I love Autumn (Fall colors & Football!), but I hate at least three things whose approaches are heralded by the falling leaves:
- Raking those falling leaves
- Thanksgiving / Holiday food & wine pairings
- The Dallas Cowboys
Since I find numbers one and three above so unpalatable, let’s talk about number two.
Holiday wine pairings are one of those things that prove immensely divisive among wine geeks. On the one hand, when you enjoy a subject passionately you want to help people when they ask you about it. On the other hand, the topic is not only a culinary landmine (see “bottom lines” below), but it’s treatment is boringly repetitive year-after-year (though some year-on-year takes are done well); the attempts to make it interesting can backfire so badly that the authors attempts at making the subject creative end up looking more like obligatory acts of desperation.
The bottom lines with holiday wine pairings are a) your preference trumps any recommendations and so-called rules, and b) no one wine, variety, or style will match up perfectly with all of the tasty but crazy epicurean sh*t that will appear on your tables during the holiday season, because there’s simple too much variety.
Still, many folks just want picks to minimize their food-pairing risk during these adventures culinary months, an approach which I can respect. So I’m gonna let you all in on a little secret for maximizing your chances of holiday wine-and-food pairing success…
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Special Report from the Inebriated Press
Pennsylvania Governor-elect Tom Corbett today issued a public plea to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to “immediately and indefinitely suspend” its plans to expand grocery store installations statewide of its new wine kiosk dispensers. Corbett wants all activity on the PLCB kiosk machines shut down “until allegations of the kiosks are abducting grocery store shoppers can be properly and thoroughly investigated.”
Corbett’s plea was prompted by several recent reports of missing persons last seen at three Pennsylvania grocery store locations where PLCB wine kiosks have been installed. At first, state police investigations of the alleged abductions were moving slowly, but recent eyewitness reports from the grocery stores involved have turned the tide of the investigations towards the bizarre.
“I know what I saw, and I know it sounds crazy… but strange blue laser beams came out of that thing and totally vaporized the guy trying to buy wine!” reads one anonymous eyewitness testimony describing events that happened to one of the missing persons, who was last seen purchasing wine from a PLCB kiosk…
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Am I crazy for thinking Chilean wines still have way too much pyrazine/green pepper action?
Well… am I???
That’s a question that’s been on my mind lately, especially after taking part in the Wines of Chile red blends on-line tasting recently and finding myself in the minority of participants who found the levels of nettle / green pepper aromas in the reds almost… distracting. The Syrah-based wines showed the most promise (and to me the lower amounts of pyrazine action). In my experience, those green-ish aromas are ok in very, very small quantities, adding hints of interesting smells to the dark fruits and giving reds the occasional bump from “very good” to “astoundingly complex” territory.
Notice I am saying “very very small quantities” and I mean just that – the pyrazines that contribute to those aromas are potent and a little goes a loooooong way, baby.
To be honest, I’m beginning to think that Chile may never really get it totally together on this; it might just be part of their climate, their terroir, their vinous destiny.
Which means that Argentina might be poised to clean Chile’s clock in the South American fine red wine market.
Not all Chilean reds are overly green, and I’m not the only one who thinks that Syrah might be the variety with the brightest (and least green) future in Chile: Michael Cox from Wines of Chile said the same thing during his talk at the recent European Wine Bloggers Conference in Vienna.
BUT… After tasting more and more examples of excellent, complex, and reasonably-priced higher-end red blends from Argentina, I’m growing increasingly more convinced that Argentina’s future is looking rosey… er, make that dark red… and that the one who might suffer most from that success is Chile, at least in the U.S. because consumers here probably don’t prefer the wet blanket of green bell pepper aromas laying all over the dense black fruit of their supple reds.
This all really hit home for me when I caught up with Argentine producer Doña Paula’s Edgardo Del Pópolo, their head Viticulturalist and Operations Manager, for dinner in downtown Philly to taste through their recent releases and generally talk shop. Edgardo didn’t think I was crazy for being turned off by the pyrazines in Chilean reds, but he was a bit more diplomatic about the differences and saw them mostly as complimentary. He did, however, offer this tidbit:
“In South America, we have a saying: shopping for wine here is like shopping at the grocery; in Argentina you get your fruit, and in Chile you get your vegetables…”
Never mind that Doña Paula’s Torrontes is a killer entrant into invigorated the S. American white wine market (it’s got a killer nose of passion and star fruits); their Seleccion de Bodega Malbec is not only proof that Argentina has nailed the dark-fruit-profile red thang, it’s also a great example of how complex (think hints of graphite) and age-worthy Malbec can be in the right hands.
And the pepper? Black, white, but definitely not green. Sign me up, baby.
So… I ask YOU… am I crazy? Shout it out in the comments.
To get you started, here are some of the responses (the serious and not-so-serious!) to that same question when I posed it on twitter and facebook last week…
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