted on to refute the ‘modern style’ it is these guys. However, as these winemakers strive for optimal ripeness, eschewing without any additives (even sulfur) or manipulations, the unprecedented higher than average summer temperatures that Europe has seen over the last 7 or 8 years has played an even bigger part in taking French wine towards high abv than a conscious decision to make a more ‘new world style.’ So what to drink below 12.5%
How about 5%?
Brigantino 2003, Casorzo Doc, Accornero ($23…ip)
Hailing from Piedmont, the Brigantino is made almost entirely from one of the innumerable Malvasia varieties scattered throughout Europe, Malvasia di Casorzo. Slightly frizzante, this is a very pretty wine that combines rose petals, wild strawberries with a hint of plum. It sweetness is balanced by a nice acidity and of course, the bubbles. While it drinks almost too easily as an aperitif, it is the perfect accompaniment for one of our favorite desserts, rhubarb and strawberry pudding.
Garden Rosé Tasting #5
Vin Gris de Cigare 2005, Bonny Doon (saq...$17)
With a label inspired by a local French law which forbade spaceships from landing in their vineyards (I’m serious), this is yet another Randall Graham homage to Châteauneuf-du-Pape. A blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre, Cunoise, Syrah and Viogner, the 2005 version strikes me as his best effort yet.
The color is a delicate pink with orange highlights. The bouquet is both pretty and complex with a nice balance struck between typical Provençal herbs like rosemary and thyme, and a nicely understated fruit of guava, strawberry and pomegranate.
The mouth is bone dry with a nice crisp acidity and follows through on the herbal notes that we found in the nose, though with the addition of some red peppercorn. It had decent length and I found a hint of iodine along with a touch of strawberry on the finish.
Oh but what to eat? It works okay as an aperitif with all those herbal notes, but it's a shame not to give it some food. It would be a great lunch wine with a salad nicoise or even better, with a cold lobster salad served with some roquette and other bitter greens, or as we did, salmon.
This year, the SAQ tripled its order to 3000 cases to satisy what seems to be an insatiable local demand for this Randall Graham creation. And with reason, as it is consistently one of the better rosés on the market, and probably the most complete rosé I have tasted this summer….. so far!
Everything is in the ground or seeded, but as the azaleas bloom, one must pay homage ourselves. Next up…a rosé from Chinon.
2006 rosé ranking
1. Vin Gris de Cigare 2005, Bonny Doon
2. Toscana Igt 2005, Rosato, Carpineto
3. Coteaux du Languedoc 2005, Château de Lancyre
4. Costières de Nîmes 2005, Domaine Saint-André
5. Saint Chinian 2005, Clos de L'Orb
Biodynamic in Bordeaux
The Seemingly Ageless Château le Puy
While the debate over the merits of biodynamic agriculture continues, one cannot argue about the quality and uniqueness of many of the wines produced by those winemakers who follow this discipline. The wines of Leroy, Joly, Weinbach, Ostertag, Gauby, Lapierre, to name but a few, are some of the finest examples of their respective regions. The real question is whether the quality of these wines are a product of bio-d, or simply due to that unique combination of winemaker skill, attentiveness, soil and climate.
While biodynamics is gaining adherents the world over, staid and conservative Bordeaux has so far resisted the temptation to hang and bury plant-stuffed deer bladders. However, there is one winemaker who has taken that leap of faith, embracing not only bio-dynamics but also a more organic approach to vinification via the use of indigenous yeasts, little or no sulphur dioxides, no fining or filtration.
The witch in question is Jean-Pierre Amoreau of Château le Puy, a 25 hectare vineyard in the Côtes de Francs region of Bordeaux. It shares the same rocky plateau as Saint-Emilion and Pomerol, with his site sitting atop the ‘Côteau des Merveilles,’ a name which pays homage to the quality of the wines produced at a Château which has been in operation since 1610. His wines are dominated by very ripe merlot with small percentages of Cabernet Sauvignon and a touch of Carménère, and are marked by a bright acidity which offers an exemplary freshness and length.
Amoreau scoffs at his fellow countrymen who have succumbed to what he refers to as the whims of the export market and their critics. While he uses Michel Rolland’s laboratory for analysis, he refers to Rolland as a brilliant chemist, someone who understands marketing more than wine. He in unabashedly Bordelais, believing that while his wines should be approachable in the first few years in bottle, their destiny is to be passed on to later generations, a snapshot of the year they were made and of the person who made them.
Before I launch into a tasting that went as far back as 1955, it should be noted that these are $23 bottles, not the ‘mortgage your house and let the kids eat lentils’ first-classed growths. I was shocked at not only how the bottles showed the same exemplary lineage, but also at how they aged with such grace and elegance. Thanks to Erwan and the gang at AOC for arranging a great tasting and dinner.
Château le Puy 2001 (saq…$23)
Soft and delicate red fruits with a hint of truffle and held up by very ripe tannins. A great bottle from an underrated vintage.
Château le Puy 2000
I found the balance slightly off, with a tart black cherry aftertaste that cut into the expansiveness and creamy-mouth feel that was so sexy in the 2001.
Château le Puy 1989
A beautiful bouquet that combined dark plums with herbs. It had a similar touch of tart cherry as the 2000 but in this context, it added freshness that was a beautiful counterbalance to the darker, slightly jammy fruit.
Château le Puy 1970
Remember, this wine costs $25! This is how Bordeaux should be drunk. A generous bouquet that combined herbs, tobacco with a hint of leather was followed by a profound fruitiness that evoked the same bright plum and tart cherry of younger vintages but in a richer and more elegant framework.
Château le Puy 1967
The first to have signs of age, it still had that signature acidity but the fruit was a touch cooked (think of port). If you like the style, and lots do, then it was great. I dumped my glass and took a big boy gulp of the 1970.
Château le Puy 1955
It smelled and tasted younger than the ’67, except for hints of strawberry and red cherries that gave the wine a certain softness unfound in the other vintages. Very pretty and again, that brilliant acidity kept the ensemble fresh.
Château le Puy 2003, Cuvée Barthélemy (saq…$60)
With no added sulfur, the Barthélemy is one of the finer examples of wines made in this model. Not reductive in the least, it had a ton of fruit held up by soft, round tannins. It made me kinda think of a young Brigitte Bardot for some reason. Ready to drink and will be available at the SAQ in the coming months.
Château le Puy 2001, Cuvée Barthélemy
One of the problems with no sulfur wines is the risk of oxidation. While the ’03 was perfect, I found the 2001 slipped a bit into that porto fruit area. Very drinkable with notes of cassis and almost a Languedoc type garrigue bouquet.
A Monster in the Minervois
France's Languedoc-Roussillon is a vast and fertile region home to over 400,000 acres of vines. To put this into perspective, this is more acreage under vine than in all of Australia. As the majority of the annual production of 18 million hectolitres of wine is destined to be simple ‘vin de table,’ one could point an accusatory finger at this region for its continued role in adding to what is becoming a worldwide crisis of oversupply of low-quality grapes and wine. As the price of grapes continues to fall, those growers who don’t produce either high-quality grapes or their own wines are finding it difficult to make ends meet.
In what I see as a more productive reaction to the crisis than brandishing pitchforks and blockading highways, efforts are being undertaken on a number of fronts to deal with the oversupply. The cheap stuff is undergoing a cosmetic makeover with hipper packaging and marketing to counter the increasing dominance of Australia and California in the low-end price point. Vines are also being literally ripped out of the ground, making way for more viable cash crops.
Winemakers in the region have also made a conscious decision to produce better-quality wines. Didier Baral in Faugères, Ollivier Jullien in the Languedoc, Marjorie Gallet in the Roussillon are but a few of hundreds of excellent winemakers making reasonably-priced, high-quality and distinctive wines. While many of these winemakers are taking advantage of the region's penchant for experimentation by planting international varietals and using modern vinification techniques, the winemakers that I appreciate most are those who work with indigeneous red varietals like Grenache, Carignan, Syrah and Mourvedre, and white varietals like Roussane, Macabeo and Grenache Blanc and Gris. Here is one such wine.
Minervois La Liviniere 2001, Clos de L’Escandil, Giles Chabbert ($27..importation Privée)
This winemaker and his wine encapsulate perfectly what is happening in today’s Languedoc. Taking over from his father who sold his grapes to the local co-op, Mr. Chabbert now makes his own wine with one foot firmly planted in tradition and the other ‘toeing’ the sand of modern viticulture. A blend of Syrah, Vieilles Vignes Grenache and Carignan, the Clos was rich, ripe and juicy like an over-ripened dark plum. At 14.5% alchohol, hints of black pepper, cloves, black licorice and cooked fig harkened memories of zinfandel. Well-structured with decent tannins, it was a dream with our bbq baby back ribs.
Interesting Languedoc red wines available at the SAQ
Ch. Lancyre Pic St-Loup Grande Cuvée coteaux-du-languedoc 2001 ($24)
Château Puech-Haut Saint- Drézéry coteaux-du-languedoc 2001 ($36)
Domaine Clavel Les Garrigues coteaux-du-languedoc 2004 ($18)
Domaine Borie de Maurel Esprit d'Automne minervois 2005 ($16)
Château Coupes Roses Granaxa minervois 2003 ($22)
Château de Combebelle Comte Cathare st-chinian 2001 ($21)
Donnadieu Cuvée Mathieu et Marie st-chinian 2004 ($16)
Garden Rosé Tasting #4
Our first taste of 30C (86F) temperature of 2006 was as welcome and satisfying as a lazy Sunday morning coffee. While in typical northerner fashion I will soon bemoan the heat as oppressive, and rue every drop of sweat that rolls off my nose that is not a result of physical exertion, yesterday I welcomed the first real summer day with relief and open arms. Equally welcome was a chilled glass of pink as I took a stroll amongst the flowering lilacs, ‘rhodos,’ apple and pear trees.
Costières de Nîmes 2005, Domaine Saint-André (saq..$13.75)
Against a backdrop of apple blossoms, the Saint-André Rosé hails from the easternmost Languedoc appellation of Costières de Nîmes (due to its soil and climate, however, it is more Rhône than Languedoc).This blend of 45% Syrah and 55% Grenache is surprisingly delicate for a rosé de saignée. Its pretty and floral nose with hints of raspberry seemed a bit incongruent with its color, and even more surprising was its crisp acidity with slightly darker fruit and baie rose in the mouth. While it would work with a light fish, this is a classic dry rosé de terrasse, refreshing and clean.
2006 rosé ranking
1. Toscana Igt 2005, Rosato, Carpineto
2. Coteaux du Languedoc, Château de Lancyre 2005
3. Costières de Nîmes 2005, Domaine Saint-André
4. Saint Chinian 2005, Clos de L'Orb
Lobster and Wine
With lobster season upon us, it’s time to break out the white wine and enjoy this most delectable of our ocean’s bounty. But what to drink? The enigma that is matching wine with food, which seems to mystify so many people, is once again on the table. But fear not, in honour of one of my favourite seasonal foods, here is the caveman’s guide to all things seabug. And remember, kids love (to play with) lobster!
The Principle of the Pairing
It might seem obvious but we are matching the wine to the food. Think of your wine as if it were a spice or accompaniment, as another element to augment the flavours and textures of your cooking. While other elements such as the time of day (lunch or dinner), outside temperature and the colour of your dinner mate's eyes can also affect your choice of wine, let’s start simple. So as we look at the lobster, the first question is how is it cooked, and then, what is it served with?
Can’t I drink red…. please?
Let’s get over this one right away. Nope. Tannin in red wine and the iodine in the lobster will react to make the ensemble taste metallic, it’s basic chemistry...sorry. On another level, the natural saltiness of the lobster (as with most seafood) will amplify the flavours of whites while turning tannic reds slightly bitter. So what about Beaujolais and other low-tannin reds? The answer is still no as the lobster’s delicate flavour will be overpowered by even the most subtle Gamay.
So how do you like your lobster?
Are you grilling, boiling or poaching the lobster in beurre blanc? Are you serving it with cream sauce? Is it part of a salad? Our rule of thumb is the richer the preparation, the bigger the wine. And in terms of wine style, the iodine in the lobster tends to match better with more ‘mineral’ and less fruit-orientated wines.
Chilled lobster in a salad
Because of the vinaigrette, you will need a wine with a higher acidity or a hint of sweetness. Remember that your wine should always have more acidity than what is on the plate or else it will taste flat. Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and a german style Riesling are spectacular choices with the nod going to the Sauvignon if it is served with asparagus or the Riesling in a more conventional salad.
Château des Matards 2004, Premières-côtes-de-blaye (saq..$15)
Deidesheimer Leinhöhle riesling kabinett Rheinpfalz 2002 (saq..$23)
Pouilly-fumé 2004, Pascal Jolivet (saq...$26)
Boiled, with and without the garlic butter
This is the classic. I tend to have the garlic butter on the table though I don’t dunk each juicy morsel. If you don’t go for the garlic butter, try a good quality Albarino, Viogner, Chablis or Pinot Blanc, wines which tend to be unoaked and have a natural richness without being too big. If you go garlic butter, try a Roussanne or white Grenache based wine (like a Côte du Rhone), Gruner Veltliner or Alsatian Pinot Gris. These grapes tend towards more vegetative notes which work well with garlic and that have enough body to stand up to the richness of the butter.
Without the garlic
Vinde pays d'oc 2005, Viognier, Domaine Cazal Viel (saq..$16)
Coteaux du Languedoc 2004, Château Saint-Martin de la Garrigue (saq...$18)
Albarino 2004, Pazo de Senorans (saq...$24)
Chardonnay 2004, Diamond Collection, Francis Coppola (saq...$28) * this chardonnay is mostly un-oaked
Cote du Rhone 2005, Guigal (saq...$19)
Marsanne/viognier 2003, Enigma, Terre Rouge (saq...$30)
Grüner Veltliner Kellergard Smaragd 2003, FX Pichler (saq...$76)
Are you sure I can’t drink a red?
Good wine is good wine, and good food will always be good food. When the two are in harmony then the experience is that much better. Your choice.
Lobster in cream sauce
This is where texture comes into play and our choices become a touch more limited. This degree of opulence requires a substantial wine with white Burgundy being the quintessential match. Think Meursault, Monrachet or a more budget-oriented Pouilly-Fuissé as opposed to a California-style Chardonnay. The less fruit-oriented Burgundy’s greater acidity and less oak makes for a more delicate match.
Mâcon-igé 2004, Château London (saq...$22)
Pouilly-fuissé 2004, La Maréchaude vieilles vignes, Manciat-Poncet (saq..$27)
Chassagne-montrachet Château de la Maltroye (saq...$58)
If there is a place for oak and fruit, then it is here. The ‘charred’ and smokey flavors which result from grilling are ideal forums for the more ‘new world style’ whites which bring with them toast and smoke flavours as well as an abundance of ripe fruit. Australian, South American or Californian Chardonnays would be excellent choices.
Chardonnay 2004, Alamos Ridge Argentine (saq..$15)
Mercurey2002, Les , Château Génot-Boulanger (saq..$31)
Sicilia i.g.t. 2004, Chardonnay, Planeta (saq..$35)
Garden Rosé Tasting #3
The sacrifices I make for this blog know no end. With weeks of straight rain and sub-par temperatures, there have been few opportunities to drink pink. So as the thermometer slowly crawled up to my magic ambient tasting temperature of 18 Celcius, and under the first blue sky that we have seen in weeks, I could not but take advantage of this perfect tasting moment (even though it is only 10:30am).
Coteaux du Languedoc 2005, Pic Saint-Loup, Château de Lancyre (saq...$14.35)
Nestled amongst bottle high garlic, this classic Languedoc blend of Grenache and Syrah is more red than rose, and thus needs a bit of food to show all that it can do. Deep pink with orange overtones, the first sip refreshes the palette with summer berries and a decent acidity, but it’s slightly creamy finish of red peppercorns, ‘eau de vie de framboise’ and a touch of tannic astringency cry out for some paté, terrine, or other more 'substantial' canapé. Last year I used a couple glasses to poach some salmon and then drank the rest with the meal. So not the ideal pre-lunch beverage but the Lancyre would be a good start to evening meal with some interesting hors d’ouevres.
2006 rosé ranking
1. Toscana Igt 2005, Rosato, Carpineto
2. Château de Lancyre 2005
3. Saint Chinian 2005, Clos de L'Orb
3 inch high peas and the waiting trellis
Hooking Up With the Foodies
WBW-IMBB and ROSÉ
For one beautiful day (today), we have all gone Martha. This month’s combined effort of ‘Wineblog Wednesday’ and ‘Is My Blog Burning’ forces us to look at the complete package: the food and the wine. So welcome to wineland, dear foodies. In deference to all your great work, I could only seek inspiration for the culinary part of this exercise from one your sites. As I often lurk on a number of food blogs, I decided to jam on a recipe from one of my regular reads, Anne’s Chicken in Every Granny Cart.
As it has been cold, dreary and rainy for what seems like two months straight, I was in the mood for something spicy, something that tasted of sunshine. And for me, any vechicule for eating lots of fresh coriander makes me feel as though summer is around the corner. So here is my kid- and time-friendly take on Anne’s:
Pollo con Mole Verde & Frijoles con Puerco (detailed recipe here)
The Mole Verde
It’s May and I live in the country, so there was no way I was going to find fresh tomatillos. Couple this with the fact that I had an hour and a half to get this on the table, corners had to be cut. One of the remnants of my summer 2005 preserves was a half-litre bottle of salsa verde, so I decided that I would use this as the base for my mole. I sweated off the onion and garlic, added lime juice, my salsa (made from last summer's garden-grown tomatillos, coriander and scorching hot chiles), and let it reduce for 45 minutes till it was nice and thick… super fresh mole! Long live canning!
This is killer. As the Mole was way too spicy for even my gastronomically adventurous children, I had to tone down the heat on this course. I followed Anne’s recipe except for using red wine instead of verjus , and replacing the jalapenos with a green bell pepper (as the chorizo already had some heat). I threw in a handful of fresh coriander at the end and topped it off with yoghurt instead of crème fraîche. I just finished the last of it with my morning eggs. Long live leftovers.
Again I followed Anne’s inspiration by pan-searing some chicken thighs, placing them on a dollop of mole and finishing them off in the oven. On the side, I made a basic white rice and a tomato-cucumber-coriander salad. As Anne so succinctly put it, holy frijole!
Toscana Igt 2005, Rosato, Carpineto ($14…saq)
Corona exists for a reason. This type of mouth-blistering heat, while oh-so-satisfying, does little to accentuate the finer points of any wine. I just wanted cool and fresh and for me, that spells Rosé. As far as pinks go, Carpineto’s Rosato always makes my top three every summer. With grapes sourced from Greve in Chianti, this fuschia-tinted rosé is all fruit, with super ripe raspberry and cherry in the forefront. Great acidity and a surprising richness make this an excellent meal rosé…and it worked wonders with our little Mexican heatwave.
2006 ranking: #1 of 2