Yes Way Rosé

With the arrival of longer days and warmer weather, it is officially rosé season.  There are many choices when it comes to rosé.  Côtes de Provence rosé has become the quintessential pink bottle for many consumers.  This classic, crisp rosé, made from grenache grapes, has flavors of strawberry and citrus blossoms and is perfect for enjoying on a hot day.  However, there are many other styles of rosé to quench your summer thirst.

Heading west from Provence, you will find Tavel in the Rhone Valley, which is the one of the few French appellations that produces rosé exclusively.  Tavel is made from a blend of Rhone grapes (cinsault, bourboulenc, clairette, mourvèdre, picpoul, and syrah), and the style is know for being fuller bodied and darker in color than Provence.  With aromas of ripe berries, garrigue, and light notes of almond, it is an excellent food wine, and the perfect pairing for a sunset picnic.

Rosé is often associated with France, but it is produced throughout the wine-making world.  One of my favorite styles of rosé is the Spanish Txakolina rosé from the Basque country.  Made from a blend of hondarrabi zuri and hondarrabi beltza, the wines have flavors of wild berries, tart citrus, and a hint of sea air.  Most of the Txakilina imported into the US comes from Getariako Txakolina, but the fresh and fizzy wine is also found in Bizkaiko Txakolina and Arabako Txakolina

Another favorite of mine is the Italian Chiaretto which comes from two regions on the banks of Lake Garda:  Valtenesi and Bardonlino.  The Chiaretto Valtenesi is made on the western bank in the Lombardy region from the gropello grape.  This is an aromatic rosé with bright red cherries and fresh violets on the nose, and a crisp and lightly peppery palate.  Across the lake in the Veneto region, there is another Chiaretto, the Chiaretto Bardilono, made from a blend of corvino, rondinella, and molinara grapes, which creates a rosé full of red berries, fresh herbs, and marzipan flavors.

Whatever pink you prefer, happy rosé season!

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Raise a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and May the Fourth be with you!

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Today is an exciting day for Star Wars fans, Sauvignon Blanc drinkers, and obscure holiday aficionados!  May the fourth is considered the official Star Wars Day, and the first Friday of May has been deemed as Sauvignon Blanc Day by the New Zealand  Wine Association.  In an effort to unite wine nerds and sci-fi enthusiasts across the galaxies, I worked with a friend to create these amazing Stars Wars and wine mash-up scenes.  In between photo shoots and lightsaber battles, I was busy reviewing the different styles of Sauvignon Blanc.  Sauvignon Blanc is grown around the world, but in each location, this aromatic and zesty grape takes on different qualities.  To help break it down, I’ve put together this handy chart with common flavor profiles. 🤓

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As you prepare for the festivities of the day, here are a couple of quick buying tips… Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand (especially Marlborough) and the Loire Valley (especially Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé) have become very trendy in the past few years.  These are classic and delicious styles, so their popularity is well deserved.  However, if you are looking for a bargain, expanding your search to lesser know regions can make your purchase a bit easier on the wallet.  If you are looking for Sauvignon Blanc in the lean, mineral style of Sancerre, you might try something from a neighboring appellation in the Loire Valley, such as Touraine, Menetou-Salon, Reuilly, or Quincy.  If you prefer the lush fruit character of NZ, perhaps give an Italian or Chilean bottle a try.   Whatever the region or style, I hope that you can enjoy a refreshing glass of Sauvignon Blanc on this momentous day, and may the force be with you!

Attach5549_20180502_235301Photo credits and many thanks to Josh Horowitz.

 

Tasting through the Loire

 

On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of cruising down the Loire River without leaving NYC at the Spring to Loire event.

There are four major sub-regions within the Loire Valley of France: Pays Nantais, Anjou-Saumur, Touraine, and Central Vineyards.

Pays Nantais is known almost exclusively for Muscadet wine, which is dry white wine made from the grape called Melon de Bourgogne.  The wine is often aged sur lie (French for “on the lees”) and refers to the practice of keeping the wine in contact with the dead yeast to add more body and richness to the wine.

Vineyards in Anjou-Saumur are most well-known for Chenin Blanc and rosé wines.  There are many AOPs (Appellation d’Origine Protégée)  within Anjou-Saumur, and these are some of the most prominent:

  • Rosé d’Anjou AOP:  slightly off-dry rosé wines, with lots of berry flavors, usually made from Grolleau and Cabernet Franc.
  • Savennières and Jasnières AOPs: dry Chenin Blanc wines.
  • Bonnezeaux and Quarts de Chaume  AOPs: sweet Chenin Blanc  wines
  • Crémant de Loire AOP:  sparkling wine made primarily from Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay.

Continuing along the river, we come across the Touraine AOC, where we find crisp, mineral Sauvignon Blancs.  However, Vouvray is an AOC within Touraine, which is famous for Chenin Blanc wines that range from sec (dry) to moelleux (sweet).   Chinon and Bourgueil are red appellations found in Touraine that focus on Cabernet Franc.

Finally the Central Vineyards, which are most famous for Sauvignon Blanc from  Sancerre  and Pouilly-Fumé.  These Sauvignon Blancs have become very popular, and the price will reflect that.  However, you can often find similar wines in neighboring AOPs such as  Menetou-Salon, Reuilly, and Quincy at a better price point.  Pinot Noir is also grown in this area.  I was especially impressed by several of the Sancerre and Menetou-Salon Pinot Noirs, which had really nice minerality balanced out with lovely aromas of cherry and dried leaves.

With so many excellent and varied wines coming out of the Loire Valley, it was a lovely tasting event to welcome in the spring weather.

 

 

 

Méthode Champenoise

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Sparkling wine adds a festive air to any event, but the bubbles in Champagne have not always been a source of celebration.  In the early production of wine in the Champagne region of France, the bubbles were considered a flaw and were causing some major problems.

The Champagne region is France’s northernmost wine region and has the coolest climate.  The cool climate means that the grapes don’t always fully ripen, which results in tart flavors and high acid.  The cool climate also affects the fermentation.  Normally, fermentation will continue as long as there is sugar for the yeast to convert.  However, if the temperature drops below 50°, the yeast will go dormant.  The early vinters in Champagne would see that the yeast had stopped producing COand mistakenly think that the fermentation had completed.  The wine would be aged and bottled, but then, in the spring when the temperature rose, fermentation would begin again and create COin the bottles.  The bottles were not built to withstand the pressure and many would burst.

Eventually, the winemakers realized  that the cold temperature was the root of the problem, so they moved the wine-making underground into the caves, where the temperature was more stable.  Now the grapes could be fully fermented into a still, dry wine.   However, the bubbles had become desirable, so the winemakers started to add a mixture of wine, sugar and yeast (liqueur de triage), to instigate a secondary fermentation to generate a controlled amount of bubbles and pressure.

At the end of secondary fermentation and while aging, the bottles are slowly rotated in a manner that forces the dead yeast cells to accumulate in the neck of the bottle.  This process is known as remuage or riddling.   Next is the dégorgement step, where the neck of the bottle is dipped into a solution that freezes and expels the yeast sediment.  Finally, the bottle is topped up with  a blend of wine and sugar (liqueur d’expedition).  This final step is called dosage and determines the sweetness of the Champagne.  These are the official levels of sweetness for Champagne:

Brut nature: 0-3 g/L
Extra Brut: 0-6 g/L
Brut: 0-12 g/L
Extra Dry: 12-17 g/L
Sec: 17-32 g/L
Demi-Sec: 32-50 g/L
Doux: 50+ g/L

This technique of  secondary fermentation in the bottle has became know as méthode champenoise or méthode tradionnelle.  To protect regional identity, only wines from the Champagne region in France can use the name Champagne or the term méthode champenoise on their labels.  Sparkling wine from other regions in France is usually called Crémant and can list méthode tradionnelle when secondary fermentation is done in the bottle.

 

4 French Wine Regions

franceFrance has been creating some of the most prestigious wine for centuries.  To maintain this high level of quality, French wine production is governed by the L’Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité (INOA).  The INOA regulates the different wine regions (AOCs or appellation d’origine contrôlée) throughout the country by providing rules to define a regional style and identity (or terroir) through grape growing and wine making techniques.  Terroir is a French term used to explain how wine reflects its place of origin.  Terroir encompasses all environmental factors that affect the grape/wine, such as climate, geography, soil, weather, wine making techniques, etc.

The AOCs vary in size and can be nested within each other.  Below I will outline some of the appellations within 4  key regions: Loire Valley, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rhone Valley.

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Loire Valley
Climate: Maritime to Continental
Geography: Loire River
Soil: Chalky
Grapes: Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadet, Cabernet Franc
Sub-regions:

  • Pays Nantais (Muscadet)
    • Sèvre-et-Maine AOC
  • Anjou-Saumur
    • Savennières AOC (Chenin Blanc)
    • Quarts de Chaume AOC (Sweet, botrytized Chenin Blanc)
  • Touraine
    • Chinon AOC (Cabernet Franc)
    • Vouvray AOC (Chenin Blanc)
  • Central Vineyards
    • Sancerre AOC (Sauvignon Blanc)
    • Pouilly Fumé AOC (Sauvignon Blanc)

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Burgundy (Bourgogne AOC)
Climate: Cool-Moderate, Continental
Soil: Limestone and Marl in the North; Granite in the South
Grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gamay
Sub-regions:

  • Chablis (Chardonnay)
  • Cote d’Or
    • Cote de Nuits (famous for Pinot Noir)
    • Cotes de Beaune (famous for Chardonnay)
  • Cote Chalonnais (mostly Chardonnay)
  • Maconnais (mostly Chardonnay)
  • Beaujolais (Gamay)

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Bordeaux (Bordeaux AOC)
Climate: Moderate, Maritime
Geography: Garonne and Dordogne Rivers, and the Gironde estuary
Soil: Gravel over limestone
Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Carmenère; Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Muscadelle
Sub-regions:

  • Left Bank (Cabernet Sauvignon dominated red blends)
    • Haut Médoc AOC, which contains four famous wine communes:
      • St. Estèphe
      • Pauillac
      • St. Julien
      • Margaux
    • Graves AOC
      • Pessac-Léognan AOC
      • Sauternes AOC (Sweet, botrytized white wines_
  • Right Bank( Merlot dominated red blends)
    • Pomerol AOC
    • St. Emilion AOC
  • Entre deux Mers (Dry, white wine)

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Rhône Valley (Côtes du Rhône AOC)
Climate: Moderate, Continental to Warm, Mediterrannean
Geography: Rhone Rivers
Soil: Granite and clay in the North; Stoney (pudding stones, aka les galets) in the South
Grapes: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Viognier
Sub-regions:

  • Northern Rhone (Syrah dominated wines)
    • Côte-Rôtie AOC
    • Condrieu AOC (white only from Viognier)
    • St-Joseph AOC
    • Hermitage AOC and Crozes-Hermitage AOC
    • Cornas AOC
  • Southern Rhone (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre blends)
    • Châteauneuf du Pape AOC
    • Gigondas AOC
    • Tavel AOC (rosé only)

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Sauvignon Blanc Day on Friday

 

The first Friday in May is International Sauvignon Blanc day, so here’s a little background to help you prepare for the festivities.

Sauvignon Blanc is a white grape that originated in France, where it is  still widely planted in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux .  However, it has also become popular in many New World wine regions, such as Chile, South Africa, and California, but especially New Zealand, where it has become their most widely planted grape.

Sauvignon Blanc is a dry, white wine, with high acidity.  It is often described as crisp and refreshing, and it is one of my favorite wines for summer.  I find Sauvignon Blanc easy to drink on its own, but with its herbal and mineral qualities, it also makes an excellent pairing for fresh vegetables, salads,  fish/seafood, sushi,  and raw oysters.

Common fruit flavors for Sauvignon Blanc are lime (and other citrus), honeydew melon, green apple, and peach.  Additionally, Sauvignon Blanc is known for strong non-fruit flavors such as fresh grass, bell pepper, and chalky minerals.

 

Tasting Notes – Beaujolais Nouveau 2016

Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!

Beaujolais Nouveau is a celebratory wine made from this year’s harvest of Gamay grapes in the Beaujolais region of France.  The light body and fruit flavors make it very easy to drink and a lovely pairing for Thanksgiving dinner.

img_20161128_205444This year I tried the Nouveau from 2 different producers, and they were quite different. Both were light bodied, with strong red berry flavors and aromas.  However, the Pascal Chatelus was extra fruity, while the Jean-Paul Brun had some nice spicy/earthy flavors and a fair amount of tannins.

Producer: Domaine des Terres Dorré, Jean-Paul Brun
Region: Beaujolais, France
Grape Varieties: Gamay
Vintage2016
Overall Rating:  

Producer: Pascal Chatelus
Region: Beaujolais, France
Grape Varieties: Gamay
Vintage2016
Overall Rating: