Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Answers

1. The best pairing for a spicy shrimp curry would be...
a. Brut Cremant d'Alsace, France
b. Chassagne Montrachet, Cote de Beaune, France
c. Cote Rotie, Rhone, France
d. Entre deux Mers, Bordeaux, France

Sparkling wines make an excellent pairing for spicy foods - the bubbles reduce the perception of heat, and the high acid and hint of sweetness in this wine would also be very refreshing. You would definitely not want to serve an oaked Chardonnay (Montrachet) or a red (Cote Rotie), as the tannins emphasize the spice in a bad way. Entre deux Mers is one of the four lightest French whites, and would simply be lost.

2. Ullage is...
a. the empty bottle space between the cork and the wine
b. the time wine spends aging on the 'lees'
c. the addition of sugar and yeast to make champagne-method wines
d. the point when grapes transition from green to red

Ullage can be a problem in older bottles - as they age some of the wine will evaporate, allowing more oxygen to get into the bottle and oxidize the wine.

3. Which of the following is impossible to find in a store?
a. Rioja, Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain, 2002
b. Brunello d'Montelcino Riserva, Tuscany, Italy, 2007
c. Chateau Margaux, Margaux Premier Grand Cru Classe, Medoc, France 2008
d. Vinho Verde, Minho, Portugal, 2007

Some wines have specific regulations as to when they can be released. Brunello d'Montelcino must be aged four years before release; a Riserva is aged an additional year. This wine won't be in stores until 2013.

4. Which of the following is a DOCG red grape from Southern Italy?
a. Taurasi
b. Aglianico
c. Corvina
d. Connanou

DOCG stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita - the equivalent of an AOC in France. These grapes and wines must be grown and produced in specific areas under specific guidelines. The "G" guarantees the overall quality and importance of the grape/wine. Aglianico is used to produce Taurasi, a red wine from Campania.

5. Which of the following is NOT a Grand Cru varietal from Alsace?
a. Riesling
b. Pinot Gris
c. Chenin Blanc
d. Muscat

Four varietals may be grown and produced under a Grand Cru label in Alsace: Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gerwurtztraminer, and Muscat. Other grapes may be grown but the wines won't be granted Grand Cru status.

6. Which of the following would NOT be served with dessert?
a. Brachetto d'Aqui, Piedmonte, Italy
b. Reciotte della Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy
c. Gerwurtztraminer, Selection de Grains Nobles, Alsace, France
d. Muscadet Sevre et Maine, Loire, France

The first three are all sweet wines. Dry wines and sweet foods do not mix. The Muscadet would pair best with seafood dishes.

7. Which of the following would go best with a braised lamb shank and creamy polenta?
a. Steen, Stellenbosch, South Africa
b. Bairrada, Beiras, Portugal
c. Rias Biaxas, Galicia, Spain
d. Romanee-Conti Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits, France

Steen and Rias Biaxas are both white wines, and too light bodied for such a rich dish. Romanee-Conti is produced from Pinot Noir. Though it is a red wine, Pinot Noir is one of the lightest reds around and would still be overshadowed by the lamb. Bairrada, however, is a very full-bodied, tannic red that would pair perfectly.

8. Which label is impossible?
a. Seyval Blanc, Walla Walla, Washington, USA
b. Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA
c. Pinot Noir, Carneros, California, USA
d. Late Harvest Riesling, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada

Seyval Blanc is a hybrid, a cross between the traditional European Vitis vinifera and the North American grape, Vitis labrusca (think Concord grapes). Hybrids like Seyval Blanc are grown to thwart the phylloxera parasite that only affects vinifera, and to stand up to the cold growing regions in the northern states. However, it is illegal to produce and sell non-vinifera wines in Washington State.

9. Which wine would not be served chilled?
a. Jerez Fino, Jerez, Spain, nv (non-vintage)
b. Beaujolais Nouveau, Beaujolais, France, 2009
c. Vernaccia di San Giominano, Tuscany, Italy, 2007
d. 15 year Malmsey, Madeira, Portugal

Dry fortified wines (Fino Sherry), super-light reds (Beaujolais Nouveau), and whites (Vernaccia) should all be chilled to some degree. A sweet fortified wine such as Malmsey Madeira should be served at room temperature.

10. What would be the appropriate label for a wine comprised of 75% Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Rutherford Cabernet Franc, and 5% Redwood Valley Merlot?
a. Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa Valley, California
b. Meritage, Oakville, Napa Valley, California
c. Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
d. Meritage, North Coast, California

Every wine-producing area in the world has its own label laws. For most of the US, a wine must follow the 75/85/95 rule: that 75% of the grapes in the bottle are of the specified varietal (ie. a "Pinot Noir" from California must contain at least 75% Pinot Noir; the other 25% can be whatever you want); 85% of the grapes must come from the labeled area (unless it is estate-bottled, in which it must be 100%); and 95% must have been harvested in the specified vintage year. Please remember that there are exceptions to all these rules, especially in WA and OR.
For this specific wine you will need to add up the percents. The required 75% is Cabernet Sauvignon (true, it could be labeled "Meritage" (a blend of Bordeaux varietals) but a Cabernet Sauvignon label would be more profitable). 95% of the grapes come from Napa Valley, so it should be labeled "Napa" for maximum profitability. The more specific your label is, the more you can charge. So why call it North Coast or California Meritage when you can say it's Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley?

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