Sunday, August 21, 2011

Less is...more!

Less is more. We’ve heard our parents and their parents say it for years. But it was on my recent family trip to France where I really started to understand the meaning of this statement. In addition to the smaller cars (which two adults and 2 kids got around fine in for 2 weeks), and the smaller (yet stinkier!) portions of cheese, I discovered that no matter where we went to eat, the wine glasses were very, very… small. How could a country born and raised on making great wine, for many centuries not want to swirl and twirl, observe and flaunt their wine in giant, polished goblets like our Californian friends to the south?

Enjoying a first glass of Burgundy in Paris

At first, I thought it was just the roadside cafés who wanted to spare the risk of having larger, top-heavy glasses balancing on their small, wobbly tables. But restaurant after restaurant, bistro after bistro, I was schooled in the way of enjoying “French” wine. The point, in my humble observation is that wine (for the most part) in France is really not meant as a course on its own, but rather to enhance a meal. Here in North America, though we’re so used to placing our drink order before we even peruse the menu, we’ve already gulped down a glass of wine before we even try our food. Wine has almost become a meal replacement in some way. Perhaps this is why more and more new world wines (North American, South American, Australian…) tend to be more fruit-forward, full-bodied, stand-on-their-own kind of wines. The earthier, more acidic and tannic wines associated with old world wine makers are more focused on what they do to the food they are trying to compliment, versus what they do to your senses on their own.

While I still love my new world wine, I’ve been making more of an effort to search for those that strike a balance between the right amount of fruit and body to hold its own as an appetizer, while having the modesty to take second stage to the main meal. A couple of my recent finds include:

Anne Amie, Cuvée Pinot Noir, 2008 from Oregon a beautiful example of new world Pinot Noir, done by the PN masters in Oregon and $27 at the LCBO.

Vina Mayor, Toro, 2007 from Spain - (ok, Spain isn’t really “new world” but…) 100% Tinta de Toro grapes, perfect for a barbecue and reasonably priced at $20 at the LCBO.

But while I’m learning to hone my new found appreciation for the “subtler” side of wine, I feel I need to come clean: I still LOVE my giant, polished wine goblets. I love the swirling, and twirling, and sniffing, and observing – and while I don’t always openly do this in public (for lack of being completely ridiculed at my local family restaurant), this is *my* experience with wine. So perhaps I’ll just have to taken one less piece of cheese, forego the hor d’oeuvres or take a smaller cut of cake, in lieu of a larger drop of wine.

Posing in front of the Domaine du Mauperthuis vines (left), and pouring myself a taste at the Vignoble Jaumouille, both in the Loire Valley

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