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Thursday, 4 June 2009

Don Merlot

Editor's note: The wines of the Old World have those perfect marriages that we loved extolling in the historic menus and world renowned chefs. To find out what we individually like, we suggest you try a good Cabernet Sauvignon with your favourite lamb recipe in the New World rules. Wine is about what we, as an individual, like, not what some connoisseur likes. So if you tried the food wine marriage, and liked it, then you know what the marriage of food and wine is all about.

The perfect marriage

By Don Merlot

My first mentor in my career gave me some very important clues to follow about life, eating, drinking, working, living and career expectations.

1. Rule No. 1: In discussing about wines he said, wines are like horse races. If everybody bet on the same horse there would not be horse races.

2. Rule No. 2: Always look for the differences, and ignore the similarities -– if you stop at the point where all California white wines taste the same, or all German wines are sweet, you will not have a great wine experience. Keep notes of what you like and do like about a wine.

3. Rule No. 3: Aesop's fable lesson: During times of crisis please give assistance and not advise. Learn what you like and dislike, and do not be talked into a wine because somebody else likes it.

So that being my mission here, let's find out what a favorite wine is and what is not. So what happens if you do not like Cabernet Sauvignon?

  • So, if you did not, then you did not enjoy the perfect marriage Lamb and Cabernet Sauvignon.

  • So what kinds of red wines do you like?

  • If you do not know, let's explore.

  • Red wines differ from White wines not just because of the color but because red wines have tannins. You need that tannin in Cabernet Sauvignon to cut through the fat of the red meat (lamb). Young tannins tend to be bitter, so you can tone down the bitterness by opening the wine an hour earlier and let it get some oxygen to mix with the wine. It will soften those Tannins.

  • The Cabernet Sauvignon grape is the king of the Tannins.

    • So you may not like the Bordeaux even though the wine specialist recommended this union – Lamb and Cabernet Sauvignon. Magnifique!

Bordeaux is strong on Cabernet Sauvignon on the Médoc region -– the left bank, but on the right bank Pomerol has as its king, the Merlot grape.

  • Merlot does not have the intensity of Tannin that Cabernet Sauvignon offers.

  • If Bordeaux Merlots are out of your price range, look closely at California , Washington , and Chile.

  • Australian Cabernets are great compliments too, and differ from the French Bordeaux.

  • France has many other grape varieties in its wine regions:

    • Red Burgundy from the Cote d'Or. The pinot noir has the least tannin of the red wines

      • In the New World Oregon , California

    • The Rhone has Syrah, Grenache, and blends such as Chateauneuf-du-Pape all have tannin but not as intense as Cabernet Sauvignon.

      • The new World has Varietals: California has Petit Syrah, Syrah; Australia has Shiraz .

Think of the wine as a condiment with the food. If you are a red wine drinker and still not convinced by the old world or new world cabernet sauvignon and merlots, then maybe you DNA is very nationalistic.

If you are Italian and have a pasta sauce, you may like more basil, or granna. Italians for sure as everybody else are not homogenous. (Rule No. 2).

  • Piedmont reds such as Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera- – good Tannin and great with lamb

  • Tuscany reds that are perfect too are Chianti Riserva, Brunello di Montalcino, and the Super Tuscans

  • And Venezia Giulia there is Valpolicella, Amarone, and Bardolino

In Spain lamb is cordero and enjoys wonderful wines as well.

  • Rioja and Ribera del Duero are from the Tempranillo grape and the Reservas are world class.

  • There is a plethora of great red wines not mentioned here.

  • Keep in mind that most reviewers are very nationalistic and the country of bottling is number one, but again it is important that you note what you like.

Many wineries have to thank the New World California and Australian templates that have made great strides in making first class wines.

So in the Old World and New World environment and ambience of red wines, there is a wine for each and every one of us to enjoy with lamb.

White wine and food marriage

Just to round out our thoughts, White wines have an Ideal marriage in the old world as well. You may have heard about the French Coquillage and Muscadet of the Loire valley. But when it comes to sole, there is a wine for the perfect marriage: White Burgundy. This is not a struggle most will be faced with, unless you are an up and coming executive having to arrange a meal for your best European customer.

  • Chardonnay is the absolute king of white wines.

  • The variation of Burgundy White and New World white is a wide spectrum.

  • There is as much variation as the red Cabernet Sauvignon and I know that is not welcome news if you have not found your white yet.

  • California is the new epicentre of wine.

  • The Old World perfect marriage of sole (white fish) and white wine: Your favorite Sole recipe and a white Chardonnay -– from un-oaked wine to oaked and unfiltred Chardonnay. Make sure you get your favourite Chardonnay.

    • California has oaked Chardonnay with rich fruit forward tastes.

    • It also has un-oaked chardonnay that is similar to Cote d'or White Burgundy.

  • Try them and find your taste.

White Chardonnay is the most popular white wine planted in wine areas. So be patient if you are looking for you favourite match.

Summer with warm weather is time to have chilled wines. White, rosé and light reds can be chilled and serve. Tradition begs for white meat and white wine, and red meat with red wine. The New World 21st century says anything goes. It is your tongue that savours the taste. All of us have a different threshold. So if you cannot discern what other people taste, keep in mind that it is not your threshold. And you are not crazy if you cannot identify what others taste.

Whether you are having wine at home – -your house wine –- or celebrating, you should drink what you like and what you can afford and enjoy.


(Depuis 1968 with an international career, the author has followed the Marco Polo trail in and out of the Old and New World. Ron Alonzo –- AKA Don Merlot -– is Chevalier-Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin and Chaine des Rotisseurs. Rafael Jose Carreño del la Mesa Ponce de Leon was his mentor when he started his career).