Monday, November 12, 2018

Akakies Kir-Yianni Rose of Xinomavro

Sounds Greek to me.  (Rimshot, please.)

Akakies is the best rose we have sold here for most of our recent history.  The French Tavel Roses are the best, period, but they seem to come and go while Akakies is available most of the time.  If we are ever out of stock it's probably due to human error.

What makes this stuff so good?  All of the factors wine geeks always look for.  While most roses are made from lesser grapes, Akakies is made from high altitude (700 meters) hillside produce.  There is sorting though.  The grapes destined for rose are taken from large bunches while the smaller bunches go into red wines.

Amyndeon is the name of the wine appellation where the grapes are sourced.  It is in northwestern Greece (Macedonia) where the terroir shows the kind of poor sandy soil grapevines love.  The locale featuring four lakes which help to moderate its cool continental climate of cold winters and warm summers.  This is the only Greek wine appellation that permits rose production.

The grape itself is Xinomavro, a rare variety indigenous to the area.  The Greek industry considers Xinomavro to be a noble variety, one that is known to produce superior wine.  It has been compared to what Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo would be if they were a hybrid.

Akakies is one of those roses that your palate would tell you was a red wine if you didn't see it.  It is a bright cherry color with an intense nose of focused fresh cherry and raspberry.  The lengthy flavors of the wine feature a doubling down on the berries along with tomato (!) in a rich full-bodied format.  The wine has a robust finish.

Akakies comes from Greek wine royalty.  The full name of the company is Ktima Kir-Yianni and was established in 1997 by Yiannis Boutaris of the Boutari Wine Group (est. 1879).  It is fully independent of Boutari.  Along with their Amyndeon holdings the company also owns vineyards in Naoussa on the other side of Mount Vermion.  Now twenty years old the company practises integrated farming which means all of their vineyards are sustainably farmed.

Please join us here at the store this Thursday at 5pm when Adam Bess leads us in a tasting of four reds: Albert Bichot Beaujolais, Chateau La Croix du Doc Bordeaux, Badgerhound Zinfandel, and a nice little red from Lisboa, Portugal.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Cheese Temperature

Have you ever not been told something was the case, but you always thought it was so?  I guess that's a "hunch" that I'm talking about.  I always thought cheeses tasted better at room temperature but I had never heard definitively that cheeses were supposed to be served at room temperature.  Well, now I have.

Many years ago I had a customer who told me he left his cheeses out of refrigeration for three days prior to eating them.  He said he had lived in Italy for a number of years and, I guess, that's what they did over there.  That fella ended up moving back to Italy.

Yesterday a couple was here and they too talked about leaving their cheeses out for an extended time before getting into them.  So I decided to look into the subject just to learn from experts in the field what is right and proper and what may be considered questionable.  Here's what I learned:

Fresh cheeses like Ricotta and Mascarpone and, of course, Fresh Mozzarella should be kept refrigerated and consumed within a half hour of leaving the fridge and then whatever is left should promptly be returned there.

Bries and other "bloomy rind" cheeses need at least a half hour at room temperature to show their best.  Straight out of the fridge brie can be rubbery and flavorless but once it's warmed up, it's soft, creamy and luscious.  One half hour is actually a good minimal estimate for most cheeses to warm up from refrigerated conditions.  Because of the extra moisture in soft cheeses, they are susceptible to bacteria and should be returned to refrigeration in two or three hours.

Harder cheeses are just fine at room temperature (70 degrees or lower) for an extended time.  Parmesan may comfortably be left out for eight hours or more.  One expert I consulted validates my Italian friend's claims - just go ahead and keep your hard cheeses at room temperature.  Or optimally wine cellarize your cheese if you can - keep it between 45 and 60 degrees.  Another says if you forget it on the counter overnight from last night's soiree, have it for breakfast!  Several food writers say the worst thing about cheese that's been left out is it's appearance.  It can get grotey to look at.

So what are we talking about here?  A good part of this discussion is about "fat".  Cheese is fatty and fat is flavor.  Refrigerators are actually too cold for cheese and the fat molecules contract.  Once the cheese warms up the fat molecules relax and the flavors become amplified.

So, you know that household chore you've been putting off for so long?  Set your favorite cheese out on the counter.  Salivate.  Then tell yourself you can't get into it till your chore is done.  Now that's incentive!

Join us at 5pm this Thursday for our weekly wine tasting.  We will be sure to have room temperature cheeses ready for you and because all cheeses are different, their fat molecules should show a spectrum of contrasting flavors.