A Night Where the Eating was Incidental

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It was one of those nights that happens when too many winos and people possessing wine turn up and all alcoholic hell breaks loose. While the food was great, it was incidental, only serving as a foil for the wine. Here’s what we had:

First up was the rather pompously named Flonheimer Bingerberg Bacchus Kabinett (2007) from the Rheinhessen region in Germany. It was pale yellow with a nose of honeysuckle, peach and soft fruit. Mid-sweet and pleasing, it wasn’t very complex and made for easy drinking. Rating: 3/5

Next was the Wolf Blass Gold Label Shiraz (2005) from the Barossa Valley in Australia. It was red-purple with lots of mulberry nose, boasting big fruit and soft tannins. A straight forward and again not very complex wine, it’d do great for barbecues. A typical outdoor Aussie barbie comes to mind. To our surprise, it also went beautifully with dark chocolate cupcakes. Not a lot of wines can handle chocolate, so extra points for that. Rating: 4/5

There was another red in between but I narrowly missed out, watching in vain as the resident wino casually poured out the last of the bottle. Mental note: must act faster next time. No matter, the dessert wines that followed more than made up for it.

The Trentham Noble Taminga (2005) from New South Wales, Australia was a golden amber brew with a heady melon and honey nose. It was rather syrupy and sweet but also very refreshing because it isn’t sticky like most dessert wines. In a word, luscious. Strangely enough, having some kiwi fruit with it brought out the citrus notes.Rating: 3.5/5

Up next was a non-vintage Italian Vin Santo, Il Santo Giglio di Firenze from Tuscany. Such a deep amber it was almost brown, giving off nutty toffee and raisin notes. It was sweet, extremely syrupy and viscous, a great digestif. Rating: 4/5

Last of all was yuzu liquor from Japan. We should have drunk it as an aperitif because it was light and fresh. The slightly medicinal citrus whiff of yuzu went well on the rocks. It’s also sweet, making it a good ladies’ drink. Think umeshu and the like. Rating: 3.5/5

After all the eating and mainly drinking, there were red faces all round. It didn’t stop us from playing wii and that got us even more red-faced and merry.

Key to ratings:

0 Wouldn’t touch it with a 10 foot pole
1 I’d rather drink beer
2 If there’s nothing better
3 Just one glass is fine
4 More, please!
5 Where can I get a case?

Wine Notes: A Flight of Whites

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I had a bunch of people over for dinner a couple of days ago. We had loads of food, starting with pate and cheese with bread and crackers; followed by a main of prawn orzotto with a side of apple, cabbage and caraway salad; and ended with konnyaku in two flavours and After Eight mints. Recipes to follow shortly.

All was washed down with copious amounts of wine. Because of the seafood, the main theme was whites, although a renegade half-drunk bottle of pinot noir turned up and some Cuban rum rounded off the evening. We’ll focus on the whites.

First up was an Italian pinot grigio from Casa Sant’Orsola (2007), from the Veneto area. (According to Jancis Robinson, the area is famous for lakes of characterless wine of which pinot grigio isn’t one of the common varietals.  Separately, Italian pinot grigio is known to be picked too early to develop deep-coloured, full-bodied and soft wines.) It was such a pale straw that it was almost colourless. The nose was initially gently floral and then gave off hints of apple. Pleasing, light bodied with a mineral finish. Made me think of the typical shy, retiring English Rose type of girl you read about in pulp period novels.  It would go well with fresh oysters or boiled seafood. The first sip was excellent with the prawn orzotto but was quickly overwhelmed by the rich dish. Rating: 3/5 with the unfortunate pairing, 4/5 if only there were oysters.

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Next up was the French Chablis from Labouré-Roi  (2007). (Chablis is a cold, Chardonnay-growing region at the northern tip of Burgundy.) It was the typical pale yellow of young whites with a strong, full-flavoured nose of vanilla. Suspect that it is from fermenting in oak barrels. Medium-dry, it had well-balanced acids and a good mineral finish. I did not detect the “wet stones” Jancis suggests may be present in Chablis. This (wine, not wet stones) paired much better with the orzotto than the pinot grigio. Pity it was a bit too late as we’d polished off most of our food before getting to the Chablis. Rating: 3/5 with the orzotto, 2/5 on its own.

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Last but not least was the Inniskillin Riesling ice wine from South Australia (2005).  Inniskillin is famous for its Canadian wines but I think they are diversifying into Australia.  This wine was deep amber and had a honey and lime nose. It was sweet and well-balanced with acid, with a long finish. I really enjoyed this one. Channels a popular girl who’s fun and approachable and the life of the party. It went very well with the konnyaku, both 100 Plus and longan flavours. (Didn’t fare so well with the overpowering After Eight mints. Those would need a full-bodied red to pair, I imagine.) Rating: 4.5/5

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Key to ratings:

0 Wouldn’t touch it with a 10 foot pole
1 I’d rather drink beer
2 If there’s nothing better
3 Just one glass is fine
4 More, please!
5 Where can I get a case?

[edited: 15 Jan 2009, 1.43 pm]


Wine Notes: Three Italians and an Argentinian

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One of my goals this year is to learn more about wine. I have started writing notes to find out which wines I like more and to use that to expand the repertoire of wines I like, rather than stick to a few types or indiscriminately buy any plonk from the supermarket. So learn along with me on this series of wine notes.

I’m lucky to have wino friends who open good bottles and teach me how to taste. (One technique is rather unsightly: on a sip of wine, purse the lips and take in a breath to aerate. Not good first-date behaviour.) They also lend me good books on the subject.

I’m also lucky to have friends who invite me to wine tasting sessions and others who just like to drink.  This time, I joined a friend in search of wine for her wedding. It was lots of fun socialising with the small crowd, nibbling on cheese and crackers, and trying out estate bottled olive oil. Oh and there was the wine too!

Three of the wines were from the same Italian vineyard in the Chianti region, Fattoria La Gigliola. First up was a white called Gigliolino Bianco di Toscana (2005). It was pale yellow with a gentle floral nose, medium to slightly sweet and had a slight acidic bite to finish. Didn’t detect any apple bouquet as mentioned in the write-up. Light and approachable, it was a bit like a girl next door. It’s a crowd pleaser, perfect well chilled for an outdoor wedding party perhaps? Rating: 3/5

Next was San Enrico (2005) displaying a bright transparent red, with a vague berry nose typical of a nondescript red. The description had “cherry” and “spice” in the bouquet but my nose was unmoved. It struck me as the typical wine for chugging, best at a barbecue. I suppose if it was a girl, it’d be the all-purpose generic cheerleader type. Bright and cheerful, but without depth. Rating: 3.5/5

The Campoleo (2005) was the most interesting of the three. It was purplish red and gave a very distinct whiff of Ribena. I’ve never had a wine smelling so strongly of blackcurrant before. It had good tannins but in the end felt like a girl who OD-ed on Body Shop perfumes. Verdict: I’d drink a bottle of this just to see if the Ribena taste wears off. Fun but not for regular drinking. Rating: 4/5

The best of the lot was the Argentinian. It was a Malbec from Bodegas del Genio in the Mendoza region (2005). A deep red, it had a berry bouquet normally associated with cabernet sauvignons. It was juicy with good tannins and  had enough complexity to keep you interested throughout an evening. It’s not immediately approachable for someone who doesn’t drink much wine. It’s like that quiet girl that not everyone likes who becomes more interesting as you get to know her. Rating: 5/5

Writing this report made me realise how little I think about the wine experience. Bear with me in this wine series, I’ll improve as I go along.

Key to ratings:

0 Wouldn’t touch it with a 10 foot pole
1 I’d rather drink beer
2 If there’s nothing better
3 Just one glass is fine
4 More, please!
5 Where can I get a case?