Archive | December, 2019

2015 Hermitage Blanc from Michèle Luyton

28 Dec

Hermitage (Rhône) wines can be tough to acquire, unless you are in a specific income bracket. The most well-known producer is Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, which I have only enjoyed at tastings (Syrahs sold annually in the thousands of dollars per bottle range), or M. Chapoutier. And you may have noticed what a huge fan I am of Lodi’s Acquiensce Winery, by winemaker Sue Tipton, whose Rhône style wines are just luscious, and affordable!

So when I saw an offer to purchase an affordable bottle from a small winemaker in Hermitage, I leapt at the chance, and then waited for the wine to come to age.

Michèle Luyton 2015 Hermitage Blanc; Glun, France. 13% ABV; $48/bottle from Fass Selections.

 

The nose offers orange peel and apricot over a layer of honey. On the palate is a rich and full-bodied white with restrained acidity: quince and Meyer lemon, secondary notes of acacia flower, followed by subtle wood notes. The wine surprised my palate with the acidity approaching on the sides of my tongue. The restraint and suppleness, plus the savory quality of this white wine makes it quite genteel and gossamer, pairing beautifully with roast turkey, hot vegetables, and sweet noodle kugel. The following day, the wine was ideal with a savory vegetable omelette for brunch, showcasing the wine’s luxury and acidity, leaving the palate refreshed and delighted, with gentle apricot remaining on the finish.

 

 

So: do you need to know Hermitage Blanc? I would say it’s imperative for any serious wine-lover to taste and understand viognier, roussanne, marsanne, and Rhône style blends of the three. They aren’t hard to find but take a little extra work; shop one of the larger wine stores near you (or wine retailer who ships to your state) and ask for/search Northern Rhône, instead of simply Hermitage (which might freak out your wallet when the wines appear with $300 price tags). But that search should give you everything from Chave and beyond: you may be able to find wines in the low $30’s- and up (up, up!). It’s a small price to pay for wines that wine importer Kermit Lynch is quoted as saying is ” more unique and special than the red wines from the region”.  Personally, over the course of the last few years I’ve managed to find a few bottles (like the above) from Hermitage that are treats to find, but I find it quite convenient to purchase Acquiesce Winery’s bottles to share at tastings, as I love the reactions I get when I say “try a sip from a gem made by one my favorite female winemakers”, and keep my palate up to date with the grapes and styles of Northern Rhône.  

 

à votre santé!

The One Wine Region You Need for New Year’s Eve: Alsace!

26 Dec

New Year’s Eve & Champagne. Take my half-century of experience on this earth and let’s boil it down.

Everyone should drink more Champagne (and for you winelovers and those who are still learning: that includes everything that is like champagne but not from that region.) So we include sparkling wine- which is the beautiful  bubbly made any place outside of the Champagne region.

 

For decades, I’ve been attending New Year’s Eve parties with several bottles in hand, served everything from vintage champagne to premier cru champagne to blanc de noir to well, you name it, I’ve served it. I pour tastes, watch people’s reactions, and then see what they want afterwards. It’s not always pretty. But this year, I’m sharing my results.

 

Q: What have I found, over decades of research?
A: Go middle ground, or face the music.

“Que?” You ask? “What music?”

The music, in this instance is this refrain: go middle ground, or guests will choose something else to drink. 

1) Don’t spend money on high end bubbly unless it is what YOU want to drink. Unless they are serious oenophiles, the rest of the people at the party won’t appreciate it the same way. As a matter of fact, they’ll probably choose something else to drink. How do I feel when I bring a $150 bottle and people taste it, and then choose to drink something else? Quite simply, it is wrong to bring something rare for people who can’t appreciate it.

2) Don’t buy the cheap stuff. Sorry André and Barefoot. But most folks will taste, and then choose something else. Don’t worry, it’s not a lot more. Grow from those $7 bottle, and prepare for a whole $12 per bottle, ok? Even you, my beloved 21 year old daughter and your Legal but Still New to Drinking Buddies.

3) Your bottom of the barrel should be a nice prosecco, which can be had in the $15 range. (Yes, soccer moms, some are $12.99 on sale!) But don’t go far from that range. Well, if you love the Barefoot, that’s cool. But bring a bottle of prosecco or Cremant D’Alsace for the REST of the party, m’kay?

Here’s a link from Vivino to their 20 Most Popular Prosecco Wines, with average retail pricing. It’s got La Marca (Non-Vintage) for $11.97. This is totally acceptable, and people will drink it.

4) Don’t bother with Veuve, unless you KNOW people will love it. I know a few people who adore it. I know more who tolerate it, because it’s VERY consistent. But you can get brilliant grower champagne or a lovely premier cru Champagne  in that ballpark. You, smart shoppers, would not spend $50 on a dish of Spaghetti-O’s when you can have the filet mignon at the same price, right? So Unless it’s what you love, skip it!

5) Here are the key words that will raise your game: Cremant d’Alsace. These are French sparkling wines from the region of Alsace, and I’m a HUGE fan of Cremant d’Alsace Brut rosé (see below).

Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rosé. Oh yes, my precious! 

 

Better yet, you’ll find these sparkling wines in the range of $15-35/bottle. And most of them, you’ll find in the $15-20 range. Sherry-Lehman has five wines from this region, all from $16.95-19.95. Total Wine lists six Cremant d’Alsace wines from $17-25 in the 750ml size.

These bottles, I have found, are made with a very good quality, and at this price point provide a tremendous QPR (Quality:Price Ratio) which in wine equals HUGE VALUE. But you can ignore that for the moment. Because in the decades of pouring and watching reactions, what I have seen is that people simply ask for more. It’s pink, it’s dry, it’s French, (maybe none of that comes into play.) It’s delicious, and THAT comes into play.

Most importantly, you’ll find these wines are beautifully crafted, will work alone OR pair well with food, and more importantly, they are crowd pleasers. You want something fun to drink? This is where you need to be! 

 

And, last but not least:

6) Get out and taste. Where do you shop? Call and see when they’re doing their New Year’s tasting. A sip of a couple of sparkling wines, or even a decent Champage, might turn you on to something wonderful for yourself, or you New Year’s Eve party.

Copyright 2019 Jim van Bergen / JvBUnCorked

 

à votre santé!

Do you agree? Disagree? Please share your thoughts, with the link below.

A Few of My Favorite Things, 2019

21 Dec

Whether you’re shopping for coworkers, loved ones, family, or yourself- it never hurts to see what other people love. So here’s my list of my favorite things, or my suggestions for your wine lovers. Ready? Let’s start with the juice!

 

Cru Beaujolais

These are some of my favorite wines for high QPR (quality-price ratio) that feature gorgeous color, deliciously complex flavors of delicate fruit with strong secondary and tertiary notes.  This is not Nouveau Beaujolais, this is cru beaujolais, which is a step up from village-level Beaujolais, which itself is a big step above Nouveau. Got that?
Level 1: Beaujolais-Nouveau. Level 2: Village-Beaujolais. Level 3: Cru Beaujolais. Oui? Bon! Maintenant…

Beaujolais is made from the gamay grape, and exhibits significantly less tannin than cabernet, syrah, or cab franc. It is much paler in comparison to new world reds. One can expect structure and depth from these wines, layers of notes should you prefer to spend your time delving deep into the wine’s character, or easy to relax and just enjoy with food. If you have new world wine drinkers (yes America, this is you) then these are old world wines that are easy on the budget and surprisingly amazing in your mouth.

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

 

Chablis.

I have openly stated my love for white Burgundy. Sadly, the high end of these wines are beyond my financial reach, but chablis is easy to find in almost any store. If you take your wine seriously, at some point you MUST up your game to try a Premiere Cru Chablis. While you can find regular chablis and petite chablis in the $18 – 25 range, for Cru designations you should expect the $30-50 range, and don’t be shocked when you see a $75 price tag. But compare that to Puligny-Montrachet that runs from $90-$600/bottle? You see my point- this you can afford, and you will love, love, love to drink. When you can afford the Puligny-Montrachet, you will enjoy it thoroughly, and then go back home to trusted chablis.

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

Nebbiolo, with age.

What is delicate on the nose, but full in mouthfeel, flavor, and tannin? Nebbiolo! Without age, give me Sangiovese, please. But Nebbiolo is the backbone of the wines you love: the beautiful, full-bodied, Piedmont wines you adore: Barbaresco and Barolo! Here’s a link to a great piece by Vivino on this very topic. The 2010 Barbaresco in the picture below is drinking beautifully right now; these are wines that can be finicky so it’s smart to have a backup in place. I prefer to give Barolos at least 20 years in the bottle, and my cellar is home to some bottles that in my own age range (half-century) which are such a treat to enjoy with like-minded wine lovers.

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

 

 

Wine lovers can not live on wine alone. You must have TOYS! I am constantly asked what wines to buy, and what to buy for wine-loving friends. Here are some of my favorite accessories:

Accessories:

Govino stemless glassware and decanters. These have become my daily glassware for red, white, rosé, sparkling, liquor, and yes, even non-alcoholic beverages! On Amazon, and everywhere else. They simply rock!

Vinoseal wine bottle stoppers. As opposed to cork, they open easily without a corkscrew, keep air out of the bottle, don’t break, don’t impart flavor or undesirable effects to your wine, and are easily reusable. What’s not to like?

How about sparkling wine? I hoped you would ask.  The Sapore Champagne Stopper is a well-designed and inexpensive way to save that bottle for another night, while fitting easily in your fridge.

 

Copyright by Jim van Bergen, JvB UnCorked 2019.

May Not Be Duplicated Without Permission.

 

What’s on your wish list?

Or, please share some of your favorite by hitting the link below. #Cheers, and Happy Holidays! 

à votre santé!!

 

 

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