After an extended break it’s time for another installment of the Noble Grape Challenge. Last time we explored what Cabernet Sauvignon was all about, and today we’ll get to know Syrah/Shiraz.
About the Noble Grape Challenge
Remember the Noble Grape Challenge? Yeah, I kind of forgot about it too. Let me refresh you on what’s going on here – Wine Folly created the Noble Grape Challenge as a way to learn the spectrum of flavours and characteristics found in red and white wines. Taking nine reds and nine whites and going through them from lightest to darkest, we’ll learn about the key characteristics and flavours of each.
Every so often (very often, if I’m being honest with you) I try a new wine and think – why am I not writing tasting notes? Writing tasting notes is a great way for me to explore what the heck I’m drinking and help myself figure out whether I like what’s in my glass or not. So I’ve decided to start writing more notes and, of course, I thought you might be interested.
I know, I know, it’s been a while since we did this. Let me refresh you – Wine Folly created the Noble Grape Challenge as a way to learn the spectrum of flavours and characteristics found in red and white wines. Taking nine reds and nine whites, we’ll go through them from lightest to darkest, learning about the key characteristics and flavours of each.
About Cabernet Sauvignon
Unsurprisingly, France grows the most Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, buuuuuuuut they usually blend it with other things. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the main five varietals of the Bordeaux region, and most (if not all?) wines in that region are blends.
Also, did you know that the Cabernet Sauvignon grape is actually a hybrid? It’s true! Check out the centre column of the adorable drawing below.
See? Cabernet Franc + Sauvignon Blanc = Cabernet Sauvignon!
I’ll wait while you recover from your newly blown mind.
Cab Sauvs are one of the more fuller bodied reds out there, and tend to be more opaque but still reddish in colour. Flavours found often include dark fruits and black pepper. Generally speaking this is a confident wine that you could drink with other stronger flavours (a burger or some full-flavoured cheese, perhaps) or sip on its own.
Right off the bat I could see some age in the colour. It was still decidedly red, but there were some brownish undertones that tell me this isn’t a wine that was bottled yesterday.
It smelled nice and bright and quite fruity. I came back to it the next day and smelled lots of depth and earth, too. I love how much wine changes over time once you open it, always full of surprises!
The flavour was full of fruit – all I could think of was ‘red fruit’ but, as usual, couldn’t pin it down more than that. I was intrigued and excited to taste some black pepper too, it helped balance the fruitiness. As expected, on day two the flavour had softened quite a bit. It got more velvety and I tasted some vanilla that wasn’t present the first night.
A wonderful and enjoyable Cab Sauv. I know I’m a bit of an omnivore when it comes to wine (there is very little I don’t like) but I do think this is a really solid wine, and in keeping with everything else I’ve had from this maker.
But does it taste like what we now know a Cabernet Sauvignon should taste like? You bet it does! Full bodied and fruity, with some lovely peppery-ness when you take a sip – this is a great example of a Cab Sauv.
It’s also a great example of a wine that can be enjoyed over a couple of nights. No need to finish it on night one – you should get a bottle just for you and taste it over two or three evenings to see how it changes.
Well, that was fun! It’s nice to be back in the swing of things.
I love the holidays. Clementines, pine trees inside the house, ornaments, the food (my god, the food!), the lights – I want it all! One of the things I love most about the holiday lead-up is mulled wine. It’s something I only have a couple of times a year so, like lots of holiday things, it’s pretty special.
A year or two ago my wonderful friend Katie gave me mulling spices and I’ve been breaking them out over the holidays ever since. Along with the spices she also gave me a simple recipe for mulled wine, which is the one I use when making this delicious drink.
Easy peasy! (click to enlarge)
This past weekend I invited some friends over to decorate my apartment for the holidays and decided to tempt them into manual labour by offering to brew (is it brew?) up some mulled wine.
All ready to go.
Let me tell you – it is incredibly easy to make mulled wine! As long as you follow the recipe, anyway. The first time I made it I decided that, since I don’t like oranges, I would omit the zest and juice the recipe calls for. Big mistake – turns out that citrus flavour is kind of crucial! I learned this the hard way when I tasted the wine – something about the heat and the spices and the lack of citrus to balance it made it taste completely sour and downright gross! It’s still a running joke between my mom and I – hot sour wine! HOT SOUR WINE! Anyway, take it from me and don’t omit the citrus.
Citrus – a crucial ingredient.
Glug glug glug
Into the pot they go!
Finished and ready for consumption! (Note to self: get fancy glass mugs for next batch)
My minimal efforts yielded a deliciously wonderful accompaniment to decorating and listening to Christmas music. My friends even brought over chocolate chip cookies! Christmas festivity achieved.
I’m on a big Portuguese wine kick lately. I love the full bodies, the juicy yet grounded flavours and, best of all, the great value. I plan to enjoy as many delicious wines until the LCBO prices them out of my snack bracket.
The LCBO says this wine is opaque ruby/purple colour with aromas of blackcurrant, black licorice, spice and toast as well as black currant, anise, dark chocolate, spice and plum flavours. Clearly a lot going on! If I can taste half that I’ll be laughing.
This puppy is a lovely little Merlot if you’re looking for a smooth, easy drinking wine. Les Jamelles also makes a decent Cabernet Sauvignon, but I chose the Merlot because I’m planning to mull this wine (post coming shortly!) and wanted something easy to drink and middle of the road in terms of body, tannin and general intensity.
The LCBO describes this wine as deep ruby in colour with dark fruit aromas including black berries, currants and cherries – works for me!
Yes, you read that right, this wine is from 2015! Talk about young. Beaujolais Nouveau wines are like mirages, there one minute and gone the next. The wine is fermented quickly and released just weeks after harvesting. The Beaujolais region in France has a festival around the release of the Nouveau wines every year, and lots of importers (LCBO included) tend to make an occasion of their release too. This past Thursday was Beaujolais Nouveau Day so I picked this guy up to celebrate.
As an aside, it’s interesting to see the differences in the label design of Beaujolais Nouveau wines versus other Old World (and especially French) wines. Beaujolais Nouveau wine labels tend to be much simpler, with lots of white space and bright colours. Maybe they’re trying to emulate the quickness of the process and the youthfulness of the wine on the label?
According to the LCBO this wine has a purple colour with aromas of red berry fruit, strawberry, plum and herb and a light earthy, floral/mineral tone. It’s dry, light bodied, and slightly spritzy on the palate. I’m excited to try it!
As always, you can follow me on Vivino to see what I think of my new purchases.
This past June I took a trip to California with my aunt and cousin. It was my first trip there (though hopefully not my last) and took us to San Francisco, Napa Valley, Half Moon Bay, Carmel, through Big Sur, and then on to Hearst Castle, Morro Bay, Santa Barbara, Malibu and Hollywood. Whirlwind and whistle-stop would be accurate descriptors for this trip! We drove through the state at such a clip that, unfortunately, pit stops to wineries wasn’t an option.
While I did manage to hit up one winery, my wine experiences during the trip mostly revolved around wines enjoyed at meals, except for the two bottles I brought home – sadly, the maximum allowment by Canadian standards.
I picked up a white wine at a Trader Joe’s in LA and a red wine at an adorable little grocery stop in Yountville in the Napa area. I wanted to bring home the two varietals that California is most known for – Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. These two varietals are what the California wine industry pretty much made their name on, which is why I decided to spend my money on them.
This wine was just what I hoped I’d find in a California Cab. It was sturdy and solid, with some vanilla going on (probably from being aged in oak) and a bit of a punch on the finish. I ended up having it over two evenings, and loved at how soft and mellow it got after being opened for a day.
These wines were both so enjoyable. It’s clear by how much is going on in the glass that California has had the benefit of years of growing grapes and making wine. I’m looking forward to exploring more California wines – if only they weren’t so expensive here in Ontario!
Do you have a favourite California wine? Let me know!
Let’s hope I like the wine as much as I like the label.
I saw this one recommended by someone in my Twitter feed, though I can’t for the life of me find where exactly. I generally like Portuguese wines and the price was right so I picked it up. I opened it last night and, unfortunately, was disappointed. It tasted like it was trying to pack too much flavour in, it was too tannic for me. A shame, really, but you can’t win ‘em all. At least I’m only out $13.
This one is much more of a sure bet. I’ve had Kaiken Malbecs before and always enjoyed them. I started following the winery on Twitter a few days ago and have been craving their wine ever since. This is a big, warm wine that goes great with the colder weather we’re starting to get. If you’re looking for something new I definitely recommend taking a chance on Kaiken.
Oh, Great Lakes Brewery. I love you so much, I just can’t help myself. This little beauty is a Belgian-style India Pale Ale. It’s a bit more mellow than other IPAs out there, with a hoppiness that’s more middle-of-the-road than burn-your-face-off. GLB makes great beer and I’m sure this one will be no different. If you like IPAs or Belgian-style beers you should pick this one up.
Allow me to introduce you to Left Field Brewery! Left Field is a relatively new brewery based in Toronto. It’s adorably baseball themed, hence the name Eephus, which baseball fans might recognize as the name of a type of pitch. This beer is a lovely little oatmeal brown ale, and is the only Left Field beer available in the LCBO. It’s a mellow beer – creamy and malty and would be lovely to curl up with on the couch. If you’re looking for an easy and approachable brew you should get to know Eephus.
As always, you can follow me on Vivino or Untappd to see what I think of my new purchases.
Canadian Thanksgiving was last weekend and, as I usually do on long weekends, I went home to Kingston to visit my family and yes, to drink a lot of wine.
Either because I come with all these food and wine ideas, or because my parents take my visits as an opportunity to indulge, it ended up being a multi-day food and wine affair. Either way, I’m happy!
This year especially I had a lot to be thankful for. It’s been an eventful year, both for my family and for me personally. I’ve struggled to find direction in my career and to feel like I’m making a positive impact on the world around me, which is partially why I started this blog. This year my family has been faced with illness and adversity in a much larger amount than we all wanted or are used to. It’s been a year of struggle but also one of gratitude. Suffice it to say, I now have a fuller appreciation for the good things in life.
My own ongoing personal struggles make it all the more sweeter when I visit home, and the holidays are the epitome of that. For three days I cooked, relaxed, vegged out to real estate shows on tv and enjoyed the company of my family. It was a wonderful respite from regular life.
Of course, wine was also involved – why else would I be talking about it here? Below is a brief recap of some (just some!) of the delicious wines we sampled over the weekend. In addition to all the other things I have to be thankful for this time around, I am also grateful for my stepdad’s generosity in sharing these wines – they all came from his cellar.
Double the pleasure, double the fun!
Graham Beck’s sparkling wine is my stepdad’s favourite, and is quickly becoming mine too. It’s from South Africa, which is really not a place that comes to mind when I think of ‘places that make good sparkling wine’, but I’ve had and loved other wines there so it’s not totally outside the realm of possibility. The wine itself is light and dry, with tiny little bubbles that make the wine float around in your mouth. The flavour is subtle and goes with just about any food you can throw at it. We had it with cheese, baguette and (as if that weren’t indulgent enough) some foie gras mousse made with black truffle. Thanksgiving got off to a great start, you guys.
This label is so Old World.
We had this little gem at the beginning of dinner, with a parsnip, apple and leek soup I made the day before. My stepdad asked me what I thought would go well with the soup and I suggested something that had depth and body, that would stand up to the fullness of the parsnip flavour. He chose this Chardonnay and I think our efforts worked out wonderfully. It’s solid creaminess was a great counterpoint to the earthy sweetness of the soup.
Chateau Malescot St. Exupéry. 25 years old, no big deal.
It’s just a little dusty – it’s still good, it’s still good.
The baby of the red bunch.
After the soup it was on to the main event! We had a veritable feast of turkey, garlic mashed potatoes, mashed turnip with carrot, roasted brussels sprouts, and of course, stuffing and gravy. It doesn’t seem like much now that I’m writing it out but believe me, my belly was FULL.
The two French wines were amazing. They both came from sub regions of Bordeaux (Margaux and Médoc, to be specific) and, as you can see from the labels, had been resting in the cellar for quite some time. I always get a kick out of thinking of how old I was when an older bottle was created. I was still in single digits when these wines came into the world!
Both wines were just lovely. The Potensac had a beautiful ruby colour, a bit of pepper and fruit on the nose and a smooth, slightly peppery and medium-bodied flavour. The Malescot was similarly medium-bodied and so, so smooth, but I tasted a bit of smoke on the finish with this one. Both were a bit mellow (on account of their age) but had retained much of their vim and vigor. It was a huge treat to taste them.
The Chateau Malescot St. Exupéry cork. Good thing we opened it! That wine was slowly but surely making its escape.
The third wine came to us from Napa Valley. It was a Meritage, which is a fancy way of saying it’s a blend of Bordeaux-style wines but isn’t actually from Bordeaux. Long story short, Bordeaux (well, most of France, really) is incredibly protective of their wines and winemaking processes and have barred other regions from making the same kinds of wine and calling it ‘Bordeaux’. This is why you’ll see wines made in North America being called ‘Meritage’.
The Stonehedge was also delicious, but I admit that by that point in the evening the wine and tryptophan had gotten to me – I have no notes from this wine. I do remember that it’s body and flavour was in keeping with the other two reds we’d been drinking, which further proves that my stepdad is no slouch when it comes to wine choices.
In the immortal words of Julia Child, ‘bon appetit!’
A Thanksgiving for the books, I think. How was yours?
Palate Practice is a wine blog written by me, Meg. I've been enjoying wine since the days of childhood Sunday dinners and my Nan's dining table. When I was older I realized that, for me, wine is more than something to sip on when I'm heading to a dinner party.
Palate Practice is a place for me to share what I've learned (and am still learning) as well as stories of wine in my daily life. For me, sharing wine with someone is often the beginning of a really special experience.