Archive for February, 2012

Great Growth! BJ’s Now In Richmond!

February 28, 2012

Grosses Gewächs, the great growth-grand cru wines of Bassermann-Jordan have popped up in our city.  Now is everyones chance to drink something that represents the top tier of all German wines.

Grosses Gewächs, GG, are classified terroir driven wines from single vineyard sites that have historically produced exceptional fruit.  These sites need to be approved by members of the Verband Deutscher Qualitäts- und Prädikatsweingüter (V D P).

“The Association of German Quality and Prädikat Wine Estates”

The wine growers associated with this group must practice organic and sustainable farming, only use grapes associated with the area, must farm low yields, cannot chaptalize, and can only use natural wine making techniques.  They are all about the preservation and acknowledgement of Germany’s finest vineyard sites.  To be a member of this association growers have to be voted in.  Right now there are only about 200 members that have the right to label their wines with the V D P insignia.

There are over 10,000 wine producers in Germany, this does not mean V D P wines are the be all end all.  Many fantastic growers choose not to fool around with this association (look at wines from the Mosel!).  Still wines with the Grosses Gewächs-GG label will most likely give you an ass kicker of a Riesling!

2009 Bassermann-Jordan Jesuitengarten Riesling Grosses Gewächs.  $65 (gulp).  Imported by Magellan Wine Imports.

The Jesuitengarten vineyard has been a source for wine since the 18th century.  Once owned by the church, the 7 hectare site is now divided between several different estates.  The soil is made up of sandy clay with lime, sandy loam with limestone shingle and basalt.  The wine is full bodied, highly complex and elegant.  This is Bassermann-Jordan’s most prestigious offering and will reward those with the will to age it for a few decades.  Fans of Grand Cru Burgundy take note.

2009 Bassermann-Jordan Trocken QBA Riesling.  $20 (much better).  Imported by Magellan Wine Imports.

This basic, high-level wine is sourced from 20 different vineyards along the Rhein river valley.  Trocken means dry.  Tongue piercing acidity is balanced by apple and pear fruit, it is lively and fresh and will pair with anything.  Try it with a hot dog.

The labels of Bassermann-Jordan have a lot in common with the Virginia State flag…

Here is Attorney General and Defender of Freedom Ken Cuccinelli’s redesigned Virginia friendly label…

You Bet I’ll Have the $11 Bottle of Merlot!

February 20, 2012

Why not?  It is one of the most planted grapes in the world because it freakin rules!

2009 Domaine de la Patience Merlot Vin de Pays des Coteaux du Pont du Gard. $11.  Imported by Jenny & Francois Selections.

Forget Château Petrus and the rest of Pomerol, the real action is down near Costières de Nîmes where the Languedoc and the Côtes du Rhône meet.  Among rolling hills and olive trees, lavender fields and the Mediterranean sun sits Domaine de la Patience, an estate that is a reborn baby.  Re-established, replanted and modernized in 1994 by Christophe Aguilar whose grandfather before farmed the land and sold the grapes to the local coop, it took Christophe six years to bottle his own wines under the  Domain’s new name.

This dark, plummy Merlot falls under France’s Vin de Pays category which is basically elevated table wine that has a geographical context, in this case the area is Coteaux du Pont du Gard, a smaller area within Vin de Pays d’Oc (which covers all of the Languedoc and Roussillon). Vin de Pays wines are allowed to use a wide variety of locally approved varietals and require minimum alcohol and acidity levels along with a cap on permitted yields.  Does this mean a Merlot from Coteaux du Pont du Gard is better than Merlot from Anywhere France?  Not really but an Estate bottled wine (where the same guy grew and bottled the fruit ) might be. This Merlot comes from young 10 year old vines and after fermentation it sits in concrete vats for 3 short months retaining its freshness and stiff power.  It is full and rich and great with all sorts of cuisine, try it next to you grill.

The Pont du Gard!  Where the Romans used to pee.

Also this wine happens to be imported by Jenny & Francois Selections which specializes in organic, naturally made, honest wines.  Look at the back label, and look for others like it.  A search on their website and you will find that Jenny & Francois Selections comes to Virginia through Downey Selections.  If you see their name on the back of a wine label it probably means that it too will be a thoughtful, honest wine..

Are You Not Glad I Didn’t Title This “Orange You Glad You Don’t Have To Drink Rombauer?”?

February 13, 2012

The time has come to add a new category to our city’s wine lists.  Orange wines!  No these wines are not made from citrus fruits nor are they really a brand new concept.  Orange wines have origins from 5000 BC and are being rediscovered by fascinating and forward thinking wine growers who are forgoing fancy technology and instead making wine the old fashion way.

What are Orange wines? Back in the old days, white wines were made in a similar fashion as reds.  Basically white grapes were gathered, crushed and left to ferment and mature with all the bits of skin and seeds still in contact.  More color was extracted along with more alcohol and tannin creating natural, protective anti-oxidants.  This was the normal way of doing things in the cradle of wine civilization that is know as Georgia.  The Georgians utilized giant amphora earthenware vessels (known as Kvevri) which were filled with juice, skins and all and buried in the earth where cool temperatures were regulated and a slow fermentation would commence.

In the past decade or so winemakers from Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia region started utilizing these old techniques to give their white wines more power and texture.   Making wines in this fashion with long skin contact results in extra stability from tannin and mannoproteins meaning wine growers don’t have to resort to adding extra chemical preservatives or sulfur dioxide.  The wines get turned inside out and become indestructible and can age magnificently.  Orange wines are generally fuller in flavor, have exotic aromas, sometimes a chalky dryness and are a wonderful addition to the dinner table.

2009 Radikon “Slatnik”.  $45. Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections.

From the Slovenian side of the Collio which is located on the north-eastern most Italian border comes this blend of Chardonnay (yes, really) and Tocai.  The hand harvested grapes are fermented with their native yeasts for fourteen days in old oak barrels and matured for eighteen months before being bottled.  The wine is complex, full and tastes of salty, dried peaches.  It is perfect alongside a carpaccio or a rich polenta.

2005 La Stoppa “Ageno” IGT Emilia. $35. Imported by Williams Corner Wine.

La Stoppa is a hundred some year old estate that lies on the ancient slopes of Val Trebbiola in the northern part of Emilia-Romagna.  This bottling of Ageno is a blend of pesticide free Malvasia di Candia, Trebbiano and a little bit of the obscure Ortrugo.  After a month long maceration on the skins half of the juice goes into stainless steel tanks and the other half goes to old wood barrels to rest for 1 year.  Another 2 years in bottle then the unfiltered and un-fined wine is released. Ageno is big, lush and spicy with tea like aromatics, some rough edges keeps it real interesting.  A real treat with pork chops.

Léon Barral Vin de France Blanc. $55. Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant.  

A little harder to find but worth the hunt.  This is technically a VDT (Vin de Table) wine, the lowest category in France for wine.  It means you can’t list the region from where it comes from on the label, you can’t give any indication of what kind of grapes are inside and you can’t list the vintage date.  We do know that the producer is Domaine  Léon Barral and their bio-dynamic estate in the Faugères appellation of the Languedoc grows some of the best wine ever.  The grapes are probably typical grapes of the sun drenched Mediterranean (Roussane, Viognier, Terret). What is exactly in it you will have to ask the wine grower Didier Barral.  Grapes are just ingredients anyway, the climate and soil can be more important.  The wine is fully ripe and graceful.  Refreshing and very intriguing.

These orange wines come from small production and are made with great care and are not cheap, but compared to similarly priced mass produced wines (like Rombauer Chardonnay) you get ten times the wine.  They will deliver a rewarding and unforgettable drinking experience.

Wine 101: Things You Should Know By Now

February 6, 2012

So, you have had your first glass of wine ever and you want to learn all about it.  Here are a few things every new wine drinker needs to know.  

All sparkling wine is not a champagne, Champagne is a region in France.  Only sparkling wine from Champagne can be called Champagne.

Malbec the grape is originally from France.  Also called Auxerrois or Côt.  Depending on where it is grown, it will produce many styles of wine.  Fruity and viscous in Argentina, iron fisted and earthy in Cahors, France.

Burgundy is not a generic name for California jug wine.  Burgundy is one of the most prestigious wine regions in France.

Burgundy is the home of Pinot Noir.  It grows in many styles, specific to location: you will never mistake a full bodied Gevrey-Chambertain* for an elegant, delicate Chambolle-Musigny*.  (*These are names of villages in Burgundy; the wines of Burgundy are identified by their exact place of origin.)

Mass produced cheap Pinot Noir is mostly beefed up with black fruited Syrah grapes.  Drink cheap Côtes du Rhône instead.

Burgundy is the home of Chardonnay.  It grows in many styles, specific to location: you will never mistake a flinty, nervy Chablis* for a lush and nutty Meursault*.  (*These are names of villages in Burgundy; the wines of Burgundy are identified by their exact place of origin.)

Chablis is not a mass produced, sweet wine from California.  It is a place in the northern most part of Burgundy where Chablis wine is made from Chardonnay grapes.

Chianti is not a grape.  Chianti is a place in Tuscany.

Sangiovese is the main grape that makes Chianti and a bunch of other wines in Central Italy.  It’s big and fat in Montalcino, snappy and bright in Rosso Piceno, soft and chocolaty in Carmignano.

Pinot Grigio is not a generic name for white wine.  It is the Italian name for a grape varietal.  Also called Pinot Gris in France and Grauburgunder in Germany.

Pinot Grigio is only one of 350 grape varietals in Italy.

Riesling is not always a sweet wine.  Most of it is dry.  Ask the Germans.

Rose wine is not sweet either.  It is fine and dry.  It is also great in the afternoon at lunch.  Order a glass next time you are out.

Rombauer Chardonnay, like Kendall Jackson Chardonnay, has a lot of residual sugar in it.  It is sweet like corn syrup.  It stinks.

White wines should be served chilled, not cold (45-50 degrees). Red wines should be served cool, not room temperature (60-65 degrees).

Humans taste with their noses as much as they do with their tongues.  Smell your wine a lot.

Wine tastes best with food.

Wine does not pair well with chocolate, EVER!

The alcohol flavored grape juice substance at Trader Joe’s and other grocery stores is not really wine.  There is no such thing as $3 wine; it will be fake.  Go to your local wine shop instead.  You can find honest wine starting at $8.