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Jacky Blisson

Education

HOW TO READ A WINE LABEL

how to read a wine label

Have you ever stopped to actually read a wine label? I mean, not just a quick glance at the picture of a stately Château or a cheeky hippo, but really taken a few seconds to peruse the contents of the front and back label? You would be amazed by how much you can learn about a wine’s style and quality level once you know how to read a wine label.

***Side note: I have also made this post into a YouTube video. To watch, just scroll down to the bottom & click play. If you enjoy the video, consider subscribing to my YouTube channel so you never miss an episode of my weekly wine education series. 

The wine label, as I describe it below, often encompasses the front and back labels as many producers prefer to keep the front label information to a minimum to focus on the estate or brand name and the art work. With that in mind, the useful information on wine labels includes:

 

The Brand/ Estate Name

Generally displayed fairly prominently on the front label. This is the name of the wine producer’s estate or one of their brands. This is key information to retain if you enjoy a wine and want to purchase it again.

 The Cuvée Name

Most wineries produce more than one wine. A cuvée name like “Yellow Label”, “Bin 407”, or “Hommage à…” is a good way to differentiate one wine from another; especially if the estate makes more than one wine from the same grape variety. This information is useful to note down, alongside the estate/brand name for re-purchasing.

 The Grape Variety

The taste of a specific grape variety, once it has been transformed into wine, can vary depending on the climate of the vineyards and/ or the winemaking techniques employed. Just because you like one producer’s Malbec, you are not guaranteed to like another winemaker’s take on the same grape…especially if one hails from Mendoza and the other from Cahors. Most grape varieties do tend to have basic character traits though that regularly occur regardless of origin, so knowing your preferred varieties can be helpful.

That being said, many European regions traditionally don’t, or legally can’t, write the grape name on the label. For these regions, like Chianti or the Rhône Valley, the expression of the local terroir is more important than varietal typicity.

In Europe, if a single variety is listed on the label, the wine will contain a minimum of 85% of that variety, with up to 15% of other grapes allowed. In the USA however, a wine with one single grape mentioned on the label can have just 75% of that variety in the blend.

 The Vintage

The vintage refers to the year in which the grapes were harvested. Each growing season is different, especially in cooler climate areas. Colder growing seasons will give wines with more tart flavours and higher acid. Wines from warmer growing seasons will be riper and fleshier. When you are purchasing premium wines, it is worth considering the vintage conditions to get a sense of how the wine will taste or, potentially, how well it will cellar.

If you are buying more affordable, every day wines there is generally less vintage variation but these wines usually don’t age very well, so you want to make sure you are buying a recent bottlings. For white and rosé wines  look for a harvest date within the last 18 months or so, for most red wines you can push this up to 3 years.

 The Appellation of Origin

Somewhere on the front and/ or back label, you will see an indication of the wine’s origin, sometimes called an appellation. An appellation can be as wide as a whole region like Bordeaux or California, or it can be as specific as a single village or vineyard site. Generally, the more site specific the appellation, the better quality the wine. If you see terms like Premier Cru or Grand Cru on French wine, Classico on Italian wine, Erste Lage or Grosse Lage on German wines, these are indications of superior (sometimes single vineyard) sites.

Quality Designations

Riserva, Reserva, Gran Reserva, Superiore, Smaragd…  Each region and country, especially in Europe, has their own set of terms to denote superior quality wines. Wines with these mentions usually come from better vineyard sites, have achieved a high level of ripeness, and are aged for longer at the winery. I go into more detail about these mentions and appellation specifications in region specific articles.

There are also a couple of very vague terms that wineries love to throw on labels. Some of the most notorious mentions include : “Old Vines” and “Reserve” or “Prestige”.

Older vines generally produce a lower yield of more flavourful, concentrated grapes. Wines from healthy 30-year-old or older vines often give high quality wines. However, there is no set legal definition for the term. So, if you see the term Vieilles Vignes or Old Vines on the label, you never really know if the vines are barely teenagers or really are mature adults. If you see a wine labelled “old vine” under 15$, I would be a little suspicious.

The words Reserve and Prestige can also be pretty meaningless. They are meant to imply a step up in quality from the producer’s basic wines, and many wineries do employ these terms honestly. Frustratingly, there are countless Prestige or Reserve wines out there that are barely palatable. Sadly, for many wineries, these words are nothing but marketing hype.

The Alcohol Percentage by Volume

A wine’s alcohol percentage will tell you a lot about its taste profile. The lower in alcohol the wine, generally the lighter it will be in body. Alcohol gives viscosity to wine, giving a weightier, more rounded sensation. A 12% alcohol red wine will taste very lean on the palate as compared to a 14.5% alcohol version.

Health & Dietary Information

If you look at a wine’s back label, you might see some health warnings like:

Contains Sulphites: Yes, many wines contain sulphites – both naturally as a by-product of fermentation – and potentially added to protect them from oxidation and bacterial spoilage. Don’t be alarmed though, the level is well within health and safety norms, and contrary to popular belief, most health officials agree that sulphites in wine do not cause headaches.

Suitable for vegetarians/ or vegans: substances are often added to wines before bottling to absorb any sediments and, occasionally, to soften tannins. These are called fining agents. Certain are composed of milk products, egg whites, and gelatin so are not always vegetarian/ vegan friendly. If a wine has been labelled “suitable” for one group or both, it will either be fined using an alternative substance like bentonite clay, or has been bottled without fining.

Other Information

Each wine label or capsule will have a lot code (a string of multiple digits) somewhere on the wine capsule or label that will allow wineries to trace a bottle back to the exact bottling date, batch, and so forth for quality control reasons.

A reference to the bottler, and whether it was estate bottled or not, is included in some countries as well. Some labels also carry information on the importer, wine agency, or distributor that carries a wine. This is a good point of contact for consumers looking for retailer information or wanting to report an issue with a purchased bottle.

Finally, many back labels will also give information about the winery, the winemaking techniques, food pairing options, service temperature suggestions and so on. That can also make for interesting reading if you so desire.

The Video

For those visual learners among you who prefer to watch… here is a video version of the above article!

 

Education

HOW TO FIND THE BEST ROSÉ WINES

best rosé wines

You know that spring has arrived when stacks of rosé wine start hitting the wine shops. From still to sparkling, dry to sweet, pale pink to deep fuscia , there is a huge diversity of styles when it comes to rosé. This can make finding the best rosé wines to suit your palate a little tricky!

What is Rosé?

Rosé is essentially a paler, lighter bodied version of red wine. It is generally made with red wine grape varieties. The difference is that rosé wines spend as little as a few hours, or up to two to three days, in contact with their skins, before being pressed and then fermented like white wine. Red wines are macerated on their skins for far longer (anywhere from one to three weeks).   Rosé’s shorter maceration period means that the colouring pigments, aromatic compounds, and tannins found in grape skins have less time to leach into the wine, resulting in paler wines, with more delicate aromas and softer tannins.

What Grape Varieties are used to Make Rosé?

Each rosé producing country and region has its favourite grape varieties. I have tasted rosé wines made from dozens of different grapes, but some of the most popular varieties include:

  • Grenache: fragrant raspberry aromas, moderate acidity, high alcohol
  • Syrah: dark fruit & spice flavours, fresh acidity, firm structure, tannic
  • Cinsault: light, perfumed (ripe to candied red berries), refreshing, low tannins
  • Vermentino (aka Rolle): minor white grape used in Côtes de Provence rosé blends. Said to accentuate aromatics and give subtle saline nuances on the finish.
  • Pinot Noir: elegant, with tart red berry and floral notes, crisp acidity, low to moderate tannins
  • Sangiovese: high, crisp acidity, sometimes a faint sour cherry bitterness, generally very dry
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: similar aromas as the red wine, if more restrained: bell pepper, black currant notes, crisp, medium bodied, with a firm structure, subtle tannic grip
  • Zinfandel: overt candied red and black fruit, often produced in a simple, low alcohol, sweet style

How much or how little the chosen grape variety(ies) influence the style of the wine depends on how long the rosé macerates on its grape skins, and what percentage of each grape is used if a blend of two or more varieties is made.

Fun Fact about Rosé Wine!

Thanks to a big celebrity boost and some clever social media campaigns, rosé wine has skyrocketed in popularity over the last decade. Despite what you might think though, rosé is far from a new wine style. The Greeks were making rosé wines in the colony of Massilia (Marseille) back in 600 B.C. Long after the Romans arrived and started producing fuller-bodied red wines, the pale pink Provincia Romana wines remained popular.

Different Rosé Styles

The stylistic range of rosé wine is immense. From light-bodied, refreshing, bone-dry rosés to sweet, low alcohol, fruity rosés, and elegant sparkling rosés, there is definitely a rosé wine out there for you.  The major styles include:

Sparkling rosé 

The majority of sparkling rosé wines follow the same initial winemaking as still rosés, followed by a secondary fermentation in tank or bottle to render the wines effervescent. Depending on the region, they can be mono-varietal wines or blends, and tend to have a fairly similar profile to their sparkling white counterparts, with more vibrant fruit, and a slightly weightier, rounder mid-palate. In Champagne, rosé is produced by blending still white wines and red wines together. This gives a slightly firmer, more structured style of sparkling rosé.

Try these styles:

  • Champagne rosé, France (generally Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Meunier blends)
  • Franciacorta rosé, Italy (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc blends)
  • Cava Rosado, Spain (a blend of white Cava grapes with a minimum of 25% red grapes including: Garnacha, Monastrell, Pinot Noir or Trepat)

Pale Pink to Salmon Coloured, Dry Rosé

Pale coloured rosé wine is generally “direct pressed”. This means that the grapes are only in contact with their skins for a very brief period (4 – 6 hours is common). This style of rosé tends to have fairly restrained aromas ranging from pink grapefruit, to subtle red berry notes, to floral or herbal nuances. They are light in body, often quite crisp and refreshing, with a bone dry finish. Pale, dry rosé is a great alternative to crisp white wines for pre-supper sipping.

Try these styles:

  • Côtes-de-Provence, France (Grenache or Cinsault dominant blends from Provence)
  • Côtes-du-Rhône or Costières-de-Nîmes, France (Grenache, Syrah led blends from the Southern Rhône)
  • Pale Spanish rosado (Tempranillo-led blends from Navarra or Rioja)

Coral to Fuscia Coloured, Dry Rosé

Medium to dark coloured rosé wine is often fermented on its skins like a red wine for anywhere from 10 to 36 hours, before being drawn off its skins and finishing fermentation in a separate vessel. This process is called “saignée” which literally means bleeding off. Rosés made in this style tend to have more intense fruity aromas, a weightier mouthfeel, and firmer structure. They can also have subtle tannic grip on the finish. This denser style of rosé will pair well with a variety of lighter fare. You can serve it in place of light red wines.

Try these styles:

  • Tavel, France (Grenache dominant blends from the Southern Rhône Valley)
  • Navarra, France (Garnacha single varietal wines)
  • Bandol, France (Mourvèdre dominant blends, South Eastern France)
  • Marsannay, France (Pinot Noir from Burgundy) or Sancerre rosé (Pinot Noir, Loire Valley)

Sweet Rosé

Off-dry to sweet styles of rosé have a long-standing and staunchly loyal following. They are often quite low in alcohol, with overtly fruity/candied flavours, and a smooth, rounded palate. Sweetness levels vary from subtle to pronounced. They can be anywhere from pale pink to deep fuscia in colour. These rosé styles are perfect for wine lovers with a sweet tooth.

Try these styles:

  • White Zinfandel, California (medium sweet, low 9 – 10% alcohol, moderate acidity)
  • Pink Moscato, California & Australia (Mosato, often blended with a touch of Merlot, medium sweet to sweet, very low 7.5 to 9% alcohol, moderate acidity, still and semi-sparkling versions)
  • Rosé d’Anjou, France (mainly Grolleau grape, medium sweet, low 10% alcohol, brisk acidity, Loire Valley)
  • Cabernet d’Anjou, France (Cabernet Franc and/ or Cabernet Sauvignon, off-dry, Loire Valley)

Oak Aged, Premium Rosé

Don’t be surprised if you see rosé wines well over the 30$ mark on wine store shelves these days. Many of these, especially from the rosé hot spot of Provence, are starting to employ fine white winemaking techniques for rosé. This treatment is usually reserved for the estate’s best parcels of old vines. Vinification practices include barrel fermentation, lees stirring, long barrel ageing, and so forth. The result is a concentrated yet voluptuous style of rosé with a creamy, layered texture and a complex array of subtle fruity, spicy and woody nuances.

Try these wines:

  • Côtes-de-Provence top cuvées such as: Château d’Esclans “Garrus”, Clos Cibonne “Cuvée Speciale des Vignette”
  • Bandol, France: Château Romassan (owned by Domaine Ott)
  • Rioja, Spain: López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva Rosado
  • Abruzzo, Italy: Valentini Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo

 

Expert Tips to Get Maximum Enjoyment from your Next Glass of Rosé Wine! 

Education Life

LOW CALORIE WINES: HOW TO DRINK WINE ON A DIET

low calorie wines

So you want to lose a few pounds, but you don’t want to give up your evening glass of wine? I am with you! Never fear, there is a way. It does involve moderation though…or failing that, seeking out low calorie wines.

The calories in wine come from wine’s alcohol and its sugar content. Alcohol actually contributes more calories than sugar; 7 calories per gram of alcohol, compared to just 4 calories per gram of sugar. So, you want to pay particular attention to alcohol levels. Want to learn more about the best low calorie wines + great tips and tricks to keep your wine consumption moderate? Just click on the video, and if you like what you see, consider subscribing to my channel so you never miss a weekly episode!

 

Producers Reviews

TASTING THE WINES OF DOMAINE MICHEL SARRAZIN

the wines of michel sarrazin

The Burgundian fog hung thick and relentless in the air as I guided my flashy fiat along the A6 southward to Givry. Exiting the highway at Chalon-sur-Saône, I was amazed to see how quickly I found myself ambling along tiny country lanes, crossing sleepy farming communities

At the top of a steep and winding path, I came across the hamlet of Jambles; part of the Givry appellation. I had arrived at my first visit of the morning: the Domaine Michel Sarrazin & Fils.

The Côte Chalonaise lies due south of Burgundy’s famed Côte d’Or. Aligoté, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vineyards dot the landscape, but here they are interspersed with a variety of other crops and grazing land. From north to south, the top growing areas are: Bouzeron, Rully, Mercurey, Givry, and Montagny.

Apart from the nervy, elegant Aligoté from Bouzeron, the white wines of the Côte Chalonnaise are rarely lauded. The red wines, while often decidedly rustic, can achieve a vibrant fruitiness and silken texture in the right hands, on the right vineyard sites.

The commune of Givry is primarily devoted to red wine production, and is considered by many to offer the most elegant, fragrant Pinot Noirs of the region.

The commune of Givry is primarily devoted to red wine production, and is considered by many to offer the most elegant, fragrant Pinot Noirs of the region. My host for the morning, Guy Sarrazin, is certainly of this opinion. “Givry has a lovely, fruity expression”, he explained, “while Mercurey is generally earthier, and Rully often lacks weight”.  There are no Grand Cru vineyards here, but several excellent Premier Cru sites exist.

The Sarrazins have been growing grapes in and around Givry since the 17th century. The Domaine Michel Sarrazin was established by the current generations’ father in 1964, and it was at this juncture that the winery began bottling and selling their wines. Brothers Guy and Jean Yves are now at the helm, and have gained critical acclaim in France and abroad for the great value and consistent, high quality of their range.

Domaine Michel Sarrazin consists of 35 hectares in the appellations of Bourgogne AOC, Bourgogne Aligoté, Maranges, Givry, and Mercurey.

I was shown into a cool, dark cellar used to stock boxed, ready-to-ship orders. The tasting bar was tucked into the corner of this charmless room. Surveying my surroundings and my gruff host, I wondered what what I was in for. Thankfully as the morning progressed, Guy warmed to his subject and the twinkle in his eye was undeniable as he poured his finest reds.

Today, the Domaine Michel Sarrazin consists of 35 hectares in the appellations of Bourgogne AOC, Bourgogne Aligoté, Maranges, Givry, and Mercurey. The brothers produce 25 different wines ranging in style from crémant, to white, rosé, and red. The estates’ top wines hail from their Givry 1er Cru vineyards dotted through out the appellation. The vineyards are farmed according to the French lutte raisonnée system (literally translated as “the reasoned fight”, basically meaning that chemical sprays are strictly limited; used only when absolutely necessary).

All of Sarrazin’s wines, from the most humble to the grandest are matured in top quality French oak, sourced exclusively from the François Frères cooperage. Sarrazin believes that judicious oak maturation brings the structural lift and flavour complexity he seeks to enhance the individual expression of each terroir. The duration of ageing and percentage of new barrels used depends on the vineyard.

Overall, the wines were a revelation for me. The earthiness and rusticity of certain wines served to heighten complexity, underscoring lively fruit, floral, and spiced aromas. I was treated to a lengthy tasting, covering the majority of Guy’s range.

The fantastic value and dangerous drinkability of Guy’s Bourgogne AOC wines impressed me. Sarrazin’s Givry 1er Crus showed how versatile the wines of the appellation can be, from the elegant Champs Lalot, to the weightier, firmer Grande Berge.

Tasting notes from my favourite wines below.

 

Bourgogne Aligoté “Les Charnailles” 2017

Aromas of white flowers, lemon, grapefruit and anis hints feature on the nose. The palate is defined by its nervy acidity, light body, tangy citrus fruit flavours, and saline mineral notes on the lifted finish.

Givry 1er Cru “Champs Lalot” Blanc 2017

Though quite restrained on the nose, this medium bodied white comes into its own on the palate. Fresh, with attractive yellow apple and pear flavours, mingled with buttery notes, and hints of green almond. The subtle phenolic grip on the finish boulsters the structure nicely prolonging the lemon-infused finish.

Bourgogne Rouge Vieilles Vignes 2017

Pretty red cherry, raspberry and earthy nuances appear with aeration. Light in colour and body, this brisk red is brimming with juicy red berry flavours. The finish is smooth and rounded.

Givry “Les Dracy” 2017

Quite a light, lifted style of Givry, with restrained red berry and mossy, forest floor notes. Smooth and linear on the palate, with tangy red fruit flavours and lovely, silky tannins.

Givry 1er Cru “Champs Lalot” Rouge 2017

Very elegant, with a heady violet perfume underscored by raspberry, red cherry and cedar nuances. The palate is incredibly tangy and firmly structured, with lively acidity, medium body, tart red fruit flavours, and fine-grained tannins.

Givry 1er Cru “Les Bois Gauthiers” 2017

Discreet, with an earthier, less fruit forward expression than Champs Lalot. The palate is weightier, with quite firm, chewy tannins and lingering herbal, red berry notes.

Givry 1er Cru “Grande Berge” 2017

Intially restrained, the Grande Berge gains quickly in intensity, with intriguing exotic spice, red berry, red currant, and cedar notes. Crisp, vibrant acidity is matched by a very taut structure on this medium bodied red. It finishes quite earthy, with firm tannins and lingering mocha flavours.

Givry 1er Cru “Grande Berge” 2015

The 2015 vintage of Grande Berge is highly aromatic, with intense red cherry, black plum, and raspberry notes. Still tightly knit, but far weightier on the palate, with an abundance of ripe red berries, mocha, and spice. The tannins are broad and ripe.

Reviews

TASTING THE WINES OF DOMAINE TRAPET

the wines of domaine trapet

My week in Burgundy started off with a resounding bang. Tasting the wines of Domaine Trapet is an experience to be savoured. I would have appreciated it all the more if I hadn’t gotten lost…an impressive feat considering that the winery is on the main street and I drove straight passed it before turning off to meander along the side streets.

I was received my Madame Trapet (senior). There can be no greater positive publicity than having your mother pour your wines. With quiet pride and great dignity, Madame Trapet related the estate’s history finishing her tale with the feats of her talented son, Jean-Louis, and his equally skilled wife, Andrée.

Domaine Trapet is an 18-hectare estate with impressive vineyard holdings in and around Gevrey-Chambertin; notably five Premier Cru sites, and three of the most sought after Grand Crus: Chapelle-Chambertin, Latricières-Chambertin, and the mighty Le Chambertin.

Domaine Trapet is an 18-hectare estate with impressive vineyard holdings in and around Gevrey-Chambertin; notably five Premier Cru sites, and three of the most sought after Grand Crus: Chapelle-Chambertin, Latricières-Chambertin, and the mighty Le Chambertin. 

Seven generations of the Trapet family have tended the estate’s Gevrey-Chambertin vineyards. In the 1920s, the Trapets had amassed one of the largest vineyard holdings on the Côte d’Or, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that the family began bottling their wines. In 1993, the winery – until then known as Domaine Louis Trapet – was divided to allow a new generation to go their separate ways. It was then that the estates of Domaine Rossignol-Trapet and Domaine Trapet Père & Fils emerged.

It was also around this time that Jean-Louis Trapet, now at the helm of Domaine Trapet Père & Fils, decided to farm the estate according to biodynamic principles. Madame Trapet chuckled at this stage of the story, as she explained how the young Jean-Louis, fresh from his viticultural studies, announced the news to his father. “We had no idea what he was talking about” she said. It took some persuading, but Jean-Louis was adamant, and within a few growing seasons, the elder Trapets were convinced.

The vineyards of Domaine Trapet are certified biodynamic. “We are so much more in tune with our vines since making the switch”.

“We are so much more in tune with our vines since making the switch”, explained Madame Trapet. “They are healthier, hardier, and give far more expressive fruit”. The vineyards of Domaine Trapet now hold the Demeter biodynamic certification.

Winemaking practices have also evolved dramatically over the past 25 years. Once known for its heavily extracted, lavishly oaked style, the wines of Domaine Trapet are now the epitome of Burgundian elegance, purity, and finesse. Vinfication techniques depend on the vintage but generally consist of a brief period of cold maceration, followed by fermentation in open top wood fermenters with partial inclusion of stems (30 to 50%). Maceration is long and slow, with delicate extraction via punch-down and then gentle pump-overs in the later stages. Regional and village wines see 20% new French oak over 12 months of ageing, while Premier and Grand Crus are matured  18 – 20 months in 35 – 50% new French oak. Sulphur is added only at bottling, in minute doses.

Our tasting centred around barrel samples of the 2017 vintage. I was treated to another of Madame Trapet’s radiant smiles as she spoke of the 2017 harvest. “It was a summer marked by heat waves, and blessed with beneficial rains late August” she said. 2017 gave a desperately needed bumper crop to the grape growers of Burgundy. After a string of growing seasons ravaged by frost, hail, and wet weather, 2017 was a blessing. ‘The wines are really approachable with ripe, rounded tannins”.

The wines of Domaine Trapet are the epitome of Burgundian elegance, purity, and finesse.

After a brief, enjoyable chat with Jean and then Jean-Louis, we proceeded to taste. My notes below.

Many thanks Madame Trapet for giving so generously of your time. Your exquisite wines could not have been poured for a more appreciative palate!

Marsannay 2017

Bright red currant, red cherry, and black plum aromas on the nose, underpinned by mossy, forest floor notes. Lovely tangy acidity on the medium weight palate, with moderate depth of  juicy red and black berry flavours. Silky tannins frame the fresh, lifted finish. Very approachable.

Gevrey-Chambertin 2017

Wonderfully fragrant, spiced nose, initially showing lots of crushed raspberry, blackberry and cassis fruit. Earthy, cedar notes develop upon aeration. Quite brisk on the palate, medium in body, with a fairly firm structure giving way to surprisingly velvetty tannins and subtle oaked nuances. Hints of wet leaf and black berries linger on the finish.

Gevrey-Chambertin “Ostrea” Vieilles Vignes 2017

Ostrea refers to the oyster shell fossils found in this Gevrey-Chambertin vineyard boasting 60 to 90-year-old vines. Similar in fragrance and freshness to the precedent Gevrey-Chambertin, but fleshier and far weightier overall. Fine depth of tangy red berry and cherry flavours mingle with notes of spice, tobacco, and cedar. Firm, yet ripe tannins and subtle cedar, spice define the finish.

Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru “Capita” 2017

The Capita bottling is a blend of three Premier Cru sites: En Combottes, En Ergot, and Les Combottes. Seductive ripe black berry and black cherry aromas , with underlying violet, tobacco and cedar nuances. Really vibrant and dense on the palate, with a highly concentrated core leading on to ripe, chewy tannins. Brisk through out, with a lifted finish featuring tangy fruit and cedar hints.

Chapelle Chambertin Grand Cru 2017

This outstanding cru lies in the southern part of Gevrey=Chambertin, on a gentle slope just below the Clos de Bèze. Incredibly elegant, with a delicacy and intense florality that recalls top Chambolle-Musigny. Highly complex on the nose with vibrant red berries, spice, underbrush and cedar underpinning the enticing flowery perfume. It starts quite soft and reticent on the palate but quickly develops an expansive nature that crescendos to a powerful finale with broad, fleshy tannins. Pronounced yet harmonious toasty, vanilla notes from 18 months’ ageing in 50% new French oak frames the lengthy finish.

Le Chambertin Grand Cru 2017

The most famed cru in Gevrey, to which the village paid hommage in 1847 by affixing the word Chambertin to the official town name. Trapet’s 2017 Le Chambertin displays impressive density, concentration and ripeness. The aromatic range seems endless, with red cherry, red plum, crushed raspberry, mocha, exotic spice, tobacco, and gamey nuances all revealing themselves in a well-articulated, harmonious manner. Very firm and weighty on the palate, with brisk acidity, heady fruit and marked, yet fine-grained tannins underscored by finely integrated toasted oak. Incredibly persistent, with lingering hints of leather, tobacco, earth and wet leaf.

Life Wines

BURGUNDY REVISITED: WINE TASTING IN BURGUNDY

wine tasting in burgundy

On a cool and blustery day late December, I was speeding along the route nationale 74 in a rented, mint green Fiat 500. My destination? Gevrey-Chambertin to kick off a few days of wine tasting in Burgundy. I smiled as I passed the blink-and-you-miss-it village of Prémeaux-Prissey and a flood of memories assailed me.

I arrived in Burgundy in 2004 to study International Wine Commerce at the CFPPA de Beaune. I didn’t drive stick, my French was lousy, and my only acquaintance was an elderly widow. To make matters worse it was November – the month where a thick, grey fog descends over Burgundy and rarely lifts before the following March.

To say that my first couple of months were challenging is a vast understatement.

I had found accommodations at Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron in the sleepy town of Prémeaux-Prissey. Slowly but surely my French improved. I made friendships that I cherish to this day. And I drank some incredible wine. If someone had told me back then how lucky I was to be drinking top Burgundy on a regular basis, perhaps I would have sipped it more slowly and thoughtfully.

It has been 12 years since I called Burgundy home. After my formation and a two-year stint sourcing small lots of high-end Burgundy for North American private clients and importers, I moved on, to South Africa, then Avignon, and eventually home, to Montréal. I make the pilgrimage to Beaune most every year though. The siren song of Chambolle always lure me back. And there is nothing quite like popping a warm gougères in your mouth, washed down with a taut, tangy Puligny.

On this particular visit mid December, I was on a fact-finding mission. I have been drinking Burgundy in a fairly nonchalant way these past 10 years. But with the Master of Wine tasting exam looming (and not my first stab at it….sigh), it is time to get serious.

I had tastings lined up at excellent estates from Marsannay all the way down to Givry. The goal was to re-visit Burgundian wine styles and winemaking practices.

Much has changed in Burgundy since the early 2000s. Wine producers are far more ecologically conscience, wines are handled less reductively pre-fermentation, and the percentage of new oak – even at the Grand Cru level – has decreased significantly.

The resultant wines are, for the most part, silkier, lighter, and more ethereal than I remember. The difference between appellations is also less clear cut. Individual winemaking styles and the unique expression of each climat (vineyard plot) distinguishes the wines far more distinctly today.

The following series of articles covers my visits, tastings, and impressions from a few days’ intensive wine tasting in Burgundy.

 

 

Reviews

What Makes Pinot Noir Special?

what makes pinot noir special

Pinot Noir is one of the most beloved red wine grapes on the planet. Curious to know what makes Pinot Noir special ? Check out this quick video guide to learn about Pinot Noir, what it tastes like, where to find the best Pinot Noir, and how to serve it.

If you love Pinot Noir and want to try other, similar grapes, here are some great options: Gamay (Beaujolais), Dolcetto (Piedmont), Cinsault (Central Coast of California, or Swartland in South Africa), or Nerello Mascalese (Mount Etna, Sicily).

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Education

How Long Does an Open Bottle of Wine Last?

How long does an open bottle of wine last

How long does an open bottle of wine last? You want to drink moderately, but you don’t want your leftover wine going bad too quickly! So how do you go about keeping wine fresh and how long does wine last after opening? Check out this wine 101 video for great tips on how to preserve wine after opening.

If you like this video, consider subscribing to my YouTube mastering wine channel so you never miss a weekly episode.

Education

WHAT IS NATURAL WINE?

What is natural wine

If you have been into a wine bar or trendy wine-focused restaurant in recent years, you have likely come across natural wine. Perhaps you were surprised by the colour or the flavours. Maybe you loved it, potentially you hated it! Still not sure exactly sure what is natural wine?

Learn all about natural wine in the short wine education video below where I break down: what is natural wine, and why wine experts have such fierce, conflicting emotions about this unique new wine style.

Life

A GLASS RAISED TO WINE MENTORS LOST

Wine Mentors

The recent passing of one of the wine world’s legends, Gerard Basset, has been on my mind a lot recently. Not because I knew him personally, though I wish that I had had that privilege. It was the remarks that people made about him being a mentor; someone who inspired wine enthusiasts to become scholars, and wine scholars to pursue ever loftier academic goals.

His death also made me re-visit the brutal realities of cancer.

I had such a teacher once. A man that instilled his passion for wine in me long before I could (legally) imbibe. A self-proclaimed ignorant farm boy from Saskatchewan who read every tome on wine grapes, vintages, regions and producers religiously. A man who carefully purchased the best vintage Ports of each of his children’s birth years to drink with them at their weddings.

Except that he only made it to one wedding, at a time when his Port drinking days were long passed.

The Christmas of 2006 started off with a bang. I was finishing up a job in Beaune and preparing to leave for a winemaking stint in South Africa early in the New Year. I had just flown home for the holiday. My father was standing over my open suitcase, watching with child-like glee as I pulled out all the smelly cheeses and pâtés that I had smuggled over. With our bounty on display and the week’s menus in mind, we headed down to the cellar to mull over the wines.

This was how it always went. He adored the ceremony of opening his carefully aged treasures (generally Bordeaux, red Burgundies, and Mosel Rieslings). He would pour a small glass, sniff, taste, and then, when the wine was good, a slow smile would spread across his face. He would say, “not bad, not bad at all” and then pass the glass over to me.

When I first decided to pursue a career in wine, he said to me, “You will have a wonderful time. You won’t make any money, but you’ll have a wonderful time”. On the eve of my initial departure to study wine commerce in Burgundy he pulled out a bottle of 1982 Léoville-Las Cases that I will remember to my dying day.

And then, on Christmas day in 2006, everything changed in an instant. We had just finished gorging ourselves on turkey and fixings, and were happily slumped in our chairs, paper hats askew, when my father suddenly became so ashen, he looked as though he had seen a ghost. The episode passed and he shrugged it off, though I won’t soon forget the nervous look on his face as he sipped his postprandial dram.

It was cancer. More specifically lung cancer that had already metastasized to his brain. The location of the 7 different brain tumors made any curative treatment impossible. I went off to South Africa, blithely ignorant of his fate. He didn’t tell me until my return because he so wanted me to enjoy my experience.

When I next saw him, the shrunken man in front of me with the big, haunted eyes seemed almost a stranger. On my mother’s urging (and bankrolling), my sister and I had arrived with 12 bottles of top Burgundies. I had even found a bottle of 1930s Nuits-St-Georges from an old, long deceased wine producer friend of my parents.

I brought them out with such pride only to be faced with a watery smile. Though he was able to share a few bottles with us, his ailing body soon couldn’t face wine’s acidic bite. His brilliant mind remained to the end though, and he continued his love affair with wine vicariously through me to the end.

Today would have been his 77th birthday. Tonight, I will open the finest treasure my paltry wine cellar has to offer and raise a glass to you, Ronald Cole, and to you, Gerard Basset, two wine lovers taken from their families and all those they inspired, far too soon.