Extraordinary Art and Wines at Castello di Ama in Chianti Classico, Italy

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Marco Pallanti the Santa Maria Al Prato Convent in Radda in Chianti

Following the 2011 European Wine Bloggers Conference in Brescia, I spent 3 days in a beautiful and exciting location: In the Chianti Classico region in Tuscany, at the invitation of the Chianti Classico Consortium. We visited several wineries and tasted perhaps as many as 70 different wines from Chianti Classico producers, both big and small.

While in Tuscany, I dined and wined (1) with the Chianti Classico Wine Consortium at the Santa Maria Al Prato Convent in Radda in Chianti, at (2) Badia al Coltibuono, at (3) Castello di Brolio, where Bettino Ricasoli came up with the original Chianti Classico blend, at (4) Castello di Ama, where we saw an amazing Contemporary Art Collection, at (5) Vignemaggio, where Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was borne, at (6) Dario Cecchini’s Solo Cicca Restaurant in Panzano and (7) at Caparasa, with Chianti Classico niche wine producer Paolo Cianferoni.

The couple of hours we spent at Castello di Ama were very special in so far as the focus of the winery visit was on the fantastic art collection of the winery, while the Castillo di Ama wines took a back seat. We also were able to get a glimpse of the vino santo production process. I had met the winemaker and co-owner of Castello di Ama, Marco Pallanti, right at the beginning of the Chianti Classico trip as he received us in his capacity of Chairman of the Chianti Classico Consortium.

Sienna, Florence and Chianti Classico

The Chianti Classico region covers an area of approximate 100 square miles between the city of Florence in the north and the city of Siena in the south.

Historically, the Chianti Classico zone is where the production of Chianti started. In 1716, Cosimo III de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, issued an edict legislating that the 3 villages of the Lega del Chianti, the village of Greve and a 2 mile hillside north of Greve as the only officially recognized producers of Chianti. This delineation existed until the 1930s when the Italian Government expanded the zone. Subsequent expansions throughout the twentieth century would bring the Chianti zone to cover almost all of Tuscany. The original zone of the edict of Cosimo III de’ Medici would eventually be considered the heart of the Chianti Classico region.

Pictures: Castello di Ama in Tuscany

The Chianti Classico zone is a truly unending source of culture, scenery, architecture, gastronomy and wines. Here lie the lines of defense of the two Republics, Siena and Florence, which have scowled at each other through its woods and vineyards for centuries. Interspersed with the countryside are castles: some are still occupied by the noble families whose ancestors built them in the feudal middle ages; others – ruined, perhaps in battle centuries ago, and abandoned – still dominate their hilltops with proud arrogance. There are numerous hill towns and hamlets, villas and farmhouses, guarded by sentinel cypresses, by people who may make their living tending the vineyards, or have already made more than a living and have retired to beautiful old houses. Be aware that the British, German, Dutch, Swiss, French and Hong Kong have bought up much of the Tuscan landscape. They too have become wine makers with a vengeance.

Sangiovese – the Soul of Chianti

Sangiovese is the signature grape of Chianti. It is the soul of Chianti wine. The Sangiovese grape, like the Pinot Noir, is not an easy grape variety, but has the potential of producing world class wines.

Pictures: Wine Cellar and Vineyards of Castello di Ama

Since 2006, the use of white grape varieties such as Malvasia and Trebbiano has been prohibited in Chianti Classico. The share of Sangiovese can range from 80% to up to 100%, with the remainder either other native red grapes, like Canaiolo and Colorino, or international varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Wines that do not comply with these rules – of which we tasted a number during the trip – cannot be sold as Chianti Classico, though produced in the same area.

Castello di Ama

Castello di Ama is one of Tuscany’s pre-eminent wine estates, located in Ama, which is a small hamlet nestled among gentle hills, in the commune of Gaiole in Chianti, located 15 miles northeast of Siena. Castello di Ama currently comprises some 250 hectares, of which 90 are in vines and 40 in olives trees. Annual production – exclusively from the estate vineyards – amounts to about 300-350,000 bottles.

Pictures: Ama

Castello di Ama is owned and managed by wine maker Marco Pallanti and his wife Lorenza Sebasti Pallanti.

Lorenza’s parents, jointly with 3 other families, bought Ama in 1972. When Lorenza’s family bought the property, it did not look as good. Ama, then owned by absentee landlords in Siena, was left in neglect. The 4 families bought the place because they liked it, for a very good price. Then, they recognized that there was an opportunity to restart a great wine tradition and hired Marco Pallanti, who came on board in 1982.

Marco Pallanti 

Marco grew up in Florence, where he studied agricultural engineering. He started at Castello di Ama as winemaker right before the harvest in 1982. Lorenza began working at the winery six years later and became general manager in 1993. The couple now owns Ama together. Marco and Lorenza have 3 children.

Picture: Marco Pallanti

Over the years, Marco Pallanti has become one of the most respected wine makers in Tuscany. In 2003, he was Gambero Rosso’s Guida Vini d’Italia Oenologist of the Year. Since 2006, he has been President of the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico (see below).

Right from the beginning, Marco did extensive research with a view of introducing new training systems, improving clonal selection, and above all singling out the best vineyard plots for the traditional Sangiovese grapes as well as international grape varieties. Over the five years 1982-1987, some 50,000 vines were grafted over.

Another important area was looking for new methods of training the vines, all with the goal of improving fruit ripeness. In 1982, and for the first time in Italy, vines were grown with the foliage trained into V-shaped vertical canopies, known as the open lyre system, the result of trials in France for low-density vineyards.

Touring the Winery: Art and Wine

In 2000, Marco and Lorenza started the Castello di Ama for Contemporary Art project. Every year they have commissioned a modern artist from a different nation to come to Ama to design an installation. The piece must somehow integrate with the landscape or architecture of Ama itself, blending the modern and historic. Here are some of the art works which I found in particular interesting

2001 DANIEL BUREN Sulle vigne: punti di vista

French artist Daniel Buren built the wall of mirrors in 2001, placing a picture window–sized opening every few feet to allow people to look out onto the vineyards.

2003 KENDELL GEERS Revolution/Love

In 2003, South African artist Kendell Geers placed neon letters spelling NOITULOVER— “revolution” spelled backward—on the far wall of an ancient stone cellar underneath the house that is used as a barrel room.

2004: ANISH KAPOOR αίμα

One of the constants in the work of Anish Kapoor is the creation of openings on the crust of the world. Interestingly, whne you stand in fron tof it, the void inside that is perceived as surface.

2005: CHEN ZHEN La Lumière intérieur du corps humain

2006: CARLOS GARAICOA Yo no quiero ver más a mis vecinos

An installation of different walls by the Cuban artist Carlos Garaicoa.

2008: CRISTINA IGLESIAS Towards the Ground

A water fountain installation.

The Wine Portfolio

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico

A blend of 80% Sangiovese 12% Canaiolo, 8% Malvasia Nera and Merlot from 30-44 year old vines, aged for 12 month in 20% new French oak.

Al Poggio Toscana IGT

Castello di Ama’s only white wine is a blend of Chardonnay, originally planted in the early ’80s, and Pinot Grigio. Forty percent of the grapes were fermented in oak, 50% of which was new and 50% one-year-old; the rest was fermented in stainless steel tanks. After fermentation, 45% of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation.

Rosato

The terroir that yields Castello di Ama’s Rosé is the same that yields its Chianti Classico. The wine, 90% sangiovese and 10% Merlot, gains its considerable body from bleeding-off (saignée) lots that will produce Chianti Classico; for this reason, the resulting wine is closer to a young red wine than to a white. Excellent structure and good holding potential over time are its principal qualities.

Vigneto Bellavista, Chianti Classico

First released in 1978, Chianti Classico Vigneto Bellavista is a single-vineyard wine from clay-rich soils blending 80% Sangiovese 20% Malvasia Nera aged for 12 months in 50% new French oak and made only in exceptional years.

Vigneto La Casuccia Chianti Classico

Chianti Classico Vigneto La Casuccia is a single-vineyard blend of 80% Sangiovese 20% Merlot from an average 35 year old vines, aged in 50% new French oak; La Casuccia was first produced in 1985, the first wine to celebrate the nuptials of Sangiovese and Merlot in Chianti Classico. La Casuccia regularly produces the broadest, most international style of wine in the Castello di Ama stable.

l’Apparita Toscana IGT

L’Apparita became a cult wine right from its first vintage in 1985, and brought Castello di Ama to the attention of wine collectors throughout the world. An impressively-structured monovarietal Merlot, it is immediately recognizable for its truly extraordinary elegance. 100% Merlot from average 35 year-old vines aged for 12 months in 50% new French oak.

Il Chiuso Toscana IGT

A new wine, first released with the 2009 vintage. This is a fascinating, and very unusual, blend of older vine Pinot Noir and Sangiovese. 50% Pinot Noir planted in 1984, 50% Sangiovese.

Vin Santo

Vin Santo is a sweet wine made using the passito process whereby grapes are dried to concentrate the sugar and flavors.The grapes are hand harvested and carefully hung to dry in special nets in the drying room, the ‘fruttaio’. This drying process, called ‘appassimento’, gradually shrivels the grapes, concentrating the flavors and sugars. The grapes are checked daily for mold and rot, and dry until late the following year.

Pictures: Making Vin Santo at Castello di Ama

While Tuscany is not the only Italian region to make the passito dessert wine, Vin Santo (meaning “holy wine”), the Tuscan versions of the wine, are well regarded and sought for by wine consumers. The best-known version is from the Chianti Classico and is produced with a blend of Trebbiano and Malvasia Bianca. When we visited Castello di Ama, they were just in the process of taking down the dried grapes in order to start the fermentation process.

The grapes that produce this Vin Santo were selected from the best Malvasia Bianca and Trebbiano fruit from a total area of about 5 hectares in the Bellavista, Casuccia, and Bertinga vineyards. No more than 1-2 clusters per vine are suitable for producing this wine; such rigorous standards are necessary to ensure absolutely healthy, fully ripe grapes. Transportation in shallow boxes means that no grapes are broken open on their way to the drying-lofts.

The Wines we Tasted

During our visit the outstanding wines of Castello di Ama were a bit on the backburner. We tasted only 2 wines. The wines tasted were Castello di Ama Chianti Classico 2006 and Castello di Ama Chianti Classico 2007.

President of the Chianti Classico Consortium

We did not meet Marco Pallanti at Castello di Ama, but – at the beginning of our tour – in Radda in Chianti at the Santa Maria al Prato Convent. This is the future welcome center of the Chianti Classico Wine Consortium. Marco Pallanti is the current President of the Chianti Classico Wine Consortium and he received the group in this capacity at the Santa al Prato Convent.

Picture: Marco Pallanti and Silvia Fiorentini from the Chianti Classico Consortium

If a Chianti has a picture of a black rooster (gallo nero) on the neck of the bottle, the producer of the wine is a member of the Chinati Classico Consortium. Since 2005, the black rooster has been the emblem of the Chianti Classico Consortium. With more than 600 members, of whom approximately 350 are bottlers, the Chianti Classico Consortium now represents 95% of the entire denomination.

The Chianti Classico Consortium – the first of Italy’s grape-grower/winemaker consortia – was established in 1924, when a group of 33 producers gathered in Radda in Chianti to create a consortium to protect Chianti wine and its trademark of origin. A first important step in this direction was the 1932 ministerial decree that identified seven distinct zones of Chianti wine production: the wine made within Chianti’s geographical borders was permitted to use the adjective Classico to distinguish it from the others. This concession acknowledged the wine’s territoriality, origin and primogeniture well before the denomination system was introduced. From that moment on, Classico meant “the first” or “the original.” Another milestone was reached in 1967 with the approval of a decree recognizing a single Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) for Chianti, within which Classico was regulated as a wine with more selective characteristics. Finally, concluding a 70-year legal itinerary, a ministerial decree in 1996 gave Chianti Classico its own DOCG, with production regulations different from those for Chianti wine. Since then Chianti and Chianti Classico have been two separate denominations, with different regulations and production zones.

We appreciate the knowledge of wine expert, Christian Schiller. He really knows great wine. We want to share his knowledge with our audience. Here’s where you can learn more and buy Castello di Ama wines we offer.

Poggio Antico: A Feast for the Senses

This past holiday season was a bit of whirl wind for me. It was filled with great wine, fun tastings, dinners, friends and family. I took some time off from writing and just sat back and enjoyed it all. Now that the new year is here I would like to get back on track to sharing our wonderful wine experiences from last fall’s Italian vacation. You will recall that though we spent much of our time enjoying more tourist style activities we took a few days to visit a handful of outstanding Tuscan wineries. I shared with you our wonderful visits to Avignonesi in my article “Here Comes the Sun at Avignonesi Winery,” and our visit to Boscarelli in my article “Boscarelli: Quietly Crafting Outstanding Wine.” Both of these wineries are in Montepulciano, producing outstanding Vino Nobiles, IGTs, Vin Santos and more. Today we move to Montalcino, the land of Brunello, to wine and dine at Poggio Antico.

Poggio Antico: a combination of people, love for nature and passion for winemaking in the beautiful landscape of Tuscany.

Poggio Antico is a perineal award winning winery. The estate dates back to the early 19th century. The modern structure of vineyards and wine cellars were built in the 1970’s. In 1984 Giancarlo and Nuccia Gloder’s love for the winery and their wines led them to purchase it. Since 1987, Giancarlo and Nuccia’s daughter Paola and her husband Alberto have run Poggio Antico. The estate itself includes about 200 hectares of picturesque woods, fields, olive groves and vineyards. It is located at 450 meters above sea level, making it one of the highest elevations in Montalcino. This location is significant to their outstanding wines because the steady breeze at this altitude sweeps away the morning and evening fog, helps prevent early frosts, and dries the grapes quickly after rain. Furthermore, the south and southwest facing vineyards provides optimal sun exposure, guaranteeing optimal growing conditions. If that was not enough the soil in the area is calcareous and rocky, ensuring perfect draining.

My view at Poggio Antico

From the start our objective has been high quality, combined with a first class service and great attention to detail. Passion for nature, hard manual work in the vineyards, extremely low yields, modern technology in the cellar and a lot of patience come together to produce [our] wines.

My husband and I enjoyed an educational tour of Poggio Antico’s facility. After our tour we sampled these wines:
Rosso di Montalcino DOC 2013: 100% Sangiovese; light ruby; fresh ripe red berries and floral notes; fresh and light, warm, round on the palate with balanced acidity and soft tannins; medium body, pleasing finish; Poggio Antico only singles out grapes at harvest for their Riserva, therefore the grapes selected for the Rosso are the same quality as their Brunello and Altero.

18€

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2008: 100% Sangiovese; intense ruby; black berries, black cherries, licorice and spice notes; elegant structure, clean, well-balanced, round acidity, delicate tannins, beautifully refined and harmonious; 3 years aging in Slovenian oak casks, 1 year bottle aging.

39€

Altero Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2008: 100% Sangiovese; a modern approach to Brunello; concentrated ruby with scarlet highlights; cherry, black raspberry, spice notes; similar body to 08 Brunello but different flavor; very fruit forward but not juicy, rather elegant and understatedly sophisticated; perfect structure; aged for 2 years in 500-liter tonneaux of French oak followed by 2 more years of bottle aging; classy, modern, lovely.

42€

Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2006: 100% Sangiovese; only made from exceptional vintages; intense ruby with violet highlights; black berries, cherries, black raspberries, blueberries, spice notes; toasted cedar, espresso; velvet mouth-feel; rich structure due to round tannins and voluptuous yet integrated tannins; complex layered wine with a long, pleasing finish; first year of aging in 500-liter French tonneaux, remaining 2 ½ years of aging in new Slovenian oak barrels, finally bottle aged for an additional 1 ½ years before release. WOW!

57€

Madre IGT Toscana 2006: 50% Sangiovese, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon; garnet with violet highlights; black cherries, black berries, raspberries, pepper, spice notes, toasty leather, mocha; elegant, soft and smooth like silk on the palate; well-structured with round acidity and integrated tannins, fully, body, concentrated, long finish; varietals aged separately for 18 months in 500-liter French tonneaux followed by bottle blending then another year of aging before release.

33€

Lemartine IGT Toscana 2012: 50% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 25% Petite Verdot; rich notes of red and black wild berries, plums and pomegranates integrate with spice notes, espresso, floral notes, and black pepper; hearty and rich wine, well-structured, round acidity and persistent tannins result in a rich mouth-feel and lingering finish; varietals refined separately in French oak barriques for 8 months, blending in the bottle then aged another 4 months before release.

22€

Each of these wines were stunningly delicious and crafted of the highest quality! After we made a substantial purchase of wine to ship back to the US (yes, Poggio Antico ships direct to your house and great shipping rates), Poggio Antico set us up with a fabulous lunch at their highly sought after Ristorante di Poggio Antico. Our meal was relaxing and delicious. The setting was gorgeous, the staff was very friendly, attentive but not over-bearing, and the food was amazing. We chose to enjoy a bottle of the Poggio Antico 2010 Altero Brunello di Montalcino DOCG with our lunch. Seriously, who could pass up drinking all the 2010 Brunellos we could hold while in Italy! I chose the chef’s four course lunch. I did not write down the names of the dishes because I was in food heaven and just savoring each bite; however, you can see from the pictures lunch was incredible.

I cannot express enough how much my husband and I enjoyed our day at Poggio Antico. We arrived at 11am and left at 3pm! The staff was courteous and knowledgeable, the wines were truly first class, the food was outstanding and the property is simply beautiful. I strongly encourage you to visit the Poggio Antico web site to learn more about the winery and restaurant, view their entire portfolio of wines and order some for yourself. Furthermore, Poggio Antico award winning wines are also distributed throughout the US and Europe so ask your favorite local wine retailer about Poggio Antico.

My Song Selection: This beautiful song not only brings all the feelings and emotions  of Tuscany alive but exemplifies our full sensory experience at Poggio Antico. Enjoy!

Get your own bottles of Poggio Antico and let me know what song you pair with it. Cheers!

We appreciate the knowledge of wine expert Michelle Williams. She really knows great wine. We want to share her knowledge with our audience. Here’s where you can learn more and buy Poggio Antico wines we offer.

Il Palagio: The Message in the Bottle is Delicious

Celebrity wines are becoming quite numerous, and they are often met with a mixed response. When the celebrity attaches their persona to the wine consumers often flock to the wine, wanting to determine for themselves whether or not it is a good wine. Critics tend to receive the wine with much more skepticism, after all the top selling wines in the US are not receiving critic’s choice awards. However, like all rules there are exceptions. Tenuta Il Palagio, the Tuscan winery owned by Sting and his wife Trudy Styler, produces wines critics and consumers can enjoy.

Sting grew up around the shipyards of northern UK drinking beer. In fact The Australian shares Sting’s explanation to Wine Enthusiast Magazine in 2011, “I’m from the north of England so I drank beer from age 16 on and younger. I didn’t have a glass of wine until I was in my late 20s. I have a job in the winery — I go down and play to the wine. I practice down there. And you know, if I play it true, the wine is better.” Initially it is reported Sting did receive some criticism from critics as another celebrity trading on their status to make wine. However, rather than cave to the critics, Sting sought to prove them wrong.

Il Palagio Estate

Sting and Trudy purchased Il Palagio, a 16th century Tuscan estate, in 1999. At purchase the estate was in disrepair. They took time to restore the estate to its previous glory, while also purchasing neighboring land to expand the total hectares to 364. Initially they began selling olive oil and honey. The estate houses six cottages that beginning in 2013, are open to the public to rent for approximately $10K a week. As romantic as all of this sounds it is the wines that are the true success.

Il Palagio via it.luxuryestate.com

Sting brought in two important consultants to insure the quality of Il Palagio’s wine portfolio. Paolo Caciorgna is a notable Italian enologist and wine consultant. I have personally enjoyed some of the wines he has consulted on as well as his own portfolio of wines and speaking first hand I can say they are outstanding. Furthermore, having had the honor of meeting Paolo and tasting through his wines with him I can say he is a humble master of his craft. Sting also brought on American Alan York, who is a specialist in building biodynamic vineyards. The results are quality wines that stand on their own merit, regardless of their celebrity owners.

Wine is like a beautiful piece of music already written. An opera that the musician or the tenor has to perform. The notes are always the same, but the result is always different and often exciting. Every day I work to become a good interpreter of the grapes; grapes that with great care and sensibility are cultivated by using all the instruments, antique and modern, that allow me to express their quality.” ~ Paolo Caciorgna, Enologist

In 2016, Sting was named by Wine Spectator Magazine as one of Italy’s Top 100 Wine Producers. This put Sting among Italy’s most prestigious wineries including Antorini, Frescobaldi, Gaja, Vietti, and San Guido to name a few. The wine that received this recognition was the 2011 Il Palagio Sister Moon IGT. This level of recognition removes Sting and Trudy’s wines from the “celebrities who make wine” category, and places them in the “Italian wines you must try” category.

http://www.winespectator.com

“When I say, ‘Try my wine,’ people look at me quizzically. Sure, I’ll try your rock star wine. Then they taste it and recognize its good,” Sting told the website Cool Hunting in 2014, via The Australian

There are two wonderful reasons I was able to try Il Palagio wines. One reason is my dear friend, winemaker, and highly successful wine shop owner (Enoteca Pontevecchio in Florence), Tony Sasa. The second reason is my dear friend, and the one and only Dallas Wine Chick, Melanie Ofenloch. I was working on a wine project with Tony, as part of that project I introduced him to Melanie. Tony works with Sting on the marketing and distribution of Il Palagio in the US. Tony sent the wines to Melanie, she and I tasted through them together.

2014 Tenuta Il Palagio Casino Delle Vie IGT Tuscany Italy ($22): Predominately Sangiovese blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc; medium ruby; medium+ aromas of freshly picked red and black berries, dried herbs and roses, medicinal notes, dusty earth, oregano, licorice; elegantly restrained with juicy fruit balanced with depth of earth on the palate, medium acidity and tannins, medium body with a pleasant lift off the palate creating a juicy finish; I am totally thinking mushroom risotto with this wine. Named after a property on the Il Palagio estate, when translated the name means “little house by the roads,” but colloquially it can also mean “the muddling of the ways,” a philosophical suggestion of the paths we all take in life.

2014 Tenuta Il Palagio Sister Moon IGT Tuscany Italy ($44): Blend of 40% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot; medium ruby; medium aromas of baked black cherries, blackberries, black raspberries, and plums, black pepper, dried floral notes, baking spice, cocoa, licorice, graphite, and dusty earth volcanic in nature; tension on palate between elegance and rustic nature, lots of depth and texture, medium+ acidity and tannins that are driven by minerality, fuller in body with a long finish; this wine begs for wild boar or rabbit ragu. This wine is named after Sting’s song Sister Moon, it was the first IGT wine produced by Il Palagio and the 2011 vintage was named one of Wine Spectator Magazine’s Top 100 Wines of the Year.

2015 Tenuta Il Palagio When We Dance DOCG Chianti Italy ($14): Predominately Sangiovese with 5% Canaiolo and Colorino; medium+ ruby; medium aromas of ripe red and black fruit, roses, lavender, eucalyptus, dried herbs, medicinal notes, graphite; this everyday sipper lands right in the middle of the previous two wines, elegantly refined, bright on the palate with a nice lift, medium acidity and tannins, highly approachable, smooth and balanced, incredible value; pair with classic Chianti cuisine such as venison meatloaf and ravioli. This charming everyday wine is named after Sting’s song When We Dance. Look at the label and tell me how could you not buy this wine?

Overall I must admit I was not really expecting much from these wines. I had read the Wine Spectator feature on Il Palagio, Sting and Trudy so I knew they liked the wines, but I don’t pay much attention to celebrity wines. I am now completely sold! So sold I will gladly buy these wines for myself and share them with friends. They each taste way beyond their price point, delivering high quality Italian wines. They are also fairly easy to find at larger wine retailers and online. I encourage you to seek out Il Palagio wines, give them a try, and let me know what you think.

My Song Selection: Il Palagio also makes a “Message in the Bottle” wine that I have not tried. Seems like the perfect song to pair since the message in these bottles is delicious!

Get your own Tenuta Il Palagio wines and let me know what song you pair with them. Cheers!

We appreciate the knowledge of wine expert, Michelle Williams. She really knows great wine and we want to share her knowledge with our audience. Here’s where you can learn more and buy Il Palagio wines that we offer.

The Birthplace of Moscato d’Asti: Wandering the Underground “Cathedrals”

As we descended further and further into the cavernous dwellings, it felt as if we entered another universe, an underworld of serenity that majestically displayed an untold number of  bottles and barrels of wine. Further along, I felt the temperature drop – I started to put my light jacket on as I gazed up at the arches in the ceiling, formed by bricks. I wandered off from our tour here and there, and followed the glow of lights that led me to wondrously large format bottles that were comfortably evolving in this heavenly subterranean dwelling… all of the various tunnels beckoned me to discover the delightful libations aging at the end of each path. I was in the land of Canelli, a place were Moscato grapes have been grown since the 13th century, and explored the Coppo cellars that carry the prestigious subzone “Canelli” on their Moscato d’Asti DOCG wine.

Coppo

Coppo winery has been around since 1892, and the Coppo family has remained sole owners since that time, making them one of the oldest family-run wineries in all of Italy. We were guided by the founder’s great-grandson, Luigi Coppo, who spoke with great reverence of the historical accomplishments of the previous generations. One of the many Coppo achievements is their “Underground Cathedrals”… cellars that have such distinct architectural allure that they have been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Barbera

Although we were there to delve into the special qualities of Moscato d’Asti from Canelli, in the area of Asti, Piedmont(Piemonte), Italy, we could not visit Coppo without tasting their famous Barbera d’Asti wines. Luigi’s father and three uncles run the winery and were truly visionaries when it came to taking the grape variety Barbera more seriously; they sought out single vineyards that expressed the different facets of the Asti area as well as employed modern vinification techniques that displayed the structure and intricacy of this famous Piemontese grape. Their work was ultimately expressed in their outstanding Barbera d’Asti Pomorosso, in 1984, which ushered in a new era of high quality Barbera production in the area.

Moscato d’Asti in Canelli

Because of the focus on their well-heralded Barbera d’Asti wines, it is easy to forget Coppo’s importance when it comes to shaping the Moscato d’Asti and Italian sparkling world. It was in Canelli in the 1800s when Coppo made the first Italian sparkling (spumante) wines that were made with secondary bottle fermentation. Although Moscato d’Asti is made in its own unique way that highlights its varietal characteristics, it illustrates Coppo’s long experience and devotion to finding the right sparkling techniques for different styles of wines. Their Moscato d’Asti semi-sparkling (frizzante) has that creamy texture that is ideally sought from a Canelli Moscato.

After walking through their extensive “Underground Cathedrals” – 16,400 square feet (5000 square meters), reaching a depth of 130 feet (40 meters) – we ended up emerging into their enchanting courtyard, greeted with a bottle of their Moncalvina Moscato d’Asti. It was the perfect drink to have after such a celestial experience. As I sat there thinking about Luigi’s role within his family winery, a family that already has four strong-minded men running it, I could not help but be impressed by his emotional intelligence. He had a way of making each person, no matter their personality, feel at home and valued. Despite the intense pressure he felt being the spokesperson for his family’s astounding wine legacy, he still kept things fun and playful. Like their Moscato d’Asti, Luigi is complex and has many layers, yet he never loses sight that the most important thing about wine is that it connects people from all over the world and creates experiences that we will never forget.

Tasting at Coppo on August 31st, 2017

– 2016 Coppo, “Moncalvina”, Moscato d’Asti DOCG, subzone Canelli, Piedmont, Italy100% Moscato Bianco. Low alcohol (4.8% abv) with 136 g/l residual sugar and semi-sparkling (frizzante) by the Asti method. Peach jam with a touch of rose water and a lush body with a slight hint of white stones on the finish.

– 2016 Coppo, “L’Avvocata”, Barbera d’Asti DOCG, Piedmont, Italy100% Barbera. This wine offers great value (around $13) and expresses Barbera in its fun and easy form as it only sees stainless steel vessels in the winery. It has a pretty cherry blossom nose with fresh strawberries and mouthwatering acidity on the finish.

– 2015 Coppo, “Camp du Rouss”, Barbera d’Asti DOCG, Piedmont, Italy100% Barbera. For only a couple dollars more, this Camp du Rouss offers more complexity, with stricter grape selection and 12 months aging in French oak barrels. The bright red fruit is still evident, yet enhanced by cinnamon spice and tobacco leaf with more weight on the palate.

– 2014 Coppo, “Pomorosso”, Barbera d’Asti DOCG, Piedmont, Italy100% Barbera. This label celebrates the 20th anniversary of the creation of this wine that was instrumental in changing the perception of Barbera. Extremely strict selection of grapes from one of their top vineyards, where an apple tree grows (hence the name), with 14 months aging in French oak barrels, although it is the profound sense of place that makes this wine stand apart from the rest. Sweet blackberry jam and floral notes are dominated by a fierce minerality that gives this wine an elegant drive.

 2000 Coppo, “Pomorosso”, Barbera d’Asti DOCG, Piedmont, Italy100% Barbera. It was a nice treat to see a Pomorosso with a lot more age to exhibit its ability to improve with time. Truffle-y goodness was the first aroma to waft into my head, followed by cigar box and roasted nuts. It still had plenty of fruit, with more noted on the palate, and a vigorous finish.

About Cathrine Todd

Celebrating Wine, Life and Inspiring Colorful People in New York City and Beyond!

We appreciate the knowledge of wine expert, Cathrine Todd. She really knows great wine. We want to share her knowledge with our audience. Here’s where you can learn more and buy Coppo wines we offer:

Visit and Tasting: Maison Joseph Drouhin in Beaune – Bourgogne (and Champagne)

Tasting at Maison Joseph Drouhin in Beaune

We visited Maison Joseph Drouhin, right in the center of Beaune, and had a tasting comprising 6 wines.

Maison Joseph Drouhin

Originally from the Yonne department, Joseph Drouhin founded the négociant company which bears his name in 1880. His son Maurice took over in 1918, buying the first vineyards including the famous Beaune Clos des Mouches. Maurice Drouhin was a significant personality in Beaune, sitting on the INAO committee and acting as Deputy Administrator of the Hospices de Beaune, including during the troubled period of World War II.

His successor was his nephew and adopted heir Robert Jeausset-Drouhin who took charge in 1957.

Today, the fourth generation is at the helm. Robert Jeausset-Drouhin Drouhin now retains a surveillance role while his children Frédéric (managing director), Laurent (export markets), Philippe (vineyards) and Véronique (oenology and Domaine Drouhin Oregon) run the business.

At Maison Joseph Drouhin

With its 73 hectares, the Joseph Drouhin Domaine is one of the largest estates in the region. It owns vineyards all over Burgundy: Chablis (38 hectares), Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune, (32 hectares), Côte Chalonnaise (3 hectares). It is comprised of a majority of Premier and Grand Crus. With close to 90 different appellations, Joseph Drouhin offers a fascinating array of Burgundy terroirs.

Twenty years after Philippe Drouhin first began introducing organic practices, Maison Joseph Drouhin was awarded organic certification for all vineyards it owns, beginning with the 2009 vintage.

Long-time oenologist Laurence Jobard, engaged by Robert Drouhin in 1973, retired after the 2005 vintage and was replaced by Jérome Faure-Brac, a trained oenologist previously with Bichot, while Véronique Drouhin remains on hand to provide continuity of style.

A balance of tradition and modern techniques characterizes Maison Joseph Drouhin’s winemaking and vineyard management: on site nursery, plowing, leaf removal, 100% hand harvesting, open fermenters, fermenting and aging in oak.

The red wines are pre-macerated at 13-15º Celsius, with a very light punching down at the start followed by alternating punching down and pumping over, depending also on the needs of the vintage. The aim is to privilege the fruit in the wine, and to this end bottling is earlier than for most producers.

Tour 

We enjoyed a guided tour through Beaune’s most ancient cellars followed by the tasting of 6 emblematic wines from Maison Joseph Drouhin.

At 1 Cour du Parlement de Bourgogne, the Maison Joseph Drouhin cellars are located right in the heart of Beaune.

These historic cellars cover approximately 1 hectare beneath the historic center of Beaune between the Hospice de Beaune and Notre-dame Church. These aren’t just ordinary cellars mind you; they have a bit of age on them. Once part of the original cellars of the Duke of Burgundy’s Parliament, they date back to the 13th century.

The Drouhin cellars read like a history book, with many architectural elements dating back to the 10th century. You’ll get a peek at a wine press from 1570 (still used to press grapes on occasion); and the Liberty Door through which Maurice Drouhin escaped from the Gestapo during World War II. Even the tasting room is walled in history –partially composed of an ancient Roman wall.

Of course you won’t be the first visitor to grace these cellars. America’s favorite oenophile, Thomas Jefferson, is said to have toured these finely mold covered spaces during his travels in France.

Tasting

We tasted 6 wines.

2011 Maison Joseph Drouhin Chablis Premier Cru
2009 Maison Joseph Drouhin Chassagne-Montrachet
2011 Maison Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru
2012 Maison Joseph Drouhin Côte de Beaune 
2008 Maison Joseph Drouhin Nuits-Saint-Georges Damodes Premier Cru
1996 Maison Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos de Mouches

About Dr. Christian G.E. Schiller

I live in the greater Washington DC (US) and Frankfurt am Main (Germany) areas and write about wine. I am a member of the FIJEV (International Federation of Wine and Spirits Journalists and Writers). Before starting to write about wine in 2009, I was for almost 30 years an economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF). I am currently in Washington DC.

We really appreciate the knowledge of wine expert, Dr. Christian G.E. Schiller. He really knows great wine. We want to share his knowledge with our audience. Here’s where you can learn more and buy Drouhin wines we offer.

Château de Berne Estate Rosés!

I recently had the pleasure of tasting some incredible Château de Berne Rosés! This winery is a leading producer of high quality, dry rosés from Provence, France. Located in Lorgues, which is nearly 25 miles from the Mediterranean sea, this estate dates back to the 12th century. The winery is committed to producing authentic rosés and sharing them in the context of the Provençal way of life!

The estate underwent renovations in 1995 and was transformed into an outstanding wine tourism destination you can visit, taste at, and explore. Today, Château de Berne is a five-star Relais & Châteaux property, offering luxurious hotel rooms, a Michelin-starred restaurant Le Jardin de Benjamin, a spa, cooking school and 330 acres of vineyards. If you’re into food, wine, agritourism, and spas… this is the place for you!

In NYC, I was able to taste through the lineup and it’s fantastic! The Château de Berne Emotion 2017 is young and lively with refreshing notes of rose petal, strawberry, and minerality. The influence from the Mediterranean is noticeable and is balanced with the notes of the mineral clay and limestone in the soils. This wine has nice freshness from the Grenache, with a nice balance from the Cinsault and Syrah grapes. The 2017 Emotion is absolutely delicious with watermelon and grapefruit, and pairs nicely with cheeses. $16. 

What first attracted me to these rosés was the bottles! Each bottle is uniquely different and stylish, making it a great gift as well as an even better tasting wine. I had the pleasure of trying three rosés which were all beautiful. Another rosé that struck my interest was the Château de Berne, 2017 Castle of Berne, Côtes de Provence. Made from Black Grenache and Cinsault grapes, this wine is a striking salmon color with an intense nose of red berries, stone fruit, and citrus which follows through to the palate. $39.99

“The Mediterranean climate with a continental influence of the Château de Berne offers the vineyard a particularly favorable environment for growing vines. The cool nights of the Haut Var ensure a slow and optimal ripening of the grapes, so the harvest is later than on the coast. If the rosés are slowly maturing, structured wines with a certain holding are particularly suited to the food and wine pairing of contemporary cuisine.” – Boutiquevins.chateauberne.com. 

Other favorites in the lineup include The 2017 Inspiration, as well as 2017 Urban Provence. Both of these wines come in at around $19-22.00 and make the perfect summer sipping wine. These wines make the perfect gift to bring to backyard parties, summer soirees, rooftops, and more! The beautiful bottles make them a showstopper and conversation piece, but the wine and memories are what everyone will remember the most!

Be sure to grab the lineup, which can be found in wine stores and online. These wines are ideal for seafood, tapas, cheeses and charcuterie, summer salads, and so much more (including bbq!). Eat what you like and drink what you love… please pair responsibly!

About Sara Lehman

Sommelier, Private Chef, & Food and Wine Pairing Expert in NYC! Sara is a Wine Writer, Wine Ambassador, and Wine Consultant specializing in pairings, parties, entertaining and education.

We appreciate the knowledge of wine expert, Sara Lehman. She really knows great wine. We want to share her knowledge with our audience. Here’s where you can learn more and buy Chateau de Berne wines we offer:

Exploring The Wines Of Dürnberg

Dürnberg’s Matthias Marchesani brings his fascinating range of Austrian wines to Toronto for an informal tasting at The Vintage Conservatory.

While it would be fair criticism to say that almost every other week seems to be Austrian Wine Week at Good Food Revolution, there’s very good reason for our continual coverage of the wines from this part of the world. We feel that Austria is currently producing some of the very best value AND premium wines right now, and we just wish that the general wine-drinking populace had more exposure to so many of these excellent bottles.

Case in point, Dürnberg, a producer from Austria’s beautiful and much-underrated Weinviertel region. Having previously recommended their Rabenstein Grüner Veltliner, this time we sit down with Dürnberg’s Matthias Marchesani to find out a little more about what they get up to up there in northeastern Austria.

We highly recommend that you keep an eye out for more of this winery’s terrific wines.

About Jamie Drummond

Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he is certainly going to keep an eye on the future releases from Burrowing Owl… he would love to see more of these wines in the Canadian market.

We appreciate the knowledge of wine expert, Jamie Drummond. He really knows great wine. We want to share his knowledge with our audience. Here’s where you can learn more and buy Durnberg wines we offer:

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Nantucket Wine Festival 2017 – Bordeaux Luncheon

If you are ever around Nantucket in May, I highly recommend attending the Nantucket Wine and Food Festival. Last weekend I had the great fortune of being invited to join the weekend festivities. I can honestly say my high expectations were shattered – it was incredible. From the Harbor Gala, to the sit down luncheons and final Grand Tasting, the festival was as delicious as it was eye opening. My personal favorite was the Bordeaux luncheon, which highlighted everything I love about the Nantucket Wine Festival; of all the events, this is a must for true wine enthusiasts.

The food was absolutely first rate, and the wines that were served were from renowned Chateaux, with a focus on older vintages, all from outstanding years.  Each food course and its accompanying wine combined to accentuate the beauty of each. The pairings showed just how the right wine can improve the experience of food, and how the food can bring out subtleties in the wine that are not apparent when the wine is drunk unaccompanied.

The first two wines tasted were white Bordeaux, from Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte and Chateau Talbot, located about an hour away from one another on the Left Bank of the Gironde River. Despite being both delicious and complex, these wines couldn’t have been more different. Both wines are predominantly Sauvignon Blanc, but the difference comes from the varietals that the producers blend in. Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte blends in Sauvignon Gris, which adds more citrus, floral and mineral notes, while Chateau Talbot adds Semillon which adds a riper and tropical fruit flavor and is very aromatic as well.

Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc 2013 had a nose that reminded a bit of a Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, with zesty citrus and mineral aromas but also with a sweet caramel and hint of butterscotch scent. The palate was extremely clean and crisp with medium acidity and flavors of lemon, grapefruit, wet stone and a floral hint. In comparison, the Chateau Talbot Caillou Blanc 2015 had more rich and creamy aromas such as ripe peach and lemon curd. On the palate there was good acidity but it felt a bit more structured than, not as delicate as the Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte. Flavors of guava, peach and exotic tropical fruits awaken the fore-palate, while the lively and bright acidity hits you on the finish.

The wines were paired with a halibut crudo that was very bright and fresh like the wines. The acidity of both wines was smoothed out by the creaminess of the halibut and the acidity helped temper the sea flavors of the fish. The buttery creamy flavors of the fish and the mineral and exotic fruit notes of the wines blended beautifully together.

The next two wines we tasted were the 2005 Chateau Lynch-Bages and the 2006 Chateau Talbot. Despite being only nine minutes away from each other, both Chateaux produced immensely different wines due to the difference in vintage. 2005 was a particularly excellent vintage for Bordeaux and 2006 was looking like it was going to be the same, but right before harvest there was a lot of unexpected rainfall. Because of this, the 2006 grapes didn’t ripen as much at the end and this caused the wines to be what some people have described as more “masculine”, meaning big wines, with chewy tannins that need more time to round out and let the fruit come forward.  On the other hand, 2005 was a warm year throughout and did not have any late rain or weather problems, which allowed the grapes to ripen perfectly. This created a more delicate wine.  Nonetheless, it is a Bordeaux so it is still a big wine, but the tannins were more velvety and the fruit was present more on the fore-palate. The 2005 could age longer but is drinking beautifully now, especially after it has been double decanted for several hours.

The Talbot really blossomed when paired with the second course, duck caillette, which is essentially a duck sausage with foie gras mixed in; absolutely mouthwatering. Duck is a nice fatty meat to start with, but with the foie gras added it becomes almost overwhelmingly rich and creamy. Big wines like the 2006 Chateau Talbot pair very well with foods like this because the creaminess and fat in the food helps to soften the tannins, which in turn helps bring the flavors out in the wine. In my opinion, it was the perfect match.

The 2005 Chateau Lynch-Bages was more “feminine”, soft on entry, delicate and elegant with really nice earthy and fruit flavors. It went nicely with the duck dish, but was perfect on its own. I ended up drinking the Talbot while I ate the duck and drank the Lynch-Bages while I waited for the other wines and courses to come. The 2005 Chateau Lynch-Bages was my favorite wine of this event.

Course three was lamb two ways.  One was a confit with breadcrumbs on the outside and the other was a spiced piece of loin, and both were cooked beautifully. We had the 1998 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte and the 2001 Chateau Lynch-Bages with this course; both wines had great age on them but could still be held for several more years.

The 1998 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte was delicate and had light silky tannins with that delicious musky, earthy and meaty gaminess that comes through in a nicely aged Bordeaux. It was perfect for the lamb loin because it had really softened up and had soft tannins so it didn’t need much fat to round it out, and it went perfectly with the gamey flavor of the lamb.

On the other hand, the 2001 Chateau Lynch-Bages had a nice roundness to it, but its tannins were more structured.  The fat in the lamb confit helped to smooth out the tannins and accentuate the fruit and the earthy flavors of the wine. Unlike the 1998 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, the 2001 still featured a lot of fruit flavor and aromas and it also had a nice earthiness.

After experiencing the Nantucket Wine & Food Festival for the first time I would definitely say that these sit-down events are one of the best ways to experience complex wines. You are given the chance to taste wines from different vintners, wines that most likely you would not get to taste very often.  The whole experience is carefully crafted. Each wine is perfectly paired with courses from master winemakers and incredible chefs, which is not possible at large tasting events where you go from booth to booth. One of the most valuable aspects of this event was hearing the personal stories from the producers whose wines you taste.  They are happy to answer questions and interact with you on a one-on-one basis; it is a much more personal and intimate experience.  You are not just another person in the crowd like the Gala and Grand Tasting. The Festival was truly an eye opening experience that I will long remember, and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves wine and or food!

What makes a great wine great?

There is a clear difference between liking a wine and knowing that a wine is exceptional. Just because we like something, does not necessarily meant that it is great.  There need to be depth and complexity. With wine, each person will have their own ideas about what characteristics make a wine great. When I am drinking a wine, and I am trying to classify its quality, I think about these 6 characteristics: distinctiveness, precision, balance, complexity, length, and my own emotional response.

Distinctiveness.  There are many wines now that taste very similar to one another. For a wine to stand out from the others, it needs to be unique. It is true, especially for single varietal wines, that there are going to be specific characteristics that you will find across the board, but a great wine will have not only these but other and distinctive attributes that make it unique.  These critical qualities come from the wine’s connection to the land and from the soil the grapes are grown in. When you taste an exceptionally clean and elegant Riesling from the Wachu region in Austria, you realize that you won’t find anything like it from anywhere else.

Precision.  If you are drinking a wine and all the flavors blend together and you can’t really pick out specific qualities like blackberry or passionfruit, then I would say that it is not a great wine. It could still be delicious, but it is not exceptional. To have flavors so intense and vibrant that you can pick them out separately is one sign of a precise and distinguished wine.

Balance can be a bit complicated. A wine is balanced when all the components meld together harmoniously. The tannins don’t overpower the fruit and the acid isn’t overwhelming. A balanced wine has a magical feel on the palate.  Just because a wine is not balanced the first time you taste it, does not mean that it won’t be down the road; it may need to age. However, when you try a wine that is not balanced, you can usually tell whether it will or will not achieve balance with age.

Complexity is another key component of a truly exceptional wine. When a wine makes you want to take sip after sip, because it is indescribable and constantly evolving each time it touches your taste buds, then you know you have a complex wine. You learn something new about it after each sip and makes the experience of drinking it not only interesting but exciting as well. It is important to also realize that because a wine is full-bodied and powerful, does not mean that it is complex; some of the most complex wines that I have had were Austrian whites.

Length, or the finish as professionals and critics call it, is when a wine lingers on the palate. Some wines finish very quickly, while others can have a long-lasting impression, almost seeming as if they will never end. The lingering taste is another mark of a higher-quality wine.

When something evokes a- genuine emotional response, as, for example, when you shed a tear over a character in a movie, we tend to consider the experience memorable and a sign of great quality. The same goes for wine, in my opinion. If what I am drinking creates some kind of feeling in me, as well as appealing to my palate, then I know I am drinking something truly spectacular. These wines make us pause for a moment, they gives us the “wow” factor.

As mentioned at the beginning, I am sure you have your own personal way of assessing a wine’s quality.  Everyone does.  But the characteristics mentioned above are ones that producers, sommeliers and other experts seem to agree on.

Discovering Spain

Discovering the exciting world of Spanish wines has been such a wild ride: an industry booming with quality, diversity and value. The third largest country in production, Spain ranks first in land under vine. Diversity and innovation are the key factors bringing Spain back into the world wine market. From robust reds or crisp whites, refreshing rosés, sparkling cavas or luxe sherries – you’ll find plenty to choose from along with food parings, and tasting notes. Also, fun fact: most Spanish wines are aged at the winery so they’re ready to drink once released! The country has an abundance of native grape varieties, with over 400 varieties planted throughout Spain though 80 percent of the country’s wine production is from only 20 grapes. The most popular red varieties of Spain include Tempranillo and Garnacha (Grenache). Whites don’t garner quite as much recognition, but there are some regional varieties not to be missed, like Albarino and Verdejo. Cava and Penedes, made with Parellada, Xarel-lo and Macabeo, are famous for its sparkling wines. The popular red wine regions of Spain include Rioja, known for its outstanding wines of the Tempranillo grape; Ribera del Duero, producing high quality reds from Tempranillo and Garnacha; Galicia, with the sub-region of Rias Baixas, home to the deliciously crisp and floral Albarino grape; and Priorat, a region increasing in popularity with its high-quality cult reds. Other regions of note are Rueda, growing the Verdejo grape, La Mancha, a wide desert region, covered in the most planted white variety in the world, Airen, and Jumilla, making wines based on Monastrell (Mourvedre). Last but not least, let us not forget Andalucia with its complex Sherry, made with Palomino grapes, in certainly increasing in popularity (for good reason!).

Spain’s wine laws are based on the Denominacion de Origen (DO) classification system, devised in the 1930′s. A four tiered system, the most basic level is Vino de Mesa (table wine) followed by Vino de la Tierra (country wine), DO and at the top DOC. Currently, only Rioja and Priorat have DOC status, while over 65 DO’s scatter the country.

Most DO regions are classified and regulated by how long they age the wines. On a red wine label, one may find the terms Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva, denoting the wine’s barrel and bottle time. Crianza is usually two years between barrel and bottle (the time in each depends on the DO and/or the winemaker), Reserva up to 4 years and Gran Reserva 5 – 6 years. Classifications of each region and wine are controlled by the region’s Consejo Regulador.

I know what you are thinking: PHEW! There are a lot of different regions in Spain, and it is a lot of info to absorb in such a short space of time. Just know that there is no rush, get out there and try as many as you can cope with before falling over!

References

1. http://winesfromspainusa.com/
2. http://www.proper-spanish-tapas.com/spanish-wine-types.html
3. http://www.wine.com/v6/Spain/learnabout.aspx?region=14
4. http://winefolly.com/review/map-of-spain-wine-regions/

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Wine Myths: Serving Temperatures

Ever had a glass of wine that came highly recommended but was underwhelming to you, or have you been disappointed by a wine you had loved previously? Maybe the wine simply wasn’t served in a way that allowed it to shine. Temperature and glassware can significantly affect a wine’s aromas and flavors, as can the practice of decanting. Understanding how and why will help you decide what’s best for your particular wine and occasion.

When it comes to serving temperature, a wine should be just right. Too hot and the wine’s alcohol will be emphasized, leaving it flat and flabby. Too cold and the aromas and flavors will be muted and, for reds, the tannins may seem harsh and astringent. Too often, white wines are served straight out of a refrigerator while reds are opened at a toasty room temperature, neither of which are ideal. The Serving Wine Temperature Chart in this post provides a more in-depth look at serving temperatures per varietals, but here are some general guidelines:

  • Light dry white wines, rosés, sparkling wines: Serve at 40° to 50° F to preserve their freshness and fruitiness. Think crisp Pinot Grigio and Champagne. For sparklers, chilling keeps bubbles fine rather than frothy. This is also a good range for white dessert wines; sweetness is accentuated at warmer temperatures, so chilling them preserves their balance without quashing their vibrant aromas.
  • Full-bodied white wines and light, fruity reds: Serve at 50° to 60° F to pick up more of the complexity and aromatics of a rich Chardonnay or to make a fruity Beaujolais more refreshing.
  • Full-bodied red wines and Ports: Serve at 60° to 65° F—cooler than most room temperatures and warmer than ideal cellaring temperatures—to make the tannins in powerful Cabernet or Syrah feel more supple and de-emphasize bitter components.

Quick Fix: Need to Warm Up or Cool Down?

Need a quick fix? If the wine is too warm, immerse it in a mix of ice and cold water—this chills a bottle more quickly than ice alone because more of the glass is in contact with the cold source. It may take about 10 minutes for a red to 30 minutes for a Champagne. You can even stick a bottle in the freezer for 15 minutes. (Don’t forget it though or it may freeze and push the cork out!)

If the wine is too cold, decant it into a container rinsed in hot water or immerse it briefly in a bucket of warm water—but don’t try anything with high heat. If the wine is only a little cold, just pour it into glasses and cup your hands around the bowl to warm it up.

Keep in mind that a wine served cool will warm up in the glass, while a wine served warm will only get warmer. It’s always better to start out a little lower than the target temperature.

References

1. Wine Spectator, How to Serve Wine 101, Website
2. Savvy Nomad, Wine Serving Temperature Chart, Website


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Discovering Bordeaux: The 1855 Bordeaux Classification

Bordeaux is typically defined by its complex appellation system, where wines are characterized by their specific districts of origin. But every wine connoisseur knows that the key to understanding Bordeaux is to focus on the best producers. The first and most famous classification of Bordeaux producers was the 1855 Classification of the Médoc and Graves, which ranked some five dozen estates. It was originally based on Chateau reputation and the prices paid by wine merchants at the time, and is still a surprisingly accurate measure of quality, however, it should be emphasized that a wine or appellation can still be outstanding even if it is not a part of these classifications!

In 1855, Napoleon III, emperor of France, decided to throw a Universal Exposition in Paris, a kind of world’s fair, and wanted all the country’s wines represented. He invited Bordeaux’s Chamber of Commerce to arrange an exhibit. The members of the chamber knew a hornet’s nest when they saw one, so they passed the buck. They agreed, according to their records, to present “all our crus classés, up to the fifth-growths,” but asked the Syndicat of Courtiers, an organization of wine merchants, to draw up “an exact and complete list of all the red wines of the Gironde that specifies in which class they belong.”

The courtiers hardly even paused to think; two weeks later, they turned in the famous list. It included 58 châteaus: four firsts, 12 seconds, 14 thirds, 11 fourths and 17 fifths. They expected controversy. “You know as well as we do, Sirs, that this classification is a delicate task and bound to raise questions; remember that we have not tried to create an official ranking, but only to offer you a sketch drawn from the very best sources.”

Curiously, all of the courtiers’ selections came from the Médoc, with the single exception of Haut-Brion (they also ranked the sweet white wines of Sauternes and Barsac). It’s not that other wine regions weren’t active; the Graves boasted a much longer history, and Cheval-Blanc in St.-Emilion and Canon in Fronsac were highly regarded by the early 19th century. But the 18th century revolution in wine quality took hold first and most firmly in the Médoc.

Since 1855, many changes have occurred in the châteaus’ names, owners, vineyards and wine quality, and because of divisions in the original estates, there are now 61 châteaus on the list. But if an estate can trace its lineage to the classification, it retains its claim to cru classé status. The only formal revision came in 1973, when after half a century of unceasing effort Baron Philippe de Rothschild succeeded in having Mouton elevated to first-growth.

— Excerpted from an article by Thomas Matthews

THE OFFICIAL 1855 CLASSIFICATION

(Modern names are in parentheses)

First-Growths

Premiers Crus

Château Lafite Rothschild Pauillac
Château Latour Pauillac
Château Margaux Margaux
Château Haut-Brion Pessac, Graves (since 1986, Pessac-Leognan)

Second-Growths

Deuxiemes Crus

Château Mouton-Rothschild (became a first-growth in 1973) Pauillac
Château Rausan-Segla (Rauzan-Segla) Margaux
Château Rauzan-Gassies Margaux
Château Léoville Las Cases St.-Julien
Château Léoville Poyferré St.-Julien
Château Léoville Barton St.-Julien
Château Durfort-Vivens Margaux
Château Gruaud-Larose St.-Julien
Château Lascombes Margaux
Château Brane-Cantenac Cantenac-Margaux (Margaux)
Château Pichon-Longueville-Baron Pauillac
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande (Pichon-Longueville-Lalande) Pauillac
Château Ducru-Beaucaillou St.-Julien
Château Cos-d’Estournel St.-Estèphe
Château Montrose St.-Estèphe

Third-Growths

Troisiemes Crus

Château Kirwan Cantenac-Margaux (Margaux)
Château d’Issan Cantenac-Margaux (Margaux)
Château Lagrange St.-Julien
Château Langoa Barton St.-Julien
Château Giscours Labarde-Margaux (Margaux)
Château Malescot-St.-Exupéry Margaux
Château Cantenac-Brown Cantenac-Margaux (Margaux)
Château Boyd-Cantenac Margaux
Château Palmer Cantenac-Margaux (Margaux)
Château La Lagune Ludon (Haut-Médoc)
Château Desmirail Margaux
Château Calon-Ségur St.-Estephe
Château Ferrière Margaux
Château Marquis-d’Alesme-Becker Margaux

Fourth-Growths

Quatriemes Crus

Château St.-Pierre St.-Julien
Château Talbot St.-Julien
Château Branaire-Ducru St.-Julien
Château Duhart-Milon Rothschild Pauillac
Château Pouget Cantenac-Margaux (Margaux)
Château La Tour Carnet St.-Laurent (Haut-Médoc)
Château Lafon-Rochet St.-Estèphe
Château Beychevelle St.-Julien
Château Prieuré-Lichine Cantenac-Margaux (Margaux)
Château Marquis de Terme Margaux

Fifth-Growths

Cinquiemes Crus

Château Pontet-Canet Pauillac
Château Batailley Pauillac
Château Haut-Batailley Pauillac
Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste Pauillac
Château Grand-Puy-Ducasse Pauillac
Château Lynch-Bages Pauillac
Château Lynch-Moussas Pauillac
Château Dauzac Labarde (Margaux)
Château Mouton-Baronne-Philippe (Château d’Armailhac after 1989)Pauillac
Château du Tertre Arsac (Margaux)
Château Haut-Bages-Libéral Pauillac
Château Pédesclaux Pauillac
Château Belgrave St.-Laurent (Haut-Médoc)
Château Camensac (Château de Camensac) St.-Laurent (Haut-Médoc)
Château Cos-Labory St.-Estèphe
Château Clerc-Milon Pauillac
Château Croizet-Bages Pauillac
Château Cantemerle Macau (Haut-Médoc)

SAUTERNES AND BARSAC: THE CLASSIFICATION OF 1855

(Modern names are in parentheses)

Great First-Growth

Grand Premier Cru

Château d’Yquem Sauternes

First-Growths

Premiers Crus

Château La Tour Blanche Bommes (Sauternes)
Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey Bommes (Sauternes)
Clos Haut-Peyraguey (Château Clos Haut-Peyraguey) Bommes (Sauternes)
Château de Rayne-Vigneau Bommes (Sauternes)
Château Suduiraut Preignac (Sauternes)
Château Coutet Barsac
Château Climens Barsac
Château Guiraud Sauternes
Château Rieussec Fargues (Sauternes)
Château Rabaud-Promis Bommes (Sauternes)
Château Sigalas-Rabaud Bommes (Sauternes)

Second-Growths

Deuxiemes Crus

Château Myrat (Château de Myrat) Barsac
Château Doisy-Daëne Barsac
Château Doisy-Dubroca Barsac
Château Doisy-Védrines Barsac
Château d’Arche Sauternes
Château Filhot Sauternes
Château Broustet Barsac
Château Nairac Barsac
Château Caillou Barsac
Château Suau Barsac
Château de Malle Preignac (Sauternes)
Château Romer (Château Romer du Hayot) Fargues (Sauternes)
Château Lamothe Sauternes

Source

1. Wine Spectator, Modern ABCs of Bordeaux, Website
2. Wine Spectator, The 1855 Bordeaux Classification, Website

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Discovering The Rhone Valley: North Vs South

You may have heard of the Rhone Valley in France; however, if you’re thinking of this as one place serving similar wines you’d be very mistaken.

In France‘s Rhone Valley you’ll find 98% of the wines are either red or rose, although there are a few whites here and there. As stated above, Northern and Southern Rhone are extremely different from each other in climate, soil, grape varietals, terroir and soil, leading to very different wines.

While the Northern Rhone’s steeply terraced hillside and granite soil mixed with stone, shingle and clay and produces only a few grape varietals — mainly Syrah and Viognier — and sells single varietal wines, Southern Rhone is much flatter and is known for its blends of many different grapes. It’s also worth pointing out that despite the fact Northern Rhone is much smaller in size — it makes up less than 10% of the Rhone Valley — you’ll typically get a much better quality, with everything being done by hand as machines can’t maneuver the terraced landscape. Vines are also situated closer to the river, with a continental climate, great sun exposure and shelter from bitter mistral winds.

In Southern Rhone, the climate goes between continental and Mediterranean, with mild winters and hotter summers. Unlike in Northern Rhone, they’re barely protected from the mistral winds, although after the vines suffer they’re often cooled down which allows for a higher acidity, as well as an intensity in flavor due to the ice the wind produces (similar to ice wine).

If you want to differentiate Northern and Southern Rhone in terms of grapes, Northern Rhone is Syrah and Southern Rhone is largely influenced by Grenache. That’s not to say that other grapes don’t grow in either of these areas, but these are the dominant varietals.

Northern Rhone: The Wines

In Northern Rhone there are six types of wines you’ll find. First is the Côte Rôtie, meaning “roasted slope,” which is made with Syrah that offers characteristic notes of raspberry, spice, coffee, truffles, violet and chocolate. With a decadent description like that, there’s no wonder Côte Rôtie tends to be expensive, but worth it.

Next is Condrieu, which only permits the use of Viognier grapes and, interestingly, almost went extinct at one time due to its low yielding tendency and easily destructible nature. At its peak, Viognier produces delicious notes of peach and honey; however, if the grapes are picked when too ripe the wine loses its acidity and will have a bubblegum scent.

Another wine you’ll find in Northern Rhone is Cornas, where only Syrah is produced. The wine is leathery and earthy, reminiscent of a fine Bordeaux. Keep in mind, this wine is meant to be aged for seven to 10 years, at which point it will open up and reach its full potential.

Saint-Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage and Hermitage are all wines that make use of Syrah, Marsanne and Roussanne, and are typically of very high quality. Interestingly, in Victorian Times Hermitage was “the wine of the world.” It needs a minimum of 10 years in a cellar, although reds can be aged for 50+ years and whites for 25+. While this wine is a bit pricey with bottles starting at $60, you’ll literally be savoring a bit of French heritage. Note: Don’t get this confused with Crozes-Hermitage, which is typically ready to drink when released.

Southern Rhone: The Wines

While Northern Rhone is known for having the higher quality wines, Southern Rhone still has its fair share of noteworthy options. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the most southern appellation in Southern Rhone, growing Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Clairette, Grenache Blanc and Cinsault. It is the reds produced here that are often considered synonymous with Southern Rhone, veering from the typical high alcohol, very sweet, low acid, easy-drinking wines that come from a Mediterranean climate, but instead tend to be dense, bold, earthy and often gamey and wild from the Mourvedre. Some of the best producers in this region include Domaine du Pegau, Font de Michelle and Chateau Beaucastel, to name a few.

Côtes du Rhône and the Côtes du Rhône Villages is the largest appellation of the Rhone, making up 4/5 of the region. While they make a number of great wines — mainly in dry form — because this area is not a single place, but instead is very spread out, you’ll get an array of terroirs and qualities. Some of the top quality Côtes du Rhône wines include Rasteau, Chateau Beaucastel and Jean-Luc Colombo.

In Vacqueyras and Gigondas, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre are the main grapes. Despite having the same grapes and being located near to each other, the wines of these appellations do differ slightly. While Vacqueyras are bold and lean toward Syrah, Gigondas tend to be more rustic and almost chewy with a focus on Grenache and lots of raspberry, spice and leather.

In Lirac you’ll find these grapes, as well as Cinsault. The wines here are typically full-bodied reds offering decadent flavors of cocoa and dark fruits. And for those who enjoy rose, Tavel is the place for you. Using Cinsault and Grenache, the appellation produces a high alcohol rose wine with notes of berry and spice and a bone-dry finish. If you’re used to mass-produced roses — I’m looking at you Beringer White Zinfandel — you’ll be very surprised by this wine.

It is really all about going out there and discovering what you like, there is really a room for everyone in the Rhone Valley!

Wine Myths: Champagne Flutes

Champagne has long been seen a symbol, not a beverage. It is athletes celebrating under a rush of foam, ships being christened, wedding toasts and New Year’s Eves. It is secured by a twisted wire cage affixed over a bulging cork—a medieval security system standing between you and a permanent eye patch. Champagne is dominated by foreign names you’re not sure how to pronounce—Moët, Veuve, Ruinart—and labels adorned with family crests and calligraphy, and it is always served in flutes. However, the age of the Champagne flute could be over as wine experts declare that wider glasses are the best way to enjoy fizz. Flutes are popular because they showcase tiny, rising bubbles perfectly – the enduring and visualized appeal of sparkling wine’s power to refresh. Many flutes even have a discreet nucleation point etched into their inner base to create a steady, vertical stream of fizz.

The flute also has other advantages: it preserves the effervescence that so easily dissipates in coupes and saucers. It is also much harder to spill your precious bubbles in a flute, while its serving size is ideal for parties. The truth is the shape doesn’t do justice to fine fizz. In the past ten years, a change has been brewing, one that aligns Champagne more closely with the rest of the wine world. Instead of the flute—the iconic, slender stemmed glass synonymous with the sparkling wine—Champagne producers, sommeliers and marketers alike are now recommending that we drink our Champagne from white wine glasses.

From Coupes to Saucers to Flutes…

This isn’t the first time the rules have been changed. For the first 300 years of its life, Champagne was served in coupes—the wide, flat glasses that have now taken up permanent residence in the craft cocktail scene. Though considered a complete failure by contemporary standards—the wide surface area allows effervescence to disappear quickly and the open mouth discourages any aroma development—coupes were well suited to sparkling Champagne in its early days, when aggressive perlage was considered uncouth. Up until the early 20th century, in fact, glasses were often accessorized with a small whisk or forked stirrer that could be used to speed the dissipation of the bubbles.

Antonio Galloni, a wine critic and founder of website Vinous, speaks for many in the hallowed French region when he says: “If you go to Louis Roederer or Dom Perignon, no winemaker is going to say, ‘Here’s my wine; taste it out of a flute.’ It’s not used at all”.

“There is something nice about the flute,” Galloni allows. “It’s like a skyscraper. There’s something elating and uplifting about that long glass. But if you drink a really well-made wine out of a flute, it’s like wearing a shoe that’s a size too small.”

The Perfect Glass?

While Champagne houses used either own-devised tulips or white wine glasses, it took a sommelier to lift the idea from the winery cellar into consumers’ hands.

He took his idea to local glass manufacturer Lehmann and together they created an elongated glass, rounded in the middle and tapering towards the top. At its widest point, their Grand Champagne glass measures 88mm, and even the most modest of the series, the Initial, measures 72mm.

Jamesse discovered later, together with Gérard Liger-Belair, a physicist at the University of Reims, that ‘the spherical shape of the glass, which also encourages vertical movement, respects the role of the mousse’.

Each bubble carries aroma to the surface. In his glasses this is a ‘progressive extension along the curve of the glass which favours first a gradual then a stretched ascent, allowing each bubble to burst at the widest point to free its flavours and express aromatic subtlety’.

The greater surface allows more bubbles to burst simultaneously while their aromas are captured within the tapering top. ‘We introduced the glass in the restaurant in 2008,’ Jamesse recounts. ‘Initially diners were a little shocked, but once they tasted from it they realised the difference.    

So next time you pop a cork, celebrate the wine as much as the occasion – in a proper glass, finally giving Champagne the chance to shine!

References

1. “The Tragic Flute: Why You’re Drinking Champagne All Wrong”. Bloomberg, web <http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-12-15/the-tragic-flute-why-you-re-drinking-champagne-all-wrong.html>

2. “Farewell to Champagne Flutes in 2016?”. Decanter, web < http://www.decanter.com/learn/farewell-to-champagne-flutes-in-2016-286743/>

3. “Coupe d’État: The Rise and Fall of the Champagne Flute”. PUNCH, web < http://punchdrink.com/articles/coupe-detat-the-rise-fall-of-the-champagne-flute/>

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From Our Cellar To Your Table: Robert Desbrosse Champagne

This month, we are so excited to highlight Robert Desbrosseone of our favorite producers from our Cellarage Portfolio –Wine Cellarage’s exclusive portfolio of hand-selected wines. We believe that sharing our stories, as well as the stories of the wines we carry, is a vital responsibility we have to you, our valued customers.

For generations, the Desbrosse family has perpetuated the art of the vine, as evidenced by this old postcard from 1908. The grapes come exclusively from their plots and they oversee all stages, from Production to Marketing. Composed of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Black, the south-facing slopes provide optimal sunshine. Every September, forty pickers pick the grapes by hand. The hand picking preserves the grapes whose juice, promises a pure champagne and an excellent quality.

The Desbrosse family continues to use the traditional Barrel Aging method, allowing the Champagne to breathe and subtly refine through the maturation process. The Champagnes do not undergo malolactic fermentation; this choice reflects their desire to preserve freshness and naturalness.

Recommendations from Robert Desbrosse on how to best enjoy their Champagnes:

1. Use a Champagne flute

Because of its elongated shape, the flute carefully retains the flavor of the Champagne and better presents the fragrance when tasting. It also preserves the effervescence of the Champagne.

2. Ideal Temperature to Consume

Champagne will offer you the best of himself, when served at 8-10°C (46-50°F), not frozen. Using a champagne bucket will maintain the ideal temperature throughout the meal.

3. Storage conditions

To preserve their character, the Champagne bottles must be maintained:

  • Away from light (especially, sun light)
  • Immune to temperature variations
  • Stored horizontally, so that the cork is continuously wet and can ensure the sealing of the bottle.

Find our curated selection of Champagnes from this incredible producer, including tasting notes, here!

About our Cellarage Portfolio

“When we started selling wine five years ago, we started out small. With the help of our loyal customer base, we have grown. We have come to a point where we feel that it is imperative to reward you, the customer, for that growth. The best way that we see to do that is to source wines directly from the domains. Members of our team are traveling to Europe, forging friendships with winemakers and tasting their wines, with them, at their cuveries. We are handpicking the best wines for you. Back in New York, our tasting panel gets together and tastes the wines again before making final decisions. Then, we ship our selections in temperature-controlled containers directly from the winemaker’s cave to our cellars in New York”.

References

1. Champagne Robert Desbrosse, Website <http://www.champagne-desbrosse.com/notre-maison/>

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Wine Myth: Cellaring

The idea of wine storage, or cellaring, may evoke images of a vast cellar filled with dusty bottles of priceless vintage Bordeaux… overwhelming to say the least. The truth is that, unless you have a large collection of fine wines that you’re planning to cellar for years, anyone looking to store wines for a later date can do so by learning a few things about proper wine storage. We have put together a list of the most common myths surrounding wine cellaring:

Myth #1: All wines benefit from cellaring

The most important thing to remember regarding cellaring wine is that most wine isn’t meant to be cellared. The huge majority of the world’s wines don’t have what it takes to age for decades. Most wines are meant to be enjoyed in the first one to five years of their lives and even those wines that have the potential to develop slowly over many years will achieve their potential only if they’re properly stored.

Aged wine is better wine

Everyone who is passionate about wine should know how old wine tastes. It’s not that old wine is better, it’s just different; any older wine delivers a different spectrum of flavors from what you would taste in a young wine. Even if you are a novice wine-taster, a properly aged wine will taste and feel very different from the younger version.

Only red wines are worth aging

Certain white wines – vintage Champagne, Sauternes, German Rieslings, and even some dry white wines from places as diverse as the Loire Valley, western Australia, and southern Spain – are just as age-worthy as any reds.

Finally, most wines, even cellar-worthy ones, are delicious upon release. The better wines will age well for up to a decade. Rare indeed are wines that need a decade or more to reach their peak. Always remember, it is better to drink a wine a year too soon than a day too late.

Myth #2: I need to have a built-in wine cellar in order to store wines at home

You do not need to have an in-home wine cellar to store your wines. If you haven’t been blessed with a cool, not-too-damp basement that can double as a cellar, you can improvise with some simple racks in a safe place. Rule out your kitchen, laundry room or boiler room, where hot temperatures could affect your wines, and look for a location not directly in line with light pouring in from a window. You could also buy a small wine cooler and follow the same guidelines: If you keep your wine fridge in a cool place, it won’t have to work so hard, keeping your energy bill down.

Perhaps there is a little-used closet or other vacant storage area that could be re-purposed for storing wine? If you have a suitable dark, stable space that’s not too damp or dry, but it is too warm, you might consider investing in a standalone cooling unit specifically designed for wine. There are some inexpensive systems for small spaces, but in most cases, this is getting into professional wine storage.

When is it time to upgrade your storage conditions? Ask yourself this: How much did you spend last year on your wine habit? If a $1,000 cooling unit represents less than 25 percent of your annual wine-buying budget, it’s time to think about it more carefully, might as well protect your investment.

One other piece of advice from collectors: Whatever number you’re thinking of when it comes to bottle capacity, double it. Once you’ve started accumulating wines to drink later, it’s hard to stop.

Myth #3: White, sparkling and red wines should be stored at different temperatures

There is a big misconception in the wine world that white, sparkling and red wines should be stored at different temperatures. The fact of the matter is that ALL wine (red, white, sparkling, fortified, etc.) should be stored at between 53-57 degrees F, 55 degrees F often cited as close to perfect. This allows the wine to evolve and age as the winemaker intended, if it is indeed a wine meant for aging.

Myth #4: Wines bottles need to be stored horizontally

Traditionally, bottles have been stored on their sides in order to keep the liquid up against the cork, which theoretically should keep the cork from drying out. This is hazardous to your wine because if a cork starts to dry out, it will start to let air inside, causing premature oxidation. If you’re planning on drinking these bottles in the near to mid-term, or if the bottles have alternative closures (screw caps, glass or plastic corks), this is not necessary. We will say this, however: horizontal racking is a space-efficient way to store your bottles, and it definitely can’t harm your wines.

Myth #5: Serious, storage-worthy wines are always sealed with cork

Not all that long ago, this statement was true, but it’s no longer the case. Screw-off caps are still the closure on large “jug” bottles of those old-fashioned, really inexpensive domestic wines, but that type of wine is a dying breed. Meanwhile, sleek and modern screw-off caps have come on the scene as the closure of choice on many bottles of fine wine, especially white wines, from all over the world.

In addition, research in New Zealand has proven that wines can age and develop in bottles closed with screw caps, as wine does in cork-sealed bottles.

In a nutshell, if you’re looking to buy wines to mature, as a collector or as an investment, you should really consider investing in professional-grade storage. For everyone else, following the above guidelines should keep your wines safe until you’re ready to drink them. Enjoy!

References

1. “How to Store Wine 101: 7 Basics You Need to Know”. Wine Spectator, web <http://www.winespectator.com/webfeature/show/id/45577&gt
2. “Ask Dr. Vinny”. Wine Spectator, web <http://www.winespectator.com/drvinny/show/id/45249&gt
3. “Do I Need A Dual Zone Or Single Temperature Zone Wine Fridge?”. Wine Enthusiast, web <http://www.wineenthusiast.com/learn/wine-refrigerators/dual-zone-or-single-temperature-wine-fridge.asp>
4. “Wine Myths Debunked” . Wine Enthusiast, web <http://www.winemag.com/2015/01/29/wine-myths-debunked/>
5. “Ten Wine Myths Debunked”. For Dummies, web <http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/ten-wine-myths-debunked.html>
6. “What’s Up With That: Why some wines taste better with age”. Wired, web <http://www.wired.com/2014/10/whats-wines-tastes-better-age>
7. “Wine Aging Chart for Reds and Whites”. Wine Folly, web <http://winefolly.com/tutorial/cellar-wine-guide/>
8. “Tips on Storing Wine” .Wall Street Journal, web <http://guides.wsj.com/wine/buying-and-storing-wine/tips-on-storing-wine/>
9. “How to Properly Store Wine”. Reader’s Digest, web <http://www.rd.com/food/fun/how-to-properly-store-wine/>

A Few Facts To Bring To The Table: Decanting

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “DECANT” as a transitive verb:

  1. To draw off (a liquid) without disturbing the sediment or the lower liquid layers
  2. To pour from one vessel into another

What should we decant?

Old and young wines! Red and white! Decanting introduces oxygen back into the wine, which helps release more pleasant flavors and scents (it can also help remove bottle stink caused by sulphur preservatives). Most wines can benefit from a bit of aeration and decanters allow for a larger surface area of wine to have contact with oxygen.  Careful though! Decanting a wine too much can ruin it.

Why do we decant?

Older wines are decanted to separate the liquid from the bitter sediment that may have formed in the bottom of the bottle, but don’t need to breathe for a long time. Older wines should be opened close to when they are being consumed. Young wines can be closed and tight on the palate, so they are decanted to aerate, soften, and open up. Younger wines, depending on how strong they are, can be decanted from as little as a few minutes to as much as 6+ hours.

How long do we decant?

There’s no hard fast ruling as to how long a wine should be decanted. Generally, the safest way to know when your wine is ready is to taste it along the way—just remember, you can always decant the wine a bit more, but you cannot de-decant it! A wine left in the decanter for too long will take on vinegar-y traits. Older wines don’t need as much time, so a good rule of thumb is 30 minutes. Full bodied wines can be decanted as long at 3+ hours and medium bodied wines should be good after about 1 hour. Too many bubbles in your young champagne? Serve it in a larger glass like for a Burgundy or coupe glass. The more surface area, the easier it is for bubbles to escape.

Your decanting: whether you should or not, and if so for how long, is up to you—basically, if it tastes good, drink it!

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