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Category Archives: WINE TERMS


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 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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Wine terms: Terroir

terroir“Terroir” (tair-wahr) is one of the most cherished words for the French. One could even say it’s the base of the French culture.

“What a beautiful terroir!” You’ve already heard that before, right? Remember, in that particular wine tasting event when you were dazed and everyone kept nodding in total agreement? What’s the heck does that mean?

True, it can sounds posh to say terroir in the middle of a conversation, but the concept is essential to understand how a single grape variety like pinot noir can be so different from one place to another.

Terroir is a term that simply means “a sense of place”.  It’s a basic belief that every place has its own characteristics that you can perceive in the wine (or food by the way). The grape variety is sensible to the soil, the climate and the elevation. A bunch of elements give a signature taste to the place where the wine is produced. Any other cannot imitate the particular blend of flavors that make every estate unique. That’s terroir!

Terroir as a “taste of the place” is even more meaningful and relevant for wines made from one grape variety only, in a very specific region. That’s how St Emilion wines can be so different and express different terroirs for example.  
The concept of terroir is easy to understand. The most interesting and difficult aspect of it is to know how to identify the differences and signatures.

Want to know more? Read our article What makes Wine Flavors: The 3 Factors

 

 

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Wine Terms: What does the term ‘First Growth’ mean?

 

firstgrowth

Have you been at a wine gathering where you heard the term ‘First Growth’ thrown around?

This term applies to wines in the Medoc and Graves region in France.

The meaning of First Growth is not taken literally to mean the wine grapes were the first to be grown after the winter or that they were the first to be harvested when ripe.

Rather, the term is used to denote ‘first in class’.

First in class for what you may ask.

Well, a classification system was created by Napoleon III for the Universal Exposition of 1855. It was an event held to showcase the best that France has to offer, including wine. Since humans grasp things much easier when they are put into categories and rankings, the 1855 Medoc classification was put in place. It was intended to make the vast wine offerings of the Bordeaux region easier for international visitors to understand.

Perhaps an unintended consequence is that after the Exposition – due our tendency to categorize and rank things – people retained that hierarchy in their minds. First Growth wines became the most expensive wines in the 1855 and still are today – 160 years later.

The First Growth wines are chased by wine drinkers, collectors, and speculators alike. The First Growth title is also coveted by winemakers, with Chateau Mouton Rothschild successfully entering the First Growth class in 1973 after intense lobbying by it’s owner, Baron Rothschild. Other winemakers covet the title as well, because it would give them the ability to set high prices for their wine.

There are 5 Bordeaux First Growth: Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Latour, Château Margaux, Château Haut-Brion and Château Mouton Rothschild.

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Wine Terms: Alcohol

alcoholblog

 Alcohol is an important component in wine.

Even though the word ‘wine’ has become synonymous with ‘alcohol’, it must be emphasized that alcohol is only one component of wine.

The other components are tannins, acidity and sweetness.

The existence of a wine’s alcohol can be felt in 2 ways. Firstly, alcohol gives off a warm sensation when it touches the insides of your mouth.  That perception of heat is the natural way that our skin reacts to the presence of alcohol.

Secondly, alcohol is largely responsible for the ‘body’ or viscosity of the wine. Wines with higher alcohol content feel heavier and more viscous in your mouth.

So how did alcohol make its way into wine?

In order to make wine, crushed grapes are fermented together with yeast. During the fermentation process, the yeast converts the grapes and its sugars into wine and alcohol.

The alcohol content in wine can vary according to the climate in which the grapes were grown. Grapes grown in the warmer regions of France, such as Languedoc or the Rhone Valley in France, can produce wines with a high alcohol content (about 14%). This is because thanks to the warm climate, the grapes can become very ripe at harvest.

Grapes that are very ripe contain a higher sugar level, which can be converted into more alcohol. This is why most of the red wines that you taste from the south of France tend to have a heavier body.

But such a high alcohol content needs to be balanced with the other wine components. Alcohol is generally balanced against the acidity and fruitiness in wine.

If the wine’s alcohol level is too high relative to the other components, it can cause you to feel a burning sensation in your mouth. If it’s too low, the wine may taste dull and lack excitement.

So the next time you take a sip, take some time to appreciate whether the wine’s alcohol is well-balanced.

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Wine Terms: AOC, ‘Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée’

AOC_winemag

You want to understand French wines? Here is the secret: know the appellations. To unlock the mystery behind every wine and terroir, the regions and the appellations within every region are the key.

 

We could give you only one reason for you to know about the different appellations in France: unlike the new world’s wines, the grape variety are not displayed on the labels in France (except in Alsace for instance). An appellation in France requires that a specific certain blend of grape varieties to be used.

 

France introduced a label AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controlee or Appellation of controlled origin) to set the rules, overseen by a local committee that specify:

– the villages and estates overtaken under the appellation

– the blend of grape varieties to be used in production

– the maximum yield of the vineyard

– the harvesting and production technics

 

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Wine Terms: The Finish

winefinish

Here’s something worth considering:

Focus on the lingering sensation in your mouth the next time you swallow your wine. That is known as the finish of the wine. It is the final impression that you get from the tasting process. There are a few things that wine professionals focus on when evaluating the finish.

When just starting out, many wine drinkers only look at the length of the finish. In other words, how long the lingering feeling stays on their palate. However, there is much more to the finish than that. Though the length is a very telling factor on the quality of the wine, you should learn to look beyond that.

Among many other things, wine professionals judge the wine’s flavor and texture after it’s swallowed. Do you notice some spiciness, minerality, sweetness, or harshness after you swallow?

So go ahead, describe to yourself the flavor and texture of the finish the next time you take a sip of wine. It’s an exercise to train your palate.

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What ‘Organic’ Wines Really mean

organicres

Go natural and choose organic wines.

The term ‘Organic’ has been gaining popularity in the food world.

It has been used by food producers to signal that the food is healthier to eat. But what does the term ‘organic’ mean when applied to wine?

There are 2 phases to making wine: first growing the grapes in the vineyard and then later fermenting the grapes in the winery.

The term ‘organic’ applies in the first part of the process.

Organic wines are made from grapes that are produced without pesticide, fertilizers, or chemicals. This puts the grapes in danger of attack from pests and may lower the yield of the vineyard.

Though it creates more work and potentially more heartbreak for the winemaker, not using chemicals will allow the grapes to express their ‘terroir’ more strongly. Terroir is a term to describe the climate and land where the grapes are grown. Pesticide and fertilizers may interfere with the taste of the wine produced, and their absence may make the wine ‘purer’.

Organic wines are also healthier to drink.

Just as you would not want to eat fruits with herbicides and chemicals sprayed on them, the harmful effects of these chemicals can be avoided with organic wines.

Organic wines can still have a bit of chemicals added during the second part of the winemaking process. In the winery, just a small amount of sulfites may be added to an organic wine before it is bottled. Sulfites have to be added because they are essential as a preservative for the wine. This is to help ensure that it tastes as it should when it reaches you.

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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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Wine Terms: Tannins

wine tannins

 

You may have felt a rough, leathery feeling in your mouth after you swallowed a sip of wine.

This feeling may have also left a slightly bitter taste in your mouth, similar to that from drinking over-brewed tea.

If you have experienced this, then you’ve likely tasted tannins.

The tannins in your wine originate from the skin, seeds, and stem of grapes. Oak barrels can also impart tannins into a wine. They are important in the winemaking process for red wines, which explains why tannins are very apparent in red wines. Since white wines are not fermented in contact with red grape skin, they have have a less tannic structure.

Tannins are a very important component of red wine because of a few reasons:

1- They preserve wine and help it age well

You would be unhappy if the first sip of the wine you’ve been waiting to drink tastes like vinegar. Wine turns into vinegar after it is exposed to oxygen for a long time,

Tannins act as an antioxidant that guards the wine from turning into vinegar. It also helps maintain the wine’s structure in the aging process. Hence, high tannin wines age better than low tannin wines.Grape

2- They give wine its color depth and affect its complexity

Compare the color depth of wines made from mostly Pinot Noir grapes with wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Pinot Noir wines tend to have a lighter red color compared to the Cabernet. This is because the skin from the Pinot Noir grape is thinner and gives a lighter red color.

3- They have health benefits

Because of its anti-oxidant qualities, there are health benefits from consuming wines with tannins.

How to ‘soften’ a tannic wine

Decanting can make a highly tannic wine feel more balanced. It makes tannins feel more integrated into the wine as well, which gives it a much ‘softer’ feel. It gives you the impression that the rough edges in the wine are more smoothed out.

A high tannin wine made of the Cabernet or Syrah grapes may need some decanting before drinking.

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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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Wine Terms: Balance

balance

Balance is the ‘holy grail’ that winemakers and wine experts seek.

 

One thing’s for sure: All good winemakers strive to achieve balance in their wines.

Wine experts often rate wine well or poorly depending on its balance.

But have you ever wondered what exactly does the term ‘balanced’ mean?

A balanced wine is one where its key components are all at optimum levels relative to each other. None of them should stick out like a sore thumb.

Many have their own definition of what make’s a wine balanced. We’d like to put forward our definition in this article.

For a wine to be well-balanced, 5 key components need to be in harmony. These key components are sweetness, acidity , tannins, alcohol, and fruit.

Each of these components can take an entire article by itself to explain. But here’s a quick overview:

Sweetness

Sweetness is something that we humans are hardwired to find pleasant. However, the sweetness has to be at the right level. Acidity (the next key component) complements sweetness very well. A sweet wine, like one from Sauternes, has a high level of sweetness that needs to be balanced with a high level of acidity.

Acidity

Acidity is the component that brings a wine alive. At just the right level, a wine can be lively and will dance on your palate. Without it, a wine can taste flat and dull. Too much of it however, may leave a very tart feeling on your palate.

Tannins

Tannins are something that you feel when you drink over-brewed tea. It sticks to the insides of your mouth and can make you thirsty. It’s much easier to feel tannins rather than to taste it. A high tannin level should be balanced with more fruitiness in the wine.

Fruit

A wine’s fruitiness is something that gives character to wine. It is like the meat attached to the structure of the wine. Too little can cause a wine to feel hollow.

Alcohol

Alcohol is a component that helps you experience the flavors of wine. It helps carry the wine aromas to your olfactory senses. However, too much alcohol in wine and feel a lot of alcohol heat (and potentially a burning sensation). On the other hand, too little alcohol and the wine will struggle to expose its excitement.

Try to notice these 5 components when you take your next sip of wine. Assess for yourself if they are all in perfect harmony.

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Wine Terms: En Primeur

enprimeur

The En Primeur in Bordeaux is one of the most exciting events for wine lovers.

 

An ‘En Primeur’ is the buying and selling of a new wine in advance to it being released into the open market.

New vintages from Bordeaux are always sold En Primeur during the spring time following last year’s harvest. At this point, the wines from the previous year are already made and maturing in oak barrels.

Hundreds of wine merchants and international wine critics will arrive at Bordeaux to taste and rate the wines. The wine merchants are then offered the chance to buy the wines and lock in their purchase price. Only in 2 years time will these bottles of wine be released by the Chateaux to the wine merchants.

The locking in of the price benefits both the Chateaux and the merchants. The Chateaux benefit because they get to sell their wines in advance of delivery in 2 years. This gives them an early inflow of cash to fund upcoming winemaking activities. The wine merchants themselves also benefit because instead of waiting 2 years for delivery, they now have certainty over the purchase price of that year’s wine.

The critics who rate the wine can influence the price of the wine when it hits the open market in 2 years time. A big portion of the consumer market relies on these ratings when making a decision on whether to buy the released wine.

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Wine Terms: Oak

oak

Some wines have flavors of oak.

 

Have you tasted flavors of vanilla, spice and smoke in wine before?

Oak imparts these flavors into the wine during the winemaking process. It is here that prolonged contact with oak allows it to give its flavors to the wine.

How strong the oak flavors are largely depends on the type of oak used and whether it’s an old or new barrel. New oak imparts stronger flavors. This is because the oak has not been used before and much of the ‘essence’ of the wood still remains.

Old and used oak barrels may impart much less flavor to the wine. It’s presence can be felt in the wine but is more subtle. In this case, it’s used for structure and aging potential, than for flavor.

Whether American oak or French oak is used makes a difference as well. American oak imparts more intense flavors and has sweeter vanilla overtones. French oak is more subtle.

Oak is used during the fermentation and maturation phases. The two phases use oak because it is watertight but still porous enough to allow air into the barrel. This allows for controlled oxidation which helps to ‘soften’ the wine and reduce its tannic qualities.

Because oak barrels are expensive to acquire, oak chips and staves are sometimes used as cheaper alternatives. During the fermentation process for cheaper wines, oak planks are placed in stainless steel vats. Though not fully oaked, the oak chips can still impart some oak flavors to the wine.

Balance between oak and fruit in a wine is important. It is ideal that the oak influence does not overpower the fruit flavors in the wine.


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Wine Terms: Crémant

wineterms_cremant

A good value-for-money alternative to champagne.

 

Crémant (pronounced “cray-mawn”) is a term that’s used often in the world of French wine.

It describes a kind of French sparkling wine that’s made in designated areas in France. The term was originally used in the Champagne region to label less effervescent (or bubbly) champagnes.

Since 1985, the Champagne region agreed to stop using the term ‘Crémant’. It is now used to denote sparkling wines that are produced outside of Champagne. Crémant wines are given carbonation through a second fermentation in the bottle. Though, today they are still made less bubbly compared to champagne.

Officially, there are 7 designated Crémant regions in France. They are Crémant d’Alsace, Crémant de Bordeaux, Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant de Die, Crémant du Jura, Crémant de Limoux and Crémant de Loire.

Crémant d’Alsace is the biggest of all the 7 Crémant regions. It produces about half of all Crémant production in France.

In any wine shop, you will generally find that Crémant is priced lower than champagne. This is because the market demand and prestige is higher for champagne than it is for Crémant. Because of this, Crémant is good value for money.

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Wine Terms: Caudalie

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Being disappointed by wine flavors that vanish straight away? Your wine lacks of Caudalies.

Caudalie is the unit to measure how long the flavors of a wine linger in the mouth. One Caudalie is equivalent to a second.

The word caudalie comes from the latin caude, meaning tail. Keep that in mind: the aromas lingering in the mouth are like the tail of the wine.

As the perception of the flavors is different for everyone, the caudalies are not really precise. Yet, the measure is relevant to appreciate a wine and it gives you a hint on its quality.

How to count Caudalies?

You start counting right after drinking. In order to count it right, you shouldn’t breathe in: that could alter the perception of the flavors.

You stop counting caudalies when you stop perceiving the flavors on the palate. The aromas are not present anymore and you start to have saliva in your mouth. That is the finish-line moment you should wait for.

Be aware that caudalies are for flavors! To count caudalies, only count until the perception of flavors stops. Aciditysweetness and bitterness are not to be taken into account.

Great wine are identifiable by both the complexity of their flavors and how long they linger in the mouth. The average for a wine is between 3 and 6 caudalies. Good quality wine has around 6 to 8 caudalies. After 10 caudalies the wines are considered as remarkably fine. Exceptional wines can even go up to 20 caudalies.

Now that you know about the caudalies you can impress your colleagues or guests in you next gathering and wine tasting.

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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Wine terms: Bordeaux Cru Bourgeois

cru_bourgeoisIt’s ok to get lost. Bordeaux wine region, through the different wine appellations and classifications, is a nightmare.

 

What is the main difference between appellations and classifications?

Classifications are done among a specific appellation. They are supposed to tell you what are the best wines produced.

The most famous classification is from 1855. At that time, Napoleon III decided to get an official ranking of all the wines before the Universal exhibition the same year.

 

What is a Cru Bourgeois wine?

The Cru Bourgeois is a classification used for fine wines from the Medoc appellation. Even though it comes from the Middle age time, Cru Bourgeois is one of those classifications that were not officially acknowledged in 1855.

Being located in the left bank of Bordeaux river, the Medoc wines are made mostly Cabernet sauvignon, a grape variety that gives riper, richer and some of the best wines in the world.

 

4 things you need to know about Cru Bourgeois wines

1- Cru Bourgeois is the only classification renewed every year

2- The Cru Bourgeois classification is based only on blind tasting.

3- Over 25% of all the wines from Medoc region are classified under the Cru Bourgeois ranking

4- The first classification Cru Bourgeois was out in 1932 for 444 estates. Today, only 267 chateaux are classified under Cru Bourgeois.

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Wine terms: ‘Empyreumatic’

empyreumatic

You’ve certainly heard of that term in a wine tasting event and you’ve always wondered about its meaning.

Very used for describing the taste and flavors of a wine, we unveiled the mystery behind that word that simply means… smoky.

Smoke and mirrors…

Empyreumatic is an important word to describe a whole family of wine flavors:

  • Toasted: crisp bread
  • Roasted: cocoa, coffee, moka
  • Smoked: smoke, ash, tobacco, BBQ
  • Burnt: wood, rubber, tar, soot

 

Where does that come from?

Empyreumatic comes from the Greek empureuma for ember. But what is most important to remember is that these smoky flavors are a sign that the wine was aged in wood barrels.

The barrels are burnt before the wine is placed in. This burning preparation really influences the taste of the wine and demands a real expertise from the cooper.

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, terms, tips and advice!

 

Join our Next Wine Tasting Event

Check out our list of upcoming wine tasting events. Selected in France by our 3-star Michelin sommelier, The French Cellar events let you discover exclusive French wines.

Tasting good wines, discovering nice pairings, networking, … No need to be an expert to enjoy wines! We wait for you at our next event!

 

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.

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Wine Terms: Disgorgement

disgorgement

In champagne production, disgorgement is an important step.

Disgorgement is necessary when making champagne because after the first fermentation which turns grape sugar into alcohol, more yeast has to be added into the bottle for a second fermentation. This second fermentation is done to create more carbonation and bubbles in the champagne. After the second fermentation, the sparkling wine will be left to age for more than a year.

During this time, the champagne bottle will be tilted at a 45 degree angle downwards, and the dead yeast from after the second fermentation will fall to the tip of the bottle. The downward tilt accumulates the dead yeast at the neck of the bottle, which will make its subsequent removal much easier.

Disgorgement refers to the process of carefully removing the dead yeast and other sediments from the bottle. This leaves the champagne crystal clear and free of foreign flavors.

To start the disgorgement process, the winemaker will freeze sediment at the tip of the bottle by dipping the bottle into a freezing solution. The loose sediment is now frozen into a pellet. The bottle is then opened and the pressure from the bottle then automatically pushes the frozen pellet out. A dosage of sugar is then added depending on the sweetness level that the winemaker wants to achieve.The wine is re-corked again and readied for sale in the market.

Some champagnes have a ‘disgorgement date’ on the label . Since disgorgement is the last part of a sparkling wine’s production process, the disgorgement date signifies the end of production for the champagne.

The disgorgement year is different from the vintage year because the vintage year refers to the year when the wine grapes were harvested. The disgorgement year on the other hand indicates when the production process was complete.

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Our sommelier’s selection of Champagne available here.

 

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Wine Terms: Extraction

wine_extract

The wine in your glass was made possible through extraction.

 

Though not talked about often, extraction is an underappreciated part of the winemaking process.

The flavors you taste, tannins you feel and colors you see in your wine are made possible by extraction. Extracting these elements are a delicate art to the winemakers.

Extraction involves the transfer of flavors, tannins, and colors from the grape to the grape juice that ultimately becomes wine. Maceration process is a crucial step.

This process is almost like brewing tea. If you put a teabag in your cup and leave it there for too short a time, you will under-extract the tea. The flavors from the tea leaves will not be sufficiently extracted and you don’t taste much tea at all.

On the other hand, if you leave the teabag in the cup for too long, you will over-extract the tea. The result is a heavy tasting tea that lacks grace and is harsh on your palate.

The wine grape also plays a part in the amount of extraction necessary. For example, a grape like Cabernet Sauvignon would need more extraction as compared to the delicate Pinot Noir grape. This is because Cabernet Sauvignon is used to make full-bodied, bold wines. Pinot Noir is an elegant and delicate grape that will betray its nature if over extracted.

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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Wine Terms: Spiciness

spiciness

Spicy wines can taste ‘peppery’.

 

If you’ve tasted French red wines from different regions, you’ll likely find some of them having a spicy sensation.

It’s not limited to the feeling in your mouth. You can even smell pepper, cloves and cinnamon aromas from the wine.

Natural compounds in the wine cause this sensation of spiciness. One of them is called rotundone and it can be found in pepper too.

Where can spicy wines usually be found?

The wines in regions like Rhone Valley and Languedoc tend to be spicy. Indeed, wines there are likely to have the spicy Syrah (Shiraz) grape as part of their blend. In Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon brings pepper notes as well.

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Wine Terms: Sweetness

glass_sweet

Oh, how sweet it is to drink wine

 

Among all of the tastes in wine, sweetness is the most apparent.

And it’s no surprise. Tasting sweetness instantly brings us back to our childhood days. At one point in our childhood, most of us would have ate candy or drank soda. That familiarity makes sweetness one of the easiest wine components to sense, compared to alcohol, acidity, and tannins. The receptors in our tongue have become sensitive to it.

Other than adding pleasantness to wine, sweetness has the job of balancing out acidity. You see, acidity creates a perception of dryness (lack of sweetness) on our palates. In order to avoid their wines from tasting bone dry, winemakers may add a touch of sweetness to their wine. However, its important that they get the balance correct.

Too much sweetness in the wine can be overbearing. It makes you feel as if you’ve swallowed a mouthful of sugar. Too little sweetness, and the wine may taste tart because the acidity is not balanced with sufficient sweetness.

Want to know how winemakers make their wine sweet? Time for a quick lesson in “vinification” (also known as winemaking).

The sweetness in wine comes from the residual sugar that remains in wine after vinification. To make wine, crushed grapes is fermented with yeast. The presence of yeast converts the grape sugars into wine and alcohol.

But yeast dies if the concentration of alcohol is too high (when it’s around 14%). The whole fermentation process will stop naturally when the alcohol level is high enough to kill off all the yeast. Hence, the fermentation duration can be timed by calculating how much yeast to add in.

If not all the grape sugars were converted into wine when the process stops, there will be some residual sugar that remain in the mixture. The residual sugar then makes its way into the bottled wine.

Alternatively, the winemakers themselves can cut the whole process short by intervening and stopping the fermentation process prematurely. That way, some grapes sugars will make it to the bottled wine as well.

The amount of sweetness that makes it into the bottle is tediously calculated by the winemaker. So that next time you take a sip of wine, take some time to appreciate it’s sweetness.

 

To really get a good feel for sweetness, you can try the sweet wines from Sauternes in our wine shop. These wines include:

 Rempart de Bastor Lamontagne, Sauternes, 2008

Lion de Suduiraut, Sauternes, 2010

Château Suduiraut, Sauternes Premier Cru Classé, 1998

 

Discover why Sauternes wines are so sweet here (Who would Have Thought: A Rot That’s Actually Good for Wine)

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, terms, tips and advice!

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Wine terms: Acidity

Jus-de-citron

Too much acid can add too much ‘twist’ to the wine.

Whether you’ve noticed or not, acidity can be found in most of the wines that you drink.

It plays an important role in wine. But to understand the role of acidity in wine, let’s first visit its sensation.

Think back to when you took a sip of lemon juice. Did you remember the sour feeling in your mouth? In many cases, it left a ‘popping’ sensation on your tongue, Well this is exactly the sensation of acidity – you feel a sour twist in your mouth.

Acidity is one of the key components of wine. It’s role is largely to bring some liveliness and excitement to the wine. How pronounced the wine’s acidity feels on your palate depends on its balance relative to the other components.

If the acidity overwhelms the other components, such as sweetness, alcohol, and tannins, you’ll get a tart or very sour sensation in your mouth. If it is too understated, then the wine feels dull and flat. When the balance is hit correctly, the right amount of acidity will make the wine dance of your palate.

One factor that affects the level of acidity in the wine is the type of grapes that’s used to produce it. White grapes tend to be more acidic compared to red grapes, and this fact is brought forward to the wine itself. It is why white wines tend to be more acidic when compared to red wines. Among white grapes, the level of acidity varies as well. The Sauvignon Blanc varietal tends to be more acidic than the Chardonnay varietal. Likewise, for red grapes, the Pinot Noir varietal tends to be more acidic compared to the Merlot varietal.

With this new knowledge in mind, take note of your wine’s acidity the next time you take a sip of it.

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Find out more about  the 5 key components of ‘balance’ here  (sweetness, acidity, tannins, alcohol, and fruit)

 

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Wine Terms: Sommelier

picnicolas

Nicolas Rebut – Our Wine Sommelier

The term ‘Sommelier’ gets used a lot in restaurant circles.

A Sommelier is also known as a wine steward. He or she is one who has extensive knowledge on both cuisine and wine. The knowledge on cuisine is needed because the sommelier is relied on to recommend a suitable wine to accompany the main dinner dish. The dish is often chosen first and a pairing wine is picked to match.

Many times, these sommeliers go through rigorous courses to expand their knowledge and train their palate. Those who pass prestigious courses such as the Master Sommelier course go on to be sommeliers in renowned high-end restaurants. They are regarded as authorities on the subject of wine.

At The French Cellar, Nicolas Rebut is the sommelier selecting the 2 bottles that our subscribers receive each month. Nicolas has been Chef Sommelier in a 3-star Michelin restaurant, ‘Le Louis XV’, which is managed by Alain Ducasse. In 2005, he left for Paris to become Chef Sommelier of ‘Le Meurice’ (3-star Michelin), where he managed a team of 7 sommeliers. Find out more about Nicolas Rebut here.

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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Check out the wines that he has recommend so far for our wine subscribers: Wines of the Month