Archive for May, 2017

Got Seaweed?

May 13th, 2017

seaweed algae health benefits nutrients vitamins thyroid iodine

By Joseph Temple

Having thyroid problems? Looking to add more fibre to your diet? Want to improve digestion? How about lowering your blood pressure or reducing inflammation?

If you answered yes to just one of these questions, consider adding seaweed—an algae that grows along shorelines all over the world—to your diet immediately. Loaded with everything from beta-carotene to omega-3 fatty acids, ounce-for-ounce, seaweed is perhaps the most nutritious food on the planet today. Yet sadly, while consumed for thousands of years by Asian cultures, Americans have been slow in bringing this delicacy into the mainstream. As Professor Ole Mouritsen from the University of Southern Denmark explains, “people don’t like the idea of eating something washed up and smelling [like] the seashore.” Thankfully, this perception is changing as more information becomes available to the health-conscious consumer.

For starters, a major benefit that comes from eating a reasonable amount of seaweed is a chemical element known as iodine. Essential for maintaining a healthy thyroid, which is a gland in your neck that produces and regulates hormones, iodine deficiency can result in a whole host of issues, from fatigue to auto-immune diseases such as psoriasis. And while most table salts contain iodine, many processed foods that are ubiquitous in grocery stores across the nation do not. This, along with what journalist Nick English describes as “salt-ophobia” amongst society-at-large has certainly contributed to a spike in thyroid issues over the past few decades. In contrast, with seaweed being a food staple in Japan, it is simply unnecessary to iodize table salt in that country. It could also be why the Japanese are near the bottom when it comes to diseases in the industrialized world.

Then there’s the minerals and nutrients in seaweed that are almost too long to list. But here’s a small sample: Vitamins A, C, E, B₁₂ (which is rare in plant-based foods), iron, magnesium, potassium, calcium and protein. Therefore, it’s no real surprise then that seaweed is known to be good for:

  • hair and nail growth
  • reducing blood cholesterol
  • strengthening bones and teeth
  • nerve transmission
  • improving your skin
  • treating osteoarthritis
  • reducing the risk of breast cancer
  • enriching your metabolism

So if you’re interested, head down to your local grocer or health food store and see what they have available. The three basic varieties are: brown (which contains the highest amount of iodine), green and red with the most popular types being kelp, wakame, and nori. Now if you’re interested in reaping the numerous health benefits but can’t stomach the idea of chowing down on some algae, consider purchasing pills or seaweed powder, which can easily be added into a smoothie. However, since the supplement industry isn’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it can sometimes be the wild west when it comes to safety and accuracy. With that being said, it’s usually a good idea to check the label carefully and be sure that it’s a reputable name brand.

Move over kale—seaweed is the new superfood!


Fuchs, Nan Kathryn. The Health Detectives’ 456 Most Powerful Healing Secrets., 2009.
Kirk, Mimi. Live Raw: Raw Food Recipes for Good Health and Timeless Beauty. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, Inc., 2013.
Moosewood Collective. The Moosewood Restaurant for Health: More Than 200 New Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes for Delicious and Nutrient-Rich Dishes. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009.
Simoons, Frederick J. Food in China: A Cultural and Historical Inquiry. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 1990.

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Ask Sid: Pfalz or Palatinate?

May 10th, 2017
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Pfalz or Palatinate wine region germany
By David Liuzzo [CC BY-SA 2.0 de], via Wikimedia Commons

Question: What is the difference in Germany between the wine regions of Pfalz and the Palatinate?

Answer: No difference really as both terms seem to be used interchangeably for that emerging exciting wine region in south west Germany highlighting spatburgunder (pinot noir) a variety which has been helped by global warming. Used to be historically the Upper Palatinate and the Lower Rhenish Palatinate. However after the Second World War the latter became officially Rhineland-Pfalz (or Rhineland Palatinate).

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Château Ducru-Beaucaillou St. Julien Vertical

May 8th, 2017

Château Ducru-Beaucaillou St. Julien Vertical
Photo by Megan Mallen [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Last month I was delighted by an invite to the challenge of trying with dinner 10 red wines double blind. It always is stimulating to approach such an exercise with an open mind but bringing with you all your wine experiences and personal preferences. You usually outguess yourself as to whether it is a vertical, a horizontal or mixed group of wines but with something in common. The wines were served in 3 flights matched with Blue Water Cafe outstanding courses of Tagliatelle Aglio e Olio (with fresh black winter truffles), Fraser Valley Rabbit Porchetta (stuffed with portobella mushroom, swiss chard & foie gras served with pretzel bread pudding, roasted baby carrot, onion soubise, cassis jelly), and Roasted Rack of Lamb (lightly smoked & parsley crusted braised fennel heart, green chickpeas cumin panisse, tomato hazelnut puree, hay scented lamb jus). The wines in the order served as later disclosed with my initial impressions and some brief reflections:

1. 1966 Ducru-Beaucaillou: Browning rim with a distinctly open Left Bank Bordeaux aged herbal noted iodine elegant bouquet. Thinking old cooler year Leoville-Barton. When disclosed at the end as 50+ everyone was amazed. Brought back fond memories for me being on a tasting panel with Michael Broadbent and Bruno Borie (present proprietor of Ducru-Beaucaillou but then the owner of his recently purchased Lillet) at KPBS Auction in San Diego on November 5, 1986 conducting a choice event of 111 red Bordeaux wines (with 2 California ringers of BV Private Reserve & Martin Ray) in 19 flights all from the 1966 vintage at 20 years of age. We started at 9 am tried 47 and continued after lunch with 64 more. The 3 of us agreed that 1966 was indeed “a long distance runner” and Ducru-Beaucaillou served as #103 exemplified that with youthful balanced higher acidity that needed time to integrate. Slow developer. Now 30 years later a big surprise here and showing that breeding of a Second Growth!

2. 1975 Ducru-Beaucaillou: A bit more red colouring at the rim but also old with a drier nose but full rounded flavours. Surprised this was the 1975 because not showing those early big harsh tannins of this vintage but much softer now at 40 with a fair amount of fruit left. Almost creamy.

3. 1981 Ducru-Beaucaillou: Clearer younger claret red with less aged rim has clean fresh lively styling with lovely fruit. An underrated (before the 82) balanced wine on a drinkable plateau showing the vintage well. Excellent with the pasta course! End of first flight with our guesses including 3 St. Juliens of the 1985 vintage or three Leoville-Barton from the seventies. Close but no cigar!

4. 1982 Ducru-Beaucaillou: Deep rich full impressive sweet fruit compared to drier first flight. Naturally everyone liked this and suggesting 1982. What gorgeous complex mature St Julien is all about.

5. 1985 Ducru-Beaucaillou: Slightly corked bottle spoiled the experience. Does have fruit and elegance underneath it.

6. 1986 Ducru-Beaucaillou: Musty cellary nose seems unclean but structured. Maybe these 1985 & 1986 do have that wet cardboard/TBA (Tribromoanisole)/TCA from those contaminated wooden beams of their old cellars that affected the wines of the late eighties and resulted in checking and recorking by the Château of vintages 1985-1989 stored there and the better re-releases. I bought my bottles on their initial release and they have all showed clean and excellent. However, beware of all these vintages of Ducru-Beaucaillou from 1985 to the early nineties because there is big bottle variation and some bottles are badly flawed. Thought less so for 1985 & 1986 before this tasting.

7. 1988 Ducru-Beaucaillou: Shows clean pure full big fruit and some picked this as their top choice of second flight with others the 1982. An excellent 1988 paired so well with the rabbit porchetta course – and especially that cassis jelly.

8. 1996 Ducru-Beaucaillou: Much younger riper deep classy fruit with perfect tannins which will be a classic. Already great at 20 years. Has a WOW factor! Outstanding. Sings with that rack of lamb.

9. 2003 Ducru-Beaucaillou: Riper full and luscious. Easy drinking forwardly style. Rather delicious.

10. 2005 Ducru-Beaucaillou: So different. Some woody turpentine-like strange aromas. Almost Malbec-like. Must be a ringer as doesn’t seem to have those typical Bordeaux aromas. Startled to learn it was the remarkable 2005 vintage as not showing well for this bottle at this time. Question mark?

Spotlighted earlier this year verticals of two other top Second Growth St Julien wines: Leoville Poyferre & Leoville Las Cases. Another great one here of arguably the best situation of “beautiful stones” for drainage and a unique terroir near the river. Obviously the wine from this property ages well and shows the class, breeding, and elegant balance you prize. Increased focus since mid-90s on cabernet (70%) and merlot (30%) and dropping cab franc & petit verdot. Also more new oak (75-90%) is being used with better strict selection for the Grand Vin. The future looks bright indeed!

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April Frost over Wine Country

May 6th, 2017

frost april bordeaux wine england

By Joseph Temple

Throughout the vineyards of Western Europe, don’t expect too much out of 2017.

That’s because last week, an unusual and severe frost, considered by many to be the worst in a generation, wreaked havoc on both sides of the Channel, severely crippling the wine industry across England and France. In the former, winemakers scrambled to light candles next to the emerging buds facing subzero temperatures. Dropping down to -6°C, one English vintner described the entire ordeal as “catastrophic” while another stated: “I’ve been in English wine for 30 years and never seen anything like it … It looks like there will be a 50% drop in this year’s expected yield – if not higher.”

With an emerging wine industry, England, which is increasingly becoming known around the world for its world-class sparkling wines is expected to be hit hard by this devastating spring frost. But by having such a strong focus on fizz, the impact won’t reach the consumer until 2020.

Moving on to France, the situation is just as dire as winemakers used everything at their disposal, from candles to helicopters to salvage what they could of this year’s harvest. Already enduring a 7% decline in total annual output last year due to a plethora of unfavorable weather conditions, two of its most famous regions—Champagne and Bordeaux—were likely hit the hardest. In the land of bubbly, it is estimated that between 20 to 25% of the region’s vine shoots were destroyed while the Bordelais have called this the worst frost to hit their region since 1991. Effecting every appellation from Médoc to Sauternes, and especially bad in the Right Bank, more than 60,000 hectares were struck by Mother Nature on April 20-21 and April 27-28.  According to Decanter, approximately 20% of Bordeaux vineyards lost between 90% and 100% of their potential 2017 crop.

In terms of dollars and cents, the damage in Bordeaux alone is at least €1billion. “We can already estimate that we have lost nearly half of the potential crop,” said Xavier Coumau of Bordeaux’s Syndicate of Wine and Spirits Courtiers. Adding fuel to the fire was the fact that a warmer than usual spring caused shoots to develop more rapidly. “The vineyard was three weeks ahead in its growth, shoots were already well developed. Frost destroyed everything – shoots are dead,” according to one French union official. Whether subsequent shoots will be able to flourish is still up in the air.

Luckily for some, they may escape with only a minimum amount of damage based where the vines were planted. Those in low-lying areas where the cold air settles are more susceptible as opposed to those on higher plateaus and on slopes. Interestingly, only 25% of winemakers in France are covered for this sort of damage by insurance companies, who charge enormous premiums that a majority simply refuse to pay.

What do you think of these most recent events? Is climate change making this the new normal in 2017? Comment below.

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Ask Sid: Left Bank vs Right Bank?

May 3rd, 2017
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bordeaux wine difference between left bank and right bank

Question: What is meant by Left Bank & Right Bank in wine tasting?

Answer: They refer to the two sides of the Gironde river in Bordeaux France but more specifically Left Bank (LB) south of Garonne River & Right Bank (RB) north of Dordogne River. LB includes the Medoc with all the top properties of the 1855 Classification of chateaux. The grape plantings usually have more Cabernet Sauvignon followed by the usual mix of Merlot & Cabernet Franc and sometimes Petit Verdot + Malbec.  RB is dominated by Merlot plus some Cabernet Franc in the famous Saint Emilion & Pomerol regions together with many emerging nearby satellite appellations. Generally though with “Bordeaux blends” now being produced from around the world these terms have taken on a much broader meaning to describe their style of wine. LB tend to be more structured and tannic when young needing some time to open while RB are usually riper softer with less aggressive tannins being more accessible early on. These days though both “Banks” use modern winemaking practices resulting in refined tannins for earlier approachability in style.

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