Saturday, January 29, 2005

Drink more French wine

France produced too much quality wine last year. (story) So drink up and share your picks for great (yet inexpensive) French wines.


Blogger Eric said...

Hmmm, maybe they should try reducing their prices to be more competative with other region's wines, instead of trying to sell it at high prices and then distilling what doesn't sell. I'll try a French wine, when they're priced comparablely to the Chilean wines that seem to work just fine for deglazing my pan, poaching pears, and kicking up tomato sauce

1/31/2005 09:52:00 AM  
Blogger Justin said...

At the risk of offending at least the French PhD round these parts, doesn't that assume that there is such a thing as a good wine? Wine is a terrible thing to do to perfectly good grape juice in my mind.

1/31/2005 03:34:00 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

I agree with jocave, especially considering the grapes they use. Have you ever gone to a vineyard and tasted some "raw" Cabernet Savigoun grapes? They are very flavorful and much better than welches.

Jocave- If you want to give wine a chance, I recommend simmering (that means a very low boil, just little bubbles) it in a pot for 30-90 min, depending on the type (you can take small sips as you go to experiment with the appropriate duration). That boils off most of the alcohol and removes the burning sensation, so it's possible to taste the actual flavor.

My hypothesis is that wine was invented as a way to preserve grapes/grape juice back in the days when there weren't refridgerators or pasturization processes avaliable. If left to their own devices I suspect that most people would prefer the plain grape juice. Unfortunately, parents/society somehow manage to convince lots of people that they like wine and should be willing to pay more for it, thus making it hard for the rest of us to get top-quality grape juice.

1/31/2005 04:37:00 PM  
Blogger Vincent said...

There are certainly many people who don't like the taste of alcohol. This will, of course, rule out the enjoyment of wine. I'm not sure whether you're in this category or not, jocave. If not (i.e., the taste of alcohol doesn't bother you), you can always try a wine made from Vitis labrusca grapes such as the Concord grape. Personally, I find such wines much too sweet, and I'd rather drink such grapes in juice format. Normally wine is made from Vitis vinifera grapes.

Eric, you may be correct regarding the historical origins of wine. Incidentally, if you want to taste something odd (though not very enjoyable), buy a bottle of retsina. It tastes strongly of pine resin, which helped seal bottles of wine to prevent spoilage. To this day it's popular in Greece.

I know that this is practically sacrilege to say, but nearly all wines are suitable for cooking. When you heat wine, you release many of the flavours; when you cook with wine, you add many others. You might as well use an inexpensive bottle for a recipe that calls for wine and save the more expensive bottles for drinking.

1/31/2005 08:41:00 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2/01/2005 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger Justin said...

So, for all the folks out there that get bent out of shape whenever the US decides to come to the rescue of a failing industry, is there a reason that the 70 million Euro bail-out the French government is giving the wine industry hasn't been mentioned? I suspect that if it involved soft wood lumber, there'd be a bit more outrage.

And as for me, I can't tolerate the taste of alcohol. I'll take a small sip of champaigne for a wedding toast, as long as there is plenty of water nearby. I might consider the low boil you suggested Eric, but that seems somewhat labor intensive.

2/01/2005 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger finou said...

Just to speak to Justin's comments about wine tasting bad:
My sister doesn't like the taste of alcohol and so doesn't ever drink any wine. However, my family uses it a lot in cooking (it's used a lot in French dishes: beef burgundy and coq au vin are big examples but almost all sauces include some kind of alcohol). My sister really likes those dishes even though they are made with wine. The explanation I've heard is that there are alot of flavor components that you can't taste unless there is a bit of alcohol added to the sauce or what not so that these can disolve and be picked up by your taste buds. Also, I personally have found also that adding a tablespoon of cognac to a vanilla sauce makes the sauce taste more "vanilla-y" (but noone ever figures out my trick or that I added a bit of alcohol when I do that)
I guess all I want to say is that just because you don't like the taste of alcohol by itself, it doesn't mean you don't like wine and other things when they are cooked.

2/01/2005 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

It's certainly true that I like dishes that have some wine in them. But I don't think it's because of some symbiosis of alcohol and other flavors. I think it's from the flavor of the (wine-alcohol) which is concentrated when reducing it (both water and alchol evaporate leaving higher concentrate of flavorful stuff behind. Here's some info about how much alcohol remains after cooking. And, obviously, it matters how much wine you add to how much food. I like my mother's tomatoe sauce with Cabernet Sauvigon, but when she kicks the shripm scampi up a notch, I'm not impressed.

But clearly, it's a personal matter of taste (though I suspect an acquired taste).

2/01/2005 11:52:00 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

Do you use vanilla extract or real vanilla beans? At least most americans are used to vanilla extract disolved in distilled alcohol (often ~35%). So to them the "real vanilla flavor" is vanilla plus alcohol. I'm not sure how you prepare your vanilla sauce (I think I need a demonstration), so I'm not sure is most of it evaporates anyway.

When I make ice cream I use vanilla extract and don't cook it at all. The two teasppons of pure alcohol per quart doesn't bother me a bit. I estimate that's roughly a twelve of the alcohol in an 8oz glass of wine per 1 cup serving.

2/01/2005 11:59:00 PM  
Blogger Mwal said...

And if you do like the taste of alcohol, then cognac is quite good for sipping by itself, in moderation. Busta Rhymes vouches for this in his song "Pass the Courvoisier."

2/02/2005 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

Having been an avid "Good Eats" fan since I got my Tivo, I've got to side with Delphine on this one. Take a look at this this transcript, specifically scene 5. That said, I have to admit to a definite lack of experience in cooking with alcohol. It's something that I really should remedy sometime. :)

2/02/2005 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger finou said...

If I use vanilla extract, I never put it in anything hot to make sure I don't lose any of the flavor. I also use vanilla beans a lot (you have to boil them in the milk or whatever to get the flavor out) but anyway, I think it's just that the cognac that enhances the flavor of vanilla. If you make vanilla ice cream, you should try it. Just add 1 tablespoon or so along with the vanilla extract.

2/02/2005 06:00:00 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

I don't argue that some potentially flavorful things disolve in alcohol much better than in water. For example, vanilla flavoring. I.e. why they sell the extract in alcohol and not water. But I consider that more of an issue of the cook releasing the flavors rather than the alcohol making other things taste better. For example, finou explained how you could release the vanilla flavor from the bean/seeds by simmering them in milk. Similar problems come up when trying to release many flavors from herbs and spices.

2/02/2005 10:58:00 PM  
Blogger Vincent said...

Of course, for many herbs and spices, olive oil works as well. Gotta love herb-infused olive oil....

Mwal: Sales of Courvoisier skyrocketed after that song. Before, cognac was considered a drink of the stuffy cognoscenti. Talk about a successful rebranding!

2/02/2005 11:26:00 PM  

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