Monday, January 25, 2010

"N" is for Naked Grape

I recently sampled, once again, a line of easy drinking quaffers released through the LCBO and Wine Rack stores throughout Ontario.

The line is the Naked Grape series of wines. This line offers four varietal wines – sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, merlot and shiraz. At under $10.00 each, the wines are worth exploring. I call these 'weekday wines.'

The name ‘naked’ refers to the idea that the wines shine with their natural fruitiness, without having to share the spotlight with any woody, vanilla or oaky character imparted through fermentation or aging in oak barrels. These are Canadian wines made in the latest trendy style of forward fruitiness. This style of wine is quite popular and readily available in Californian and Australian wines.

Naked Grape sauvignon blanc (CSPC # 665224), $9.95, is medium in weight, crisp and tart with lots of tangerine and lime flavours typical of this grape variety. I love a good sauvignon blanc, and this is certainly one that works for me. This wine is too tangy to serve at large gatherings over the holidays. Save it for dinner entertaining. Its tart acidity would be far too intrusive for older relatives or anyone sensitive to acidity. Yet, it’s an excellent food wine to pair with specific dishes. I served this white with sole drizzled in fresh lemon juice. Matching appetizers include those highlighting caviar, fresh goat cheese, feta or smoked salmon. Greek chicken marinated in yogurt is also an ideal match.

Naked Grape chardonnay (CSPC #665232), $9.95, is also medium in weight yet has lots of forward ripe pear fruit and balanced acidity. Due to its taste and price, this is an ideal wine for holiday functions and Christmas parties for large groups. Its easy drinking and will please most of your guests. I would match this wine with a variety of appetizers at a large function, such as canap├ęs featuring chicken, mozzarella and garlic or Cuban chicken skewers marinated in orange and lemon juice with olive oil and a pinch each of cumin, paprika and dried oregano. This white would also work nicely with cold salads, cold turkey and grilled salmon.

The merlot in this series (CSPC # 665208), $9.95, is medium in weight with red raspberry flavour with some sourness and bitterness. It’s not a typical soft merlot, but still can be matched to certain types of food. To work with the wine’s character, I cooked t-bone steaks with fried garlic and season salt. Fried garlic tends to be slightly bitter, pairing nicely with the wine’s hint of bitterness. The salt on the steaks also helped to soften the bitterness.

Naked Grape shiraz (CSPC# 665216), $9.95, offers typical, delicious character. The wine is blackberry with a hint of spice, medium in weight and smooth. This is a great, easy drinking red that will work with turkey and all the trimmings during the holidays. The wine’s berry character and hint of sweetness will also pair nicely with not too sweet homemade cranberry sauce. Cranberry sauce from the can requires wines with more sweetness, such as off-dry whites and off-dry roses. This is a good red to serve to large gatherings over the holidays, as well.

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