The Story of Barolo

Guest Author Nick Poletto tells us the story of Barolo…

BaroloBefore Italy, there was the House of Savoy.  The House of Savoy was formed in the early 11th century in the historical Savoy region, which included the modern day region of Piedmont.  The House of Savoy was a monarchy made up of Dukes, Princes, Kings and Emperors.  Through gradual expansion, it grew from ruling a small county in the region of Piedmont to the Kingdom of Italy from 1861 until the end of World War II. 

It was the leadership, strength and intellect of the House of Savoy that led them to unite all of Italy and rule for 85 years.  These same attributes led this nobility to desire and drink only one wine, which was anointed as “The Wine of Kings, the King of Wines – Barolo.”

The Place: Barolo

Located in the southeastern part of the region of Piedmont, the Barolo zone extends over an area of often sharply inclined hills all facing south.  Piedmont, as the name suggests (at the foot of the mountain) is surrounded by the Alps to the west and north, the Apennines to the east linking to the Maritime Alps in the south.  The region is 43% mountains, 30% hills and 27% plains.

Even though Barolo is almost three times larger than Barbaresco, it is only 5 miles wide at its widest point.  The original five communes consisting of La Morra, Barolo, Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’Alba and Monforte d’Alba make up 87% of total Barolo zone production.  The two communes of Barolo and Castiglione Falletto are considered the ‘heart’ and unofficial ‘classico’ areas of the zone.

Piedmont CroppedBarolo’s soil can be broken down into two types: Helvetian and Tortonian.  Tortonian soils are located mostly west of the steep slopes of the amphitheater of hills between Barolo and La Morra.  Tortonian soil has a bluish tint, is rich in magnesium and manganese, and is composed of 30% sand, 55% clay and 15% limestone.  Helvetian soils dominate in the area to the east on the rising hills of Monforte and Castiglione Falletto and across the valley at Serralung.  Helvetian soil is made up of many different types of sandstone, has a chalky beige color, and is rich in iron.   Both types of soil contain calcareous marls of marine origin.

Tortonian soils produce a more fragrant, elegant and early maturing Barolo requiring less aging, while the Helvetian soils produce stronger wines with more color, body, and tannins; requiring at least 12-15 years of aging to be at their best.

The Grape:  Nebbiolo

The Nebbiolo grape is one of Italy’s most revered varieties.  It is a very old variety with the first documented use of the name dating back to 1266.  It was of such high stature, that there was a 5 lire fine for anyone who cut down a Nebbiolo vine.  Repeat offenders had their hands cut off and in some cases were even put to death!

Nebbiolo is revered for its aromatic complexity, tannic power and exceptional aging potential.  It is a very vigorous vine which needs to be thinned with strict canopy management.  The vine is also unique in that is first 2 – 3 buds are infertile; this vine needs its space!

NebbioloThe name Nebbiolo is derived from ‘nebbia,’ the Italian word for fog.  This refers to the thick, natural bloom covering the ripe berries that look as if they are covered in a layer of fog.

The four distinct Nebbiolo clones are:

  • Nebbiolo Lampia: larger, longer bunches and reliable, balanced profile.  Most widespread.
  • Nebbiolo Michet: named after Michetta, or “bread roll” due to its shape.  Low yield, high concentration of phenolics.
  • Nebbiolo Rose: rarely found.
  • Nebbiolo Bolla: once widespread, today rarely as yields are quite high.

Nebbiolo is very unforgiving as it flowers in early April and ripens very late.  The key to success is a dry, warm September that allows the extremely late ripening Nebbiolo to develop for the late October harvest. In a normal decade growers expect to have two or three top vintages.

The Wine

While the Nebbiolo grape dates back to 1266, it is not until the 18th century that we find the first use of the word ‘Barol.’  Later, in the 1830’s, with the insistence of Giulietta Vitturnia Colbert di Maulevrier (the Marchesa), the wine of the region was named after its town of origin, “Barolo.”

The Marchesa was close friends with King Carlo Alberto and the wine Barolo was held in very high regard by all the wealthy and royalty of Piedmont.  The Marchesa owned massive Barolo Townamounts of land that encompassed Barolo, La Morra, Castiglione Falletto and Serralunga.  She grew her prized Nebbiolo in these towns and later hired the famous oenologist Louis Oudart from Burgundy, France.  Louis Oudart is credited with bringing a modern style of winemaking that was combined with the grape Nebbiolo to form Barolo as we know it.

With the passage of time, Barolo increased in popularity and was again reinvigorated in the early 1900’s with a new line of successful and famed Barolo winemakers, including Emilio Pietro Abbona, Cesare Borgogno, Giulio Mascarello and Battista Rinaldi.

The Barolo and Barbaresco Consortium was founded in 1908, but was not recognized by the Italian Government until 1934.  Today, the Consortium includes  Barolo,  Barbaresco, Alba Langhe and Roero.  There are 500 members, made up of small and large producers.  Traditions and traditional methods of production retain their place of importance, but with a keen eye on keeping up with modern techniques and styles.

As summer wanes and the chill of autumn air takes its place, the smell of wood fire and fermenting wine dances along the small villages of Barolo.  White truffles begin to arrive, shaved over pasta emitting the most captivating smells fit for a King and matched only by the wine of Kings, the King of wines, Barolo.

Click here for the study aid:  Fast Facts About Barolo

Nick PolettoNick Poletto, CSS, CSW, DWS has an extensive wine background that includes studying abroad in both Italy and Argentina, working a harvest season at a winery in Martinborough, New Zealand, and teaching the WSET at Johnson and Wales University. Nick started his career at Kobrand as the company’s Massachusetts and Rhode Island Area Sales Manager and was promoted to Kobrand’s Director of Wine and Spirit Education in January 2012.

At this year’s SWE Conference in Orlando, Nick will be representing Barolo as he goes up against Don Kinnan in their session “Barolo vs Brunello – A Clash of the Titans.” If you’d like to hear Don’s side, click here for the Story of Brunello.  The Clash of the Titans is scheduled for Friday, August 2nd, at 4:45 pm.  See you there!

 

Protection for Prošek?

Diocletian Palace in SplitProšek is a traditional wine made in the region of Dalmatia on the eastern coast of  Croatia.  The history of the wine in this region has been traced back as far as 305 AD, when the area was still part of the Roman Empire.  In that year the Emperor Diocletian, weary and ill, became the only Roman Emperor to ever voluntary leave the position.  He abdicated his throne and went to live in Dalmatia in the city of Split, where his ancient palace still stands.  Written records tell us that Emperor Diocletian was a big fan of the sweet local wine, Prošek.

Prošek is still made throughout Dalmatia, both in the coastal areas and on many of the hundreds of islands that make up the region. The wine holds a traditional place in the family life of many Croatians, who make a batch of the wine when a child is born, and put the bottles away to be opened on the child’s wedding day.

Primosten Vineyards in CroatiaProšek is a sweet wine made in the passito method.  After harvest, the ripe grapes are spread out on straw mats and allowed to dry for several days to a few weeks, concentrating their sugar and flavors.  The wine generally has 12% sugar and 15% alcohol.  While there is no set formula for the wine, which is loosely regulated as a “specijalno vino” or specialty wine, typical grapes include the varieties Bogdanuša, Maraština, Grk, and Vugava, which are all native Croatian white grapes. Some versions, especially those considered to be the highest quality, use Plavac Mali in the blend. Due to its high sugar content and long aging tradition, the wine is often loosely compared to Vin Santo or Sherry.

Croatia, after some tumultuous times in recent history, gained its independence in 1991 and is scheduled to become the 28th member of the European Union on July 1, 2013.  While this certainly is considered progress in the positive sense, EU membership brings with it a host of regulations.  Croatia currently has a system of regulating its wines, and classifies its wines as Vrhunsko Vino (premium quality wine), Kvalitetno Vino (quality wine), and Stolno Vino (table wine).  These categories surely will undergo changes soon, as have the wine regulations of most EU members.

prosekOne facet of entry into the EU that might be a bit harder to love is the current EU quibble with the term “Prošek.”  Being a wine enthusiast, one of the first things that most likely came to your mind upon reading this article was the similarity between the name “Prošek” and that of Italy’s popular bubbly, Prosecco.

The name “Prosecco” has protected designation of origin (PDO) status and can only be used for wines from the desginated Prosecco region, so much so that the name of the main grape recently had to be changed from “Prosecco” to “Glera.”

While Prošek and Prosecco-the wines themselves-have little in common, one being a light, dry bubbly from Italy and the other being a sweet, passito, still wine from Croatia; the two words sound too close for comfort for the EU authorities, who have ruled that after July 1, the Croatian wine cannot be labeled using the term Prošek.

Croatia’s Ministry of Agriculture filed an application to protect the term Prošek, but the European Commission requested that it be withdrawn.  For the time being, it is up to Croatia to get the ban lifted. Perhaps they can find a way to protect Prošek before it is too late. Best wishes to all involved…

 Post written by Jane A. Nickles, CWE (your SWE Blog Administrator) bevspecialist@societyofwineeducators.org

 

The Winds of Wine: The Zonda

TArgentina Vineyard Malbechey call it Huayrapuca, “the witches wind.”  It sends birds flying, makes the sun appear brown, and knocks down trees. When they feel it approaching, people complain of sleeplessness, anxiety, a suffocating feeling, and depression. It usually starts up between noon and six pm, can last anywhere from one to 12 hours, and sounds eerily like a human whistling sound.

They also call it the Zonda wind, “viento Zonda.”  Technically, the Zonda wind is a type of foehn wind, that is, a dry, down-slope wind that occurs on the lee (downwind) side of a mountain range. The Zonda is a regional term used for this type of wind as it occurs over those parts of western Argentina tucked into the slopes of the Andes, including the wine regions of Mendoza, La Rioja, and San Juan.  The wind is especially brutal in these areas due to the high altitude of the mountain range it must climb over (and swoosh down.)

The Zonda forms as a result of humid air rising off the Pacific Ocean, where it travels up and over the Chilean side of the Andes.  In the winter it helps the snow build-up in the high elevations of the Andes, which provides the much-needed melt-off  to the vineyards of South America each year.

Argentina Andes ValleyIn the spring and summer, however, the Zonda can create havoc as it descends down the Argentine side of the mountains.  It loses its moisture, becomes warmer and warmer, and gathers up large clouds of dust.  The Zonda generally rushes off the mountains at 25 miles per hour (40km/h) but can reach speeds of 120 miles per hour (~200 km/h). The Zonda can raise temperatures by as much as 54°F (30°C) in just a couple of hours; and the wind event is often followed by a freezing cold front.  No wonder people go crazy!

While this unique weather phenomenon is a necessary part of the terroir of the region, it can also be disastrous to the vineyards.  A Zonda in the spring can wind-burn a vine’s leaves and shoots or shake them right off the vine. The cold front that often follows the hot, dry wind can bring with it the risk of severe frost damage.  For an interesting, short interview with a winemaker in his vineyard after a Zonda, click here.

The Legend of the Zonda

Legend holds that a Calchaqui Indian named Huampi was an arrogant hunter who spared no creature on his frequent hunting trips.  He killed every creature in his path, from the tiniest wood birds to the majestic llama.  His hunting prowess earned him great respect and he enjoyed being revered and even feared.  However, his hunting was out of control to point that all of the region’s animals were on the brink of extinction.

dust stormOne day, as he was returning from the hunt, Pachamama, the earth goddess, appeared before him in a blinding light and said, “Humapi, villainous child of the earth! Do you intend to kill all the animals? Who will feed you when there is no meat, and who will clothe you when there is no wool?”  And then, in a flash, she was gone.

As Huampi slumped against a tree and tried to calm himself, he heard a strange whistling sound.  He felt his face lashed and burnt by the wind.  All around him, trees crashed to the ground, flowers and fruit swirled over his head, and he was blinded by the stinging dust in his eyes.  Pachamama’s revenge was upon him, and since that day, as the Zonda screeches through the Andean valleys, it cries out with a human voice, causing all in its path to stop and pay respect to the power of mother earth.

For more information on “the winds of wine,” see our posts on The Mistral and The Roaring 40’s.

 

 Post written by Jane A. Nickles, CWE (your SWE Blog Administrator) bevspecialist@societyofwineeducators.org
 

 

Is Virginia “The Bordeaux of North America?”

Guest Author Jay Youmans, MW, CWE, dares to ask the question!

Is Virginia the “Bordeaux of North America?”

MonticelloI know that this is a bold, if not outright outrageous, question to ask about an East Coast wine region that is relatively unknown to most of the country. But before you start pelting me with your Napa Cabs and Your Washington State Merlots, hear me out!

I truly believe that some of the red blends being produced in Virginia are closer stylistically to Bordeaux than the vast majority of wines being made in California, Washington, or Oregon.

I was recently honored to be the Judging Director for the Virginia Governor’s Cup Wine Competition. This was a large and prestigious wine competition, with 377 Virginia wines entered and 43 accomplished wine judges from all over the world.  If you have attended SWE Conferences before, you might know two of our superstar judges – Shields T. Hood and David Denton, both CWE’s.

At the upcoming SWE Conference in Orlando, I will be showcasing the top 12 wines from this year’s Governor’s Cup Competition, and I find it very interesting that 11 of these wines are blends of grapes you would find in Bordeaux and Southwest France.  Here is a list of the wines we will taste:

  • Cooper Vineyards – 2010 Petite Verdot Reserve
  • King Family Vineyards – 2010 Meritage
  • Lovingston Winery – 2009 Josie’s Knoll Estate Reserve (Meritage)
  • Philip Carter Winery – 2010 Cleve (Petite Verdot/Tannat)
  • Pollak Vineyards – 2009 Cabernet Franc Reserve
  • Potomac Point Vineyard and Winery – 2010 Richland Reserve Heritage (Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon/Tannat/Petite Verdot)
  • Rappahannock Cellars – 2010 Meritage
  • RdV Vineyards – 2010 Rendevous (Meritage)
  • RdV Vineyards – 2010 Lost Mountain (Meritage)
  • Sunset Hills Vineyard – 2010 Mosaic (Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/
    Cabernet Franc/Petite Verdot)
  • Barboursville Vineyards’ 2009 Octagon 12th Edition (Meritage)
  • Trump Winery – 2008 Sparkling Rose (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir)

Shanandoah Valley MerlotAccording to the Virginia Wine Marketing Board’s “Virginia 2012 Commercial Grape Report,” the most widely planted red grapes in the Commonwealth are Bordeaux varieties:  Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot, in that order.  The number 5 red wine grape is Tannat, a variety found throughout southwest France.  The only other red wine grape with much presence in Virginia is Pinot Noir…and it trails pretty far behind.  As a matter of fact, Virginia grows 20 times more Cabernet Franc and 10 times more Cabernet Sauvignon than Pinot Noir.  (Virginia is definitely NOT the Burgundy of North America.)

Fast Facts About the Virginia Wine Industry:

  • The Jamestown settlers had high hopes that Virginia would become a major source of wine for the British Empire…so much so that in 1619 they passed a law requiring each male settler to plant and tend at least ten grapevines.
  • In 1774, Thomas Jefferson, along with Florentine Viticulturist Filippo Mazzei, established vineyards using vitis vinifera grapes on a plot of land adjoining Jefferson’s house at Monticello.  Unfortunately, they had very little success, and soon gave up their efforts altogether due to the revolutionary war.  In 1981, a new venture known as Jefferson vineyards began growing grapes and making wine on the historic site.
  • George Washington, at Mount Vernon, also attempted to grow European grape varieties.  However, every attempt to grow vinifera vines by the colonists met with failure.  Now, almost 240 years later, we know that the main culprit was Phylloxera, as well as other unknown pests and diseases in this new environment.
  • Beginning in the 1800’s, Virginia wines made from Native American grapes were very successful. So much so that, in 1873, a Virginia wine made from Norton, a native American (Vitis Aestivalis) grape variety, was named the “Best Red Wine of All Nations” at the Vienna World’s Fair.
  • At 230 wineries and counting today, Virginia is the fifth largest wine-producing state in the union after California, New York, Washington State and Oregon.
  • Virginia currently has 6 AVAs.  Click here for a list of The AVAs of Virginia .
  • The modern wine industry in Virginia has its share of interesting characters:  Dave Matthews (of the Dave Matthews Band) is the proud owner of Blenheim Vineyards in Charlottesville, and Donald Trump (yes, that Donald Trump) bought the former Kluge Estate Winery in 2011.  Now producing wine under the name Trump Winery, one of their specialties is a Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc/Merlot/Petite Verdot blend called “New World Red.”  It seems The Donald might think Virginia is “the Bordeaux of America” as well!

Jay Youmans, MW

If you have an opinion about whether or not Virginia is “The Bordeaux of North America,” would like to, or would like to try these wines and judge for yourself, be sure and join me at this year’s SWE Conference!

Jay Youmans, MW, CWE, owns the Capital Wine School in Washington, DC, www.capitalwineschool.com; and Rock Creek Wine Merchants, a sales & marketing consultancy. In addition, he is a partner in Manse Field, a Pinot Noir vineyard in Martinborough, New Zealand.

Jay will be presenting his session, “Is Virginia the Bordeaux of North America?” at the 37th Annual Conference of the Society of Wine Educators in Orlando on Wednesday, July 31st at 4:45 pm.

Click here for more information on the SWE Conference.

The Maestro

Andre TTTAndré Tchelistcheff (1901-1994) was so impressive as a winemaker that he earned the lasting nickname “The Maestro.”  Born in Moscow, he fled Russia during the Revolution and studied agricultural technology in Czechoslovakia before landing in France, where he studied microbiology, fermentation, and oenology at the Institut Pasteur.

In 1938, Georges de Latour, the owner and founder of Beaulieu Vineyards in Napa Valley, made a tour of France in search of a new winemaker. He was looking for someone with a sophisticated palate and a scientific background.  He found it in André, who was working at the French National Argronomy Institute at the time.  André had already received numerous offers of work from all over the world, yet he accepted the challenge and, in 1938, moved to Napa to become the Vice President and chief winemaker at BV.

Upon his arrival in California, he stopped the over-sulfuring of wines and put an end to the practice of dumping large amounts of ice into the crusher to combat the searing heat of the Napa Valley in fall.  He pioneered the cold fermentation of whites and rosés, the control of malolactic fermentation in red wines, and the use of small barrel aging.  He spent years replacing rusty cast iron piping and pumps that were causing the wines to have unacceptably high levels of metallic concentration.

Napa AndreAndré also pioneered the study of viticulture and terroir in Napa Valley, implementing frost protection in the vineyards and the prevention of grape diseases. He studied the various sub-regions of Napa, identifying areas where world-class Cabernet Sauvignon could be made, and is credited with coming up with the term “Rutherford dust.” Most importantly, he created Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which quickly became the benchmark style for high-quality Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

During his time with Beaulieu, Tchelistcheff trained many soon-to-be-famous winemakers, including Mike Grgich and Joe Heitz. He remained vice president of Beaulieu Vineyards until he retired in 1973.  In his “retirement” he consulted with dozens of wineries and winemakers in California, Washington State and Oregon. One of his first clients was Mary Ann Graf at Simi Winery, who is now recognized as the first woman winemaker in America. In full circle style, he consulted once again with Beaulieu Vineyards from 1991 until his death in 1994.

Always a gentleman, André was well-known and much beloved for his for his quick wit, sharp intellect, and European charm.  He was considered a master of the language of wine, and once described a Beaujolais as “a young woman, barefoot, the wind blowing in her hair, ruffling her blouse.  She has the look on Andre Tchelistcheffher face of an early peach, a teen-age beauty.”

Considered the most influential California winemaker since the repeal of prohibition, his many honors include being inducted into the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintner’s Hall of Fame in 2007, Wine Spectator’s Distinguished Service Award of 1986, and the 1970 Merit Award of the American Society of Enologists.  He was also recognized internationally, being named both a “Chevalier” and an “Officier du Mérite Agricole” by the French government.

However…to all those countless winemakers, grape growers, wineries and wine drinkers from the early days of the California wine industry and beyond, he will always be “The Maestro.”

 

Post written by Jane A. Nickles, CWE (your SWE Blog Administrator) bevspecialist@societyofwineeducators.org

 

Le Pays Diois

Clairette VendageAs the legend goes, more than two thousand years ago, in a land called Le Pays Diois, a shepherd lowered a jug of wine into the icy waters of the Drôme River to cool it down.  The wine was forgotten and left in the cold water over the winter.  The shepherd returned in spring, and to his surprise found the wine right where he left it.  When he opened the jug, he discovered a light sparkle to the wine…what the French call pétillance. For centuries afterward, Gallic tribes left jars of wine in the river over the winter, to recover them in the spring…

Many years later, distant relatives of that first Gallic shepherd can drink the same type of wine, now called Clairette de Die.  The vineyards of Die are located about 30 miles east of the Rhône River, at just about the spot where the Northern and Southern sections of the Rhône Valley meet.  This section of the French département of the Drôme, actually part of the Rhône Valley wine region, is home to four distinct AOCs.

France-Rhone ValleyThe vineyards, somewhat isolated in an area of otherwise very little wine production, are planted at altitudes of up to 2,800 feet, making them among the highest altitude vineyards in France.  Planted on the slopes of the Vercors Mountains, the vines are sheltered from morning frosts in the spring.  The chalky argilliferous soil, rich in clay, helps to retain rainwater, which helps the vines survive the long, hot, dry summers.

To make authentic Clairette de Die, the grapes are pressed immediately after harvest and placed in vats to ferment at very low temperatures, replicating the process used in ancient times when jugs of wine were kept in the icy waters of the local rivers.  After one or two months of slow fermentation, the sweet, still-fermenting wine is bottled.  The bottles are kept at a constant temperature of about 50°F and the wine is allowed to continue fermenting for another four months.  Fermentation ends naturally when the wine is still slightly sweet.  The wine is usually clarified by being emptied and quickly re-filled (this is the ancient method, after all).  This method of making Clairette de Die, based on the tradition founded 2,000 years ago, was officially recognized as the “ancestral dioise process” in 1941, and considered unique to this area.

There are four AOC’s in the Pays Diois:

clairette de dieClairette de Die AOC, the most famous of the wines, is a low-alcohol (about 8%), semi-sweet, slightly sparkling wine made using the officially recognized “ancestral dioise process.” Clairette de Die is made from the Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains (75% minimum) and Clairette (25% maximum) grape varieties. Look for aromas and flavors of apricot, peach, tropical fruit, citrus, honeysuckle and white rose.

Crémant de Die AOC, a Traditional Method sparkling wine, historically produced from 100% Clairette, is now made with a Clairette/Aligoté/Muscat blend.  This wine is dry and crisp with aromas and flavors of apple and green fruit.

Coteaux de Die AOC is a still, dry white wine made from 100% Clairette grapes.  The annual production is quite low…only around 1,500 cases, so you’ll most likely have to take a trip to the Diois for a sip!

Châtillon-en-Diois AOC is a still wine made in white, red, and rosé.  The red and rosé versions, produced from Gamay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah, are only made in the vineyards immediately surrounding the village of Châtillon-en-Diois.  The more widely available white version, made from the Aligoté and Chardonnay grapes, is produced throughout the Pays de Diois region.

And please…pronounce it as in Diois (“dee-wah”). Say it right, and you’re halfway there.

 

Post written by Jane A. Nickles, CWE (your SWE Blog Administrator) bevspecialist@societyofwineeducators.org

 

The Sazerac: World’s First Cocktail

Guest Author Jade Helm, CSW, DWS takes us on a trip to New Orleans to try the World’s first cocktail…

Sazerac Cocktails.jpg[1]

World’s first cocktail…it’s quite a claim to fame! But that’s what they say about the Sazerac…

The creation of the Sazerac dates back to 1838 and is credited to Antoine Amedie Peychaud who owned an apothecary in New Orleans.  Peychaud liked to treat his friends to a mixture of Cognac and his special blend of bitters.  He served it in a little egg cup called a “coquetier” (pronounced “ko-k-tay”), and some say this lead to the word “cocktail.” This would indeed make the Sazerac the world’s first cocktail, and the cocktail a truly American invention.

The Sazerac has evolved over time, due in part to necessity.  When the phylloxera epidemic decimated the vineyards of Europe, Cognac was in short supply, so in 1873 American Rye Whiskey became the base spirit of the Sazerac. In the same year, absinthe was added to the recipe. This addition soon revealed its own set of limitations, as we all know how Absinthe’s reputation for causing hallucinations and mental illness caused it to be banned for a time.  However, that was not about to stop the party in New Orleans, and a rinse of Herbsaint replaced the Absinthe in the Sazerac.

Sazerac Bar.jpg[1]With all this folklore at stake, I decided to make a trek to New Orleans to try the Sazerac for myself – in the interest of history, of course! The Sazerac Bar seemed like the right place to start.  The Sazerac Bar is housed inside The Roosevelt Hotel New Orleans, just off Canal Street. Richly appointed with sparkling chandeliers and decadent golden hues this is the type of hotel that makes you at least want to visit the restroom just to have an excuse to look around.  Luckily the Sazerac Bar is just as inviting.  Honey colored walnut and dim lighting remind us of a time when men were men and…well, back to the drink.

While the modern “official” recipe uses Sazerac Rye Whiskey, The Sazerac Bar offers both a whiskey and Cognac version.  I tried them both side by side and am happy to report that I loved both renditions.  The Cognac version was smoother, fruitier, and seemed sweeter. The Peychaud’s Bitters gave the drink added flavors of orange, cardamom seed, and star anise. The rinse of Herbsaint added a hint of anise that seems to linger on the finish.  The version made with Rye Whiskey had a smoky rye flavor and more “bite.” Somehow the whiskey, bitters, and Herbsaint combined to give the drink the aroma of candied citrus peel and floral, honey-like flavors.   What’s not to love?

If you would like to try to make a Sazerac at home, click here for a copy of The official Sazerac Recipe, courtesy of The Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel.  Cheers!

Jade Profile PicGuest Author Jade Helm, CSW, DWS is a wine writer, educator, and consultant, as well as the primary author of the Tasting Pour Blog.  She enjoys helping people explore wines whether they are simply tasty and affordable for everyday enjoyment, or worthy of cellaring.  For those who want to understand wine in greater depth, Jade offers information about tasting terms, regions, wine making methods, and just about anything wine! You can find Jade on Facebook, Linkedin, or the Tasting Pour Blog.

 

The Grands Crus de Bordeaux of 2010

Guest Author Paul Wagner takes us along as the Grand Crus de Bordeaux of 2010 travels to San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Washington DC, L.A. and beyond…

san franciscoThe Garden Court at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco began life 140 years ago as an open-air courtyard for horse-drawn carriages. Modeled on the Paris Opera House, the Palace enclosed the courtyard in 1904 and covered it with a glorious expanse of Belle Epoque stained glass. The Garden Court normally serves breakfast and lunch to hotel guests, but on January 18, 2013 the Garden Court is closed for a private event.

Twenty-four hours earlier, more than 110 owners and winemakers of the top chateaux in Bordeaux left their homes to promote the wines of the great 2010 vintage. The tour is a combination of military logistics combined with the grand opera of great wine.

By eight o’clock the next morning the Garden Court is a flurry of activity. Fifty-five tables are draped with sparkling white linen and crystal arranged throughout the room, each to be shared by two of the chateaux. In the center of the Garden Court, a small army of highly trained staff is given a briefing to prepare for their roles in the show.

red wine tasting line up of glassesAt 12:50 the chateau owners begin to arrive at the Garden Court, and the staff takes up its stations. Outside, a crowd of more than 200 importers, distributors, restaurateurs, retailers and media have already registered and are anxiously waiting to get in. The last few chateau owners push their way through the crowd and take their positions at their tables. It’s show time.

The critics are raving about the 2010 vintage.  The Domaine de Chevalier white is described by Gilbert and Gaillard as “Fleshy, polished, very fresh attack with clean, clear-cut aromas. Full, long and ethereal.”

The Wine Spectator describes the Smith-Haut Lafitte red as “Gorgeous, with alluring black tea and warm ganache notes that unfurl slowly, while the core of intense steeped plum, anise, blackberry compote and black currant confiture sits patiently in reserve.”

The buzz in the room is audible. Every chateau seems to have its share of fans and old friends. The chateau owners are now opening more bottles.  Robert Parker says of the Canon La Gaffaliere, “On the palate, the wine is dense and full-bodied, with stunning concentration, purity, texture and length.”  Decanter says that the Pomerol of Petite Village is “Impressive wine this year. The best ever? Dense, complex nose. Explosive fruit on the palate. Velvety texture.”

SauternesNear the end of the tasting, the crowd slows its pace and packs the space in front of the Sauternes tables. A top distributor puts his arm around the shoulders of a famous restaurateur and leans in to share a story. A winemaker from Napa buries his nose in a glass of Suduiraut and then slowly shakes his head in wonderment. His companion chuckles. Exhausted, smiling, with teeth stained black from scores of red wines, the tasters slowly walk out of the Garden Court into the night.

Early the next morning the chateau owners leave for Los Angeles, where they pour at a consumer tasting for more than 2,000 people that afternoon.

The Wine Enthusiast raves about the Cantemerle: “A great success for this southern Médoc chateau, this is fine, elegant and perfumed. It bursts with a black fruit flavor, balanced by smooth tannins and acidity.”

James Suckling says of the Chateau La Lagune, “What a lovely texture to the wine, with super soft and supple tannins and blackberry and currant character.”

new york mapSunday is a travel day to New York, followed by a tasting in the ballroom at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square on Monday, with more than 900 in attendance. It’s time to focus on the Médoc itself, from Margaux to St. Estephe. “Shows serious, well-embedded grip, and the core of fruit is spot on. This has the range, length and cut for the cellar,” the Wine Spectator notes of the Chateau Giscours.

Stephen Tanzer loves the Branaire-Ducru: “Bright ruby-red. Floral aromas of fresh red cherry, redcurrant, violet, gunflint and minerals. Suave on entry, then pliant and sweet, with a plush texture and a smoky quality to the redcurrant, blackberry and floral flavors.”

Jancis Robinson says that the Beychevelle is “Inviting, savoury dark fruit. Wonderfully juicy in the middle of all that tannin structure. Chewy and dense and then a chocolate sweetness at the very end.”

chicago mapIn Chicago, the legendary Drake Hotel sets up the Gold Room the night before in preparation, but a malfunction in the fire sprinkler system soaks one end of the room in the middle of the night. The staff works through the night, and by 11:00 a.m., when a few Bordelais arrive to inspect, the dark red carpet and marble floors are flawless. The grapevine motif in bas relief  glitters on the gold pillars that line the room.

Berry Bros. & Rudd sing an ode to the Pichon Comtesse de Lalande: “Silky, creamy and lush, it has a killer body and a spectacular finish.”

Farr Vintners is enchanted with the Phélan Ségur: “Layered, opulent, ripe and fleshy, this beauty should drink nicely for 10-15 years.”

The group leaves early the next morning to fly to Washington, DC, for their fifth tasting in six days.   While 2010 was a stunning vintage throughout Bordeaux, perhaps the greatest wines are the Sauternes. And like the wines, the reviews are effusive.

dc mapThe Wine Spectator says that the Coutet “Offers a bright inner core of honeysuckle, pineapple, star fruit and white peach flavors, coated for now with heather honey, marzipan and mango notes. Fresh and racy through the finish, this is an elegant beauty, showing terrific cut and precision”

Chateau Suduiraut got the attention of the Wine Enthusiast: “Richly textured, with an opulent feel, concentrated, the fruit buried in the dense flavors. It makes for a big, powerful wine, looking to a long future.”

James Suckling notes the Chateau Guiraud has “Ripe lemon peel and orange. Some honey and vanilla with loads of new wood. Dense and very sweet on the palate with nice pure fruit and firm tannins from the oak that still needs time to soften.”

As they fly home, the Bordelais leave lasting memories of both their wines and themselves. Clyde Beffa of K&L wines notes, “We are told that the 2010s will be long lasting wines. One journalist said that the wines would age for a century… it was another monumental vintage from a magnificent Bordeaux decade.”

Indeed it is. And sixteen days later, one hundred and five chateau owners fly to China. There are other worlds to conquer.

1 paulwagner1 12 11 (3)Paul Wagner is president of Balzac Communications & Marketing and is also an instructor for Napa Valley College’s Viticulture and Enology department and the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. He is a regular columnist for Vineyards & Winery Management Magazine, and contributes to Allexperts.com in the field of wine and food.

Paul is a founding member of the Academy of Wine Communications, a member of the nominations committee of the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintner’s Hall of Fame, and was inducted into the Spadarini della Castellania di Soave in 2005.

In 2009 he was honored with a “Life Dedicated to Wine” award at the Feria Nacional del Vino (FENAVIN) in Spain. He is also a member of the board of directors of the SWE.

Avvinare…To “Prepare the Glass for Wine”

Guest Author Susannah Gold of Vigneto Communications tells us about the lovely Italian tradition known as Avvinare…

avvinaireMany people are put off by wine jargon and by certain actions that people take when pouring a wine, whether it be decanting a wine or preparing wine glasses. While it is true that some people just like to put on a show, in many cases all of the pomp and circumstance actually has a practical purpose! Most of us would agree, for instance, that decanting a wine allows the wine to breath and can bring out the bouquet of a “closed” wine.

The Italian have a lovely tradition called “Avvinare” which is a method of preparing the glasses to receive the wine.  While it may appear to be just another wine tasting ritual, the purpose is to make sure the glass is clean and odorless.  Often wine glasses are washed in chlorinated water or have some dust or other substances on their surface. The process of Avvinare will neutralize any unwanted aromas, clean off any dust particles, and leave you with a perfectly primed glass!

Start the process of Avvinare by pouring a very small amount of wine into your glass and swirl it around a bit. This is done to “season” the glass. In fact, it is almost always done with the wine you are about to drink in that particular glass.  After you are finished, pour the wine into the glass of the person next to you and continue around the table until everyone’s glass is primed and ready to “receive the wine.”

Of course, there is some showmanship that goes into this process, as one would expect with anything that originates in Italy – dramatic flair, creativity, and a thoroughly practical element.  So the next time you take your wine glasses out, see if you too enjoy avvinando (past participle) your glass. It is a practice well worth doing and one that will become second nature to you.

susannahSusannah Gold, CSW, CSS, has been in communications for 18 years. Formerly a journalist for Dow Jones Newswires, Susannah has worked in PR agencies, in-house and on her own. In 2007, Susannah decided to marry her communications and wine interests and the result was Vigneto Communications, a boutique public relations, marketing and educational consulting firm specialized in the food & wine industry. Susannah has worked with numerous wine importers, producers, and institutions such as Vinitaly, Slow Wine, and numerous retail wine stores.

In addition to holding her CSS, CSW, and a Diploma of Wine & Spirits (DWS) from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust, Susannah is one of only a handful of non-Italians in the Associazione Italiana Sommeliers (AIS) and has completed her certification as a Spanish Wine Educator at the Wine Academy of Spain. You can learn more about Susannah and her work at her popular blog, titled quite appropriately, Avvinare.