Two weeks ago, my friend Etienne Hugel passed away in a most sudden and unexpected manner, although there is no consolation for such a loss, the many good memories he left behind may console his friends and especially his family; his beloved wife Kaoru, his son Jean Frédéric his daughter Charlotte and the whole Hugel family.
“But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.” Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time (1913)
This is one of those taste and smell memories…
It was mid May 2012 during one of our “Saturday lunch” gatherings with my friend Judy Chang , she said: “my friend Etienne Hugel a winer from Alsace is coming for a three day visit to Israel , how about you hosting an intimate dinner with Etienne?”.
It is not everyday that I get to host a real member from the Aristocracy of European winemakers: The Primum Familiae Vini –(in latin) or First Families of Wine, the eleven families that belong to this exclusive ‘club’, where the criteria for membership are: quality and continuous family ownership.
The list of members is astonishing: Pol Roger from Champagne, Château Mouton Rothschild of Bordeaux, Maison Joseph Drouhin from Burgundy, Hugel et Fils from Alsace (second oldest in the group with 13 generations since 1639), Perrin et Fils from the Rhône Valley, Egon Müller from the Saar, Antinori, the oldest wine family of the list (26 generations) from Tuscany, Tenuta San Guido with their Sassicaia, Miguel Torres and Vega Sicilia from Spain and the Symington Port estates in the Douro.
A member of the Royal families of European wines at my house? will he be a pompous “prince” who is going to look down on us PLEBS (in ancient Rome: despised social class, commoners, low-born, undistinguished…), this guy will dwell for a few hours under my roof? but than, Why not? this is an opportunity and so I readily took the “challenge”, (being told by Judy he is a cool guy, a hippy of sorts, this is where I feel comfortable)
This is going to be a night of food and wine, it has to be special, extraordinary, This guy knows his food and wine, he dined everywhere and drank anything, he has good palate and nose, I can not surprise him, but I will do my best… after all, this is a meal for only 5 diners, (shame I have to work late that day and will have only an hour and a half before the guests arrive).
As it turned to be, it was a night of food, wine, Rock n’ roll, amitié (real friendship) and giving (but thats for later on…)
Planning the menu has to include 2 first dishes cooked on the spot , the main dish will have to be a roast (let the oven do the job for me while I’m busy prepping the first 2 dishes and the theme? Eclectic! things that go well with Alsacian, Hugel wines (which I bought in advance at “Derech Hayaiin“ , of Family Shaked, Hugel representatives in Israel (Importers) and the best chain of fine wine shops around the country (http://www.wineroute.co.il/?tree=english&item=0&theme=he-il.
So I have Gewurtztraminer, Riesling, and Gentil “Hugel”, which as they say: “brings together the suave spicy flavour of Gewürztraminer, the body of Pinot Gris, the finesse of Riesling, the grapiness of Muscat and the refreshing character of Sylvaner”, all the above Hugel wines as my cooking wines, this pulled me to opt for dishes with a touch of the far east, a touch of the middle east (after all that’s where we are, and the guest is coming from a visit to Beirut, prior to his “Holy-Land” visit… all with a delicate french touch.
For first course: Giant crystal Shrimps rolled in Zucchini, fried in goose fat, in Champagne and Riesling shrimp sauce. This is a takeoff on Joël Robuchon’s dish with Langoustine in champagne sauce. this sauce is really alluring you could almost drink it on its own with all the shrimp and champagne aromas , sublime!
For the second course: I need a south east Asian touch to accompany my second cooking wine the Gewürztraminer, Fried Veal sweetbreads in a light gwurzt curry cream sauce on a bed of blanched wild Rocket. for the blanching I used a bottle of simmering Gentill Hugel wine .
For the main course : Mediterranean style Roast Leg of Lamb, served with Roasted potatoes, steamed Spinach in Olive oil, White and brown Oven steamed Shimeji Mushrooms (homage to Japan…)
Than, A selection of french and local goats cheeses with green salad.
For dessert: Tart Tatin of Pears and Ginger served with dessert wine which turned to be to amazing 1976 Gewürztraminer Hugel “Sélection de Grains Nobles”, Nectar of the Gods …
I have just finished rolling my shrimps in “zucchini leaves” , and prepping our sweetbreads : blanch, peel and all… and most of the Mise en scène (after all cooking is a bit like movie making or a theatre production) and Mise en place, that our front door was open and in came my old friends Yair and Judy and a stormy guy in slightly sweaty T shirt (it was a hot day outside), his face lighted the room with joy (almost childish), his hands full with presents, offerings of fine wines and a mystery Pink box the content of which I will reveal later. With a rolling stones song at the background he immediately blended into the music and my greetings met his happiness and good will. A simple guy like me and you, not the aristocratic attitude I dreaded at first.
I immediately felt (I like this guy) and after a brief introduction we became the oldest best buddies ever…
The kitchen is partially open plan and the dinner table was laid down, and with no further pause he “demanded” a Champagne Cooler Bucket full of Ice to put the 2004 Louis Roederer Cristal Brut Millesime Champagne, he had in his hand .
Cristal is a magnificent wine of 40% Chardonnay and 60% Pinot Noir, aged for six years!!! on the yeast and a further 8 month in the bottle without yeast. and the vintage 2004, Ai Yai Yai (as Etienne said several times that night…) We impatiently opened the wine after it got to our temperature of taste (not too cold). After the first sniff and sip the Cristal hallmarks are evident: “purity, precision and the unique harmony of flavours associated with the subtle power of our historic vines, located on the finest Champagne Grand Cru terroirs.” – as described by Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, Roederer’s Cellar Master, an extraordinary champagne on all counts.
This wine has a lot of layered aromatic elegance of white peach, apricot, honeyed citrus blossoms and amazing minerality , grilled hazelnuts and creamy butter texture, very sensual and a great company to our first course, which got hailed around the table
(Though I know the Cristal did most of the job, raising the dish to a higher level, it went gloriously with our first dish of the evening and in the end Etienne did ask for the remaining sauce to be served to him as a soup, he loved every tiny bit of it and drank it to the last drop, a most amusing moment… as you can see below.
My guests were asked to pass the time as I go prepare the next dish (sweetbreads), but Etienne insisted on a “tour” of my cellar (a small room with a few gems collected over the years, nothing like the cellars he is used to…), still not bad by local standards, I gave him the “Royal tour” and chose a bottle of Krug Grande Cuvée, to keep the champagne bit of the evening going on, which met immediately Etienne’s approval, the Krug Grande Cuvée NV Champagne, sat on ice to be cooled just slightly more, and the primum Vini represenative in the dinning room followed me to the kitchen, noticing my Lacanche stove he said (In his lovely french accent):” There’s one like this one, in the presidents private kitchen at the Élysée Palace” (the official residence of “Le Président de la République Française”), than immediately started to ask questions regarding our next dish, from a knowledgeable point of view, an interested observer willing to help, full of amazement almost like a child , discussing the how and why and the thought behind them. I guess I was a bit distracted and pulled the Arugula out of the “wine steaming” slightly ahead of time, the leaves were still a little too tough but it somehow went well enough with the curry cream sauce and the tender, butter fried sweetbreads,
Etienne helped me serve the dishes to the table (such a sweet guy), as we were eating sipping our wonderful Krug Etienne most graciously looked at me and said (again in his sweet french accent) : “are you trying to give french cooking a bad name?” commending my second dish with the utmost compliment (a polite expression of praise or admiration), by now we were already drinking the powerful Chassagne-Montrachet Les Chenevottes 1er Cru Michel Colin Deleger 1993 , not the best vintage year for this wine, even worse after the two great champagnes but better than anticipated. Although my cellar stores great Bourgogne whites, we kept for the moment with the wines brought by the guests for the occasion. This is a leisurely dinner and we were not going to be deterred by a mediocre Wine here or there, and so we withdrew to the “drawing room” adjacent to the dining table for a smoke and a cheerful chat, while our joint of lamb was resting on a rack waiting to be carved soon.
This is turning to be a great fun occasion and we are only half way through, the rest of this meal, the wines, the food, in Part 2 and the promised surprise in the pink box to follow soon…
Anatomy and physiology of smell in wine tasting.
The sense of Smell in wine tasting
Two of our five senses respond to the chemical stimuli from our surroundings: taste and smell. Both depend on chemical interaction, known as chemoreception. Taste is: contact chemoreception, because to sensing the taste of anything requires contact with it. Smell is: remote chemoreception, it is airborne, and can be sensed from a distance.(from The Sense of Smell (Brief Overview for Primary/Secondary Grade Students) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIDBG-UPRUI
In 1990 BBC books published a small (soft cover) book, by Jilly Goolden, titled “The Taste of WINE“, for me it was one of the basic ABC’s to wine tasting. It meticulously described all the “Smells of wine”, not TASTE (divided by country of origin, grape variety, local blends etc.). Semantically, it follows the title of the reference book by Emile Peynaud: The Taste of Wine: The Art Science of Wine Appreciation (1984). Both books are titled mistakenly: The taste of wine. But it is by the aromas of wine (the sense of smell) that wine is “tasted”. It occurs mainly by accumulating information from smelling the wine in the glass before tasting and retro-nasally through the back of the mouth as the wine is swirled in the mouth, It is here that vapors of wine smells travel via the Nasopharynx to the olfactory bulb, and finally translated in the form of flavour by the brain. The human tongue (sense of taste) is limited to the primary tastes perceived by taste receptors on the tongue: sour, bitter, salty, sweet and savory (Umami). The wide array of fruit, earthy, floral, herbal, mineral and woody flavours perceived in wine derive from aroma notes which are interpreted in our brain through chemical information obtained by the primary receptor cells in the olfactory membrane.
.In professional wine tasting, a distinction is made between wine odors: “aromas” and “bouquet“.
The term Bouquet refers to the smells that arise from the chemical reactions of fermentation and aging of the wine in the bottle as part of the wine aging process, these are more complex kind of smells, combined together to induce an odor from our memory bank of smells (ground coffee, cigar box, leather, Tarte tatin, toasted bread, compost, caramel, toffee, mint etc.)
Apart maybe from wines made from the Muscat grape no wine smells like the juice of the grapes variety it is made from. Aroma refers to the smells unique to a certain grape variety, and is most readily demonstrated in varietal wines–such as Raspberries and blackcurrants with Cabernet Sauvignon, exotic fruits and canned Leeches with Gewürztraminer or Gooseberries and freshly cut grass in Sauvignon Blanc. These are smells that are commonly associated with a young wine.
As wine ages chemical reactions between the acids, sugars, alcohols and phenolic compounds, create “new smells” that are known as a wine’s bouquet. These can include honey in an aged Sauternes or mushrooms even truffles in a Pinot noir, and others listed above. The term bouquet can also be expanded to include the smells derived from fermentation and exposure to oak. Wine aromas are sub-divided into three categories-primary, secondary and tertiary aromas.
Primary aromas are those specific to the grape variety itself. Secondary aromas are those derived from alcoholic fermentation and oak aging. Tertiary aromas are those that develop through bottled aging.
Wine contains volatile and non-volatile compounds that contribute to the overall wine aroma. The majority of volatile compounds responsible for aroma combine with sugars in the wine to form odorless glycosides. Through the process of hydrolysis, caused by enzymes or acids in the wine, the odorless compounds revert into an aromatic form, thus the act of tasting wine is essentially an act of smelling vaporized aroma compounds
Of the human senses, the sense of smell is the most precise, with high sensitivity to minute amount of odorant. It is also the most fragile. Most of us have experienced detecting an aroma of bread baking, even from a long distance and certainly in the bakery, yet after a fairly short but continuous exposure of just a few minutes, that same smell is less noticeable. This “fatigue” is really an accommodation process of the sense of smell by means of sensory adaptation and occurs in other senses as well.
Since olfaction is connected directly to the Limbic system in our brain that supports a variety of functions, including emotion, creativity, long-term memory, and olfaction. Being primarily responsible for our emotional life, the formation of memories and smells in the same brain center facilitates connection of certain emotions that were evoked with a certain odor “background” a memory of that smell will be unconsciously related to an emotion. A connection between emotion memory and smell is created in our brain. The memory/olfaction connection plays a major role in the ability to relate (by association) wine odors to groups of smells fruity floral vegetal etc. which is a basic requirement in wine tasting. In fact of all our senses, the sense of smell is the most intimately connected with the brain.
The amount of odors in wine and their inner intricacies present a huge vocabulary from which to choose when coming to describe a wine. Ann C. Noble of University of California, Davis, formulated an aroma aid called the “Aroma Wheel”. It divides the various wine aromas to groups and sub groups within them covering the most commonly aromas encountered in table wines this was a means to try and “standardize” terms used to describe wines to a point that wine tasters, wine journalist, wine novices and readers of wine articles will “know” what was meant by a certain description:
The Aroma Wheel provides a visual graphic of the different categories and aroma components that one can encounter in wine.
The wheel breaks down wine aromas into 12 basic categories and then sub-divides them into different aromas that fit those main categories:
Fruity – Aromas like blackcurrant, apricot, apples and plums
Floral – Aromas like rose, acacia, or Jasmine
Spicy – Aromas like cloves, cinnamon or anise
Microbiological – Aromas like yeast and lactic acid
Nutty – Aromas like pine nuts walnut and hazelnut
Caramelized – Aromas like butterscotch and molasses
Woody – Aromas often imparted by oak like vanilla and coffee
Earthy – Aromas such as mushroom compost and mildew
Chemical – Includes aromas like sulfur and petroleum or nail varnish
Pungent – Aromas like alcohol and vinegar
Oxidized – Aromas like Sherry or acetaldehyde
Aroma Wheel: property of Aromaster wine aroma kits http://www.aromaster.com/product/wine-aroma-wheel/
A drawback of the wheel is that it does not contain terms used to describe the sense of touch on the palate, like texture or astringency, which affect the overall “tasting experience” and are a major factor in determining a wine’s quality, balance.
Prior to tasting the wine, a good swirl of the glass releases wine odorants into the glass bowl. Some glasses are specifically designed to enhance aromatic qualities and characters of different wines, these assist in capturing more aromatic compounds within the glass for the taster/sniffer, to detect. Wines served at warmer temperature will be more aromatic than wine served cooler due to heat’s ability to increase the volatility of aromatic compounds in the wine. Swirling aerates, the wine and increases available surface area, increasing the amount of volatilized aromatic molecules. Some subtle odors can be hidden by a more dominant smell that arise after swirling, so most professional tasters will sniff the wine briefly first before swirling.
The deeper our nose is stuck inside the glass, the greater the chance to capture the specific wine aromas. Our nose can detect and distinguish between thousands of different smells, which increase by means of training through exposure.
When wine is sipped, it is warmed in the mouth and mixes with saliva to vaporize the volatile aroma compounds. These compounds are then inhaled “retro-nasally” through the back of the mouth to where it is received by the millions of nerve receptor cells in the olfactory bulb. An average human can be trained to distinguish between thousands of smells but can usually name only a handful at a time when presented with a wide variety of aromas. Professional wine tasters will use their vast “library” of memorized aromas, for those with a lesser collection of memorized odors a visual aid like the aroma wheel.
Detecting an aroma is only part of wine tasting. The next step is to describe or communicate what that aroma is verbally. In this step subjective nature of wine tasting is most prominent. Different individuals have their own way of describing familiar scents and aromas based on their unique smell experiences, memories and “smell vocabulary”. Furthermore, there are varying levels of sensitivity and recognition thresholds among humans of some aromatic compounds. This is why one taster may describe different aromas and flavors from another taster sampling the very same wine.
In 1981, as a result of his research into vocabulary used to describe wine, Jean Lenoir created Le Nez du Vin®, a unique and learned combination of written works and collection of bottled aromas covering a large array of odors which form a part of the scents of wine.
“Le Nez du vin is a The 54 Aroma Master Kit has been the reference for wine aromas vocabulary. Our sense of smell is very delicate and highly sensitive. Practice through daily training allows us to recognize and identify the 54 aromas most commonly present in wine; thus, improving our appreciation and enjoyment of wine. These are the typical aromas found in red and white wine (including Champagne) from France and around the world. They give us an indication of the wine’s origin, the grape variety as well as the vineyard, the winemaking techniques used and the aging conditions. Memorizing these aromas provides an accurate and coherent vocabulary to further stimulate our appreciation of fine wines”
The 54 Aromas of Le Nez Du Vin are:
23 Fruit Aromas, 6 Floral Aromas, 10 Vegetal Aromas, 5 Spices, 3 Animal Aromas and 7 Grilled Aromas (full list could be found in: http://www.winearomas.com/master_kit.html
“It is widely accepted that sensory interactions can, and do, occur during wine consumption. To this concern, many studies have dealt with aroma-taste interactions which have been attributed to physicochemical interactions in the product itself, interactions at the receptor level or cognitive interactions. Although the understanding of these interactions has grown during the years and it has been demonstrated that they are strongly product-dependent, investigations have seldom gone beyond that of model solutions with a reduced number of components (volatile and/or nonvolatile molecules). Recently some investigations carried out in this field have been conducted with more complex matrices in an attempt to simulate interactions in real wine samples. The aim of this chapter is to review these latest advances in the research of wine sensory interactions, and to highlight the magnitude, relative importance and qualitative nature of such sensory effects.” (From: Sensory Interactions in Wine: Effect Of Nonvolatile Molecules on Wine Aroma and Volatiles on Taste/Astringency Perception Authors: (María-Pilar Sáenz-Navajas, Eva Campo, Dominique Valentin, Purificación Fernández-Zurbano, Vicente Ferreira).
The “correct” scent of wine can quite easily be reached at the winery level but the quality of wine starts at the flavour’s level which is a combination of taste and smell add to those the sense of touch on our palate and the balance of the wine can be judged to give a complete view of the wine’s quality.
Next post of the sense of taste continues “our” journey through the symphony of senses in relation to wine tasting.
The Anatomy and physiology of Olfaction-(smell) in Wine Tasting,
The sense of Smell – Sense No. 2 in wine tasting.
Cranial nerve No. 1 the Olfactory nerve.
Smell refers to 1: Olfaction, the actual act of smelling an odor, or 2: odor, as simply the smell that is being emitted by vaporized molecules of a volatile material.
It is through the aromas of wine that wine is tasted. The human tongue is limited to the 5 primary tastes perceived by taste receptors on the tongue: sour, sweet, salty, bitter and Umami, so if an orange is sweet and sour and a strawberry is also sweet and sour, it is the “sweet and sour” with an orange or a strawberry aroma that distinguishes between the two. Taste and aroma together – Flavour, is the final interpretation of consumed food or beverage in our brain. Of the five senses, smell is of the highest sensitivity, approximately 10,000 times more sensitive than the sense of taste. The part of smell in what we define as flavour is 75% smell (olfaction) and 25% taste. Since smell is 10,000 times more sensitive than taste it requires that amount less Chemical Stimuli to be manifested clearly in the brain.
The wide array of fruity, vegetal, earthy, floral, herbal, mineral woody and other flavours perceived in wine are derived from aroma notes interpreted by the olfactory bulb. In wine tasting, wine is often smelled before being drunk in order to identify some components of the wine that may be present. Different terms are used to describe what is being smelled. Aroma can be referred to as “pleasant” even alluring smell as opposed to odor which is referred to as unpleasant or repelling smell (mainly found in wine faults). The term aroma maybe further distinguished from bouquet which generally refers to the smells that arise from the chemical reactions of fermentation and aging of the wine as it ages in the bottle (tertiary aroma).
Smell (or Olfaction) allows humans and other living organisms with smell receptors, to identify their food, mating partner and warn against approaching enemies, it provides both sensual pleasure (the odor of the opposite sex, flowers and perfume) as well as warnings of danger from spoiled food, nearby predators and chemical hazards: toxins and poisons. It is a means by which all living creatures communicate with their surroundings and environment.
The sense of smell is a direct chemical sense, but in order to smell any product, it must be Volatile so that vaporized molecules from it penetrate through the nose, and reach the center is the odor in the nose, the olfactory bulb.
Everything we “smell”: from flowers, vegetables, fruit, baking odors fragrances, perfumes, to even putrid chemicals, are volatile chemical molecules i.e. molecules dissolved as gas vapors in the air. These come to “contact” with the smell center in the upper roof of our nose. Only highly volatile materials are distributors of smell that affect the olfactory bulb our smell center.
General Physiology of Olfaction: The smell sense organ and the OLFACTORY NERVE (Cranial Nerve No.1)
Odorants are volatile chemical compounds that are carried by inhaled air to the Regio olfactoria (olfactory epithelium) located at the roof of the two nasal cavities of the human nose. The olfactory region of each of the two nasal passages in humans is a small area of about 2.5 square centimeters containing in total approximately 50 million primary sensory receptor cells. This is not so many in comparison to a rabbit : 100 million of these olfactory receptors, or a dog: 220 million. Humans are nonetheless capable of detecting certain substances in dilutions of less than one part in several billion parts of air. An odorant must possess certain molecular properties in order to provide sensory properties. It must have some water solubility, a sufficiently high vapor pressure, low polarity, an ability to dissolve in fat (lipophilicity), and surface activity (these are all physical terms) The sense of smell is able to distinguish among a practically infinite number of chemical compounds at very low concentrations .
The olfactory region consists of CILIA (Tiny, hair-like structures) projecting down out of the olfactory epithelium into a layer of mucous which is about 60 microns thick. This mucous layer is a fatty-rich secretion that bathes the receptors at the outer surface. The mucous layer is produced by special glands which are present in the olfactory epithelium. The mucous lipids (fats) assist in transporting the odorant molecules, as only volatile materials that are soluble in the mucous can interact with the smell receptors and initiate the signals that our brain interprets as smell. The olfactory cilia are the sites where molecular reception with the odorant occurs and sensory transmission starts.
For a long while it was thought that there are specific receptors for different odorant molecule and smell is initiated only when the right receptor is affected. An interesting feature of the physiology of smell was discovered by the 2004 Nobel Prize winners Linda Buck and Richard Axel. In contrast to the simple but specific key-lock model that governs taste, smell is dictated by a whole set of sensory cells. One type of fragrant molecule interacts with more than one receptor type, so the overall sensation is created by the combination of activated receptors and not a specific receptor as thought prior to their study.
Humans are able to distinguish between around 10,000 different odors. There are a combination of specific odor-sensing receptor cells that are capable of perceiving o it and the accumulation of the mixed information of these receptors pass the information of the “smell” of the specific odorant, on to the brain for their final disclosure. Although all people can identify most of the smells, some people trained as professionals “sniffers” in the fragrance/ cosmetics industry or professional food and wine tasters are considered to be in the high-end of this sensual ability they are more focused in distinguishing between the different odors and subsequently poses higher ability to describe the smell verbally, mainly by association.
Aroma refers to any volatized odor that reaches the olfactory bulb at the top of our nose. This odor can be sensed either through the nose or retro-nasally through the back of the mouth in the form of flavour. When the brain combines the taste stimuli with the aroma stimuli, flavor is perceived. (Tactile sensations such as the astringency from tannin or alcohol also play a role in flavour. Partially from: http://www.cf.ac.uk/biosi/staffinfo/jacob/teaching/sensory/olfact1.html#Tasteandsmell
Groups of Odors:
the Primary odor groups that appear in wine are: Fruity: ethyl acetate, Floral: flowers scent jasmine, roses, Spicy: ginger, pepper, Minty – Herbal: either from the mint family or fresh herbs, Resinous: resin, smoke, Burning: tar, toasted wood, Pungent: vinegar ,formic acid, acetic acid. There are Other Odor groups such as: Ethereal : Dry cleaning chemicals : Musky: muscone, Camphor – the smell of mothballs, eucalyptus oil, Rancid: smell of decomposition (isovaleric acid, butyric acid), Putrid: Foul rotten egg. Many esters have distinctive fruit-like odors, and many occur naturally in the essential oils of plants.
Ethyl acetate is the most common ester in wine, being the product of the most common volatile organic acid — acetic acid, and the ethyl alcohol generated during the fermentation. The aroma of ethyl acetate is most vivid in younger wines and contributes towards the general perception of “fruitiness” in the wine. Excessive amounts of ethyl acetate are considered a wine fault. Exposure to oxygen can exacerbate the fault due to the oxidation of ethanol to acetaldehyde, which leaves the wine with a sharp vinegar-like taste. (from Wikipedia)
Ester Name s and their Odors: Allyl hexanoate : pineapple, Benzyl acetate : pear, strawberry, jasmine, Bornyl acetate : pine, Butyl butyrate: pineapple, Ethyl acetate : nail polish remover, model airplane glue, Ethyl butyrate : banana, pineapple, strawberry, Ethyl hexanoate: waxy-green banana, Ethyl cinnamate : cinnamon, Ethyl formate: lemon, rum, strawberry, Ethyl heptanoate : apricot, cherry, grape, raspberry, Ethyl isovalerate: apple, Ethyl lactate: butter, cream, Ethyl nonanoate: grape, Ethyl pentanoate: apple, Geranyl acetate: geranium, Geranyl butyrate: cherry, Isobutyl acetate: cherry, raspberry, strawberry, Isobutyl formate: raspberry, Isoamyl acetate: pear, banana, Isopropyl acetate: fruity, Linalyl acetate: lavender, sage, Linalyl butyrate: peach, Linalyl formate: apple, peach, Methyl anthranilate: grape, jasmine, Methyl cinnamate: strawberry, Methyl pentanoate (methyl valerate): flowery, Octyl acetate: fruity-citrus, Pentyl butyrate (amyl butyrate): apricot, pear, pineapple, Propyl hexanoate: blackberry, pineapple, cheese, wine.
The sense of smell (or olfaction) is our most primitive sense. Scent messages pass directly through the limbic system (the emotional center of the brain), on its way to a conscious identification in the cortex. The Limbic system, supports a variety of functions, including emotion, behavior, creativity, motivation, long-term memory, and olfaction. It appears to be primarily responsible for our emotional life, and has a great deal to do with the formation of memories.
Since wine only very rarely possesses the tastes of the juice of the grape it is made of, Professional wine tasters use associations and analogies to everyday materials to describe aromas. Wine tasters Experts practice and use their sense of smell very frequently and they in fact “train” their sense of smell to improve, by methodical exposure to specific smells of a known origin. Accumulation of memories from known smells increases the smell vocabulary to a point that wine taste will “provoke” an association to other memorized smells from the Brain’s library of thousands of smells.
The sense of smell is one of the few senses that can be improved by training. It is possible to train our nose (and brain) to distinguish better, between smells. This can be achieved by sniffing something with a strong odor for a period several times a day. If we add new odors at set intervals continually for some time, our “vocabulary” of different odors will increase and we will be able through learning and memory to distinguish between larger arrays of the 10,000 or so existing odors. Our sense of smell, will also get stronger and association to known odors emitting materials will get faster.
People list smells which “make them happy. These are all part of their top 20 smell vocabulary: Freshly baked bread, Clean sheets, Freshly mown grass, Fresh flowers, Freshly ground coffee, Fresh air after rain fall, Vanilla, Chocolate, Fish & Chips, Bacon frying, Roast Dinner, Babies, Lemon zest, Lavender, Petrol, Apple and blackberry crumble in the oven, A freshly lit match, Roses, Party poppers, Rubber tyres. Apparently smell emotion and memory are interrelated in the brain as they originate in the same Limbic system
Next post on the specific scents of wine… soon.
Wine is sunlight, held together by water. – Galileo
sense one in wine tasting – SIGHT, as appeared on https://wine4soul.com/2012/10/28/vision-anatomy-and-physiology-of-wine-tasting/ continues…
Physiologically, sight is initiated when reflected light of different wave lengths: colour, hit the eye.
We have the bottle before us, the glass is filled (no more than a third up), the reflected light in different colours hits the external surface of the eyeball: The Cornea, travels through the lens and inwards through the Vitreous Humor, to hit the Retina, the innermost layer of the eye ball. The Retina consists of nerve tissue, Photo-receptors that sense the light entering the eye, and start translating it as the images of our vision in the form of shape and colour in the brain.
The Physiology of sight
Photoreceptors are specialty cells in the Retina, they allow us to see shapes, colors and the combination of both, something we all take for granted.
How is it done? The retina contains 2 kinds of photoreceptors:
These receptors enter into function when we enter a dark cellar full of wine wonders, or when we stroll down the vineyard at night (with or without our lover, better with!)
2. Cone cells: The other kind of photoreceptor cell. There are three different types of cones, sensitive to different light wave lengths (Red Green & Blue). The cones operate in bright light and are responsible for high acuity vision, as well as ability to “see” colour.
Rods and cones form an uneven mosaic within the retina; there are 10 times more rod cells than cones. Rods are concentrated at the outer edges of the retina. There are approximately 130 million rod cells in the human retina. Rod cells are almost entirely responsible for peripheral and night vision. They are 100 times more sensitive to a single photon than cones so rods require less light to function than cones and allow us to see in the dark. Single Rod cells collect and amplify light signals. However, this convergence comes at a cost to visual acuity / resolution, because the accumulated information from several cells simultaneously is less accurate than information from each rod cell individually. But that will have to do since we look at wine under good light conditions and not in the dark.
In the retina’s center – fovea, cones are highly concentrated 5-10 times more than on the rest of the retinal surface, this area is described by Nobel Prize winner Jeremy Nathans as: “the most valuable square millimeter of tissue in the body.”
The first kind of cone responds to red colour (light of Long wavelengths – L around 564–580 nm); The second type responds to green colour (Medium wavelength – M, 534–545 nm), The third type responds to blue colour (Short wavelength – S, 420–440 nm), The difference in the signals received from the three cone types in varying degree of stimulus strength which allows the brain to perceive all possible colours. The brain combines the information from each type of receptor to give rise to different perceptions of different wavelengths of light and ultimately the correct colour.
Wine comes in a wide variety of colours shades and hues. It is these receptors and the wonders of the final interpretation of these signals into what we call sight, in our brain, will allow us to distinguish between different grape varieties, wines from different regions, wines in different state of evolution and wine making methods just by mere sight, with no other senses involvement.
Several theories explain the mechanism of colour vision, Helmholtz’s trichromatic theory & Hering’s opponent process theory, they differ on the exact point colour processing actually begins, either within the receptor cells in the retina or slightly behind it, at the level of retinal ganglion cells and beyond. Visual information is then sent to the brain from retinal ganglion cells via the optic nerve to the optic chiasm: a point where the two optic nerves meet and cross each other. Information from one visual field crosses to the other side of the brain to the visual cortex.
Cone cells allow us to stabilize the colour constancy of an object, so when we look at red wine we preserve an ability to see the true colours of our object for instance red wine in different hues and shades.
The wine clarity is wine easily examined at a slight tilt under clear light conditions either with the background of a white paper or a well lit background. And brightness is reflected from it. Fresh wine should have a clear spark ‘sneaky’ kind of wink and it looks sleek and shiny.
Clarity is graded to 3-4 levels:
Brilliant or Crystalline: perfect transparency; the surface of the wine reflects the light with a sparkle.
Clear: normal state of clarity
Dull: a partial lack of luster
Cloudy or slushy: with or without suspended particles visible to the naked eye
Wine, whatever its category should be clear, perfectly transparent and free of foreign deposits or suspended particles, most suspended particles are wine deposits and are not associated with wine faults. Signs of cloudiness may indicate a defect. A fine wine of any color at its prime should be not only clear but also bright with a luminous quality.
Type of Wine – Obviously, different types of wines will have dramatically different wine colour..White wines tend toward the more clear yellow and gold end of the spectrum while red wines can vary from light red to deep purple. Rosé wines are somewhere in between. Additionally, your expectation of what a wine should look like depends on the type of wine in question. For example, while many Cabernet Sauvignon, based wines will be dark purple or even close to opaque, Pinot Noir-based wines tend to be lighter with less depth of color and a lighter hue.
Is the color of the wine appropriate for the type of wine you taste? You will learn this as you go along and get more experience with different types of wines.
The COLOURS of WINE
Colour is simply light of different wavelengths and frequencies that we can actually see and is made up from photons, reflection of light from the wine (as our object) is what we see in form, shape, and colour with its inner diversity of different hues and shades. .
Wine colours, originate from the grape’s skin. Grape juice from red or white varieties is usually transparent (clear to cloudy). Anthocyanins are the chemical compounds that give wine white or red its colour, or pigment.
Different “exposure” to grape treatments like: amount and type of crushing, which exerts colors into the liquid. Changes in temperature, contact of broken skin with the juice, exposure to oxygen, fermentation with or without the skins (lees), length of fermentation, type of tanks: barrel or steel, etc. All of these factors change and affect the wine’s colour, which keeps changing even after bottling, as aging affects the depth and hue of the basic color of each wine. Different grape varieties contribute different hues of white yellow or red as described below.
Polyphenols contribute to the yellow colour of white wines, phenols concentration in different grape variety varies: level of phenols in the Riesling grape is very low hence they appear almost transparent, Chardonnay on the other hand due to high phenolic concentration will appear darker : yellow lemony colour. Apart from phenols, maturity level of the grape will also affect the colour. The riper the grape, the darker shades of yellows in white wines.
The colors of the wine can vary strongly depending on age, concentration and wine making techniques. Colour of white wines deepens with age, tending toward full straw or pale gold. More mature dry wines, particularly if aged in wood, take on rich golden tones, sometimes even with hints of copper or brass. Brown hues are a sign of over oxidation, (a defect in wine), but in certain fortified wines such as Marsala, it is a normal feature. Hints of red in a white wine are usually indications of a fault.
White Wine Colours:
The grapes and wines below, usually exhibit the listed colors.
These colours are an indication to the content of the glass on the eye level, well before our nose or taste buds go into wine tasting action! Wines exhibiting colours beyond their expected, ordinary hue may already be “suspected” of a fault of some sort either in the winemaking process, or more likely in their maturing state. Above is the colour of the 1962 Maison Noemie Verneaux Mersault Charmes, we opened (a magnum) the wine forty years old now!!! was slightly oxidized but still drinkable! This was its colour, (between us from now on I will photo real wine colors and exchange the colours above, with them!), I would say it falls between deep “old gold” and Amber what a delightful robe adorns these wineglasses.
Wine colour and state of clarity are mentioned as old as the New Testament (Proverbs 23:31):
King James Bible (Cambridge Ed) Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.
New American Standard Bible : Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it goes down smoothly;
Holman Christian Standard Bible : Don’t gaze at wine because it is red, when it gleams in the cup and goes down smoothly.
International Standard Version: Don’t stare into red wine, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly.
Next post will continue re: Rose’ and Red wines their colours and the way we see and perceive them
A delayed post to sum up a GREAT event; The Euro 2012 Final
So as the teams get ready for the BIG FINALE, sorting out their players, see who is fit and who would have to miss the squad. Prepare the list of substitutes, the strategy of game, against a known “enemy” on an unknown day. Isn’t that what makes Sport in general and football in particular a mostly harmless (not always!!), substitute of WAR?!
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has said he will try to find out the weaknesses in the Spain team, and would then set up his team to exploit those during their Euro Cup final showdown on Sunday in Kiev.
We did not invent these notions, us humans of the 20th and 21st century.
The ancient Olympic Games are shrouded in mystery and legend but first records indicate that they began in 776 BC in Olympia west Peloponnesus Greece. They were celebrated until 394 AD when they were suppressed by Theodosius claiming them to be a ritual of a pagan cult. The Games were usually held every four years, or Olympiad, as the unit of time came to be known. During a celebration of the Games, an Olympic Truce was enforced, wars were willingly stopped in their midst without resolve, allowing free and safe pass to all soldiers / athletes who traveled from their countries to the Games in safety. The prizes for the victors were wreaths of laurel leaves Hellanodikis used to place a sacred olive tree wreath- kotinos, on the winner’s head.
I know I have made a slight U turn from the issue at hand, after all it is my blog, but I’ll get back to the point.
So, as the teams got ready I had to get cracking, choosing the right team from the wines of each country ONLY from my own humble cellar, this is not an easy task since the cellar is unfortunately not amazingly stocked with THE Great wines of any of these wonderful wine countries, but I thinks I can manage fairly on both sides so: same disadvantages or “rules” apply on both sides, FAIR? and so the showdown begins it’s HIGH NOON in my Cellar!
They stand in the tunnel the tension is sky high, I am a bit concerned with the gloom on Casillas face he is usually calm (he is a well trained War Horse), but not today! does he feel the weight of the occasion? Or is he not 100% fit??? On the other side, Buffon is calm and assured on the outside (the poor bugger one of the world’s BEST goalkeepers will collect the ball 4 times from inside the net (But we know all that by now, apologies for the delay)
On the “wine field” the match is more even… I can turn it with words to either side… for… if the final score would have been different (in Italy’s favor) I would still present the same wines as “my teams” but twist it in favor of the outcome so let us be fair, the cellar does contain some great wines from good to great vintage years to represent a winning team on either side… Same as the teams in front of us but how will they perform as a team? Will the sommelier (open the bottles on time to serve them at their best, let them breath to just the right point of oxidation, decide to decant a wine of sorts oversee the correct serving temperature to name but a few of his responsibilities.
The line up
03 Pique, 15 Ramos, 17 Arbeloa, 18 Alba
06 Iniesta (Mata – 87′ ), 08 Xavi , 10 Fabregas (Torres – 75′ )
14 Xabi Alonso, 16 Busquets, 21 Silva (Pedrito – 59′ )
Substitutes: 07 Pedrito, 09 Torres, 13 Mata
Sommelier Coach– Vicente del Bosque: A coach to envy, with all the talent he has at hand. The players like his calm approach to the squad. He lead his side to the 2010 World Cup final and Cup. Winning the Euro 2012 title will place him among the all-time great national managers/coaches.
- Vega Sicilia Unico 1991 – (Iniesta ) This is Vega sicilia Gran Reserva wine produced only on good vintage years. It is released only on Super Vintages and released a minimum of 10 years or even more after the vintage. Made from the oldest vines in the Ribera del Duero, the wine is mostly Tempranillo ( 80%) and Cabernet Sauvignon ( 20%)
The 1991 Unico Reserva, Laid down for 14 yeard before release on 2005. With a deep dark purple color. Aromas of black ripe forest berries soaked in a good brandy, some Vanilla, dried fruits figs and aromatic Cigar noticeable touch. Very powerful “encounter” on the palate but the tannins are rounded though present, will go on evolving. It’s has great finesse combined with a great balance of youthful fruit and tannins to keep it alive for another 20-30 years.
- La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 Cosecha 1987 – (Casillas) A wine glistening in brilliant, red colour with light brown edges. The wine is still extremely aromatic and elegant In the mouth, with notes of cinnamon cloves and all spice with a touch of vanilla. It is now smooth with rounded tannins flowing on the palate but has a very long satisfying finish It will continue to develop tertiary aromas and approachability.
- L’Ermita Alvaro Palacios 1997 -( Xavi) ” Powerful aromas of ripe black fruit in blueberry Jam, good oncentration of fruits and precise balance with tannins. This must be Spain’s most expensive wine! It reveals a pleasant liqueur touch on the nose as well as on the palate. It is elegant with but powerful, with fresh fruit and pleasant minerality characteristic of its geological origins in Priorat. Great stuff (it wasn’t a waste on you guys “The Wine Guzzlers” that memorable night in Paris…
- Marques de Riscal 1994 Gran Reserva
This Gran Reserva contains 20% of Cabernet Sauvignon and of course 70% tempranillo and 10% mazuelo Probably the best Rioja vintage of the nineties. Aged 29 months in American oak, then three years in bottle, to become a multilayered wine of great surprise
- Marques de Caceres 1994 Gaudium
A new super Riojan from Caceres, made only in the best vintage years. Aged in French oak and produced under the watchful eyes of the “flying Oenologist” Michel Rolland. This effort resulted in a wine with aromas of black ripe cherries with a touch of cedar shaving and tobacco with a touch of Mediterranean herbs. It comes out as an elegant wine with fine tannin structure. Very good length and vitality.
6. Muga Reseva 1988 Rioja
7. Vega sicilia, Tinto Valebuena No 5 Ribera del duoro cosecha 1992
8. Bodegas del Marques de Vargas Rioja Reserva Privada 1994
9. 1994 Miguel Torres Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Coronas Reserva Mas La Plana
10. Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Rioja 1986 When all wines in Spain were local wines consumed by local people Ygay Gran Reserva was the Spanish wine Ambassador around the world.
11. Marques de Morrieta Ygay Reserva 1988 Rioja
12. Marques de Haro Gran Reserva 1989 Larioja Alta This is a dbl. Magnum (3 L) special edition wine for the millenniu
13. Marques de Riscal Reserva 1993
14. Parés Baltà Mas Irene 2003 (Arbeloa)
15. Lustan Pedro Ximénez Murilla , 100 Anos 1896-1996 A Massive sweet wine
16. Don PX Pedro Ximénez Gran Reserva (1972) – Cordoba Sweat Nectar
17. Torre Muga 2004 Bodegas Muga Rioja – Wine Spectator magazine, rated Torre Muga 2004 amongst their 10 best red wines of the world list for 2007.
The Line up
03 Chiellini (Balzaretti – 21′ ), 07 Abate, 15 Barzagli, 19 Bonucci,
08 Marchisio, 16 De Rossi, 18 Montolivo (Motta – 56′ ), 21 Pirlo
09 Balotelli , 10 Cassano (Di Natale – 46′ )
06 Balzaretti, 05 Motta, 11 Di Natale
Italy coach / sommelier, Cesare Prandelli – After 5 successful years in Fiorentina agreed to try and save the Nation from a disastrous past champagne brought new young players entrusted the Azure (Blue team), in their talented feet they did well on the field and made Italy proud.
- 1. 1990 Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva Villa Antinori – (Buffon) An old timer always reliable, sound Toscan wine.
- 2. Sassicaia 2004 – (Pirlo) The best Sassicaia of the last 10 years…A great wine always performs well.
- 3. 1998 Isole e Olena Cabernet Sauvignon Collezione de Marchi Toscana IGT
- 4. Cepparello 1990 – always shines amongst the best in good vintages. The ’90 is sleek and focused, with vivid blackberry, tar and cedar character. Full-bodied, with full, silky tannins and a super finish. Made from Sangiovese.
- 5. Isole e Olena Cepparello 2006
- Isosole e Olena Cepparello 2005:
- Isole e Olena, Vin Santo 1997 (bottled 2003) Deep Amber colour, with golden ccopper hue. A dessert wineto die for!!! This the closest you get to the Nectar of the Gods (chosen by Zeus off Dionysus hands), Honeyed thick wine to the eye with rich scents dried figs and raisins and dried orange peel still light on the palate without the sugar overtones other Vin santo’s have, due to good balancing acidic touch some vanilla on the finish make it the perfect desert a blessing to god and men. But I wrote all that in one of the past posts: Utopia etc.
8. Castellare Chianti Classico 2000
With Intense ruby red in color. The bouquet is very fruity with spiced deep black cherries aroma, very well balanced Chianti with rounded approachable tannins. It reminds blackcurrants and Plum confiture, Yumm
9. 2007 Ripasso Bosan della Valpolicella Superiore , Producer: Gerardo Cesari Veneto Grapes: Corvina, Rondinella. Alcohol Volume: 14.00% From the Bosan vineyard one of Gerardo Cesari in Valpolicella
This wine is made by refermentation of Valpolicella wines of the same or previous vintage on the fermented grapes used in the Amarone production process: ripasso. The wine gains depth in colour, body, aromas and tannins and extra 1-1.5% alcohol by the process. Winemaking Notes Grapes: 80% Corvina, 20% Rondinella.
10. 1997 Brigaldara Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG, Veneto, Italy
One of Veneto’s most famous and prestigious wines.
11. Badia a Coltibuono Sangioveto Toscana IGT 1997
12. Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino 1997
13. 1998 Tedeschi La Fabriseria, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG, Italy
14. Masi Valpolicella 1993
You should all know by now that Spain won 4:0 and went into the history books of world football by winning the last 3 major tournaments they qualified for 2 consecutive Euro Finals and the Mondial becoming Champions of the world with talent and style!!!
Players to remember from both teams:
IKER CASILLAS – GOALKEEPER (SPAIN), JORDI ALBA LEFT-BACK (SPAIN), SERGIO RAMOS CENTRE-BACK (SPAIN), XABI ALONSO ALL ROUNDER (SPAIN), ANDRES INIESTA CENTRAL MIDFIELD (SPAIN), XAVI CENTRAL MIDFIELD (SPAIN), ANDREA PIRLO CENTRAL MIDFIELD – (ITALY), STRIKER – MARIO BALOTELLI (ITALY)
The wines were all wines to remember in their own way some were better than others, but this is how it always goes… As you see the Spanish sommelier had more quality wines at hand on the substitutes bench and he made better use of them to bring the team to the winning position they did deserve, on the day
We’ll meet again during the Olympic games for (almost) more of the same with new faces and different sports.
It’s Euro Time
So what did we have in the Quarter Finals?
Portugal Vs Czech Republic
Although I believe that any place that grows wine grape for wine making purposes will have someone who can make decent wine (or even more) Czech is not a real contender amongst traditional european wine producing countries. On the other hand Czech beer is world famous. The Czech Republic is the No. 1 beer drinking nation on the planet, with an annual consummation of 156 liters per capita. Beer also counts on “our” blog so there you go… Most Czech beers are lagers, brewed naturally from hand-picked hops. Czechs like their beer cellar temperature. The best known Czech beer is the original Pils beer, Pilsner Urquell, brewed in the town of Plzen and exported worldwide. Many Czechs also drink another Plzen brew, Gambrinus, or Bernard from Eastern Bohemia. They are good at it since beer making in Bohemia is recorded as early as 859 A.D. (a long enough time to practice)
Wine in Portugal dates back to ancient Roman times, sometime from 70 to 270 AD this fact does not surprise you I’m sure! In fact wine culture was exported, through the Roman Empire to all of Western and Middle-Europe by the Roman (Jupiter & Bacchus bless their souls, or were they the Greeks with Zeus and Dionysus, we’ll find out soon!).
There are 8 wine regions in Portugal : they span from south to the north: Alentejo, Terras do Sado, Estremadura, Ribatejo, Bairrada, Dao, Douro and Minho. All have roots in Roman times. Portuguese wine have made a quantum leap in quality in the last 10 years and still improving especially in the north: Dao and Douru. A worthy earn of ticket to the semifinals and a rightful contender to reach the finals with still a high hurdle on the way.
Without a doubt, a winner of the: Best newcomer, to the dry wine Big League.
As long as dessert fortified wines PORT (of all types) it is at the Top of the League for several hundred years now.
Portugal wins 1:0, Portugal and Portuguese wine go through to semi finals.
Germany Vs Greece
Well you have probably guessed by now that wine in Germany dates back to Ancient Roman times, to sometime from 70 to 270 AD… Germany is a northern country it stretches between 47º- 55 º N, so although German wine regions are to be found on the same degree of latitude as Newfoundland the climate is influenced by the Gulf Stream and allows certain grape varieties to grow and mature (especially now with global warming and all).
There are around 13 German wine growing regions. The Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, and Rheingau, produce the best wines, mostly white wine varieties (75%), but also produces some very good reds – usually from the Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) variety
The Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region comprises the valley of the River Mosel from where it joins the Rhine and its two small tributaries the Saar and the Ruwer. The Mosel River winds past steep, slaty slopes covered with some of Germany’s most famous vineyards. The best wines, come from the mineral-rich, slate slopes, and are made from Riesling grown on the steep, southern-facing slopes, The Rheingau, produces some of the finest German wines. mostly Riesling that develops to perfection, producing noble, elegant wines.
The origins of wine-making in Greece go back 6,500 years some 4000 years before Roman Empire influence (Zeus and Dionysus) win by a large margin. There are archeological confirmations to the fact that Greece is home to the second oldest known grape wine remnants discovered in the world (the oldest is the “kitchen” in Hajji Firuz Tepe Iran). Greek civilization and their worship of Dionysus, the god of wine, spread Dionysian cults throughout the Mediterranean areas during the period of 1600 BC to the year 1. Ancient Greeks introduced the vines Vitis vinifera and made wine in their numerous colonies from Italy to southern France & Spain.
Some of the best known, recorded wines for their quality come from mediteranian Islands like Crete, Lesbos, Rhodes, Santorini and Thasos. These Aegean Islands form one of the more interesting wine regions of Greece to date. Other regions are Peloponnese, Ionian Islands, Macedonian & Central Greece.
There are some Very impressive winemakers in Greece without enough international exposure or recognition.
Germany wins 4 – 2…and goes through to the semifinals.
Spain Vs. France
Archeologists suggest that the Celts first cultivated the grape vine, Vitis vinifera, pre-dates Greek and Roman cultural influences, But the greatest influence on the wine history of Gaul came with the founding of Massalia in the 6th century BC by Greek immigrants from Phocae in Asia Minor. This continued till eventually the area became a Roman province first known as Provincia and later Gallia Narbonensis. After that there was no looking back and wine industry developed to the heights we came to appreciate in the 20th century.
There are numerous wine regions of wines in France. (I guess) I will mention the two regions that “sum up” all the magic of the French wines:
Burgundy: All the complexity and nuances of “terroir” in one of France’s most prestigious wine regions. From the Côte d’Or with the most noble and various expressions of 2 grape varieties: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Bliss on the palate and nose.
Bordeaux: The most renowned wine regions of the world. It produces the region’s traditional wine from a blend of grape varieties mainly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. With famous subregions as Pomerol, St-Emilion, Graves, St-Estèphe, Pauillac, Margaux & Sauternes. Sublime!
the great diversity of native grape varieties over 600 grape varieties are planted throughout Spain points to a very early viticulture start. There is Archaeological evidence of grape remains to sometime between 4000 and 3000 BC, when grapes were first cultivated for the purpose of wine making. This is long before the Phoenicians wine-growing culture established the trading post of Cádiz around 1100 BC. Later Carthaginians introduced new wine techniques & advances to Iberia and only later served the Roman Empire need for wine of different style and character.
With almost 60 regions and sub-regions Rioja, Navara, Priorat &Ribera del Duero and are the most established.
Although Spanish wine and wine industry is amongst the oldest in Europe, and nowadays well known for their unique character and regarded with great esteem, still, in my mind, on the wine field Spain “looses” to France this is of course derived from a personal view of taste and style attraction. Football wise the quality over the football field is in favor of Spain.
The Spaniards beat France 2:0 and go through to the semifinals.
Italy Vs England.
It wasn’t until the Greek colonization of the south of Italy, that wine-making flourished. Viticulture was introduced into Sicily and southern Italy by the Mycenaean Greeks during the Roman defeat of the Carthaginians (True masters of wine-making) in the 2nd century BC that Italian wine production began to further flourish. Large-scale plantations sprang up in many coastal areas and spread to such an extent that, in 92 AD, Emperor Domitian was forced to destroy a great number of vineyards in order to free up fertile land for food production.
With 20 wine regions that are spread evenly throughout the Land and numerous sub regions of particular nature within each region Italian wine especially in Piemonte in the nothe west and Toscana in the center make Italy into a substantial winemaking country and along with Spain and France the most established Old World Pillars of wine making tradition.
The grape varieties that set Italy apart from all other European countries
Garganega – The main White grape variety for wines labeled Soave, this makes a crisp, dry white wine from Veneto region.
Trebbiano – This is the most widely planted white varietal in Italy. It is grown throughout the country, with a special focus on the wines from Abruzzo and from Lazio, including Frascati.
Nebbiolo is chiefly grown in Piedmont. Considered he most noble of Italy’s red varieties.
Sangiovese – The pride and essence of Toscana. Sangiovese is the main variety in Chianti (Classico), Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montepulciano, Montefalco Rosso, and many others. And the backbone in many of the acclaimed “Super-Tuscans” Italy’s claim to fame!
Barbera – The most widely grown red wine grape of Piedmont and Southern Lombardy,
The wine world as we know it today owes a lot to a country that is too northern to be a wine producing country. Yet the way we look at wines in all respects is due to the the English attitude to wine and continental wines in particular. The English are directly responsible for the quality of the wines of Bordeaux, Champagne, Porto, Madeira, Jerez to name but a few due to their need to quench their thirst…
It all started in 1152 when the marriage between Eleanor of Aquitaine and the future King Henry II of England brought a large portion of southwest France under English rule. When Henry’s son John inherited the English crown, he bestowed many privileges upon Bordeaux merchants giving the exemption from export tax, making Bordeaux wine the cheapest wine in the London market and gained immense popularity among the English, who call it claret (clear). For over the next 300 years much of Gascony, in particular Bordeaux, benefited by the close commercial ties with the English allowing this area to grow in prominence among all French wines. After the end of the Hundred Years War, these lands reverted back to French rule with a lasting imprint of English influence. The collapse of the Bordeaux ties to their largest customer; England, was a blow to both nations. The English soon established ties with Portugal but kept longing for French Claret.
The Aristocracy of Bordeaux kept “loose” commercial contacts with the English Aristocracy. In 1649, Lord Arnaud III de Pontac became owner of Haut-Brion, and the wine’s growing popularity began in earnest. The first records of Haut-Brion wine found in the wine cellar ledger of the English king Charles II. During the years 1660 and 1661, 169 bottles of the “wine of Hobriono” were served at the king’s court. Samuel Pepys wrote in The Diarist, having tasted the wine at Royal Oak Tavern on April 10, 1663, to have “drank a sort of French wine called Ho Bryen that hath a good and most particular taste I never met with”
In 1666, after “The Great Fire”, the heir to Château Haut–Brion François-Auguste, opened a tavern in London called “L’Enseigne de Pontac”, or the “Sign of Pontac’s Head” which was according to André Simon, London’s first fashionable eating-house. Jonathan Swift “found the wine dear at seven shillings a flagon”. A 17th century period WINE BAR!!!
The Institute of Masters of Wine and WSET are located in London (more than 60% of around 250 worldwide MW are English!!! , The most prestigious wine Auction Houses Sotheby’s and Christies are in London. Without a doubt England is a center of wine knowledge and import with unparralel importance to world wine without being a wine producing country.
Having “patriotic roots” in England, I obviously supported “Her Majesty’s” team. They started well but played shamefully and deserved to loose.
Italy 0 – 0 England, Italy deservedly won 4–2 on penalties and proceeded to the Semifinals.
PORTUGAL Vs SPAIN
The Iberian Peninsula Hosts a mini battle this time for the ticket to GLORY and a place at the EURO 2012 FINALS, the “Grand Finale”
This is indeed Guerra de guerrillas “War of little wars” on the football pitch. They stand and fight as equals! But the skill or luck of penalty shootout solution (unfair but Just), finally “defeats” the Portuguese.
Spain wins 4:2 on penalties and proceeded to the finals.
Here’s how it happened:
Spain starts with a Vega Sicilia Unico 1991 on the Field – The Gran Reserva wine produced only on good vintage years. It is a signature wine of Vega Sicilia and is usually released around 10 years or even more after the vintage. Made from the oldest vines in the Ribera del Duero, the wine is mostly Tempranillo ( 80%) and Cabernet Sauvignon ( 20%). In an average vintage,
Portugal tries with a 1937 Barros Port than uses 1994 Warres Vintage Port as a substitute in Overtime against this time a La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 Cosecha 1987 On pouring the wine, one immediately notices its brilliant, ruby red colour and its aromatic nose. This wine is in fact so aromatic that it is its dominant feature. In the mouth, the first impression is of roundness and creaminess, then notes of spice and vanilla come through, leading to a warm, enveloping flavour, with a most elegant and distinguished finish. It is a full and lively wine; well-structured and young for its age with a broad and abiding palate which is confirmed by a smooth and long-lasting after taste. It will continue to develop over the coming years with a long life ahead of it. (from:http://www.riojalta.com/datos/vinos/pdf_doc_en29/I%20904%2087.pdf)
ITALY Vs GERMANY
The Italians are all in the vineyard Happy towards a good harvest there is joy in their play (I did not expect). They prune and tend to the grapes knowing the razzmatazz of the harvest will be proceeded with a great wine…
The Germans come on to the pitch serene and with apprehension- fear or anxiety over what may happen, they change their game style that brought them to this occasion and fall down the trap they dug themselves.
The Italians bring Sassicaia 2004 The best Sassicaia of the last 10 years… And score 2 goals! The rest is history which can be told in 2022 when I open the last bottle. At the moment it has Deep Purple ruby color. With intense aromas of ripe black forest fruits, a touch of minty nepitella and earthy mushrooms, rich and velvety with long finish on the palate with high tones of cassis, cloves, dark chocolate and coffee. With a very good balance, between fresh fruit and Tannins. A keeper. They bring on Cepparello 1990 as a substitute and seal the match.
The Germans bring the right wines to give a good fight but at the wrong temperature which spoils the quality of tasting and sends them back to the vineyard to tend to next year’s harvest with new hopes for a better vintage.
Italy wins 2:1 and proceeds to the Finals
And that’s Euro 2012 for you with some wines on the way.
The Euro 2012 Finals are on Sunday ITALY Vs SPAIN let us see what wines the teams bring and wait for the tournaments outcome.
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Art on the Label
A wine Label is an “invention” of not much more than 120 hundred years. Although nowadays wine labels have turned into a “selling lever” of a wine, an eye catcher for the customer in a wine shop or on the wine shelve in a supermarket, the fly paper for the novice wine drinker, and thus have moved under the jurisdiction of advertizing companies PR advisers and graphic designers some of whom don’t even like wine!!!
Having said that, the wine label is still the ID of the wine and any wine bottle is “legally” required to carry this ID at all times! The basic function of the label is to provide the wine buyer with basic information regarding the product which is essentially a “food” or “beverage” product, which is bound by each country’s laws.
As any label on a food pack, it has a design which conforms to the legal requirements on one hand and to the owners taste on the other. There are “label artists” or “graphic designers” all over the world who produce such labels.
Wine has a long history, it was one of the first things that Man created, and had great effect on many cultures and their religious ceremonies. In ancient times the Egyptians the Greeks and Romans recorded the vintage, vineyard and winemaker on individual jars of wine which could be counted as the first wine labels.
“Gath Carmel” inscription on pottery wine jug 400BC Hoshea’s Temed Seal around 50 AD
The presumably Lafite 1787 belonging to Thomas Jefferson had the chateaux name and Vintage year and the initials ThJ for the “owner’s” name hand written directly on the glass with “glass paint” possibly by the Chateaux, so were other 19th century Vintages.
Wine bottles taken away from their region of origin were inscribed on with the wine’s name of producer and Vintage year to allow the buyer or his cellar master distinguish between the different wines in the large cellar of a palace, be it a kings or a Tsar palace (Russian rulers were known to be collectors of Tokaji), they maintained a detachment of Cossacks solely for the purpose of escorting convoys of the precious liquid from Hungary to the royal cellars at St Petersburg. Tokaji reputed to last at least 300 years, was considered a secret potion of eternal youth. From the days of Tsar Peter I, the Great (1672-1725) for more than 100 years the Romanov family accumulated bottles of Tokaji in their cellars, surely there was enough for everyone but again, someone had to be there to know who is who? At the zoo…Surely someone made sure he will be able to tell between bottles of different Vintage years.
Same goes to the Kings of England and their affinity and connection to Bordeaux, or the cellar collection of the Kings of France to name but a few.
Chateau Mouton Rothschild
Until 1924 most wine producers were busy working at the vineyard and at the winery making wine in barrels, that they sold the wines bulk in the barrel or casks to wine-merchants, who then were responsible for the “faith” of the wine. Decisions of how to treat the wine in the barrels were out of the producer’s hands. The bottling process was done by wine merchants who labeled the wine under mixed names of chateau and vintage and their own name. The winery had no say over the finished product and had no real interest on the appearance of the bottle or the label.
All of this was going to change when in 1924 Baron Philippe de Rothschild decided to bottle the entire harvest before it left the winery (MIS EN BOUTEILLE AU CAHATEAU / DOMAINE.) . This decision changed the wine world completely and gave the Chateaux/winery, complete control over their product and its final quality. By adding their own label on their wine as a trademark stamp of quality boast: “This is our wine and we stand behind it and its quality under our name and reputation”. A logo to reflect the winery as an individual, to separate “our” wine from others, that bore the first logo as we know it today, and to commemorate this “cry for independence”.
The Logo was ordered from the famous poster artist Jean Carlu, who designed a logo that was used for the 1924 Vintage. The result was a stunning cubist design, which is considered till today as the most successful example of contemporary art influence on a commercial package design.
The basic theme of the 1924 poster was turned into a “family crest” stile logo; the label carried the Bottle number in that vintage year and the chateau name: Mouton Rothschild… All until the legendry 1945 Vintage not only it came at the end of the bloodiest war mankind ever knew but considered to be amongst the 20th century 5 top vintages the fact that it was the victory vintage, following World War II only added to its legendary status.
They say that everything went down just right for the 1945 Bordeaux wines. The winter freeze helped reduce yields, which added immense concentration to the wine. Growing conditions were perfect from start to finish. Harvest, under draught like conditions caused even lower yields and highly concentrated berries, an early harvest, which started on September 13. Massive extraction of tannin meant longevity and long developing period (decades). Due to this high tannin levels, many of the wines still show well today. Due to the ability of 1945 Bordeaux wine to age well some say a few of them will be drunk well by 2045 at 100years old…
Did Baron Philippe know this was going to be such a great wine, a wine to act as reference to all wine before and after it? When he decided to embellish the 1945 vintage label with an Art work to symbolize the return of peace on the land? Was it an art work? After all it was commissioned from a young unknown artist/designer Philippe Jullian. He utilized the V sign (for victory) amongst vine leaves a biblical symbol of peace: “And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig-tree” 1Kings 4:25
The Labels that followed: The 1946 Vintage label, was commissioned to Jean Hugo (grandson of Victor, who also used a biblical symbol of peace the dove returning to the ark after the flood with an olive branch, commemorating the first year of peace. After that most artists commissioned where substantial figures in the art world of their era: Cocteau, Braque, Dali, Moore, Miro, Chagall, Picasso, Warhol, Herring and many more. Each year since 1945 a label had been adorned by an artist sometimes (by chance) reflecting the quality and character of the content THE WINE, or just as a continuing tradition of the reciprocation between two art forms complementing each other. The art of winemaking at its best hailed by top artists paying their respect to a consumable art form, when the bottle is empty all that is left is the carefully “decorated” bottle with its label.
Since the basic idea is already taken, some wineries opt for introduce their version of art on the label for various reason. One philanthropic reason: special edition to be sold and raise funds for a good cause, the other in an effort to express the wines character or the owner’s whim. (Both are legitimate)
Castel winery Haute Judee, Israel, one of the best boutique wineries in Israel, approached 13 Leading Israeli artists who volunteered to take part in a one off, label project: Arie Azene, Nissim Ben Aderet, Amnon David Ar, Yair Garbuz, Ori Gersht, Menashe Kadishman, Michel Kichka, Ofer Lellouche, Philip Rantzer, Jan Rauchwerger, Gideon Rubin, Eran Shakin, & Yigal Tumarkin, to prepare or choose from their work of art to appear on the Castel Grand Vin 2009 in bottle, magnum and double magnum formats to be sold at auction to the highest bidder. The choice of artists was careful amongst the elite local artists. The benefit will go to the “Threefold Cord” – a non-profit organization which cares for at-risk youth in Jerusalem.
The entire collection of the works of art, labels can be viewed at: http://castelartandwine.com/products/?cat=35
This is Art on a label for a specific reason it is a one off limited edition, for a worthy cause, All commendations are due to the Ben-Zaken family (owners and winemakers of Castel winery), and the artists who donated from their collection a piece of art suitable for the occasion. Most of the above artists believe that producing an Art piece especially for a label is not the idea, and happily contribute a piece of their choice or part of an existing painting.
The wine: Castel Grand Vin 2009 , The wine has a deep purple color with strong aromas of black and red berries with a touch of ripe fig and Violets, flavours of ripe Blackcurrants & raspberries with a touch of sweet vanilla and hints of mint. The fruit is full and robust and very well balanced with pleasant rounded rich tannins which give the wine elegant strength and presence to help keep the wine “alive and kicking for another 6-10 years, the velvety touch and approachability on the palate make it a seductive wine and a very good choice for this limited edition. Not that I think it is of great importance (certainly a source of pride for the winery) the Castel Grand Vin 2009 received 92 points from the Wine Advocate annual 2011 tasting of Israeli wines.
More specifically about Castel winery and their wines on a separate post soon…
In 2004 Dirk Niepoort and his designer Cordula Allesandri decided to produce an label more suitable and appealing for the German wine buyer with the aim to introduce Portuguese, Douro wines in closer touch to the German wine consumer. Wilhem Busch storyboard label and the name FABELHAFT was the result. Following this trial, Niepoort began to develop different labels suitable to specific countries i.e.: Portugal (Diálogo), Norway (Fabelaktig), Finland (Sarvet), Allez Santé (Belgium), ETO CARTA (Japan), Fantasi (Denmark), Drink Me (UK), Twisted (USA), Berek (Poland), Gestolen Fiets (Holand), OO JA PAEV( Estonia), Ubuntu (South Africa), Sasta (Ireland), Conversa (Brazil).
On top of all the difficulties, the Niepoort tem report that “it turned to be a rewarding project for Niepoort and costumers alike”. The use of wine labels in this case was aimed to reflect the quality and character of their wine in a creative approach involving winemakers and artists. It is also a sort of homage to the Douro region, with its magnificent panoramas of rugged nature, the steep vineyard slopes, the flow of the Douro River and its tributaries, the narrow valleys and the local extreme climate, as well as the difficult conditions for producing wine when using the artisanal processes that make this region so special. (from Niepoort site: http://www.niepoort-vinhos.com/en/fabulous/)
Here the label is an effort to bridge a gap between the wine maker, his locality and aspirations, the character of the wine, and the consumer via an object which is consumed visually at first before the bottle is opened and thus forming an aesthetic dialogue between the label and the wine.
There are 3 groups of Labels :
The first: “Niepoort’s Soul”, reflecting the “magic of the Douro region through images of the estates and the winery”.
The second group: “Projects”, is more “experimentalist” in nature.
The third group: “Fabulous”, tries to emphasis the artistic excellence of the labels. Judge for yourself at : http://www.niepoort-vinhos.com/en/fabulous/
There is no doubt that wine at its best is a work of ART, does not use fixated idea of an effort to “reach” a certain taste and smell, but a proper use of the product at hand : Use of a given vintage, qualities and character, add a bit of their own geography, geology and climate terroir in short, and turn it into a beverage that is not meant to quench thirst but rather an intellectual sensual travel into the layers of wine and mind from the perspective of all 5 senses: sight, smell, taste, touch and sound. Just like a good piece of Art is the use of paints and colors on paper or canvas that transcends into an object that evokes emotions. In this sense good art and good wine go comfortably hand in hand together, and wine drinkers /appreciators, get to enjoy the finished product.
Champagne visit Day 2 PM
By the time we finished our meeting at Moet, we missed our scheduled meeting at Perrier Jouet (Chef de cave Herve Deschamp is busy till late afternoon), but don’t despair Yair Haidu has rescheduled the meeting for 5pm so we’re all sorted out, more or less. Now our next meeting is a good 2 Hours away in Aÿ at Champagne Deutz so he’s calling Bollinger to see if they have a regular “tourist tour” this afternoon… and… “Lo and behold” there’s one starting in 10 minutes time, so we rush over, through the narrow streets of Aÿ and park across the road from the gateway to one of my favorite champagne houses BOLLINGER.
We’ve done the Blanc de Blancs, and here at “Boly” they proud themselves on the fact that Pinot Noir is the Base of the Bollinger Blends 60% in the Special Cuvée NV, and 65% in their Grand Année (vintage) champagnes. And they use for these blends for the NV 80% grapes from Premiers and Grands Crus and for the Vintage Champagne 100%! For all their wines they utilize only the “Cuvee” (the cuvée refers to the best grape juice from gentle pressing of the grapes. In Champagne, the cuvée is the first 2,050 liters of grape juice from 4,000 kg of grapes ), the remaining 500 liters called taille (tail), or pressed juice is sold to other champagne Houses… Impressive! But you knew all that right?
The guide and the group of 3 from Australians and us are led to a small vineyard, a lot of less than half an acre vineyard “the only non phylloxera affected vineyard in the whole of champagne”, still blooming and looking healthy.
The winery tour starts at the Destemming and Crushing area and passes on, to the Oak barrels room, all Bollinger’s wines undergo first fermentation in Oak Barrels (a great pride) and so we are given the important “tour of the Barrels workshop”, where the in-house barrel maker makes new barrels, fixes old barrels and prepares used barrels by scraping off the crystal sediments that accumulate and cover the barrels yearly. This guy is quick, showing his expertise to the onlookers.
Now we go down the stairs to the cool cellars 8Km long!!!! under the streets of Ay, (you enter in one place and come out somewhere else), with more than half a million Magnums and many more 75cl size bottles all resting in one position or another on their racks or pupitres. A pupitre is a wooden rack made of two hinged heavy boards. Each of the boards has 60 holes that are cut so that a bottle can rest, by the neck, in any position between horizontal and vertical. At first, the bottles lie horizontally, and gradually, through a process called remuage, they are hand “riddled.” This is an arduous process where each bottle is rotated and tilted very slightly each day so that the yeast loosen and finally accumulate into the neck of the bottle.
The Bollinger wines:
Special Cuvée (non-vintage): A Champagne blend that uses grapes from a given year, with a balancing addition of up to 10% reserve wines, from the last fifteen years. The blending gives the special cuvee the complexity and structure on every year. I love it. (60% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Meunier.)
Grand Année (vintage): Whenever there is an exceptional harvest, Bollinger will produce their prestige Champagne Grand Année (“great vintage Year”), it is aimed to express best the character of the vintage. Only the best wines from the different crus are selected for this purpose. This Champagne is also available as a Rosé. The wine spends five years on its lees and is aged in bottle under cork. (65% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay)
R.D. (vintage): récemment dégorgé (“recently disgorged”). This is the “Reserve” Grand Année blend. R.D. spends eight years on its lees, aged under cork R.D. The disgorgement date is given on the back label. The different disgorgement dates are noticeable in aroma and flavor and touch between R.D. Champagnes of the same year. Only 19 vntages since Inauguration in 1952 (first RD) to date where made in the RD format (one of which is my birth year 1953 I wish I could lay my hands on one magnum for my 60th birthday next year).
Vieille Vignes Françaises (vintage): Bollinger’s prestige cuvee, this blanc de noirs is made in small quantity with wine from two small plots of un grafted rootstock planted in low density (3000 vines per hectare). These two low-density and yield vineyards, Clos St-Jacques in Aÿ and Chaudes Terres in Aÿ, are severely pruned, and thus produce 35% less juice per vine.
Special Cuvée Brut and Special Cuvée Rose wonderful wines on all counts!
Bollinger Grand Année 2002 even on its 9th year it is still a youngling very fresh and fruity mainly citrus; with strong grapefruit notes and a faint touch of white tropical fruits. Great balanced acidity and fruitiness. This is a keeper for quite a few years, so… WAIT!
The Best Bollinger I had lately was without a doubt the 1995 Grand Année, The complexity and depth was tremendous, smooth with aromas of ripe white fruits and bursting fig aroma roasted hazelnuts and toasted butter cinnamon brioche with hints of vanilla, a smooth gentle touch on the palate with exceedingly long finish on palate and nose Excellent!!!
We left with a DVD disc of the Various James Bonds ordering Bollinger RD 1961….. My name is B O N D, James Bond!
we pass the Courtyard Statue of Cupid, the Roman god of desire, love and affection He is often portrayed as the son of the goddess Venus, His Greek counterpart is Eros. Cupid is also known in Latin as Amor (“Love”). Undoubtedly the spirit of Amour De Deutz.
We are, in yet another small and gracious looking estate built in the traditional Champagne style, we sit for a casual wine chat with our host in the drawing room the furniture and surroundings are all original pieces with a very homey feel. We move to the tasting room facing the gardens and champagne glasses are laid down on the glass top modern dining table.
Deutz Brut Classic: This is a lovers champagne charming accessible and well balanced for a couple who are about to get acquainted. The classic is affordable champagne that has all the element of style and elegance, but make no mistake this is not the “Amour de Deutz” Millésimé Deutz Brut, The more sophisticated multilayered yet fresh and lively champagne suitable for the private engagement party and a pure Blanc de Blancs Champagne.
Deutz Blanc de Blanc 2004, The 2004 Brut Blanc de Blancs is full of exotic tropical fruit flavours, very rich and elegant mufti-layered Champagne complexity, and a very sharp clean finish. The Deutz Blanc de Blancs is made principally from vineyards in Avize and Mesnil, with 20% coming from vineyards in Villers Marmery, Oger, and Cramant .disgorged July, 2008.
Cuvee William Deutz 1999
The wine is a crystal clear champagne with lovely small bubbles and a pale lemony golden hue. The nose is fully opened with rich aromas of ripe apples baked in butter, and some hints sweet spices of anis and nutmeg. It has a rich fully ripped, spiced long finish.
Deutz, formerly known as Deutz Geldermann, based in the Aÿ region of Champagne since 1838. It was run by successive generations of the Deutz and Geldermann families. Today, under the leadership of Fabrice Rosset, the passion for terroir and tradition is at the fore front of the production attitude, the 3 F’s : Finesse, Freshness & Fine.
I could have stayed in the lovely garden sipping away the Cuvee William but “duty calls” we still have our last visit of the afternoon (in Epernay) before parting Champagne and back to “Old Paris”.
This one is at Perrier Jouet with chef de cave Herve Deschamphas.
First the House’s jewel in the crown La Maison Belle E’poque at the historic house of the Perrier family at 11 Ave. de Champagne. This a most amazing living collection of Art Nouveau pieces of furniture, architectural pieces, objects d’art, paintings all from the era known today as La Belle Époque “The Beautiful Era”. This was a period in French history starting in 1890 and ending as the first World War began in 1914. It was a war free period of optimism, a time for scientific inventions and discoveries: Louis Pasteur developed the Pasteurization (or pasteurization)process, antibiotics and the rabies vaccine. Mathematician and physicist Henri Poincaré made important contributions to pure and applied mathematics. Marie Skłodowska-Curie Her study of radioactivity, led to discovery of polonium and radium, winning the Nobel Prize Twice!! for Physics in 1903, and the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911. New technologies such as the invention of the motion picture (Film), The Lumière Brothers held their first private screening of projected motion pictures in 1895. Peace and prosperity in Paris allowed the arts to flourish, and many masterpieces of literature, music, theater, and visual art gained recognition.
The Term Belle Époque was coined in retrospect, when it began to be considered a relative “golden age” in contrast to the horrors of the World Wars that ensued. (click on the photo to enlarge)
We are honored with a guided visit of the House of Belle Époque with Herve Deschamphas who will be with us throughout the whole tour and of course the tasting. This is almost unreal, the gateway and the splendid doorframe, the furniture, the decorations, the art on the walls (some Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec and others all originals and of best quality) even the double bed, the basin, faucets and the Loo all original Art Nouveau from the best artists of their trade! Inspiring and heartwarming (The house special guests from around the world get to stay the night there, it has its own kitchen and chef!). What a delight!!!
We go down to the Labyrinth of cellars (Its really cold 8-11 degrees) with some caged doors behind which stored bottles of great importance or age tucked in safely. There’s also an area for keeping wines bought by clients and celebs for special occasions arranged separately in niches in the wall and lots more…
We sat down to our Tasting with chef de cave Herve Deschamphas
first he opened the Perrier Jouet Grand Brut NV. This is a Fresh champagne with some delicate bouquet of ripe white fruits like white peach with a touch of Smoky Oak and spiced melted butter biscuits. It contains all the elements to make it alluring to all the participants in for instance a public function or a party.
Belle époque 2004: (50 % Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir and 5 % Pinot Meunier. A very elegant wine that hits you with strong aromas of wild flowers in the spring, quit reminiscent of the bottle’s artwork, (designed by Emile Gallé in 1902). On the palate, ripe tropical fruits: Annona and pineapple flavors very open and spiced. Still fresh and elegant with a nice touch of minerality that extends the length.
Belle époque Rose 2002 The orangey pinkish color radiates through the translucent bottle in sensual colours (the usual Belle époque blend the Rosé is made by adding red wine rather than the saignée method). It is all about finesse and delicacy without the show off of concentration or strength, very good balance.
Belle époque Blanc de Blancs 2000 : The most prestigious of the Perrier-Jouët Belle époque series. A show off of the house terroir coming exclusively from Cramant and just from two parcels, Bourons-Leroy and Bourons du Midi, at the heart of the Cramant Grand Cru in the Côte des Blancs. Responsible for this 100% Chardonnay wine grown on pure chalk soil, on the south, south-east slopes. Again we are introduced to the floral aroma touch a characteristic sign, this wine, of more fragrant flowers like honeysuckle freesia and acacia, and very sweet spices like vanilla scented toffee delicate and easily approachable.
Thank you Herve.
Perrier Jouet 28 avenue de Champagne, 51201 Épernay
Telephone: +33 (0) 3 26 53 38 00. www.perrier-jouet.
As the days grow longer, towards the year’s longest day on June 21st , we started on our way back to Paris the clouds started to gather again, but the sun rays pierced through the clouds in an heavenly manner, to end up 2 glorious days in champagne .
Thanks Yair for arranging this unforgettable tour.
Your Wine guide
A visit to Champagne with Yair – Day 2 morning
The breakfast at L’hôtel restaurant Les Avisés, Chez famille Selosse was so neatly laid out, the coffee and pastries were perfect, (not easy)! the breads divine, accompanied with local cheeses and cured meats and a fried egg made to perfection what else would you ask for first thing in the morning after a perfectly good night sleep.
We parted with Thanks fairly early cause we have a full day schedule Starting at Ruinart – the most ancient champagne house 1729, a meeting with Ruinart Chef de Cave, Frederic Panaiotis
A visit to Rheims Cathedral,
We drove up north from Avize to Reims pass Epernay (we will return there soon enough, it is a very busy day…) we enter Avenue de Chamapgne and the Names of the BIG Houses of Champagne at the entrances to each of the Polished “suit wearing” champagne house appear on every corner , Here’s Veuve Clicquot. Than Pommery on the corner of Bd. Henry Vasnier , from there up Rue Libergier.
The glory size and beauty of Rheims Cathedral “hits” you in the face. This cathedral is counted amongst the top 7 Gothic Cathedrals of Europe, proudly stands with Milan and Seville Cathedral, York minster, Notre Dame de Paris, Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence and Chartres Cathedral near Paris.
All the kings of France were once crowned in Rheims Cathedral. Along with the cathedrals of Chartres and Amiens, Rheims is a member of the illustrious triad of “High Gothic” or “Classical” French cathedrals built in the 13th century.
Yair gives me 20 minute to wonder around this wonder of medieval architecture where In 498-499, Clovis the first King of the Franks who united all the Frankish Tribes in Gaul was baptized by Saint Remi. However, the first king to be crowned was Pepin the Short at Soissons in 751, then again at Saint Denis in 754 by Pope Stephen II. From then on, all the Kings of France were crowned in Rheims by their archbishops.
But the symbol of the Cathedral and indeed the City of Rheims is without a doubt a statue of a smiling Angel at the North façade of the North Portal (the main entrance). It has a story that goes like this: At the outbreak of the First World War, the 13th-century Rheims Cathedral was seriously damaged by German shelling. The serene heavenly smiling statue of Angel on the north portal was decapitated by a burning scaffolding beam, during the fire of September 19, 1914. In the newspapers, this statue became the “Smile of Rheims” or “Smiling Angel”, a symbol of French engineering and heritage destroyed by German brutality and bombs. The monument quickly became an emotional picture of the tragic and destructive consequences of war. From original fragments and a casting preserved in Paris, this famous figure was reconstructed after the war with American donations and was returned to its place on February 13, 1926. The Smile of Rheims was restored and the “Smiling Angel” welcomes you as you enter the huge Cathedral. This is the kind of building the gives you a sense of humility (although the aim is impress you with grandeur…) The interior of the cathedral is 138.75 m long, 30 m wide in the nave, and 38 m high in the centre.
And so are the so called Great Houses of champagne they have separated themselves from the “agriculture, farm look” side of champagne and reside in Grand houses meticulously kept, with driveways and gardens and proper “dress code” for all employees, after all, Noblesse oblige…
The day is set for our first meeting in Ruinart. Founded in 1729 by Nicolas Ruinart, this is the first Champagne house in existence with the present, young and charming Chef de Cave, Frederic Panaiotis. He is really a most charming person who gives you a warm welcome. In the spacious tasting room, he has prepared for us a variety of wines from the NV Brut to the Dom Ruinart Rose Brut 1996, he emphasizes the difference in champagne making philosophy between the Artisans we met the day before and that of the “great Houses” who sell millions of NV champagne bottles every year, and “have to conform to a TASTE” their customers got used to… still in the last 10 years they opted to cut vineyard yields by almost 50%, thus improving the quality of the wines tremendously and reaching the level of elegance and delicacy Panaiotis believes is in the essence of champagne in a glass!
We tasted the NV Brut, Blanc de Blancs (Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, 100% Chardonnay, and Ruinart Brut Rosé, 45% Chardonnay and 55% Pinot Noir, The Dom Ruinart Rose 1996 a very pleasant, precise wine with good touch, length and balance and the 1998 Dom Ruinart Brut with its lovely show of tiny bubbles in the glass. Dom Ruinart Brut 1998 is blended exclusively from Chardonnay grands crus, 66% from Cotes des Blancs and 34% from the northern part of Montagne de reims. I must say The 1998 Dom Ruinart is the most elegant wine of our visit, a very voluptuous wine with multilayer’s of white flowers and fruits with roasted blanched almonds and excellent freshness and balance, WONDERFUL! Merci Frederic.
Sadly we has to miss the house’s famous deep chalk cellars (called the crayeres) These were excavated around 50BC by the Romans, and are considered a French archeological monument. This is a magical place but alas we did not have time to take the cellar visit. (Some of these old “Grandes Maisons de Champagne” have kilometers upon kilometers of chalk cave/cellars at a constant 11º C, some of the tunneled caves require small trains to travel in or you spend the whole day underground (getting lost in the labyrinth of caves). But the virtual tour of the cellars on their internet site: http://www.ruinart.com is a “must visit”, check it out (there’s also a wonderful free, I pad app version).
Ruinart , 4 Rue Crayères, 51100 Reims, France. www.ruinart.com
Dom Thierry Ruinart, was a learned Benedictine of the congregation of Saint-Maur, been born on June 10th, 1657 and died on September 27th, 1709, in the abbey of Hautvillers in Champagne region. Ruinart collaborated with dom Pérignon with whom he studied and perfected the secrets of champagne-making process. He and Dom Perignon were really good buddies and we are heading across the mountains to the “headquarters of Perignon” Moët & Chandon. A little-known fact is that the talented Chef de Cave of Dom Perignon, Richard Geoffroy, was one of the winemakers for the 1996 Dom Ruinart!
Now we have to cross the Parc Naturel Régional de la Montagne de Reims that separates Reims and Epernay, it is better not to let a busy person like Benoît Gouez, chef du cave at Moët & Chandon to wait for you and we already asked for a 20 minutes delay…
We park our car near Dom Perignon‘s statue at the entrance to Moët, as you know Dom Perignon was one of the developers of the clear, bubbly, Champagne and the initiator of using cork and cage to seal champagnes, almost in the same way we know it today… Dom Pérignon learned to select the best wine from different grape varieties grown in different soils of the area and blend them to a perfect effervescent drink.
It must be said that the Dom didn’t “invent” Champagne, since the art of the double-fermentation process to produce champagne came from the experimentation and later expertise of other cellar masters of his time as well, but his name is in the front of innovations in all aspects of developing the Champagne method to producing quality clear sparkling wine and it all began during his time in the second half of the 17th century partially due to his curiosity and relentless efforts (the mystery concerning the legend of popping bottles down Perignon cellar one morning lingers on either as a fact or maybe local urban legend?).
It is difficult to separate the monk Dom Pérignon from the trademark carrying his name (now belongs to Moët & Chandon) and this “line” is used for their high-end Champagne. Dom Pérignon and his close friend Dom Ruinart both ended up as namesakes of their trademark. Their abbey: Hautvillers, is located 4½ miles from Epernay, and overlooks the vineyards along the slopes of the Mountain of Reims is a testimony to their acheivments.
Dom Petrus (Pierre) Pérignon, (1639-1715) is burried in the abbey church of Hautvillers in Champagne France’s where he served as cellar master at the Benedictine Abbey of Hautvillers for many years.
The entrance to Moët & Chandon premises, is full of chic, style and elegance in black silver and gold colours, a chandelier made of champagne glasses hanging from the ceiling, a celeb feeling in the air (perfect for those who like this style),
Benoît Gouez meets us in a more traditional setting of the tasting room. He conducts pleasant conversation re: Moët’s recent champagne’s aspirations and the influence of the Dom Pérignon’s label and champagnes on the Moët line. The meeting is backed by two exemplary Moet wines of the last 2 decades: The Moët & Chandon 2002 and the Moët & Chandon 1992 Grand Vintage Collection
The Grand Vintage 2002 is one of the finest wine made under this label and can rival even some lesser vintages of Dom. It has fruit and elegance. Made from 45% Pinot noir, 15% Pinot meunie and 40% chardonnay. The aroma of apple blossom, pears and white wild flowers is apparent, with very long finish of rich and buttery brioche touch. Excellent champagne!
The Moët & Chandon 1992 Grand Vintage Collection Brut is a real keeper on it’s 19 years of age still a very fresh wine, with flinty, mineral, extremely dry texture. The acidity is fully present with a kick, still very refreshing, and crisp.
A different style from the wines we had yesterday and the from your usual NV Moët & Chandon People use to sprinkle on one another from the winner’s podium (This habit is beyond my understanding, still I guess mother earth needs a drink from time to time…)
I paid tribute to the Dom’s statue on our way out, Thank you Benoît for your hospitality and patience, we’re off to Ay to visit 2 smaller Houses in the afternoon
Moët & Chandon , 18 Avenue de Champagne 51200 Épernay, France
Our afternoon adventures and visits in the next post…
The town of Pienza was originally know as Corsignano, a small and humble Toscan village. But its most famous son, Enea Silvio de’Piccolomini, a well known poet, philosopher and politician and a ‘Renaissance humanist’, was elected Pope in 1458. A year later, as Pius II he hired architect Bernardo Rossellino to redesign the entire village of Corsignano along the ideas of ‘Renaissance humanism’ which are basically Utopian. No one is quite sure why Pius II, (born in Corsignano in 1405), decided to create a model city from his humble birthplace, but he did, and he hired the architect Rossellino to do the job. Another mystery that surrounds the birth of Pienza is the motivation of the architect: did Rossellino set out to build an original model city, a monument to Pius, or a faithful recreation of his patron’s dreams? No one is quite sure. What we do know is that the town was built as a model example of classic Renaissance architecture. It took only 4 years, from 1459 to 1462, to achieve this transformation and the town was built to a precise design encompassing the ideals of the Renaissance, a sort of perfect city…and the town is really magnificent. Set in a gorgeous archetypal Tuscan landscape, Pienza, christened so by Pius after his Papal name, draws visitors with Rosellino’s monuments to Pius II that form the core of this model city: its central piazza Piazza Pio II, , the Duomo, and the Papal Palace. All the major sights in Pienza sit here, on Rosellino’s famous piazza. The piazza itself is elegantly proportional, and appears simple in design. It is set much more as a place where citizens could carry out their daily lives, rather than an impressive and perhaps grandiose statement.
Half a century later the utopian concept of an Ideal City originated a book: Utopia. by Sir Thomas More (1516) where it is depicted as an imaginary island (the black and white picture top center), enjoying perfection in order of construction of the basic layout of the “city” and all other social elements: law, politics, and social justice. It describes an ideal place or state in all aspects.
The reference to agriculture states: “They cultivate their gardens with great care, so that they have both vines, fruits, herbs, and flowers in them; and all is so well ordered and so finely kept that I never saw gardens anywhere that were both so fruitful and so beautiful as theirs. And this humour of ordering their gardens so well is not only kept up by the pleasure they find in it, but also by an emulation between the inhabitants of the several streets, who vie with each other. And there is, indeed, nothing belonging to the whole town that is both more useful and more pleasant.
Utopia as an idea has expended to describe any visionary system of political social or esthetic perfection, and nowadays as the unattainable perfection in all aspects of human aspirations. In short as much as we strive to attain perfection it is beyond our grasp partially due to our basic human flaws.
The Cheese – Pecorino di Pienza
The word “pecorino”, from “pecora” – a ewe –sheep, is a quite recent invention. Until70 years ago, locals used the term “cacio”, and indeed the cheese rolling competition held in Pienza on the first Sunday of September is know as “cacio al fuso” – The aim of the participants in this popular festival is to see who can roll the cheese so that it stops closest to the spindle.
Pecorino di Pienza is a unique sheep’s milk cheese and it gets its name from the ancient city of Pienza, (just 13Km east of Montepulciano).
The pecorino cheese of Pienza is one of the best in Italy, especially the version ‘sotto cenere’ or ‘under the ashes’. The cheese has ancient origins and has probably been produced in the zone since man first settled here. This particular cheese is sometimes known as ‘Pecorino della Val d’Orcia’ or ‘Cacio di Pienza’ it is produced between October and July and seasoned for up to 2 months to give it its distinctive flavour. The sheep are raised out in the open and graze exclusively on the local flora. The aromas of rare plants that grow in the clay soil of the Crete Senesi (wormwood, meadow salsify, juniper, broom, and burnet ) Their aroma can be sensed in the sheep’s milk. After milking the sheep, the milk enters immediately into the cheese-making process. It is coagulated with veal rennet, or rennet made from the stamen of wild artichoke, marinated in vinegar and salt, or left to dry and then placed in warm water. The wheels of cheese mature in very humid cellars and periodically their walnut leaf-wrapped rinds are damped first with Tuscan olive oil, then with grease and wax.
The round wheels can vary from around 10 -20cm in diameter around 1-2Kg. After about 40 to 60 days the fresh cheese is ready to be consumed and has a soft, slightly spicy flavor. If left to age for five to twelve, sometimes even eighteen months.
(The entire process can be seen in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7jZhDM51CU )
The aged cheese has a nutty tannic aftertaste which reminds fresh pecan nuts with the separating membrane, and a soft, crumbly texture in the mouth. Pecorino di Pienza pairs perfectly with the wines of the region, from Chianti to Montepulciano.
The fresh pecorino (pecorino fresco) is a soft, white cheese with a comparatively mild but still strong flavour. The texture can range from soft and moist to crumbly and granular, but is usually the former. A variety that is often eaten fresh is known as Pecorino Toscano and is made in Tuscany. It has a whiter colored paste that is creamier in texture, providing a somewhat nutty flavour. under recent laws, a cheese marketed as pecorino must now be made 100% from ewes’ milk. Another Tuscan pecorino is the Pecorino Senese or Senesi, which is a cheese that has a reddish rind due to the rind being rubbed with tomato paste. In years past, the rind was rubbed with sheep blood to obtain the red colour. These are so good on their own but also with red or white wine and locak bread of course YUMMM.
As the pecorino ages, the bone-coloured paste becomes darker in color with a firmer texture and a saltier flavor. The rind is light on pecorino fresco, and orange- or black-coloured on a medium and fully matured pecorino (pecorino stagionato).
…And The wines!
My favorite winery and wines of the Tuscan region come from a small but well known winery in the chianti region in a small commune between Castellina in chianti and Greve, Olena Barberino Val d’Elsa Firenze, Italy. Here between the small communes of Isole and Olena lies the beautiful winery and vineyards of Paulo the Marchi and his wife Marta; Isole e Olena winery.
I have known Marta and Paolo for over 20 years now and even had the honor of having them and their children for Lunch at our house on their first and only visit to Israel.(amongst them was young Luca who is now a winemaker in his own right, making Piemonte wines in Proprieta Sperina in Lessona the old family estate) “We must come again for a visit to Israel next Easter” if I can find the time… but he is ALWAYS too busy with the vineyards and winery, so we meet from time to time in Toscana, and over the years Isole e Olena have been transformed from a farm house with muddy paths and winery razzamatazz to a country home with a ultra modern winery beside it and atmospheric, classic looking cellars, Inspiring.
Not only they make excellent wines that gained worldwide acclaim (picked amongst Italy’s greatest ever wines by Decanter magazine in 2008, make it to the top 100 list of Wine spectator Magazine almost every year since 1990’s, Isole e Olena’s flagship, Cepparello gets 90+ points since 1982 almost every year. (have a look at this list: http://90pluswines.com/Wine/21461091/Isole-e-Olena)
Cepparello was first produced in 1980, well before the change in local DOC regulations that allowed for a single varietal Sangiovese wine, I think you can say that Paolo was a pioneer of the pure Sangiovese movement.
Isole e Olena is comprised of two farms/communities: “Isole” and “Olena,” acquired by the De Marchi family in the 1950s. The family’s origins are from northern part of Piemonte. Paolo de Marchi, is the fourth generation of the family to make wine in Italy, but he moved from Sperino in Lessona, Nebbiolo country to Toscana and it’s Sangiovese. It took 15 hard years of work before he was producing the quality wines he aspired to. With the help of enologist Donato Lanati, he has continued to excel as one of the region’s top estates.
Paolo de Marchi’s belief in Toscana’s indigenous Sangiovese, and production of “Super-Tuscan” wines from grapes not indigenous to the Chianti region, together with his “contradicting” love to the characteristics of good Chianti, has set him apart from other producers in the early days, by making one of the finest Chianti Classico’s on the market. Paolo still produces small amounts of wine from international varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Chardonnay.
As a young winemaker Paolo was so over occupied with his strive to perfection, that he did not have time for tourism, “It would distract us from our wines.” That was in the 1980’s and 1990’s when the Utopian Idea of a perfect wine being possible was burning in his veins. (If it wasn’t for Marta’s support I cannot see this period passing by without ill effects.) In the last 10 years Paolo and Marta managed to build (mostly underground, and in spite of the strict building regulations of the region) one of the most exquisite and beautiful winery and underground cellars of all Toscana. From a small boutique winery adjacent to an old country farm house, it became a place of pride and joy and rightly so! Well worth a visit. Isole e Olena is also worth visiting if you like to talk wines (arrange well in advance), the passion and enthusiasm in the air when Polo talks about wine is contagious, educational, and inspiring.
I have a feeling that now the idea of making the best wine I can, rather than the BEST or the perfect wine, is at the core of the winery’s philosophy. It leads to wines produced at Isole e Olena: some superb Chianti Classico, of course the Cepparello, the pure Sangiovese with all its finesse and complexity, the most multilayered perfectly spiced Vinsanto of the region (in my mind), and the Collezione de Marchi line of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and L’Eremo, from local Syrah grapes, which Paolo originally intended to use to add color and depth to his Chianti Classico However nowadays a careful selection of Sangiovese (Chianti’s principal grape),is used to achieve this goal, and The Syrah is used to produce the wonderful L’Eremo .
I have tasted almost all the Cepparello’s from 1985 and on, but today we tasted the cepparello 2005 and 2006, the chianti classic 2006, The chardonnay 2007, and some older Cepparellos 2003, and 2000. (the legendry 1997 was packed as a “take away” present.) and Vinsanto 1997
Just a few tasting notes the rest you can look up on the net…
Isole e Olena, Collezione de Marchi Chardonnay, IGT Toscana 2007
light golden hue, sweet apple compote on the nose with a touch of ripe pineapple scent notes of sweet oak in the background, Very refreshing in spite of the alcohol feel at the finish.
2006 Isole e Olena Cepparello
This rich wine is a contradiction to the Vintage conditions. A hot year with full maturity still the wine is fairly light, medium bodied and none of the expected alcoholic over feel (14% alcohol). It has mint and nepitella herbal touch very floral on the nose with sweet spices aromas of blackberries and black cherries confiture with a touch of cinnamon and cloves that gives it a sweet jammy feel. But these are so well balanced with the bursting fruit acidity and firm but accessible tannins. It has extremely long finish. (I held on to my empty glass just for the alluring after sniff)
Isole e Olena Cepparello 2005: Dark red with purple robe than Explosuion of ripe red fruits and berries on the nose and firm tannins and good acidity on the palate which balances the wine very well and allow it to be a great keeper. It has the Cepparello elegance with undertones of green fresh peppered oregano. The alcoholic strength it felt and will mellow in time as all the elements combine in a few years.
Isole e Olena, Vin Santo 1997 (bottled 2003)
This the closest you get to the Nectar of the Gods (chosen by Zeus off Dionysus hands), Honeyed thick wine to the eye with rich scents dried figs and raisins and dried orange peel still light on the palate without the sugar overtones other Vin santo’s have, due to good balancing acidic touch some vanilla on the finish make it the perfect desert a blessing to god and men..
Another amazing afternoon with Marta and Paolo, Grazie mille per la vostra amicizia .
Visits by appointment only!
Address: Isole 1, Località Olena 50021 Barberino Val d’Elsa
Telephone: +39 055 807 2767 +39 055 807 2763