Ask Chuck

Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Special Pairings Make For Holdiay Cheers!

Special Pairings Make For Holiday Cheers!

This is that time of year where “good will” flourishes, tasty goodies abound and calories do not exist. It is also that time of year when people take a special interest in the pairing of food and wine for that special holiday meal!

When one considers the awesome amount of holiday beverages available at local liquor stores the task of selecting that “right” bottle can be daunting indeed! By following these simple suggestions the task on hand can be made much easier.

Know what you and/or company enjoy!

Most meals usually end up with left over wine. Make sure that the wine you select is one that you like. Never mind what “experts” say you should have at a meal----that $50 or $100 bottle can leave more than a bad taste if it disagrees with expectations . “Liking” what you are drinking is just as important as “liking” what you are eating!

Match the wine to the sauce!

Sauce used with the meal can complement or overwhelm a chosen wine. For example: Turkey with a cream sauce definitely needs a white wine.  Chardonnay with a touch of oak would meld very nicely. On the other hand plain roast turkey would suit a red wine such as an older Bordeaux, Zinfandel or Pinot Noir depending on your taste. The same goes for other meat dishes and prospective sauces.

Be mindful of the “weight” of each menu course!    

Light food should have a comparable wine match. A mixed salad with mild or no dressing would go well with a Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Vidal, Riesling or unoaked Chardonnay. 

The “heavier” or deeply flavoured the course, the more powerful the wine needs to be. Roast Duck for example is basically dark, full flavoured meat and can be an excellent match for a wine such as an Argentine Malbec, California Cabernet or an Ontario Cabernet Franc.

Venison would definitely suit either a powerful Chilean Carmenere or a big Syrah from California’s Los Olivos (Santa Ynez Valley) region.

Dessert is a sweetness thing!

Wine chosen for a dessert should be as sweet as or sweeter than the dessert. If you don’t believe me try a Cabernet with ice cream or a Tiramisu with bone-dry Pinot Grigio. Sauternes, a Late Harvest Vidal or Muscat would be a better choice.

There is such a thing as a dry dessert. A Veneto favourite is hard cheese with Amarone. The melding of dry full bodied wine with the saltiness and texture of the cheese can be very satisfying. 

When in total doubt go Sparkling!

A medium dry sparkler will generally satisfy since the tiny bubbles can “fizz” their way over many foods.

When all is said and done, your taste is what matters and whichever wine and food you match; have a very safe and happy holiday season.     


Wednesday, December 11, 2019

This Winery Has Five Generations Working In It!

Italian Trade Show Discovery
Last month I attended the most recent presentation of the Italian Trade Commission's wine presentation held at  Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto. The show has always been a great purveyor of new wine brands as well as the steadfast favourites. Almost every wine and spirits agency was present and patronized by a wine pleasing crowd of restaurateurs, consultants, wine writers and general media. Like always it was a great show with super wine and exciting cuisine.
The exhibits ranged from the tried and true to some exciting "new" prospects.
One such prospect was at the table of The Case For Wine from Pickering, Ontario. The agency has many fine wines but one of them proved extra special to my palate.
Monteci  Winery 
Five generations of the Righetti family have been making wine in the 200 plus hectares of vines in the Veneto region------70 hectares of which are in the "Classico" of Valpolicella. By "Classico" is a term meant to describe the central, most renowned and best wine of a regional wine.
In addition to Veneto, another 45 hectares of vines are located in the neighbouring Lugana wine region between Veneto and Lombardy..
I was curious where the name of the winery came from and asked  Monteci's "Brand Ambassador" Marco Olivieri about it! Here is what he had to say.
"Monteci is the nickname of the Righetti Family because over 5 generations ago they were living in a small town called Montecchio which is a few miles from the actual location of the company."
Mr. Olivieri went on the say that centuries ago many families in Italy ----especially ones that lived in small villages---were given nicknames according to their work, profession, location etc. The Righetti family inherited the name of "Monteci"
The present winemaker, Francesco Righetti, along with his sister, brother and cousins represent the 5th generation of the winery which was founded in 1925.
Grape Varieties
As in many other parts of Italy---especially Veneto---there has been a strong shift back to  indigenous grape varieties.  There invariably have been changes over the years. For example; the old threesome blend of Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara has changed somewhat since the Molinara was deregulated and other grape varieties such as Corvinone have taken up the slack. One grape that has come to the forefront with many producers is the Oseleta. I first learned about this grape when I visited Veneto in 2009.
The Oseleta almost became extinct with only a few acres of it left not far from Lake Garda. Due to the devastation of the Phylloxora  epidemic that decimated Europe's vineyards over 100 years ago and its poor yields it was ignored in favour of more productive vines.
However due to its ability to add "backbone" to wine blends with its pepper, dark berry and concentration it gained favour with certain winemakers and is now officially recognized .            
Francesco Righetti had this to say about the grape variety:
"The Oseleta grape is the only one out of Corvina, Corvinone  and Rondinella that we use in our blends. The Oseleta has a lovely spicy sensation like black pepper and small red fruit and gives a little more intensity for color. Especially Corvina and Corvinone don't have a lot of color so a touch of Oseleta can help us for a more complete wine but never more than 3%. No other varieties."
Winemaking---- Amarone and Ripasso: 
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I recently tried both the Amarone and Ripasso wines from Monteci and found them superb and in fact exciting. The Amarone was as expected powerful if not bold, concentrated and evolving while at the same time pleasing to the senses. The Ripasso absolutely "blew" my mind with its power and complexity. For a wine to be classed secondary to Amarone, it held up very well against its "Big Brother"!
I asked Francesco about the making of these two great wines. Here is what he said:
"I really believe that we use all the knowledge of five generation of work and we really take care about the details, from the first leaf on the vineyards to the wine on the market we are focus on increase the quality of every single step. It’s a lot of work and we have 3 wine-consultants that help us to reach the best quality that we can do. Every year a lot of investments for grow up, for example, last year we decided with an agency specialized on the soil, with a satellite. We had the quality, weaving, profundity, details about every single square meter in ours vineyards. Now we know the strategy for taking care in the right way every single plantation in our propriety. It takes 5 months of hard work but it was worth it. I reckon that one of the most important things is invest on the people and the winery and the wines will follow us."
The grapes that make the Amarone are harvested by hand and berries selected. They are placed in boxes called Plateaux and stored in very airy chambers where the grapes dry for approximately 4 months. The semi dried grapes are then fermented and aged in oak barrels for at least 48 months.
The Ripasso is a unique process which has the Valpolicella wine placed in direct contact with the skins of the grapes previously used to make Amarone. The wine is then refermented and aged in oak. The result is a richer, more complex wine.
While described by some as having red fruit flavours, I found both the Amarone and Ripasso to exhibit dark fruit such as Black Cherry, plum and even some black berry----the Amarone a bit more than the Ripasso but in the end the price of the Ripasso makes it an outstanding bargain and a super choice with a large variety of dishes ranging from simple pasta to venison.
Other Brands   
Monteci Winery produces other brands that are worthy of trying. 
One of these is an excellent white wine called Lugana from the Lugana Wine Region. The wine is made of 100% Trebbiano di Lugana.   The wine has a floral bouquet with citrus and nuts. It has a fresh. light to medium body on the palate.
Besides Valpolicella, Ripasso and Amarone the company also produces a wide variety of Spumante style sparkling wines as well as some interesting blends and single variety wine.
For more information regarding the Monteci Winery and its wines contact its representative in Ontario, "The Case For Wine" 416-482-0241  or email: