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Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, April Fools Roundup, Win a Trip To Sonoma

April 2, 2014 1 comment

Soplo Garnacha TintoreraMeritage time!

Let’s start with the answer to the wine quiz #96, Grape Trivia – Alicante Bouschet. In the quiz, you were supposed to answer 5 questions about the red grape called Alicante Bouschet, also known in Spain as Garnacha Tintorera.

Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: True or False: according to the 2010 data, Alicante Bouschet is one of the 15 most planted red grapes in the world?

A1: True. In 2010, it was the red grape #15 with 38985 acres planted worldwide

Q2: Wine Spectator calls wines with 90-94 ratings “Outstanding: a wine of superior character and style”. True or False: There are no Alicante Bouschet-based wines rated as Outstanding by Wine Spectator.

A2: There is a number of Alicante Bouschet wines with the WS ratings of 90 and above, so the answer is False.

Q3: Alicante Bouschet makes a very popular addition (albeit in miniscule quantities, about 5% or less) to some of the very well known and popular California varietal wines. Can you name two of those popular California grape varieties?

A3: Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. Because the quantities are really miniscule, you would very rarely read about addition of Alicante Bouschet on the back label – but many producers do add the grape.

Q4: Below is the list of countries growing Alicante Bouschet/ Garnacha Tintorera. Based on 2010 data, sort that list from the biggest area plantings to the smallest:

a. Chile, b. France, c. Italy, d. Portugal, e. Spain

A4: The right order is Spain (19551), France (4957), Chile (4228), Portugal (3322), Italy (645), so it is e,b,a,d,c

Q5: Which one doesn’t belong and why?

a. Carlisle, b. Francis Ford Coppola, c. Ridge, d. Turley

A5: All wineries in this list produced at least once single varietal Alicante Bouschet wines – with the exception of Turley, which only uses Alicante Bouschet for blending.

The only person who attempted to solve the quiz was Suzanne of apuginthekitchen – she definitely deserves an honorable mention for the effort! The next week we will change gears – for a little bit, we will be talking about the blends instead of single varietals. After all, most of the wines produced in the world today are blends – so blending the grapes together  hopefully will produce more courageous responses on your part.

Now, to the interesting stuff around the vine and the web!

First of all – happy past April Fools day! Yesterday was April 1st, and the number of bloggers took advantage of that fun day, and wrote interesting, witty and funny blog posts. Here is a small collection for your enjoyment:

Joe Roberts, a.k.a. 1WineDude, wrote a hilarious piece about Robert Parker and Wine Advocate apologizing for their raunchy behavior as of recent – yeah, you can only dream of that stuff on the April 1st… Here is the link for you to read. Dave McIntyre, the wine columnist for the Washington Post, wrote an excellent post about the end of wine blahgging – you can read it here. Harpers, a wine and spirits trade publication out of UK, shared an excellent article about bee-o-dynamics and use of the bees to improve aging of the wines – very cool idea, hopefully someone will look at it for real!

Few years back, I was happily reading all the April Fools day posts, and was absolutely convinced I can never write anything of that nature. Then I took a stub last year, and I liked it (ohhh, it actually makes me uneasy to say that I like my own writing). And I felt that I had to do it again this year, so this was the news update I posted yesterday. There is a mix of things in my post – yes, Coravin technology allows you to taste the wine without opening it, but while someone might be dreaming of the computerized wine analysis technology, that actually doesn’t exist. Yes, while Burger King indeed offered to supply the food for the Kanye West and Kim Kardashian wedding, the Korbel so far was not involved (hmm, may be they will like my idea, though?).

This finishes my April Fools day post roundup – if you came across something hilarious, please share in the comments section.

So, how about all paid Sonoma Wine Vacation for you and three of your friends? Yes, you can have it – if you win Underground Cellar Sonoma Winecation Getaway. Underground Cellar is the new concept wine selling site, where you can participate in the bidding for the rare wines directly from the wineries, and once you win the bid, you even have an option of upgrading your wine! I didn’t have a chance to try it yet, but it sounds very cool. In the effort to promote their new concept, Underground Cellar is sponsoring the Sonoma Winecation getaway – please use this link to enter the contest – who knows, you might soon be heading to the Sonoma county for the fun time!

And we are done here. The glass is empty – but the refill is on its way! Cheers!

A Trip to Spain – at Barcelona Restaurant in Greenwich, CT

March 31, 2014 8 comments

DSC_0909About a month ago I got a note, which I shared with all my readers – Barcelona Restaurant in Greenwich is offering a special wine education program, called Passport Through Spain – 4 evenings of exploring the wines of the different regions in Spain, of course accompanied by the food. I didn’t have a chance to attend the classes until the very last one – but boy, am I happy I was able to attend at least one class!
The last class was focused on the region called Valencia. Valencia is more known for its paella and oranges than for its wines – but this is probably what made it more fun for me. The previous three classes were focused on Rioja, Galicia and Priorat, and I’m somewhat familiar with the wines of those three regions – but Valencia is quite unknown to me, and thus intriguing.

Region of Valencia is located on the east coast of Spain, along the Mediterranean sea line. There is a number of winemaking areas in Valencia, with Jumilla probably being the most known. There is a mix of climate zones in the region, some been more Mediterranean, and some more continental, but the very hot temperatures are quite common throughout the summer. However, in the areas with the continental climate the temperatures can drop very low in the evening, so the grapes can achieve great flavor concentration and depth. Similar to all other regions in Spain, the quality of wines in Valencia is steadily increasing, with the regions such as Valencia, Utiel-Requena and Alicante taking their place on the wine map. There is a mix of indigenous and international varieties growing in the region, with probably Malvasia and Moscatel being stars among the whites, and Monstrell, Bobal, Garnacha Tintorera and Garnacha Tinto among the reds.

The Valencia wine class was conducted by Jose Valverde, the Sommelier at Barcelona Greenwich, who is the wealth of knowledge and just a pleasure to listen to. We started with the wine called 2010 Bodegas Rafael Cambra Soplo Valencia DO (14% ABV, 100% Alicante Bouschet/Garnacha Tintorera, 3 month aging in oak) – it was this wine, made out of the Alicante Bouschet, known in Spain as Garnacha Tintorera, which prompted my last wine quiz – so here you can read some interesting facts about that grape.

Here are my notes about the wine:

Color: Dark ruby, concentrated

Nose: Earthy, warm, inviting, with touch of espresso, cherries and pencil shavings, very intense

Palate: Perfect acidity, cassis, almost a Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc profile, espresso, touch of bell peppers, very restrained.

Verdict: Beautiful wine, you just can’t put your glass down. Drinkability: 8+

Barcelona is actually a restaurant group, and they have a number of restaurants in Connecticut and even outside, all focused, of course, on Spanish food and wine. It was very interesting for me to learn that Barcelona takes the idea of cultural heritage very seriously – yes, I’m talking here firstly about food, cooking and overall Spanish cuisine traditions. Every year the group of chefs and other people who make your restaurant experience special, travel to Spain to immerse into, to embrace the cuisine, the food, the wines, to learn the ways Spanish restaurants operate. Best of the best is brought back home and then shared with us, lucky customers, in the form of special food and special experiences. The very first dish which was served to us, lucky customers, was the Toast with Bacalao Spread. Executive Chef Michael Lucente tasted that dish at one of the restaurants in Spain while being on educational trip. He loved the dish, and he asked for the recipe. Guess what – he didn’t get it, as the chef outright refused to share it. Chef Michael spent a year (!) perfecting that recipe, but as a foodie I think it was totally worth it. Incredible balance of flavors, and texturally interesting – this was one delicious tapas.

DSC_0912

We continued our journey through Valencia with 2010 Bodegas Sierra Norte Pasión de Bobal Utiel-Requena DO (13.5% ABV, 100% Bobal). Bobal is a unique Spanish grape, which doesn’t grow anywhere else – however. there is plenty of it growing in Spain, with more than 80,000 acres, which makes it one of the most planted red grapes in the world. The climate in Utiel-Requena is one of the harshest in Spain, with very hot summers and cold winters with frost and hail, but still, the grapes persevere!

Here are the notes for this wine:

Color: Ruby

Nose: Freshly crushed grapes, but restrained. Brighter nose than the previous wine, with some black cherries, herbs and tobacco.

Palate: Noticeable tannins, but overall light, open and clean, should be very food friendly. I crave the complexity of the first wine!

Verdict: Nice, simple and very food friendly – will complement wide range of foods! Drinkability: 7+

The dish which was served with dish was Roasted Hen with pimento, fried chick peas and cilantro. The dish itself was very tasty, with all the flavors perfectly melding together – and it also worked perfectly with the wine! All those mild flavors of the wine very complementing bold flavors of Mediterranean cuisine, so this was definitely an excellent match.

Our last wine of the evening was 2009 Pedro Luis Martínez  Arriba Término de Hilanda Monastrell, Jumilla DO (14.5%ABV, 100% Monastrell, 14 month aging in new American and French oak) – Monastrell, which is a lot more international grape than the previous one (it is known as Mourvedre in France and Mataro in Australia), is definitely the best known grape in this tasting group. One problem I often have with Monastrell wines is that they are made overly jammy, with lots of in-your-face overcooked fruit. Luckily, not this wine!

Here are the notes:

Color: Dark ruby, concentrated, almost black

Nose: Closed

Palate: Powerful, coffee, dark chocolate, espresso, black plums, firm structure with spicy undertones, tar. Thought provoking, with excellent balance.

Verdict: Excellent wine, one of the best Monastrell wines I ever tasted. Drinkability: 8-

Care to guess what our last dish was? Yes, Paella! You can’t have a class on Valencia wine and not experience the classic of the cuisine. It was not even one paella, but two – both seafood and meat (rabbit and sausages) paella were served, and they both were absolutely delicious! No, I’m not going to describe them to you – just get to the restaurant and taste it for yourself.

That was definitely an evening of fun learning, great food, great wine and great conversations. There are only a few things are left for me to do here. First of all, I want to thank Barcelona Greenwich Sommelier Jose Valverde, Executive Chef Michael Lucente and PR Director Ria Rueda for the excellent program and great experience of Spanish wines and Spanish cuisine. Also, I want to bring to your attention the fact that Barcelona Restaurant group does a lot of work to educate the customers on both food and wines of Spain, so you will do yourself a lot of good if you will check their calendar and sign up for updates – there are great events happening literally every week! You can find Barcelona Restaurant and Wine Bar calendar right here – it covers all of the Barcelona locations and even more general events where Barcelona restaurants participate, so don’t think you should live in a close proximity of Greenwich to take an advantage of these special events.

Sommelier Jose Valverde and Chef Michael Lucente

Sommelier Jose Valverde and Executive Chef Michael Lucente

And we are done here. If you are looking for the great Spanish food and wine experience – there might be a Barcelona restaurant near you! Cheers!

Barcelona Greenwich
18 West Putnam Ave.
Greenwich, CT 06830
Tel: 203.983.6400203.983.6400

http://www.barcelonawinebar.com/greenwich.htm
Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Weekly Wine Quiz #96: Grape Trivia – Alicante Bouschet

March 29, 2014 6 comments

The Wine Quiz series is not meant to intimidate. The whole idea here is to have fun and learn something new. When answering the questions, it is fully encouraged to use all available sources of information, including Google or any other search engine. There are no embarrassing answers – the most embarrassing thing is not giving it a try…

Welcome to the weekend and your new wine quiz!

We are continuing our grape trivia series, still focusing on the red grapes, and today’s subject is Alicante Bouschet, or Alicante Henri Bouschet, if we want to use the full and official name.

How many of you ever heard of Alicante Bouschet, let alone tasted the wines made from that grape? How about Garnacha Tintorera? Still nada? Yes, I know – at this point, I’m reaching into the obscure grapes territory, the dark side of the wine world. But this grape, Alicante Bouschet, is so unique and different, in its past and present, that I can’t pass an opportunity to learn about it together with you.

Alicante Bouschet grape was created in 1866 by Henri Bouschet as a cross between Petit Bouschet and Grenache. To make things a bit more interesting, it is worth noting that Petit Bouschet was created by Louis Bouschet, the father of Henri Bouschet, this time as a cross between two ancient varietals, Teinturier du Cher and Aramon. Talking about unique – Alicante Bouschet is one of the very few red grapes in the world which are classified as teinturier – the grape which makes the juice of red color. Take any of the well known red grapes – Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, most anything – and break it apart. The juice which will be coming out will be clear. It is the skin which gives the color to majority of the red wines. When it comes to Alicante Bouschet (and other teinturier grapes, which are very few), the juice will be coming out as red.

After being created in 1866, Alicante Bouschet somewhat rapidly spread out all over the world. It was used in France to replant vineyards after the phylloxera devastation. It made it to Portugal and Spain, where it is known under the name of Garnacha Tintorera, and continued its successful journey further into Italy, Australia, Chile, United States and the number of other countries.

Alicante Bouschet is known to produce not even large, but rather huge crop. It is also an early ripening grape, which creates somewhat of a problem, as it doesn’t accumulate enough flavor depth and enough sugar to make it into the single-varietal wine. As the result, it is often used as part of the blend just with the purpose of adding the color (and the color it got!). Another important characteristic of the grape is a very thick skin, which helps it to withstand the long distance transportation. This quality of Alicante Bouschet made it extremely popular grape during prohibition times in the US, as it could sustain the long railroad voyage from west coast to the east. In addition to handling the long distance transportation quite well, Alicante Bouschet think skin and juicy flesh was allowing for it to be pressed three times (most of the common grapes will allow for one, or an absolute maximum of two pressings), thus one could get more decently colored wine from much lesser amount of grapes.

Today, the plantings of Alicante Bouschet decreased in the countries like France and United States, where it is used mostly for blending. However, the grape is increasingly popular in Portugal, where it makes wonderful concentrated wines in the Alentejo region. Southern Spain also has very substantial plantings of Garnacha Tintorera, and with controlled yield produces outstanding single-varietal wines.

And now, to the quiz!

Q1: True or False: according to the 2010 data, Alicante Bouschet is one of the 15 most planted red grapes in the world?

Q2: Wine Spectator calls wines with 90-94 ratings “Outstanding: a wine of superior character and style”. True or False: There are no Alicante Bouschet-based wines rated as Outstanding by Wine Spectator.

Q3: Alicante Bouschet makes a very popular addition (albeit in miniscule quantities, about 5% or less) to some of the very well known and popular California varietal wines. Can you name two of those popular California grape varieties?

Q4: Below is the list of countries growing Alicante Bouschet/ Garnacha Tintorera. Based on 2010 data, sort that list from the biggest area plantings to the smallest:

a. Chile

b. France

c. Italy

d. Portugal

e. Spain

Q5: Which one doesn’t belong and why?

a. Carlisle

b. Francis Ford Coppola

c. Ridge

d. Turley

Good luck, enjoy the quiz and your weekend! Cheers!

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