No 3-Trick Pony: Champagne’s Indigenous Varieties

No 3-Trick Pony: Champagne’s Indigenous Varieties

Post by Chuck Hayward | December 20th, 2012

GrapesJJ Buckley’s latest Champagne Report has just been released with new articles along with new winery profiles and updated reviews. Click here to download a copy. To give you a taste of this edition, today’s post is based on an article that looks at Champagne’s lost varieties which are currently undergoing a renaissance.

If there is anything that wine enthusiasts have committed to their memories, it’s that chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, in varying proportions, are the three grapes used to make Champagne. Like many other details about the wine and the region, that’s just a bit of the actual truth. Because as wine geeks and aspiring MS and MW students know, seven grapes are legally allowed to be used in the production of Champagne. All of a sudden, Champagne drinkers are hearing about grapes such as arbane and pinot blanc vrai, fromenteau and petit meslier in their bubblies. What’s going on and how did this happen? (more…)

Champagne’s Glass Warfare

Champagne’s Glass Warfare

Post by Chuck Hayward | December 14th, 2012

From which glass would you rather drink your bubbly?

Which glass would you prefer for your bubbly?

JJ Buckley’s latest Champagne Report is about to be released, with new articles on the region’s indigenous varieties and the movement towards drier Champagnes along with new winery profiles and updated reviews. To get you in the mood, today’s post looks at the recent debate surrounding the optimal glasses and decanters for bubbly.

Champagne has long been on the receiving end of rules—regarding how it is made, how it is labeled, and how it should be enjoyed. Over the years, we have come to accept these unwritten codes and perhaps even find them comforting, as they didn’t often fluctuate. But today, Champagne is witnessing revisions to concepts that were once considered sacrosanct, and they have nothing to do with grapes or labels. The changes have to do with glass in which our bubbly is served.

If there is one rule that has been generally accepted across the board, it is that sparkling wine is best served in a flute. For maximum ‘correctness’, the flute was preferably scored at the base to promote bubbles, then rinsed with water and dried with a towel once the night is done. The coupe (also known as the Marie Antoinette glass) was long ago decried as an inferior vessel because its broader surface allowed the wine to promptly lose its effervescence. Now, there are some in the industry who promote an alternative to both the coupe and the flute. (more…)

From Cubicle to Crush Pad

From Cubicle to Crush Pad

Post by Chuck Hayward | September 19th, 2012

If you read enough catalogs from wine retailers and journalists, it’s likely you’ve seen articles about their visits to wineries as they explore wine regions across the globe. And while certainly an industry perk, these visits really are to the advantage of both the participant and the consumer. It’s important for the trade to get a better understanding of the wines they sell and it’s always good for the reader to enjoy a visit, even if it is only vicariously.

But it’s one thing to visit and taste. It’s altogether a different thing to take time off to actually make wine. And that’s what a few members of JJ Buckley’s wine staff are planning to do in the upcoming weeks. Not for the faint of heart, this means long days of physical labor, dragging hoses and picking at grapes. Early mornings, groggy and tired from hard work, combined with the after-effects of long nights spent tasting wine and unwinding with co-workers. Any romance about making wine disappears as bees and snakes lurk in picking bins in a cellar that reeks of smelly yeast and fermenting grapes.

But trust me – I can’t think of any place I’d rather be. (more…)

Popping the Cork on the Screwcap Debate

Popping the Cork on the Screwcap Debate

Post by Chuck Hayward | August 7th, 2012

The debate over corks and wine is causing controversy once again, proving its unique ability to be an issue of contention for the foreseeable future. Much ballyhoo has been raised by the cork industry recently regarding Christian Canute, the owner of Rusden Winery in the Barossa Valley, and his decision  to forswear screwcaps in favor of corks (despite the fact that he only used screwcaps for one of the ten wines in his portfolio and even that was only for a few vintages).

Top: 1999 Clare Valley semillon, 28 months after bottling. Bottom: After 125 months

In other news, UC Davis and PlumpJack Winery recently announced the commencement of a two year study that will attempt to determine, once and for all, how different closures affect the ability of wines to age. (Read more about the study here). This research is taking place despite the fact that the Australian Wine and Research Institute (AWRI) has been involved in a similar project for more than a decade. That study, analyzing 14 different types of closures, is in the process of concluding that screwcaps are superior when compared to other types of seals. Looking at the picture above (courtesy of Old Bridge Cellars), I don’t think I would want any of the wines on the right side of the picture. And by the way, the screwcap bottles are on the left. (more…)

2011 Napa Vintage Preview with a Glance Back at California Futures

2011 Napa Vintage Preview with a Glance Back at California Futures

Post by Chuck Hayward | July 24th, 2012

California Cabernet Society’s Annual Barrel Tasting

The annual Bordeaux futures campaign attracts unparalleled attention, and there are many who feel the hoopla that surrounds it is undeserved. But it cannot be denied that en primeur focuses the attention of critics and merchants across the globe on the qualities of the vintage at hand. Interestingly, the lack of a futures program for California wines means they collectively escape the spotlight that Bordeaux wines enjoy (or rather endure, in the case of the 2011s). Instead, information about the latest vintage of California wines tends to come out bit by bit from those few critics who actually have access to winemakers and their cellars. However, it wasn’t always that way…

ANCIENT HISTORY

As the market for California cabernet became more serious in the mid-1980s, many wineries began to emulate the way Bordeaux presented new vintages to the press and the market. Recognizing that consumers were becoming increasingly familiar with the en primeur system for Bordeaux, and at the same time taking advantage of Robert Parker’s increasing influence in the California cabernet segment of the wine industry, MacArthur Beverages, a Washington D.C. retailer, held the first ever California futures tasting for their clients in 1985. Over the next few years, Parker attended the event as well and published his assessments of the unfinished wines while also offering practical advice to consumers interested in purchasing domestic wine futures. (more…)

Looking for Signs at Feytit Clinet

Looking for Signs at Feytit Clinet

Post by Chuck Hayward | June 5th, 2012

JJ Buckley’s Andrew Frieden spending some QT with Feytit Clinet

One of the advantages of spending a full week in Bordeaux at en primeur is the luxury one has to get to know a wine. Any other time of year, that would come through a winery visit, hanging out with the owner or winemaker, kicking the dirt, tasting through some barrel samples or older vintages. But, that is hard to do at en primeur. There, I relish the opportunity to taste a wine more than once. It really helps to taste a wine twice, three times, though four times is probably ideal. Call it statistics. You get a real sense of what the wine is all about after you have sampled it a few times.

So it was with Feytit Clinet, as we had a chance to taste the 2011 for the first time with Jeffrey Davies who is consulting with the estate, then once again at the Rive Droite tasting, where we had more quiet time to spend with the wine. It was then that we started to notice intriguing nuances in the wine that we hadn’t quite picked up on the first time. We tried it once more, perhaps too quickly at a negociant, but it wasn’t enough time to really pin down what it was that made the Feytit Clinet stand out. Then I found out we would have one more opportunity to taste it at the winery….where I hoped we could find a telltale sign that would best explain the wine’s mystique. (more…)

Where to Wine and Dine: The Beaune Edition

Where to Wine and Dine: The Beaune Edition

Post by Chuck Hayward | May 23rd, 2012

Wherever one finds vineyards and wineries, good dining usually follows. And

Tower of power! DRC display at Ma Cuisine

when it comes to Burgundy, the local cuisine expresses itself in a very direct and focused manner. This is not a region of haute cuisine for the wealthy, the gastronomes, or foodspotters who populate cities and other foodie destinations. Rather, Burgundy’s cuisine perfectly reflects the region’s wine culture. Honest and straightforward without embellishments, the food is much like the vignerons who have worked the land for so long.

Dining out in Burgundy makes you realize how much of its cuisine populates America’s tables. Here, the menus often feature escargots presented in their shells or puff pastries. Your meal might start off with some jambon persille, a country-style pate featuring chunky ham joined in aspic with spices and parsley. And it will be hard to escape the classic boeuf bourguignon, chunks of fork-tender beef in a deeply flavored, richly colored gravy, a dish almost too intense and powerful to pair with the region’s subtle pinots. You’ll also see the trademark gougeres, warm cheese puffs that are so prevalent, and addictive, at receptions or before a meal. The highlight of the cheese cart is epoisse. Pungent and runny, it commands your attention and pairs well with an after dinner marc de bourgogne. (more…)