Monthly Archives: July 2016

Weather, Weather Part 1: Coming Up Rosés

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Is it just me, or did the weather in Manila become more schizophrenic than usual?

We’ve had scorching, sunny mornings that last until the stifling, humid afternoons followed by wet, slightly cooler, rainy evenings.

As a proponent of drinking according to the weather, I was confused as to what to drink (and write) about. I mean, normally I would recommend a nice, rich red wine for a cold, damp night; and a crisp, cold beer during a hot day…

But that’s boring.

So I thought… If I were to reverse it, what wine would I have during a warm weather day, and what beer would I have on a rainy one?

 

Rosé in the Heat

 

One of the most underrated wines in the Philippines is the Rosé. Most iterations pair well with Asian food (we had a successful experiment pairing a light rosé with Vigan Longganisa over the weekend), but are good enough to drink on their own, by the beach or the side of the pool*.

Admittedly, I prefer Provence rosés because every bottle takes me back to our first trip to France.

Cue flashback…

Initially, I had this misconception that the French are all about red wines… But I eventually discovered that it’s not true during the summer. Chad and I marvelled at fashionable Parisian women, cigarette in one hand, gossiping the afternoon away over bottles of pretty pink wine.

Being the cheapskate newlyweds we were, however, we decided to get a couple of these bottles (and some charcuterie) from a nearby Carrefour and down it in our tiny hotel… It was as heavenly as it looked.

Fast forward to the present…

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Whispering Angel by Chateau d’Escalans (with many thanks to Premier Wine)

In Manila, one of my favourites has got to be Whispering Angel from Chateau d’Escalans. I did an event on Provence wines with Le Jardin Manila** featuring this baby a few weeks ago and was thrilled because, even before doing a proper tasting evaluation on it, I was sold with this fact: Some of my wine heroes raved about it.

 

Jancis Robinson: “It’s more palate grabbing by far from the Provencal Pink norm”

James Suckling: “Always delicious”

Steven Spurrier: “Very clear and clean and will gain flavours during the year”

 

Enough said. 🙂

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Domaine des Aspras beauties: Les Trois Frères and À Lisa

Other Provence favourites of mine include a couple of rosés coming from a boutique winery called Domaine des Aspras:

  • Trois Frères (Grenache, Cinsault, and Rolle) – Named after the three brothers and third generation of the Latz family currently running the vineyard, Trois Frères Rosé is a beautiful pale pink wine with notes of strawberry, raspberry, mint, peach, and white flowers. It’s fresh, rounded, and fruity on the mouth, with soft textures balancing out a great intensity.
  • À Lisa (Grenache and Cinsault) – The wine was named after the matriarch of the house, Lisa Lutz. I’d say that this is a great benchmark for quality rosés, with its deeper, borderline salmon color, and intense floral notes, with hints of ripe fruit.

 

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Sospechoso, available in Barcino’s

If Provence rosés seem intimidating, the Sospechoso from Barcino’s is a simple, eye-catching rosé with its irreverent bottle design (there are six to choose from!), guaranteed to be a hit in any party. Made from Tempranillo and Bobal, this pale salmon wine has notes of meaty stone fruit on the nose, and is reminiscent of roses on the mouth. Perfect with tapas.

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Cute pink Hoegaarden Rosée (available in Booze Shop, Bel-Air)

Wildcard: A “rosé” beer from one of my favorite Belgian wheat beer makers, Hoegaarden, the Hoegaarden Rosée. This fruity, chic looking pink beer is light and sweet, with prominent flavors of raspberry, and a very low alcohol content at 3%. This has got to be the girliest looking beer I’ve ever had, but no complaints here… Pink is my favourite colour after all. 😉

 

That being said, which refreshing pink drink do you prefer? I’ll see you in the next article, where I’ll be exploring the dark side of the rain (through drinks, of course). Cheers!

 


*Drink Responsibly: Do not drink excessively and swim and/or go sunbathing. It can cause drowning, severe dehydration, and/or sunburn (from falling asleep under the sun).

**By insistent popular demand, Provence Night in Le Jardin Manila will have a Part Two! Please inquire through +639178176584 for the schedule, which should be finalized soon.

 

 

Korean Style

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After several events, parties, deadlines, meetings, homework, chores, and appointments, I found myself in a major state of burnout a couple of weeks ago. It was the type of burnout where I seriously shied away from the outside world (more so than usual) and wanted to live like a hermit for a couple of days.

So, like a responsible adult, I fixed my schedule to avoid any and all human contact, and searched for entertainment the best way I knew how: iFlix and Netflix.

After looking around for what seemed like an eternity, I decided to forego the usual western TV series and documentaries and try out a Korean drama.

Yes, my name is Gail, and I watched a Korean drama (with English subtitles, of course).

Backtrack: I never had any interest in Korean culture and entertainment. I think it was because the first Koreans I’ve met in Manila weren’t the nicest people… Those encounters left a bad taste in my mouth.

I only began to give it a chance when my husband started working for a Korean company. I started meeting really nice Koreans who taught me their brand of indulgence: cheap and effective beauty products (I have yet to meet a Korean with bad skin), amazing Korean food (although I have yet to figure out where they put them, they’re so skinny!), and Korean drama.

Korean drama is how Latin Americans treat their telenovelas: Everyone has a favorite, and watching them is almost a religion. In fact, given Korean technology (and their breakneck bandwidth speeds), a lot of these dramas are made available online and accessible to anyone with a smartphone.

Which brings me back to my original story: To chill out, I decided to indulge myself in a nice Kdrama, put on a much-needed facial mask, and, because I’m a beverage geek, drink something totally Korean.

 

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Refreshing Aloe Vera Juice from Landmark Supermarket

 

Aloe Vera Juice

I heard of Aloe Vera for hair, but never as a beverage. The drink tasted like really sweet candy and promised to decrease bloating. Online research produced conflicting studies (some studies say too much of the stuff can pose health risks, others say it’s great for detox), but the cute bottle and refreshing characteristics were enough to make me want more.

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Acaféla Bottled Caramel Macchiato from Landmark Supermarket

Bottled Coffee

Honestly, I got this because of the bottle and the wordplay on acapella. It was a choice between this flavor and a dark coffee, but I was craving for something sweet at the time. This did the trick… The caramel flavors were the roasted, creamy kind (my favorite).

 

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The Korean staple, Soju

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I heard about Soju when Chad was hunting down a store to buy some for his Korean officemates. I heard of it again while I was watching a Kdrama, where I discovered… Man, Koreans love (and get drunk on) Soju. It’s as readily available in South Korea as San Miguel is to us. Essentially, it’s a distilled beverage containing ethanol and water, made from rice, wheat, barley, potatoes, sweet potatoes, or tapioca, and is consumed neat. The alcohol percentage varies from 16.5-45% ABV… Which makes it quite potent.

If this isn’t enough, some people turn them into Soju Bombs: Similar to boilermakers, a shot glass of Soju is dropped into a pint of beer and is consumed fast.

 

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Plum Wine, available in Kang’s Salcedo Village

Plum Wine

While shopping around for Soju, I discovered this bottle of plum wine. It’s made out of maesil plums (which are bottled along with the alcohol). It’s popular, cute, and is about 14% ABV. It’s sweet, fragrant, fruity, and packs quite a punch. There’s a premium gold edition, which has a smoother, more elegant texture to it. Personally, I couldn’t drink this on its own, it needs food (preferably Korean, of course!).

 

That being said, excuse me while I return to my self-exile vacation, while I enjoy what’s left of my Soju, Japchae, facial mask, and Kdrama. 😉 Let me know your favorites. Geonbae!

For the Love of the French

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Please excuse my absence for the past few weeks, all of which will be answered in a different article featuring Korean beverages.

I had an article that I was supposed to come out last Friday in time for Bastille Day… The introduction was such that I was hoping my absence could be forgiven.

Then, Nice happened.

The article (and its introduction) just seemed inappropriate.

I started being aware of France in relation to Paris. During our trips to France, however, I found myself falling in love with the countryside much more than I ever fell in love with Paris.

I understand that this sentiment is bizarre coming from a full-fledged city woman like myself, but who cannot fall in love with gorgeous nature, regionally faithful food, numerous tangible traces of history (from medieval France to evidence of both world wars), accessible regional wines…

Then, there’s the people.

One of the biggest misconceptions about the French is that they’re… Well, snobby.

Having said that, given the idea that wines are a great reflection of the people from the region it comes from, one could imagine how French wines are perceived.

In fact, before I had to scrap my article, I went around and asked non-winos about how they see French wines:

  • It’s the most esteemed/coveted wine in the world.
  • The best wines of the world come from France.
  • You can’t possibly separate a Frenchman and his wine.
  • Some of the most luxurious wine brands come from France (top answers include famous Champagne brands, like Dom Perignon and Veuve Cliquot).
  • They’re probably going to be good and expensive since they’re French, but for reasons unknown beyond the fact that they’re French.

As I take this time to thank some of my friends for gamely giving their opinions on French wine (some more eloquent than others, but all shall remain nameless), let me also use this as an opportunity to debunk some of them (before I get to the point).

Personally, I think that the aspect of being the most esteemed/coveted/the best can be subjective (search for “Paris Wine Tasting of 1976” or “Judgment of Paris” online, watch the film “Bottle Shock”, or read my article on Stag’s Leap).

Ask a Frenchman (especially the ones who grew up in the wine regions), and they’d probably tell you that there’s more to their wines than the price/luxury (in fact, one of our non-wino French friends told me about how the wines in their supermarkets offer good, affordable options for wine novices).

It’s not all about the labels, either… Granted, I wouldn’t say no to a bottle of Romanée-Conti or a Petrus (preferably in my birth year), but there are a multitude of beautiful options out there that are not necessarily bank-breaking powerhouse names.

I know I’m taking too long to make a point, but here goes: Contrary to how they are perceived, I find that there are more friendly French people out there. I’ve seen many barriers broken by a proper salutation (with apologies for speaking broken French), and a glass of wine. The connections I’ve made (whether professional or personal) are still strong (and the sporadic emails I get consistently touch me to no end).

Here are some of my recent favorites (and their wines):

 

Joseph Cattin

Alsace has a reputation for being the ultimate source of sweet but elegant white wines. Located near the border of Germany (and whose territory has been passed back and forth between France and Germany during wars), the two countries share similar winemaking procedures and grapes… So it’s not surprising to find the very German-sounding Gewürztraminer grapes in their wines, or the wide use of Alsatian bottles (skinny, tall, dark green ones that I love to call “the ramp model of wine bottles”) in Germany.

The thing is, as with anything mass-produced, some of the easily-accessible Alsace wines can be pretty… Well, boring. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still great (and go famously with Asian food), but they tend to be so homogenous.

Enter Joseph Cattin. I met Jacques Cattin Jr. and his wife, Anaïs Sirop duing the Vinexpo. They specialize in gorgeous, elegant, boutique Alsatian wines.

The beautiful thing about boutique wines is that the production is so small, winemakers can pay attention to every little detail that goes into their winemaking. Such is the case for Joseph Cattin wines. Their wines consistently retain a gorgeous elegance that keeps their wines sophisticated.

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Jacques Cattin and Anaïs Sirop of Joseph Cattin Wines

Must-Try:

Muscat Grand Cru Hatschbourg – Talk about crossing borders, this appellation (geographical origin) is located in the region that shares borders with France, Germany, and Switzerland. The vineyards of Hatschbourg are located on mountainous slopes, which allow ample sunshine and protection from the mountains. Translation: not too ripe but not too unripe grapes, which gives wine the necessary astringency to keep the wine from being too sweet. This particular Muscat has wonderful floral notes typical of the grape, but with enough complimentary acidity.

Riesling and Gewürztraminer Vendanges Tardives (late harvest) from the Les Cuvées d’Exception collection – Most wines using the noble rot method (allowing fungus to drill holes on the skin of the grape and letting water evaporate, leaving the grape with residual sugar) have a tendency to be saccharine sweet. The wines from the Les Cuvées d’Exception selection, however, are acerbic enough to keep it from being boring.

 

Domaine Gérard Tremblay

I (shyly) met Vincent Tremblay, president of Domaine Gérard Tremblay in one of the smaller booths during the Expo.

As evidenced in a lot of my articles in this blog, I have this predilection for boutique wines (wines with a small production), and I figured a formidable looking guy in a diminutive booth from a tiny appellation in one of the French powerhouse regions promised an excellent conversation.

I was right.

He shared his sentiment on how a lot of people over-complicate wines from his region (it’s a lot simpler than people think), his adventures while working in Argentina, the fact that he was the fifth generation winemaker in their family owned domain, and his passionate love of rugby (which explains his build).

“Where I come from, we just (casually) open a bottle of wine for dinner,” Vincent said during our discussion on why some people treat wine too seriously.

 

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Vincent Tremblay, President and Fifth Generation Winemaker of Domaine Gérard Tremblay

Must-Try:

Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume “Vieilles Vignes” – Honestly, I don’t know how anyone can go wrong with a Premier Cru from Chablis. Fourchaume as a region is close to the river Serein, which cools down the vineyards during an otherwise scorching summer. Translation: well-balanced grapes producing well-balanced wines. Add that to the fact that the grapes come from “Vieille Vignes” (old vines), and voila, a beautiful Chardonnay with just the right amount of acidity, character, and notes of honey and white flowers… Perfect with food or just lounging around a terrace with friends.

Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir – Vincent was actually hiding this baby in his booth… Given that there are very limited quantities to these bottles during production, I understood. As with most things rare, this was truly a gem and worthy of its classification, the highest in the region at Chablis Grand Cru. Located in Vaudésir, a tiny location also close to the Serein river, this location has the best Kimmeridgian soils that Chardonnay thrives on. This velvety Chardonnay with notes of honey and ripe fruits was truly breathtaking (and destroyed my palate for other Chardonnays).

 

Domaine Haute Perche

I never really read up on wines from the Anjou region… Frankly, we don’t have enough of them here to spark an interest.

In comes the effervescent Véronique Papin, Vigneronne of Domaine Haute Perche. Her energy was so much that I had to stop from going around the booths during the expo and have a couple of drinks with her (and she was sweet enough to teach me how to pronounce an element of their vineyard’s soil, schist, in a truly French way).

Anjou as a region is generally known for making sweet wines (although a decline in demand got winemakers from this part of the world to start producing dry wines), and being the only place in France that still produces Grolleau grapes (light, low in alcohol, earthy, dark grapes mostly used in rosé production).

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Véronique Papin (in action), Vigneronne of Domaine Haute Perche

 

Must-Try:

Anjou Blanc “Le Caractere” – A beautifully intense, floral white wine made from Chenin Blanc grapes, this is an excellent showcase of how beautiful white wines from Anjou are supposed to be: rich, with a touch of sweetness, and a fresh finish.

Cremant de Loire Rosé – This was an excellent application of two of the major red grapes of Anjou (Grolleau and Cabernet Franc) as a sparkling wine. It’s fruity but elegant, with notes reminiscent of ripe berries and flowers.

Cabernet d’Anjou – Deemed the best of what Anjou has to offer, as per appellation standards, the Cabernet d’Anjou is a medium-sweet style rosé made from Cabernet Franc and/or Cabernet Sauvignon. Domaine de Haute Perche’s take on this rosé highlights the organoleptic characteristics of the wine, complimented by notes of very ripe red berries.

 


 

I had a marginally different ending to this entry, which as I’ve mentioned, is unsuitable given the recent attacks.

So let me end things this way: Intolerance should stop. Intolerance can be as simple as being a wine snob, to generalizing an entire race (which leads to prejudice and hate), to murder en masse for (reasons). When I think of the old and new French friends I’ve made, the frequency of attacks in their beautiful country (and that they’re acts of terrorism) saddens me to no end.

That being said, let me post a message from the French Embassy in Manila for an event in Alliance Française today:

Following the deadly attack that struck Nice last July 14 and that put France in grieving during our National Day, the President of the French Republic has declared three days of national mourning (July 16, 17 and 18) to pay tribute to the victims. The flags of public buildings have been on half-mast since July 15.

A minute of silence will be observed on Monday, July 18 at 12:00pm all over France. To join this tribute to the victims of this tragedy in unity with the Nation, I invite all our compatriots in the Philippines to observe this minute of silence on July 18, 6:00pm (local time). A brief memorial ceremony will be organized at the Alliance Française de Manille. Those who wish to attend are invited to come to the following address: 209, Nicanor Garcia St., Bel Air II, Makati City, no later that 5:45pm.

Thierry Mathou, Ambassador of France to the Philippines

 

Questions Answered, and Things I’ve Learned

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“Do you like wines?”

I turned around, faced the source of the voice and answered, “I’m here, aren’t I?” with an admittedly wicked grin.

Pardon the snark, but questions like that at 10:30 in the morning in one of the biggest wine expositions in the world (I’m talking about Vinexpo 2016, of course) are just… Unnecessary.

The dude seemed to figure out his little faux pas, laughed, and with a heavy accent said, “Would you like to attend a seminar on Spanish white wines?”

Now THAT’S the best question to be asked. Wine tasting that early in the morning, featuring an unusual “genre” of wines?

I was THERE.

See, one of the top reasons to go to something as massive as Vinexpo is to learn about wines, especially hard to find ones.

Here are some of my favorite discoveries:

 

Spanish Whites

 

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Learning about Spanish White Wine at 10:30 in the morning? No problem!

The first things that come to mind when someone says “Spanish wine” are gorgeous, earthy Tempranillo-based reds; or crisp, bubbly Cava.

Nobody really talks about Spanish white wine, which is a shame… In fact, during the seminar, I’ve come across a few notable ones:

Roqueta Origen Abadal Picapoll 2015 – I have never heard of Picapoll before that morning. This grape, which thrives in Pla de Bages (North East of Spain close to Barcelona), makes slightly citric white wines that have notes of green apples and pears, with enough acidity to cut rich Asian food (think food with hoisin sauce).

Clos Pons Sisquella 2014 – Produced in Costers del Segre (a neighbor of the famous Spanish wine region of Priorat), this (pricey!) Garnacha and Alabriño blend is rustic with mineral notes, balanced out by hints of white flowers, stone fruits, and oranges. I’ve had Albariño before, but never as a minor blend for a white… This wine surprised me for its versatility: It can be drunk alone, but I could totally imagine it paired with some Panda Express Orange Chicken (I know it’s a bit blasphemous, but it’s something I’m willing to experiment on in the near future).

Viña Muriel Blanco 2010 – Confession: I hate writing about Viura. Viura is an alias used for Macabeo in Rioja… And frankly, apart from being a great complement for the Malvasia grape, it’s boring. The Viña Muriel, however, surprised me with its long finish, pronounced citrus notes offset by stony characteristics. Not. Boring. At. All.

 

East Coast Wines

Name me a supplier of East Coast wines in Manila, and I’ll be grateful.

Problems like these have an awful drawback on my end: I know about the wines in theory, but I couldn’t be fully committed when it comes to discussing them. Wines to me are a sensory experience… Reading about them just wouldn’t do.

Thankfully, there were more than enough east coast wines during the Vinexpo to merit an objective research (or a happy afternoon of drinking). In fact, I had the pleasure of being shown around by the president of the multi-awarded winery Thirsty Owl, Jonathan C. Cupp.

He taught me about the key differences of the major wine producing regions in the East Coast: Finger Lakes, and Hudson River Region.

Unsurprisingly (given the name), Finger Lakes is flanked by several large bodies of water (lakes, if you will), making that area cooler than its eastern counterpart.

What winemakers have discovered is that it’s the perfect area to cultivate grapes normally found in warmer parts of the world, making their wines incredibly well balanced and subtle.

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Yes, Dessert Wine can be made out of the normally powerful Cabernet Sauvignon!

My favorites included the Thirsty Owl Riesling (a Riesling with enough acidity to keep it from being cloying, and adding a certain elegance to the taste and structure), and one of the most unusual wines I’ve ever had to date: the startlingly red Thirsty Owl Cabernet Sauvignon Ice Wine. Ice wine is normally white, and the more common iterations would be incredibly saccharine. This one, despite being fruit-forward, has enough astringency from the raspberry notes (from the Cabernet Sauvignon) to keep the wine from being nauseatingly sweet.

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One of the most beautiful new world Merlots I’ve ever tried

 

Representing wines from the Hudson River is Brotherhood Winery, deemed America’s oldest winery (they’ve been making wines in the sleepy area of Washingtonville since 1839!). They have so much wine to choose from, but to compare: Their take on a Riesling is fruitier than their Finger Lakes counterparts, but without losing sophistication. Their very grounded version of a Merlot (from their Premium Selection line) blew me away with its lean, refined texture.

 

Wines from Oregon

Die-hard fans of the film Sideways know that it’s actually adapted from a novel of the same name, and that there’s a sequel to the novel called Vertical. The second book involves the same loveable winos traveling to Oregon for a Pinot Noir festival.

Indeed, that is Oregon’s claim to fame: Amazing Pinot Noir that has placed them in the forefront of winemaking.

The thing is, as with my initial sentiment with East Coast wines, I couldn’t find one in Manila that would really qualify as “research material”.

This was, of course, remedied by the presence of Oregon exhibitors in Vinexpo.

I shyly approached a formidable-looking gentleman and requested for a little “wine education”.

 

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Howard Rossbach of Firesteed

The gentleman, Howard Rossbach of Firesteed, was exceedingly gracious to oblige. He helped me make a few discoveries: First, that Oregon wines are as beautifully sophisticated as I’ve read in books.

Second, that his wine Firesteed is a far cry from the explosion of fruits one would expect from a lot of new world winemakers. Sure, his take on the Pinot still has the expected notes of ripened raspberries and black cherries, but wonderfully anchored by notes of cinnamon and cocoa.

Third, that his wine Citation is his top of the line take on a Pinot Noir. This one is amazingly full-bodied, without losing the necessary fruit-forward characteristics needed from a proper Pinot Noir; or the supple, refined texture of the wine.

 

Greek Wines

I’ve endlessly been fascinated by wines from ancient regions. I’ve tried wines from places that have been making wine since biblical times: Macedonia, Georgia, and Lebanon (a personal favorite of mine, whose rosés blew me away).

During the Vinexpo, Thomas Kanstmann of Greek Wine Cellars treated me to a little journey on Greek wines.

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Going Greek! Greek wines from Greek Wine Cellars

 

I was surprised to learn that their white wines are so refreshing. I could easily imagine myself lounging in a terrace in Santorini with a bottle. For that purpose, I particularly loved Agean Islands and Rhoditis.

The reds were so rich and begged for food; they made me want to go out for lamb souvlaki. The Kouros is multi-awarded and breathtaking, and Black Swan is equally food-friendly.

They have fascinating dessert wines too, like their red Mavrodaphne of Patras (which reminded me of raisins), and the white Muscat of Samos (with notes of orange peel and honey).

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Thomas Kantsmann, with a bottle of Restina by Kourtaki

 

But here’s the ultimate Greek piece de resistance: Retsina has been around for centuries, and is legendary for tasting like pinewood. It doesn’t sound appetizing, but I personally appreciated the centuries of tradition that went into making the drink (and the fact that it makes the wine truly, uniquely Greek).


As always, the best way to learn about wine is to sample them from the source… If geography is an issue (though I’m totally up for traveling to Greece and Oregon ASAP), expos and seminars are a great way to go about it too. Most winemakers are very open about getting people to understand their wines.

Here’s to further exploration and more of my wine questions, answered. Cheers!

 

*Special thanks to Ms. Margaret Bray for giving me all the information I need regarding Oregon wines. I hope to see your lovely region soon. Cheers!