Saturday, February 15, 2020

Invitation Post for March 2020 #Winophiles: Crémant de Bordeaux – An Underdog of the French Sparkling Wine World – Sophistication without the Champagne Price Tag

Crémant de Bordeaux is the name of all sparkling wines produced in the Bordeaux region using the methode traditionelle - the same method that is used to produce Champagne. For decades, Crémant wines have been produced from places that are known for great reds and whites like Bordeaux. However, not until the mid-1970s, Crémant de Bordeaux, along with other Crémant wines, first appeared officially on commercial labels.

While Champagnes, by French laws, have to be made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier, Crémants de Bordeaux enjoy the liberty and flexibility of sourcing various local grape varieties.

The recent US Champagne tariff threat has sent French sparkler lovers like myself into a frantic mode, which I have stocked up quite a few Crémant wines and Champagnes. I have also “balanced” my French sparkler portfolio with pricey stuff, good bargains and somewhere in-between...Crémant de Bordeaux is part of this strategy for sure.

Invitation to the sparkling world of Bordeaux!
Join us the #Winophiles bloggers on Saturday, March 21st to experience the sparkling world of Bordeaux. You could write a blog post and find out our coordination on this Facebook post. We’ll have the blog posts online by March 21st prior to the Twitter chats. Or join us at the Twitter chats on March 21st at 11:00am EST/10:00am CST/8:00am PST through searching the hashtag #Winophiles on Twitter.

Look forward to seeing your participation!

Drinking Les Rocailles Apremont Savoie Jacquére and Eating Homemade Fish Paste #Winophiles #Godforsakengrapes #vindesavoie

Les Rocailles Apremont Savoie Jacquere, Fish Burger, Egg Custard, and Fish Ball Soup
Jacquére (jah-KEHR), is the most widely planted white grape in France's Savoie region and is best known from the crus of Apremont and Abymes. #Win0philes bloggers are invited to explore French #godforsakengrapes per our February host, Cam from Culinary Adventures. Also, thank you Jill from L'OCCASION for coordinating a sample of the Les Rocailles Apremont Savoie Jacquére. Let's hear the story of one of France's native sons, Jacquére!
Photo Credit:ère
Jacquére – as French as it gets!
Jacquére, which is believed to be an indigenous grape in France, is considered as a "godforsaken" grape that deserves wider publicity and recognition. More than half of the vineyards in the Savoie region (located at the far east of France - on the French Alps) are growing Jacquère grapes, contributing significantly in terms of winemaking volume and revenue for the area. The Les Rocailles Apremont Savoie 2018 is a divine expression of Jacquére that truly showcases the characteristics of this grape – lightly scented, hints of honey and white flower, crisp, crystal clear, clean and dry. 
Crystal Clear Jacquere! The outline of a fork is visible through the wine! 
Les Rocailles is owned and managed by childhood friends and Savoie native Guillaume Durand and Alban Thouroude since 2006. It is part of the “Vin de Savoie” AOP, nestled in the French Alps.
Photo Credit:
Jacquere Speaks the Terroir of Vin de Savoie
Jacquére is grown in vineyards at between 250 and 450m above sea level in Savoie, which is the smallest and most mountainous wine region in France. This high-yielding grape has been grown very successfully in the diverse soils in Savoie that are rich in limestone glacial materials and scree thanks to the forces which created the Alps during the Cretaceous and Jurassic periods along with movements in the last ice age. Savoie features a predominantly continental climate, with an average temperature around 10°C for the year. Jacquére, which can withstand temperatures of about -15°C, is rarely subject to the risk of frost damage. In fact, snow often protects the grape from freezing.

Homemade Fish Paste Works with Jacquére
Demonstrated text-book features of cool climate wines, Les Rocailles Apremont Savoie Jacquére is lean, clean and crisp, an extremely easy wine to pair with fish and cheese. What I made to pair with this wine is homemade Whiting fish paste – cooked in three different ways, showing three different textures and three different taste profiles.
Spicy Crispy Fish Patties atop with kimchi mayo and sriracha hot sauce on a toasty burger bun
and Cold Jacquere
Compared to store-bought (from Asian grocers) fish paste, homemade fish paste is free of MSG and binding additives that the grocers may add to the paste for the bouncy texture and enticing tastes. At home, I defrosted a bag of frozen Whiting,  cut it in chunks, added corner starch, seasonings (e.g., white pepper, salt, sesame oil), rehydrated Japanese seaweed, Hijiki, and chopped scallion, and grounded it up in the food processor. Once it achieves the paste texture, how you cook it is up to your imagination.
Fish paste made from Whiting fish chunks, grinding up into a paste
First, I used this paste to form fish patties, making fish burgers by simply pan-frying the patties to a golden brown and topping the burgers with kimchi mayo and Sriracha hot sauce. This is the best pairing with Jacquére, out of the three dishes I made as this dry and crisp wine brought out the best texture of the crispy fish patties. Also very obviously, the cooling effect of the wine helped tame the spiciness of the condiments.
Steamy Egg Custard and cold Jacquere
I also really liked the fish paste bites that I dropped in the savory steamed egg custard. Adding also a bit water in the egg batter, the egg custard, after steaming for 10 minutes on the stovetop, was fluffy and creamy. It works really well with the Jacquére too as the egg custard has a very pure and basic taste – eggs, fish and minimal seasoning (i.e., salt and pepper) – that’s all!
Warm fish ball soup and cold Jacquere
Nothing really beats a bowl of “energized” soup in which I put the fish balls (made with the fish paste), organic power greens and a bit of ginger in the organic chicken broth. This soup was extraordinary special as it was light, healthy and ocean flavored. What I needed to call out is the umami and mildly metallic tastes of the Hijiki really stood out. Loving the contrast between sipping the cool Jacquére and the hot soup…a winter comfort at your own home!

Disclaimer: the wine is sample. Opinions are my own.

Check out what our #winophiles friends are having as their French #godforsakengrapes...

Friday, February 7, 2020

André et Michel Quenard Gamay from Savoie and Roasted Chicken Drizzled with Ginger Scallion Infused Oil #WinePW #vindesavoie

#WinePW bloggers are traveling to Savoie, which is one of the world’s most picturesque wine regions. Savoie is at the far east of France - on the French Alps that are located south of Lac Léman or Lake Geneva and are bordering with Switzerland. Savoie wines, which historically were known as light après-ski drinks, are lean and crisp...just like the air you are breathing in when you stand tall and proud on top of the snowy mountain! 
Breathing lean and clean air on the snowy Windham Mountain, New York...not Savoie, France
Grapes there are planted to thin, limestone and diverse soils in the foothills of the fragmented mountainous terrain. While this region is famous for its fresh, crisp whites, what I got here is the André et Michel Quenard Chignin Gamay 2018, a sample provided through the coordination by Jill from L’Occasion. Lucky me...this wine is a gem and expresses Gamay in a way that's unique and complex! 
Photo Credit: Domaine André et Michel Quenard - Vignerons via Facebook
The fragmented mountains of Savoie naturally divide the growing areas of the region into two main appellations, Vin de Savoie and Bugey. "Vin de Savoie" wines come from more than seven entirely distinct pockets of vineyards, separated by towns, mountains, and lakes. The fragmented vineyard areas of Bugey are similar. 
Photo Credit:
Given Savoie's Alps lifestyle and unique terroir, Bibendum, the UK drinks business, considers Savoie as one of the Top Wine Trends for 2019:
 “Savoie...maybe [one] of France’s smaller and lesser-known regions, but they’re big on personality, with many of the region’s producers crafting individual wines that unashamedly sing of their unique place.”

Gamay from Savoie vs Beaujolais (a.k.a Gamay)
I have refrained from mentioning Beaujolais. It’s not a bake-off between Gamay from Savoie vs Beaujolais. Still, it’s hard not to do a small comparison to show how terroir and winemaking do make a huge difference in wines that are produced from the same grape variety. The first few sips of the André et Michel Quenard Chignin Gamay revealed how super light and lean this wine was. As I sipped and “chewed” the wine a bit more, it then released its herbaceous, medicinal, grassy and salty notes subtly, in addition to the bright acidity, and hints of unsweetened dried tart cherries. I honestly thought I was drinking Pinot Noir! Beaujolais, on the other hand, is richer, more fruit-forward, exuberant, and has more texture. If I really have to “personalize” this Savoie Gamay wine, this is like a “sophisticated” Beaujolais nouveau – young and fresh but a bit posh!

Can’t Go Wrong with Poultry!
While I think a roasted turkey will go extremely well with this beautiful Gamay, I don’t want to labor myself to roast a turkey. A roasted chicken will be just fine. There’s no sweat roasting a whole chicken…say a two or three pounder in the 375-degree oven for 45 mins to an hour. 
What I made to go with the chicken is a Cantonese dipping sauce - salty ginger and scallion infused oil. Once you try this sauce, you’d make it in batch and put it in your fridge as the go-to condiment for rice and meat dishes. The key steps of making this sauce are to heat up some regular vegetable oil in a saucepan and to pour it in the finely ground ginger, diced scallion and plenty of coast kosher salt for your liking. The hot oil emitted fragrant smoke when it hit the ginger and scallion. I drizzled this oil on top of my sliced roasted chicken breast and a bowl of yellow rice cooked in chicken broth and saffron. Oh man, this sauce was salty, oily, flavorful, pungent and light-oniony and will pump up any mild-tasting food. As I sipped the Gamay and ate the chicken rice, it was such a light and healthy meal that has mega and complex flavors – acidity, bitterness, umami, and savoriness.
Disclaimer: the wine is a sample. Opinions and ideas are my own.

Let’s take a look at other #WinePW bloggers’ journey to Savoie…
  • Jeff at FoodWineClick gives us "Warm Up by the Fireplace with Raclette and Vins de Savoie"
  • Rupal the Syrah Queen pairs "Savoie Wines and Tartiflette - Mountain Wines with Mountain Fare"
  • Nicole at Somm's Table is "Cooking to the Wine: Altesse Roussette de Bugey Montagnieu with Crab and Veggie Gratin"
  • Cindy at Grape Experiences offers "A Quintessential Pairing: Wines from Savoie and Savory Herbed Cheese Fondue"
  • Liz from What's In that Bottle shouts about "Alpine Wine Alert: Wines from France's Savoie Region are Awesome"
  • Pinny from Chinese Food & Wine Pairings shares “Andre’ et Michel Quenard Gamay from Savoie and Roasted Chicken Drizzled with Ginger Scallion Infused Oil”
  • Gwen at Wine Predator is making "Chicken and Savoie for Sweethearts, Fondue for Friends #WinePW"
  • Susannah at Avvinare shares "Brie and Bacon Quiche With Vin de Savoie Wine - #WinePW"
  • Jane from Always Ravenous is creating "Raclette Paired with Savoie Wines"
  • Wendy from A Day In the Life on the Farm writes about "A Gastronomic Visit to Savoie"
  • Terri at Our Good Life is working with "Vin de Savoie and Seafood and Pasta with Lemon Butter Sauce"
  • David from Cooking Chat shares "Potato Bacon Skillet Casserole - Tartiflette Inspired Recipe for Savoie Wine"
  • Camilla from Culinary Adventures With Cam presents "A Taste of #vindesavoie: Älpermakkaronen + 2018 JP & JF Quenard Vin de Savoie Chignin"
  • Linda at My Full Wine Glass gets into "Savoie wine – a non-skier’s reason to visit the French Alps (#WinePW)"
  • Jen at VinoTravels makes "Garlic Buttered Shrimp over Polenta with the Wines of Savoie"
  • Jill and Jason from L'Occasion present "An Interview With Author Wink Lorch + A Savoie Wine Pairing"

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Invitation Post for March 2020 #ItalianFWT: Women in Italian Wine Industry – Men can do it, Women can too!

Can't wait to taste the 2016 Donatella Cinelli Colombini 
Rosso Di Montalcino

The #ItalianFWT blogger group has an open invitation to anyone who would like to learn about the stories of women in the Italian wine industry, featuring female-owned wineries and female winemakers.

"We Can Do It!" is an American World War II wartime poster produced by J. Howard Miller in 1943 for Westinghouse Electric as an inspirational image to boost female worker morale
The majority of the wineries in Italy are still family affairs and everyone in the family including women will get involved in running all aspects of the wine production process and business – front or back of the house, growing or sourcing grapes, winemaking and marketing the wines, etc. However, in the past, women in the wineries had no or very little decision-making power and were given less credit for the contribution they had made. 

Not until the recent 20 years, the number of female-owned wineries,  female winemakers or wine producers is increasing in Italy. Their contributions and stories are getting the attention they deserve. This blog post topic is not a gender debate of who does the job better but rather to point out the fact that women winery owners and/or winemakers can equally make amazing wines and contribute to the bottomline of the wineries.

There are tons of researches out there on women leadership – benefits to the organizations, barriers and success factors. Ernest & Young, a leading global consulting firm, has also published a survey to explain why women can move up further (easier) in family businesses.

For us wine bloggers, men or women, we want to taste the wines from these women wine producers, learning about their stories and showing our support to their determination and perseverance. Typically, the bloggers would research the topic and purchase one or two bottle(s) of wine that match the monthly theme. Do some wine tasting, food pairing, and a little writing and have some fun!

Invitation to Join in the Fun

Join the fun on Saturday, March 7th! You could write a blog post and find out our coordination on this Facebook post. We’ll have the blog posts online by March 7th prior to the Twitter chats. Join us at the Twitter chats on March 7th at 11:00am EST, 10:00am CST, 8:00am PST through searching the hashtag #ItalianFWT in Twitter.

🍷Look forward to seeing your participation!

Celebrate Chinese New Year, Observe Italian wine coop evolution, OMG yummy Prosecco #ItalianFWT

February is a happy month to me every year as the Lunar Chinese New Year (CNY) usually falls in this month. CNY, by far, is the most celebrated holiday for Chinese and a lot of Asian people around the globe. On top of that, I’m very excited to explore the topic of Italian wine cooperatives (coop) with our #Italian FWT February host Kevin Gagnon from Snarky Wine as I have heard about the significance of this form of wine operation to the Italian wine industry - particularly how it helps smaller grape producers to realize their dreams to become winemakers, using shared winemaking facilities and marketing efforts under the larger coop brand.  A big shout-out to Susannah Gold from Avvinare, who has sourced the Val d’Oca Proseccos samples from Prestige Wine Imports Corp. Let’s do a few fun things here - Celebrate Chinese New Year, Observe Italian wine coop evolution, and OMG yummy Prosecco!

Celebrate Chinese New Year
Cooking and eating traditional CNY dishes is one of the most important parts of celebrating the festivity. Recalling the many “New Year” dishes that were served during CNY in Hong Kong when I grew up – steamed whole chicken drizzled with minced ginger and scallion oil, braised dried scallops and sea cucumbers, abalones, and shiitake mushrooms, steamed whole fresh grouper, pan-fried tiger shrimp in spicy peppery salt…, it was a big meal in family style to share in our house. With a healthier-eating resolution for my own family this year, I simplified a whole lot and cooked to the wines too - Val d’Oca Proseccos - with a seafood themed CNY dinner. I pan-fried some seabass (i.e., the word “fish” and “leftover money” sound the same in Chinese), sticking with the tradition to cook and eat food that brings good luck for the rest of the year. I made a mildly hot and sour soup with mixed seafood medley and sliced shiitake mushrooms (i.e., a soup with a lot of ingredients is to bring abundance) and noodles tossed in ginger and scallion infused oil (i.e., noodles are to bring longevity). These seafood dishes not only are “meant” well but go well with the Val d’Oca Proseccos.
Photo Credit:
Cantina Produttori di Valdobbiadene - Val D'Oca, which was established in 1953, is a leading Prosecco coop in Italy. Located in Treviso, the northeastern part of Italy, it is one of the oldest coops, out of the 484 wine coops in the country. It consists of nearly 600 growers within 800 hectares of vineyards. For many years, Val d’Oca has been focused on producing quality wines at a good value, aiming to promote the efforts of its members and communicating the production stages, from grape growing to bottling of wine to consumers. Val d’Oca has invested significantly into technological updates, vinification and lab controls, ensuring continual improvements on the quality of the harvest and sustainability of their member growers’ vineyards. 
Observe Italian wine coop evolution
A wine cooperative (coop) is an organization that has built facilities for winemaking and the production of wines and allows its members to produce wine under the same brand(s) in their portfolio. Members of the coop, often the farmers who grow the grapes, will share the operational and marketing costs for using the facilities and leveraging the marketing efforts. Coops are particularly popular when a grape-growing region has a lot of smaller farmers, who may not have the means to produce wines on their own if they have not had the opportunity to use the shared facilities to debut their wines. 
“Italy’s cooperative movement, or cantina sociale, is as strong as in any wine-growing country in Europe. Producing more than 60% of Italy’s wines, co-ops represent a vital part of the national wine industry and, happily for the wine lover, offer myriad wines of fantastic value and quality.” – Simon Reilly, Decanter, January 2018 

OMG yummy Prosecco!
Well, the effort of Val d’Oca is evidential in their Proseccos. Their sparkling wines are made with Glera grapes that are cultivated and vinified in the hills of Valdobbiadene. Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay are added to the Prosecco for extra textures and tastes where the styles see fit.

Prosecco Millesimato Extra Dry (SRP$17.99) is a vintage-dated sparkling wine made exclusively of Prosecco Superiore Valdobbiadene DOCG grapes. It smells like morning meadow on the white flowers. On the palate, it’s crisp but a bit toasty. The green apple notes are throughout with a salivating finish! Nothing can’t beat this with the pan-fried seabass which is cooked perfectly with only a bit of salt for seasoning!
Prosecco DOC Treviso Extra Dry (SRP $12.99) is a crisp and citrusy and has the aromas of peaches and apples. It’s perfect with finger food and crunchy vegetables like the vegetarian spring rolls and stir-fried string beans I have made. 
Rosé Sparkling Extra-Dry (SRP $12.99) has the festive color for CNY. The Rosé has fresh strawberry notes on the nose. It’s luscious, floral and red berry on the palate. Pairing it with my Chinese desserts like candied ginger and glutinous black rice cake is simply awesome.

Disclaimer: Wines are samples. Ideas and opinions are mines. 

Check out the #ItalianFWT bloggers’ Italian wine coop experiences…