To get the ball rolling . . . this cool blog site, Wine4.Me, features my pick Argentina, with a wine pairing, to go all the way to the final round at the World Cup. Turns out they did!
As much as I talk about wines, I must say that today’s World Cup game matching the United States vs. Belgium makes it impossible for me to resist my love for fine Belgium brew. Of course this includes the fine beers made by the Trappist monks at Notre-Dame de Scourmont Abbey in Chimay and other top producers in country like Duvel, Affligem and Leffe, as well as talented brewers who are making their stylized versions here in the United States like Ommegang Brewery in Cooperston, N.Y. and New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado.
With that being said, here’s a link to the tasty article I wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle Food & Wine section in May 2003: “U.S. acquiring a taste for Belgian ales / Fruity, spicy, rich and brewed by monks“.
It’s also worth mentioning that I was quite honored to find out there is a reference to this article on the Wikipedia page for the Chimay Brewery. Pretty cool!
In short: No simple beers. No simple game. Long live fine Belgian beer, but today go Team USA!
P.S. For more information on the Chimay Brewery, their specialty beers and the fine cheese made by the Trappist monks, visit www.chimay.com.
Today’s game to watch is United States vs. Ghana / ESPN 2:30 PST
United States: Before playing its first game in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the US soccer team is already going through a small identity crisis. For starters, German-born coach (Juergen Klinsmann) has already cut seasoned veteran Landon Donovan from the roster and candidly said that his team will not win the 2014 World Cup championship. For that reason, more pressure has been placed on star forward Clint Dempsey and the other younger players to score and goalie Tim Howard to hold his own against the strong and speedy team from Ghana. Of course, there’s also the fact that they are playing their first game in Natal, Brazil (a.k.a. “City of the Sun”) which has had heavy rainstorms over the last few days. Then, when you considering the fact that the next two opponents after Ghana are Germany and Portugal, there’s a reason why Group G is loosely referred to as the division from hell. So realistically, today’s game is a do-or-die situation for the US team to advance to the next round.
Although we can’t all be there to help the team, an easy good luck charm would be to bust open a bottle of the Carol Shelton 2012 “Wild Thing” Old Vine Zinfandel, Mendocino County ($19) made with fruit from old and mature vineyards, wild yeast, and aged in fine oak barrels.
Often referred to as California’s “sweetheart” grape, the first cuttings of zinfandel were brought to the West Coast during the Gold Rush boom in the 1850s. Before Prohibition, plantings were spread throughout the state, and thanks to the natural vigor of the thick-skinned red grape and its resilient character to avoid diseases, many of these original vineyards can still be seen dotting the landscape in Mendocino County and other prestigious winegrowing regions throughout California.
For these reasons, the new release of the 2012 Wild Thing packs a serious punch with lush, jammy flavors of black raspberry, bright cherry, plum, blood orange peel, clove, pepper and a hit of vanilla. In Carol’s words: “Remember—you are what you drink…” Like the US soccer team, it’s a very youthful wine with plenty to prove. Go team, go! www.CarolShelton.com.
Ghana: From the coast of West Africa, Ghana is a very serious soccer team who has beaten the US in the last two World Cup matches the teams have played. So it makes sense that the name of the country literally means “Warrior King.” For cuisine, Ghana is best known for seafood, soups and stews. One of the popular entrees is grilled Tilapia filet served with tomatoes, spicy sauce made with chilies and peppers, and Banku (a starch made with corn maize). With historic connections to German merchant marines and a portion of the country once known as the German Gold Coast, a fantastic pairing with the flaky texture of the fish and layers of spice would be a German or Alsace-style white blend. One of my favorites is the Brooks 2012 “Amycas” White Table Wine, Willamette Valley ($18), a combination of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Muscat and Gewurztraminer. This lovely domestic version of Edelzwicker (German for “noble blend”) features enchanting aromas of fresh citrus, honey and exotic fruits. On the palate, the wine is highlighted by notes of fresh lime, peach, mango and papaya, vibrant acidity, and a clean, crisp finish. Scary good. www.BrooksWine.com.
Today’s game to watch is Argentina vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina / ESPN 2:30 PST
Argentina: Nifty facts to know about Argentina and wine before today’s kick-off. First, the country is the fifth largest producer of wine in the world. Second, the country ranks third in consumption of wine with an average of 41 liters per person; in contrast, the US average is closer to 7 liters per person. So with that being said, the national Argentinean soccer team is not only hungry, but also very thirsty for their third world title at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
To get ready for the first match with Bosnia-Herzegovina (the former country of Yugoslavia) on Sunday June 15 and the other scheduled matches against Iran and Nigeria; I would suggest priming the palate with a refreshing Argentinean white wine like the Susana Balbo 2013 Torrontes, which features fragrant floral aromas and fruit-driven flavors of citrus blossom, white peach, melon and ripe pear; zippy acidity; and a nice crisp finish.
Once the game gets started and the tension starts to build, I’d suggest moving on to a more powerful and complex wine like the Bodega Colomé 2010 Estate Malbec, a complex Malbec with smaller portion of Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Sirah grown in the high-elevation region of Mendoza. Deep flavors of dark cherry, black raspberry, ripe currants, licorice, fresh herbs, lavender, violets and cracked pepper. Full-bodied, aggressive, and a classy finish that reminds me of an iron fist in a velvet glove. Now let’s see if the team can perform as well as this wine!
Bosnia-Herzegovina: While it’s true that Argentina is a formidable force in the world of wine and highly favored to win this game; Bosnia-Herzegovina’s secret weapon is Žilavka, a dynamic white grape that is indigenous to the southern part of the country. Via DNA, the grape variety is linked to the Prosecco and often compared to the famous Hungarian white varietal Furmint. But unlike the light fruity flavors of its Italian and Hungarian relatives, Žilavka has a deeper, richer profile with high acid and nutty flavors. The best example I’ve tasted is the Brkic 2010 Greda, an elegant white wine crafted by Josip Brkic and his family who grows the grapes on the unique limestone plateaus in the Mostar region in southern Bosnia-Herzegovina. Imported to the US by Blue Danube Wines, the wine features complex flavors of dried apricot, citrus, melon, pear and white pepper. Random and delicious; but definitely worthy of trying if you can get your hands on a bottle.
Today’s game to watch is England vs. Italy / ESPN 2:30 PST
UK: While England is not known for its wines, a fantastic option would be to try the Richard Grant NV Cuvée Rosé Brut, Napa Valley. This is an amazing chance to taste an extraordinary sparkling wine made with the Wrotham clone of Pinot Noir, cuttings of which Dr. Richard Peterson brought back from the village of Wrotham below London, England! Striking flavors of ripe raspberry, red apple, cherry, ruby grapefruit, and roasted hazelnuts. Elegant, gracious and very focused. Let’s hope Steven Gerrard and his mates can be on the top of their game today, too.
Italia: So many wine options, so little time. Since the game is being played at mid day, try the Nipozzano by Marchesi de Frescobaldi 2010 Riserva Chianti Rufina Riserva DOCG. With aromas of dark berries, tobacco, clove and licorice; the wine opens up in the glass with generous flavors of dark cherry, red cherry, dark chocolate, earth and freshly foraged truffle; layers of zesty spices and herbs; and a long, finish that is a trademark of the Chianti region. During the game, try the wine with a thin crust fungi pizza with sundried tomatoes and herbs.