Archive for June 2011

Guidelines to pairing wine and cheese

June 28, 2011

Wine and cheese have gone hand in hand for centuries; however, with today’s ever increasing options for both wines and cheese the pairing decisions can be staggering. So, to take a lot of the guess work out of pairing, here is a handy guide to give you a starting point for pairing your favourite wines with soon-to-be favoured cheese. Keep in mind that these are just recommendations, not law – experiment with your own pairings and see if there’s a combination, listed or not, that just knocks your socks off.

A few tips to keep in mind: Pairing wines and cheeses from the same region is a good, “safe” place to start wine and cheese combinations. For example, a good Italian Chianti and a potent Parmesan will provide a fascinating mix. Also, remember that the harder types of cheese (i.e. Cheddar or Parmesan) can handle more tannic wines. While creamy cheeses, such as Brie, typically pair better with wines that have more acidity, like a Chardonnay. Give salty cheeses a sweet wine partner (i.e. Blue Cheese and Port).

Wine and Cheese Pairings:

Wine: Cabernet Franc; Cheese to Consider: Blue, Brie, Camembert, Cheddar, Fontina, goat cheese, Gorgonzola, Port Salut, Swiss

Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon; Cheeses to Consider: Camembert, Cheddar, Colby, Danish Blue, Gorgonzola, Gouda, Parmesan, Blue cheese, Roquefort

Wine: Chardonnay; Cheese to Consider: Brie, Camembert, goat cheese, Gouda, Gruyere, Parmesan, Provolone

Wine: Champagne; Cheese to Consider: Beaufort, Brie, Camembert, Cheddar, Chevre, Colby, Edam, Gouda, Gruyere, Parmesan

Wine: Chenin Blanc; Cheese to Consider: Camembert, goat cheese, Graddost

Wine: Chianti; Cheese to Consider: Look for regional cheeses to complement an Italian Chianti, perhaps Fontina, Mozarella, Parmesan or Provolone

Wine: Dessert Wine; Cheese to Consider: Crème Fraiche, Marscopone, or shake it up with a salty/sweet combo. and consider a crumble or two of blue cheese.

Wine: Gewurztraminer; Cheese to Consider: Boursin, Camembert, Chevre, Muenster, Swiss, Wensleydale

Wine: Merlot ; Cheese to Consider: Brie, Camembert, Cheddar, Gorgonzola, Gouda, Gruyere, Jarlsberg, Parmesan

Wine: Pinot Noir; Cheese to Consider: Brie, Camembert, Feta, Gruyere, Monterey Jack, Muenster, Port Salut, Swiss

Wine: Port; Cheese to Consider: Blue, Gorgonzola

Wine: Riesling; Cheese to Consider: Brie, Blue, Colby, Edam, Gouda, Monterey Jack

Wine: Sangiovese; Cheese to Consider: Blue, Fontina, Mozzarella, Parmesan, Provolone, Ricotta

Wine: Sauvignon Blanc; Cheese to Consider: Asiago, Brie, Cheddar, Feta, goat cheese, Gruyere, Neufchatel, Parmesan

Wine: Shiraz/Syrah; Cheese to Consider: Cheddar, Edam, Gouda, Parmesan



Alto’s pairing sensations at this year’s Stellenbosch Wine Festival

June 22, 2011

Popular Alto Estate offers visitors a delicious combination of its reds, teamed up with melt-in- the-mouth home-made pâtés. Each of the three wines in the range will be combined with a pâté and be served with artisanal 100% rye bread made in the area. Guests are encouraged to end off this experience with Alto Port served with cranberry and dark chocolate biscotti.

The Stellenbosch Wine Festival has become a Cape Winelands institution during the winter months and is a popular attraction for both local and international wine enthusiasts. The exciting activities offered by Neethlingshof, Uitkyk, Alto and Le Bonheur are not to be missed!

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Red wine ‘body-types’

June 21, 2011

Light, medium, and full — no, we’re not talking about your mixer’s speed settings. 

Those three words classify wine texture, and they help determine the colour,best aging practices, and tannin levels for red wines.

A light-bodied wine will have fewer tannins present and less presence on the palate. These wines tend to be less demanding partners with flavor-filled foods. Examples of  light-bodied red wines include Chianti, Pinot Noir and Beaujolais Nouveau.

A medium-bodied red wine will contain more tannins but will not have near the pucker power of a high-powered Cabernet Sauvignon. Typical examples of medium-bodied red wines include: Merlot, Shiraz or Malbec.

Full-bodied red wines boast the highest tannin (and often alcohol) content. Prime examples of full-bodied reds are France’s esteemed Bordeaux wines, Cabernet Sauvignons and some Shiraz wines .

In general, light-bodied wines tend to “feel” more like water in the mouth. In contrast, “full-bodied” wines feel heavier, more like milk, this effect is due in large part to the higher tannin (and again, alcohol) content.


Stellenbosch Wine Route

June 15, 2011

The Stellenbosch Wine Route is arguably the country´s most famous, and the Stellenbosch Wine of Origin area includes 106 cellars – most of which are open to the public. Here you can enjoy a long day´s wine tasting, and wine buying.

The heart of the town lies somewhere near the oak-lined Dorp Street. With its venerable old buildings, Stellenbosch is the University´s main thoroughfare, where modern student life sits comfortably side by side with the history and architectural heritage of Stellenbosch.

An important cultural centre, Stellenbosch has many galleries and museums housing important national and international art collections.

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Are older vintages always better than younger ones?

June 10, 2011

Contrary to what you may expect, most wines today are made for consumption while they are still young (within a year or two of the vintage on the label) and will not improve much over time.

With red wines, you can generally bank on an older vintage having more complexity and smoothness than a younger vintage, especially for age-worthy grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and blends containing these grapes.

Because red wines contain age-friendly tannins originating from contact with grape skins and stems, and from aging in oak barrels, they continue to develop and mature inside the bottle and become more drinkable over time.

Fine red wines that are more expensive than average usually will improve with age, whereas lower-priced wines are made for more immediate consumption — within months of their release.

The issue of vintage can be complex. There are wine vintage charts (available as a reference resource in many wine stores) that list wine regions around the world and rate each vintage year according to its quality, which is primarily determined by that year’s weather.

Weather in a given year is more critical in France, for example, than in the United States because wine laws in France prohibit irrigation of vines. In other words, the quantity of water that a vine gets is not controlled.

What’s more, the climates in California (and South Africa) wine regions are fairly consistent from year to year, making differences between vintages less meaningful.

Red wines age according to a curve that reaches a peak of improvement and then declines. It is just a guess by winemakers and wine critics as to when in the life of the wine that peak occurs.

Because white wines are absent of tannins and their preservative characteristics, the older a white wine gets, the greater the chance that it may be beyond its peak and on the downside slope of its “drinkability” curve.

Source: Ventura Country Star

Red wine and health

June 6, 2011

In addition to bringing out the flavour in food, and being delicious on its own, red wine is strongly linked to a variety of health benefits. Studies have shown that drinking wine in moderation — a glass or two a day — can lower your risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses.

Health Benefits of Red Wine

Have you ever wondered why people living in certain regions of France have a relatively low occurrence of heart attacks, despite their high-fat diet? Their heart health may be linked to red wine that many French people drink with meals. Experts have identified a potential link between red wine and health, identifying some specific health benefits that appear to be linked to moderate consumption of red wine.

Some of health benefits of red wine include:

Antioxidants: Its antioxidant content may be one of the biggest health benefits of red wine. Antioxidants are molecule compounds that repair cell damage caused by harmful oxygen byproducts in the body. Some research has found that antioxidants can help reduce the risk of certain kinds of cancer, heart disease, macular degeneration and diabetes — and red wine is full of them.

The skins and seeds of red grapes carry a particularly powerful antioxidant called resveratrol. When red wine is made, the skins and seeds are fermented in the grapes’ juices, causing red wine to have high levels of resveratrol.

Cancer prevention: Resveratrol has also been shown to minimize the risks of some types of cancer. It helps prevent DNA mutations that could lead to cancer, and it prohibits new blood cells from encouraging cancer growth.

Heart disease and stroke prevention: Resveratrol may help reduce the risk for heart disease and strokes. It has blood-thinning capabilities, which helps prevent blood clots from forming. In addition, resveratrol lowers levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, also known as “bad” cholesterol) in the blood, preventing the buildup of plaque in the arteries.

Drinking Wine in Moderation

While red wine has plenty of health benefits, overindulging can be harmful. Drinking wine excessively is linked to alcohol abuse, which is associated to a variety of serious health issues, including:

  • Alcohol addiction
  • Cancer (specifically cancers of the mouth, esophagus, liver and breast)
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Liver damage
  • Obesity
  • Osteoporosis.

“Moderate” drinking has different meanings for different people, and it varies by culture. In the United States and South Africa , however, drinking wine in moderation generally means one glass of red wine a day for women and one or two glasses for men.


Discover the flavours of wine

June 3, 2011

When you drink or taste wine, your taste buds and your sense of smell are involved, adding to the way you interpret wine overall. The flavours, aromas and sensations that wine is comprised of provide the interaction that you taste when you sample wine.

Sweetness is something that wines are well known for. With most types of wine, grapes are responsible for the sweet taste. Grapes contain a lot of sugar, which breaks the yeast down into alcohol. The grapes and yeast that were used to produce the wine will leave behind various sugars, which your tongue will be able to quickly detect. Once your tongue detects these various sugars, the stimulation of sweetness from the wine will be ever so present in your mouth.

Alcohol is also present in wine, although your tongue does not really know how to decipher the taste of alcohol. Even though the tongue does not really taste alcohol, the alcohol is present in the mouth. The alcohol found in wine will dilate blood vessels and therefore intensify all of the other flavours found in the wine. After you have samples a few types of wine, the alcohol level can easily have an effect on your taste buds, making it hard to distinguish other drinks that you may have.

Another flavour is acidity, which will effect the sugars. With the proper balance of acidity, the overall flavour of wine can be very overwhelming. Once you taste wine that contains it, the flavour of the acidity will be well known to your tongue. Although acidity is great with wine, too much of it will leave a very sharp taste. With the right levels, acidity will bring the flavours of the grape and fruits alive in your mouth – providing you with the perfect taste.

Yet another effect of flavour are tannins, which are the proteins found in the skins of grapes and other fruits. If a wine has the right amount of tannins, it will give your tongue a great feel, and bring in the sensations of the other flavours . Once a wine starts to age, the tannins will begin to breakdown in the bottle, giving you a softer feel to the taste. Tannins are essential for the taste of wine – providing the wine has been properly aged.

The last flavour associated with wine is oak. Although oak is not put into the wine during the manufacturing process, it is actually transferred during the ageing process, as most wines will spend quite a bit of time in oak barrels. Depending on how long the wine is left in the oak barrel or cask, the ability to extract the flavour will vary. Most often times, wine will be aged just enough to where the oak taste is visibly there – and adds the perfect sentiment to the taste.

Although there are other flavours involved with the taste of wine, they are not as present as those listed above. The above flavours are the most present in wine, and also the flavours that you need to get more familiar with. Before you try to taste wine or distinguish flavours, you should always learn as much you can about the components responsible for the flavours. This way you will know more about what you are tasting and you will truly be able to appreciate wine.