Question: Is my food & wine safe from the Covid-19 virus?
Answer: Most timely question. Doesn’t seem to be any present evidence that this infection has been transferred through food. Possible it could remain for some time on raw food items so better to wash them before eating. Safest of course to have cooked food that should kill the virus. Covid-19 can survive for short time periods on those food packaging surfaces too so be careful to wash your hands after handling those. Medical opinion is that the virus should not be able to survive in an alcoholic environment rich in polyphenols. How high does the alcohol have to be? What about low alcohol wines? However seems most unlikely this virus would be transmitted in wine. Your glass of wine should be safe.
These are tough unprecedented circumstances for everyone around the world seeming only to get worse every day. This Covid-19 pandemic is affecting everyone but some much worse than others – look at remarkable health care workers and the suffering hospitality industry! Difficult to think a wine and food Blog is of any importance in times like these. However perhaps you can appreciate some small comforts in being home bound. Hopefully you now have time to be with other present family members to actually sit down and have a meal together. Try some of those old favourite recipes that you all have enjoyed in safer times or experiment with an enticing new one. Shop carefully or help the restaurants in your area by getting some meals delivered to your home. This is an excellent time to take advantage of those special food items stored away in your freezer. Your scribe is using up some frozen duck breasts. Over 4 nights last week we tried our last bottles of unheralded vintages of 1986 & 1987 Mazis-Chambertin & Corton Clos des Cortons all from Faiveley. Remember visiting Burgundy in September 1986 (before that memorable IWFS Festival in Alsace with bread master Poilane) and the vineyards below the road were flooded from the rains. The higher vineyards of Mazis and Corton survived those bad weather conditions somewhat better. All drinking rather well really and the 1987 Corton showing best balance and more depth. Though they do not have the intense fruit complexity of 1985 or 1990 (or even higher acidity 1988 finally coming around) for 30+ years aged red Burgundy they paired successfully with food courses (duck) but more importantly brought us some moments of needed joy and a more positive uplift to our day of news overload. We certainly toasted our life with thanks and gratitude for the foresight of having a wine cellar to draw on presently. Hope you have some special bottles for family use now.
Similarly it has been fun to put to use some of the wine knowledge about Champagne gained at the 42nd Vancouver International Wine Festival. Then was a wonderful opportunity to taste the different styles of bubbles available from Piper-Heidsieck & Charles Heidsieck (with Ludovic Panciera V-P The Americas), Laurent-Perrier (Marine Roupsy Area Export Manager), Taittinger (Clovis Taittinger), and Alfred Gratien (Gianmaria Bottos Area Manager Canada) at several trade and consumer tastings. The crisp fresh lively Cuvee Brut of Piper (and creamy Rare 2006) so dramatically different from the rich toasty 40% old Reserves in Charles. Many choices from L-P from Brut, Ultra Brut, blended vintages of Grand Siecle, to outstanding balance of Millesime 2008. Gratien had value Classiques of both Brut (3 grapes blend) and strawberries floral Rose. Taittinger presented Brut Reserve, Prestige Rose, Prelude of Grand Crus equal chard and pinot noir, and sweeter dosage of sugar cane Nocturne Sec City Lights. Shining especially bright in the spotlight were two 2007 vintage treasures of Comtes of Blanc De Blancs and Grands Crus Rose. What an amazing selection including these that were on sale at BCLDB in December so luckily put a few bottles away. Also now know that the Charles Heidsieck style would be a perfect match with a home cooked fish course wrapped in potato chips. Delicious pairing. Hoping to make the most of life and trying to enjoy some moments every day the best we can. Suggest you do the same. Keep safe!
Question: Do you think it is necessary to examine the cork just extracted from your wine bottle?
Answer: Don’t think it is a question of necessity but believe it can be a useful aid. In this era of more screw-cap closures it may seem almost overly pretentious to wish to examine the cork. Not enough wine consumers are giving it attention. However it can supply some valuable clues about the wine itself that you are about to taste. First depending on the details marked on it there can be confirmation of the authenticity of the wine name, region, or vintage shown on the label. Secondly it can give you an indication of the material used from natural cork to innovative Diam types – plus the length and quality of the closure used. However most important is that it can give you a better indication of whether or not the wine might be “corked” with TCA – giving it that unattractive “moldy” notes. Depending on the amount of TCA taint this often shows up faster and more definitively by smelling the cork than by smelling and tasting the wine which may take longer to reveal this fault. I am a big fan of examination and cork sniffing!
The recently concluded 42nd Vancouver International Wine Festival was fortunate indeed on their timing that allowed all food & wine events to be held before this current Covid-19 pandemic. Reflecting back on so many highlights one that stands out were the number of wineries that were questioning whether it was a fruit day or a root day on the lunar calendar for their wine. As we know there is a lot of current buzz on sustainability, organic farming, biodynamics in the vineyard and the like but somewhat surprised that winery principals are focusing on the moon’s effect on the showing of their wine as well. This was noticeable at the 164 tasting stations but at special events too. At the Burgundy and Beyond dinner on February 25 at Coast Restaurant featuring Maison Louis Latour their Area Director Mark Allen raised this issue in discussing how closed in their 2016 Corton-Charlemagne was showing “on what must be a root day” matched with pan roasted Sea Bass. There are actually 4 phases going from FRUIT (supposed to show the Best), FLOWER (favours Aromatic Whites), LEAF (or STEM), to ROOT (believed to be WORST). Your scribe’s subsequent research of the Lunar Biodynamic Calendar discloses that generally VIWF was held at a rather difficult tasting time because it started on Monday February 24 as a Leaf day and transitioned from Leaf to Fruit on Tuesday February 25 and the best day was Wednesday February 26 for Fruit. It was on that date February 26 that Gerard Bertrand held his informative Trade Masterclass on Languedoc “L’Art De Vivre Les Vins Du Sud” explaning how winemaking is a “subtle art of alchemy between excellence, art de vivre and respect for biodiversity.” While explaining his terrific 2018 Chateau L’Hospitalet Grand Vin Blanc white blend from AOP La Clape he too questioned whether “today is a fruit or root day”? Lucky him as the following days had Thursday February 27 going from Fruit to Root and the weekend was all Root before going eventually changing to Flower.
Since the Festival your scribe has been paying more attention to this theory. Sunday March 15 was a Fruit day so looked forward to trying inconsistent 2008 Chablis Grand Cru Valmur William Fevre with Steelhead Salmon. Bottle was badly maderized. Opened another on Friday March 20 a Flower day to go with fresh wild Halibut that was exquisite – best bottle tried yet! However believe this was more bottle variation than lunar effect – but maybe not. However, now with this huddled home staycation is your opportunity to test this out. The jury is still out. Tomorrow March 24 and Wednesday March 25 are both intense Fruit days. Open something – preferably red – and try it. Hopefully it shows well. Friday March 27 is a strong Root day. Open another bottle of the very same wine and try it. Is it better, almost the same, or expectedly worse. If you miss this chance there is another one coming up in April: Saturday April 11 as Fruit followed by Monday April 13, & Tuesday April 14 both Root. Please report your findings here!
Question: Did you know Michael Broadbent of Christie’s Wines?
Answer: Yes indeed! Michael Broadbent, MW (May 2, 1927 to March 17, 2020) was a renowned British wine writer and fine wine auctioneer with Christie’s dating back to 1966. He was a friend of your scribe and a major contributor to The International Wine & Food Society including being our Honorary President 1984-1992. A most helpful advisor to me on the both the IWFS Wines Committee and later following him as HP from 2012-2016. Michael and Harry Waugh both were at leading wine merchant Harveys in Bristol during the early sixties and starting in the late seventies they became the major educators on fine wine for so many of us. All early literary works were published by Wine & Spirit Publications, London with Harry releasing Bacchus on the Wing, The Changing Face of Wine, and Pick of the Bunch plus Michael starting in 1968 with Wine Tasting (“A practical handbook on tasting and tastings”). Michael was a driving force at Christie’s during these early years embarking on the successful Christie’s Wine Review (1972) and a remarkable detailed much enlarged edition of Wine Tasting in 1975 published by them. A most fantastic wine learning journal. These were the early days of unmatched amazing wine auction tastings. Remember being invited by Michael to attend the pre-auction historic tasting at Christie’s King Street London of the extensive Delor (Bordeaux negociant now part of the Dourthe Group) Collection of Lafite & Mouton available side by side to compare from 1971 vintage back to 1945 – including Michael’s favourite of 6 star “Churchillian” 1945 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. The importance of taking disciplined wine notes even back then was a hallmark of this esteemed wine taster. Michael attended and conducted (with organizer wife Daphne) so many great wine tastings at world Festivals over the decades. At the Centenary one in London 1977 he compared 1970 & 1971 Bordeaux followed again with 1970 horizontal Bordeaux in Vancouver in 1983 at the 50th Anniversary of Andre Simon’s IWFS (started in 1933). Several important learned tomes followed on including “The Great Vintage Wine Book” in 1980 , “The NEW Great Vintage Wine Book” in 1991 and “Pocket Vintage Wine Companion” in 2007. Many wine aficionados have been influenced by his dedicated service for Decanter as a columnist from 1977-2012. Your scribe was most honoured in 2012 to have Michael write a most kind over-flattering long Preface to my IWFS Monograph of “An Appreciation of the Age of Wine”. Many thanks from all of us for your outstanding contributions Michael. A teaching legend in wine for sure. RIP