Archive for March, 2018

Ask Sid: Cannonau di Sardegna?

March 28th, 2018
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wine grenache Cannonau di Sardegna?
By Dion Hinchcliffe [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Question: Last week at an Italian restaurant in Boston my wife and I enjoyed a round bodied Cannonau di Sardegna at a fair price. What is the grape used?

Answer: Good value choice. Nice easy flavours in your wine from this thick skinned cannonau grape prominently grown in Sardinia. Your bottle may have been a blend with the addition of some other grapes but Cannonau is the same variety as Garnacha (Spain) or Grenache (France).


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Excellent Kaiseki Dinner at Yuwa Japanese Cuisine + Magical Wine Pairings

March 26th, 2018

Excellent Kaiseki Dinner at Yuwa Japanese Cuisine + Magical Wine Pairings

After some renovations the former award winning restaurant Zest in Vancouver has been re-opened in the same location by owner Iori Karaoke rebranded as Yuwa Japanese Cuisine. Her former chef-partner of over 8 years Tatsuya Katagiri left to open his own place Stem in the suburb of Burnaby. There has always been a passion here for high quality authentic Japanese cuisine with thoughtful beverage pairings. Several successful wine and sake dinners had been held previously. The new chef co-owner Masahiro Omori carries on the tradition in this new operation named Yuwa in tribute to his grandmother. His kaiseki dinner of 8 progressive outstanding courses on March 21, 2008 was so artistic with exquisite flavours enhanced by some thoughtful wine pairings orchestrated by Van Doren Chan & Mariko Tajiri of That’s Life Gourmet. Appreciated the matching of 7 different Grower Champagnes and 2 much improved 2014 Bourgogne Aligote. For special spotlight the Eric Rodez (ex-Krug) biodynamic Blanc de Blancs 82% oak barrel fermented finished after 4 years with low dosage was really delicious using all chardonnay grapes from 6 vintages back to 2006 from Grand Cru village Ambonnay a dominant region on the Montagne de Reims usually for pinot noir. Also impressed with both 2014 Bourgogne Aligote not just with a high acidity appropriate only to be used for a Kir. These both showed quality with the one from Axelle Machard de Gramont from Bouzeron AC pioneered by her father Bertrand all pure fresh vibrant floral compared with the fuller rich oaky old vine Domaine Comte Armand. Well done!

What wines do you recommend using with Japanese food?



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Paul Bocuse (1926-2018)

March 23rd, 2018

Paul Bocuse history influene
Photo by Alain Elorza [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Joseph Temple

This year, on the 20th of January, the culinary arts lost one of its most prolific chefs when Paul Bocuse passed away at the age of 91 as a result of Parkinson’s disease.  A charter member of the New Wave of French Cuisine, Bocuse’s footprints were long-lasting and are still seen today in restaurants across the world.  Stressing fresh ingredients combined with lighter and purer sauces, his revolutionary approach represented a stark contrast—and a departure from the methods of Auguste Escoffier and haute cuisine.

Born in 1921, Bocuse was raised in Collonges-au-Mont-d’Or, located in the metropolis of Lyon in eastern France.  Tracing his gastronomic roots back seven generations to 1765 when Michel Bocuse, a local boatmen operated a fried fish shop on the bank of the Saone, the young chef-to-be spent his formative years catching frogs and foraging for strawberries in the nearby woods.  As a 16-year old student of chef Eugénie Brazier, Bocuse would go on to cut his teeth in Vienne as the protégé of Fernand Point at the legendary La Pyramide restaurant.  After opening his own establishment, L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges in 1952, a new and dramatic approach was about to be created in his kitchen.

Described by some as a French chef straight out of central casting who was known to be quite intimidating, he received his first Michelin star in 1958 and a second one in 1960. But during this wilderness period, Bocuse often reflected on the trials and tribulations that eventually led to stardom.  Claiming that his restaurants usually lost money and had to be bailed out by the profits from his catering businesses, he once said, “Some men have mistresses.  I run a luxury restaurant.”  But as the 1960s progressed, Bocuse and the other rule breakers suddenly found themselves on the ground level of something very special.

To truly understand the legacy of Bocuse, we have to look at the culinary arts before he and the other Young Turks in France embarked on their revolutionary approach to fine dining.  As part of the Escoffier system, heavy sauces were often used to mask the raw ingredients, which tended to spoil under antiquated storage conditions.  Although delicious and world renowned, the traditional style was often heavy and rich in calories. So in reaction to this dated approach, Bocuse and others created what came to be known as nouvelle cuisine (although some Bocuse biographers have noted that he had no idea what the often nebulous term actually meant; others insist that he was never part of the movement at all, but rather just a very good classical chef).


By Arnaud 25 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In a nutshell, the general concept behind nouvelle cuisine was simpler and less spectacular fare.  Avoiding flour as a binding agent, certain edicts included “Reject unnecessarily complex preparations” and “Reduce cooking times.”  Gone were the expensive and thick sauces synonymous with Escoffier, which were substituted with simplicity.  Even more revolutionary for the time was Bocuse personally seeking out the freshest ingredients. One article written by a Canadian journalist who traveled to Lyons in 1965 stated: “At dawn, he hops into his blue Renault van and drives five miles to an open air market to find organically grown vegetables and fresh fish.”

The movement became known for lighter meals that were friendlier to people’s waist lines. Julia Child famously noted that chefs had “finally gotten it through their thick heads that there are some people who don’t want to be stuffed full of fat and truffles.” But the truth is more nuanced.  For example, one Bocuse meal included truffle soup (his specialty), salmon with sorrel sauce, duck cooked in Bordeaux wine, and a liqueur-drenched cake topped with shaved chocolate—not exactly the type of meal for one looking to lose weight.  As author David Kamp states, “The nouvelle-ists were not against calories or decadence per se … but against a French cuisine they felt had grown leaden, gloopy and uninspired.”

Luckily for Bocuse, his new wave approach found a receptive audience as it mirrored what was going on in French society-at-large.  In an atmosphere of student strikes and labor unrest, a new foodie publication, Le nouveau guide—a Cahiers du cinema published as its first headline: MICHELIN: DON’T FORGET THESE 48 STARS! Opining that the authoritative Michelin Guide, which could make or break any restaurant in the Fifth Republic, had been far too Escoffier-centric in how it awarded its stars, the publication suggested checking out this new Gastronomic Mafia.

The results were startling!  Although Bocuse’s restaurant had been awarded Michelin’s highly coveted third star in 1965, seven years later, the world famous red book gave stars to eight fewer restaurants specializing in haute cuisine than it did in the previous year.  The change had been so dramatic that by 1975, French President Valery Giscard d’Estang awarded Bocuse with the prestigious Legion of Honor.  “France has this great advantage,” said Bocuse on a visit to Toronto that same year. “Every day we talk about what we ate the night before.  Then we worry about what we are going to eat this evening.”

Perusing through the 1965 Michelin Guide, it informs us that for eight dollars, you are expected to enjoy one of the best meals in the world at L’Auberge—paired with a Morgon burgundy wine of course! A specialty for many years was Loup en croute farci mousse homard, which translated to a big fish stuffed with lobster mousse and then fitted into a pastry crust.  But others including actress Bridgette Bardot, who was known to dine regularly at Bocuse, enjoyed a saddle of lamb roasted with the herbs of Provence.

Even more trailblazing was Bocuse’s decision to step from outside his kitchen and into the spotlight in order to promote what became a truly global brand.  Spearheading what became “the celebrity chef”, Bocuse reveled in the spotlight, telling one newspaper: “You’ve got to beat the drum in life.  God is already famous, but that doesn’t stop the priest from ringing the church bells every morning.”  Appearing on the cover of Time magazine, the windfall of publicity helped him launch his very own line of frozen foods as well as numerous restaurants, located everywhere from Tokyo to Epcot Center in Florida.  Expanding his empire, by 1974, Paul Bocuse Incorporated earned an estimated $4 million dollars in wine sales alone, while Air France hired him as an advisor for in-flight cuisine.  Symbolizing his worldwide impact, he launched the Bocuse d’Or competition in 1987 where teams representing different countries squared off in what became known as the Olympics of food. Reveling in the limelight as the ultimate hybrid of chef and entertainer, Christian Millau once told him “Paul, I’m afraid you missed your calling in life.”

According to author Michael Steinberger, “He [Bocuse] demonstrated that not only could chefs escape the grimy, grinding business of making food; they could become wealthy and famous in the process.  They could act and be paid like captains of industry and treated like rock stars.  For men who had spent decades hunched over hot stoves, often at great cost to their health and happiness, this was an enticing prospect.”

Inspiring a host of chefs who have gone on to launch their own culinary empires, Bocuse stands out as a pioneer in this field.  And his impact on the gastronomic arts is undeniable as numerous restaurants still employ the guiding principles of nouvelle cuisine to this day.  For his enormous contributions, the International Wine and Food Society salutes Paul Bocuse as one of the great chefs of the twentieth century!

Sources:

Kamp, David. The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation. New York: Broadway Books, 2006.
Steinberger, Michael. Au Revoir to All That: Food, Wine, and the Decline of France. New York: Doubleday, 2010.


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Ask Sid: Recommend A High Quality Malbec Producer?

March 21st, 2018
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Ask Sid: Recommend A High Quality Malbec Producer?

Question: Would you please recommend one quality producer of Malbec that I might try?

Answer: Lots of choices among the many wine producers in Argentina. In the past some Malbec wines were almost too full bodied and sweet using overripe grapes. Now more are looking for vineyard identity with tension, structure, textures, and balanced acidity. Founded in 1902 Catena (catenawines.com) has a wide selection portfolio that is is hard to beat. Inspired in the eighties by the Mondavi approach to quality they sought out distinctive cooler climate zones at higher elevations. Catena have an admirable range of wines to enjoy from their entry level Appellation (value in High Mountain Vines 2015) through Alta, Zapata, and at almost 5000 feet the amazing Adrianna Vineyard. Try one – or more of them. Among other Malbecs to check out include Familia Zuccardi, Terrazas de los Andes, Francois Lurton’s Bodega Piedra Negra, Trivento Reserve (big seller in British market), and several estates owned by Michel Rolland (www.rollandcollection.com).


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Clos Des Lambrays Vertical

March 19th, 2018

Clos de Lambrays burgundy wine tasting
By Arnaud 25. [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Morey-Saint-Denis is a special village in Burgundy situated between more famous neighbours Gevrey-Chambertin to the north and Chambolle-Musigny to the south. Generally the appellation M-S-D tend to be softer and less sturdy than the former G-C and more structured but less fragrant than the latter C-M. The appellation is rather small but still has 20 premier cru over 33 hectares with 4 Grand Crus covering about 40 hectares. The biggest in vineyard size (nearly 17 hectares), production by different proprietors, and the most body in the resulting wine is the most northerly Clos de La Roche. Next is the smallest in size (less than 7 hectares) of the more gentle classy delicate Clos Saint-Denis. The 2 most southerly Grand Crus are Clos des Lambrays (surface 8.84 hectares previously owned 8.66 by Domaine des Lambrays with the tiny remainder still in the holdout hands of Jean Taupenot-Merme) and Clos de Tart (surface 7.53 hectares monopoly  of the Mommessin family since 1932 until recently). These last two Grand Crus are very unique with a bright spotlight on them presently because of key ownership changes: the Domaine des Lambrays interest was purchased in 2014 by LVMH & Clos de Tart was acquired last year 2017 from Mommesin S.A. by Francois Pinault (also the owner of Chateau Latour in Bordeaux). Morey-Saint-Denis is the hot wine region!

A double blind vertical tasting over dinner in 3 flights of 9 vintages (2007 back to 1998 except for 2000) of Clos de Lambrays this month was both topical and educational. Reference to this property goes back to the 14th century but was divided among many proprietors following the French Revolution. Consolidation was occurring over time but with declining vineyard maintenance this climat was not promoted to Grand Cru status until 1981. However your scribe did enjoy tasting the historic vintages of 1947 & 1949 of this wine during the eighties that both showed very well. Major replanting took place 1980-1981 with the arrival of long time (37 years) winemaker Thierry Brouin. This property has more limestone in 3 parts with the top section cooler on rocky red marl soils, bottom on heavier clay with limestone, and biggest middle section of the undulating slope choicest exposure as often is the case with the best drainage.

Double blind tastings are always challenging but this one was particularly so because of the mixed up service order of 9 Clos des Lambrays as follows:

2004: Maturing look with an aged rim. Older open sensual inviting bouquet with complexity of a top Cotes de Nuits red Burgundy with some bottle age. Texture rounder and delicious with pure elegance here a delightful surprise. Ready to enjoy now. (Showed improvement over an earlier “stemmy” tasting of this vintage)

1999: Best young red ruby look of first flight. Solid bigger fruit in a classic style. Excellent. Like very much the fresh cherries with earthiness plus framed structure here. No rush.

1998: Second oldest look of first flight. Vibrant nose with some spicy iodine. Lighter but has glycerol with prominent acidity and lengthy tougher tannins. Sings more clearly with ricotta gnocchi wild mushroom black Perigord truffles course.

2005: Looks youngest here. All 3 second flight wines appear younger than the first flight. Impressive aromas of dark plums & top quality cherries. Really like the elegant balance making a full rich deep young packed fruit statement. Purity of fruit outstanding Wrote down Clos de Tart in my notes. My fav. What a fabulous future! Patience needed.

2003: Lots of open ripe “Heering Cherry Liqueur” with touch of menthol on the nose. Big sous bois heavier concentration but some finishing elegance. Lovely.(Property usually picks earlier than neighbouring Clos de Tart but the hot 2003 vintage characteristics showed here tasted double blind)

2001: Less dark colour with a lighter look. Lovely open perfumes of pinot noir. Taste forwardly leaner with some charm peeking through. Tastes much better with the delicious braised rabbit with two mustards pairing.

2007: Very young medium colour. A greener eucalyptus spearmint New World fruit aromas. Seems quite different from the first six wines. Hard to guess what this one could be. Unusual showing presently.

2006: Riper than first wine in third flight. Some herbal plums with a note of mint again. Is this a ringer of top California pinot noir among earlier Burgundy style of first 6 wines? Some potential. Different again.

2002: Darker and deeper fruit. Riper again but more of a “cherry pie” focus. Smoky with some mineral notes here are attractive. Much prefer the terroir of this over two other ones in this flight. Confusing last flight which seems quite different from the first two flights. Has to be a red Burgundy spotlight but not clearly a vertical from oldest to youngest or vice versa. This wine is a rich appropriate match with wood grilled flat iron Alberta beef Wagyu.


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