All posts by Gwendolyn

Garnacha! An education

041 EL CIERZOGarnacha, also known as Grenache, is one of the world’s oldest and most widely planted wine grapes. Due to its long growing season and affinity for heat, it is the perfect Mediterranean grape. It has proliferated from its ancient homeland in Aragon to as far as Lebanon in the East, most of North Africa and throughout most of the new world. It’s luscious, fruity, intense and very diverse. Although most Garnacha is used to create blends – think Chateauneuf-du-Pape – it is starting to come into its own as a varietal wine, ready to take the worldstage with Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

A grape for all occasions, Garnacha encompasses red, white, rosé, and sweet styles. The grape is very expressive with a wide range of aromas depending on its originating terroir. Red Garnacha wines are fruit forward, lush and soft on the palate, with a good balance between sweetness, acidity and tannins. Key aromas and flavors include red fruit and spices. Garnacha rosé delivers aromas of strawberries, rose flowers and a sweet berry finish; these wines are perfect for hot weather. White Garnacha produces white wines that can range in style from fresh and mineral-driven to rich and lush.

In Spain, as a result of great attention to terroir, major investment in quality, modern winemaking techniques, and old vineyards, a new generation of winemakers is producing Garnacha wines of exceptional character and concentration. We’re pretty excited about what they are doing! 

The 5 most important P.D.O. (Protected Designations of Origin) for Garnacha in Spain are Calatayud, Campo de Borja, Cariñena, Somontano, and the eponymous Terra Alta.

Calatayud is known for its high altitude, rugged terrain and a rich variety of soils. These impressive natural conditions produce a diversity of high quality Garnacha wines.

Campo de Borja is known as the self-proclaimed “The Empire of Garnacha.” It was the first to explore and fully develop the concept of modern varietal Garnacha wines, and produces some of the most renowned examples in the world.

Cariñena is the oldest P.D.O. in the region of Aragon. Known as “El Vino de las Piedras” (“The Wine of the Rocks”) for its rocky and compact soil that holds water exceptionally well, Cariñena is also the largest of the P.D.O.s, with 14,513 hectares of vineyards and 1,600 growers.

Somontano has positioned itself as a producer of “luxury” wines since it became one of Spain’s most modern P.D.O.s in 1984. It has been a pioneer in taking a New World, varietal approach to wine production. Although only about 5%
of the vineyards are currently planted with Garnacha, the region is committed to the varietal and expects to double plantings over the next few years.

Terra Alta is the white Garnacha specialist. It became a P.D.O. in 1982 and produces around 80% of all the white Garnacha in Spain.

It should noted that Garnacha can also be fortified (as it often is in Australia and in the vins doux naturels of Roussillon), for delicious Port-like wines.

Pick up some Garnacha today to see why this is a fantastic, and affordable, varietal wine!

Wine Quotes to start your weekend!

Cheers!

I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.
W.C. Fields

“I don’t like whiny and cheesy people, but I do like wine and cheese people!” – Anonymous

“Seven days without wine makes one weak.” – Anonymous

“My only regret in life is that I did not drink more wine.” – Ernest Hemingway

“Compromises are for relationships, not wine.” – Sir Robert Scott Caywood

“It doesn’t matter if the glass is half empty or half full. There is clearly room for more wine.”

“Always keep a bottle of Champagne in the fridge for special occasions. Sometimes, the special occasion is that you’ve got a bottle of Champagne in the fridge.” Hester Browne (author, freelance writer & journalist)

“Great wine requires a mad man to grow the vine, a wise man to watch over it, a lucid poet to make it, and a lover to drink it.” – Salvador Dali

“Wine is sunlight held together by water.” – Galileo Galilei (Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher)

Champagne 101

’tis the season… for Champagne of course!

Champagne reigns as the gift-of-choice during the holidays, and for good reason.

True Champagne, the real stuff from the actual region of Champagne; there is nothing like it. Just drinking it ignites all of your senses. It reflects joy, celebrations and happy gatherings of friends and family.

Should you choose to stock up on Champagne this season (and I hope you do) think of this as your cheat sheet on buying the ideal bottle, whether it is for you or for a gift.

The facts about Champagne & tips on how to read the label

The grapes
There are 3 grapes used to make Champagne: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
Some wines have all 3 grapes, some have only one or two.
On the label you may see the following:
Blanc de Blancs – means “white of white” and is made only of Chardonnay; lighter in style & crisply delicious – this is a great apperatif or with seafood. A great producer is Salon
Blanc de Noirs – means “white of black” and is a white champagne made from either Pinot Noir or both Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (both red grapes); usually fuller-bodied than blanc de blanc, this style enjoys the ability to match with a variety of foods.
Rose – could be only one grape or all three, but must contain some % of a red grape – that’s where it gets the pink color! Also a great match with food – and good for any reason you might be in the mood for pink.

Non-Vintage vs. Vintage
Non-vintage wines are exactly what they say they are – not from a particular vintage. They are blends of a few wines from different years. Remember, Champagne begins as a blend of still wine. If the Chardonnay of 2011 is not acidic enough, they’ll pull some of the 2010 or 2009 Chardonnay and blend it in for acidity. The goal is consistency. So that the NV of Veuve Clicquot you buy this year will be consistent with the one you bought last year. Most NV Champagne represent a house “style” that the winemaker tries to maintain so that the consumer knows what they are getting. NV wines should be drunk within a year or two of purchase.

Some years the vintage is so delightful that the houses of Champagne declare a vintage year. The blend is made only from grapes in that vintage – no adding of back vintages allowed. Vintage wines are low in supply and high in demand, and therefore a bit more pricy than that NV. Most vintage champagnes can age about 10 to 15 years, sometimes longer. Some houses don’t even release their Champagne until 10 years later because of the amount of bottle aging they prefer – Dom Perignon released their 2004 vintage about the same time Krug released their 2000.

Other label tid-bits
Premier Cuvee or Tete de Cuvee – means the top of the top, the best blend of the house. Some good examples include Krug’s Grand Cuvee, Bollinger’s Grand Annee and Charles Heidsieck’s Champagne Charlie
Premier Cru and Grand Cru – Some vineyards in Champagne, like other areas of France are labeled Premier Cru or Grand Cru vineyards. If a house purchases all of its grapes from grand cru or premier cru vineyards, they may put that on their label.

Levels of Sweetness
Extra Brut – Bone dry
Brut – very dry, but with more dosage
Sec – Still very dry, but with a hint of sweetness
Demi-Sec – technically means “half dry” but really is half sweet
Doux – sweetest of the Champagne, more rare, often more expensive, and a delicious balance of sweetness and acidity.

And now, our favorites!

Under $40
Ayala Brut 
Pommery Brut Royal

Under $70
Bollinger Brut Special Cuvee
Louis Roederer Brut Premier
Gosset Grande Reserve

Under $100 
Beau Joie Champagne Brut
Champagne Barons de Rothschild Brut

And of course, my all time favorite…
Champagne Krug Cuvee

Cheers!

Wine.com Releases 2014 Annual Wine.com 100

It’s that time of year… Wine.com has released its eighth annual Wine.com 100. The industry’s only list based solely on consumer purchases, the Wine.com 100 reflects the top 100 wines purchased on the website during the first 11 months of the year.

So who was number 1? It was the Caymus 2012 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. This is the first year that a wine retailing over $20 topped the list. Caymus released its 40th anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon to much fanfare and accolades. Blessed with the 40th anniversary label coinciding with a fantastic vintage in California, the 2012 bottling quickly rose to the top in units sold on Wine.com. And it remains there.

Other things we noticed on the list.
– Tempranillo was up! Last year, the number one wine on the Wine.com 100 was a value Tempranillo form Rioja. But it was the only Tempranillo on the list. Perhaps riding on the coattails of that #1 spot, this year the list featured 7 Tempranillos, all from Rioja.
– Diversity! Even in the top 10, there are 5 countries represented! Plus 18 different grape varieties, 5 continents, 7 countries and even more sub-regions… Then the prices of these wines ranges from $10 – $100+. Some are classic like Dom Perignon or Veuve Clicquot, but there are so many gems as customers discover new and interesting wines that they love.

It’s a list worth checking out, just to see the trends and popular wines of 2014! See the full list in PDF form!

A guide to finding value in Bordeaux

It’s a classic region, with classic wines. So often seen as unattainable, and even undrinkable, Bordeaux is slowly overcoming these misconceptions in the wine world. You can find affordable aged Bordeaux, and ready-to-drink young Bordeaux. Just need to know what to look for…

Getting into the wine industry some 10 years ago, I learned about Bordeaux – I memorized the regions and sub-regions, the left bank and right bank and the classifications systems. But over the past decade, I’ve slowly learned to DRINK Bordeaux.

By now I’m sure you know that Bordeaux is not limited to high-priced futures that go in the cellar, or less-than-palatable cheap stuff. But do you know what is a great value in Bordeaux? It seems to be an ongoing process to let the wine drinking population know what kind of Bordeaux belongs on your dinner table, or in the everyday drinking slot.

And, so, here are my tips on finding great “affordable” Bordeaux that you can drink now and, most importantly, enjoy.

1. Find a great chateau in a poor vintage
“Poor” vintage may be a broad statement, but some vintages don’t demand high prices at release, so top producers of the region release wines at lower prices. Even in lesser vintages, great producers craft quality wine, so those are ones to pick up.

Chateau Malartic-Lagraviere 2006 ($49.99)

2. Buy older wines at a value.
Some vintages are highly acclaimed at release (2000 vintage), but then a few years later, even better vintages arrive (2005 and 2009) and so the 2000, and then the 2005, looses some of it’s shine. Those with that vintage to still sell offer a great opportunity: the ability to purchase an older Bordeaux from a great vintage. When I say “affordable” in this sense, I’m not talking under $50, but more like under $100…  Great picks include:

Chateau La Croix du Casse 2000 ($59.99)
Chateau Clos L’Eglise Cotes de Castillon 2005 ($36.99)

3. Find village wines from fantastic vintages
This is my favorite value category… There are highly-acclaimed vintages that demand extremely high prices from top chateau, but a universally wonderful vintage means event the entry-level wines will be delicious. So give some of the under $20 village wines a try! Right now, if you grab wines from 2009, 2010 and 2011, you’ll be in great shape.  This is where I find the most values, so have the most recommendations!

Chateau Haut Bergey 2010 ($37.99)
Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte Le Petit 2009 ($36.99)
Actually, there are so many good ones, this is the list you should shop. Stock up for the holidays and enjoy!