I started giving wine as a gift at Christmas a few years ago.
It seems in many ways the ideal gift for wine drinkers: a consumable that doesn’t need to be found a permanent home, recyclable from the packaging to the glass bottle, and enjoyable! It ticks a lot of boxes as gifts go and it still does in my experience.
Also, it’s a gift that’s easy to give: phone the wine merchant, order and pay for the wine, arrange delivery and it’s done!
When considering wine as a gift, the range of wines and their characteristics available is truly astounding! I’m grateful to Mother Nature for providing this bounty of grape varieties to satisfy many different consumer interests.
My first instinct in gifting wine had been to give wines that I would lIke to receive! Although this worked some of the time, I quickly learned the best approach is to ask the happy recipients what they would like to receive! A novel concept!
An important aspect of asking first, is that important medical considerations come to light, which I wouldn’t have thought about! For example, some people who have had chemotherapy can’t drink acidic wines like Sauvignon Blanc, so important to send a softer wine like an un-oaked Chardonnay and to generally stay away from red wines. Or if people have throat or asthmatic issues, be careful to avoid overly tannic wines, which can feel scratchy on the throat in some cases.
In situations where it’s not possible to ask for wine preferences or it’s a surprise, then I would aim for a mixed case of wine, which most wine merchants offer; usually some bubbles, then a mixed selection of white and red wines, so that a variety of styles are offered.
Arranging successful delivery of the wine is an important part of giving wine as a gift. It sounds obvious but I’ve experienced some mis-steps along the way. In years gone by, I used a smart London based wine merchant. It all sounded good but there were issues with delivery.
For the last few years, I have used Yapp Brothers, an award winning wine merchant based in Mere, a small town in Wiltshire, in southern England who deliver promptly. They have the advantage of a large and comprehensive range of wines and they run a very efficient business.
Giving wine as a gift has increased my understanding and knowledge of wine and that’s been an enjoyable and unexpected consequence of the giving! A gift to me in other words!
John Keats’ (1795-1821) hauntingly beautiful description of ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ in his poem celebrating autumn come to mind as I look across the Dordogne valley in SW France on a chilly November morning.
Autumn mists over the Dordogne Valley
On this day, the mists over the Dordogne Valley are celebrated at the same time as the roses are blooming at the end of lines of vines at Chateau Court les Muts. Roses are planted near vines as an early warning signal of mildew: if the roses have mildew then it’s likely the vines will too. These roses look very healthy!
Red roses at the edge of the vineyard
This beautiful imagery of roses and vines with their striking and complimentary colours are part of the inspiration for this silver and enamel decanter wine label made to celebrate Saussignac and its wines of the area. It was created by English silversmith and enameller, Jane Short, MBE.
Silver and Enamel Saussignac label by Jane Short MBE
Silver and enamel wine label by Jane Short MBE
Saussignac Appellation d’origine Controlée (AOC) is one of the 13 AOCs of the Bergerac wine region and one of the six sweet white Bergerac wines including Côtés de Bergerac White, Côtés de Montravel, Haut Montravel, Monbazillac, Rosette and Saussignac.
Saussignac AOC is a liquoreux wine that can be served young or kept for many years. The grapes, Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle are harvested late when they are partially dried and this gives the wine its sweetness.
For wine and food pairing, it can either be served chilled as an aperitif or with foie gras or later in the meal with blue cheese like Saint Agur or Roquefort. That juxtaposition of sweet and salt is always delicious, or it can be served with a dessert.
The Saussignac wine in this decanter is from Chateau Monestier La Tour, 2013. The Chateau advises drinking this 2013 wine, which has been barrel aged, from 2019 through to 2025.
Saussignac is a little known AOC, often overshadowed by Monbazillac wines, or by Sauternes from the Bordeaux region. However, Saussignac wine has its own remarkable merits and is a recommended choice for the festive season.
A recent visit to Nicosia and dinner with friends at a favourite restaurant introduces us to a different way of serving halloumi cheese, which I really like and want to try making myself. Attempting to replicate interesting dishes is a favourite kitchen pastime!!
Halloumi is a particular Cypriot cheese made from sheep and goat milk. It has been produced by Cypriots for many centuries and is an important part of Cypriot culture and diet. It is semi-hard with a rubbery texture and a distinct salty flavour. It is a popular choice for many dishes as an alternative to traditional cheese due to its high melting point. As mentioned, it’s quite salty and usually served fried with slices of lemon. Delicious in its own way, I am ready to try a different style of serving halloumi.
I buy fresh halloumi from a farmer in the Paphos fruit and vegetable market and am always happy with her cheese.
The Nicosian restaurant, Beba, serves halloumi in a different way: halloumi baked on a tomate base. The server told me the base was tomato marmelade; tomatoes with various ingredients reduced to a marmelade consistency.
Part of the fun of my kitchen pastime is searching the internet for suitable, approximate recipes that I play with a bit, depending on the situation. In this way, I found a tomato marmelade recipe that I modified, particularly by reducing the sugar and replacing that ingredient with stevia.
Together with the tomatoes, the following ingredients of olive oil, onion, garlic, sweet red peppers, ground cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, balsamic vinegar all find their way into the pot. During the one hour simmering phase, I add some water so it doesn’t get too think. After cooling, this is puréed into a smooth marmelade consistency rather than a ‘chunky’ marmelade.
Sliced halloumi on tomato marmelade ready to go in the oven
Baked halloumi with Tomato marmelade
To replicate the baked halloumi dish we had enjoyed, I spread tomato marmelade onto a glass cooking plate and add the halloumi on top, sliced horizontally rather than the typical vertical slices.
This goes into a hot oven for 20 minutes and is served with a salad of lettuce and cucumbers. Because of the high melting point of halloumi, it retains its shape and softens rather than melting.
Choosing an appropriate wine is part of the pleasure and definitely choosing a Cypriot wine is important to me for this quintessentially Cypriot dish. Given the saltiness of the halloumi cheese, and following typical wine pairing convention, a wine with some acidity seems right and so we open a chilled bottle of Xynisteri, a white wine from Andreas Tsalapatis, a wine maker in Polemi, a village in the hills about 30 minutes from Paphos. It is a successful match with enough acidity to balance the saltiness in the halloumi but soft at the same time with flavours of citrus and stone fruit and a whisper of nuttiness at the end.
Tsalapatis Winery, 100% Xynisteri 12.5% VOL
Xynisteri is the main indigenous white-wine variety of Cyprus. It is used to make light, refreshing white wines. Xynisteri wine is typically produced as a single varietal wine and for sake of comparison is similar to Sauvignon Blanc.
Applause at the dinner table is music to my ears as we enjoy the results of this kitchen experiment, inspired by the restaurant Beba in Nicosia.
Looking at trends is key to effective marketing. Being aware of wine trends is no exception.
Recently a few articles have appeared about low or lower alcohol wines as consumers consider their alcohol intake for all sorts of health and safety related reasons.
This trend leads me to consider the importance of the label on all bottles of wine, which must identify the alcohol percentage by volume of the wine, described as …%alc./vol. or sometimes …%vol.
Interestingly, most articles giving advice on wine don’t give the % alc./vol. of wine they write about. I too have neglected to do this in the past!!
The range of % alc./vol values in different wines is surprising.
I did a quick check on the wines in my “cellar” and purposefully selected wines with less than 14% alc./vol., which is quite a common figure for many red wines, in particular.
7 wines with lower alcoholic values
The 7 wines in the photo demonstrate an alcohol range from 10.5 % to 13.5% alc./vol The scale of difference is worth considering as the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir at 13.5% alc./vol. is 28% more alcoholic than the Riesling at 10.5% alc./vol.
The alcohol level in wines is not a static measure and will vary year by year as a factor of the terroir where the vines are grown: influenced by weather, sunlight, soil, latitude, altitude, vineyard management etc. Alcohol production in wine is a natural fermentation process of the interaction of yeasts on the sugar in the must (pressed grapes and often stalks) producing alcohol and carbon dioxide (CO2). The greater the sugar the higher the alcohol.
In general terms what this can translate to, if choosing wines with a lower alcoholic value, is choosing wines from cooler climates.
White wines from Northern Europe will likely have less alcoholic content: consider a Riesling from Germany, a Pinot Grigio from Northern Italy or a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire, the Bordeaux area or British Columbia. Champagne is always a good choice for a lower alcoholic wine!
Red wines from Burgundy like a Pinot Noir or a Beaujolais are not only generally lower in alcohol but they are also a good flexible choice to pair with a number of dishes. Pinot Noir from British Columbia also fits the bill.
The list below itemizes the 7 wines in the photo and their alcoholic levels, for illustrative purposes only.
Toni Jost: Bacharacher Riesling, 2016 Kabinett Feinherb, MittelRhein, Germany
Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon
Lock and Worth Winery, 2019, Poplar Grove, Naramata, BC.
Champagne Veuve Clicquot, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Reims, France
Beaujolais – Village 2016, Joseph Drouin, Beaune, Burgundy, France
Mission Hill Family Estate Reserve, 2020, Okanagan Valley, B.C.
Black Hills Estate Winery, 2017
Okanagan Valley, B.C.
Meyer Family Vineyards, Okanagan Valley 2018, Maclean Creek Rd Vineyard, Okanagan Falls, B.C.
I’m not advocating only drinking wines lower than 14%. Many of the beautiful Bordeaux wines that I wrote about in the last couple of blog posts as well as other wines I enjoy are in that range.
I am advocating carefully checking the bottle labels to be better informed about the wines we select.
In the heat of the summer, who wants to do much cooking? Its more about finding some shade and maybe jumping into a pool surrounded by flowers; like here at a friend’s garden. I recently finished this semi abstract painting…
Early evening shadows – a Friends’s garden and pool. July 21 Acrylic
A Cypriot friend, a self confessed ‘foodie’, suggests that I try a local Cypriot whey cheese renowned in the Paphos area. At the next Paphos Saturday morning fruit and vegetable market I enquire about this cheese from my usual vendor and discover she makes both fresh halloumi and anari cheese! Not only does she make this cheese but she and her daughter recommend how to serve it! Perfect!
With the anari cheese and recipe in hand, off we go for a coffee and then I prepare the cheese for a salad lunch – perfect for hot summer days.
Anari is made in a large round – similar to how some soft goat cheese is made in France and elsewhere. The idea is to slice the cheese into rounds for serving. In the local presentation, the round of anari is then covered with a combination of carob syrup and honey and served in this way. We generally eat very few sweet things but I did have pomegranate syrup in the kitchen for cooking as well as honey. So on went the pomegranate and honey covering for the slice of anari cheese. The response! Absolutely delicious and surprisingly not sweet.
if I were to recommend a wine, I would choose an unoaked Chardonnay or a Viognier to complement the creamy, honeyed flavours of the Anari cheese prepared in this way.
Fresh anari will keep in the fridge for up to a week, so we enjoy a slice of cheese presented in this honeyed way several times!
Ricotta is a similar cheese so this will be an alternative when I can’t buy fresh anari and it will be interesting to make a comparison.
Simplifying meals is important on hot summer days!
Zucchini flowers for sale at Paphos fruit and vegetable market
These edible Zucchini flowers now in season and for sale at the weekly Paphos market catch my eye a couple of weeks before I decide to experiment with stuffed Zucchini flowers.
I enjoy these delicacies in restaurants. When you buy the flowers you realize how fragile they are. The flowers need to be prepared and cooked quickly before they spoil.
Bunch of Zucchini flowers from the market
Here is the approach I take, based on looking at various preparation references and combining different recipe ideas..
First, it’s important to remove the stamen or pistil from within the flowers. I also gently rinse each flower to check there are no insects hiding there!
Second, I make up a recipe from the fridge with bacon and mushrooms, chopped and sautéed. Add this to a soft French goat cheese with lots of chopped mint.
Third, I carefully stuff the flowers with the mixture and cook on a cookie sheet in a hot oven for about 15 minutes.
Fourth, the great tasting!
Success! The stuffed zucchini flowers taste good. The cooked flowers add a subtle sweetness to the dish and the mint is delicious and typical of Cypriot food. Only eat the flower petals not the stems or the green leaves.
Cooked Zucchini flowers with stuffing
For a wine pairing, I suggest a Tsangarides organic Chardonnay, which complements the creaminess of the stuffing well or perhaps a Viognier.
Tsangarides Organic Chardonnay
What would I do differently next time? From the recommendation of a Cypriot friend who knows about local dishes, instead of using a French goat cream cheese, (which is what I had in the fridge when I decided to make this dish!j or perhaps an Italian Ricotta as an alternative, I would use fresh Anari, which is a fresh mild whey cheese produced in Cyprus and made from goat or sheep milk. The authentic recipe!
Perhaps it’s remembering mediterranean holidays and city streets lined with fruit trees covered with oranges that resemble vibrant holiday decorations. Sweet memories in lockdown times.
All these thoughts of clementines inspire me to consider an orange cake to start the holiday celebrations. When a friend sends a recipe for Nigella Lawson’s Clementine Cake the culinary decision is easy! It’s a great recipe for anyone watching their gluten intake, as it calls for almond flour. I limit the amount of sugar in any cooking I do and so substitute stevia for the sugar in the recipe. (A quick google check suggests the ratio of 8:1 sugar to stevia.) Another adjustment is to make mini cakes rather than a loaf cake. This makes it so easy to have a just a small taste of something sweet to finish a meal.
Clementine mini cakes
These mini cakes are moist and have the flavour of orange. I still want more orange flavour and decide an orange syrup is essential! I combine a couple of recipes to make this syrup which is essentially: juice of 4 oranges and 1 lemon, Agave syrup to taste instead of sugar. I simmer that combination and allow it to reduce in volume and add a tablespoon of Grand Marnier – the aromatic cognac and orange liqueur combination – and some candied orange peel. Result: yummy combination of mini clementine cake and orange syrup!
Delicious orange syrup
Clementine Mini Cakes with orange syrup
In wine and food pairing terms, a glass of Sauternes or another late harvest wine would be excellent or to start the celebrations, maybe continue with the taste of Grand Marnier Liqueur!
Where does the time go? I have been writing Elizabethsvines since 2012 and have now written 100 posts! A big Thank You to everyone who has ever read my blogs and encouraged me in this endeavour! I appreciate the support!
In particular, I would like to dedicate this post to my wine friend and mentor, CC, who is bravely recovering from a stroke earlier this year. Bon Courage et Bon Rétablissement!
Here follows a selection of photos from blog post # 01 to #100!
Now starting the next 100 posts! More wine stories and pairings to come!
Entertaining friends, one or two at a time in a responsible social distancing way, is still something we enjoy hosting on the patio. Offering what I call a mini-meze feels like an easy, no fuss option.
Mini-meze with pâté of sardines, anchovies and almonds
Basil and Cilantro (Coriander) growing up a storm and protected from local cat!
A meze in eastern Mediterranean countries involves quite a few different and delicious dishes. I prepare an abbreviated version with roasted vegetables, slices of local feta with olive oil drizzled over and chopped herbs, either oregano or fresh basil from the garden, sliced tomatoes and various cheeses including the greek cheese, Kefalotyri. I add some form of protein, sometimes smoked salmon, or as in the photo above, a paté of sardines, anchovies and almonds – quite delicious with toasted black bread or crackers.
A photo of the rapidly growing Basil and Cilantro (Coriander) is included. The planter is covered to protect it from a neighbourhood cat!
This mini-meze Is served in the context of enjoying a chilled white wine, usually an indigenous Cyprus white grape called Xinisteri, which is similar to Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris – in that continuum of freshness but not too acidic. As mentioned previously, a favourite of ours is the Zambartas Xynisteri.
Zambartas Xynisteri 2017
I read in a French wine publication that a gloomy autumn, ‘ un automne morose’ is anticipated, in which bad news about the financial health of organizations is starting to become a reality and could affect the whole wine sector including sales for the upcoming festive season. It’s probably a time to look out for great prices of choice still and sparkling wines.
Offering a mini-meze with wine is one way to continue to support our local/and or favourite winegrowers during these challenging times.
My favourite culinary endeavour right now is making salsa, in particular mango salsa.
Delicious Mango Salsa with Cilantro on the side
Just the name feels festive and so does the taste with the combination of sweet and contrasting flavours from the spring onion, red pepper, lemon juice and cilantro together with the mango. Chopping all the ingredients up into small pieces and mixing with the lemon or lime juice makes this a really easy summer garnish.
There are many recipes on the internet but this is the combination I have been making with success and I really like it. In consideration of friends who may not like cilantro, I serve that separately so people can add it to their taste. We enjoy this salsa with prosciutto, cheeses, smoked salmon, roasted vegetables and the list goes on. I have tried making the salsa with nectarines as that fruit has less natural sugar than mangoes but it didn’t really measure up from my perspective.
Rosé seems to be the perfect wine match and we have recently tried two that are new to us: Zambartas Wineries 2018 Rosé from Lefkada, a Greek grape and Cabernet Franc, and Vouni Panayia Winery 2019 Rosé from local grapes, Mavro and Xinisteri.
Two summer Rosés
The Zambartas Rosé won a gold medal in the 2019 International Rosé Championship and is a darker rosé colour from the Cabernet Franc grape, similar in colour to the rosés from South West France. 13% ALC by volume.
The Vouni Panayia Rosé from the local grapes of Mavro (black) and Xinisteri is paler, more similar to the rosés from the South of France. 13.5 % ALC by volume.
Both wines offer red fruit flavours including pomegranate and are refreshing, good as a summer aperitif as well as with seafood or Asian style food. We enjoy them both but in balance my favourite is the paler rosé from local grapes.
It’s time to enjoy the last few weeks of summer, with socially distanced outdoor eating and fresh and refreshing flavours.
Lamb and feta cheese seems an unusual combination when I first hear of this a few years ago from Swiss/Austrian friends who serve us delicious lamb and feta burgers.
Lamb and Feta Meatloaf with Tomato Sauce
In a Covid culinary moment, I decide to see if I can replicate this combination and search for a recipe for a meatloaf with lamb and feta. To my amazement, I discover a January 1997 recipe for Lamb Meat Loaf with Feta Cheese on the Southern Living website, a magazine I haven’t seen for many years in Vancouver but I see is still very active and interesting.
I made this meatloaf twice, the second time with great success. The first time, it does a belly flop when I turn it out of the pan.
Lamb and Feta Meatloaf slices well and freezes perfectly
Here’s how I modify the recipe to my taste: replace the green bell pepper with red pepper, added more fresh herbs, particularly rosemary, add chopped black olives and make a fresh tomato sauce, ‘Classic Tomato Sauce’ from the Epicurious site, rather than a bought sauce as suggested. Additionally, to avoid the belly-flop routine, I make the full recipe, which is for 8 servings and put all the ingredients including the toasted pine nuts but not the feta cheese and olives, in the food processor for two spins to fully integrate all the ingredients before I layer the pan with the mixture and the feta cheese and olives. A big bonus with this recipe is that it freezes really well, so I slice the meatloaf and individually pack slices for the freezer.
The big decision, of course, is what wine to serve with it.
Ktima Karipidis Nebbiolo
Ktima Karipidis Nebbiolo
My thoughts turn to a Nebbiolo wine from Greece that we enjoy in Nicosia, Cyprus earlier in the year. This delicious Nebbiolo from the organic vineyards of Ktima Karipidis in Thessalia, Greece with its full body tannins, high acidity and distinctive scent of fruit and liquorice would be a good match with the lamb and feta meatloaf with its tomato sauce. In my mind’s eye, I see myself enjoying this Greek Nebbiolo with my newly discovered meatloaf!. Fantastic!
I have not been to the Thessaly area of Greece but I read that the area is bordered by Greek Macedonia and the Aegean Sea and has a thriving viticulture industry. The wine waiter at Beba Restaurant, Nicosia, recommends this wine to us. It was a good recommendation, which we thoroughly enjoy. The Nebbiolo grape is usually associated with high quality wines from the Piedmont area of Italy.
Closer to home here on the West Coast, we enjoy the meatloaf with our house Pinot Noir, which is from the Meyer Family Vineyard in Okanagan Falls, B.C: also a good choice with the lamb and feta.
Taking time to discover new recipes and imagining wine pairings is enjoyable and creative in these unusual times and brings a smile to my face.
Perhaps the Heartman says it best with his inspiring ♥️ heart creations.
The Heartman creates an inspiring flower heart. Photographed with his permission.
Tasting the aromatic wines of Riesling and Gewürztraminer with spicy foods in the comfort of home has been a plan for some time. It’s a follow-up to my wine and food pairing comments in the April elizabethsvines.
The wine line up for the tasting and food and wine pairing
Selecting wine for a wine tasting and especially a wine and food pairing is an adventure! Somewhat constrained by availability of choice yet an enjoyable shopping expedition!
It’s fun in the BC Liquor Store checking out the choices and having sidebar conversations with other customers about our individual wine selections! People are curious about the idea of the food and wine tasting!
Two objectives are at the root of this food and wine pairing: to confirm the pairing of Chardonnay with a rich, creamy food choice and then to evaluate Rieslings and Gewurztraminers with spicy food. With the aromatic wines, I also want to consider different wine regions. The Rieslings and Gewürztraminers include wines from Alsace and Germany; I also include a British Columbia wine. For the Chardonnay, I include one from my current go-to local Chardonnay wine maker, Meyer Family Vineyards in B.C.
Here’s the list of wines to be tested and tasted in the order of tasting.
1. Chardonnay: Meyer Family Vineyards, Chardonnay Okanagan Valley 2017, McLean Creek Road Vineyard, Okanagan Falls, B.C. Canada. 13.5% alc./Vol $28.80
2.Riesling: Schloss Reinhartshausen, Riesling 2017, Rheingau, Germany. 11.5% alc./VOL $23.99
5. Gewürztraminer: Tinhorn Creek, Gewürztraminer 2018, Oliver,(Golden Mile sub region) B.C. Canada 13.5% alc./VOL $17.88
All the wines we tasted
In my April blog, I quote the famous American cook, Julia Child and her advice to be fearless, try new recipes and above all to have fun. I take this to heart in planning this whole food and wine pairing exercise. Her comments influence my menu selection too.
To accompany the Chardonnay tasting, I make one of my personal recipes of chicken breasts poached in white wine and chicken stock with sautéed shallots. The sauce is made by adding cream with a teaspoon of Dijon mustard to the reduced wine and chicken stock broth. I always slice the chicken breasts when cooked and serve on a heated platter with the sauce poured over the top of the chicken slices. This is a favourite dish, simple to make and always delicious.
The challenge is in choosing a chicken dish that would be spicy and also manageable to prepare and keep warm while the first chicken dish is being enjoyed with the Chardonnay.
After a nostalgic and interesting time reviewing various recipe books in my collection, I rediscover the SoBo Cookbook my husband bought me after a visit some time ago to the SoBo Restaurant in Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
The SoBo Cookbook with the Thai Chicken and Peanut Sauce recipes
To my delight, I find a recipe that I feel is appropriate: Thai Chicken with Peanut Sauce. The chicken thighs are marinated for 24 hours in a special sauce from the recipe and then the cooked dish is served with a Peanut Sauce also included in the recipe. This Peanut Sauce is amazing, lasts up to 2 weeks in the fridge and I continue to enjoy it with items like avocado long after the Thai Chicken is finished! This Thai Chicken with Peanut Sauce dish seems to have to right amount of spiciness to taste with the aromatic wines without being “over the top”. I enjoy making the recipe and encourage checking out The SoBo Cookbook.
Delicious spicy peanut sauce
Something to cleanse the palate between the two chicken dishes seems like a good idea and a salad is selected as an entremets. As it turns out, the salad is eaten after the two chicken dishes rather than in between and is perfect – oh well! one has to go with the flow!
Here’s how the menu lines up:
Sliced, poached chicken breast with cream and white wine sauce. (Personal recipe).
Entremets: Arugula with Parmesan Reggiano Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette, which includes lemon juice, lemon zest, Dijon mustard, olive oil, mayonnaise, Parmesan Reggiano, salt and pepper.
Thai Chicken with Peanut Sauce (The SOBO Cookbook – Recipes from the Tofino Restaurant at the end of the Canadian Road: Lisa Ahier with Andrew Morrison and photography by Jeremy Koreski, Random House 2014).
Vegetables for both dishes: small roasted potatoes with sea salt and fresh rosemary from the garden, steamed asparagus.
Raspberries and Blueberries with a dash of Grand Marnier and cream. Lindt Chocolate (90% and Sea Salt)
In terms of process, we taste all the wines first and then taste them again with the food.
The Chardonnay is in a class of its own as it is chosen for the creamy chicken dish. It is enjoyed for dryness, citrus, biscuity notes and really comes into its own and is very good with the chicken and cream sauce and demonstrates that this grape is well suited to rich and cream based dishes. The Alsace Gewürztraminer is also enjoyed with this chicken dish.
In the tasting of the four aromatics, the Rheingau Riesling is a stand out with its acidity, floral style and characteristic slightly petrol aroma. It is the most popular of the aromatics and is very well suited to the Thai Chicken and also with the Manchego cheese.
The Alsace Riesling is less defined than the Rheingau but good with the fine fruit characteristics of pears and apricot. It is also well suited to the Thai Chicken and the Manchego.
The Alsace Gewürztraminer is considered a versatile wine. The characteristic nose of lychees, violets, mango, slight curry, ginger is delightful. This is also enjoyed with the Thai Chicken and the Manchego cheese.
The B.C. Gewürztraminer from Tinhorn Creek is a bit of a puzzle to begin with as it took some time to open up to its full Gewürztraminer characteristics. Its honeyed, fruit forward spiciness made it a particularly good selection with the salad. We also wonder if we could taste a hint of sage brush, as this is a characteristic herb in the area. This suitability with the salad was quite a revelation as salads are typically difficult to pair with wine but there is enough sweetness in the vinaigrette that it worked.
All the aromatic whites were enjoyed with the fruit salad and chocolate.
In terms of a popular vote for the four aromatics, the German Riesling and the Alsace Gewürztraminer were the most popular and the others two were enjoyed also.
The geographic areas of the wine growing areas is interesting to note and the impact on the individual terroirs, that magical mix of climate, soil, drainage, sunshine, and aspect that makes such a profound difference to the expression of the grapes in difficult locations.
Alsace is in the N E corner of France, in a valley between the Vosges Mountains and the Rhine River, which is the boundary with Germany. Alsace was part of the German Empire for a period of time after the Franco Prussian War but returned to France at the end of the First World War in November 1918. The area is known primarily for Riesling and Gewürztraminer. The Vosges Mountains cast a rain shadow over the wine growing area which results in low rainfall and a continental climate. The soils range from sandstone in the foothills to clay rich limestone on the plains.
The Rheingau area of Germany is near Frankfurt. At 50’N it is at the northern edge of Europe’s wine belt. The climate is cool and continental and the soil type differs throughout the area so there is great diversity within the region. Over 80% of the grapes grown are Riesling.
Alsace wine growing area of France
Map of Germany showing Rheingau
The Okanagan Valley in British Columbia is between the Columbia Mountains and the Cascade Mountains, which together protect the valley from both the maritime influence of the Pacific and the frozen Arctic winds. It has a continental climate and mainly sand and clay glacial soils which are well drained. It is a semi-arid area with some areas experiencing very high temperatures in the summer. The vineyards are typically on the hillside of the valley. There is great diversity of terroir, especially with respect to mesoclimates represented in 5 subregions: Black Sage/Osoyoos, Golden Mile, Kelowna, Naramata Bench, Okanagan Falls. This diversity of terroir results in a wide range of wine styles being produced.
The great diversity in wine growing environments highlights the skill and knowledge needed by wine makers to maximize the wine growing potential of their individual wine regions.
As a result of the tasting and wine and food pairing, I now feel that I will be more inclined to select either a Riesling or a Gewürztraminer in a restaurant if choosing a spicy meal and it confirms my inclination to choose a Chardonnay to balance a rich creamy sauce as in the example of the Chicken with White Wine Sauce selection.
The benefit of a wine and food tasting event, however small, is that it expands wine tasting horizons and encourages us to be curious and try different wines and foods. It’s also fun!.
Julia Child would be proud of us!
References: Alsace and German wine area maps from the WSET course material.