If we have mimosas for brunch why not skip the OJ and just enjoy a glass of wine?
Pairing wine with your favorite brunch dish can be challenging only because we don’t usually consider bacon and eggs with a wine pairing.
But if we apply the same principles to brunch dishes that we apply to dinner, the perfect match is easier than you may think.
Chicken and Waffles
Fried chicken and waffles can be found on menus everywhere and especially in the South. It may be an expected pairing but Champagne is an ideal choice. Not only does it offer the indulgence associated with brunch, it has the acidity needed for the crisp waffle and the refreshing bubble to cut the crunchy crust of the chicken.
- NV Gruet Brut, New Mexico (about $18 retail)
- NV Iron Horse Sparkling Wine, California (about $47 retail)
Blueberry Pancakes and French Toast
These brunch items are generally sweet, so the standard rule applies: sweet dishes need a wine equal in sweetness or slightly sweeter. Moscato d’Asti is an ideal pairing with its light body, delicate bubble and low alcohol.
- NV Cupcake Moscato d’Asti, Italy (about $13 retail)
- NV Scrapona Moscato d’Asti, Italy (about $16 retail)
Meat Casseroles, Frittatas and Omelets
Robust dishes filled with bacon, sausage and ground beef need a wine with enough body and tannic structure to stand up to these ingredients. The earthy characteristics of pinot noir accentuates the rich savory and smoky flavors of these dishes but also offer a lighter body than most red wines.
- 2016 A by Acacia Pinot Noir, California (about $14 retail)
- 2016 Presqu’ile Santa Barbara Pinot Noir, California (about $22 retail)
Nothing says brunch like eggs Benedict. There is something about this dish that makes us feel our brunch menu is complete. Because of the weight of the eggs and the robust ham, a rose is a complement to this item. Because rose wines offer the slight tannic structure we find in red wines it enables the dish to not be overpowered by high gritty tannins. It’s also a refreshing addition because of its medium acidity and chilled serving temperature.
- 2017 Apothic Rose, California (about $12 retail)
- 2017 A to Z Wineworks Rose, Oregon (about $17 retail)
There is no doubt we are in the heat of summer.
And hot humid weather calls for refreshing wines.
Gamay, the grape used to make Beaujolais, is a favorite red option for summer temperatures. It’s a light-bodied red that has aromas of summer flowers and fresh-picked berries. Beaujolais wines are ideal for your summer picnic with cured meats, cheeses and dips.
Primitivo is the genetic twin of zinfandel. It is a high-alcohol fuller-bodied wine with high acidity. This grape is an ideal partner for almost every menu item you will throw on the grill during the summer.
Rose wines are always a summer favorite. The zesty fruit forward style gives the red wine drinker a refreshing choice. Rose wines give the subtle structure of a red wine but the refreshing style of a chilled white wine.
Gewurztraminer always offers the complex rosy aromatic style ideal for a summer cool-off. Because wines made from this grape are generally low in alcohol, gewurztraminer is a good choice for summer sipping.
Picpoul is a wine lover’s dream for a summer staple. Its budget-friendly price tag and mouthwatering acidity make this wine a top white wine choice when the temperature soars.
Gruner Veltliner may be unfamiliar to many wine drinkers but it’s a delicious alternative to sauvignon blanc. It is packed with citrus, white pepper and racing acidity.
- 2016 Louis Jadot Beaujolais, France (about $15 retail)
- 2016 Antico Sigillo Primitivo di Manduria, Italy (about $14 retail)
- 2017 Los Vascos Rose, Chile (about $13 retail)
- 2016 Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewurztraminer, Washington (about $13 retail)
- 2016 Picpoul de Pinet, France (about $12 retail)
- 2016 Raptor Ridge Gruner Veltliner, Oregon (about $19 retail)
Everyone enjoys being able to describe the wines they love. This is why we depend on “tasting notes.” Some find this process intimidating or pretentious. But the reasoning behind systematic tasting is the ability to specifically describe a wine. You may already be familiar with some common tasting terms but this week I address some less common descriptors.
- Banana. If you’ve ever encountered the aroma of bananas in your glass, rest assured there were no bananas thrown into the vat during winemaking. There are several technical reasons a wine may develop banana notes. It is common in some wines undergoing a process called carbonic maceration used in wines such as Beaujolais. Grapes are sealed in a vessel filled with carbon dioxide prior to normal fermentation. This process is what gives so many Beaujolais wines their distinct tropical aromas.
- Black Olives. Olives are identified by ripeness. Green olives are harvested before the olive has ripened while black olives are left to further ripen. During this ripening period, ployphenol (tannin) levels will drop, resulting in the earthy taste of black olives we detect. Black olive tasting notes are usually found in red wines such as syrah and California Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Coconut Coconut generally comes out in a wine’s aroma from esters and more specific lactons, which are responsible for the sweet aromas when smelling a coconut. It is one of the key aromas distinguishing oaked wines, and it’s mostly considered a tetiacery aroma (aromas found in aging wines.) Oak flavors and aromas can come from contact with wood chips, staves or barrels.
- Jammy. When we use the word jammy it is generally referring to red wines low in acidity and high in alcohol, such as Zinfandel, to describe the aroma of ripened or cooked fruits. It is associated with red fruits such as raspberries, strawberries and blackberries. Sometimes jammy is used to describe a wine fault for when vines were overexposed to heat and sunlight. The grape will ripen quickly leaving the cloying jammyness and a flabby mouthfeel from the low acidity.
- 2016 Louis Jadot Beaujolais, France (about $13 retail)
- 2016 Cannonball Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $18 retail)
Happy Birthday America! There is no better way to celebrate than toasting with an American-made wine today.
Today, American wines rank among the best of the world. But it wasn’t always so.
For centuries fine wine was confined to prestigious European vineyards. Mentions of Bordeaux’s Cabernet Sauvignon or Burgundy’s Pinot Noir were found only in tasting notes or journals from noble families of royalty or those with enough wealth to travel across the Atlantic. These were the privileged few who could enjoy the sacred consumption of some of the world’s finest wines.
But in 1976, British wine merchant Steven Spurrier organized a unique blind tasting (the wines’ vineyards and producers were not revealed prior to tasting), known as The Judgment of Paris with California versus French wines. The judges were some of the most renowned wine critics with the world’s most elite palates. The outcome was an upset with two Napa Valley wines coming out on top: a 1973 Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon and a 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay.
I would have loved to have been in the crowd to see the look on the judges’ faces when these California wines were announced over some of the world’s most elite French vineyards.
For more about the tasting, read George Taber’s Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting that Revolutionized Wine. Taber, an American, was the only journalist attending the event.
- 2016 Bogle Essential Red, California (about $14 retail)
- 2016 Sterling Vineyards Napa Chardonnay, California (about $14 retail)
- 2016 Honig Sauvignon Blanc, California (about $19 retail)
- 2015 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $38 retail)
- 2015 Bell Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $55 retail)
- 2014 Chateau Montelena Caberent Sauvignon, California (about $63 retail)
- 2015 Reynolds Family Chardonnay, California (about $33 retail)
As you know I am a big fan of Riesling.
The most celebrated examples of Riesling grow along the winding Mosel River. The Mosel begins in the Vosges Mountains in eastern France and flows northeast across Luxembourg and into Germany where it twists and turns — quite sharply at times — for 150 miles to Koblenz where it joins the Rhine.
The Mosel Valley is Germany’s third largest wine region, producing approximately 12 varietals with Riesling making up 60 percent of production.
The classification of the wines of the Mosel is important. There are three classifications to look for: Qualitatswein (QbA), Pradikatswein and Verband Deutscher Pradikatsweinguter (VDP).
QbA wines are those produced meeting a minimum ripeness level. This classification includes many everyday Rieslings (and today’s Value and Splurge).
Pradikatswein bases quality on the number of grapes affected by noble rot and the ripeness levels. This classification ranges from Kabinett (a dry wine) to the highest end of the sweet wines of the region, Trockenbeerenauslese.
VDP is an association of wine estates that classifies wines according to terroir.
It’s important to keep in mind these classifications are not a ranking of quality but refer to the ripeness level of the grapes. Because the region has traditionally been so cool, ripeness has been the determining factor of wine quality.
The Mosel Valley is one of the most northern latitudes (50th parallel) for growing grapes. Knowing the vineyard is situated to get the maximum hours of sunshine is key in selecting quality wine. When you see photos of the Mosel vineyards, chances are they are nestled along the river on steep slopes. This is very important because the areas facing south receive up to 10 times more sunlight during the growing season than north facing plots.
Soil is an another contributing factor. The slate soils offer good drainage during the wet growing season, but more importantly the slate holds the daytime heat and radiates it back to the vines.
Understanding these concepts and being able to put them to use is easier said than done.
It helps to know, many German wine labels use the same layout: Producer or bottler on the top line, followed by the vintage, then the name of the village and vineyard where the wine was produced, the grape varietal and finally the quality classification — Deutscher wein, landwein, Qualitatswein and Pradikatswein. Pradikatswein is further identified as kabinett, spatlese, auslese, beerenauslese, eiswein, trockenbeerenauslese. The VDP designation, if any, is usually found on the bottle neck.
- 2016 Clean Slate Mosel Riesling, Germany (about $12 retail)
- 2016 Rudi Wiest Select Mosel Riesling, Germany (about $16 retail)
As much as I love tasting new wines, you may be surprised to know I am more passionate about learning about wine than actually drinking the wines. Each time I research wine I come across many wine trivia facts. I hope you enjoy this week’s column filled with great dinner conversation, party trivia and just a few facts you may not have known.
- The world’s oldest bottle of wine, known as the Speyer wine bottle or Romerwein aus Speyer, dates to A.D. 325 and is on display in the Historical Museum of Palatinate in Speyer, Germany.
- There is a law about wine given in the Code of Hammurabi (c. 1800 B.C). “If outlaws collect in the house of a wine-seller, and she do not arrest those outlaws and bring them to the palace, that wine-seller shall be put to death.” (109)
- In Australia, wine labels are required to list the number of servings based on the alcohol content. For example, a bottle of Riesling with 8 percent alcohol by volume has 4.7 servings while a bottle of shiraz with 15 percent alcohol by volume has 8.9 servings per bottle.
- It takes between three and 10 bunches of grapes to make a bottle of wine, with most bottles requiring about five. A standard wine barrel contains about 295 bottles.
- The word “sommelier” is an old French word meaning butler or an officer in charge of provisions, derived from the Old Provencal “saumalier,” or pack animal driver.
- In Vietnam, you can order a glass of “snake wine” made with the venom from the cobra. It is usually served as a shot of rice wine covered with snake blood. Many times, the snake is killed as you order. It’s considered to have medicinal properties. Bottled snake wine — bottles of rice wine or grain alcohol — steeped with whole snakes inside are also available.
- The average age of a French oak tree harvested for the use of creating wine barrels is 170 years old. Mature trees have a tight grain ideal for barrel usage. Depending on the size of the tree and the size of the barrels, a cooper can make just one to three barrels from a single oak tree. However, the barrels can be used multiple times depending on the type of spirit and if they are being used to impart specific characteristics or simply for storage.
- Winemaking is a significant theme in one of the oldest literary works known, the Epic of Gilgamesh. The divinity in charge of the wine was the goddess Siduri.