May 4 is Sauvignon Blanc Day 2018. How much do you know about the versatile, refreshing varietal?Read More
Although its origins are rooted in the Sud-Ouest (South West) wine growing region of France, Malbec now is best known as an Argentinian varietal. Argentina has around 75% of all acres of Malbec, but the grape grows in 7 countries around the world.
From its versatility with food, depth and range of flavor, and rich beautiful color, it's no wonder Malbec is one of the most popular red wines. Pick up a bottle and see for yourself why Malbec is special.
We love to think pink around here. Rosé all day are words to live by. And while you can't go wrong with a beautiful bottle of Miraval Rosé this Valentines Day, if you're looking to try something a little different, try a port cocktail.
Now if you're unfamiliar with Port, Port wine is a Portuguese fortified wine produced exclusively in the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal. It is typically a sweet, red wine, often served as a dessert wine, but it also comes in dry, semi-dry, and white varieties
Port on its own pairs beautifully with chocolate- try it with s'mores by the fire or that heart-shaped box of truffles, some fudge brownies or an adult affogato (pour a healthy dose of port over your favorite quality vanilla gelato or ice cream).
If you're looking for something a little more dramatic this Valentine's (or Singles Awareness or belated Galentine's) Day, try one of our favorite port cocktails below.
Founded in 1670, Warre & Co. is the oldest and one of the most highly esteemed port shipping firms in the world. William Warre joined as partner in 1729, and the company became known as Warre. The Warre family worked in the wine trade at Oporto for over 200 years. Andrew James Symington, great-grandfather of the current managing director of Warre’s, sailed to Portugal in 1863. After establishing himself as a well-known merchant in the port trade, he became associated with Warre’s in 1905. In 1912 the Warre family chose to return to England where they would look after sales, while the Symingtons managed operations in Portugal. Today James Symington is the director of Warre & Co. Ltd.
Wine punch has always been popular- from hippocras in the Middle Ages to Claret Cup Punch in the days of Jane Austen to any number of conceptions today.
Sangria, the quintessential Spanish wine punch, is traditionally made with red wine, excellent when made with Rioja and other Spanish reds. White wine and sparkling wines can also be used to create refreshing and festive Sangrias.
Sangria was first tasted in the United States at the 1964 World's Fair in New York.
Today, December 20, just so happens to be Sangria Day. While at first you might think Sangria Day should be in the summer, just think about how beautiful the traditional red Sangria looks in a pitcher. The colors complement any festive holiday party (and at a party, what is better than a generous helping of an alcoholic beverage?) and the versatility (depending on the wine used) can pair nicely with any number of dishes.
Not to mention here at Vineyard Brands corporate headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama the weather has reached a balmy 70 degrees, so a cool glass of sangria would be quite welcome.
Food & Wine Magazine (who has recently relocated to our fine city of Birmingham, Alabama) has a collection of sangria recipes sure to please every taste and party theme.
We've selected three of our favorites (Red, Rosé, and White- so a little something for everyone) and paired them with some stellar (but won't break the bank) Spanish wines from our portfolio. We've linked the whole collection of recipes here.
For something a little less traditional and sure to impress any guests you may have, try this Thai-Basil Sangria. The citrus and basil will be a refreshing palate cleanser after all the heavy flavors of the holiday season. Use Marqués de Cáceres Verdejo to keep the drink rooted in its Spanish origins.
In part one of our Thanksgiving wine and food blog, we suggested a variety of wines for all tastes and all budgets from around the world.
If you're a little overwhelmed by all the options or if you're still trying to decide a final few things to cook, take some inspiration from our Marketing Director Perry Riddle's Thanksgiving menu.
On my table for Thanksgiving, I usually serve mostly dishes from my favorite cookbook author, Ina Garten. This year I will be making her Roast Turkey with Truffle Butter, Spinach Gratin, Garlic Roasted Potatoes, Cranberry Conserve, and String Beans with Shallots. I also will be serving a Honeybaked Ham, my mom’s Chicken and Dressing, yeast rolls, and my grandmother’s Sweet Potato Pie.
Dinner: I usually serve a red and white for dinner. For white, my go-to is always an off-dry Riesling. With my dinner menu, there is the typical element of sweetness that you find on the Thanksgiving table, but I don’t overdo it. Wines such as August Kesseler’s Riesling R have an innate sweetness that beautifully pairs with foods while maintaining a crackling acidity that keeps things refreshing. Plus I’ve found that this wine is a fan favorite among all my friends. And, honestly, the combination of Honeybaked Ham and this wine is stunning! For reds, my choice this year will probably be Southern Right Pinotage (which in my opinion is the best Pinotage for the money in the world). The abundant blue fruit, fresh acidity, medium body, and spice notes really blend well with the food. Another suggestion would be MAAL biutiful Malbec: once again, a wine with abundant fruit, spice notes, and an easy-going structure Overall, the key with reds is to avoid aggressive tannins and to embrace juiciness and fruitiness.
Dessert: Thanksgiving is the perfect time to enjoy a decadent dessert wine. My grandmother’s Sweet Potato Pie is overall not a sweet pie but a very spicy one. Fresh grated ginger and lots of allspice and cinnamon really wake up the taste buds. I’ve found that Gewurztraminer can really be a gorgeous pairing with sweet potatoes when there’s an exotic spice element in the dish. The absolute ideal wine here would be Domaine Weinbach Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Mambourg Vendanges Tardives, but if you’re like most of us and can’t get ahold of this rare gem, the Cuvée Laurence or Cuvée Theo bottlings also have a light sweetness that can pair nicely with desserts that aren’t overly sweet.
Everyone has their own family recipes and own traditions, but if you're looking to spice yours up this year or make some new traditions of your own, we hope these blogs have helped! We'll leave you with a recipe for homemade cranberry relish from our Patrick Harney. The only thing missing from the recipe is the addition of 3 shots of Grand Marnier or Cognac (more depending on the number of annoying family members you plan on seeing). Happy Thanksgiving!
"Champagne! In victory, one deserves it, in defeat, one needs it."
Napoleon Bonaparte (who knew well both victory and defeat)
“Champagne is the one thing that gives me zest when I feel tired”
“Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.”
“My only regret in life is that I didn’t drink enough Champagne”
John Maynard Keynes
“Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!”
With a history dating back over 300 years and adoring fans ranging from Napoleon Bonaparte to John Maynard Keyes to Brigitte Bardot, champagne is unique. The U.N. gave the Champagne region of France world heritage status in 2015.
But did you the know the beloved bubbles were originally not so in demand? The bubbles were once unwelcome and considered by winemakers to be a sign the wine had gone bad.
Now champagne and its trademark bubbles are used to christen boats, celebrate huge sports wins (like the French national team’s win guaranteeing their place in the World Cup), toast happy couples at weddings, and the celebration of life events large and small.
To be Champagne, the wine MUST come from the Champagne region of France. Champagne Salon and Champagne Delamotte are two of the most well respected houses in the region. The two joined forces in 1988.
Champagne Delamotte was founded in 1760, making it the sixth oldest Champagne house. Nicolas Louis Delamotte assumed management of the House of Delmoatte in 1828 and hosted spectacular events, including the coronation of France’s last King, Charles X. Today just ten people manage the annual production of 750,000 bottles. The golden rules for the business: ensure a consistent quality by purposefully limited production and maintain at least three harvests in the cellars at all times. The wine is truly a labor of love for the small production team, which offers four bruts: Delamotte Brut, Delamotte Blanc de Blancs Vintage, Delamotte Blanc de Blancs, and Delamotte Rosé.
Champagne Salon is one of the most exclusive and most prestigious makers of Champagne. The first known vintage was 1905. The 1928 vintage of Salon was unanimously accepted by connoisseurs and the requirements have remained constant every since: only in exceptional years are the great vintages made, a feature unique to Salon, with limited production and traditional Vinification.
Champagne Salon is rare on all counts: always a single harvest, single cru, single grape variety, and only produced in the best vintages. In the 20th century, only 37 vintages were declared with an average production of 60,000 bottles per declared vintage.
Far away from the hustle and bustle of Madrid, the art and architecture of cosmopolitan Barcelona, and the sun-soaked beaches of Valencia, there lies the small wine region of Rías Baixas tucked away in the northwestern corner of Spain. Known as “Green Spain”, this hilly area located in the autonomous community of Galicia shares very little in common with the dry, desert-like conditions of the rest of the country. The climate is decidedly maritime, and rainfall (and humidity) is plentiful here. Historically, the area is closely tied to the culture of the early Gallic people who settled here. Today traces of this distinct culture are still observed in the fair skin of the population, the native Gallego language which is still widely spoken, the regional seafood-dominated cuisine, and the traditional dress, music, and dances of the region. This uniqueness is also evident in the fascinating and delicious wines of the region, especially its distinct native treasure, Albariño.
Tradition dictates that the ancestor of the modern Albariño vine was brought to the region in the 12th century by Cistercian monks of the wealthy Cluny Abbey located in Saône-et-Loire, France (an area in Burgundy). Although the translation of the name Albariño (“white of the Rhine”) seems to support this tradition, today many ampelographers believe the vine may be indigenous to the region due to its prolific presence in the wild growing along the trunks of poplar trees and there being no genetic evidence of parentage by vine species north of the Pyrenees.
Wine production in Galicia and Rías Baixas is well over 90% white and, of that, about 92% is Albariño. The humidity of the region can be problematic for producing healthy grapes, so several viticultural practices have evolved to allow the grapes to have maximum exposure to sunlight and maximum circulation of air to prevent mildew and ensure even ripening. The vines are traditionally widely spaced and trained on granite pergolas with a wire trellis called a parra. The workers often stand on grape bins to harvest the high hanging fruit. Low yields and temperature-controlled winemaking have revolutionized the style of wines produced in the region in the past several decades.
Albariño wines display a very unique and exuberant aromatic and flavor profile. Generally the wines are dry with high acidity and a light body. There is a very strong botanical element to these wines, which can border on that of many aromatic varietals such as Petit Manseng or Viognier. The botanical aromas and flavors, along with those of rich stone fruits, citrus, tropical fruits, and the characteristic touch of saline sea spray are characteristic of these beautiful wines, which are perfectly suited to the fresh seafood cuisine of the region.
A wonderful example of Albariño is produced by the Marqués de Cáceres winery of Rioja legend. They call their 100% Albariño wine Deusa Nai (“mother goddess”) in honor of the goddess of fertility who was highly worshipped by the early Gallic habitants of the region. Cristina Forner, owener of Marqués de Cáceres, says that they seek to transfer the magic of this ancient myth and the romance of the Rías Baixas region to this wine. The crafting of this wine from vineyard to bottle is exceptionally artisanal. The grapes come from the the O Rosal area (one of three main sub-regions in Rías Baixas) where the undulating, granitic vineyards are very close the ocean. The harvest is 100% by hand, and the fermentation and less maturation are done in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks to maximum the vivacity and freshness of the varietal. The resulting wine is a pale golden color with a distinct mineral character emanating from the terroir. Characteristic notes of ocean minerals and sea spray intertwine with deep floral and citrus tones. Stone fruits, such as pear, white peach, and nectarine, further convey the unmistakable character of the grape. It is truly a white wine of pedigree and distinction.
When pairing Albariño with food, the first clue is the native cuisine of the Galician region. This wine simply sings with fresh, simple preparations of high quality seafood. Fresh white crab, mixed shellfish platters, ceviche, simple grilled fish, and sushi and sashimi immediately come to mind for the younger wines that emphasize the fruit and freshness of the varietal. More mature examples with perhaps some oak influence are excellent partners for richer dishes such as seafood stews or scallops. In pairing Albariño wines, do as the Spanish do and consider them “the Manzanilla sherries of the North”, as both wines contain distinctive ocean notes and pair so seamlessly with seafood. And don’t forget this fruity, vivacious wine as a wonderful aperitif before dinner!
Albariño is truly a special, distinctive grape grown in a special, distinctive place. It has the broad appeal of favorite mainstays such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio but with a certain uniqueness of place that really distinguishes it from all others. And people are starting to catch on. Albariño has enjoyed a surge in popularity in the US for the past two decades. This popularity has now taken the grape to vineyards in California in the regions of Los Carneros, Napa, and the Edna Valley and even to Oregon and Washington. In the end, however, the truest expression of Albariño will always come from its ancestral home in Green Spain.
It’s hard to imagine a more romantic setting than rolling hills, medieval villages, and rich vineyards.
Located in northern Spain, Rioja is an easy driving distance from popular cities like Madrid, Bilbao, and San Sebastian.
The Rioja region is one of the greatest wine growing areas in the world. But don't be confused, non-Spanish speakers! Although at first glance “rioja” looks similar to the Spanish word for red- rojo- the region produces a variety of wines including whites, reds, and even rosés.
The region has been producing wines for over 200 years, but still isn’t as well known to many consumers as other regions. So if you’re more familiar with French wine than Spanish, the Rioja region is often compared to the Bordeaux region of France. High quality wines at a variety of taste and price points abound.
Rioja has the most acreage under vines of any wine region in the world- over 140,000 acres of vines yielding 250 million liters of wine annually.
There are over 500 wineries in the region—ranging from small, more traditional cellars to large commercial producers.
If Rachel’s quest for love has led you on a quest for love of your own, let us introduce you to a winery sure to win your heart (and your tastebuds)-Marqués de Cáceres. The story of this winery is practically made for TV (just like the Bachelorette).
The Forner family fled Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Finding refuge in France, Henri Forner and his brother Elysée bought and restored two antiquated and abandoned châteaux. These two châteaux are now recognized as two of the finest properties in Bordeaux.
Once returning to Spain, Henri decided to establish a bodega of his own in Cenicero, in Rioja Alta. In gently rolling hills and bordered by the Ebro River, Marqués de Cáceres is the perfect setting for a storybook romance…is it really any surprise the Bachelorette chose Rioja?
Drawing on his experiences in Bordeaux, Henri Forner introduced the estate-bottling used in Bordeaux—limiting his source of grapes to those in the immediate area. French winemaking techniques and expertise have been applied to native Spanish grapes, producing one of the finest modern Riojas.
Marqués de Cáceres has stayed in the Forner family ever since. Henri’s daughter Cristina is at the helm and leading the winery to new heights and acclaim.
Curious to try the wine for yourself?
Pick up a bottle and fall in love. Will you accept this rioja? We know we do!
- The grape can trace its history in French winemaking to the 9th century. In its early days in France, the grape was mainly used to make sweet sparkling and dessert wines.
- Now the grape is best-known for Southern African wines. Its history on that continent goes back to 1655, when it was first planted by the father of the South African nation—Jan Van Riebeeck.
- Like in France, the grape was originally used to make a different beverage than what it is now known for. Chenin Blanc grapes were used in South Africa’s booming brandy production.
- When the South African wine industry truly began to grow and gain acclaim, the country was looking for a signature varietal. Enter Chenin Blanc.
- With some experimentation, South African winemakers were able to create a wine very different from sweet dessert wines or brandy. The Chenin Blanc you most often drink is a result of this South African experimentation. Similar to Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc is zesty, crisp, and dry.
Looking to try a South African Chenin Blanc? We have recommendations for you.
MAN Family Wines Chenin Blanc- a crisp, expressive, medium-bodied wine with vibrant aromas of quince and tropical fruit. ON the palate, fresh stone fruit and apple flavors are backed by refreshing acidity and mineralogy. Pairs well with poultry, shellfish, and vegetable dishes.
ESSAY Chenin Blanc- a medium-bodied white blend with fruit salad, guava, and melon aromas and a refreshing mineral-acidity. Pairs well with a wide range of foods, especially sushi, oysters, Asian curries, sweet-and-sour dishes, and summer salads.
Reyneke Chenin Blanc - a bright straw hue with a lovely bouquet of fresh limes and citrus peel followed through by fruit sorbet floral undertones.
Tormentoso Chenin Blanc- intense aromas of apricots and canned white peaches with touches of coconut milk and vanilla from the oak. The palate is packed with ripe yellow fruit, apple core and quince flavors, with blanched refreshing acidity and tangy finish.
We also have two great French Chenin Blanc recommendations for you.
Pichot Le Peu de la Moriette Vouvray- well-balanced and crisp with distinct notes of pear, lemon, pineapple and honey (Restaurant Wine). Creamed pear, ginger and quince flavors...refreshing and focused (Wine Spectator).
Pichot Coteau de la Biche Vouvray Sec- dry and racy with a fresh quinine streak, but there's a succulent edge too, as fig and pear fruit fill out through the finish, where a lovely green almond note hangs on (Wine Spectator).
Warmer weather and longer days call for picnics, late nights on the porch, and time spent with friends. International Sauvignon Blanc Day was last week and we were inspired to pair some snacks and sauv blancs perfect for slow afternoons and breezy nights.
Wine and cheese go together like peanut butter and jelly. For our first snack and sauv blanc pairing, Sauvignon Blancs pair brilliantly withsofter cheeses—goat’s milk, yogurt, crème fraiche. Beloved Green's Radish and Crème Fraîche crostini are a simple, light snack that look lovely on a plate.
Sauvignon Blancs are often described as “herbaceous” or “vegetal” so it makes sense that they would pair nicely with vegetarian dishes. Try pairing the Sauv Blanc with dishes that allow a little more of the wine’s acidity to shine through. This green goddess hummus from Cookie and Kate is a flavorful twist on the classic snack.
Like we mentioned, Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with vegetables and pairs well with cheeses. No surprise, it pairs well with vegetable AND cheese dishes. These Asparagus and Goat Cheese Mini Quiches from Southern Living are wonderful for brunch (who says bloody marys and mimosas are the only brunch beverages?) and store well.
Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most versatile white wines available. Perfect for the warmer weather, the variety of Sauvignon Blancs on the market-- Old World and New World-- mean you have plenty of options.
- Sauvignon Blanc is the world’s 8th most planted wine grape.
- No surprise, the grape hails from France. There the wine often takes its name from the region, not the varietal. Sancerre—not Sauvignon Blanc. So when you’re drinking a Sancerre, know it is from the same grape as a Sauvignon Blanc.
- Originally the grape was used in other blends, usually to make sweeter desert wines. In the 20th century Sancerre found popularity in Parisian bars and bistros and the success spread around the globe.
- New Zealand is now one of the most well-known and well-loved producers of Sauvignon Blanc. 90% of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs are from Marlborough, the wine region on the northernmost end of the island.
- If you read our blog on Malbec World Day, you’ll remember a nasty little bug called phylloxera that destroyed most of the French Malbec vines. The Sauvignon Blanc vines in New Zealand are all planted phylloxera-resistant rootstock. So take heart, your favorite Sauv Blanc most likely won’t suffer the fate of French Malbecs of old.
- France and New Zealand aren’t the only two countries providing the world with the easy-drinking wine. Italy, Chile, and South Africa are also major producers. (L to R: MAN, South Africa; Reyneke, South Africa; Gradis'ciutta, Italy; Cono Sur Chile)
- French Sancerre (also known as Pouilly Fumé and occasionally Sauvignon Blanc) are typically full of mineral and citrus flavors. ⬇️
- South African Sauvignon Blancs have balanced flavors with a light-medium body and acidity, in between mineral and herbaceous. ⬇️
- Chilean Sauvignon Blancs are marked by their citrus and green flavors and juicy high acidity. ⬇️
- New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs have intense tropical green flavors, a nice mix of fruity and herbaceous. ⬇️
- Italian Sauvignon Blancs, also “Old World” like French Sancerres, have a medium body with stone fruit, floral fragrances. ⬇️
- Whatever your preference, you can find just the Sauvignon Blanc for your taste. This is a wine easily enjoyed with or without food.
Since Monday was Malbec World Day, keep the celebration going and try one of these tasty recipes with your favorite Malbec.
One simple technique for pairing food and wine is to practice regional pairing. Having Italian food? Try an Italian wine. This certainly isn’t the only way to pair food and it’s not foolproof, but it’s a good template.
Since Malbec has really flourished in Argentina and become the signature varietal for the country, what better recipe to start with than steak—an Argentinian staple. At peak beef consumption in 1956, Argentinians consumed 222 pounds of beef for every man, woman, and child. Now Argentina hovers around roughly 120 pounds of beef per capita (compare that to US consumption rate of 79.3 lbs per capita and the fact only ten countries in the entire world consume 50+ lbs per capita).
SKIRT STEAK WITH CHIMICHURRI SAUCE
Continuing in our homage to beef-fanatic Argentina, GRIDDLED GAUCHO STEAK WITH BREAD-AND-BASIL SALAD is another excellent pairing with Malbec.
Moving away a little bit from the idea of regional pairing (but sticking with the carnivore theme), try a quintessential American cheeseburger. The lush Malbec will really bring out the flavors of this FAKE SHACK BURGER.
While instinctually Malbec and meat go hand-in-hand, don’t be afraid to try a vegetable dish, like this SWEET POTATO, BLACK BEAN, SPINACH QUESADILLA
Finally, one more veggie recipe for those not so Argentinian in their meat consumption habits. This AUBERGINE STEW from Jamie Oliver is a great meat alternative.
- April 17 is officially Malbec World Day!
- Why April 17? On that day in 1853, with the support of Mendoza’s governor Pedro Pascual Segura, a bill was submitted to the Provincial Legislature for the foundation of a Quinta Normal and a School of Agriculture. The bill was enacted as law by the House of Representatives on September 6th, 1853.
- Malbec has a history dating back hundreds of years. It was served at the wedding of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Henri II. Happen to have forgotten their anniversary? We have you covered. 1152 (over 800 years ago).
- Was once known as "black wine"...for fairly obvious reasons. Malbec is one of the darkest wines you can find. TintoNegro literally means Black Wine.
- While you might associate Malbec most closely with South America (and Argentina in particular), Malbec traces its origins back to France and was once the most widely planted grape in the country and found in many Bordeaux blends.
- In 1870, phylloxera destroyed vineyards in France and ruined the Malbec vines in Bordeaux. This same pest has never taken hold in Argentina.
- By the end of the 19th century, viticulture had boomed in Argentina (in part thanks to Italian and French immigrants) and so did Malbec, which adapted quickly to the varied terroirs of Argentina.
- Now Malbec only accounts for about 10,000 acres in Cahors and about 100,000 acres in Argentina. Malbec can also be found in countries throughout the world including the US and New Zealand, but Argentina has nearly 70% of all acres of Malbec in the world.
- Malbec vines are very sensitive to weather and pests (like phylloxera). They've thrived in high-altitude Argentina.
- Argentina is now the 5th largest wine producer in the world.
- Argentinian Malbecs are fruit-forward, plummy, and velvety with prominent new oak.
- French Malbecs have more structure, firmer tannins, an inky dark quality, and are earthier.
- BOTH have essential Malbec flavors of blueberry, cherry, and plum.
It’s hard to walk into your local wine shop or supermarket and not notice the stunning rows of jewel-hued rosés. And considering the boom in popularity that rosé has enjoyed the past several years, there’s a strong chance that these beauties ranging in color from the palest of pinks to outrageous magentas will be featured prominently. As we explored in a recent blog post, rosé has gone from being just another wine to a cultural phenomenon in a few short years. However, most people, even the most ardent fans, have little idea of rosé’s fascinating journey from grape to glass.
While researching this article, I was fortunate to speak with two winemakers very knowledgeable about rosé production, Chelsea Franchi of Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles, CA and Simon Batarseh of August Kesseler in the Rheingau region of Germany.
It is a common misconception that rosé is made by simply combining red and white wines together. While this technically can occur, it is quite rare when making quality rosé. Franchi, who oversees much of the rosé production at Tablas Creek, started our conversation speaking about the two most common methods of producing rosé: saignée and direct press.
The saignée method involves bleeding off juice from red wine tanks before it has had a chance to take on too much color from the red wine skins (this process is called maceration). This labor-intensive method is interesting and controversial because it is often used as a way to enhance and concentrate the remaining red wine. Many rosé advocates consider it an affront to rosé because it is the by-product of red wine production. However, both Franchi and Batarseh praised this method for contributing intensity of flavors and for the amount of input they have while utilizing it. At Tablas Creek, the juice sits on the skins for approximately 24-72 hours before about 20% is bled off and subjected to a cold fermention. Most of this wine then becomes their serious, darker colored rosé called Dianthus (named for the flowers commonly known as “pinks”). Dianthus is generally Mourvèdre-based, a nod to the rosés of Southern France, specifically the Bandol area. Franchi attributes this wine’s watermelon essence to the Mourvèdre used in the blend. At Kesseler about 20% of the juice from wonderful up to 80-year-old Pinot Noir vines is bled off then fermented. Batarseh leans on this wine to contribute color and tannins to the final blend.
The other common method of making rosé involves direct pressing of the grapes. This method is the most common and generally is considered the benchmark for crafting quality rosé. Both Franchi and Batarseh praised the fact that crop levels, sugar levels, acidities, and harvest dates can all be controlled in the vineyard and tailored to make the absolute best rosé. They both also press the juice off the grape skins without any maceration time resulting in a stunning pale pink color. Often you will see this wine labeled as vin gris. At Tablas Creek, this limpid direct press juice is destined to become their acclaimed Patelin de Tablas Rosé. Franchi said that they prefer to co-ferment their Grenache, Mourvedre, Counoise, and Syrah juice for this wine. This wine is definitely styled in the tradition of the great Provençal rosés with its dominant bright strawberry notes coming from the majority Grenache. At Kesseler the direct press juice is blended with the saignée juice for the final wine. Batarseh likes the interplay of qualities produced by using both methods, noting that the direct press juice brings a light, bright, acid-driven quality to the final wine.
I asked Franchi what her favorite grape is to work with in the production of rosé. After some thought she answered, “Grenache,” and referenced the absolutely heavenly, heady aroma released by the vats of fermenting Grenache in the cellar. Indeed, when studying many of the great rosé-producing areas of the world, Grenache often seems to pop up. It makes sense when considering that Grenache is a very thin-skinned grape and overall has less color-lending phenolic compounds than other red grapes. Franchi also referenced the little-known Rhone Valley grape Counoise as contributing a nice softness and darker red fruit flavors to their rosés as well as those produced in Southern France. Often Syrah is also added also its wonderful spicy character.
At Kesseler, Batarseh works exclusively with Pinot Noir for rosé production. Once again we find a grape with thin skin and low levels of phenolic compounds. It’s no surprise that in most of the world’s great Pinot Noir regions there is also usually concurrent rosé production (think Marsannay in Burgundy, Oregon, Germany, and the Loire Valley). Producers in these regions get the dual benefits of producing a gorgeous berry-scented rosé and intensifying the often light juice destined for their Pinot Noir bottlings. At Kesseler, considered one of Germany’s premier Pinot Noir specialists, their rosé shows beautiful berry and cherry notes while maintaining an elegant and exciting tension. It’s definitely refreshing but has the stuffing for year-round drinking.
Next time you’re buying a bottle of rosé for the lunch table, pool, or just a summer evening with friends, talk with the wine specialist or turn that bottle over and read the back label. Besides the important visual clues from the color, you’ll gain some great perspective on what’s in a bottle by simply knowing how it’s made. And don’t be embarrassed for buying it!
As Franchi told me, “The stigma is over. Rosé is one of the most delicious, versatile, and food friendly wines out there.” Think pink!!
We are so excited to welcome Domaine de Courcel to the Vineyard Brands portfolio!
You can’t get much more Burgundian than Domaine de Courcel. Family-owned for over 400 years, the winery is located in the village of Pommard on the Côte de Beaune. Domaine de Courcel is known as one of Pommard's grandest domaines.
Gilles de Courcel, the current owner along with his three sisters, has a strong wine background. One publication described him as “born in the vineyard,” just like the wines. Gilles has a business degree and worked in the industry in Beaune, Reims, and Bordeaux before returning home to Pommard.
The vineyard is cultivated using organic farming techniques, careful age-old practices, and modern methods. Low yields, late harvesting, whole bunch vinification, cold maceration, long cuvaison (barrel fermentation) and a lengthy élevage (maturation) with minimal racking are all key to the wines' excellent quality.
Almost three-quarters of the domaine is composed of the prestigious Premier Crus, making it one of the largest estates of Pommard Premier Crus. The four Pommard Premier Crus are Le Grand Clos des Epenots, Les Rugiens, Les Fremiers, and Les Croix Noires. Le Grand Clos des Epenots and Les Rugiens are in a class of their own in Burgundy.
The Domaine's other three lots are Les Vaumuriens, Bourgogne Pinot Noir, and Bourgogne Chardonnay.
Domaine de Courcel wines are known for their elegance, minerality, as well as their strong tannins and great density, something rare on the Côte de Beaune. The wines are subtle and rich with a remarkable ability to age.
Annual production never exceeds around 30,000 bottles. The wines are frequently mentioned and reviewed in leading wine publications, some of which are featured in the slideshow below.
The 89th annual Academy Awards were last night, so wine not watch a movie? We’ve compiled a list of five of our favorite wine-related documentaries available on Netflix.
Sour Grapes: True Story, Fake Wine
Rudy Kurniawan earned the reputation of a wine savant and surrounded himself with some of high society’s most fervent wine connoisseurs. When Bill Koch, a top US collector, and Laurent Ponsot, a Burgundian wine producer, discover suspicious bottles a humorous and suspenseful investigation begins into one of the most ingenious cons of our time.
SOMM: The thirst for knowledge is just the beginning
Four sommeliers attempt to pass the prestigious Master Sommelier exam, a test with one of the lowest pass rates in the world.
A Year in Burgundy: One year with the people who make wine like no one else in the world
The film follows seven winemaking families in the Burgundy region of France through the course of a full year, and delves into the cultural and creative process of making wine.
A Year in Champagne: Discover the intoxicating story behind the world’s most famous wine
This film shows a rare glimpse behind the scenes into the real Champagne through six houses—from small independent makers to illustrious houses.
Prohibition: How did a nation founded on rights ever go so wrong?
This three-part documentary film series tells the story of the rise, rule, and fall of the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the entire era it encompassed. The public stocked up before the law went into effect--141 million bottles of wine were sold in the 3 month period leading to prohibition.
Today is President’s Day and U.S. Presidents have a long history of supporting the wine industry at home and abroad.
One of the most legendary oenophile presidents was Thomas Jefferson. The third president of the United States served as ambassador to France where he developed a taste for French wines. As president he shipped 600 bottles of wine per year from France to the United States.
Jefferson also helped stock the wine cellars of the first five U.S. presidents. During his two terms in office it’s estimated he spent $11,000 (that's $175,000 in today’s dollars) on wine.
Two wines stand out as presidential favorites- Champagne and Madeira.
Madeira is a fortified wine produced on the Portuguese island of- you guessed it- Madeira. Its alcohol content hovers around 18-20%. This allowed it to withstand the trip across the ocean to the New World. In colonial days, nearly 25% of Portugal's madeira was shipped to America.
George Washington was an avid drinker of Madeira. In fact, it was used to toast his inauguration. Washington’s granddaughter reported the first president drank three glasses of Madeira after dinner every night.
The first father-son presidential duo--John Adams and John Quincy Adams --were also partial to Madeira. It is even rumored that during a blind taste test John Quincy Adams was able to correctly identify 11 out of 14 different kinds of Madeira.
While madeira lost its popularity over the years (but is making a comeback!), to no surprise, champagne has been a constant fixture in the White House. James Madison, John Tyler, James Polk, Ulysses S. Grant, William Howard Taft, John F. Kennedy, and Richard Nixon all had a well-known taste for the sparkling wine. The White House even boasts a champagne room. That's right, a champagne room.
Wine has been present at the most significant events throughout our country's history. Madeira was the founding fathers' drink of choice to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The Louisiana Purchase was toasted with madeira and champagne.
Raise a glass and have a celebration of your own this President's Day!
In 1925 Dr. Abraham Perold created what was to become South Africa’s, and possibly the world’s, most misunderstood grape variety, Pinotage. Perold, a professor at the University of Stellenbosch, was researching grape varieties and looking to create a new cross with the hardiness of Cinsault (then called Hermitage in South Africa) and the complexity of Pinot Noir. The resulting four seeds were planted in his garden and quickly forgotten about until 1925 when Charlie Niehaus rediscovered the plantings and decided to graft them onto new rootstock and propagate the new variety. It was later christened Pinotage, a combination of Pinot Noir and Hermitage. Interestingly enough, Dr. Perold died in 1941 and was never able to see the fruits of his research.
Pinotage soon began to take hold in the Cape winelands and early examples won accolades and prizes in wine shows in the 1950s. These early successes and the relative hardiness of the varietal led to an increasing presence in many wine growing areas of South Africa, and eventually Pinotage became the area’s signature varietal.
Currently around 7% of South African vineyards are planted to Pinotage. It has quickly become a symbol of the country’s wine industry and is a required component in South African red blends. There has been, however, significant criticism leveled at the resulting wines. Frequent descriptors include “burnt rubber”, “nail polish”, and “spray paint”. These sickly sweet and chemical odors have been the subject of much research and are attributed to the esther isoamyl acetate. This organic compound is present in bananas and used as a banana flavoring (explaining why many people identify subpar Pinotage by the artificial banana aroma) and also can be used as a solvent. Most proponents of Pinotage claim that excessive isoamyl acetate and the hot flavors are results of bad viticulture and winemaking that doesn’t take into account the unique needs of Pinotage.
In the vineyard, Pinotage is deceptively easy to grow, but in order to produce quality fruit water stress and high temperatures during harvest must be avoided and old vines are highly preferable. The vineyards must also remain free of viruses, which adversely affect the resulting wines. During fermentation temperatures must be kept relatively low and sensible barrel aging can help minimize isoamyl acetate and volatile acidity problems. Remember this challenging vine’s parent is the infamous Pinot Noir!
As Pinotage has waxed and waned with the fashions and fickleness of the wine world, two key thing have emerged: Pinotage is capable of producing a wide range of quality wine styles, and there are many vintners who understand the grape and can make beautiful examples of it. Two producers known for their deft hands with the grape are Chamonix and Southern Right. While both produce quality examples, there is little in common with their approaches. Chamonix lets Pinotage clusters partially dry on the vines and utilizes carbonic maceration to produce a ripasso-styled wine that is both grippy in tannins and velvety and rich at the same time. Southern Right, located in the Walker Bay area of the Cape, styles itself as a Pinotage specialist and has produced a string of highly rated wines from the variety. Their approach is classical and makes wonderful use of the fruit grown in a relatively cool climate with clay soils. The resulting wines are fruit-focused but complex with a perfect seasoning of oak.
Grenache is a hearty, productive red grape popular in southern France (especially Southern Rhône) as well as in Spain, where it is called Garnacha. It is also grown extensively in Australia and the United states.
When fully ripe, Grenache features very fruity flavors — predominately strawberry — coupled with a fiery spiciness. Grenache wine styles can vary from light-bodied, delicious, fruity rosés to rich, red, table wines, to full dessert and fortified wines. Grenache produces powerful wine, but has a deceptively lighter color and is semi-transulcent.
Much of Grenache’s popularity is due to its bountiful growing habits in poor soils, particularly in warm, dry and windy climates. It buds early and, if left on the vine for late harvesting, it reaches high sugar levels. This allows winemakers to make high-alcohol wines. This growing strategy is another of the reasons for the grape’s versatility.
Due to its thin skin and pale color it is the most popular grape used in the production of rosé wines. Grenache-based rosé is one of southern France's signature wine styles. Grenache is typically the dominant grape in red blends with Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault made in France’s southern Rhone region, producing wines as celebrated as Châteauneuf-du-Pape and accessible as Cotes-du-Rhone.
Grenache is also one of the most versatile wines to pair with food. Due to its spicyness, pure red fruits, fresh attributes and endless levels of depth and textures, Grenache works well with a diverse line-up of foods.
It pairs perfectly with grilled, stewed and braised meats like beef, veal, pork, chicken and of course game. Grenache holds up well to hearty dishes like cassoulet and it’s a good match for less spicy styles of Asian cooking; however, the spice in Grenache also makes it a perfect pairing buddy to spiced and herb foods including roasted meats, vegetables and many ethnic foods.
It is rare to encounter a varietal that arouses such strong emotions as Chenin Blanc.
According to Jancis Robinson, this grape leads a “double life,” producing ethereal, gossamer dessert wines in the Loire Valley regions of Quarts de Chaume and Bonnezeaux, but also producing gallon upon gallon of what best can be described as “plonk” in many wine wastelands.
Perhaps, though, the most important style to be familiar with lies somewhere between these two extremes.
The most important characteristic of Chenin Blanc is its extremely high acidity:
If harvested too early, wine writer Oz Clarke describes the resulting wine as “one of the nastiest wines possible.” It is also very reflective of the terroir and climate in which is planted.
In cooler climates the wines tend to show apple, honey, and floral qualities, whereas in warmer climates more tropical notes begin to emerge. Crop yield must be carefully managed as well. Only when all of the above elements are balanced and harmonious does the true noble character of the varietal really reveal itself.
The first order of business when purchasing a bottle of Chenin Blanc is the question of sweetness.
As the varietal is highly acidic, a degree of residual sugar is often a welcome addition to balance the rapier texture. Starting with the grape’s ancestral home in the central Loire Valley, it is safe to assume that wines coming from the appellations of Quarts de Chaume, Bonnezeaux, and Coteaux du Layon will be dessert styles. These late harvest or botrytised styles are rich, honeyed, extremely long-lived, and exceptionally rare.
Moving into Savennières, there is less fog to encourage botrytis development, so the wines are generally dry. These wines have been called by many the most cerebral wines in the world and require cellaring to express their myriad aromas and flavors.
Anjou, Crémant de Loire, Coteaux de l’Aubance, Jasnières, Montlouis, Saumur, and Vouvray present much more of a problem in terms of classifiction. These wines run the gamut of styles from dry to dessert styles, and in Saumur one finds exciting, brisk sparkling versions.
Vouvray perhaps presents the most variety of styles. Look for clues on the label such as the terms sec (dry) or moelleux (sweet). The term sec tendre also bears mention: these lightly sweet wines often are beautiful partners to ethnic foods or gently sweet dishes at the table.
Moving to the Languedoc in the south of France, Chenin Blanc tends to be made in a dry style owing to the ample sunshine and Mediterranean climate.
In the New World, Chenin Blanc is most associated with South Africa. Indeed, there is nearly twice the amount of Chenin Blanc (or Steen as it might be called) planted here today as there is in France. In recent years there has been a renaissance of quality bottlings of this cultivar due to many producers focusing more on terroir, experimenting with oak aging, utilizing old vine plantings, and relying less on high yields. In quality bottlings one will generally find dry, fresh renditions, and now many top producers are making complex versions that can age many years.
In the United States, Chenin Blanc has largely been relegated to the role of workhorse, and most people view the resulting wines as insipid and uninspiring. However, today there are many new producers that are producing interesting, high quality wines. Look for single vineyard designations on the label and expect to pay a few more dollars. Needless to say, these wines will repay the investment in terms of enjoyment.
Pairing Chenin Blanc with food:
- The dessert styles are gorgeous partners to foie-gras and apple desserts.
- Off-dry versions complement sweet and sour-type dishes or many ethnic cuisines.
- The dry, fresh, and fruity New World styles are great choices for vegetarian fare
- Richer oaked styles work well with poultry in cream-based sauces or triple-cream cheeses.