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Monday, 24 March 2014

Fly on the Wall

 
4-OUNCES
BY DON MERLOT
[WITERSCLEARINGHOUSE NEWS SERVICE/BIO]
NEW ORLEANS
It looks like the availability of all regions that produce wines is stocked in super markets and wine shops. At chez moi we have house wines for us and entertainment wines for family and friends, and for special occasions, we shop for our favorite fine wines. Nowadays we drink a limited amount of wine and not necessarily daily. The retirement process and health care checkups have driven me to drink a maximum of 4 ounces of red and 4 ounces of white wine. I we never fill the wine goblet and make sure I have the discipline to adhere to that expectation. After all, 4 ounces of wine equates to 95 calories and two glasses equal 190 calories. If you are on a 2000 calories diet, that is 10 percent of your daily calorie requirement. Doctors generally will let you drink two glasses if you are in good health, as wine is good for ones cardiovascular health. I have had to change my wine consumption over the last ten years because of age, as I was drinking more that two goblets at a time, and I also would have beer occasionally and/or margarita when we would go to a Mexican restaurant. Oh, those pounds stayed with me.
 

As I grew up, we were not a-wine-with-meals family, but did have it on special holidays like Easter, Christmas and New Year's. I remember that the favorite wine with turkey was a white dry sherry. Wine was for the adults, but my father would let us have a thimble full with the meal. I must have liked it because today I still like dry sherries. As we started entertaining back in the '70’s, we would buy Tio Pepe a Fino from the Spanish Sherry house of Gonzalez Byass. This wine became a favorite when it was re-introduced to me by an Italian colleague who had lived in Madrid for ten years. The red wine we had was a red (tinto) from Rioja Spain. That went well with roast beef and roast pork.
 
Back in college as my mind was being prepared for my journey of life, I was intrigued by the idea that I would never be able to come back to seeing life the same way I was witnessing at 21 years of age. My first exposure to wine with a meal was in college when you took a date out to a white table cloth restaurant. My roommate was Italian American and he loved wine. If we double dated he would order his favorite wine, a Portuguese rosê called Mateus.
 
I wondered about the world of Ichabod Crane and waking up after missing part of my life because I was in a “conquer the world career coma.” It was my first year of working in the world of “the men in gray flannel suits.” My motto was: 'Where have I been? Where am I? And where am I going?' My first company had a family-run company feel, and it was a top 100 national company and the idea was, 'If not us, who? If not now, When?'
 
Once I retired I felt as if I was getting off the proverbial merry-go-round. My most important sense was my love for wine. I started writing about that journey. Now I have to see where we are after fifty years where wine is and what does it mean to me? The first exposure to classique wine was with the French English and Italian cultures. By end of the career it was a matter of seeing that I knew every wine producing area except South Africa. Today when the consumer walks into a wine store, it is likely that one has to know what one expects to buy or look for someone to help. A good chef will train the wait staff on the wines in the house cellar. Expensive and 5-star restaurants will have a sommelier who will with some guidance select a wine from the house cellar to meet the ordered meals. A rare choice is a restaurant that lets one bring in your own bottle and, for corkage fee, will let you serve your own wine.
 
As I meander through my wine shops looking for house wines, I am very conscience of the price per bottle, as I do not stock wine nor buy in bulk, nor have wine cellar. Our wine preferences for a red wine is a South American Carmenère (from Chile) or a Malbec (from Argentina). We buy liter-and-a-half bottles. The white wine I like is Sauvignon Blanc (from Chile) and my wife likes Pinot Grigio varietal, and she looks for the best price from Italy, California, or Chile. Our red wine ends up being my choice, and if they are available we will get a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend from Chile and or Syrah (or from Australia, a Shiraz). I find California wines too expensive, and the least expensive seem to be mass produced and processed quickly to ship to the market rapidly.
 
Here in New Orleans, the Chilean wines are the best value. We can find the liter and a half bottles at $6.99 ea. For our taste & these are a good value and wine is consistently good, and that is why they are our house wines.
 
We keep track of new wines through the recommendations of wine and food magazines.Depending on the cuisine when we entertain at home we seek out a good Chianti riserva or a Spanish reserva, we like a Beaujolais from Moulin au Vent or Cote de Brouilly and or look for a Rhone or California Zinfandel or a petite Syrah. We like a white wine with sea food and seek out a good Sancerre, or a Spanish white from Rias Baixas. We love them with Shrimp remoulade or gambas al Ajillo. Or Red Snapper al mojo de ajo.

Special occasions are birthdays and or special holidays Easter Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's. We like and look for a Burgundy to go with lamb or beef tenderloin. The birthday of my wife, Denise, requires looking for Bordeaux–St. Emilion Trop long Mondot. And mine is a Burgundy a Grands-Exchezeaux or a Pomerol from Bordeaux–Vieux Chateau Certan. For a sparkling wine we get a California Rodier Rose or a Cava. And for the special dessert (key lime pie), we look for a Sauternes like Ch. Suduiraut or Ch. Rieussec.
 
My most favorite dishes and wines when I traveled in Europe were Meursault with Dover sole and Grands Exchezeaux with a roasted leg of lamb.
 
We certainly cannot get wines at the prices of 1970, or is the selection of Bordeaux or Burgundy readily available, as premier wines will fly off the shelves when they arrive to my market. My selection of wines for special occasions are the wines of the 1 percent of the American public who like and stock wine get first dibs on wines on their arrival.
 
So when I look at my expectations and preferences I surrender to the modern world that special preferred wines are a bit dicey. But luckily for me, I made great notes and rekindle the taste buds. Of course there are a lot great wines coming in for the last twenty-four years from the New World, and I see in the headlines. We know that California, Chile, and Australian wines have leveled the playing field for Cabernet Sauvignon; New Zealand and Oregon for Pinot Noir. California Chardonnays hold their own in blind tastings.  
 
I have thought about what is the path now that Bordeaux and Burgundy is not the King of the Mountain anymore. And who is today’s wine aficionado? We have heard that Millennials lead in wine consumption per capita in the USA. China’s 1 Percent is flush with new dollars and wants to modernize its culinary and beverage consumption habits.
 
Every restaurant that serves wine and prepares food will have to have a chef to select wine for his food offering and guard against food preparation and storage violations. I remember back in the late ’60’s the concept of American decision making was “do not confuse me with the facts; I have made up my mind.”
  
(Ron Alonzo, who writes as Don Merlot, is a Chevalier of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, a Professionnel de la Table of the Chaine des Rôtisseurs, and a CFSP level I of the NAFEM (Certified Food Service Professional).

 

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