Wine for Special Occasions
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a great example of wine for special occasions. A sub-region in the southern part of the Rhône Valley, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is known for becoming the first appellation d’origine in late 1920s. This sub-region paved the way for the creation of a nation-wide set of appellation regulations. Today, it is undoubtedly one of the most prestigious terroirs in the Rhône Valley. With high concentrations of limestone, clay and sand, the soil in some parts is covered with round pebbles that absorb heat during the day and release it at night keeping the vines warm at all times. Wines from this terroir tend to be expensive, with a bottle usually priced above $30. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the exact opposite of Barolo or other single grape variety wines. It boasts complex mixes often combining as many as 13 grape varieties, primarily Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre, and Syrah. Red wines from this appellation are full-bodied, fruity and tannic. They call for strongly flavoured or fatty dishes such as grilled entrecote, duck confit, stuffed turkey or marinated game. They are not suitable for vegetables or light appetizers. It is recommended to serve this red wine at slightly lower temperatures of between 14 and 16°C (or 57 and 61°F). An interesting historic fact about this appellation is its unique bottle. In 1937, the union of winegrowers of Châteauneuf-du-Pape created a bottle with an embossed logo symbolizing a papal tiara placed above the keys of Saint Peter with the inscription: “Châteauneuf-du-Pape contrôlé”. All wines of this appellation are sold in these bottles. It is a sign of authenticity and a unique brand.
Barolo is one of the most famous wines DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita). Barolo is in Italy’s Northern region of Piedmont. Wines labeled Barolo must come from within a designated zone, be made exclusively of Nebbiolo, contain at least 12% alcohol, be aged for at least 2 years in cask and may be released for sale the fourth calendar year after the harvest. When choosing Barolo wines, it is important to be discriminating and to research the best vineyards of the sub-region. Although Barolo is ten times smaller than Burgundy, wines produced in these two regions share similarities. First, Nebbiolo is closest to Pinot Noir, which is the most prevalent grape variety of Burgundy, as both grapes result in a similar wine structure, are equally difficult to grow, and are similarly sensitive to their sites. These similarities explain the reason why growers in Barolo get inspirations and ideas from Burgundy growers. The particular bottle displayed here has a garnet red colour; plum and cherry aromas and flavours with hints of violets, tar, earth and spice. It is a dry, firm, medium to full-bodied wine with an excellent balance of fruit and tannins. Dishes that I can recommend with this wine are Leg of lamb, French rack of venison, Braised veal shanks.
Amarone della Valpolicella
Veneto is a famous north-eastern region of Italy and its largest producer of wine. This is where Amarone wines originate. The method of producing this wine is unique. Red grapes are carefully handpicked and subjected to an extensive drying process for a period of two to four months. The purpose of the drying process is to extract from the grapes approximately 40% of their water content in order to increase the sugar concentration. Grapes are then pressed and allowed to ferment until the yeasts convert all of the grape sugars into alcohol. If the fermentation is interrupted, the final product will be sweet wine. In the case of Amarone, the fermentation process is allowed to continue until the end so that the wine is dry. The high concentration in sugar results in higher alcohol content; Amarone wines are between 15 or 16%. The wine is allowed to age for at least two years and has an ageing potential of up to 15 years. The primary grape varieties are Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara. The particular bottle displayed here showcases a full-bodied and cherry-red coloured wine. It releases balsamic, woody, and fruity (blackberry and cherry) scents. It has smooth tannins and a long finish. It can be served with any fatty dish with red meat such as Beef Medallion or Crown Lamb Roast.
Brunello Di Montalcino
The town of Montalcino is located about 50miles south of Florence in the Tuscany wine region. Its clay and limestone soil is ideal for the type of grape variety that locals call Brunello, which is a diminutive of Bruno or brown. Brunelli is not a unique grape variety, it is the Sangiovese grape. Brunello Di Montalcino is among the best known, most expensive and high-end Italian wines. This wine must mature for at least two years in oak barrels. It is distributed for drinking six years after the grape is harvested, which means that it typically continues to age for several more years in bottle. Riserva mention means that it was released seven years after the grape was harvested. This wine has a ruby color and displays a complex and intense nose. The aromas are of red fruit and sweet spices. On the palate, it is intense and with fleshy tannins and a long finish. This wine is best served with red meats, such as grilled lamb chops. It would pair well also with duck à l’orange. The bottle recommends the serving temparature of 18C (or 64F), but it can also be served at 16C or 17C. The price for this type of wine can range from $ 50 to $100.
Rioja Gran Reserva
Rioja is a wine region in the northern part of Spain. It is best known for its tempranillo grape. This specific wine bottle has two grape varieties: Tempranillo and Mazuelo. It is a medium-bodied wine with a lot of character. The colour of this wine is uncharacteristic, probably because of its age; it’s dark red with deep purple reflection. The aroma is reminiscent of dark berries, fig and spice. The tannins are smooth and delicate. As this is not a full-bodied wine, it is best served at a temperature not exceeding 16C (61F). The mention Gran Reserva refers to the wine’s age. To be called Gran Reserva, the wine must have been aged for 3 years in oak barrels and 2 years in bottles. The Reserva and Crianza wines are younger. They are aged for 1 year in oak and 2 years in bottle and 1 year in oak and 1 year in bottle respectively. This bottle would be best served with roasted red meats and game, such as rack of lamb, gigot d’agneau or hare stew. When served with tapas, Spanish cheese and cold cuts such as Manchego, Serrano and Chorizo go particularly well with this wine. A reasonable price for a bottle of this quality should not exceed 30$.