Over the coming months, I hope to explore some new wines that I have not tried before, and also make a concerted effort to look at wines by country.
A recent dinner I had with friends in Tagish was the perfect opportunity to explore some wines from Chile.
When invited to dinner, I always ask the hosts what they expect to serve, so that I can bring an accompanying wine. If they have already selected wines, at least I have put some effort into the selection, and I ask them to let me know what they think when it is opened and served.
In this case my friend was preparing a whole roast chicken that would be cooked over the open flame of the barbecue. Immediately imagining the smoky, slightly charred outer skin that this would yield, I headed to the liquor store to think about different options.
The conventional wisdom is to serve white wines with white meat and red wines with red meat. So… white wines with chicken and fish, and red with beef and lamb. But don’t think of these rules as being hard and fast. I’ve served lovely Oregon Pinot Noirs with salmon, and robust Beaujolais and other wines from eastern France with roast chicken. And lately I’ve been experimenting with Italian sparkling rosés and grilled halibut with some good success.
In this case, though, I decided to focus on whites. One of the enthusiastic staff at the liquor store suggested I take a look at a 2007 Novas Winemaker’s Selection Chardonnay Viognier Marsanne (around $22.00) from Emiliana Vineyards. It is also made from organic grapes, which I thought was an added bonus.
I had previously tasted Emiliana’s brilliant Coyam Vinedos Organic red wine, which, at $38.05 a bottle has, alas, priced itself out of the market and is being delisted by the liquor store. It was a wonderful complex blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Mourvedre. I will miss it, as it was a perfect steak wine.
I had not, however, tried their whites. Having had such a positive experience with Emiliana’s blended multi-grape Coyam, I bought the recommended 2007 Novas Winemaker’s Selection.
Most of us are familiar with Chardonnay, and Viognier is emerging as an interesting white wine alternative. Marsanne, though, is less common. The blend works very well.
This is no shrinking wine… but rather a big, bold, brassy white, not to be sipped delicately by itself. Indeed, at 15 per cent alcohol, it may be the strongest white wine I have ever tasted.
I tasted a bit to get a feel for it when I opened the bottle at dinner, and the oak nose, the tumult of multiple grape flavours across the tongue, and the slight burning finish of a higher alcohol wine on the back of my tongue and throat made me realize this would only work with food.
The steaming and slightly smoky roast chicken was brought forth, and I knew immediately that this wine might work very well with it. And indeed it did!
The wine has a robust golden-yellow colour, and I smelled and tasted hints of apricot and plums. There was also a darker, slight burnt sugar / crème brûlée note that worked well with the smoky taste of the chicken. As is usually the case, the multiple different grapes made the wine taste richer, more complex and multi-faceted than a simple one-grape wine. All in all, a very satisfactory combination.
By way of contrast, I had brought another Emiliana that evening, the very nice Eco Balance Reserva Chardonnay (about $16.00). This, too, is at the stronger end of the wine spectrum at 14 per cent alcohol. Taste-wise, it is far more reserved and in familiar Chardonnay taste territory. Buttery and nicely balanced, this is a decent wine to sip, and would have been buried by the robust flavours of the roast chicken.
My dinner companions and I noticed how much simpler the Eco Chardonnay was in taste. It landed just on the point of your tongue, and while it was pleasant, it was nothing like the symphony of sensation of the Novas Winemaker’s Selection Chardonnay Viognier Marsanne.
I am not generally a huge fan of Chardonnay. Many vintners use a huge whack of oak to bury the characteristics of the grape and mask a pretty mundane wine. I have to say, though, that these two, particularly the Novas Winemaker’s Selection Chardonnay Viognier Marsanne, were rewarding to taste.
Both of these might be wines to consider with roast turkey when Thanksgiving rolls around. Keep them in mind. And I might suggest you buy both if you are having a few people over.
See what you think of the differences between the two, and drop me line! I’d like to hear what you think.