We are just back from holiday, somewhat sunburnt and quite mad for the seaside. If in the coming weeks we feature more warm weather drinks, wines to go with fish or seafood, or just burst into sea shanties, you will now know why.
On with the wine news!
In this installment of crimes against wine, ram-raiders have hit Domaine Jean Marc Brocard in Chablis and Champagne stolen by the Nazis has been discovered north of Dresden in Germany.
Alder Yarrow has posted an interview with one of the trailblazers in grower Champagne, Anselme Selosse. Don’t miss this one.
If you’re buying Malbec without knowing these five key Argentinian sub-zones, you may be missing out on the Malbec of your dreams.
What is “pét-nat,” or pétillant-naturel?
And finally, does your rosé need a little lift? VinePair has a few suggestions for sprucing up your summer sipping.
We are gutted to hear of the demise of SkyMall (or its bankruptcy, which probably heralds its end). Ten times more interesting than the in-flight magazine waiting in the back of the seat in front of you on an airplane, the SkyMall catalogue entertained me through many a trans-Atlantic flight. I hope I haven’t read my last copy. Dr. Vino blogged about his favourite mad wine-related items from SkyMall.
Remember all that expensive wine stolen from French Laundry in California? Most of it has been found across country in Greensboro, North Carolina. There must be a road movie in that somewhere.
Decanter posted a slideshow of the results of its Cahors tasting panel. Malbec fans should take a look.
Gearing up for Superbowl Sunday? You might find VinePair’s tool for pairing Superbowl foods with wine useful. And for the rest of the world, the pairings would work just as well for your football or Six Nations nibbles in upcoming weekends.
Need help understanding Bordeaux labels? Wine Enthusiast has you covered.
Over on Wine-Searcher, Tim Atkin has written a quick-and-dirty guide to DRC — no, not the Democratic Republic of Congo, but Burgundy’s Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.
Chilean producer Ignacio Recabarren says when he says Carmenère is “more than jam in the sandwich,” (i.e. more than something to add fruitiness to a blend), and we definitely agree that Chilean Carmenère deserve a second look — and glass.
And finally, are we the last ones to discover this Silly Tasting Notes Generator? Want a sample? “A firm,full textured but equally oily Dessert wine. Detecable american oak, freakishly evil raisin and bashful cardboard. Drink now through 2020.” We have got to find a way to use “freakishly evil raisin” and “bashful cardboard” in tasting notes. Via Dr. Vino.
It’s Tuesday, no matter how much it feels like a Monday, so it’s time for our weekly wine news.
First off, we’re thinking of the people affected by the earthquake in Napa and Sonoma in California. Wine Spectator and Dr. Vino cover some of the damage to wineries, but as is always the case with natural disasters, it takes a while to get a complete picture of the scale of the damage.
Our Twitter feed exploded this morning with discussions of a wine sale at Tesco. Most people were tweeting about the sale on Bollinger, but some of those in the know were saying the bargains on Bordeaux and Australian wines in the bin ends section. This link takes you to the Bolly.
Bottlenotes matches hot dogs (American hot dogs, not those sausages in finger rolls you find in England) with wine, from the standard ballpark dog to chili dogs and corn dogs. It’s a thought-provoking list, but we think even the toppings on a basic hot dog would make a huge difference. I mean, with some hot dogs topped with mustard and tart green pickle relish, others with raw onions or sauerkraut, I’m not sure a general recommendation for a dry rosé is the place to start.
You don’t have to resign yourself to purple teeth just because you like red wine. VinePair gives you some tips for prevention, including some you might not have considered.
Chilean producer Sebastian de Martino is experimenting with casks made of Chile’s native raulí beech at his winery in the Maipo Valley. He also uses tinajas, which are 100 year-old clay amphorae made in Chile. We’d love to taste the results of his attempt to reflect Chile’s indigenous wood and viticultural history in the production of his wines.
Let “The Wine Lover’s Guide to Hosting” on Wine Enthusiast guide you through the tricks to hosting wine tastings, dinner parties, and big events.
Wine Folly posted a somewhat controversial piece called “6 Foods That Don’t Pair with Wine,” but if you change the title of the piece to “6 Foods That Can Be Tough to Pair with Wine,” you’ll probably find it useful. For example, the first food on the list is chocolate, but then the piece goes on to recommend five good pairing choices. She didn’t mention our personal favourite, Maydie Tannat from Madiran in the Pyrennees. Man, we need to post about that soon (and not just because it’s an excuse to make chocolate cake).
We’re following the Vuelta a España, the last Grand Tour in the 2014 cycling calendar. There hasn’t been much drama so far while the riders toured sherry country in the area around Jerez, but today that could change. The stage ends in Córdoba, so we may not be able to resist a post on Montilla-Moriles and Pedro Ximénez.
Crashes and more crashes. They may add a bit of danger and drama to the Tour de France, but no one wants to see cyclists with injuries so serious they have to abandon the race, as at least two more riders did yesterday.
So much for Stage 7 being an easier day and everyone taking it easy after the cobbles. We think we saw one crashed cyclist with road rash on his neck! Neither the mechanics of that nor the pain are pleasant to think about.
Stage 7 takes the Tour from Épernay in the Champagne region to Nancy in Lorraine, leaving the portion of this year’s Tour designed to go through many of the battlefields of World War I for it’s centenery. Yesterday on Twitter Champagne Pol Roger posted about the house’s own link to both Épernay and the Great War:
We have to admit that we did not know that.
If Reims is the capital of the Champagne the region, Épernay is the capital of Champagne the wine. The famous Avenue de Champagne in Épernay is the headquarters of many of the most famous Champagne houses above ground and their cellars carved into the chalk below ground. Winston Churchill is reported to have called it the most drinkable address in the world.
We’ve decided not to spend Stage 7 in the grand 18th and 19th-century buildings of the Avenue de Champagne, but rather to head outside Épernay to a village called Avize in the Côtes des Blancs and the beating heart of grower Champagne, Domaine Jacques Selosse. Anselme Selosse, who took over the family business from his father Jacques in 1980, transformed the character and image of grower Champagne dramatically by rethinking the basic premises. He trained in Burgundy and came back home to apply the same principles that make great wine elsewhere in France to the somewhat renegade world of Champagne. For while in other areas, the quality of grape and character of individual terroir made a wine special, in Champagne houses grapes (in many cases low quality) were bought in from numerous growers and then blended to create a consistent house style.
Selosse slashed the yields and introduced many of the principles of organic viticulture, creating grapes that are much riper, much more intense, and more expressive of the ground in which they were grown. He used oak barrels for all stages of fermentation and ageing, instead of the stainless steel tanks usually used in Champagne production. He reduced the use of SO2 and used only indigenous yeasts, and the wines spend extended time on the lees. Dosage is minimal, because, as Selosse told the Rare Wine Co., “great Champagne needs no make-up.” Some of his most famous wines are created using a solera system, similar to the one used to make sherry in Spain. Substance, one of his most famous creations, is made from a single Chardonnay vineyard in Avize, blending successive vintages going back to 1987. “It takes all the different years — the good, the bad, the wet, the dry, the sunny — and neutralizes the elements to bring out the terroir,” he told the New York Times in 2008. He even decants Champagne, proving he flies in the face of convention from the soil all the way to the glass.
The cult-like status his wines have achieved has driven demand for Selosse’s Champagne up, and also inspired a new generation of Champenois to rethink their faith in the grand traditions of the Champagne houses. You might even wonder if some of the recent interest the Champagne houses have shown in experiments with ageing processes and even sinking bottles to the bottom of the Baltic could be the result of consumer excitement over the uniqueness of grower Champagnes. Selosse and the grower Champagne movement have even inspired growers outside France, namely in Italy, where Selosse has also begun working with winemaker Riccardo Cotarella on the sparkling wine production in Campagna using native Greco, Falanghina and Fiano varieties.
In 1994, Gault-Millau gave him the unprecendented honour of naming him France’s best winemaker in every category, but success has its price. It is a sad mark of the desirability of Selosse’s wines that €300,000 worth of Champagne was stolen from the estate in a raid in 2013, along with additional Selosse labels. Disputes with distributors took Selosse’s wines off the market in the U.S. for a time, although a collaboration with the Rare Wine Co. now makes them available to American buyers — if their budgets allow it.
Domaine Jacques Selosse also runs Les Avisés, a hotel and restaurant on the site of their home and cellar in Avize, surely another contender for the most drinkable address in Champagne.