Tag Archives: sauvignon blanc

Why Bordeaux Blanc Should Be A Household Wine Staple

Sommelier Pouring White Bordeaux. (Image Provided by Bordeaux Wine Council)

Sommelier Pouring White Bordeaux. (Image Provided by Bordeaux Wine Council)

This article was previously published in Forbes on October 6, 2016.

Why have consumers generally ignored white Bordeaux? There’s a degree of absurdity to the fact that while wineries everywhere — in Australia, New Zealand, the U.S, etc. — strive to emulate this classic region, bottling Sauvignon Blanc with Sémillon to create “Bordeaux-style blends,” the original flounders and languishes on shelves. And it’s even more astonishing, giving the spectacular rise in popularity of Sauvignon Blanc, that many drinkers of the variety don’t connect the grape back to its spiritual homeland in France.

I attended the “Somm’ Like It Bordeaux” tasting last week at Sons & Daughters restaurant in NYC. In total, the Bordeaux Wine Council presented thirty-six very good wines, but the six that stunned me were white. They were fresh, lively, aromatic, intensely flavored and all around f’ing delicious. And isn’t delicious drinkability what we want in our glass? I kept thinking “If I didn’t live in a ridiculously tiny NYC apartment, I could order a case of this. And this. And also this one. And probably this one, too. I really need to move.” Several examples achieved that elusive balance between precise acidity and creamy texture, and they all demonstrated versatility with food. For an average cost of $20, producers over-delivered on taste and complexity. So, if you’re tired of Chardonnay, drink white Bordeaux. If you’ve had enough NZ Sauvignon Blanc, drink white Bordeaux. If you’re looking for a white with enough heft to pair to heartier autumn foods, try white Bordeaux. These wines solve a lot of conundrums and should be household staples. So why aren’t people drinking white Bordeaux?

In the 1950s, dry whites represented 60% of Bordeaux production. Today, they make up a fraction of that number at 7-8% with the rest given over to red. The turn to vin rouge came in the ’70s, largely due to changes in consumer preference coupled with commercial viability; growers responded by ripping out white varieties to plant Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. But the partnership of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc, with the occasional dollop of Muscadelle, is a classic for a reason. Sauvignon brings crisp acidity, herb and fruit flavors, and expressive aromatics, while Semillon adds body, ageability and a textural honeyed roundness.

The finest white Bordeaux (for many, measured by journalists’ scores and price tags), derive from Pessac-Léognan and Graves. Pessac wines are often oaked, expensive, and capable of improving in the bottle for decades. Producers like Château Haut-Brion, Château Pape Clément, Château Carbonnieux are household names for oenophiles and make exceptional examples. Alternatively, those who venture into the area of Entre-Deux-Mers can find charming, easygoing, and extremely affordable whites.

With the mantra “drink white Bordeaux” in mind, listed below are my tasting notes on the six bottles I sampled last week. If you can’t track these down, don’t worry; a bevy of options exist in the market at great prices. For a change, Bordeaux Blanc offers the chance to pay a better price for an original than a copy.

Vines in the Region's Characteristic Gravel Soils.

Vines in the Region’s Characteristic Gravel Soils.

Clos des Lunes “Lune d’Argent,” Bordeaux, 2014, $20

Delightfully vivid and aromatic, notes of grapefruit, white flowers, and clementine marmalade flecked with vanilla, pop from the glass. Medium-bodied, slightly waxy in texture, but full-flavored, shows great tension on the long, mouthwatering finish. This zesty wine would pair well to a seafood ceviche with mango and habanero, or fried soft-shell crabs.

Clos Floridene, Graves, 2011, $25

A vibrant hue of yellow-gold, this fuller bodied, lively wine offers a breath of fresh-snipped herbs and gooseberry layered behind grapefruit, golden apple, and lanolin. Beautifully balanced, the Sauvignon Blanc adds verve, the Semillon, roundness and texture. Try with spicy coconut mussels or spinach-stuffed chicken breast.

Château Moulin de Launay, Entre-Deux-Mers, 2014, $14

Like perfume for the wrist, this affordable, fragrant wine impresses with its orange blossoms, peaches, pears, and spritz of mandarin on the nose. Packed with sweet fruit, the palate balances flavor with a bright line of tension, finishing long and round. Would pair nicely with grilled fish or autumn rice salad with dried fruits and nuts.

Château Auney l’Hermitage, Graves, 2014, $29

Concentrated with mouthwatering freshness, this layered wine offers aromas and flavors of honeycomb, pithy citrus, and white flowers with a zip of chalky minerality on the brisk finish. Delicious now, but will further integrate and evolve with more time in bottle. A great partner to sushi or lemony veal piccata.

Château Peybonhomme-les-Tours, “le Blanc Bonhomme,” Côtes de Bordeaux Blaye, 2014 $22

This 50/50 blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc mingles ocean spray minerality with golden apples, fresh herbs, and lemon custard to build a racy, yet exuberant wine. Texturally rich, but still fresh with a long finish, this should convert Chardonnay drinkers to white Bordeaux. Would go well with chicken with mushrooms or linguine with bottarga.

Château les Charmes-Godard, Côtes de Bordeaux Francs, 2014, $20

More mineral-driven than overtly fruity, this dynamic wine shows green, grassy flavors mixed with a dollop of orange marmalade and beeswax. Clean and taut with great focus from start to finish, at a nice price point. For a classic pairing, serve with a seafood tower or seared scallops with brown butter.

When she’s not in a vineyard or the ocean, Lauren Mowery covers drinks, food & adventure/luxury travel. Follow her around the world on Instagram and Twitter.

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Why Pairing Wine With Your Super Bowl Snacks Isn’t Pretentious

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Wine shouldn’t be foisted onto every culinary event; no matter how grand or mundane, some matches are better left alone: the Kentucky Derby and bourbon, or bagels, lox, and black coffee (OK, a glass of Champagne wouldn’t be so terrible with either). “Super Bowl & Beer” sounds like another archetype that doesn’t need tinkering. But there’s a case to be made for wine.

Consider traditional binge-watching football foods: bean chili, beef-cheese-jalapeño-smothered nachos, Sriracha hot wings, short-rib sliders, guac and chips. At first glance, pairing wine with any of these might sound like a disastrous exercise in pretentiousness. On closer examination, though, there are, in fact, a number of wines that would temper heat, complement spice and salt, and cut through fat better than a beer. We’re not suggesting you forgo the keg of Founders All Day IPA, but consider supplementing your beverage rotation with these five wines.

Sparkling Wine
By now, perhaps you’ve heard of the Sommelier Special: pairing a high-brow bottle of Champagne with a humble bag of Lay’s. Champagne’s chalky, bright acid and persistent stream of effervescence has a way of cutting through fried, oily dishes like chips and fried chicken. But Champagne is expensive, and few of us wish to waste it on a bag of spuds (or our Patriots-supporting frenemies). Look to American bubbles instead.

Roederer Estate Brut, NV, California, $21: Best-value, complex American sparkler made using the Champagne method.

Zinfandel
I’m not talking about the white kind (that comes in a box and is called Franzia), but the ripe, juicy red stuff pumped out of the classic regions of Sonoma, Lodi, and the Dry Creek Valley in California (also found in Southern Italy, where it’s called Primitivo). If you’re inclined to pair junk food with your vino (no judgment), you might enjoy the synergy found between a sip of Zinfandel and a mouthful of spicy Doritos, a ubiquitous Super Bowl snack. Zin also complements spicy-sweet meat dishes like pulled pork, and baby-back ribs doused with Dinosaur BBQ sauce.

Bedrock “Old Vine” Sonoma Valley, California, 2013, $25: Full-bodied, lush, with black cherries and spice.

Sherry
This fortified wine from Andalucía in southern Spain elevates salty foods like cured meats (ordering a six-foot-long Italian sub?), olives, and peanuts, and fried finger foods such as calamari, spring rolls, or croquettes, from mindless pop-in-your-mouth status to “holy crap, what did I just eat?” sublime. Pick up a crisp, bone-dry, saline Fino (made via the biological method; no oxidation) and a richer, nuttier style like amontillado.

Valdespino, Fino “Inocente” NV (375 mL), $12.99: Tastes of almonds and ocean breezes.

Lustau Dry Amontillado “Los Arcos” NV, $15.99: Nuts, dates, dried fruit.

Sauvignon Blanc
This crowd-pleasing, workhorse white pairs surprisingly well with chile-pepper-laden dishes, especially bell peppers, jalapeños (which have a flavor profile also found in Sauvignon Blanc), poblanos, anchos, and serranos. Notoriously difficult wine pairings like artichokes (found in dips or fried), tomatoes (think salsa), and the herb cilantro (also in salsas, guacamole, and most Mexican food) love Sauvignon Blanc. The wine’s bright flavors range from herbal to tropical; classic examples are from New Zealand and Sancerre, but South Africa increasingly makes compelling, well-priced versions.

Seresin, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2012, $24.99: More money, more complexity than the typical NZ S.B.

Mulderbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2014, $14.99: Easy to find, easy to sip, a little grassy, and a little tart.

Rosé
Who says you can’t drink pink in the winter? Or while watching football? To quote Julia Child, who incontrovertibly knew her shit, “Rosés can be served with anything.” Why? Rosé straddles the world of white and red: It delivers zippy, palate-cleansing acidity with enough body and fruit to stand up to typically heavy game-day dishes. Dry rosés work particularly well with charcuterie, BBQ, hamburgers, pork, and even sausage. Like she said: anything. The only problem with rosé is tracking it down in the middle of winter. Fortunately, Sherry-Lehmann stocks emergency cases of pink year-round.

Chateau d’Aqueria, Tavel, France, 2013, $18.99: Ripe berry fruit, a hint of tannin, and fresh acidity.

Where to Buy:

Astor Wine & Spirits, 399 Lafayette Street, 212-674-7500

Sherry-Lehmann, 505 Park Avenue, 212-838-7500

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Te Mata Estate, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand

 

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Te Mata Estate in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, was founded in 1896. The property was acquired by John and Wendy Buck in 1978, and is currently run by Nicholas Buck, the Estate Director, who has been with the winery, as he puts it, for “life”.   Fortunately, I met Nick in person today, since his answers to my Q&A (below) in advance of my trip, were terse and cheeky. Turns out, he’s a super affable guy surrounded by a lovely team of folks that treat each other like family. Winemaker Peter Cowley has been crafting their iconic Bordeaux blend Coleraine for the nearly 30 years of its production, and this afternoon, the fantastic Mr. Larry Morgan drove me around vineyard sites, and introduced me to the hardworking Czechs (not chicks, as I later found out) who help net the vines to prevent birds from nibbling grapes as they ripen.

A few words from the winery’s site:

Te Mata Estate was established in 1896, specialising in high-quality wines of classical style. All steps in the production of our wines are undertaken by us, from grape growing and pruning through to winemaking and bottling. Today, Te Mata Estate is recognized as one of New Zealand’s most iconic and prestigious wine producers, making nearly 40,000 cases a year of premium wine and exporting to over 40 countries.

Regarding the physical winery, horse stables, constructed in the 1870s, were converted into a winery by the Chambers family in the 1890s, and are today the centre of Te Mata Estate’s winemaking. The winery has since been updated in design, with the aim to create a modern wine-making complex that reflected the character of the landscape. Specializing in in-fill architecture and innovative modernist design, Athfield Architects created a series of buildings to reflect the art deco heritage of Hawke’s Bay and the art nouveau heritage of the original Chambers homestead.

Signature Wines and Prices:

  • Coleraine NZ$90
  • Awatea Cabernet/Merlot NZ$40
  • Bullnose Syrah NZ$50
  • Elston Chardonnay NZ$40
  • Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc NZ$30
  • Zara Viognier NZ$30

What philosophy guides your viticulture and/or enology? Maximising the potential of Te Mata Estate.

What is your biggest challenge as a winemaker (e.g., volatility of Mother Nature, expense to income ratio, having to actually market your wine)? Disrupting the wine world status quo.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of grapegrowing/winemaking in your region? Hawke’s bay’s ability to produce world leading wines across an array of wine styles.

What excites you most about New Zealand wines right now? The growing international recognition of the absolute quality of Hawke’s Bay’s best wines.

How do you think Americans perceive NZ wines? Source of widely available, inexpensive, reliable, good qpr, light-bodied, straight-forward, aromatic, fruity, white wines.

What is your favorite non-kiwi wine region? Least? Favorite = Sonoma; Least = Napa.

Which wine or grape (in the world) is the least understood or respected? Cabernet Sauvignon.

What do you drink at home when relaxing? Wine.

How do you spend your free time (if you have any)? Family.

If you could be traveling somewhere else right now, where would you be? Mars.

Give one surprising fact about yourself. Alternative career ambition was an astronaut.

 

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Why 2014 Will Be Your Best Wine Year Yet

JamsheedTasting.jpg

With the close of the calendar comes contemplation: what have I learned from the wine world in 2013 and what do I expect (or hope) to see in 2014? A few observations: the rise of a new breed of “somm”, the demise of the wine score, the discovery of a Jedi Wine Master, and the impending Best Wine Year Ever.

A Return to the Antipodes

Australia Does the theory “If you build it, he will come” apply to wine? I hope so, because the woeful state of Australian imports in the U.S. belies the health and creativity of the industry Down Under. A recent visit to Astor Wines confirms the lack of antipodean demand — NZ and Oz shared a shelf smaller than the one devoted solely to NY State craft spirits! The Australian wine market has languished for years at the bottom of the U.S. market, so with nowhere else to go but up, expect to see a breakthrough of fresh vinous perspective in stores and restaurants. Importers like Little Peacock, which focus exclusively on Australian wines, have expressed tremendous optimism for the coming year. The wines produced by the new generation of risk-takers in Oz are lean, refined, funky, terroir-driven, and characterful. They don’t all work, but the journey’s as interesting as the destination.
Two to Try: Ben Haines Marsanne 2011, Yarra Valley and Jamsheed “Healesville Vineyard” Syrah 2010, Yarra Valley.

New Zealand This island country faces a different problem from Oz, albeit its wines are still underrepresented in the U.S. New Zealand has done so well with Sauvignon Blanc, the rest of its wines have been ignored. The importance of the grape cannot be overstated. The entire world drinks it (including, to the chagrin of Aussie winemakers, heaps of Aussies). The crisp, grassy style is the New World benchmark for the variety. But there’s plenty more from the land of jagged peaks and glacial lakes to capture a wine drinker’s imagination, and we’re starting to see those wines here in NYC. Fantastic Pinot Noir is trickling out of both Central Otago and, amazingly, Marlborough (the spiritual home to Sauvignon Blanc). For alternative whites, seek out James Millton’s Chenin Blanc. Although produced in the otherwise unremarkable region of Gisborne, he’s been called the Yoda of Kiwi winemakers — a serious endorsement. Is he a true Jedi Wine Master? Drink and find out.
Two to try: Terra Sancta Mysterious Diggings Pinot Noir 2012, Central Otago and Millton Te Arai Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2011, Gisborne.

The New Somm
In the past, a restaurant’s “sommelier” often fell into one of several categories, each of which — in an era of increased consumer wine knowledge facilitated by ease of access to information and greater willingness to experiment with up-and-coming regions — have become increasingly irrelevant.

We’ve suffered through uninformed yet opinionated waiters posing as sommeliers, informed and condescending sommeliers, and, most exasperating, the Grand Cru-obsessed, pompous sommeliers selling 100 percent Western European lists with 100 percent of the bottles priced over $100. Thus, it was about time the role either be redefined or abolished. (Yes, I acknowledge someone still has to build and manage the list.)

Fortunately for restaurant-goers, we’ve met the new generation of enthusiastic, educated sommeliers or “somms” who’ve reinvented their role, gifting us a new reason to dine out: access to diverse, reasonably priced bottles. Sure, we’ve seen prices on certain wines this year soar to previously unseen heights, but for the rest of us scanning the lower end of a list for value, we’re in luck: lots more under $50 selections than ever. And somms have managed to balance their lists serving traditional needs while presenting to the curious a plethora of distinctive wines such as zero dosage, undisgorged crémant from the Jura.
Where to Try: Corkbuzz by sommelier Laura Maniec, Pearl & Ash by sommelier Patrick Cappiello.

Jamsheed

Domestic Affairs
Wine lists and retail stores in NYC used to be dominated by European selections — France, Italy, and Spain — with small weight given to the New World and even less to the juice of our citizen winemakers. However, with increased demand for local and hyper-local food sourcing, we’re seeing the same interest applied to wine. While in the past a reputable fine dining establishment might not dare be caught with anything from the East Coast on its list, sommelier Thomas Pastuszak at The Nomad has embraced our home state. A huge advocate of NY wines, he puts out an extensive list of Finger Lakes bottles. The best part? These wines offer tremendous value — $35 for a bottle of vibrant Riesling with dinner? Yes, thank you.
Where to Try: The NomadFrankly Wines.

Coravin as a Verb
2013 saw the launch of the most lauded device in recent wine history: the Coravin. It’s a wine extraction system that allows the user to pull out a measure of wine, while safeguarding the remaining precious liquid inside against oxidation with inert, tasteless argon gas. Testing has shown the wine can keep for years, allowing drinkers to sample the bottle to check for development or just have a glass of that rare Cabernet bought at auction now and again with a Wagyu ribeye. The pricey but genius device will change wine drinking habits both at home and in restaurants, truly, forever. Del Posto, an initial supporter of the device, offers rare wines by the glass, and Anfora has updated its menu to include a selection of “Coravin Wines.” What shall we Coravin tonight, dear? And a verb was born.
Where to Try: Del PostoAnfora.

Nobody’s Worrying about Robert Parker
Finally, America’s adherence to a mono-palate (Parker’s) approach to wine is on the decline. Although Parker stepped down in late 2012 from his post as editor-in-chief of the Wine Advocate — the newsletter he founded that spawned decades of obsession over a 100-point grading system that favored huge wines — in February 2013, he became the first wine critic inducted into the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintners Hall of Fame in Napa Valley. Perhaps a deserved award, but the collective unfettering of our taste buds over the year has left individuals free to make independent decisions — or at least use more resources to do so. Trusted local retailers in conjunction with social media apps like Delectable and Drync have been filling the void.
Retailer: Le Du’s Wines
Apps: DelectableDrync.

More Curiosity, More Choice 
Overall, NYC wine drinkers are imbibing during exciting times. Whatever we want, short of actually flying to the vineyard, we can find. Wines from Croatia? Blue Danube’s got them. Need that expressive, biodynamic Umathum from Austria? WineMonger’s your importer. Our increased curiosity and willingness to drink anything has encouraged importers to scour the globe and bring us a range of wines that dazzle in their diversity. So, keep sipping folks — 2014 looks to be our best year yet.

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