Wine on RECENTLY TASTED vol 10


By Jim Clarke
October 2007

Sparkling: Pommery ‘Cuvée Louise’ Rosé 1990, Champagne, France

I don’t often associate rosé with light, elegant styles of Champagne like Pommery’s —when they retain the grace, it’s generally at the cost of complexity. Not here, though; the red berry and peach aromas are there, but croissant, cinnamon, and marzipan notes round it out without weighing it down. The mousse, too, is light and smooth, with superb length on the finish.

Serve with: ham or prosciutto  Makoto Okuwa’s Shikaimaki with Parma Prosciutto and Parmigiano Reggiano
More Pink:  Rosé Champagne

White:Alain Paret ‘Lys de Volan’ Condrieu 2005, Rhône Valley, France

If I wanted to wean a California Chardonnay drinker off Chardonnay and introduce them to other varietals, I think I might start with Viognier. On the other extreme, I might do the same for someone who was stuck on off–dry Rieslings. In both cases, Viognier — especially Condrieu — offers something to help you get over the hurdle and into something different. For Chardonnay fans, a full–body and natural nuttiness are there to stand in for oak; for sweet–tooths, there’s that low acidity, which, while not sugary in itself, gives a softness and roundness that will seem reassuringly familiar. The ‘Lys de Volans’ is indeed full and rounded, with a good focus of hazelnut, marzipan, floral and fruity notes — especially tangerine and mango. It’s rich, but clean and lengthy…and for that matter, will certainly appeal to Viognier drinkers, too.

Serve with:  lobster  Morou’s Caramelized Lobster with Vanilla, Tapioca Risotto, and Fennel Confit
More whites from the south of France:  Jura

Red:Storybook Mountain Vineyards ‘Antaeus’ 2004, Napa Valley, California

In principle, this reminds me of many South African reds, blending Bordeaux varieties with hometown fave Pinotage. Of course, in Napa, the historical, “native” varietal is Zinfandel, so the effect is a bit different. Full–bodied, with lots of dark fruits like boysenberry, loganberry, and black raspberry, it’s capped with some definite licorice notes. There’s a slatiness, too, and despite its expressiveness while young, there’s the suggestion of more to come after some time in the bottle. In Greek mythology, Antaeus was a giant who drew his strength form being in touch with the earth; in this wine, that earth is definitely Californian.

Serve with: barbecued ribs Barbara Scott–Goodman’s Risotto with Porcini and Portobello Mushrooms
More from Napa:  Clos du Val

Dessert: Sandeman 40 Year Old Tawny Port, Portugal

There’s a cliché about Tawny Ports that says that 20 years old is the optimum age, and that after that there’s not enough fruitiness and the wine fades a bit. In actuality, it all depends on what stocks the producer has put aside to blend into their tawny; if they’re serious about tawnies and those reserves are extensive, there’s no reason a 40 year old can’t be exciting and very much alive. That’s the case at Sandeman’s; while not as overtly powerful as some, this Port is elegant and focused, with the vanilla, honey, and walnut notes you’d expect, plus some subtle dried fruit aromas — figs and dates in particular. On the palate some cardamom and butterscotch come through as well, and as the sweetness fades, the flavors show great persistence.

Serve with: Serve with: nuts and chocolate  Jean François Bonnet’s Rice Crispy, Peanut Ice Cream, Chocolate Leaves, and Condensed Milk Cappucino
More Port: The 2003 Vintage

Beer:Diebels Alt, Issum (Dusseldorf), Germany

I began the summer by talking about Cologne’s local beer, Kölsch. I used to lived in Cologne, and I am now going to risk alienating my former neighbors by recommending a rival beer from their rival town, Dusseldorf (Issum is a suburb thereof). Altbier is Dusseldorf’s local brew of choice. Where Kölsch is blond, Altbier is copper. Kölsch fruity and minty, Altbier malty, hoppy, and savory. Kölsch comes in little glasses, Altbier in mugs, though not the gigantic steins of Bavaria. In short, they’re very different, and for a beer fan not resident in either city, they don’t compete with each other anymore than a Czech Pilsner competes with an Irish stout. Diebels Alt is a classic example of Altbier, with a pleasing touch of smokiness, and makes for an enjoyable autumnal change — after a summer absolutely devoted to Kölsch, of course.

Serve with: sausage Marc Djozlija’s Duck Sausage with Yukon Gold Potatoes
More beer: Beer and Chocolate

Spirit: Stoli ‘Blueberi’ Vodka, Russia

I’m iffy on flavored vodkas, generally speaking. Coming from a wine background, it’s hard to get away from the idea that the flavor of a beverage — wine, spirit, or beer — should come naturally from the materials and process of making it. But I can learn to get over that prejudice, especially when a vodka flavoring is well done, balanced, and retains that cocktail–friendly texture that makes vodka so handy to have around. So here we get a clear, well–integrated blueberry flavor, with a touch of citrus and grain around the edges, and a smooth finish. I especially like it in dry cocktails, where the fruitiness stays sophisticated and pure.

More vodka:  Bar Chefs



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