Online Wine School – Lesson 3

Drink your way through Billy’s Best wine book ““ a bottle or two at a time.~  Follow the instructions and you’ll be a wine wizard by Easter. New lessons are posted every Wednesday. Looking forward to hearing about your ‘homework’!

merlotLesson3Lesson #3~  Does the situation call for the old wine camp or the new?

The old wine countries create very dry and challenging drinks, while new wine countries offer more friendly, less dry wines. This is a generalization of course but it’s useful to know that the two styles exist ““ and that choosing the appropriate one will go a long way in determining the success of your event. Or just your own drinking pleasure.

For this lesson you will need to buy and open both red wines below. Experience them side by side (yes, two glasses in front of you) so you can see the different experiences described below. Neither wine is better of course, but there will be a better “˜choice’ once you factor in a situation/mood/food. You could have the foods suggested with the two wines ““ on the same evening, or spread your lesson over two evenings.

CESARI 08 Merlot, Italy 572453 $7.25 page 149
(alternative: Alianca 06 Bairrada Reserve, Portugal 158741 $8.50)
very dry ““ an edge ““ earthy ““ challenging. Very refreshing and good at stimulating the palate ““ making you hungry, and keeping you hungry through the meal. Its strength is being good at helping you enjoy the meal. And not knocking you out with high alcohol. Could be likened to European movies that give you something to think about.
FOODS: Plain roasted or grilled red meats with fresh herbs. Tomato sauced pasta or pizza.
FYI: The traditional wines of France, Italy, Spain, etc are known as Old World.

CONO SUR 08 Shiraz, Chile 64295 $9.95 page 199
(alternative: Finca Flichman 08 Malbec “˜Misteria’, Argentina 28803 $7.80)
Smooth ““ fruity ““ spicy sweet ““ yummy. Instant pleasure and the ‘let’s party’ feeling. An invitation to relax ““ with food, or without. If there’s food, make sure it has kick-ass flavours. New World reds could be likened to Hollywood movies ““ lots of glitz and glam.
FOODS: Ribs, steaks or chops with spicy/sweet sauces. Burgers with all the fixins.
FYI: Australian, Chilean and Californian wines are categorized as New World.
P.S. Ontario is in this group technically, but most of our best wines are Old World and cool climate in style.

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  • OK, I’ll play along.
    But of course I can’t just follow instructions!

    Thought that I’d try a side-by-side Shiraz sampler and substitute a recent plug by Billy (YVON MAU 08 SHIRAZ) for the CESARI 08 Merlot. I love the Italian tendency towards appetite-teasing wine but I’ve never tried the Mau, so I hope that this will be a fair Old World substitute…

    Can a French Shiraz really be rugged and rustic? I’m prepared to find out!

  • This was the perfect week to put these two to the test. We were having a little Birthday celebration at our house last night. Nothing too big but some of the best Windsor style pizza was also involved. If you haven’t tried pizza from Windsor, Ontario then you are missing out on some of the best pizza.

    Our friends know that I traditionally put out wines from Ontario when we have a gathering so they were a little surprised when three bottlles of CESARI 08 Merlot and CONO SUR 08 Shiraz were on the table.

    I need to side track a little here. Usually there are only a couple of bottles of wine on the table but the price of these wines was just too affordable not to be a little excessive. I was worried that at the price I paid for these wines that they might be plonk so did sample before the party. Both passed but I did have a few local wines on hand just in case our guest didn’t approve. I didn’t tell our guest how much the wines cost. They will find out on their own I am sure and probably call me a cheapskate. 🙂

    The results, the merlot was a hit. All three bottles went first. We still have one unopened bottle of the shiraz and a little over half left in a second bottle.

    The merlot is very food friendly and nice for social gatherings. The shiraz had some over ripe fruit tastes and was a little hot.

    The $7.25 wine was the clear winner.


  • I thought that both wines were okay, but neither were on the `buy more list`.

    I found the Merlot to be super dry and tasting by itself was not great. When I paired it with a tomato-based pasta, it improved, but was still did not grab me.

    I preferred the Shirazz, but still not great. I found it to be thicker than the merlot (is this possible), but had a bit of an after taste. Fine with and without food,.

    I am a real fan of Ontario reds, so I found my preference intereseting.

  • I compared the Cesari to the Flichman, on the theory that the baseline similarity between merlot and malbec would level the playing field somewhat and keep the focus on style. Yesterday, with white bean and artichoke pizza, the Cesari was easily the happier match–although I should mention that Billy is right, and its tartness keeps a person hungry (not necessarily desirable, when trying to deal with post-holiday weight gain 😉 ). I wound up very happy indeed with the Cesari; I’ve been having heavier-weight, and commensurately more serious, reds lately, and this wine was refreshing and also nostalgic, a reminder of student parties twenty years ago. Good times. A random side note: I put the wines in different glasses to keep track, and when I switched the Cesari to the white wine glass, it tasted better. The Flichman was happy in both the white wine glass and the red balloon.

    Tonight I opened both up again. Both survived a night in the fridge, with a vacuum seal, nicely, but the Flichman went better with jerk chicken, and not just because I expected it to. Definitely spicier, picking up the allspice and the sugar from the marinade, and this time it tasted juicy rather than heavy–the Cesari tasted a bit tinny.

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