Saturday, 11 April 2020

A Virtual Wine Club 

Easter and April 2020, lock down is well established with the whole country painfully aware of the need to be socially isolated or at the very least distant.  In our village so much of the communitie's activities have come to a halt, the very things that glue our community have stopped.  Included in this is a halt to our normal meetings and discussions with common interest groups so Wine Club has no longer been able to meet.  

That said the we did wonder if the use of technology can, perhaps, come to our aid here.  Three weeks ago the word Zoom was for most a word used by youngsters when playing with toy cars but now it has become a verb. Yes the virtual meeting is very alive and well but still a new type of technology and also one that for us in the Wine Club was unknown. 

A little over a week ago we decided to set up a Zoom meeting, not knowing very much about the mechanics or the acceptability of the arrangements for our members, we emailed all, we gave good directions and signposts as time, how etc. 

As  the  popularity of the platform has increased, this has meant hackers have found out ways to integrate themselves to some meetings. Zoom have respond well by beefing up the security levels and changes have been made to the protocols to enter and to get connected, so what you may say. Well for us it meant that our various mails with details of the meetings became nonsensical when  Zoom changed the reference numbers that allow members to join our first meeting. 

This we discovered just 10 minutes before we were to open up the meeting to all.  Our very able and cool minded controller of the mail system, Louise, sent out another and corrected mail shot to all members and we crossed our fingers.

As it turned out we needn't have been too concerned, come the evening around 50 members joined us for what become a very good, interesting and enjoyable meeting along with the chance to catch up  and  see our friends from the Club.

We aim to host another virtual Wine Club in a month's time, probably on the 8th May but confirmations etc will follow.

Also can I take this chance to say a huge THANK YOU to all involved last night, your patience  and good humour all helped to make the evening work.

(Ref: Bob Bradley)

We were very fortunate in having the very able services of Toby Chiles as our guest speaker, the role is not that easy, all the microphones are tuned off bar Toby so no feedback to the speaker, no response to has comments, no oh's and ah's at his observations. Toby did a great job, he spoke about storage, serving and the matching of wines with his usual aplomb and an obvious depth of knowledge.  What was more impressive in many ways was his discussion within the group of what wines members were drinking at home.

We had suggested that we all bought some wine to enjoy as we watched and listened, he was able to discuss all the wines and in some detail, alternative sources, food matching, the grape varieties and the cultural methods. He has a breathtaking range of knowledge.

Without wishing to re-invent the wheel let me add Toby's notes:


Here are some simple tips for storing wine effectively.

1.Store Wine at the Proper Temperature. Of all the factors influencing the quality of stored wine, temperature is perhaps the most important. Unsuitably warm or cold temperatures are a sure way to spoil wine. In general, the ideal temperature for long-term or short-term wine storage is around 55ºF (13ºC), but this can vary from wine to wine. For temperature recommendations about specific wines, consult the manufacturer. Regardless of the type or label, wine should never be kept below 25 °F (-4ºC), which can cause wine to freeze, or above 68°F (20°C), which can accelerate the aging process and destroy volatile compounds. Most importantly, your wine storage temperature should be kept as stable as possible: temperature fluctuations can cause the cork to expand and contract, allowing wine to seep out (or air to seep in) around it. 

2.Store Wine Bottles Horizontally. For bottles with corks, be sure to store your wine horizontally in a wine rack. Keeping wine on its side helps keep the cork moist, which is key for long-term storage, as a dried out cork can cause seepage and premature aging. While it’s not necessary to keep screw top wine bottles on their sides, horizontal storage is nevertheless an efficient way to store your wines for maximum space and easy access. 

3.Protect Wine from Light and Vibration. Whether you’re storing it for months, weeks, or days, keep your wine in the dark as much as possible. UV rays from direct sunlight can damage wine’s flavors and aromas. You should also keep wines away from sources of vibration, such as your washer and dryer, exercise area, or stereo system. Vibrations can disturb sediments in the bottle, disrupting the delicate process that causes wines to age favorably. 

4.Store Wine at the Proper Humidity. Humidity extremes in your wine cellar or storage area can also impact your wine’s longevity. At lower humidity levels, your corks can dry out, leaving the wine vulnerable to the effects of oxygen, while higher humidity can cause labels to peel off the bottles, making them difficult to display or sell. In general, your wine cellar humidity should be between 60 and 68 percent. 

5.Store Wine in a Wine Fridge, Not a Regular Fridge. If you don’t have a wine storage space that’s consistently cool, dark, and moist, a wine refrigerator (also known as a wine cooler) is a good idea. Unlike a standard refrigerator, which keeps your food very cold and dry, a wine fridge keeps wine between 50-60˚F (10-15˚C) and at the proper humidity. (A good fridge will also have a cooler setting for champagne.) Keeping your wine in a separate wine fridge also helps prevent cross-contamination from food odors. If cost is a concern, remember: wine can be an investment, and in that case a good wine fridge is a way to protect your investment. 

6.Serve Wine at the Proper Temperature. When preparing to serve a stored bottle to fellow wine lovers, allow time for it to come up (or down) to the proper serving temperature. This ensures full expression of wine aroma and flavor. Red wine should be served chilled slightly below room temperature, somewhere between 58 and 65˚F (about 12-19˚C). The precise temperature is determined by the age of the wine, with older wines being held better at 61-65˚F and younger wines on the colder end of the spectrum. Reds with stronger tannins should be kept on the warmer end of the temperature spectrum than lighter red wines, which can go as cold as 55˚F. White wines, meanwhile, can and should be served colder than reds. But they mustn't be kept so cold as to affect the aromas. Instead, white wine should be chilled between 45-55˚F (8-12˚C). White sparkling wines should be on the colder end of that spectrum, as should sweet white wines. Champagne should be served coldest of all, at 38-45˚F (5-8˚C). 

7.Store Open Bottles of Wine Properly. Stored properly, an opened bottle of wine can last 3-5 days. The key to extending the shelf life of an open wine and retain its original qualities is to recork it promptly and tightly. To recork wine, place some wax paper around the cork and slide it back into its original position. The wax will ease the cork into the top and also ensure that no stray parts of the cork drop into the bottle. If recorking isn’t an option——for instance, if the cork is splintered or has been discarded—a rubber wine stopper can create a tight seal. Finally, an upgrade option for recorking is a wine vacuum pump, which enables you to suck the air out of an open bottle, creating a nearly airtight seal.

9 Tips For Pairing Wine & Food

If you’re just getting started, you’ll find these tried-and-true methodologies to produce consistently great pairings. That said, as you get more familiar with different wines, you’ll become confident and can experiment breaking the rules! (Gamay with trout anyone?)

1.The wine should be more acidic than the food.
2.The wine should be sweeter than the food.
3.The wine should have the same flavor intensity as the food.
4.Red wines pair best with bold flavored meats (e.g. red meat).
5.White wines pair best with light-intensity meats (e.g. fish or chicken).
6.Bitter wines (e.g. red wines) are best balanced with fat.
7.It is better to match the wine with the sauce than with the meat.
8.More often than not, White, Sparkling and Rosé wines create contrasting pairings.
9.More often than not, Red wines will create congruent pairings

Congruent Pairings vs Contrasting Pairings

A contrasting pairing creates balance by contrasting tastes and flavors. 

A congruent pairing creates balance by amplifying shared flavor compounds

Identify The Basics Tastes

In this day and age, we’ve learned that there are over 20 different tastes found in food – from the basic, including sweet, sour and fat, to the extreme, including spicy, umami and electric. Fortunately you only need to focus on 6 tastes when pairing food and wine: Salt, Acid, Sweet, Bitter, Fat and Spice (Piquant).

Basic Taste Components in Wine
For the most part, wine lacks the 3 tastes of fatness, spiciness and saltiness but does contain acidity, sweetness and bitterness in varying degrees. Generally speaking, you can group wines into 3 different categories:
1.Red wines have more bitterness.
2.White, rosé and sparkling wines have more acidity.
3.Sweet wines have more sweetness. 

Basic Taste Components in Food
Simplify a dish down to its basic dominant tastes. For example, baked macaroni has 2 primary components: fat and salt. Southern barbecue is a bit more complex and includes fat, salt, sweet and spice (plus a little acid!). Even dishes without meat can be simplified. For example, a green salad offers acidity and bitterness; creamed corn offers fatness and sweetness.

Consider the Intensity
FOOD: Is the food super light or super rich? A salad may seem lighter, but perhaps the dressing is balsamic vinaigrette with high acidity. If the intensity of the dish isn’t obvious at first, just focus on the power of each taste component (acidity, fat, sweet, etc).
WINE: Is the wine light or bold? Here are a few examples:
•Sauvignon Blanc is light-bodied, but it has higher acidity
•Chardonnay has more body, but it’s usually not too acidic
•Pinot Noir is lighter bodied (for a red wine) and it doesn’t have too much tannin (bitterness).•Cabernet Sauvignon is more full-bodied and has high tannin (more bitterness)

The blue lines show flavor matches and the gray lines show flavor clashes

Cabernet Sauvignon
“Kab-er-nay Saw-vin-yawn”
 Taste: Black Cherry, Black Currant, Baking Spices, and Cedar (from oak)
 Style: Full-Bodied Red Wine
 Description: Cabernet Sauvignon is a full-bodied red grape first heavily planted in the Bordeaux region. Today, it’s the most popular wine variety in the world! 
Wines are full-bodied with bold tannins and a long persistent finish driven mostly by the higher levels of alcohol and tannin that often accompany these wines.

 Food Pairing: lamb, beef, smoked meats, French, American, firm cheeses like aged cheddar and hard cheeses like Pecorino. 
Great Alternatives to Cabernet Sauvignon
•Merlot: Middle weight, lower in tannins (smoother), with a more red-fruited flavor profile
•Cabernet Franc:  Light to middle weight, with higher acid and more savory flavors, one of Cabernet Sauvignon’s parent grapes.
•Carménère: Usually from Chile, very similar to Merlot in body, but with the aggressive savory flavors of Cabernet Franc
•The Bordeaux Blend: Usually dominant to Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, but also includes any of the other Bordeaux varieties

“Sear-ah” (aka Shiraz)
 Taste: Blueberry, plum, tobacco, cured meat, black pepper, violet
 Style: Full-Bodied Red Wine
 Description: Syrah (aka Shiraz) is a full-bodied red wine that’s heavily planted in the Rhône Valley in France and Australia. The wines have intense fruit flavors and medium-weight tannins. Syrah is commonly blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre to create the red Rhône blend. The wine often has a meaty (beef broth, jerky) quality.
 Food Pairing: lamb, beef, smoked meats; Mediterranean, French, and American firm cheeses like white cheddar, and hard cheeses like Spanish Manchego.

Great Alternatives to Syrah
•Malbec: (Argentina) More black-fruited, often with more aggressive oak usage, less meaty, but with more coffee and chocolate flavors
•Petite Sirah: (United States) This grape has no genetic relation to Syrah, but has even more aggressive tannin and a fuller body
•Monastrell: More broad texture, with similar meaty notes, but more of a mixture of red and black fruits
•Pinotage: (South Africa) Similar in terms of body, with even more intense, smokey notes.

 Taste: A broad, exotic array of fruits from stone (overripe nectarine), to red (raspberry, sour cherry), to blue (plum, blueberry), to black (blackberry, boysenberry), Asian 5 Spice Powder, Sweet Tobacco
 Style: Medium-bodied to full-bodied Red Wine
 Description: Zinfandel (aka Primitivo) is a medium-bodied red wine that originated in Croatia. Wines are fruit-forward and spicy with a medium length finish. Zinfandel is a red grape that may be better known in its pink variation, White Zinfandel.
 Food Pairing: chicken, pork, cured meat, lamb, beef, barbecue, Italian, American, Chinese, Thai, Indian, full-flavored like cheddar and firm cheeses such as Manchego
Great Alternatives to Zinfandel
•Grenache: More middle-weight and red-fruited flavors, with the meaty and peppery qualities you get with Syrah
•Tempranillo: (Spain) Tempranillo has more savory cherry notes, as well as lower alcohol and body. 
•GSM / Rhône Blend: This is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre originally from Rhône Valley of France. It’s very similar in terms of taste, but not usually as fruity!
•Carignan: This wine doesn’t have the cinnamon-spice that Zinfandel often exudes. Expect more candied cranberry notes and sometimes a funky, meaty note.

Pinot Noir
“Pee-no Nwar”
 Taste: Very red fruited (cherry, cranberry) and red-floral (rose), often with appealing vegetal notes of beet, rhubarb, or mushroom
 Style: Lighter-bodied Red Wine
 Description: Pinot Noir is a dry, light-bodied red that was first widely planted in France. The wines typically have higher acidity and soft a soft, smooth, low-tannin finish. 
 Food Pairing: chicken, pork, veal, duck, cured meat, French, German, cream sauces, soft cheeses, nutty medium-firm cheeses like Gruyère

Great Alternatives to Pinot Noir
•Gamay: Lighter, juicier, more floral, with subtle herbal notes on the finish. Look for wines labeled “Beaujolais” from France.
•Schiava: (Italy) A rare find from Trentino-Alto Adige with candied cherry, rose hip, and allspice notes.

 Taste: Yellow citrus (Meyer lemon), yellow pomaceous fruits (like yellow pear and apple), tropical fruits (banana, pineapple), and often a touch of butterscotch, vanilla or toasted caramel notes from oak
 Style: Medium- to Full-Bodied White Wine.
 Description: Chardonnay is a dry full-bodied white wine that was planted in large quantities for the first time in France. When oak-aged, Chardonnay will have spicy, bourbon-y notes. Unoaked wines are lighter and zesty with apple and citrus flavors. Chardonnay is the white grape of Burgundy.
 Food Pairing: lobster, crab, shrimp, chicken, pork, mushroom, French, cream sauces, soft cheeses such as triple cream brie, medium-firm cheeses like Gruyère

Great Alternatives to Chardonnay
•Sémillon: More middle weight, although often with oak as well, more citrus and herbal aromatics
•Viognier: Often richer in body, with lots of perfumed, floral-driven aromatics when oaked. Unoaked Viognier are lighter and more zesty.

Sauvignon Blanc
“Saw-vin-yawn Blonk”
 Taste: Aggressively-citrus-driven (grapefruit pith), with some exotic fruits (honeydew melon, passion frUit, kiwi) and always an herbaceous quality (grass, mint, green pepper)
 Style: Light- to Medium-Bodied White Wine
 Description: Sauvignon Blanc is a dry white grape first widely planted in France. Wines are tart, typically with herbal, “green” fruit flavors. 
 Food Pairing: fish, chicken, pork, veal, Mexican, Vietnamese, French, herb-crusted goat cheese, nutty cheeses such as Gruyère

Great Alternatives to Sauvignon Blanc
•Vermentino: from Italy is less herbaceous, but with more appealing, bitter flavors (bitter almond)
•Verdejo: from Spain is almost identical, although sometimes fuller in body
•Grüner Veltliner: from Austria has more savory vegetable notes (arugula, turnip, white pepper)

Pinot Gris
“Pee-no Gree” (aka Pinot Grigio)
 Taste: Delicate citrus (lime water, orange zest)  and pomaceous fruits (apple skin, pear sauce), white floral notes, and cheese rind (from lees usage)
 Style: Light-Bodied White Wine
 Description: Pinot Gris is a dry light-bodied white grape that is planted heavily in Italy, but also in France and Germany. Wines are light to middle-weight and easy drinking, often with some bitter flavor on the palate (bitter almond, quinine)
 Food Pairing: Salad, delicate poached fish, light and mild cheeses

Great Alternatives to Pinot Gris
•Albariño: from Spain is similar, but has more acid and more citrus-driven aromatics (tangerine, orange juice) and floral aromatics
•Soave: The grape is Garganega, but often more bruised and oxidized apple-y character, still relatively bitter
•Melon: The grape is Melon de Bourgogne, and the wine region is called Muscadet in France. It’s often much higher in acidity, but with heavy lees and relatively neutral flavor

 Taste: Citrus (kefir lime, lemon juice) and stone-fruit (white peach, nectarine) always feature prominently, although there are also usually floral and sweet herbal elements as well.
 Style: Floral and fruit-driven aromatic white that comes in variable sweetness. Some producers choose not to ferment all the grape sugar and therefore make the wine in an “off-dry” style.
 Description: Always very high in acid, when made as a table wine Rieslings can be harmoniously sweet (sweet and sour) or dry (very acidic). The wine is polarizing because some people find dry styles too acidic and sweet styles too cloying, but sweetness is always a wine making decision and not inherent to the grape.
 Food Pairing: chicken, pork, duck, turkey, cured meat, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Moroccan, German, washed-rind cheeses and fondue

Great Alternatives to Riesling
•Moscato Less acidic with a much more aggressively floral flavor profile
•Gewürztraminer: richer, with less acid and more broad texture, rose candy and lychee are typical aromatics
•Torrontés: Related to Moscato, but always in a dry style, more full-bodied and bitter
•Chenin Blanc: Also very acidic and made in sweet and dry styles, but much more savory with more apple-y, savory aromatics