Vino Bianco

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There are over 350 varieties of grapes grown across Italy’s 20+ wine regions.  Many of the red varieties like sangiovese, nebbiolo, montepulciano, etc. are becoming somewhat ubiquitous; however, the white wines/grapes are still a bit mysterious to me.  I’ve created this little cheat sheet to help me feel a bit less intimidated when I see an Italian wine menu this summer.

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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!

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.

 

Comparing Oranges and Rosés

 

Orange Wine

This is an orange wine from South Africa made from the sémillon grape.

Orange wines seem to be the new trend in many restaurants and wine bars.  Although these wines are new and different for many Americans, these wines are very traditional and have been made for centuries in Eastern European countries, such as Georgia and Slovenia.  With the increasing popularity of natural wine-making techniques, we are seeing a resurgence of this style throughout the wine-making world.

I’ve heard many people liken orange wines to rosé, but they are actually kind of the opposite.  Rosé wine is made from red grapes, but the skins are removed from the juice shortly after pressing.  Conversely,  orange wine is made from white (or light skinned) grapes; however, the skins/seeds are left in contact with the juice for an extended period of time.  This results in an golden/amber/orange colored wine, and thus the name, orange wine.  Grape skins and seeds are the main source of tannin in wines.  This is why white and rosé wines have little to no tannins.  However, by allowing the white grape skins to macerate in the grape juice, orange wines will have some tannic structure and be fuller bodied than white or rosé wines.  Orange wines often have a very unique and savory taste, with flavors ranging from nutty or earthy to floral and funky.  The fruit aromas that are present are often more similar to dried fruit or even the skin or pit of the fruit.   Given the range of flavors, as well as the nice body and acidity, orange wines are excellent for pairing with bold and salty foods like cheese and charcuterie, curries, or even kimchi.

 

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.

 

 

 

Wine Au Naturel

It’s been a while since I have blogged, but now I’m back!  The past few months have been full of changes for me, but one of the biggest is that I have started working at Foragers Wines. Foragers is a wine shop focused on organic, biodynamic, natural, and sustainable wine, so for this first blog post of 2018, I wanted to provide a quick guide on all of this “green” terminology.

Organic Wines: Wines are often labeled as “made with organic grapes”.  This means that the grapes were grown organically, and usually implies that additives (such as yeast and fining agents) were also organic.  However, depending on the country, there may or may not have been sulfur added as a preservative.  USDA certified organic wines are not allowed to use sulfur in the winemaking process, but the rules for organic vary by country, so many organic wines have minimal amounts of sulfites.

Biodynamic Wines: Biodynamic is a method of farming that views the farm (or vineyard) as a living, interconnected system that must be kept in balance through ecological and spiritual practices, such as making your own fertilizer and scheduling planting and harvesting according to the cycles of the moon and planets.  The theories of biodynamic farming were laid out by the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s, and the current certification for biodynamic farms is the Demeter certification.

Natural:  Natural wines take things a step further.  Natural wines are organic (or biodynamic) wines that are produced with minimal intervention during the winemaking.   Currently there aren’t any official certifications, but some commonly accepted criteria for a “natural wine” are as follows:

  • grapes are grown organically/biodynamically and are hand-picked
  • use of wild yeast fermentation (aka spontaneous fermentation)
  • no additives (sugar, acid, flavors, sulfites)
  • minimal or no fining or filtering

Natural wines are not meant to be aged and extra care should be taken to ensure that the wines are stored at the appropriate temperature.  Since they do not contain any preservatives, there may be some ongoing fermentation, which can lead to a slight effervescent quality in natural wines.

Sustainable Wines:  Sustainable vineyards expand their purview beyond the grapes and place an emphasis on environmental and social responsibility.  Sustainable vineyards may follow some organic and/or biodynamic practices, but the focus is on preserving natural resources such as soil, water, and energy to ensure the sustainability of the farm and long-term viability of the environment, while producing high quality wine.  The rules are varied, but many regions are establishing certifications for sustainablilty:

  • Certified California Sustainable Vineyard and Winery (CCSW)
  • Sustainability in Practice (SIP)
  • Low Input Viticulture and Enology (LIVE)
  • Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ)
  • Certified Sustainable Wine of Chile
  • South Africa Integrity & Sustainability Certified
  • Sustainable Australia Winegrowing (SAW)
  • Bodegas de Argentina Sustainability Protocol

Overall, there are many different certifications, and the rules may vary by country, but hopefully this overview provides a better understanding of  “green wine”.

Sherry Basics

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A Flight of Sherries

I am very excited to be attending the grand tasting at Sherryfest in a few days.  To prepare for the event, I’ve been reviewing some basics on sherry…

  • Sherry is a fortified wine made in the Andalucia region of Spain, specifically within 3 towns: Jerez de la Frontera, Puerto de Santa María, and Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
  • Sherry is made from Palomino grapes, although some sweet styles use Pedro Ximenez or Moscatel grapes.
  • Sherry may be aged under a blanket of flor which is a layer of yeast that creates a seal over the wine and prevents oxidation.
  • Sherry is blended using the solera system.  This is a method of fractional blending where wine for bottling is taken from the oldest barrel, and the barrel is replenished from younger barrels.
  • Sherry comes in many styles:
    • Fino – The driest and lightest style of sherry, Fino is under flor for the entirety of its aging.
    • Manzanilla –  This is a fino-style sherry made in the town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda.  The climate of the town leads to a thicker flor, which results in an even lighter wine.
    • Amontillado – This style of sherry goes through 2 stages of aging: first under flor and then without the flor, to let the wine oxidize.
    • Oloroso – This style of sherry is aged without flor, which allows for oxidation and results in darker and nuttier flavors.
    • Palo Cortado – This style is a bit of a cross between Oloroso and Amontillado, and the winemaking varies across producers.
    • Cream – This is a sweet style created by blending Pedro Ximenez or Moscatel grapes with an Oloroso sherry.
    • Pedro Ximenez (PX) – The sweetest style of sherry, PX is made from dried Pedro Ximenez grapes.

I will report back soon with some sherry recommendations. ¡Salud!