20060428

It's the 100% most boring post of all time

Weingolb is too young to die; too tedious to keep soldiering on without a tiresome play-by-play. So here is the most boring blog post ever. [It's so boring, I fell asleep before I could finish uploading it on Friday.]

Ready?

This is the 100th post on Doktor Weingolb, and a few days ago this site saw for the very first time 100+ visitors within 24 hours.

But wait! There's more...

a la wine top forty rankThe debut appearance by Weingolb on Alawine's 100 Top Wine Blog Rankings has also just been announced. Weingolb is number 43! (See clickable image.)

And that's not all. Also during this past week, I've hosted visitor 3000 and now today I'm acknowledging Weingolb's five-month anniversary! December 1, 2005 seems like just yesterday. Yeah! I'm hosting, or whatever it is they say on Saturday Night Live.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge receiving the 100th response to this blog. The comments, emails, and hate letters have at long last tallied up to 100. Here's hoping I don't have to wait as long for the next hundred.

So it's a sudden surge of benchmarks here at Doktor Weingolb. I found the succession of events so stupefyingly uninteresting that I had to publish them. Sometimes this stuff is too good to keep to yourself.

20060427

Top Ten Reasons to Get Married in Ontario

Or, Hooch to get hitched to in Ottawa on June 17, 2006.


keith haringMy dear friend Catherine is planning a beautiful June wedding. The invitations, wonderful Keith Haring-inspired cards which she made herself, are fantastic. A real testament to do-it-yourself quality.

For the wine to be served during her reception, Catherine thought she might hand-select some affordable but respectable bottles. That way, she could avoid having the usual bulk wine hauled in, such as Kressmann. I've never had Kressmann's jug wine, and up until now I assumed it was made from cheap Ontario grapes. It actually is a French product, and I'm sure it's incapable of ruining a wedding reception.

Nevertheless, upon request I provided some names of bottles in the $10-15 range that are available through the LCBO site -- hence that ever-important LCBO/Vintages number that follows the price. I'm sure the list below could be lengthened with additional ideas for pleasing dinner wines. Feel free to add your suggestion.


  1. W Château Bonnet $12.90 LCBO 83709
  2. R La Vieille Ferme $10.55 LCBO 263640
  3. W Mission Hill Pinot Blanc $12.95 LCBO 300301
  4. R Fortant de France Merlot $11.70 LCBO 433177
  5. W Concha Y Toro Trio $13.95 VINTAGES 433938
  6. R Concha Y Toro Trio $14.95 VINTAGES 433912
  7. R Rocca Delle Macie Chianti $10.55 LCBO 269589
  8. R Deakin Estate Shiraz $12.10 LCBO 560821
  9. W Gentil Hugel $14.95 VINTAGES 367284
  10. R Etchart Cafayate Cab Sauv $10.10 LCBO 362186

20060426

Today's post: "Sauvignon Blank"

This space is devoted to reaction to the recent claims of Mike Steinberger, who wrote that the Sauvignon Blanc "grape is a dud, producing chirpy little wines wholly devoid of complexity and depth ... limp, lemony liquid that grows progressively more boring with each sip."
drawing a sauvignon blank

20060425

My Bordeaux 2005 tasting notes

2005 Château Roquetaillade La GrangeWell, I'm fresh back from my Bordeaux 2005 tasting, which was held in my kitchen.

Now that I've arrived in the bedroom and I reach for my laptop with the hand opposite to the one that's cradling my glass of Graves white wine, 2005 in Bordeaux has really sunk in as being one of the finest vintages I can recall.

Alright, I admit I don't have a firm grip on what most of recent vintages in Bordeaux were like. What, you're expecting Jancis Robinson here? While I do find her one of the most demystifying wine writers as I indicated here, I am choosing to be even more down-to-earth. So click her link in the sidebar to read her full report or continue reading this post if you want a more basic approach to the current Bordeaux yields, the topic that is continually capturing the wine world at the moment.

WHAT 2005 MEANS TO THE EVERYDAY WINE CONSUMER

Here's the deal. I wanted to partake in all this new amazing vintage talk, but in a way that would benefit me and others like me, who are of simple means. I wanted to know if the affordable 2005 Bordeaux bottles that are coming out now (only whites for the time-being) have noticeably improved. So to best compare the current offering to previous vintages, I took a 2004 and a 2005 of the same bottle and tasted it blind. Here are the results of my investigation.

  • Tasting things blind really require blind tasting glasses -- the kind that are made of black glass and shield any perception of colour. Because I don't have any, I could immediately differentiate the current vintage from the old one. The 2005 was obviously more lightly pigmented than the 2004, which had a gold tinge to it. I didn't need to taste anything to tell the vintages apart.

  • When I turned out the lights and started over again, I made more headway:
    • The bouquet on one was of lemongrass; on the other, it was softer and more reminiscent of white flowers

    • On the palate, the first one possessed a silky texture and notes of litchi -- it was very balanced and refreshing; the second one was less so and instead had a weightiness to it that was marked by thoroughly ripened and slightly spicy fruits

    • As for a finish, the first one excelled: it was what I consider perfect for a lively Sémillon-Sauvignon blend, harmonious and delicious with traces of vanilla lingering amid the citrus flavours you'd expect. Yes, the first glass I had been tasting throughout was the 2005. It was remarkable and at $15, this 2005 Château Roquetaillade La Grange (clickable, above) is highly recommended.


  • Finally, this tasting made me realize how ageing impacts a wine and how that affects comparison, especially for white wine which are generally "drink now". Comparing a new vintage to previous years in side-by-side tastings can never be a perfect gauge unless you are referring to tasting notes made when those previous vintages were new. When you base your comparison on how a wine tastes during the same period in a wine's life, you more accurately assess the value of a particular year and, in this case, best determine how formidable 2005 in Bordeaux is.

Okay Jancis you win. 2005 is your year. See you and your notes next April.

20060421

Wineblogwatch Watch

If you found this post via wineblogwatch, you're one of the first to do so in a long while. Welcome!

And welcome back wineblogwatch. You've been greatly missed. It's nice to know that the wineblogwatch watch is finally over.

Since I like wine blogs, I love the wineblogwatch listing. I don't think that I'm alone on this. Lots of other people love it too. Too many people. I think all of us swarmed around and broke it earlier this week. But as of this late this morning, those 238 links to posting blogs were back up and running.

I wonder what happened and whether it's related to eWineCentral's frequent crashes during the week (at post time, this attractive aggregate webpage built to look like a broadsheet newspaper was again unavailable but it has been showing flickers of life).

You would think that there would be some mention regarding the absence of these sites somewhere in the blogosphere, but as far as I know, I am the only one to note its disappearance. No conspiracy theories here, just best wishes for a happy clicking weekend ahead.

20060420

One of ten: the Gamay cru by Louis Tête ("Les Charmes" 2004)

Louis Tête Morgon
From the Appellation America entry on Gamay:

Given a more standard red wine fermentation, Gamay can produce more serious wines. The best examples come from ten small ‘Cru’ villages in the Beaujolais hills, particularly those from the commune of Moulin-a-Vent. The wines made here often can age in the medium term, gaining mature Pinot Noir-like qualities.

The Louis Tête Morgon "Les Charmes" 2004 has a powerful red berry aroma that you notice as soon as you open the bottle. Then when you taste it, there's a hint of pepper that you might expect from the land where the Rhône reaches up to Burgundy. Since this wine was not aged at all, I wasn't looking for any Pinot Noir impressions. Instead I was looking for why Beaujolais has been praised as the food-friendliest of wines.

Viewing it in the glass this is clearly Beaujolais, lightly pigmented and almost vermillion in colour. It has strong complexity on the palate and while the finish is balanced, it has such a tart, bracing grip I could see why a blind taster might mistake this for a white wine. Close your eyes and the colour red is gone.

A WINE THAT CHARMS A MEAL, A WINE THAT HARMS A MEAL

Nevertheless this wine intrigued me. Dining on a highly-seasoned salmon filet with basil pasta and blanched broccoli, I imagined myself buying more of this wine. But then I tasted it again on the following evening with virtually the same meal, substituting trout instead of salmon and turnip instead of pasta (lightest of wines and heftiest of root vegetables does not make for a good complement so avoid turnip and Gamay combinations -- you probably don't need to try this to believe me). The trout was delicious but "Les Charmes" had faded into a citrusy and piquant shadow of what it was the previous evening.

Personally, I am not sold on the idea that this style of wine is the perfect food wine. Light-bodied but earthy Loire reds, often touting Cabernet Franc, seem to better fill that role. As for this Beaujolais, drink young and drink now, I guess. Charming ain't a long-term investment, cru du Beaujolais or not. (Speaking of "cru" designations, I didn't realize that even this Duboeuf was a cru.)

"Les Charmes" is among the first Old World reds now appearing on shelves in the 2005 vintage. While the 2004 is still available, if you are in Quebec you might notice them disappearing fast. Michel Phaneuf gave it one the best reviews for a 2004 Beaujolais.

St-Didier, Beaujeu, France. 13%.

20060419

2006 Montreal Gift Show

montreal gift show art goblets wine craftsYesterday I made bookings for a trip to Montreal -- my parents', not mine. They will be attending the Montreal Gift Show, which runs from Sunday, August 27 to Wednesday, August 30. This image is from the show's site. Click on it for more detailed information.

I realize that this giant exhibition is no Montreal Salon des vins. In fact, it barely makes for a blue-collar version of it with all the glasses sparkling prettily yet noticeably empty. And yes, it's a far cry from the exploits of Beau Jarvis of Basic Juice who will be reporting from Austria or the travels of Dr. Vino who took his blog to Argentina and back.

But for my mom, a wine accessories buyer, the event is her Olympiad. (I should tell you that it actually comes in Summer and Winter editions, with a show in early March being the inaugural and snowy start to this series.) Mom will definitely enjoy herself. She always does. And if you are searching for a fancy decanter, designer stemware, or a cavalcade of bottle openers, it may be the event for you too.

20060418

Leftover chocolate: Don't forget those Easter eggs you hid in the wine cellar

poulain dark chocolate promotional antique posterAlthough I realize that I may be relegating myself to the margins, I'd like to blog about a magazine article that was not written in English and is not available online. (If you're in Montreal you still might find this article lying around in the April 6 edition of Voir -- "Voluptueux Chocolat Noir" by Evelyne Fiorenza in the VLV section.)

The piece is about chocolate (specifically the chocolate Poulain makes, which is my personal favourite) and matching wine with it. It falls on the pro-pairing side of this trendy culinary debate.

Here's my attempt at a partial translation:

  • Good dark chocolate -- like chocolate bars from Poulain, which was founded in France's Loire Valley in 1848 by Victor Auguste Poulain and is now distributed by Cadbury Adams Canada -- makes for a wonderful pairing with wine.
  • A red wine, especially those featuring the grapes Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah, marries well with dark chocolate. Jordan Lebel, an associate professor at Cornell University's Hotel School, says that it is these wines that have pronounced tannins well as earthy aromas, setting up a near-perfect complement for pure and rich chocolate.

  • Cognac is also recommended, especially if you’re eating chocolate with raisins or dried fruits like cranberries, apricots or cherries.

  • Like wine, chocolate is temperature sensitive: it should be served at 19 to 25 degrees Celsius.

Other Lebel findings:

Poulain Noir Café, 64 per cent cocoa

Tasting notes: Dark chocolate with roasted coffee beans and caramelized cocoa nibs -- has dark coffee taste with undertones of caramel; distinct coffee flavour means it could be paired with coffee or a younger, more nervy red wine.

Poulain Noir, 76 per cent cocoa

Tasting notes: Rich, velvety, smooth dark chocolate with a hint of spice, bold cocoa notes and a fruity finish -- would go well with a bolder wine; Big-bodied red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are recommended.

Poulain Ultime Noir, 86 per cent cocoa

Tasting notes: Strong, full-bodied dark chocolate for connoisseurs -- light, fruity wine notes with deep nutty flavours, and a caramel finish; would go with malty stout beers or aged Cognac or Armagnac.

Note to my American cousins who may not have Poulain to taste: Winecentric is a new wine blog (a well done one too) that posted on wine and chocolate last month. Check out how the Winemaster pairs Hershey's with Merlot.

HOPPING LIKE A CHOCOLATE BUNNY

It turns out this Lebel guy really gets around with all his chocolate talk. When he was interviewed by CTV News, he said: "Let's say you're having a dinner and just finishing a bottle of wine, instead of going for a complicated dessert that will take hours to prepare in the kitchen, you can break off a piece of chocolate and see how well it goes."

Well, that's not rocket science -- I break off a little chocolate for myself after dinner almost every night. It's just too darn easy to keep some of the stuff on hand.

One only needs to toss a small supply in the fridge for safe long-term storage and then there's always dessert when it's needed. That way you won't have to rely on the errant eggs from last year's Easter hunt that you find hiding and forgotten behind your wine rack.

20060417

Blended and proud: Domaine Bousquet 2003

Domaine Bousquet 2003 vin de pays d'aude
In today's wine world, this blog and today's reviewed wine could be considered black sheep. Thoroughly blackened. Domaine Bousquet 2003 (click image above), as a French vin de pays, is all about blending lesser-known grapes -- the antithesis of popular New World varietals. And as for Weingolb, a quick scan down the index of entries in the sidebar reveals that as of this moment I have not made one mention of a single Californian wine. Ooops! Or I mean Baaa-aaa...

Well maybe black is my colour because I believe blends and other non-varietal wines are nothing to be feared, shunned or neglected. I get the impression that California has instilled in the wine-buying public a desire to drink a particular grape when they dine. Matching grapes to plates is a fine idea but so is a match based on a wine's style, terroir or any other attribute that transcends the presence of a certain grape variety.

Opening a bottle of Domaine Bousquet may be the ultimate test for followers of New World trends. It's a total mystery wine as far as the ingredients go. Like Colonel Sanders' 11 herbs and spices, the recipe here is not divulged, even within this descriptive record for vintage.

ENCÉPAGEMENT MYSTÉRIEUX

You have to be pretty proud (and possibly very French) not to reveal the grapes you've vinified to make your blend. Or maybe you just need to think about wine differently. What I mean is that this wine comes from the French department named Aude in Roussillon (of Languedoc-Roussillon, an industrious and sprawling wine region in south of France) and that might be all you really must know in order to make an informed decision about whether this Domaine Bousquet is the right bottle for you to open tonight.

Classic Roussillon style usually includes flavours of dried fruits, a dusty nose, and robustness that lends itself perfectly to simple everyday Mediterranean cuisine. It also sells for song, as many vin de pays do. This is perhaps the biggest reason not to get all fussy about whether your favourite grape is given top-billing on its label. Take a chance! The low pricepoint is like an invitation you can't refuse. Why not try something new and off the beaten path?

AN $8.95 GAMBLE REALLY PAYS OFF

The Domaine Bousquet 2003, with its secret juices and cheap cheap price, is an instant winner. I had made a flavourful and zesty gratin dish (rotini with zucchini and mushrooms with veal and pork meatballs) that carried the essence of good Mediterranean cooking; the wine had all trappings of a Roussillon as I suspected it would. The result was per-fection.

After a few sips, the wine brought more than I anticipated to the table. There was savoury quasi-coffee-ness about it. And it's hard not to notice all the wonderful jam-packed fruit shedding its sun-baked 2003 skin. The more I drank the more I remarked on how fruit-forward it was, offering up all kinds of berries.

Blueberry is mentioned in every tasting note I've come across for this wine, and while the rich and ripened pithiness of plump blueberry is definitely there, I also got fresh strawberries, topped with cracked peppercorn. This was not the effect of air opening things up since I chose not to decant and besides, mere minutes had passed since the cork came off. I guess this was a case of a hugely "food-oriented" wine accelerating upon contact with the ideal food pairing.

On the second night the wine was more cherry and more round. This made it more Rhône than Roussillon. In fact, it was reminded me of a very-cherry Valpolicella. This was not a predictable progression -- and because this is a light-to-medium-bodied wine, it was not as endearing as the night before. But then my perfect pasta dish was all gone, so it might've been the pairing that made my second tasting a little less explosive than the first.

For those of you still require convincing, please try it while it peaks now in all its youthful glory! For those of you don't require, stock up, uncork, and drink now!

J. M. Bousquet, Lezignan, France. 12%.

Backwash
Ten days ago, I wrote about how I needed to stock up on some of my favourite Australian Shirazs. When grilling season is at hand, you never know when you will require one and at short notice too.

As it turns out, also 10 days ago, SAQ shops started their Easter sale. It included the Deakin Shiraz out of Victoria, which along with Jacob's Creek, is one of my favourite Shirazs. What timing, what luck!

Lucky, except the SAQ doesn't want to advertise their best-value sale items. They put out a circular that nine times out of ten promotes their bottom-of-the-barrel cuvées that have to be cleared out and instead keep the reduced Deakins and Jacob's Creeks a secret. You won't find it on sale online, you won't see it in their ads, and you definitely won't see it in the listing of sale items in that circular. But all of the sudden on the last day of the sale (which is today, by the way) you'll stumble upon an empty shelf in one of their stores and it will say you can save $2 a bottle on Deakin Shiraz. I don't mind if my wine features a grape composition that's hidden, but what on earth is the point of a hidden sale?

Dear SAQ: Raincheck please!

20060415

Robinson from the rich gives to the poor: Domaines Barons Rothschild Réserve Spéciale 2001

Domaines Barons Rothschild Réserve Spéciale Pauillac 2001
The latest vintage of Bordeaux wines are being celebrated everywhere you click lately. Jancis Robinson, taking an educational and scientific approach in proclaiming her love of the 2005 crop, makes you want to care.

There's a big divide when it comes to Bordeaux. Jancis does a good job at bringing meaning to the everyday consumer. Sure, you'll hear about the fantastically expensive investments from Médoc or the earth-shattering achievements in Pomerol and that will likely go in one ear and out the other. But I really like this piece posted just today because it is so down-to-earth. No namedropping, just a timely demystification. Read it to find out why critics and vintners alike are pleased with virtually all current levels of output from Bordeaux.

FINDING YOUR OWN BALANCE IN BORDEAUX

There's another divide that Bordeaux wines present and unfortunately it lies between me and my dinner. The times that I have saved up for a rather fancy bottle, I end up feeling like it should be studied like homework rather than enjoyed with dinner. The Pauillac pictured above features exactly that kind of austere style.

It's the Domaines Barons Rothschild Réserve Spéciale Pauillac 2001 (no 2005 bottle will be appearing for some time as the 2003 reserves have now been released in Quebec). Its austerity starts with a heady aroma that doesn't give up much. There's a chalky, minerally nose; not a lot of fruit but tremendous balance of acid and earthy matter.

This wine has strong sharp edges (Jancis mentions 2001 being a particularly acidic year). Despite that, its consistency and structure is rather smooth and dignified. I guess this is what you call French elegance. Sure, there's no New World Cabernet Sauvignon attack, bold and vivid; instead you get refinement, unique and persuasive.

I eventually honed in on an interesting animal nuttiness on the palate that I have never identified in a wine before: some kind of cross between hazelnut and beef drippings. It's amazing how wines aged even longer than this one still need time to open up when you decant them.

Then on the second night I got more sauve textures. Dried fruit notes were stronger and complexity intensified. Still very full-bodied and structured. A thoughtful wine if not entirely pleasing at the dinner table -- after fixing two separate dinners to reel in this enigmatic wine I now feel like maybe the third time would be the charm. But it's too late, there's no wine left to serve.

IS BORDEAUX WORTH THE FRUSTRATION?

If a wine is ever said to be alive than I guess this one was. My rib-eye had stopped moving and it was the wine that was the moving target. This kind of dynamism garners Bordeaux its accolades but I feel a bit frustrated by it. While I got this bottle reduced (1/4 off the list price) I still had the feeling that the more you pay for a Pauillac, the less you'll be able to engage with it. Set it on a pedestal, not a dining room table.

Considering ageability factors, wine "futures", and the idea that rarity will trump quality in setting prices, the whole thing seems like too much of a gamble for the everyday wine consumer. I'm likely to avoid the exclusive appellations like Pauillac and favour the general Bordeaux one instead. I spend only $12 doing it, and am more satisfied with the whole thing.

I sound ignorant but it was in doing some research on the 1998 Bordeaux-inspired wine I wrote about in this space that I found more useful Bordeaux-buyer-beware news from Jancis:

...the cheapest wines were over £20 a bottle and the most expensive was the renowned Ch Pétrus which costs well over £1,000 a bottle. (I liked it, but no more than a wine, also served blind, that was being sold for £35 a bottle at the time of the tasting.)

Médoc, France. 12.5%

20060413

A splurge for Easter: Ceuso Custera 1998

Ceuso Custera 1998 expensive sicilian wines
Exactly one year ago, I changed a fundamental wine-purchasing behaviour in me. It could've had something to do with Lent ending and the Easter holidays arriving. Or it could've had to do with lent money and Easter wine sales arriving: I decided that I could (and should) start appreciating wines in the $30 to $40 range.

WITH MY SAY-SO

I happened upon a 25% off sticker on a bottle of Sicilian wine: Ceuso Custera 1998 (which I like to think is pronounced "Say-so!"). I figured that I enjoy everyday Sicilian wines -- wouldn't forking out an additional $20 make the experience with these southern Italian reds THAT much better? Besides, I was getting a deal: Spending less than $30 on a $40 bottle of wine. Surely this would be three times as good as Corvo, that lovely $13 standby from Duca di Salaparuta.

Mistake? The math might be right, but is the theory sound? These days, I have the wisdom to realize that wine prices are not set to scale with level of pleasure. In my experience, any semblance of a reliable scale will evitably crap out, usually somewhere around $21.85. After that you never know if you are paying for a name, prestige or a piece of history, all things that tend not to fare very well in a blind tasting.

THAT MAGIC MOMENT

But there I was at the cash, ready to take advantage of this sale. On the store's bookshelf, I had found a fairly positive sentence or two by way of review, and that was enough to guide me to my purchase. I expected anything else that was to follow to be measured by intangibles. After all, this was a wine worth more than any other I had ever bought home.

Actually, I had paid $40 for a single bottle in the past. But that was Champagne. $40 is strictly entry-level when it comes to a Black Label Lanson. A $40 Sicilian, on the other hand, is the total opposite -- it's pretty much through the stratosphere when it comes to this relatively rustic wine-producing region. There was going to be a genie jumping out of this bottle. I just knew there would be.

But later on with in-depth research on the Internet I heard the voices of many wine critics and industry authorities. While lauding the efforts of the winemakers that tended Ceuso's exclusive Custera vineyard, they cried out their alarm at such immodesty form this producer: a big and showy Bordeaux-like label, the brash trumpeting of stylish international grapes, and an indulgently-set price tag. This wine was good, they said, but with an elevated price. Never mind my Visa balance, would my modest discernment and young palate really be able to get around this Sicilian avant-garde?

What had I gotten myself into?

Another person might've holed away the bottle in guilt and then try to forget the extravagance. Me, I pretty much opened it on the spot, all by myself, for a look-see. There was still a few other bottles of the stuff remaining and I wanted to find out if I should scoop up more of this mark-down.

Well, short answer is yes, and I did buy another bottle which I kept until now. Regardless of pricing and all the reviews, this wine is for me. It's my style, and at one bottle per year, it's also a squeaker for my budget. As I await the 1999 vintage for my third purchase, here are the ravishing tasting notes from my second Ceuso.

WHAT I PAID FOR

The majority of the Ceuso Custera is made up of Nero d'Avola grapes, but Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are blended in to make this bottle part international, part regional. To the eye, this wine is muted garnet with brick edges. Clearly it is showing some of its age.

Ceuso is redolent with intriguing cedar flavours, an attribute that I often sense verging toward corkiness but not in this case. It's a warm and welcoming embrace. The aroma features blackberries and candied cherries with dusty tobacco on the palate.

On the second night, I was quite amazed at its evolution, so you may want to donate to this wine a portion of time in a decanter, despite its eight years. Drinkers may miss how, given time, Ceuso's gripping dryness melds with lingering fruit and vanilla notes for a fantastic finish. Now I know why I bought more of this wine: it was after I tasted it on the second night that the decision was made.

Alcamo, Sicilia, Italia. 13.5%.

20060412

WBW #20 Roussanne and Grenache Blanc: Château Roquebrun 2004 (blanc)

Château Roquebrun Coteaux du Languedoc 2004
Rosemary is the first thing I think about when I'm reaching for Château Roquebrun's white wine. Rosemary is an odd spice in a white, but I think comes out of three different aspects of this wonderful blend from the Midi in Southern France.

The first aspect is the beautiful intensity of this wine. It is concentrated and full. There's a mouthfilling attack, much like biting into a fresh rosemary sprig.
Secondly, there's an herbaceousness on the palate that you can't deny. Descriptive record after descriptive record says that this wine presents a pleasurable grapefruit flavour, and I can't argue that. Citrus is there, but that astringency also reminds me of piny herbal notes.

Speaking of pines, the wood in this wine is not shy. It's oak barrelled, which is the third aspect I'm talking about because an extra jolt of tannin brings me back to that slightly woody rosemary feel.

What, you hate rosemary? Forget I mentioned it. Château Roquebrun Coteaux du Languedoc 2004 is a superbly balanced wine. There are yeasty notes, baked pear, plus a floral and mineral nose. It's amber to golden in colour. And a bracing vineux finish that reminds you what a remarkable value this really is. I guess what I want to say is that there is something for everyone in this bottle.

SMOOTH LIKE CHARD, REFRESHING LIKE SAUVIGNON

If you still need convincing, let me tell you about how easy it is to pair with dinner. I don't know much about the Roussanne that makes up 80% of this blend, but in this particular case it seems to shapeshift to suggest both classic Chardonnay and classic Sauvignon Blanc pairings.

I've had it with creamy sauces and straight-ahead fish dishes. Exotic cuisine is no trouble either. A mild chicken jalfrezi, with its luscious coconut and sweet pepper, is a match. The innate sweetness of the wine (I'd say it approaches semi-dry just because it's almost as sweet as a Chenin Blanc) is perfect for Indian food.

A composed lettuce salad topped by mounds of tuna and capers, sliced carrots, blanched onions and cubed potatoes is another way you could go. I like to boil a medium-dice of grelot potatoes in a heavily flavoured beef stock. Remove just as they become tender. Then throw in sliced onion for thirty seconds. Then I rip up a Boston lettuce and add to it a balsamic and rice vinegar dressing. Top it all off with the garnishes and voilà: a nice composed salad and this Château Roquebrun Coteaux du Languedoc 2004 is at your service.

(Thanks to Bill at Wine for Newbies for hosting this month.)

Cave de Roquebrun, Roquebrun, France. 13%.

20060411

Four, three, two... and then there was one

People groan when they see me with a camera. With all the candid shots I have of wine being drunk by people I know, it's no wonder I end up drinking alone!

the paris foursome

nuptial nobodies three's a crowd at a table 26

the botanic duo

alone in montmartre

Research for my blog can be lonely work.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: The above image of me conducting a solo wine investigation at a bar in Montmartre coincidentally includes a bar drink [Thanks to Scratch Colin at See, Sip, Taste, Hear for pointing this out -- keep separating the poison ivy from the parsley, Colin]. This photo was taken just after I had swooped down to a table recently abandoned by locals. My forensic research was to find out more about why people would pass over the amazingly affordable French wine -- delicious and indigenous -- and opt for a canned bar drink instead. These locals had left behind clues for me: Prints of the Centre Pompidou made from poorly exposed negatives. A half-empty glass of rye and Coke with a twist. One swizzle stick, quickly cast aside and still moist with tiny droplets. Conclusion: These Parisians fled after suddenly realizing that they could've been taking well-developed pictures of each other drinking great French wine and saving money while doing it.)

20060410

Patience pays off for this Italian wine: Pasqua Sagramoso Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2003

Pasqua Sagramoso Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2003 venetian red
I probably sound like a broken record by now but here is wine that is definitely better the second night. Pasqua Sagramoso Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2003 is delicious after 24 hours! Valpolicellas often do benefit from aeration. I decanted half of the bottle and then later that night recorked the remainder in a mini-bottle. This allowed it to better develop flavours like rich ripe plum at the peak of its season coated in a spicy and savoury juice of fresh fieldberries and mixed with candied figs. Harmonious, balanced and engaging.

It really doesn't make a false note, while in its initial hours of consumption it seemed a bit less integrated, a bit more challenging and green. After a generous decanting (if you're serving the entire bottle at once rather than patiently waiting for the next day like I did, allow for two to three hours in a carafe) the intensity of young fruit cedes some ground to notes of well-worn leather. Any sourness on the palate becomes bittersweet.

Pasqua Sagramoso is a distinctive Valpolicella wine that uses the ripasso method. The producer explains that vinification process on its site.

AUTHENTIC PAIRING IDEAS

A friend of mine who once traveled to Italy thought the most striking thing about how Italians do dinner is their tepid approach. Dishes served in restaurants are never served hot out of the kitchen. Grilled vegetables have come to room temperature, cooked meat has had time to rest, and cherry tomatoes -- let those stew in the balsamic and oil dressing a good while before bringing them to the table.

So for an Italian wine that clearly benefits from a good breather like this one does, I would suggest dishes that you make ahead and then let sit for a bit (handy if you are entertaining guests or for summer cooking when you want to prepare ahead to avoid the peak late-afternoon heat):

Grilled zucchini steeped in a marjoram and lemon mixture, grape tomatoes baked in the oven and removed from the heat to let expand and contract...

Broccoli blanched until it gets a vivid shade of green and then left to mingle with a sprinkling of crushed fennel seeds and some oil and garlic...

An escalope of chicken in a marinade that gets tastier and more flavourful with every passing moment...

Patience!

Illasi, Verona, Italia. 13.5%.

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Mistakes in the wine cellar as well as the kitchen: Donnadieu Cuvée Mathieu et Marie 2004

clos bagatelle Donnadieu Cuvée Mathieu et Marie 2004
After putting sun-dried tomato oil, paprika, garlic and chilli peppers into a spicy marinade for grilling chicken and letting it stew with the escalopes in a bowl on the counter, I went off happily to uncork a nice Australian Shiraz. Usually, I have couple on hand in an old wine crate I stow "down under" at the bottom of a dark cupboard.

Lots of New World Cabernet, some Argentinean Malbec and a Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, but no Shiraz to speak of. The Shiraz was exactly what I needed: A dousing yet savoury refreshment to bold barbecue food. The oenologue's equivalent to Coca-Cola in the backyard. Mental note to self: start stocking some Jacob's Creek.

After some hesitation, I selected a substitute, brought it into the kitchen, and opened the bottle hastily. That was a mistake. I forget what it was that I thought would make a good Shiraz stand-in, but it was not happening. I likely put it aside for cooking use or pawned it off to whoever was willing and happened by in the days that followed -- I can't really remember. The point is I was grilling and knew exactly what I wanted in my glass. So I would try yet again to approximate that Shiraz I wanted and so I went off to pick another wine.

A SHIRAZ OF A DIFFERENT TRICOLOUR

I pulled out a Syrah -- France's Shiraz -- blended with Mourvèdre, Grenache and Carignan from Saint-Chinian. This one was stored willy-nilly on top of the refrigerator, in plain sight but often neglected. It was called Donnadieu Cuvée Mathieu et Marie 2004.

The Saint-Chinian appellation possesses AOC status and is nestled in the heart of the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Personally, I feel like I can recognize most Saint-Chinians by their slightly floral perfuminess. It's no Shiraz in that sense -- quite French really -- but it had other attributes that performed well during my impromptu barbecue night.

The nose was elegant and the colour was fine, but the truth to me was in the tasting. So here we have characteristic Syrah/Shiraz savouriness, and in surprisingly complex ways. There was a movement from pepper to fruit on the palate. Not disharmonious but notable nonetheless. Other notes of caramel and menthol introduced themselves too.

On the finish, the fruit was delicious. It was spicy bramble berries punctuated by light tannins. The Cuvée Mathieu et Marie was still juicy -- practically opulent -- for the second night. For that dinner there were no leftovers from the barbecue, but by this point I had pretty much forgotten the whole adventure that lead me to opening this bottle.

Les 4 VENTS, Saint-Chinian, France. 13%.