Food Pairing Tip: Blanco Tequila

To say I’ve been busy is an understatement. Seriously, my life has been go, go, go these past several months.

First, my personal life. I got married! I couldn’t have just one wedding either. I had two, and they were two weeks apart!

Second, my professional life. I got a new job back in late February. If you looked at my last post, it coincides with around the time I got it.

I’m now in sales. To be exact, I work in the alcohol beverage industry representing the world’s most well-known brands. I miss writing regularly, so decided I’ll put my writing to use in my current role. Every Friday, starting last week, I send out a Food Pairing Friday Tip email to my accounts, obviously highlighting some of our products.

I know selling is poison to a blog (a good blog, anyways). My intent with these emails are not to sell, but rather to educate and offer my accounts even more value. And that’s why I think it’ll work here. I thought readers would enjoy these weekly tips, too, and hey, my blog will be updated regularly.

If you’ve been following my blog or have scanned my other posts, you’ll know that I don’t do product reviews. I don’t plan on taking that route. This blog is about sharing what I know and what I’m learning. These weekly tips offer that, with the caveat that there will be a product highlighted. I will always disclose whether I represent a product shown here.

Thank you for reading this far. Without further ado, here’s the first tip sent out last week!

Food Pairing Tip

As blanco tequilas are bottled right after distillation, there’s no influence from ageing in barrels; that’s why the colour is clear and you get the true flavours of the agave plant from which it’s made. Try sipping Don Julio Blanco with your next serving of ceviche, chips and salsa, or a salad with a light vinaigrette dressing. The hints of citrus and the light, sweet agave flavour pair very well with food high in acidity or spicy seafood. You’ll find that it’s a great introduction and isn’t overwhelming.

Always good in a mixed drink, but best on the rocks or neat.

Tequila Blanco

What do you guys think? Is this something you’d like to read? Let me know your thoughts below.

An Intro to Italian Wine Labels

From what you smell and taste to the rules of each wine region, you’re relying on your memory to help you appreciate and understand what it is you’re enjoying. You use what you remember and what you know to describe what you’re seeing, smelling and tasting, and even how the wine makes you feel. Simply, when it comes to understanding the world of wine, it’s memorization.

studying wine

The appreciation and understanding of wine is highly reliant on your memory.

I’ve mentioned that Italy is hard. Even though I can say I haven’t visited the whole country, I have no excuse when it comes to knowing what to expect because it’s all memorization. The problem is, there’s a lot to remember! If you’re trying to understand Italian wine labels, learn the wine laws first before trying to remember the regions because some parts are actually confusing (case in point).

Intro to Italian Wine Laws

DOC Italian wine

Two different bottles. Sometimes the relevant info is found on the back label such as on the bottle on the right.

Indicazione Geografica Tipica – Grapes can be sourced from a larger area rather than a restricted one like the DOC or DOCG wines below. You’ll find a lot of wines from the south with this on the labels since there aren’t many DOC or DOCGs there.

Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) – When you see this on the label, you’ll know that it comes from the specified area that allow only certain varietals and a minimum alcohol level. Depending on the area, there could also be regulations regarding wine making methods and minimum aging.

Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantia (DOCG) – Has all the requirements of Denominazione di Origine Controllata, but also must be bottled in the production region. These wines may also undergo tasting by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Simple right? Think you got it? There’s just a bit more to Italian wine laws (Classico, Riserva, Passito), but I’ll save that for next week’s post.

Let’s Talk Chianti

Italy was one of the hardest countries for me when studying WSET 3. The regions, the grapes. Ack! The only way to get better or recall what I learned is to keep referring to my book (boring), but what’s more effective (and quite enjoyable) is actually drinking wine.

A couple of weeks ago, I was having a Chianti in bed. Have you heard of Sangiovese? That’s the main varietal you’ll find in this wine. In Italy, unlike say here in Canada or the States, and like in France, the wines are referenced by the region it’s from, not the grapes they’re made with. Chianti’s don’t have to be 100% Sangiovese, though. Wines here can have up to 20% other varietals in the blend.

Chianti Classico
Take me to Tuscany!

Where is Chianti?

You must’ve heard Tuscany… in central Italy.

Tuscany wine region

Tuscany in red. Image from Wikipedia

This famous beautiful region is where you’ll find Chianti. The major nearby city is Florence. Speaking of Tuscany, you must have heard of Super Tuscan wines! But do you know what they are.

What’s a Super Tuscan?

By now, I’m sure you figured out that it’s wine from Tuscany. But what makes it “super?” If a wine contains other grapes like the Bordeaux ones Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, then it’s considered a Super Tuscan. The maritime climate in Tuscany is ideal for these Bordeaux varietals.

How did French grapes make their way to Italy?

In response to the low quality wine that was being produced in Tuscany in the 70s, producers started making wine that wasn’t within the Italian wine laws. That is they didn’t follow the rules that dictated what varieties can go in the wine and therefore couldn’t label them as Chianti DOC or DOCG (more about these acronyms next week). Indeed, the wines were great, and still are I’m told. I can’t say for myself since I don’t think I’ve ever had a Super Tuscan. Have you had one? What did you think? And if you’ve had both Chianti and Super Tuscan, which do you prefer? 

Looks like I need to go buy myself a bottle of Super Tuscan.

Last minute gift ideas for the wine lover

It feels good to be back. Today, I thought I’d make an appearance for all you last minute shoppers with winos in your lives. It’s not your typical list of things though. This holiday season, consider giving the wine lover the gift of an experience. An experience is unforgettable, whereas a bottle of wine could be, unfortunately.

The best part about the gift of an experience is, you can probably get the confirmation sent by email once you make the purchase and all you have to do is package/wrap it up nicely. You’re welcome.

Wine Tour

Do you live near a wine region?

Okanagan Valley

Only a 4.5 hour drive from Vancouver, BC is the Okanagan Valley.

There are companies in most wine regions that offer some sort of package tour, whether it’s starts at a winery or a limo picks you up at home. A google search will show you what’s available.

Want to take the self-guided route instead? Book a hotel or bed and breakfast in the area and that’ll be your confirmation date. Throw in a bottle of wine from the region and a reveal on the hotel confirmation that you’re going on a wine tour! How cute is that?

If you don’t live near a wine region or know that your wino would like to discover another, then book a trip! I know, easier said than done. Flights can’t be cancelled, but hotels have good cancellation policies. Some allow you up to 24 hrs before the date to cancel without penalty. Read their cancellation policy. So perhaps you can start off with a hotel confirmation, along with a bottle of wine from the region. Figure out flights later.

Why not just give a bottle of wine, you ask? Because there’s no “offficialness” to just a bottle of wine. When you see something on paper, it’s official, you’re doing a wine tour!

Wine Education

If your wino has been contemplating getting some sort of formal training, give them a gift certificate to enroll in WSET 1.

It’s the perfect intro for people who want to learn more about wine, but aren’t sure they want to dive deep into the wine world. There are classes in Vancouver that are only 1 day long, and at the end you take a multiple choice test. You can also choose to spread it out and attend a few classes over a month.

Wine Tasting Festival Tickets

The fiance and I got a pair of tickets to the Vancouver International Wine Festival last year as a gift from his brother. I loved the thoughtfulness.

VIWF 2014

If there’s a wine festival in a city near you, tickets to the event will be very much appreciated. One of the best wine related gifts I’ve received.

Wine Tasting Event

If you know your wino is already going to the festival, perhaps give them tickets to complement the experience. When there’s a wine festival, there’s usually smaller events that happen around that weekend as well. For example, a food and wine pairing sit down event.

food and wine

Pairing Italian food and wine. Starter: Buffalo mozzarella, heirloom cherry tomatoes, herb salad, burrata cheese, herb crostini, parma prosciutto, wild arugula, basil infused olive oil. Awesome.

Wine Tasting Session

Perhaps a wine festival isn’t possible. Every major city will have sommeliers. You can find one that offers wine tasting sessions, a private one or one open to the public. Events like this in Vancouver where you can taste a flight of wines in an intimate setting and have the knowledge and attention of a professional answering your questions.

Have you given any of these as gifts? What kind of wine related gifts would you like to receive? Please share with me in the comments.

Only a few hours left… Get clicking and I hope this list helped!

3 Wine Myths Dispelled

screw cap wine

Last month, I talked about screw cap wines and how they’re perceived as being lower quality compared to wines sealed with a cork. Today, I want to dispel a few more myths.

Food pairing with red or white wine

Myth: White wines pair well with white meats and red wines with red meat.

Truth: Although the above can be true, it’s not always. When pairing food and wine, you have to consider other ingredients like spices, sauce, richness. Let’s take fish for example. If the sauce described on the menu is strong, you may want to consider a red that will match the flavour intensity.

Quality of inexpensive wine

Myth: If the wine (750 mL) is under $15, it must be not-so-great or at the very most, just drinkable.

Truth: Here in Canada, we pay a lot for decent wine compared to our neighbours down south and certainly compared to the rest of world. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get a good bottle at an affordable price (under $20). In fact, a wine that I bring to dinner parties where I know people don’t share the same appreciation for wine retails for around $12 here. A very good Malbec is about $12 here, too.

malbec

FYI – it’s a screw cap as well!

Aged wine

Myth: Wine gets better with age.

Truth: Most wines are meant to be consumed within a couple of years of bottling. Unless you have the right temperature control, and you’re aware of what an age-worthy wine is like, you’re better off opening that bottle you just got. In fact, it’s an educated guessing game for wine experts. Sometimes keeping it too long ruins the wine, sometimes it’s perfect, and sometimes after tasting the wine, you conclude that it could’ve seen some more time in the cellar.

I’m sure there are a more myths I can address. What have I missed? Is there anything you’re uncertain about? Please leave me a comment below.

At What Temperature to Serve Your Wine

Summer, please stay until at least late September! My favourite season in Vancouver just came and now it’s already the last few days of August. Wahhh!

The gradual change in temperature got me thinking about a topic my friend Jackie brought up (visit her site if you’re looking for beautiful gift baskets!). She enjoys a glass every now and then, but wouldn’t consider herself a wino. She’s unsure at what temperature to serve her wines. You too? Good thing you dropped by then.

summer and wine

The general rule is white, rosé, and sparkling wine are served chilled. Reds at room temperature. But here’s the problem. How cold is chilled? And room temperature varies by season and person! Also, you may not have known either that the recommended temperature even varies by wine type.

Ultimately, the best wines are enjoyed with the company of awesome friends, so whatevs if you’re off by a few or several degrees.

Without further ado, here’s what the wine experts recommend.

Red Wine Serving Temperature

Even though red wine is generally served at room temperature, there are some that benefit from being chilled slightly. In fact, if you’re just starting out and want to numb the boldness of reds a bit, put your bottle in the fridge and you’ll notice it’s easier to drink.

Light body reds like Valpolicella and Beaujoulais should be served at 13ºC (55ºF). For my new world bias friends, Gamay is a varietal you’d serve at around this temperature. Lightly chilled.

Medium/full bodied reds like Australian Shiraz, Red Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Cabernet Sauvignon are best served between 15 to 18ºC (59 to 56ºF). Room temperature.

Sparkling Wine Serving Temperature

Try to serve your bubbly well chilled between 6 to 10ºC (43 to 50ºF).

Sweet Wine Serving Temperature

Sweet as in late harvest or ice wines are best served well chilled, just slightly cooler than sparkling wine anywhere between 6 to 8ºC (43 to 45ºF).

White Wine Serving Temperature

Medium/full body, oaked whites like oaked Chardonnays and White Burgundy are great best served at not that much cooler than light body reds. Try to serve it between 10 to 13ºC (50 to 55ºF). Lightly chilled.

Light/medium body whites like Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and Pinot Grigio should be served chilled at 7 to 10ºC (45 to 50ºF).

If you deviate from the above, don’t fret. They’re just guidelines to give you a better understanding of what works well. It’s not like we all carry thermometers around. Like I said before, to guarantee the wine is tasty, regardless of temperature, make sure you enjoy it in the company of great friends. I also find that it’s very tasty after a long day at work. Salud!

Pad Thai, Spring Rolls and Wine

Pad Thai and deep fried spring rolls are two of my favourites from the Asian cuisine. This past weekend, the bf and I had a couple friends over for dinner and regardless of what else I serve, I like to always have spring rolls out as appies. Not to brag or anything, but my spring rolls are mmm mmm good!

spring rolls

My spring rolls!

One day, when I measure the ingredients, I’ll post my recipe here. My Pad Thai is sometimes delish and sometimes just okay. It was the latter this past weekend, in my opinion.

Pad Thai and Spring Rolls Wine Pairing

Let’s think about what Pad Thai and spring rolls are like. They’re both greasy! And what pairs well with greasy food? A wine high in acidity. People automatically think of having a Gerwurtztraminer or Riesling.

Gerwurtztraminer

Had this Gerwurtztraminer with my Pad Thai a few months ago and it was good!

These are great options especially if the Pad Thai is spicy. The sweetness of these wines coats your mouth from the heat.

Certainly, the above-mentioned work, but you know what I think is an even better pairing for Pad Thai? Sauvignon Blanc. That’s what we had, plus a bottle of Riesling. Did you notice that when you order Pad Thai, a lemon or lime wedge is almost always included? Sauvignon Blanc has a citrusyness to it that obviously complements Pad Thai well. It was great with the spring rolls, too.

Watermelon and Sauvignon Blanc

What wasn’t so great was when after dinner I had some watermelon, then a sip of Sauv Blanc and all I could taste was lemon in my mouth. Although it wasn’t the most pleasant surprise, it was a good reminder that what you drink with your food can make or break the experience.

It just occurred to me then that Sauv Blanc may go well with pho. Mmm, gonna have to try that! Have you paired pho with Sauv Blanc? Ha! Have you had pho with wine? Let me know what successful and/or failed pairings you’ve had in the comments below.