Around the World in Wine

Last Saturday was a blast! I led a wine tasting for the Norfolk Jaycees that had us traveling around the world—with 50 friends, acquaintances, and strangers as my companions. Through the expressions of six wines, we visited Spain, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, France, and the United States of America, in that order.

Spain

Cava, Brut Rosado, Castillo Perelada, Spain, NV, 11.5% ABV

We started off with a pink Cava from Spain. Unlike many Cavas, this wine had Pinot Noir in it, which gave it a beautiful bright pink color.  Both on the nose and palate, the wine showed notes of strawberry, raspberry, and lemon zest with a hint of white flower and white rock. I love sparkling wines to start a party for several reasons: they get people in a party mood, cleanse the palate, and work with a wide variety of food choices like an appetizer spread.

South Africa

Chenin Blanc, essay, Western Cape, South Africa, 2009, 13.5% ABV

From Spain we traveled to the Southern Hemisphere and checked out South Africa’s signature white grape, Chenin Blanc, but with a bit of a twist—a touch of Viognier. A beautiful yellow-gold with green highlights, this wine expressed itself as yellow apple with peel, yellow peach, under-ripe apricot on the nose and ripe apricot on the palate, lemon zest, lemon juice, and honeysuckle with a hint of oregano and muddy river rocks on the nose. I’d pair this wine with pan-sautéed pork chops with caramelized onions and sautéed red or yellow apples, such as Braeburn. I’d add a touch of white wine at the end to make a bit of a sauce and incorporate the browned bits from the pan.

New Zealand

Sauvignon Blanc, Yealands Estate, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2009, 13% ABV

Staying in the Southern Hemisphere, we traveled to New Zealand, which has a cool climate with long growing days. Even though its own prohibition preventing the wine industry from developing until recently, New Zealand has a reputation for making only quality wines. This wine was no exception. Yellow with gold-green highlights, this Sauvignon Blanc screamed for attention with flavors of fresh-cut grass, white grapefruit juice, gooseberry, lemon zest, green apple with peel, white rock, basil, and jalapeño. With the medium acidity level and intense flavors of this wine, I’d pair it with an herb salad topped with sherry vinaigrette, herb-encrusted chicken or fish, or a Caesar salad.

Australia

Merlot, Thorn-Clarke, “Terra-Barossa,” Estate Grown, Barossa, Australia, 2008, 14.0% ABV

Taking a jaunt over to Australia, we tasted a Barossa Valley Merlot from a reputable winery, Thorn-Clarke. Ruby red fading to a salmon-colored rim, this Merlot burst with flavors of blueberry jam, blackberry, black cherry, black plum, cinnamon, and black pepper with secondary notes of dried mint and dark chocolate. After sitting awhile, the wine flavors integrated into a spicy barbecue sauce, reminiscent of BBQ spareribs. The tannins in this wine were soft and integrated. I’d drink this on its own or with meat like steak or the above-mentioned ribs. It would also be delicious with a Thanksgiving meal, playing off the rich flavor accents of cranberry sauce and stuffing while marrying nicely with the neutral turkey meat.

France

Bordeaux Superieur AC, Comtes de Tastes, “Chateau Haut Gay,” Bordeaux (Right Bank), France, 2009, 14.5% ABV

Flying back to the Old World in Bordeaux, France, we enjoyed a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc from the Right Bank. Ruby red fading a to a pink rim, this wine showed blackberry and black cherry fruits, cinnamon, and vanilla with notes of forest floor, dust, and oregano and slightest hint of dried mint. Atypical of a Bordeaux, this wine emphasized fruit and new oak flavors more than earth though pleasantly the earth was still present. I’d definitely be happy pairing this with a steak, perhaps a filet mignon encrusted with pepper and served with sautéed mushrooms and onions to pick up on the earthiness.

United States of America

Zinfandel, The Other Guys, “Plungerhead Old Vine Zinfandel,” Lodi, California, USA, 2009, 14.9% ABV

Finally, we returned home to the USA but over to the west coast in Lodi, California. Plungerhead Zinfandel taunted us with unconventional wine packaging, including a wine label featuring a man with a toilet plunger on his head and a plunger-shaped synthetic cork. In the glass, this Zin treated us to blackberry brambles, blackberry jam, black cherry, huckleberry, black pepper, cinnamon, and something sweet and green on the nose—almost like running through a field of wildflowers and tall weeds. I’d happily drink this on its own, with a pork chop or chicken breast that’s been sautéed and then has a balsamic or cherry reduction sauce or in place of a Chianti with Italian-inspired food. For a vegetarian option, I’d try a rice pilaf, quinoa, or mixed greens featuring dried cherries, perhaps some diced yellow apples, toasted pecans, and a touch of a mild blue cheese, like a Danish blue, topped with a balsamic vinaigrette.

We finish our brief tour around the world in wine. We’ve learned more about wine, wine and food pairings, art, and each other.

I look forward to hosting another wine tasting event soon!

Thank you so much to the “Around the World in Wine” supporters:

Sheila Giolitti and the Mayer Fine Art Gallery for generously allowing the Norfolk Jaycees to use the Waterside gallery in Norfolk, VA, for our tasting. http://mayerfineartgallery.com/

Mike Adams at Bon Vivant Market in Smithfield, VA, for his help in selecting the wines and for extending a discount to the Norfolk Jaycees. All wines tasted and described here can be purchased through Mike Adams at Bon Vivant Market. http://www.bonvivantmarket.com/

The Norfolk Jaycees for hosting the event, obtaining the ABC license, and taking care of all manner of logistics details. http://www.norfolkjaycees.com/

Christopher B. Taylor for shooting and editing photos of the event, including the three featured above, and assisting with all logistics of the wine tasting.

© Elizabeth Taylor – 2011