Barbecue and Wine

The grill is hot and the steaks are ready, generously coated with sea salt, freshly cracked pepper, and a dash of extra-virgin olive oil for good measure. A small group of friends and family gathered outdoors exchanging stories on how their 2020 has been going and festive country music playing in the background while waiting for the fireworks display. This would probably be a typical scene of a 4th of July barbecue celebrating Independence Day of the United States; however, halfway across the Pacific Ocean we don’t even find ourselves near a grill or accustomed to such tradition.

Why not? It is a good excuse to gather over some food and crack open a few bottles of wine. American wines seem fitting for the occasion with a wide variety of styles available. I share three wines you can bring to your next barbecue and dishes that would be a perfect compliment. Let’s start with a chilled white that will always get a crowd conversation started. The Silverado Vineyards Miller Ranch Sauvignon Blanc is just the wine to do so. A subtle aroma of grapefruit, pineapple and kiwi, this wine is well-balanced with a bright acidity. It brings to the palate flavors of passionfruit, mango, and tangerine. I find that it’s an easy wine to enjoy on it’s own or pair with fish tacos drizzled with a freshly squeezed lime wedge.

Another wine I like to start with is a rosé that brings freshness and richness at the same time. Our Bread and Butter Rosé from Napa Valley expresses generous aromas of fresh strawberries, green melon, hints of hibiscus and rose petals. Its rich texture is complemented by a balanced acidity ending with a supple finish. Grilled Chicken salads are an excellent pairing. Especially those with dried cranberries and dressed with a raspberry vinaigrette… yum! On a warm summer day there is nothing better than to sit by the pool and sip of rosé. That’s where you’ll likely to find me.

Red wines are always a popular choice. Don’t feel shy to serve it slightly chilled. When you are in a terrace outdoors, your guests will surely thank you for it. A 4th of July barbecue would not be complete without burgers and hotdogs. Whether it will be gourmet style with all the works or keeping it to the classic, the Domaine Drouhin Roserock Pinot Noir from Oregon captures the eye with it’s ruby red color and is charming aromas. This wine enchants the palate with a velvety approach that is long and structured, the elegance shines through many layers of flavors.

Of course there are plenty more American wines to chose from. Let’s not forget about big reds made with grape varieties such as Merlot, Zinfandel, or Cabernet Sauvignon. As bold as these wines can be, I prefer to keep them for another occasion. For a barbecue and wine gathering, a simple wine pairing tip to remember is pick wines that are young and fresh. Then serve them chilled and enjoy!

3 White Wines for the Summer

In a country that’s hot and humid, and pretty much summer nearly all year round, one would imagine that the go-to wine choice would be a nicely chilled, refreshing white wine, thinking along the lines of a cold beer, or the Coca-Cola on ice staple. While people tend to grab a bottle of red much more often than they do white, I invite you to get cozy with these taste profiles of white wine.

Dry, Crisp and Fruity

First, definitions.

  1. Dry means the opposite of sweet in wine-speak. In the sweetness spectrum for instance, not sweet is described as dry. Whereas, mildly sweet is off-dry, and sweet is well, sweet.
  2. Crisp is the fresh, brisk feeling in the mouth referencing the wine’s acidity as well as the low levels of sugar content. Crisp wines act as a palate cleanser. Take lemon juice for example. It is acidic but it lacks sweetness versus a soda which is acidic but sweet.
  3. Fruity is a descriptor of a wine’s taste and aroma profile that is predominantly fruit-based.

This style of white wine would be my #1 choice to quench your thirst in this heat. It doesn’t weigh much on your palate as it’s very light. Think water! Wines in this category tend to be very easy-drinking and enjoyable with or without food. It is for this reason that Dry, crisp and fruity wines go great with light starters like a goat cheese salad, or seafood before a main course as they also prep your palate.

Examples of grape varietals that are often considered dry, crisp and fruity include: Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino, and Verdejo. So go for those grapes if you are into this style.

Bodegas K-Naia
Chateau La Graviere
Silverado Sauvignon Blanc Miller Ranch

Mellow and Floral

Again, definitions.

  1. Mellow describes a soft, smooth wine with no bite or harshness. The acidity is a lot softer and less pronounced.
  2. Floral is defined by a predominance of flowery notes in wine.

Mellow and floral whites are a little more complex, and often enjoyed more with food. These wines go great with Asian and spicy food because the heat in the mouth squares off with the layers of flavors in this type of wine. I heartily enjoy Thai Green Curry with a Pinot Gris from Alsace. The less intense tropical fruits and more subtle acidity goes really well with mildly-spiced, aromatic and richly-herbed dish because of the cooling effect these wines have on spicier food.

Examples of mellow and floral grape varietals are Pinot Gris, Riesling and Chenin Blanc. If you you’re feeling risky, these are great wines to start with.

Josmeyer Alsace Pinot Gris
Tresor de Loire Vouvray
Allan Scott Riesling

Rich and Creamy

One last set of definitions!

  1. Rich describes a stronger impression of flavors and body in the wine. Rich wines often weigh more on the palate aka full-bodied.
  2. Creamy is the opposite of crisp. Where crisp suggests a high level of acidity waking up the sides of your tongue, creamy, on the other hand, has a rounder feeling in the mouth. Think of butter and fatty food like cream, yogurt, milk.  

While I enjoy the other taste profiles too, this, above all, definitely is my favorite because of the low acid and creaminess. I like to drink this with food. This buttery wine style can be enjoyed with anything buttery really in terms of sauce, or as a sautéing agent. I enjoy a Burgundy white, specifically a Puligny Montrachet from Joseph Drouhin with scallops and chanterelle mushrooms when I’m feeling fancy. Or simply with McDonald’s fries with a more wallet-friendly chardonnay. Hey, to each his own right?

So for fellow butter-lovers, examples of grape varietals that are rich and creamy include Chardonnay and Malvasia.

Joseph Drouhin Macon Lugny
Domaine Joseph Drouhin Roserock Chardonnay
Bread and Butter Chardonnay

To sum this up, when you’re feeling adventurous, and want to up the ante on staying cool in this heat, go ahead and pick a style, chill to perfection and pour. Stay thirsty!

Indian Food: Hit Or Miss

Indian food is one of my most favorite cuisines in the world. It is diverse and exciting, with unique spices and rich flavors. I learned to love Indian Food almost a decade ago during my stint in culinary school. This was the same time I discovered wine.  I made friends with the Indian International students and they would take me with them to Indian restaurants or they would cook and share with me.

Prior to that, I didn’t eat Indian food, I also didn’t drink wine. It opened up a new world for me so  I was thrilled to come home to an array of Indian Restaurants and especially pleasantly surprised to be working in wine. Since then, I have made friends in the industry who share the same passion for food and wine as I do. We would get together regularly for food and wine dinners but since quarantine hit, it was put on hold.  

Finally, after 3 months of being locked in the house due to quarantine, I was finally able to see a few of my friends for a nice, summer lunch. Of course we had Indian food from Ricksha Streetside Tandoor which is one of our favorites. The recipes from Ricksha are from our friend’s mother, so it’s homestyle Indian cooking, comforting, flavorful and delicious. We used to enjoy these at parties at their house so we were ecstatic when they opened Ricksha.

We started with an aged Italian rose. We were initially snacking on chips which went well with the acidity of the aged rosé, neutralizing the saltiness of the chips and complimenting the crispness. However, when we moved on to the Indian fare, the pairing of the aged Italian rose and Indian food was a disaster. The harsh acidity of the rosé made the food so unpalatable, especially for the spicy dishes like the butter chicken. Even though the rose was aged and should have mellowed, the wine had a metallic quality to the flavor and it was too robust for Indian fare so it clashed with everything and made it unpleasant. It would have been a better match for food with less spice or even perfect for meats like a good BBQ. We were forced to ditch the rosé and move on to a bottle of pinot noir that our other friend brought.

The Domaine Drouhin Edition Limitée 2016 from Dundee Hills Oregon was a welcome change from the aged Italian rosé. This is a limited edition pinot noir with only 252 cases produced. Pinot Noir is often a standby pairing for Indian food used by sommeliers but not all pinot noirs will be a knockout pairing. This wine was delicious with the food as the dark cherry fruit flavors didn’t overwhelm the exotic spices in the dishes. It also had some complementary notes like tea and cardamom which effectively bridged the flavors between the food and the wine. I attacked the palak paneer and the dosas first as those are my favorites. Even with the combination of spices and green herbal qualities of the palak paneer due to the Spinach, it was superb. I also had it with the bhel puri, butter chicken, vegetable biryani, and vegetable samosas. The acidity was lower than the aged rosé so it didn’t clash with the cumin, garam masala and other spices. The smoky quality of the wine went well with the tandooris. The wine also had a silky quality with distributed and refined tannins, making it pleasurable and having a cooling down effect on the palate.

We also tasted a Merlot, Syrah blend from Greece. This wine had a dusty, earthy quality to it, certainly less fruit than the pinot noir. I didn’t get to analyze this wine as much as I was full by the time they opened the bottle. I did a slight pairing check with the vegetable biryani and butter chicken. It was passable as the wine did not have much tannins and obvious acidity but for me, it was not a stellar pairing.

I’m still on the hunt for exotic bottles to try with Indian Food. For a wine geek like me, I’m always looking for unique and exciting pairings. I’m sure with friends like mine, there will always be a next time. And it won’t be so far off.

A Rosé Revolution is at hand

On a sunny day, when everyone is out in the sandy beaches or turquoise waters of a swimming pool, there is nothing better than an ice-filled cooler and bottles of our favorite rosé wine. This pink vino has bounced back to popularity in recent years despite having a bad image of “a wine for non-wine drinkers” thanks to the Californian white zinfandels. However if you find yourself lucky enough to be in the South of France in the middle of summer, you will notice all the people in the al fresco section of bistros sipping dry, refreshing, salmon pink rosé wines from Provence.

Rosé wines are perfect for warm weather countries; drank chilled and enjoyed any time of the day with a variety of food pairings. I share with you three beautiful rosé wines that are best enjoyed with local Pinoy food.

Let’s start in Provence, France as that is the epitome of rosé wine production in the world. Many other winemaking regions have transformed their wines to become “Provence style” characterized by being light pink in color, dry, and refreshing. I always likened having a glass of this style of rosé to taking a shower on the inside. Chateau Roubine with their Cru Classe Rosé has done an excellent job in showcasing what the Mediterranean terroir has to offer.  Multi-awarded and highly-rated by the critics, they are one of only eighteen wineries given Cru Classe status in the region. This Cotes de Provence wine is salmon pink in color with an attractive fruity nose. Its palate features ripe flavors and aromas of watermelon, cantaloupe, red cherries, and a hint of rose petals. A delicate wine with such a bright and crisp acidity makes it is an interesting pair with the Filipino household favorite soup dish “Sinigang na Hipon sa Sampaloc” or Filipino Shrimp Soup in Tamarind Broth which is usually prepared with a variety of vegetables. The soup’s acidity complements the bright acidity from the wine, while the delicate and fruity aromas round out with the shrimp and vegetable components of the dish.

Lechon, which is roasted suckling pig is one of the most iconic Filipino dishes that can be found all over the Philippines. Often used as a centerpiece for celebrations, this dish has its roots in Spanish heritage, which makes it a great pair with a Spanish rosé or rosado. An iconic dish deserves an iconic wine, the Bodegas Bilbainas Vina Pomal Rosado pairs well with all kinds of entrées, vegetables stews, and rich dishes. Brilliant pale pink in color with subtle reminiscences of strawberry, raspberry, and violet flowers. A structured buttery entry gives it length. The wine’s acidity adds freshness and balances out the richness and fattiness of the lechon.

New world rosé wines have also been making a mark in the international scene. Our Allan Scott from Marlborough is an elegant pink rosé presenting luscious strawberries and cream on the nose. Those strawberries are met with the classic stone fruit aromas of Marlborough grapes and a medium-dry finish. Best to serve chilled and enjoyed on a terrace, this wine perfectly pairs with “ihaw-ihaw” or grilled meats to snack on. 

If you cannot decide between white or red, then rosé wines are a great alternative. A chilled bottle proves to be adaptable with a wide range of food. Easily enjoyed literally any time of day, rosé wines can be your next delicious discovery. Enjoy the freshness from its youth and gather a few friends to partake in the rosé revolution!

Wine and pizza: what to bring to your next party

There is no doubt that Pizza is the world’s most popular comfort food. You can find a slice of this pie in almost every corner in the globe with different variations and assortment of toppings. From controversial pineapples in Hawaiian pizza or the combination of cream, finely sliced onions, & bacon strips found on the classic Alsatian pizza called Flammekueche or Tarte Flambée, the vast array of toppings available make endless combinations of comfort to cater to even the most discerning of palates. And what better way to enjoy a pizza slice than to pair it with some wine.

Undeniably wine is the best beverage to pair with food. It is also the only drink that can bring your meal experience to a whole new level. However, it also can be a double-edge sword with wrong pairings that can leave a distasteful experience in the mouth. With so many kinds of pizza and an extensive list of wines available, it can be difficult to choose what wine to drink. Let me share with you my perfect wine and pizza pairings.

Many people assume since pizza is an Italian dish, it is best to pair with Italian wine. This may be true for a classic Neapolitan style pizza; topped with San Marzano tomatoes, Mozzarella di Buffala, fresh herbs, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil that would go nicely with a juicy Valpolicella wine. The Tedeschi Valpolicella Superiore DOC is an excellent pairing as it is has good structure, delicate flavors and elegance that can match the bright acidity found in the tomato.

However, for meatier flavors like pepperoni I tend to go with Syrah wines like the Ferraton Pere et Fils Saint Joseph La Source that is pleasantly fresh with remarkable concentration in its fragrance, a full palate with silky tannins which rounds out from the savory spice flavors of pepperoni slices. More importantly the long and spicy finish, generally found in Syrah wines,  can compete with the peppery notes of cured pork.

White pizzas on the other hand change the nature of the pairing. Instead of combining flavor profiles that complement each other, it would be better to pair with those that contrast. The richness of cream or white cheese tends to dominate the flavor profile. It is unlikely to find toppings that bring about acidity to counteract this richness. At times you may even find funky flavors coming from a blue cheese. Generally a Chardonnay, preferably one from the New World like the Domaine Drouhin Oregon Roserock, would be my wine of choice. This an extraordinary vineyard found at the southern tip of the Eola-Amity Hills in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where ideal elevation and ancient volcanic soils bring out a vibrant and energetic wine that is well balanced by a sense of minerality. Its complexity and acidity aid in balancing out the indulgence of a Quattro Formaggio that is layered with four cheeses traditionally mozzarella, parmesan, gorgonzola, and a fresh creamy cheese.

For more creative pizzas there can be more room for adventurous pairings. On the debatable Hawaiian, a dry Riesling from Alsace would accompany the bursts of sweetness coming from the pineapple. Vegetarian pizzas, especially those with bell peppers, make a mouthwatering combination with Sauvignon Blanc wines either from France or New Zealand. Fruit driven new world style Sauvignon Blanc, like the Allan Scott wine from Marlborough, bring an abundance of fresh, zesty, and juicy flavors that excite the senses without being overloading. Rosé wines from the south of France, Cotes de Provence, make a very versatile wine to accompany pizza. It’s bright acidity can match that of from the tomato sauce while the complex fruit-forward structure of the wine can keep up with an assortment of toppings ranging from fresh cheeses, cured meats, and vegetables.

Endless combinations of wine pairings can be used with pizza as there are endless combinations of toppings that can be placed on one pie. In a Dominos store, it is said that you can make a total of thirty four million possible pizza combinations with all the toppings they have available. Don’t let any wine or pizza snob tell you what to eat or drink when it comes to the comfort of food. I like pineapples on my pizza, I like my red wine chilled; do whatever makes you happy.

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