Friday, August 17, 2007

Serious about food & wine pairing?

I have written on a few previous occasions about food and wine pairing (and the snobbism often associated with this subject), but in the end there is really only one way to find the definitive answer..... make some tastings for yourself.

Now here is an idea where you can really have some fun, but more importantly, learn a huge amount about the do's and dont's of food and wine. If you have some friends who have even a passing interest in wine, then invite them to join you - this can make for a very entertaining evening. If you own a hotel or restaurant this can also be a great way to educate your employees....

Firstly, make a small but simple shopping list. You will need:

1). A 'Granny Smith' apple (or similar green apple with tart acidity)
2). Pieces of dried apple (or other dried fruit)
3). A wedge of lemon
4). An artichoke (could be tinned, so long as it is well drained)
5). Brie or similar cheese with black pepper coating
6). Blue cheese (of your own choice)

The idea is quite simple - you open a bottle of wine (or even better, a selection of two or three different wines), and then systematically taste each one with each of the different foods. You can also try some combinations - spread a bit of blue cheese on the apple, squeeze a little lemon juice on the artichoke - see if this changes your perception.

If you do decide to do this with two or three different wines, then do make sure you have some contrast. For example, I would suggest:

1). A light off-dry or medium sweet white wine
2). A richly oaked white wine
3). A fresh, dry fruity white (which must be AlbariƱo!)
4). A fresh fruity red wine
5). A more tannic red wine

Certainly, professionals would be advised to make copious notes of the results - otherwise simply try to remember the combinations that really don't work, so that you do not make an expensive mistake when eating out! Remember, it is often the way that food is prepared, and the sauce, that makes all the difference - Pinot Noir with beef for example, can be excellent, but then add some horseradish sauce to your meat, and the wine is destroyed. Egg is also notoriously difficult to match, and probably best avoided - I can only make one possible suggestion - a very old (almost oxidised), white Rhone wine, which might sound disgusting but can work reasonably well with scrambled egg.

We live and learn!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Would you buy a wine with no label?

Only buy wine that is formally dressed!

When I first arrived in Spain a few years ago one of the things that first struck me when eating out was the number of unlabelled bottles served to the tables - not carafe wine, but wine bottled, with a cork, simply missing any form of identification. This was not an 'under the counter' operation, but very open and blatant, and an offer taken up by the large majority of customers. I have no doubt that this wine even tasted a little 'sweeter' to these consumers as they enjoyed a cheaper price as a result of not paying any tax!

Whilst this type of 'deal' is probably offered all around the vineyards of Europe, I cannot imagine it happening too much in the New World. The real shock for me however, was the sheer volume and audacity of the practice (especially when I consider the stringent controls that we face as wine producers, not only to guarantee the quality of our product, but also to dot every 'i' and cross every 't' on the label). In the past, for example, we have actually been pulled up for having a typeface that is 1mm too small, let alone not having any label at all! So it would hardly seem fair, to say the least.....

Possibly out of guilt, but more likely owing to the loss of taxes, our local Government has now started an initiative to stop the practice of unlabelled wine by printing a brochure. How this will help I am not quite sure, as it always the enforcement that seems to be a bit lacking here in Spain. I can only hope that we enjoy more success than the no-smoking law which appears to have made almost no difference whatsoever!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Order now before the rush!

Our fleet of modern vehicles will speed orders to your cellar door...

We are probably just over a month away from the start of the 2007 harvest, and whilst we are still 'open for business' during this period, we strongly encourage all our customers to order well in advance to avoid possible delay.

Whilst the grapes are still ripening on the vines it is impossible to know the exact date that we will start picking, but my best guestimate would be around the second or third week of September - not quite as early as last year, and perhaps a bit closer to 'norm'.

The summer so far has not been very kind to our region, as we have experienced a lot of rain and humidity - not the best weather for growing fruit. To be very honest we have been obliged to use some anti-mildew and oidium treatments, but our careful management of the vine canopy has at least helped to minimise the amount of intervention. Other growers have perhaps been a little less fortunate, as the 'vine vigour' (created by the additional rainfall) has only served to trap moisture and exaggerate the problem.

We are currently experiencing a hot, dry period, so we have our fingers crossed that this will now continue for the rest of the summer!