Monday, March 28, 2011

Castllo Banfi San Angelo Pinot Grigio 2010

This week has been about as far up and down on Pinot Grigio as it can get.  Earlier in the week I tasted what maybe the worst tasting Pinot Grigio I ever had.  Then, on Sunday, I opened what may be one of the best.

I was not to surprised on the quality of the Castello Banfi San Angelo Pinot Grigio as much as how well it paired with a Sunday dinner of Pork Roast, mashed taters, sauerkraut and fresh asparagus. Castello Banfi has been one of my favorite Italian wineries for a long time, but it has always been there red wines like Chianti Classico, Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello, etc.  I have enjoyed a few of their white wines, but found them uninteresting or not much different than the plethora of  available white wines in the market.  Albeit, at the time I wasn't really into white wines.
The San Angelo was filled with aromas of pear and honey with a little peach.  In the mouth the wine was very crisp with pear, melon and citrus.  The finish was long, dry with a hint of honey.  Paired surprisingly well with the pork roast.

"Pinot Grigio makes terrific aperitifs before a meal. Pair them with potato salad, liver paté, brie, camembert, chicken tangine, duck, turkey, quiche, Chinese, Indian, and Thai dishes, Tex-Mex, risotto with mushrooms, cheese pizza, pork, clam chowder, fried shrimp, clams, oysters, smoked fish, breaded veal cutlets, tomato and mozzarella salad."* (Nat Decants)

As you can see by above, Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris is very versatile and pairs well with many foods.  The San Angelo Pinot Grigio from Castello Banfi is one of the best I've had at my young white wine drinking age. It is a bit pricey for Pinot Grigio at $18, but will be a must have this summer when grilling or char-broiling a nice salmon steak or a trout.

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from the PR folks at Banfi Vinters

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tselepos Estates Mantinia 2009

Tonight I opened my first Greek wine and another new white wine grape to add to my growing list of new wines.
The grape is Moschofilero. Moschofilero is an aromatic white grape of Greek origins with a rosy hue and quite spicy flavor with good acidity.  Grown throughout much of Greece but especially in the Peloponnese where it is used to make a dry and bold wine with lots of spice and perfume.
The winery is Tselepos Estate. Tselepos Estate is a small family business. Is was founded in 1989 by Yiannis and Amalia Tselepos, who planted the first cabernet sauvignon and merlot vines on the foothills of Mt. Parnon, 14km from the town of Tripolis near the ancient city of Tegea, in the heart of Arcadia.
The Estate's vineyards are situated at altitudes higher than 750m, at the foothills of Mt. Parnon and are part of a distinctive ecosystem with very cold winters and mild summers.
The wine is Tselepos Mantinia 2009. The Mantinia appellation is for a dry white wine which must be produced from Moschofilero and Asproudes grapes, of which the former must be at least 85% of the blend.
I opened before dinner, while watching the NCAA tourney on TV.
Lot's of floral and mineral aromas at first.  Picked up some citrus and green apple and pear after a short time.
In the mouth there was a flat citrus taste. Nice lemon/lime/grapefruit, but not crisp and clean.  Finish was very dry with a little more citrus.   Not a wine I would enjoy sipping on the patio, but was quite tasty. Couldn't wait to see how it paired with dinner.
For dinner, Shirley tried a new chicken recipe. She fried chicken in a sauce of sesame oil, Thai sweet chili sauce, fresh ginger and a little Soy sauce.  Then blanched Kale and thinly sliced carrots, which was then put into the sauce.  This dinner was meant for this wine. An almost perfect match.
Nice dinner, nice wine.  This will also do well with seafood and/or zesty salads. I found this wine locally for $18 and will buy again.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Salneval Albariño Rías Baixas, 2009

Did not really want to get back into my white wines for a least another couple of months, but I was kinda forced by Shirley to open one for one of her recipes.  This week she made a delicious Chicken Cacciatore and needed 1/4 cup of a dry white wine. Usually with this dish, I will have a Chianti or sometimes a Pinot Noir, but after taking a taste of the Salneval Albarino I opened for Shirley, I decided to go with a white wine for dinner. I have recently reviewed a Martin Codax and a Burgan's Albarino and recently purchased($10) the Salneval at a local wine shop and was wanting to try a dry crispy white wine with this dish.
The Chicken Cacciatore was exquisite as was the wine.
Salneval is the second label of the Adega Condes de Albarei winery.
Located in the Val do Salnés sub-zone, Condes de Albarei is a cooperative of 400 members. Three styles of wine are produced (all 100% Albariño), including one aged in Galician oak. Wines are marketed under the Condes de Albarei and Salneval brands.bottling.
The wine has a nice light color with aromas of green apple and pear with little tropical fruit and floral.  Some lemon and grapefruit with a little honey like sweetness in the mouth.  Finish was dry, not real long, but surprising good with the Cacciatore.  I think that may have been because Shirley's Cacciatore sauce is very light and in lieu of pasta , she uses 'no yolk' wide egg noodles.
The wine is a must have for seafood and pork, but I was very pleased with it's pairing with the Cacciatore, although the following evening I did open a nice Chianti with the left-overs.
The $10 price is also a great value and a best buy.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Oak - An Essential Part of the Winemaker’s Toolbox

By , Guide

 The long-standing relationship that wine has had with oak is worth investigating, especially since oak barrels have been used in wine fermentation and barrel aging for centuries. Oak is utilized somewhat like a “seasoning” to add flavor and palate appeal to a wine. Which Wines are Typically Oaked?
Red wine varietals that tend to benefit from a good bit of oak include: Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinotage, Chianti, Zinfandel, Nebbiolo, Tempranillo and Syrah. White wine varietals that are receptive to oak’s influence include: Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and of course Chardonnay.
Why Oak Wine?
Oak provides flavor and aromatic support to the wine, while adding richer, fuller impressions and complexity. On the nose, oak’s primary influences tend to accentuate aromas that center around the spice rack, with clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and “allspice” being common aromas derived from a wine’s time spent in oak. On the palate, oak’s influence turns towards the rich flavors of caramel, coconut, vanilla, cinnamon, clove, smoke, tea, mocha, toffee and butter.
The Oak Barrel and Wine
A typical oak barrel holds either 59 or 60 gallons (depending on where it’s prototyped from – Bordeaux barrels or “barriques” hold 225 liters or 59 gallons, where a barrel from Burgundy sits at 60 gallons or 228 liters). Since oak is naturally porous in nature, as the wine passes time in the barrel some evaporation inevitably takes place with about five gallons or so being lost via evaporation. This natural process results in increased concentrations of both the wine’s aromatics and flavor profile. The oak used for making wine barrels is influenced by a number of factors. Where is the barrel from? What regional variations have occurred with oak sourced from different forests? How was it dried? How was it toasted? What standard practices are employed by the cooperage that made the barrel?
Types of Oak used in Winemaking
The two most common types of oak barrels used for winemaking are the American Oak barrel and the French Oak barrel. However, Hungarian and Slovenian barrels also have a following with certain winemakers. American oak barrels are cheaper, have a wider grain and lower wood tannins as compared to French oak. They also tend to have a greater influence on the wine’s flavor and aromatic components, often imparting vanilla nuances with a little sweeter palate profile than French oak. On the other hand, French oak is the wine industry’s “gold standard,” offering higher wood tannins and tighter wood grains which tend to have less influence on the wine’s aromatics and flavor concentrations than an American oak barrel, but are known to increase the wine’s overall palate presence and intrinsic complexity.
French oak runs close to $600 a barrel and American oak comes in at around $300 a pop. With these numbers in mind, it’s easy to see what kind of financial investment wineries are making in their barrels and why you pay more for wines that are aged in new oak. Often a winemaker will stagger new barrels into the process to keep costs for the winery and the consumer more reasonable.
What’s the Big Deal with “New” Oak?
The newer the barrel, the more concentrated the oak’s influence will be on the wine. As vintages wear on, the oak barrels will have less flavor to offer an upcoming wine. For instance, take a tea bag, plucked right out of the box, and you’ll get a full-flavor infusion after steeping in hot water, but use that same teabag another time or two and each successive cup of tea will be weaker on the flavor scale. Similarly, after four or five vintages, the barrel may still be used as a “holding” container, but little flavor is expected to be imparted to the wine. You’ll see wines that state that a third of the wine was aged in “new” oak, to impart flavor and increase the wine’s complexity, but keep in mind that the other two-thirds of the wine was aged in older oak and then blended back together prior to bottling. This effectively saves on the barrel costs, while still adding some oak character to the wine.
Toasting Oak
After the type of oak is chosen a winemaker will decide on what degree of toasting is appropriate for the wine’s style. Barrel toasting can be light, medium or heavy, with a lighter toast retaining some of the oak-based character for the wine and heavier toasting or charring giving rise to more oaky and smoky nuances in the wine. By increasing a barrel’s toasting, you’ll effectively increase the oak’s influence on the wine’s color, aroma, flavor and overall style.
A Word about Oak Chips and Wine
It is not uncommon for winemakers to skirt the barrel altogether and use “oak chips” to “season” a wine. These chips dramatically cut costs and can be utilized in either the fermentation or aging phase of the winemaking process. The oak chips come in a variety of forms and flavors and will actually speed up the oak flavoring process due to higher oak concentrations and more surface area contact with the wine. Oak chips are placed in a mesh-like sack and then “steeped” (again similar to a teabag) in a tank. It’s only been since 2006, that oak chips have been legally permitted for use in Old World winemaking practices.
Oak plays a pivotal role in the winemaking process for many favored varietals and wine blends. However, one of the best ways to see the influences of oak is in a side-by-side comparison wine tasting. Chardonnay is one of the easiest varietals to do this component tasting with, as many winemakers utilize a good bit of oak to bring out the toasty, buttery notes that many consumers have come to expect from Chardonnay. Just grab a bottle of well-oaked Chardonnay and an “unoaked” Chardonnay (typically labeled as “unoaked” or “naked” Chardonnay) and do a side-by-side taste test. With the oaked version, you should be able to see the oak’s dominant influences in the smoky, toasted notes often leading to a full-flavored, buttery finish. With the unoaked version of Chardonnay, you will see pure varietal fruit dominate – likely brimming with peach, apple or pear and warmer tropical fruit if sourced from a warmer region.