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!).

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:

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.”

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.

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.

From Our Cellar To Your Table: Robert Desbrosse Champagne

This month, we are so excited to highlight Robert Desbrosse, one 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.

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.

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.