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Italian Food with French wine

One of these days I am going to make Puttanesca sauce. I'll leave it to you to research the colorful source of this sauce's name

Puttanesca is a flavorful tomato-based sauce that includes olives, capers, anchovies and garlic. Origin Campania. May also include red chili peppers.

What French (or California/Oregon/Washington) wine would you serve with Pasta Puttanesca?

and why?

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  1. Something from the South of the Rhone valley ? Or a Costière de Nime ?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Maximilien

      red, I assume.

      Why a Costière de Nimes ?

      Why would this wine work well with tomatoes, olives, capers, anchovies and garlic?

      1. re: collioure1

        Tomatoes, olives, anchovies & garlic are certainly found as often in the food of Provence as they are in the food of various regions of Italy. Wines from Costiere de Nimes are drunk in Provence.

    2. A dry Provencal Rosé could work well, although you may want a red during this time of year.

      A red Coteaux de Pierrevert or as Maximilien suggested a Southern Rhone blend with a good amount of Grenache. There are some great wines made in Provence that have Italian influences and will definitely jive with that combination of olives, capers, anchovies, and garlic.

      68 Replies
      1. re: Klunco

        Coteaux de Pierrevert! That's relatively new (and obscure) appellation, one I have yet to experience. I get a crack at some 2000 wines from all over France every fall, but I haven't seen one of those.

        How do you know about it? Is it a promising appellation up there in the Durance valley?

        1. re: collioure1

          I've had several and they are fine for inexpensive, rustic reds. Coteaux de Pierrevert is definitely harder to find (and not necessarily worth going out of your way to obtain) but you're probably more familiar with some of the communes that go into it ie. Corbieres or Quinson. I find many of the Southern-Rhone and Provencal blends charming (at all price ranges), but they are not for everyone's taste and I'd recommend a well made Bandol or Cote-Rotie before a Coteaux de Pierrevert, as they are a bit more refined.

          For me these rustic, Grenache-heavy blends embody and go well with the pungent ingredients common in Provencal cuisine. They have the often have the earth-herbal quality to go with those ingredients as well as some good fruit to keep them from being too green and the "chewiness" I often get from Grenache wipes the palate clean in the way a high acid Italian red might.

          1. re: Klunco

            Thank you. I like wines wth terroir - Chianti Rufina, Sancerre Rouge, Santenay, but I imagine this is a bit more rustic. I'll keep my eye out.

            The list of wines I'm looking for as a result of participating here is growing though I'm doubtful I can find either Austrian or German wine here. This one I will see eventually.

            1. re: collioure1

              Definitely more rustic and with a bit more weight than Sancerre Rouge (though we are big fans). Loire has some great reds; I'm particularly fond of the Gamays we've had from there in contrast to the Crus in Beaujolais.

              Austrian or German may be difficult to find there, but at least you have access to the interesting and terroir driven Jura wines that can be difficult to find here. Besides the incomparable Vin-Jaune, I've found both the whites and reds from the Jura, in general, very interesting and unique and overlooked. Sort of like Savoie wines in that regard. If you haven't investigated the reds, give them a shot.

              1. re: Klunco

                I'm sold on the top Beaujolais crus I order from duBoeuf. I didn't always get the ones I wanted, but now I do. Standing pat on those and seem to be the only one here who recommends them (it's like having a wild card at poker).

                Love Sancerre rouge. Have some Reuilly right now but the first bottle was mishandled.

                Jura? I've decided in a good way that the vin jaune is for the kitchen, but I occasionally buy a bottle or two of Pupillin or similar.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    if indeed he's in Collioure -- according to Pages Jaunes, there are a dozen or so wine shops in Collioure, another 2 dozen in Perpignan, plus all of the Auchans, Leclercs, Carrefours, Monoprix, and Nicolas.

                    Somebody has to be carrying wines from just about anywhere. If I can find California red zins at Auchan...just about anything is possible.

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      FYI the wine "shops" in Collioure represent almost exclusively the producers of Collioure and Banyuls - Pietri-Geraud, la Tour Vielle, Dominicain (=coop), Manya-Puig. This gorgeous port, the pearl of the province, is overrun with tourists six months a year.

                      I'm near Collioure, but the real wine shops in this province are thin on wines from outside the province. Moreover, I don't buy supermarket standard offerings or at Nicholas - I do buy the fall sales (I complained that our region got shortchanged by Auchan this year), but I will buy less from the fall sales in the future. Call me a wine snob, but I learned decades ago that I want the distinctive wines of good independent producers, not coop wines. I shy away from negociant wines too.

                      I went to a very good shop on Thursday - all French. Same for another good shop three weeks ago. I'll keep looking. No red Zins at my Auchan - and if there were, they'd be of the quality level of Turning Leaf.

                      Tell me who in this province has a good Gruner, a dry Riesling from Germany, a Dortfelder . . . PLEASE.

                      Finally I know where I live. I know what beers and wines never get here. I know how many fine wine producers have no distribution here. I know that the weather forecasts developed in Paris are not accurate for this remote corner of the country. When I order something and they tell me one week, I know it will be two.

                      I love it here, but I understand the limitations. Now maybe you do too.

                      1. re: collioure1

                        Oh, I didn't say that the red zin was good -- it's Gallo! Nor did I buy any.

                        But while Coullioure is indeed a small town, Perpignan is no paysan backwater -- I sincerely believe that there's no one who is up to your standards, but I'm not buying that there is not a single bottle of good-to-great wine from outside the region available anywhere in your department..

                        I live in a small town, too -- and while the folks here absolutely have a preference for homegrown wines...they also DO appreciate what is produced elsewhere, and it IS available.

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          Oh, it was Gallo. Now you tell us! <g> That's pretty close to Turning Leaf, isn't it?

                          Don't mistake me. I have a very nicely varied cellar, but I do not buy great wines, just good ones. For example, in Burgundy five years ago I went to the best producers (according to Clive Coates) in six of the lesser Cote-de-Beaune and Cote Chalonnaise villages during the harvest (only tasted one wine) and brought back 55 good bottles.

                          Here I tour the vineyards once every autumn and buy wines between 7€ and 9€. Occasionally I pop for a few 15€ and 20€ bottles, but not often. The best Beaujolais crus are in the same 7€-9€ range. As are most of the wines I buy at the fall supermarket sales.

                          We eat well. We drink well.

                          Now where are you that you can buy Gallo Zinfandel?

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            No more attacks today?

                            Well, one of these days I will stop in at the Comptoir des Crus in Perpignan. I've never been there. It's in a place where it's difficult to park. Wine school and specialist in the wines of the province plus wines from all over France.

                            But I have never needed such a specialist. I have more good addresses than I can visit, and now that I know how to harvest the fall supermarket sales for very good wines from other regions in France, I drink less and less from the province.

                            But maybe they will have a few German or Austrian wines.

                    2. re: collioure1

                      It's kinda presumptious of me, but Duboeuf? No likey Foillard, Lapierre, Coudert, Brun, Chermettes, Burgaud? There's amazing wine coming out of Beaujolais, but I haven't tasted any with Georges' name on it!

                      In the Jura, look for Puffeney, Ganevat, and Overnoy. And try the Poulsard bottlings before the Pinot Noir (the latter's very good, but go for the local variety!).

                      1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                        No, it's not presumptious. I understand there are a few even better producers, but I have yet to look to improve my purchases there. DuBoeuf makes it awfully easy to get the three crus I prefer so effortlessly every autumn. 2-3 emails to Odette is all it takes.

                        Moreover, Parker has always liked these wines and so have I.

                        One of the few times in my life I have really been drunk was an early introduction to Fleurie flower bottle at a friend's birthday party. I couldn't stop drinking it. I still love Fleurie. I prefer feminine wines and it is very feminine.

                        Thanks for the recommendations.

                        1. re: collioure1

                          Just a heads-up: I love Coudert's Fleurie (particularly the Clos Roilette cuvee tardive), but it is certainly the most "masculine" of the wine's I mentioned. Rewards long aging, as do most of the best crus, but also punishes early opening, unlike most of the rest.

                          That said, I also prefer "feminine" wines, which I tend to associate with highly floral/perfumed wines with elegant lace or silk textures, light touch of oak, and - for crying out loud - none of that dense over-extraction.

                          Klunco, I've only had the '08 Thevenet Morgon - one bottle was unfortunately Bretty (and I'm the poster child for Brett-sensitivity), but the other was clean as a whistle and positively glorious. Very lightly colored for Gamay, and ultra perfumed with more of a mineral than floral component. Really beautiful.

                          1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                            Love this phrase:

                            "(and I'm the poster child for Brett-sensitivity)"

                            1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                              Thank you for the reference. I read that the producer refuses to sell this Moulin-a-Vent in France!

                              Nevertheless I am alerted to look for other prize cuvèes of Beaujolais crus.

                              1. re: collioure1

                                Are you talking about Coudert's "Fleurie"? I put that in quotes because when the cru designations were last made, the prior owner (I think?) of the domaine was incensed that he was included in Fleurie when he was convinced that the terroir and location really should have classified it as Moulin-a-Vent. So, he named his wine "Clos Roilette" (after his horse, I think) and refused to put the Fleurie designation on the label. Coudert kept the Clos Roilette name, but identifies as Fleurie.

                                The wine certainly tastes more like Moulin-a-Vent to me.

                                1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                                  Yes, that's why called that Fleurie a Moulin-a-Vent. Your distinctive palate notes that the wine is quite masculine. I read that the owner of the domaine refuses to sell his wine in France. Funny story IMO.

                                  1. re: collioure1

                                    I had not heard that Clos Roilette is not sold in France! This is a great loss for the French people who have given the wine world so much, indeed far more than any other culture (ok, maybe the Roman empire merits a shout-out).

                                    Here's a great little write-up on Coudert/Clos Roilette: http://www.crushwineco.com/travelogue...

                                    1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                                      I read that the original owners refused to sell in France, but it appears that is no longer the case.

                                      In any case you have piqued my interest in the ne plus ultra's of Beaujolais.

                                      Is the Julienas Ch des Capitains one of them? So far that's the best Beaujolais I've ever tasted and I take 10 bottles every year now.

                                      I don't have as distinguished a palate as many of you, but my taste continues to improve.

                              2. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                                We had the '10 Thevenet Morgon at Thanksgiving and it definitely smelled awful when we first opened. I was afraid we had a bad bottle. Decanted for four hours and it went away and the wine was great; even better the next day. That said, that wine definitely needs more time in the bottle.

                                I'm still learning a lot about wine, does Brett go away? Or is it always there? I definitely have noticed more of a real funk smell the more I've been drinking natural wine. I'm not quite to the point yet though where I know if it's specifically TCA or Brett.

                                Also, since you all have many years (vintages) and experiences on me, I am curious if you could recommend some Burgundy producers. I fell in love with Cru Beaujolais because I love feminine wines, they go well with the lighter foods we eat, and based on budget constraints (QPR). While budgetary concerns have helped me explore other underrated or obscure regions, I've often found sub $20 (or even sub $30) Burgundy insipid, bland, or unbalanced. Am I missing some key producers or is it merely supply/demand pricing and my dollars will go much farther in Beaujolais?

                                1. re: Klunco

                                  I went to a tasting of 29 different Beaujolais last month and the 2009 PUR Morgon Côte du Py was my favorite. $25 in San Francisco.

                                  In the past I've liked the Louis Tete "Le Pot" but I haven't seen it around recently.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Sorry for the confusion, obviously Beaujolais is in Burgundy, but I meant Pinot Noir Burgundy in the sub $20 or sub $30 category. Is my money better spent in Beaujolais?

                                    1. re: Klunco

                                      In recent years, I think I've had one Burgundy under $30 that I liked, and I was unable to find any to buy.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        I wouldn't say I'm glad to hear that, but in some ways it's reassuring that it's not just me. Thanks.

                                  2. re: Klunco

                                    Your dollars will go much further in Beaujolais. See also: The Loire.

                                    I hesitate to recommend Burgundy producers, because once you're hooked you can wave buh-bye to every last unallocated cent in your checking account. Next, your credit lines will dry up. Finally, after you've sold off all your belongings to pre-order the '11 vintage, you'll be living in the dreary end of the park with your Grand Crus buried in a hole near your cardboard lean-to.

                                    At which point I'll welcome you to the neighborhood and we can go beg for saucisson money!

                                    1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                                      After spending all my money and begging for sausages, I'd probably just go back to drinking Beaujolais (like I did as a poor student in Provence). Besides Gamay and Saucisson are a great pairing.

                                      It sounds like a vicious cycle though. I have enjoyed investigating the Loire reds; great suggestions. Although poorly made ones can be a bit green for our taste, well-made Cab Franc is wonderful.

                                      Also, for a little more weight, we've enjoyed satellite appellations from the Libournais. I think these blends are often underrated and can be undervalued (obviously not Petrus or higher end St. Emillions).

                                      1. re: Klunco

                                        I drink mostly Loire whites, particularly Huet Vouvrays and Chidaine Vouvray/Montlouis, a ton of Muscadet, and certainly Savennieres. If you're not a big fan of Cab Franc, they're also growing some good Gamay.

                                        Poulsards from the Jura are also a good buy.

                                        As much as I love Cru Beaujolais, for me it's no sub for red Burgundy. There are many similarities, but of course many differences. Most notably the intensity of fruit in Beaujolais, even when dressed in a mineral buzz or coming at you with a meaty, almost bloody edge. God, I love it... but it doesn't have that same earthy depth and complicating funk of Burgundy. For me, the only thing that comes close is clean, lightly extracted, traditionally vinified Nebbiolo - from the Langhe, but very definitely also from the Northern Piedmont. It's not the same, of course, but it's the only wine outside of Burgundy that scratches that particular itch.

                                  3. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                                    Enjoying your writing, Ricardo.

                                    I have a question regarding the use of the adjectives "masculine" and "feminine" to describe wine. The terms seem ill-defined, and perhaps ill-coined.

                                    I love your precise description of wines you describe as feminine: "highly floral/perfumed wines with elegant lace or silk textures, light touch of oak, and - for crying out loud - none of that dense over-extraction."

                                    Would then, a masculine wine, by your definition, be: extracted, black fruit instead of red fruit, dense, full-bodied, high-alcohol, powerful, structured, affected by more than a minimum of oak aging? Perhaps brambly or "unrefined" fruit? Rustic, rough?

                                    For me -- my preference, only -- I would prefer the more precise descriptors like silky texture and heavily extracted rather than the amorphously defined "feminine" or "masculine." The more precise descriptors are clearer, in terms of meaning.

                                    1. re: maria lorraine

                                      you're also less likely to piss off your audience...calling a wine "feminine" is condescending, as though women just aren't strong enough to drink big, bold wines...and caling a wine "masculine" is insulting, because I don't know many women (although I'm sure there are some) who like being called masculine.''

                                      (I'm guessing the opposite holds true for the gents, although I can only guess. I know an awful lot of pretty manly men who enjoy floral whites in the right situation and with the right pairing...and who'd whup your ass for calling them or their wine feminine.)

                                      I agree -- until the day that grapes are found to sport genitalia, leave gender out of it.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        In my post above, I put aside the idea that the qualities that make a wine "feminine" or "masculine" are superficial and ineptly used to describe gender in the real world. For example, a mother -- feminine, by definition -- protecting her young is often the fiercest and most powerful opponent encountered in the animal world. Or, that a "masculine" man easily accommodates tenderness and vulnerability within the full spectrum of his strength.

                                        Which leads to another problem besides a lack of clarity (in terms of what one specifically means) when using the terms masculine or feminine to describe wine: Wines frequently don't fall into a single category of "gender": A wine can be both silky (in texture) and also powerful. Or, highly perfumed and also extracted. Or, elegant but structured. These three combos often exist in great wine.

                                        Like I mentioned, I'd much prefer hearing an exact descriptor rather than a generic "gender" descriptor that doesn't precisely describe the qualities in the wine that are enjoyed or disliked.

                                        1. re: maria lorraine

                                          I am in complete agreement with you...not sure how it came across otherwise.

                                          1. re: maria lorraine

                                            that is just very well stated....glad you posted it.

                                          2. re: sunshine842

                                            Well, this guy who like Richard above prefers feminine wines likes these terms.

                                            Feminine wines tend to be supple, silky and emphasize pretty fruit. On the other hand masculine wines tend to be big, full, powerful, perhaps tannic.

                                            In Burgundy we have the Côte-de-Beaune vs the Côte-de-Nuits. In Cote-Rotie it's the Côte Blonde vs the Côte Brune.

                                            Cabernet Sauvignon is generally masculine; Cab Franc and Merlot, feminine.

                                            What's the problem, Sunshine?

                                            1. re: collioure1

                                              what was there about my and MariaLorrine's explanations that need clarification?

                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                I don't agree that calling a wine "feminine" is condescending. It's a term I've used for decades, and I see no reason to stop.

                                                I understand that those with a much larger wine vocabulary (e.g., Maria) can eloquently bypass such a term, but I can't.

                                                1. re: collioure1

                                                  it's because you're not a woman.

                                                  It's called pandering, and it's annoying at best, downright insulting at worst. It's like fragile little hand tools with flowers on the handles being "womens' tools". It's like thinking that anyone believes that a double-blade razor is somehow different or special just because you made it pink, or putting glittery ribbons on the label and selling an insipid sugary plonk as "girls' wine" will somehow make it wonderful.

                                                  My chromosomes do not dictate my choice in wine, and I'm most assuredly a feminine female....and I resent the implication that I simply don't have the chops to drink a big, tannic red. (Oh here, dear, let's let the men drink the big, tannic red -- here's a flowery, fruity rose that you can handle.)

                                                  Nor do a man's chromosomes dictate his choice in wine. Telling him that his chosen wine is feminine? Why? Death wish, much?

                                                  I think not.

                                                  Sometimes a clear, concise description is better than fuzzy, feel-good terms. If you don't have that knowledge, there are plenty of places to learn it, without using words tinged with innuendo and judgment.

                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                    What can I tell you?

                                                    I love strong, independent women. I marry them.

                                                    And my chromosomes don't dictate my choice in wine either. I love femiine wines.

                                                    Moreover, I have met plenty of women who love big, masculine wines. My first wife was one of them.

                                                    Personally I will continue to find these terms useful in describing wines. I don't have a large vocabulary, esp in my second language now.

                                            2. re: sunshine842

                                              I certainly didn't mean to condescend or piss anyone off.

                                              But if I were to describe a wine as "masculine", I might mean big and clumsy with either an offputting rusticity or brutishness at the expense of grace. I might be suggesting a "more is more" aesthetic that privileges dense extraction of steroidishly overripe fruit subjected to a punishing regime of oak-aging that imparts throat-clinchingly astringent tannins to an already over-endowed body which is then bottled in a ridiculously oversized glass phallus.

                                              Not to piss anyone off!

                                              1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                                                Oh my, Ricardo, your wild descriptive abilities. Till recently, I think you've been holding out on us.

                                                I don't feel condescended to or pissed off. I've never felt one's gender dictated what wines one usually liked or disliked, and to imply that or to broadly categorize in that fashion is ludicrous.

                                                I simply find that terms like "masculine" or "feminine" don't communicate when describing wines or people, and I'd rather hear what one really means instead.

                                                It's the inexactness of gender terms -- masculine, feminine, pretty, muscular -- that makes using them a problem to describe wine. For example, "pretty fruit" when talking about a "feminine" wine seems to describe fruit that is flavorful and agreeable, and has clarity, but is not powerful. So then, pretty may also imply less concentrated, a wine that drinks easily, a less-serious wine. But we know that isn't so. We all know a powerful wine can have pretty fruit. But a powerful wine is "masculine," so how can it also be pretty and feminine? Therein lies the confusion.

                                                Take "muscular." It's inexact when describing wine and people, both. Is muscular used to describe a wine that is strong and powerful and yet smooth and harmonious? Or is muscular used, like the term "muscle-bound," to describe a negative, as in excessive, out-of-proportion, lacking suppleness and fluidity of movement? If muscular means powerful, does it mean high alcohol, or too powerful -- too much alcohol? Does powerful mean instead an intensity of flavor? Is that due to concentration or extraction? (The first is good, the latter can be bad or good, depending upon degree.) Or does muscular mean brutish, as in overblown or excessive (too much alcohol, too much ripeness, too too)? Or, wild and savage, as in brambly or briary fruit? Does muscular, like muscle-bound, mean clumsy or chunky, as in the use of too much oak or overly manipulated wine? Does muscular mean rustic, with rough tannins? Lacking smoothness or lubricity or good mouthfeel? Or, does muscular mean lacking elegance or finesse? What is it, precisely?

                                                Does feminine describe -- in a wine or in a person -- a thing that is yielding, nurturing, beguiling, acquiescing, uncomplicated rather than complex, weak instead of strong, light instead of heavy, girlish rather than motherly, youthful rather than matronly, supple rather than rigid, agreeable rather than aggressive? I'd prefer to hear the specifics -- they tell me so much more about the person or the wine -- than the generic feminine or masculine.

                                                If one doesn't know how to describe wine, I'd prefer them to describe the qualities of the wine **as best they can** or to learn a basic vocabulary of wine descriptors (nothing complicated required). It's all because I want to understand what you like and dislike, what appeals to you, or not.

                                              2. re: sunshine842

                                                I find that I rarely disagree with sunshine and Maria Lorraine, and so -- at my own peril -- I no doubt prepare to descend my foot deeply into my oral cavity.

                                                >>> you're also less likely to piss off your audience...calling a wine "feminine" is condescending, as though women just aren't strong enough to drink big, bold wines...and caling a wine "masculine" is insulting, because I don't know many women (although I'm sure there are some) who like being called masculine.'' <<<

                                                No offense, but I find that to be nonsense. Wines have been described as masculine and feminine for centuries, and it has nothing to do with which gender prefers which which "category" of wine . . . .

                                                This isn't a matter of sexism, nor -- I hope -- a matter of political correctness.

                                                >>> I have a question regarding the use of the adjectives "masculine" and "feminine" to describe wine. The terms seem ill-defined, and perhaps ill-coined. <<<

                                                Neither do I find it an "ill-defined" or superficial designation.

                                                I am 59 years of age, and have been brought up reading about and using the terms "masculine" and "feminine" for wine for as long as I can remember. Book written in the 1960, in the 1950s, and in the 19th century have used these terms and, FWIW, I find them to be useful and appropriate.

                                                Examples:

                                                -- Volnay and Savigny-les-Beaune are two appellations traditionally described as "feminine," particularly in contrast to the traditionally "masculine" appellations of Nuits St. Georges and Gevrey-Chambertin.

                                                -- In Bordeaux, St.-Julien is more feminine than St.-Éstephe, but on a specific basis, Château Margaux and Château Lafite Rothschild are Cabernet-based wines long described as feminine, whereas Château Mouton-Rothschild and Château Latour are masculine. Château Cos d'Estournel, feminine; Château Montrose, masculine.

                                                These terms are relative to one another. That is, I've never heard a comparison made between a specific wine within a region and a specific wine within a different region (e.g.: Château Lafite v. DRC Echézeaux). But within the region (such as the Burgundy comparisons or Bordeaux comparisons), I find that it works quite well.

                                                >>> Which leads to another problem besides a lack of clarity (in terms of what one specifically means) when using the terms masculine or feminine to describe wine: Wines frequently don't fall into a single category of "gender": A wine can be both silky (in texture) and also powerful. Or, highly perfumed and also extracted. Or, elegant but structured. These three combos often exist in great wine. <<<

                                                While it's quite true, ML, that all three qualities can exist in a great wine, it's also true that -- generally -- I find it often (though not exclusively) boils down to body (unless that term vis-a-vis wine is now also sexist), and the level of tannins . . . hard, astringent tannins are often described as masculine when compared to fine-grained, well-integrated tannins.

                                                >>> I'd much prefer hearing an exact descriptor rather than a generic "gender" descriptor that doesn't precisely describe the qualities in the wine that are enjoyed or disliked. <<<

                                                I don't think these are mutually exclusive. In my writing -- both for publication and just for my own notes at tastings, judgings, etc. -- the terms "masculine" and "feminine" are descriptors used to convey a overall sense of style, while the specific descriptors (e.g.: black currant, cocoa, firm backbone, low acidity, long finish, well-integrated tannins, etc., etc., etc.) convey specific characteristics, specific qualities, specific aromatic and flavor components.

                                                There certainly are inappropriate and sexist descriptors out there. There are also traditional ones, born out of French (in this case) or Italian time-honored terms that I, for one, will continue to use . . . .

                                                1. re: zin1953

                                                  apparently you don't really disagree with them now....perhaps you're just having some fun. At the end of this, I will post some tasting notes that you wrote in Setember of this year. They are very well crafted notes, and you do not resort to ambiguous terms. Instead, It is written in the style that ML suggests. She is suggesting that we say what we mean about wine, without resorting to ambiguous
                                                  laziness. Why don't we leave that sort of thing to Kermit. Before I post your TN, may I say that I almost never disagree with your postings on this board.
                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/870376 .

                                                  1. re: zin1953

                                                    Zin1953, I have to say I am in complete agreement.

                                                    There is something to be said for a little romance / poetic license in the language of wine. "Anthropomorphism" is hardly an apt term because masculine/feminine descriptors applies across many species, but the comparison of a vital, living (in most cases) beverage to a vital, living creature is part of that linguistic romance.

                                                    I am no expert but when someone describes the wine to me as masculine/feminine, depending on what region, grape, etc. the wine is from, it successfully creates an image in my mind as to what I can expect from that wine. And if that person was aiming to communicate to me some information about that wine, s/he would have succeeded!

                                                    1. re: zin1953

                                                      Always happy to hear you weigh in, Jason/zin1953.

                                                      To you, gender refers to body in the wine. Body is viscosity, mouthfeel, glycerol, perceived sweetness, density -- mainly textural but also taste.

                                                      We've read Ricardo's hilarious riff on masculinity in wine. Masculine, to him, means something different. He speaks in hyperbole (partly) -- the image of Popeye's arms comes to mind -- and refers to heavy extraction, overripe fruit, heavy oak, lack of balance, fruit ripeness, bigness, brutishness, lack of grace, and greater potential for aging.

                                                      In other words, a lot more than body.

                                                      Which shows, there's no agreement on the definition of masculine. In wine and in people, it means different things to different people. Moreover, what it means in each person's mind is usually unspoken, yet the writer assumes his definition is the same as his reader's. That's the problem.

                                                      Ditto for feminine. Its definition varies widely from man to man, woman to woman. Feminine to you, in wine or in a human, may not be feminine to Ricardo, or to me, or sunshine842 or Julian Teoh or my mother or last husband or winemaker colleagues or other persons. What the adjective describes isn't agreed upon; it doesn't communicate.

                                                      That's why specifics are needed when describing people or wine.

                                                      Fleurie is feminine. Yet some Fleurie wines, the vins de garde from good vintages, are masculine for Beaujolais Crus and not feminine, even though Fleurie is usually feminine. The "Roilette Tardive" from Fleurie is delicious and easy to drink like most Beaujolais -- is that feminine? -- but far weightier and with more intense fruit -- that's masculine -- than most Fleurie. The Roilette "Griffe" goes one further; it's the Tardive on oak. Both the Roilette Tardive and Griffe are as masculine as Beaujolais gets. But Beaujolais as a region is feminine, compared to masculine Bordeaux or inky Priorat.

                                                      "Masculine" and "feminine" are moving targets, depending on the wine, the region and who's talking. The terms are no good by themselves.

                                                      So instead of this silly masculine-feminine thing, which presumes that it actually communicates something, why not actually communicate? Why not help the reader understand?

                                                      Why not say that Moulin-à-Vent is more tannic and more structured than all other Beaujolais AOC, meant to age five to ten years, and has a distinct oak treatment? It's delicious Beaujolais but needs time. It's not an immediate quaffer. Or, explain why Coudert's Roilette wines taste a lot like the more concentrated, tannic Moulin-à-Vent instead of Fleurie partly because the vineyards are right on the border. Yet the Roilette Christal isn't like Moulin-à-Vent, but is instead a true Fleurie, a lightweight fruity quaffer, redolent of strawberries -- but not as lightweight as Nouveau. Saying it's feminine doesn't say much.

                                                      In fact, most of the Crus Beaujolais have both "masculine" and "feminine" qualities, and to use one or the other incompletely describes them. Chénas is a fooler: feminine in its lush aromas, but full-on boy in body and aging. It's in drag. Juliénas has huge floral aromas so it's feminine, but is also spicy and tannic and ageable, so it's masculine, or both feminine and masculine -- it's confusing.

                                                      All this masculine-feminine stuff just gets in the way of communicating. The adjectives mean little; it's the specifics that actually say something when describing individual wines and producers. Tell me those.

                                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                                        >>> To you, gender refers to body in the wine. <<<

                                                        No. Not true. It is a part of that, but -- again, ML -- terms such as "masculin et féminin" are far more complicated than those simple seven words.

                                                        >>> All this masculine-feminine stuff just gets in the way of communicating. The adjectives mean little. <<<

                                                        It seems that you are insisting that the terms of meaningless because they are used by themselves, in a vacuum, and I reject the premise. Suffice it to say, ML, that *I* find the terms VERY descriptive and VERY useful. Sexist they are not. Relative they are.

                                                        I do not want to get into a long debate with you about them, as it's 8:00 am and I've got to leave for work. However, please feel free to ignore those words should you find them in my tasting notes. I promise I won't mind.

                                                        1. re: zin1953

                                                          I very much respect you, and I respect your descriptive abilities.

                                                          "it's also true that -- generally -- I find it often (though not exclusively) boils down to body (unless that term vis-a-vis wine is now also sexist), and the level of tannins . . . hard, astringent tannins are often described as masculine when compared to fine-grained, well-integrated tannins."

                                                          I was quoting you when you said gender in wine "boils down to body." Sorry, I left out the tannins part.

                                                          As we have all noted who have read your tasting notes, as you yourself have clearly stated, when you describe a wine, you don't use the terms masculine and feminine and say nothing else -- you also provide specific descriptors. As you've already demonstrated, your masculine wine is different from someone else's masculine wine, but when you add descriptors, you clarify what YOUR use of masculine means.

                                                          I've never said the terms are sexist; my opinion is that the terms change meaning -- especially when used alone -- depending on the region (context) and who's talking.

                                                          Sure, there is a consensus of meaning of the terms masculine and feminine, but it is an **assumed** consensus. One assumes another understands precisely what s/he means by saying "masculine" or "feminine" but the other person actually instead inserts his own individual definition when hearing the terms. Using specifics gets people on the same page, or at least, closer to understanding.

                                                          1. re: maria lorraine

                                                            I'm not trying to nit-pick, but leaving out the rest of the sentence ("I find it often (though not exclusively) boils down to body (unless that term vis-a-vis wine is now also sexist), and the level of tannins") and using just one word DOES rather alter the content and meaning of what I was trying to say. ;^)

                                                            OK, on to more serious content . . . .

                                                            >>> Sure, there is a consensus of meaning of the terms masculine and feminine, but it is an **assumed** consensus. One assumes another understands precisely what s/he means by saying "masculine" or "feminine" but the other person actually instead inserts his own individual definition when hearing the terms. <<<

                                                            Aren't all consensuses "assumed" consensuses to one extent or another. We assume that the people who voted for Obama or Romney did so for similar reasons, but every individual's reason will be just that -- individualistic. There are a huge number of people who voted for the same presidential candidate as I did, and I'm willing to say that -- among them -- the ONLY thing we have in common is just that, that we voted for the same presidential candidate, period.

                                                            To quote Ricardo: "when collioure1 suggested he preferred 'feminine' wines, I knew enough of what he meant to quickly note that Coudert's Fleurie did not fit the category. I bet you did, too."

                                                            It's true that the definitions of "masculin et féminin" are vague. But then so, too, are the definitions of "fruity," "nutty," "smokey," "tannic," over-oaked," and even "packed with gobs of hedonistic fruit"! ;^) Even were I to get more specific, and say "appley" as a descriptor, you know as well as I do that some readers will immediately think of a pippin, while others think of a golden delicious or a winesap or a pink lady or . . . or . . . or . . . .

                                                            Does anyone really know what I mean? And yet, if I write a tasting note and post it here (or, going back, when I was writing tasting notes professionally for publication), it is my profound hope and desire that readers find them understandable and useful to one degree or another. Otherwise, why bother? But -- and you know this at least as well as I, and probably better! -- taste and flavor are impossible to describe. All we, as writers -- be we on the same level as Parker, Robinson, Meadows or Tanzer, or on the level of "knowledgeable novice" -- can hope to do is to convey a sense of of the experience we (the writers) had of the wine.

                                                            You also know that -- quite frequently at tastings -- someone will voice praise of a particular wine, and someone else will respond with, "You LIKED that $#|+????"

                                                            I'm sure you've been to tastings when someone says a wine is over-oaked, and someone else disagrees. Or when someone says the wine has an extremely high level of acidity and marks it down, while another taster loved the wines "firm acid structure." (TA, not VA.) And so on . . .

                                                            Outside of faults and flaws, there is no such thing as objective tasting. It's all SUBjective. Even with some faults and flaws . . . in recent discussions elsewhere on this board, I've admitted that low levels of VA don't bother me as much as some other tasters; so, too, with the low levels of Brett. And yet I readily admit that VA is a flaw, and so,too, Brett. But are we really ready to say that half the wines in the Southern Rhône and the Languedoc should be poured down the drain? Some, sure -- I'll help; but others? Hey, I love that CdP -- and I'm gonna drink it -- in spite of its Brett! ;^)

                                                            Wine writers paint "word pictures" when they attempt to describe a wine in a tasting note. And, yes, Maria, one strives to be as specific as possible (such as actually saying/writing "Granny Smith" instead of "appley" or "fruity"), but that's only going to make any sense if the reader a) has eaten enough Granny Smith apples in their life to remember what made them different than all other apples, and only make perfect sense if the reader b) has MY taste buds in their mouth. "A" is possible; "B" is not. So I can only assume the reader will understand what I am trying to say. They may or may not. But it's the best I can do.

                                                            As with any picture, be it a photograph, a painting, or a "word picture," interpretation is up to the observer.

                                                            Cheers,
                                                            Jason

                                                            1. re: zin1953

                                                              Jason, hi,

                                                              I like it when people describe tastes and flavors --- I'm a sensualist -- but more than that, I want to hear their experiences of tasting. They don't have to be gifted at describing a food or wine -- I just want to hear something from their inner world of perception.

                                                              "and you know this at least as well as I, and probably better! -- taste and flavor are impossible to describe."

                                                              See, I think taste and flavor are fairly easy to describe, or to "circle" around what you're tasting with your words. And learning to describe tastes/aromas is fairly easy to learn, if you want to. But I've been around food and wine for a long time, and have picked up the vocabulary along the way, so it's easier for me than most, I admit.

                                                              I very much like your different apples descriptions. There's a special reason why I like specific fruit flavors, and prefer specifics to more general terms like masculine and feminine.

                                                              Let's say we're tasting blind. We taste Pippin and Granny Smith apples. Those descriptors not only tell us about the possible varietal, they tell us about tartness and acidity, the ripeness of the grapes at picking, the minor use of or no malolactic fermentation, possibly stainless steel or neutral oak, and the percentage of alcohol. All from a fruit descriptor.

                                                              But a Golden Delicious apple flavor tells us the grapes were ripe, there probably was malolactic, the alcohol is fairly high, and there's been oak aging. Increasing in apple intensity, apple pie filling tells us the grapes were very ripe, so the alcohol is also high, there's good deal of malolactic, perhaps even an incomplete malolactic, and residual sugar. Apple pie filling often hints at oak aging, the age of the oak barrels, barrel toast, and length of time in oak. "McDonald's apple pie" is another increase in intensity.

                                                              Specific sensory descriptors are code for other things. That's one of the reasons I like them so much. It's Wine Forensics.

                                                              We spoke of Beaujolais Nouveau in another thread, and carbonic maceration -- that specific type of fermentation -- shows us it was used as big as a billboard with its specific fruit flavors. You mentioned DuBoeuf's 71B yeast -- with its uber-banana flavor wallop. So, flavor sometimes tells us the fermentation, even the type of yeast.

                                                              That's why I like specific flavors -- they tell me how the wine was grown and made.

                                                              Back to masculine-feminine. Sure, I agree with Jancis's take on things (in Robert's post just below at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8798...), but I find it incomplete, as I wrote. To me and Ricardo, feminine means floral aromas. Not to Jancis, though, and she's a genius.

                                                              Gender terms have different specifics depending on who you talk to, and since there is no established agreement -- no formalized or codified consensus -- I'd rather have the specifics since they're so much more fun.

                                                              An established consensus can be very helpful in defining wine. Before judging a slew of the same varietal, the judging panel discusses what criteria denote varietal correctness. This is a formalized consensus -- we delineate the criteria exactly. Gender terms don't have that -- people don't agree on the specifics.

                                                              But I can see their use as a quick shorthand. I get it. I really do. The specifics are more fun.

                                                              Best,
                                                              Maria

                                                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                >>> I like it when people describe tastes and flavors --- I'm a sensualist -- but more than that, I want to hear their experiences of tasting. They don't have to be gifted at describing a food or wine -- I just want to hear something from their inner world of perception. <<<

                                                                Ah, but see -- here is an essential disagreement. We can chalk it up to me begin around before Ann Noble came up with her Aroma Wheel®. As a professional wine writer for 20-25 years, it has always been something of a challenge to come up with descriptions that would make 19nn Winery X Napa Valley Chardonnay read/sound different from Winery Y's Napa Valley Chardonnay of the same vintage. Tasting them side-by-side, yes there is a difference, but how to communicate those subtle differences to people reading a newspaper column, or a magazine article (or my weekly radio show) in a meaningful way -- that's the challenge. I wasn't writing for winemakers or professionals (though I know my articles were read by hundreds of wine professionals on both sides of the Atlantic). The prime audience for my writings were either casual readers of a daily newspaper who paused at the wine column, or people (from novice and beginner to avid-but-amateur collector) who were "into" wine enough to seek out, perhaps subscribe, to a monthly or bi-monthly magazine. And, recall, this was 1974-1997 or so, mostly BEFORE the Speculator became a lifestyle magazine . . . .

                                                                The point of all this background is to re-emphasize the fact that describing a wine as having "the aroma of freshly picked quince" ONLY makes sense to the reader if they have had freshly picked quince . . . otherwise, I might as well be speaking in Martian.

                                                                YOU, Maria, are far from the average consumer. You -- unlike some here -- may indeed know more than 99.9 percent . . . and were I (for example) presenting descriptions/tasting notes at a seminar of winemakers, I would definitely (at least) strive for as much specificity as I could muster. But in writing for the John & Jane Public, painting "word pictures" that are understandable is the best I can hope to do.

                                                                Think The Beatles versus John Cage or Karl Stockhausen. ;^)

                                                                1. re: zin1953

                                                                  With everyone, I want to hear something from their inner world of perception.

                                                                  But when I'm the one sharing, when I write or teach, in order to do a good job -- to connect and to be useful -- I have to calibrate what I share to my audience. Which runs the gamut from beginner to enthusiast to chem-geek to wine-pro/winemaker.

                                                                  I think you said much the same thing.

                                                                  P.S.: John Cage taught my class on Post-Modern Performance.

                                                              2. re: zin1953

                                                                "Even with some faults and flaws . . . in recent discussions elsewhere on this board, I've admitted that low levels of VA don't bother me as much as some other tasters; so, too, with the low levels of Brett. And yet I readily admit that VA is a flaw, and so,too, Brett. But are we really ready to say that half the wines in the Southern Rhône and the Languedoc should be poured down the drain? Some, sure -- I'll help; but others? Hey, I love that CdP -- and I'm gonna drink it -- in spite of its Brett! ;^) "

                                                                Yep, totally agree. Unless it's just rank.

                                                                I don't mind the bacon-sausage-y Brett, the 4-EG strain. It's great to pair with food -- goes with so many different dishes. I can abide small amounts of barnyard/leather Brett, if I have robust food to smooth it over, but more than a little, and it's "no thanks.".

                                                                Volatile acidity, a little bit is OK, especially with food. More than a little bit, there's a "bite" to it. The problem with VA is that it just draws other flaws to it, and creates bigger flaws, so I can sometimes taste those coming. And VA loves hanging out with ethyl acetate, nail polish remover.

                                                                1. re: zin1953

                                                                  Quoting Ricardo:
                                                                  "when collioure1 suggested he preferred 'feminine' wines, I knew enough of what he meant to quickly note that Coudert's Fleurie did not fit he category. I bet you did, too."

                                                                  Sure, I understood. But that statement, to me, wasn't about gender; it was instead about sorting out the motley cast of characters in a Beaujoalis AOC that's characterized as feminine but actually defies characterization.

                                                                  Coudert's Fleurie, labeled Christal, DOES fit the category -- it IS a true Fleurie. It is feminine, a delicious berry quaffer easy to toss back, not Cru in strength but still greater than Nouveau, somewhere in-between. The Coudert wine Ricardo meant to say (and corrected himself) isn't true-to-type to Fleurie because it's masculine isn't even labeled Fleurie but instead Clos de la Roilette Tardive or the more powerful yet Roilette Griffe du Marquis. Then, also in the Fleurie AOC are other masculine wines not true-to-type, les vins de garde, the powerful wines of a selected vintage. So, are Fleurie AOC wines feminine? Sometimes, but not as a whole.

                                                            2. re: maria lorraine

                                                              All wine descriptors are vague, subjective, and ultimately lacking. Someone once said writing about music is like dancing about architecture. I'd only add that the characteristics of wine are perhaps even less amenable to prose.

                                                              That said, when collioure1 suggested he preferred "feminine" wines, I knew enough of what he meant to quickly note that Coudert's Fleurie did not fit the category. I bet you did, too.

                                                              My definition of "masculine" above was - I hope - clearly hyperbolic, expressed in the least PC terms I could manage. For my next trick, I shall opine on the gender connotations of Rosé...

                                                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                  Exactly. I don't think we disagree that when either term is given context (region, grape variety, etc), it has quite a clear meaning.

                                                                  Of course, this presupposes some experience or knowledge with respect to that context, but that is communicating at a particular level / audience. That shortcoming, insofar as it is one, is not one of sexism.

                                                            3. re: maria lorraine

                                                              From Wine Spectator's glossary:

                                                              Feminine: Describes wines with qualities such as smoothness, roundness, gentleness, finesse, elegance and delicacy. Usage of "feminine" is in decline in favor of these more specific terms.

                                                              Masculine: Describes wines with firmness, power and strength.

                                                              http://www.winespectator.com/glossary...

                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                Oh, I agree with these. But as mentioned earlier, we don't know if power means high ABV or fruit intensity or big oak or muscular. Feminine is pretty specific here, but most defintions include floral aromas and more sensory descriptions.

                                                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                  FWIW -- and please understand, I am in no way trying to argue; this is a friendly discussion -- I have NEVER used "power" to describe high alcohol. If the alcohol shows, it's "high alcohol," and depending upon its sensory effect, perhaps "hot" in either the mid-palate or finish. If you don't notice the alcohol, except on the label, then it's worth mentioning only for the fact the alcohol does not seem as high as it appears.

                                                                  The same holds true for fruit intensity ("gobs of hedonistic fruit"?). It's either got ripe fruit, jammy fruit, cooked fruit (not a good thing), or "fruit compote" (used as a positive descriptor for a different fruit quality than fresh or jam). Occasionally I will use "baked apple" rather than "compote," which I associate more with stone fruits.

                                                                  As I mentioned above, "big oak" is subjective and in the "palate of the beholder," so to speak. There's a fine line between "oak" and "big oak," and another one between "big oak" and "over-oaked." But I cannot think of a time I described a wine with "big oak" as "powerful."

                                                                  Now, I am sure that I have used the word "power" in describing a wine that was "muscular." Then again, I've probably also used to term "masculine" to describe a wine that was "muscular." And -- let's face it -- how specific is the definition of "muscular" and how is that different than the work "masculine"?

                                                                  Cheers,
                                                                  Jason

                                                        2. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                                                          Great suggestions. As a die-hard Cru Beaujolais lover, these names plus Jean-Paul Thevenet (Morgon) and his son (who makes a great Regnie) are a must.

                                                          1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                                                            <It's kinda presumptious of me, but Duboeuf? No likey Foillard, Lapierre, Coudert, Brun, Chermettes, Burgaud? There's amazing wine coming out of Beaujolais, but I haven't tasted any with Georges' name on it!>

                                                            Seems Old Georges has more than one level of wine. Unless you shop at Sherry-Lehmann in New York, you won't find the better stuff in the US. OTOH, his son-in-law, Jean-Paul Lacombe, features the good Duboeuf wines in his brasserie and bistros in Lyon. And they are really delicious. And very affordable.

                                                            1. re: ChefJune

                                                              Do you recall how these wines are designated? I've had the Domaine Jean Descombes Morgon which is sold here under the Duboeuf banner. I don't think this what you mean because, you know... yuk! Really overextracted and oaky and not in that age-able, balanced sense like Jadot's Chateau des Jacques Moulin-a-Vent.

                                                              But basically if it's US stocked Duboeuf (stuff the Deutsch Family brings in), avoid?

                                                              1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                                                                Duboeuf has ALWAYS had multiple "levels" of wine. The "flower label" bottlings have always been weak, IMHO, and they featured that 71B yeast that made everything smell like bananas.

                                                                But there have *also* always been the estate bottlings -- such as the Domaine Jean Descombes Morgon BOTTLED by Duboeuf.

                                                                1. re: zin1953

                                                                  You surely have a finer palate than me.

                                                                  Occasionally I have taken the flower label bottlings when the domaine crus I wanted were not available. I've been ordering 3 wines x10 every year for 11 years now. I have found the flower label bottlings quite good. They usually bear gold labels too.

                                                                    1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                                                                      Absolutely -- my first choice in a widely-available négociant Beaujolais and.or Beaujolais-Vilages to recommend . . .

                                                                      1. re: zin1953

                                                                        Pardon me, but I do not buy Beaujolais or Beaujolais Villages.

                                                                        Now you aces have piqued my interest in a few of the very top domaine crus and my eye is already out for them.

                                                                        1. re: collioure1

                                                                          >>> Pardon me, but I do not buy Beaujolais or Beaujolais Villages. <<<

                                                                          Well, to quote Steve Martin . . . .

                                                                          /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

                                                                          Personally, I don't find Beaujolais/Beaujolais-Villages to be interchangeable with the Crus de Beaujolais. That is, for the lack of a better term, I find the Crus to be far more "serious" than a straight Beaujolais. That said, some producers of Beaujolais-Villages make more "serious" wines than others . . .

                                                                          Aside from Domaines Jean Descombes and Jean-Paul Thévenet, look for wines from Domaine Marcel Lapierre, Georges Descombes, Jean-Paul Brun, Jean Foillard, Château Thivin, Louis-Claude Desvignes, Dominique Piron, among others.

                                                                          And if you ever want to try a more "serious" a/c Beaujolais, look for the Beaujolais from Paul Durdilly. A more "fun" a/c Beaujolais comes from the Sambardier family's Domaine Manoir de Carra in Denicé.

                                                                          1. re: zin1953

                                                                            I don't find them interchangeable at all and I distinguish between the crus.

                                                                            But I'll keep my eyes peeled for those names. NB: I do not buy and age Moulin-a-Vent or Morgon.

                                              3. Bandol. It's the "puttanesca sauce" of wines. :o)

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Brad Ballinger

                                                  Rosé or red, please - if that was a serious suggestion.

                                                2. The original comment has been removed
                                                  1. High-acid white: Sancerre, Savennières, Vouvray.