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Discover the Dry Rose Wines of Provence this Summer

May 23rd, 2014 No comments

Discover the Dry Rose Wines of Provence this Summer

The dry, floral, refreshing roses that hail from Provence have about as much in common with those California wines as a Cabernet has with a glass of icewine.

About the roses of Provence

The Romans brought wine-making to Provence before the birth of Christ, and the region has been carrying on this tradition for more than 2,500 years. Today, Provence crafts more than 1,000 different wines, with rose wines accounting for more than half of the region’s production. In fact, Provence is the world’s leading producer of dry, rose wines.

Leading government-controlled wine place names (AOC) in Provence include Cotes de Provences, Coteauxd’Aix-en-Provence and Bandol. Traditionally, rose wines from these regions have been made by blending Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Carignan grapes, although more modern winemakers have begun to use Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes in the mix. Roses from Provence are virtually made from blending the juice of several grapes and are easily recognized by their bowling pin-shaped bottles.

Unlike rose wines from other parts of the world, Provencal roses are very dry, with slight hints of strawberries, red currants, lavender and thyme. Provencal roses may be vintage or non-vintage wines.

Pairing Provence roses with food

Rose wines from Provence are a perfect accompaniment to many summer favorites. These wines go well with shrimp and other seafood, cold pasta salads, and garlic-based dishes, such as the “aioli” that’s a hallmark of Provencal cuisine. The acidity in Provencal roses also make such wines a good choice for drinking with notoriously difficult to pair ethnic foods, such as Thai, Indian, Lebanese and Chinese.

When you go to the wine store

Many roses of Provence are exported to North America, most commonly the wines from the Bandol region. Depending on the tax situation in your state, expect to pay between $15 and $25 for a bottle of good Provencal rose. Look for the following highly-rated labels:

  •  Miraval Rose — Rated a 91/100 by “Decanter” magazine, Miraval rose is produced by Provence’s Miraval Winery, a joint venture between the French Perrin wine family and Hollywood A-listers including Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
  • Chateau d’Esclans Rose Whispering Angel — This Cotes de Provence rose earned a 90/100 rating from “Wine Spectator” magazine.

For more information on the wines of Provence, visit vins de provence.com, the official website (in English) of the the Provencal wine producing regions.

The Perfect Wines for Your Thanksgiving Feast

November 14th, 2013 No comments

Photo credit: riptheskull, Flickr

There’s no way around it: choosing wine to accompany the Thanksgiving meal is a tough task. First off, you have to choose a wine that goes with a wide variety of dishes: something that can stand up to Aunt Mabel’s marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole, but that also doesn’t overwhelm the simple flavors of Grandma’s cornbread stuffing. It also has to be a wine that will keep your palate interested throughout the long meal, without making  you long for something different after half a glass. Not to mention: it has to be a crowdpleaser. But don’t panic: our experts here at Vintage Cellars have shared their favorite Turkey Day wine picks. And for that, we give thanks.

Sparklers

Sparkling wine’s acidity and effervescence cuts through fats (of which there are many on the Thanksgiving menu). This refreshes the palate, keeping your taste buds enlivened through the meal (and even a second helping).

You may not want to serve sparkling wines at dinner, but consider starting off your celebration with a glass of wine for everyone. Be sure to choose a Brut (the driest type), and pick something with a clean and light finish.

Whites

When choosing white wines for Thanksgiving, go for a bright, lively wine rather than a heavy one like a buttery Chardonnay. If you like fruity wines, choose wines with sharper, tarter flavors like pear and apple, or citrus flavors like grapefruit and lemon, rather than luscious, sweet ones like peach and honeydew.

Wines with highly mineral notes are great for this meal too: Sauvignon blanc is a crisp and pleasantly non-fruity varietal that will taste great from appetizer to pumpkin pie.

Reds

It may seem rule-breaking to serve red with turkey breast, but hear us out: the rest of the dishes are so rich that they call for a red to stand up to them. Just don’t go too far: a heavy, rich red can overpower the meal. Instead, choose something with bright fruitiness.

Pinot noir is a great choice for Thanksgiving: look for younger wines (which will be bright rather than smokey), with flavors like strawberry or raspberry. Beaujolais is another winner: light, dry and fresh. Slightly chilled is the proper way to serve it, and also helps further helps enliven those butter-laden mashed potatoes.

Of course, one of the most wonderful things about wine is that you can (and should) drink what you like. If our advice to choose something light and lively rather than heavy and intense sounds, well, boring, trust your gut. If a super-buttery chardonnay or a dark, fruity Cabernet is going to make your guests swoon, then choose that wine to stock your table. After all, Thanksgiving is nothing if not a day of indulgence.

 

 

 

Four Perfect Summer Pairings

August 14th, 2012 No comments

Photo credit: Le Grande Farmers’ Market, Flickr.

The hottest summer months are upon us. Rather than wishing for fall,why not embrace this time of year with the best produce of the season–and wines to match? Here are some top picks for summer wine pairings.

Corn and Chardonnay

Nothing says summer like sweet, tender ears of corn from the local farmstand. Grill them and coat with salty butter for a classic treat, or grill, then cut the kernels off the cob and toss them with basil, lemon juice, salt, and  drizzle of good olive oil for a crunchy, fresh corn salad. The perfect wine to pair with sweet summer corn? A buttery, fruity California chardonnay, of course! Everything about these two is complementary, down to their matching golden-yellow hues.

Tomatoes and Pinot Gris

Foodies nationwide wait in eager anticipation of perfect summer tomatoes all year. Eat enough juicy, sweet summer tomatoes with their unmistakable fresh-from-the-garden perfume, and you’ll never go back to their mealy grocery store relatives. The best way to eat perfect summer tomatoes is raw: try them simply sliced, with salt and olive oil, or paired with a good mozzarella, in a caprese salad. Finding a wine to pair with tomatoes is notoriously difficult. You need a wine that won’t overwhelm tomatoes’ delicate sweetness, and that can match their intense acidity. A pinot gris, with its crisp, clean acidity, is a great match.

Peaches and Gewürztraminer

The best kind of peaches are those that are so juicy, you have to eat them over the sink. Sweet, fragrant summer peaches are at their peak for only a few weeks, and we won’t see them again until next summer. They’re great baked into peach pies, but who wants to turn on the oven right now? For a simple summer treat, sprinkle peach halves with brown sugar, then put them facedown on a sheet of foil on the grill. When the sugar starts to caramelize, take them off and fill the middle with vanilla ice cream. Pair with an earthy, floral gewürztraminer and enjoy outside.

Watermelon and Port

Ruby-red and insanely sweet, watermelon needs no preparation other than a chill in the refrigerator before eating time. Carve into large wedges and serve with a spoon for easy eating. The sweetness of a great summer watermelon can stand up to a glass of dessert wine, such as port. Drink slowly, admire the sunset, and wish for summer to hang around a little longer.

 

What are your favorite summer wine pairings?

The Easiest Wine-Pairing Rule

June 26th, 2012 No comments

Without referring to the internet (or your latest wine-pairing app), how can you tell what wines go “best” with what foods?  Here’s the simplest wine pairing rule that almost always produces yummy results: if it grows together, it goes together!  That’s right.  Tried-and-true wine and food pairings often originate in the same region, and because of this synergy many pairings (and wines themselves) have been “perfected” over hundreds of years to best match the local cuisine.Pair your food with wine characteristic of the region.

For example, goose and duck go great with wines made where they roam abundantly in Catalonia, Spain.  Try pairing them with a regional favorite like a bottle of red Vall Llach, Cellers Pasanau, or Clos Mogador.  Goat cheese, a common product of France’s Loire Valley, pairs superbly with Gerard Boulay and Henri Bourgeois. (See our blog post on wine and cheese pairings here.) Having bistacca alla fiorentina as an entrée?  Pair this classic Italian dish with Italian wine from the same locale: Brunello di Montalcino!

When in doubt, pair your dish with a wine produced in the same region.  Remember: if it grows together, it goes together.  A wine’s label usually presents valuable clues about its origin, so ask to see it if you’re unsure.  Your waiter or chef may also have excellent suggestions once you’ve narrowed down the options, so don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations.  If you do have a smartphone handy, check yourself with a program like WineStein Pro to see if you’re on track!  Cheers to easy pairing!

Natalie MacLean’s Updated iPhone App

Wine Picks & Pairings: Natalie MacLeanInstead of giving traditional (and often non-useful) gifts to your folks this Mother’s or Father’s Day, considering celebrating with the gift of a good bottle of wine that will really make them smile!  Sure ties, socks, and ceramic hippo nicknacks are the norm when you’re not really sure what your parents want or need, but a bottle of wine–a classy touch of elegance–shows just how much you appreciate them, much more than any generic gift ever can.

Because Mother’s and Father’s Day meals contain all sorts of food items, finding the right wine to accompany your parent’s chosen dish may often pose a dilemma.  Fortunately, the app Wine Picks & Pairings: Natalie MacLean features a Mother’s Day Brunch matching option under the Pairings tab.  Simply selecting this option brings up plenty of perfect pairings.  For example, here are the top five:

  • Spanish omelette with Pinot Grigio
  • Spinach and bacon quiche with Sauvignon Blanc
  • Crepes Suzanne with Icewine
  • French toast and raspberries with Champagne
  • Smoked salmon and cream cheese on bagels with Pinot Noir

Curious about what to bring to the family’s Father’s Day cookout?  Select Father’s Day Barbecue from the list!  What are some sure-fire suggestions?

  • Seared Pepper Steak with Shiraz
  • Planked Salmon with Riesling
  • Flame-Broiled Hamburgers with Zinfandel
  • Grilled Chicken with Chardonnay
  • BBQ Pork Chops with Merlot

Mmmmm…  In addition to helping you select fantastic wines for your family’s fun holidays, the app allows you to access a host of tasting notes, scores, prices, and recipes.  You can search over 150,000 wines at retailers across the U.S.,  and create a wine journal containing your own notes and photos.  Wine Picks & Pairings: Natalie MacLean is available for iPhone, iPod Touch, Android, and BlackBerry, and allows users with other mobile phones access to a mobile site.  The latest version was updated on Feb. 04, 2012.

Red Wines For All Foods

April 5th, 2012 No comments
Chicken, traditionally served with white wine, can also be enjoyed with red wine.

Traditionally served with white wine, chicken can also be enjoyed with red! (Photo by Steven Walling)

If you’ve read our recent post, If You’re Going to Drink, Choose Red!, you may be wondering how to effectively increase your red wine consumption by substituting it for white.  The good news is that there’s a red wine alternative to just about every “traditional” white-wine dish!

Though it may take you (and some of your guests) a little time to get out of the mindset that certain foods must always be enjoyed with either whites or reds, specifically, the rewards are more red wine consumption at your table and (quite often) more interesting pairings!

Let’s start with fish!  When it comes to the creatures of the sea, white wine has been given dominion.  However, there are excellent reds that will not overpower your fine, flaky fillets.  Try a baked or grilled fish dish with a bottle of Cabernet Franc or a nice Cote du Rhone.  These red wines, because of their low acidity, blend quite well with almost all of your typical fish dishes.

Next comes pasta!  If you’re eating pasta with tomato sauce, experiment with almost any red!  Reds, in general, are fantastic with tomato sauces (especially those with meatballs!)  If your pasta is covered with a tantalizing cheese sauce, consider pairing your plate with a light Burgundy or Merlot.  These two wines are excellent compliments to cheese sauces of all kinds, even ones that incorporate a bit of spice!

Lastly, we come to chicken!  Like the numerous reds that go well with tomato sauce, I urge you to experiment!  For a few starters, consider pairing your bird with a bottle of Pinot Noir, Chianti, Barolo, or (a personal favorite) Beaujolais.  Beaujolais works especially well with recipes involving cornish game hens sprinkled with rosemary, as well as barbecued chicken.  Have fun, be adventurous, and keep track of the reds you find work best with your favorite “white wine” foods.  Enjoy!

Easter Wine Pairings

April 3rd, 2012 No comments

Easter is a time to celebrate with family and friends.  When meals are involved, the focus is often on a roasted ham or a nice leg of lamb.  But what wines go best with these dishes?  After all, hams are often prepared with a variety of glazes, aren’t they?  Read on!An Easter ham perfect with a glass of wine.

No matter how sweet your ham’s glaze may be, ham is an inherently salty meat.  Keeping this in mind, the best wines for any ham are Rieslings or  Gewürztraminers.  Both sweet wines complement the salty flavor of ham without impacting the taste of the glaze, or the taste of the wines themselves.  If you’d prefer a more buttery mouth feel to accompany your glazed ham, a slightly oaked Chardonnay is also a possibility.  For drinkers who prefer red wine, Red Zinfandel is a spot-on alternative; the bold presence of its fruit flavors will complement any sweet ham.

If you’re serving leg of lamb, consider a traditional pairing like Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, or Merlot.  You’ll want a wine that is fruity and acidic so that it complements your lamb (a meat with big flavor!), but does not subdue its flavor.  If some guests want white wine, while others desire red, consider having two or more bottles of wine open simultaneously.  Save any left over wine with the convenient WineKeeper 3-Bottle Executive for more relaxed enjoyment later in the evening.  Cheers, and Happy Easter!

Wine and Spice: Hot Foods & Wines to Choose

March 1st, 2012 No comments

It’s still winter, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the season for spicy food.  In fact, a good meal filled with spicy delights might be just the thing to warm you up!  Are you eyeing that jalapeño?  Are red, hot chili peppers calling your name?  Here are some wines that are sure to complement your spicy food’s zestiness!

red hot chili pepperIf your dish contains mild, flavor-rich peppers (like chili peppers or cherry peppers), consider having a glass of Malbec on hand to soften the burn.  If Malbecs seem too “big” for you, perhaps a fruit-flavored Pinot Noir will be an acceptable counterpoint to your cuisine?  And if you’re a diehard white wine drinker, never fear; dry Rieslings will also soothe your taste buds while simultaneously pairing well with your meal.

If your dish is so hot that it could be labeled “nuclear,” consider pairing it with a wine that has a lower alcohol content and is also on the sweeter side.  A German Riesling with low a low level of alcohol, such as Spätlese, is an excellent choice (as is an Alsatian Gewurztraminer).

Don’t be afraid to pair your spicy, winter cuisine with a bottle of white or red listed above.  You’ll be surprised how a decent, appropriate bottle can compliment even the hottest of peppers.  Cheers!

Wine and Chocolate: What Really Works?

February 9th, 2012 No comments

So, you want to get your sweetheart a special wine to accompany the heart-shaped box of chocolates you’re giving him or her this Valentine’s Day?  What wine do you select?  Unlike “standard” wine and food pairings, pairing wine with chocolate can be a bit more tricky.  However, if you pair them well, the result is truly divine!  No matter if you’re pairing your wine with white, milk, or dark chocolate, here are some tips to help steer you in the right direction…

Chocolates for Valentine's Day: Pick the Perfect Wine

Photo by John Hritz (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Try to pair lighter, less complex wines with lighter, simple-tasting chocolates.  The reverse also goes; try to pair rich, robust wines with darker, richer chocolates, including dark chocolate covered cherries.  Since dark chocolate displays more tannins, combining dark chocolate with a wine packed with tannins has sort of a “cancelation effect” on the wine’s tannins, bringing out more of the wine’s inherent fruity flavor (which is just what you want!)

Because white chocolate is more subtle than milk or dark, it pairs very well with Sherry and Moscato d’Asti.  Though some people like to pair white chocolate with red or white Zinfandel, the counterpoint of flavors can sometimes provide a dissatisfying contrast (if not “sampled” for approval beforehand.)  Our advice: play it safe and stay away from Zinfandel unless you know your mate has enjoyed such a combination before!  Milk chocolate goes well with Pinot Noir, several Rieslings, and Muscat (one of our favorites!)  Ruby–not Tawney–Port is almost always a perfect fit for milk chocolate, so we recommend serving this dessert wine when in doubt.  Dark chocolate craves to be paired with wines that also display hints of chocolate.  A good red Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon is an excellent choice for a box of dark chocolates.  Merlot and Tawney Port also pair exceptionally well with dark chocolate.

We hope these suggestions aid you on your quest to find the “perfect” wine to accompany the chocolate delights you plan to present your lover.  (Remember, there’s no harm in buying a few extra bottles of wine so you can sample some combinations yourself before February 14th, just to be sure!)  Cheers!

Wine and Ice Cream

February 7th, 2012 No comments

Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia® ice cream flavor

This week, we’re prepping you for a wine lover’s Valentine’s Day with some yummy ideas you can share with your sweetie!

So, your Sweetie Pie wants some ice cream to accompany a romantic bottle of wine during an intimate evening in?  Unheard of?  Think again!  There are, in fact, some decent wine and ice cream pairings you can try!

Is your ice cream chocolate, or chocolate chip?  Consider following a spoonful with a sip of Cabernet Sauvignon,  Ruby Port, or even a glass of Madeira!  In the mood for coffee or mocha ice cream?  Follow a bowl with a bottle of Sherry.  If you’re a mint chocolate chip fan, you’ll love how a jammy, Red Zinfandel augments your ice cream’s delicious mint taste.

Pair wine with a sorbet

Photo by Renee Comet

Strawberry ice cream, as you may guess, simply begs to be accompanied by Champagne (or a similar sparkling wine), but it can also go nicely with Sherry or Chianti.  If your ice cream is a little more adventurous, like a passion fruit sorbet for instance, give it a whirl with a good Chardonnay.  (Unoaked varieties usually pair better in this case).  Is raspberry sorbet more to your liking?  Try a taste with a Sparkling Rosé!  A quality French Bordeaux makes a great companion to Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia®, and for you folks who favor plain, old vanilla, here are some wines just for you: Sherry, Sauternes, Ruby Port, and Muscat.  Cheers!