Tag Archives: red wine

2013 Beaujolais Nouveau Battle

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Happy Wine Wednesday!

If you are in a pinch and are looking for some great Thanksgiving Wine Pairings, click here. Or, just drink what you like and don’t worry about pairing!

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But as for this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau, we did the research for you!

It’s been a few years since I’d had a Beaujolais Nouveau. My husband and I are hoping for some good luck in 2014. So it was time to open a bottle before the new year.

But which do you choose when all the Beaujolais Nouveau bottles are staring you down in the store?

Rob and I set out to try a few of them side-by-side to determine our favorite producer for future years. {Although wines will still vary from vintage to vintage!}

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What I learned?

I don’t really like Beaujolais Nouveau, or at least not the 2013 vintage.

Of course, Beaujolais Nouveau is not a big, bold red like a Cab or Zin. It’s truly not a serious wine. It’s meant to be fruity and drunk young. Like NOW. And don’t confuse a Nouveau with other Beaujolais wines. They are all made with the gamay grape varietal, but there are some serious Beaujolais and Beaujolais Cru out there. Some are even made to age. Nouveau is just not one of them.

We picked up the four bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau available when we were at Zipp’s Liquor in Minneapolis stocking up for Ale Fest 2013. {More on that next week!} Then we rounded up our glasses and evaluation sheets.

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Here was our lineup {uh, right to left}:

  • DuBoeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2013 – $9.99
  • Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau 2013 – $12.99
  • Mommessin Beaujolais Nouveau 2013 – $10.99
  • L’Ancien Beaujolais Nouveau 2013 – $14.99

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What we found is that these wines weren’t really the fruity, easy-drinking red that we all know and love. They all started off smelling quite lovely, like strawberries. Rob picked up some violet and rose petal on the nose, too.

But they all tasted astringent to me.

The most heinous offender was Mommessin, which after my second taste, I just couldn’t drink anymore. We did slightly chill these wines, as BN should be, but perhaps we didn’t chill them long enough. {Beaujolais Nouveau should be served right around 55 degrees – colder than a red, but not quite as chilled as a white.}

We began to feel like we did when we came back from Tuscany. All the Italians keep the good Chiantis for themselves and ship the crappy stuff to the U.S. Same thing here perhaps?

Because of this, there wasn’t a clear winner.

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Notes:

Georges DuBoeuf (12%) – Rob said that if he had to choose one to drink, it would be this one. And if we opt to share a Nouveau next year, this’ll probably be it. The aromas mostly consisted of strawberries, violet and rose petal. Besides the strawberry, I tasted something a little more tart – maybe black currant. As expected, both the tannin and body were light, but there was definitely some acidity there, making it great for pairing with food.

Joseph Drouhin (12.5%) – Strawberry, prune and floral aromas. And although these wines see no oak, I got a whiff of vanilla and a hint of spice on the nose, as well. However, the taste was very tart and Rob described it as “almost aluminum” tasting. Again, light tannins, short finish, maybe a bit more complex than the DuBoeuf, but not quite as balanced either.

Mommessin (11% to 14%) – <–First off, how can you legally list that as the alcohol percentage on your bottle? Were you unsure when you made the labels what the alcohol content would be? Did you make a couple of batches then mix them together? Or not intend to label them separately? I’m thoroughly confused by that one. Whatever the case may be, this was our least favorite. Faint strawberry aromas, light-bodied with high acidity. On the first taste, I actually felt that dusty quality that I like in a good Pinot Noir. So it’s something I would not expect out of the Gamay grape. But that was short-lived because each subsequent taste was astringent and vinegar-like. Ack! Oh wait, Mommesin also made this unimpressive wine.

L’Ancien (12%) – Rob didn’t like this one at all; but to me, it was the first BN we tried that I thought tasted more like a serious wine. It was more complex with not only berry aromas, but also that of olive and white pepper. Rob hates that white pepper flavor that can be found in some Grenaches. That’s probably what turned him off here. I liked the label of this one the best because it was basic and not so gimmicky-looking.

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But when it comes down to it, if we’re buying a fruity, easy-drinking Beaujolais Nouveau, we aren’t looking for complexity. That’s why Georges DuBoeuf would be our winner this year. But only by process of elimination.

Next year, we may step up in search of a Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau. Or maybe we’ll do a Battle of the Beaujolais: Cru vs. Nouveau, knowing full well who the winner will be. It would just be a great way to learn and experience the difference.

What wines would you like to see us review or describe next?

Cheers~
Carrie

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The Red Wine & Chocolate Debate

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About ten years ago, when I first started doing Wine Tastings with The Traveling Vineyard, I learned that red wine and chocolate paired well together. I am not really sure where I learned that. I took an online Wine Spectator class where a bunch of us met weekly to go over the lesson and taste the wines together. Did I discover it there? At our first Annual Harvest Convention, I attended a session on food and wine pairing with a gentleman from the Culinary Institute of Arts. Did I taste it there? Or was it just something I overheard from other consultants? I truly can’t remember.

But over the past year, I’ve read articles {like this one} by wine connoisseurs and enthusiasts across the globe who state that pairing red wine and chocolate is just plain WRONG! {For the record, my husband agrees, swearing that chocolate should only be paired with Port. But this is not because he’s a connoisseur; it’s just his personal preference.}

And you may be scratching your head asking yourself the same question, especially after my post about dessert wines, stressing how a wine should always be sweeter than the dessert itself.

I have used dark chocolate at Wine Tastings to illustrate food and wine pairing and to convert people from whites to reds. It works. I still have guests who swear by this pairing. I must admit that it has been a while since I’ve had the two together myself. But as a wine enthusiast, maybe my palate has not evolved to that of a connoisseur.

In any case, I have a couple of points to make and tweak about this pairing.

In my opinion, not all types of chocolate go with red wine.

When I’ve suggested that hosts serve dark chocolate and recommend just picking up an easy package of Dove Promises, some decide to go all out instead. They get all sorts of flavors with white chocolate, caramel, mint, chili pepper – you name it. Most of these don’t go with red wine. You are going to taint my poor wines that I’m bringing with mint! While these flavors might be fun to try with specific wines with a more experienced wine drinking group, it’s not the best option when I am trying to teach and showcase new wines, possibly to new wine drinkers. Furthermore, some hosts have even just bought milk chocolate because they don’t like dark chocolate. But both the red wine and dark chocolate tend to smooth each other out. So dark chocolate is the way to go, or at least the place to start.

Dark chocolate doesn’t go with all red wine.

At my tastings, I save a specific wine to be paired with the dark chocolate. This is because, I don’t believe it works with all wines. I feel like it works best with the more fruit-forward of wines from the New World. Earthy Old World (aka European) wines are best served with dinner. Bigger, bolder, fruit-forward wines from California and Australia seem to be the best candidates for chocolate pairing. I’m talking Cabernets, Syrahs, and Zins. Some New World blends work, too. This is a generalization; however, not a rule to live by. Not all California Cabs have the same style and characteristics. Therefore, not all of them will work.

Pair dark chocolate with reds that have chocolate “notes” when you smell and taste the wine.

Just as you’d pair chicken or fish marinated in lemon and herbs with a nice Sauvignon Blanc with citrusy notes, try chocolate with a red that has the aromas or flavors of chocolate. Not sure which wines showcase that? Tasting and describing wines takes practice. Remember the Importance of Company? Otherwise, if the bottle has a description, look for chocolate words like “mocha”. But remember, taste is subjective, so not everyone will agree on those notes. Furthermore, labels may describe wines more for marketing purposes than what the wine actually smells or tastes like.

At one time, the Traveling Vineyard carried a bold smoky Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile. It had chocolate and raspberry notes, but was a very heavy wine that usually only big red wine drinkers at my tastings enjoyed. That was until I started pairing it with these Raspberry Chocolate Bars, a recipe that I believe was shared by my friend and fellow Wine Consultant, Deb. I always have my guests taste the wine before trying a food and then after. Many white and sweet wine drinkers were surprised how much they loved this red after trying these decandent bars!

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Quick & Easy Raspberry Chocolate Bars

*Warning: This is not a healthy recipe by any means. Make it for a crowd, eat one and send the rest home with someone else.

  • 1. 5 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup softened butter
  • 10 oz raspberries
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, beat the first three ingredients with a spoon or on medium until all crumbly. Press the mixture in the bottom of an ungreased 13″ x 9″ pan. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. In a saucepan, mix together next three ingredients. Bring to a boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Let cool ten minutes. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the first mixture in the pan and then carefully spread the raspberry mixture over that. Bake until set (about 20 minutes). Then let cool for 30 minutes. Chill for one hour. Cut into 48 bars.

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And lastly, there is a general rule of thumb that goes for any wine pairing:

Pair any wine with any food as long as you like them together!

All that matters is that you like the wine with whatever you are eating. I swear by the fact that grapes don’t go with wine, but if you like them together, by all means, pair them!

So this Valentine’s Day, whether you are singled or coupled, pick up a bottle of New World red wine and some dark chocolate to do a little experimenting yourself. It’s more important that you be the judge.

What side do you take on the chocolate and red wine debate and why?

Cheers~
Carrie

This valentines’ day…