On mistaking marketing ploys for wine (2)

Schermafbeelding 2017-04-09 om 18.55.25So, how have our blue wine-producing friends fared since their marketing-heavy launch last year? Admittedly, they dropped off my radar quite quickly after I published this article. At the time, I had contacted them to see if their wine would be available in Belgium, as it was perennially sold out on their Dutch website. I didn’t get a reply until just a while ago, when they were thrilled to announce that they were back in production and that I would be able to order as much as I would need, or required to slip me into a sugar-induced coma (well, non-caloric sweeteners technically). It was casually mentioned that past issues were resolved, which is basically click bait for a google search to what said issues may be! Continue reading

Food & wine – butternut squash risotto

Something new! As mentioned in my previous post, there are a couple of changes upcoming, one of them being more attention being paid to matching food with wine. Those sommelier studies have to count for something, right? First up, risotto vs. Chardonnay!

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Spring is upon us, which means that it is time to say goodbye to my favorite squash, the butternut pumpkin. Nutty in flavor with a dash of sweetness and a smooth, wintery structure, I find it irresistible when looking for comfort food. It is the perfect base for a fantastic risotto; hearty, heavy enough to make you regret the last bite yet not so heavy as to make you feel too guilty about it.

In all honesty, I only discovered the joy of a good pumpkin risotto a couple of years ago thanks to one of the pioneers on Belgium’s wine blog scene, Chateau Sans Pretention. The amount of articles written by Erik is astonishing and even though he no longer writes, I still check back from time to time for tips and pointers on what there is to discover in the world of wine. The blog however, pales in comparison to the Vinopedia, which is a simply monumental database that could give the likes of Larousse a run for their money. Anyway, it was this article on matching pumpkin risotto with wine that inspired me to try it myself. I made just a few changes: no mascarpone and crunchy speck to add a bit of textural fun. The core of the dish, spicy, oven-roasted squash, stays the same.

The classic, conservative match is (young) oaked chardonnay. The aromas derived from the barrel ageing blend in nicely with the spices used, but more importantly, the creamy texture of oaked chardonnay is perfectly complementary with the richness of a risotto. You do not want to go turbo-oaked, nothing that has been vinified in 100% new oak or that has been in the hands of a batonnage-addict (the process of stirring the lees, the dead yeasts that have settled on the bottom of the barrel, to give the wine more structure). As always, freshness and elegance will prove to be key for a good match.

IMG_4791To spice things up, I looked for two similar but different wines. First up, Maison Verget’s Terroir de Vergisson de la Roche 2012. I am a big fan of what Jean-Marie Guffens can do with the great terroirs of the Maconnais, balancing an energetic minerality without losing the depth and structure that Burgundy can do so well. Fermentation in oak, 15% new, and regular batonnage over the course of six months. Wine two is Calera’s Central Coast Chardonnay 2013. Interesting American wines are still a rare find in Belgium sadly enough, so the best option is to fall back on the classics. What Josh Jensen produces is fantastic, decidedly New World climate in exuberance, yet so completely in balance thanks to a crazy attention to details. Fermentation in oak as well, 10% new, very little batonnage over the course of ten months.

So, same variety, similar in vinification but completely different wines of course. Calera proved to be the best match. Juicy fruit and a quite distinctive toastiness. This was definitely no cool climate wine, yet the palate had freshness, the barrel ageing playing more on aromas rather than texture. Verget was maybe more complex on its own, more nuanced in the nose and focus, linearity on the palate. It was a bit too muted to counter the richness of the risotto, and I think it would have been more suited for a lighter dish.

Of course, this is a pairing that I thought about throughout the day, juggling different options for the risotto and the wine pairing (it keeps you hungry throughout work, but the day goes by just a little faster). If I had used different herbs, sage for instance, I wouldn’t have matched it with the chardonnay as the herbalness would have clashed with what was in the glass. Surprisingly, I have been able to match the sage-version quite well with a randomly picked bottle of Julien Sunier’s Fleurie in the past, as you get a pungency that does go well with the intensity of the dish. It just goes to show that there is always a fair deal of luck involved in a wine match!

A charity auction for SOS Kinderdorpen!

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The wine world can be quite self-absorbed and will at its worst seem to cater to the 1%. Luckily there is also room for trying to do something good (aside from supporting wine makers), and over the years there have been a great any initiatives taken for just causes. Charity dinners and auctions, Wine in Moderation’s continuous awareness raising for the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption, or the #winelover against cancer campaign are just of a couple of examples (incidentally, be sure to check out the latest one as October is breast cancer awareness month!).

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On the (un)-importance of vintages

The Bordeaux en primeur campaign has come and gone as it does every year, resulting in the usual commentaries, analyses and articles being spawned. What always strikes me is the emphasis placed on the vintage assessment, more so here than in any other part of the world it sometimes seems. In fact, the general public tends to extrapolate the verdict of the 2014 Bordeaux vintage to France, or even the whole world. Continue reading

The historical value (or lack thereof) of wine

For a recent column in Decanter Jane Anson interviewed Michel-Jack Chasseuil, one of the greatest wine collectors in the world. I had come across his name before, namely while browsing through his book  ‘100 vintage treasure from the world’s finest wine cellar’. Chasseuil is an obsessive collector and the proud owner of some of the rarest and supposedly greatest wines in the world. Continue reading

Wine for the ages

There are dozens of misunderstandings amongst the general public when it comes to wine. It is too expensive, it all tastes the same, I don’t know anything about it so I have to look like a deer caught in the headlights when presented with the wine list in a restaurant, anyone who knows the name of a grape variety that is not chardonnay or merlot is a snob,… . Continue reading

An opinion on tasting notes (3)

Now we get to the difficult part, how do you actually come up with a tasting note? Sommelier courses nearly always start explaining students how to taste using a structured approach that can serve as a template for virtually every wine they would encounter in the future. Yet, when browsing professional tasting notes, there is little structure or uniformity to be found. Continue reading

An opinion on tasting notes (1)

One of the most boring things to read in an article on wine is the list of tasting notes. This may seem contradictory as the essence of a wine is always, always found in the tasting. An estate may have a long history, it may be owned by celebrities or a bottle may even have been dug out of a sunken submarine, if the content does not excite or lacks a sense of identity than it is all for naught. Continue reading

A Definition of Minerality

Judging from the wine blogosphere, you would be quite correct in assuming that German white wine is the next big thing, up for a well-deserved revival after the world had been flooded with cheap, low-quality liebfraumilch for decades. I myself only discovered the new wave in German wine a couple of years ago when I was introduced to Dönnhoff (Nahe) and Horst Sauer (Franken). Continue reading