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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.

What I Drank in Taipei

16 Apr

When work calls, I go. And sometimes it means that JvBUnCorked hits limbo for a few days. One of my recent ‘limbo’ moments was a trip to Taipei, Taiwan.

Before I left, I reached out on various forms of social media to ask “What should I drink when I’m in Taipei?”

I’d hoped to hear about some wine bars or resources. But the responses were few in number. Some said “drink tea, dummy”, others said that Taiwanese people are much more into whisky. I can confirm this- any restaurant I visited that actually had a wine list, had a much longer whisky list, plus other liquors and various house cocktails. But I DID find some good wine, fellow world travelers, and I’m here to share that with you.

 

But first, I drank tea, and it was simply inspiring. My host took me to the Wistaria Tea House, where we drank four different teas- from classic oolong to an “ancient” oolong, a wistaria tea, and a pu’er tea, along with a classic tea ceremony.

If you go to Taipei, do yourself a favor, and go to Wistaria Tea House. 

 

Later that afternoon,  I found wine! We went to a Taiwanese Dim Sum restaurant called Din Tai Fung, renowned for their steamed dumplings, buns, and Taiwanese-style dishes. If you go to Taiwan, DO NOT MISS Din Tai Fung. Getting back on track we had  just finished lunch and were walking through a mall browsing with friends, when my eye spotted this bottle in a mall wine shop. I loved that the back label is in Cantonese! While I knew the bottle was (over) priced based on tariffs, I also knew this was a good option for a dinner wine to pair with Japanese food.

 

Johan Josef Prüm 2009 Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, Germany. 9% ABV, Normally @ $24 USD/bottle; found in wine store in a mall in Taipei for $1700 TWD = $58 USD.

Color is pale straw. The nose offers starfruit, lemon-lime, and sodium. On the palate, gentle pear and apple are met with hints of gooseberry, grapefruit, and lime zest. An excellent blend of citrus with notes of peppercorn, slate, and limestone, presenting a delicate mouthfeel with aged, linear acidity,  Upon opening, I was initially overwhelmed with petrol and a little funk, which burned off with about 20 minutes of air. Paired perfectly with sashimi, sushi, raw fish, and tempura. 

I was happy to have found this bottle but the 2009, considered an excellent year for Prüm, did not bowl me over. I liked it , but not as much as other vintages I have enjoyed. Still, Prüm, a master winemaker of riesling, is always a joy to taste and was a delightful pairing for me and exciting for the Taiwanese guests at dinner who tasted this, at least one tasting riesling for the very first time.

 


I also liked the fact that the back label is printed in Cantonese; that was a first for me.

 

 

A day later after work, I visited the hotel’s executive lounge, which features both Asian, American, and European style food and drink.

 

The bar featured scotch, vodka, several types of beer, and one each white and red wines. I tried the Heartland Stickleback.

 

Heartland Stickleback White Blend 2012, Southern Australia. 13.5%ABV. Street price $8-12/bottle USD.

 

Pale straw in color with a nose of lemon zest and herbs.  On the palate: pear and starfruit, a hint of tangerine, secondary note of dried apple, with a gentle mouthfeel and moderate acidity. Easy to drink, this was food-friendly and popular in the lounge, pairing nicely with fresh cut fruit, cheese, and dried meats. Not enough acid for the zip I  prefer if you want to drink the wine by itself, but a perfectly fine vin du table on a daily basis, especially in the lower price range.

 


 

 

 

My last evening in Taipei, we went to a Szechuan Restaurant that is known for Peking Duck served three ways. But we started off with cod in spicy pepper sauce, green beans, black fungus (mushroom), whole fish in garlic sauce, prawn with chili sauce, and more. My host asked me to choose a wine, but I pulled a classic JvB and asked for two. I went with Champagne, and an Italian red blend…. because, the food, the food, the food! SO TASTY!

 

Jacquesson “Cuvée 740” Extra Brut Champagne; 12% ABV; around $60/bottle USD.

Beautiful lemon-lime zest, sweet apple, white peach, brioche and chalky limestone. A nice balance of fruit, acidity, and mouthfeel; medium sized bubbles bathe the palate while the acid screams for another sip. The grapes in this champagne ( a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier) were harvested in 2012, and it was disgorged in 2017. With a supple mousse, it is easy to down the entire glass- this non-vintage wine is drinking very nicely right now, as if it were a vintage champagne.  This sells in the restaurant for $2800 TWD, about $95 USD- it retails for about $60 in stores in the USA. I found this to be an excellent mid-level champagne, low dosage, perfect for aging, but really ideal for drinking. And enjoy it, we did! This was superb in pairing with the seafood, vegetables, and white meat dishes. it did not last for long, and I will look for it again in the USA!

 


 

 

Last but not least, was a beautiful red wine!

 

Rocca Di Frassinello “Le Sughere” 2012, Maremma Toscana. 14%ABV, SRP $32/bottle in the USA.

 

Dark ruby in color. The nose offers licorice and red fruit. On the palate: cherries, red plum, and dried cranberry. Secondary notes of tobacco, dank forest floor, wet leaves, potting soil. On the finish: toasted oak, a hint of vanilla, and granite. Medium body, with a medium-length finish. My first impression is that this tastes like a classic European field blend: Sangiovese, Merlot, & Cabernet, and was a good foil to the main dishes at the Szechuan Dinner: Peking Duck three ways and stinky tofu, (which had a subtle scent of manure about it) a traditional dish that visitors should try, but one that takes a little getting used to. This wine is probably best with grilled meats, and was a touch strong for some of the Szechuan dishes but is a good choice for a red wine in Asia, with enough body and flexible flavors to handle the savory dishes. It was simply perfect with the Peking duck.

 

 

 

 

 

All in all, I truly enjoyed the many flavors and restaurants we visited in Taipei, and look forward to the continued evolution of wine in Taiwan. I hope to go back, and report on more wine and food!

Gān Bēi!

or…

à votre santé!

 

 

Celebration Champagne: Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé

25 Dec

Special events. Family celebrations. Holidays.

These are the days that try my soul.

Not because I’m surrounded by family, but because I fret and stress about wines to serve.

I struggle with what people will appreciate, and who will enjoy it. I ask over and over: Will it be special? Will it be memory-making?

Enter celebration champagne. Celebration champagne is what I call the top-shelf champagne. It is the wine one selects when needing superior quality & consistency, and a buyer looks for a trusted history from a luxury brand name.  And what you get for your consideration is so worthwhile. There is a reason why we all love top-shelf champagne: It is simply divine, and can become the cornerstone in making an evening even more special when celebrating a rare occasion.

 

Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut NV Champagne. %12 ABV,  MSRP $99/bottle.

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The bottle itself reminds one of the brand’s historic maison, plus their longevity and consistency. Presented in a short, round bottle reminiscent of the glass-blown bottles of the 1600’s, the pink label completes the unmistakable design.

The wine is pale salmon in color with fervent and abundant tiny bubbles. The nose shows delightful red young fruit, baking spice, and rose bush. On the palate, the tongue is immediately refreshed by an elegant, effervescent mouthfeel while nuances of strawberry, young raspberry, and faint cherry bathe the palate. It is a distinct pleasure to taste and enjoy. 

Subtle, delicate, but complex.

Serious. Divine! GAME CHANGER!

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From a house of champagne founded in 1812, the non-vintage LP Cuvée Rosé has been made since 1968 using primarily traditional methods. 100% pinot noir grapes are picked, de-stemmed, crushed and macerated for 48-72 hours to insure the aromatics, flavor, and bright pink color from the pinot noir grapes before being bled away to cold storage via stainless steel tanks. Finally, a minimum of four years in the bottle prior to release.

I served this as the opening salvo at a holiday dinner party. It was not only one celebration but several: I was welcoming a friend, a fellow oenophile and fabulous wine writer, back to NYC after many years. She has undergone growth and change, and has not celebrated much recently other than passing huge milestones in her path. In addition to my friend Elizabeth, my daughter was back from college! So our family was together, plus my mother-in-law was welcoming two friends she has not seen for years, who are ALSO huge wine fans, living in Portland Oregon, the land of pinot noir.

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The Traveling Wine Chick shows off the color and joy gained from the LP Cuvée Rosé!

The response to this wine at dinner was perfect. Everyone who tasted this delightful, classic champagne was enthralled and captivated by its stunning flavors, gentle effervescence, and delectable balance. Even my beloved wife (who had only a sip of champagne at our wedding before putting down the glass for the night) had seconds on the Laurent-Perrier. It was light, refreshing, and breathtakingly flavorful; an angel dancing on the tongue. This is a true celebration champagne: a gorgeous example, elegant and balanced, in brut perfection.

 

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The evening’s wine lineup, including our celebration champagne, several aged bordeaux and a “unicorn” wine no longer made from retired Jura winemakerJacques Puffeney.

 

Perhaps opening a bottle of this champagne should be a celebration in itself.

 

à vôtre santé!

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