Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Reminder Not To Take Wine Experts Seriously

Make no mistake, it is this blogger's humble opinion that there is, too, something to wine and food pairings. Otherwise, there'd be a perfect wine to have with barbecue spareribs. But I'll nevertheless defend to the death Alder Yarrow's right to say that "Food and Wine Pairing is Just a Big Scam".

I say that, because all of us wine experts need to boot ourselves in the keister about once every six months or so and remember not to be so sure of ourselves.

Taste is subjective. Some people can't stand oaky wine, some people prefer it. Some people think "noble rot" is misnamed, others sing its praises. Some people dismiss Australian Yellowtail as being only a notch above plonk, but hanged if there aren't some passionate fans of the stuff. Even though it is particularly heavy and should be used only for hand-to-hand combat.

Of course, some stumble bums in alleys think Cisco or Mad Dog 20/20 is just the thing to go with their Hostess Twinkee and can of Spaghetti-Os, too. And you know what? More power to them!

Go ahead, wash down your chocolate mousse with Oloroso, sip a Cab with your breakfast omelet, and order a stiff Merlot with your cod fillet, returning the waiter's fiery glare with a cocky, smug grin. After all, without those adventurous rogues, none of us would be here!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Wine and the American Superbowl

It's just so sweet that Americans would even consider having wine with their traditional Superbowl foods. This cute article goes into how to pair wine with the usual snack foods.

That's all well and good, but let me just address a point: Why is it so difficult to pair wine with American foods? In a word, American cuisine just isn't wine-friendly.

Here's a hint list to what foods don't make for good wine companionship. Not just for Americans, but for anybody getting into wine. Food will go better with wine if it isn't:

  • Swimming in sauce - Think "barbecue". What goes with barbecued ribs? Oh, I don't know, how about a drink of water from a firehose?
  • Loaded with spices - True, there's the South American influence going on with chili, tacos, burritos, and so on. But you have to realize that even true authentic Spanish cuisine doesn't pile on the peppers and hot sauce like Americans do.
  • Drowning in salt - "French fries" - see, right there, have you seen an American French fry? It's crusty with the salt. Pretzels, too. Chips, too.
  • All United States food seems to be like that. Hand an American a cracker, and they'll stack cheese and bacon and onion dip on it. Give them celery, and they have to pile peanut butter or cream cheese and raisins on it. Everything's smothered in ketchup and mustard and mayonnaise and nacho cheese and syrup...

    So remember, Superbowl fans, if you're struggling to match a wine to spicy barbecue chicken, perhaps maybe you could just make that plain old broiled chicken and let the wine provide the taste?

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009

    Can I Get Red Wine Without a Prescription?

    As if there wasn't enough news about the heart-healthy benefits of red wine already, just days ago Newsweek broke a new story about four more health benefits that most people might not be aware of.

    We're probably already familiar with item #3 indirectly, since red wine has been touted for years as a heart benefit, but now it's coming out that it does that partially by raising Omega-3 levels. Omega-3, though it sounds like a science-fiction TV series, is an unsaturated fatty acid which may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Additional Omega-3 benefits include fighting depression and reducing the risk of stroke.

    On to the new findings on Newsweek:

    • 1. Red wine can help prevent physical disabilities.
    • 2. Red wine may help fight Alzheimer's disease.
    • 3. Red wine may decrease the risk of lung cancer in men.
    • So, when will doctors start prescribing this stuff already? It seems to do everything but cure asthma these days. :)

      Sunday, February 15, 2009

      United States President Barack Obama Celebrated His Inauguration With Wine

      Oooooh, let's play the American version of "gossip about the Royal Couple" - what does the president of the United States drink? This is a fun opportunity, for those of you who regularly plan fancy dinners, to see how a professional matches food and wine. The menu description is downright dishy:

      • 2007 Sauvignon Blanc - To accompany seafood stew. Great start! This is the absolute by-the-book choice. We start with a young wine, a light, white wine, to accompany seafood. Remember, light before dark, white before red.
      • 2005 Pinot Noir - That's to go with "pheasant and duck served with sour cherry chutney and molasses sweet potatoes". Now, that's a much more interesting choice. I don't know if that's the wine I would have picked, but then that meal choice would make any sommelier's hair stand on end. Duck - gamey and strong, sour cherry chutney - spicy and cloying, and molasses sweet potatoes - great, let's get drowned in sugar so that any light, sweet wine wouldn't stand a chance! I can picture the chef laughing fiendishly in the kitchen - match a wine to that, suckers!
      • Korbel Champagne - To go with the apple cinnamon sponge cake, which was hopefully light.

      Of course, the event's menu was partly motivated to celebrate American products. They got the apple in there at the end, because, you know, it's "as American as apple pie". With such a convoluted agenda and the whole world watching, we can probably be relieved that the luncheon came off as well as it did.

      Tuesday, January 20, 2009

      Why Is Wine a Difficult Subject for Some?

      By the way, here's another nice beginner's guide to wine. It glosses over a few things, but it's another short, neat guide to learning to appreciate wine.

      But it got me thinking: you see so many "beginner's guides" to wine. It seems almost as if it were a hard subject, like Latin or trigonometry. You almost picture school kids with thick textbooks, having to grind out an essay to pass a class. Is wine really all that difficult? There must be something going on with wine, because I don't see guides like "beginner's guide to milk" or "soda pop for dummies".

      It is certainly a complex subject. There is so much variety in wine that it stands alone from every other beverage, with perhaps the exception of beer. But unlike beer, wine doesn't seem to be so easily domesticated. Wine has an actual science attached to it: An oenologist is one who studies the literal science of wine. And that's not even mentioning a viticulturist, which is a horticulturist who specializes in grape vines.

      But the laymen needn't be concerned with all that, should they? All you need to do to enjoy wine is to uncork a bottle and have a drink. Perhaps there are things we could do to make wine more "beginner friendly". Maybe a commenter or two can offer a suggestion?

      Thursday, January 15, 2009

      You Don't Have To Be Crazy To Be A Winemaker, But It Sure Does Help

      Just thoroughly enjoyed this hilarious post about the more colorful personalities in the winemaking world. Who knew that there's a wine-maker fermenting wine in clay amphorae buried in the ground? Or that an Italian prince spent his whole life teaching himself to make wine, but refused to sell a single bottle while he was alive? Lots of curious oddities here.

      Alder ends up by pondering whether there's a connection between the eccentric personalities attracted to the winemaking craft. Is the insanity inherent, or does the monk-like life of a winery tend to bring out the crackpot in people?

      I suspect that the answer may be pointed to in the work of another eccentric (though a brilliant one!), Clifford A. Pickover's book Strange Brains and Geniuses. Within its pages, the lives of many eccentric legends are explored, examining those who danced at the edge of the boundary separating brilliant from balmy.

      Yes, maybe being smart makes you nuts. In this world, anyway.

      Thursday, December 18, 2008

      MAGNUM-ficant Christmas

      You will be pleased to know that your vintage wine club membership NOW also entitles you to some great discounts on food purchases. Every Monday and Tuesday evening you will have the opportunity to receive a 50% discount for you and your guests when dining at Deco Restaurant at The Raffles Hotel.

      To take advantage of this great offer the following conditions apply:
      - You must arrive no later than 6:30pm and have your order taken before 6:45pm
      - The maximum number that the discount will apply to is eight per member
      - The 50% is on food with your normal discounts being applied to wine purchases

      For those who are looking for some Christmas gift suggestions please have a look at the large range of Magnums available on the Liquor Merchant Website.

      This month I have listed the latest vintage of the Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc. This is about as good as this style gets but its availability is limited. The Chardonnays listed are all great, with the Leeuwin Estate Art Series, the Eileen Hardy and the Moss Wood all rating 95 points.

      In the red wine section there are some outstanding vintages with my personal favourites being the Izway Bruce Shiraz, the Mitolo Serpico Cabernet Sauvignon and the Trevor Jones Dry Grown Shiraz. I know that you will enjoy these and all the other exceptional wines listed.

      Ian Love
      Wine Online

      Monday, December 15, 2008

      The United States is Becoming the Largest Wine Consumer?

      I am not sure what to make of it yet, but according to MSNBC, wine is becoming so popular in the United States that it may become the biggest consumer of wine by 2012. What a surprise that the U.S. is going to out-drink the European countries.

      I consider the findings suspect, however. By pointing to how consumption of wine per capita increased by one liter from 2003 to 2008, they then conclude that it will go up by the same amount over another five years. Yes, but there's a limit to how much anyone can glug, isn't there? Surely somewhere you'd expect the numbers to taper off at some point, say around 2060.

      Red wine is expected to grow the most, bolstered no doubt by the hope that it will head off heart disease, according to medical findings. This wouldn't have anything to do with obesity in the states, would it?

      Tuesday, November 25, 2008

      Die, Goon Sacks, Die!

      In America they're called "box wines" and in Australia and New Zealand they're called goon sacks (for the bag inside the box). And everywhere we look, it seems to be not only not fading away, but gaining ground. Look, let's get some things straight about this stuff right now.

      It is not "environmentally friendly". Who knows where this "going green" nonsense first started, but common sense should tell you that if you have a plastic silver bag inside a printed cardboard box, that's at least two industries that got involved just to make one package. Glass and cork are both biodegradable and glass is 100% recyclable. They've been making glass since the first century B.C., and it hasn't caused nearly the environmental problems that plastic has.

      I've tasted wine, and what comes out of a goon sack is not wine. It is at best a kind of fruit punch. Goon sacks have no quality to recommend them at all. Their purpose in life is to get young students drunk fast, end of the line. Wine in a sack or box has no storage shelf life to speak of.

      Goon sacks are an insult to wine. By definition, they contain "cheap wine", usually of the "wine cooler" formula, which is to say it's flavored, colored, and has added alcohol.

      Now, I'm fine with goon sacks and box wines having their place. People want to get smashed on junk, they'll do that anyway. But when respectable Italian companies start eying goon sacks and thinking, "Oh, we have to start doing that!"... what is the world coming to?

      Wednesday, November 12, 2008

      Chris Isaak at Leeuwin Estate Winery

      For the next three months we will be running the Leeuwin Estate concert competition. To be in the running to win one of two VIP double passes to the annual concert featuring Chris Isaak, simply purchase any bottle of Leeuwin Estate wine from either the Liquor Merchants store and you will be in the draw. Winners will be VIP’s at the 09 concert and the prize will include accommodation and all transfers.

      In the white wine section are some great new wines that will impress. From James Irvine the 08 Albarino is a crisp lively fruit-driven wine with an exquisite complex structure. This is the first Albarino produced in the Eden Valley in South Australia and it is world class. The SC Pannell Sauvignon Blanc is from the Adelaide Hills and was rated by James Halliday at 95 points-another excellent wine for the summer months.

      In the red wine section, listed for the first time, is the 04 Mitolo Serpico Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is certainly as good as the Shiraz that members have been raving about for the past few months. Also making its first appearance is the 03 Wirra Wirra RSW Shiraz, rated at 93 points, another top wine from McLaren Vale.

      Ian Love
      Wine Online Store