Friday, June 14, 2019

Say “Je t’aime” to a Pomorel Bordeaux, a Loire Rosé and an Assortment of French Cheese #Winophiles

Cheese is a staple in my house. I usually keep Kerry Gold Dubliner Cheddar cheese handy as it’s versatile and affordable. On special occasions, when really good wines are poured, matching the wines with really good cheeses, ideally from the same country origin, is a no-brainer! Martin Redmond from ENOFYLZ Wine Blog has invited the #Winophiles blogger friends to drink French Wines and eat French cheeses. I can’t say “oui” fast enough! I’m also grateful to receive samples from VinConnexion via Lynn Gowdy from Savor the Harvest, contributing to the “wine” part of the successful marriage. 
The Château de Sales Pomerol 2010 is a red blend comprising of 82.5% Merlot, 12.5% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. It was aged mainly in old barrels for up to three years, with a tad of new barrels. On the nose, this Pomerol Bordeaux reveals pleasant light wood smell which resembles opening up a new cardboard box. The aroma of dark fruit follows, leading up to touches of spices and a trace of oak. The tannin is consistently forefront, and the frame is light, wrapping up with lengthy and memorable finishes. This Pomerol is an elegant, rounded and mature wine that is well-suited for pairing with a wide array of French cheeses.  
Chateau de Sales
Château de Sales is the largest estate in the Pomerol appellation. It is the only Bordeaux estate to be entirely transmitted from one generation to the next since the 15th century and is currently jointly owned by 14 cousins within the family. The family management enables consistency across quality controls, image and brand building as well as the reflection of the terroir.
The Le Cocagne Gris Rosé 2018 from Les Vignerons du Vendômois - Cave Coopérative du Vendômois is made from 100% Pineau d'Aunis, an indigenous red grape grown in Loire Valley. This Rosé has stone fruit on the nose and palate. Its minerality beams through and adds body to the wine. While it’s cool, dry and crispy, its acidity and texture help cut through the cream and fat of the French cheeses, and in some cases/cheeses, the Rosé plays a big role in taming the briny and intense flavors.  
I have tried French cheeses before. While I always focus on the taste, I’ve never really paid too much attention to what kind they are. For this post, I do a deeper dive on how the various popular French cheeses taste, what texture they have, and most importantly, and how well they pair with the Pomerol and the Rosé that inspire this pairing! As an easy reference, a scale denoted with five thumbs up (👍👍👍👍👍) is to determine the compatibility and synergy of the pairing – 5 being superb to 1 being less desirable.  Also check out my "cheesy" photo captions for the cheeses!
Roquefort is a vibrant, intense, tangy and salty blue cheese that is made of sheep milk (i.e., an adaptable breed of ewes, Lacaunes). The cheese is aged for a minimum of three months, achieving the well-balanced taste that’s a sought after worldwide. It gains its reputation as the King of Cheeses for its distinct taste and look. The ivory-colored paste with emerald-green veining and mold are iconic, and what makes this cheese so famous. Roquefort cheese is crafted with liquid Penicillium roqueforti found in the damp caves and is combined with the ewes' milk in the natural limestone caves of Roquefort and cellars.
Roquefort - King of Cheeses
In 1925, Roquefort was the first cheese granted the AO distinction, and later in 1996 was given the European distinction P.D.O. (Protected Designation of Origin). The stone fruit and acidity of the Rosé have the advantage to balance out the tangy and briny Roquefort, inviting more eating of the cheese along with the sips. The Pomerol is also a pleasant accompaniment to this delight.
  • Pomerol's Compatibility with the Cheese: 👍👍👍 
  • Rosé's Compatibility with the Cheese: 👍👍👍👍👍

Brie de Meaux is a French brie cheese of the Seine-et-Marne region and a designated AOC product since 1980 and a protected designation of origin (AOP) since 1996. Its name comes from the town of Meaux in the Brie region. 
Brie de Meaux - Prince of Cheeses
Its texture is soft-ripened, creamy and mild with the rich flavor of raw and whole cow’s milk. It is encased with a bloomy rind that is to be consumed with the soft cheese inside. This cheese has been declared the Prince of Cheeses! Both the Pomerol and Rosé work very well with the creamy Brie. 
  • Pomerol's Compatibility with the Cheese: 👍👍👍👍
  • Rosé's Compatibility with the Cheese: 👍👍👍👍👍

Camembert is a moist, soft, creamy, and surface-ripened cheese that’s made from cow’s milk. It was first made in the late 18th century at Camembert, Normandy, in northern France. The production of Camembert cheese has now transcended the AOC designation. 
Camembert - C-/D-reamy Talker
The fresh Camembert cheese is bland, hard, and crumbly in texture. Young Camembert has a milky and sweet taste. As the cheese matures, like the President Camembert, it forms a smooth, runny interior and a white bloomy rind outside. It has a rich, buttery flavor and a tad sweetness to it. The rind is bloomy white caused by a white fungus, called Penicillium candidum. The rind can be eaten as well. The Pomerol and Rosé work pretty well with the creamy and sweet Camembert. 
  • Pomerol's Compatibility with the Cheese: 👍👍👍👍 
  • Rosé's Compatibility with the Cheese: 👍👍👍👍👍 

Bûcheron is a goat's milk cheese native to the Loire Valley and is semi-aged, ripening for 5 to 10 weeks. Bûcheron has an ivory-colored pâte surrounded by a bloomy white rind. Soft, but semi-firm in texture, this cheese we have here has a strong taste of goat. The gaminess of this cheese interacts well with the Pomerol as well the Rose, but differently. The Pomerol makes the Bûcheron less “goat-like” and brings out the tangy taste of the cheese. The Rose enhances the creaminess of the cheese but cleanses the palate afterward.
Bucheron - Goaty Delight
  • Pomerol's Compatibility with the Cheese: 👍👍👍👍  
  • Rosé's Compatibility with the Cheese: 👍👍👍👍👍 

Fourme d'Ambert is one of France's oldest cheeses. It originated from Auvergne, dating back to Roman times. It is made from raw cow's milk from the Auvergne.  The semi-hard cheese is inoculated with Penicillium roqueforti spores and aged for 1 to 4 months. This cheese has been protected by its own AOC since 1972.  Although this cheese is most often produced with pasteurized milk by industry and Cooperatives, more recent artisanal production has begun using raw milk. 
Fourme d'ambert - Stinky Indulgence
The Fourme we have here has an animal and ammonia smell and flavor to it. I totally see why some people would be turned off by it. However, someone like me finds this cheese extremely wild and tasty. Biting into the spread of this cheese on plain crackers and sipping the Rosé, the combination of all these is an indulgence (for stinky food lovers)!
  • Pomerol's Compatibility with the Cheese: 👍👍👍 
  • Rosé's Compatibility with the Cheese: 👍👍👍👍 

Comté is a made from unpasteurized cow's milk in the Franche-Comté traditional province of eastern France. It has the highest production of all French AOC cheeses. The cheese is aged between 2 and 24 months. The cheese is made in discs with a diameter between 40 cm and 70 cm, and around 10 cm in height. This piece, which is from Jura, is earthy and nutty, working pretty well with the spice and dark fruit notes of the Pomerol.  
Comte - Nutty Happiness
  • Pomerol's Compatibility with the Cheese: 👍👍👍👍👍 
  • Rosé's Compatibility with the Cheese👍👍👍

Mimolette is a cheese traditionally produced around the city of Lille, France. It’s made of cow’s milk and is aged for 2 to 24 months. Looking like a cratered, dusty cannonball, Mimolette is infamously tricky to open for its super-hard, craggy outercrust. 
Mimolette - Tough Guy with a Soft Heart
The appearance and floral aroma of the rind is the work of tiny mites. Cheese mites are small little bugs that live on the surfaces of aged cheeses, munching the microscopic molds that grow there. The French call them tiny affineurs for their essential role in the aging process. Its electric-orange paste has sweet, caramelized depth and smooth, fudgy finish. I found both the Pomerol and Rose are equally pleasant with this cheese. The Pomerol seems to bring out more the salty flavor of the cheese.
  • Pomerol's Compatibility with the Cheese: 👍👍👍👍👍 
  • Rosé's Compatibility with the Cheese: 👍👍👍👍 

To me, French wines and French cheeses are an inherently good match that is meant for each other. The Château de Sales Pomerol and the Le Cocagne Gris Rosé validate their rooted bond with French cheeses!

Disclosure: The wines in this post are samples. All opinions are my own.

For more French wines and French cheeses, check out my blogger friends' posts below:

Friday, June 7, 2019

Spier Pinotage/Shiraz from South Africa Plus Sliced Lamb As Wrappers #WinePW

My first taste of Pinotage from South Africa came from one of the NYC Wine Riot tasting events where I was doing my pouring shifts a few years ago. Nearing the end of the shift, I was walking around to find unusual wines to taste, and Pinotages from South Africa were the few unfamiliar ones I had tasted. A lot of wine drinkers may agree Pinotage is a wine that could be controversial, odd and interesting - all at the same time. My recollection of Pinotage was that it was super jammy, petroleum-smell on the nose, medium-bodied and fruit-forward. I couldn’t tell on the spot whether I liked it or not, but I was definitely intrigued by it. Jennifer Gentile Martin from Vino Travels invited #WinePW bloggers to do some wine travels to South Africa. It’s a golden opportunity for me to revisit Pinotage and the land where it was originated. 
Pinotage - Photo Credit of
Pinotage is South Africa’s indigenous and flagship grape. It is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault that was discovered in 1925 and was first vinified in 1941. This grape is easy to grow but tends to develop isoamyl acetate during the winemaking process, which leads to a sweet pungency that resembles the smell of paint. In the last decade, Pinotage experienced a new revolution in South Africa with an increasing number of producers exploring a brighter and juicier expression of the variety that shows off the fruit rather than oak and manipulates less to showcase the characteristics of the grape.
Spier - Photo Credit:
Spier has been a wine farm in South Africa since 1692. Located near Stellenbosch, it is one of the oldest wine farms in the country. Spier is an all-encompassing farm that grows grapes, makes wines, grows produces, serves food, runs hotels and collects art, offering a wide range of activities/services from Segway in the vineyard to wedding banquets. 
South Africa Wine Map - Photo Credit: Wine Folly
The Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek valleys form the Cape Winelands, the larger of the two main wine growing regions in South Africa. South Africa is ranked 9th of the top wine producing countries in the world according to the 2018 International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV) statistics. Stellenbosch is the primary location for viticulture and viticulture research in South Africa. The Stellenbosch Wine Route, established in 1971 by Neil Joubert from Spier, Frans Malan from Simonsig and Spatz Sperling from Delheim, is a must-do for wine lovers when visiting the country. 

The Cape Winelands region has a Mediterranean climate with dry-heated summers and cool, wet winters. Stellenbosch lies at the foot of the Cape Fold mountain range, which provides soil suitable for viticulture. Grapes grown in this area are mainly used for wine production. The region has diverse soil types, ranging from light, sandy soils to decomposed granite. 
Spier Discovery Collection Pinotage (70%) / Shiraz (30%) 2017 has strong earthy notes and a hint of smokiness on the nose. It’s lightly oaky and a bit spicy on the palate. The dark fruit and peppery notes come out progressively through the sips. This medium-bodied wine is a perfect accompaniment with the lighter lamb dishes like the thinly sliced lamb that I’m going to use as wrappers. This thinly sliced lamb is readily available from the Asian grocery store and is used a lot in ramen noodle soups and hot pot. 
Sliced lamb is very thin and cooks very fast. 
I have the Korean brown sweet rice, okra and enoki mushroom to be wrapped in the lamb slice for two reasons. The seasoned cooked rice will absorb the flavor of the lamb as it sits inside it as well as is more fun to eat. When the okra and enoki are wrapped by the lamb slices, they can be entrée or even pass as hors d’Oeuvres - super presentable and delicious.
Use Korean brown sweet rice for sticky texture, nuttier flavor and healthier grain.
Making all these dishes are not hard, either. Cook the rice in a rice cooker in chicken stock and season well with salt and pepper or additional dried herb you like. While cooling off the rice, line a ramekin with plastic wrap and then the sliced lamb. Overlay the lamb slices onto the ramekin to avoid any gaps and cover the bottom of the ramekin completely. 
Once the rice is cooled, scoop it into the ramekin and firmly close the rice bowl with the hanging lamb slices. Refrigerate the rice bowl for at least two hours. 
With the okra and enoki wraps, before wrapping them in lamb slices, blanch the okras and a half an inch bundle of enoki mushroom in salty boiling water. Once the water boiled up again, use a strainer for taking the okra and enoki out and put them in ice water immediately. Pat dry the okra and enoki and wrap each okra/enoki with one or two lamb slices tightly over.
Pan-fry the rice/okra/enoki lamb wraps until the lamb is brown. For the rice wrap, sear the side as well. Viola! This lamb wrapped rice and vegetables not only look good, but taste oh so good. I combined some oyster sauce, soya sauce, sugar and a little bit water in a pot to reduce it to a sauce that’s thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Drizzle the sauce over the rice and the vegetables to finish.  Looking good, tasting good!

Check out other bloggers’ wine travels in South Africa below: