Vino Bianco

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There are over 350 varieties of grapes grown across Italy’s 20+ wine regions.  Many of the red varieties like sangiovese, nebbiolo, montepulciano, etc. are becoming somewhat ubiquitous; however, the white wines/grapes are still a bit mysterious to me.  I’ve created this little cheat sheet to help me feel a bit less intimidated when I see an Italian wine menu this summer.

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Yes Way Rosé

With the arrival of longer days and warmer weather, it is officially rosé season.  There are many choices when it comes to rosé.  Côtes de Provence rosé has become the quintessential pink bottle for many consumers.  This classic, crisp rosé, made from grenache grapes, has flavors of strawberry and citrus blossoms and is perfect for enjoying on a hot day.  However, there are many other styles of rosé to quench your summer thirst.

Heading west from Provence, you will find Tavel in the Rhone Valley, which is the one of the few French appellations that produces rosé exclusively.  Tavel is made from a blend of Rhone grapes (cinsault, bourboulenc, clairette, mourvèdre, picpoul, and syrah), and the style is know for being fuller bodied and darker in color than Provence.  With aromas of ripe berries, garrigue, and light notes of almond, it is an excellent food wine, and the perfect pairing for a sunset picnic.

Rosé is often associated with France, but it is produced throughout the wine-making world.  One of my favorite styles of rosé is the Spanish Txakolina rosé from the Basque country.  Made from a blend of hondarrabi zuri and hondarrabi beltza, the wines have flavors of wild berries, tart citrus, and a hint of sea air.  Most of the Txakilina imported into the US comes from Getariako Txakolina, but the fresh and fizzy wine is also found in Bizkaiko Txakolina and Arabako Txakolina

Another favorite of mine is the Italian Chiaretto which comes from two regions on the banks of Lake Garda:  Valtenesi and Bardonlino.  The Chiaretto Valtenesi is made on the western bank in the Lombardy region from the gropello grape.  This is an aromatic rosé with bright red cherries and fresh violets on the nose, and a crisp and lightly peppery palate.  Across the lake in the Veneto region, there is another Chiaretto, the Chiaretto Bardilono, made from a blend of corvino, rondinella, and molinara grapes, which creates a rosé full of red berries, fresh herbs, and marzipan flavors.

Whatever pink you prefer, happy rosé season!

Raise a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and May the Fourth be with you!

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Today is an exciting day for Star Wars fans, Sauvignon Blanc drinkers, and obscure holiday aficionados!  May the fourth is considered the official Star Wars Day, and the first Friday of May has been deemed as Sauvignon Blanc Day by the New Zealand  Wine Association.  In an effort to unite wine nerds and sci-fi enthusiasts across the galaxies, I worked with a friend to create these amazing Stars Wars and wine mash-up scenes.  In between photo shoots and lightsaber battles, I was busy reviewing the different styles of Sauvignon Blanc.  Sauvignon Blanc is grown around the world, but in each location, this aromatic and zesty grape takes on different qualities.  To help break it down, I’ve put together this handy chart with common flavor profiles. 🤓

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As you prepare for the festivities of the day, here are a couple of quick buying tips… Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand (especially Marlborough) and the Loire Valley (especially Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé) have become very trendy in the past few years.  These are classic and delicious styles, so their popularity is well deserved.  However, if you are looking for a bargain, expanding your search to lesser know regions can make your purchase a bit easier on the wallet.  If you are looking for Sauvignon Blanc in the lean, mineral style of Sancerre, you might try something from a neighboring appellation in the Loire Valley, such as Touraine, Menetou-Salon, Reuilly, or Quincy.  If you prefer the lush fruit character of NZ, perhaps give an Italian or Chilean bottle a try.   Whatever the region or style, I hope that you can enjoy a refreshing glass of Sauvignon Blanc on this momentous day, and may the force be with you!

Attach5549_20180502_235301Photo credits and many thanks to Josh Horowitz.

 

Sauvignon Blanc Day on Friday

 

The first Friday in May is International Sauvignon Blanc day, so here’s a little background to help you prepare for the festivities.

Sauvignon Blanc is a white grape that originated in France, where it is  still widely planted in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux .  However, it has also become popular in many New World wine regions, such as Chile, South Africa, and California, but especially New Zealand, where it has become their most widely planted grape.

Sauvignon Blanc is a dry, white wine, with high acidity.  It is often described as crisp and refreshing, and it is one of my favorite wines for summer.  I find Sauvignon Blanc easy to drink on its own, but with its herbal and mineral qualities, it also makes an excellent pairing for fresh vegetables, salads,  fish/seafood, sushi,  and raw oysters.

Common fruit flavors for Sauvignon Blanc are lime (and other citrus), honeydew melon, green apple, and peach.  Additionally, Sauvignon Blanc is known for strong non-fruit flavors such as fresh grass, bell pepper, and chalky minerals.

 

Malbec World Day

 

IMG_20170417_220643_193April 17th was designated as Malbec World Day in 2011 by Wines of Argentia to commemorate the day in 1853, when president Domingo Faustino Sarmiento declared his mission to revive and expand the Argentinian wine market.  Sarmiento sought the expertise of a French soil expert, Michel Pouget, who brought over a selection of vines, including some Malbec.  In France, Malbec was mainly used for blending, because the thin-skinned grapes were highly susceptible to frost, disease and rot.  However, in the drier climate of Mendoza, Argentina, the Malbec vines thrived.  The warmth in Argentina brought out a more fruit-forward flavor in the wines, in contrast to the strong tannins of the French Malbecs.  For many years, the Malbec varietal was only common within Argentina, but in the early 2000s, the popularity started to spread due to its easy drinkability and bargain price.  Malbec wine is often described as both juicy, with flavors of cherries, plums, and berries (blackberries/raspberries), and bold, with flavors like smoke/tobabbo, leather, and black pepper.   Despite their thin skin, Malbec grapes are a dark purple color, which leads to nearly opaque wine with a deep purple/red color.  Malbecs pair well with earthy or smokey foods (BBQ anyone?) or strong flavors, like funky cheese.  Happy Malbec World Day!

 

Chilean Pisco

DSC_0791 (1)Pisco is a brandy made by distilling grapes.  The brandy is produced in Peru and the northern regions of Chile and is most often made from the Pedro Jiménez, Torontel or Muscat grapes.  Chilean Pisco is usually aged in oak for several years, while most Peruvian Pisco is bottled straight out of the still.  There is a debate between the two countries as to who makes the better Pisco, as well as who can lay claim to the Pisco Sour as their national cocktail.   The recipe for a Chilean Pisco Sour is quite simple: pisco, lemon juice, and sugar, shaken vigorously with crushed ice, and optional bitters.  The Peruvian version uses lime juice and bitters, as well as an egg white for froth.  Although, I have not been to Peru, there are many Peruvian restaurants in Chile, so I able to try both styles…  They are both refreshing and perfect as an aperitif.  However,  I slightly prefer the Chilean style, without the egg-white foam.  ¡Salud!

 

Chilean Wine – A Brief History

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After WWII, Chilean wine production declined dramatically, and the Chilean exports were reduced to a few large producers.

However in the 1980s, there were changes in the government’s economic policies and a renewed interest from international wine makers, which started a resurgence of the wine industry in Chile.  One of the key international players was Spain’s Miguel Torres, who purchased a vineyard in Chile and introduced modern wine making technologies to the Chilean wine makers.  Torres was a key inspiration of Alfonso Chadwick Errázuriz of Vina Errázuriz, who spent a great deal of time in Europe to gain recognition for Chilean wine.  He organized the “Berlin Tasting” in 2004, which pitted prestigious French and Italian wines against 6 Chilean wines.  To the surprise of all, two of Errázuriz’s wine came in first and second place, beating out the famed Chateau Lafite.   Even with renewed international appreciation, the Chilean wine industry continued to be dominated by larger wineries such as Concha y Toro.  However,  recently there is a push to provide more opportunities for smaller, artisanal producers, with organizations such as MOVI and VIGNO.

In the coming weeks,  I will be traveling to Chile, and I hope to share with you much more insight and inspiration for drinking Chilean wines.  Salud!

Photo Credit: Food & Beverage Magazine