Club Claret – what is it all about?

590x110-club-claret Club Claret is about Bordeaux. Affordable and approachable Bordeaux. Wine you can drink now, wine that goes with food and wine that offers balance. If you are looking for a “cocktail” wine, Club Claret is not for you. If you want big fruit-bombs with high alcohol, Club Claret is not for you. But, if you seek balance, a sense of place and a good story, I invite you to try one of the Club Claret wines.

101176lThe team behind Club Claret is headed by one of the UK’s top wine experts, Anthony Foster, MW. Based in St Emilion, they search through the thousands of Chateaux in Bordeaux and source exceptional wines at affordable prices. Club Claret takes the effort out of finding a gem, and delivers wines that can be drunk any day or for that special occasion.

How do you know which wine is best for you? Watch the videos of Anthony Foster meeting the winemakers whose wines have been selected to join Club Claret. You’ll see why each wine was chosen and what makes each so special.

 

Please share your experiences with Bordeaux – either through tasting the wines, visiting the region, or just learning about the history.

Some Basic Food & Wine Pairing Tips

Pairing food & wine is not a science. It has a lot to do with personal preference and tastes, so there are no cut and dry rules. Occasionally you’ll get a pairing that makes you say “WOW!” By the same token, you will occasionally find a pairing that makes your taste buds recoil in anguish. But most pairings fall somewhere in the middle. In fact, most wines work with most foods, but knowing a few basic rules can enhance your enjoyment.

Complementing Flavors

Complementing flavors means you are matching the structure of the wine with the structure of the food. Some examples are:

Match creamy with creamy – Creamy wines, such as Chardonnay or Viognier, matched with cream-based sauces (pasta or poultry) or a creamy cheese.

Match acid with acid – Bright, crisp Sauvignon Blanc is a lovely match for that fish with a lemon sauce. A good rule of thumb – if the recipe or food has lemon or other citrus in it, you’re going to need some acid to match. Great high-acid wines includ Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Albarino, Chenin Blanc, Riesling and Chablis.

Match sweet with sweet – Chocolate cake? Lemon custard? Match a similar wine with the similar food. Rich and dense chocolate cake is a great match to Port or other dark, sweet wines. A light lemon custard looks for sweet and acid, so a Moscato or Muscat-based dessert wine is not too heavy and a perfect match.

Contrasting Flavors

Contrasting flavor means you are trying to offset a taste or structural element in the wine and food. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t.

DO match spicy with sweet – A big tannic red with spicy chow mien? Not so much. Take that dish and pair an off-dry Riesling or Gewurztraminer, and it’s a party in your mouth. The sweetness of the wine is offset by the spice in the food and instead of tasting sweet, you taste the delicious fruit in the wine instead. Pair Riesling, Pinot Gris (Alsace style) or Gewurztraminer with spicy Thai or Indian food. It’s a great combo.

DO match creamy with crisp – Another fun match is to pair a bright acidic wine to cut through a cream-based food. Take creamy cheese. Sparkling wine or Sauvignon Blanc can cut through that cream and bring out the best flavors in both the dish and the wine.

DON’T match tannin with sweet – oh boy, a sweet food will zap all the fruit out of a tannic red and all you’re left with is… tannin. Now tannin is a good thing, but we want to taste it in the BACK of the wine

DON’T match tannin and acid – Go ahead, take a lemon based sauce on pasta or fish and pair it with a big tannic red. You may feel like someone put braces in your mouth because metallic is the flavor that will be most prominent.

Regional Pairs

Not sure what to have with a certain food? If you’re having a regional dish, such as pasta bolognese, try pairing it with a regional wine, like Chianti or another Tuscan red. Chances are it will be a good match. Something about the food and wine coming from the same soil and area make a perfect pairing!

For more pairing tips, check out our Wine & Dine pairing tool on the site. Should help guide you towards some good wine matches with your meal!

Synthetic Corks

synthcork Faced again with the difficult task of opening a bottle of wine sealed with a synthetic cork, I truly would like to know the benefit of these closures. I can easily list what I don’t like about them. It is a hassle and huge effort to get the corkscrew into them. It takes a good amount of elbow grease to pull the “cork” out of the bottle (think holding the bottle between your knees while you pull on the corkscrew with all your might), and then, God forbid you do not finish the bottle (which I must admit is usually not an issue) and you want to put the “cork” back in, you are faced with a square peg/round hole situation.

Synthetic corks are not only a hassle to pull out, but also can allow oxidation as they do not mold themselves to the glass as it changes temperature. Yes, most wines are meant to be consumed young and you won’t find one of these closures in a wine meant to age. But even for those wines with an expected shelf life of less than a year, a good way to shorten that life even further is to finish the bottle with synthetic cork.

I understand why a winemaker may use them. First, to avoid TCA (cork taint). TCA, the taint that can affect wines closed in cork is something to be avoided – it gives the wine a musty moldy smell at its worst, and at its least, dulls the wine’s fruit, leading a consumer to think they just don’t like the wine. Second, because of cost. It is more expensive to use a natural cork rather than a synthetic cork, though not by much.

And what about the screw cap? They protect the wine from cork taint and are becoming more widely accepted as closures for quality wine. They preset a higher cost up front as a winery much change the bottling machinery and types of bottles used. I know some are still worried about consumer views of screw caps, but I think many wine consumers would prefer a screw cap wine to one closed with a synthetic cork. It preserves the wine much better and requires less energy to open. And sometimes we need to get to our wine fast! 

Though I love screw caps, if a winemaker prefers a cork like closure, please just continue to use the cork. My corkscrew and I will thank you. What closure do you prefer?

Wine Resolution #1: Drink More Bubbly!

Though not my top resolution, or even one that I write down every year, I do try to do this often – drink more bubbly. More wedding bubblyspecifically, drink it with food. Sure, we have it at weddings and on New Year’s Eve, but why don’t we open sparkling wine because we’re having a wonderful meal? We should! My reasons for bubbly’s food matching deliciousness?

– good, crisp acidity
– low alcohol
– varying degrees of body – from light to full

These three reasons are key in explaining why bubbles are a perfect match to food. Acidity and low alcohol are what makes a wine good with food – flabby, high-alcohol wine overpower or mute the flavors of the food. Plus, d epending on your meal, 260x135_HOLchampagnefrom sushi to steak, you can choose light-bodied sparkling wine, like a blanc de blancs, or a full-bodied sparkling wine, like a blanc de noir. I posted a “body” guide to Champagne earlier this season. This is the time to stock up, too. Crazy good deals on Champagne are happening now, not to mention the everyday values of Cava and US Sparkling wine.

I hope that celebrating bubbly with food is a growing trend. Bill Daley of the Chicago Tribune wrote an article on twelve good California Sparkling wines to ring in 2010. What I love most is that each wine he mentions includes food pairing ideas!

So don’t be afraid to pair that bottle of bubbly with a meal. If not that, at least bring out a bowl of popcorn with it – you cannot go wrong with that match!

Fine Bordeaux – by Anthony Foster MW

Fine Bordeaux is always recommended for laying down – but for how long? That is the eternal question. When we study the dramatic movement in prices as the wine matures, is the liquid inside actually getting more and more special? Or could we be like Abe and his sardines – do you remember what happened when he opened the can? “The sardines were terrible. He telephoned Joe from whom he’d bought them only to be told ‘But Abe, those sardines are for trading, not eating!’" This was clearly the case with the now infamous Jefferson Bordeaux wines that were supposedly bottled at the latter part of the eighteenth century. When Michael Broadbent MW was flown in to New York on Concorde to witness the opening and first tasting of one of these special bottles, his comment was “interesting”!

I have tasted a few old bottles and some have been more than “interesting”. In particular a bottle of red Malaga from 1790, offered at a private dinner by David Molyneux Berry MW, who was then director of Sothebys Wine department, was truly magnificent oozing fruit and elegance. But I digress, this is not Bordeaux!

One thing that it is important to remember with old bottles is never decant. Don’t let the decanter enjoy that luscious first moment when the wine finds the outside world. Your best decanter for such wines is your glass. Then watch it, observe it, appreciate it and drink it. I remember to my great regret producing a bottle of Ch Palmer 1929 at a dinner we had at home to celebrate my passing the Master of Wine exam. I opened the bottle and poured. We all marveled at the prospect of enjoying such an icon wine and then talked too much about the treat of it all while the wine quietly died. Slowly cobwebs -I am speaking figuratively – came over the flavor and all of a sudden it went. With hindsight, we should have nosed and consumed the wine within ten minutes. The fruit of an old wine is very special and departs like a phantom into the ether. So catch it and marvel at it straightaway!

clip_image001I had three bottles of Chateau Margaux 1892, an awesome wine in its time. I drank the first with friends and reminded them to focus on the wine. It took twelve minutes for the “cobwebs” to appear. Up to that moment we had delicate, elegant, fruit, clearly very old but well preserved. I have two bottles remaining and I am waiting for the right moment.

I also have a bit of an enigma and I need your help. The photo is of my enigma. It is a hand-blown magnum with a sticker on the side saying it is Chateau Margaux 1868! The cork is not leaking but I cannot see any chateau branding. Nevertheless the level is very low – in fact I have marked in the dust this level. So what do I do? I want some good ideas. I could attempt to bring it over to the States for a happening. As for provenance? I know it came from Christophers, a company founded in the seventeenth century that was based in St James’s London where the wine lived for most of its life.

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