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Sparkling Wines Of France

Every happy celebration calls for a glass of Champagne. The bubbles hit your tongue and you already feel it: party is in the air!

 

Don’t get fooled by Champagne!

Champagne is not the only sparkling wine in France. More than 23 different sparkling wines, including Champagne, are actually produced in France. Don’t miss them because they can easily rival with Champagne.

Indeed, most of the other sparkling wines are really fine and way cheaper than Champagne.

 

The fantastic four: Four region producing beautiful sparkling wines

The sparkling wines from Loire region, in the West of France, have a very floral and fruit notes.

Burgundy is the Champagne neighbor and produces sparkling wines with much ripe fruit flavor.

Alsace sparkling wines are well appreciated for their strong fruity taste.

Languedoc-Roussillon is probably the oldest wine region in France and the sparkling wines were already produced there in the 16th century…

 

Where do the bubbles come from?

To get enough bubbles, it has to go through a second fermentation (find out more)

 

The two methods of producing sparkling wines

Crémant‘ (Crémant’ article here) is the term used in other parts of France for sparkling wines produced in the classic Champagne method. 

The ancestral method is very similar to the way you craft ciders and ale. They usually have fewer bubbles than a Champagne. Those sparkling wines have a stronger grape flavor and a creamy texture.

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What’s The Difference Between Syrah and Shiraz?

syrah

The luscious Syrah Grape.

 

This question is a common one among our event guests.

The words Syrah and Shiraz are used by winemakers around the world to describe their wine’s grape variety.

Syrah and Shiraz actually refer to the same grape. Its just the location that dictates which of the terms are used. Think of it as a local slang describing the same word in difference places.

The term Syrah (pronounced See-ra)  is used in France, particularly in the Rhone Valley where the Syrah grape is widely planted.

On the other hand, the term Shiraz (pronounced Shee-RAZZ) is used in New World wine countries like Australia.

This explains why this grape variety is spelt differently on both French and Australian wine labels.

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What gives Rosé wines its color and flavour?

rosewine

Rosé wines carry very unique colors and flavors

If you’ve always thought Rosé wine was only a woman’s drink, stop right there.

During summer time in France, men can drink Rosé as much as women. Just as wearing a pink shirt is fine for a man, drinking a pink wine does not emasculate him. Being able to drink a pink wine can be seen as a very sexy thing.

And you would also be wrong to assume that Rosé wine is the minority wine that’s drank in France. The French love their Rosé wine. In fact, Rosé wines considerably outsell white wines in France.

The region of Provence remains the popular place to produce Rosé wines. 40% of all bottles of Rosé wines produced in France come from this region. Provence is very focused on producing Rosé wines as well. Every 8 out of 10 wines produced in Provence are Rose wines.

Rosé wines provide the perfect compromise between red and white wine. They are not as intense as bold, tannic red wines and have more depth and flavour compared to light white wines. This makes it the perfect party wine.

However, Rosé wines are very delicate and difficult to make. It’s important to appreciate the winemaking process that gives Rosé wine its unique color and flavor.

rosewine

Contrary to popular belief, Rosé wines are not made by mixing red with white wines. There are 2 methods to produce rosé wines: direct pressing, as well as maceration and bleeding (“saignée”). Both processes only use red grapes.

Direct pressing:

Red wine is given its colour from the red grape skin. The grape juice itself is colorless. Therefore, a winemaker can control the red color depth of a wine by controlling the time the skin stays in contact with the grape juice.

In this technique, the grape juice is allowed to be in contact with the skin for a short period of time – much shorter than when producing a red wine – before being directly pressed to get a juice that’s passed to the next step in the process. That juice is then fermented in a tank. The Rosé wines obtained from this method, such as the Rosé wines from the Loire Valley, have a paler pink color since the juice is in contact with the skin for a very short time.

Maceration and bleeding:

Compared to direct pressing, where the grapes are pressed as a whole, the maceration and bleeding technique requires the grape contents to be separated naturally first.

For this technique, the red grapes are first de-stemmed and crushed. The grapes are then poured into a tank and left to macerate a couple of hours. With the help of gravity and time, the skin will float to the top, while the rest of the grape contents fall to the bottom of the tank. The resulting juice in the tank is allowed to ‘bleed’ out through the bottom. The juice obtained is then fermented in cold tanks. The majority of the Provence and Tavel Rosé wines are made this way. This process gives the wine a deeper pink color compared to the direct pressing method.

From these two processes, the short contact with the grape skin leaves Rosé wines with the fresh fruity flavours that are similar to those in white wines. The fruity flavors are also made possible due to the sunny Mediterranean climate where the grapes for Rose wines are grown.

In most cases, it is best to drink Rosé wines within one or two years after the bottling while they are still fresh. We believe that it is necessary to explore Rosé wines to bring more variety to your palate.

If you are looking to taste some, we do carry the following Rosé wines in our online store here.

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The Different Wine Bottle Sizes

sizebottle

Wine bottles don’t just come in one single size.

 

Have you seen a massive-sized wine bottle a restaurant before?

Those are not just for display. You can actually purchase and consume them in the restaurant.

The ‘common’ bottle size that you will find on our website is 750ml (why? click here). If visit a restaurant and happen to be in the mood to order a bottle that’s bigger (or smaller) than the common bottle size, we’ve got you covered.

Find the list of names for the different wine bottle sizes and their respective volumes below:

Piccolo’ – 187.5ML (quarter bottle)

‘Demi’ – 375ML (half bottle

 ‘Standard Bottle’ – 750ML (the common bottle size)

‘Magnum’ – 1.5L (2 bottles)

‘Jeroboam’ – 3L (4 bottles)

‘Methuselah’ – 8L (10.6 bottles)

 ‘Salmanazar’ – 9L (12 bottles)

‘Balthazar’ – 12L (16 bottles)

‘Nebuchadnezzar’ – 15L (20 bottles)

 

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In Which Order Should Wine Be Served? 4 Simple Rules

winetast

Hosting friends for dinner and you still wonder which bottle to open first?

Tasting different wines while having a meal is made easy by simple principles. These four wine-tasting rules can make all the difference!

 

Rule 1: Better, stronger, richer, after: Serve the quality of wines in ascending order.

If you want to serve several wines during a meal you need some organization. You absolutely do not open a rich wine before a light wine. The tannins of the first will numb your palate and you will miss the flavors of the second. Same for lower quality wines that would appear tasteless after a “grand cru”.

Some exceptions exist to that rule: For desserts, a champagne or a sweet wine can be served after a red wine even though they are lighter.

 

Rule 2: Serve the white wines and the rose wines before the red wines.

Just by respecting the first rule you can deduce that white and rose wines have to be served before the red wines. Indeed the acidity and the fruity flavors of these wines would vanish on a palate full of tannins.

The only exception to this rule is about the light and fruity red wines like Beaujolais or those from Vallee de la Loire. They can be served after a great white wine, strong enough to overcome the small tannins.

 

Rule 3: Serve the young wines before the aged wines

With age the wines develop singular aromas. The red wines from Bordeaux would tend to have woody and leathery flavors while the sweet white wines would have a candied fruits taste.

Therefore it is more difficult to appreciate the vivacity and the freshness of a young wine after such heavy and complex flavors. Pay respect to aged wines; so let the young go first.

 

Rule 4: Serve the dry wines before the sweet wines

Sweet, dry and candied fruits, chocolate… The sweet wines can have a large span of flavors. Their sweetness would overwhelm the acidity and the tannins of dry wines, whether it is red or white.

Always serve dry wines first and go for sweet wines to pair with your favorite desserts.

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What does a 3 Michelin Star rating mean?

3-star

The 3 Michelin Star rating has mystified many.

 

Nicolas Rebut, The French Cellar sommelier based in France, has 20 years of experience working in 3 Michelin Star restaurants (Le Meurice, Paris – Louis XV Alain Ducasse, Monaco).

But what exactly is does a 3 Michelin Star rating mean for a restaurant and how is it awarded?

First, let’s look a what a 1, 2, and 3 Star rating signify.

Michelin is a tyre company which released a road guide for their customers’ convenience.

They rated certain restaurants depending on how ‘good’ they were. One star meant it’s safe to eat here, two stars meant that if you passed this place, it’s worth stopping to have some food at the restaurant. A three-star rating meant that it’s worth taking a twenty mile detour just to eat at this restaurant.

The exact process of how restaurants are rated is a well-kept secret. A Michelin reviewer will visit a restaurant under the guise of a normal guest. They want to have the purest experience possible.

To even be rated by Michelin, a restaurant needs to be in a city that’s covered under Michelin ratings. Cities like Hong Kong, Macau, and Tokyo are among those included in Asia.

There are 109 three-star restaurants worldwide.

michelin_rating

Official rating from Michelin guide 

 

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Four rules to know if a wine is good to age

wineaging

Not all wines are better when aged: The types of wine, the method of storage and on your own preferences identify when you should open a bottle.

Remember that wines have different maturity cycles: they reach their best quality at different period.

 

The matter of opening or storing a wine bottle is important to get the best out of it. Some simple rules will help you to make the right decisions.

 

Rule 1: Tannins-rich and acidic wines are better fit to age

Look at the tannins and the acidic taste in it. The richer in tannins or the more acidic the taste is, the better when aged.

To keep a bottle for long time, choose a powerful, complex and rich wine. So look for cépages like chardonnay, chenin or sauvignon for white wines, and cabernet-sauvignon, syrah or mourvedre.

 

Rule 2: General aging times: Not over 20 to 30 years

Most of the wines produced nowadays will be over aged after 20 to 30 years. If you have that old bottles in your cave, it is time to open them…

 

Refer to the list below for some average ageing time of red and white wine types:

– White wines

  • Except for the vintage champagnes, the champagnes are to be open in three years.

  • The sweet white wine (typically a Château d’Yquem or a Sauternes 1er cru) can be stored for 5 to 25 years.

  • The white wines from Alsace (like a Gewürztraminer 1er cru) the aging time is between 5 to 25 years.

  • The white wines from Jura, particularly the late-harvested wines because they have a higher content of natural sugar, can be aged 10 to 20 years.

  • The “vin jaune” from Jura (appellations like Château Châlon or l’Etoile) can be tasted after 30 years! They developed over time a nice nut flavor.

– Red wines

  • The Beaujolais Nouveaux are generally better to drink straight after purchase than after one or two years. Same for some aromatic white wines, which are better “young”.

  • The Bordeaux grands crus red wines (Pauillac or Margaux) can be kept between 5 to 30 years.

  • The Burgundy red wines like Vosne Romanée or Bâtard-Montrachet can also be stored for 5 to 30 years.

 

Rule 3: The price tag tip

As you could deduce from above, the more expensive wines are, the longer they can age. That what you should keep in mind if you don’t recall all the appellations.

A simple tip to remember: Bottles below 50 dollars should be opened in a period of three years. Above that price, they can be kept longer.

 

Rule 4: Trust your sommelier

Aging a wine is a complex question. The best is to ask for advice from your sommelier or your wine retailer.  All the wines from The French Cellar  are delivered at your doorstep with our sommelier’s tasting guide.

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Wine myth: Why does my face turn red after drinking alcohol? The “Flush” is no longer a myth.

Asian-Flush-Syndrome-Is-Alcohol-Giving-You-a-Red-Face-Pic

“I’m not even tipsy and my face is already red…Why?!”

Appearing red sometime after the very first drink that embarrassing situation has a scientific explanation. And it is not drunkenness… Time to bust the myth!

The Alcohol Flush Reaction

This red face syndrome is actually called the Alcohol Flush Reaction (AFR), commonly referred as the “Asian flush” or “Asian glow”, for it is frequent among this population. Over 500 million people worldwide suffer from it, and less than 40% of them having this reaction to alcohol are Asian descent.

Metabolic deficiency

When consumed, alcohol is oxidized into acetaldehyde and then broken into acetate. People with Alcohol Flush Reaction are genetically deficient to metabolize this last step. This genetic deficiency is particularly present among Chinese, Japanese and Korean ancestry. The AFR results then from a temporary accumulation of acetaldehyde in the body.

Effects of acetaldehyde: The red neck

For a while the concentration of acetaldehyde increases and causes the blood vessel to dilate. Your face becomes red and hot. The symptoms can be seen on the back, the neck and the upper torso as well.

Don’t worry!

It’s not a matter of what type of alcohol you drink; it’s matter of genetic! If you experience alcohol flush reaction drink responsively, there is no cure to it… But why worry! Embrace your glow! Just in case you want to prevent people calling you “tomato face”, just avoid high alcohol content drinks.

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Wine Myth: The Best Wines Are Made From A Single Grape Variety

winemyth

The war of wines: Single variety wines are often thought to be

better than wines from a blend of different grapes.

Now, for the real truth about single varietal wines.

Single varietal wines are largely popular in New World wine countries (America, Australia, etc), whereas wines made from a blend of different grapes are common in Old World wine countries (France, Italy, etc).

It’s loyal supporters may argue that wines made from a single grape variety are ALWAYS better than those made from a few.

But this is largely a myth. Here’s why:

1- Single varietal wines may not always be made from a single grape variety

Most laws allow a wine to be labeled as a single varietal wine as long as a certain percentage of the wine is made from a certain grape variety. These allows room for another grape variety to be introduced into the wine. For example, in the US, a wine made from at least 85% Merlot can be labeled as a ‘Merlot’ varietal wine. The other 15% of the wine could be from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, and that wine would still be labeled as a Merlot wine. Hence, the ‘Merlot’ wine that one drinks and evaluates may not actually be a 100% Merlot wine.

2- Even if it is 100% from one grape variety, it does not necessarily make it better

When other grapes that are introduced into the wine, it can give the wine some interesting characteristics. Think of the different grape varieties in wine as the Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass in a choir. They all operate in harmony and can create a symphony of flavors in the wine. For example, Bordeaux winemakers can add Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot to a wine to give it a fruitier, rounder taste compared to if it was made of Cabernet Sauvignon alone. Wines made from pure Cabernet Sauvignon may end up too tannic to drink.

Also, sometimes a certain grape variety planted in a certain vintage may not do so well. For instance, the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in the vineyard may not ripen sufficiently and it may be ideal to add another grape to balance out the harshness.

3- There are many other factors that affect the quality of a wine

The vintage’s climate and winemaker’s standards also play a crucial role in determining the wine’s quality. Regardless which variety of grapes used, if the grapes were not grown under a good climate or it is not produced under strict conditions, the wine may not taste good.

A final point: choosing a single varietal wine over a wine made from a blend of different grapes may also just be a matter of preference. So try both and find the type that you prefer.

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Wine Basics: Let’s Talk Malbec

malbec

Malbec grape

The Malbec grape is a famous grape grown not just in France but around the world.

Notable homes to the Malbec grape include both France and Argentina. The grape itself and the wine it produces has a dark, purple red color. However, how it tastes in the mouth depends on where the grape was grown.

Cahors, in the South West of France, is the region that is famous for growing the Malbec grape in France. In fact, most of the region focuses on growing this grape. The French Malbec has a leathery texture, with flavors of blackcurrant and plum. It also has a tinge of bitterness with tannins and moderate acidity. It is one of the 6 grapes allowed to be added to a blend of Bordeaux red wine.

On the other hand, the Argentine Malbec is heavier on the fruit. For this variant of Malbec, you can taste blackberry, plum, and cherry flavors. Aside from fruit flavors, you may be able to taste chocolate and tobacco. The flavors of the Argentine Malbec fruitier because of the warmer climate compared to France.

Because of it’s full-bodied weight and tannic qualities, a French Malbec wine will go well with both cheese as well as steak.

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Bordeaux Region: The Left Bank

estuaire_gironde

Gironde estuary – meeting of the rivers Dordogne and Garonne

The Bordeaux wine growing region is separated by two rivers – the Dordogne and the the Garonne – which meet to form the Gironde river.

The Left Bank of Bordeaux is located southwest of the Gironde and the Garonne. The Left Bank is dominated by gravel soils which hold the sun’s heat and is perfectly adapted to Cabernet Sauvignon. Along with the dominant Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot is used to bring more roundness for the red wines. Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc are other grape varieties used but in a smaller proportion. For the white wines, Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon are mainly used while Muscadelle is used to a lesser proportion.

The Left Bank is divided into two regions: Médoc and Graves.

 

bordeaux map

Médoc

This region is located at the north of the Left Bank and contains two vast appellations – Médoc AOC (Northern Médoc) and Haut-Médoc AOC (Southern Médoc) – and 6 communal appellations among the most prestigious in the world:

–          St-Estèphe: it is the most northern of the six Médoc communes and differentiates with higher percentages of Merlot. The wines tend to have more acidity.

–          Pauillac: positioned at the centre of Médoc, it is a remarkable terroir with three Premiers Crus Classés (Lafite-Rotschild, Latour and Mouton-Rothschild). The wines are powerful and can age for 20-40 years

–          St-Julien: located between Margaux and Pauillac, it combines the finesse of Margaux with the power of Pauillac

–          Margaux: it is the southern communal AOC and the wines offer finesse and delicacy

–          Moulis: located at the west part of the Médoc, the wines are suave

–          Listrac-Médoc: located near Moulis, the wines are tannic and age-worthy

 

Graves

This region is located at the south of the Left Bank and contains the Graves AOC, and two communal appellations:

–          Pessac-Léognan: located at the south of Bordeaux, the appellation produces both red and white wines. The red wines use a higher percentage of Merlot than the Médoc and have a complex bouquet. The dry white wines are aged on their lees and develop complex aromas with notes of nuts and honey

–          Sauternes/Barsac: this appellation is known for its dessert wines produced from botrytized grapes. The bouquet is complex and elegant with aromas of honey, hazelnuts, apricots and peaches

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The 5 most famous wine estates in France

rare1

France is the largest wine producer in the world and its ancient wine history started more than 2,500 years ago. Over the years, some estates have become mythical. Here is a short list of 5 estates and wines that all wine lovers dream of tasting once in their life.

1 – Domaine de la Romanee-Conti 

Romanee-ContiDomaine de la Romanée-Conti is located within the small commune of Vosne Romanee in Burgundy. The vineyard for its flashship wine, Romanee-Conti, only covers 4.4 acres, for a production of around 450 cases of wine each year. It is made exclusively from Pinot Noir grape.

The other exclusive wine the estate produces is La Tâche, in twice the amount as the Romanee-Conti, as well as portions of Richebourg, Romanee-St.Vivant, Grands Echézeaux and Echézeaux. To purchase bottles at the estate, clients must acquire all the wines of the domain by boxes of twelve, which means one bottle of Romanée-Conti among 11 bottles of other domains.

 

2- Chateau Margaux

Chateau MargauxWorld famous Chateau Margaux is situated in Bordeaux, covering about 250 acres. The grape-varieties are 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.
Margaux was in the original Premier Cru classification of 1855, and today is still regarded as one of the best Bordeaux houses. Margaux wines are among the most expensive wines in the world. A bottle of Château Margaux 1787 holds the record as the most expensive bottle of wine ever broken, insured at $225,000. A passage from William Styron’s 1979 bestseller “Sophie’s Choice” boosted the wine’s literary reputation. “Were a wine to be drunk in paradise,” Styron wrote, “it would be Chateau Margaux.”

 

3 – Chateau Petrus


Petrus wineChateau Petrus is a Bordeaux wine estate located in the Pomerol appellation near its eastern border to Saint-Émilion. Petrus wines are made up entirely of Merlot grapes (on occasion with small amounts of Cabernet Franc). In Pomerol there is no classification as in Médoc or Saint-Emilion. But the small surface, 28 acres makes it rare- only 2500 cases each year –  and therefore very expensive. 
Pétrus’ fame grew in the 1960s, as it got promoted in restaurant Le Pavillon in New York, reaching a symbol status in the United States. Today Petrus wines are arguably the most sought after in the world.

 

4 – Chateau d’Yquem

Yquem

Chateau d’ Yquem is a sweet white wine producer from the southern Bordeaux sub-region of Sauternes. The grapes for this wine come from a 250-acre plot. The wines of d’Yquem, made up of Semillion and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, are widely prized for their complexity, concentration and honey-like sweetness.
In great vintages and when stored properly, the wines of d’Yquem can age for a century or more. In 1996 famed wine critic Robert Parker of the Wine Advocate gave a 100-point rating to a bottle of 1811 Chateau d’Yquem.
Le Comte Alexandre de Lur Saluces, former owner of Chateau d’Yquem,  Honorary Sponsor of The French Cellar. His testimonial here
 

 

5 – Chateau Grillet
chateau grilletThe only wine from Rhone valley in this list. Like Petrus or Romanee Conti, the limited production of Château Grillet makes it rare and, in many ways, almost mythical. The whole appellation Chateau-Grillet -only 9 acres- is owned by the estate, and is made 100% of Viognier grapes which is very rare. It is one of the only two appellations in all of the Northern Rhone Valley that exclusively produce white wine.
The slim brown bottles of Château-Grillet are easily recognised and are used by no other French winery. The estate belongs to French billionaire Francois Pinault since 2011, founder of the multinational holding PPR (now Kering).

 

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Wine Region: Bordeaux

wineregion_bordeaux

You can always find a picture-perfect chateau in Bordeaux.

Bordeaux is probably the most well-known wine region in France.

It’s geographical position in France fueled much of its early growth. Bordeaux is essentially connected to the Atlantic Ocean through the Gironde river. Commerce has been pulsing through the veins of the Bordeaux port for centuries. One of the most notable trades in the port is the selling of wine. In the early days, the Atlantic Ocean connected Bordeaux with England (its biggest wine client) just nicely.

To a wine drinker, what you can appreciate is the diversity of wines that come from Bordeaux. We can get a good feel for this by dividing Bordeaux into 3 main areas, the Left Bank (left of the Gironde river), the Right Bank (right of the Gironde), and the South (Graves).

bordeaux map

Because of soil and climate differences, the wines produced on both the left and right bank taste different. The clay soils on the right bank favour the growth of the Merlot grape. Whereas, the harder and less porous soil on the left bank favours the Cabernet Sauvignon grape.

Hence, left bank Chateaux tend to use a higher concentration of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in their wines compared to Merlot. This is the opposite for right bank Chateaux where they tend to use more Merlot compared to Cabernet Sauvignon.

Besides Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, winemakers from both sides of the river use other grapes like Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc are used in small quantities as well.

Interesting to note is that both the left bank and right bank have their own wine ranking systems. The Left Bank has a ranking system, called the 1855 classification system. The Right Bank on the other hand has its own ranking system starting in 1954 called the Saint-Emilion classification system.

You may have drank a lot of Bordeaux red wines but the region is also well-known for its white wines. The specific place that produces the majority of Bordeaux white wines is the sub-region called Pessac Leognan. The white wines in this area are made from a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. They are also usually oaked in barrels to achieve a higher level of complexity.

Sauternes, another famous sub-region in Bordeaux produces many of the French sweet wines. Chateau d’Yquem is the most famous sweet wine maker in Sauternes.

 

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What’s the Difference Between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot?

cab_sauv Cabernet Sauvignon grapes

Both are popular grapes that are mainly grown in Bordeaux.

However, they are unique to each other and have their own set of qualities. As we shall see, these opposing qualities make them perfect for blending together to achieve balance.

For Bordeaux red wines, you’ll find that they are mostly made of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wine grapes. Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant grape of the left bank of the Gironde river, and Merlot on the right bank.

This division is caused by both terroirs and climate.

merlot

Merlot grapes

Historically, the right bank winemakers found that the clay soil more suitable for growing the Merlot grape. The left bank winemakers found that the hard, less porous soil is more suitable for Cabernet Sauvignon. Winemakers have been following this natural division ever since then.

In terms of taste and texture, Cabernet Sauvignon is the ‘harder’ grape of the two. It is more tannic than Merlot. On the other hand, Merlot is the fruitier grape. As tannins can be balanced with fruitiness, these two grapes are perfect partners for blending. You will find many of the red wines made across the left and right bank of the Gironde river include a blend of both grapes.

 

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What are ‘wine legs’?

winelegs

What are ‘wine legs’?

There  are a lot of  misconceptions about wine legs.

Wine legs are the streaks of water that form on the side of your wine glass.

Many associate wine legs with the quality of a wine. They believe that a wine is a high quality one if there are many wine legs forming on the glass. However, this belief is wrong.

Wine legs are also not related to the sweetness or body of the wine.

Rather, wine legs occur naturally in all wines due to the alcohol in the wine. This effect is called the Marangoni Effect. And before you think you can read the alcohol level in a wine based on how many wine legs there are, stop. Because you can’t.

Across French wines, there’s only have a small variation in alcohol levels. They usually vary from 12% to 14%. That variation is not big enough for you to notice a telling difference in the wine leg pattern formed by two different wines. So instead of reading too much into them, just enjoy the visual effect of wine legs.

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Can White Champagne Be Made From Red Grapes?

blc_de_noir

What? Red grapes making white champagne?

It seems counter-intuitive that a winemaker is able to make white champagne from red grapes.

Most red wines in France are made from red grapes, and likewise, white wines from white grapes. So can a winemaker produce a white champagne using only red grapes?

The answer is yes!

To understand why white champagne can be made from red grapes, we need to look at the winemaking process. The red color of wine comes from prolonged contact between red grape skin and the white juice after the grape is crushed. Therefore, if you remove the red grape skin shortly after the grapes are crushed, the color of the juice can still remain white.

Due to regulations, champagne producers are only allowed to make champagne with any combination of the 3 grapes of Pinot Noir (red), Pinot Meunier (red), and Chardonnay (white). They are also allowed to make 100% of the champagne from any one of those grapes.

If a white champagne is produced entirely from red grapes, it is given the term ‘blanc de noir’, or ‘white of black’. The black here refers to the red grape.

Another related term, ‘blanc de blancs’, is used to describe a white champagne that’s made entirely from white grapes (the Chardonnay grape).

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The Difference Between Champagne and Prosecco

champagne_prosecco

Prosecco is often called the champagne of Italy.

Both Champagne and prosecco are the main sparkling wines exported around the world from their respective countries, France and Italy.

When you go to a wine shop, you’ll find that the price of champagne a few times higher than the price of prosecco (in the same price range, France produces “Crémant” in Loire, Burgundy, Limoux…). (What does“Crémant” mean, article here)

You will also find a big difference in their flavors and aromas. This difference is largely caused by the types of grapes used, also the climates in which the grapes are grown and the method of vinification.

Champagne is made from a blend of the Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir grapes (Champagne Blanc de Noirs is made of Pinot Noir only, and Champagne Blanc de Blancs of Chardonnay only). On the other hand, prosecco is made from the Glera grape.

Both are drank during festivities or with meal, all year round.

If you have a chance, compare prosecco and champagne side-by-side and note the flavor differences.

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Why is 75cl the standard wine bottle size?

wine75clWe all know that the bottles of wines are 75cl and not 1L.

 

Crazy beliefs say that 75cl is the exact lung capacity of a glass blower, that it corresponds to the average consumption of wine per meal or that this volume is more convenient for transport…

None of that is accurate! The truth is even more embarrassing (for the French). A look back in History…

 

The volume of 75cl was standardized in the 19th century. At that time, the biggest clients for the French wines were the British.

The close neighbors do not use the metric system and used to order wine in “imperial gallon”. One gallon is about 4.546 liters.

Barrels were used to transport wine at that time. One barrel is 50 gallons, about 225 liters. A real nightmare for conversion! So to ease the calculation, the wine makers from Bordeaux decided that 1 barrel would be 300 bottles of wine instead of 225.

 

Do the math and you’ll find that it makes a bottle at 75cl! One gallon is 6 bottles, and since then, that’s the reason why we still order wine in packs of 6 or 12 bottles.

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Do The Sulfites In Wine Give You A Headache?

sulfites

Many think that sulfites is the thing that gives you the red wine headache.

 

Have you noticed the phrase ‘contient des sulfites’ (‘contains sulfites’) printed on your wine bottle label?

The printing of this phrase was recently made compulsory by wine authorities in Europe. The reason is to alert the small percentage of people who are allergic to sulfites. Some people with chronic asthma may experience difficulties with breathing after consuming sulfites.

However, sulfites actually have little to do with headaches after drinking wine. Sulfites are necessary to kill off any bacteria and yeasts that remains after the winemaking process. The sulfites are also necessary to preserve the wine and stop it from oxidizing. Without sulfites, wine would quickly turn to vinegar…

So if it’s not the sulfites that cause wine headaches, what does?

One main reason is dehydration. Drinking alcohol dehydrates our bodies. Prolonged dehydration can cause headaches. Be sure to drink plenty of water when drink wine.

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What is Non-Vintage Champagne?

bollingersclabel

Notice that you do not see a vintage year on this label.

Did you know that most of the champagnes out there are non-vintage champagnes?

This means that the bottle has a blend of champagne from different years. The opposite of this is vintage champagne, where all the champagne in the bottle is made entirely from a single year’s grapes.

Winemakers produced non-vintage champagne out of a desire to control the champagne’s quality. The quality of champagne grapes, like all other wine grapes, are heavily influenced by the weather. Too much rain and not enough sun negatively impacts the ripening of the grapes. If the current year’s grapes are not good enough to create a vintage champagne, winemakers blend champagne from different vintages, grapes and vineyards before bottling.

Vintage champagnes are only made a few times in a decade. This is because during a year with bad weather, the winemaker has to decide whether it wants to release a vintage champagne. As they are rare, vintage champagnes are generally more expensive than non-vintage ones.

It is hard to say whether vintage champagne is ‘better’ than non-vintage ones, since a non-vintage champagne blend is carefully selected from good grapes across different years. All one can say is the vintage champagnes are ‘special’ since they are made from all grapes in the same vintage.


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Who Would Have Thought: A Rot That’s Actually Good for Wine

botrytis

Botrytis grapes

‘Bad’ grapes that make good wine. This time it’s different.

You don’t throw away grapes with this rot. It is so prized that winemakers purposely look for conditions that allow their wine grapes to be infected by it.

We are referring wine made from grapes infected by the fungus ‘Botrytis Cinerea’ (pronounced ‘boh-TRY-tis sin-eh-REH-ah’).

If you’ve tasted a sweet wine from France before, then you’ve likely tasted a wine made from grapes that have rotted from the benevolent form of this fungus. It is also known as the ‘Noble Rot’.

The Noble Rot does fascinating things to the wine. It both increases both its sweetness and complexity of flavors.

The sweetness increases because the Noble Rot dehydrates the grape, thereby concentrating the sugars in the wine. The acids in the wine are also more concentrated due to this dehydration. Both sugar and acid levels are heightened and the end result is a wine with an amazing sweet-acid balance. Drinking a well made sweet wine is akin to eating a strawberry that hits this wonderful balance really well.

Because of the rot, the flavors and aromas of the wine are also chemically affected. The Noble Rot imparts interesting flavors into the wine. It’s common to hear a sweet wine being described as having the savoury flavors of honey, ginger, apricots, and marmalade. This is a wine that you really need to taste to know what it’s all about.

Having said that, an amazing wine like this is challenging to produce.

sauternesglass

Firstly because the Noble Rot has an evil twin, the ‘Grey Rot’. Also from the main fungus Botrytis Cinerea, this malevolent form of this fungus can destroy the whole crop of grapes and render it unusable.

Thus, the conditions have to be just right for the Noble Rot to flourish and the Grey Rot to be avoided. The Noble Rot, requires a moist but partially wet, partially dry condition to grow. The is brought about when early mornings are humid and misty, and the afternoons are dry, warm, and sunny to dry off the grapes.  If the weather stays wet throughout the day, the Noble Rot can turn into the Grey Rot.

Another challenge is the harvest of the grapes. Because of the dehydration caused by the rot, each grape shrivels and less juice remains in the grape. Hence, more grapes are needed to make a certain amount of wine.

Also, because the Noble Rot infects each grape individually, each grape on the same bunch may become infected at different times. This means that during harvest time, the grapes have to be hand-picked, one-by-one.

So next time you take a sip of this magical wine, savor it’s unique flavors and appreciate its difficulty to produce.

The Sauternes region in France is famous for sweet wines.

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How Many Harvests Are There In A Year?

harvest

Harvest season is an important time for a winemaker.

 

It may seem that there must be a few harvests a year given the number of bottles of wine that gets produced in France.

Indeed there’s a big output of wine from France each year, but all this is done through just one harvest for the whole year.

In France, the precise harvest time for a vineyard depends on the region it’s in. This is because climate differences across France cause the wine grapes to ripen at different times. In general, harvest starts around September and lasts for a few weeks. The exact date to start is set by the winemakers.

This harvest start date is a very important decision for winemakers. Once the grapes are picked, its taste profile is locked in. Winemakers decide when the grapes are ready for picking based on a few characteristics. The biggest signs are the sugar and acid levels in the grapes. The tannin level is also used to assess grapes ripeness.

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Do You Know The Sweetness Levels of Champagne?

sweetness

Sweetness level of Champagne

 

To get enough bubbles in a champagne it has to go through a second fermentation.

Winemakers complete the first fermentation in a tank where grape sugars are converted into wine, alcohol, and carbon dioxide. The second fermentation takes place in the bottle where extra sugar is added to create more carbonation in the champagne.

After the second fermentation, winemakers may still add a bit more sugar. Since there’s high acidity in champagne, the extra sugar is added to balance the acidity with sweetness.

The sweetness of the final product depends on how much sugar was added and how much residual sugar remains in the champagne bottle.

Champagne makers indicate the level of sweetness on wine labels. Here’s a guide to the different levels of sweetness in champagne, from driest to sweetest:

  – Extra-Brut or Brut Nature (0-6 grams of sugar per liter)

  – Brut (less than 15 grams of sugar per liter)

  – Extra-Dry (12-20 grams of sugar per liter)

  – Sec (17-35 grams of sugar per liter)

  – Demi-Sec (33-55 grams of sugar per liter)

  – Doux (more than 55 grams of sugar per liter)

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What does the year on your wine label actually mean?

rsz_year_label

What does ‘vintage’ really mean?

 

The winemaking process can take months or sometimes years (Champagne) to complete.

Don’t be surprised when a bottle takes years before reaching the market.

So which year does the one on the label refer to?

Across all French wine bottles, it refers to the year the grapes were picked. It refers to the harvest year and not the bottling year (i.e. harvest in September, bottling the following year(s)). The only exception to this is if  the bottling and grape picking happened on the same year, like ‘Beaujolais Nouveau’ wines which are bottled shortly after harvest.

Regulations require some wines to be aged before being sold (for instance Bordeaux Superieur wines are required to age in barrels for 12 months).

Did you know that most of the champagnes are non-vintage champagnes?

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What makes Wine Flavors: The 3 Factors

smellingwine

The Basics: Learn which 3 factors affect the flavors that you taste in your wine

 

Ever wonder how the flavors in wine originated?

If you are just starting out in wine, it’s important to understand why your wine has certain flavors.

You may have seen our tasting notes mentioning a wine have certain aromas such as berries, toast, coffee, vanilla, etc in their wine.

These flavors were largely created by the entire winemaking process.

To understand how the flavors originated, let’s look into 3 factors that affect the flavors in a wine.

  1- Grape varieties – the main ingredients that go into making wine

This is the most obvious of all 3 factors. The grapes are the core ingredients of wine and hence provide the core of the flavors in wine. Knowing a few main grapes is sufficient to understand most French wines. Most of the wines from The French Cellar are made from 8 grape varieties.

For White wines, the main grapes that are used are Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

For Red wines, they are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache, and Pinot Noir.

Generally speaking (there are a few exceptions), red wines will have bolder, more intense flavors while white wines are lighter-bodied and have more acidity.

grapevartieites

  2- The geography and climate that the grapes were grown in – the French describe this with the term terroir

There is no direct English translated word for the term for terroir. The closest meaning that one can come to is ‘climate’ or ‘earth’.

How the grapevines are exposed to the sun, the soil that is used for the vines, matter in determining the flavors of a wine. The available water in the area as well as the strength of the wind also affect it’s flavor.

The geography and climate where the grapes were grown has a big influence that even when comparing the same grape varieties that come from different climates, the wine may taste different.

For example, a wine made from the Pinot Noir grapes in Burgundy and one made from Pinot Noir grapes in Alsace may taste very different.

terroirwine

  3- Human intervention – this is influenced by the winemakers actions

A winemaker can decide at what ripeness level to harvest the grapes. This is important because harvesting the grapes at a certain time will lock in the flavor profile. The earlier a winemaker harvests, the less sugar there will be in the grapes. This will result in a wine that has more acidity and a lighter-body.

A wine can have different aromas based on the grapes in the wine. Particularly in French wines, winemakers do quite often produce their wines out of a blend of different grapes.

For instance, the  Les Hauts du Tertre, 2004 Margaux in our wine shop is made from 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. The many different grapes come together like a symphony to bring your palate through a aromatic performance.

Another factor that influences the flavor in wine is whether the winemaker lets the wine age in a barrel. This will impart the flavors of vanilla, toast, and nuts into the wine.

That’s an overview of the 3 different factors that affect the flavors in a wine. We dive deeper into each factors in our future articles.

aromaswine

 

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Four things to know about the cork

corkarticle

You can produce the best wine but if you don’t have the right cork to seal it, it’s a pure waste. The cork is essential for the conservation of the wine.

It is from ancient Greece

In ancient Greece, cork was already used to seal wine amphora. Set aside and forgotten during the middle age period in Europe, the cork came back with the invention of glass bottle in the 17th century.

The bark is extracted from cork oak trees, the cork is directly shaped out in the block.

 

A good cork is a hermetical cork

The first quality of a cork is to be hermetical but let the wine ‘breathe’ (air can go through the cork). The elasticity of the cork makes it a perfect sealing material, even if the temperature varies. To keep its natural properties the cork has to be wet: make sure that the wine is in contact with the cork while storing your bottle (long term storage).

 

A wine can be … corked

A corked wine can have aromas of wet cardboard, damp socks, and dare we say it, the smell of a wet dog! Wine Tips: How to Tell If Your Wine is Corked?

 

Cork is still preferred to other sealing materials

The synthetic corks are cheaper but lack of elasticity and can be only used for wine supposed to be drunk young. Metallic caps are totally hermetical, such wines cannot “breathe’ at all.

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5 Reasons Why Wine Bottles Have Punts At The Bottom (but it’s an endless debate anyway)

punt

Have a close look. It is there but you might have not noticed it yet.

 

Punt is the name given to the dimple at the bottom of the wine bottles. And there is absolutely no consensus for its origin and use. That’s why the purpose of such indentation is often the cause of debates among the wine geeks. We don’t have one answer for you but 5!

Below some arguments for your next wine tasting event.

 

1- Punts make it easier to serve wine

Holding the bottle from the bottom, like they do in fancy restaurants, the punt is a really nice spot for your thumb.

 

2- Punts catch the sediment in the wine

The angle of the punt on the bottom of the bottle makes a narrow space where the sediments are collected near the base. The sediments cannot blend back in the wine.

 

3- Punts make your wine cool faster

The punt increased the contact surface between the glass and the wine. This could make the wine inside the bottle chill quicker.

 

4- Punts make the more resistant to pressure

A story is that during old times when the bottles were of poor quality, the strong punts help to better hold the pressure of the sparkling wines. Apparently 80% of the 1828 vintage of Champagne was lost because of explosion… 

 

5- Punts make it easier to stack the wine bottles

The traditional way of stacking the Champagne bottle is “nose down”, so the neck of one bottle would rest in the punt of the one below.

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Blends Versus Single Varietal Wines

French wines are blends in majority but can also be single varietals.
Winemakers will use multiple varieties of grapes in the winemaking process, to create a ‘blend’. Their objective is to balance the different characteristics of each grape. This is a complex exercise which require a lot of experience and expertise. The proportion of each grape in the blend has to be determined very precisely and small changes can totally change the final result. Current proportions of grapes in French wines are the result of a long historical evolution and traditions.
Blends do not mean higher quality wines: just consider the richness of Burgundy region for instance, where red wines are made from 100% Pinot Noir and whites wines from 100% Chardonnay. In these cases, the grapes are said to pair perfectly with the local soil and climate. Winemakers consider that grapes do not need supplementation from other grapes, and speak with the ‘purity of a single voice’.
Cepages
In the ‘New World’ (meaning outside of Europe), single varietal wines are the most common. This is the result of different factors. Single varietal wines were easier to market, as many winemakers used the grape variety as the name of the wine. In addition to this, in the XXth century, many blended wines gained a bad reputation because certain producers used blending to produce low-quality wines to get rid of inferior crops or surpluses. Single varietal wines were seen then as a sign of superior quality. Limits in the terroir play a role as well – leading to favour one type of grapes in particular.
That said, many wines sold as a single varietals are actually blends: Wines labelled as single varietals in California are allowed to have up to 25% other grapes (15% in Australia).
Montelena
CDD_Pinot_Noir_LABEL
 
 
 
Single varietal labels from California and Chili
Some famous blends in France include the mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot in red Bordeaux; or the famous mix Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre in Rhone Valley. Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines, in Rhone Valley, are made from a blend of up to 13 different grape varietals! French labels will usually not mention the grapes used (whether they are blends or single-varietals).
Did you know ?
Blending generally involves fermenting different varieties separately and then blending them. Alternatively, the varieties may be fermented together from the beginning, a technique called co-fermentation.

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Wine Regions: Rhone

wineregion_rhone

The Rhone wine region has history and prestige that’s comparable to Bordeaux and Burgundy.

Rhone is a prolific wine region as well. You can find a wide range of wines made by entry-level to renowned winemakers.

And though there are many grapes used to create red wines in Rhone, the main grapes used are Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. The weight of Rhone red wines are medium to full-bodied, and are known for their fruity notes and spicy flavors.

The fruity flavors in the wine are a result of the climate of Rhone. Since it’s located in southern France, the sunny and warm climate allow for very ripe grapes at harvest. This translates into bold, jammy flavors of black fruits in the wine.

rhonemap

Since Rhone is a big region, the climate and terroir at the Northern end can vary quite significantly from the South’s. This gifts wine drinkers with a wide variation of wines.

The region can be roughly split into Northern Rhone and Southern Rhone. Northern Rhone starts from Lyon and ends at Valence. Most of the wines here have the Syrah grape in its blend. Famous appellations (sub-regions) in Northern Rhone include Cote Rotie, Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, St-Joseph, Saint-Peray, and Condrieu.

Condrieu is an appellation known for its white wines that are made from the Viognier grape. Its unique notes of peach, apricots and flowers separates it from the white wines of other regions.

Southern Rhone on the other hand has a warmer climate compared to the North. Because of this, the wines produced here have a high alcohol level (commonly 14-15%). The most famous appellation here is Chateauneuf du Pape.

Since Rhone is such a big region, we break down its different regions and grapes in our upcoming articles.

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Our sommelier’s selection of Rhone wines available here.

 

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Bottle of Lafite Rothschild 1895 sold for $17,000

lafite-rothschild-1895

A single bottle of Château Lafite Rothschild 1895 vintage has been sold for $17,000 at a retailer in Dubai! Crazyness!

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Drinking three glasses of champagne every week ‘could prevent dementia’

Drinking three glasses of champagne every week can help to prevent the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s, scientists have found. A compound found in pinot noir and pinot meunier – both used to make champagne – can boost spatial memory and ward off brain diseases. Academics at Reading University carried out the experiment involving rats and now want to move on to trials involving pensioners.

champaign

‘The results were dramatic,’ Professor Jeremy Spencer told the Mail on Sunday. “This research is exciting because it illustrates for the first time that moderate consumption of champagne has the potential to influence cognitive functioning such as memory.’ A spokesman for the Alzheimer’s Society told the Standard that though the results were ‘interesting’, ‘a lot more’ research needed to be done.

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Cognac

cognac

Cognac was accidentally produced at a time when merchants tried to do tax evasion between France and Netherland.

 

Back in the 16th, the Dutch exported from France salt, wood and wine. The journey back made it almost impossible to conserve good quality wines and they had to find a new way to transport the barrels. At that time, the taxes were assessed on the volume of wine. So the Dutch came out with a solution of distilling the wine before taking it back home.  Doing so they would preserve the wine, save on transportation costs and obviously reduce the taxes.

 

But a funny thing happened. While transforming the wine into a spirit, a whole new world of flavors was given to the wine. It was not only a dense wine as it was intended to be but something way more complex and fine. Heating up and distilling a second time the first distillate, and they came up with an even more pleasant product.

This is the birth of “brandy”.

Actually the word brandy comes from the Dutch “brandewijn” which mean burnt wine.

 

Cognac is now exported all over the world and its production is under a set of strict rules and guidelines (called AOC).

Cognac is named after the small town of Cognac, north of Bordeaux region, and can only be produced in the surrounding vineyards. To be called a Cognac, the brandy must meet certain requirements and one of them is the use of specific white grape varieties (Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, and Colombard) and it has to be aged at least two years in French oak barrels to be called V.S.

What does it mean? Below the answer.

  • V.S. (Very Special): Aged at least 2 years
  • V.S.O.P. (Very Superior Old Pale): Aged at least 5 years
  • Napoleon or X.O. (Extra Old): Aged at least 6 years

 

Cognac is one of the richest and complex spirits in the world: more than 63 different aromas were identified according to the seasons. Vanilla, caramel, prune, apricot and orange are the five main flavors that are common to almost all Cognac.

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Wine Myth: Drinking wine is better than going to the gym. Like seriously?

winegym2

Yes you read it right. Red wine is better than going to the gym.

Drop your running shoes and grab a bottle then?!

 

A new research study done at Canada’s University of Alberta found a chemical called resveratrol that is naturally present in nuts, grapes and red wine.

High dose of this molecule improved physical performance, heart function and muscle strength in mice. According to Jason Dyck, these results are similar to what you can see from endurance exercise training. Resveratrol could mimic physical exercise benefits for those who are incapable.

 

So I can really stop going to the gym?

Not really. One glass of wine is not like having one hour of gym training. The good news is that red wine has this “superhero” molecule in it, blended with a lot more of nice antioxidants and all. The tests were done with high dosage that you wouldn’t find in a bottle of wine. It’s just there, not that concentrated.

Wine is good to reduce bad cholesterol, prevents blood clots, and slows brain decline and the risks of cancer. Seems like the magical health potion!

 

So the key is to drink moderately and exercise at the same time. Being drunk with wine everyday will obviously not helping getting fitter. We don’t have to tell you that anyway.

Go to gym and enjoy an after workout drink of red wine, that’s the key!

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All French wines are of American origin?

 

phylloxera

This is the story of how a small bug changed the whole face of the French and European vineyards in the late 19th century.

 

In 1845, a fungus started infesting the French vineyards and Oidium was its name. Quickly, measures were taken to quarantine the diseased plants. Yet, it took more than 10 years to get rid of it entirely.

Soon after that, in order to prevent from a future fungus attack, Botanists imported and grew American vine plants in South of France.

 

In 1863, a new pandemic occurred. It was like a death shadow flying over the French vineyards. No plants could resist. Estates went broke one after the other. Three experts were summoned to find a solution to this catastrophe.

What first appeared to be another fungus attack was actually something totally different. A small aphid was the real cause of the death of the vines: Phylloxera or the Attila of wine. There was no cure to it. The bug resisted all treatments and kept infesting the roots of every plant.

 

A bunch of crazy ideas were implemented to save the very few vines left. One was really successful: planting American vines. Indeed, they were the only ones to resist to Phylloxera.  The biggest problem with planting American vines was the taste. It was a disaster.

Salvation came from using transplants. American roots were planted to resist to Phylloxera while the French head were kept to harvest grapes.
What became real clear at that time is that Phylloxera were actually brought with the first American vine plants in France. That’s when it all started. The transplant operation cost millions but it all worked out in the end and that’s how you can still drink wine in France!

 

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Wine Region: Loire valley

loirevalley2The Loire Valley region is located in the West of France along the banks of the Loire river. From Nantes to Orleans, it is one of the most beautiful and widest wine regions in France with a long history going back to the time of the Middle Ages.

In the 5th century, the monks living there started the production of wine and passed on to the next generations the culture of well-being and living a comfortable good life. Still today, Loire valley attracts young and innovative winemakers.

The Loire valley region is known for producing all sorts of wines in the three colors (white, red, rosé), dry or sweet,  sparkling or not. There are three main wine zones in the region with their specific traditions and grapes. Yet they have all something in common: an elegant freshness!

loirewinemap

Le Pays Nantais

Muscadet rules in the region around Nantes, the main city. These sweet wines that can be aged several years, and are great with finger food.

Anjou, Saumur and Tourraine

The white wines made out of Chenin grapes are medium-bodied with rich aromatic flavors.

The red made out of Cabernet Franc grapes can aged between 2 to 10 years and still keep their fresh taste and strawberry flavors. Very enjoyable to drink on a casual occasion!

Centre-Loire (Sancerre, Pouilly sur Loire)

Sauvignon is king there with its specific grass, lemon and grapefruit tastes. These white wines from Centre-Loire are very appreciated and therefore quite expensive.

The red wines are mainly made out of Pinot Noir and light and fruity (red fruits).

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Rhone Valley: Cote Rotie appellation

coteroti

Looking for elegant and seductive wines?

Have a look at the prestigious Cote Rotie appellation.

 

A red gem

Cote Rotie is an appellation of the Rhone valley region, in East of France near Lyon city. Not as famous as its neighbor appellation the Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the Cote Rotie wines have it all! Deep and complex flavors and offer at their best a pure red berries taste and a stunning freshness in the finish. The texture is silky for a medium to full-bodied wine structure. A real caress for the palate!

 

What’s the secret? Syrah and a dash of Viognier.

Syrah is the only grape variety that is allowed for Cote Rotie appellation. Actually, for up to 20%, Viognier, a white grape, can be included in the blend with Syrah (what is the difference between Syrah and Shiraz?).

 

5 things you need to remember about Cote Rotie appellation

1- Cote Rotie appellation is quite a small production, which makes it rare and expensive.

2-Cote Rotie is considered to be among the most exotic and elegant wines in the world.

3- Cote Rotie is only red and almost only Syrah.

4- The Romans were the first one to plant vineyard in Cote Rotie.

5- Wines from Cote Rotie are really versatile in food pairing: grilled or braised meat and bacon will give you a perfect match

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Wine Region: Napoleon’s birth island, Corsica!

corsicCorsica is a piece of land in the Mediterranean sea between France and Italy that was for a long time the refuge for pirates of both countries.

The lovely island is notoriously known for being the birthplace of the greatest French Emperor, Napoleon.

Called the Beauty island for being the sunnier region of France, Corsica is famous for its sumptuous mountains, its hidden beaches with turquoise waters and… its pungent cheeses. We tend to forget about the wines though. It’s a mistake.

 

Walk in the steps of Napoleon

Napoleon is a name that inspires battles and conquests… And wine from Corsica echoes to this character. It’s mainly because the island grows its own grapes Barbarossa, Nielluccio, Siaccarellu, Vermentino… Coupled with Mediterranean weather, the scarce lands of Corsica produce unforgettable and unique wines.

The red are full-bodied yet delicate and very flavored. The rose wines are among the best in France with a slight fruity taste tainted with a smoky pepper note. The fruity dry white wines are not to be left over as well.

corsic2

Exceptional years, exceptional wines

2006 and 2007 were exceptional years for the nine appellations of Corsica wines.

The “Muscat du cap Corse” is ranked as one of the best in the world.  The long lasting finish and the complex aroma blend of nuts, exotic fruits and candied citrus do not leave you indifferent. For this Muscat du cap Corse, 2009 was acknowledged as the “Vintage of the century” for this appellation. If you have any chance, get your hands on a bottle of this jewel wine…

 

Red, white and rose wines made out of unique grapes in a beautiful island. Corsica has a kind of magic that casts spells on its wines.

If you ever have the chance to go there for a wine discovery road trip, we promise you an unforgettable journey.

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Armagnac, France’s oldest spirit, produced from … wine

armagnac

The legend says that Armagnac is the oldest of all the spirits in France… It was born from the shock of three cultures: the vineyard from Romans, the alembic from Arabs and the barrel from the Celts.

A document thoroughly conserved in the Vatican confirmed that in 1310, Armagnac was already produced…

Four things you need to remember about this centuries-old spirit.

 

A God’s spirit born in the South-west region

In Gascogne, old men say that at the end of the sixth day, God was watching his work on earth. He found out that he forgot a small piece of land and was moved by the tough climate of this region. He dropped a tear and Armagnac was born.

This land of the Armagnac appellation is located in the South-west region in France between Landes (for bas-Armagnac), Lot-et-Garonne (Armagnac Tenareze) and Gers (haut-armagnac).

 

Armagnac production

Armagnac is produced from wine. The distillation of 5 liters of wine will yield only one liter of Armagnac. Then the spirit is aged in oakwood barrel for 10 to 40 years.

 

The soil is the key

Between two Armagnac with the same production process and same grapes blend, the taste can be totally different. The reason is the soil. Limestone or sand have a great influence on the taste of the spirit.

 

Tasting Armagnac

While ageing in barrels, Armagnac develops vanilla and prune flavors. Strong in alcohol, you drink Armagnac in very small doses: 1cl is enough! Pour your Armagnac in large balloon glass and serve it between 18 and 20°C.

In South of France they usually do not rinse or wash the glass after drinking, they just flip it and wait for the next day. In the morning, smell your glass: it is said to be the best part of the tasting!

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Bordeaux Region: The Right Bank

bordeauxright

You have ever heard of Pomerol or St Emilion? Know where to spot and what are the main characteristics of these prestigious appellations.

The Bordeaux wine region is one of the largest in France and it is not easy to remember all the chateaux and vineyards. In a previous article, we talked about Bordeaux Left Bank.

A little bit of geography

“Right bank” is used for all the vineyards located on the right bank of the Gironde and Dordogne rivers.

This region is limited by the Bourgeais and Blayes vineyards in the north-west and by the Castillon vineyards in the east. Between those, St Emilion, Pomerol and Fronsac vineyards are also part of the right bank.

The soil is mostly clay (Pomerol and St Emilion) or rocky (Fronsac).

bordeauxrightbank

St Emilion

Located more than 50km away from Bordeaux on the right bank of Dordogne river, St Emilion vineyards produce some of the most famous wines in the world. The “hill of the thousands chateaux”, as it is called, was classified as world’s heritage by UNESCO.

The main cepage in St Emilion is Merlot. It is commonly blended with Cabernet-Franc and Cabernet-Sauvignon.

 

Pomerol

Pomerol was made famous by the Merlot cepage and the generous clay soil. The Pomerol appellation is prestigious, yet the quality of the wines is heterogeneous. Pomerol appellation produces fine wines, rich in tannins, with a silky and delicate taste.

 

Fronsac

The Fronsac appellation is famous for being a birth bed of great wines. Located just after the St Emilion vineyards, the soil of Fronsac is mostly and washed out by the rain. The main cepage grown in the Fronsac is Merlot. Blended with Libournais cepage, the wine produced there are very rich in tannins and made to be aged.

 

Remember that the right bank region is mainly composed of three appellations, St Emilion, Pomerol and Fronsac. Merlot is the king cepage, and has made the fame of this region. Right bank vineyards produce some of the greatest red wines in France.

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How to identify good wine?

finewine

The quality criteria of a great wine are not necessarily your personal standards. You can dislike a great wine but it is unlikely that you’d love a bad wine.

Three conditions must be united to make a great wine. Learn them and spot the unknown jewels in your next wine tasting experience.

 

1st Condition: Flawless

It seems common sense but first the wine must be flawless. The liquid must be limpid, the taste must be balanced and the nose must be without any “fermentation” odors (rotten eggs, sulfur) or “oxidation” smells (overripe apple).

 

2nd Condition: Great balanced tastes

A great white wine has a well-balanced taste between acidity and unctuousness. Unctuousness is defined by the amount of sugar and alcohol in the wine. Sugar and alcohol both give the smoothness and fatness of the texture.

A great red wine has a well-balanced taste between acidity, unctuousness and tannins (astringent, bitter taste).

A well-balanced wine has every of these flavors without any overwhelming the others.

 

3rd Condition: Flavor complexity and long-lasting finish

The maturity and quality of the grapes give the aromatic complexity to a wine. The quantity of aromas you can perceive (range of flavors) and their intensity makes a wine complex.

A fine quality wine will give long-lasting aromas to the finish. The longer the flavors linger in the mouth the better the wine is. This long finish depends on how the wine making process is mastered.

Therefore great quality wines are generally associated to great vineyards that produce fine grapes according to the winemaker’s expertise and know-how.

Use all these tips above and we wish you would be able to identify the fine wines selected by our sommelier in your next box!

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What is the difference between young wine and aged wine?

agingwine

You surely have already heard that some of the wines must be tasted “young” while some other are better “aged”. What do those terms really means and how to tell the difference?

There’s a simple definition…

A “young” wine is recently bottled. An “aged” wine is set for some years already. Ageing a bottle means opening it when the quality is the best.

… with a technical life cycle.

You can taste a bottle over time and see its evolution: The wines are living!

A wine matures and gets better in contact of the oxygen through the cork. At some point this micro-oxygenation makes the quality of the wine to reach a peak. Some of the wines take lesser time to age and some others take longer time to age.

The complexity is then to know when to open a bottle…

If you keep the bottle longer, the air inhibits the best features of the wine. It becomes too aged and you just missed the best part of it.

The difference in tastes over time

Most of all it is a matter of intensity and balance of savors.

A young white wine is characterized by an acidic savor while a young red wine is richer in tannins.  The tannins give this astringent flavor in mouth.

For an aged red wine, this bitter sensation fades with time as the texture of the wine becomes more gentle and pleasant. An aged white wine will develop a richer sugary texture.

The difference in colors over time

A young white wine will have a light yellow color that will be more intense while ageing. A mature white wine has a golden tint, while when it becomes too old it turns amber.

A young red wine is not necessarily red, it is actually hints of purple. Later with time, at maturity, it will clear into ruby. An over aged red wine will take the full shades between red brick to brown.

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Wine Region: Provence. Lavender, olive oil and… rosé wines!

provence

Provence! Thanks to Monet or Van Gogh, to many Provence inspires beautiful landscapes of lavender fields, olive trees and rocky mounts.

 

Provence the biggest rosé producer

The sunny region located between Aix and Nice in south of France is well known for its Mediterranean culinary specialties and their Rosé wines.

Indeed, with over 140 million of rosé bottles every year Provence holds half of the national French production. That’s not all: the region is also the biggest exporter of rosé in the world.

 

Rosé pairing: one for every occasion

There is reason for this incredible success of rosé wines: Their fruity flavours and their limpid rose colors make them a good companion for a summer lunch.

With strawberry and raspberry flavors, the simplest rosé wines from Provence are good to go with a fresh salad or some cold cuts.

The more elaborated ones taste like flower, mint and wild herbs… Being more intense they are very suitable for a more gastronomic meal.

 provence-wine-map

 

3 appellations, 3 colors!

Cotes de Provence, Coteaux D’Aix-en-Provence, Coteaux Varois en Provence are the three major appellations of Provence for all red, white and rosé wines.

With over 85% of the regional production, the importance of the rosé wines is such that some white and red jewels are too often forgotten.

The white wines from Palette and Bellet have this elegant taste of star anise and fresh dill. The red wines from Baux de Provence are almost all organic and express a strong spicy taste, which goes even better with age.

The red wines from Bandol are the best in the region. After ageing they offer a taste of truffle, blackberry and liquorice.

So next time, don’t miss the elegant red and white wines from Provence too!

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Loire Valley: Vouvray and Montlouis-sur-Loire

chenin blanc

 Chenin Blanc Grape

Vouvray and Montlouis-sur-Loire are two “twin” appellations located near Tours and separated by the Loire River. Vouvray (2 200 hectares) is located on the right bank whereas Montlouis-sur-Loire (380 hectares) is located on the left bank.

The Chenin Blanc, the unique grape variety in these appellations really takes off to offer different styles of white wines: dry, sweet moelleux, liquoreux or sparkling wine. Most of the vineyards are planted on a plateau that subsoils of tuffeau stone are covered with deposits of flint clay and sands. The climate of the region is continental with some maritime influence from the Atlantic Ocean but the specificity of these wines is the reflection of different microclimates peculiar to each valley. The Chenin blanc wines are characterized by the grape’s natural high acidity and on the best vintages the sweetness level allows the production of moelleux (12 to 45 grams of sugar per liter) and liquoreux wines (above 50 grams of sugar per liter).

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These types of wines can age from 7 to 30 years or more. In their youth, Vouvray and Montlouis-sur-Loire can exhibit notes of locust tree, rose and citrus fruit, and with the ageing the notes of honey, nuts and quince are appearing. The dry wines are classy and generous while the sweet moelleux are rich and fresh.
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Alsace Wine Region

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Alsace is a beautiful wine region

The Alsace wine growing region extends at the Eastern France over 120km from Thann in the South to Marlenheim in the North.

Alsace enjoys a continental climate with sunny and dry summers and cold winters. The region also offers a great diversity of terroirs and landscapes with 13 different types of soils (volcanic, granitic, slaty…).

Alsace produces 90% of white wines and can also produce sweet wines called “Vendanges Tardives” (late harvests) or “Sélection de Grains nobles” (hand picking of botrytised grapes).

There are only three AOC in this region: one for the grape varieties, one for the Grands Crus, and one of the Crémants (sparkling wines).

 

  1- AOC Alsace

The AOC Alsace corresponds to the name of the grape varieties. There are 7 different grape varieties in Alsace:

– Sylvaner:  elegant, fresh wines, discreetly fruity and floral with touches of acacia

– Pinot Blanc:  rounded and supple wines offering floral and fruity hints

– Pinot Gris: well-structured wines with great complexity developing smoky notes

– Muscat: two varieties of Muscat are used and often blended: “Muscat d’Alsace” and “Muscat Ottonel”. This is the perfect example of primary aromas

– Riesling: it is the king of grape varieties. The nose is racy with aromas of citrus, honeysuckle, grapefruit and flowers. It can offers mineral aromas with a vertical structure characterized by its freshness

– Gewurztraminer: great aromatic complexity with aromas of exotic fruit (lychee) and flowers (rose). It is a full-bodied wine with roundness.

– Pinot Noir: it is the only red grape variety in Alsace. It is a light and fresh wine with flavours of cherry and raspberry.

 

  2 – AOC Alsace Grands Crus

There are 51 classified areas in Alsace denominated as Grand Crus, representing the most unique terroirs. The grape varieties allowed are Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat.

 

  3- AOC Crémant d’Alsace

The AOC Crémant d’Alsace is a sparkling wine made from Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling or Chardonnay. It accounts for 22% of Alsace’s wine production.

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Corsica – Patrimonio wines

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Beautiful village of Patrimonio

Patrimonio is the most famous but also the first appellation recognized in Corsica, French island, in the Mediterranean Sea. The AOC covers 400 hectares of vines located on the northern coast of the island around the Gulf of Saint-Florent and at the foot of Cap Corse.

The annual production (15 000 hectoliters per year) is divided into small estates, distributed across a soil which has the specificity of being sheltered from the winds by the nearby mountains, and on which the vines maximize their exposure to sunshine: a Corsican typicity.

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The geological quality of the soils, made of chalk and clay, also contributes to the excellent quality of these wines. The massive use of Nielluccio grapes, a local variety, produces sumptuous and full body red wines. They offer aromas of red and black fruits, allied with flavours of spices and vanilla. They drink at their peak within 1-3 years after vintage.

The rosés are colorful, light and fruity. Vermentino is the exclusive grape for white wines. They are dry, rich, elegant and aromatic, with aromas of flower and apple.

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Why does wine not taste like … a grape juice?

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Rose, tobacco, cherry, honey, spices… The flavors in the wines seem infinite. But one is missing… Grape!

When you eat a red bean soup, you taste… red bean! How come a wine, using grape as raw material, does not have a strong grape flavor?

4 simple explanations to understand that apparently strange phenomenon…

 

Grape to eat and grape to drink

First of all the grapes you eat are different from the ones used to produce wines. The vast majority of the grapes used for wine production cannot be eaten fresh. Next time you visit a vineyard, try to eat a grape from the tree. The thick skin and the acidic taste are not really enjoyable…

You have only two rare exceptions: Muscat and chasselas are two wine grapes you can eat.

 

Variety of grapes, variety of flavors

Like you have so many types of durians and even more, the wine grapes have different flavor signature. If the raw materials are so different in the first place, no wonder why the wines are so.

 

Processing flavors

The fermentation process of wine making has a role to play in the wide diversity of flavors. The wine diversity is so rich because of the special technics of each vineyard and their secret grapes blends. You always have more to discover!

 

Flavors are only a point of view

When you hear that this wine smells like pineapple or taste like cherry, it doesn’t actually “smell” or “taste” like that. The flavors are what one can recall from fruits or flowers. Unlike colors, everyone has a different sensitivity to flavors. That is why it is so hard to have a common vocabulary or understanding of a same wine. The scents are very personal!

Some people are better to identify tastes than other, but beyond natural skills it is mainly about training. The more you try to better you are!


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What’s The Difference Between Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay?

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Can you tell the difference between 2 of the most popular white wine grapes in France?

 

Many French white wines are made from just 2 types of grapes: Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay.

Can you tell the difference between both of them?

The most telling sign when trying to differentiate the two is the texture or ‘body’ of the wine. Chardonnay tends to have a heavier, more creamier texture. Sauvignon Blanc is more light-bodied and has a much lower viscosity.

The flavors are different as well. The specific flavors depend on where exactly the grape was grown. The acidity of Sauvignon Blanc tends to be higher compared to Chardonnay.

Sauvignon Blanc is grown in French regions such as Bordeaux, Loire; Chardonnay in Burgundy, Champagne.

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Things to Note When Attending Wine Tasting Event

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Wine tasting events let you train your palate.

Want to build your wine knowledge quickly?

There’s no faster way than actively tasting and comparing a variety of wines within a short time frame.

You will get to really experience wine and it’s variety of flavors and aromas. Not to mention, you don’t have to drink in isolation at home. Guests of wine tasting events are brought together by a common interest. If you are looking for events to attend, The French Cellar has regular events that you can sign up for.

There are a few things to observe when attending a wine tasting event. Firstly, eat a decent amount of food before you attend the event. Having a meal before the tasting can help protect you against gastric or stomach pains during the event. Your body will also absorb alcohol much slower on a full stomach, which will allow you you to taste more wines.

Smoking either cigars or cigarettes should also be avoided for a pure tasting experience. The tobacco smell lingers in your mouth after a smoke and that interferes with the aromas from the wine.

The same goes for heavy scents from perfume. If you can, use only perfumes that have light scents. Floral scents from your perfume can confuse your senses. You won’t know whether the scent is from the perfume or wine.

Last but not least, it’s better to avoid driving to the tasting event. Instead, take a taxi instead there.  We tend to overestimate our ability to drive after drinking. You wouldn’t want to put your life or anyone else’s in danger.

Wine novice or interested in discovering wines you do not have access to?  Every month receive two bottles of exclusive French wines at home with our sommelier’s tasting guide. Find out more

 

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The Burgundy Red Wine Glass

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Notice the wide bowl shape of the Burgundy wine glass.

 

As we explained in the Bordeaux red wine glass article, altering the shape of the wine glass can affect your perception of a wine.

The Burgundy wine glass has a bigger and wider bowl area compared to conventional wine glasses. Burgundy red wines are made from the Pinot Noir grape. This wine grape  is delicate and is not as expressive on the nose as most other wine grapes. A bigger bowl area is created to capture as much of its bouquet as possible.

The glass also allows the wine to concentrate on hitting the tip of your tongue first. This area is most sensitive to sweet sensations. This highlights the fruit in the wine and moderates the tartness of the Pinot Noir.

Though it must be said, you can still enjoy a Burgundy wine without this specific wine glass. Consider it fun addition to your stemware collection.

Wine novice or interested in discovering wines you do not have access to?  Every month receive two bottles of exclusive French wines at home with our sommelier’s tasting guide. Find out more

Glasses Chef&Sommelier available in our online shop: Champagne glasses, glasses suitable for tasting all types of wines & decanter

 

Wine Tips: Service Temperature

 

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Wine Region: Burgundy

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Burgundy is one of the most mysterious wine regions in France.

 

Aside from Bordeaux, many of the expensive and prestigious wines in France also come from Burgundy.

As with Bordeaux, a good range of winemakers exist in Burgundy, starting from entry-level producers, to some of the most famous like Domaine de la Romanee Conti and Domaine de Montille.

Burgundy’s wine producing areas are separated into 5 sub-regions: Cote de Nuits, Cote de Beaune, Cote Chalonnaise, Maconnais, and Chablis.

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One thing that’s peculiar about Burgundy, is that although there’s a wide range of winemakers, they create wines from a narrow range of grapes. More specifically, most of the wines are made from single varietals, such as 100% Pinot Noir for red wines, and 100% Chardonnay for white wines.

Another thing that’s peculiar in Burgundy is that a winemaker in Burgundy may own small parcels of vines spread out in different parts of the region. This is made possible because a specific vineyard can have multiple winemakers owning different plots. This fragmentation means that a winemaker can choose his plot according to whether it has promising characteristics.

With this in mind, you can contrast Burgundy’s vineyard layout against Bordeaux, where a winemaker generally has a main building (a chateau) and his whole vineyard is contained within a square area connected to that building.

Burgundian wines are expected to reflect the ‘terroir’ (climate and soil) in which the grapes were grown. This can mean very earthy red wines and zesty white wines. The microclimate can change within meters. And these ‘terroir’ changes can be so dramatic that a wine made from 2 different vineyards just a few meters apart can have a difference of 3x in price.

Similar to Bordeaux, Burgundy has its own ranking system as well. Grand Cru (Great Growth) is the highest ranking that is given to any wine. Then comes Premier Cru (First Growth), Village wines (from one of 42 villages) and regional wines.

 

Burgundy is a big subject with many different dimensions. We take a more detailed look at these elements in our future articles.


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3 take away messages:

– Burgundy red wines are made of Pinot Noir

– Burgundy white wines are made of Chardonnay

– Burgundy is divided to 5 sub-regions from north to south: Chablis, Cote de Nuits, Cote de Beaune, Cote Chalonnaise, Maconnais

 

Our sommelier’s selection of Burgundy wines available in our online shop

 

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The Bordeaux Red Wine Glass

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The shape of a Bordeaux wine glass.

 

It’s said that the way a wine flows onto your tongue can amplify your tasting experience.

The shape of the wine glass can be used to direct the wine flow to the areas of your palate that best express the flavors and aromas of a specific wine grape.

Glassmakers like Chef&Sommelier, Riedel have been making wine glasses that suit different types of wine.

The Bordeaux wine glass pictured above is designed with a tall bowl area to capture air to allow the wine aromas to develop well. The glass also allows you to direct the flow of wine to specific parts of your tongue, thereby enhancing the fruit flavor and softening the feeling of tannins.

Though it must be said, you can still enjoy a Bordeaux wine without this specific wine glass. Consider it fun addition to your stemware collection.


Wine novice or interested in discovering wines you do not have access to?  Every month receive two bottles of exclusive French wines at home with our sommelier’s tasting guide. Find out more

 

Glasses Chef&Sommelier available in our online shop: Champagne glasses, glasses suitable for tasting all types of wines & decanter

 

Wine Tips: Service Temperature

 

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Corkage Fees for Restaurants in Singapore

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Know which restaurants you can bring your wines to and the corkage fee.

Sometimes, you just want to bring your own (BYO) wine to a restaurant to pair with food.

However, many restaurants in Singapore do not allow you to bring your own wines. This makes sense as they can make good profit from selling their own.

Some lenient restaurants allow you to bring your own wines. but will charge a corkage fee to handle the wine.

It’s helpful to know which restaurants allow you to BYO and whether they charge corkage fees for the privilege.

No corkage fees (we suggest you call them before to ensure free corkage is available the day you go):

– Bedrock Bar & Grill

– Burlamacco Ristorante

– Chef Gattopardo

– Coriander Leaf

– Crystal Jade Palace Restaurant

– Da Paolo Ristorante

– De Classic Golden Spoon

– Imperial Treasure

– Jade Palace Seafood Restaurant

– Otto Ristorante

– The Disgruntled

 (If you would like to add your restaurant to the list, please send an email to contact@thefrenchcellar.sg)

Wine novice or interested in discovering wines you do not have access to?  Every month receive two bottles of exclusive French wines at home with our sommelier’s tasting guide. Find out more

 

 

The French Cellar WineMag: click here to read more articles, tips and advice!

 

 

www.TheFrenchCellar.sg Your Sommelier at Home

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Wine Myth: Wines Always Get Better When Aged

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In 1985, a bottle of 1787 Chateau Lafite was sold for $156,000 in London.

With such an old wine going for such a high price, it does make you feel that older wines are better, doesn’t it?

Sorry to say that it is not always true.

However, only 10% of the wines in the world are meant for aging and actually taste better after 5 years of aging. The other 90% of wines were not produced to be aged for more than 5 years since they were produced. For the 10% of wines that are produced for aging, they need to be kept in very specific conditions.

Just like other beverages, wine is a perishable drink and will slowly subcumb to oxidization. This is where they turn brown and taste like vinegar. There are certain characteristics that allow wine to age well. We will explore that in another article.

But for the average bottle of wine that you get from the shops, its safe to say that they are best consumed within 5 years from the year of production.

Especially for white, rose, or sparkling wines, it is best to drink them as soon as you buy them.

One more Interesting fact: even expensive wines that have a good aging potential do not get infinitely better.

The 1787 Lafite in the image above has turned to vinegar. It sold for a high price because of its ownership history, as one of it’s owners was Thomas Jefferson.

Wine novice or interested in discovering wines you do not have access to?  Every month receive two bottles of exclusive French wines at home with our sommelier’s tasting guide. Find out more

 

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What a Wine Newbie Should Know About Beaujolais

Wine from Beaujolais is a very important for a beginner.

The wine from Beaujolais is one of the easiest to drink for someone who’s just starting out in wine. It can serve as a base for one to jump to the more serious red wines from Bordeaux or Burgundy.

Beaujolais red wines are light to medium-bodied and are very fruity with low tannins. Further, Beaujolais reds can be drank very simply without having to be too intellectual.

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Where is it located?

Beaujolais is located in the south of Burgundy. Though it is part of Burgundy’s administrative region, because of uniqueness, it is considered a wine region on its own.

The Region’s Division

The region can roughly be split into north and south Beaujolais. The south part has wines are fresh, fruity, and easy to drink.

The north of Beaujolais however, has all the more renowned appellations. Its soil is granite-based. Beaujolais-Villages produces wine that is a blend of grapes grown in 39 villages.

The 10 Beaujolais crus produce among the top wines in the region. These 10 crus are: Brouilly, Chenas, Chiroubles, Cote de Brouilly, Fleurie, Julienas, Morgon, Moulin-a-Vent, Regnie and Saint-Amour.

Just like Bordeaux which has its Bordeaux Superieur wines, Beaujolais has its very own Beaujolais Superieur wines as well. The Beaujolais Superieur wines are produced under stricter regulations, which require the wines to have higher alcohol. In order to make a higher alcohol wine, the winemaker has to use a riper grape. The result is a darker, and bolder wine.

The Grape and Pairings

Wines in Beaujolais are very focused on one grape: Gamay. Most of the wines that you drink from Beaujolais are made of 100% Gamay. It is a very suitable grape to be grown there given the granite-based nature of the soil in the region.

There is a very small amount of white wine produced from Chardonnay grapes.

Because of its light to medium body, Beaujolais red wines are good to pair with roast chicken or duck. It can be used to pair with cheese as well.

Wine novice or interested in discovering wines you do not have access to?  Every month receive two bottles of exclusive French wines at home with our sommelier’s tasting guide. Find out more

 

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Our sommelier’s selection of Beaujolais available here

 

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Is Red Wine Good for Health?


Horse plowing in Sancerre vineyards

No holidays for winemakers during winter! 

The two main reasons of horse plowing:

– it enables the aeration of the soil, that favours the microbiological life of the soil and limits the evaporation, which is quite crucial in times during drought
– it limits the development of the weeds


Impressive Aerial Drone Video of Chateau de Brézé

Château de Brézé is a castle located in Brézé, near Saumur in the Loire Valley. The château, listed ancient monument originally dating from 1600, has 30 hectares of vineyards.

One the wine of Chateau de Brézé is available on The French Cellar here

 

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History of Champagne

Did you know that Champagne, for the first time ever, was served in 1722 at Louis XV’s table for his coronation?

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Ice wine

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What is ice wine?
It is a wine made from grapes picked when they are frozen. In most cases, it is a white wine from grapes such as Riesling and Vidal. There are also red ice wine made from Cabernet Franc. Some areas even make ice wine with grape varieties such as Syrah, Merlot and Sangiovese!

Main production is in Canada, where it is called Ice Wine; Germany and Austria, where it is known under the term Eiswein: these are countries and regions where temperatures are cold enough to freeze the grapes quickly. Some French winemakers in Alsace also make ice wine, but their production is confidential and depends on the weather conditions.

Why is ice wine so difficult to produce?
The grapes have to be harvested frozen on the vine. This requires that the quality of the grapes has been preserved throughout the fall, until the first major gels. If the gels are not strong enough, the grapes can rot, and the harvest will be lost.  The ideal temperature is between -7 ° C and -10 ° C.

The harvest frozen grapes is done by hand, so it is often necessary to harvest at night, when temperatures are lower and the grapes will risk no damage on the road between the vineyard and winery!

These factors also explain the high cost of these vintages: yields are extremely low, and the risk of losing the crop is high.

What flavor is ice wine?
White or red, this is a wine that is distinguished by its sugar content. The harvest is more than late: inside the grapes, fruit sugar is concentrated.  Typically, an ice wine has a degree of sweetness around 220 grams of sugar per liter. By comparison, a Sauternes has between 100 and 150 grams of sugar per liter of wine.

The second feature is a rich aromatic palette, from fresh fruit (apples, citrus, apricot, grape, peach, pineapple …) with dried fruit, fruit jams (raisins, dried apricots, caramel, fig .. .). Obviously, aromas depend on the grape used.

The third feature is the acidity. This acidity of the grapes comes along with sugar: when the grapes loses water by frost, the concentration of sugar and acid increases proportionately.

How to serve ice wine?
This is an exceptional dessert wine, to be enjoyed cold, between 6 and 9 ° C, so as to make the most of its flavor and freshness, without increasing the palace by excess sugar. The wine can be served with fruity desserts recalling the aromas of the wine, or some cheese.

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Sheep in vineyards!

Weed management in organic vineyards: using sheep as weeders in vineyards instead of using pesticides! 100% natural…

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Many organic wines in our wine subscriptions and online shop


France gets two new three-star Michelin restaurants

michelinThree French chefs received the most coveted prize in top-level gastronomy on Monday, when their restaurants were awarded three Michelin stars in the 2015 edition of the guide, the French Foreign Ministry announced.

Yannick Alleno’s Parisian “Ledoyen” and French chalet restaurant “La Bouitte”, run by father-and-son team Réné and Maxime Meilleur, joined the pantheon of top eateries in the self-styled home of gastronomy.

Réné, 64, and Maxime, 39, were awarded the prize for their “extraordinary” skills with fish, said Michael Ellis, director of international guides for Michelin.

The guide also hailed the Alpine chalet restaurant as “generous, authentic and full of emotion.”

Diners at ‘La Bouitte’, located at an altitude of 2,500 metres (8,200 feet), can feast on a menu that varies from trout, scallops and crawfish to frogs’ legs with black garlic and watercress, duck foie gras escalope, sweetbreads and venison.

The Michelin guide is the most renowned restaurant guide in the world, with just one star making or breaking a restaurant. The top prize is three stars, signifying that a restaurant is worth a “special journey.” Two stars is for a restaurant that is “worth a detour”, and a one star restaurant is a “good place to stop on your journey.”

(article in Straits Times available here)

Nicolas Rebut, The French Cellar sommelier, was Chef sommelier of Yannick Alleno at Le Meurice, 3-star Michelin restaurant in Paris. Yannick Alleno just got 3-stars for his new restaurant Ledoyen in Paris.

Find out more about Nicolas Rebut

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 Ledoyen Paris

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 La Bouitte Savoie

 

 


It’s winter, time to do pruning!

Vines are vigorous plants and need to be pruned back severely, removing more than 70 per cent of the canes in winter to get the best grapes production. In some Bordeaux estates for instance, they keep only a few canes to get 5 to 12 clusters per vine depending on age and variety.


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If you want to learn more about the vines growth cycle:


St. Vincent, the patron saint of winemakers

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St. Vincent is the patron saint of winemakers and each year, a festival dedicated to his name is held in the wine-growing region of Burgundy, France. The event, a blend of religious ceremony, wine tasting and formal public ritual takes place on the Saint’s official feast day of 22 January.

In a ceremony with roots in the Middle Ages, several hundred winemakers from villages across Burgundy, some wearing bright red robes, formed an early morning procession carrying antique wooden statues of their patron saint through the vineyards in an annual rite known as the “St. Vincent Tournante”.

 

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1472!

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The oldest wine in the world, dating from 1472, will be transferred to a new barrel on Wednesday 22 January, in the historic cellar of the “Hospices de Strasbourg”. It is the third time only this happens.

This Alsace dry white wine has been served during only three occasions, the last one is in 1944 by General Leclerc after the liberation of the city of Strasbourg.

 


Where do grapes come from?

Watch this interesting video about vines cycle

 

Flowering ends, fruit sets are appearing.

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Austrieb an Weinreben (Vitis vinifera) im Frühling, Kaiserstuhl, Baden-Württemberg, Deutschland


Wine storage in Singapore

wine cooler 46 Storing wines in Singapore can be challenging. Although the humidity level (70-80%) is good, the average temperature is definitely too high.

Wines should not be exposed to a temperature above 25°C for long periods of time – it may then become spoilt or “cooked” and develop off flavors. Keeping wines in the refrigerator is not recommended either: it is too cold, too dry and generates vibrations which are bad for the wines. However keeping bottles in the refrigerator for less than 2 months is acceptable (and definitely a better option than the 30°C outside temperature!). In general, temperature swings should be limited – such as transferring a wine from a warm room to a cool refrigerator.

Most experts recommend that wine be kept at constant temperatures between 10 and 15 °C.

Besides temperature, two other factors also have a pronounced effect on wine in storage: light and humidity. Wines should be kept away from direct lights and UV (which can trigger unwanted chemical reactions) and in a humid environment (about 75%) in order to keep wines with cork enclosures from drying out.

Having your own wine chiller is a great solution to protect your wines.

www.TheFrenchCellar.sg 

Your Sommelier at Home

Two nice bottles of French wines delivered at your doorstep every month with our sommelier’s tasting guide.


Mouton Rothschild Unveils new Label

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Mouton Rothschild, one of the five First Growths of Bordeaux has released the new label for its 2011 Chateau Mouton Rothschild.

The label has been made from a painting by the well-known French contemporary artist Guy de Rougemont, and takes you through various stages of the birth of wine

The commission to illustrate the 2011 vintage was given by Baroness Philippine de Rothschild to the French painter and sculptor Guy de Rougemont, born in 1935 and a member of the Academy of Fine Arts of the Institut de France.

Fond of bright, warm colours, which he initially used in regular geometrical forms, he subsequently turned to the “serpentine line”, whose undulations emphasise or temper contrasts of light and shade.

His drawing for Mouton Rothschild 2011 belongs to this second manner: from gold to dark red, from the clarity of vines in sunshine to the darkness of the cellars, Rougemont takes us in colour through all the stages of the birth of a great wine.

More info on “Mouton Rothschild Unveils new Label”  here: http://www.chateau-mouton-rothschild.com/