Monday, August 29, 2011

Tour Of Italy

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a foodie.  I love to cook all types of food.  Both of my grandmothers were good cooks and I often baked with my maternal grandmother.  I guess things rubbed off.  One of my favorite kinds of food is Italian.  I think I cook that more than anything, especially in the cooler months.  And along with Italian food, you HAVE to have Italian wine.  For a long time I stuck to the two best known varieties…Pinot Grigio and Chianti.  But after looking at the wine list a couple week ago at one of the Italian restaurants in Disney’s Epcot, I realized that there are many more out there.  So, I hit my local store looking for some new Italian wines to try.

I headed to the white section first.  There were quite a few that fit my budget criteria so it was hard to choose.  I ended up choosing one with a cute little bee on the label (you know me and cute labels) that cost $8.99.  Of course, the label was in Italian but it APPEARS the vineyard is called Cren dell’ Ape and the variety is Piemonte Cortese 2009.  Ahh, I DID know that meant it came from Italy’s Piedmont region and I was right.  The back label said the wine was produced from Piedmont’s traditional white grapes.  The nose was very floral and fruity.  I tasted fall fruits like apples and pears with a floral hint in the background.  It was very crisp and light…perfect for a hot Florida summer evening.  After sampling it by itself, I had it along with my dinner…spaghetti with peas and pancetta.  It went well with the goat cheese in the pasta and I think it would also go well with chicken and seafood.  At that price, I’ll definitely be getting it again.

The second bottle I chose is a 2010 Pinot Grigio.  I chose it because it was labeled as one of the stores Top 10 White Wines for summer.  This bottle cost $9.99.  Again, the label was in Italian but I THINK the vineyard is I vigneti di Albino Armani.  It also said the wine was an Alfio Moriconi Selection although I’m not sure what that means.  The back label said the wine comes from the delle Venezie IGT area which is comprised of Veneto, Terntino, Alto Adige and Friuli Venezia.  The grapes come vineyards that have been owned for four centuries.  The wine was very good.  This one also smelled of fall fruit and had a nice crisp flavor with a hint of pear.  The label said the wine id very versatile.  I sampled it alone but I think it would pair well with the same foods as above.  It’S another good wine to sip on a warm summer evening.

The last wine I chose was a red.  This particular wine was on the store’s Top 10 Red Wines for summer.  It is a 2009 Sangiovese from Mantelassi vineyards in the Maremma coastal area of Tuscany.  This bottle also cost $9.99 and indicated it was an Alfio Moriconi Selection as well.  The wine is made from 100% Sangiovese grapes and aged in steel tanks.  It was a beautiful ruby red color with the aroma of berries.  The berries came through in the taste along with a bit of earthiness.  It was fruity and well balanced and very easy to drink.  The label recommended pairing it with pasta, pizza and grilled meat so my husband and I tried it with grilled flank steak.  The pairing was wonderful.  I can’t wait to try it with some pasta and homemade tomato sauce.

I am so glad I have branched out beyond the run of the mill Italian wines.  I look forward to trying more and pairing them with some new Italian dishes!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

They Come From The Lands Down Under

I’ve always been a bit fascinated by Australia and New Zealand.  I’m not sure if it’s the opposite seasons or the cool accents but I would LOVE to travel to both places one day.  Since a trip like that is not in the budget right now, I have to settle for drinking their fabulous wines.  There is a plethora of affordable wines out there from both countries and I am having a lot of fun trying them all.

Last weekend I was on the prowl for some new Down Under wines.  I was shopping at my local ABC rather than Total Wine so the selection wasn’t quite as good but I did manage to find three that fit my budget.  I couldn’t wait to go home and try them.

I picked up two varieties from the Nugan Estate Winery in Australia.  Nugan is one of Australia’s Top 20 wine exporters and they are the 18th largest vineyard holders in Australia…certainly nothing to sneeze at!  They have been in business for more than 65 years so they are obviously doing something right.  I picked two varieties from their Vision label which is their second estate label.  Both bottles cost $10.99.  The first variety I tried was the 2009 Chardonnay.  I had a friend sample it with me and we drank it by itself.  The color was a lovely light yellow with an almost green tint.  I detected the aroma of peaches and spice with a hint of vanilla.  The peach carried over to the flavor.  It was slightly acidic with a dry finish.  I think it would go well with seafood so I think when I buy it again, I’ll try that pairing.

The second variety tried was the 2009 Shiraz.  It was a lovely deep red color with hints of chocolate and spice in the aroma.  The taste was full-bodied with hints of mocha and spice.  My husband and I tried it alone at first and we both agreed it was very good.  We also had a glass with our pasta and meatballs one night and I thought it went well with it.  I think it would also go well with red meat dishes and anything a bit spicy.  We’ll definitely be buying it again.

The third wine I picked up was from Smythe & Renfield in Marlborough, New Zealand.  I tried the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc and like the other two bottles, it cost $10.99.  Upon pouring I noticed the hint of citrus and tropical fruit which carried over to the flavor which was very crisp.  I still have some left and I plan on trying it with some grilled seafood later this week.  I think the two would pair well.

As I continue to sample new wines from the lands down under, I’ll daydream of the day when I can actually drink the wines while in their country of origin.  Maybe some day….

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hola Verdejo…And Other Spanish Wines

My sister introduced me to Spanish wines a couple of years ago.  I believe the first one I tried was a Tempranillo but I’m not sure.  Since then I have bought a couple of Spanish wines here and there but I don’t buy them regularly.  In my effort to expand my wine tastes, I decided to pick up three bottles on my last trip to Total Wine.  There were plenty of affordable options to choose from and since I love to pass on a good deal, a new article topic emerged!

The first one I tried was a white wine.  It was a Verdejo from the Palma Real winery in Rueda, Spain.  The card next to the display explained that it was an unoaked white wine.  The vintage was 2009 and the bottle cost $11.99.  The first glass I drank by itself.  I was pleasantly surprised at the floral and citrusy nose and the crisp acidic flavor.  It was very pleasant to drink on a hot Florida summer day. The next night I paired it with grilled chicken, brown rice pilaf and a salad.  It went wonderfully and I later found that grilled chicken was a recommended pairing along with grilled seafood, shrimp scampi and pasta salads.  Shrimp scampi is a favorite in my household so I will definitely pick up another bottle of this wine the next time I make it.

The next wine I tried was one of the two reds I had chosen. It came from the Bodegas Montecillo winery in Rioja.  It was a 2007 Tempranillo which was aged for more than a year in oak barrels and then aged for an additional year in the bottle.  It cost an affordable $9.99.  It was a beautiful garnet color and had the aroma of fresh fruit and vanilla.  As I sipped, I detected the taste of dark berries with a slightly spicy and woodsy hint.  It was fresh and medium bodied.  I drank it alone at first but then paired it with a grilled flank steak.  The two went quite well together.  Other recommended pairings were meat dishes, mild cheeses, paella, and spicy dishes.  My husband liked it a lot so I am sure this will find its way into our cart again.

The last wine I tried was another Tempranillo from Rioja.  This one came from the Monte Clavijo winery.  It was a 2010 vintage and cost an even more economical $8.99.  The flavors were very similar to the one above…fresh with hints of cherry and berry.  It was light and very delightful on its own so I didn’t end up pairing it with anything but they say it pairs well with pasta and meat dishes.  My husband liked this one as well so maybe I will try it the next time I whip up a batch of pasta with homemade sauce.

I know there are many more Spanish wines out there so I think will continue to say “Hola” to the different varieties and I encourage others to do the same.