Everything Wine blog

Book Clubs, Food and Wine: August

Book Clubs, Food and Wine:  August

A monthly blog

Jan Penhorwood, wine consultant at the Langley store.

Discuss Ian McEwan’s superb book “Saturday” and serve a Mediterranean fish stew.

Henry, the central character in this novel, makes fish stew. By day Henry is a neurosurgeon but as a home cook he loves to make one pot meals that he “throws together” – without any of his surgeon’s precision.

The events of this novel take place in a single day. Dr. Henry Perowne wakes at dawn on this Saturday thinking of his normal weekend activities with friends and family. He does not know- none of us can- that he is going to lose control of his entire life a few hours later. A peace march, a missed appointment, a car crash, road rage and ultimately terror ensue.

Depending upon the type of fish or shellfish you use to make your stew you might choose a low tannin red, a rosé or more likely, a white wine.

 

Popular wisdom holds that the tannins in red wine can, when served with fish, intensify the fishy taste and create an unpleasant aftertaste. One often hears that only white or rosé wines can pair successfully with fish. Research has shown that a compound in the fish reacts to the extra iron in red wines triggering a decaying fish smell. (https://www.science.org/content/article/why-fish-and-red-wine-dont-mix)

But salmon and other rich and meaty fish could pair well with a light red wine. Perhaps a Cinsault or a Beaujolais. If you haven’t heard of or tried a Cinsault, do so. Cinsault delivers lots of flavour (raspberry, tart cherry) along with light-body and low tannins. Here are a couple of suggestions:

https://www.everythingwine.ca/sun-air-cinsault-750ml

https://www.everythingwine.ca/bouchard-aine-beaujolais

For a firm-fleshed fish like halibut try a chilled white Rhône blend (and add some to the pot) then wait for the halibut to simmer. … I love white wines year-round but particularly in the summer. 

https://www.everythingwine.ca/ogier-heritages-cdr-blanc

Another Côtes de Provence rosé (like last month's) would pair well with a tender and flaky fish like sole or cod or shellfish.

https://www.everythingwine.ca/sables-d-azur-gassier-rose

…September preview - a hard-boiled detective novel with some steak on the BBQ

Book Clubs, Food and Wine: July

Book Clubs, Food and Wine

A monthly blog

Jan Penhorwood, wine consultant at the Langley store.

Before learning about wine and entering the industry I worked as a librarian for 30 years. I have also been an avid reader (and book club member) for almost as long. My book club, perhaps a thinly veiled wine-drinking club featuring fiction, meets monthly. Each month a different member hosts & chooses the book and also prepares a full dinner with wine. But there are many different ways to run a book club. If by chance you are looking for book titles that feature wine or ideas for thematic books to pair with wines, I have some ideas for you in this monthly blog.

July

I am currently recommending John Lanchester’s novel “The Debt to Pleasure” (1996). A fabulous romp providing mystery and actual seasonal recipes along with an erudite history of food. Hilarious cookbook cum-memoir written by a brilliant, snobbish and eccentric man, Tarquin Winot, as he drives through France to his house in Provence. One of the most unreliable narrators you will ever encounter, Tarquin slowly reveals more and more of his sinister agenda as the book progresses.  Choose from one of the book’s seasonal menus, an egg curry or perhaps a herbed chicken. A Provence rosé would be perfect!

Cote du Provence rosés are available at various price points. I love Domaine Houchart ($19.99) a dry rosé with hints of grapefruit, apple and strawberry. There is a light blossom scent and a satisfying mineral taste. Or splurge on Whispering Angel ($39.99) with its hints of strawberry, cherry, blossom, orange peel and honey. If rosés are not to your taste, Provence offers other wines: some with hints of garrigue (the name given to the collection of wild herbs that grow everywhere - rosemary, lavender, juniper and thyme) from their soil; choose a French Sauvignon Blanc or a rich oaked red made with the Mourvèdre grape. Santé!

https://www.everythingwine.ca/houchart-provence-rose?___store=lg 

Summer Bonus Blog Post

Feel like starting a book club this summer? Or maybe just collecting a couple of great “summer beach reads” for 2022 and pairing them with some wine?

The Winemaker’s Wife by Kristin Harmel

-Champagne

https://www.everythingwine.ca/moet-chandon-brut?___store=lg

 Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

-Sonoma Pinot Noir

https://www.everythingwine.ca/decoded-sonoma-coast-pinot-noir-750-ml?___store=lg

 The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand 

-French Sauvignon Blanc, maybe even a Sancerre!

https://www.everythingwine.ca/chateau-de-sancerre?___store=lg

Note: I usually obtain my books from the library. I do occasionally buy them, especially if I am sure I will reread them. I recently bought a Kindle but have not yet fully embraced it. My wines come from “Everything Wine” and most, but not all, are from the Langley store.

… August preview for those who love to plan ahead. Anything by author Ian McEwan.

Sulphites in wine

You Probably Aren’t Allergic to Sulphites, Don’t Hurt Me 

 

A good friend posted a video of an ad for this magic device that “removed sulphites” from wine and thus “prevented hangovers”. This is like suggesting you can prevent car crashes by removing the car doors. I have no clue whether this funnel-with-stuff-in-it can truly alter a wine’s chemical composition by quickly pouring wine through the magic wine hole, but it doesn’t matter. Sulphites don’t cause hangovers. Alcohol does. 

 

Ok, just…. No,…stop yelling at me. Yes, I know that sulphite allergies are real, yes I know that the reaction you had to that Chilean Cab was real, yes I know that the bottle said “contains sulphites” on it and you then logically declared war. All I’m saying is that there are MANY components in wine that you could react to, and - statistically speaking - sulphites probably aren’t the culprit.  

 

I’ll readily admit that sulphites have suffered from terrible PR. Out of all the allowable additives in wine, it’s the only thing the label warns you about (besides booze, more on that below), and it’s far from the worst thing you can do to a wine, in fact, it’s something that wine does to itself:  

The heroic yeast that turns (meh) grape juice into (yay) wine produces sulphites during fermentation to prevent other kinds of bacteria from joining the party and stealing all this awesome sugar it’s eating. You won’t find wine without sulphites because they are inextricably part of its Origin Story. You can find wine with no added sulphites, but you’d best drink it quick (or hope it wasn’t sitting long) lest you discover why they were added in the first place:  

 

In the 1600s, the Dutch – tired of buying great wine down in Bordeaux only to find it smelled like donkey once it got back to Holland – figured out that if you dropped a sulphur candle down into a barrel and let it burn a bit before filling it, the wine wouldn’t spoil. In this age, when we think of additives we picture an Autobot from The Matrix injecting robo-serum into frightened, screaming grapes (if you’re drinking Factory Wine this might be the case, who knows, the factories have no windows), but sulphites can be introduced quite naturally, and in small administrations can help keep the wine stable and ageable. Many organic wine certifiers allow some sulphites in organic winemaking; indeed many Natural or Low Intervention winemakers administer some sulphites because they want the wine you buy to taste like the wine they made. 

 

If you can eat dried fruit, store-bought jam, dried nuts, canned tomatoes or a plate of French fries without reaction, then sulphites aren’t your nemesis. Maybe you could be friends. Maybe you could swap recipes. Histamines in red wine, often blamed if not mentioned on the bottles, share a similarly unfair scarlet letter – some people react to them, but they’re far more prevalent in many of the foods we eat and if you don’t react to cheese, fish or meat (which contain 10 times the histamine count), then they aren’t your suspect either.  

 

Yes.. for sure I understand that I’m not really helping. There’s no easy answer to why people react to certain wines and not others. Wine is a living thing, and largely an accurate portrait of the place it was born into, including the potential allergens surrounding it. Since red wines use skin contact after crush, there’s more environmental character: the skins interacted with those surroundings for months. If you find a wine that causes no reaction, continue to drink it and from the estates surrounding it, and try if possible to stick to the same vintage, because different things can happen to that vineyard from year to year. 

 

Although sulphites and other things like yeast, acid and tannins can be problematic for some, the likely culprit is the reason we all came here to begin with: Alcohol. Alcohol sensitivity is a thing, the best way to handle it is to drink less and drink better. We can help. 

Cabs Ahoy

A tasty spin ‘round the globe of Cabernet – (Sauvignon and Franc) - based wines. Put your trays upright and hold on tight: 

USA 

Enfield Wine Co. Waterhorse Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Fort Ross Seaview, Sonoma Coast. New to BC. We don’t see much Cab coming from Fort Ross Seaview, as the ocean proximity (5 miles from the Pacific) and diurnal shifts favour the widely planted Pinot and Chardonnay grapes. Based on this drop-dead gorgeous Cab from John Lockwood and Amy Seese, though, holy amaze-balls we have been missing out, because this 2017 Cab from Waterhorse Ridge, a dry-farmed organic vineyard, is a revelation. The Pacific fog brings enough cooling effect to prolong sugar ripening but burns off midday to amp up the bright currant notes and allow the phenolics to ripen in balance with the sugar – even with the bizzarro heat spikes of 2017, Enfield achieved the perfect ratio of power and elegance that’s becoming more rare in a warming world. Plum, dust and lavender (a touch more graphite and it’d be a dead ringer for Margaux) over a full frame with a chalk-laced, silken finish. One of my missions this year is to find more Cali Cabs like this. Not submitted for review, 12 bottles available, $115.98 +tax 

Ashes + Diamonds Rouge #3 2019, Yountville, Napa Valley. Oh hey, look, I found another Cali Cab like that! From a production so tiny it’s not even on their website (it was destined for restaurants but I’m sneaky), Steve Matthiasson and Diana Snowden Seysses take Cabernet Franc from the Nord Trio vineyard in Yountville and temper it with about 10% Merlot, kind of like a photo-negative Saint-Emillon. A soft red pepper vibe supports the gravelly currant and pencil aromas, the intense medium body leaves a footprint of stone and cocoa powder. Killer Franc from ascendant rock stars. Not submitted for review. 2 6-packs available, $96.98 +tax 

Neal Howell Mountain Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Howell Mountain, Napa. A statuesque classic from a banner year. The Neals are Mountain Bears, happier staying up the hill playing with their leaves and berries rather than spending time on the valley floor, over-ripening and getting stuck in above-ground pools. Papa Bear Mark Neal let the rocky soils of his Howell Mountain plot build a rugged, playoff-ready Cab, with mocha and dried raspberries crushed with gravel on the dusty nose. The structure, just starting to soften, commands a considerable footprint but is now cohesive with the medium-full body, I’d still like 3 more years on it but there are no longer sharks in the water if you want to dive in. Only 800 cases made, and I got one of them because I’m medium-important. Not submitted for review, 6 bottles available, $166.98 +tax 

 

FRANCE 

Domaine de Trevallon Rouge 2011, Alpilles IGP. First let me say how insane it is that I can offer this. I’m rarely impressed with myself, but hey. Good job, buddy. One of France’s most sought-after cult wines (and that’s saying something), Trevallon sits in a kind of wine-no-man’s-land between the Rhone valley and Provence (the Alpilles IGT was unofficially created for them when they got famous), and quietly cranked out small batches of ethereal Cabernet/Syrah blends until Aubert de Villaine (head of DRC in Burgundy) discovered them accidentally, and spread the gospel of Trevallon to all his friends – indeed Trevallon was popular with French winemakers well before the public even knew about them. Returning home to the land his dad René (sculptor and friend of Picasso) owned, Eloi Dürrbach started to research the history of Alpilles and discovered that the area was historically planted to Cabernet Sauvignon before Phylloxera wiped it all out, to be replaced entirely by Grenache a generation later. Seeking to make the wines of yore (despite zero viticultural experience), Eloi replanted to Cab in 1973 and blended it with Syrah (50/50) and the results were bonkers. This 2011 is a richly layered, savoury millefeuille of dried rosemary, thyme, violets, blackberry, pine and mint, with tertiary elements of leather and barn around the fringe. Gloriously French, very much a love child of Bordeaux and Hermitage. The current vintage at the winery is 2018 but I managed to nab these 2011s, which drink well now but will go another 10-15 years easily. I don’t know what else you were going to buy, but buy this instead. Not submitted for review, but Jancis Robinson found some and gave it 17+/20, which is her version of a Happy Dance. 3 wooden 6-packs available, $209.98 +tax 

Chateau Pontet Canet 2000, Pauillac, Bordeaux. Nothing not to like, here. An essential vintage captures a criminally under-classed 5th growth just as the changes Alfred Tesseron made to the winery (he modernized by un-modernizing) were starting to bear fruit. Many Bordeaux nerds place Pontet Canet as a Second Growth in their fantasy-football-like re-imaginings of the 1855 Classification (do ya like rabbit holes? You’ll never find your way out of this one). I get a lot of offers for Pontet Canet and refuse most of them, but I think this shows really good value. A slight ferrous note lurks beneath the cedar, blackberry and currant aromas, some secondary vanilla lingers with a touch of earth on the finish. Structure is silky but ever-present. 94+ points Robert Parker, 1 wooden case available, $499.98 +tax 

L'Orme de Rauzan-Gassies 2016, Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux. An unofficial Third Wine to Second Growth Ch. Rauzan-Gassies, grown just outside the Margaux delineation in Haut-Medoc, and a rompin’ stompin’ deal. A blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, there’s a generous helping of cassis and lavender, restrained by a sandalwood-laced structure with lingering red fruits on the ripe, grippy finish. Drinks now but I’d like to see what 3-4 years can do. 97 points Decanter, 3 6-packs available, $59.98 +tax 

 

CHILE 

Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Puente Alto, Chile. Concha Y Toro’s Enrique Tirado and Bordeaux consultant Eric Boissenot (who works on four out of the five 1st Growths and a whack of Seconds) have crafted the most complex Don Melchor in years for this 2018 vintage, replacing brute force with understated elegance and perfume and blending in small percentages of Merlot and Petit Verdot for the first time in a long while. Zippy red cherry lifts the black currant notes, with violet and Provençale herbs following through the savoury palate towards a long, generous finish. Delicious now, a glorious dragon with wings of victory and song in 5 years. 100 points James Suckling, 98 points Tim Atkin, 95 points Wine Spectator, 2 wooden 6-packs available, $179.98 +tax.  

 

ARGENTINA 

El Enemigo “Gran Enemigo” 2017, Gualtallary, Mendoza. Ok, you caught me, this is not a straight Cab, in fact it’s half Malbec, but there’s lots of Cab Sauv and Cab Franc in there and it’s my party so I’ll cheat if I want to. An homage of sorts to the pre-phylloxera Malbec-driven Bordeaux of the mid-1800s (Ch. Haut-Brion, for instance, was Malbec-dominant before the 1870s), the Gran Enemigo pulls off classical permanence despite the hotter 2017 vintage in Mendoza. Peppercorn and cedar notes underscore the chocolate, lavender, plum and mint. Earlier drinking than other Gran Enemigos but every inch as statuesque, Alejandro Vigil and Adrianna Catena justify their seats at the vanguard of Argentinian innovation; as I’ve often said before, these wines will not remain at these prices. 97 points James Suckling, 97 points Vinous, 2 wooden 6-packs available, $131.98 +tax 

 

SOUTH AFRICA 

Anthonij Rupert Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Franschhoek, Western Cape. Off the market for a couple years, re-imported at my request (I asked a year and a half ago, such is the world today). A stunning overlap of Old and New World aesthetics, the Rupert family worked closely with Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) to propagate vines clipped from Lafite, and took special biodynamic measures to ensure that the new plants didn’t fall prey to Leaf Roll Virus, which had for decades had created smoky notes in South African red wines (for years I thought I didn’t like SA reds, turns out I don’t like viruses). Carrying on after his brother Anthonij’s untimely death in 2001, Johann Rupert carried on the family winery with Dawie Botha, a winemaker who studied in both Bordeaux and Napa, and his learnings show loudly in this gorgeously balanced 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon: cherry-stuffed cigar box with blackberry and blueberry over a licorice/vanilla body with firm but silky tannins. A gravelly minerality lurks from front to back. Everything is in its right place. Outrageous. No ratings found. 3 6-packs available, $103.98 +tax 

 

CANADA 

Tawse Laundry Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2016, Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario. Tasting this Franc – the very best Canadian Franc I’ve ever tasted and yes, even better than the amazing BC Francs I’ve tried – is laced with sadness because of Paul Pender’s passing just a couple weeks ago. Winemaker at Tawse since 2006, he oversaw a stunning run of accolades, having earned Winery of the Year four times between 2010 and 2016. I never met Paul but his influence was widely felt on this side of the Rockies, his absence leaves a big hole. This 2016 Franc from the Laundry Vineyard has an intensity seldom seen in the variety – often extracted at the risk of also pulling harsh tannins and pyrazines – but Mr. Pender somehow lands the plane with perfect balance and grace. Leafy raspberry and jasmine notes swirl with dusty white pepper towards a savoury ripe blackberry palate, medium bodied, with a beautifully concentrated, focused finish. I’ve long been a fan of Niagara Francs but this shifted the paradigm. No ratings found. 12 bottles available, $55.98 +tax 

Black Hills Nota Bene 2019, Black Sage Bench, BC. Judging from the amount of phone calls we’ve been getting, this 2019 chapter of one of BC’s top cult wines is rabidly anticipated, perhaps because of its rarity: this is only the 3rd vintage since inception where Merlot is the dominant grape (Cab Sauv is a close second) and it’s the first vintage to use 100% wild yeasts for fermentation. The result is a more complex, layered Nota Bene, with savoury elements like dried sage twisting alongside the blackberry, plum and tobacco leaf notes. The Merlot lends a roundness to the mid-palate and the finish keeps those toasty baking spice vibes that we’ve come to expect from Black Hills’ flagship wine. To be perfectly candid: it has been a tough 2020/2021 on the Okanagan and we will see a scarcity of premium BC reds over the next couple years, especially in retail; smoke, fires, heat domes and, this year, extreme cold around Kelowna and points north, these have all taken their toll on the fragile vinifera plants that are genetically accustomed to more temperate weather (if they were poodles we’d put sweaters on them). Small quantities of very good wines will be made, but they’re more likely to be sold exclusively at the wineries, and Black Hills has notified us accordingly. We might get a smattering of Nota Bene from 2020/2021, or we might not, so if this is your jam act swiftly and decisively because you’re gonna run out of jam. No ratings found. 6 cases arriving tomorrow (Friday), $69.99 +tax 

 

AUSTRALIA 

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Margaret River. James Suckling called this the “Mouton Rothschild of Australia”, and although the aromatics are different, the shape of this Cab, born of a maritime climate (just like Pauillac), does share a lot of Mouton’s broader qualities. Deep dark fruit, some bramble, with Mediterranean streaks of olive and sage over an underlying cocoa nibs base. Still a tad tight, 4 years should loosen the finish up a bit, I just want the acid to integrate on the finish. Slight lavender hue on the finish. 97 points James Halliday, 94 points Wine Spectator, 12 bottles available, 78.98 +tax. 

 

NON-STOP CLASSIC HITS 

What follows is a brief listing of some wines that fit this theme and have previously been written about, but featured again for the benefit of those who’ve recently joined my Collectors List and may have missed ‘em the first time. If anyone requires more info, I’m happy to send over the original blurb to you. 

Nickel & Nickel John C. Sullenger Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Oakville, Napa. 95 points Wine Enthusiast, 2 6-packs available, $206.98 +tax 

Carruades de Lafite 2018, Pauillac, Bordeaux. 97 points James Suckling, 94 points Robert Parker, 6 bottles available, $575.00 +tax - One Magnum (1.5L) available, $1150.00 +tax 

Yarra Yering Dry Red #1 2017, Yarra Valley, Australia. 98 points James Halliday, 12 bottles available, $106.98 +tax 

Senegal Details Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, Sonoma. 95 points Vinous, 8 cases available, $59.99 +tax 

Pinot Gris vs Grigio

Ever wonder what the difference is between Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris?

Well, they are the same grape variety, made in different climates and into different styles. It is a white grape, with a greyish/brownish pink skin (hence the name “gris”, in French or “grigio” in Italian). Producers outside France and Italy can use these names to indicate a particular style of wine. What’s surprising is that this greyish-purple grape is also a mutation of Pinot Noir. The classic region for Pinot Gris in France is Alsace, while Pinot Grigio is grown throughout Italy.

• Pinot Gris wine is produced with riper grapes with a long exposure to the sun, whereas Pinot Grigio isn’t exposed to the sun for a long period of time.

• Pinot Gris has a very fruity and tropical character, whereas Pinot Grigio is fresh and citrus.

• Pinot Gris is a full-bodied wine with a viscous texture, whereas Pinot Grigio is very light-bodied.

Today Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio grapes are planted all over the world in almost every wine-growing region. For the most part, these countries are making the more fashionable Pinot Grigio style, which is typically easy-drinking and destined for early consumption. That said, there are also regions that focus more on the Pinot Gris style, such as BC, and parts of New Zealand.

One of my Italian, everyday go-to wines is Cavaliere d'Oro Campanile Pinot Grigio which is a great value at $12.99. Enticing aromas of flowers with sweet fresh citrus and hints of almonds. Vibrant with fresh acidity and fresh tropical fruit leads to a pleasant and long finish.

If you are looking for a real treat and are willing to spend the money then try Jermann Pinot Grigio $41.98 - It has an intense straw-yellow colour; its aroma is intense, full, and fruity, with excellent persistence. Its taste is dry, velvety, and particularly well-orchestrated for its full body.

One of my favourite BC wines is made in the Italian Pinot Grigio style – Bonamici Cellars Pinot Grigio - $22.98. A refreshingly crisp Pinot Grigio with delicious bouquet of mango, pear and spartan apple.  On the palate, crisp and dry with flavours of with just a touch of citrus grapefruit for a beautifully balanced finish with nice acidity.  It pairs well with Mediterranean tapas, seafood salads and Asian fusion cuisine.

A favourite from New Zealand’s Waihopai Valley - Marlborough, is Marisco Vineyards The Ned Pinot Gris - $18.99. A portion of the fruit was given skin contact to help enhance a salmon pink colour into the wine, thereby endorsing the signature style.

This wine has been crafted as an everyday glass of wine that can be appreciated as much on its own as it can when paired with food.

If you are looking to learn more about a grape varietal then a good reference point is Wine Folly.

Whatever your wine favourite is why not venture into Everything Wine and maybe give something new a try.

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