Archive for January, 2020

Chinese New Year Dinner

January 27th, 2020

Most of us thought the New Year started on January 1. However there is another one the lunar Chinese New Year that runs from Saturday January 25 and goes on until February 11, 2021. This is based on a 12 year cycle in the Chinese Zodiac that recognizes 12 different animals and 5 elements (earth, fire, metal, water and wood). This time it is the Rat (white rat) with Metal. Enjoy currently the Year of the Metal Rat! It all begins with a family celebratory dinner on commencement to bring good luck, good health, and wealth for all in the coming year. Lots of guidelines and superstitions of what to serve and what to avoid. Important to emphasize the right lucky numbers like 8 but not 4 (sounds like “death”) but if preceded by a 5 to make 54 means “no death” which portends good luck. Good things are thought to come in pairs and better to use even numbers rather than odd. No definite rules but honour the traditions in your own unique ways. Your scribe was fortunate to attend such a special event in Maui, Hawaii on Saturday January 25. The 8 lucky courses were spot on of gyoza dumplings (for wealth), vegetarian salad, chicken katsu, pairs of whole sides of fish (“togetherness”): citrus steelhead salmon and soy-ginger steelhead salmon (both for an increase in your prosperity during the year), pairs of different noodle dishes: soba & prawns and vegetarian chow mein (both for happiness & longevity), and finally dessert of oranges, tangerines, pomelos and apple-mango tart (all for good luck and fortune in the New Year). Some enjoyable drinkable wines fit in most appropriately as pairings. Fun experience! Hope you celebrated with a Chinese New Year dinner. Recommend it for next year.


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Ask Sid: Why more wines in cans?

January 22nd, 2020
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wine in cans trend

Question: Why are we seeing more wines in cans?

Answer: Modern marketing. Actually not a bad trend to position the increasing volume of cheap to moderately priced wine as more of just an easy useable beverage. Some like Sterling Vineyards in Napa are positioning themselves as using not cans but sleek lightweight aluminum bottles for the times. Like their use of unique colour coding both for resealable tops and bottom bar with yellow chardonnay, pink rose, and red cabernet sauvignon all easy to identify. Good branding. Better than more use of plastic. Those non sustainable expensive to transport extra heavy glass bottles also contributed to this and that packaging should stop. Like the convenience of cans and hope to see more of the already popular 375 ml. can size but also some 187 ml. with a non-plastic straw. However not ready yet for my premium wines for aging in aluminum bottles. What are your thoughts?

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With Climate Change A Big Factor For Future Wines Expect Many Old Style Treasures to Increase in Value

January 20th, 2020

A current buzz in the wine world is climate change and how is it affecting current vintages. It seems to be a reality that wines are becoming different from what those same properties used to produce. Perfect sites (like full south ones facing in Barbaresco) may be getting too much hot summer sun. Colder sites are now achieving better phenolic ripeness having turned into warmer sites than they ever used to. Brand new wine regions are appearing which previously were not ideal. The result is sort of like the old phylloxera epidemic where wines are once again undergoing major changes. This previous issue resulted in a demand for pre-phylloxera vines and wines. I suspect similiarly there will be a growing demand over the next few decades for well made balanced lower alcohol pre-climate change wines. Already there are so many old style treasures like 1945 Mouton, 1961 Palmer, and 1989 Haut-Brion from Bordeaux. Many red Burgundies from top vintages and producers like DRC and Rousseau are already increasing rapidly in value. Of course there are so many benchmark wines from nearly every wine producing country that are already in high demand. However, once consumers realize that the newer wines are excellent but are so very different from those older style ones which are diminishing in supply this will drive up the price of the latter as something unique. The key is to find wines from around the world that express this old style but are so well balanced to age and develop even further. Good project for the smart wine collector to seek these out while they are still reasonably priced! Let us know which wines you think qualify.

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Ask Sid: Why is wine consumption in America down?

January 15th, 2020
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Question: Why has wine consumption in America gone down?

Answer: Yes the figures just released for 2019 show the first decline of overall wine consumption in the USA since 1994. Difficult question to answer because there are lots of factors in play. The biggest one is probably the health conscious awareness of most people but especially the younger demographics. This applies to all their food choices including beverages. Some of it is to be different from what their parents are drinking. Remember the trend of those unique small “POP” Champagne bottles from Pommery perfect on the dance floor! The big boost for decades of “healthy red wine” starting with that CBS 60 Minutes French paradox research in 1991 of the relationship between moderate alcohol and lower heart disease has all but vanished. More consumers now avoid any alcohol at all. Influenced too by stricter “no drinking and driving” laws – those are a good idea. Is legalized cannabis in some jurisdictions being used instead of wine?  A more casual food scene and popular on the go eating is resulting in less sit down dinners with wine which is probably having an affect too. That partially explains the increase in “aperitif” bar scene drinking of spirits and cocktails (but with higher alcohol levels) as well as the continuing strong sparkling sector. Wine production has expanded to so many countries around the world but drinking it remains quite formal in the opening of the bottle, best temperature for service, to the use of the proper glass. Also with so many choices and different price levels it is becoming ever more complicated to understand wine. Others though are drinking wine less frequently and no longer to excess but enjoying more expensive premium better quality. These terroir-driven wines with a sense of place and the intriguing ability to enhance your dining pleasure will always hold a fascination for some of us – one of the joys of life!

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Most Memorable Wine & Food Treasures of 2019 Spotlight Older Classics From Barolo

January 13th, 2020

Time of the Year to reflect back on the wines you enjoyed most during 2019. There are so many Top 10 wine lists out there for your consideration. They usually range from good values to the esoteric to super expensive. In these days of record high prices for “trophy” wines it is becoming something most special to have opened and to experience some of these rarities as they usually instead go to an auction. Your scribe was fortunate to try so many cherished bottles during the past year. Some highlights include outstanding aperitif bubbles in best format of magnum with 1990 Pol Roger, 1990 Dom Perignon, & 1976 Krug Collection through dramatic digestif sipping of 1967 Chateau d’Yquem, 1966 & 1963 Vintage Ports, 1939 Rose Muscat Gurzuf vine The Massandra Collection The Crimea from Sotheby’s, 1863 Taylor Single Harvest Pre-phylloxera Tawny, and 1827 Madeira Bual Henriques & Henriques. Lots of exceptional white and red table wines with appropriate food pairings included historic 1990 & 1978 Hermitage Blanc J-L Chave and 1990 Clos St. Hune Trimbach; 1990 Rhone: Cote-Rotie La Moulin Guigal, Hermitage Rouge J-L Chave, & Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape; 1990 now opening up red Burgundy: DRC, Dujac, Rousseau, and Vogue; 1989 Haut-Brion, still remarkable rich 1982 Bordeaux (such as Mouton, Grand Puy Lacoste, and Gruaud Larose) and surprising old style California cabernets led by excellent 1991s J. Phelps Insignia & Mondavi Reserve and a wonderful 1974 Mayacamas magnum. Any of these would be worthy candidates for a Top 10. However also enjoyed so many treasures from Italy in 2019 including 1988 Masseto, 1988 Sassicaia, 1985s Brunello from Soldera Casse Basse & Biondi-Santi Riserva to fond memories of 1968 Taurasi Riserva Montemarano from Mastroberardino. In the end decided to go with only one meal and all Nebbiolo wines for the summit of my 2019 wine and food experiences.

A dinner in Piedmont on October 12, 2019 at La Ciau Del Tornavento in Treiso was a tour-de-force by Chef Maurilio Garola, Chef Marco Lombardo and Nadia Benech with several local wine principals attending the event which resulted in it being the most memorable indeed. Check out the amazing menu! Including also a few other wines for consideration from earlier dinners on October 10 at 3 star Michelin Piazza Duomo with Chef Enrico Crippe and Vincenza Donatiello (young 1982 Barbaresco Santa Stefano Riserva Bruno Giacosa, wine of the night 1982 Barolo Cascina Francia Giacomo Conterno, elegant balanced 1978 Barbaresco Sori San Lorenzo Gaja, and concentrated 1978 Barolo Villero Giuseppe Mascarello) and on October 11 at Ristorante Guido Da Costigliole Relais San Maurizio Santo Stefano Belbo of Andrea Alciati & Monica Magnini (1990s Barbaresco Santo Stefano Riserva Bruno Giacosa & Barolo Monfortino Riserva Giacomo Conterno) in my final wine list.

Fortunate to sit next to Maria Teresa Mascarello (MTM) of Bartolo Mascarello (BM) at this October 12 dinner and to receive her valuable knowledgeable insights. We liked the Rinaldi flight so vibrant fresh with high acidity (especially 1989) but preferred the balance of 1971 but MTM says “too young”. First flight of BM great with 1990 charming bouquet (1989 usually a better a year) which MTM says “is ready to enjoy now with perfect balance and softer tannins” almost Burgundian styled while 1986 more Bordeaux-like structure with younger stronger tannins. 1986 opens with airing in the glass and “will develop well”. Both grand format BM 1958 & 1955 are sensational mature yet still fresh made by her father and grandfather. “Recipe is still the same every year traditional in making 1000-1200 magnums.” MTM “would have the 55 on its own without food because it is a joy with soft tannins.” 1958 perhaps more delicate and refined but drying out a little bit. 1955 has more depth of fruit left and more acidity and MTM loves the “smoky nose”. The Giacomo Conterno flights show a more powerful rich style compared to the lighter elegance and finesse of BM. Depends on the Nebbiolo style you prefer. All producers have done an outstanding job in letting the terroir of Barolo vineyards sing brightly in its many complex genres. MTM prefers the somewhat earthy 64 (improved and cleared with airing) and “believes the balance of lively acidity and tannins to be the key for best Barolo” while 67 has a touch of VA (some sommmeliers preferred this so must have been bottle variation) and 61 most complete. Excellent Zalto Barolo glasses being used here helps a lot. Monfortino is a very special unique vineyard from Cascina Francia and all three of these vintages 61, 58, and 55 are truly majestic putting a smile on your face. The plethora of delicious white truffles with every course didn’t hurt either. Roberto Conterno jokingly said that the host “for 2 years has been annoying us with communications and visits to make sure this dinner is properly set up.” Our generous host of this remarkable event so aptly put it all into perspective stating that “wines that make me happy are the best wines – not 100 pointers!” I heartily agree. Very happy 2019 indeed.


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