Archive for the ‘Review spanish wine’ Category

Yes, You Can Pair Chicken and Wine


It’s the meat that gets no respect.

It’s considered the “cheap” choice on restaurant menus, and the boring, cook-it-when-you-can’t-think-of-anything-better dinner choice.

But add some sauce and spice, pair it with the right bottle of wine, and you’ve got a great meal.

So invariably people ask me, “Which wine should I serve with chicken?” And I have to say… “It depends.”

“Oh, right,” you say. “I knew it couldn’t be simple.”

But is. Because there’s really only one Tried and True Rule of Food and Wine Pairing.

Before I unveil this Guiding Principle, let me walk you through a little case study. Let’s say you’re cooking Chicken Parmesan, with a rich Marinara Sauce and some melted cheese. What’s the dominant flavor? What stands out in your mouth? Is it the taste of the chicken breast, or the taste of the tomato sauce?

And if you cook an elegant Chicken Piccata, drizzled with Lemon Butter Caper Sauce, what do you taste? You taste the lemons and capers, if you cook it the way I do.

So the dominant flavor of any dish is the sauce or the spicing, not the base meat or vegetable.

Aha! Now you see where I’m going. If someone asks, “Which wine should I pair with chicken,” I ask, “How are you preparing it?” If they say, “With Parmesan Sauce,” I go for a red: maybe a lighter Italian red such as Barbera or a Toscano blend; maybe a Spanish Tempranillo or Garnacha; maybe a Malbec from Argentina. The point is that I want to drink a red to complement the tomato sauce, and especially a red with some acid to match the acid in the tomatoes.

That’s not too complicated, right?

So let’s do the Picatta Chicken. I want a wine that can stand up to tart lemon and tangy capers, so I’ll go with a crisp, dry white. I don’t want an oak-aged wine like Chardonnay, because it won’t set off the lemon. I think I’d like a Sauvignon Blanc, or a European white. How about a Pinot Grigio? Or how about a dry Greek white? Greek cooking uses a lot of lemons, so we know it’ll work.

It’s that simple.


There are other considerations, and rules of thumb that folks have discovered by trial and error. But it’s not rocket science. Say, what wine do you think they should drink on rocket ships? We’ll talk about that next time. Cheers!

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Letting Sherry Out of The Closet

sherryIf you have a friend named Sherry, I’m not talking about her. I’m talking about the fortified wine from Jerez, Spain.

Sherry isn’t something I think about much in my drinking life, but I bumped into it when a friend sent me a very cool article from the Wall Street Journal online. You can read the whole article for yourself, or get the Reader’s Digest version here.

The gist of the article is really very simple:

a – While we all have a vague idea that Sherry is a classy beverage that the “cultured” folk enjoy, 99% of the drinking public doesn’t think they like it, even though they’ve never tried it.

b – The average (wine) bar go-er has only a foggy idea of what it is, and according to the WSJ article, can’t even be persuaded to drink it for free!

Apparently, in 21st century America, only wine geeks — i.e. Frazier and his brother and those of us who work in the business — actually buy it. And the article explains why: there is a dizzying array of styles and sweetness levels, and the only Sherry that’s been popularized is “sticky sweet,” i.e. fit only for your Great Aunt Ethel. The average wine shopper isn’t about to take the time to ferret out the kind of Sherry he/she might actually enjoy, so they walk right past the Sherry section and head for the Ports. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Wine Lady’s Wine Wars: France Vs Spain

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A Classic Wins Again: A Review of Lan Crianza 2006

lanIf you wanted to name the classic wine regions of the world — the ones who’ve been producing great wines for centuries or more — you’d have a relatively small “short list.”  It would include Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhine River Valley, Chianti, and Rioja. And arguably a few more.

But the one I want to talk about today is Rioja. Wine has been produced for over a thousand years in this beautiful region along the banks of Spain’s Ebro River. Its great reds are made from a grape called Tempranillo, and have been respected for centuries for their longevity and Old World elegance. They are only medium-bodied: the joy of tasting a Rioja isn’t in the blockbuster palate, but in the soft cherry fruit, vanilla oak, and balanced acid on the finish.

For me, the acid’s the thing: it’s what makes Spanish reds such a treat when you put them with food. I just drank Bodegas Lan Crianza 2006 with a supper I threw together from what happened to be in my kitchen  — Italian Sausage Tortellini, leftover Spicy Marinara Sauce and Wilted Spinach. It was a knock-out impromptu meal, but it got even better when I uncorked the Lan Crianza. The nose, first of all, was warm and rustic, with lots of jammy berry, mocha and vanilla. The palate gave me the bright cherry fruit and a hint of tobacco, and with every bite of my Tortellini, the crisp acid jumped in at the end. That lovely “bite” kept my palate jumping, and made the (acidic) red sauce taste even better. And take note — the half bottle that I didn’t finish with my meal tasted even better the next day. Read the rest of this entry »

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Wine on Fire: Garnacha de Fuego 2009

fireI just had an orgasmic food and wine experience. And it wasn’t something exotic, like Sauteed Seaweed and Toasted Coconuts paired with Romanian Sauvignon Blanc. It was just pizza. Good old American Pizza, and I ate it with a Spanish wine called Garnacha de Fuego Old Vines 2009.

The pizza was simple — my favorite Hawaiian pizza, which is a potentially odd combo of red sauce, ham and pineapple (easy on the cheese). The flavors are unexpectedly great: the sauce is tangy, the baked pineapple is sweet, and the ham is salty. What could be better?

The wine is also relatively simple. It says right on the label that it’s made from the Grenache grape (that’s Garnacha in Spanish), and it comes from a region in Northeastern Spain called Catalayud. It’s pretty hot during the day in Catalayud, but pretty cool at night, and if you want to get technical about it you’d call that an extreme “diurnal temperature shift.” But we’re being simple here, so we’ll just say this is a great combination of temperatures for growing wine grapes. The heat ripens the fruit, and the cold creates good acid in the grapes. Acid contributes to a well-balanced wine (it’s not too soft or “flabby”) and also makes it kick ass with tomato sauce, like the kind on my Hawaiian pizza.

Garnacha de Fuego comes from a winery called Bodegas Ateca, which makes many 90+ point wines and is a collaboration between the Gil family (who make 90+ wines such as Juan Gil) and Jorge Ordonez. I’ve written other posts about Ordonez, who I consider to be the world’s best negociant. He finds great Spanish wines at every price point and brings them to us here in the USofA, and I for one have enjoyed every one I’ve tasted. Read the rest of this entry »

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Luzon Returns

luzonSpanish reds rock.

I’ve written several (positive) reviews of Spanish Garnacha, Monastrell and Tempranillo, and this one will be the story of a prodigal. Well, kinda…

Bodegas Luzon used to be distributed in my state by the importer/negociant Jorge Ordonez. I’ve said in other reviews that the wines in his portfolio are, almost without exception, exceptional. But something must have gone down between Jorge and the Luzon folks, because Luzon was suddenly absent from the Ordonez book. I thought the line was gone for good, until it re-surfaced recently from another supplier. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Great Debut for Spain’s 2009 Vintage: Montebuena Rioja 2009

montebuenaI saw the vintage “2009″ on this wine’s label and thought, “How can this be ready to drink? And how can this have already earned a very stellar rating from the world’s foremost Wine God?”

I was skeptical. But the rating acted like peer pressure on a teenager and made me try it.

And I’m glad I did. I really enjoyed this wine, despite its young age. It’s an infant compared to the Rioja Crianzas and Reservas that aren’t released until they’ve undergone years of barrel and bottle aging. But Montebuena Rioja 2009 is like a precocious youngster — it’s fresh, bright and a little cheeky, and we know it’ll get even better with age.

Montebuena is 100% Tempranillo from the Rioja region in northern Spain. While the southern part of the country had a cool, rainy season in 2009,  the North fared better.  Warmer-than-average temperatures and less-than-average rainfall threatened to shrivel the grape crop, until rains in September cooled things off and allowed the vineyards to recover.  The result seems to be intense fruit with  great concentration and balance. Some critics are even calling 2009 an exceptional vintage.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Another Man of La Mancha? Finca Sandoval “Salia” review

la manchaWe like Spanish reds. A Lot. We’ve enjoyed the cheap and cheerful, under$10 values such as Vina Borgia, Protocolo, and Borsao. And we’ve positively salivated over the big, lush, super-premium reds like El Nido Clio (scarce as hen’s teeth and now kinda pricey, thanks to an unbroken chain of 92+ ratings) and Finca Sandoval (ratings just as high, and just as big, brawny and rich).

So I practically jumped up and down and squealed “Yippee” when I heard there was another entry in the Great Tasting But Affordable Spanish Red Sweepstakes. Finca Sandoval “Salia” 2007 is the “everyday” red made at the estate of Spanish journalist Victor de la Serna. The estate is located in a recently-named D.O. called Manchuela, which is snugged between two rivers in southeast Spain’s La Mancha district. What, another Man Of  La Mancha? (Sorry, I’ve always loved Broadway musicals and couldn’t resist the pun).

Manchuela has existed as a recognized wine region since 2000, and is know for cultivating a little-known red grape called Bobal. That grape is included in the high-priced Finca Sandoval bottling, But the Salia includes 50% Syrah, 38% Alicante Bouchet and 12% Garnacha. The nose is intense and fragrant, with hints of blueberries and cedar, and the color is dark and opaque, suggesting a wine you’ll need to cut with a knife and fork. So I was surprised at the bright fruit on the palate, and the soft vanilla spice in the middle (it was generously oaked, with 11 months in mostly French oak barrels). Of course, there was still a rich and weighty mouthfeel, since Salia is unfined and infiltered, like all the Finca Sandoval wines.

This whole package sells for well under $20 ($18 here) and is a tremendous value at that price. It’s also part of the Jorge Ordonez portfolio, which I’ve stated is the best collection of imported wines that I know of. Once again, Ordonez delivers a top quality wine that’s way better than just “everyday”. Enjoy Salia with a hearty meal — a side of beef, maybe?

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Embrace the Diversity: The New Wines On The Block

signpostWe’ve all seen it happen: you’ve got the status quo going nicely in your company, your school, or your neighborhood. Everyone knows where they stand in the pecking order: who’s the boss and who are the supporting cast. So when someone new moves into town, you expect them to work their way up the ladder, and pay their dues along the way.

But what if they don’t? What if they just come storming into the neighborhood, acting like they own the place. Or not acting at all – just taking charge by doing what they do very well.

If you’ll pardon the long-winded analogy, that’s exactly what’s happening in the wine world with the so-called “emerging wine regions.” Countries such as Spain, Argentina and Chile are taking American wine markets by storm.

Of course, they’re “emerging” only to us North Americans. These countries have a much stronger wine-drinking heritage than North Americans and have been producing wine, and lots of it, for centuries. But much of it was relatively low quality stuff. That’s all changed in the last five to 10 years with significant improvements in vineyard practices, grape quality and winemaking technology. We’re now seeing lots of good, better and best quality wines from these countries – and often at bargain prices. They’re giving domestic producers a run for their money. Read the rest of this entry »

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Happy New Years, Any Time of the Year: Review of Cristalino Brut

champagneSo, how many of you out there remember The Millenium? It was supposed to be The New Years Eve To End All New Years Eve’s.  It was when the Big Universal Clock  was going to roll from 1999 to 2000, and all the world’s technology was going to (maybe) come crashing down.

So we all planned our New Year’s Eve celebrations very carefully. We wanted the most bang for our buck, since this might be our last buck (hopefully not our last bang…). Anyhow, I was bringing the bubbly to our party. I considered U.S. sparklers, of which there are many I like, and  even an Aussie  sparkler or two. But what I settled on was this: Cristalino Brut Cava, a wonderful (and wonderfully cheap) sparkling wine from Spain. I popped it open at midnight, and two things happened: 1- the world didn’t come to an end, and 2- everyone loved my bubbly.

Cava is the name the Spanish use for their sparkling wine, and before you get all “wine snob” about it, let me assure you that Cava’s can rival French Champagne for quality. They are made in exactly the same way as the French: the Cristalino bottle says, “Metodo Tradicional”, meaning “Made in the traditional Champagne way”. It is also “Fermented in this bottle”, which means the second fermentation has been allowed to happen just like in Riems, France. And that’s a good thing… Read the rest of this entry »

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