Japanese Wine: Why It’s Outselling Sake

Alcoholic Japanese Sakebombs with Rice Wine

Most people think of Japan’s national drink, sake, when they think of ordering an alcoholic beverage at their favorite Japanese restaurant. Even Asahi or Kirin beers are another likely choice. Few people seem to know about the emerging wine culture that has been slowly capturing the market though.

Japan has long been growing grapes. The Japanese used these cultivations to eat as fresh fruit. In the mid-19th century, when the imperial rule was restored, the idea of drying or fermenting those grapes came about and had a massive impact on Japanese culture.

Because of heavy influences from America and Europe, the Japanese government would import grape varieties from these sources and give them to the farmers. It soon became clear which were ideal for making wine and which were best for a fresh snack. With these foreign grapes, new varieties were bred which now have expanded to 28 varietals for winemaking. Koshu and Muscat Bailey-A are native Japanese varieties that the International Organization of Vine and Wine recognizes.

Since wine harvesting is all relatively new in Japan, particularly when compared to sake, the trend is continuing to grow. Every autumn, they drink sake as part of a tradition. But in the 1980’s, France’s Beaujolais came on the scene. Japan of course created its own version which is bottled early in November right after the harvest. They now have a tradition involving the drinking of wine as well.

Wine consumption in Japan has continued to be on the rise since the beginning of the 21st century. Prior to that time from the 1970’s until around 2000, the wines that the people of Japan drank came from elsewhere, usually France, Italy, Spain, or America. While still in the 20th century, there were big companies that dominated the wine scene in Japan. But in recent years, the emergence of small and independent wineries have taken over.

They’re growing rapidly too, run by families who have often obtained overseas knowledge and experience about wine. Their winemaking techniques are much more advanced than the early winemakers of Japan and thus, the wine coming from Japan today is making the world take notice.

Koshu is a white variety that grows in the Yamanashi Prefecture. It’s light and crisp with a nice fruitiness that feels similar to top-quality sake. Muscat Bailey-A is a red hybrid created in Japan. If you like sweet wines, you will enjoy it though Koshu tends to be easier to pair with the cuisine. With barrel-aging techniques from Suntory, it’s often blended with Western grapes to get a more Bordeaux-style of wine that’s full-bodied and works better with matching to the food.

The next time you indulge in sushi, read over the wine list and choose a Japanese selection. While there are countless guides advising pairings of Japanese cuisine with wines from all over the world, it’s a more extraordinary experience when you fully immerse yourself in the delights of Japan.

Hungary Beyond Tokaji: How the Next Generation of Hungarian Winemakers is Changing Everything

Mant prune grape brunch, work on a family farm

When it comes to Hungarian wines, it’s all too easy to think of Tokaji. After all, it is what the country has been best known for since the late 1400’s. The stuff of royalty, there’s much prestige in Tokaji. Despite being landlocked, the International Organization of Vine and Wine estimates that Hungary produced 3.4 million hectoliters yet it needs to do something drastic to flourish.

Struggle is a story as old as time in Hungary. Once upon a time, the vineyards were neglected or destroyed during the world wars. Following that in the 1950s’, the collectivization that ensued created mass-produced wine in the country’s control. This mechanized the process and left the quality hillside vineyards to suffer. In the 1990’s though, Communism fell and Hungary’s wine industry began to rebuild.

They’re still rebuilding it today though the primary reason it’s not as popular is that there remains much uncertainty about the historical and political nature of the country. As the Hungarians work to bring life back to their vineyards and wineries, they simply don’t have the funds to market themselves outside of the country in the way that other wine-producing countries like France or Italy could.

Tokaji isn’t the only star of the land though. It’s important to focus on these other varietals that are being revived on those hillside parcels. With rapid growth anticipated, the toughest challenges that lie ahead involve getting noticed in other European countries to export and grow the industry.

That’s not all though. Hungary’s vineyards are shrinking due to the financial incentives posed by the EU to convert those vineyards into soy and corn fields. In 2016, the vineyards were just 67,000 hectares while in 2006, they were 78,000 hectares. Very little is being done to promote the small wineries too.

The wines from Hungary are getting better with every vintage. It’s a testament to the hard work and devotion of those smaller wineries that are determined not to give up. The enthusiasm they have for embracing the native varieties, following organic practices, and drumming up international recognition is starting to turn heads around the world.

When shopping for Hungarian wines, dare to explore beyond Tokaji and open up your palate to new possibilities. Each of the flavor profiles of the wines from Eger and Tokaj to Villany and Somlo are all so vastly different yet entirely the same in terms of history. They’re bold and authentic with a persistent spice. Taste them and you’ll wonder why so few people are lavishing attention on this tiny yet distinctive wine region. History and dedication are found within every bottle. With lush reds and ashy whites, you’re missing out on what truly makes Hungarian wine beyond Tokaji so splendid.

Greek Vinification in Modern Times

Red Wine Pouring Into Wine Glass

Greece has long been an enchantingly beautiful country. Blessed with beauty at every turn, the land itself is ripe for vineyards. The stunning Mediterranean climate, strong sunshine and ideal circumstances created by nature for growing native grapes make it the perfect place for crafting epic wines.

Each region has a unique terroir that gives the wines a personality all its own for complex and intriguing tastes. This has been the way for centuries of course, as Greek winemaking has endured continuously since the 7th century at least as far back as records can surmise and from history and archeology back more than three thousand years.

Years of turmoil and unrest would prove devastating to the Greek lands, however they did bounce back. In the 1970’s, bottled Greek wine was incredibly uncommon. Only Kampas, Achaia Claus, Kourtakis, and Boutaris produced. After that came Evangelos Tsantalis. Eventually, Evangelos Averoff, Dimitris Hatzimihalis, Porto Carras, and Thanassis Parparoussis all came along too and would set the landscape for Greek wine popularity.

The 1980’s were probably among the greatest times for Greek wines, carrying on the new era that came from the 70’s. This was when modernly equipped wineries began and the standards for production were firmly etched in place. The VQPRD and the AOC defined the wine’s characteristics as they do today for the wines of Greece.

Single variety wines weren’t popular then, though there were grapes exclusive to Greece that the winemakers lovingly attended to. Roditis, Moschofilero, Agiorgitiko, Xinomavro, and Savatiano were used though Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon from abroad were added. As the decades passed, the blends of both the local Greek varieties and international ones. This blending proved to be a smart move with the creation of unique and distinct wines that are highly sought after today.

When the crisis in Greece happened in 2008, things looked incredibly grim, but there are now more than 1,400 wineries in Greece. That crisis proved to be the catalyst for the wine boom in the country. More people got into wine making and with plentiful tourists, the market for Greek wine took off.

The established producers put more emphasis on exports and the smaller wineries joined force. This created competitive prices and made international consumers more eager to sample Greek wines. Even though the Greek varietals are shining specimens, some of the wines become much more approachable to the western palate when blended with varietals that were known around the world.

Even retsina, the white wine that gave Greece an unsavory reputation for far too long, has experienced a rebirth. Once considered an unpalatable option, the traditional versions have been pushed out and are rare to find. These days, the new retsinas, which are made with Assyrtiko and Roditis instead of Savatiano, has a much better flavor profile that appeals to all palates. Regardless of producer, the wines still have their pine resin as has been the case for thousands of years as originally it acted as a preservative.

For anyone that thinks Greece is all about ouzo, trying the wines of Greece will surely change your mind rather quickly. The segment is growing impressively with no signs of slowing any time soon.

Chianti Classico DOC in Tuscany: What’s Changed Over the Last 30 Years to Make It Memorable

Wine tasting experience

Perhaps your first experience with Chianti was sipping it from a bottle wrapped in straw. If so, it was bound to have sullied your impression of it. A shame too, for Chianti has truly changed over the last few decades. So much so that it’s time you forgave it and give it another chance to earn your affections.

Chianti Classico DOC as you may have tasted several decades ago was granted a ‘G’ for ‘guaranteed’ status, becoming DOCG in 1984. The name wasn’t the only thing that changed. With Sangiovese and Canaiolo still composing the base, white grapes were then required to make up a minimum of 2% on up to a maximum of 5% of the wine.

Originally in the 19th century, just a few drops of white wine were ever added, but that was changed by the DOC in 1975 which then enforced a rule that 30% of white wine grapes had to be added. The reason? Trebbiano and Malvasia were more readily available. It was about using the grapes yielded rather than preserving the quality of the wine, a sad fate for Chianti Classico indeed.

Between 1974 and 1984, the consumption of Chianti Classico dropped off considerably. Once the new DOCG status was enacted in 1990 though, it set off a sea of favorable changes for this wine.

Chianti Classico DOCG is now the shining star in top quality for Chianti, setting the bar for all others. It’s refreshingly acidic, made from grapes that come from higher elevations. You’ll taste hints of violet mixed with spice and a burst of cherries. Tannins prevail but the fruit and terroir exude all the character rather than oak aging. Traditional oak casks are the norm now to allow the wines to speak for themselves.

There are in total now 7 sub-regions of Chianti Classico being Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colline Pisane, Colli Senesi, Montalbano, Montespertoli, and Rufina. Chianti Classico became a separate entity as Chianti Classico DOCG and is not considered at sub-region since 1996. There are 9 communes within the Chianti Classico DOCG itself being Barberino Val d’Elsa, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Gaiole in Chianti, Castellina in Chianti, Greve in Chianti, Radda in Chianti, Poggibonsi, San Casciano Val di Pesa, and Tavernelle Val di Pes To play by the rules, Chianti Classico must have a minimum of 80% Sangiovese with Colli Senesi the exception at 75%. For the remaining percentage of the wines should a producer not use 100% Sangiovese the grapes can only be composed of other red grapes either of native or international variety. You’ll see Colorino and Canaiolo Nero of the native species and plenty of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot of international varieties too.

And what you won’t see? White grapes. They were banned in 2006.

To further add complexity to the region, the appellation features 3 tiers. Annata is the standard which ages 12 months before being released. Riserva can’t be released until it ages for 24 months, and Gran Selezione must age a minimum of 36 months.

Still not convinced Chianti Classico has changed in more than just its name? Grab a bottle and see for yourself. Volpaia Chianti Classico with a smooth and juicy burst and Castello dei Rampolla Chianti Classico, full-bodied and deep with tannins, are sure to change your mind.

Delving into the Complexities of Burgundy Wines

Bottle of red wine and fresh vine grapes

The pleasure of sipping wines from France’s esteemed Burgundy region knows no bounds. While it isn’t a large region in regards to size, it’s huge in the wine world. Some of the most expensive wines hail from here though not every bottle from Burgundy will cost a pretty penny.

Burgundy is home to five regions where Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the stars of this vineyard show. Other varietals are planted here like Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay, and Aligoté, but as for what the French call the Bourgogne, red (rouge) production mostly involves Pinot Noir while white (blanc) involves Chardonnay.

What makes these grapes so stand-out among the others? Why, it must be that spectacular terroir upon which Burgundy sits. It lends the wines produced here a most elegant feel that is divinely aromatic and intensely complex. Somewhere around 200 million years ago when Burgundy was in the middle of a warm sea, limestone soil was formed. If you have the pleasure to explore the vineyards yourself, you will see large hunks of limestone, sometimes in the form of marl and mixed with clay. A closer inspection will reveal fossilized remains of creatures from the sea.

Burgundy’s 5 Wine Regions

In this east-central location of France, Burgundy features five distinct wine regions – Chablis, Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise, and Mâconnais.

– Chablis

At the furthest-north point of Burgundy sits Chablis. It’s quite different from all the other wine growing areas in Burgundy. That’s largely due to the Serein River which helps moderate the climate, which is quite similar to Champagne. In fact, it has the same soil of limestone that’s white and chalky, perfect for both absorbing and reflecting the sun’s warmth to keep the vines ripening. These vines that you see growing here have been thriving since the 12th century when the Cistercian monks first planted them.

This region is well-known for producing Chardonnay with an unoaked flavor. Chablis wines feel pure and crisp on the palate and are absolutely phenomenal.

– Côte de Nuits

If you love Pinot Noir, Côte de Nuits is where you must try it. Here, there are 24 grand cru vineyards among what is deemed the most expensive vineyards in the world. You’ll find Côte de Nuits a little south of Dijon. It spans the region to Corgoloin.

This wine area focuses on Pinot Noir for much of the land while a small portion (roughly 20%) uses the land to cultivate Chardonnay or Rosé. For the grand cru vineyards, you’ll find them on the eastern slopes overlooking the valley at the Saône River. It is here where the Pinot Noir ages for decades, making the price even steeper. Some bottles can cost thousands of dollars, though there are more approachable ones in the way of budget.

Make selection from the premier cru when choosing Pinot Noir and you’ll find something lovely for a special occasion that fits your price point. You’ll be treated to a full-bodied wine with hints of cherry, fresh red fruits, and black currant melded with an earthiness and offset by just the right touch of spice.

– Côte de Beaune

With open, rolling valleys, the vineyards of Côte de Beaune are incredibly different from those just to its north. They face southeastern and the rich Chardonnays from here are completely coveted. In fact, seven out of eight of the grand cru vineyards focus on this particular varietal.

Incidentally, Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune are often summed up as one area that means ‘Golden Slope’ or Côte d’Or. This is because they’ve always been the most historically significant in Burgundy. In this ‘Golden Slope,’ the soils were formed from the Jurassic period which were exposed thanks to a fault rupture in the Tertiary era. The different subsoils make it something spectacular. Clay-limestone soils are the legacy of the land and every single plot of land creates unmatched wines with history behind it and impressively unique qualities.

The vines reach deep into the soil, drawing in energy to create wines that have character that runs just as deep. Approachable options for wines from Côte de Beaune include Volnay, Beaune, Pommard, Meursault, and Chassagne-Montratchet, to name a few. Treat yourself to soft floral aromas with hints of fresh apple and pear.

And while the region is revered for whites, don’t sell yourself short by missing out on the reds. You’ll find plummy flavors with that precise minerality Burgundy is so loved for plus good acidity to round it all out.

– Côte Chalonnaise

Continuing further south, Côte Chalonnaise is found between Chagny and Saint-Vallerin. Fascinatingly, this area was regarded by the dukes to be more rural and hence, more for peasants. In the northern portion of Côte Chalonnaise, Bouzeron is devoted to Aligoté varietals which make for lovely and refreshing summer wine drinking. It pairs beautifully with foods of the sea thanks to the floral elements and hints of honeyed citrus. Meanwhile in the center of the region, Rully brings it with Crémant, something it’s been doing since the 19th century in the same fashion as in Champagne.

The villages throughout Côte Chalonnaise are home to varied layers of soil from Jurassic limestone and marl covered with pebbles and clay. In the middle of the region near Givry, there are over 13 different types of soil. It’s no wonder the wines from here are so full of character. They’re also a great value with subtly-oaked Chardonnays and rustic-flavored Pinot Noirs.

– Mâconnais

Furthest south in Burgundy sits Mâconnais. Some dare to call it more ordinary, though it’s really more enduring than anything. When the Great Depression hit and throughout both World Wars, this area suffered deeply. Many growers sold their grapes off just to survive. It was pure necessity. In the 1960’s, tastes began to shift and wine consumption dropped. The vineyards here had to step up their game to compete. With this, the fruit quality standards were set into place as the new wines began to blossom from the area.

Set between Tournus and St. Veran, Mâconnais is the dividing line of the north and south of France. Visually different, you’ll see more Mediterranean styles here and feel the warmer climate. Harvesting starts two weeks earlier in this southern region than Chablis at the north of the realm.

Viré-Clessé is the center of the region, only being declared in 1999 as an appellation despite crafting sublime wines for ages. The warmer climate plays a vital role in the Chardonnays birthed here. They just taste riper with stone fruits, citrus, and wild herbs evoking uplifting feelings in every taste.

Perhaps the most famous is Pouilly-Fuissé which is all the way at the south. Beautiful vineyards surrounded by villages are like something from a centuries-old painting. Many of them border Beaujolais which was once considered a part of the Burgundy region. Soils in this area bring the flavor to wines from limestone and a touch of granite. Soft apple and tropical pineapple melded with peach greet your nose from the Chardonnay while a fresh, crisp taste and full structure please your palate.

Classifications of Burgundy Wines

In Burgundy, there are well over 100 appellations all ranked by levels. Understanding them is the key to finding wines to fall in love with in any price range. This can get a tad confusing though as there’s grand cru, the top of the line from the best climats in Burgundy. There is also the premier cru which are quite exceptional, village wines, and regional wines.

– Regional Wines of Burgundy

On the label it reveals ‘Bourgogne Rouge’ for reds or ‘Bourgogne Blanc’ for whites. Most of these are light and fresh, ideal for enjoying before or after a meal. Sparkling Crément is another regional wine from Burgundy to try too.

– Village Wines of Burgundy

These wines come from the towns nearby the vineyards. They’re fresh and full of fruitiness. If you don’t like an oaky flavor to your Chardonnay, you will enjoy the wines of the villages. Givry, Mercurey, Santenay, and Pouilly Fuisse are ones to seek out for your best enjoyment.

– Communal Appellations of Burgundy

With 44 communal appellations, these wines bear the village name from the area in which it’s produced. Examples include Gevrey-Chambertin, Beaune, Auxey-Duresses, Savigny les Beane, and Saint-Romain.

– Premier Cru of Burgundy

When a special occasion begs for something divine, premier cru from Burgundy is what you can choose without spending a fortune. The climats produce intense wines thanks to the soil and the morning sun. They also age longer in oak for a richer flavor. If you love an oaked taste to your wine, premier cru is the best choice and is some of the most spectacular to pair with food.

– Grand Cru of Burgundy

When money is no object, grand cru is the pinnacle of perfection in Burgundy. They are bold and beautiful, often kept in cellars for just the right time to celebrate with a superb wine. While the grand cru of Burgundy only makes up 1% of the production from the region, it is the most notable, however it isn’t the only splendid option available in the region.

Chablis Stands Alone – The Classification System in the Northernmost Wine Region of Burgundy

As if making sense of the wine regions in Burgundy (much less anywhere) isn’t already a confusing endeavor, Chablis has its very own classification system separate from everything else.

There is Petit Chablis, which is grown from the grapes around the village. These are more acidic and are light and citrusy. You should uncork these straight away for the best appeal. Don’t let these age or buy aged versions. The recent vintages are the absolute best.

Chablis are rounder and have more of a minerality to them. The grapes come off the limestone slopes. Most of the wines of Chablis are in this category and are such a treat for the palate. Premier Cru Chablis is very elegant, much thanks to that Kimmeridgian limestone marl. They are so distinctive and utterly divine. Choose ‘Mont de Milieu,’ ‘Fourchaume,’ or ‘Côte de Léchet.’

Grand Cru Chablis comes from vineyards at the north with very steep and intense slopes that point south to southwest. Technically speaking, there’s just one grand cru but inside of it, there are seven climats. You’ll see them listed on the labels as Les Clos, Valmur, Bougros, Blanchot, Presuses, Vaudésir, and Grenouilles. These all taste very different from the rest of the Chablis wine due to being aged in oak, however these age wonderfully and bring out honeyed floral notes with very flinty and refreshing acidity to balance it all out.

The wines of Burgundy can be enjoyed on many occasions. Some fare best with food while others are stunning alone, perfect for sipping prior to dining. Tasting your way around the region is the best way to get acquainted with these classic wines.

Pierre Chermette: The Finest Example of Beaujolais Moulin-à-Vent

Wine growers tasting wine in vineyard nature

Just between Fleurie and Julienas, Moulin-à-Vent, a hill with a name that translates to ‘windmill’ as a tribute to the very one from the 15th century atop it, may at times represent the pinnacle of the 10 Beaujolais crus. If you’ve sampled Beaujolais crus and have yet to uncork an esteemed bottle from Moulin- à -Vent, you simply must rectify this at once.

The wines here are concentrated with a tannic structure that may sometimes seem echelons above the rest. That’s particularly notable for the entire region of Beaujolais is rather prized. Though here, patience pays since the wines are really at their prime after aging 10 years. If you’ve heard of exemplary bottles of Beaujolais that have aged 50 years or more, it is almost always a Moulin-à-Vent although it is a rarity and it must have just the perfect producer touch and vintage.

The other crus tend to have a granite base as well, but what separates Moulin-à-Vent from them is that the soils here contain manganese. In higher concentrations, it could kill the vines, but here, there’s only enough to keep the grape yield lower. What this does is create more concentrated berries for an extreme flavor.

Coupled with the slopes of the hill and the ample sunshine, the grapes ripen to their fullest potential. It creates a majestic quality in the wines, one that becomes more intense with every sip.

When it comes to choosing the finest of them all, few hold a candle to Pierre Chermette and his Domaine de Vissoux. Years ago, he only made wine in the Beaujolais AC but ever since the 1990’s, he began taking on land in the crus. The standout is Les Trois Roches of Moulin-à-Vent. The name denotes the three unique parcels where the grapes for his wine are born. Rochegres adds what Chermette notes as “finesse” while La Rochelle brings the structure. Roche Noire adds the life to it. All of these grapes are joined together by Chermette for an astounding creation, one that is made the natural way as the original Burgundian ways once were, completely free of sulfur.

As any wine aficionado knows, drinking Beaujolais is akin to standing on top of the world. Yet from Domaine de Vissoux, the practices are sustainable, chemical-free, and steeped in traditional roots which all yield some of the most phenomenal offerings out of Moulin-à-Vent. It’s little surprise that you’ll find it gracing the wine lists of the finest restaurants in France and at the top of Les Meilleurs Vins de France, the French wine guide.

The difference with this producer is quite simple. Hand-harvesting only fully ripe Grenache grapes and reducing the yields makes for the fullest ripeness. It’s impeccable stuff, and the fact that green practices are used really speaks to today’s consumer who wants to make a sustainable and healthful choice that is abundant in spectacular flavor.

Major Alsace Grand Cru Differences of Note for Your Ultimate Tasting Pleasure

Wine expert tasting a glass of wine

Alsace Grand Cru AOC is just 4% of production for Alsace, though it is surely the mightiest of the bunch. While only four official varietals are acknowledged here, known as the ‘Noble Grapes of Alsace,’ the wines they are crafted in are some of the most sublime renditions of grapes on the planet. With Riesling, Pinot Gris, Muscat, and Gewurztraminer, the Grand Cru wines from Alsace have a higher base alcohol level thanks to riper grapes. It should be noted there is internal turmoil as some of the greatest local producers believe the Grand Cru system is deficient as 51 is way too many and some of them are massive in size, but that is a debate that will have to be resolved by the Alsatians on their own terms.

Riper grapes of course come forth from the low slopes in the southern and southeastern areas where the sun aptly blesses the vines. In general, Alsace Grand Cru wines are rich yet a bit dry, with a honeyed flavoring that is sublime with aging. As they age, they take on a delightful smokiness.

As those that know wine are aware, great wines aren’t just built from good grapes that bask in the glory of the sun. It’s the cooling climate and unique soils that add to the overall terroir. This holy trifecta of elements that truly come together with perfection in Alsace.

Alsace Terroir

All of these vineyards are smattered along a very tiny strip of land, just 75 miles running north and south along the Vosges Mountains in France’s northeastern region. The best parcels – 51 total – are all designated as grand cru. With a complex geology from the Upper Rhine rift, every grand cru produced in Alsace has unique soil from which it thrives.

It was indoctrinated into grand cru back in 1975 with the first, but more sites were added in coming years to expand the grand cru territory. Despite this, these Alsace grand crus only account for 8% of the vineyard surface in the region. These are the wines that have made history, prized for a number of years by those who have had the pleasure to indulge in them.

As one may guess, with 51 grand crus on unique soil compositions, they all have something that makes them distinguished. A few of the most notable are listed below.

Rangen

Rangen is considered one of the best Grand Crus  sitting on sedimentary volcanic soils. The vines are mesmerizing for they come right up out of bare stones. One of the southernmost of all the other 51 grand crus in Alsace, also happens to be the steepest and highest, a perfect place to catch all the sun even on the most unbearably cold days of winter.

This spectacularly unique terroir is the very reason Rangen should be on your bucket list for Alsace grand cru. They’re dramatic and have outstanding longevity and balance. The residual sweetness, acidity, and alcohol all falls into perfect harmony ending with a slightly salty finish.

Rangen grand crus are best when they age for the full potential of flavor. It’s purely magical stuff and brings new meaning to that age-old saying, “Aged like a fine wine.”

Geisberg

While Geisberg is also on a steep, south-facing terrace way above sea level, it sits in the middle of a smattering of medieval houses. Tucked between Kirchberg on the west and Osterberg on the east, two other divine grand cru wines, they all share a steepness and soil of sandstone, marl, and Triassic limestone.

That’s where the differences end as Geisberg faces due south, a spectacular place for Riesling to thrive. It is here that the wines have a precision about them, one that is truly unwavering. Winemakers thank the winds that make the wines have a perfect tension of acidity. It’s bone-dry so that young wines have a very strict composition and also assist in pathogen protections. Let it age and you get more of a fleshy feel from the bottle. Again, aging it will always bring about the truest complexities of your Geisberg grand crus.

Vorbourg

With steep rises, terraces, and rocky outcrops, Vorbourg itself means ‘foothill’ and stands out in that regard. An orientation to the south and southeast with soil of limestone and clay is blessed with daily sunshine. Add to it the warm, windy gusts from the Atlantic that rise across the Vosges Mountains and the varietals here are treated to a natural ventilation of sorts.

Thanks to the unique combination in the terroir of Vorbourg, the wines have a straightness that exudes a fully round and powerful sensation on the palate. The grand crus here are more about texture and are a splendid experience when comparing Alsace grand cru wines.

Schoenenbourg

Perhaps among the most famed Alsace grand cru, Schoenenbourg has been well-known since the 16th century. The middle section of this area is the most desired. Complex in a geological way, the soil of marl with high levels of gypsum mixed with sandstone and limestone in a Triassic formation gives this grand cru a taste that reveals that complexity.

It’s a slight bit bitter like orange peels but with a vibrant and delicate touch. Here, the grand crus ripen later on, picked late in the season. Yet despite this, they age exceptionally. You won’t get the full spectrum if you uncork it while young but with patience, you get some of the most spectacular grand crus in all of Alsace.

Hengst

By literal translation, Hengst is ‘stallion,’ and it will give your palate quite a ride. The wines here are intensely powerful much thanks to the downward sloping vineyards that face to the southeast. Calcareous marl soil leaves its imprint for generously rich-tasting wines.

In particular, Riesling rises to the occasion, and in every wine, the iron-filled soil and humidity of the warmer months imparts a rather masculine feel to the wines. Expect them to be bold, ripely acidic and full of freshness in the finish.

Of course, that’s merely 5 of the 51 parcels that Alsace grand cru is born from. It should go without saying that sampling them at your leisure will bring about the greatest of pleasures.

Austrian Grüner Veltliner and Food Pairing

Bottles Wine, Food and Cheese

Austria’s two signatures: Grüner Veltliner and Wiener Schnitze

Austria isn’t just proficient in their winemaking abilities, but also in unique and delectable cuisine. Particularly, one of Austria’s national dishes, Wiener Schnitzel, is a specialty that pairs beautifully with one of Austria’s signature wines, Grüner Veltliner.

Wiener Schnitzel

Wiener Schnitzel is traditionally made with veal, which is coated in a bread-crumb crust and pan-fried. Traditionally, the meat is tenderized by pounding it, drenched in egg, flour and breadcrumbs and then shallow fried. This method, including the pounding of the meat, was found to go back to its origins when the recipe was first created.

It was thought that the recipe originated in Italy when evidence of the meal was found in a gastronomy book in 1869. There have been debates whether this was true – or whether it was truly first developed in Austria itself. Regardless, this is now officially one of Austria’s most popular dishes – and with great reason.

Although there are substitutes for the meat – often being pork because of the price difference – the Austrian food committees established a law that only when veal is used in the recipe, is it allowed to be called Wiener Schnitzel.

Grüner Veltliner

Similarly, Grüner Veltliner is also believed to have originated in Italy – dating back to the Roman times, but there is also a great debate regarding that. Before the second world war, the varietal was not an appreciated one – considered just another white wine grape. However, after some vine-training by a winemaker, Lenz, Moser, the grape became widely popular and turned into Austria’s most planted varietal.

It isn’t just a similar, yet debatable origin that this wine and meal share – but also compatibility beyond belief. Grüner Veltliner is crisp, acidic and has intense grapefruit, lime and peach flavors and often has a lovely white pepper aroma to i. It is often referred to as an exotic Sauvignon Blanc – which is exactly what it is.

There are a number of reasons that these characteristics work with the veal dish. Not only does the acidity cut through the oil and crumbs of the veal, but the acidity is perfect for the green salads that are often served with schnitzels.

The different styles in which Grüner Veltliner can be made – from light and crisp to heavy and nutty makes this wine a great option for the Schnitzel. These styles allow any personal spices and herbs to be added to the veal and still being able to find a Grüner Veltliner to match.

The Austrian cuisine, with their hearty, flavorsome and textural aspects has made it the place to be for any foodie. The greatest part is that they also have everything for a wine-lover – which allows for a secret wine-and-food paradise. For anyone who has a love for good food and even better wine – Austria is not a place that should be overlooked.

Chinese Premium Wine? The Sky’s the Limit

Wine concept

The wine trade held its breath as the first premium, estate-bottled Chinese wine was released into the market. The 2013 Shangri-La Ayu Sun, with a staggering $360 price tag, had been building up a hype. It sold out overnight.

The Bordeaux blend, sourced from Yunnan Province grapes, is the work of the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy conglomerate. The group controls many iconic wine estates around the world, including Chateau d’Yquem, Cheval Blanc, and Dom Perignon. Premium is their standard.

LVMH planted the vines for Ayu Sun in high-altitude plots, at the foothills of the Himalayas. It took four years to find the ideal site, but their objective was explicit: To create a bottle of wine that could contend with the world’s finest.

Ayu Sun means “Flying above the clouds,” and the name not only refers to the vineyards, at over 2,000 meters in elevation but to the high expectations set.

The grapes are hand-picked, from 30 hectares of vineyards. This is a Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blend, vinified in the true, modern Bordeaux style.

The lucky few that tried the wine backed it with good reviews and high scores. “The appearance and nose were unequivocally 100% Pauillac 1st growth. Only once tasted could you tell right away it was not”, states J. Mortenson, in charge of Information & Administration for the International Sommelier Guild. He further stated “had the wine been at $170.00 this would have been a steal but more importantly this should be a wake up call to the Bordeaux market going forward”.

The wine is not a Bordeaux 1st growth; it’s the Shangri-La. The 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet tasted different from the 1970 Château Mouton-Rothschild at the Judgment of Paris competition; it didn’t taste like a Bordeaux, it was better.

Will Chinese wine share the same fate as the pioneering California winemakers? It appears so, and as wine regions around China develop, and overseas investment continues to flow, the sky is the limit.

China is a dynamic market. The new generation is curious and keen to learn more about wine. Imports and local production are not only rising in quantity but quality.

It’s not a question of if China will produce premium wine, but if there will be enough to go around. How much is the western world prepared to pay for a Ninxia 1st growth or a golden Chinese ice wine?

How safe are foreign investments in a well-known, hot-tempered country? Will trade laws and international agreements be respected? Will Chinese producers cater to the western palate, or will they find their voice? How will winemakers tackle the counterfeit problem in the country?

Many questions remain unanswered, but one thing is for sure. Chinese premium wine is here, and it’s just going to get better.

Modern Barolo producers making waves

Wine and Bread

Considering Barolo is considered Italy’s greatest wine, the pressure to produce stunning versions of this wine is understandably high. Barolo, is a wine made from Nebbiolo grapes and is known for its light color and grippy tannins. In more recent times, modern styles have become more popular – and there has been a “war” concerning the new modern approach and styles of making the wine compared to old-school styles. Although classical styles will always have their place, there are a number of winemakers currently doing extraordinary things with modern approaches to the varietal.

Enrico Rivetto

Enrico Rivetto has followed four generations of winemakers in his family – each producing reputable wines. Throughout the generation, certain practices and traditions have been instilled that has Enrico truly gained respect for the land and winemaking art. His theories are based on producing wines that are biodynamic and uses alternative energy and green practices during production. With most of the Barolo produced here, harvesting is left as late as possible to ensure complete ripeness of all the grapes. Apart from the all-natural approach, there are other unique aspects to his wines:  Enrico allows his wines to go through spontaneous fermentation, as well as leaving the seeds intact during the fermentation for added tannins. Enrico is also constantly dabbling in innovative ideas – like fermenting his wine in concrete tanks or open wooden vats. These different methods have allowed his Barolo to truly shine internationally for its uniqueness and quality.

Roberto Voerzio

In the Piedmont region of Italy, Roberto is one of the most celebrated wine producers in the region. The practices in producing the Barolo from this winemaker also incorporate natural practices. No clarification is used during production; therefore, the wines are encouraged to be kept for five to six years (although it can age splendidly for up to 20 years.) Robert is famous for his dedication to modern twists on winemaking – producing Barolo that is rich with softer tannins than usual. His belief in keeping true to the natural state of the wines means that there are no alternations done to the wine. His absolute passion and respect for the wine have been part of the reason his name (and his Barolo) is on everyone’s lips.

Elio Altare

In Piedmont, Elio Altare’s Barolo is known for its richness; bringing to life modern winemaking ideas in an old-world region. Traditional methods of ageing Barolo here often include prolonged time in huge Slovenian oak caskets. Elio, on the other hand, ferments his wine briefly in steel tanks before ageing it smaller French barrels. The great thing about the wines produced here, is that Elio and his family are directly involved in all aspects from pruning, harvesting, blending and bottling. They also believe in 100% natural and biodynamic practices – which even go as far as avoiding clarification and filtration of the wine. Their intense dedication to producing wines that are sustainable, healthy and delicious is what has made their wine, especially their Barolo, stand out.

Barolo has so many tremendous producers and sometimes it is hard to stick out of the pack. The region always evolving, there are so many exceptional producers but these are just some great producers to look out for.

Everything you need to know about Blue Vein PDO Cheese

Blue Cheese cut, serving portion

Blue Vein cheese is a general term used to describe cheese matured after intentional inoculation with cultures of Penicillium mold. A PDO (and IGT) designated products are a protected Geographical location which only allows the cheese to carry its name if it is made in compliance of strict production measures for that region based on EU laws.

A common romantic tale of how these cheeses came to be follows the tory that once, a young cheese maker, snacking on a lunch of ewe’s milk cheese and bread abandoned his meal to chase after a beautiful girl. He would come back days later to discover blue mold growing on the cheese and blue cheese was invented. There are a few variations to this story, but that is how the locals claim to have discovered the French favorite; Roquefort. A king among Blue Vein PDO cheese.

Blue Cheeses have been firm favorites for many. Oddly, despite their salty nature, they work wonderfully well as dessert courses paired with a glass of Port or sweet Sherry. Their sharp particular flavor, something of an acquired taste, is irreplaceable in any food.

The cheese can be produced with cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, or goat’s milk. Stainless steel rods poke through the cheese to let oxygen in and encourage the mold to grow into delicate blue veins. Ageing varies depending on the style of cheese and can go anywhere from four weeks to four months.

Protected Cheeses.

Over the years, their rising popularity among households and swanky gastronome events has birthed a thriving market. One whose industry is worth an approximate eye popping $120 billion annually. Able and ambitious cheesemakers worldwide would be absurd not to jump at opportunities like that. Then come the imitations and the hit-and-miss producers.

With the reputations of these delicacies at risk, the European Union moved to protect the integrity and unique craftmanship of regional foods. A Geographical Indication System was introduced that provided for Protected Designations of Origin. Within this law is everything from beer to bread. They ensure that unique foods made in certain regions under strict local regulation are allowed to assume the regional name.

The 1951 Stresa Convention brought into act in 1992, particularly caters to the protection of cheese. It classifies them into two; Annex A and Annex B. Where Annex A is a significant, high-level protection go to four designations considered to be Appaletions d’Origne; some examples are Parmegiano Regianno, Gorgonzola, Roquefort and Pecorino Romano. Annex B Cheeses do not enjoy the same extensive protection but are designated to signatory states as long as they comply with production specifications. Some B cheeses are Camembert, Danablu, Emmental, etc.

Under these protections, local farmers can focus on producing exceptional quality and extensive attention to detail with surety of competitive pricing in global markets.

Make no mistake; protected Cheeses command premium prices not from riding the coattails of the PDO name but from age old production techniques, premium conditions of feed and milk, not to mention ageing considerations. All these production steps require expert attention to detail. At the end of which, the resulting cheese is put through rigorous quality checks and controls before being allowed onto shelves.

Here are some blue vein cheeses in order of style that are worth exploring and getting to know;

Creamy blue veined cheese;

Ädelost; A noble blue Swedish cheese made from pasteurized cow’s milk. It has a moldy rind with a 50% fat content after two to three months of ripening. Ordinarily used as table cheese, Ädelost is creamy with a sharp salty flavor.

Semi-soft blue creamy cheese;

Blu del Moncenisio is an un-pressed cow’s milk cheese borne of the Turin Province. Four months of ageing leaves it with a high moisture content yet soft and fragrant with an intense palate of fresh grass and forest.

Soft Blue Veined Cheese;

Bleu Bénédictin; (Semi-soft) First made by Benedictine Abby monks of Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, Quebec. This whole milk Canadian blue cheese is a special treat of earthy mushroom flavors, a creamy center and delicately salted although obviously it does not carry the EU PDO protected designation.

Semi-hard semi fat;

Roquefort; The French king of blue cheeses one may argue is a sheep’s milk cheese from the south of France. Under the EU Law, only cheeses aged in the Combalou natural caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon are named Roquefort. The cheese has a particular sharp taste reminiscent of butyric acid with the sharp zing from the salty blue veins. It has no rind and the slightly moist, crumbly white resulting cheese demands about 4.5 liters of milk to produce.

Hard

Dorset Blue Vinney; This English cheese is made from skimmed cow’s milk near Sturminster Newton in Dorset. A hard, crumbly cheese first made as a byproduct of the popular Dorset butter. Dorset butter was highly regarded and sold well in London. However, after production, farmers had large quantities of skimmed milk that would go to waste. As a controlling measure, they resolved to produce cheese from the skimmed milk.

These are a very small cross section of the blue cheese family and one should note that there are endless more just as famous be it under the EU and PDO protection as well as others from outside of the EU. One should seek them out as they are great food companions with most proteins as well.

Bordeaux Superieur: Best Value and Taste for Your Money

Sommelier opening wine bottle

Perhaps you’ve had the pleasure of tasting a Bordeaux wine, but have you tried Bordeaux Superieur? As the name suggests, it’s a better, or shall we say more superior, version of the revered wines.

With this distinction on the label, it must meet certain high-quality standards that are set on an echelon above regular Bordeaux. That distinguished etching on the label of the wine you’re holding promises a better quality wine from the Bordeaux appellations. To be given this distinction, winemakers must age the wine in oak barrels for at least 12 months.

Other requirements include that the wines must have higher sugar levels than that of lesser quality wines. They must also come from vineyards that produce lower yields than that of generic Bordeaux AOC offerings. Another reason to go with Bordeaux Superieur is that it contains a naturally higher alcohol content. Regular Bordeaux must contain a minimum of 9.5% alcohol by volume while the Superieur version must have a minimum of 10% alcohol. Most of the Bordeaux Superieur wines you’ll find are all bottled on the estate, something that is not required for basic Bordeaux.

Due to the extensive size of the lands used to create Bordeaux Superieur wines, the soil quality can vary. The terroirs are most unique for this classification and the wines can be vastly different depending on the gravel, limestone, sand, clay, or any of these combined together.

Generally, only red wines get the notable Bordeaux Superieur label, however there are some white wines that can also earn this distinction. White Bordeaux Superieur wines are produced with Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, Muscadelle, and Semillon.

There are many incredibly delightful Bordeaux Superieur wines to choose from that come at a great value. That’s because of the demand that has risen up from the millennials. Wine is being consumed with much more passion than ever before, and winemakers know that keeping prices on some of these offerings competitive results in more sales as well as creates loyal consumers who will purchase more high-end bottles from their vineyards too at some point.

Many of today’s wine drinkers aren’t put off by spending around $25 per bottle, and at that value, or even less, you can find a bottle of Bordeaux Superieur to enjoy with your dinner tonight. To find the best Bordeaux Superieur wines, read the fine print on the labeling. It should mention the winemaker’s name, showing the pride they take in their creation. Additionally, it can show you where the wine is from, and that could be the key to its lower price without compromise on taste. Some recommendations:

Plaisance Bordeaux Superieur

Comprised of 70% Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot rounding the rest out at 20% and 10%, respectively, this deeply purple-hued offering is elegant, ideal for serving with your best beef dishes. It’s best to decant it properly for an hour or so to get the full spectrum of its delightful flavors and aromas.

Chateau De Parenchere Bordeaux Superieur

A balanced and firm wine with rich berry flavors with a touch of smokiness, it is a wine that gets even better with age.

Chateau Saint-Michel Bordeaux Superieur

Cherries and spices add a fresh and beautiful aroma though the flavor of tobacco in this medium-bodied adds a notable spice. The texture is silky through the finish. It’s another elegant choice that begs to be served with outstanding cuisine.

If you are looking to start learning and drinking Bordeaux without breaking the bank, Bordeaux Superieur designated wines are the ideal lace to start and along with these mentioned producers there are many more that will give you tremendous quality to price ratio value. Try enjoying some Bordeaux today.