Yup- Verjus. Green Juice. The juice of unripe grapes: bright, non-alcoholic, not as acidic as vinegar; low in sugar; fresh and fruity; and a "secret ingredient" that makes otherwise "difficult-to-pair-with wine" food more wine friendly.
It's a classic alternative to vinegar used in marinades, salad dressings, pan sauces, and mustards; and comes in red (from red or a combination of red and white grapes, either fruity and soft, or bigger with earthy notes), and white (pictured here), which tends to be lighter and crisper.
Here in Oregon, Abacela Winery in the Umpqua Valley, and Montinore Vineyards in the Willamette Valley produce beautiful versions from fruit that is "green harvested", pruned while still unripe to decrease overall yield and improve ripening, sugar levels, and fruit concentration of the remaining clusters. If not made into Verjus, the green harvested fruit is dropped and left in the vineyard as compost.
Here are some recipes to try:
Mix one part of Verjus with 2 parts of sparkling water for a refreshing spritzer.
Try it in place of vinegar in a salad dressing, with 3 parts verjus to 1 part oil. Salads with vinaigrette are notoriously hard to pair with wine. Verjus is tart, but produces a softer but still flavorful dressing that pairs well with a fruity white wine. It works with wine because the acids in verjus are grape acids rather than the more pungent acetic acid found in vinegars.
The next time you poach chicken or salmon, try replacing some of the poaching liquid with verjus for a nice kick of flavor. Chicken breast poached this way makes a particularly delicious chicken salad.
Verjus can be used in place of wine to deglaze a pan, or in place of of vinegar or lemon juice in sauces.
Try it in a Buerre Blanc.
You will need:
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup verjus
1 pound cold unsalted butter, quartered and and cut into 1/2" pieces
kosher salt to taste
Combine the chopped shallot, wine and verjus in a non-reactive saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until about 2 tablespoons remain.
Reduce the heat to low, and add the butter 2 pieces at a time, wisking as the butter melts and the sauce emulsifies. When you are ready to add the last two pieces of butter, take the pan off of the heat, wisk in the last of the butter, season to taste with salt, and serve immediatly over fish or seafood. Makes about 2 cups of sauce.
And as Julia would say, "Bon Appetit".
Do Americans drink more wine than the French and the Italians?
The surprising answer is, yes. Wine consumption per capita in France and Italy, the two largest wine producers, have been steadily declining. In fact, French wine consumption is at a 30 year low, according to Decanter
, and daily consumption of wine for the under 30 generation is the exception rather than the rule.
At the same time, overall consumption in the US is at an all time high. In 2012, wine lovers in the US drank more wine, and higher priced wine, than any country on earth according to research prepared for Vinexpo, the world's largest international wine and spirits trade show. That's a pretty impressive change.
As a matter of fact, we Yanks drink 13% of all of the wine produced in the world; and while we still consume more white than red, the trends show that by 2016, Americans will drink 18% more red than than we did in 2012.Look at the trends published in 2011 by Gallop:
For only the second time in our history, wine consumption in the US is equal to that of beer.
So who exactly is drinking all of that wine?
The US demographic that is driving the fastest growth in wine consumption appears to be the Millennial generation, according to WineBusiness.com
. While consumption is up across all generational groups, it is increasing the fastest among those born after 1980.
Unfortunately, the overall increase in US consumption has come at a time of lowered domestic production from two years of bad weather and when yields from Europe to Argentina have fallen to a 37 year low as a result of persistent drought and storms at harvest.
This will inevitably put pressure on prices, as will the growing demand from China. According to Decanter
, China will likely drive world wine prices over the next 5 years. As of 2011, China was already the 5th largest wine consuming country and its consumption is estimated to grow by another 40% between 2012 and 2016.
So what does it all mean, you ask?
More competition for high end wines and higher prices due to lower supply and higher demand, but more choices from emerging production areas. A great opportunity to escape your comfort zone and try something new !
The name itself is rather a mouthful, but when you get a mouth full of this Grüner Veltliner you’ll be glad you made the effort.
Yes, it’s a daunting prospect to walk into a wine shop and ask for a Franz Hirtzberger Honivogl-Grüner Veltliner Smaragd, Spitz/Donau-Wachau
, and by now it’s probably impossible to find a 2001 vintage, but this wine by this producer has an enviable track record of consistent quality so it’s worth looking for current vintages.
For those people mesmerized by things Teutonic and Österreich (Austria to you), let’s break down that daunting name into smaller bites. Franz Hirtzberger
is the name of the family that owns the vineyards and winery for five generations now. In the Austrian tradition, this isn’t a giant corporation churning out plonk but a closely held family-operated winery that grows its grapes and bottles them in single vineyard lots. Honivogl-Grüner Veltliner
: Honivogl is the vineyard. Grüner Veltliner is the grape that grows there. Grüner Veltliner is the national grape of Austria; it has the widest planting, the greatest volume, and is the signature variety of the country. And Hirtzberger makes some of the finest, in part because the Honivogl is a great location, facing just the right way on the slope and endowed with highly mineral soils to provide a certain taste expression. Smaragd
is a designation of style and ripeness. If you know German wines, think of it as a “Trocken Spâtlese”, a bone dry wine that was late-harvested, not for sweetness, because this wine is dry and authoritatively crisp, but for increased richness and intensity and flavor expression. Think ripe versus green fruit. Spitz/Donau-Wachau
is the general location…the village of Spitz, located in the Donau-Wachau Valley along the mighty Danube River, considered by many to be the prime region for Grüner Veltliner in all of Austria.
But how does the wine taste
, you ask? Exquisite, I answer.
One of the loveliest things about Grüner is its ability to be perfectly satisfying and delightful when young yet continue to develop---for thirty or more years!---and show constantly different facets as it ages, much like the fabled white Burgundies. Indeed, some experts stoutly maintain that the older a Grüner gets, the more it tastes like a Montrachet or Meursault.
The Hirtzberger Honivogl is poised in that long, slow transition from brilliant freshness to mature development; it retains the original acidity-driven intensity of a handful of fresh crushed green herbs mingled with citrus, but its 12 years of cellaring has developed a whisper of saline mingling with celery seed, a brisk snap of freshly ground white pepper, and a surprising appearance of…white peaches. Age has also altered the texture of the Honivogl from its original crisp and edgy bite to a softer, silkier mouth-coating richness.
Brash and aggressively charming when young; demure and discreetly charming when mature---what more could you ask of a wine?
If you can’t locate the 2001, you’ll have to resort to the traditional approach: buy a current vintage of the wine, put it in your wine rack or cellar, forget about it, and let it rest quietly for twelve, or fifteen, or twenty years. It’s worth the wait. If you can resist the temptation, of course.
Most of the rest of the world didn’t even discover the delights of the Albariño variety from the Rias Baixas area of Galicia in Spain until the 1890s. But once discovered it worked its way to international status.
Where the rest of Spain was working to redesign their whites from old, dusty, over-aged and oxidized dullards to bright and lively and engagingly fresh wines, the wines the Albariños of the Rias Baixas, just cross the border from Portugal, were already there.
Now there are plenty of Albariños to choose from. But the standard bearer for me, the undisputed ruler of them all, is the Albariño Cepas Vella by do Ferreira.
Do Ferreira makes a ‘regular release’ Albariño that is excellent and right in that frame of bright and refreshing citrus and saline enjoyment. The winery also produces a delightful Rebisaca, a blend of Albarino with other local varieties. But the epitome of Albariño is do Ferreira’s Cepas Vella release, their “Old Vines.”
And when they say old vines, they mean it! These vines are so old they are as thick as large tree trunks, trained to grow up and over in the European pergola trellis system, and visitors can walk under the arbor of these vines, looking up at them from underneath
The Cepas Vellas vines are over two hundred years old. Obviously, the yield is very low---these vines don’t bear that much fruit--- and the resulting wine is both limited and expensive. But the Cepas Vellas is intense and concentrated, with a blast of citrus freshness and a nervy, edgy minerality that delivers tremendous flavor impact yet leaves the palate cleansed and refreshed and yearning for more.
You’re going to like this special wine. It’s one of those buy-two-bottles-because-you’ll-need-a-second types of wine. Serve it as an aperitif or with a platter of fresh mollusks and shellfish…although it would serve more than admirably for a companion to a hearty pan of paella.
Chateau de Gicon, Chusclan, Rhone Valley
The Rhône Valley region makes some of the most appealing and lusciously drinkable wines in all of France. It can be a bit confusing selecting one, however, since the Rhône is a huge region encompassing a seemingly endless array of quaint little villages, each with its own vineyards. And let’s face it, you have better things to do with your time than try to memorize the best of hundreds and hundreds of little villages, right?
Add to that the sometimes bewildering assortment of varietal grape blends that are sometimes allowed, sometimes demanded, all according to the traditions of each village, and you have a situation that provides opportunities for the intrepid and adventurous wine drinker…or the distinct possibility of buying just another inconsequential and eminently forgettable wine.
Fear not: in the Rhone your chances are far better for good choices than bad. A good example of that is a wine you may never have heard of that happens to be a collaborative effort of several vintners from two separate villages banded together into a co-operative enterprise, the better to pool their resources and further establish the vinous identity of their villages.
The only negative to this collaborative spirit is the somewhat unhandy name that may be applied, in this instance the Vignerons de Laudun et Chusclan La Ferme de Gicon Rosé, Cotes du Rhône, 2011. Er…Let’s decipher that, okay? “The winemakers of the villages of Laudun and Chusclan offer a Rosé from the Gicon Farm Vineyards in the rolling hillsides of the Rhône Valley.”
What you won’t know, unless you read up a little, is that the rosé is a blend of approximately 80% Grenache, the dominant grape of the southern Rhône, and Cinsault, a lesser-known pungent and flavorful dark grape with wonderful rustic flavors. That means you get the fresh strawberry scents and flavors on top, with more dark and plummy flavors underneath---in other words, just what you want your springtime rosé to be.
This Ferme de Gicon (and when you visit the region, you can visit the ancient ruins of the castle of Gicon with the vines growing profusely beneath and watch the vignerons work the fields) has been tilled for centuries by the same families, always producing the same wine: an honest, sturdy, full-flavored and persistent rosé with vibrant pink/purple color, strong berry fruitiness, and a pleasing dry, tart acidity tangy in the mouth. It’s a versatile, all-purpose wine---and that’s exactly the way the locals drink it, all the time, with all their foods, because that’s what they make it for.
So if you’re noshing on fougasse, the lovely flavored bread of southern France rich with herbs and olive oil, or slurping up bouillabaisse or chewing on garlic sausages and smelly cheeses, or having something simple like a roast chicken or a fresh green salad, this wine will suit the occasion.
Plus, with this wine you can get all that pleasure for less than $10 (on average). That’s right: this is not only a taste good, it’s a feel good---if you feel good when you get a bargain for a sawbuck, that is. Hey, why not buy two? The first bottle will taste so good, you’ll probably want to have another on hand. Just in case. HH
Domaine de Gournier Rosé
Here’s a rosé of a different sort, a wine from a traditional region that both reaffirms some traditional practices and alters others. It’s from a property that traces its origins back 600 years before the modern era to the time of antiquity but is headed by a modern and forward-looking owner/winemaker.
Domaine de Gournier is located in the Costières de Nimes, a lovely sub-region placed at the crossroads of four greater regions--the mountainous Cèvennes to the north; the Rhône to the north-east, the Languedoc to the south-east, and Provence to the east--and it takes its cues at times from all four.
In vinous terms it “belongs” to the Rhône but is culturally and climatically part of the Provencal/Catalan/Occitan regions that rim the Mediterranean from Spain to Italy. The designation on the label identifies it as a Vin de Pays de Cèvennes---country wine from the hills of Cèvennes butted up against the great Massif Central mountain range.
The Provencal culture makes rosé a necessity; Rhône and Provence supply the traditional grapes of Syrah and Grenache and Mouvedre; and the Languedoc throws in the surprising “new” varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to the mix.
Although the mix of grapes is unusual---Cabernet and Merlot are abundant in the Languedoc, but not profuse in either the Rhône or Provence---the method of making the wine is traditional. The grapes are very lightly pressed in fermentation to extract light but vivid color elements, then fermented as white wine so the delicate aromas, flavors, fruit and acidity are maintained.
The traditional tones of the Syrah, Grenache and Mouvedre give a comforting familiarity in this rosé; but the additions of Cabernet and Merlot add a firm body, a touch of tannins for structure and a pleasant bitterness on the finish, and deeper colors than usual. Since the wine is fermented in stainless steel, it’s fresh and lively and there’s no wood element in the way of the primary fruit flavors.
Domaine de Gournier Rosé is a sturdy little wine, fruit-laden but enhanced with light spices and some earthy flavors, and ideal for the light foods of summer but fully capable of holding up to richer fare as well, so don’t be afraid to serve it with either a chicken salad or with grilled meats---it will do well with both.
Domaine de Gournier has an interesting story that’s well told on their website. There’s ancient history and modern, complete with devastating floods and miraculous comebacks. It’s well worth reading.
Domaine de Gournier wines are a part of the impressive Robert Kacher Portfolio in the United States.
Had a remarkably good Willamette Valley Pinot Noir last night: WillaKenzie Estate Pinot Noir Terres Basses
If you like that big and bold, rich and deep, meaty style of Oregon Pinot Noir---and what’s not to like?---this is one for you. If you can find it, because it is popular and sold out.
WillaKenzie had a great year in Vintage 2008 and we can recommend any of their bottlings from that year, but the Terres Basses was particularly profound for its impressive depth of fruit and earthy, mushroomy core.
Match it with the food from Allium Bistro in West Linn
and you’ve got a double winner---especially if the food you’re matching it with is the Beef Bourguignon at Allium, a huge platter of rich, fork tender beef, mushrooms, carrots, pearl onions and rich gravy heaped on a mound of al dente pappardelle pasta
The side of Brussels sprouts---yes, I said Brussels sprouts!---was pretty darned good as well. Chef/Owner Pascal, who fortunately for us was in residence last night, is well-known for his cooking, one signature dish being his Brussels sprouts, sautéed cut side down in a skillet until the sprout begins to caramelize and get all crunchy. Simple, but one of the best versions of this humble veggie you’re every likely to have.
And for potato lovers, Allium does three different versions of their pommes frites. We had the simple sea salt, but for the gourmands there is a duck fat and rosemary---but I’ve been informed that is particularly addictive.
If you haven’t yet been to Allium Bistro, go. Book a reservation right now. One of the best places in town for down-home, locally-purveyed ingredients prepared with a French flair. And nicely priced as well.
I’d even go so far as to say that Allium’s “Neighborhood Dinners”, which sell out quickly, are one of the best values in town. More great food than you could possibly eat, with red or white wine included, a convivial atmosphere, all served family style, and only $38 per person! That’s a deal.
Good wine list too. So like I said, if you haven’t been, go. Even if you don’t live in West Linn, it’s conveniently right of I205, exit 6. Go past Five Guys hamburger joint, turn right on Willamette Drive and you’re there.
Bouchard Pere Bourgogne Chardonnay Reserve 2009
To “burgundize” the palate. Pleasant and within the accepted range of basic Burgundian chardonnay; decent acidity, not overloaded with wood; bit on the fat and juicyfruit side from the vintage. Good for short term drink-it-up and, as now, a palate prep for the 2010s.
Domaine Bouchard Pere Meursault Les Clous 2010
Oh ho! This one punches well above its weight. It could easily slip into the Premier Cru level of quality, if not place. Nicely structured, vibrant with acidity, light touch of fruit sweetness. What some writers try to express as “fine grained”, which is hard to explain but easy to understand here. I suspect this Meursault will develop nicely over the next several years. It coulda been a contendah!
Domaine Bouchard Pere Beaune Premier Cru du Chateau Blanc 2010
Low key, restrained and subtle, with lots of lemony freshness; decent minerality; suspect this wine won’t develop overly much from what it is now, but it’s a good offering from Bouchard at a more affordable price for short term and restaurant consumption.
Domain Bouchard Pere Beaune Clos St. Landry Premier Cru Blanc 2010
I am not impartial about this property: I invariably like it. This vintage is not an exception. This is one of the most distinctive plots (a monopole), within Burgundy and within the many wines of House Bouchard extant. It’s a small dot of chardonnay in a surrounding ocean of pinot noir in the Beaune, developed by those monks many, many years ago, and owned by Bouchard for not quite that long. There is distinctive white-petal florality to this wine each vintage, a light, delicate but pervasive perfume sitting atop a firm base of citrus and limestone oyster-shell minerality, that never fails to charm the nose and the palate. More young oak and less fat fruit than 2009, so it will improve with about five years or so in bottle, and will become more effusive in its charms as it does…but it’s damned attractive right now too.
Domaine Bouchard Pere Meursault Genevrieres Premier Cru Blanc 2010
Quite lovely Meursault! Transitioning from the lemony-crisp St. Landry to an even crisper and more orange- and lime-laden, almost marmalade, compact fruit with rich texture and chewiness, but nicely braced with nervy acidity. Oak is merely a component here, and not a dominant one as the liveliness and vibrancy of the wine dominates the experience entirely. It’s the liveliness and the elegant lines underneath that characterize and define this Meursault and give it a humming vibrancy in the mouth.
Domaine Bouchard Pere Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru 2010
Terroir will out. The Chevalier is a big, bold, acidic, mineral-laden and fruit driven wine, a wine trickled through crushed limestone, macerated with citrus, and infused with almost-stringent acidity which will convey it out of its youth and into a splendid maturity, if one can be patient enough. This is the kind of white burgundy that people search for and so often don’t find, but keep on looking for. (Cue Bono in the background crooning “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…” then segue to a picture of a haggard and suspicious wine geek with a large smile slowly spreading across his face and lighting up his eyes.) There should be an “X” on the bottle, to mark the spot.
Domaine Bouchard Pere Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2010
Corton is not a wine for everyone. There are those left unsatisfied with its charms, because it is often so weighty and ponderous and solemn, a wine that can be thuddingly closed when young and brooding when old, a dense, compact and demanding wine that grudgingly allows you to fall in love with it, if you wish. For those people, this is a Corton to try, for it’s a Corton with an engaging nature, showing some brightness and mineral and snappy acidity in its youth, and a liveliness that is sometimes lacking in this weighty wine. Still a big, dense mouthful, mind you, but there’s so much packed into this wine---apple, limestone, lemon, sweet orange, oyster shells, brine (yes, a distinct saltiness laced with mouth-watering lemon zest and minerals), crushed stone, menthol, earth, mushroom and truffles---that it can induce sensory overload in the mouth. Add in the silky weight and the uncharacteristic vitality of this particular version, and you’ve got a Corton to treasure, with limitless development potential.
Tasting the 2010 Bouchard Pere Red Burgundies
It’s always a pleasure to see Luc Bouchard come through each year, both to see him again and to realize that it’s time for another vintage taste of the excellent burgundies of Bouchard.
On this trip he brought the 2010 vintage (as well as a couple of marvelous older vintages to check up on). It’s always a bit of a tossup making generalities about a Burgundy vintage, since in this land of micro-micro viticulture so much depends on the immediate and less so on the general---one vineyard can be fulsome and rich while the nearby vineyard can be dull and lackluster.
Still it’s safe to say that the 2010 season was benevolent and productive. While not the fruity extravaganza of 2009 and its early-drinking delights, the wines of 2010 achieved full ripeness without being overly abundant, managed to avoid alcohol excess, and turned in with fine overall acidity levels, but not overly much there either. In other words, more of a classically structure theme prevailed, with a general range of very high quality and expressiveness and some real standouts for long-term ageability.
First we got an opportunity to re-taste the in-stock Bouchard Pere Bourgogne Pinot Noir Reserve 2009 as a palate tuner. Ripe, fragrant, medium-bodied, already beginning to hit its stride and an impressive house wine for anybody. It’s red burgundy on a budget, which is not all that common, and certainly not with this style and pedigree. In other words, it’s good, and it’s a steal.
This was followed by the Domaine Bouchard Pere Beaune Premier Cru du Chateau Rouge 2008. Also attractively priced for its quality range, this one is already delving into a deep and funky, mushroomy sub-structure, that tertiary, umamied earthiness (let’s say it: dirt, soil, wet leaves) that one can get more often from longer aged examples; perhaps it’s a bit earlier than expected here, but still and all, don’t look gift horses, and what’s wrong with getting there early sometimes when it tastes this good?
The first 2010 was the Domaine Bouchard Pere Savigny les Beaune Lavieres Premier Cru, showing an immediate bright, light florality supported by just-ripe (as compared to the 2009, very ripe) raspberry and red cherry. The acidity quickly asserted itself---hence the brightness---but that will likely soften and harmonize in the near future.
Next up was the Beaune Clos de la Mousse Premier Cru, which was akin to the Savigny but deeper, darker. Shy nose, as befits the site and age, methinks, with cherry, blackberry and a touch of menthol behind it, this comes across as a sturdy wine that might take time to soften up its tannin and reveal its nature. Did we just describe a Beaune red or not?
The Bouchard Pere Vosne-Romanee 2010 came next. The nose seemed a bit reticent, and light in fruits and florality. Closed up pretty tight right now, and not yielding much. Grippy tannins at the end. Stubborn now, and not giving much up.
Domaine Bouchard Pere Gevrey Chambertin 2010 was more rounded, with plumper berry fruit overall, toothy and chewy right now, and with sufficient sweetness to signal good fruit to come, but with sufficient tannin to ensure that some layaway was needed to get to that point.
Bouchard Pere Pommard Premier Cru was exactly what I think of Pommard in general: chunky, broad, big-bellied, not too awfully complex or demanding, more like a jovial innkeeper offering solid sustenance on a night when you need just that. It’s an adequate, even satisfying style, but no more than that; pleasant, but never a generator of epiphanies.
The Domaine Volnay Caillerets Ancienne Cuvee Carnot is a return to ripeness and verve, with some strong but supple fruit highlighted by blueberry plumpness behind the raspberry and blackberry, and a lovely balance of acidity and tannin and liveliness welling up from the depth of the glass. A drinker and a keeper.
The Domaine Beaune Greves Vigne de l’Enfant Jesus, consumed while Luc Bouchard was repeating with amazing patience for probably the millionth time the story of how this vineyard got its name (go look it up) caromed back to a quiescent, closed state, giving little of interest at this point. Given the track record of this parcel though, and given the raves that other reviewers have already provided for this wine, it should be a comer despite its relatively modest and shy showing here. With Burgundy, it’s hard to tell, honestly.
The Domaine Nuits St. Georges Les Cailles Premier Cru, following the Baby Jesus, was crisper and brighter, and more open at this stage, with some intriguing fruit showing through. Word is this vineyard is newly owned by Bouchard but they have been using it as a fruit source for some time now, and their husbandry dictates they are lowering the yields considerably, so this may be a transition to a newer, denser style. Certainly bears watching and this one would be a good bet for the future.
With the Bouchard Le Corton Grand Cru 2010 there is immediately a greater oak presence showing---but this wine can certainly handle it with aplomb, for the spice level has elevated here, along the intensity of fruit and the overall density of the wine. Loads to love in this wine, but it’s definitely one to exercise restraint with, for the long term promise is profound. A lovely, deep, and dark and mysterious wine.
All you have to do to understand, to truly comprehend, the tier system of AOC Burgundy is to taste the Bouchard Pere Chambertin Clos de Beze Grand Cru 2010, then scurry back down the line to re-taste the Bouchard Gevrey-Chambertin commune bottling. There is a profound difference between the two. The communal version is quite good and substantive; the Clos de Beze Grand Cru is orders of magnitude better, with dense, layered, silky depths of aroma and flavor constantly yielding new and intriguing taste perceptions with each sip and each roll of the wine around the mouth. Gorgeous, complex, amazing in its persistence, fine textured, and beautifully harmonious in every imaginable way. A grand wine indeed.
To close this survey or reds we have two additions of lagniappe, a standout Bouchard Pere Aloxe Corton 2005 (See? This is what happens when you exercise patience and restraint. Drinking beautifully right now, with that earthy funk that some Burgundies carry so well.) and a more modest but nonetheless attractive Bouchard Pere Vosne Romanee 2005, a sturdy, fulsome, deep-hearted bottle that would grace any table right now.
Thus concluded the red burgundies from Bouchard in 2010. All in all, an excellent showing, more classic in structure than the 2009s, with less overt fruit but more substance and perhaps more longevity in return.