Italian Reds Smackdown – 9 Italian Red Wines Blind Tasted

I can hardly believe it, but our community wine tasting club – The Pacific Pointe Wine Tasting Club (“PPWTC”) is entering its fifth year, and going stronger than ever. Our most recent gathering had an Italian theme.  Since we’ve previously tasted Chianti, and Barbera those were not options.  But with over 500 different Italian grape varieties, including at least 10 major grape varieties, there were still plenty of options. We settled any Italian Reds, and folks were encouraged think beyond Sangiovese!

Our tastings alway start with a “Happy Hour” where we get a chance to catch up with each other, and grab a bite to eat (we do a themed potluck).  Since we had an Italian theme, there was plenty of Italian food (click to enlarge)

Here’s how our blind-tasting went down:

  • Italian red priced between $15-$25
  • Maximum of 9 bottles tasted
  • There were 19 tasters, with a diverse range of experience with wine
  • Tasters are required to score all wines
  • Both average and median scores are calculated.  The winner determined by highest median score.  Average score used as tie breaker.

photo 1 (10)

We had a nice selection of wines that showcased some of the diversity of Italian wines. Geographically speaking, Tuscany was the most well represented, but there were also wines representing Veneto, Piedmont, Sicily, and Campania.  From a grape variety standpoint, Sangiovese was the most well represented, but we also had wines made from Aglianico, Corvino, Corvino blends, Nero d’Avola, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah.

The wines tasted were:

  • 2010 Poderi Foglia Aglianico Gallucio Concarosso (Aglianico) – $20
  • 2010 Montechiara Amarone della Valpolicella (Corvino Blend) – $25
  • 2011 Luisi Barbera d’Asti (Barbera) – ($17)
  • 2007 Rubbia al Colle Toscana IGT (61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 9% Syrah) – ($13)
  • 2012 Rocche di Cusa Cabernet Sauvignon (Cab + Nero D’Avola) – ($15)
  • 2009 Fattoria del Cerro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva (Sangiovese) – ($19)
  • 2009 Castello Banfi Chianti Classico (Sangiovese) – $17)
  • 2010 Allegrini Palazzo della Torre Veronese IGT (Corvino Blend) – ($21)
  • 2011 Straccali Chianti Classico (Sangiovese) – ($21)

The wines were scored based on 4 criteria (aroma, body, taste, and finish) - each on a scale of 1-5 (1-low; 5-high). Therefore minimum score = 4 point and maximum = 20 points

Italian Wine night score Sheet

Image courtesy of Jojo Ong

The Winner:

Italian wine night winner

Photo courtesy of Jojo Ong

With a median score of 13.5pts

The runners-up were and scores in descending order were:

  • 2012 Rocche di Cusa Cabernet Sauvignon (12.5 pts)
  • 2011 Straccali Chianti Classico (12.3 pts)
  • 2010 Montechiara Amarone della Valpolicella  (12.0 pts)
  • 2011 Luisi Barbera d’Asti (11 pts)
  • 2010 Poderi Foglia Aglianico Gallucio Concarosso (10 pts)
  • 2010 Allegrini Palazzo della Torre Veronese IGT (10 pts)
  • 2009 Fattoria del Cerro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva (10 pts)
  • 2009 Castello Banfi Chianti Classico (9.8 pts)

Blind tastings are always fun, and there’s almost always a surprise of some sort.  More often than not, it’s a $10 wine beating our a $25 wine.  Not only did the lowest priced wine, but it was made from a blend of mostly (91%) Bordeaux grape varieties – definitely non-traditional Italian grapes.

Likewise for the second place wine, which was the second lowest price and made primarily from Cabernet Sauvignon.

I think the obvious answer is that our tasters prefer the “New World”, rather than “Old World” style wines.  Speaking from personal experience the more rustically styled Italian wine can take some getting used to.

Regardless of which style one prefers, I think everyone found a wine or two they really enjoyed, and got a chance to try something new (it was my first Amarone, and Aglianico) while expanding their wine knowledge.  And isn’t that what a wine tasting club experience is all about?

Seafood Gumbo and Wine Pairings for Soul Warming #SundaySupper

This week’s #SundaySupper theme is all about soul warming foods.  You know, those soups, chili, stews, and other soul warming treat we seek when the weather turns cold.

When I first saw the theme, my first thought was of “Soul Food”. I’d  bet that “Soul food” is one of those phrases that if you ask 10 people what it means, you’d get 10 different answers!  Soul Warming foods and Soul food are one in the same to me, and when I think of Soul food, the first dish that comes to mind is Gumbo!  We have a tradition in our family of making Gumbo each New Year’s day, but it’s  a soul-satisfying meal whenever there’s a chill in the air.

Since I’m a Wino with latent foodie tendencies, I decided let my foodie nature rise up, and do a dish, and wine pairings this week!

Here’s my Seafood Gumbo (we …OK make that “I”, call it “Yumbo” – lame right?..but I like it!)

Seafood Gumbo

Seafood Gumbo

For me, there are two things you’ve got to get right to make a gumbo – the “roux” (I prefer mine to be dark brownish), and you must have stock that is chock full of flavors.  Sure you could take a short-cut, and go with store-bought (I’ve done that for a  ” quick and dirty” version of this dish, but the flavors are not as complex and intense for me. If you get those couple of things “right”, it’s clear sailing thereafter!

Seafood Gumbo and Wine Pairings for Soul Warming #SundaySupper
Author: 
Recipe type: Stew
Cuisine: Cajun
Serves: 10-12
 
Adapted from Emeril's Classic Seafood Gumbo recipe
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups finely chopped onions
  • ¾ cup finely chopped green bell peppers
  • ¾ cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • One 12-ounce bottle amber beer
  • 6 cups Shrimp and Crab Stock
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 small Dungeness crabs
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon Emeril's Original Essence
  • 2 cups shucked oysters with their liquor
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ cup chopped tender green onion tops
Instructions
  1. Follow directions for cleaning and prepping crab to be cooked (click here, except remove crab legs and claws. Follow directions for Shrimp and Crab stock, except add crab shell and crab butter (roe) along with shrimp.
  2. Place an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, and add the oil. Allow the oil to heat for about 5 minutes, then add the flour to the pot. Stir the oil and flour together with a wooden spoon to form a roux. Continue to stir the roux for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the color of milk chocolate. Add the onions, bell peppers, and celery to the roux and stir to blend. Stir the vegetables for 5 minutes, then add the garlic. Cook the garlic for 30 seconds before adding the beer and Shrimp and Crab Stock to the pot. Season the gumbo with the thyme, bay leaves, crabs legs, Worcestershire, salt, and cayenne. Bring the gumbo to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Continue to simmer the gumbo for 1 hour, skimming the foam and any oil that rises to the surface.
  3. Season both the shrimp with 1½ teaspoons Essence. Stir the shrimp into the gumbo and cook for 2 minutes. Add the oysters to the pot and cook, stirring often, for an additional 5 minutes. Taste the gumbo and season if necessary.
  4. Garnish with the parsley and green onions and serve in shallow bowls over white rice.
Notes
Recommended Wine Pairings - I paired this with the Navarro Vineyards Edelzwicker, a blend of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris. It would also pair well with Viognier, a dry Rosé, or White Zinfandel. If you elect to go with a less spicy version try a Pinot Noir!

 

Take a look at the culinary cornucopia the #SundaySupper team has put together for this week’s gathering around the #SundaySupper table! My recommended wine pairings (click on the name of the wine to find out where to purchase) are italicized.

Main Entrees: 

Pair these main dishes with Pinot Noir.  Look for the 2010 Davis Bynum Pinot Noir. It’s a silky smooth Russian River Valley Pinot Noir with a core of raspberry  and spice aromas and flavors, with caramel edge. Why it works: Pinot goes with just about everything.  It’s a white wine, in red wine clothing, which makes it incredibly flexible with dishes and methods of prep.  Pinot is sublime with poultry, and complements foods that are slow roasted, or braised.

I recommend a Chardonnay for these dishes.  Look for the 2009 MacMurray Ranch Chardonnay Sonoma Coast. It’s a medium-full bodied Chardonnay that’s undergone malolactic fermentation, that’s moderately oaked.  The oak aging brings vanilla and caramel notes to the party to go along with its ripe apple, tropical fruit and lemon cream character.  Why it works: The texture, and weight of wine complement the dish, and it has enough acidity to “cut” the dish a bit and prepare the palate for the next mouthwatering bite.

Pair this dish with a Tempranillo from Rioja Spain.  I really like the 2007 Viña Eguia Reserva. It’s shows great balance between oak and fruit with a cherry, dried herb, spice, leather and vanilla character.  Why it works: Tempranillo is an underrated food pairing partner.  It’s tends to be a light-medium bodied earthy red wine. It’s between a Pinot Noir and Cab.  It’s fruity with moderate tannins, and acidity making it a good fit for somewhat spicy fare like Spanish, Mexican and similarly spiced fare.  

Pair this classic Italian dish with Sangiovese.  Try the 2010 La Mozza I Perazzi Morellino di Scansano. It’s a blend of 85% Sangiovese, 5% Syrah, 5% Alicante, plus a couple of other indigenous Italian grape varieties from Tuscany  It shows juicy red and black berries, with some licorice and spice notes supported by soft dusty tannins.  Why it works: The food of a place and the wine of a place is always a good place to start when pairing wine and food.  On top of that, its high acidity, together with its medium-bodied character enable it to stand up to more substantial dishes.  Sangiovese is a wine that loves dished prepared with fresh herbs, rich thick soups, mushrooms and tomato based dishes

Pair this dish with an Edelzwicker, a blend of the “noble” Alsatian varietals of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris.  Look for the 2011 Navarro Vineyards Edelzwicker. It’s an aromatic white wine with a stone fruit, spice, and hint of citrus character. Why it works:  The spicy character of the wine, along with some sweetness (spicy likes sweet) and acidity make a great match!

Chili/Stews:

Pair these hearty dishes with Cabernet Sauvignon.  One of my favorites is the 2010 Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon “H3″  It’s from Washington State, and is a bold wine that delivers delightful floral, dark fruit, cocoa aromas followed by plum, black cherry, vanilla and cocoa flavors. Why it works: Cab works well with red meats, dishes with earthy, herbal elements.  This youthful wine has plenty of fruit which make it a nice complement to longer cooked meats and stews.

Try these dishes these with a Cru Beaujolais (not to be confused with Beaujolais Nouveau hitting the store shelfs soon), a wine from France made from the Gamay grape. Look for the 2010 Georges Debœuf Moulin-à-Vent with a wild red fruits, and white pepper character that a juicy easy drinker.  Why it works: Like Pinot Noir, the Gamay grape is naturally high in acidity, and is light-medium bodied with low tannins. It pair well with dishes with veggies,earthy flavors. Great picnic wine too! Er..but I digress;-)

Syrah is a good match for these hearty flavorful dishes.  I like the 2009 Jacob’s Creek Reserve Barossa Shiraz from Australia. It’s has a fruity core of black cherries, plums, baking spices, and vanilla that balanced by some oak.  Why it works: Syrah is an ample full-bodied wine that likes thicker, fuller dishes like slow braises, stews (especially tomato-based), and one-dish meals.

Pair these dishes with the Sangiovese noted above:
Pair these dishes with the Pinot Noir noted above:
Pair this dishes with the Tempranillo from Rioja noted above:

Soups:

Pair these soul-warming soups with a Sauvignon Blanc from the Pouilly-Fumé region of the Loire Valley in France. Look for the 2011 Patient Cottat “Le Grand Caillou” Sauvignon Blanc.  It has a lovely tropical fruit, citrus, spice and mineral character with a tangy acidity.  Why it works: Sauvignon Blanc with its “green” (gooseberries, lime, green olive, papaya character and a mineral component attributable to the terroir of the Loire Valley make this a good match for vegetarian soups, spicy (hot) fare, dishes with acidic ingredients.  It’s a very versatile food pairing partner in that it work nicely as a complement or a contrast.

Pair these satisfying soups with Pinot Gris.  I recommend the 2011 King Estate Pinot Gris Signature Collection from Oregon. It has juicy lemon-lime, stone-fruit, green apple, pineapple and spice character.  Why it works: Pinot Gris likes ethic foods, especially coconut-milk based curries. 

Pair the rest of the soups with the aforementioned wines as noted in parentheses:

Desserts/Beverages:

Pair this Hot Fudge Pudding Cake (That Skinny Chick Can Bake) with the Terra d’Oro Zinfandel “Port”, a dessert wine made for chocolate! I like the what the Wine Enthusiast says about it…”The first duty of a Port-style wine is to be dazzlingly rich and sweet yet balanced in acidity, and this bottling is all that. Waves of blackberry jam, cassis and dark chocolate are brightened with zesty acidity

  • White Hot Chocolate with Orange – GirliChef

Join on us on Twitter throughout the day during #SundaySupper.  And join us at 7pm EST, for our live weekly #SundaySupper chat.   All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag or you can follow us through TweetChat.

And be sure to check out the #SundaySupper Pinterest board. We’d love to feature your Sunday Supper Soul Warming Recipes and share them with all of our followers.

Pairing Wine with #SundaySupper Comfort Food Favorites

When I saw the theme for this week, ”Pairing Wine with #SundaySupper Comfort Food Favorites”, my mind was flooded with thoughts of some of my favorite comfort foods.  The thoughts seemed to come in chronological order.  My first thoughts were of my favorite comfort food when I was a child – Grilled Cheese sandwiches prepared with a ton of butter slathered on the bread, with a couple of sliced of American cheese, and a tomato! Then came my adolescent years and Beef Stroganoff, made with ground beef, popped into my head.  Isn’t it amazing how you connect food to certain memories in your life?

Seafood Gumbo

My favorite comfort food – Seafood Gumbo; Image courtesy of whatdidyoueat.typepad.com

Then I had to ask myself the $64,000 question – If you HAD to pick one favorite comfort food what would it be. After what was a few seconds, but seemed longer, of running through a myriad of possibilities, I ultimately came back to my first thought – Seafood Gumbo.  I make it each year for New Year’s Day.  We invite my folks, kids and friends by to share the deliciousness and good times.  Thinking of it puts a smile on my face.  For me, that’s the essence of the #SundaySupper movement – breaking bread with family, and friends, and making memories!

Check out this week’s dazzling array of comfort foods from the #SundaySupper team!  My recommended wine pairing are italicized.  Cheers!

Comfort Food |Soups

Pair these soups with Chardonnay.  Look the 2010 La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, which is widely available. It displays aromatic citrus, pear and hints of floral aromas that are followed by citrus, buttered toast and a hint of honey flavors.

Pair these soups with an Old World Sauvignon Blanc, which tends to have more minerality that New World Sauvignon Blancs. Look for the 2011 Domaine Cherrier Père & Fils Sancerre from France.  It displays a delightful lemon curd, verbena and herbal character.  

Pair these soups with a red Rhone Blend.  I recommend the 2011 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas (the white wine version is recommended for some main dishes below), a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Counoise. The Syrah adds dark fruit, flavors and spice.  The Grenache brightens the flavors and add acidity, while the Mourvèdre adds meatiness,  and the Counoise adds a bit of complexity.

Comfort Food  | Main Dish

Pair these main dishes with a Blanc de Noir style sparkling wine.  A Blanc de Noir is made with dark-skinned grapes used to make red wines like Pinot Noir , Pinot Meunier and/or other grapes.  I recommend the Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noir.  It’s made with  90% Pinot Noir, and has wonderful red fruit and vanilla aromas are followed by creamy red fruit and citrus flavors. 

Pair these dishes with a Chardonnay.  Look for one that is moderately oaked such as the 2010 Wild Horse Unbridled Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyards Santa Maria Valley. It has a been aged in French oak for a few months.  It has a creamy lemon, green apple, and creme brulee character accented by fresh acidity and a touch a minerality.

 Pair these dishes with a white Rhone blend.  What’s great about blends is that the combination of grape varietals creates vinous synergy – a wine that is greater than the sum of its parts. Look for the 2011 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Blanc.  It’s a blend of Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne.  It’s a crisp and aromatic wine with honeysuckle and stone fruit aromas that follow onto the palate.  It also has very good acidity and an appealing minerality that make it versatile food partner. 

Pair these dishes with Sauvignon Blanc.  Look for the 2011 Stoneleigh Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand with enticing grapefruit, and tropical aromas with juicy stone fruit,  and tropical fruit flavors. This one is available at Costco.

Pair these dishes with Pinot Noir.  I recommend the 2011 Hahn Winery California Pinot Noir. It has wonderful cherry, lavender, and spice aromatics, that follow onto the palate.
Pair these dishes with a Sangiovese. Look for the 2009 Ninety+ Cellars Reserve Lot 57 Rosso Toscana.  It’s a blend of mostly Sangiovese (80%) with the balance split between Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.  Therefore it’s a what’s referred to as a “Super Tuscan”.  It’s loaded with blackberry, black cherry, and spice character.
Pair these hearty dishes with a hearty wine.  I recommend the 2010 Bonny Doon Vineyard Contra Old Vine Field Blend.  It’s a rich blend of Carigane, Syrah, Zinfandel, and Petite Sirah loaded with dark fruit, spice, and a bit of smoke aromas and flavors.
Pair these dishes with a hearty Zinfandel.  Look for the 2009 Artezin Mendocino County Zinfandel.  It’s a well-balanced Zinfandel with plum, clove and spice aromas, followed by raspberry, plum, black cherry, and spice flavors. 

Comfort Food | Desserts

Pair these desserts with a sweet Moscato wine.  Try the 2011 Ecco Domani Moscato with its slightly spritzy mandarine orange, nectarine and honeysuckle character.

Pair this dessert with the 2011 Frisk Prickly Riesling a blend of 89% Riesling and 11% Muscat Gordo. It’s a slightly fizzy wine with very fresh acidity, that displays pear, guava, citrus and floral aromas, followed by peach, pear and a hint of mango flavors.  Available at Costco. 

Pair these wine delightful desserts (except the Smores Hot Cocao which will be just fine on its own!) with Graham’s “Six Grapes” Port

We have a very special guest this week, Lee Woodruff, wife, mother of four, author, CBS This Morning contributor and  founder of ReMIND.org.  We would be honored to have you join us on Twitter throughout the day during #SundaySupper.  We’ll be meeting up at 7:00 pm(Eastern) for our weekly #SundaySupper  live chat where we’ll talk about our favorite Comfort Food Recipes.

All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag or you can follow us through TweetChat.

We’d also love to feature your easy go to recipes on our #SundaySupper Pinterest board and share them with all of our followers, too.

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Five Most Food Friendly Wines For #SundaySupper

When I saw the theme for this week’s #SundaySupper - Dishes in 5 Ingredients or Less – my first thought was “Wow, that’s going to be a challenge”,  because I’ve seen the creativity and passion my  BFFs (Best Foodie Friends;-) bring to the #SundaySupper table. Then I thought, why not try to pair the undoubtedly diverse menu with only 5 five wines?  As I’m sure it was a challenge to use only 5 ingredients and still get great flavor, it’s challenge for me to limit myself to a list of the 5 most food friendly wines. Ah, but in challenge lies opportunity!

As I contemplated the five most food friendly wines, I kept coming back to wines that are flexible in structure and in style. By structure, I mean all the wines have a great backbone of acidity, a core of succulent fruit, lower alcohol, and modest or no tannins.  What I mean by style is that the grape produces wines in a wide range of styles from light to full-bodied.  That diversity of style makes these wines versatile pairing partners with a broad range of foods.

Sparkling Wines

Champagne and other sparkling wines like Cava, and Prosecco have an incredible affinity for a wide range of foods.  Aside from the aforementioned high acidity and lower alcohol, there’s the bubbly effervescence!  I always have a chilled bottle of bubbly on hand!  Unfortunately, most folks only drink bubbly when it’s a special occasion or as a cocktail without food.  But now you know better. Right?!

Sparkling wines work especially well:

  • To accompany raw fish (sushi, sashimi, oysters, etc.),
  • Tart foods: citrus, vinegars, pomegranate, dill, capers, and tomatoes
  • As a counterpoint for foods that are salty, moderately spicy, rich and creamy, or deep-fried. (For example, a classic pairing is buttered popcorn with sparkling wine)
  • With many Latin dishes (empanadas ceviche and mole), Asian cuisines (Tempura, gyoza, Chinese deep-fried dishes, fish cakes, Indian Samosas, etc.), Middle Eastern dishes (hummus, baba ghanoush)
  • To accompany dishes that are challenging to pair with other wines like egg dishes and soups.
  • To pair with dishes that are inherently toasty like canapes or puff-pastry dishes.

Riesling

Riesling is widely regarded as the most food friendly white wine.  It’s among the most versatile wines because it’s made in a wide range of sweetness, from bone-dry to very sweet dessert style wines.

Riesling goes well:

  • Almost any fatty poultry like goose, duck and other gamy birds.
  • Rich, salty meats such as ham, sausages, and charcuterie. LIkewise for mildly salty cheeses such as Gorgonzola.
  • Sweet shellfish such as crab, lobster, and prawns.
  • Dishes seasoned with exotic spices, such as curries, cardamom, clove, mace, star anise, etc.
  • Quiche and other egg-based dishes.

Sauvignon Blanc

You know how a squeeze of lemon seems to enhance almost anything?  I think of Sauvignon Blanc as a vinous equivalent.  It can be a polarizing wine. It’s a bit like cilantro – people tend to either love it or hate it.  But since this a wine that is made in a diverse range of style, I believe there is something for virtually everyone.  It’s a matter of finding the style that suites you!

Sauvignon Blanc goes well:

  • With dishes emphasizing fresh herbs, or dressed with a  vinaigrette dressing.
  • With dishes prepared with a variety of cooking methods, from low-impact such as steamy to high-impact such as smoking, and grilling.
  • With most vegetarian soups.
  • As a counterbalance to rich dishes made with light-cream or butter-based sauces.
  • With acidic or sharp ingredients such as citrus, dairy (yogurt, sour cream,etc) dill, capers, olives, and tomatoes.
  • With spicy hot dishes – the acidity and generally lower alcohol level refreshes the palate.
  • With a wide variety of cheeses. Goat cheese is the classic pairing, but try it with Brie, Gruyere, Neufchatel, or sharp cheddar.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is known as the Chef’s wine  because its affinity for such a broad range of foods. It’s also the wine most often described in sensual terms! Depending on the vintner’s choices, it can be delicate and light-bodied, or bold and full-bodied!

Pinot Noir pairs well with:

  • Damn near everything (which is why it’s often the first choice for a food-a-palooza like Thanksgiving) because it’s so flexible.
  • Dishes that complement its inherently spicy flavors such as dishes spiced with coriander, cumin, cinnamon, or ginger.
  • With foods that are smoked, lightly charred, or grilled, especially if you’re serving one with a more oak-driven style.
  • Many fish – especially Salmon, tuna or swordfish.
  • With veggies (especially mushrooms) and dishes with earthier flavors such as cooked beans, greens, lentils, or dishes seasoned with Dijon mustard.
  • A multitude of Asian cuisines – Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean foods.  That’s because these cuisines often have sweet-salt flavor combinations with which Pinot Noir plays well.

Sangiovese

Sangiovese is produced  in diverse range of styles.  In Italy, where the wines are named after geographical regions rather than the grape varietal, there is, of course, Chianti, but there’s also Brunello, Montepulciano, and “Super Tuscan” variations of Sangiovese.

Sangiovese goes well:

  • With dishes with tomato-based sauces.
  • Dishes  that are slow braised, grilled, or lightly smoked.
  • With dishes featuring fresh herbs such as basil, thyme or sage.
  • Richer, full-bodied soups such a bean soup, or minestrone.
There you have it, my short-list of the 5 most food friendly wines (for a more comprehensive list click here)!  Equipped with these five wines, and spirit of exploration to find what works for your palate, pairing food and wine will go from daunting to delightful!  I’ve added a new feature this week.  Click on the hyperlinked name of the wine to find where you can buy. Also, since I’m limiting my wine recommendations to five, no dessert pairing this week:-(

Here is this week’s great #SundaySupper menu:

Breakfast, Starters, Butters and Jams:

Pair these dishes with Korbel Natural, a “California Champagne” made of 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay.  It’s a crisp, dry sparkler with cherry, raspberry and apple character.

Main Dishes:

Pair these main dishes with the Korbel Natural mentioned above:

Pair these dishes with Sauvignon Blanc.  Look for the 2011 Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc Te Muna Road Vineyard. It’s from New Zealand and it’s full of citrus, gooseberry and tropical fruit character:

Pair these dishes with a Riesling.  One of my favorites is the 2010 Trimbach Riesling.  It’s dry wine from the Alsace region with delicate aromas that belie its rich, fruity tropical fruit, peach and citrus flavors:
Pair these dishes with Pinot Noir.  Look for the 2009 Dashwood Marlborough Pinot Noir from New Zealand.  This one has a fruity cherry, raspberry, herb, and spice character. 
Pair these dishes with a Sangiovese. Look for the 2009 Ninety+ Cellars Reserve Lot 57 Rosso Toscana.  It’s a blend of mostly Sangiovese (80%) with the balance split between Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.  Therefore it’s a what’s referred to as a “Super Tuscan”.  It’s loaded with blackberry, black cherry, and spice character.

Desserts:

Please be sure you join us on Twitter throughout the day during #SundaySupper. We’ll be meeting up at 7:00 pm(Eastern) for our weekly #SundaySupper live chat where we’ll talk about our favorite 5 Ingredient Recipes! All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag, or you can follow us through TweetChat!

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What Are The Most Food Friendly Wines?

It’s my pleasure to share this post of mine recently published by 12most.

12 Most Food-Friendly Wines

In my recent post entitled “12 Most Practical Wine and Food Pairing Guidelines”, one my recommendations for sensibly pairing food and wine is to get to know “food-friendly” wines. Food-friendly wines have three primary characteristics 1) Palate-cleansing acidity, 2) Lots of fruitiness with low tannins, and 3) Balanced components (i.e. fruit, acidity, and tannins).

Try these wines for those times you don’t want to put a lot of thought into what wine you’re having with weeknight meals, or more casual gatherings. There’s something here for everyone — Whites, Reds, Sparkling and Rosé. Keep in mind that each of the wines come in broad range of styles. Let your palate be your guide for the style you prefer.

Reds

1. Beaujolais

This wine, made from the Gamay grape is named for the region from which it hails. Think Beaujolais when you want a red that you’d normally have with a white wine. Many top crus go for around $20
Recommended Region(s): France – Cru Beaujolais (non-Nouveau)
Profile: Light-bodied with moderate to high acidity, and low tannins with aromatic red plum, cherry, raspberry, hints of black pepper aromas/flavors.

2. Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is the most well-known food friendly red wine.
Recommended Region(s): France – Burgundy, California, Oregon, and New Zealand
Profile: Light/medium-bodied with high to very high acidity with aromatic with floral, cherry, red currant, raspberry, and sometimes gamey aromas/flavors when young, aging to vegetal and mushroom when mature

3. Sangiovese (san-jo-veh-zeh)

Generally speaking, Italy makes a plethora of food friendly wines, especially reds. Sangiovese is the most planted red grape in Italy, and the most important grape used in the great wines of Tuscany. It is one of the wine world’s great gifts to the culinary world! It’s a natural for dishes containing tomatoes, or acidic tomato sauces
Recommended Region(s): Italy (Tuscany), California
Profile: Light/medium-bodied with high to very high acidity with black cherry, spice, smoky, herbal savory aromas/flavors.

4. Zinfandel

Zinfandel can go far beyond burgers and BBQ. I’ve enjoyed with Mexican, and Pakistani dishes. The style of Zinfandel is crucial for matching it with food. Look for lighter “Beaujolais” style Zinfandel at around 14% a.b.v, and “Claret” style between 14% and 15% a.b.v. for maximum food pairing versatility. If prefer “bigger” Zinfandels, then opt for pairing with richer foods.
Recommended Region(s): California
Profile: Medium/Full bodied moderate to high acidity, and strawberry, raspberry, plum, blackberry, pepper, bramble, and spice aromas/flavors

5. Syrah

Syrah and Syrah based blends do a great job of striking a balance between finesse and power. It can be full-bodied and complex like Cabernet Sauvignon, but tend to be less tannic. Cool climate Syrah is especially food friendly. And many very good examples can be found for less than $20.
Recommended Region(s): France (Rhône), California, Washington, and Australia
Profile: Medium/full-bodied with moderate to high acidity, with blackcurrant, plum, blackberry, earthy, herbal, chocolate, and violet aromas/flavors

Whites

6. Riesling

Riesling is the most well-known white food friendly wine. Thanks to its food loving nature, it’s on the upswing. If you’re looking for one wine to serve with many dishes, Riesling is an excellent choice, especially if you’re not into red wine. Look for dry and off-dry styles
Recommended Region(s): Germany, France (Alsace) Washington, New York, California
Profile: Light-bodied with high to very high acidity, and Intensely aromatic with floral, green apples, light spice aromas/flavors when you ageing to petrol and honey when mature

7. Sauvignon Blanc

Stylistically, Sauvignon Blanc tends to be the opposite of Chardonnay. That’s because it tends not to see as much oak as Chardonnay and its acidity is more apparent. It’s very versatile food wine, especially with dishes emphasizing, or enhanced with fresh herbs. Try it with guacamole!
Recommended Region(s): France (Loire, and Bordeaux), U.S., New Zealand,
Profile: Light-bodied with high to very high acidity, and aromatic, grassy, herbaceous, tropical, citrus, and gooseberries aromas/flavors

8. Grüner Vetliner

Grüner Vetliner (GROO-ner FELT-leen-ner) is indigenous to Austria, where it accounts for about a third Austria grape production. It’s a favorite of many sommeliers because of its versatility with foods. Here in the US we often reach for red wine to accompany meat dishes, but in Austria, Grüner is served with game, beef, pork, poultry and veal. Looking for a wine for tough food matches like asparagus, and artichokes? Try Grüner. And it’s great with fried chicken!
Recommended Region(s): Austria
Profile: Light/medium-bodied with high to very high acidity, with vanilla-dipped peach, grapefruit, and aromas/flavors with a distinctive spicy finish.

9. Chardonnay

This most popular wine has very good “foodability” if it is not overly oaked. In fact, more unoaked Chardonnay is being produced these days. While unoaked Chardonnay may be a bit more versatile food partner, oaked (used judiciously) Chardonnay typically makes a more full-bodied wine.
Recommended Region(s): France (Chablis, and Burgundy), California, Australia, Chile, and Argentina
Profile: Light/Medium-bodied with high to very high acidity, and floral, ripe apple, pineapple, butterscotch, lemon, vanilla, and custard aromas/flavors.

10. Sherry

Hear me out on this one. I’m not referring to your grandmother’s Cream Sherry. I’m referring to dry Sherry. And thanks to adventurous wine geeks, and passionate sherry lovers, this fortified wine is gaining in popularity because of its food friendly nature and exceptional quality/price ratio.
True Sherry, is only produced in Spain’s “Sherry Triangle”. It’s a singularly unique beverage because of its terroir, and the method by which it is produced. With its unique tangy, sometimes oxidative and saline flavors, it can be polarizing. It was a bit of an acquired taste for me, but I think it’s fabulous with food!

The principles of pairing Sherry with food are like other wines, according to weight and texture. For Fino and Manzanillo think appetizers, seafood, and sushi, and sashimi. Pair Amontillado, with its rich nuttiness, with stronger flavored foods (including spicy foods) like oily fishes and chicken dishes. Serve chilled.

Recommended Region: Spain

Profile: The main styles of Sherry are light-bodied, straw colored, dry Fino, and fuller bodied darker Oloroso. Between Fino and Oloroso in body, and dryness are Manzanillo, and Amontillado.  Typical aromas and flavors of Finos are yeasty, toasted almond, green apples, and slightly oxidative.  Oloroso tend to be more aromatic with fresh mixed nuts, dried fruit, and citrus peel.

11. Rosé

Rosés (in particular dry Rosé) combine the best of white and red wines, while maintaining their own unique charm. They possess the crisp acidity, delicacy and freshness of white wines, and the body, and flavors of red wines. Rosés are diverse bunch, produced from a wide range of grapes, in various styles ranging from simple quaffable wines to complex gems in a wide palette of colors. Don’t relegate these babies to warm weather months. Because of their versatility they’re wonderful year-round!
Recommended Region(s): France, Spain, Italy, and U.S.
Profile: Light/medium bodied with strawberry, melon, and cherry aroma/flavors

Sparkling

12. Sparkling Wines

Sparkling wines are very versatile and food friendly because of their innately high acidity levels, and their palate cleansing “scrubbing bubbles” effect. They can be served throughout the day, and throughout a meal too. The driest ones are excellent as an aperitif and with shellfish and caviar. Off-dry bubbly is suitable for brunch, lunch, salads, and many dinner entrees. The sweeter ones pair nicely with fruit- based desserts.
Recommended Region(s): France, US, Spain (Cava), Italy (Prosecco)

Profile: Light to medium-full bodied, and bone-dry Extra Brut to sweet “doux”.  Typical aromas and flavors are yeast, apple, citrus, stone fruit, and cherry depending on the blend of grape varieties used

With these 12 wines in your vinous arsenal, you’ll overcome many a gastronomic challenge! Are there any favorites of yours that I left out?

Featured image courtesy of jinhai via Creative Commons.

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like – 2006 Korbel BdN Reserve

This week’s T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like is the 2006 Korbel Blanc de Noirs, Reserve.  It’s an interesting blend of Pinot Noir, which is typical in Champagne, and Sangiovese, which is not.

2006 Korbel Blanc de Noirs

2006 Korbel Blanc de Noirs, Reserve

Appellation: Sonoma County (68% Sangiovese-Dry Creek, 32% Pinot Noir- Russian River Valley)

Dosage .75%

$25, 12% abv

Production method: Méthode Champenoise; Aged 24 months in Stainless Steel

My tasting notes follow:

Appearance: Light golden yellow color with persistent intermittent bead of tiny bubbles.

Aromas: Citrus, and dried bread notes.

Body: Dry with a good balance of fruit, bracing acidity, and somewhat creamy mousse  that dissipated a bit too quickly.

Taste: Raspberry, red apples, with a touch of spice from the Sangiovese, and hint of citrus.

Finish: Medium

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food.  It was Friday night, and after a long week, it was left-0vers for dinner. We enjoyed this with both White Chicken Chili, and Panko-Crusted Cod.  It would also play well with shellfish (A crab or shrimp salad comes to mind), sushi, sashimi, or fruit/dried fruit salad such as an Apple & Cranberry Salad.

This was a very pleasant bubbly. I  enjoyed the Sangiovese component.  It’s my first experience with a non-Rosé sparkling wine made entirely from red grapes.  However, I didn’t think it was a good value at $25.

In Vino Veritas

Pacific Pointe Wine Tasting Club Blind Tasting – Chianti

It was our wine club’s first time tasting a wine produced solely outside the US.  We tasted a nice variety of Chiantis – three from Chianti Classico, reputed to be the best Chianti, and one each from Rufina, and Chianti (the grapes were sourced from various subzones within the Chianti DOCG).  There was also a variety of vintages. Additionally, there were three “Riserva” level wines, which were aged a minimum of 24 months.  All wines were between$10 – $20.

We tasted the following five wines:

  1. 2005  Incanto Chianti Classico Riserva – $10/100% Sangiovese /13% ABV
  2. 2006 Frescobaldi Nipozzano Rufina Chianti Riserva – $17/ Blend of Sangiovese, Malavasia, Canaiolo, Merlot, and Cab/ 13.5% ABV
  3. 2007 Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva – $17/Almost exclusively Sangiovese/13% ABV
  4. 2007  Ruffino Aziano Chianti Classico – $13; At least 80% Sangiovese plus Canaiolo, and Merlot/13% ABV
  5. 2008 Malenchini Chianti – $11/100% Sangiovese/14% ABV

Chianti Night Blind Tasting - The Wines

And the winner was…

2005 Malenchini Chianti (purchased at Whole Foods). Click here for Cellartracker reviews.

Malenchini Chianti - The Winner!

As always seems to be the case…”The last shall be first”.  While the winner wasn’t the least expensive (It was the second least expensive), it was the least in that it was neither produced in the most prestigious Chianti Classic0 DOCG, nor was it a “Riserva” aged for at least 24 months in oak barrels.  In fact, it wasn’t even aged in oak. It was aged in stainless steel!

So if you’re looking for a good Chianti, at a good price….try a bottle!


Sunday Italian Gravy – Wine Pairing Smackdown!

We invited some friends over for dinner and decided to make the classic Italian-American dish Sunday Italian Gravy (Hearty Italian Meat Sauce) from Cook’s Illustrated (click “Watch the video” at this link) .  Its a dish I made earlier this year in February for Open That Bottle Night.  We enjoyed it with a bottle of  2005 Rosenblum Cellars Kick Ranch Reserve Syrah.  It was a fabulous pairing (click  here for my blog post)

Though the Syrah was fabulous with Sunday Italian Gravy, I wondered if an Italian wine might pair even better with this hearty Italian Meat-A-Palooza comprised of six different types of meats simmered slowly in a robust tomato sauce for a few hours.   Ah yes…time for a wine pairing smack-down!

The smack-down contestants were the reigning champ – the 2005 Rosenblum Kick Ranch Reserve Syrah, and two Italian challengers  – the 2004 Pio Cesare Barolo, and 2008 Gabbiano Chianti (a last minute entry courtesy of a friend who doesn’t like to come to a dinner party empty handed – my favorite kind of friend!)

It took me about 3 hours to prepare the dish (about half the time that’s typically spent making the dish), and it turned out wonderfully! We served the hearty meat sauce with spaghetti, an Italian salad, and homemade garlic bread.

Sunday Gravy

The rules for the smack-down were simple:

  1. Get the wines ready to drink (i.e. decant the wines – 7 hours in the case of the Barolo, and 3 hours for the Syrah).
  2. Sip, savor, and tell me which you like best with the dish.

We started with the exalted Italian challenger, Barolo.  Breathing therapy seemed to help sooth the surly tannins of the brooding Italian, as the Barolo wooed the judges with its seductive aromas, complexity, balance, full body, and a staying power.  The judges were duly impressed and several asked for an encore performance all the while commenting about how well it harmonized with the Sunday Italian Gravy, and its remarkable balance.   Next up was the reigning champ hailing from California, the Kick Ranch Syrah.  Unfazed by the impressive showing of the Italian Barolo, and knowing its strengths, it quickly pounced on the judges with more vivid, though overall less complex aromas, gobs of extracted, dark, rich Sonoma fruit, sultry spiciness, and matched the body of the Italian challenger. While it didn’t have the staying power of the Barolo, it too flaunted its pairing proclivity with Sunday Italian Gravy.  Lastly, and sadly least, was the Chianti.  It should have sat out this competition of heavyweights. It was clearly the 98 pound weakling of the bunch, and the judges politely, but swiftly bounced the Chianti from the competition.

The judges conferred, and in a close, but unanimous decision avowed their preference for the… (drum roll please)

- Pio Cesare Barolo!! (clickhere for my review).

Related stuff you might find interesting:

Sunday Gravy with Ween (Benito’s Wine Reviews)