30 June 2010

What to drink when it's hotter than it is in Africa

Everyone has their unique sayings to graphically describe the extreme heat we've had these past days in NYC. Mine is: "It's hotter than a whore on dollar day." I have a girlfriend who says it's "Africa hot." So one day recently, I decided to check the temperature in South Africa - yes, I know it's winter there - and found it to be 30 degrees cooler. In Africa!

Through this heatwave, I realized that I needed to apologize to a friend I dine with regularly. He kindly (& wisely, if I may say so) allows me to choose the wine. Without a thought I ordered bottle after bottle, day after day, of white wine. "I promise I'll let you drink red in the fall," was my rather lame excuse. He was much more gracious than I.

In reality, what I LOVE to drink doesn't change much with the seasons, I'm just more amenable to pairing properly when the weather isn't sizzling hot. In my mind, a great bottle of Champagne is the best choice at -8 or 108 degrees. And Riesling is ususally a close second.

But when the weather is cooling down - don't you love that first 50 degree night? - suddenly you want richer food and richer wine.

I've been thinking about this these past days, especially after a long Riesling tasting on a 96 degree day. Residual sugar really slows you down on a hot day. There's something about the heft of the sugar on the palate that is unwelcome, even in the most beautifully crafted wine.

"Refreshing! Mouthwatering!" Those are the descriptors for a hot, hateful day. So how to choose the right wine from the right place for your poolside/beach/hiding in the AC with the blinds down day? Think about how you like your lemonade. More tart than sweet? Mixed with iced tea? Think Sauvignon blanc. Look for wines from France - Sancerre, Touraine or anywhere else in the Loire Valley. The minerality will be prominent and the fruit subtle and tart. If you like your lemonade sweeter or mixed with mango & mint, look for Sauvignon blanc wines from New Zealand. They will be rich with tropical fruits, but still mouthwatering.

29 June 2010

The World Cup of Riesling

It was hot last night. But, I, Decanted Diva, got prettied up for a blind tasting. In honor of that futbol tournament in South Africa, The World Cup of Riesling featured 12 wines from 9 countries all from the single - and most elegant of grapes - Riesling.

I love Riesling so very much. I call her "The Empress of Grapes", because Riesling is equally delicious whether dry, sweet or sparkling. The combination of raging acidity, white fruit and flowers with Riesling's ability to reflect its terrior - often in mouth-coating minerality - makes it a dream grape for my mouth. And yes, I think of Riesling as a woman - a commanding, powerful woman of astounding beauty and grace.

I don't blind taste everyday and it was fascinated by my reactions to the wines. I know what I know about wine and I know it's hard to evaluate wines, but harder still when some of those wines are from places you've never thought about growing & making Riesling. Blind tasting skills be damned!

A wine from Bio-Bio in Chile last night had me thinking Old World because of the intensity of its minerality on the nose and palate. A wine I've had dozens of times from Kamptal, Austria - and which I could have sworn I loved - scored lowest on my tally. The wine I scored highest was not only from the New World - I a proclaimed Old World Girl - but off-dry to boot.

Blind tasting for everyone, I say. Preconceived notions about wines or grapes you love or hate close you off from helping your palate grow. I have a similar problem in that I often love the region, grape or winemaker or his philosophy of winemaking and then I close my eyes to the flaws - like with my Austrian above. Blind tasting takes all that away so that you can examine only your reaction to the aromas and flavors. You may be surprised at what you like!