Sunday, October 31, 2010

The WSET / ISG Challenge

Introducing something new at Blanc-de-Noir. In response to overwhelming demand by sommeliers in training, Frank’s compiled an extensive list of practice test questions, and he’s going to share them.

Now whether you’re studying for you Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) rating, or you’re an International Sommelier Guild (ISG) student, or you simply can’t resist a good

challenge, we figure you’re going to love testing your wits and wine savvy against Frank’s sometimes easy, sometimes downright devious questions.

So here’s the scoop. Every Monday, we’ll post two practice questions – one easy, the other not so easy. These are the type of multiple choice you can expect when you write the exams, meaning you’ll get 24 hours to think, ponder, and decide. Tuesdays, we’ll post the answers. Coming soon, we’ll also be offering special bonus packages of 50 questions per month to people who subscribe to Blanc-de-Noir.

Thursday or Friday, sometimes both days, we’ll also add a regular post so you can keep updated on all the cool wine events we’re attending, as well as find out more about our favourite new discoveries and industry updates.

Here comes our first challenge… should you wish to accept it.

1. The classic region for Chenin Blanc is:

a. Burgundy

b. Loire Valley

c. Alsace

d. Germany

2. In South Africa, Chenin Blanc is known as:

a. Pinotage

b. Steen

c. Cape Riesling

d. Crouchen Blanc

Let us know how you do. Answers will be posted Tuesday.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Frank Finds Scotch Whiskey and Chocolate

I must admit that as a regular Scotch drinker, pairing Scotch with chocolate isn’t something I’ve ever thought about. I love Scotch and chocolate. But matching the two together simply never occurred to me.

So when the West Coast Chocolate Festival put on such a pairing, I had to
check it out. Marcus Von Albrecht supplied the Scotches, Heather Rondeau from XOXOLAT took on the challenge of pairing them with chocolate.

The first Scotch was a Finlaggan Old Reserve (40% ABV). Very pungent, full bodied, and smoky with a nice long finish. It had a slight background taste of chocolate, but earthy. This was matched with an Amano 70% single origin chocolate. A Venezuelan criollo with some cherry, it had some smoky, burnt taste that went well with the Scotch.

Second was an Ileach Peaty (40%ABV). The word “peaty” was accurate — go out into the bog, grab some peat, shove it in a glass, and you pretty much have it. There was also a light, oaky finish with an oily bit late on the palate. The chocolate was XOXOLAT’s 75% with blueberry bits — very smooth as the supplied tasting notes implied. Forrastero beans supplied some earthy notes, and the blueberries worked surprisingly well with the Scotch.

Next on the agenda was a 10-year-old Tantalian (40%ABV). Light oak taste perhaps from bourbon barrels. Cloves and other spicy notes accentuated the long, textured semi-creamy finish. Paired with Cardamom Crème Brulee in a dark chocolate heart, this match was the best of the evening. Spice with spice — perfect.

Next was, for me, the dram of the evening. Caol Ilia 29-year-old (46%ABV). Smoke, sage, vanilla, sweet spice, citrus, and a very, very long finish. A truly remarkable Scotch, this one is coming up for sale in November — get a bottle or two if you can. The nose isn’t as good as what hits your palate, but hit your palate is what is does. Extremely well balanced. The chocolate match here didn’t have much of a chance, though it tried. Amano Madagascar 70% Single Origin by Amano: criollo beans with citrus and raspberry. It worked, sort of, but the Caol Ilia was just too much for the chocolate.

The final paring of the evening was quite remarkable. Ten-year-old Laphroaig. This was a private bottling of only 700 hundred bottles and a product we no longer get in our market — which makes me want to cry. So it was wonderful tasting this favourite again. All sea salt, iodine, and peat, this is an Islay through and through — a big, huge peat monster that kicks you. The most intense of all whiskeys and one I really miss. The Laphroaig Quarter Cask we have in this market just doesn’t do it. I was thinking there was no chocolate that could work with this one, but Heather proved me wrong. She matched it with a tripled-smoked maple-caramelized bacon with some espresso in a dark milk chocolate. It stood up well and matched the peat monster.

So yes, I discovered, you can match chocolate and Scotch — although some pairings work better than others. Congratulations to Marcus and Heather who both did a great job. The West Coast Chocolate Festival runs in Vancouver till November 10, 2010. Check it out.