Shiraz or Syrah?

Whether we refer to this great varietal as Shiraz or Syrah, we are talking about one of the world’s most illustrious red grape varieties.  It is also one of my personal favorites.  Grown for centuries in the Rhone Valley of France, where it is responsible in all or part of many of the greatest red wines of France (Hermitage and Châteauneuf-du-Pape specifically), the exact origin of this full-flavored varietal remains in debate.  However, historians do agree that it was brought to Europe from the Middle East, but when and by whom remains a mystery.

Some historians maintain that it was the Crusaders, who first brought Syrah to France, while others point to the earlier Roman legions under Probes, and yet others claim it was the remnants of Alexander the Great’s army on its return from Persia.  The latter theory is particularly intriguing since Alexander himself was so enamored of the rich, powerful wines he found around the city of Shiraz in Central Persia, that he insisted on staying there, apparently far longer than he should have, since that is where he met his end.  Nonetheless, the one point that has been ascertained that everyone seems to agree upon is that the name Shiraz, from the Persian city of that name, is the origin of the varietal’s name.  The grape’s name changed to Syrah as it traveled west.  In any case, Syrah flourishes today not only in the south of France but in other Mediterranean climates.  It fares particularly well in Australia, California, and South Africa, where it is often called by its original name – Shiraz.   Australia’s Barossa Valley, South Africa’s Western Cape and several appellations throughout California produce a bevy of lush, polished Syrah/Shiraz wines that are not to be missed.

 

A Votre Santé!

Don

Don’s June Collector’s Series Top Picks

The 2005 Vergenoegd Cabernet Sauvignon is a clear Top Pick for this month.  Vergenoegd is one of the oldest wine estates in South Africa and the estate’s Cabernet embodies all the attributes that have made Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon both exciting and unique.  Vergenoegd’s deep, intense flavors mingle berry fruit, chocolate, coffee, and the special terroir of Stellenbosch to render each sip a new experience.  Several caveats, however: never judge a South African red by the first sip, allow Vergenoegd’s 2005 Cabernet plenty of aeration, and serve all traditional South African Cabernets with a hearty meat or vegetarian dish.  Like the finest red wines of Italy, South African reds are not giant fruit bombs built exclusively for tastings.  They do, however, shine at table and stand the test of time.

My other Top Pick this month is the 2010 Bouchard Père et Fils Pouilly-Fuissé.  Why?  It epitomizes Chardonnay, and offers a tasty draught of white Burgundy without smoke or mirrors.  It also demonstrates why first rate Pouilly-Fuissé is one of the most popular French wines in America.  It’s elegant, flavorful, and so easy to drink, so I want for nothing.

 

A Votre Santé!

Don

Don’s June Premier Series Top Picks

I like good Shiraz, and I love great Shiraz that doesn’t cost $45.00 a bottle, which means that Mary-Lou Nash’s 2008 Black Pearl Shiraz gets my vote this month as a Top Pick.  This wine really blew me away, but don’t just take my word for it.  John Platter (South Africa’s rendition of wine critic Robert Parker, Jr.) rated the 2008 Black Pearl Shiraz four stars, and for good reason.  Mary-Lou Nash knows how to make fine, natural wines with plenty of sensual appeal.  Moreover, I can recall tasting quite a few perfectly good Shiraz/Syrah wines that cost twice the price from Australia and California that can’t hold a cork to Black Pearl.  Hence, Black Pearl is hands down one of my Top Picks.

Frankly, my other Top Pick is a much tougher choice, and I might as well pick it blindfolded because each of the other three features this month has merit and appeals to me.  With that said, Domaine des Quatres Routes’ 2010 Muscadet is an ideal summer wine, and by June I’m ready for summer and seafood.  Having grown up on an island fishing and clamming, authentic Muscadet appeals to me for its simplicity and affinity to clams, oysters, scallops and just about anything else that crawls or swims in the sea.  Never complex but always refreshing, good Muscadet like the 2010 Domaine des Quatres Routes reminds me of long summer days at the beach followed by plenty of clams and steamers on the half shell.  However, in an ideal world one begins such an evening with Domaine des Quatres Routes’s 2010 Muscadet and has a bottle of the 2008 Fioravante Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon open to accompany whatever  you have cooking on the grill for a main course.

 

A Votre Santé!

Don

Celebrating Father’s Day: A Grilling Occasion

Nothing goes more hand in hand than grilled steak and a nice glass of red wine, so forget the necktie this year and give him something that is sure to bring a smile to his face this Father’s Day.  Let him kick off his shoes, relax, and treat him to this delicious Grilled Skirt Steak recipe we found from WineSpectacular.com.  Skirt Steak is an excellent choice for grilling because not only does it cook quickly, but it’s packed with flavor, and therefore requires no marinade.  In addition, the salsa’s toasty, briny, and very gently sweet and acidic components will pair perfectly with our featured red wine this month, Black Pearl Vineyards Paarl Shiraz 2008.  Be sure to check back next week to find out why Don was blown away by this wine!  The best part about everything is that it all comes together in just under five minutes.  Add some potatoes and a romaine salad, with dressing of choice, and you’ve got a meal truly fit for a king!

 

Grilled Skirt Steak with Sun-Dried Tomato & Almond Salsa

For the salsa:

  • 1/2 cup almonds, toasted and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup oil-cured black olives. finely chopped
  • 1 medium shallot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons best-quality red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

At least 1 hour before cooking the steak, combine all the ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and stir well to combine.  If making several hours before cooking steak, cover and refrigerate.  Adjust seasoning and bring to room temperature before serving.  Makes about 1 1/2 cup.  Happy Father’s Day!

 

So, What’s That In My Wine?

So, what’s that in my wine?  This is the question I hear when tartrate crystals appear in a wine, affixed to the cork, or clinging to the sides of the bottle of a fine wine.  And lately, we’ve been seeing more of these welcome but unsightly crystals.  Why is tartrate a welcome sight?  The short answer is that tartrate crystals, which often resemble glass, sugar, or just plan slush, are indicative of minimal intervention and natural handling in the wine making process of both red and white wines.

Tartrate crystal is a natural, harmless, tasteless-sediment that often appears in wines that have not been overly filtered, manipulated, or cold stabilized especially after temperature variations that occur during transit or after refrigeration.  The appearance of tartrate in wine is in no way a flaw: rather the appearance of tartrate sediment (tartrate is comprised mostly of potassium bitartrate, whose common name is cream of tartar), should be viewed as a sign of a winery’s commitment to producing the most natural, healthful wine possible.  Yet, tartrate can admittedly be unsightly.  To minimize the amount of tartrate and other precipitate that flows into your glass, simply stand a bottle of wine upright for several hours and then decant the wine carefully before serving.  Enjoy!

 

A Votre Santé!

Don