Showing posts with label Provence. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Provence. Show all posts

Sunday, July 31, 2022

My Go-To “Grocery Store” Wines

Summer! It’s time for road trips, hikes, and picnics. For such moments, you want a wine that is made for easy drinking and maybe fits into a CamelBak®. Here are my three go-to “grocery store” wines that are widely available and eager to please - a white, a pink, and a bubbly.

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region is an easy choice for the summer. Kim Crawford ensures consistency of quality for US$10-$18. Pale yellow in the glass, the Sauvignon Blanc has the distinct Marlborough perfume of green apple and fresh herbs. On the palate, it is vibrant with plenty of acidity, tropical fruit, and a tinge of grassy field. Kim Crawford pairs really well with fresh oysters and seafood. It also works with corn dogs and coleslaw.

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc
Fun Facts: Founded by the namesake winemaker and his wife, Kim Crawford Wines started in 1996 as a “virtual” winery. The couple ran the business from their home and used leased facilities to keep operating costs low. In 1998, the wines were exported to the United States and were highly successful. By 2003, Vincor International, a Canadian company, bought the the winery for US$8.6 million plus an incremental amount based on the growth in profit for the next five years. In 2008, Vincor was purchased by global beverage giant, Constellation Brands. Since then, Kim Crawford has been part of the Constellation wine portfolio, which ensures its availability throughout the country.

AIX Rosé

If your favorite wine color is pink, I recommend a nice Provençal rosé. And if you’d like a label that you can remember, it doesn’t get easier than AIX. From Maison Saint Aix, AIX Rosé is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Cinsault. Salmon pink in color, the rosé is aromatic with floral and herbal notes. On the palate, it is dry, medium-bodied, and zesty with tropical fruit and briny minerality. AIX Rosé pairs well with poached lobster and roast chicken. Or enjoy it with ham sandwiches and potato salad. You can find AIX Rosé in the range of US$16-19 at major grocery stores.

AIX Rosé
Fun Facts: Despite being named after the celebrated appellation of Coteaux d’Aix en Provence, AIX is a young winery owned by a Dutchman. Looking for a life change in his mid-forties, owner and winemaker Eric Kruger left his advertising career and moved to France with his family. He eventually decided to follow his passion in wine, something he nurtured since his high school days working in a wine shop. The first vintage of AIX was produced in 2009 and won the Medaille d’Or in Paris. Leveraging his marketing expertise, Kruger was able to catapult AIX into the US market, and we can now find it in our grocery stores. 

Flama D’Or Brut Cava

Perhaps you are looking for a little sparkler this summer without breaking the bank. At US$6-9, the Flama D’Or Brut Cava is an excellent deal. Cava is Spain’s affordable answer to Champagne. It is made in the traditional or Champagne method. This means that the second fermentation of the wine takes place in the bottle (as opposed to a tank like a Prosecco). Flama D’Or is made with three Spanish grapes - Macabeo, Xarel.lo, and Parellada. Straw yellow in color, persistent bubbles from the wine help deliver floral and fruity aroma. On the palate, it is vibrant, fizzy, and citrusy. Flama D’Or Brut Cava is perfect with tapas. It is also yummy with fried chicken or creamy mac and cheese.
Flama D’Or Brut Cava
Fun Facts: Flama D’Or Brut Cava is made by Castell D’Or, founded by a group of 13 Catalan cooperative wineries in 2006. These wineries span the areas of El Penedès, La Conca de Barberà, Priorat, Tarragona and Montsant. In Spain, cooperativism dates back to the second half of the 19th century. The member wineries of Castell D’Or pull together their generations of winemaking knowledge to create a wide range of cavas and a few still wines. Besides being found in grocery stores, Flama D’Or Brut Cava has also gained popularity in restaurants for being food-friendly at a great price point.

With several weeks of summer left, I hope you find a “grocery store” wine that beats the heat and also the inflation. And if you happen to try any of the three, let me know what you think. Enjoy!

Friday, April 30, 2021

Cheers to Sunshine!


The long overdue reprieve from the dreary darkness of winter is finally here. As daylight stretches on and lingers, nature is bursting with life once again. Farmers markets are brimming with seasonal produce to inspire the everyday chef. My wine palate is transitioning accordingly from bold tannic leathery reds to something lighter, brighter, and crisper. 

Cherry blossoms, a sign of new life 

So join me and bask in the sunshine with something white and something pink.

Something White

Sauvignon Blanc is one of my go-to whites in the sunshine. I love the grassy, citrusy flavor with juicy acidity and a touch of minerality. 

2018 CADE Sauvignon Blanc

I generally seek out French Sauvignon Blanc in single-variety Sancerre or in a white Bordeaux blend, preferably lighter on the Sémillon. From the New World, I love a good New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, enough to forgive the screw cap. 

More recently, I was excited to receive a bottle of CADE Sauvignon Blanc. The Napa Valley white went through a fascinating fermentation process that included 12 different strains of yeast in a combination of stainless steel, oak (new and used), and concrete vessels. It is then aged on the lees in stainless steel and oak for five months. The end result is a quintessential Sauvignon Blanc with a lot of complexity and textural interests.

2018 CADE Sauvignon Blanc

  • Color - Light pale straw with great clarity
  • Aroma - Fragrant with apple and grapefruit 
  • Taste - Lively and crisp, tart green apple, honey, and salty minerality
  • Acidity - Bright and gripping acidity
  • Body - Medium-plus body, coating the mouth and luscious
  • Finish - Lingering
Food Pairing: Indian spiced rice, samosas, dollops of cilantro chutney, over a pile of romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, sweet onion slices, and chunks of avocado.

Spiced rice, samosa, cilantro chutney, avocado

Something Pink

Pink wine runs the gamut from light to hearty in flavor and almost correspondingly from pale salmon to deep pink in color. My favorite is the Provençal rosé, which lands on the more delicate end of the spectrum.

2020 The Walls Cruel Summer Rose
There is an air of romance about Provençal rosés. Perhaps it is the pale blush hue or the floral scent that reminds one of lavender fields. The French pink wine is made with predominantly Grenache grapes. It is everything I love about fresh citrusy white wines plus the bonus red fruilt flavor and pink tinge coaxed briefly from the grape skin.

On this side of the Atlantic, you can find well-made Provençal-style rosés as well. The Walls' Cruel Summer is one such rosé, made with 80% Grenache and 20% Mourvèdre. It was a fun wine, fresh, interesting, and delightful! 

2020 The Walls Cruel Summer Rose

  • Color - Pale salmon
  • Aroma - Highly scented with apple and honeysuckle
  • Taste - Fresh and vibrant, tart green apple, juicy minerality
  • Acidity - High racy acidity
  • Body - Medium-plus body, elegant and silky
  • Finish - Lingering
Food Pairing: Bruschetta, crostini smeared with pureed English pea, basil, mint and EVOO, topped with crumbled feta.

English pea bruschetta

So as the weather permits and al fresco dining is in the plan, what is your wine pick to toast to the sunshine? I hope it is something light and crisp, maybe something white or pink.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Bonjour, Mon Rosé!

Rosé is a wine of celebration!

Provençal Rosé with fresh spring salad
After a long dreary winter, it is always a joy to welcome sunshine and warmth with a bottle of Rosé. I especially love a dry Provençal or Provence-style Rosé, slightly chilled and shared with friends on the patio, or on the beach. Being light and fruity in palate, Rosés go well with most summer fare - cantalope slices wrapped with prosciutto, spring mix salad with a light mustard vinaigrette, and cheeses. Or if you want to be totally Provençal, pair it with your favorite vegetables and shellfish dipped in rich garlicky aioli.

Rosé is a French term for pink wine, that is well beloved in the States. In Italy, it is called Rosato; and in Spain, it is called Rosado. In a London bistro, I would order a bottle of Blush.

Contrary to some belief, Rosé is not made by blending white and red wines, except in the case of a pink Champagne. But a still pink wine is made using black grapes (or grapes that typically produce red wine) with a much shorter skin contact than one would for making red wine. That way, it significantly reduces the extraction of anthocyanins, or color pigments from the skin, rendering it pink.

To be technical, there are different ways to make Rosés, and they are rather nuanced.
Provence-Style Rosé from Brady Cellars

  • Short Maceration - This is the way to make Rosés with the sole goal of making Rosés, instead of a by-product. In this case, the winemaker crushes the black grapes and macerates them for a period of time. When the desired level of color and flavor is achieved, the juice is drained off from the crushed grapes and continues to ferment.
  • Vin d'une Nuit - This is French for "wine of a night." A simple short maceration approach, it means the juice is drained from the crushed grapes after a night. 
  • Saignée - Derived from the French word that means "bled," this is method is used when the winemaker is trying to kill two birds with one stone. After a short maceration period, the pink juice will be drained out, leaving the remaining juice to continue macerating with a higher ratio of skin contact. The pink juice is then made into a Rosé. The remaining juice will have a deeper color and flavor by the time it is made into a still red wine. This is well-practiced in the States as the Rosé will be released early to bring cash flow to the winery while the remaining red wine continues to mature and age.
  • Doble Pasta - This yummy-sounding approach comes from Spain although it is hardly intuitive. This is similar to Saignée in that a red wine and a pink wine will be produced. The difference is that two vats are used in this case. One vat is used to make a pink wine, and the skins will be transferred to the vat that is used to make the red.
My Verdict: There are different types of pink wine in the market. Pick something and try it. I tend to like a dry Grenache-based Rosé, hence my preference for a Provençal or Provence-style Rosé. And if your favorite small winery for red wine makes a nice Rosé, know that you are helping it by buying a bottle of the pink as well. Santé!