Question: Wondering why a Port wine served at the end of a meal usually comes in a smaller wine glass.
Answer: So do I. A couple of reasons often given are that the amount poured is usually less than for other wines and the higher alcohol would show more prominently if in a large glass. I don’t buy it. A smaller glass makes it more difficult to study both the colour tones and the bouquet of the Port. Therefore I usually pour it into my empty larger red wine glass from a previous course. Also helps to have the Port cooler rather than at room temperature served with cheeses (blue can work well) and roasted nuts (prefer walnuts & pistachios). Enjoy Port in a larger glass!
As noted in last week’s Blog your scribe recently enjoyed with dinner at Stockholm’s superb Oaxen Krog restaurant a bottle of 1998 Clos de la Coulee de Serrant. It is a noted wine from the Savannieres region in the Loire made by the Joly family from Chenin Blanc grapes. I again was impressed about how well this nearly 20 year old white wine from a challenging vintage showed. On requested decanting it showed a deep rich yellow somewhat worrisome colour for a dry wine but it was outstanding. The complex developed bouquet showed wonderful peach, pear, apple and passion fruit honey notes with palate texture and balanced refreshing brilliant acidity. Surprisingly fresh. It matched so well with the varied early food courses of the meal. On many occasions I have enjoyed different vintages of this producer knowing best the high acid 1981 vintage that was collected on sale and stored to present perfection now. In the early days on the advice of Nicolas Joly I opened and decanted it even 24 hours ahead to let it soften and develop with airing but now it shows so well right after pulling the cork. Amazing longevity for a white wine at 35 years of age and a good reason to order an aged wine from Chenin Blanc grapes whenever you see it on a wine list.
Chenin Blanc is such a versatile grape (somewhat similar to Riesling) in styles from dry, off-dry, sweet, and sparkling. Road 13 Vineyards on the Golden Mile sub-region of the Okanagan Valley has vines planted in 1968 that has been producing an excellent dry Chenin with only one row of it experimented for Sparkling. However, it became so successful with that underlying acidity that now all the aged grapes will be used exclusively for their top Sparkling. Look for it. South Africa has textbook Chenin (Steen) sometimes mixed with other grape varieties but more quality examples are being seen in the export market. Check them out as well plus some wines from Argentina & USA. Loire has a diversity of regions including Vouvray, Quarts de Chaume, Pineau de la Loire, and Bonnezeau in a variety of styles. Acidity is key.
Are you trying some exciting Chenin Blanc with bottle age?
It looks like one man’s Madeira is now America’s liquid treasure!
While going through a six-month renovation project, Liberty Hall, a National Historic Landmark located on the campus of Kean University garnered headlines this week as it became the site of a great archaeological discovery. Originally built in the 1770s for Thomas Livingston, one of the founding fathers and New Jersey’s first governor, many famous Americans have stayed there, including George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams. But in addition to all its famous residents and guests, Liberty Hall can now add to its rich history by having the distinction of housing the oldest collection of Madeira in the United States.
After dismantling a wall inside the wine cellar constructed during the Prohibition era, architects uncovered 50 bottles and 42 demijohns of rare fortified wine that is almost as old as the country itself. With some Madeira bottles dating back to 1796, Bill Schroh, a director at the Liberty Hall Museum, told ABC News that “we never could have imagined finding what we did.” According to their research, the bottles were imported by Robert Lenox, a major player in the New York city wine trade and the estimated value of each bottle could be in the neighborhood of $20,000. Tracing back the origins of their purchase, it is believed that they were imported in order to celebrate the inauguration of John Adams, America’s second president.
Considering that Madeira is no longer a fashionable choice in America, at first glance, it might seem like a strange choice. But during the revolutionary era, drinking a glass of this fortified Portuguese wine embodied the spirit of the Gadsden flag and its iconic message: DONT TREAD ON ME. Since the archipelago of Madeira was technically in Africa, its wines weren’t subject to harsh taxation like other European imports nor were they required to sail on British ships, making Madeira a symbol of what taxation with representation might look like. Historian John Hailman writes, “By the late eighteenth century it was considered patriotic to drink Madeira and thereby avoid taxes to the Crown, and Madeira thus became the veritable mother’s milk of the American Revolution.”
An added bonus was that unlike Bordeaux or Burgundy, Madeira was virtually indestructible. In fact, seamen quickly discovered that the intense heat and humidity on board the ships transporting it to the thirteen colonies actually made the wine improve—a fact that made it wildly popular in the South. So during the Revolutionary War and following America’s independence, Madeira was consumed by many future presidents, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
Of course, John Adams was no exception. Back in 1768, when John Hancock tried to smuggle a cargo of Madeira into the Boston Harbor and was intercepted and charged by the British, he was represented by none other than the future commander-in-chief. Growing fond of this particular drink, which he enjoyed quite regularly, he once said that “a few glasses of Madeira made anyone feel capable of being president.”
And by ordering Madeira to celebrate his election victory, the people at Liberty Hall couldn’t have purchased a more symbolic wine—the wine of the revolution!
Dubourcq, Hilaire. Benjamin Franklin Book of Recipes. London: Fly Fizzi Publishing, 2004.
Hailman, John R. Thomas Jefferson on Wine. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2009.
Question: I often hear about wine being aged in an oak cask or barrique. Is there a difference in these terms?
Answer: Yes there is a difference. Barrique should only be used to describe a unique barrel shape of a specific size of 225 litres (59 gallons) long used in Bordeaux and now other wine producing regions. Other shapes and sizes have different names from hogshead (300 litres in USA) to Burgundy piece (230 litres) to the larger sizes used traditionally in Piedmont for nebbiolo grapes and becoming increasingly more popular everywhere. These can all be called casks but shouldn’t be called barriques.
We all have heard of and admire the emergence of the unique culinary scene developed in Copenhagen under the inspiration of chef Rene Redzepi of Noma restaurant fame. This concept has been extended to his newer 108 and the many other restaurants opened by his disciples using quality local products. This “going green” focus on vegan and vegetables also is spreading to a more international style with several new popular hot spots in the developing meatpacking district with the very informal friendly Mother & even the upscale pizza being served at Baest.
However the Nordic food movement is alive and thriving with less world recognition also in Stockholm. On a previous trip your scribe was delighted by the tasting menu at now closed Fredman F12 and especially the talents shown by chef Mathias Dahlgren who back in 1997 won the Bocuse d’Or championship using natural produce to great effect at the Grand Hotel. Found this month that the culinary scene at the top end has expanded considerably with 3 newly discovered gems that indeed are very impressive though all are quite expensive.
1. The Champagne Bar By Richard Juhlin. The respected Champagne expert tasted and rated 8,000 of them in his 2013 tome A Scent of Champagne so he is ably qualified to find and serve you a glass or more of chosen choice bubbles. It has been relocated to Hotel Kungstradgarden at Kocksgrand 1 reopening after the Summer break on August 19.
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2. Oaxen Krog. Blown away by 8 tasty hors d’oeuvre followed by a 10 course dinner prepared by Chef Magnus Ek and brigade. This place was honoured by a second Michelin star in 2015 and richly deserves it. The courses are well conceived with flavours that deliver far more deliciousness than many similar foraging style restaurants. They also serve their interpretation of Scandinavian bistro food at Oaxen Slip. Special kudos to Fredrik Horn the Sommelier/Manager who provides knowledgeable wine pairings and is developing an expanding wine list of special offering including well chosen Champagnes (Roger Pouillon Solera 1997-2011). Enjoyed a sublime bottle of 1998 Clos de la Coulee de Serrant suitably decanted and structured 2010 Nuits. St. Georges Aux Lavieres Domaine Jean Grivot. Serenely situated in Djurgarden at Beckholmsvagen 26 in Stockholm.
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3. Gastrologik. Another tour de force effort of many courses by Chef Jacob Holmstrom (who worked with Mathias Dahlgren) and others where logical gastronomy of the future is shown on their no pre-defined set menu but the use of daily seasonal fresh ingredients that really do shine. The culinary works of art on the plate were highlighted by a tart of dried cepe mushrooms with pointed cabbage & field rose petals sitting on a bowl of rosehip buds that was a brilliant artistic masterpiece. New crop green peas with Mollosund oyster & pickled onions sitting on the empty peapods with iced granite melting on top was memorable. Some fair value wines assembled and served by Hans and the crew including a classy 2014 Bourgogne Blanc from Domaine Roulot. Located in the Ostermalm district at Artillerigatan 14 in Stockholm.