À votre santé! #ChardDay

Did you know? It’s #ChardDay!  I’d like to step outside of the U.S. and celebrate French white wines.

French whites, often referred to as “Frenchies”, are the well loved wines made from Chardonnay grapes. “Frenchies” are full, fresh, elegant. and delicate. Taste a New World Chardonnay along side a French Chardonnay and you’ll taste what I mean about French white wines being delicate.

So when perusing the restaurant wine list or shopping for a new vintner, here are a few whites to consider:

Puligny-Montrachet. Located in the middle of the Côte de Beaune in France, it is also home to one of the most famous vineyards in the world, Montrachet.

Chablis. [also Petit Chablis, Premier Cru Chablis, Gran Cru Chablis] The grapevines of Chablis, France are almost all Chardonnay, which makes for a dry white wine embodying a pure aroma and full-bodied flavor.

Meursault. Hailing from France’s famous Burgandy region, Meursault produces award-winning white wines from Chardonnay grapes. Possessing a stark oak influence, many have described Meursault wines as “buttery” and “bold” in flavor.

Pouilly-Fuissé. Not to be confused with Pouilly-Fumé (Sauvignon Blanc-based wines), Pouilly-Fuissé is 100% Chardonnay with a pretty and refreshing finish.

Pair your glass of Chardonnay with Brie Cheese, Seafood like Crab Cakes and Lobster, Creamy Chicken dishes, or even a juicy cheeseburger (it is after all, it’s also National Burger Month).

What’s your favorite wine region for Chardonnay? I’d love to hear from you!

Raise a glass to #LanguedocDay!

If you follow my blog or tweets, then you know that there’s a soft spot in my heart for kitschy foodie holidays (it’s the perfect excuse to try something new and to take part in online discussions).  Well, today’s no exception…

It’s Languedoc Day!

A little background: Languedoc (pronounced “long-dock”) wine region is located in the southern coast of France. The Mediterranean Sea, soil blend, wind and sun make the Languedoc region some of the best terroir for winemaking. Languedoc produces a wide variety of grapes, including the well known Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Chardonnay as well as (perhaps the lesser known) Grenache Blanc, Clairette and Lladoner Pelut.

Some fun facts: Languedoc is the largest wine region in France and includes over 20 AOP’s. Despite so many disparate AOPs and acres under vine, the Languedoc-Roussillon region produces only 10% of France’s AOP wine. The Languedoc AOP reds are generally a minimum 50% combined Grenache, Syrah, Mourveèdre, and Lladoner Pelut; however, varietal makeup and percentages vary by subappellation.  Languedoc AOP whites principal varieties (vineyard must contain at least two) include: Piquepoul Blanc (max. 50%), Bourboulenc, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Tourbat, and Vermentino.

Celebrating this day has re-kindled my interest in the wine world (I passed the first level examination with Court of Master Sommeliers back in 2010). I hate to admit that I haven’t put my knowledge into practice. So, today is the perfect excuse to brush up on a region that I haven’t spent much time on. Here’s a few wines that I plan to try out.

Domaine du Silene,  AOP Côteaux du Languedoc – Grès de Montpellier (a blend of classic southern French varieties, including Syrah and Grenache)

Domaine D’Aupilhac , AOP Montpeyroux (predominantly Mourvedre with Syrah, Carignan, Grenache and Cinsault)

Domaine Virgile Joly, Vin de Pays de l’Herault (100% Grenache Blanc)*

*This white wine was recommended by my friend (certified sommelier and mixologist), Sara Fasolino.

I’d love to hear from you!  What’s your favorite wine region? Do you have a recommendation from the Languedoc region?

Want to learn more about Languedoc? Here’s a few resources: Languedoc-wines.com, LanguedocAdventure.comtwitter.com/LanguedocDay

How to Blind Taste Wine from an Entry-Level Cork Dork

Being a part of a large fine dining restaurant group, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with incredibly talented leaders in the wine industry. My mentors Tylor Field, III and Sara Fasolino have successfully managed an award winning wine list and created a vibrant culture for wine and spirits. Their close partnership with The Court of Master Sommeliers (the authority for wine education) helps to accomplish this.

In 2010, I was fortunate enough to be selected from a handful of managers in our restaurant group to take the introductory level examination by the Court of Master Sommeliers. There is a four-level education and examination process (Introductory, Certified, Advanced and Master). Understanding the wine world would greatly contribute in my role as marketing manager to effectively market our wine program and events.

I spent months preparing for the exam. My best study resources were guildsomm.com and The World Atlas of Wine. The two day exam was hosted by Master Sommeliers. The process included lectures, wine tastings and*gulp* the 70 question examination. I joined approximately 40 other wine apprentices from around the region for a crash course in wine. We blew past power point after power point of wine regions and variatels (this was more for a refresher course… attendees were expected to have this memorized beforehand). But what we spent most of our time on was how to blind taste wine… I enjoyed it so much I thought I would share a few basic lessons on how to blind taste wine.

Before you begin blind wine tasting, it’s helpful to first know a little bit about grape varietals and regions.

Why blind taste wines, anyway? Each of us has differing sensitivities and abilities, and the blind wine tasting method allows all tasters to discover their strengths and weaknesses to gather the most complete set of descriptors in order to skillfully analyze and identify wines. By doing so, the taster becomes adept at understanding the style, character and quality of wines.

Use the deductive tasting method:

1. Sight  (provides information on wine’s age and condition): Generally speaking white and blush wines grow darker with age, red wines grow lighter with age and pigments and tannin in red wines precipitate into sediment with age.  Green hues = young or cool climate white wines.  Orange, yellow and brown in older red wines.

 Viscosity (aka legs/tears): Thin, quickly moving legs or sheeting in the glass = low alcohol.  Thick, slow moving legs = higher alcohol.

2. Nose:  This is where it gets fun…  express the smell of the wine with creative descriptors.   It’s best to separate the smell into three categories Fruit (or non-fruit), Earth and Wood.   

Fruit: Citrus, tropical, black fruit, candy, jam, peach skin

Non Fruit: Flowers, spices, herbs, lemon grass

Earth: Dirt, damp earth, mushroom, barnyard, forest floor

Wood: Leather, spice, tobacco, brown spice, vanilla, carame, coconut

3. Palate: FINALLY, you get to sip the wine. Sweet vs dry body (light medium or full). Think of it like drinking skim milk, 2% or whole milk. After sipping the wine, confirm the taste with the smell (Did it taste like the fruit you described when you smelled? Anything new?)

4. Initial Conclusion: Based on the evidence from sight, nose and palate consider: Is it old world or new world (ID keys: acid level, earthiness and use of wood)? Cool, moderate or warm climate (ID keys: acid level and alcohol level)? Grape Variety or Blend (ID keys: knowing the markers for grape varieties and styles of wine)?

5. Final Conclusion: Grape Variety or Blend. Region. Appellation. Vintage.

Example: Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, Saint Helena, 2010

During the introductory sommelier course, I blind tasted about 40 different wines. It was an incredible experience and really doesenhance my enjoyment of wine. The more often you do it, the easier it gets! Oh, and for those who might be wondering… I did pass the first level examination. So, I’m a humble freshman in the school of wine with the hopes to someday to become a certified sommelier.:)

Cheers to all my fellow wine nerds!