White Wine Tasting

This is something about living in Europe that makes us want to be, well, European.  It seems we like wine.  I have never really been into red wine, but I have started to drink that more since moving overseas.  In Las Vegas we never would have ordered a bottle of wine.  For starters, the price alone for a bottle in Vegas is enough to turn you off from ordering it while out at dinner.  More over, I liked to eat out a lot.  Hey, we lived in Vegas and I had not yet found my inner chef.  As a result, we rarely drank a bottle of wine at home. 

So once we arrived in the Azores and discovered people will order a bottle of wine even at lunch time, we started to scope out the wine selections.  For the same price as a glass of wine in Las Vegas, you can get a bottle of local Azorean wine.  Since fish and seafood is popular, it is nice that white wines are the traditional local wines.  They complement the food very well.  Portugal itself produces more red wines, like from the Douro and Dao regions.  Most importantly, you have port from Portugal.  But port is not a with dinner drink.  Definitely an after dinner drink, or dessert drink.  It is very heavy.  I do enjoy a nice port, but I rarely get it.  In fact, once Ryan and I found out he had orders to Portugal, we went to the wine store to try out some Portuguese wines and we were told to buy port.  We only did this because we had taken a trip to the Napa Valley and really got into the whole wine tasting thing there.  Now, that was just tasting, certainly nothing near the level of “tasting” we have done since getting to the island.

This is how we became wine drinkers.  Now, most meals out include a bottle of wine.  On those nights we forgo the wine, I am sure the locals look at us and think “Americans!”  While I may be exaggerating a little, it is not unusual for us to be the only people in a place without a bottle of wine.  Heck, we stop at one while others will drink 2-3.  I should also explain the European meal.  While in America we do fast food, even fast food at places that are supposed to be slower sit down meals, in Europe, the dining experience can take hours.  They eat, they drink, laugh and talk.  It is not about the food.  It is about socializing, the way food has been traditionally until technology and money making took hold of our lives and pushed the fast forward button on reality.  Europe, and especially the Azores, remains slow paced and they still enjoy quality time at the dinner table.  I am not saying all American families do not take time to enjoy their meals and company, but I think it is fair to say, this is an increasing trend in the US.

Recently Ryan and I sampled some wines at home.  Either while watching a movie or eating a home cooked meal, which thankfully I do more often, and we have a nice collection we have picked up along the way.  No, we haven’t broken into the reds from our trip to France yet, we we did get some interesting selections from a holiday international wine display set up at the local grocery store.  I could have spent hours looking at wines from all over the world.  It is so interesting to learn about the history and families behind some of these wines.

Here are some of the wines we recently tasted.  Pardon the angles of my wine bottle shots.  With all the “toys” I received for Hanukkah, the counter space remains limited, so I was holding the bottles at an angle while trying to snap the picture.
The first is the Ramo Grande.  It is local.  In fact, it is so local that it was made in the same village where we live.  I bought it at the wine museum on the north side of the island, but the woman there knows what village we live in, so she wanted me to try the new wine they were carrying since it was made down the street from our house.  
Verdict: Good wine!  I think it was even better because it came from down the street.  I am a sucker for local.  As with many local wines from the Azores, it is on the sweet side.

Next up is the Santa Ana Homage Chardonnay/Pinot Grigio blend.  This is a white wine from Argentina.  I have a soft spot for Argentina, although I have never been there.  I was a history minor and I spent some time studying Argentina.  This country was a refuge for Jewish people escaping areas like Russia and I think other eastern European countries, during the rise of Hitler.  There is a large Jewish population there and so I am really interested in this country.  There’s a lot more to the stories, but I will leave it at that.
Verdict: Fantastic!  We really enjoyed this wine.  It is nice to have access to wines from so far away.  I would not have expected that from such a tiny island.

Next up is Fish Hook.  This is a Chenin Blanc from South Africa.  I don’t recall ever having a South African wine, and the bottle looked cool, so I gave it a try.
Verdict: Again, a winner!  Maybe we just aren’t wine snobs yet and everything tastes good, haha!  I had no complaints.  If we finish the bottle, there were no complaints, right?

Here comes a wine we picked up on our trip to Pico, which is a nearby island, and the main producer of Azorean wine.  We took a tiny speed boat there over the summer, when my sister and her boyfriend were visiting, and got to do some whale and dolphin watching along the way.  We stopped by their wine museum and picked up some goods.
Verdict: We thought it was going to be awful, despite swearing we had this before.  Seriously, it smelled like urine.  After the first two sips the flavor changed entirely and it was not as bad as we expected.  Obviously not, we finished the bottle!

Last up is Rudi Ruttger.  Ryan picked this up at the vineyard when he was in Germany.  It’s a Riesling, so how could we go wrong with this.  They make many other wines here, and I think we even had some reds from this place.  It was very cool that Ryan got to visit the winery while at one of the US bases in Germany.  The website is www.ruettger.de and if you click on the British flag you will get the English version.
Verdict: We were right, it was really good.  I think Ryan already knew he liked it because he had sampled these wines while visiting there.  This was a good Riesling.

Since we are discussing wines, I am sure you are curious about the nutrition.  For starters, there are calories, so if you are working on weight loss, you should take this into consideration.  Even if you are maintaining your weight, you still want to account for these calories and not go overboard.  Moderate drinking does have health benefits, namely as a protective factor for cardiovascular disease.  Of course there are differences in alcoholic beverages.  Red wines are known to have some antioxidant properties, but other studies show all alcohols have similar effects when it comes to health benefit, with equal portion sizes.  Moderation for drinking would be 1 drink per day for women and then 2 for men.  When talking about wine, this is a 5 ounce serving.  Obviously, and it goes without saying, do not drink and drive.  This is where drinking is the most harmful for your health.  Around here, when we drink a bottle of wine, we still have quite some time to eat the meal and enjoy the company before getting up and driving home, or if more rushed, there is a designated driver.

The most important piece of advice is really not to start drinking if you don’t already.  In other words, if you are a drinker and will continue to drink, then drinking in moderation has benefits, but if not, the benefit is not so strong that you need to start drinking.  There are plenty of reasons not to drink, so don’t feel pressured if you don’t because you heard it was good for you.  There are many other healthy habits out there that can help your disease risk.  For more information, check out this article from the Harvard School of Public Health.

QUESTIONS:  Do you drink wine?  What is your favorite wine?


Unknown said...

mmmm vino! I like mark west pinot noir and for white, i like dry creek chenin blanc. please pardon my spelling errors :)

Simply Life said...

ooh what a fun thing to do!

eatingRD said...

That's why I want to go to Europe!! Love how they have a meal over a couple hours and really enjoy the food, wine, and company :) I'm pretty into wine, but don't have quite as much with cycling. So neat to try local wines!

Astra Libris said...

Ah, I love what your wrote about the beauty of lingering over a meal and a bottle of wine, enjoying good company and conversation... One of our favorite ways to spend an evening is very leisurely cooking dinner together while having a glass of wine or sharing a really good beer (we've recently become "beer snobs" too, tee hee :-) It's so interesting learning about the different wines and different regions, too! Thank you for the fantastic glimpse into your local wines as well as some other exciting wines! (I have a soft spot for Argentina for the exact same reasons... :-)

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