Pleased to see that your Top Ten Blog postings for 2020 were so diversified in topic. Everything from Burgundy, Bordeaux, California, Italy, masterclasses, to verticals & horizontals. Surprised insight into unique terroirs and detailed vintage assessments at a Chablis masterclass conducted by your scribe for Boston didn’t make the cut. More interest was shown in the 2019 Top Ten for wine & food destinations which have been put on hold because of the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic. Encouraging even during this most difficult year to learn that so many of you continue to follow our Blog. Your ability to overcome life’s challenges and continue your interest in wine & food with support for IWFS is inspiring. These times have resulted in all of us making lifestyle changes and thinking about wine & food somewhat differently. We approach 2021 with hope for more real interaction at events plus enjoyment of memorable wine & food experiences for everyone!
Question: Is the chardonnay grape called by another name in Chablis?
Answer: Yes the same wine grapes often go by different names. For example tempranillo often is called tinto del pais or tinto fino locally in the Ribera Del Duero region. Similarly chardonnay in Chablis sometimes goes by the local name BEAUNOIS. Also highly recommended as a reference is Wine Grapes by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding, and Jose Vouillamoz for extensive coverage of 1368 vine varieties used to make wine from around the world.
The holiday season has finally arrived in this unique crazy uncertain 2020 year. Lots of us have found new discoveries including of course sourdough bread making. However we are finding some solace in baking “goodies” and rediscovering our favourite Christmas cookies. We have tried many different ones over the decades but always find pure delight in repeating our long time treasures. So many deserve a mention.
Cappuccino shortbread dipped in dark chocolate is always a delicious treat. Fruit stollen is a traditional festive German bread worth trying. Those tasty rugelach are so addictive. For breakfast we like our cranberry coffee cake recipe. Classic linzer cookies really hit the comfort spot using that popular raspberry flavour plus almond flour with our two favs in that style shown are pistachio linzer rounds & linzer trees. Among so many excellent choices trying to pick the cookies we like the best is most difficult. Near the very top of our list has to be wonderful not too sweet florentine biscuits your scribe looks forward to enjoying every December and old style Christmas stars. This last one is a tradition around our house ever since fortunately obtaining in 1974 this recipe going far back from an IWFS member. It always brings back good cheer and nostalgic memories for us every Christmas since then. We encourage you to find or share with us here a similar precious gem for you.These stars could be the IWFS cookie of choice and your scribe encourages you to try making them. Here is the recipe:
1 cup unsalted butter softened 2/3 cup sugar 1 egg 1 teaspoon vanilla 2 1/2 cups unsifted flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
Filling: 1/2 cup red currant jelly 2 tablespoons sugar
In a large bowl cream butter & add sugar gradually beat at medium speed until light & fluffy. Beat in egg & vanilla and continue beating until well mixed. Add flour, salt, & lemon rind until well blended. Wrap & chill 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 350F. Roll half the dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness. With a star shaped cutter cut dough & bake 8-10 minutes. The remaining dough is cut in star shape but with a 1 inch circle cut out of the centre. Gather up & re-roll scraps; cut in the same manner & bake. For the filling use a small saucepan combining jelly & sugar; heat to boiling. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly for 3-4 minutes until mixture thickens. To assemble, place about 1/2 a teaspoon of jelly on each star without a hole. Top with the star with a hole off centre to form a star formation sandwich. Enjoy – by itself or with a sweet dessert wine like a Riesling Auslese.
Question: What is the name of a popular red grape they grow on the Iberian Peninsula?
Answer: Believe you must be thinking of MENCIA. You will find it grown in north-west Spain and also Portugal (often labelled as Jaen). Usually produces a good value red wine that can take some aging to soften those inherent tannins of the variety. Recently enjoyed an aged “Tinto” Baltos 2005 by Dominio de Tares 13.5 from the Bierzo region aptly paired with a spicy Pasta Napolitana that worked well. IMHO this grape often seems to give something similar to pinot noir weight without the elegance but with floral bitter cherry fruit plus a spicy almost peppery Syrah note. Worth discovering.
Your scribe continues to be amazed by the importance of knowing your Burgundy vintages. Yes we know wine is an agricultural product made from grapes with a variation in results from year to year. Of course there is the annual ritual hype of the brand new vintage but older ones tend to be forgotten. Yet lately we see more emphasis placed on two other important factors for top quality wine being the place and the producer. We are being “terroired” to death with detailed information from around the world of where the grapes are grown, the unique soils and the now ideal micro-climate with global change. Also you just have to check the recent wine auction results to see the continuing rise in successful very high bids for the famous name producers we all know. However vintage is a third most important consideration in finding yourself that amazing aged bottle. Our IWFS Vintage Card 2020 is a valuable resource rating vintages from 2018 back to 1998 with many wine regions included. Their highest rating is 7/7 with red Burgundy divided between Cote de Beaune (7’s: 2009, 2005) and Cote de Nuits (7’s: 2015, 2010, 2009, 2005, and 1999). Admire the work done by Allen D. Meadows and Douglas E. Barzelay in their impressive tome Burgundy Vintages A History from 1845 with an amazing Vintage Guide rating years up to 2015 with 1 to 5 stars. They awarded “Superb – among the best of the century” 5’s recently to only 2015, 2005,1999,1978 and 1962. Lots of 4’s for “Excellent -many very fine and even some great wines were made” plus a special 4 1/2 given for 2010. Vintage has been clearly focused in my mind this past month being fortunate to drink some older Burgundy cellar treasures from the eighties. Some tough difficult years in that decade including often moldy 1983s. 1988 seems to be ever improving if they have enough fruit left to match that more austere styling we don’t see with current vintages. Certainly the best are 1985 and 1990 both classic years. Finding 1985 more charming and consistent though 1990 has riper power. Tried several Domaine wines of Thomas-Moillard Nuits-St.-Georges Clos De Thorey 1990 & 1985 and Clos De Vougeot & Corton Clos du Roi both 1990. Also their Negociant ones of Bonnes-Mares 1990 & Charmes-Chambertin 1990. All were quite good but the most enjoyable one of all with a surprisingly complex bouquet plus young fresh fruit structure was 1985 Echezeaux from “mis en bouteille par Moillard” (better even than the same 1990 wine tried last year). Nirvana of brilliant velvety texture you search for in a top Echezeaux paired perfectly with an organic fresh chicken dish plus sweet potatoes, fennel & freekeh. All this can be because of bottle variation but believe that the dependable 1985 vintage as well had lots to do with it!
Another delight this week was an old bottle of 1990 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos de la Mouchere Monopole from Jean Boillot et Fils (Volnay). Another good vintage choice for whites but am having more dependable success generally with 1985 & 1986 without pre-mox. This bottle carried exciting nostalgic memories with it being invited by the late Michael Broadbent to join him for a wine tasting in London October 1993 for his selection of wines for British Airways. I admired Michael’s intense dedication and note taking while searching out the very best wines at the tasting. We both liked the young elegant steeliness and perfect balance of this wine – they kindly later gave me this bottle. Now opened perhaps too late some 27 years later it was stupendous nonetheless in a different way showing the glory of a rich ripe smooth honey flavoured yet still balanced beauty to match with fresh black cod (sablefish) course at dinner. Vintage was important here for white Burgundy too!