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30 Second Wine Tasting Tip:
The grapevine and the olive tree

Near the top of a mountain above the village of Ste. Anne d'Evenos in Bandol, up a narrow and rutted gravel road that cuts through the forest after the pavement ends, a gnarly old olive tree stands in a shallow dip among Mourvedre vineyards.

Its twisted but sturdy trunk is far too large to reach your arms around, and it stands in contrast to the tree's light, pale-grayish-green and fragile looking leaves. Said to be 500 years old, it has watched over this craggy Provence landscape and the Mediterranean far below since the time of Christopher Columbus.

In many parts of the world, from Provence to Tuscany to Napa to the Adelaide Plains, olive trees and wine-grape vines are often found growing together; and like wine grapes, olives come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors, each intriguing and all reflecting nature, the climate and the soil.

I've rarely met a wine lover who doesn't like olives ... so it seems a bit odd that you rarely hear much discussion about matching olives and wine. Perhaps this is because olives rarely show up in a main-course setting. If you're like me, you think of them mostly as snacks: Pick a few from the buffet table, enjoy them, fret about how to politely dispose of the pits.

So what wines do match with olives? This idle question became a serious one this weekend as participants in our interactive Food Lovers' forum joined in its friendly and non-competitive monthly culinary event, "SiliconChef" ("Silichef" for short). Participants were challenged to come up with complete dinners featuring olives as the theme ingredient, and then to choose wine to match.

As my entry, I dressed a Greek salad with green-olive and walnut pesto; then built risotto "towers" topped with a black-olive and miso tapenade and pan-seared scallops; and yes, we finished with an olive dessert, kalamata olive and mascarpone whip on shortbread. I won't take up your time with the details here, but if you'd like to read them, I've posted a complete report with recipes and photos on the Food Lovers' Discussion Group at http://www.wineloverspage.com/cgi-bin/sb/index.cgi?fn=2&tid=19245.

The wine? Red Bandol, of course! Memories of that ancient olive tree in Provence made this choice obvious for me. But it works objectively, too, with the dark, earthy qualities of the Mourvedre grape marrying beautifully with the similar flavors in both green and ripe olives. Of course, Bandol is not the only choice with olives: Just about any wine made in regions where both olive trees and grapevines thrive will do, from fruity-but-acidic Italian reds to similar reds or roses from around the Mediterranean rim in France's Provence, Rhone and Languedoc, not to mention Spain, Yugoslavia and Greece. Try wines with similar flavors from Down Under, especially Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvedre blends or Grenache roses. If you like a white, consider Sauvignon Blanc with its characteristic herbal green-olive flavors; or look for an aromatic Rhone Valley white like the modest French Lirac featured below.

Do you have a favorite wine match with olives or olive dishes? I'd enjoy hearing your experiences and hope you'll drop me a note at wine@wineloverspage.com. I regret that the growing circulation of the "Wine Advisor" makes it difficult for me to reply individually to every note. But I'll respond to as many as I can and do my best to address specific questions. Please be assured that all your input helps me do a better job of writing about wine.

Please tell your wine-loving friends about The 30 Second Wine Advisor (weekly) and Wine Advisor Express (daily), and invite them to register for their own free subscription at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor.

30 Second Tasting Notes:
Modest white from Lirac
Lirac Chateau le Devoy Martine 1999 Lirac ($8.99)
Clear gold in color, pale but bright, this blend of Clairette and other local Rhone grapes offers an aroma that's simple, light and fresh, lemons and an intriguing flowery-herbal note like honeysuckle. Crisp and quite tart in flavor, a snappy lemon-squirt of fresh citrus fruit and acidity makes it a good accompaniment with food. U.S. importer: New Castle Imports Inc., Myrtle Beach, S.C. (Aug. 5, 2001)

FOOD MATCH: Fine with a green-olive and walnut pesto on fusilli bucati corti pasta. The wine's zingy acidity helps cut through the natural oiliness of olives, while its slight herbal character makes an intriguing flavor match.

Wine Lovers' Voting Booth:
Do serious wine enthusiasts have fewer kids?
This week's Wine Lovers' Voting Booth tests our friend Tom Troiano's hypothesis that serious wine enthusiasts tend to have fewer children than the general public. We're not sure why the wine fanciers we know seem to have fewer children per capita, and we know there are exceptions. But we would like to assemble a little non-scientific data on this point as we ask, "Do serious wine enthusiasts have fewer kids?"

This question requires that you first decide whether to identify yourself as "serious" or "casual" about wine; then click the choice for the number of children in your family. It's all in fun, but we hope you'll join in by clicking to the Voting Booth at http://www.wineloverspage.com/votebooth. Read the instructions, cast your "vote," then see how your answers compare to those of fellow wine lovers around the world.

Wine 'Toon Calendar 2002!
Here's an easy, early way to please the wine lovers on your holiday-giving list: Reserve them a copy of the Wine Lovers Page Wine 'Toon Calendar! Wine lovers won't want to miss our handy and chuckle-worthy collection of cartoonist Chuck Stoudt's zany wine 'toons ... plus dozens of favorite wine quotes for every season, AND a highlighted Wine Link of the Week! If you pre-order the Wine Toon Calendar before Sept. 1, 2001, it's only $9.99 plus shipping and handling. After Sept. 1, prices will go up. Order now, and you'll be all set for holiday giving! For the details, see: http://www.wineloverspage.com/calendar/2002toon.shtml.

Wine Tasting 101:
Falesco "Vitiano" Umbria
This month's featured wine in our Wine Tasting 101 project is a tasty, good-value Italian red, Falesco "Vitiano" Umbria. If you would like to sharpen your wine-tasting skills by comparing notes on a "benchmark" wine with an online group of wine lovers, just point your browser to http://www.wineloverspage.com/forum/wt101.shtml for the details.

30 Second Administrivia
This free E-mail publication is distributed to subscribers every Monday, and our daily Wine Advisor Express is E-mailed Tuesday through Friday. Previous editions are archived at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor/thelist.shtml.

You are on the subscription list because you registered during a visit to Robin Garr's Wine Lovers' Page. To change your E-mail address, switch from the weekly (Mondays only) to daily distribution, or for any other administrative matters, E-mail wine@wineloverspage.com. And of course we welcome feedback, suggestions, and ideas for future columns. We do not use this list for any other purpose and will never give or sell your name or E-mail to anyone.

All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.

More time for wine?
You don't need to wait for Mondays to read about wine! Drop in any time at the Wine Lovers' Page, http://www.wineloverspage.com, where we add new tasting notes several times each week and frequently expand our selection of wine-appreciation articles, tips and tutorials. If you'd like to talk about wine online with fellow wine enthusiasts around the world, click to our interactive, international Wine Lovers' Discussion Group forums, http://www.wineloverspage.com/forum.

Vol. 3, No. 29, Aug. 6, 2001

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