Saturday, December 15, 2018

So what happens next in Australia? What's the story about Australian wine right now?

Over the past 10 years, Australian wine exports to America have come and gone.  That’s partially due to changing wine tastes and stylistic preferences, but the great Recession in America also hurt wine exporters the world over. Much of the same financial burdens being faced in America, were also being faced in the UK and elsewhere. There were simply less sales available, for everyone. Australian wine exports, much like exports from almost every wine producing country, were hurt during the recession.

So Australia has made some changes…

So what changed other than pushing for new markets like China and more aggressively California?
Shiraz continues to be the most planted grape and most talked about grape.  But, there’s a lot more to like, and things that wine drinkers like seemingly increase by the day. It helps to have a receptive public.

There’s a new generation of vintners making different choices than their parents did in terms of the types of grapes being planted.  For years, Australian wine seemingly was focused on cheap Cabernet Sauvignon and more expensive Shiraz. Really good Grenache and Chardonnay; also more more Pinot Noir are being pushed now to much success.

If there is one….That’s really the take away story about Australian wine right now. 

Generally, we spend so much time talking about new world and old world wine regions.  Often we think of old world wine regions like France being set in their ways.  Others, like Italy have gone through their own Renaissance too, including the very changes of the way that wine is made.  

Australia is behaving pretty much like every other ‘new’ world region, things change over time. 
For instance, It’s noticeable that Napa Valley has seen a renewed focus on acidity in wine for example. There’s a movement away from big blackberry explosive wines. Hence, it’s normal for Australia to continue to change with the times and earn greater sales worldwide based on those similar efforts.

So what happens next in Australia?

I think you’ll see more of the same. First, you’ll see the continued plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon in Australia. People can’t get enough of it. Australia’s Cabernet have a different profile to other cabernets. Plus it’s the only true international grape that grows well in the country and there are easy sales to be had.  Furthermore, I think you’ll see a renewed focus on an alternative white wine to Chardonnay.  Chardonnay is getting really crowded in the marketplace. It’s everywhere.

Australia has the chance to grow some absolutely world class Marsanne, Semillon, Roussane and Viognier.

….To be continued

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Have you ever wondered what the Stages of Champagne making are? Fret no more.

Have you ever wondered what the Stages of Champagne making are?  Fret no more. There are several specific steps or phases in the making the sparkling wine of Champagne.These steps are governed by professional bodies and government agencies to adhere to code. See them listed below.

Let’s begin…

Harvest time in Champagne takes place between mid-September and early October depending on the year. The start dates of the harvests vary according to the vineyard. They are determined by Champagne’s professional body based on objective criteria that aim to ensure the wine produced is of optimal quality.

After pressing, the musts are poured into vats where they will be fermented twice (alcoholic and malolactic fermentation).

This consists of blending the wines produced from different grape varieties, vineyards and years in varying proportions. Only millésimé or ‘vintage’ champagnes are blended with wines from a single year. These are only made in good years.

This is the name given to the moment when the wines are bottled. The liqueur de tirage, containing yeast and sugar, are added to provoke a second fermentation. The bottle is then closed with a small hollow plastic seal (called a bidule in French) held in place by a metal crown cap.

This is the second fermentation (literally the ‘foam taking’) that lasts about eight weeks. As during the first fermentation, the yeast consumes yeast and converts it into alcohol. It uses up all the oxygen in the bottle and releases carbon dioxide. This time the gas stays in the wine, making it sparkling.

When the prise de mousse is complete, the yeast dies and forms a deposit whose molecules interact with those of the wine. The ageing period varies according to the blending type and the results sought, but legislation has established fairly long minimum periods in the interests of quality that set champagne apart from other sparkling wines: - 15 months minimum after tirage, of which 12 on lees for non-vintage champagnes. - 3 years for vintage champagnes.

When the champagne is deemed to be sufficiently aged and before it is shipped away in bottles, the deposit that makes the wine cloudy needs to be removed. Riddling (or remuage in French) is a time-honored practice of the traditional method in Champagne that consists of encouraging the deposit to descend to the neck of the bottle so that it can be completely removed. These movements help the heavy deposit to attract the lighter deposit right down to the finest particles and therefore turn the champagne perfectly clear.

Disgorging consists of opening the bottle to remove the deposit. This is done by freezing the neck. The bottles are first turned upside down after riddling. The neck is plunged into a solution at -25°C that freezes the deposit. The bottle is then up-ended and the crown cap taken off. The solid pellet of ice flies out as a result of the pressure (6 bars inside the bottle).

The small amount of wine lost is replaced by the liqueur de dosage (mixture of wine and sugar syrup), produced by each vintner. The sugar content has a bearing on the type of champagne desired: Brut or Demi-Sec. The bottles are then stopped with a cork held in place by a wire muzzle. The finished bottle will then be washed, dried and returned to the cellar for a minimum of 2 to 3 months to ensure the liqueur and the wine are perfectly blended. The bottles are then labelled and packaged.

Trade Unions :

Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (Champagne Trade Organisation)

Syndicat Général des Vignerons de la Champagne (Champagne Winegrowers Trade Union)

Union des Maisons de Champagne (Union of Champagne Houses) 

Friday, August 24, 2018

Tangled up in Blue… Blue Cheeses, Roquefort, Stilton and Cambozola

Tangled up in Blue - Blue Cheeses and other like Roquefort, Stilton and Cambozola sure give a variety to choose from. 

The family of blue cheeses — made from cow's milk, goat's milk, and sheep's milk — is treated with molds to produce blue and green veins. Although blue cheeses stereotypically have strong flavors that intensify with age, there are also a few blue cheeses that can be defined as relatively mellow and very tasty. Their tastes can include a distinct sweetness that's often combined with the salty, sharp, and tangy notes that you'd expect from a blue. That’s what truly special about blue cheeses; there truly is a profile for all kinds of cheese lovers.

Wine Recommendations for Blue Cheeses:

Dessert wines: These sweet wines have intense flavors that aren't overpowered by strong blue cheeses. Try Fonesca Late Bottled Vintage, Taylor Fladgate Special Ruby Porto, or something like Château Rieussec Sauternes.

Also, Full-bodied and fruity California Zinfandels or Cabernets are also a great pairing option for the saltier blues. Try a Rosenblum Zinfandel, Ridge Zinfandel, Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon, or Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon

Roquefort Blue:

This blue cheese is made from sheep's milk and aged for at least three months. Its creamy texture yields a slightly salty taste. It’s relatively soft with plenty of good blue.

Wine Recommendations for Roquefort:

Rhône Valley reds: Choose a red wine from this winemaking region in southeastern France. Try Crozes-Hermitage Paul Jaboulet; Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape or a Marques de Caceres Rioja Gran Reserva
Sauternes is a great pairing for Roquefort; this sweet and delicious wine from the Bordeaux region of France. Try Coutet or Château Rieussec.


Whole cow's milk is used for this pale yellow blue cheese. Rich and creamy in taste, it has a slightly crumbly texture with a subtle nutty flavor and tang that gets stronger with age, which makes it the perfect foil for sweeter wines. A Stilton chunk with Blue Cheese in it is fantastic. Sometimes it contains Cheddar, Cotswold or even cranberries. Sometimes when crumbles in a Cole Slaw or Cobb salad can be a revelation along with wine.

Wine Recommendation for Stilton:

Port: This sweet wine is made in the Douro region of northern Portugal. Asso Try Taylor Fladgate 40 year Tawny Port or Nieport Late Bottle Vintage. I enjoy Malmsey wine or rainwater Madeira as well


Native to Germany and Austria, Cambozola is considered a cross between a Gorgonzola blue and Camembert. Cow's milk is the main ingredient of this cheese, with added cream to give it a smooth, creamy, and spreadable texture. Mostly, flavors are mellow and mild with a bit of zip from the blue. Sometimes it can be spicy…especially the Italian versions of this style.

Wine Recommendation for Cambozola:

Merlot Wines: A soft, round red wine that has a very supple texture. For Cambozola, choose a Merlot from California. Try Mantanzas Creek Merlot or Shafer Merlot. A Piedmonte Nebbiolo Wine from Italy can be a very tasty combination

Monday, July 23, 2018

The funny thing is that, wine “Body” is hard to describe, learn and understand. But let's try

For many Red Wine is there favorite but it’s hard to tell even for the frequent drinker what they feeling or looking at.  What is clear is that a  wine’s color can tell you a lot of things especially help you know if that wine is worth buying to hold on for future drinking or it’s best to drink it now.  So, color can definitely help the collector. You can use wine color reminders to tell if a wine has a the potential to cellar. For example, a Malbec that has traces of blue on the rim has lower acidity and good acidity is one of the key qualities of wines that age well. Wine tasters really look at color; that’s for sure.

The four aspects which make up a wine's body are; alcohol, sugar, tannin and acid.
But, even if you are not a wine expert, knowing a little bit about color can help really you define what you like. So let’s look at Red Wine and the “Body” it has.

Wine “Body” helps you decide which foods pair best with it, when is the right time to drink wine, and even if you are probably going to enjoy drinking it. The funny thing is that, wine “Body” is hard to describe, learn and understand.

But I am going to try to break it out and explain what Wine “Body” is…


Light-bodied red wines tend to have a brighter and more lustrous color. (you’ll be able to see through them.) Types of color range from a bright purple to garnet. For example;. Pinot Noir, , Zweigelt, and Gamay.


Medium-bodied red wines tend to have average-rich colors. This range of wines is diverse and includes Garnacha, Sangiovese, and Zinfandel…. a medium bodied wine is centered a bit; one with a little lower alcohol levels, those with softer acids, little to no sugar content and little to no tannin


Full-bodied red wines are often deeply colored and this indicates a possible presence of higher tannin and many cases higher acidity and alcohol. But not always. These wines are highly extracted and opaque. e.g. Syrah, Malbec, Mourvèdre, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Remember…Seeing a Blue hue; A bluish tint on the edges of the rim means lower acidity.

Aged Red Wine

When a red wine is far past its prime it will be a dull brown color. Many wines will last 20 years or more without displaying much if any color change. Tannins and Acidity recede. Interestingly Merlot and Nebbiolo stain orange earlier than other types of wine. Especially Italian wines.

What about Rosé Wines?

Rosé wines are made with regular a red grapes such as Mourvedre, but the grape skins aren’t exposed to the juice for as long. There is less time for the color of the grape to seep into the juice. The result is a much more pale red wine called Rosé.  Depending on the variety used, a rosé can range from pale salmon (Pinot Noir) to magenta (Garnacha).


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Oak and Vanilla go hand in hand in wine

In wine speak term Oaky often pops up. What does it mean? A wine described as oaky if it received oak flavors from being in contact with oak. That simple.

But isn’t all wine in Oak? The answer in no. There are wine that are unoaked. Remember that wine is in the eye of the beholder; so, there’s no reason for you to not prefer a non-oaky wine. Wine is purely subjective.

Wine making is basically divided into two phases. The first is fermentation; when the grape juice becomes wine. The second is the maturation process, where the newly fermented wine goes from being immature and young to a mature adult. Some wines are fermented and finished in oak barrels. Other wines are oaked only during the maturing phase.

Contact with oak acts like a compound for chemical changes in wine. Many believe that oak is really secondary to the distinctive quality of a wine. Oaking imparts special flavors and aromas to the wine.
Now this is purely subjective; California Chardonnay for example, many enjoy oaky Chardonnay and it’s at the peak of its popularity while unoaked Riesling is considered currently unconventional.

Vanilla goes hand in hand with oakiness. New barrels contain vanillin and the wins aged in these barrels take on vanilla flavor as past of the oaky charm. In Ice Cream vanilla is very simple; while in wine, oak adds complexity, smokiness, smoothness, spiciness and gets us into territory of the mysterious words like structure which sounds like all those all those overenthusiastic or subtle adjectives that pop up in describing wine.

Somethings to remember…Barrel fermented means to white wines that the grape juice went into those barrels and emerged as wine. Barrel aged means that the wines aged in these barrels were put into them after fermentation. As for red wines; they are fermented with grape skins intact in stainless steel containers/tanks or large wooden vats. After fermentation, the skins are removed from the liquid and the wines are aged in small oak barrels. Remember some wines (white or red) are not aged in oak at all.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Coming mostly from California’s Central Coast, Rhône varieties—especially Syrah—to grow and flourish

Aaaah...the Rhone Rangers and the exciting and aggressive push to bring Rhone varietals to California in a big way. It’s good stuff.

Roasting meats, good smoked bacon, crackling fires, warm gingerbread, peppermint and baked spices may seem out of season in the spring time but not in the fall…. but they’re basic descriptors for Syrah and other Rhône-style blends.

The best of these wines are instantaneously big and robust with ripe fruit and savory with dark spices. Very few New World wines deliver these elements and that’s the thing. Later, I’ll mention some of the key regions to look at for a reference point.

Coming mostly from California’s Central Coast, with consistency, where a range of climatic conditions allow different traditional Rhône varieties—especially Syrah—to grow and flourish.  Grenache, Petite Syrah and Mourvdre are others.

Over the past years, despite the push, Syrah did not become California’s “next big thing,” as was it was widely predicted during the 1990s, and Central Coast.

Syrahs and Rhone blends are still in the  from the shadows of more popular red grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel (predominantly from Paso Robles) and Pinot Noir (from all over). Yet when grown in special spots and treated with care, these wines are arguably the most energetic, hedonistic and delicious wines being made on the West Coast today.

That goes for those being made in a more bombastic baby fantastic GSM blends from Paso Robles, those leaning more toward cool-climate pepperiness, like Big Basin in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and those somewhere in-between, like wines from the Ballard Canyon in the Santa Ynez Valley where the bright acidity shines on the palate….and let’s not forget those rich Petite Syrah up north in Lodi which impress.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Champagne is the most mercurial of French wines…but Does Champagne age?

Champagne is the most mercurial of French wines…but Does Champagne age?

A fallacy out there that implies that’s in the minds of some wine consumers is that Champagne doesn’t age.

The legend says that it does… As far as the best cuvées are concerned.

For example; just like in other northern marginal climates of classic vineyards like Chablis and Germany’s Mosel or Rhineland, Champagne has the possibility to be complex and long-lived especially when the weather is variable and diurnal.

The importance of acidity in harmony with the minerality of great terroirs, plus extended lees ageing which is important because it acts as a protective storage, can often result in vintages that can live for 10, 15 or 20 years – and for even half a century in outstanding years.

The general feeling is that most fine Champagnes in the three main categories – prestige, vintage and non-vintage – benefit from additional ageing in consumer’s homes which reveal more intense flavors.
So. the feeling is that Champagne really is suitable for laying down to varying degrees.

Normally, the focus on flavors in Champagne’s ageing cycle is made professionally at two key stages:

First stage, before disgorgement, when the wine stays fresh and tight, gradually enhanced by its contact with fine lees, which add complexity to the youthful flavors and gives a protective freshness to the wine. Champagne ages differently from still wines. Its’ ageing in contact with the lees is in an atmosphere saturated in CO2. Champagne evolves more slowly than still wines

After three to four years on lees for Non Vintage, five to eight years for vintage and more for prestige, it’s time for the second stage… disgorgement of the sediment.

Disgorgement of the sediment ensures ideal maturation through further bottle age as well as the development of more intense wine flavors such as dried apricot, sour dough bread, toast and spices like cumin in aged Chardonnay; leather, liquorice and that delicious whiff you get in the the coffee shops.

…In mature Pinot Noir you get notes of kirsch and fermented cherries especially in good Champagne rosés.

The question also comes up whether blanc de blancs have the capacity to age longer than blanc de noirs, or is it a case of considering wines individually?

The answer is in the soil; the terroir. Chardonnays on slopey shallow soils over chalk sub-soils like those of the Côte des Blancs where many popular Champagne houses are from give wines a capacity for long ageing. Also, the use of (malolactic fermentation or none) supports the capacity for wine evolve slowly.

Great Champagne is the most mercurial of French wines, its character changing very unpredictably when least expected. It’s part of the danger and excitement. In steering its journey to beautiful maturity, you may think the wine is going to turn right, but quite often it actually turns left. I guess that is just part of the enduring fascination of ageing Champagne.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Rioja wine: Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva. Each of the levels increase the grape quality

Placed up near the top of Spain is the Rioja winemaking region which is known for producing classic red wines based on the Tempranillo grape often blended with Garnacha
Tradition has it that there are clear ways of making this wine that make it what it is. Much like great Bordeaux wine or the wines of Italy there are rules to follow. But what makes Rioja wine individual is the process to bestow quality....and it works, due to the ability of these wines to age and maintain their Spanish essence.
There are three distinct quality levels of Rioja wine: Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva. Each of the levels increase the grape quality along with the oak and bottle aging requirements.
This is a fresh, fruit-forward youthful red wine that is aged in oak for a minimum of one year and then spends another year aging in the bottle. The Crianza is well-priced and averages at around $10 -  $15 a bottle and packs the reputation a a wine made with quality. The will age, no problem.
Crianza has a reputation for being very food friendly – give it a try with tasty Spanish offerings like appetizers, croquettes, cheeses and tapas....even oysters and clams. This is an easygoing, everyday wine that will not disappoint and offers good, consistent value year in and year out.
The Reserva ups the ante a bit from the Crianza both in complexity and in price. Again, Tempranillo is the major red grape and makes its presence known with commanding cherry flavors along with acidity. This combination makes the wine very palatable on it's own and with food. Some wines a re just food wines; a Reserva can most of the time be drunk as a big wine and a crowd pleaser. The aging requirements for a Reserva are a minimum of one year in the barrel and another two years aging in either the barrel or bottle.
The price point for a Reserva ranges from around $15 to over $35, with super value packed into every dollar. Think about what you often have to pay for a good Cabernet. What's often great about the Reserva is that it's a very versatile red wine that eagerly complements an assortment of food options. Consider pairing it with grilled dishes, fish, octopus, beef, lamb, it has a 'sweet-spot' for ham (or jamón as they say in Spain).
Gran Reserva
The creme de la creme of the Rioja Reds is the fittingly named, Gran Reserva. These wines require barrel aging for two years and must have another three years (minimum) of bottle aging before they are released, making them a terrific wine find as they have already enjoyed 5 years of aging before they may even grace the merchant shelves. So you'll notice the bottled years are much older on the shelf. Great wines to store away. The oak and the aging can make the wines a standout for years to come.

In many cases the  Gran Reserva is not made every year but enjoys its high status because it is only made in extraordinary vintages. The Gran Reserva is assertive in  both depth, body and intrigue It's elegant and in many cases won't breaking the bank, as it starts at around $25 - $30 a bottle and rivals many New and Old World reds that are asking three times the price. At the restaurant check the Gran Reserva out.

Spanish wines are so hot these days. Some of the best values are coming from all over Spain and many are adhering to the Rioja method of making their wines; which says a lot about it and its' history. So pick up a Rioja today and enjoy the taste and versatility.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

New Cocktail Appreciation, Raising the Bar, the South taking a a Front Seat

Just like wine, whiskey requires a master blender to take an strong and interesting palate. Often he or she practices an old art of mixing to bring things into balance for the final product and like second and third wines there needs to be constant sampling to be able to separate the exceptional from the acceptable. Today's bartenders are similar in the same way.

There is definitely a southern cocktail revolution going on out there. Whether it's a restaurant, saloon, neo-speakeasies, hotel bars or club a barrier has definitely been broken. I've been all over the south in the past year or so; it can be Asheville NC, Mobile Alabama, New Orleans LA, Charleston SC across the low country, Oxford Mississippi, Decatur GA, down all the way to Tampa FL. There's a movement of fakelore or folklore whatever you want to call it that has folks paying homage, exhuming lost recipes, trying to respect the old ways. It's even seething into the mainstream restaurants....and let's be clear; a lot of labor goes into conjuring a proper cocktail and the food the goes with it (but that's another story).

It's happening. So ask for a Gin Fizz, a bottled Sazerac, a Julep del Professore, Rum Negroni or a Rum Old- Fashioned or any of these playful libations and see what you are in store for. It's going to be a modern rebound of a drink that'll be refocused on the classic with a liberating variation. Take a chance trust the uncommon palate.