In this week's Premium Edition:|
High-end Spanish values
From Sherry to Rioja, Spain may be one of the more traditional wine-producing countries. It's also one of the most reliable sources of delicious budget-price wines. But there's a new niche worth exploring, with a corps of innovative producers making new wines of international but exciting style. Many of these grab high point ratings that boost their prices out of reasonable range. But tomorrow's Wine Advisor Premium Edition will unveil two very fine examples that remain fairly priced for their quality in the $25 to $35 range. Our subscription-only premium E-letter makes it easy to shop with confidence when you're considering a more pricey bottle for a special occasion. A $24 annual subscription brings you 26 biweekly E-mail editions, and your contribution helps support WineLoversPage.com.
Take a peek at a sample copy, the Oct. 26 edition that featured my report on a potpourri of nearly four dozen recently released high-end goodies:
Wine and ethnic fare
As I've pointed out before, I enjoy matching the food of a country with its regional wine, picking Italian vino with Italian cocina, French vin with French cuisine and ... well, you get the idea. It just makes sense that the people of countries with a long wine-making tradition might have created foods and wines that go well together. I find it pleasant to bring together the food and wine (and maybe even background music and table decorations) of a specific region and culture.
Please note that this is not a firm rule. Wines and foods from disparate places work well together too, and in some cases these "cross-cultural" pairings can be even better than the traditional match. As one wild example, I like Argentine Malbec even better than the customary Chianti with pizza, the Italian-American treat.
What's more, this system breaks down completely when we get into one of my favorite dining categories: What about choosing wine to go with ethnic fare from countries and regions that don't make wine?
Discounting a few offbeat and obscure examples that aren't likely to turn up on wine lists, you're not likely to find a bottle of local wine to go with your dinner at a Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Middle Eastern, Cuban, African or Mexican eatery, particularly in the restaurant category that we affectionately nickname "hole-in-the-wall."
In my experience, dry table wines in the European and American tradition go surprisingly well with non-Occidental foods, subject to the limits imposed by hot-and-spicy fare.
In overview, I've found that a few specific wines and grape varieties seem to go well with a broad range of flavors, and these wines seem to perform even with foods from all around the world. Among red wines, Pinot Noir is exceptional in its amiable attitude toward all sorts of flavors, and its somewhat lower-rent cousin Gamay, the grape of Beaujolais, does, too. Riesling is without question the most food-friendly white wine grape, with Chenin Blanc in a strong second place. The conventional wisdom nominates Gewurztraminer as the wine of choice with Asian fare, but I'm frankly not persuaded by this argument, finding "Gewurz" a little too aromatic to work and play well with others.
The first and most basic rule is simple: Choose a wine to match the primary meat, poultry or seafood ingredient, using principles as simple as "red wine with red meat." Then consider whether the sauce or accompaniments would alter the equation, particularly if it adds salty, sweet, bitter or hot-and-spicy flavors. One example: Cabernet Sauvignon ought to work with pepper beef, a simple Cantonese beef-and-green-pepper stir-fry; but a spicy Thai beef salad with nam pla fish sauce and hot chile peppers would kill a Cabernet ... frankly, with the Thai dish I would call for a cold beer.
That's true in general of fiery dishes, from spicy Thai and Vietnamese fare through Indian curries and vindaloos to the more spicy dishes of Ethiopia, the Caribbean and Mexico. I find it difficult to marry these cuisines with dry table wines because the alcohol in wine tends to convert the otherwise pleasant heat of chile peppers into a more painful burning sensation. Dairy drinks (like the Indian yogurt lassi or Thai iced coffee) actually work best to quench the fires, but if you really want wine, try Champagne (or a less pricey sparkling wine) or even the much maligned Italian fizzy red wine Lambrusco, which gains an unexpected dimension with fiery fare.
With the heat turned down a little, I like fruity reds like Pinot Noir, less blockbuster-style Zinfandels or Petite Sirah with Mexican dishes. Cuban cuisine, which is bold but not usually hot and spicy, aligns nicely with South American and Spanish wines, both reds and whites as the main-course ingredient dictates. Japanese cuisine, particularly sushi, is a natural with wine: Think crisp, dry whites like Sauvignon Blanc or the lightly fizzy Italian Prosecco for many of the sushi chef's delights, but don't be shy about trying bolder combinations, including Pinot Noir with the salmon, tuna and mackerel bites ... or very fresh uni sea-urchin roe with an exceptionally fine, off-dry demi-sec Vouvray.
And when it comes to exploring the diverse realms of Chinese cuisine, a culinary landscape that's every bit as diverse and interesting as French or Italian, the whole world of wines is open to you. Start with Pinot Noir and Riesling, but don't be hesitant to experiment, remembering that food-and-wine matching is fun because food and wine are made to go together. Most combinations work, and only a few obvious exceptions (Shiraz with delicate Dover sole, maybe) are likely to fail.
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Here's a completely different approach to dining out in ethnic eateries: Enjoy a beer, iced tea or maybe an Indian lassi with your dinner. Then come home and open a nice dessert wine like this one, which is one of the featured wines in this month's Wine Tasting 101.
Quinta do Noval "LB" Porto ($16.99)
This is a very dark garnet wine, blackish and almost opaque in the glass. Simple, forward black-fruit aromas are reminiscent of crushed wine grapes, with a whiff of licorice in the background. On the palate it offers a big mouth full of sweet black plums, juicy and ripe, with hints of dark chocolate and pepper, and "grippy" acidity providing structure. The fruit is so forward that tannins aren't evident. A bit on the simple side, but warm and pleasing, requires no decanting and no need to wait to enjoy it. U.S. importer: William Grant & Sons Inc., NYC. (Nov. 14, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: Fine for wintry after-dinner sipping. Traditional accompaniments are fine blue cheeses and cracked nuts.
VALUE: No, it's not Vintage Port, but it's a fine value at less than one-fourth the price of current releases of the real thing.
WHEN TO DRINK: "Vintage character" port is meant for immediate consumption, and its relative simplicity and lack of tannins suggest that it won't really gain dramatically from aging. Still, it's alcohol, sweetness, balance and varietal composition suggest that years in the cellar won't do it any harm.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Pronouncing that Turkish wine
I was delighted to have such an outpouring of comments about last week's report on an inexpensive Turkish wine ... I didn't realize that we had so many readers in Turkey, Turkish-Americans, and people who just plain love Turkey (or, for that matter, talking about any unusual and offbeat wine).
I also received a lot of helpful hints on pronouncing the name of the Turkish wine, with special thanks to one correspondent who made the special effort of recording and sending me a sound clip of his own voice saying it. It's clear that Turkish contains some vowel sounds that aren't quite the same as English. I think the following comes close, though - extra credit if you can render the "uh" syllable something like a German U with an umlaut - "ü."
Kavaklidere "Yakut" Oküzgözü = "Ka-wah-KLUH-deh-reh YAH-kuht Eh-KUHZ-guh-zuh"
California Wine Club:
Three 90+ Rated Wines!
This month The California Wine Club's Signature Series features three highly-rated and impossible to find Napa Valley wines! If you've not yet tried the Signature Series, this is the month to do it! Check out this impressive lineup:
Anderson's Conn Valley Vineyards 2001 Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon - 94 pts. Robert Parker Jr.
Reynolds Family Winery 2000 Estate Select "Napa Valley" Cabernet Sauvignon - 90 pts Wine Enthusiast, two Gold and one Silver Medal
Edgewood 2001 Butala Vineyards "Napa Valley" Zinfandel = 91 pts Wine Enthusiast, two Gold Medals
This three-pack Signature Series shipment is $162 and includes all shipping and handling costs. Each month Signature Series members receive two to four bottles of California's highest rated and most coveted wines. Shipments average $90 - $150 and can arrive monthly, every other month or quarterly. In addition, you'll receive detailed tasting notes, winemaker history and comments regarding each wine.
Call 1-800-777-4443 or visit
This week on WineLoversPage.com
Here are links to some of our recently published articles that I think you'll enjoy:
Reports from our readers: Salone del Gusto
Guide to Italian Wines: Vintage 2004 report
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
More organics (Nov. 12, 2004)
The Good Earth (Nov. 10, 2004)
Turkish delight (Nov. 8, 2004)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Passing around a meat loaf (Nov. 11, 2004)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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Monday, Nov. 15, 2004