Saturday, September 18, 2021

Côtes du Rhône Wines and Perfect Fried Rice #Winophiles

Côtes du Rhône wines and
Perfect Fried Rice (left: vegetarian, ground beef, chicken, shrimp)

I was sent with six #sample - two Côtes du Rhône wines and four Côtes du Rhône Villages wines for the September Côtes du Rhône #Winophiles event, which was hosted by Wendy Klik from A Day in the Life on a Farm. The beautiful collection of Rosé, Viognier, and the Red blends like GSM (Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre) inspires me to pair them with a Chinese or Asian staple, fried rice...in fact five styles of fried rice I cooked, ranging from vegetarian, beef, chicken, shrimp, and SPAM. Before I share tips in cooking perfect fried rice, let's learn about Côtes du Rhône. 

Photo Credit: Wine Folly

Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Village Wines

Côtes du Rhône, which means the hillsides of the Rhône River, is one of the world's oldest wine regions. It is the second largest wine region in France, locating in south-eastern part of the country. Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Villages wines, a combined area which stretches across 98,000 acres, annually produce about 40 million gallons.The Reds and Rosés are primarily a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, and the whites are mostly Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, and Roussanne. The Côtes du Rhône AOC has 171 towns and villages, while the Côtes du Rhône Villages, a separate AOC, has 95 villages. Between these two AOCs, only 21 grape varieties are permitted to use for producing  wines. The Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC is a "step-up" in the Côtes du Rhône pyramid, where more stringent rules on quality and geographical sourcing of the grapes apply. 

Photo Credit: Boutinot-Rhone.com

Out of the 95 Côtes du Rhône Villages, 22 of them attach their village name to the label, a higher grade that shows more complex wines that are good for ageability and vintage collections. The wines from the named Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC can only use grapes that are grown within the named village. If grapes from other villages are used, the named Village can't appear on the label. Red Côtes du Rhône Villages wines must, as a minimum, contain Grenache and one of the two other main varieties, Syrah and/or Mourvèdre. 

Photo Credit: Côtes du Rhône

Why Drink Côtes du Rhône AOC and Côtes du Rhône Villages AOC Wines?

The sun-drenched Côtes du Rhône vineyards, located at both side of the gentle banks of the Rhône River, flourish along the River in the Mediterranean climate. The summer is hot and dry, but is refreshed by cleansing Mistral wind. There are multiple soil types in the AOC, including rocky clay soils, nutrient- and moisture-rich pebbles and stony deposits on hills and slopes. At night, the stones also release the heat stored during the day to the vines, creating  conditions that are well-suited to producing wines with good ageing potential. Loose and sandy soils on the other hand provide a less uniform water supply, which are more suited to making lighter Reds and Rosé. The climate and terroir of Côtes du Rhône Villages vineyards is similar to the Côtes du Rhône's. Grenache is the leading grape in both AOCs. In typical Reds, they are easy-drinking, full-bodied wine features flavors of wild berries, plums, and warm spices, with approachable tannins and a lingering finish. Some traditional Whites, such as Viognier, Grenache Blanc, and Clairette, are creating balance in acidity, floral-scented and full-bodied wines with peach, lemon, and honey notes. In addition, while some wines, especially the ones with cellaring and vintage-collection potentials, from these appellations can fetch top dollars, most of the wines are still affordable, starting from SRP$14. 

Six Côtes du Rhône Wines To Taste

Certified Biodynamic GSM - Domaine Les Aphillanthes Cuvée Les Galets 2019 (SRP$24) - Nose: blackberry, licorice, earthy, Palate: wild game, mesquite, herbaceous, Mouthfeel: rich, lush with a long finish
Domaine Les Aphillanthes, located near Gigondas - Côtes du Rhône Villages Plan de Dieu AOC, is owned and managed by Daniel Boulle and his wife, Hélène, whose 98-acres vineyards is famous for practising biodynamic principles. The couple keep their yields low and take a hands-off and minimalist approach to their winemaking in the cellar, truly letting their wines revealing the terroirs.

Rotem and Mounir Saouma Inopia Rouge 2017 (SRP$31) - Nose: dark cherries, plums, lavender and a hint of brinines, Palate: lively, deep, silky, phenolic, weathered leather, Mouthfeel: layered, nuanced
 
Rotem and Mounir Saouma venture out in completely new directions, producing wines that are much more in the spirit of Rhône à la Burgundy in the Côtes du Rhône Villages. They have purchased around 20 acres vineyards which terroirs are like kaleidoscope. Some of their vineyards adjoin those of Chateauneuf du Pape's high-end Château Rayas, around the lieu-dit of Pignan. Barrels, concrete, eggs, and foudres are all in their playbooks for fermentation. The level of focus, precision and purity in their winemaking is unparalleled. The Inopia Rouge 2017 consists of mainly Grenache, plus Mourvèdre, Counoise, Syrah, and Cinsault.
GSM - Xavier Vignon Arcane XIX Le Soleil 2015 (SRP$29) - Nose: cherries, blackberries, graphite, violet, and a tad of cocoa, Palate: blackberries, minerality, chocolate, Mouthfeel: fuller-bodied, richer, long and lingering finish
Xavier Vignon, a northern French naive from Picardie, is proud of his roots and of his humble beginning. His encounter in Reims with an oenologist sparked his interest in grape-growing and winemaking. Xavier brings an impressively wide perspective to his dual roles as a "terroir hunter" and "master blender" due to his more than thirty harvests from diverse wine regions around the world. Each of the Arcane series emphasizes on a specific grape variety, terroir, or vintage. The 2015 vintage is crafted largely from old vines, and the Grenache grape (80%) is selected from nine parcels around the Côtes du Rhône Village of Vaucluse, plus 10% in each of Syrah and Mourvèdre.

Lavau La Décelle 2018 (SRP$14) - Nose: blackberries, red cherries, marzipan, Palate: hints of graphite, dark chocolate, violets, Mouthfeel: medium with a lingering finish

Benoît and Frédéric Lavau fell in love with this 205-acres estate in the Valréas and purchased it in 2010. Situated in the heart of the historic Enclave des Papes, the vineyards of Domaine la Décelle benefit from the perfect combination of diverse soils, microclimates and altitude. Having inherited their family sense of adventure, they have significantly expanded their holdings to additional vineyards in Valréas, Rasteau, and Côtes du Rhône, becoming a key player in southern Rhône. The Lavau La Décelle 2018, which has 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah, is a true steal for a complex, fresh and structured Côtes du Rhône Villages wine.

Chateau Beauchène Blanc 2019 (SRP$18) - Nose/Palate: honey, white peach, dried apricot, toasted almond and vanilla, Mouthfeel: rich and weighty, 100% Viognier

The Bernard family has been making wine since the 17th century, procuring their first vineyard after the redistribution of land following the French Revolution. Since 1971, the Château has been managed by Michel Bernard and his wife, Dominique, along with their eldest daughter, who joined the management team in 2004. Today, their land include 175 acres of prized Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône-Villages vineyards. Following their ancestral widsom, the family continues to farm in a minimalist way, and has long truly practising sustainability with the old vines to make the best wines the land could. 
Certified Organic Alain Jaume Bellissime Rosé 2020 (SRP$15) - Nose: thyme and lavender, Palate: dry, strawberries and a hint of white pepper 
The Jaume family has been growing grapes since 1826. At its fifth generation, Alain Jaume, and sixth generations, his children Christophe, Sébastien, and Hélène, the Jaume are skilled grape growers and winemakers who produce wines that are intense, rich and complex. To do so, they vinify the grape variety and parcel separately across their 225-acre estate. The Alain Jaume Bellissime Rosé 2020 is a Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah blend.

Perfect Fried Rice

Fried rice appears to be a very simple dish. Everyone cooks it, and what is the big deal? To cook perfect fried rice, there are four important things to remember:
  • Have dry cooked rice (e.g., one day old or left over rice) ready. Each grain of the cooked rice should be easily separated instead of soggy rice sticking together. 
  • Invest in a rice cooker, even though it is a cheaper one. You will cook constant good rice using it. Cooking rice over the stovetop not only requires a lot of work to stir, the rice is also so easy to stick at the bottom. Ideally, if you have a non-stick rice cooker, the rice will never stick to the bottom and turn out great every time. However, if you don't want to spend the money, there is a tip to  make sure the cooked rice come out easily from a regular rice cooker. Once the rice is cooked, just unplug it from the outlet and let it cool off for at least 1/2 hour. 
  • Chose the right rice grains. Long grains such as Basmati or Chinese rice are great for fried rice. However, the short grains Korean or Japanese rice provide more chewy texture. But the key thing is not to let the rice turn soggy.
  • Add fresh herb such as cilantro, spring onion, basil, and/or parsley to bring color and aromas to the fried rice. 
Let's check out how to cook one of my favorite fried rice dishes - SPAM Fried Rice. 

SPAM Fried Rice Recipe


Instructions: 
  • Cook 2 cups of rice in a rice cooker. Dry it overnight in the cooker or in the fridge for ideal result. Rice needs to be completely cool down before use.
  • Cut one can of SPAM into 1/2 inch cubes. Brown it in non-sticking frying pan.
  • Fry three eggs and cut it in small pieces.
  • Pan-fry any vegetable you like. Frozen mixed vegetable is an easy choice too. 
  • Combine SPAM, egg, vegetable, and rice in the pan and stir until they are all mixed together. Add salt and pepper sparsely as SPAM has already brought in the saltiness.
  • Drizzle some sesame oil to add toastiness to your rice.
Extra Tip:
  • Freeze the extra rice for your or your kids' lunch. Add one tbsp of water to the frozen rice and microwave it on high for one minute.  


I found the SPAM, ground beef and chicken fried rice pair really well with the Domaine Les Aphillanthes Cuvée Les Galets, Xavier Vignon Arcane XIX Le Soleil, and Lavau La Décelle. The meaty fried rice is a balanced meal by itself that goes well with the medium-bodied Reds. The vegetarian and shrimp fried rice is a no-brainer for the Chateau Beauchène Blanc and Alain Jaume Bellissime Rosé. I didn't have a chance to enjoy the Rotem and Mounir Saouma Inopia Rouge with any fried rice as I already drank it all before I cooked anything!

*The wines are samples. The ideas of the post are my own.

If you need more ideas pairing ideas for your Côtes du Rhône wines, check out the #Winophiles bloggers' posts below:

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Organic White Wines: Bonterra Chardonnay, Cono Sur Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc Paired With Asian Vegan Dishes #WinePW


Bonterra Chardonnay (SRP$12), Cono Sur Chardonnay (SRP$11) and Sauvignon Blanc (SRP$11) Paired With Korean Japchae Noodle
I didn't start showing interest in organic and biodynamic wines until I got a lot more serious about wine blogging dating back a couple of years ago. Gwendolyn Alley from Wine Predator has been one of the subject matter experts who I learned about the theories in organic and biodynamic wineamaking. In recent months, her hands-on experiences as a "cellar rat" at Clos des Amis in Ventura County, California also bring in additional perspectives of making wines in a non-interventionist way. With this month's #WinePW theme of Pairings with Organic Wine, I received #samples from Bonterra and Cono Sur to #PourOrganic and to pair a few Asian vegan dishes. 

Organic grapes are typically grown without the use of artificial chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides

Growing Organic Wine Markets

We all kind of know the organic wine markets are growing. But how significant the growth truly is? According to the May 2021 report from The Insight Partners, "(worldwide) Organic Wine Market Size was valued at US$7,460.29 million in 2019 and is projected to reach US$16,647.81 million by 2027; it is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 10.7% during 2020–2027. IWSR (International Wines and Spirits Record) projects the organic wine category in the US will grow to over $1 billion by 2024, from $54.5 million in 2021. So what and who drives the growth? The simple answer is consumers, in particular, the health-conscious consumers, who know about the use of artificial fertilizers, harmful chemicals, and man-made additives throughout the grape-growing and winemaking processes. In the end, all these chemicals will go to the wine, then to our body. Consumers demand “purity” in their wines. They want the wine to speak the terroir, not the chemicals that mask the true taste and identity of the grapes. The charm of local winemaking tradition associated with organic wines also becomes a powerful marketing tool that not only often resonates with consumers as a "feel-good" story, but also offers the "unique" reason why the purchase should be made.

"Green" Wine Certifications (Organic, Biodynamic, and Sustainable) from All Over the World (Photo Credit: wine-family.com)

What is Organic Wine?

Organic wine is produced from grapes cultivated without the use of artificial chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides. Organic wine is free from additives such as sulfur, yeast nutrients, and fining, and it is produced by using yeasts that are indigenous to the fruit. For US, sulfites must not be added to the organically grown wines.

Affordable Organic Whites for Daily Asian Vegan Food

Bonterra Chardonnay is produced with certified organically grown grapes from throughout California including a large portion from Bonterra's estate vineyards - Blue Heron Ranch and McNab Ranch, in Mendocino. Fermented in stainless steel tanks and American oak barrels, Bonterra Chardonnay strikes the balance of freshness and creaminess. Taking a much fresher approach, this Chardonnay won't leave you with an overwhelming and confusing, aka, the dated "buttery" taste profile of some California Chardonnays had. I truly enjoy the tad toasty vanilla and creamy notes, but the uplifting zest of bright citrus and green apple notes perfectly links the wine to the Korean Japchae noodle. Let's make this vegan dish in four simple steps.


  • You can purchase the Korean "glass" noodle at Amazon and cook it in boiling water by following the instructions on the package. When the noodle is translucent and al dente, it should be removed from the hot water and wash under cool tap water to remove the residual starch. Toss the cool noodle with a bit sesame oil while preparing the vegetables.
  • You could cook whatever vegetable you desire for the dish. I usually use shelled edamame, shredded carrot, sliced mushroom, and bak choi. In my Japchae this time, I added brocoli and fried egg (sorry, eggs are not considered as vegan by some people) as my kids like them. With carrot and mushroom, I did stir-fry it with a little soya sauce and a pitch of sugar to add flavor. For edamame and brocoli, just blanch them in water.
  • The taste of Japchae comes from the sweeten soya sauce (i.e., diluted soya sauce sweetened with sugar). Depending on your preference, I made mine with 1/8 of a cup of light soya sauce, 4 tbsp of dark soya sauce, 1/2 cup of water and 4 tbsp of sugar, cooking it in a small sauce pan until the sauce can coat the back of the spoon. The sauce doesn't have to be syrupy though.
  • To serve, toss the noodle and vegetable with 2 tbsp of sesame oil and the sauce (don't need to have all the sauce in and adjust it to your taste). The noddle tastes best in room temperature or when it's lightly chilled.
 
Chile's Cono Sur Sauvignon Blanc is a bright, clean and young Sauvignon Blanc that's made 
from organically grown grapes. The nose is intense, with aromas of white flowers, grapefruit, lime, lemon, and garden herbs. The palate is fresh, vivid with acidity and minerality. 
Suggested Asian Vegan Pairings:


Cono Sur Chardonnay is a fun wine that has aromas of orange, grapefruit, lemon, pineapple, and quince on the nose. The palate is young, fresh, and has a tad minerality undertone. This is an affordable Chardonnay that goes well with a lot of simple Asian lunch flairs.
Suggested Asian Vegan Pairings:
🌱Asian Coleslaw / Avocado with Ginger Salad Dressing 
🌱Vegan Mapo Tofu
If you are still not convinced that drinking more organic wine is good for you, look at what the kids have been drinking - organic grape juice!

*Disclaimer: the wines are samples. The ideas of the blog are mine.

Check out what my #WinePW blogger friends are pairing their organic wines with:

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Querciantica Verdicchio - A Gem from La Marche's Self-Made Wineamaker Angela Piotti Velenosi #ItalianFWT

 

Querciantica Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi: structured, weighty, long finish
Floral scents from honey, apple, peach and freshly cut grass on the nose,
citrusy, fresh, fruity, vegetal on the palate, (SRP$17)

For September’s #ItalianFWT, wine bloggers are invited by Marcia Hamm from Joy of Wine to explore Verdicchio. The tasting of Querciantica Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC Classico, a sample from Le Marche's Velenosi Vini, provides me the opportunity to sip one of the most structured and best-bang-for-the-buck Italian white wines in my recent memory. While the Querciantica Verdicchio is intriguing taste-wise, the producer of this wine, Angela Piotti Velenosi's journey to become one of the leading wine women in Le Marche is equally engaging and inspirational. 
The Velenosi Mother (Angela - Right) and Daughter (Marianna) Duo continue to make their mark in Le Marche wines (Photo Credit: Velenosi Vini)

Velenosi Vini - 100% Self-Made Wine Entrepreneur Since 1987

Unlike some of the Italian winery stories we are often told...when children who were born into the winery business passing down from their parents and ancestors, Angela and Ercole Velenosi - the wife and husband duo went down the winery path with no passed-down ancestral wisdom, no knowledge, no capital, or no land. However, what they had back in 1987 was sheer enthusiasm, energy, passion, and willingness to trial and error, building their dream from scratch...a family house on a 23-acre vineyard, a couple pieces of used equipment, and an unsure plan to make two wines as their pilot. Today, Velenosi Vini is the second largest family-owned winery in Le Marche, expanding to owning 363 acres of vineyards, producing 2.5 million bottles of wines annually, and offering one of the most diverse grape profolio of the region. As a famous quote from Angela, “Wine is an art capable of making you dream”, Velenosi Vini definitely is living this dream after their determination to make wines...no matter what...37 years ago. Angela becomes one of the leading female winery producers in Le Marche and was selected as the testimonial to represent the region in the Milan wine expo back in 2015. Velenosi Vini is named the top 100 wineries in Italy by Wine Spectator and is proud to offer wines that have the best quality and price ratio.
Photo CreditL Wine Folly

Le March, Where Verdicchio Shines

The Marche region is known for growing Verdicchio, an Italian indigenous grape. Verdicchio, which presence could date back to the medieval time, is especially adaptable in the areas of Castelli di Jesi and Matelica.Verdicchio from Castelli di Jesi, is grown in a large area, stretching from the hills at the west of Ancona, along the long Esimo river passing Jesi Arcevia Arcevia, and down to the Musone river. The soils are linestones in general, ranging from sandstones to clay with compositions that are different from one area to another. The altitudes of the vineyards start from 260 feet to 1480 meters, which provide the cool mountain air and still allow the winds from the east-front Adriatic sea bringing in the moisture. Verdicchio di Matelica, however, is farther from the east coast and is grown in the foothills of the Apennine Mountains which is at a higher elevation than the area in Castelli di Jesi. Verdicchio di Matelica is often a bit weightier on the palate, and has more acidity and minerality than the one from Castelli di Jesi.

(Photo Credit: DiWine Taste)

Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC

Verdicchio is quite susceptible to mildew and other illnesses and only grows well on exposed and breezy hills. It ripens in Castelli di Jesi regularly between September and the beginning of October. Through altering the timing of harvesting the grapes, a wide range of expressions of the wine can be achieved. If it is harvested in advance, greener grapes will give birth to a spumanti-style Verdicchio which captivates fresher citrus sensations. When it's harvested right at its ripeness, the fruity sensations offer the expected and traditional profile of this wine. Verdicchio is also suitable for late harvest, where hints of candied fruit and aromatic herbs would be present deriving partially from the dried grapes. Verdicchio can be fermented in steel tanks, but also tolerates aging in wooden barrels. Its versatility and cellaring ability earns this grape a nickname, the "Barolo" (i.e., the King) of Italian white wines. 

Verdicchio Grape (Photo Credit: Velenosi Vini)

Food Pairings 

The food pairing choice for Querciantica Verdicchio is limitless. While I think braised or stewed red meat dishes or a grilled T-bone steak may be a bit too much, the structure and weight of this wine, even it is white, can handle stir-fried meat dishes and deep-fried poultries like sweet and sour chicken nuggets. Since it's also fresh and lemony, any seafood will go too. What I found pairing exceptionally well with this wine is carb...a side of buttery rice pilaf, stir-fried flat rice  noodle with thinly sliced beef, or chicken lo mein. My conclusion for this Verdicchio is: When you see it, stock up as many as possible...as you can drink if all year long!
Top Left: Sweet and Sour Chicken Fingers, Grilled Shrimp with Buttery Rice Pilaf
Bottom Left: Stir-fried Flat Rice Noodle with Beef, Chicken Lo Mein

*The wine is a sample. The ideas of the blog are my own.

Check out which Verdicchio other #ItalianFWT bloggers is sipping...

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Muscatel Sparkling Joy by 103-Year-Old Bodegas Reymos - First Wine Cooperative in Valencia, Spain #WorldWineTravel

Reymos Classic Moscato Sparkler is ideal for dessert pairing such as the Chinese moon cake ($13 at Costco) which is made of cooked egg yolks wrapped with sweetened lotus seed paste and is baked with a thin layer of pastry 

Valencia and Murcia are central eastern coastal regions in Spain, locating at the south of Catalonia and north of Andalucia. Cindy from Grape Experiences invites the #WorldWineTravel bloggers to explore the wines of Murcia and Valencia. I got to taste a low-alcohol sparkling wine made from Muscat of Alexandria, produced by the 103-Year-Old Bodegas Reymos - first wine cooperative in Valencia, and am pleased to add this semi-sweet fun sparkler to my late summer party wine list. Let's find out how Bodegas Reymos becomes the king of sparkling wines in Valencia, making award-winning and affordable wines year after year.


Bodegas Reymos, which was founded in 1918, was the first wine cooperative ("co-op") established in Valencia. It is also one of the oldest wine 
co-ops in Spain. Located in the Valencian town of Cheste, with an average altitude of 715 feet above the sea and well-drained soil conditions that are flood plains and alluvial fans, the proximity of its location to the Mediterrenean sea forms the ideal microclimate for Bodegas Reymos to grow the Muscat of Alexandria grape variety. 
Reymos Classic (SRP$9): Intense freshly harvested grape aromas on the nose, perfect acidity-residual sugar balance, low alcohol with an ABV 7.5% 
Out of its 4942 acres of vineyards and an average annual production of 42 million pounds of grapes, 90% of these grapes are Muscat of Alexandria, and the rest is a combination of Garnacha, Tempranillo, Merseguera, and Malvasia. Bodegas Reymos is one of the three co-op wineries, which partners with Anecoop Bodegas to produce and to export wines of various price ranges and varieties. Anecoop Bodegas was founded in 1986.
Bodegas Reymos at Cheste, Valencia (Photo Credit: VinosDOValencia)
So what is a wine co-op? A winemaking co-op is a group of vineyard owners working together to produce and sell wine to leverage the economy of scale. These owners become members, sell their grapes to the co-op who produces the wine and sells it to international and domestic markets. Using communal facilities and shared market efforts help spread out costs such as marketing and bottling. Co-ops are a big deal in winemaking in Spain, contributing to approximately 60% of the wine production in the country. 
Bodegas Reymos has a bottling plant with a capacity of 5,000 bottles per hour for still and sparkling wines (Photo Credit: VinosDOValencia)

Reymos Classic of D.O. Valencia is a sparkling wine made with the Charmat method. This is the simplest and most used method to capture fermentation carbonation, trapping the "bubbles" in a bulk way within the large stainless steel tanks. This is also the method used to produce Italian Procesco wines. Through Charmat, the base wine is made from the grape of choice, Muscat of Alexandria in the case of Reymos Classic. After adding a small amount of yeast and sugar, the yeast converts the sugar in the wine to CO2 and alcohol. The CO2 is trapped in these large tanks for secondary fermentation, ranging from one to six weeks. After the fermentation, the bulk wine is filtered to remove the dead yeast (lees). The winemakers may at that point add dosage - either liquor from still wines or sugar, to finetune the taste of the wines prior to bottling. 

Photo Credit: GoodPairDays

Check out the blog post of other #WorldWineTravel bloggers and see what wines they choose for this wine adventure in Spain: 
  • Monastrell from Murcia and Valencia Paired with Lamb-Beef Burgers and El Taberno from Gwendolyn Alley at Wine Predator......Gwendolyn Alley
  • Getting to Know the Grape Known in Spain as Monastrell from Linda Whipple at My Full Wine Glass.
  • Rosados from Jumilla from Susannah Gold on Avvinare.
  • Valencia Inspires My First Paella from Jeff Burrows at Food Wine Click!
  • Light up the Grill and Open that Bottle of Jumilla Wine from Wendy Klik at A Day in the Life on the Farm.
  • To Valencia with Sobrasada, Other Spanish Nibbles, and Enrique Mendoza Alicante La Tremenda Monastrell 2018 from Camilla Mann at Culinary Adventures with Camilla.
  • Muscatel Sparkling Joy by 100-Year-Old Bodegas Reymos – First Wine Cooperative in Valencia, Spain from Pinny Tam at Chinese Food & Wine Pairings.
  • Coca am Recapte and Chopo Jumilla Monastrell Rose on a Summer’s Day by Terri Steffes at Our Good Life
  • On Monastrell, Three Wines from D.O. Jumilla and Foods for Pairing by Cindy Rynning at Grape Experiences.

Monday, August 2, 2021

What do Albino Armani and Måneskin from Italy have in common? Rock Star in Pinot Grigio! Rock Star in Eurovision!

Albino Armani, which has been growing grapes and making wines for over 400 years, is no doubt an Italian rock star producer in Pinot Grigio. At its 17th generation, Albino Armani turns Pinot Grigio, which has been perceived as "simple" grapes, into truly expressive grapes that are capable of speaking the dynamic terroirs the family owns. The family-owned vineyards are situated in three major Italian winegrowing regions: Veneto, Trentino-Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, composing a total of 750 acres of vineyards. In Italy, these three regions overall contribute to 85% of the Pinot Grigio production. Italy accounts for 35% of the global production of Pinot Grigio. 
Albino Armani Winegrowing Map

What makes Albino Armani, a legendary and established winery still so rock'in and relatable? The humble beginning of the Albino Armani as farmers gave them the ancestral wisdom in preserving lands and co-habiting with fauna and flora. They believe in communal responsibilities in environmental, social and economical sustainability - getting all the players involved, themselves and other wineries, to collectively make the environment healthier for wines and next generations. To recognize their achievements, they have been certified in National Quality System for Integrated Production in 2019, an recognition of using the ecoysystems to monitor and reduce environmental impacts - lesser use of synthetic chemicals, fertilization, and irrigation. Additionally, the wide range of Albino Armani Pinot Grigios not only cater to many different wine drinkers who have diverse taste preferences and budgets, but also is intuned with the latest gloabal food trends, which vegan, vegetarian, fusion ethnic cuisines, causal elegant dining, and lighter flair are dominating.


Who is Måneskin?

Måneskin is the Italian rock band who won the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest in May this year. Eurovision may be a bit foreign to the US readers. It is a four-hour long commercial-free song contest, where uprising singers from the participating EU countries compete annually for the grand prize. Måneskin was formed in 2016, when the frontman Damiano David, Victoria De Angelis (bassist), and Thomas Raggi (guitarist) first met each other as students during high school days in Rome. Ethan Torchio from the nearby Frosinonesoon joined them as the drummer soon after. With an electrifying performance, Måneskin won Eurovision with their original rock song, "Zitti e Buoni", which is not a typical music genre that historically would win the Eurovision. So what makes both Albino Armani and Måneskin a rock star in their own right and what commonality do they share? 
Pinot Grigio Colle Ara (SRP$22)

Albino Armani Pinot Grigio Colle Ara and Måneskin - Glamorous, Cooper Gold, and Engaging!

The Albino Armani Pinot Grigio Colle Ara has the most glamorous cooper gold color I've ever seen in any Pinot Grigios. The additional time of juice-to-skin contact of this wine fosters a rich structure, which is rarely found in other Pinot Grigios. Colle Ara not only looks "glam", the nose of dry flowers and the palate of grapefruit, peach, apricot, pineapple, and mango are pleasing your taste bud to the fullest extent. Colle Ara invites you to come back to taste more after the initial sips as a different note seems to lift up from the wine at different time - the mango note this time and apricot next time. It's an engaging wine that the more you drink it, the more you want to find out how Terra dei forti Valdadige DOC terroirs shapes this wine.
Måneskin in Eurovision 2021 (Photo Credit: eonline.com)

Måneskin's performance, with the winning song, "Zitti e Buoni" or "Shut Up and Behave", in Eurovision was equally engaging. The band wore stylish cooper-red body suits and platform shoes, completing the glam rocker look in the Eurovision final. The song has every elements that make it globally popular - even when you don't know Italian...the rhythmic melody will definitely unseat you! I started to look up the translation of the lyrics and learn everything about this band with sheer curiority, finding out what makes this band become an overnight sensation.
Pinot Grigio Corvara SRP$15

Pinot Grigio Corvara and Måneskin - Sapid, Likeable, and Youthful!

The Pinot Grigio Corvara is a Summer in a bottle. The wine is sapid and energetic. The scent of white flowers encapsulate the nostrils. As you sip this wine, the apple and ripe pear flavors linger. This medium-bodied Pinot Grigio will be superb with any seafood but also roasted chicken and grilled pork chops. 

Måneskin, whose members are all under the age of 22, is a high-octane powerhouse of onstage charisma and youthful energy. When they won Eurovision, the song “Zitti e Buoni” which was previosuly little known outside Italy, hopped onto Spotify’s global Top 10, a first for an Italian band.
Pinot Grigio Friuli Grave (SRP$13)

Pinot Grigio Friuli Grave and Måneskin - Rocky but Alive!

Pinot Grigio Friuli Grave is a rocky region where more than 80% is gravel-laid soil, which is not entirely grape-growing friendly. The Pinot Grigio from this region however has successfully adapted the austere growing conditions, and consistently turns out intense and aromatic wines. The Albino Armani Pinot Grigio Friuli Grave is floral and elegant. The notes of chamomile, thyme, and mineral in the wines are the characteristics that are instilled by the terroirs. 
Pinot Grigio vines are grown on rocky soil in Friuli Grave
(Photo Credit: Albino Armani)

From performing at the streets in Rome back in 2016, competing but not winning in The X-Factor in 2017, to winning Eurovision 2021, Måneskin climbed to their stardom from the rocky roads with hardwork, persistence, talent, passion and fun!  

Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie and Måneskin - Something for Everyone!

The Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie is an entry-level Pinot Grigio from the price point. The freshness and versatility of this wine makes it the perfect wine for aperitif in parties of any sizes. When it's served on its own, it's fresh, dry, creamy, and has the taste of lime, crisp apple and green pear. Thinking a bit outside the box, pouring it over ice and adding some Aperol liqueur to this Pinot Grigio would make this Aperol a crowd pleaser in a hot Summer day. 

Måneskin also sings in English. With a bit open mind, check out their youtube channel, I'm sure there is something for everyone.  

Disclaimers: The Albino Armani wines are samples. The idea of the story is my own.


Sunday, July 25, 2021

Alsace Wines’ Heart and Soul - Land Sustainability #Winophiles #DrinkAlsace

Photo Credit: www.vinsalsace.com

Respecting nature is part of the long tradition in Alsace. The Upper Rhine region in Alsace is the birthplace of biodynamic farming. Organic and biodynamic viticulture have widely been adopted throughout the Alsace wine-growing areas. This sustainable farming approach challenges vineyards to smartly manage their use of pesticides and fertilizers, and makes growers implement an overall initiative, through technical means and agricultural practices, to  comply with the sustainable farming standards. These standards focus on respecting the environment, managing the health of vines, and contributing to protecting the landscapes and biological diversity of the overall estate.

Photo Credit: Vins Alsace

Organic and biodynamic farming and grape-growing started to gain attention in the area since the beginning of 1970’s, when the early signs of land deterioration were sunk in: Desertification of rural areas, widened imbalance between the Northern and Southern regions, increasing consumption of energy in farming, and deterioration of soils, air, water and nature. In addition, the need to increase yields of grapes and over production of wines destroyed the balances between fauna and flora, resulting from the incresing use of pesticides by farmers and vineyards. Simultaneously, food quality, knowledge of harmful effects of pesticides on human, and land sustainability became concerns not only among the growers but the consumers. 

Photo Credit: Vins Alsace
Faced with this concerns, organic grape-growing and biodynamic farming attempts to gain a closer look at how the earth, water, plants, air, fauna and flora could healthily interact and cohabitate. Instead of fighting against the natural elements that may stunt the growth and yields of vines, farmers begin to reactivate soil life and stimulate the natural resistance of plants, becoming intune with the natural cycles. While growing grapes with the ancestral wisdom and practices is still important, adopting to organic and biodynamic farming practices becomes an integral part of their modern winemaking process. Winemakers notably manage their vines using zero to minimal chemical fertilizers or synthetic pesticides, gaining regulatory and commercial approvals and recognition. Let's take a look at how three of the pioneers - DOMAINE FREDERIC MOCHEL, DOMAINE JEAN-MARIE HAAG, and DOMAINE ALFRED WANTZ, which are at different stages of their organic and biodynamic farming journey, sustain their land.

DOMAINE FREDERIC MOCHEL


Located in Traenheim, the northern part Alsace, 12 miles west of Strasbourg, the Mochel family has been living in this village that has deep wine history since 1669. As an independent winemaker, Domaine Frederic Mochel respects their terroir, harvest solely in their own vineyard, and fulfill their whole supply chain - make wines, bottle them, and sell them directly from their cellar. They are in the process of converting to organic farming and continue to respect the soils and the vines.

AOC Alsace Riesling 2015 Kaploen en conversion  
Terroir: Traenheim: north-west facing terrasse farming at the altitude between 210 and 265 meters, marly soils; Bergbieten: south and south-east facing on gentle hillside slopes between 210 and 265 meters, marl-limestone-gypsum soils.
Taste: Outstanding notes of exotic fruit and candied lemon on the nose, rich and oily mouthfeel, contrast with crisp acidity and intense fruitiness.

AOC Alsace Riesling 2019 en conversion  
Terroir: Traenheim and Bergbieten.
Taste: Citrus notes, white flowers aromas, intense acidity, lively and juicy, long finish.

AOC Alsace Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergbieten Riesling 2019 cuvée Henriette en conversion  
Terroir: Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergbieten is located in the heart of a large natural amphitheatre in the northern part of the Alsace wine-growing area.The Altenberg hill ideally exposes to the south/south-east, protecting it from northerly winds. To the west, the Vosges form a protective barriar against excessive rain from the west. This open landscape is bathed in optimal sunlight all day long. 
Taste: Concentrated notes of minerals and and stone fruits on the nose, rich and saline on the palate, mineral and tense finish, and great cellaring potential.

AOC Alsace Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergbieten Riesling 2011 cuvée Henriette en conversion  
Terroir: Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergbieten
Taste: Complex, rounded and well-balanced wine, fruity yet slightly overripe notes on the nose, lively minerality, and fresh finish.

DOMAINE JEAN-MARIE HAAG

Domaine Jean-Marie Haag, which owns around 21 acres of vineyards, is located in the decending slopes of the steep hillsides in the narrow valley called Vallée Noble, south of Colmar. The estate 
is certified in Terra Vitis, sustainable viticulture and HEV (high environmental value). To preserve the quality and true expression of grapes, the harvest of the grapes grown on the hillsides is picked exclusively by hand. The special dry climate that reigns there offers the vines a potential for over-maturity and makes it possible to produce concentrated, finesse vintages with incredible length.  


AOC Alsace Grand Cru Zinnkoepfle Riesling 2018 HVE  
Terroir: This Riesling is planted in facing south slope in Grand Cru Zinnkoepfle. Its soils are made up of limestone (Muschelkalk) and Avoltzia sandstone (Bundsandstein), considering one of the highest Alsatian Grand Crus. 
Taste: Full mouthfeel, minerality, bold salinity, great purity, minty aromas, notes of white flower and herbal tea. 

AOC Alsace Riesling 2018 Vallée Noble HVE
Terroir: This Riesling is planted in south-facing hillside parcel of the estate that has the  Avoltzia sandstone soil.
Taste: Fresh, salinity, great purity, complex aromatic expression of wild flowers. 

AOC Alsace Gewurtraminer 2019 HVE
Terroir: Planted on the south-western slope of Zinnkoepfle. 
Taste: Floral and spicy notes on the palate, full yet fresh, long, and balanced. 

AOC Alsace Pinot Noir 2019 HVE
Terroir: Zinnkoepfle
Taste: Aromas of very ripe black fruits, fresh mouthfeel, elegant tannins, balanced and persistent.  

DOMAINE ALFRED WANTZ


Domaine Alfred Wantz, which is located around 
Mittelbergheim consisting of AOP Alsace, AOP Alsace Grand Cru and Crémant d’Alsace, owns 31 acres of vineyards. They have produced organic wines since the 2020 vintage. The organic-farming certification is an acknowledgement of Alfred Wantz's long-term environmental commitment initiated at the end of the 90’s, when he started natural agricultural methods in grass management, ploughing, maintaining of hedgerowsthus, and promoting biodiversity. The estate nowadays adapts to new environmental challenges, reducing the effects from climate changes, while continuing the production of quality wines.

AOC Alsace Grand Cru Zotzenberg Riesling 2019 En Conversion
Terroir: Zotzenberg sits in a basin, resting on the south side of the Mittelbergheim 320 -metre hillside. Facing east and south, it has plenty of sunshine. The soils are composed of Jurassic-period and Oligocene marls and limestones, which are drought-resistent and are easy to retain dampness.  
Taste: Aged on lees for nine months, nose nose of citrus and spices, mineral touch, powerful yet balanced, fresh acidity at the finish. 

AOC Alsace Riesling 2017 Vielles Vignes En Conversion
Terroir: Produced in the estate's unique sandstone-soil vineyard.
Taste: Aged on lees for 15 months in an oak cask, floral and mineral nose, smooth and pear notes on the palate, and saline final touch.

AOC Alsace Grand Cru Zotzenberg Sylvaner 2019 En Conversion
Terroir: Zotzenberg is the unique place where Sylvaner can succeed to the AOP Alsace Grand Cru level. This is the land of Sylvaner, where this grape manages to develop its aromatic potential to the fullest (e.g., bay leaves and verbena), and reveals the finesse and saltiness dervied from the limestone soil. 
Taste: Floral and peppery notes, pleasant and noble bitter taste, and exceptionnal structure. 

AOC Alsace Pinot Noir 2017 Berg "Eden" En Conversion
Terroir: Eden is a selection of Domaine Alfred Wantz's best Pinot Noir vineyards. This Pinot Noir is aged in old oak barrels for 12 months and is bottled unfiltered to preserve the pesonnality.
Taste:  Complex, rich, subtle nose of cherry and blackberry, discrete vanilia notes, spicy yet smooth notes, and well-integrated tannins. 


To read the entire trilogy of my Alsace wine blogs, check out also my blogs on Food Compatibility and Family Tradition!