Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Fabulously Irreverent Wines of M. Chapoutier

Standard

I believe that a wine is a reflection of its winemaker.

An elegant winemaker would produce elegant wines. A winemaker with a big personality will make wines of huge flavours. A female winemaker could add a feminine touch to her wines.

unnamed-1

Such is the case of M. Chapoutier wines.

I first encountered M. Chapoutier wines in their press launch. Normally, a launch of a wine label would involve a dinner with wines to match each course, thus highlighting the wines.

It is most unusual for a wine label to show a video of a winemaker (not the wines) during an event.

unnamed-2

Nicolas Schoutteten

Nicolas Schoutteten, the Export Director of the brand, opened the event for us with such an open, casual manner. Off the get-go, Nicolas reassured everyone that he would not dare bore us with the technical aspects.

The film that played over lunch and wine highlighted what I could only describe as the wildly flamboyant adventures (and misadventures) of Michel Chapoutier (the wine’s comically ingenious winemaker). He is a gentleman of seemingly opposing traits: Irreverent yet traditional, brash but elegantly French, seemingly rebellious but very learned, proud of Hermitage but equally delighted to have made wines in Australia.

These descriptions may not be what one would ordinarily think of when describing a winemaker, but I humbly propose that he may be on to something: Almost 30 of his labels have gotten over 100 points from both Robert Parker and Wine Spectator, and over 550 have been scored 90 points or higher.

Historically, the wine house has been around since 1879. Michel’s hand in making these legendary wines have made their house garner so much attention and accolades, but not without hardships brought about by family drama (Michel bought sole rights to the vineyards so he could exercise full control) and financial difficulties. Their Latin slogan, “Fac Et Spera” (“do and hope”) echoes the house’s resilience amidst all the challenges.

Today, Michel keeps passionately doing what he does best: making fantastic wines, advocating Hermitage and Australian wines, and promoting the absolute necessity of food and wine pairing.

unnamed-3

TONS of wines to try

For that particular afternoon, we had quite a number of wines to choose from. We started off with Chante-Alouette Blanc, a refreshing, clean, and elegant white made from Marsanne grapes. Chante is “song” in French, and Alouette is a French bird (like the French nursery rhyme).

We followed that with the Belleruche Blanc, a crisp, floral wine with great acidity and citrus notes. It’s simple, beautiful, and perfect to have on a warm, sunny day. The La Petite Ruche is a fool-proof food pairing white which paired well with our food that day (especially the spring rolls).

The reds were just as beautiful: The Belleruche Rouge is a half-Shiraz, half-Grenache delight, with peppery notes playing off perfectly with woody, leathery characteristics. The gorgeous Châteauneuf du Pape La Bernardine was splendidly flawless in texture and its old-world charm. I was also entertained by the English translation of the Latin label Occultum Lapidem (secret rock). The name philosophically means, “If you look in between the rocks, you will find the truth”.

However.

unnamed

Sizeranne for me was the afternoon’s winning wine

I decided to seriously nurse the glass I had of the Moiner de la Sizeranne (and if it wasn’t too tacky, I would have run off with what was left over). This splendid, award-winning emblem of what Hermitage wine is all about is named after Maurice de la Sizeranne (born in the same area that the vineyards of M. Chapoutier are located). Sizeranne was the Frenchman whose contributions to Braille helped make significant advances to the way blind people interpret the written word. In honor of this man, most of the wine labels of M. Chapoutier are printed with Braille indentations.

The tasting was not complete without trying out M. Chapoutier’s take on Australian wines. Shays Flat is a tale of opposites: Taking to heart the notion of not making yet another Australian wine, this wine has the elegant texture of French wines with the juicy, fruity notes of a wine from down under. It’s neither big and robust nor subtle and refined. It truly found the halfway point of these two wine producing regions.

I do invite you to have some of these wines yourself and discover your own interpretation on what seem  
s like a conundrum. I guarantee that it is such a wonderful treat.

unnamed-4

special thanks to Premium Wine Exchange

Giving Some “Sacrificio” for Great Wine

Standard

How far will you go for good wine?

Will you travel halfway around the world?

Will you “dig up your own sacrificed wine” from a mountain?

I don’t know about you, but while I am willing to travel great distances for splendid wine, I’m not the type to dig in the dirt for it.

unnamed-2

My Sacrificio

It was a brilliant idea to launch a wine label though. Aptly named “Sacrificio” (sacrifice), the wine maker and creator of this wine, Ian Hutcheon, was inspired by animal and human sacrifices that were done by ancient civilisations on mountaintops. These beautiful bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, and Shiraz were wrapped in cloak, nailed to a wooden coffin, and buried at the summit of Monte Tuca in Chile.

The wine was officially launched in September 2012, but with a bit of sacrifice: Customers who wanted to purchase these babies had to buy their individual maps and climb the mountain, locate the bottles with their maps, and dig it up.

Thankfully, I was given a bottle (sans the digging and the hiking, I am a city girl at heart!) during my visit in San Vicente Tagua Tagua… My only sacrifice was to trek around their property (through rivers!) on a horse (too much fun to even count as a sacrifice, really).

They also have a wine that’s nothing short of interplanetary: The Meteorito (meteorite). This rich and surprisingly mineral (maybe the inclusion of the space rock was a factor, hmmmm…) Cabernet Sauvignon is aged with a 4.5 billion year old meteorite from the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars.

So… What great lengths will you go to delight yourself with otherworldly wine? Cheers!

Locally Available International Coolers – The Dairy Edition

Standard

While I would normally recommend your typical citrusy, acidic treats as the summer season welcomes us with its scorching hot arms, I decided to experiment on something else: I explored a few dairy-based coolers, totally unorthodox for summer.

For this particular research, I decided to take an unusual (masochistic) route and limit myself to a few parameters (how systematic):

  • Something unique (so no Piña Coladas or Milkshakes)
  • Something with international origins (it was particularly hard to resist the temptation to have some sago at gulaman, samalamig, melon juice…)
  • Something dairy
  • Something cooling

So… I came up with three drinks worth trying out:

unnamed-5

  • Eng Bee Tin’s Milk Tea, and Strawberry Soya Milk (China) – Eng Bee Tin, Binondo
    Eng Bee Tin’s deli is a must for people keen to explore the fabulous food in the world’s oldest Chinatown. While the rice toppings, noodles, and dim sum are absolutely DA BOMB, it must be said that their Milk Tea is just as awesome. Equal parts refreshing and tasty, it’s a gorgeous partner to their affordable menu. The Strawberry Soya is splendid too… But it’s a nice, non-dairy, equally scrumptious option.
    Alternative Options: Happy Lemon’s Malt Milk Tea (for a little bit of a twist), and the ever accessible Silk flavored soy milk (most groceries)

    unnamed-2

  • Kashmir’s Sweet Lassi (India) – Kashmir Deli, Forbes
    Lassi is a popular yogurt-based drink, served in two different “taste” flavors: Traditional (or simply Lassi) is savory (flavored with spices), and Sweet Lassi (sweetened with sugar and/or fruits). I decided to focus on the sweet version, since we Pinoys prefer our edibles all sugary. A good way to describe this drink is… Well, a large version of Yakult.
    Alternative Options: Ziggurat’s version is yummy too, as well as the one from New Bombay (and if you’re nice to the Indian old lady proprietress, you will be her suki and she will love you forever)

    unnamed

  • Green Matcha Frappe (Japan) – Epic, Kapitolyo
    Matcha is a fine powdered green tea. It’s creamy, delicious, earthy, and all around wonderful. Epic’s Frappe version of the Matcha is intensely flavourful, rich, creamy, and refreshing. It will make you think of drinking Green Tea Kit Kat bars!
    Alternative Options: There is a similar version in Starbuck’s, just ask for their green tea frappe.

I have got to end it here… All this writing about summer coolers makes me want to hit the beach. Now.

Cheers!

Exploring the Unusual – Washington State Wines

Standard

I love exploring the unusual. I love having been a solo Asian female traveler that visited vineyards halfway around the world. I love being a lady learning about alcohol. I love destroying stereotypes.

This sounds like such a rebellious opening statement for today’s entry, but I figure it’s the best way to introduce something I immersed myself in last weekend.

See, typically, when people talk about wines from the USA, people automatically think: California. With good reason, though… It is home to 90% of USA’s wine production, Chateau Montelena in Napa (the wine that smashed the conventional notion of French wines being better than every other wine on the planet), the Pinoy girl’s favourite pink wine (White Zinfandel), and convenient chillable boxed wine (with a tap).

In relation to my opening statement, however, I would like to introduce you to a wine producing region in USA that is completely underrated (and under-discussed, IMHO), Washington State.

Why should anyone explore wines from this part of the world?

First, they only make premium (read: quality, quality, quality!) wines, which means you take the guesswork out when you purchase their wines.

Also, given that this is a colder region (producing wines with higher acidity…) enjoying longer hours of sunshine during the summer (…with fully ripe fruit), you get food friendly, elegantly textured wines.

This information is absolutely essential when you’re strapped for time to buy wine for a housewarming party (I mean, how cool is that? You couldn’t go wrong with picking out any Washington State bottle from a shelf? Awesome!)

Here is one of my personal favorites: Chateau Ste Michelle Chardonnay. It’s accessible (easy to buy from your friendly Wine Warehouse stores), and the location is similar to that of Burgundy (known for making excellent Chardonnays in the form of a Chablis). Once again, it’s a bit chilly in this part of the world, guaranteeing a less flabby and elegant take on a Chard.

 

(used with permission from David Andrews of Chateau Ste Michelle)

Enjoy the video, and enjoy the wine. I am personally craving for seared scallops with this baby. Cheers!

I’ve Got A Secret To Tell…

Standard

One of the biggest challenges I have with my job (state of my liver notwithstanding) is to be able to describe a wine’s smell and taste using standardized terms. The challenge lies with the fact that most terms or items used to describe wines are things we don’t have (and never grew up with) in the Philippines.

Gooseberry? Forest floor? Raspberries aren’t even indigenous to us!

So, I’ll share with you a secret: I’ve never seen a gooseberry.

Before I hear the sound of violent reactions from you guys (how the *$%# did she say that %^&@!# wine smelled like that?!?), I want to share with you how I can say with conviction that a wine smells like it has hints of things I’ve never seen before (and sound credible, clinical, and bloody snobby): the Aromaster.

unnamed-5

The Aromaster is a kit that comes with several ampoules of scents commonly found in wines. Constantly smelling the vials allows you to commit common wine aromas to memory. They include smells that are not that familiar to the average Pinoy (hawthorn, sandalwood, tree moss, etc.).

This, for me, levels the playing field in wine evaluation. I mean, while “chico” and “kamias” are familiar to us, including that in a standardised European wine evaluation (or telling that to a room full of wine snobs) may be a bit bizarre.

It also includes a wheel of scents and/or flavours you can commonly find in a stereotypical wine grape (example: a Cabernet Sauvignon would smell a bit like blackberry and blackcurrant, etc.).

Hint: familiarizing yourself with the scents commonly found in certain wine grapes allows you to figure out what the wine is in a blind tasting (sorry, sommeliers don’t have magical powers!).

You can also use this to get familiar with the aroma of wine faults (corked, nail polish remover, vinegar, etc.). Smelling indications of wine faults in your wine normally means that your wine has gone bad.

Watch out though, the vial for rotten egg is gross!

There’s even a game included in the kit for endless hours of pseudo-intellectual drunken entertainment.

I hope you get to enjoy it as much as I do. Cheers!