Tag Archives: France

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Know your Bubbles – part 1: Méthode Champenoise

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(See also Know your Bubbles – part 2: Beyond Champagne)

The techniques of sparkling winemaking did not originate with the Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon, nor was the first purposely sparkling wine produced in the region of Champagne. Regardless, through centuries of refinement Champagne has become the world’s leading sparkling wine and the vinous embodiment of luxury and celebration.

Méthode Champenoise is the labor-intensive and costly process whereby wine undergoes a secondary fermentation inside the bottle, creating bubbles. All Champagne and most high-quality sparkling wine is made by this process. Also known as méthode traditionnelle or metodo classico.

Méthode Champenoise begins in the press house. Black grapes must be pressed especially quickly after harvest, lest they colour the must. Extraction is limited to 102 liters from 160 kg of grapes. The extracted juice is then divided into the vin de cuvée (the first 2,050 liters) and the vin de taille (the following 500 liters). The vin de taille is usually richer in pigment and tannin. The must, which is often chaptalized, will then undergo primary fermentation, which may occur in either stainless steel or oak barrels. The base wines often undergo malolactic fermentation, although this is not a universal practice. After both the primary and malolactic fermentations have concluded, the base wines will generally be clarified, through fining, filtering, or centrifuge. The clarified base wines remain in either stainless steel or barrel until late February or March of the year following the harvest. At this stage the blender will taste the lots of base wine, and determine a house’s hallmark blend, drawing on reserve stocks from previous years to provide complexity and richness. After the assemblage and cold stabilization, the blend will be racked and bottled with the addition of liqueur de tirage, a mixture of still wine, yeasts, sugar, and fining agents that will serve to ignite the second fermentation.

The second fermentation is the heart of the méthode Champenoise. Each bottle is affixed with a crown cap after the liqueur de tirage is added, and yeast begins its work. The secondary fermentation lasts up to eight weeks, as the yeast slowly converts the additional sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide creates a pressure inside the bottle of five to six atmospheres. During the second fermentation, the bottles are usually stored horizontally. Autolysis, the breakdown of dead yeast cells, forms sediment, or lees, in the bottle as second fermentation occurs. The wine will be aged on the lees for a minimum of 12 months prior to their removal from the bottle through dégorgement.

In preparation for dégorgement, the sediment must first be trapped in the neck of the bottle. Producers proceed to remuage, or riddling, which manipulates the sediment into the neck and bidule through sharp twists and inversion of the bottle. The widow Clicquot’s breakthrough involved the development of the pupitre: two large wooden planks fastened together in an upright “A” shape, with sixty angled holes cut into each plank of wood. A remuer would fractionally turn and tilt each bottle over a period of about eight weeks, slowly inverting the bottles with the neck pointing downward. Despite the fact that a top remuer is rumored to handle upwards of 70,000 bottles a day, Champagne is an industry, and more efficient methods are required. The modern remuage operation is shortened to a week or less through the use of a Spanish invention, the gyropalette, an automated device that holds 504 bottles. The gyropalette has replaced hand-riddling at all of the major houses, although some prestige cuvée bottlings are still handled manually.

Once the sediment is successfully collected in the neck of the bottle, the bottles remain in the upside-down vertical position for a short period of time prior to dégorgement. The modern method of dégorgement à la glace involves dipping the neck of bottle in a freezing brine solution. The bottle can then be turned upright. The force of internal pressure will expel the semi-frozen sediment (and a small portion of wine) as the crown cap is removed. As the wines are fully fermented to total dryness, the bottles are then topped off with dosage, a liquid mixture of sugar syrup and wine. Rarely, bone-dry non-dosage styles are produced. The amount of sugar in the dosage is determined by the desired style of the wine. Brut is the most common sweetness level and the level at which most houses bottle vintage and prestige cuvées.


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Italy beats France as wine producer

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source: EU Commission

source: EU Commission

Italy has surpassed France to take to crown of world largest wine producer in 2015, according to European Union data. This year’s benign weather conditions have resulted in an abundant grape harvest across the Mediterranean peninsula, as opposed to that reaped on the other side of the Alps.

The figures submitted to the European Commission in mid-September show total output approaching 50 million hectolitres, while in France production declined by one percent. The Burgundy and Beaujolais regions were worst affected, but it’s thought that both areas could see price rises in the coming months.

One reason for the rise in Italian output is simply that the 2014 harvest was particularly bad due to the weather.

Despite this year’s overall good conditions some vineyards were forced to use emergency irrigation in the July heat.

But thanks to a cooler September, the 2015 Italian harvest is set to yield what one producer described as a “pretty good vintage”.

source: euronews

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Prosecco Shortage? Bubbles…

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Sales of Prosecco have overtaken Champagne for the first time in UK. The sales numbers rose by 72% in the last year, ahead of its French rival. With total sales of £250m, Champagne is trailing behind Prosecco, according to retail analysts IRI. It’s the third year in a row sales growth of the sweeter tasting, cheaper-priced Prosecco have surged ahead of the classic bubbles.

And might not have an easy way to say that, but it sounds like there’s going to be a global shortage of Prosecco this summer! Apparently, last year’s harvest of the Glera grape was “very poor” – down by as much as 50 per cent in some parts of the region.

That’s according to Robert Cremonese, the export manager of Prosecco brand Bisol, there is a very real possibility of a global shortage.

font: http://www.cityam.com

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Le Noveau ést arrivé

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This is the slogan for Beaujolais Nouveau Day, the third Thursday in November when wine lovers in France and around the world race to take part in the traditional tasting of the year’s Beaujolais Nouveau. Far from France and Beaujolais, Ubifrance celebrated the day by offering a Beaujolais taste at Alliance Française, on Kildare St. There was Patrick Thevenet, presenting wines from AOC Chénas and Moulin à Vent – délicieux!Beaujolais is a French AOC wine usually made from the Gamay grape. Whites are made mostly from Chardonnay grapes though Aligoté is also permitted. Beaujolais tends to be a very light-bodied red wine, with relatively high amounts of acidity.The wine takes its name from the historical Province of Beaujolais, located north of Lyon, and covers parts of the north of the Rhône, in the Rhône-Alpes region, and southern areas of the Saône-et-Loire in Burgundy. The region is known internationally for its long tradition of winemaking, for the use of carbonic maceration.

But there are more than Le Noveau in Beaujolais. Some wines are made to be released later, and the best ones come from areas named Crus, classified as stand-alone appellations. They are: Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Régnié and St. Amour. While Le Nouveau is made in a drink-now style, Les Crus are made more traditionally, and tend to be released a year or two later.

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La Châsse, Blason D’Or 2012, AOP Costières de Nîmes

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Appearance: Clear pale ruby.

Nose: Clean and youthful, with pronounced aromas of fresh red fruits (red cherry, strawberry) and a sweet spice hint (liquorice).

Palate: Dry wine with low acidity and low to medium tannins. Medium alcohol sensation (despite its average 13%), medium to light body, with flavours of red fruits aromas found on the nose, plus subtle spices and herbal notes. Medium finish.

Conclusion: Soft tannins and medium alcohol with lots of fruit aromas make this wine an easy drinking one, ready to drink. For those in Ireland, Supervalu is offering this wine for 9€ (reduced from 18€, they say).

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Tasting Cap Negre 2009

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This red crianza from Roussillon is made from Carignan (or Samsò), Grenache (or Garnatxa) and Syrah. Roussillon is located in the French region also known as French Catalonia, where most of the population also speaks Catalan.Cap Negre has a vivid cherry colour with purple trim. Its aromas of ripe fruit, mainly strawberries and blackberries, with notes of menthol, fine spices and a subtle dairy, very intense and well balanced. On the palate it has fruitiness, herbs and smoked notes, with a good and persistent length.It was aged for 12 months in French oak barrels, which can be noticed on the aromas and the flavours.

Food recommendations are soft meat, spaghetti carbonara, and cheeses.

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Brumont Merlot Tannat 2011

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Brumont Merlot-Tannat, 2011

This 50% Tannat, 50% Merlot from “Mr. Madiran”, Alain Brumont has a pale purple colour, with lovely notes of red fruits on the nose, notably strawberries, raspberries and red cherries. Some hints of minerality can appear on the nose, but couldn’t get any on the mouth. It’s a wine still developing despite of the low tannins but I’d not keep for much longer.

It has a good acidity, and the 14.5% of alcohol don’t attacks the throat. A medium finish length, medium bodied, it reaffirms the nose’s aromas in the palate.

I’d drink it now but would like to visit it again in 2 years time.

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Brumont, Merlot-Tannat

Tasting Brumont Merlot-Tannat 2011 – Vin de Pays Côtes de Gascogne

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Brumont, Merlot-Tannat

Brumont, Merlot-Tannat

This 50% Merlot and 50% Tannat was made to develop a complex and balanced wine matching style of New World wine. The grapes grow on clay-limestone hillsides soils located on Ténarèze, and fine clay soils called Peyrusquets. The wine rests over the grapes before bottling.

On the nose it has red plums, cherry jam, prune, blackcurrant and white pepper. A juicy palate of cherry, plum, peppery, and earthy flavours. A lovely red with good fruit and a plump and supple finish!

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Tasting Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur-Lie from Domaine de la Chauvinière 2011

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Domaine de la Chauvinière
Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur-Lie 2011

Leia em Português

This Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur-Lie from Domaine de la Chauvinière was produced from vines surrounding a wind mill, planted in granite soil. It’s clear in appearance, with a pale lemon-green colour. On the nose it has intense aromas of green fruits (green apple), floral fragrances and herbaceous (grass) notes, with mineral hints (stony). On the palate is ample and harmonious, with a long finish.

Can be served with shell-fish, seafood and fish, or on its own, as an aperitif.


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Tasting L’esquerda 2009

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Leia em Português

The name come from its unique terroir, L’esquerda. Located 350 meters above the sea level, it’s composed of granitic over hills. L’esquerda is characterized by an assembly consisting mostly of Syrah, and completed with a little of Grenache and Carignan, all harvested by hand. As stated in its label, “Roussillon, a land of legend and history. A place of contrasts too, as Domain de Bila-Haut”. This L’esquerda has 10% aged in oak barrels, which balances well the wild aroma of Syrah, the silky texture of Grenache and the freshness of Carignan.

Eye: Deep ruby color

Nose: It expresses its maturity with notes of black fruits, warm spices, floral and a slightly earthy from its terroir.

Mouth: Good acidity and powerful tannins, both powerful and tight, with a long fresh finishing.

Conclusion: A very good wine, potent and well balanced acidity and tannins, with lots of fruits. A truly discovery!

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