Monday, December 11, 2017

Franco-Italian Wine

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Posted by Burke Morton On July - 8 - 2010

I apologize for the infrequency of posting of late, but summer break from school keeps me occupied with my kids, and much as I love writing about wine, they deserve better than an absentee father, which is what I'd be otherwise. However, greater frequency is imminent. Speaking of patriarchs, yesterday I was drinking a lovely glass of '09 Domaine L. Chatelain Chablis when my father, a bottle of '08 La Toledana Gavi in hand, topped up my Chablis, thinking, not unfairly, that Gavi already occupied my glass. I'm game for this kind of thing (there was more Chablis to be had, so it wasn't a big deal), so I drank--with some relish as it turns out--what was roughly a fifty-fifty blend. We were having swordfish steaks (from the USA of course...gotta be sustainable about your fish), and while neither the Gavi nor Chablis had been particularly scintillating with the fish, the combination was, as you have probably guessed, spot-on.

The Chablis on its own was crisp and lively, with a brilliant texture that seemed lighter than usual. The Gavi, conversely, came across as more intense and robust than I consider typical. This combination was singular and really quite fun. It yielded something more akin to a Marsanne from a cooler vintage. A marriage of Chardonnay and Cortese (the two grapes involved in the impromptu blend) cannot be a common one, but the result was enlightening, and in the event that I had forgotten, it would have been a reminder to keep experimenting--even in some unusual ways--with wine and food.

Any experiments and discoveries of your own?

Popularity: 20% [?]

Why Should We Avoid Red Wine with Fish?

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Posted by Burke Morton On October - 26 - 2009

Red & Fish (photo: stevegarfield)Long has there been a stigma against drinking red wine with fish. I doubt this is rooted in a James Bond sort of snobby disdain of an incorrect wine choice, though I have heard many suggest this. It is simply a practical consideration for enjoyment (it's just the cultural elite who regard it as outré). The fact is that a red wine can often make even the freshest fish smell and taste exceedingly "fishy"--a magnification of that decaying smell that should warn you off buying a fish from the market. Most every time I have had this combination, I felt not only did the fish taste awful (if I could even taste it at all), the wine suddenly had a metallic taste: sapped of fruit almost entirely. I would gather that this metallic flavor is a magnification of a wine's iron content. I usually remain sensitive to iron in wine, especially reds, for long periods after such an encounter, as iron (or whatever it is that tastes like it) seems to attach itself to the tannins present in most reds.

This iron-ic transformation happens most obviously with Pinot Noir and Smoked Salmon--this is a dreadful combination, which prompts the most tooth-shocking metallic flavor you would never want to experience. Imagine someone filing madly on your teeth, getting dangerously close to the root, and then deciding to scratch his fingers along a blackboard just for kicks. It's that unpleasant. Actually, pairing Pinot Noir and smoked fish of any kind is usually bad, though lean fish (a speedy swimmer like bluefish) seems to be better.

This same disastrous vinous metamorphosis happens with non-smoked white-fleshed fish and robust red wines, though lighter reds like Pinot Noir can often be just fine. Particularly egregious in this metallic offense are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc (which is usually even worse), Syrah, and Nebbiolo (which can be so bad that one needs no further evidence as to why you might want to avoid the red wine and fish combination). The obvious conclusion is that this means that there is some type of fat that iron latches on to, but I know next to nothing about chemistry, so someone else will have to illuminate this aspect of the issue.

I would imagine that this effect is not so bad in wines with very little iron content, a measure that would vary based on the amount of iron present in the soil on which the vines are planted. However, I have never done (and will probably never do) a study to find out. Sounds like a good idea for a science project--too bad science projects are the province of high school students who are underage.

If you are intent on having red wine with fish (which is just fine with me), go with a wine possessing low tannin: Beaujolais would be ideal. If you are having a more robust red-fleshed fish, by all means, have a red wine. Not that red would naturally be my first choice (it depends upon the situation), but there are many fine combinations here. Tuna, salmon, and brook trout can be quite delicious with Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, and a few less common grape varieties, including one from the heel of the Italian boot, Negroamaro (though it can be quite alcoholic, which can hamper its usefulness), and the famous (if widely considered ignoble) German red Dornfelder (which can actually be a wonderful wine for this purpose, if you can find a good one).

There are exceptions to all of this of course, and I would urge you to experiment with red wine and fish if it intrigues you. I am still intrigued by this to the extent that it happens to come up, but I no longer seek this one out.

If you are seeking good pairings for your fish, there are many, many options listed in the Wine Pairing Search, both white and red wine. As an alternative, you could go do some experimenting as a part of the Wine Pairing Course, and report back your experiences.

Popularity: 15% [?]

Chesapeake Bay Oysters

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Posted by Burke Morton On September - 11 - 2009

Chesapeake Bay OystersThe Chesapeake Bay Oyster (crassostrea virginica), which is known as the Eastern Oyster when not raised in the Chesapeake, is an endangered species in the Chesapeake Bay, which is at once surprising and expected. It is surprising because the Chesapeake Bay gets its name from the local Native American word Chesepiook, meaning 'Great Shellfish Bay'. The Bay was awash in oysters (and no doubt blue crabs, which have over-fishing issues of their own) when the first Europeans arrived in the Chesapeake in 1607. At roughly one percent of their estimated original population, Chesapeake Bay Oysters are currently residing in the 'where are they now' column. Which brings me to why this was to be expected: Chesapeake Bay Oysters were harvested at a staggering pace from what was once (a century ago) the world's largest oyster 'fishery'. The Chesapeake Bay Oyster was not only popular as food, but valuable as a building material. Once a couple of diseases took hold, the already declining oyster populations dropped precipitiously.

Consuming Chesapeake Bay Oysters

We just visited my parents, whose house is on the estuary of a river that feeds the Chesapeake. They are participating in an oyster reclamation project whereby individuals raise oysters for their own use, but the Bay is beneficiary of the oyster's spawning and water-cleansing power in the meantime. My parents buy three hundred oysters every year and raise them in a cage off their pier. In the third year (they have three populations going at any given time) after getting a new tranche of the endangered bivalve, they have 'market ready' oysters that they can eat.

And we did eat! The oysters were exceptional--I've never had a more seductive oyster experience! We ate them raw, of course, and the flavor...mmmm...they need no 'enhancers'. Perhaps it was the remains of the salt water on the oyster, but the oysters had a fabulously aromatic, heavenly flavor, that seemed to create a halo of the oyster-flavor floating around my head. It was as though the oysters had been growing in a garden of fresh fennel. It is hard to believe that this is the same species as Cape Cod's famous Wellfleet Oyster, which is delicious in its own right...but it is no Chesapeake!

Food & Wine Harmony

It was an enlightening experience, and I cannot tell you how much I wished I could have had a bottle or two of Vermentino! We did well with Picpoul, which was a fine alternative. If the Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc (old vine Roussanne) wasn't so expensive, I'd jump on a bottle of that to have with these oysters, too.

Popularity: 19% [?]

The Importance of Good Glassware

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Posted by Burke Morton On September - 10 - 2009

Wine GlassesI cannot express fully the import of good glassware for wine, because you'd realize that you would rather be a test subject in the NIH Toe Stubbing study than read on. But this website is, in part, about getting "more from your glass" (see above), so breathe easy--and read on!

You may think this some bit of snobbery, but I assure you, it is not. Wine deserves good glassware. This is hardly an original position: I'm just another in a myriad of voices adjuring wine lovers to graduate up. Clearly this is catching on, though, as the 99¢ glass from your local mass-merchandiser has become sufficiently insufficient that Target now carries Riedel crystal stemware in several shapes.

If you drink a wide variety of wines, it is worth investing in more than one glass shape. I have four that I use with regularity: two of these stem shapes are excellent "all-purpose" glasses; two are key for making some wines better, and if you drink the wines suggested below, they will be come important glasses to you, too.

My Stemware of Choice

My all-purpose glass #1:
...is the red wine glass from Riedel's Overture series of glasses. Almost every wine tastes great out of this glass, but another "all-purpose" glass may be even more appropriate (see below for more). More specifically, I would choose this one for:
Whites: Gewurztraminer, richer-styles of Chardonnay, Marsanne, Muscat, Viognier
Reds: Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo

My all-purpose glass #2:
Initially designed by Riedel for Zinfandel, Chianti, or Dry Riesling, I use this one as often as the preceding glass. In addition to the aforementioned wines that inspired this glass, Champagne from this stem is WAY better than out of a traditional flute, and I also us it for the following:
Whites: Albariño, Auxerrois, Chablis (or similarly ringing Chardonnay), Chenin Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, Riesling (across the range from dry to sweet), Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Roussanne, Sauvignon Blanc, Viura
Reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petite, Sirah, Sangiovese, Syrah, Zinfandel

Important Glass #1
The Riedel Vinum Burgundy glass looks like a brandy snifter on a tall stem. If you drink lots of Pinot Noir, Grenache (Côtes-du-Rhône), or Nebbiolo, then you should get this glass. Its shape allows an aromatic wine to bloom and then retain the aromas until you get your nose into the glass. This glass is excellent for:
Whites: Chardonnays of a majestic style (i.e., White Burgundy and the like), Viognier is lovely from this glass as well.
Reds: Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo, Grenache, Beaujolais (Gamay), Pinot Meunier, Counoise, among others.

Important Glass #2
The Bordeaux glass from Riedel's Vinum series is a very aggressive glass that is designed to tear through tannic structure so that one can appreciate the wine faster than having to let the wine mature for several years. Wines that perform well from this glass are, as a rule, youthful reds: Bordeaux; Cabernet Sauvignon; Syrah; Merlot; some more strident Cabernets Franc; some stiffer kinds of Malbec; Mourvèdre; gripping, young Tempranillo. I've never enjoyed using this glass for white wine--the wine becomes too diffuse.

What does this have to do with Wine & Food Pairing?

Plenty.

Wines chosen for specific foods are, one hopes, selected to enhance the way a diner experiences the flavors within a dish, as well as between the food and wine. If you really intend to capitalize on this (and if you love food, I suspect you'd agree that one should do this), the way a diner perceives the wine should not be inhibited the glass.

Some of this sounds fussy, I know, but it really isn't much trouble, and it can make a huge difference. If one goes to the trouble of getting a good companion wine for their food, then--unless financial considerations preclude the purchase of new glassware--it would be a shame to be half-assed about its presentation.

Other Choices

As far as good values go, and I'm all for good values where something as fragile as a wine glass is concerned, you might also try Riedel's 'O' series, stemless tumblers (great glasses that also do fine in the dishwasher) that are inexpensive and come in bargain-priced sets. If it turns out that you were wronged in a previous life by a Riedel ancestor, or if you simply want to try something different, you might try Spiegelau, another excellent crystal company whose stemware I own and admire (it's just less easy to get). I shouldn't forget another crystal maker I'm partial to, as well: Schott Zwiesel makes some wonderful, sturdy glasses out of titanium crystal, which I have used in a restaurant setting with excellent results.

Popularity: 20% [?]

Video Today


You don't need to speak French to know that the iPad can double as a Champagne Sabre.... Happy New Year!

Popularity: 66% [?]

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