November 2001 Newsletter
Wines evaluated last month: 232
Rejected: 207 Approved: 25 Selected: 2
FROM FAR AND WIDE
Merlot from Southern France and Chardonnay from South Africa represent two unlikely choices we think you'll like a lot. We featured a South African wine in that distinctive blue bottle several years ago and the response was incredible. We'd like to think it was because of the terrific quality of the wine, but we do have to admit that the blue bottle with the colorful label is quite attractive. Chardonnay made in this unoaked style is such an incredibly versatile wine it will make any dish shine. It's a can't miss for those holiday parties.
Merlot is the hottest red grape in the world right now and for good reason. It's soft flavors and silky texture appeal to those who have found that red wine has some definite health benefits, but too many of them are harsh and tannic when released. This French beauty is just what the doctor ordered. Forward, fleshy fruit seasoned with a dash of oak will leave you gasping for more.
Import Selection 1
Winecorp Limited was established in 1999 through the merging of three of South Africa's foremost wineries. They are now a leading player among the country's new generation of wine businesses, currently producing approximately 500,000 cases of quality wine annually, mostly under company owned brands, like our Willow tree, of which approximately 70% is exported.
The Spier Group (which also owns the famous Spier Resort near Stellenbosch) holds approximately 62% of the shares with the balance held by the public.
The Spier Group is, in turn, wholly owned by the Capricorn Group, an international investment organization with important interests in South Africa's financial services, hospitality and property management.
The consolidation phase that followed the merger in 1999 of the wine interests of Longridge, Savanha and Spier Cellars into Winecorp Ltd has seen the emergence of a group focused on the development of a distinctive portfolio of quality brands. Intensive restructuring and integration characterized the challenging yearlong merger process. The challenge was completed when Ashwood was acquired during October 2000.
Willow Tree boutique winery, a landmark in the Helderberg, is the domain of Ben Radford and his dedicated cellar team. Ben is Australian-born and raised in the Barossa valley and was formerly educated at Adelaide University. His vast experience includes both old and new world vineyards, having worked a number of vintages in the Barossa valley, Burgundy and the Rhone, before coming to South Africa. Ben joined Willow tree in 1997. The 2001 harvest was his 14th vintage.
This is a classic South African Chardonnay. It is unadorned with oak and sees minimal processing and handling in order to preserve the natural fruit and character of the grape.
Cool, bright pineapple fruit with a touch of white peach and guava. Great with light fish dishes like our recipe on page 6.
Perfect now. Serve
approximately 1 hour
Import Selection 2
Bercut-Vandervoort began as a shared dream. Three French-born businessmen - Pierre Bercut, his younger brother Jean, and Henry J. van der Voort - founded the company in San Francisco in February 1946, with the aim to bring to America the best French wines (those they enjoyed drinking themselves).
In 1997, Hugues de Vernou purchased Bercut-Vandervoort from the van der Voort family (Henry van der Voort had bought the company from the brothers Bercut in 1958). De Vernou brought youth and new vigor to this venerable company in every category.
Domaine Sénéchal, part of the Bercut-Vandervoort portfolio, is located in the Aude area, near the town of Carcassonne (the Mediterranean part of France). The soils here are calcerous with silt and sand that also boast a proper amount of gravel for excellent drainage. Sénéchal owns 125 acres of prime vineyards in this picturesque area with the vines averaging 12 years of age.
No wine region in France--or even in Europe- offers as much variety as the Languedoc-Roussillon. Many of the globe's dominant varieties are grown here. Chardonnay vines stand next to Ugni Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Marsanne and Viognier. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are newcomers, but their success here as well as the continuing demand has spurred on small, artisan producers like Sénéchal.
Merlot in France is best known in the right bank of Bordeaux, especially in Pomerol. Here it is transformed into huge, age worthy, powerhouse wines with few threats to its world domination of the grape. The ideal weather in the Languedoc coupled with Sénéchal's older vines planted on Southern exposure hillsides offer conditions under which superb wines from this grape can be made and at prices that would make any wine lover smile with delight.
Forward spice and cassis aromas leap from the glass. Lots of ripe berry and cherry to hit the spot with our grilled fillet and blue cheese sauce recipe on page 6.
Will complex over
the next year or two.
Serve cool, about 30
minutes in fridge.
Adventures in Good Food
1 (2 lb.) whole red snapper or whole sea bass or fillets Salt & pepper
2 1/2 lemons, halved
1 bunch fresh fennel leaves or 2 tsp. fennel seeds
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 med. potatoes, peeled & very thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, peeled & quartered
1/2 cup Willow Tree Chardonnay
3 tbsp. Pernod
Season fish inside and out with salt and pepper to taste and juice of 1/2 lemon. If fillets are used, sprinkle both sides with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Place fennel leaves or seeds inside fish or sprinkle over fillets. Melt butter in large skillet. Brown fish on both sides. Transfer fish and juices to 13 x 9 inch baking pan. Arrange onion and potato slices around fish and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Add tomatoes, pour wine over fish and sprinkle with Pernod. Bake 10 minutes longer or until fish flakes easily with fork and potatoes are done. Serve from baking dish or arrange fish on large platter with tomatoes, potatoes and onions. Pour juices over fish and sprinkle with parsley. Garnish with remaining lemon halves.
BEEF WITH BLUE CHEESE
5 1/2 lbs. beef fillet (tie crosswise at one inch intervals) Serves 6
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp. softened unsalted butter
Blue Cheese Sauce (recipe follows)
BLUE CHEESE SAUCE:
3/4 cup Madeira
1 shallot, minced
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 c. canned beef broth
6 oz. blue cheese, crumbled and softened
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
Salt to taste
Cayenne to taste
Paprika to taste
Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper and rub with butter. Let stand in refrigerator for 6 hours or at room temperature for 2 hours. Grill the fillet over a bed of glowing coals about 3 inches form heat, turning it, for 15-20 minutes for rare meat. Transfer the fillet to a cutting board. Let it stand for 15 minutes and remove the string. While meat is resting, make the sauce.
In a saucepan combine the Madeira with the shallot and reduce the mixture over moderately high heat to about 2 tablespoons. Add cream and broth and reduce the liquid over moderate heat to about 1 cup. In a bowl, whisk together the cheese and butter until smooth. Whisk the cheese mixture, a little at a time, into the saucepan and simmer the sauce for 3 minutes. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve into a bowl and add salt and cayenne to taste.
Slice the fillet crosswise into 6 equal medallions and place on plate. Pour sauce over medallions and sprinkle the sauce with paprika.
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