Thursday, December 31, 2009

Celebrating and Toasting with a C....Sparkling Wine!

Will that be a Champagne, a Cava or a Crémant you will be drinking to celebrate the new Year? All of them made of course in the traditional method. Crémants are produced by adding a smaller dosage for the second fermentation, resulting in less carbon dioxide and thus a lower bottle pressure.This lighter effervescence creates a creamy texture to the wine and hence the term Crémant which means "creamy". Crémants have 2-3 atmospheres of pressure instead of 5-6 in wines from Champagne. My friend Philippe Durst, the Export Manager at Dopff Au Moulin in Alsace sent me this picture of a Crémant having some fun with a waitress.
But no matter what sparkler you will be celebrating with ( and I will be celebrating with a bubbly made here on Vancouver Island called
Célébration Brut from Starling Lane Winery.) it turns out that it is actually good for your heart.
My friend Nick Stephens over at Bordeaux-Undiscovered did a great post on that. And of course we all know that we should continue to drink our favourite beverage in 2010 because it is good for our health. Decanter has done a nice summation of the beneficial effects of wine. But only look at the green column. The researchers in the red column will be drinking and celebrating with a cup of decafinated tea.
Wishing you all a very Happy and Healthy 2010!!

Monday, December 07, 2009

How Much Will you pay for your Wine.....?

Yes ,the Asian market is hot. According to Sotheby's auction house fifty-seven percent of all wine sold by value went to Asian buyers this year. Asian bidding has boosted prices at both Sotheby's and Christie's International for first growths such as Lafite, Latour, Petrus and Mouton Rothschild. Both houses anticipate selling wines worth $5.7 million this week as buyers attend the last international sales of 2009 and thus propping up the prices once again for the greedy first and second growth Bordeaux producers. ( Don't be afraid to click on the feet in the picture.) But tell that to the 5000 plus workers at Threshers and Wine Rack shops who are loosing their jobs just before Christmas. Or tell that to the many Bordelais vintners whose vineyards have been grubbed up for lack of sales of their grapes. Similarly those pumped up prices will not impress the Australian wineries who are bulldozing their vineyards because there are 100 million cases of unsold wine sitting in their cellars. In the meantime Napa is also feeling the pressure of a slump in sales of their high end pricey wines. But predictions by the International Organization of Vine and Wine are for global wine sales to increase by 4 percent to 246.3 million hectoliters for 2009. But this is fueled by the demand in the US for cheap wine during the economic crisis. Meanwhile back in Hong Kong a bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothshild is selling for anywhere between HK$37,000 and HK$48,000. No wonder they are a prime target for thieves. Robbers removed $877,000 worth of Lafite from a warehouse in Hong Kong.
And is this another Billionaire's Vinegar in the making? According to Renaud Gaillard, deputy director of the French export trade body, Federation des Exportateurs de Vins et Spiriteux de France (FEVS) China is "the principal counterfeiter" of fine wines and spirits. Counterfeiters have targeted 5 to 6 of the top Bordeaux wine estates.
So, how much are you prepared to pay for your wines next year? Personally I will be quite happy to stay away from those pricey Bordeaux.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Are You Passionate About Wine...?

A new book, 'Living with Wine' by Samantha Nestor is eye candy for anyone with a passion for wine. It could easily have been titled 'Living with the Passion for Wine'. Samantha Nestor is well qualified to write a book such as this. She is the special projects editor at Metropolitan Home magazine and regularly appears on television and radio shows.

I am an amateur photographer and love to see great photographs. The pictures in this book by Andrew French are stunning. I was equally pleased to see Alice Feiring's name on the cover. She is definitely one of my favorite wine personalities and has been ever since I read her book,
The Battle for Wine and Love.
This book is a little bit like following the lives of the rich and famous. The majority of us will never have wine cellars like the ones detailed in 'Living with Wine' but if you are passionate about wine, this book will further stimulate your passion. I have consulted on wine cellar construction but only from the basics of where and how in a home and the importance of insulation, vapour barriers and usage of environmental control units but this book takes you to the outer limits. Liberally sprinkled with factual notes it will carry you away to a wine lover's paradise. it is simply amazing how today's technology, availability of a wide range of materials and exquisite craftsmanship can transform even a small space.
Each chapter carries an intriguing title. There is even a cellar made with no wood or natural fabrics. Why? It is located in a winery and any and all materials that might possibly carry the bacteria responsible for the production of TCA were avoided.
There are books and glossy magazines detailing far away travel adventures to places the majority of us will never visit. This book similarly will carry you away and further en kindle your passion for wine. Get your favorite bottle of wine and dream and drool while visiting these places of passion in this book. 'Living with Wine', a must have for every designer and architect with even a hint of interest in wine. Show this book to your wine loving friends and it will be sure to start a lively conversation. If Bing Crosby was around, he would probably be humming "I'm dreaming of a Wine Cellar..just like the ones...( I saw in Living with Wine).
Dream on, wine lovers out there!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Those Tiny Tasty Bubbles in your Wine........

.....tickling your taste buds on your tongue. When I first read that Champagne bubbles improve flavour in a Decanter news report I was intrigued but baffled when I read this sentence. " ..discovered that many aromatic compounds were more likely to be present in the bubbles than in the wine itself". If they were not in the wine in the first place then how would they suddenly appear in the Champagne bubbles? But the following article in RSC made a little bit more sense. So just how many of these precious little bubbles in a bottle of Champagne will bring us those delightful flavours? A scientist by the name of Bill Lembeck gave us the incredible number of 50 million. And that along with 90 psi ( your car tires are only inflated to 45 psi ) makes for a powerful punch of aromas and flavours.
The image is one of a Champagne sabering that went wrong. But there you have those 50 million bubbles under 90 pounds of pressure blowing away all those delicate flavours.
But the story does not end there, because now another scientist has discovered that we actually have taste receptors for carbonation. Apparently carbonic anhydrase 4 is responsible for sensing the taste of carbonation. It activates our sour cells. No wonder Champagne tastes so good.
I think it would be a good idea for
Gérard Liger-Belair and Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin with their Champagne bubble experiments to get together with Nicholas Ryba and devise experiments that will tell us what to expect from the next generation of sparkling wines. The bubblier the better.
A toast to all of you!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Low Cost Wines, Media, Scandalous...lets get it straight!

It must have been a slow day around the National Post office. Lets see how can we blow this one up to grab some attention. California couple buys a bottle of "BC" wine and discovers it is California wine. Add the word "scandalous" and you have a story. It worked because the story was copied and repeated many times. I have a problem with this kind of reporting. First of all buyer beware. Do read the label! There is a market for inexpensive wines and the big three wine producers mentioned in the article are there to supply you with what you are prepared to pay for your wine.
Secondly, this has been going on for years.So suddenly this is worthy of a news item? Look at the Ontario scenario.Read this interesting synopsis of the situation in that province.. It may not be ideal or right but it is quite open and above board and a government sanctioned situation.

Third on my list. I am not necessarily a fan of the British Columbia Liquor Licensing and Liquor Distribution system, having had my own 4 year battle with them, but where might I ask should these wines be displayed? If they contain mostly California grapes should they go under the imported US, California section or if mostly Washington grapes should they be displayed under Washington state wines? Give me a break and stop stupid reporting like this. I do however have a problem with the minister responsible pretending he was unaware of this situation. So chase that down for a newsworthy story.
In the end what is really scandalous is the outrageous mark up and taxes imposed on wines here in BC and similarly in other provinces. For us it is 117%. So your cheap imported plonk, suddenly is not so cheap anymore.
I have said it before but my favorite US President said it all when he said:
" I think it is a great error to consider a heavy tax on wines as a tax on luxury. On the contrary, it is a tax on the health of our citizens."
Thomas Jefferson, American president and Renaissance man, (1743-1826)
Since we all know wine is good for your health, I say lower taxes on wine. It is time to put a whopping tax on those "whoppers" and fries. Greasy hamburgers cannot be good for the average citizen and are creating a burden on our health care system. Tax them!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A New Kind of Wine Doctor !

Should a doctor recommend wine for your health? There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that drinking wine, particularly red wine may be beneficial to your health and well being and yet doctors are loath to recommend a glass of wine (or two) to their patients. Their common concern has been their fear of the possibility of turning you into an alcoholic. This seems rather an unfounded fear. If you have it in your genes to become an alcoholic,you don't need your doctors blessing to become one.
So I was pleased to see one enterprising doctor do a little smart marketing. I congratulate him for his efforts to take the sting out of what is for some people an unpleasant experience. Dr. Scott Hanlon, a family physician, will let you enjoy some wine right after you get that needle.

I find it rather ironic that a doctor will stay away from suggesting a glass of wine might be just what the doctor ordered but have no problem prescribing one of the anxiolytic ( anxiety reducing ) drugs. In fact according to the American Psychiatric Association 61 million prescriptions a year are written by doctors. One of the most successfull novels of all time was Jacqueline Susan's "Valley of the Dolls". It has sold more than 30 million copies. it details the use and abuse of uppers and downers. The "dolls" of course refer to the downers or mood altering drugs.
In a new book by Dr. David Herzberg, titled "Happy Pills In America - Our Complex Love Affair With Designer Consciousness" Dr. Herzberg states "Patients have always demanded sedatives and stimulants from their doctors, who generally oblige them"
Now I ask you, would it not be of greater merit to recommend a glass of the fruit of the vine from one of many wonderful wine producing valleys in the world ( Sonoma, Napa, Loire and here in British Columbia the Okanagan Valley or you name your own favorite wine valley ) rather than the very addictive drugs from the Valley of the Dolls?

Friday, August 28, 2009

What Kind of Wine Are You?

It never ceases to amaze me the amount of money that is wasted on frivolous research. While half the world is starving to death researchers are telling us what kind of personality you have based on the type of wine you prefer. And marketers just love it. You will be debonair, smooth and smart when you eat our pretzels or any other product they want to promote on TV. OK, they tell us that it will allow them to figure out why the Western world has so many obese people and solve the problem. I think not.
Ah, but trust those Texas tasters to figure it out. The wine division of the Texas department of Agriculture think we have it all backwards. Check out the pdf version of Texas in a bottle to see the wine wheel or click on the image below. Wine drinkers describe a wine having character or personality. No, no, that is backwards. Its people that are a lot like wine.

So what are you? A Cabernet, nice and dry? Or a Muscat, so sweet?
I guess I must be a certified wino. I like them all. It depends on the mood I am in, what I am planning to eat and most of all the people with whom I am sharing that bottle of wine.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Roll Out the Barrel or Make that Wine Bottle Plastic !

Another year, another vintage. Some wine regions are reporting that harvesting of early ripening grape varieties has begun. So, as in my previous post, is it time perhaps to stop and think about the grape's journey from vineyard to bottle? Yes, the Torres video ends with an ad for their wine, but it is very well done and worth watching.
So now the push for plastic wine bottles is on. The Boisset family of fine wines has been at the forefront of introducing wine drinkers everywhere to this new concept. And for my every day drinking wines, I can live with that.

A couple of years ago wine drinkers in Ontario were introduced to Boisset's Yellow Jersey series of wines by the LCBO of Ontario. The Yellow Jersey of course is the iconic jersey made famous by the Tour de France. Not available to us in British Columbia but through the kindness of Boisset I received samples of these wines. As you can see, I did my bit of recycling and leaving no carbon footprint when I replaced my water bottle with a Yellow Jersey wine bottle.
But I have to question the barrel concept described in the below video. I know Tod Nagle and he is a fine fellow but after the initial charm wears off for the patrons to your restaurant, what are you going to do for an encore? What are you going to tell those who want a Chardonnay, a Riesling, a Cabernet or any other wine? Will you be lining up a whole series of barrels? Green is good and this was good marketing and received some media attention but realistically not a sustainable project.
Are the marketing gurus tripping over each other to see what novel 'green' idea they can come up with to get that extra bit of media coverage? Or is there some exploiting of the green concept?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Take Smell the Wine!

About a month ago, I visited the Dragonfly Hill Vineyard, and had a delightful visit with Carol Wallace, the owner. Looks like an abundant, excellent crop coming for this vintage. That is a picture of her Ortega grapes. She also grows Auxerrois grapes. Her vines are now 16 years old and produce excellent fruit. We sat in her cool winery building and enjoyed a glass or two of her very refreshing clean and crisp Ortega Auxerrois blend. It brings you right down to the reality of what wine is all about.
Do we here in North America frantically and in a frenzy spend to much time writing, blogging and criticizing wines? There is a daily outpouring of wine reviews on the internet, mostly via blogs. Oh, you must try this wine and before you've had a chance to purchase it, the next best wine is presented for your consideration. Its enough to drive you to drink! Are we forgetting to stop and smell the roses or in this case the wines, long enough to truly understand what wine is all about?
Susan Kostrzewa over on the Wine Enthusiast's Unreserved wine blog
wrote a very good article on wine critics. The comments were equally enlightening but I particularly liked the last sentence summation of Wes Hagen of Clos Pepe and I quote, "
And in my favorite countries, those common folk are drinking wine—not because it received a good rating, but because a table without wine, food, family and friends just doesn’t seem right."
It is 110 F ( 34 C ) outside. Not a cloud in the sky and just a gentle little breeze blowing. Our Vancouver Island vineyards are basking in the sun. Its time for me to prepare some lunch and enjoy a brilliant, refreshing white on my sundeck. (click on the image)
If we enjoy the wine in our glass, after a whole year at the vineyard and winery has passed and has given us one of mother nature's great gifts, spend some time researching the winery, the vintner, the soils and get an idea of what you are experiencing. You will appreciate the wine that much more. Stop, slow down, don't just rush out and get the latest recommendation.
Life is too short, take time to smell the wine and enjoy every drop!
Happy summer time drinking!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Stop Tooting Your Horn about Biodynamic Wine!

We have all heard the litany about how wonderful biodynamic wines can be. Some people swear by them and others say it is a lot of hocus pocus. The fact is of course that any vintner going to great lengths taking care of his vineyard should theoritically produce a good wine. Its the cow horn part that bothers a lot of people and it bothers me as well but perhaps for a different reason.
I did not realize, until I did a Google search, how popular cow horn products seem to be.That takes a lot of cow horns.
Considering the fact that most dehorning of cattle is done at an early age, is there going to be a shortage of cow horns if biodynamic wine making becomes popular?
Now here is my problem. Do you know how painful and therefore cruel it is to dehorn an adult cow?
Since biodynamic growers are close to the earth, the moon and the stars, should they not also care for these creatures with horns that roam the earth?
Do they have to use a real cow horn? I am sure that with today's technology an imitation cow horn can be made. Now there is a business opportunity.
Can anyone enlighten me as to why a real looking fake horn could not be used?
In the meantime I have a wine buddy coming over for supper and I am making super sized hamburgers. He is bringing an 'organic' Malbec. No horns, no bull. Just an enjoyable night with a good wine expressing its terroir.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Drink Wine Today ... but use the right glass!

Just a follow up on my last post. I have been testing the tasting on the right day theory. I am happy to report I tasted 10 Sauvignon Blancs with my panel on June 15th, a leaf day, without any ill effects. I really tempted the lunar crowd last night, a root day of all things. Tasted a high end Super Tuscan and same thing, nothing but praise for the wine. Now I can relax and return to my normal drinking pattern. That is, enjoy my wines whenever and wherever the occasion arises.
I am NOT a wine snob, never have been and never will. Each wine deserves a chance to tell its story. But I have to tell you that I am a bit of a wine glass snob. I often bring my own glass when attending trade tastings. After all when tasting a series of wines, should you not give the wines a chance to show off their best? The rolled rim restaurant style of glass at these tastings are just not very helpful.
Recently I had the opportunity to attend a Riedel Glass tasting, sponsored by the largest wine shop in Victoria, Everything Wine. The Riedel representative introduced us to the latest in the Riedel series of glasses, the Vitis.
Before I sold my wine shop in Victoria, The Wine Barrel, I became a firm believer in what the right glass can do to enhance the wine drinking experience. While I think the Vitis series are beautiful and elegant and I now have a set of them, I do not think that they have an advantage over the Vinum Extreme series. Recently I shared a 1989 Opus 1 with a good friend and I chose the Extreme Cabernet glass rather than the Vitis Cabernet glass. The Vinum Extreme is, I feel, better suited to a big bold wine like the Opus 1. It still makes me drool when I think of this tasting.
Now to get to the point of this post. Some years ago, Riedel introduced an Icewine glass. The sales representative at that time, tried to convince me that since British Columbia makes some of the finest Icewines made anywhere, I should be selling these glasses. I was of the opinion that this new glass was just not the right one for our BC Icewines. I felt that they may be very suited for Ontario Icewines and they were in fact created using Ontario Icewines but BC Icewines are different. He reported this to Riedel in Austria and that started a challenge. In other words, put your money where your mouth is.
Well, OK then . I contacted a number of BC Icewine producers to get their opinions on the difference between BC and Ontario Icewines. As well I spoke to John Schreiner, the author of Icewine -The Complete Story and got his take on it and a number of other in the know individuals. Next I created an "Icewine Glass Evaluation Chart".
Click on it to get the enlarged version.
Next I collected 3 BC Icewines and 1Ontario Icewine and put a panel of 6 local wine experts together (OK, 5, I was taster #6), including bringing John Schreiner over from Vancouver. John, in my opinion is the world's number 1 expert on Icewines. I won't go into details but the long and the short of it was that my theory about the Riedel Icewine glass was proven correct when 5 out of the 6 panelists agreed that indeed the Riedel Icewine glass was the best for the Ontario Icewine but not as suited to the BC Icewines we tasted.
Since Riedel had been interested in my project, I forwarded them all the information. Guess what? If I would order 50,000 glasses they would create a glass according to my specifications for a BC Icewine. was fun!
When I visited Tuscany with my friend Sanjoy from California we had the pleasure of tasting the wines made by Alessandro Dondi, the winemaker at Castello di Bolgheri. I believe it to be 'the' super, Super Tuscan. I brought it back with me and it looks like we finally will have a distributor to bring it into BC. I shared part of the Castello di Bolgheri this week with some local wine experts and quickly added nitrogen preserve to the bottle. Their opininion was that it was outstanding. Elegant was one of the descriptors.Tonight I am sharing the rest of this wine with a wine loving lady friend. I guess I will use the 'elegant' Vitis Cabernet glass for this get together. Just done right BBQ'd steak and a great wine and great company.
Yes, I believe the right glass is essential to the ultimate enjoyment of a great wine.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Do Not Drink Wine Today....!!

According to the Lunar calendar we are in a 'root' day face of the moon and drinking wine may be a No No. Really now?
( Calendar courtesy of Domaine de la Vougeraie--click to enlarge ) According to a recent article in the NewsScotsman there are days you simply should not be tasting wines.Two of the UK's major retailers, Tesco and Marks & Spencer's, who account for at least one-third of all bottles of wine sold in Britain, "now only invite critics to taste their ranges when the moon-related biodynamic calendar dictates that wine will be at their best...
Our first choice is a fruit day. We seek to avoid root and leaf days."
Today and tomorrow we are in a root day and a lunar node. Really bad! Had a lady friend over for lunch today. Made a nice salad and served a beautiful Pinot Gris from the Desert Hills winery in the South Okanagan Valley in BC. Followed this with a hot beef dip on a bun served with the Desert Hills Mirage, a big bold Bordeaux blend. Guess what? It was delightful. Then we went to a new release tasting of the wines of Tinhorn Creek, another great winery in the South Okanagan. Same thing! Tasted ten wines. Could not find a fault with any of them.What's going on here? The wines were fruity not rooty.
One wine merchant in Britain who does not subscribe to this theory is my good friend Nick, over at Bordeaux-Undiscovered. Nick writes an excellent, informative
blog and did a good review on this.Check out his take on this called Drinking by Moonlight
Could not help but wonder what Alice Feiring's opinion might be. Alice of course is the author of a gutsy little slap at Parker with her book called "The Battle for Wine and Love or How I Saved the World from Parkerization"
Since she discusses Biodynamics in her
book in several chapters and had a very interesting interview with Nicolas Joly. Nicolas is the unofficial leader of the worldwide biodynamic wine movement. So I wondered. Well Alice does have days when her wines do not quite taste right but has not attached it to any particular fruit, leaf or any other type of day.
So the question remains "Does wine change with the phases of the moon or do individual palates change with the lunar period?"
Tell you one thing though, while I was still practicing vet med, I did have some "colorful" character clients visit me claiming that their pets were not feeling well, Could never find anything until I looked at the calendar and found it to be a full moon period. Thankfully my wines taste good any old day.
What sayeth thou?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Rosé Wines by any other Name......

Is a blush wine a Rosé? Is a white and red wine blend a Rosé or just a blush wine? Is a white Zinfandel a Rosé? Not if the French have any thing to do with it. The continuing battle with the EU has a determined group of French wine makers up in arms about the pending EU Comission's decision to allow a white wine blended with a red to be called a Rosé. Now the Italians have joined the battle. The EU wine reform committee was to have voted on this proposal on April 27. Now,because the World Trade Organisation needed more time to look at the proposals this contentious issue has been delayed till June 19. In the meantime Rosé's popularity continues to increase. True rosé wines are even seeing rising sales in California, the home of US white Zinfandel. The good news is that all
this media attention is keeping rosé in the lime light. Just finished a rosé tasting for my newsletter with mostly rosés from Britsh Columbia and I love the way they are starting to lean to much drier versions. At this point in time the French have at least won the right to allow for a special label designation that their rosé wines are made with 'traditional' methods. Rosés are such great food wines and I for one am thrilled to see more and more of them available.Try them, you will love them!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Wine and Home!

Higher priced wines continue to suffer a slump in sales. This seems particularly true in restaurants. Restaurants need to be imaginative during the current economic downturn. One of my favorite local restaurants is doing just that.
They feature a different theme for every day of the week.Thursday is their Thirty for Thirty with 30 bottles of wine each selling for $30.
An annual state of the wine industry report just released by the Silicon Valley Bank forecasts that economic conditions will have a lasting impact on the fine wine business.
Is this perhaps a time where dining at home will become increasingly popular? Dine out by all means but share that expensive bottle of wine with family and friends.
When visiting friends in California last summer they did just that. Click on the pic and you will see what I mean.
You have heard this one before, but I love cooking with wine and sometimes I even put some in the food.
With the excellent help and encouragement of Katherine Andes, I have been making some changes to this blog and my email newsletter. Sign up for her very timely and topical newsletter.
As you can see I have Nat's Wine & Food Matcher. But I have just added a great source for recipes. In Recipes Looking for Wine you will find some taste tempting menus. But I always check out two of my favorite sources for recipes when I want something unique and tasty.
When you visit my British Bordeaux friend on my link list, Nick Stephens, and click on recipes you will find the Angels on Horseback recipe.
I just love that one. Nick's blog is always very informative and a pleasure to read. And I can hardly wait to try out David Crowley's latest,Tortellini with Garlic Spinach Sauce. You will find him at my link to "Cooking Chat"
So now the question remains, do you pick your recipe and then find a wine to match or do you choose your wine and and then search for that great recipe?
Have fun always and enjoy this precious gift of the fruit of the vine!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Summit Needed to Stimulate Slumping Sales in Le Champagne

There has been a dramatic decrease in sales of Champagne and calls for drastic cuts in yields may be required. Domestic sales for the first two months of 2009 were down 29.3% and European exports dropped a whopping 47.7%.
So perhaps what Le Champagne needs is a great Ambassador. And of course no one was better at it than Napoleon Bonaparte himself. The image portrayed here
is of Napoleon and his good friend Jean-Rémy Moët in July of 1807 at Moët et Chandon
click on pictures to get the enlarged versions for more detail
It was Napoleon who commented "That in Victory you deserve Champagne,in defeat you need it." A lot of Champagne was bought and consumed.
When we visited
Moët et Chandon
during the 2005 harvest season we were taken to the pleasant garden courtyard with the Three Emperors' Tree and taken back in time when Europe's great leaders met there to enjoy Champagne and of course talk about the issues of the day.

It was a thrilling moment enjoying our own glass of Champagne and stepping back in time to March of 1814.This was followed by a magnificent lunch in the
Moët's residence formal dining room. Our hospitable host, Arneaud de Mareuil, the Vice-President Public Relations, Communication & Heritage was a true champagne ambassador.
That is Sanjoy, my wine travel friend, on my left and Arneaud on my right. The rest of the guests were media and movie types from Denmark. I ended up calling them the Great Danes (That's a veterinarian's mind)
So is it time to move forward and have a Champagne Summit to discuss how best to support the Champagne industry? The picture on the right shows who might be meeting under that old Three Emperors Tree today.
Now the faces may not fit too well as I adapted them to the lunch scene, but you get the picture. That is Prime Minister Gordon Brown on the left, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merchel and of course Obama. On the right is President Nicholas Sarkozy. Somehow, I get the impression that he may not be the most popular guest. I think the question could be asked 'What have you done for us lately?' A toast to you all!!

Friday, April 03, 2009

For Goodness Sake...Wine is Good for Your Health!

Seems like a day does not go by without some health minded organization or government agency telling us how bad wine is for our health. I say stop picking on wine and use those valuable research dollars to enlighten us about the benefits of drinking wine. Look at those grapes, one of nature's greatest gifts to humankind.

For thousands upon thousands of years they have been picked and turned into the most pleasurable drink known to mankind. But no the tea drinking anti-alcohol crowd must tell the world about their latest research detailing how 3247 women and men were followed for the last three years (or were there 7423 ? ) drinking wine and now..ouch they have a 27% greater chance of getting cancer. I am not trying to make light of this terrible disease. There is nothing more devastating for a woman to be diagnosed and go through the ordeal of breast cancer but so many other factors have to be considered. I know of women who hardly ever drink wine or anything else and yet have suffered with this dreadful malady. Cancer needs a cure but there are many, many things that can cause it. So men, have you been taking extra folic acid supplements? It turns out that men who have, are at much greater risk of getting prostate cancer.
Of course there are studies indicating that drinking wine is a preventative for cancer. Barrett's Esophagus is a precursor to esophageal cancer and drinking wine may lower the risk by as much as 56%.And here is more good news. This study indicates that the combined polyphenols from red wine was found to be effective against breast cancer.
The latest anti drinking wine study finds that even your teeth are in trouble. Yes, they used cow teeth for this one.Could they not have found a human skull or a set of human teeth for this experiment? You will really be in trouble if you drink wine during dinner and follow that up with tea or worse if you get up and brush your teeth. Me? I usually don't drink tea after a delightful dinner with a good wine. I certainly won't be getting up to brush my teeth. How about grapefruit juice folks, which I happen to like very much, its very acidic. So could you please do some research to tell me I am going to loose my teeth prematurely?
Plato, wise man that he was, said, "Nothing more excellent or valuable than wine was ever granted by the Gods to man."
And would Jesus have turned water into wine at a wedding feast if he thought for one moment that it was harmful to the guests?

Peace be with you! Especially when you are enjoying the 'fruit of the vine.'

Monday, March 23, 2009

Feel the Love,When you Are a Wine Critic !

I set out to do a book review of Alice Feiring's
The Battle for Wine and Love
or How I Saved the World from Parkerization
but instead will refer you to a very good in depth review by Brooke Cheshier on Vinography.
Apart from getting hints about the loves in her life, there is an inspiring passion about her love for 'natural' wines and her loathing for chemically manipulated, scientifically engineered from vineyard to cellar wines.
Her book has obviously made its mark in Spain where a translated version will be available in 2010. You can read about that on Alice's own site 'In Vino Veritas'.
Besides her book being easy to read you will find yourself coming away and wondering about how natural the wines are that you now consume. Since reading her book, I have had the pleasure of meeting several wine makers and asking them how much of an influence Robert Parker has had on their wine making.

There is hope out there Alice!
During a delightful lunch with Johannes Selbach of the Weingut Selbach-Oster, I posed this question to Johannes. With great pride and perhaps a touch of indignation, he suggested that since his famly had been making wines for a long time before Parker came on the scene (since 1661) they have been making wines in traditional styles handed down from generation to generation. The Selbach-Oster wines are known for their purity of fruit and fresh and delicate aromas. The mineral rich slate soils of the 'MittleMosel' and the ripe, juicy Riesling fruit are evident in all their wines. Interestingly enough both Robert Parker in his Wine Advocate and the Wine Spectator rate these wines highly with their 'points' in the 90+ range.
Alice has written passionately and you will experience that when reading her book. I admire her fearless approach on this controversial subject.
The video below takes more than the usual few minutes of videos seen on YouTube but this one on Vimeo is well worth watching. You can 'Feel the love' or otherwise, in this one. Oh, the life of a critic is not easy.
Go Alice, Go!

Robert Parker's Bitch from Josh Hermsmeyer on Vimeo.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Will the Real Green Wine Come Forward!

We hear so much these days about green wines and carbon foot prints but have we forgotten that there is only one wine that is truly 'the' green wine?
I am speaking of course about the Vinho Verde from the Minho Valley in Portugal.
It doesn't refer to the colour of the wine but rather that it is a wine produced under minimal growing conditions and one that should be drunk young. You do not age a Vinho Verde wine. I thought about this after reading the article in the Irish Times and the arrival of the the French schooner, the Etoile de France landing in the port of Dublin delivering 15,000 bottles of 'green' wine in time for St.Patrick's Day. Very admirable concept. The article even mentions that "each shipment is fitted with radio frequency identification to record and monitor the temperature of the alcohol during the voyage". OK, then what? So if this ship travels during the hot summer months are cooling systems in place to keep the wine from getting cooked? If yes, then what about the carbon foot print of all that energy used to do the cooling? And oh yes, that North Sea can get pretty turbulent during winter storms. Is this just a little bit of hyped up marketing going on? Really now, are we going to see French and Italian wines shipped all the way to the North American market on fancy frigates?

But hey, you know what? Tomorrow is St. Patricks day and what better 'green' way to celebrate then to enjoy a bottle of Vinho Verde, especially one with the cool green cat on the label.

I take this opportunity to wish all my readers a very happy and fun filled St.Patricks day and may the following Irish prayer come true for you all.

Notice the part about "may the sun shine warm upon your face" and "the rains fall soft upon your fields". Sounds very much like an Irish prophecy and ideal growing conditions for a vineyard. Who knows with a little bit of global warming, the Emerald Isle may become the next best place to grow grapes. Then you can anchor your schooner and expend no carbon foot prints at all. God bless the Irish and one and all!!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Travelling in Super Tuscan Wine Country!

Say Super Tuscan and surely Sassicaia and Ornellaia come to mind. In 1968 the first Sassicaia was introduced to the market and thus the Super Tuscan phenomenon was started. They are produced with non native varietals, using instead Cabernet Sauvignon and other grapes to make up a Bordeaux style of wine. So successful was the vinification with these Bordeaux grapes that in 1994 Bolgheri was officially recognized with its own DOC status.Today there are some 40 producers on 1300 hectares of vineyards.
Bolgheri is a very picturesque town and to get there you travel along 5 km stretch of road,the Viale-dei-Cypressi, lined by magnificent two hundred year old Cypress trees.The 19th century Nobel Prize-wining poet, Carducci immortalised this "sunlit green avenue" in his famous poem Davanti a San Guido. Italian school children are taught this poem at an early age.
Side roads will lead to the Bolgheri wineries. My trusty driver and friend Sanjoy had managed to get us here from Florence faster than we had anticipated for our appointment at Tenuta dell'Ornellaia. So we decided to visit Bolgheri and as luck would have it we met the wife of a local winemaker. She insisted we meet her husband and that turned out to be the best part of our visit. The Castello di Bolgheri winery is located right in Bolgheri and its winemaker is the brilliant Alessandro Dondi. Allessandro gave us the grand tour of the winery and the vineyards.
The Castello vineyards are located on the farm surrounding the castle. The farm consists of 130 hectares and 50 hectares are planted to vines. The vineyards were planted beginning in 1997 using the principle varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot, specified for in the DOC Bolgheri wines.All the grapes had been harvested except for the Cabernet Sauvignon and had been fermenting in stainless steel for about two weeks. So we tasted straight from the tanks and I have to tell you, I have tasted freshly fermenting wines many times before but never anything this delicious. Allesandro drove us out into the vineyards where the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were waiting for his decision as to when to be picked. Gently squeezing a few grapes, he announced tomorrow would be picking time. Besides lab analysis, he feels the grapes and just when the firm skin begins to soften slightly,that is when it is optimum time to harvest for him. Back at the winery we had the opportunity to taste the Varvara, a very impressive entry level wine. But Allesandro beamed with pride when he saw the big smiles on our faces after tasting the flagship Castello wine, the Castello di Bolgheri.
This Super Tuscan is an amazingly well crafted wine made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Aged in oak for 18 months and then a further 12 month aging in bottles. Rich, silky, smooth, this extremely well balanced wine is a pure pleasure to drink. What a fortunate stroke of luck to "discover" the Castello di Bolgheri and meet this very talented wine maker. Certainly a high light of our trip to Tuscany.
Since we still had time to go for lunch we asked Allesandro where he would recommend we go. So he took us to a restaurant a short distance from the winery and introduced us to the owner.

That was another great experience. Tourists and locals are treated to traditional Tuscan cuisine and of course wines from Bolgheri. If you happen to find yourself in Bolgheri be sure to visit the winery and have lunch at the enoteca Tognoni. You never know, you might find Allesandro taking time out for a super Tuscan meal and enjoying a truly super, Super Tuscan wine from the Castello di Bolgheri.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Wine Lives and does my new blog's look.

Well, I did it. I changed to the new blogger layout. Yes, it is still the same me. Nothing changed there. But after some very useful suggestions and hints from my dear friend Katherine Andes, I decided it was time to go forward. You can get to her website by clicking on the "My Great Writer Friend" in my links list or you can just follow this link
After 30 plus years of tasting and enjoying wines, I have picked up a little bit of knowledge about wine but I am still a neophyte when it comes to websites, blogging and all that wonderful technical stuff. So her help was invaluable. I also pick up a lot of good info from her free newsletter which you can sign up for via her website.
My friend Carl Brown, who gets my newsletter and regularly leaves a comment on my blog, also is prompting me to get a little bolder and braver. He left a good suggestion in his comment on my "Champagne then and now"post. So thanks to all of you for your regular visits, comments and suggestions. I appreciate it very much. It spurs me on to the continued pursuit of the" fruit of the vine".
I could not do a post without at least one picture related to this subject. So enjoy this one. I took it in the Blue Grouse Vineyards and Winery on Vancouver Island. Those are lush Ortega grapes a few days away from picking.
Oh and while we're at it, I am still having great fun preparing my Italian dishes.

Which leads me to my final note. In my next blog entry I will be telling you about the fabulous wine maker we met in Bolgheri. Alessandro Dondi makes some of the best wines we tasted while travelling through Tuscany.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Heart and Soul of an Italian Winery !

Too many wine tastings, too many events and a series of my wine newsletters have kept me from returning to post another entry on my blog. But I am back because memories of my recent Tuscan tour keeps filling me with thoughts of returning soon to that blessed area and its wonderful wines and friendly people. So I want to share some more of that experience.
Before I do, I must tell you about my experimenting with various Italian recipes. In my December post I have a link to Mestolando, the authentic Italian kitchen in Florence and their Bucatini ala Matriciana recipe or as they call it, Amatriciana. Or go to Bobby Flay's for this bucatini recipe. With all due apologies, I have altered it a little bit. Perhaps we will call this a New World adaptation of an Old World Recipe.
First of all I break up the Bucatini into two or three pieces rather than the regular spaghetti length.I'll tell you why in a moment. Then after cooking the sauce, I put it into a saucepan and keep it on low heat. The recipe calls for some of the sauce to be mixed in with the spaghetti ( and remember I use the real Bucatini, not the regular spaghetti) Then you plate it and top it with the grated Pecorino Romano. Stop, right there. I now take two or three good tablespoonsful of pesto and add that to the frying pan that has just been released from it sauce. I add a couple of tablespoonsful of olive oil and stir and spread it across the frying pan and heat on a low to medium setting. Now I add the Bucatini an stir it to ensure the pesto is thoroughly mixed with the spaghetti. Having broken up the spaghetti previously makes it easier to stir it around. Then I take all the sauce and add it and again stir it until all the Bucatini is thoroughly coated with the sauce. Then after heating it for another two to three minutes, I plate it and sprinkle generously with the grated Pecorino. May not look as pretty as it does in the video but it is oh so delicious. Just a hint on the pesto. I have tried almond, walnut and even Macadamia nut pesto but I keep returning to pine nut pesto. And the best recipe for that I have found on my good friend David's blog "Cooking Chat".
So now finally to the purpose of this post. We had the pleasure of a visit to the Casa Vinicola Luigi Cecchi & Figli winery in Castellina in Chianti. It was one of the more impressive wineries we visited while touring throughout Tuscani.

Ultra modern state of the art facilities at Cecchi.

A lot has been said and written about "Old" World and "New" world wines. The new world claiming superiority because of advanced technology. But hold on... what if Old World wineries adapt New World technological advances? Well now that means that the Old World wineries have the advantage of tradition and generations of family history. Yes, of course some New World wineries have a proud history of making wine in their family for many years. But few can claim generation after generation of wine making tradition. In the New World everyone uses modern technology. So you cannot use that as your claim to fame. But knowledge of terroir and tradition is a little more difficult to claim when promoting your wines.
The Cecchi winery is a true traditional proud family winery. Started in 1893 by Luigi Cecchi and today both his son, Cesare and his grandson Luigi are very involved with the Cecchi winery. They are comitted to sustainable practices in both the vineyard and their facilities.

In fact one of the beautiful meeting rooms at the Castellina winery has a beautiful oak floor made from their old wine barrels. It even has a red wine stain visible in the oak.
The feel of family is evident when visiting this winery. Our hosts were the two beautiful ladies Chiara Bellaci and Cecillia Muzzi. Truly dedicated to the Cecchi family of wines they proudly showed us the state of the art facilty followed by a tasting of the best Cecchi has to offer.

We tasted our way through 8 of their outstanding wines. What a shame I cannot get them here at home. But I can dream. Dream, I will be able to get them someday soon and dream of visiting Cecchi again. The first two wines we tasted were the Litorali and the Natio Chianti. Two superb wines followed by 6 more of the best Cecchi has to offer.

The Litorale is a lush , fresh lively Vermentino. Refreshing and crisp and loaded with fresh fruit. The Natio is a superb organic wine with 90% Sangiovese and 10% Colorino grapes harvested from small vineyards in the Chianti region. The essence of Sangiovese is captured in this wine. The remaining 6 wines we tasted were equally exciting and flavourful.
Ciao Cecilia and Chiara! Thanks for the memories!!
In my next blog entry I will tell you about the amazing Alessandro Dondi of the Castello di Bolgheri.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Champagne ...then and now !

After my first post on my Tuscan tour, I fully intended to share more about that marvelous trip. But I am detouring slightly to cover part of a previous trip. And thus I will make mention of my visit to the Champagne. Only because Harper Collins, the publishers in New York, send me a copy of the book The Widow Clicquot by Tilar J. Mazzeo to review. I had the pleasure of a private tour during the 2005 vendange, again with my friend Sanjoy from California, and with that background it made this book that much more meaningful.

The Champagne house of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin is truly a must visit establishment and those of you who have been there will agree with this I am sure. The limestone cellars, which have been there since Roman times, are a treasure house of works of art. If you follow this link it will take you to the Veuve Clicquot website. There is an age verification before you can actually visit the site and just a little hint for those of you from Canada ( and yes we are a bilingual country) if you do not speak French, use the USA country of origin. The good people at Veuve have assumed if you are from Canada you must be able to speak French and the French version is what will present itself. We had a wonderful, knowledgeable young lady give us a most interesting tour and at the end of it, we had the pleasure of being served the La Grande Dame. Like Dom Perignon, I thought I was seeing stars.
The archives at the Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin reveal very little of the remarkable widow Clicquot. Their website gives only sparse details about this brilliant business woman. But Tylar Mazzeo has done an incredible amount of research for her book.
Tylar is also very well versed in anything wine related and the book is liberally sprinkled with wine facts, especially about Champagne. For instance, did you know that in those early days, Champagnes were very sweet and had upwards of 200 to 300 grams of residual sugar? These are woven into the story and makes the history of the widow Clicquot come alive and the book almost reads like a novel and personal diary at the same time. This book is certainly a must read for all Champagne lovers out there. It is a tribute to the widow Clicquot Ponsardin and her marvellous determination and entrepeneurship. I believe Veuve Clicquot should host a major book signing event with Tilar Mazzeo present. She has contributed immensely to the story of the Veuve Clicquot with this fascinating, well written book. Publishers Harper Collins have just added another great book to their long list of excellent books.