Live Palo Cortado Sherry Tasting !

I was thrilled to be able to take part in another live sherry tasting during this year’s Sherry Week. What a rush to be connected via the Internet with other sherry and fine wine lovers from across the globe. I was selected to participate in the special palo cortado tasting on Tuesday, November 3 at 19:00 CEST.

Range of Palo Cortado Sherries

Range of Palo Cortado Sherries

Ruben from Sherry Notes once again graciously organized the tasting and mailed us the samples a few weeks in advance. It was hard to resist opening them before the big day but I let them rest in their box in a nice cool and dark spot.

 

Tuesday evening, I was also scheduled to teach The Chef’s Table at Cook’n With Class that evening, which is a 5 course paired wine dinner. I was able to sneak out occasionally and check the Twitter feed #SherryTT and give my two cents while tasting the wines simultaneously.

 

Since my class was featuring various French wines paired with Chef Alex’s fabulous creations, I was able to bring the conversation full-circle broach the discussion of sherry & food pairings with my clients. Sherry wine for me is so versatile and each style calls out for wonderful food pairings.

 

It’s difficult in France to find even the simplest fino sherry. I’ve been known to bring 6 bottles back with me on the Eurostar when I was travelling frequently to London. So it was such a treat to have these fabulous wines and to be able to share them online with other sherry lovers.

 

Like all fine wines, wine makes the food better and food makes the wine better. But to be honest, some of these old palo cortados were so beautiful on their own, I couldn’t even imagine some pairings for them!

 

What is a palo cortado sherry?

 

According to the Consejo Regulador, the body that oversees the production and protection of sherry, a palo cortado is “a wine combining the delicacy and aromatic refinement of an amontillado with the structure and body of an oloroso.”

 

Technically, I figure the fuller body comes from the fact that palo cortados usually spend less time under flor, which loves to eat the glycerol in wine. Glycerol is what makes a wine taste “fat” in your mouth, so in other words, a palo cortado would usually be a bit fuller bodied than an amontillado where the flor has had sufficient time to eat away some of that body.

 

The delicacy would come from the fact that this wine was (traditionally) originally destined to be a fino, so the best quality and most delicate grape must would have been used. The wines meant to be exposed to air (olorosos) would be potentially a bit clunkier and less refined from the get-go.

 

After trying to wrap your brain around this definition and process, let it be known that this natural progression of flor changing inexplicably is probably not so realistic in today’s high-tech and modern wineries of Jerez. It’s just not commercially viable to wait around for a spontaneous palo cortado to appear.

 

Whether the old fashioned method or the more intentional method is used, both offer us a wine made from top quality wines with much finesse and delicate characteristics that also benefit from added richness and complexity of an oloroso. In other words, palo cortado is a win-win situation in my book!

 

Here was the outstanding range of palo cortados that were sent to the participants to drink live during the event:

 

Palo Cortado Viejo C.P. Valdespino the CP stands for Calle Ponse, which I remember vividly from my trip to Jerez. This is the name of the street where the wines had been kept. A great start to the tasting with its saline touch.

 

Antique Palo Cortado Fernando de Castilla this was one of the palo cortados I had previously had when I visited Fernando de Castilla in Jerez. I had called ahead to make an appointment in Jan, the owner and ended up bringing with me 10 other sherry lovers that I had picked up along the way during my WSET trip to Jerez. He was so pleasant and gracious and opened lots of bottles for us. He made me a client for life! This is wine is fabulous.

 

Palo Cortado V.O.R.S. (Very Old Rare Sherry) Bodegas Tradicion another wine I had tasted in the bodega and even brought a bottle home (now long gone). Wonderful complexity and superbly long finish!

 

Privilegio V.O.R.S. Emilio Hidalgo was the show stopper tonight with the most beautiful nose as well as a spicy and smoky complexity that was unprecedented.

 

Apostoles V.O.R.S. Gonzalez Byass I had tasted this as well at the GB bodega and previously had purchased a bottle to Fortnum and Mason in London to bring home. This was our finale sherry tonight and was great in this final position with the sweet finish.

 

Regarding food and wine pairing, palo cortados are just as versatile as the rest of the range of sherries produced. In the case of the wines tasted tonight, all of them would be positively gorgeous even on their own based on their age and complexity. But they also called out for cured or smoked meats, hard cheeses and complexly flavored soups or sauces. Remember to serve these fine sherries roughly at cellar temperature (12°C or 55°F). Warmer than this, as with most fortified wines, the higher temperatures will accentuate the alcohol and reduce the pleasure.

 

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Porcini

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Porcini

 

All of these definitions, interpretations, mysteries and myths behind palo cortado can make one quite thirsty! So I’d say go out and try a few and see which you prefer best. It’s what’s in the glass that counts! I look forward to next year’s events. But don’t wait an entire year to buy a bottle of sherry! Leave a comment below with your sherry experiences.

 

Cheers,

 

Preston

 

Preston Mohr

Paris by the Glass

 

International Sherry Week 2015!

The simple mention of the word “sherry” usually conjures up images of grey-haired ladies sipping a cloyingly sweet wine out of thimble-sized glasses, probably while playing bridge in a cold English farmhouse. Or perhaps images of an old, dusty bottle in the back of the liquor cabinet used exclusively for cooking purposes also comes to mind?

Sherry casks or "butts"

Sherry casks or “butts”

Sherry is indeed one of the most misunderstood wines of the world, offering a dizzying array of styles from bone-dry to lusciously sweet. With a bit of education, there is no reason why sherry cannot find its place again as one of the world’s most sought after wines. After years of declining sales, this fortified Spanish wine is seeing a renaissance in the fine wine community and is now found in the best restaurants and wine bars of the world. The cocktail and mixology culture has also brought back this fortified Spanish wine into the limelight.

Sherry vineyards

Sherry vineyards

I was honored to be able to visit Jerez de la Frontera in the Andalucía region to learn more about these fascinating wines and their time-honored production methods. I was the guest of Gonzalez-Byass, one of the largest producers in Jerez. I was able to see a very historic, if slightly corporate, large-scale production from this angle and also took time on my own to visit some smaller boutique producers to gain a better perspective.

Trying sherry from the traditional venencia, which is dipped into the cask, at Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla

Trying sherry from the traditional venencia, which is dipped into the cask, at Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla

My stash of wines is long gone but fortunately the memories are still as fresh as a glass of Manzanilla on a hot summer day. For the last two years, I’ve been lucky to participate in a live sherry tasting via Twitter that is organized by the generous Ruben of Sherry Notes, the preeminent blog discussing all things related to sherry.

 

In anticipation of International Sherry Week 2015 (November 2-8), I wanted to write a brief introduction to these wines. I’ll be taking part in the Palo Cortado tasting live on Twitter on Tuesday November 3rd from 19:00-20:00 CEST. Join us with the hashtag #SherryTT to “taste” along the way.

 

Sherry is produced from the Palomino grape variety grown in the “triangle” of land located between the cities of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa Maria. These vineyards form what is Europe’s most southerly vine-growing area.

A painting of the Palomino grape in the private collection at Bodegas Tradicion

A painting of the Palomino grape in the private collection at Bodegas Tradicion

The juice from these grapes is fermented into a bone-dry white wine. The next step will be to fortify this young wine with a neutral grape spirit. Not only does this step help determines the wine’s future and how it will evolve during the ageing process, it historically allowed for the wines to travel as they could better support long journeys at sea.

The passionate Antonio Flores, winemaker at Gonzalez-Byass

The passionate Antonio Flores, winemaker at Gonzalez-Byass

After fortification, the sherry is then aged in a unique fashion: the solera system. When a newly made wine is added to the top row of barrels in the system, existing older wines are blended downward to create space for the young wine. In doing so, young wines are mixed with medium aged wines, medium aged wines with older wines, and older wines with even older wines and so on. When the wine is ready to be bottled, no more than 30% of the bottom row (the oldest wine) of the system will be drawn off and sold.

Sherry casks or "butts"

Sherry casks or “butts”

The bodegas at Gonzalez Byass, home of Tio Pepe Fino

The bodegas at Gonzalez Byass, home of Tio Pepe Fino

This method of fractional blending gives wines of incredible complexity and nuanced flavor, while ensuring consistency from batch to batch. When you buy a bottle of sherry, the wines inside the bottle may in fact be anywhere from 5 to 50 years old!

 

Here is a brief explanation of the major styles of sherry:

 

Fino (or manzanilla – a fino from the city of Sanlúcar) : the lightest and most pale style of sherry, aged in barrels under a layer of naturally occurring yeast, or flor in Spanish, which protects the wine. Finos are the traditional pairing for tapas such as Iberico ham, olives, almonds, and seafood of any kind. They are incredibly versatile wines and can be consumed with a wide array of lighter fare.

Pumpkin soup and some tuna

Pumpkin soup and some tuna, with a glass of Manzanilla

Oloroso : Fortified to a higher degree than a fino, this wine will never grow flor, allowing the wine to age in contact with oxygen. The result is burnished in color, rich and nutty with a dash of caramel. Olorosos pair beautifully with red meat and game dishes, meat stews, hard cheeses and charcuterie.

Croquetas

Croquetas, great with any sherry!

Amontillado : An intermediate style of sherry that starts life protected under flor as a fino but will be exposed to oxygen after the flor dies off. The finest examples combine the delicate nature of a fino with the power and body of an oloroso, tasting of roasted nuts and toffee with an underlying elegance of a fino. Amontillados go well with rich soups, poultry, mushroom based dishes and pâtés.

 

Palo Cortado: This is the most elusive, secretive and mysterious variety of sherry and the ones I cannot wait to try during the tasting next week. This sherry starts its life like a Fino but the flor dies off for some inexplicable reason, giving the wine more Amontillado characteristics. The end result is a wine with the finesh of the best musts destined for the top wines but with some oxidative ageing, adding to the complexity of these special wines. I enjoy Palo Cortado on its own for its finesse, but try it with cheese or foie gras!

A beautiful palette of colors

A beautiful palette of colors

The above sherries are all dry with less than 5 gm/litre residual sugar, however within the Jerez region, sweet wines are also produced from the Pedro Ximinez grape which can be blended in to dry sherry to make cream sherry. PX or cream sherries can be served as a digestive or with dried or candied fruits, nuts or chocolate.

The region’s history and unique production methods combined with sherry’s flexibility in food pairing make it one of the most interesting wines to try. Sherry also represents an excellent value for money and an opportunity to try some very old wines without breaking the bank. I guarantee that once you try a good one, the complex and lingering flavors will continue to haunt you, drawing you back for more and making you a sherry convert for life.

 

Cheers,

Preston

Wine Pairing: Goat Cheese

I am constantly singing the praises of the classic and fail-proof pairing of a firm crottin de chavignol goat cheese and a crisp sauvignon blanc from the neighbouring vineyards of Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé in the Loire Valley. This is a truly show-stopping pairing if you’ve never tried it before! I systematically covert goat cheese haters into goat cheese lovers with this combination. It’s no wonder that it works so well, seeing that the two products have been made side by side in the same terroir for over hundreds of years.

CrottinCrottin de Chavignol Goat Cheese

Crottin de Chavignol Goat Cheese

I’ve decided to branch out from my wine comfort zone with this month’s cheese & wine suggestion. Yes, even wine professionals such as myself occasionally fall back on known territory. I will still go back to one of my all-time favorite cheeses: the gorgeous little crottin de chavignol. This small, slightly acidic and firm goat cheese can be found in various degrees of affinage, or ageing, in most good cheese shops all over France. The best will be made with fresh, unpasteurized goat’s milk and allowed to age at least 4 weeks before it’s sold. In and around the town of Chavignol, you can often find much older specimens, which have developed a fine layer of blue or grey mold, adding to the complexity and already intense character of this cheese.

Mercurey Domaine François Raquillet

Mercurey Domaine François Raquillet

The lively acidity and freshness of the 2013 Mercurey from Domaine François Raquillet would make a perfect pair. Coming from the Côte Chalonnaise, a region found further south from the more prestigious Burgundian appellations, this wine offers immediate pleasure with loads of raspberry and black cherry fruit. Serve this wine around 15C or 60F to show off the sleekness and to further emphasise how crisp and pure pinot noir from Burgundy can be.

 

If you do not have this exact wine, a supple and soft red Sancerre or even a cabernet franc from another Loire region would do the trick with this dense and flavor-packed goat cheese.

 

So remember to branch out from your usual pairings and try something new! Let us know what you think!

 

Cheers,

Preston

Wine and Food Pairing : Rosé

Summer has been exceptionally hot here in Paris and the city has become one big party in the street. It’s has long-been officially time to sit outside and drink cold, uncomplicated yet satisfying wines. Rosé seems to still the the tipple of choice out there in the cafes.

 

A cool glass of rosé in Paris

A cool glass of rosé in Paris

 

You might wonder, is rosé just for quaffing at a sidewalk bistro or can it pair well with food? I happen to think it can be a wonderful pair for many foods, especially those with gutsy flavors of the South of France, laden with garlic, tomatoes and herbes de provence.

 

Rosé often has a bad reputation of being a cheap, inexpensive and uninteresting. Or perhaps we associate it visually with the sickeningly sweet White Zinfandel wines that our mothers consumed in great quantity in the 80s.

 

However, more and more, we can find great examples of fabulous rosés that can be very charming as an apéritif or even to masterfully accompany gastronomic meals. Think of rosé like an intermediate style between and white and a red wine, which makes them naturally very food-friendly and fun to pair, especially during summer and al fresco dining.

 

Most rosé wines are meant to be uncomplicated crowd-pleasers. I know that when I open a bottle with friends, it’s not necessary to contemplate or to smell and savour for hours. It’s for thirst quenching and drinking chilled! And don’t look down on those that drop in an ice cube or two if the weather is very hot! It has been known to happen.

 

You can refer to my blog post here from a few months back to refresh your memory on the production methods. The color can often dictate what types of foods the rosé will best accompany. For example, a pale salmon hued rosé from Cotes de Provence can usually be treated like a white wine and best accompany fish, shellfish and white meats. These wines also offer incredible refreshment value with Provençal style foods rich in flavors like olives, garlic and oily fish like anchovies or grilled sardines.

Tapenade, a provencal olive spread

Tapenade, a provencal olive spread

Try small toasts with green or black olive tapenade, a delicious spread of olives, anchovies & capers. Or why not try your hand at making the French version of focaccia: fougasse, an easy to make flat yeast bread studded with olives, bits of bacon or chunks of savory goat cheese. You can even find them ready-made in Parisian markets and bakeries, sometimes dusted with the lovely herbes de Provence and wet with a drizzle of olive oil. Served along side a chilled glass of rosé, this makes for a perfect aperitif outside in the sun! Or why not the “pizza” of the South of France: a pissaladière?

 

Pissaladière, an onion and anchovy "pizza"

Pissaladière, an onion and anchovy “pizza”

 

With deeper colored wines that have seen more skin contact such as roses from the Loire Valley or Bordeaux, pair more robust foods such as grilled meats or slightly spicy foods.The rosés from these regions are also classic pairings for Asian take-out food (shrimp spring rolls, anyone?). These wines also have an affinity for North African dishes like couscous or long-cooked stews called tajines. The wine will accent both the savoury and slightly sweet element coming from the dried fruit often used in these dishes. Or crack open a bottle of this type of rosé with dishes like pizza and rustic pastas in red sauce.

 

Heading back to the South, try the fuller-bodied examples from Bandol or Tavel with the cheese course. I like to take soft style goat cheeses and drizzle them with a bit of good extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle a bit of dried herbes de Provence on top. Or pair them with the powerful and delicious regional goat cheese wrapped in a chestnut leaf called Banon.

 

In most cases, rosés in France are dry wines, so don’t see pink and think sweet. These are not dessert style wines so do not be tempted to pair them with a raspberry tart or anything sweet.

 

And remember that wine and food pairing is highly subjective and all about enjoying your company without overcomplicating matters. I can’t think of a better wine to enjoy with friends than a chilled bottle of rosé ! Cheers!

Château Carbonnieux – Grand Cru Classé de Graves

I had the great pleasure of visiting Château Carbonnieux recently on a visit of Bordeaux. I have always been a big fan on their legendary and long-lived white wines and was thrilled when we were welcomed by the château’s owner for a private tour, tasting and sumptuous lunch.

 

Château Carbonnieux

Château Carbonnieux

 

Most people associate Bordeaux with red wine and many don’t realize that the region produces some gorgeous dry white wines from Sauvignon Blanc & Sémillon grapes along with lusciously sweet wines from the same varieties. I’ve long been a fan of the more restrained style of Sauvignon Blanc from this moderate climate and it’s truly a marvellous match with Sémillon which brings a waxy depth to the wines and tames the acidity and greenness that Sauvignon Blanc can have.

 

Château Carbonnieux was founded in the 18th century by Bendictine monks of the Sainte-Croix abbey. In 1956 is was bought by Marc Perrin, whose two grandsons still own and manage the estate today. Family run châteaux are becoming a rarity in Bordeaux. I feel the Perrin’s attention to detail and pride in the family business can be tasted in their lovely red and white wines. Their wines were classified as “grands crus classés de Graves” in 1959, making them one of the only estates to have both their white and red wines classified. Any classic car lover who is in the area should make a stop to visit the collection of immpecably kept old cars that the Perrin’s keep at the château

 

Château Carbonnieux is located mote specifically in the Graves appellation, just south of Bordeaux city and is easy to reach from the city center. Graves is concerted the ancient birthplace of the vine in and around the Bordeaux area, dating to Roman times. In 1987, the best terroirs of Graves banded together to create their own AOC – Pessac-Léognan.

Château Carbonnieux

Château Carbonnieux

 

What sets the best white Bordeaux apart from other whites is that the best are barrel aged, adding complexity, longevity and spicy and smoky aromas to the wine. These are food wines par excellence and pair deliciously with poultry in creamy sauces (think Bresse chicken in cream with morel mushrooms), Asian fusion, cheeses or more classic rich fish or seafood dishes. They offer immediate and fruity pleasure in their youth and rich, dense honeyed complexity in their older age.

Barrels at  Château Carbonnieux

Barrels at  Château Carbonnieux

 

At Cook’n With Class during my Cheese & Wine class, I often serve their second wine, Château Tour Léognan paired with a dense, aged goat cheese. This wine makes for a really classy example of the white wines of Bordeaux. It’s made from the exact same terroir as their “grand vin” but from younger vines that haven’t yet reached their optimal age for making the more concentrated and complex grand vin. Château Tour Léognan offers a more accessible, younger and fruity baby-brother version of the grand vin. I love showing this wine along side a more classic 100% sauvignon blanc from the center of the Loire to further discuss how terroir influences the taste of a wine and how barrel ageing and human touch can further alter the flavor of a wine.

 

Chateau Tour Leognan

Chateau Tour Leognan

 

I hope this post will inspire you to try more of Bordeaux white wines. Especially at a time when many of us are being priced out of the more prestigious and well known reds of the region, the whites can offer a great value for money and the best do age gracefully for many years to come.

 

Cheers!

Preston

Transporting wine home from France

 Wine transport expert Paul Budny of Lazenne helps us answer these important questions!

 

Transporting wine home from France – by Paul Budny of Lazenne 

 

Bring wine home from France

Bring wine home from France

With wine playing such an important role in the lives of the French, Paris is naturally chock-full of wine stores, wine bars, and restaurants featuring excellent French wines. For those wishing to go a little closer to the source, there are wine regions that are within a few hours drive from Paris, such as Champagne, Burgundy, or the Loire Valley. Being around so much extraordinary wine, often from small producers who do not export, many naturally want to bring some of it back home.

 

One of the simplest ways to do this is to bring back your purchased wine with you on the airplane and this is easier than you may think.

 

The Rules:

 

Wine is permitted on the airplane in your checked baggage (also known as hold baggage in the UK). The only restriction relates to alcohol content. Travelers can’t transport bottles with more than 70% alcohol content, and can only take 5 litres of alcohol between 24% and 70%. There is no limit on liquids with alcohol content below 24%, and most wine fits into this bracket.

 

Please note that alcohol is not permitted in carry-on baggage (also known as cabin baggage in the UK), due to the liquid restrictions that ban liquid containers of more than 3.4 ounces (100 ml).

 

We do, of course, have to ensure that we meet the airline’s baggage weight limits. For reference it is good to know a typical wine bottle weighs between 2.4 and 3.3 lbs (1.1 and 1.4 kg).  International flights typically permit baggage up to 50 lbs (23 kg), Inter-European flights have varying weight limits, which are dependent on the airline’s policy.

 

Chic & Practical Wine Suitcase

Chic & Practical Wine Suitcase

 

Next is the subject of duties. We advise to always declare your alcohol.

One large point of confusion is between duty-free allowance and what happens beyond that allowance.  When flying between European Union countries we are entitled to a generous duty-free limit of 90 litres of wine for instance.

 

As another example, the United States allows only 1 duty-free litre of alcohol per person. However, the duty over the 1 litre, for wine destined for personal use, is only $0.75-$2 per bottle.  Due to the fact that it’s so low, most customs agents do not bother to collect it.

 

Check out this handy Flying with Wine and Alcohol 101 guide for alcohol duty rates in other countries.

 

Protecting your wine bottles for transport:

 

If wrapping your wine bottles in clothing feels too dicey, there are a number of wine accessories that will give you peace of mind. Lazenne specializes in these types of wine travel products. Based out of France, they can ship directly to your hotel.

 

For one or two bottles there’s the reusable WineCradle, which inflates around your bottle and protect it in your luggage. This handy protector can handle a regular-sized bottle up to a magnum!

 

 

Wine Craddle

Wine Craddle

 

If you would like to transport a larger number of bottles, it’s worth investing in the Wine Check luggage. This specialized wine carrier, which features wheels and a handy strap, can carry 12 or 15 bottles of wine in its replaceable polystyrene and cardboard insert. With the bottles packed, the full baggage still meets the airline’s checked-bag weight limit of 50 lbs (23 kg). Insert removed, it’s foldable, which makes it great for storage, and bringing over for your next wine trip.

 

La Vie en Rosé: Learning more about rosé wines

Here are Paris by the Glass, we are gearing up for the rosé season. Let’s dream of the South of France: put on your rosé colored glasses and learn more about these wines with us! We’ve had a string out outstanding summer-like days here in Paris and all we want to do is sit outside and drink cold, uncomplicated and satisfying wines and rosé seems to fill the bill!

 

Rosé often gets a bad reputation of being a cheap, inexpensive and uninteresting wines. Sure, there are many of those on the market! But more and more, we are seeing great examples of fabulous rosés that can be very charming as an apéritif or even to masterfully accompany gastronomic meals. Think of rosé like an intermediate style between and white and a red wine, which makes them naturally very food-friendly and fun to pair, especially during summer and al fresco dining.

 

These wines are meant to be uncomplicated crowd-pleasers. I know that when I open a bottle with friends, it’s not necessary to contemplate or to smell and savour for hours. It’s for thirst quenching and drinking!

La cuvée "Signature" AOC Côtes de Provence de Saint André de Figuière, one of my favorite summer drinks

La cuvée “Signature”
AOC Côtes de Provence
de Saint André de Figuière, one of my favorite summer drinks

 

Rosé is slowly getting over its image issue and finding its way to tables near you. So enjoy a glass of French rosé while you learn a bit more about their production.   Here is a brief description of the four methods for making pink wine:

 

Rosé Wine Production Methods:

  1. Direct Pressing – Dark skinned grapes are pressed immediately after being picked, no time is given for the red skins to color the juice. This gives us a vin gris or gris de gris of a very pale, salmon pink or copper.

 

  1. Maceration – Dark skinned grapes are crushed and the skins are allowed to macerate with the juice from anywhere from 1 hour to 1-2 days, allowing for further extraction of color from the skins. Grapes are then pressed or the juice is drained and the wine is fermented like a white wine. Also referred to as rosé d’une nuit. If we keep the grape skins in contact with the juice for longer, we would eventually have a red wine.  This gives us a darker pink hue than the above method.

 

  1. Saignée or bleeding of the vats – A certain amount of the free run juice from dark skinned grapes is allowed to be bled out of the vat to be made into rosé wine separately. The grapes have just had a small amount of time to color the juice. The remaining skins and wine are typically used to make red wine, thus concentrated the end result as we’ve already drawn off some of the juice. This is seen mostly commonly in Bordeaux and can often gives us more vibrant pink wines or paler pink if desired.

 

  1. Blending – Only allowed legally in the production of rosé champagne. A small percentage (usually between 5-15%) of still red wine made in the Champagne region is blended into the clear base wine before bottled and the second fermentation. A few rosés de saignée Champagnes exist, but are quite rare and harder to control the color during production. This method cannot be used for still rosé wines in France or anywhere else in the EU.

 

Let us know your favorite pink wines in the comments section and have a guess at how they may be made! Cheers!

Tasting Grower Champagnes in Paris

When I’m not with clients in Reims or Epernay and I need a quick fix of excellent bubbly, I will head to Dilettantes in Paris’s tony St. Germain des Pres district. Hidden a small street, this beautiful shop features a 17th century cellar where you can taste these special champagnes.

 

Started in 2013 by Fanny Heucq, the daughter of a winegrower in the Champagne region, this boutique specializes in grower champagnes. The wines here are truly special and reflect the complex terroir of the region much better than the big-brand champagnes on most shelves throughout the world. And best yet is that they often represent a great value for money, most ranging between 25-40 Euros/bottle.

Dilettantes, Paris

Dilettantes, Paris

All of the bottles present at Dilettantes are created by récoltant-manipulants, or producers that oversee the production of champagne from their own grapes & vines. This contrasts greatly with the large brands that control 90% of the market, who typically do not own vines (or very few) and buy on contract from individual growers.

 

Dilettantes, Paris

Dilettantes, Paris

The growers are often multi-generational family led operations that treat their vines like a garden. From a professional view, these are the true champagnes and are far more interesting than buying a bottle of Veuve Clicquot or Mumm at your supermarket.

 

Dilettantes has around 150 labels on offer, all chilled and ready for purchase or for enjoying in the beautiful cellar under the shop. Small plates of cheese and charcuteries, specifically chosen to pair with champagnes, are also on offer.

Trying Champagne

 

Coming to Paris and do not have time to visit the Champagne region? You can hire me to tutor a private tasting of 3 different fabulous grower champagnes from 3 different sub-regions in Champagne. You will learn about the history of the region, one that has given way to the world’s highest quality sparkling wines, along with the keys to the complex production method. Send me an e-mail before your trip! I’d be happy to introduce you to these unique wines. Dilettantes can also ship anywhere in the world for surprisingly reasonable prices. E-mail me at preston (at) parisbytheglass (dot) com

 

Dilettantes

22, rue de Savoie 75006 Paris

http://www.dilettantes.fr/

L’Île de Beauté – Corsica and its wines

During my wine and food tours in Paris, I often take any chance to share a plate of Corsican charcuterie, cheese or a glass of wine. Many of my clients don’t even realize that Corsica is part of France and has been since 1769. And to be honest, before moving to France, other than knowing that Napoleon Bonaparte originated from this rocky island in the Mediterranean, I hadn’t given it much thought until I tasted some of their produce. Sitting geographically, and sometimes culturally, closer to Italy and just facing the Italian island of Sardinia, Corsica proves to be a delicious destination.

Called L’Île de Beauté by the French, it is home to many wine makers, some of whom are starting to make waves on the international scene. The cheeses (mostly sheep’s milk) and charcuterie production still remains fairly artisanal and the furthest most of the products make it is Paris. What I love about the wines is the use of unknown native grape varieties and their expression of the unique terroirs. Even as an educated professional such as myself, it’s often a shot in the dark when choosing a Corsican wine, having rarely tasted the featured grape varieties. But I’m rarely disappointed when the source is a good, reliable restaurant or a knowledgable merchant.

At L’Office, a favorite restaurant in Paris’s 9th district (3 Rue Richer, 75009 Paris), I enjoyed a gorgeous and casual wine made by Yves Leccia, a top quality producer on L’Île de Beauté. His Cuvée YL rouge is made from a blend of grenache (80%) and one of the native varieties niellucciu. On this particularly cold winter day, this fruity and complex wine weaved us through an entire meal perfectly and warmed us from the inside out. It had just enough heft and natural lip-smacking sweetness from a sun-drenched grenache to be a great winter wine. But I could also see this wine served a bit cooler (don’t be afraid to put some reds in the fridge 15-30 minutes before serving) with a barbecue or a al fresco meal of charcuterie and cheese in the summer.

Delicious Cuvée YL from Yves Leccia, Corsica

Delicious Cuvée YL from Yves Leccia, Corsica (photo from their website).

So do look out for Coriscan wines and other products (their honey can also be amazing) back home or during your next holiday in France.

Perhaps the Corsicans wished we would just leave them alone (they are known for their autonomy and the understandable desire to preserve their unique landscape, culture, language and food), but once you taste a glass of their wines, you’re hooked and go back for more.

Cheers!

Summer into Fall

It’s a walk through the market that really tells us more about seasons than the weather. I recently walked through Paris’s beautiful Marché d’Aligre and that’s when it hit me that fall is here. I saw the first delicate wild mushrooms and pock-marked squashes co-habitating with the late summer’s tomatoes and figs, heavy with natural sugar and still smelling of the sun.
Market Walk Paris

If you open my fridge, you’ll also get a good clue of the changing seasons. I feel wines are also a barometer of these changes in nature and in our moods. In summer, we all gravitate towards simpler, easier to drink wines like rosés, sparkling wines and quaffing whites. When fall arrives, we need more serious wines for contemplation and more formal dining. These are wines that accompany the more complex flavors of fall like wild mushrooms and squash.
That’s why for this month, my wine choice sits exactly on the line of summer and fall.
The 2013 Menetou-Salon from Domaine Pellé is made from 100% sauvignon blanc, but it’s not just your average quenching citrus refresher that you may have come to expect from this grape. It has more complexity and flinty mineral flavors to pair with the richer fare that fall ushers in, bridging the gap from the apéritif all the way to the main dish. Keeping with the traditions of the region, it also offers pure, crystalline refreshment to balance the sweetness of the scallops. The best part is that this wine retails for about 10 Euros.
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Hailing from the central vineyards of the Loire Valley, made more famous by names like Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, the AOC of Menetou-Salon harbor exciting and less familiar delights that you must try !
This wine also paired well with one of my favorite little goat cheeses from the Loire Valley: Selles-sur-Cher. Made from over 1.5 of fresh goat’s milk, this small disc of snowy white cheese is covered in a fine layer of pine ash and which protects the cheese from molding and also adds to the flavor. The cheese is then aged for 2-3 weeks. Delicious!
Selles sur cher
Cheers to autumn!