Each table in the large meeting room was adorned with a flight of 14 wines from around the world, a bottle of water, and a signed copy of Natalie’s latest wine travel book, Unquenchable. I’d had the opportunity to meet Natalie during Cornucopia’s trade tasting earlier that afternoon. She’s a delightful woman who’s easily approachable.
In just under two hours, we only spent a short time (what Natalie likes to call the technical portion) learning to analyze a glass of wine for its colour, aroma, and tasting notes. The rest of the seminar formed a pleasant armchair travel session, listening to Natalie read from her book. She chose passages from different countries, giving us direction to taste the corresponding wines at our table setting.
The book is an entertaining romp through the world, coupled with stories of wine and food. Here’s a few passages (reproduced with the author’s consent) where Natalie describes her Argentinian beef eating experience:
“The smell from the burning wood wafts into our glasses. It’s time to put the glistening slabs of meat onto the grill. José turns them gently in his hands and pats them with rock salt as if to reassure them. Fine-grained salt would be absorbed completely into the meat, making it too salty. The Argentines also don’t drown their beef in sugary barbecue sauces; salt is all the seasoning they use because it brings out the flavour without smothering the tender meat.
“I bite into a filet, as soft as freshly baked bread and it falls apart in my mouth. I don’t even have to chew; I just rub the meat against the roof of my mouth. Its sweet, slightly nutty flavour ripples across my tongue, its juices mingling with the figgy-rich notes of the malbec. Slicing into my third steak, I realize that malbec was made for beef: the dark berry flavours pierce and soak the savoury strands of meat.
Malbec is a knife-and-fork wine, that not only suits anything grilled, but also tangy dishes, such as pasta in tomato sauce, pepperoni pizza, hard cheeses, and lamb with rosemary and thyme.”
We also shared our reactions to each wine, later discussing some great pairing options.
Champagne and french fries? Why not? According to Natalie, it’s the new shabby-chic way to enjoy food while the freshness of the bubbles cuts away at the fat of the fries, allowing the taste of the food to return to the palate each time.
The 14 wines included:
3 German Rieslings
2 South African Sauvignon Blancs
1 BC Pinot Noir
2 Argentinian Malbecs
1 Reserve Port
2 Australian Shirazs
1 Sicilian Purato Nero d’Avola
1 Sicilian Syrah
My favourite of the bunch was the Argentinian Catena Malbec, priced at $39.00. I included the sheet in a photo below for reference. Click on the photo to view a slightly larger version.
For more information on Natalie MacLean and Unquenchable, visit her website.