Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Buying a Mixed Case of Wine

Lucky you! you have some money to buy a case of wine.... how should you proceed?

When buying a case of wine, I always think of the meals I’m going to serve them with, basically what do I eat more? These days I eat a lot fish, veggies, some chicken/turkey, pasta and rice. Meat (though I’m Argentinian) not so much, those that know me, know that my kidney problems got better when I stop having red meat. But don’t worry I will recommend a few wines for those meat eaters out there too!

So, what will I buy? 

Light to Medium whites: Sauvignon Blanc, not just any Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc which I love, high acidity, nice passion fruit aromas what more to ask?, these will go great with all my salads, asparagus (my favorite vegetable), plus they are always $20 or less: Babich, Mohua and Greywacke are some of my favorite brands. More light whites: Verdejo from Rueda Spain, of all the Spanish whites, Ruedas are my favorites, crispy, grassy aromas, another good match with veggies, I’d choose brands that don’t see any oak. Like Naia and Marqués de Riscal. Vibrant Riesling: from Alsace, like Domaine Weinbach, Hugel, and from Germany: JJ Prum & Dr Hermann.

Big whites:
Chardonnay, ideally from Burgundy though these can be pricey, but there are some appellations in the South that are a bit cheaper (Macon Villages, Montagny) my favorite brands:Louis Jadot, Louis Latour and Olivier Leflaive. Also New World Chardonnay, I love their oaky, buttered flavor plus they have more alcohol! My favorite brands: Sonoma Cutrer, Kistler and Hamilton Russell Vineyards.

Rosé or Rosados:
in this particular category I always go to Spain, though France produces some excellent samples like Chateau Miraval. My favorite Spanish brands: Cune, Chivite Rosado and Breca Rosado.

Sparkling: I don’t want to repeat myself, but yes! my favorite Champagne is Pol Roger NV!, but if I’m on the cheap I like Mionetto Prosecco and Cristalino Rosé Cava.

Light Reds: this is a very versatile category, since I don’t eat so much meat, these will go great with chicken,veal, duck, turkey, tuna and salmon. Pinot Noir, any Louis Jadot or Jacques Prieur wines from Burgundy. Barbera d’Asti, Barbera d' Alba and Chianti, for pasta dishes with cream or tomato sauce: Massolino,
Marziano Abbona and Prunotto. More light reds: Rioja Crianza: Marqués de Cáceres and Cune. Chianti Classico such as Castello Di Ama, Lamole di Mole and Marchesi de Frescobaldi.

Medium Spicy Reds: this is my favorite red category, this can be had with meat, but also on their own, Argentinean Malbec: 
Angulo Innocenti, Norton and Catena Zapata. Ribera del Duero: Pesquera Tinto, Protos and Abadia Retuerta.

Big Reds: I included this category just for the steak eaters of the world! My mixed box won’t have any of these, which doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate tasting them, it’s just that I prefer lighter styles of red.  Napa Cabernet: Beringer, Shafer, Joseph Phelps, Caymus. Priorat: 
Alvaro Palacios,Vall LLach and Clos Mogador.

Finishing up my favorite box will have 2 sparkling 2 light whites, 2 big whites, 3 light reds and 3 medium spicy reds.

Plus I could add one more wine that I truly like with sushi and light fish (filet of sole, flounder or Mahi Mahi are my favorites) a bottle of Fino Sherry. I know, not everybody likes dry sherry but I do, I love to drink it and also to cook with it.  Either Tio Pepe Fino or Barbadillo Manzanilla. 

It will be Thanksgiving next week, so below are my recommendations. When choosing a wine for the bird, my favorite is Riesling, but if you only drink red, it must be something light like the samples below, stay away from Cabernet Sauvignon and leave that for the Prime Rib that you will have at Christmas.

Many thanks to Vineyard Brands for providing samples for me to taste: 

Domaine Weinbach Riesling $31.99 (a nice off-dry white to match with turkey, you guessed right this is what I'm having with my turkey on Thanksgiving!)
Hamilton Russell Vineyard Chardonnay
$42.99 (good acidity and oak in this one, more Burgundy in style and less New World.)
Marqués de Cáceres Crianza 2014
$12 (an every night red that everybody must drink.)

Angulo Innocenti Nonni 2017 $14.99 (a delicious Malbec, soft and beefy.)
Massolino Barbera d' Alba 2018 $26.99 (One of the best Barberas I tasted lately, juicy, with a medium plus body.)

So what do you think? Let me know your favorites. Until next one, Happy Thanksgiving! Silvina

Follow me on Instagram: @silvinalawina. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Happy Tempranillo Day!

Tempranillo, also known as Tinta del País, Tinto Fino,Tinta del Toro, Cencibel, Ull de Llebre, or Tinta Roriz/Aragonez (in Portugal), is the most important Spanish contribution to the wine world. Tempranillo is also kind of an underdog, mostly because in Europe, grapes are not listed on the labels, so you  probably had a Rioja, or Toro wine and not know that Tempranillo is the grape in these appellations. However, in the last 20 years or so, this is fast changing, not only Spanish wines got their truly deserved recognition, but more and more producers are experimenting with plantings of Tempranillo in places like Australia, California,Oregon and Argentina. 

But for me the greatness of Tempranillo comes only from Spain, where it is the key ingredient in many of its appellations: Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Toro are probably the most important ones. Differences in terroir, altitude and climate create three expressions of Tempranillo, showing how versatile this grape can be. Rioja produces the lightest and most elegant style, though we can find some beefy samples here too, followed by Ribera Del Duero and then Toro. Alcohol levels will vary, reaching in Rioja (12-13%) a bit higher in Ribera (up to 13.5) and highest in Toro (13.5-14%).

Rioja was the first appellation to make Tempranillo famous, inspired by the winemaking style of Bordeaux, Rioja wines are also blends, though some producers make also 100% Tempranillo wines. Like in Bordeaux, Riojas are aged in a bordelais size barrel (225 lt). For many years, American oak was the favorite choice, nowadays a lot of producers are also ageing in new French oak. In Portugal, where it is known as Tinta del Roriz, Tempranillo is a key ingredient in all Port blends, but there are very good dry wines made in Alentejo and Douro. 
Tempranillo’s name comes from the word Temprano (early in Spanish), because the grape ripens early and buds late, it has a short growing season. It does best in a warmish climate with cool nights (like in Rioja and Ribera del Duero) that will boost its elegance and its natural acidity, but at the same time, sunny days will ripen the grapes to get the alcohol and fruit extract needed to make extraordinary wine. Altitude has an important role to play here, in Ribera del Duero, we find vineyards at 850 m, in Toro vineyards at 600-750 m and in Rioja vineyards at 500-600 m, it's no surprise, why Tempranillo does so well in all 3 locations. 

It grows in different soils, but likes limestone and chalk best, yielding elegant wines and clay will give wines with plenty of body. In Toro there are alluvial soils with limestone and schist soils in the Douro, Portugal.  It can be very vigorous so yields must be kept low; in Spain the usual is 45-50 hl/ht or less. In the New World yields are usually higher, making more diluted/ simple wines. Though there are many varietal wines, Tempranillo is usually blended with other grapes: Mazuelo, Graciano and Garnacha in Rioja, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot or Garnacha in Ribera del Duero and Penedès. 

Tempranillo is very versatile and can produce a range of wines, and styles that fall between Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. Indeed, it will produce light, fruity, everyday wines but also massive, inky and concentrated ones. Because of its resistance to oxidation it can age in oak for a very long time, this will allow the wine to acquire a mature,  earthy and very interesting character in barrel and bottle. By law, Rioja and Ribera del Duero Crianzas are aged for a year in oak and 1 in bottle. Reservas are aged for 3 years, 1 in oak and 2 in bottles and Gran Reservas are aged for 6 years, 2 in oak and 4 in bottle. These are the minimums, meaning some wineries will choose a much longer aging. This also means that the wines will be ready to drink at the time they are sold in the market, without any necessary waiting from the consumers.

From a style point of view, Riojas are elegant with medium alcohol showing delicious red fruits and balanced tannins (it is definitely less tannic than Cabernet, but Tempranillo wines do have structure). I define Ribera del Duero as Tempranillo on vitamins, since they tend to have bigger bodies than Riojas and plenty of black fruit aromas, and then the wines from Toro are possible the biggest expression of Tempranillo, powerful and concentrated.

Tempranillo's profile will feature strawberry,raspberry, red cherry in cool climates,  blackberry, black cherry and plums from warmer climates, with age it will show tobacco, cocoa, coffee, leather and bacon notes. 

Young wines and crianzas should be consumed young, three years from their release.  Reservas can age 5-10 years from release and Gran Reservas can really age, up 30+ years. I recently tasted a Rioja Gran Reserva from 1989 and Wow, it was a life changing experience! (it was the Faustino I).

When drinking Reservas and Gran Reservas always look at the colors and rims of these wines, you will see how different they are from young wines, usually featuring brick/orange colors. The wines may also be paler, garnet instead of ruby and in some cases brick red, all of this happens as a result of the extra aging both in oak and bottle.

Recommended Producers:
Rioja: Artadi, Muga, Marqués de Murrieta, Roda, Cune, Remírez de Ganuza, Finca Allende,  Marqués de Riscal, Senorío de San Vicente, López de Heredia, Remelluri, Marqués de Cáceres, Faustino.
Ribera del Duero: Pesquera, Pingus, Vega Sicilia, Alión, Abadia Retuerta, Bodegas Mauro,Emilio Moro, Dominio de Atauta, Hacienda Monasterio.
Toro: Numanthia,Maurodos, Elías Mora, Teso La Monja, San Román, Campo Eliseo, Pintia, Telmo Rodríguez, Rejadorada.

Happy#TempranilloDay. Cheers! Silvina. 

pic of Tempranillo Grapes provided by D.O.Ca. Rioja. Thank you!

For more Tempranillo recommendations, follow me on Instagram @silvinalawina.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Celebrating International Sherry Week with Manzanilla and Fino Sherries

This week Sherry wines are celebrated worldwide, inspired by this wonderful event, I decided to write a post about two of my favorite dry sherries: Manzanilla and Fino. I love Manzanillas and Finos, particularly with fish like Mahi Mahi, Cod or Flounder, and of course with Sushi and Poke. Their delicious dryness and salty tang make them a perfect match for tapas, too (Serrano Ham, Olives, Manchego Cheese, Almonds, Tortilla!). However, they are an “acquired taste”, a category that you either love or hate. Of course I do love them! But if you are new to Sherry, allow me to give you some info.  

So what makes Sherry so special? For starters Sherry can only come from Spain, from the D.O. Jerez-Xérès-Sherry, so if you see a sherry made in California… it will never be the same thing. The appellation has the shape of a triangle, see map below, and in each corner we will find a city, where Sherry can be aged: Jerez de La Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and Puerto de Santa María. 

Sherry is basically a fortified wine, meaning a wine that producers have added extra alcohol, with most sherries showcasing between 15,5º to 20º. In the case of Sherry, the alcohol is added after fermentation is completed, so at the beginning Sherry will start its life as a dry wine to which producers will add the spirit, color and flavors to create different styles that may go from dry, medium or sweet.

Sherry is made from three Spanish grape varieties: Palomino Fino, which is the most important, Pedro Ximénez also known as PX and Muscat. Palomino occupies 90% of all vineyards, PX and Muscat the rest, and even though varietal wines are made from the last two, PX and Muscat are mostly used to add color and sweetness to Sherry. All three varieties grow in different types of soils: the most important is the Albariza soil, which has good drainage and is chalky and crumbly, it creates a crust that helps prevent evaporation, something very important considering the warm climate of the region but very much influenced by the oceans and the Levante, a dry wind from the south. PX and Muscat grow in sand (arenas) and muddy soils (barros).  Because of the warm weather of the D.O., harvest starts early, usually in the middle of August.  The PX will be left in the sun to dry/ raisin these grapes, the must obtained will be extremely sweet and dark, creating the sweetest style of all Sherries, that most Spanish have with ice cream!, believe me and do try this!

The best vineyards are located in an area called Jerez superior. Now, once producers ferment the Palomino Fino grapes, obtaining a very dry white, they add some spirit to it, and then they need to decide the type of aging that Sherry will see or style they will create. There are two important categories: Sherries that are aged with Flor: like Finos and Manzanillas and those aged without Flor: Olorosos, where wine will be fully exposed to oxygen, I will talk about the last category in another post.

But what is Flor? Flor is a very fine veil of yeast that will grow on top of the wine, preventing its contact with air and therefore its oxidation. Flor will give the wine its wonderful pungent aromas and typical flavors of citrus, olives & almonds. In order for Flor to grow, producers will put the wine in botas or (American oak barrels) and will fill only ¾ of them, leaving a gap on top, see picture below.  

Flor requires certain conditions to live,  and this is why Sherry can’t be replicated in other places in the world. In order to be alive it needs the addition of new wine, feeding also on alcohol and oxygen. By adding new wine via fractional blending, we can find Finos that may have an average age of 5-8 vintages. 

Another important characteristic of Sherry is that they are not vintage dated but instead are blend of old and new wines, very similar to NV Champagne.  

Now, in the case of the Manzanillas, which are the palest, lightest and driest, they are made from the thickest Flor of all, the Flor that grows in the town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Here Flor is active all year around, mostly because of the humidity and sea breeze influences of this town. Flor will protect the wine and at the same time impregnate it of yeasty flavors. 

Now, how does the fractional blending take place? By putting wines in a Solera system, or in different rows of oak casks. The young wines will be at the top and the old ones at the bottom (near the floor). Solera comes from the word Suelo (floor in Spanish). Every year when it’s time to bottle, producers will only pull 25 to 30% of their stock from the Solera (stack of casks closer to the floor) and replace the wine taken with younger wines from the criaderas above, running the scales. 
See below picture that will help you understand the process better.

Now, stylistically Manzanillas and Finos will have between 15,5-17º Alcohol, so you will feel the extra alcohol in your palate, they will be always dry with medium bodies and crisp acidity. Remember that though Finos are Manzanillas don’t have a vintage date, it’s better to consume the freshest wines possible, if you ever in Andalusia, you are guaranteed to do just that, since people in the south of Spain consume Sherry copitas on a daily basis. Always drink them chilled with tapas or in my case fish. 

My favorite recommended producers of Manzanilla and Fino are: Gonzalez Byass Tio Pepe, Lustau, Williams and Humbert, La Guita, Osborne, Barbadillo.

For more information about Sherry week,click here.
Until next one! 
Cheers, Silvina.

All pictures provided by the D.O. Jerez-Xérès-Sherry. Thank You for allowing me to use these!