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:
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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.

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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!

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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/>

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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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