Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wine Blogging Wednesday #55 - Why the North is better than the South

Seriously, there needs to be a longer lag time between one Wine Blogging Wednesday and another. They expect me to put together a post once a month. Ok, really I am just a slacker and need to get my act together and do more thinking ahead of time and less putzing around.

For this edition of WBW, our host is Remy of The Wine Case with a challenge to compare a wine from the North with a similar wine from the South.

The goal is to take two wines that are made from the same type of grape and compare one from a more northerly region with one from a more southerly region. That could mean a Cabernet made in Texas vs. one made in Washington, or a Pinot Noir made in Burgundy vs. one made in South America, or a Sauvignon Blanc made in New Zealand vs. one made in California.

I had a hard time with this topic, mostly because I had too much freedom to choose which wines to use. My natural response is to pick California and Chile. There are so many good comparisons between the two, especially with the wide range of wines that both produce. But, I still feel like that is a conflict of interest, so I did something a little more interesting.

A little while ago I received a Riesling from Michigan. This was a return gift from a friend of mine. Actually, I did not so much give him a wine as force it on to him. As a few of my twitter friends (@Sonadora and @winebratsf) have told me, I am becoming somewhat of a wine pusher. So, he went back to Grand Rapids, Michigan and he and his family picked out a bottle of Chateau Grand Traverse Riesling 2007 and sent it to me.

Edward O’Keefe founded the CGT in 1974. The winery is situated on the Old Mission Peninsula of Michigan, located in the very northwest corner of Michigan. The peninsula actually holds several wineries, all of which make white wines with some red wines.

So I figured this was the perfect opportunity to taste it and compare it to something more mainstream. A German or Austrian Riesling would have been perfect, but would not have fit the criteria of the challenge, so I went with a Riesling from Australia. I had tasted a few Aussie Rieslings before and had found them to be quite pleasant. Riesling gets a little tricky sometimes because of the sweetness factor in many of them. For this tasting I tried to scout out something dry, since I knew the CGT to be a dry Riesling (said so on the label). The bottle I chose was the Thorn Clarke Terra Barossa Eden Valley Single Vineyard Riesling 2008. It says on their website that the Terra Barossa range of wines was made specifically for the US, which actually worried me a little.

The result was rather mixed. The Chateau Grand Traverse was very pleasant, with a floral apricot and honeysuckle on the nose and a bright green apple, sweet peaches with a strong mineral melody running through the taste. The Thorn Clarke was so perfumed that for a moment I thought I had put my nose in a Viognier or at least a Muscat. The flavor was rounder and richer with more apples and pears. I had these wines with some fabulous Chinese food from Grand Sichuan and the combination was perfect. I felt that the Thorn Clarke was better with the food, but I really loved the Chateau Grand Traverse as an aperitif.

So which side won? Both! No, this is not a cop out; I am making one of those points about wine that people sometimes get wrong. How a wine presents to you is a lot about what is in the bottle, but the moment also needs to be accounted for. I could probably think that this plonk was absolutely delicious if I decided to drink it on my wedding day, but I am not even talking about the euphoria of certain events. Here I have two wines, both with different strengths. I think if I were just drinking the wine alone I would prefer the Michigan Riesling. However, with food I preferred the Australian Riesling. Even my two companions that I was dining with split in their decisions on which one is better.

So wine is not just about what is in the bottle (although that is most of the battle), but also where you drink it and whom you are with and what the occasion is. Are you having it with food or alone? All things to think about the next time you open up a wine.
Still, I am partial to the North in just about everything else…

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