Wine Wednesday ~ Australian Wine Regions

Australia is one of the world’s largest producers of wine.  There are a lot of different wine regions in Australia, but www.Australia.com does a great job of breaking them down into 5 manageable areas: South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory.

South Australia includes the Barossa Valley, which produces a great Riesling, and some of the best Shiraz in the world.  McLaren Vale, in South Australia, is known for its Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay.  The McLaren Vale area is home to over 50 wineries and hundreds of independent growers.  I know I could definitely get behind a trip to visit all those wineries!  Finally, South Australia is also home to the Clare Valley which is known for its wine and for its food.  Expect to find outstanding Riesling, Merlot, Chardonnay, and other types of wine here.

Western Australia includes the Margaret River area, just a few hours south of Perth, which produces some of the country’s premium wines and has a great food scene, especially for seafood lovers.  Western Australia also has a boutique winery area, Swan Valley.  Here, many of the wines are produced in smaller batches and not sold in large commercial operations.  Instead, you often find wines in this region being sold simply at the wineries, which are generally smaller and more likely to be run by families.  Some of Australia’s best Cabernet and Shiraz can be found here.

The Hunter Valley in New South Wales is home to over 120 wineries including Australia’s oldest winery, Wyndham Estate.  Only a couple hours outside of Sydney, this region could make a great excursion for a couple of days during a longer stay!

The Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula in Victoria offer opportunities to sample Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Pinot Noir.  In the Yarra Valley region you can find everything from small boutique wineries to huge commercial operations and, of course, a great glass of Shiraz.  Mornington Peninsula is home to mostly boutique and small, family-owned wineries which are often paired with local produce.  The region is also home to multiple food and wine festivals.

Finally, the Australian Capital Region, near Canberra, might be the best place to go for both food and wine.  The region is home to over 100 vineyards, wineries, cafes, and farms where you can find great wines and new takes on regional cuisine.

Since I was not old enough to drink in the US yet on my last trip to Australia, I didn’t get to visit any wineries – I didn’t think I liked wine then!  I can’t wait to take another trip and visit some of these great regions, and sample some delicious wines.  How about y’all?  Anyone been to Australia and had a great wine experience?  Let us know in the comments!

Wine Wednesday ~ Spanish Wine Regions & Cava

Map of Spain's Wine Regions from WineFolly

Map of Spain’s Wine Regions from WineFolly.com

Spain produces some amazing wine.  There are 7 different “wine regions” in Spain and each region produces unique, and relatively inexpensive varieties.  When I went to Spain, I only had 3 days there and definitely did not get a chance to explore all of the different types of wine the country has to offer.  Honestly, I stuck with trying a few different house wines and then enjoyed the Sangria.  I also tried Cava, sort of.

There is plenty of great information out there if you would like to learn more about Spanish wine.  My favorite source is the “Wines From Spain” website.  They break the wine regions down as follows:

  • Green Spain:  Located in the Northern and Northwest part of the country, this region enjoys cooler temperatures and a wet climate.  Dry or Tart white wines from the region are popular and quickly gaining prominence around the world.
  • North Central Spain: The vineyards in this region are generally found at very high elevations and near the banks of the Duero River.  Producing wine in this region can be difficult as the weather can prevent grapes from ripening properly, however in good years, the wine from this region is excellent.
  • The Ebro River Valley:  Rioja, arguably one of Spain’s most famous wines, is produced in this region.  Some of Spain’s most important red grapes, Tempranillo and Garnacha, are also prevalent in the region.  The variety coming from this region is due, in part, to the different climates present in this region.  My advice – try the Rioja!  You can find it in most grocery store wine sections and it is a true Spanish wine.
  • The Meseta:  This arid region boasts almost two thirds of Spain’s vineyards, but has only recently begun to be respected as an area capable of producing great wine.  This region’s focus on varietals may soon help it’s wines to become some of the more common Spanish wines.
  • The Mediterranean Coast:  The Eastern coast of Spain produces some truly high-quality wines.  While the region produces many delicious white wines, it is easily most known for Cava.  Cava is a sparkling wine, similar to champagne.  Cava is typically crisp and dry and has become quite popular in the US over the last few years.  Want to hear my Cava story?  I promise I will tell it at the end of this post!
  • Andalucia:  This region is hot.  The temperatures easily soar above 100 degrees (F) in the summer.  As a result, some excellent fortified wines and dessert wines come from this region.  This region gives us many varieties of Sherry, which are definitely worth a try!
  • The Islands:  While the Canary Islands and the Balearics produce some very unique white wines, very few of them leave Spain.  Many don’t even leave the islands!  I have never had any wines from this region, but they are supposed to be great.  I guess we will all need to take a trip to the Islands and find out!

My Cava Story…  I know I promised you the Cava story, and it’s not so much the story that’s great as it is the picture that accompanies the story.  When Sarah and I went to Spain everyone told me I had to try the Cava.  This seemed like a pretty reasonable thing to tell me since I like wine and Cava is produced right outside of Barcelona, where I was headed.  I hadn’t heard of Cava, so I did some research to find out what was so special about it.  I found out it is a dry, white, sparkling wine, like a champagne.  I guess this is where I should tell you that I like sweet white wine, the sweeter the better.  I’m not a big red wine drinker, and while I do like drier white wines now, I still find some to be too dry for my tastes. Two years ago, I really only liked sweeter wines.

Sarah and I found a wonderful chocolate shop near our hostel and they had some cava filled chocolates.  Since we were traveling on a student budget, and I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to spend 6 Euro on a glass of wine I wasn’t likely to like, I thought trying the chocolate would be a good way to get an idea of what Cava tasted like.  Luckily for all of you, and not so luckily for me, Sarah was on hand to capture my reaction to trying the Cava chocolate.

Trying the Cava

Trying the Cava

Clearly, I do not like it!

Clearly, I do not like it!

Needless to say, I didn’t like it.  It was definitely too dry for me, and I ended up sticking to Sangria and some other sweeter whites while out to dinner.  I will still be giving it another shot on my next trip to Spain.  I know my tastes in wine have changed over the last couple of years, and, who knows, I might like it now!

Wine Wednesday ~ Sangria!

Hi Everyone!  Today is one of my favorite days – Wine Wednesday!  I am going to be making some delicious Spanish Sangria and, of course, giving you my recipe.  The great thing about sangria is that you really can’t mess it up.  It’s just wine, fruit, sugar, and usually some liquor.  Brandy and Rum are relatively popular in sangria, but it is definitely a drink you can experiment with.

Typically, sangria starts with red wine and it is very common to find oranges and peaches as some of the main fruits used.  That said, there are seemingly endless variations.  I, personally, like white wine more than red and tend to go for white wine based sangria when I’m buying a bottle or ordering it out.  But, then again, one of my favorite restaurants uses red wine and blackberries.  You can also add flavored liquor to it, or use different fruits to change the flavor!

Well, now that I’ve told you all about it, I can’t wait to make some!  My basic recipe is below.  As I said, Sangria can be made to taste.  You can use whatever fruit you want, and change the recipe to suit your tastes.  I made some changes to this recipe when I made it, and I have added my changes in italics.

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Basic Sangria

Ingredients:

  • 1 Bottle Red Table Wine (I promise you don’t need to use expensive wine for this!)
  • 2 Oranges
  • 2 Lemons
  • 2 Peaches, peeled, pitted, and cubed.
  • 5 Tablespoons White Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Rum or Brandy.  (I used Rum)
  • 1 Mango, cubed. 
  • 1/2 Cup Sparking Juice (optional)  I used a Sparkling Mango-Passion Fruit juice I picked up at Wal-Mart.

Kitchen Supplies:

  • Pitcher
  • Wooden Spoon (or something to stir with)
  • Corkscrew
  • Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Juicer (if you have one it makes it easier, if not, you can juice the fruit by hand and it’s still easy!)
  • Fine mesh strainer (again, if you have one, it’s easier, if not, you will be just fine!)

Directions:

  1. Pour your wine into the pitcher you plan to use.
  2. Add 5 T of sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Juice the lemons and oranges.  If you have a juicer this will go pretty quickly, if not, just juice the fruit by hand.  To do by hand: cut the fruit in half and squeeze over a bowl.  Don’t squeeze the juice directly into the pitcher of wine – you don’t want the seeds and pulp to get in the wine!
  4. Strain the juice to remove any seeds or pulp that may have gotten into the juice.  If you don’t have a fine mesh strainer, you can also use a spoon to fish out some of the seeds and pulp, or use a spoon to block the side of the bowl containing the juice so that it catches most of the pulp.
  5. Pour the juice into the pitcher of wine. Stir.
  6. Peel and Pit the peaches.  Chop them into cubes and add them to the wine.  If you are using any other fruits in addition to peaches, add them at this time.
  7. Add your liquor of choice.  I used about a 1/2 Cup, but you can use more or less to taste!
  8. Add sparking juice, or sprite/ 7-Up if you wish.
  9. Chill, serve, and enjoy!

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