French Wine…where to begin? #Winophiles

Map of French Wine Regions

This month the French Winophiles are diving into a French Wine 101.  It’s timely as we all enter our comments to the government in opposition to proposed 100% European wine tariffs.  (If you have not heard about this, I’ll post some links at the bottom for more information.) We have done a bit of writing on French wines and you will find links to those pieces. Many of these pieces were written in conjunction with the French #Winophiles, which means there is the extra bonus, of each of those pieces having links to other articles written by the rest of the #Winophiles! If you are interested in French wine, you will have plenty of reading available!

French Wine 101

I’m here to rally for French wine.  If you are new to wine, French wine can be a bit overwhelming so let’s start at the beginning.

Old World vs New World

To be sure, when we say “Old World” in reference to wines, we think first of French wines.  But what does “Old World” mean?  From a scholastic point of view: Old world wines are dominated by terroir, they are defined by place.  Typically these wines are more restrained and elegant.  New World wines, on the other hand tend to be reflective of the winemaker’s style and are often more fruit forward and bold.

That is a really broad definition of the differences, and doesn’t always hold true, but when people say “Old World” and “New World” this is what they are thinking.

French wine names

In France, wines are named for the region they come from, not by the variety of grape as we do in the new world.  This takes us back to that idea of “terroir” which is a sense of place, with soil, and climate.  So rather than speaking about Chardonnay in France, you would speak of Chablis or White Burgundy.  Both of those wines are made with Chardonnay, but the wine is named for the region.

When we think of Bordeaux, we think of age worthy reds.  These are typically Cabernet or Merlot based, depending on which bank of the river the region sits.  And you will notice that I said “based”. These wines are blends of the different varieties of grapes that grow best in this region.

There is one exception to this. In Alsace, the white wine region on the German border in the North East of France, wines are often labeled with the variety.  This comes from the German culture and this area throughout the ages, has bounced back and forth between French and German control.

Without going too deep into the wine labels (that’s a rabbit hole best saved for another day), let’s talk about some of the most well known French Wine Regions, and I’ll give you a translation for what varieties you will see from each.

French Wine regions

Map of French Wine Regions
Map of French Wine Regions

I love maps.  It gives you a better sense of the geography and influences on a region.  I could dive into the climates and soils in each of these regions (I do love to get geeky on these things), but this is French Wine 101!  So let’s put together some dots for you, on what varieties you will find in each of these regions and what you might want to eat with each of these wines!

Loire Valley – Val de Loire

Map of the wine regions of the Loire Valley
Map of the wine regions of the Loire Valley

This is white wine country!  You will find a bit of red, but the white wines are likely to be the ones you have heard of.

Muscadet

On the West end of the Loire Valley closest to the Atlantic Ocean. Melon de Bourgogne, which you will hear called Muscadet, is most prevalent here. This is a dry white wine that pairs really well with seafood. You will get citrus, and green apple and pear along with a lovely note of salinity. Go for shellfish with this wine

Chenin Blanc

Moving east Chenin Blanc begins to shine. Vouvray and Saviennières are well known Chenin Blancs from the regions of Touraine and Anjou-Saumur respectively. The two can be very different. Vouvray can be made from dry to semi-sweet to sweet, and you will find you need to do a bit of research to determine which sweetness level you are getting. Saviennières has been called the “most cerebral wine in the world”. These wines have depth of flavor, great acidity and minerality.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc, is mainly found in the Upper Loire, the area furthest east and inland. Here you hear of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. These wines are crisp and high acid. Pair them with fish or poultry. With cheeses these are wonderful with goat cheese or other creamy cheeses (think brie).

Cabernet Franc

Not to be overlooked is Cabernet Franc which in this region is the primary red wine. Chinon or Bourgueil in the Touraine region produce elegant Cab Francs. These wines can be slightly spicy with raspberry and violet notes and are a favorite at Parisian Bistros.

For more…

Champagne

Popping a champagne cork!

Well you know what Champagne is!  This region and it’s soil and climate produce some of the world’s finest sparkling wines primarily from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.

These wines, while often looked at a just for celebrations or just with the hors d’oeuvres at the top of the meal actually are perfect during a meal. The bubbles and acidity clean your palate making every bite taste as amazing as the first.

There are plenty of classic pairings, but try potato chips, buttered popcorn or fried chicken! The bubbles and acid with the fat and salt are heaven.

For more…

Alsace

Famous wine route in the Vosges mountains Alsace France
Famous wine route in the Vosges mountains Alsace France

This region sits on the German border and as I mentioned earlier has bounced back and forth between French and German control. The names and architecture here reflect that mixed heritage and the wines do as well.

These bright aromatic white wines are perfect to keep your nose in all day or dab behind your ears. But…if you must move on to drinking them, pair them with fish, aromatic cheeses, schnitzle, salads…there are so many great pairings. These are also wines known for pairing well with spicy foods like Thai! You will find riesling, pinot gris, muscadet and gewurztraminer lead the pack on varieties.

For more…

There are a few other varieties including Pinot Noir, but you are less likely to run into them.

Chablis

Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Milieu Simonnet-Febvre 2013 and Pôchouse
Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Milieu Simonnet-Febvre 2013 and Pôchouse

Chardonnay

This is Chardonnay land, but not those big buttery California Chardonnays that your Aunt might drink.  These are sharp and bright with great mineral quality! Pair with fish or chicken, oysters or other shellfish, mushrooms or cheese (think goat cheese or Comté). The sharp acid makes this great with creme sauces.

For more…

Burgundy (Bourgogne)

Vignoble de Bourgogne
Vignoble de Bourgogne

Chablis, above, is in Burgundy sitting 80 miles northwest of the rest of Burgundy.  Burgundy is known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir

The Côte de Nuits is the Northern part of the Côte d’Or and is the region that Pinot Noir calls home. It ventures further afield, but this is it’s homeland and you will find some of the most expensive Pinot Noirs on the planet, hail from here.

Pinot Noir is perfect for red wine with fish. It is the go to wine to pair with salmon. Many Pinot Noirs also have earthy notes and pair beautifully with mushrooms.

Chardonnay

The Côte de Beaune is dominated by Chardonnay. These are likely to be aged in oak. They will be richer and more buttery than those lean Chardonnays from Chablis, but they are still dry. Try this wine with pasta, chicken, risotto, shellfish or salt water fish and with cheeses like gruyere.

There is more to the region, the Côte Chalonnais and the Mâconnais, but we will leave those for another day.

For more…

Beaujolais

Gamay grapes in Beaujolais
Gamay grapes in Beaujolais

Just south of Burgundy you find Beaujolais.  This is a wine you will know better by the region name than by the grape, Gamay, that it is made from.  Beaujolais Nouveau is the first wine released each year on the third Thursday in November.  These early release wines are fresh and fruity, but the region does have other Gamay’s that are meant to be deeper and more age worthy.

Beaujolais Nouveau will be fruit forward and downright perky! Sometimes you will hear people say that they smell bubblegum or bananas in addition to raspberries and cranberry.

Aged Beaujolais might have notes of forest floor, mushroom, violet, tart cherry and smoke.

These are lighter wines and can pair across the spectrum from salmon to barbeque. Visit the Beaujolais site for a great graphic to assist with pairings for all the varied wines from this region.

The Rhone Valley

M.Chapoutier Crozes Hermitage vineyards in Tainl' Hermitage Rhone valley France
M.Chapoutier Crozes Hermitage vineyards in Tainl’ Hermitage Rhone valley France

I am a lover of Rhônes. Guaranteed…many of mine come from the Rhône Rangers that you find in California, and many of which were brought from Chateauneuf-de-Pape in the Southern Rhône.

The region is broken into the Northern and Southern Rhône. The Northern Rhône is the land of Syrah and Viognier and typically very pure and expensive versions of these.

Syrah

The Côte Rotie is known for some of the most amazing Syrah on the planet. I’ve heard it described as bacon and violets. Which sounds pretty amazing to me.

Viognier

Condrieu is well known for 100% Viognier. This white wine is full bodied and round with notes of apricot, pear and almonds.

There are other appellations like Crozes Hermitage above and Cornas, there is more to explore here, if you have the budget.

The Southern Rhone is warmer as it heads down the Rhone river to the Mediterranean and you will find blends of multiple varieties.  The famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape is here with blends of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre and more. Wines here lean toward blends.

Red Rhône Blends

These will have berry notes (think raspberry and black berry) baking spice, and maybe some garrigue (think underbrush), lavender, dried herbs. The more Mourvedre, the more likely you will have meaty notes to the wine.

These go well with mediterranean foods, like olives and red peppers, and herbs like rosemary or sage (or herbs de Provençe).

White Rhône Blends

Marsanne, Roussanne & Viognier make up the body of most white wines in this area. These blends are medium bodied and have notes of beeswax (I love that), as well as moderate citrus, like a meyer lemon, then stone fruits like peach and apricot.

Pair them with richer dishes with white meat (chicken or fish or even pork) and perhaps with fruits that are stewed or roasted. Dried apricots are a definite must on a cheese plate with these wines.

For more…

Bordeaux

Vignoble de Bordeaux
Vignoble de Bordeaux

If you have heard of any region in France other than Champagne, it will be Bordeaux. This is the region that Napa Valley wants to be. It is the big daddy of French wine with bottles that can be very pricey and many that need considerable aging. When people pull out dusty bottles from their wine cellar, typically they are Bordeaux wines.

Left Bank Reds (Cabernet Sauvignon based)

Red wines here are classified by which bank of the river the vineyards sit on. Left bank wines are west of the river in Médoc and Graves. The reds here are Cabernet Sauvignon based.

Right Bank Reds (Merlot driven)

The Right bank wines are on the other side of the river in the Libournais. These wines are Merlot driven. The Entre-deux-mers, the area in the middle between the two, has much more fertile soil producing less concentrated (but more affordable) wines.

The bold reds of Bordeaux are perfect with rich meaty dishes, like a big steak.

Sweet wines of Sauternes

Down in Graves you find the region of Sauternes. These are my friend Corinne’s favorite wines. These are sweet wines made from grapes with “Noble rot”. The botrytis fungus takes hold of the grape and dries them out considerably. They are pressed into tiny amounts of wine that when fermented becomes sweet and delicious. These are wines to pair with bleu cheese or with desserts.

For more…

Provence

Emotion, Urban Provençe and Inspiration rosé from Provençe
Emotion, Urban Provençe and Inspiration. Emotion and Inspiration come from Château de Berne and Urban Provençe is from Ultimate Provençe

Rosé

This is Rosê country, more than 1/2 the output of wine from this region is rosé. The mistral wind that whips down from the mountains keeping the vines in this Mediterannean region dry and free from disease. The landscape is dotted with lavender fields. It’s pretty dreamy.

In addition to those delicate ballet slipper pink rosés you will find Bandol, which is a rich red wine from Mourvedre.

Pair pink with pink. It’s delicious and pretty. Smoked salmon, ham, prosciutto, crab, lobster….you get the picture.

Yes…these wines are great in the summer. Their high acid and bright flavors are perfect to help you cool down on a hot day. But don’t overlook them at other times.

For more…

Other regions

Is there more to French Wine?  Why yes…so much more, there is the island of Corsica, the black wines of Cahors, Picpoul de Pinet from Languedoc-Rousillon…and then there are the wines that I have yet to discover!

Oh and did I mention Crémant? That would be sparkling wine from any region outside of Champagne! You want bubbles and value? It’s your go to!

Dive deep into the links and the links in the links and take a little vacay to France sans airfare!

For more…

More from the Winophiles!

There are so many ways to dive into French Wine, I have only scratched the surface. Why not check out the other #Winophiles and their approaches to the subject! You can join us for the conversation on Twitter on Saturday Morning January 18th (8 am PST, 11 am EST) by following the hashtag #Winophiles!

Remember I said I would include more about those potential tariffs.

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

How to measure a year – 2019, specifically..

Calendar

Years….they used to take forever! No longer. Now they often seem to speed by in a blur. The coming of the New Year makes me nostalgic. I sit warm, happy with a full belly and I remember that this is not to be taken for granted. Time for a little reflection and gratitude.

I head to social media to reflect on the year. Remember the days when we had journals or diaries or a box of photos? Well, technology has allowed us to share those memorable moments, both big and small.

Instagram is my go to photo journal. So I’m sifting through to give you an idea of my year…holy crap there are alot of wine photos! LOL!

The Quiet Time

My photo essay of the beginning of my year…snow, studying, a Valentines Day on the ice, new Ramen places, hiking at Mount Charleston, beautiful sunsets, reading by the ocean in Carlsbad, high tea with friends, the super bloom in San Diego, a blind tasting event and of course, Loki. Okay…that gets us through the quiet months.

Double click on any of the photos for a larger picture and perhaps a bit more information.

The Scenic Route

We did our typical drive a million miles summer vacation. This year it was named “The Scenic Route”. It took us from Vegas to Tahoe, to Mount Shasta, to Southern Oregon, through the Columbia Gorge to the Yakima Valley, Walla Walla and then back through the Willamette, down to the Applegate Valley and finally to Yosemite before traveling home. We met incredible winemakers, saw beautiful scenery and vineyards and while we shared the overall story of our trip this year, you can look forward to many more in depth pieces on the places we visited this year.

Studying

Then we rested…that should be what I write next. But no. This was crunch time for me. I had been studying all year to take my test to become a Certified Specialist of Wine. After a 13 week course and then months of additional study I hoped I was ready. I was…

#OurAussieWineAdventure

Now was it time to rest? Nope. We were off to the Wine Media Conference in October. Social media got to see much of our trip…there are still interviews and articles to be written in the new year. Here is a glimpse of our travels through New South Wales Australia. We dubbed it #OurAussieWineAdventure.

So, exhausted and exhilarated, we returned. At this point the holiday’s approached and our 2nd Annual 12 Days of wine celebration was at hand.

12 Days of Wine

Here is a link to that page. 12 Days of Wine 2019. You’ll find fun video reveals and details about each of the wines there.

Now we’ve come to the end of the year. It was a full year. We have writing to do video’s to create and tons of content to share with you. And…there will be new adventures. For right now…I’m going to relax and then day dream about what the New Year might hold.

Want more details on some of these great spots?

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Champagne – a history beyond the bubbles

The Winemaker's Wife by Kristen Harmel

The Winemaker’s Wife by Kristin Harmel

Kristin Harmel’s novel “The Winemaker’s Wife” takes a story of Champagne during World War II and brings it to life.  She takes us through the day to day of characters experiencing the events of the war in different ways, even as they walk the same vineyard.  She also contrasts this story with a modern tale that in the end links the two.  It is a page turner.

I received this book as a sample for review. All opinions are my own.

Champagne and Reims

The story is set in a vineyard near Ville-Dommange, a village that can be traced back to the VIVth century. The original name was “Villa Dominica” meaning “the farm of a Lord”.  This Lord?  Well it was King Louis I the first king of France.

Sunrise on vineyard , Montagne de Reims, France
Sunrise on vineyard , Montagne de Reims, France

This village is in the Marne department which, during the occupation of France during WWII was very active in the Resistance.  The village itself is South West of the city of Reims, a place we get to explore in the book during the war and then in modern day.

The City of Reims

You will find yourself itching to visit, to see this place in person. Well… to hold you over, I offer a small gallery. The Reims Cathedral, Notre Dame de Reims is similar in style to the beloved Notre Dame de Paris. This cathedral celebrated 25 coronations of French Kings, including one attended by Johan of Arc. The Fountain Sube is topped with Winged Victory. The victory, with its bronze wings, was taken by the Germans in 1941 and replaced in 1989 thanks to patronage. The city is the site of the Armistice of Reims, where the Germans surrendered in May of 1945.

The story and it’s characters.

The story explores the history of the region, introducing us to historical figures like Herr Klaebisch who was the “weinführer” during this time as well as Syndicat Géneral des Vignerons, and Robert-Jean de Vogüé from Maison Moêt & Chandon.  It weaves these historical figures with our fictional characters. While it is not a “true” story, it is inspired by the history and stories told by those who lived through the war.

We see the Champagne Houses and Growers protect their region, cooperating while quietly resisting the Germans, many of them working with the resistance to get people out, hiding families in the cellars and caves under their vineyards.

The web Kristin weaves gives us characters that we love and hate, sometimes simultaneously. The characters all have flaws that make them human and her two story lines allow us perspective, from a view in the midst of the war, to a look back from today.

Champagne Pairing

Taittinger La Francaise NV Brut
Taittinger La Francaise NV Brut

When choosing a Champagne to pair with this book we went with a Non-Vintage from Taittinger, the Brut La Francaise. There were a couple of reasons for this.  First, Champagne Taittinger hails from Reims and we wanted to stick to this region.

Second was due to a beautiful piece I came across in “Decanter” that told the story of the vineyard owners and champagne houses during the war. It included a bit about François Taittinger that I’ll sum up here. I do encourage you to read the entire piece in Decanter, as it is fascinating.

François Taittinger

François Taittinger was just 20 years old when he was called before Klaebisch.  Taittinger had been sending inferior bottles of Champagne to the Germans.  It was a quiet practice of resistance that many in the region participated in.  It is said that Klaebisch admonished him “How dare you send us fizzy dishwater!”  Taittinger was a bit of a smart mouth, and answered as all the champagne houses wished they could “Who cares? It’s not as if it’s going to be drunk by people who know anything about Champagne!”.  He was tossed in jail, just for a few days (the germans still needed their bubbles after all).  His brother Michel fought in the war and lost his life on his 20th birthday defending the last bridge over the Seine.

You can read more on the Taittingers history here https://www.taittinger.com/en/legacy

Some personal thoughts

I will tell you that with Champagne being a celebratory beverage…you may wish to wait until the end of the book to pop that cork.  This book gives you a glimpse of the hardships faced France during WWII, with rationing, losing loved ones, as well as the fine balance of cooperation and resistance for survival.

The Winemaker's Wife by Kristin Harmel
The Winemaker’s Wife by Kristin Harmel

You will finish the book and find that Champagne perhaps tastes a little different, is there a touch of salinity in that glass?  Perhaps a remembered taste of tears.

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

The Multiple Expressions of Vouvray! #Winophiles

Corks from the Styles of Vouvray

Vouvray….it’s a lovely word to say. A french wine, it is named for a region, not a variety. It comes from the Loire Valley. That’s the Val de Loire on the map below.

Map of French Wine Regions

The Loire Valley wine region spans 300 miles along the Loire River from Sancerre to Nantes and is broken into 4 very distinct regions from west to east:

  • The Pays Nantais – closest to the Atlantic that has a maritime influence.
  • Anjou-Saumur – a little further inland
  • Touraine – even further east
  • The Upper Loire – this area furthest east and inland has a more continental climate and follows the Loire River as it begins to curve south.
Map of the wine regions of the Loire Valley
Map of the wine regions of the Loire Valley

The region historically was known as the Valley of the Kings and the river is dotted with tremendous chateaus that are show stoppers. We will focus on the Touraine region which is sometime called the “Garden of France”.

The Touraine

When we speak about the Touraine, there are two primary grapes that come to mind:

  • Cabernet Franc which you find in Chinon, Bourgueil and St. Nicolas de Bourgueil.
  • Chenin Blanc well known in Montlouis-sur-Loire and probably the most well known region in the Touraine, Vouvray.

Vouvray

You have likely seen a Vouvray on a shelf at a wine shop.  It is perhaps the best known of the Touraine appellations.  It sits just north of the Loire River East of the city of Tours. 

Vouvray was one of France’s first Appellations, in 1936.

The area in the “Garden of France” has many Chateaus and gardens. Here is a quick visual trip…

  • Vines and church at Vouvray France - August 2016 - The bell tower of the church of Notre Dame et Saint Jean Baptist surrounded by vines above Vouvray  in the Indre et Loire region of France
  • Chateau Valmer in Vouvray France
  • Les jardins du château Valmer. (The Gardens at Château Valmer) in Vouvray
  • Vines and grapes at Vouvray France - August 2016 -  Vines and bunches of white grapes above Vouvray  in the Indre et Loire region of France

Chateau Valmer (pictured above) does make a Vouvray, but sadly, I was not able to find a bottle. Perhaps a trip to the beautiful Château, built at the beginning of the 16th century is in order.

Styles of Vouvray

Vouvray is a wine of many variations.  It is made of Chenin Blanc, which sometimes in the region is call Pineau de la Loire.  You will find it both Sparkling and Still.

Sparkling Vouvray

Sparkling wines, known here as “fines bulles”, may be made in the Methode Traditionelle – which is the method used in Champagne.   You might find these called Cremant de Loire.  It can also be made Pétillant (Pét Nat), just slightly bubbly in the Method Ancestral. 

In style it can be Brut or dry, or Demi-Sec, which is sweet.

They like their fines bulles here, with sparkling being 60% of the production.  And, they like to keep it here, only 1 in every 20 bottles of Loire Bubbles make it out of the country, as opposed to the still wines, where 1 of every 3 is sold out of France. 

Still Vouvray

In the still wines you have a variety of sweetness levels from Dry, called Sec through Tendre or Sec-Tendre (off dry) to Demi-Sec which is definitely sweet to Moelleux which is a sweet dessert wine.

It can be difficult to tell which sweetness level you are getting. The residual sugar level is not written on the bottle. Sometimes, a wine will specify sec or demi-sec, but it’s easy to be fooled, as I was.

Choosing a variety of Vouvrays

I went shopping for Vouvrays. The sparkling was simple…it was the only one available. Then for the stills I wanted a Sec and a Demi-Sec. I found a house that had both. But I wanted to expand and choose more than one house, so I chose another that I believed was Sec, but was not labeled. I ended up with a wine that was actually sweeter than the Demi-Sec I chose! Lesson learned, and now I share that lesson with you! On to the Wines

Maison Bougrier Pure Loire Sparkling Vouvray

Maison Bougrier Pure Loire Brut from Vouvray
Maison Bougrier Pure Loire Brut from Vouvray

This wine is made in the Methode Traditionelle. They age on the yeast for 24 months. I noted that they age “sur lattes” which means stacked on their sides. The wine is 12.5% abv and it runs a reasonable $19.99 SRP.

Famille Bougrier “V” Vouvray Grande Réserve 2018

Famille Bougrier 2018 "V" Vouvray Grande Réserve
Famille Bougrier 2018 “V” Vouvray Grande Réserve

This wine, the Grande Réserve “V” Vouvray from Famille Bougrier, is aged for several months in wood. This makes the wine fuller and richer than the regular Bougrier “V” which is made in stainless steel. This wine is 11% abv and I picked it up for $14.99.

Clos Chapon Vourvray Demi-Sec

Clos Chapon 2017 Vouvray Demi-Sec
Clos Chapon 2017 Vouvray Demi-Sec

This Demi-Sec wine does have thermometer graphic on the back of the bottle to indicate the sweetness level. Of course I knew I was getting a sweeter wine as it listed Demi-Sec on the label. The Clos Chapon Vouvray is 13% abv and runs $14.99.

How sweet is this Vouvray?

Tasting and Pairing

Vouvray tasting profile collage
Vouvray tasting profile

I shopped in the afternoon, looking to find things to pair with all the styles. Across the board, I knew the basic flavor profiles would include: lemon, apricot, pear, apple, honey and camomile.

I settled on a cheese plate to cover all the styles with fontina, camembert, goat cheese, dried apricots, honey, apple, pear, prosciutto, and salami.

Cheese and charcuterie to pair with Vouvrays

I made a crab salad to pair with the dry wine, which turned out to be the sparkling. We tested some Thai green curry and Indian Palak Paneer with Rajmah Dal as well as pork chops with apples.

  • Crab salad and pork chops with apples
  • Thai Green Curry
  • Palak Paneer & Rajmah Dal

All of the food paired beautifully. Michael was very happy. He tends to avoid sparkling wines, as he doesn’t find them very flavorful. All of these wines were great for his palate. All of these wines are extremely sipable on their own in addition to being great with the food.

A couple of standouts. The crab salad (which was just olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper), went best with the sparkling. You want to go dry with this pairing. The Thai Green Curry was best with the Bougrier Reserve, due to the sugar level. This dish was a tad spicy and the sweetness balanced that. The Palak Paneer, went best again with the sparkling. Oh and dessert! We had lemon bars which were genius with the Pure Loire Brut!

Lemon bars with sparkling Loire

The French #Winophiles on Vouvray

The French Winophiles will gather on December 21st on Twitter at 8:00 am Pacific (that’s 11 am Eastern Standard time, so if you are on the East coast you can sleep in a little!) to talk about Vouvray. Just follow the #Winophiles hashtag. You can always join the chat, even if you don’t have a blog.

Check out all the great articles on Vouvray and different ways to pair it!

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

The Scenic Route – Flash Tour 2019 Part 4 – Naches Heights and Yakima Valley

Wilridge Sunrise Washington Naches Heights AVA

Day 5

What were we thinking!? A sunset shoot, followed by a sunrise shoot in Washington! Days here are longer. In July they are about 15 hrs. Sunset was 8:57 pm and sunrise is about 5:15 am. At least today we did not have a ton of driving to do.

Wilridge Vineyard in Naches Heights AVA at Sunrise
Wilridge Vineyard in Naches Heights AVA at Sunrise

We were up really early to get out to Wilridge Vineyard in the Naches Heights AVA before the sun. Paul Beverage, the owner, couldn’t join us that early, but was happy to give us permission to shoot on this beautiful property. We quietly pulled in. They allow camping on the property and there was an RV out front with people tucked away sleeping, as we were arriving before sunrise to set up.

Naches Heights AVA

The Naches Heights AVA was approved in 2012 and was the first Washington AVA to be completely sustainable. All 7 initial vineyards were biodynamic or LIVE certified. This AVA is in Yakima County, but sits outside (north and west) of the Yakima Valley AVA.

We’ve talked about the Missoula Floods that washed through this area. I remember speaking with David O’Reilly of Owen Roe at their Union Gap Vineyard. We stood toward the top of his vineyard at 1,200 feet and were at the top of the Missoula Flood level. Naches Heights sits between 1,200 and 2,100 feet, so the entire plateau is above the Missoula Floods.

The plateau was formed as a lava flow from the Cascades cooled. The soil here is known as Tieton Loam Loess. The high elevation means less chance of winter damage in the vineyard.

Wilridge Vineyard

Wilridge Vineyard Naches Heights Washington

Paul Beverage started his winery in Seattle back in 1988. In 2007 he planted Wilridge Vineyard near Yakima. The vineyard was planted to be Certified Organic and Biodynamic.

They consider themselves a “Recreational Vineyard”. There are bike trails and hikes, and they have a map to guide you around the vineyard and to the cliff trail hikes in Cowiche Canyon. You can even rock climb on the Andesite rock cliffs where the vineyard has bolted anchors.

Signs from the hiking trails guide you to the tasting room at Wilridge Vineyard
Signs from the hiking trails guide you to the tasting room

You can also just kick back on the porch of the 100 year old farmhouse that is their tasting room and enjoy the views and the wild (or not so wild) life. The cats are friendly. Rachel, a young black cat, came running up to me meowing and spent part of the morning purring and curling up in my lap!

Rachel, the vineyard cat. She ran up to me from across the porch meowing and demanded to sit in my lap and be petted! How could I not ablige.

  • Sunrise with vines a Wilridge Vineyard in Washington's Naches Heights AVA
  • Wilridge Sunrise & lavender Washington Naches Heights AVA
  • The Wilridge logo painted on the door at the farmhouse
  • Tree swing and tables for enjoying a glass or a bottle at Wilridge Vineyard Naches Heights Washington
  • Flowers and farmhouse at Wilridge Vineyard, Naches Heights AVA
  • Grapes in the morning sun at Wilridge Vineyard in the Naches Heights AVA of Washington State
  • The 100 year old Farmhouse at Wilridge Vineyard

The farmhouse has 3 AirBnb rooms, they take reservations for RV parking and you can camp in the vineyard! Staying here, gives you the luxury of waking up and taking in the gorgeous sunrise in your PJ’s with a cup of Joe in hand.

Back to the Yamika Valley AVA

JB Neufeld

Justin of JB Neufeld at Gilbert Cellars in Washington's Yakima Valley AVA
Justin of JB Neufeld at Gilbert Cellars

Justin of JB Neufeld made some time in his morning to talk with us about his Cabernets. In addition to his own label, he is the winemaker for Gilbert Cellars and we met him on their beautiful property on Hackett Ranch.

The bees buzzed happily in the lavender behind us as we chatted with a view of the beautiful gardens and amphitheatre here on the property.

Justin is focused on Cabernet Sauvignon. He looks to how this grape expresses itself in different soils and climates within Washington. We had a fascinating discussion with him on how he pulls the best out of each of his vineyard designates from Red Mountain to Red Willow, across the entire Yakima Valley, to create a beautiful complex blend of Cabernet. We also talked about microflora in the soil and about the wines he makes with Gilbert. You can expect us to share more of this interview later!

Wine Yakima Valley

When we visited Washington before for #WBC18, we met Barbara Glover who had put together the pre-conference tour for Wine Yakima Valley. Barbara was instrumental in helping us connect with vineyard owners and winemakers for this trip to the Yakima Valley. We were excited to meet with her and talk about all the exciting developments in the Yakima Valley Wine Region.

She arranged for us to meet her at Stems, a wine shop in downtown Yakima. We met Brad the owner and were able to talk Yakima Wine. In addition to the great interview with Barbara, it was fun to just chat with them about the region, it’s people and culture.

Stems Yakima

Brad mentioned that when he opened Stems, he planned to be just focus on Washington Wines. Local demand to learn more about other regions has him holding events including wines from outside the region. The thirst for knowledge (and wine) is alive and well in Yakima! This is a great place to pick up a bottle or twelve of wine and anything wine related that you can imagine.

Stems Wine Shop in Downtown Yakima, Washington
Stems Wine Shop in Downtown Yakima, Washington with Barbara Glover of Wine Yakima Valley.

Los Hernandez

Los Hernandez Tamales in Union Gap Washington
Los Hernandez Tamales in Union Gap Washington

When we asked where to grab lunch, everyone said the same thing…Los Hernandez. We did a piece on our delicious lunch here.

Treveri

The lawn at Trevari
The lawn at Treveri

We were running early for our tasting at Owen Roe, so we thought we would stop by Treveri. I mean who can pass up bubbles after filling up on tamales!

As we were filled with tamales, we passed on the cheese and charcuteries offerings, but…if you are in the area, this is a great stop for bubbles and a snack. Tastings are seated and are free. We found a spot outside. The clouds had rolled in and it actually got a little humid (which is not typical for this area!). It was just mere moments before an attentive host came to talk us through the menu. It felt a bit luxurious to sit and enjoy the view and have someone continually bring you new bubbles to try.

These are good affordable bubbles. Your tasting will take you through bubbles that go from Brut Zero to Demi Sec with their sweetness levels and in addition to the traditional Blanc de Blancs of Chardonnay, they have a rosé of Syrah and Chardonnay and the Demi-Sec sparkler we tasted was of Gewurztraminer.

Owen Roe

When we were here last October we attended a dinner at Owen Roe’s Union Gap vineyard. I had an opportunity to walk the winery with owner David O’Reilly as well as do a vineyard tour with him. As we walked the vineyard we tasted the Owen Roe wines on, in the blocks the grapes were harvested from.

But Owen Roe has many more wines than just the Union Gap vineyard designates. They pull from Red Willow for their Chapel Series, as well as from DuBrul, Olsen, Outlook and Elerding here in the Yakima Valley for many of their other wines (and they do have a really wide selection of wines!) They also source from the Willamette Valley from vineyards across 4 different AVAs. When we knew we were going to be back in the area, we knew that we wanted to sit down and taste through their wines.

Barrels, Owen Roe, Yakima Valley, Tasting Room, Barrel Room, Union Gap
Owen Roe’s Union Gap Tasting room is in the winery. Now filled with barrels some of which make for private tasting areas.

Tasting with Brandon at Owen Roe

The space looked so much different than our last visit! Our October visit was during harvest and the winery was filled with fermentation bins! Now there were stacks of barrels, some of which created a private tasting area and this was where Brandon set us up for our tasting.

Brandon set us up with a wide and large tasting through many of their wines and we promise we will walk you through that tasting in the not so distant future.

It was still early when we finished at Owen Roe, but we were bushed! We picked up some dinner and crashed early. The next day would be early again. Co Dinn was meeting us at Roskamp Vineyard in the Snipe Mountain AVA, early in the day. Next we would drive on to Red Mountain to visit with Sarah Goedhart at Hedges Family Estate. Then we would be making the drive to Walla Walla to meet Tim & Jennifer Amstrong at their vineyard. So stay tuned!

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Exploring the Grand Terroir of Gérard Bertrand with Tautavel and La Clape

Gérard Bertrand wines of Limoux, Tautavel & La Clape

Gérard Bertrand Côte des Roses - courtesy Gérard Bertrand

Even if you are not an expert on French Wine, you are sure to have heard of Gérard Bertrand. He produces that stunning bottle of rosé Côte des Roses. You know, the bottle with the rose embossed on the bottom. It’s hard to miss! And…it’s a lovely wine, that actually comes from the Côte des Roses, an area near Gruissan in Languedoc in the South of France. But Gérard Bertrand is much more than simply rosé….

Gérard Bertrand – the man

Gérard’s family had an estate vineyard. He learned alongside his father. Of course he went off on his own and found a passion for Rugby, which he played professionally for many years. But he always had a passion for wine. When his father passed in 1987 he returned to take over the family’s Villemajou Estate and later created the Gérard Bertrand wine company.

Languedoc -Roussillon

Map of the Languedoc-Rousillon Wine Region in France
The Languedoc-Roussillon Wine Region in France

Even if you enjoy French wines, Languedoc is rarely one of the first regions you will encounter. This region is in the south of France to the West of the famous Provence. It is the region that wraps around the mediterranean sea from Nîmes to the border with Spain.

The red grape varieties here include Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Carignan, all of which can be beautifully blended. We will explore two of these blends below, as well as dipping our toes into a bit of Crémant from Limoux.

Gérard Bertrand – Expressing the Terroir

At Gérard Bertrand they are dedicated to biodiversity and to the area of Languedoc-Roussillon. They expanded from the original Villemajou vineyard to purchase Cigalus Estate, Château Laville Bertrou and the Aigle Estate. Beyond that they now include Château la Sauvageonne, Château la Soujeole, Clos d’Ora, Clos du Temple, Château les Karantes, Château Aigues-Vives, Cap Insula winery, Château des Deux Rocs, Château de Tarailhan and the Estagnère Estate, in their portfolio.

Biodynamic practices

After becoming interested in homeopathic medicine in the early 2000’s, Gérard became interested in Biodynamics and in 2002 started farming the Cigalus Estate biodynamically. They have since converted all their estates to biodynamic practices.

Many of the pieces you will see below will focus on the Biodynamic Cigalus Blanc, the wine that Gérard Bertrand provided as samples to many of the French #Winophiles. With many people interested the list had to be limited. Late to the party we did not receive the samples, but we were able to find several other bottles of Gérard Bertrand wines that peaked our interest!

The Grand Terroir range of wines they produce allow you discover each unique region. In addition they produce a Crémant de Limoux, claimed to be the region where sparkling wine originated. I mean how could we pass that up?!

Limoux

Map of Limoux courtesy Gérard Bertrand

So we have all probably heard the story of the famous monk Benedictine Dom Pérignon who lived in Hautvillers in the Champagne region of France, discovering bubbles and tasting the stars! Dom has, in legend, often been credited with inventing Champagne. He lived from 1638 to 1715. Well… in Limoux they say that in 1531, the monks of Saint Hilaire were the first to discover the bubbles and begin using the “traditional methode” to produce sparkling wines. I’ll let them duke it out, you can pour me a glass of either and I will be happy to watch them debate while I simply enjoy the delicious wine.

Limoux sits in the cool foothills of the Pyranees, an area perfect for growing grapes for sparkling wine. For more on this area, I highly recommend visiting the Limoux AOC page on Languedoc Wine site!

Gérard Bertrand Cuvee Thomas Jefferson Crémant de Limoux Brut Rose 2016

Gérard Bertrand Cuvee Thomas Jefferson Cremant de Limoux Brut Rose 2016 Bottle shot
Gérard Bertrand Cuvee Thomas Jefferson Cremant de Limoux Brut Rose 2016

Crémant de Limoux is said to be the only sparkling wine that Thomas Jefferson kept in his cellar. I like to picture him receiving the sparkling bottles from the chilly basement through his wine elevator…leave it to Thom to invent this stuff. (We visited Monticello a few years ago, hence the photos).

This particular wine is a blend of 70% Chardonnay, 15% Chenin, and 15% Pinot Noir.

The Grapes are harvested when their acid-sugar balance reach their best. The fruit is transferred to the winery and immediately pressed in a pneumatic pressing machine. In addition to reinforce the perception of freshness and balance, the dosage is very precise. The Pinot Noir grapes are not macerated, in order to preserve their colour. The must is transferred to the vats for alcoholic fermentation using the same process used for still wine. After malolactic fermentation in the vats, the wine is blended together and then transferred to the barrels to mature for 8 months.

From Gérard-Bertrand.com

La Clape

During the Roman era, this area was actually an island. No longer an island, La Clape is bordered to the east by the sea, to the west by the low-lying alluvial plains of the Aude and to the south by the lagoons. The soils here are loose limestone.

  • Map of La Clape in Languedoc courtesy Gérard Bertrand
  • Photo of La Clape courtesy Gérard Bertrand

Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir La Clape 2015

Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir La Clape 2015 bottle shot Languedoc
Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir La Clape 2015

The wine is a blend of 50% Syrah, 35% Carignan and 15% Mourvèdre. It sits at 13.5% abv

A slow ripening process and a late harvest (end of September to mid-October) are the key ingredients for producing grapes that are ripe, healthy and concentrated and also aids the extraction of colour and aromas during fermentation and maceration. The grapes are harvested by hand when they have reached peak ripeness and transported to the winery in special bins. They are then de-stemmed before being transferred to the stainless steel vats for maceration, lasting 20 to 25 days. The wine is then decanted into barrels for 8 months of ageing.

From Gérard-Bertrand.com

Tautavel

Tautavel is a village in the Roussillon region, located between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean. This region lays claim to some of the oldest hominid remains in Europe. In 1971, the remains of Tautavel Man were discovered. These remains date to 450,000 years ago, and the area is thought to be one of the cradles of civilization.

  • Map of Tautavel courtesy Gérard Bertrand
  • Photo of Tautavel courtesy Gérard Bertrand

Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Tautavel 2015

Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Tautavel 2015 bottle shot Languedoc
Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Tautavel 2015

This wine is a blend of Grenache, Syrah & Carignan and sits a 15% abv

Work in the vineyard starts by selecting the most suitable plots of land for each variety. The grapes are harvested once they have reached peak maturity, determined by regular tasting, and are sorted twice: once in the vineyard and again in the winery. The fruit is vinified in the traditional manner, the grapes are de-stemmed and then undergo maceration for 3 to 4 weeks. The must is then pressed before malolactic fermentation begins. 33% of the wine is transferred to barrels and matured for 9 months, while the rest matures in the vats.

From Gérard-Bertrand.com

The Pairings

I sat with the tech sheets for each of these wines and prepared a menu, which began and ended with the Crémant de Limoux Brut Rose.

Salmon Crostini

  • Salmon Crostini with raspberry jam or caviar
  • Gérard Bertrand Crémant de Limoux with Salmon Crostini

The salmon crostini was simple, just crostini, (sliced baguette, brushed with olive oil and baked 8-10 minutes) topped with smoked salmon, a dot of creme fraiche and then either a dab of raspberry jam or a dab of caviar.

The Crémant was beautiful in the glass, clear with fine bubbles and a light salmon color, that looked gorgeous next to our salmon crostini. The nose hit you first with tart fruit followed by whiffs of toast.

This was beautiful with the salmon, the acid and bubbles cutting through the fat. The creme fraiche mirrored the tartness in the wine and the crostini brought in those toasty elements. It was interesting to see how the difference of salt or sweet on the top affected the experience. I enjoyed the jam matching the fruit in the wine and balancing it with that hint of sweetness, but the crostini with the caviar was my favorite. The caviar contrasted beautifully, pulling forward the fruit notes in the wine. This was a delicious bite and pairing.

Cheese & charcuterie

Cheese and Chacuterie platter Gouda, triple creme, manchego, berries, nuts, honey, sopresso
Cheese and Charcuterie platter

We opened the two red wines and put together a cheese & charcuterie platter, which included gouda, manchego and a St. Angel triple creme cheese. I added some sopresso, honey & walnuts, as well as an assortment of berries; strawberries, raspberries and blackberries.

I found that the triple creme cheese went beautifully with both wines, with the wine pulling forth some beautiful floral notes in the cheese. The Tautavel was surprisingly nice with the salmon crostini with caviar, brightening and highlighting the food.

As expected the sopresso was wonderful with the La Clape with the mouvedre in the blend. The La Clape was also very nice with the crostini with the jam. Together both the jam and the wine felt brighter in my mouth.

Sous vide pork in caramel sauce & Roasted fennel & Peppers

  • Pork in Caramel sauce to pair with the Gérard Bertrand 2015 Tautavel
  • Sous Vide pork w/caramel sauce & roasted fennel and peppers

Gérard Bertrand’s suggested pairings for the Tautavel included “grilled peppers, pork in caramel sauce and rabbit with prunes and fine cheeses”. The tasting notes also listed red fruit and raspberry aromas underpinned by spicy notes…delicate notes of scrubland and spices on the palate”. In addition they noted “Ripe black fruits, chocolate, licorice and smoked herbs…”

Intrigued by the pork in caramel sauce, I found a recipe for sous vide pork to riff on. The pork went into the sous vide with a rub of salt, pepper, paprika (for those subtle spices on the palate) and rosemary (for the scrubland herb notes). 2 hours later, we seared the chops and drizzled with a caramel sauce with salt pepper and rosemary. This plated with roasted fennel (pulling forward those licorice notes) and peppers with a bit of rubbed sage (more scrubland). We garnished with fresh fennel and sage leaves and blackberries to tie in the “ripe black fruit”.

Roasted Chicken on a bed of cous cous with arugula and cranberries

Roasted chicken on a bed of cous cous with rosemary, cranberries and arugula
Roasted chicken on a bed of cous cous with rosemary, cranberries and arugula

The La Clape suggestions included roasted poulty and creamy cheeses. We had already enjoyed this with the triple creme, so now it was onto tasting it with the roast chicken. I served this on a bed of cous cous with cranberries to pull those fruit notes and arugula to pull some of the peppery notes, as well as add a bit of green.

Both of the wines paired well with the food. These wines are lovely on the nose, but feel lighter on the palate, so that they were beautiful to pair with these lighter meats without overpowering the flavors of the dishes.

Dessert – Deconstructed Berry tart

Deconstructed berry tart with the Gérard Bertrand Cuvee Thomas Jefferson Cremant de Limoux Brut Rose 2016
Deconstructed berry tart with the Gérard Bertrand Cuvee Thomas Jefferson Cremant de Limoux Brut Rose 2016

With a Brut Rosé you can rarely go wrong with a red fruit desert, and this was no exception. I created a simple deconstructed berry tart, with crumbled shortbread, raspberry jam, a puree of raspberries an strawberries, fresh blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, mint and a raspberry sorbet.

We poured another glass of the Gérard Bertrand Cuvee Thomas Jefferson Crémant de Limoux Brut Rose 2016 (which we had stoppered, pressurized returned to the fridge to preserve the bubbles while we enjoyed the rest of the meal). This pairing did not disappoint and was the perfect end to an evening of delicious wines.

This was a beautiful exploration into this region and this winery for me. I encourage you to search for Gérard Bertrand wines, beyond that beautiful rosé and taste a bit of Languedoc.

The French #Winophiles

Read on for more great pieces on the wines of Gérard Bertrand. As I mentioned before, many of these will focus on the wonderful 2018 Cigalus Blanc, an exceptional white blend that I look forward to tasting in the future.

And join us on Saturday May 18th at 11 am EST on twitter to discuss these wines! Just follow #Winophiles to find us!

Michelle Williams – Rockin Red Blog: “Celebrating Biodynamic Viticulture And The Beauty Of The Languedoc With Gérard Bertrand #Winophiles

Lynn Gowdy – Savor the Harvest: This Biodynamic Wine Is a Summer Pleaser + Saturday Culinary Concoction.

Wendy Klik- A Day in the Life on a Farm :  ” New Wine Paired with an Old Favorite.”

Camilla Mann – Culinary Adventures with Camilla: “Lemon-Caper Halibut + Gérard Bertrand 2018 Cigalus Blanc

Linda Whipple, My Full Wine Glass : “Languedoc Wine Meets Lebanese Cuisine” 

David Crowley – Cooking Chat: “Savoring a Special White Wine from Souther France

Pinny Tam – Chinese Food and Wine Pairings: “Exploring Languedoc-Roussillon with Chateau Millegrand Minervois Mourral Grand Reserve + Chinese Charcuterie Board #Winophiles

Jeff Burrows – Food, Wine, Click: “Butter Roasted Fish with Gérard Bertrand’s Cigalus Blanc”

Jane Niemeyer – Always Ravenous: Chicken Korma with Gérard Bertrand Cigalus Blanc

Cindy Lowe Rynning – Grape Experiences: “The Wines of Gerard Bertrand: Expect Joie de Vivre with Every Sip

Susannah Gold – Avvinare: “A Wine from Gerard Bertrand: A Larger than Life Figure

Deanna Kang – Asian Test Kitchen:  “Gerard Bertrand Rose Paired with Subtly Spiced Shrimp”

Cynthia  Howson & Pierre Ly – Traveling Wine Profs:Comfort Food and Sunny Red: Gérard Bertrand Côtes des Roses with Senegalese Mafé and Fonio

Jill Barth – L’Occasion:A Name To Know: Gérard Bertrand

Gwendolyn Lawrence Alley – Wine Predator:”Bertrand’s Biodynamic Cigalus Paired with French Sausage

Liz Barrett – What’s in that Bottle: “Get to Know the Winning Wines from Languedoc Icon Gérard Bertrand

Nicole Ruiz Hudson –  SommsTable: “Cooking to the Wine: Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Tautavel Grenache-Syrah-Carignan with Saucy Lamb Loin Chops

Rupal Desai Shankar – Syrah Queen:A Commitment To Languedoc – The Biodynamic Wines Of Gerard Bertrand

Payal Vora, Keep the Peas:Aude: Alive in More Ways Than Wine

L.M. Archer:The Hedonistic Taster: Gérard Bertrand 2018 Cigalus Blanc

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Where are the Women in Champagne? #Winophiles

Nathalie Falmet Brut & Champagne, by the Artist RuBen Permel of Act2Art

Women in Champagne.  It’s a simple title.  I looked forward to learning and researching about Women in Champagne as we put together our piece for the Winophiles this month.  As I set forth to do some research, I found two stumbling blocks, Champagne and Women.  Do a search, try it now…I’ll wait.

Probably the first things that popped up were dresses or shoes in the color of champagne for women.  Ugh!

Dig deeper.

Once you’ve waded through the photos of ladies in champagne colored gowns sipping flutes of Champagne, you might come across pieces on “The Women of Champagne”.  Okay, this has a bit more merit.  It will discuss the Grand Dames of the Champagne region, beginning with the Widow Cliquot and moving on to the women in the industry who work for or are part of the families of the big Champagne houses.

Kudos to all of them!  You can read a great piece on them here at Food&Wine https://www.foodandwine.com/wine/champagne-sparkling-wine/future-women-in-champagne , but this was not what I was looking for.

I was looking for the boots on the ground women in Champagne.  Where were the female winemakers, owners of a small vineyards or women working with their families in Champagne for small wineries.  I wanted to talk about women on the ground getting their hands dirty, making delicious wine, not about a large corporation.

In my online research I did stumble upon the perfect piece to send me down the rabbit hole that I needed.  It was a research piece by Professors Lucia and John Gilbert of Santa Clara University in California.  (You can read it here https://webpages.scu.edu/womenwinemakers/champagne.php) Researched and Written by Professors Lucia and John Gilbert [email protected] Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA 2018

They discussed several organizations in Champagne for/by women including La Transmission and Les Fa’Bulleuses. Ahh….at last.  These were the women I was looking for.

Les Fa’Bulleuses

Les Fa'Bulleuses cartoon
Les Fa’Bulleuses (courtesy Les Fa’Bulleuses)

I reached out to Les Fa’Bulleuses for some information and Charlotte de Sousa of Champagne De Sousa was happy to provide me with some additional information.

Les Fa’Bulleuses are a group of women in Champagne who have gathered together to market their family wineries in Champagne.  More than that, this group has become an indispensable resource for each other. 

“Each of us comes from a different village and has a very singular history … But what unites us, above all, is this unconditional love that we have for our wines and our terroirs.
Versatile and dynamic, we practice the noble profession of winegrower in its entirety. At the same time present in our vineyards, in vinification and cav, we like to learn, observe, communicate and especially share.
Convinced that “unity is strength” we are a real team. Through our associate the Fa’Bulleuses of Champagne we wish to defend with femininity but without feminism our work, our values and our passion”

Courtesy Les Fa’Bulleuses de Champagne

Charlotte was kind enough to give me her thoughts on the group.

“There were seven of us at the beginning.  Two girls met during a wine fair and decided to create a group.  One girl called another, and they called another and soon we were 7 for the creation of the group in 2014. It is important to us, because we have the same questions, the same issues. It is important to have each other for advice, help etc… we are oxygen for each other, working in a family business every day is not easy. Here we know we are not alone. It is not always so easy to work in a world of men when you are a young woman, so we are happy to know that the other Fa’Bulleuses are here to help!””

Charlotte De Sousa of Champagne De Sousa

The group includes: 

Les Fa'Bulleuses  photo on Stairs
Les Fa’Bulleuses courtesy Les Fa’Bulleuses

Laureen Baillette of Champagne Baillet-Prudhomme

Hélène Beaugrand of Champagne-Beaugrand

Claire Blin of Champagne Mary Sessile

Mathilde Bonnevie of Champagne Bonnevie Bocart

Charlotte De Sousa of Champagne De Sousa

Sophie Milesi of Champagne Guy Méa

And

Delphine Brulez of Champagne Louise Brison

They have a map of 7 of the houses linking all the areas of Champagne.

Femmes de Vin Map of Les Fa'Bulleuses
Femmes de Vin Map of Les Fa’Bulleuses

I encourage you to check out the Les Fa’Bulleuses site and dig deeper into each of these houses!

Finding a wine made by a female Winemaker in Champagne

So I went to look for a bottle of Champagne.  The same issues as before came up. It’s hard enough to find Grower Champagne, but then one made by a woman?  I hit up wine.com.  They pointed me to Veuve Cliquot.  I explained that I was looking for a female winemaker. They pointed out that the Champagne houses typically have teams of winemakers that often change so finding and keeping track of a female winemaker there can be exciting for research (I would have said challenging).  I had to come back around to “Grower Champagne” and while they did not have any wines by the wineries of Les Fa’Bulleuses, they were able to find me one by Nathalie Falmet.

Nathalie Falmet, Vigneronne Oenologue

Champagne Nathalie Falmet - Vigneronne Oenologue
Champagne Nathalie Falmet – Vigneronne Oenologue

Nathalie Falmet was the first female oenologue in Champagne.  Her label proudly lists “Champagne Nathalie Falmet, Vigneronne Oenologue. I was able to find a piece written about Nathalie on the Scala School of Wine site.

With a degree in chemistry she went on to become an Oenologue. In addition to making her wines, she runs her Bar-sur-Aube consulting laboratory. The tiny estate (which is just 3.2 hectares is in the Côte des Bar in the Aube department. An area which has been getting more and more attention.

We tasted the Brut NV. Tim Hall with the Scala School of Wine spoke about the style and production method.

A perpetual solera-type reserve begun in 2009 provides the reserve wines, giving a growing complexity of options to a small producer who does not have the volume to store a high proportion of reserves each harvest.  The solera is replenished with about 20% of the assembled Brut NV (currently about 80PN 20CH) each year after 20% has been decanted for reserve wines. The Brut NV is thus based on a single year plus 20% solera reserves…

Champagne Nathalie Falmet – A Profile
Scalawine.com
Posted on February 21, 2015 by Tim Hall

Art, wine and Inspiration

Champagne by RuBen Permel  Act2Art.com
Champagne by RuBen Permel Act2Art.com

Champagne has always seem feminine to me. It is elegant, festive and comforting. The bubbles cheer you and that waft of yeast, like fresh baked bread, wraps you in a comforting aroma. A few years ago we did a project with my dear friend RuBen, where he created beautiful art inspired by wine and we did pairings. The event was called Crushed Grapes and Open Minds.

One of the pieces he painted, I am lucky enough to still have gracing a wall. This piece was based on his interpretation of Champagne. The painting is vivid, yet soft and I always have the impression of a mother cradling a child. This felt like an appropriate backdrop for this piece.

I encourage you to visit RuBen site at Act2Art. He is a brilliant artist, working in multiple mediums. His art, writing, costuming, photography and other design are amazing. I am truly lucky to call him a friend.

On to the pairings

We were popping this beautiful bottle from Nathalie Falmet on the day before my birthday, which happened (kizmet) to be International Women’s Day. So there was much to celebrate.

Elegant yet comforting

In looking for pairings, I wanted to span that gap of elegant and comfort. So we started with caviar and creme fraiche on a beautiful salty potato chip combining two classic pairings, caviar and potato chips.

Caviar Creme Fraiche on a potato chip
Caviar Creme Fraiche on a potato chip

It was a gleeful and blissful pairing. We also enjoyed some classic pairings, brie, raspberries, nuts and lobster pate (although the lobster pate did not go as well as I would have wished).

Classic Champagne pairings caviar, raspberries, brie, pistachios
Classic Champagne pairings

Then, we did a high brow mac & cheese. I found a recipe for lobster macaroni and cheese and dove into this! The recipe seemed manageable and still a little fancy. More than once I worried that I had done a step wrong, but in the end, it came out beautifully. You can find the recipe here.

Ingredients for our Lobster Mac & Cheese
Ingredients for our Lobster Mac & Cheese

And…we ended up with lots more than I expected! So the celebrating continued throughout the week. (Lobster mac and cheese makes for a spectacular leftover!) I did add some vivid green vegetables to make this a bit healthier of a dinner.

Lobster Mac & Cheese, green vegetables and a Nathalie Falmet Brut Champagne
Lobster Mac & Cheese, green vegetables and a Nathalie Falmet Brut Champagne

We finished it off simply with another great pairing for champagne…shortbread! Wrapped up with the mac & cheese, I didn’t bother to make this myself, but it was delicious and easy.

So that is my take on Women in Champagne. I cannot wait to read the perspectives by the other French Winophiles. I encourage you to dive in and enjoy some additional terrific reads below. And…you can join us to chat about the Women in Champagne on Saturday March 16th at 11 am EST on twitter! Just pop in #Winophiles and follow along, or join in! Tell us about your favorite Women of Champagne!

Pairing with Bubbles – Gloria Ferrer and the amazing Sarah Tracey

The line up of Bubbles from Gloria Ferrer for the Bubbles and Bites Sparkling Pairing Exploration with Sarah Tracey

It’s the season for bubbles and this past October I was able to do an amazing tasting and pairing event with sparkling wines from Gloria Ferrer at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla Washington.

I met Sarah Tracey of The Lush Life the evening before her Bubbles and Bites Seminar at WBC18. At the dinner at Doubleback Winery, we finished with the hors d’ouervres in the winery and headed back into the beautiful tasting room to find a seat for dinner and as luck would have it, I ended up sitting next to Sarah. We had great conversation throughout the evening (we both fell in love with the AMAZING lobster bisque) and at the end of the evening she mentioned that she was hosting Wine Discovery Session “Gloria Ferrer Bubbles and Bites” which I had signed up for.

The Amazing Sarah Tracey of The Lush Life
The Amazing Sarah Tracey of The Lush Life (and no, that’s not her dog, just a friend she made who was happy to pose with her for this shot!)

Sarah has quite the history! She writes a column for Martha Stewart (you can check that out here) . She’s a Somm, a wine educator and is spectacular at putting on events. She loves to travel and loves bubbles! (my kinda girl!).

The Bubbles

Gloria Ferrer

Gloria Ferrer Vineyard View
The view of the Carneros Vineyards from Gloria Ferrer

Before we get started with the pairings, I should probably tell you a little about Gloria Ferrer. This winery is located in the southern part Sonoma County. We visited one early morning and enjoyed glorious views from the patio while doing a seated tasting. I love their sparkling wines. We loved them enough to join the club. When a morning is tough, I just close my eyes and picture myself sitting there on their patio with a glass of their sparkling in hand. It inevitably makes the day better. We wrote about our visit in Bubbles to Start the Day at Gloria Ferrer and give you a little background in Gloria Ferrer – a Little History

The wines of Gloria Ferrer, while always well received, particularly by the critics, have continued to improve over 30 growing seasons. The family legacy of uncompromising quality is passed down through generations. The Pinot Pedigree born of decades nurturing our Sonoma Carneros Estate vineyards. The patience-testing méthode champenoise process of aging and blending is paramount. It’s all coming together in the perfect blend of savor and celebrate. Find them on Facebook, Twitter at @GloriaFerrer, and Instagram.

Source Gloria Ferrer

Pairing Strategies

The Bubbles and Bites Session with Gloria Ferrer, was more than just showing you a pairing…this was meant to get your brain thinking about what makes a good pairing and why. Think of colors. There are complimentary colors and contrasting colors. Food and wine are the same way, you can match or contrast

Sarah laid down 4 pairing strategies

  1. Acid needs Acid
  2. Flavor Match
  3. Contrast Pairing
  4. Texture Match

Within these strategies, she paired a Gloria Ferrer Sparkling wine with a small bite. Let’s walk through these delicious pairings. While we do this, keep in mind the flavor profiles and how you can use these to create your own pairings.

Acid needs Acid

For this strategy Sarah chose the Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut. This wine is 86.5% Pinot Noir and 13.5% Chardonnay. It is aged in stainless steel and then aged en tirage for a year and a half and you can find it for about $22

The pairing Sarah chose for this wine was a Classic Bruschetta with grated parmesan and a balsamic glaze. The acid in the tomatoes and the vinegar call for a high acid wine, a low acid wine would end up tasting flat.

This pairing worked! Keep this in mind when pairing dishes with tomatoes, lemon or vinegar and reach for a wine with higher acid to keep the flavors bright in both the wine and the food.

Bruschetta in the foreground and Turkey pinwheel in the back  Bubbles and Bites
Bruschetta in the foreground and Turkey pinwheel in the back

Flavor Match

The second pairing strategy is one that I often employ. Flavor Matching pulls from the wine and matches the food (or vice versa). I often use this when I picking up a wine I have not tasted. I can read the tasting notes on the shelf talker (or that I have looked up) and pull from that for my pairing. Syrah’s often have blackberry notes and I will pair them with a dish that has blackberries or a blackberry sauce. Spice notes on a wine, can inform the direction of your seasoning.

The wine for this pairing was the Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs. This wine is 91.6% Pinot Noir and 8.4% Chardonnay. (I know, they are so exact with their percentages!). This wine is hand harvested and whole cluster pressed. They blend 5-7% Vin Gris (cold-soaked Pinot Noir juice) into the base wine. This Vin Gris with it’s skin contact gives the wine it’s bit of color. It is again stainless steel aged and a year and a half en tirage.

Sarah paired this with a Turkey pinwheel with Cougar Gold, strawberry preserve, boursin & arugula. Okay…if you are asking, “What is Cougar Gold” you are not alone. When she announced this half the room murmured with smiles on their faces while the rest of us looked about bewildered. Okay here’s the deal.

Cougar Gold

Cougar Gold is a cheese. A canned cheese developed in the 1940s at Washington State University, funded by the US Government. The idea of a canned cheese that would last indefinitely was appealing at this time. It’s a white cheddar. You can find it online at the WSU siteor on Amazon, where a 30 oz can will set you back $64.99. You can watch a quirky fun video called The Making of Cougar Gold Cheese on Vimeo.

Okay, now that that is out of the way…so this pinwheel is turkey with Cougar Gold, which we now know is a white cheddar, plus boursin (a rich crumbly Gournay cheese made of cows milk), strawberry preserves and fresh arugula.

The strawberry notes in the wine match with the strawberry preserves enhancing both the wine and the food.

Contrast Pairing

We head now to pairing the Gloria Ferrer Brut Rosé. This wine is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. To get that lovely pink color they macerate half of the Pinot Noir on skin for 36-48 hours. This also developes the nose and flavor. This is aged en tirage for 2 years. This wine runs about $29.

The pairing is Ahi Poke with sunomono cucumbers, sriracha, seaweed salad & pickled ginger. The wine with it’s vibrant fruit sits in contrast to the heat and umami in the dish with the seaweed, sriracha and ginger. For other contrast pairings think, sweet and salty or sweet and tart. Think Thai food and Riesling or lambrusco and chinese food. (somehow I’m always drawn to Asian pairings here, but there are many more!)

Right to left, Ahi Poke with sunomono cucumbers, sriracha, seaweed salad & pickled ginger and Bacon Wrapped Scallops with Meyer lemon aioli
Right to left, Ahi Poke with sunomono cucumbers, sriracha, seaweed salad & pickled ginger and Bacon Wrapped Scallops with Meyer lemon aioli

Texture Match

Wine, most especially sparkling wine, has a definite texture in your mouth. Sarah used this pairing to highlight this. The wine was the 2010 Anniversary Cuvée by Gloria Ferrer 67% Pinot Noir and 33% Chardonnay this wine only uses the first press of juice. It ferments in stainless steel and spends 5 years en tirage. The growing season for this vintage was very cool. This lovely bottle runs $45.

Gloria Ferrer 2010 Anniversary Cuvée
Gloria Ferrer 2010 Anniversary Cuvée

The pairing here was elevated, as was the wine and was a bacon wrapped scallop with meyer lemon aioli. The creamy texture of the scallop and the creamy texture of the wine are gorgeous together in your mouth. Then you add the fat and salt of the bacon…yep…pretty heavenly.

The wrap up

Gloria Ferrer sparkling wines Sonoma Brut and Blanc de Noirs
Gloria Ferrer sparkling wines Sonoma Brut and Blanc de Noirs

These 4 strategies for pairing wines, work with sparkling as well as still wines and you can use them beyond that, with beers and spirits and even with creating a menu or a dish.

I encourage you to drink bubbles often. They are not all the same! And put them in a wine glass, not a flute, you will be able to enjoy the aromas in the wine even better.

Bubbles are joyful and these bubbles we discussed are affordable. Don’t just hoard your bubbles for an “Occassion”, life is short, make Thursday an Occassion!

Thanks to Gloria Ferrer for sponsoring this seminar and to Sarah Tracey for such an interesting seminar. And of course thanks to the Wine Bloggers Conference (newly rechristened the Wine Media Conference) for making this all possible!

A couple of quick disclaimers. I went to the Wine Bloggers Conference as a Citizen Blogger and this tasting was part of the conference. The conference is offered at an amazing rate for citizen bloggers to entice us to write about the different wineries and areas we visit. So…this great tasting and pairing, cost me next to nothing. BUT, I assure you that had it been crap, I would not have written about it. So there you have it. Second side note, I’ve written about Gloria Ferrer before and enjoy their wines on a regular basis as a paying wineclub member, so yeah, I like their wines.

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

A Sparkling Rosé by any other name…just might be a Crémant – #Winophiles

Crémant Rosé pairings

‘Tis the season for a little celebrating and nothing gets a celebration started better than bubbles. Something about how the bubble sparkle in the glass, or how they tickle your nose when you head in for a sip.

Bubbles are great for atmosphere, they set the mood. They are also perfect with those delicious salty, fatty treats we like to have around. From popcorn to caviar, they make a great match. And beyond just appetizers or snacks, they are great with a meal. The acid and bubbles clean your palate between each bite, making every bite taste as good as the first.

Now, bubbles come in many forms. There is Cava and Prosecco, sparkling wine, Champagne…and then there is Crémant.  Crémant is the topic for the French #Winophiles this month and we will be taking to twitter on Saturday November 17th at 11 am EST to discuss Crémant.  Join us by following the hashtag #Winophiles!

Crémant

What is Crémant? Well it’s bubbles made in the “methode champenoise” from outside of the Champagne region in France. (So secondary fermentation in the bottle)

The word Crémant means “Creamy”. The term was originally used for a Champagne that was slightly less sparkly, the bubbles were creamier, with a little less pressure in the bottle.

Some of the areas that you will find Crémant in France include: Crémant d’Alsace (Alsace), Crémant de Bourgogne (Burgundy), Crémant de Loire, Crémant de Limoux (Languedoc-Roussillon), Crémant de Bordeaux, Crémant du Jura, Crémant de Savoie and Crémant de Die.

One of the best things about Crémant is the variety of grapes that you might get to try in them. We were only able to easily locate Crémants from Alsace, Burgundy & the Loire.  Below is a list of these Crémant regions with the grapes that can be included in them (variety, my friends, is the spice of life!)

Crémant Regions and grape varieties allowed

Crémant d’Alsace (Alsace)

If it’s a rose, it will be 100% pinot noir, if it is not, it can include pinot blanc, pinot gris, riesling, chardonnay, auxerrois or pinot noir.  (1/2 of the Crémant in France is made here)

http://www.winesofalsace.com/wines/varieties/cremant-dalsace

Crémant de Bourgogne (Burgundy)

Most Crémants here use pinot noir and chardonnay (it is Burgundy after all), but they may also use gamay, aligoté, sacy & melon

https://www.bourgogne-wines.com/our-wines-our-terroir/the-bourgogne-winegrowing-region-and-its-appellations/cremant-de-bourgogne,2458,9253.html?&args=Y29tcF9pZD0yMjc4JmFjdGlvbj12aWV3RmljaGUmaWQ9MzAxJnw%3D

Crémant de Loire

Primarily these Crémants use chenin blanc, cabernet franc and pinot noir. But the allowed grape varieties include: chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pineaus d’aunis, and grolleau (looking some of those up!)

http://loirevalleywine.com/appellation/cremant-de-loire-touraine/

Rules for Crémant

Each of the AOCs for Crémant have individual rules but they do have a few that they all adhere to:

  • Hand Harvesting
  • Not over 100 liters of juice for 150 kg of grapes
  • Secondary fermentation in bottle
  • Finished wines cannot have a dosage (added sweetness for secondary fermentation) that is over 50g per liter of sugar
  • Age 9 months on the lees before being disgorged and held an additional 3 months before going to market

So with all these different grapes from different regions how does it affect how the wine tastes? Well, we rounded up a couple of Crémants and tasted through to see. With 3 Cremant d’Alsace, a Cremant de Loire and a Cremant de Bourgogne we had a little variety.

The Crémant Rosés

Lucien Albrecht Crémant d'Alsace Brut Rosé.

Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé.

Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé

This wine was received as a sample

This wine from Lucien Albrecht is 100% Pinot Noir and comes from the house that was one of the three founding members of the Crémant d’Alsace AOC.

Made from free run juice, this wine ages on the lees for 14-16 months.  It sits at 12% alcohol and runs around $22.

You can read more about this wine in a previous bit we did on Alsace.

 

Levert Frères Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Rosé Millésime 2013

This is one of the oldest properties in Burgundy.  You will notice the “depuis 1595” on the label.  The estate is in the Mercurey appellation in Côte Chalonnaise.

The 2013 Vintage was 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Gamay. (so while I didn’t celebrate Beaujolais day in the normal fashion…I did drink some Gamay!)  It spends 24 months on the Lees.  It too sits at 12% alcohol and runs around $18.

Deligeroy Crémant de Loire bottle shot

Deligeroy Crémant de Loire

Deligeroy Brut Rosé Crémant de Loire Cave De Vignerons de Saumur

This wine comes from a cooperative formed back in 1957 in the Loire.  They are located in the Saumur appellation on the top of the hill in Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg.

The Deligeroy Brut Rosé is 100% Cabernet Franc grown in soils that include the tufa limestone from which many of the famous Loire castles are built.  Vines here are 20-30 years old.  This wine sits 12 months in racks before disgorging.  Alcohol is 12% and it runs around $18

Tasting and pairing

For this tasting we really wanted to look at the differences in the wines.  These are rosés which means you get a bit more “grape” in them from the skin contact.  The wines are from different regions and different grape varieties, so we expected there to be significant differences.

When I poured the glasses, the color was the first thing that struck me.  The Levert Frères Crémant de Bourgogne was significantly lighter in color than the other two, that light onion skin color.  As we went on to taste, that appeared in the glass.  This wine had less skin contact and as such was lighter with less distinguishable fruit on the nose or the palate. It did however seem to have a little more acid to it.  It ended up being Michael’s favorite in the pairings.

The other two wines, were influenced by their grapes.  The Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace had red berry notes as did the Deligeroy Crémant de Loire, but the notes in the Deligeroy were a little deeper, the Cabernet Franc showing through.

Pairings

As the holiday season is here, we went with a crowd pleasing cheese platter to pair with.  We are geeky and tend to one by one, taste and pair each element to see which pairing we like best.  Below, you will see the results.

Cheese plate with vegetables

Brie, blackberries, lobster pate, cherry preserves, smoked salmon, raw vegetables, salmon spread, strawberries, almonds, cashews, prosciutto

Brie: Any double or triple crème cheese is brilliant with crémant.  I stacked a bit of the brie on a cracker and smeared a little of the cherry preserve on top and found this went really well with the Crémant d’Alsace and the Crémant de Loire with their berry notes.

Lobster Paté:  I had this lobster paté with Cognac in the cupboard and popped it out to try.  I found that the extra richness in the Crémant de Loire really stood up to the richness in the paté and made this an exceptional bite.

Strawberries:  The red berry notes in the Crémant d’Alsace really blossomed here.

Blackberries: Again paired best with the Crémant d’Alsace

Proscuitto:  This brought out the fruit in all the wines.

Smoked salmon:  This salmon was thicker cut and applewood smoked.  The smoky flavor was a bit much for most of the wines, but it paired best with the Loire.  I think had this been a slightly lighter salmon the pairing would have been better.

Raw vegetables with dip:  A suggestions from Wines of Alsace.  This is also typical holiday fare with a veggie platter, so we thought this would be a good test!  We went with a salmon dip and it was perfect with the wines.

Popcorn in a bowl

Popcorn

Popcorn: Bubbles and buttery popcorn are always a good bet.  (potato chips too!) And they are great affordable snacks to keep everybody happy.  This went well, but we also did a pairing with some white Crémant d’Alsace and found the popcorn went better there (more on that later).

Crémant Rosé and lobster tails

Crémant Rosé and lobster tails

Lobster:  Well…pink with pink and lobster with butter screams for bubbles.  This is maybe a little more decadent than snacks for a holiday party, but…when the guests have gone, treat yourself.  Here was where the lack of berry notes in the Crémant de Borgogne came in handy.  This wine really sang with the lobster.  The other wines were fine, but I found the berry notes a bit of a distraction.

Apple and cranberry tart.

Apple and cranberry tart.

We finished out our evening with apple and cranberry tarts.  I always like fruit deserts and the berry and bread notes in all three of the wines paired wonderfully here.

Hopefully you now have some ideas for things to pair with sparkling wines this holiday, whether you are curled up for a quiet evening or feeding a crowd.  And reach for a Crémant!

We also did a piece on the two beautiful Crémant d’Alsace white wines that we paired with a simple dinner the night before! You can read up on Crémant d’Alsace perfect for a country picnic (maybe in the living room).

The French #Winophiles

So there is this wonderful group of wine writers who gather monthly to discuss French Wine.  We pick a topic and we all taste and pair and write a piece and then we get up (early for me) on the 3rd Saturday of the month to discuss. This month is it Crémant and here are all the amazing pieces that the French #Winophiles have written on the subject this month!  Check them all out!

Liz Barrett from What’s In That Bottle is writing “Affordalicious Alsace: Best Bubbles for the Buck”

Jill Barth from L’Occasion will show us “A Festival of French Crémant”

Camilla Mann will talk about a tasting pairing, Lingcod, Legumes, and Domaine Mittnacht Frères Crémant d’Alsace on her blog Culinary Adventures with Cam.

Susannah Gold from avivinare.com will share her post “French Cremant – Perfect Sparklers for the Holiday Season” Susannah is also on Twitter @vignetocomm and Insta: @vignetocomms)

Martin Redmond will be “Elevating Weeknight Fare with Cremant d’Alsace” at the Enofylz Wine Blog

Nicole Ruiz Hudson’s post on SommsTable.com will be “Crémants for Going Out and Staying In”

Wendy Klik of A Day in the Life on the Farm is writing “Rustic Elegance; Fall Vegetable Soup paired with Cremant” which sounds perfect for Thanksgiving!

Jane Niemeyer will teach us “How to Pair Crémant d’Alsace and Food” at alwaysravenous.com

Payal Vora’s post at Keep the Peas will be called “Crémant d’Alsace: More Than Just A Sparkling Wine”

Lauren Walsh from The Swirling Dervish will “Add a Little Sparkle to Your Holiday with Crémant d’Alsace”.

Jeff Burrows will be pairing “Elegant Crémant de Bourgogne Served with Lobster Two Ways” at foodwineclick.com

Gwendolyn Alley from winepredator.com is going to be looking at Crémant Rose: 4 Affordable Food Friendly Beauties for #Winophiles

David Crowley from cookingchatfood.com will be discussing the “Best Food Pairings for Crémant d’Alsace”

Rupal Shankar the Syrah Queen will be giving us “Five Reasons to Drink Crémant d’Alsace this Holiday Season”

Neil will be joining us from Eat, Live, Travel, Write with a post entitled “Champagne taste but not a Champagne budget? An exploration of France’s Crémant wines”

Kat Wisnosky of Bacchus Travel and Tours, who was our fearless leader and host for the month shares with us Crémant – The Perfect Style of Wine for A Festive Meal

Don’t forget to check back with us here at Crushed Grape Chronicles for more on wines from around the world and closer to home. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Crémant d’Alsace perfect for a country picnic (maybe in the living room)

Crémant d'Alsace pairings

Okay, I know, it’s not really picnic season right now, at least not in North America, but sometimes you just want to curl up by the coffee table and have an indoor picnic and that’s just what we did with these two beautiful Crémant d’Alsace wines.

We were focusing on Crémant Rosé for our post with the French #Winophiles, but we had a couple of beautiful sparkling white Crémant d’Alsace wines come in that we thought you should be on the lookout!  They would be perfect for holiday parties, or for a simple relaxing dinner after a day of holiday shopping.

Pierre Sparr Crémant d’Alsace Brut Réserve

Pierre Sparr Crémant d'Alsace

Pierre Sparr Crémant d’Alsace

This Crémant comes from the heart of the Haut-Rhin where Maison Pierre Sparr has been making wine since 1680!  80% Pinot Blanc and 20% Auxerrois the wines are whole cluster pressed separately and undergo their first fermentation in stainless steel. They are then blended and head into secondary fermentation in bottle.  They sit on the lees for 12 to 16 months. The soils here are granite, limestone, gneiss and chalky-clay.  Alcohol is at 12.25% and you can find this wine for around $19 per bottle.

The tasting notes on their site mentioned “dried mango and hints of nuts”, so I picked up dried mango and cashews to see if they would pair well.

Cave de Ribeauville Giersberger Cremant d’Alsace Brut

Cave de Ribeauville Giersberger Crémant d'Alsace Brut

Cave de Ribeauville Giersberger Crémant d’Alsace Brut

The oldest wine cooperative still operating in France, Cave de Ribeauville produces 72 different wines.   Like the Pierre Sparr, this wine sits at 80/20 with Pinot Blanc and Pinot Auxerrois.  It sits in bottle for at least 9 months. Alcohol sits at 12% and I had trouble finding the SRP for this particular wine.  The closest I found was in euros at 8.95 which would make this a bargain at around $10.25 US.

These are tasty and affordable sparking wines. If you want to understand the term “crémant” take a sip of one of these wines and swish it around in your mouth. The creamy delightful texture is the essence of “crémant”

We asked for some suggestions and had some great options!  Casey of Travelling Corkscrew mentioned popcorn, oysters and anything with soy.  Martin Redmond of Enofylz Wine Blog suggested potato chips, popcorn and triple creme cheese.  We opted to pair these with popcorn, pot stickers (another shout out to Casey for the pairing with soy inspiration), brie (we had to settle for double creme), dried mango, cashews and ….Fried Chicken! (that came from the Wines of Alsace site) The acid and bubbles with the fat are perfect!

I recommend takeout.  Life is busy enough during the holidays.  Then park yourself on the floor at the coffee table, turn on your favorite Netflix and pop a bottle of Crémant d’Alsace!  You can thank me later.

Don’t forget to check back with us here at Crushed Grape Chronicles for more on wines from around the world and closer to home. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Farmer Fizz? An exploration of Grower Champagne with the French #Winophiles

Pierre Péters Champagne Rosé for Albane

Grower Champagne, Farmer Fizz it’s been called. Why do we want to drink it? Why would I prefer “a dirt to glass story” to go with my bubbly? Who wouldn’t?

Quick breakdown on Champagne

You are probably already aware that just because it is fizzy wine, doesn’t mean you can call it Champagne. That title is reserved for sparkling wines made in the Methode Champenois in the Champagne region of France. (for more on what makes Champagne different dive into our piece “Sparkling Wine or Champagne“.)In the US in California they labeled bubbly as Champagne for a bit, (something to do we us not ratifying the Treaty of Versailles, back in 1919. When we then signed the wine trade agreement with France in 2006, Korbel was grandfathered in to be allowed to use the name Champagne) and France put the kibosh on that.

So to be called Champagne you must come from the Champagne Region in France. Now within that there are more distinctions and here is where “Grower Champagne” comes in.

Most Champagnes come from large Champagne Houses or Maisons.  These houses may have estate vineyards, but they also source from all over the region, pulling grapes from small growers.  They then blend the juice and often blend in some previous vintages.  The goal?  To create a uniform wine NV (non vintage) that will have consistent flavor and quality from year to year.  A noble pursuit!  And many fine Champagnes come from these houses.

 

The Champagne AOC is one of the largest in France covering 340,000 hectares with over 300 Villages. 

80% of the wine coming out of this AOC is produced by Négociants and Coopératives.

They can pull from anywhere in the AOC AND they can purchase not only grapes, but pressed juice or in some cases sur-lattes (that is pre-made sparkling wine).

 

Grower Champagne

Picture the small winery, one that has maybe been in the family for generations, growing grapes and now, rather than selling those grapes to someone else to blend, they keep those grapes and make their own wine.  This is a wine that speaks of their land, their soil and their style.  We love this in wineries, don’t we?  It’s tougher to do in Champagne, because the bubbly, well… the equipment is expensive and the process is time consuming.

For those who don’t have the money to invest in the equipment you find Cooperatives, places where smaller vineyard owners can get together and make a Champagne from a village. These vineyards bring their grapes together and one winemaker will often make a cuvée.  These are often vintage Champagnes. These are noted on the bottle with “CM” for Coopérative Manipulant.

True Grower Champagne comes from a Vigneron.  Someone who owns the land, farms the land, harvests the grapes and makes the wine.  They are typically vintage Champagnes and the best part about this (IMHO) is that they taste different from year to year.  As with good still wines, you are able to taste the terroir.  It makes tasting much more exciting in my opinion.

Types of Champagne Producers

So a quick breakdown on the one set of codes that you will find in fine print on the Champagne Bottle that can help you determine the origin of your Champagne.

ND Négociant Distributeur

  • These guys are the labeler/marketers.  They buy a Champagne, label it and sell it.

MA Marque d’Acheteur

  • Kinda like ND’s, they just buy a wine and private label it with their brand.

(So I don’t have alot of use for these top two.  If you need to buy a whole bunch of Champagne for a celebration and no one is going to notice quality…well maybe then.  I mean bubbles are bubbles, but if you have a choice…look for the codes below)

NM Négociant Manipulant

  • They may buy all or some of their grapes from others.  Deal is that anything under 94% estate fruit puts you in this category.  While big houses are typically in this class, it’s easy for others other to get lopped in also.

CM Coopérative Manipulant

  • These are the Co-ops we talked about above.  This is a group of growers that work together to make a single wine or brand.

RC Récoltant Coopérateur

  • This is a small grower, who rather that purchasing their own equipment, has it made at a co-op facility (we see lots of this style of co-op popping up in California for wineries)

SR Sociéty de Récolants

  • This is a group of growers who get together to buy the equipment to share and then each produce their own wine.  (These spots are popping up in California too for still wines.  The Buellton Bodegas that Michael Larner started is a great example, they have separate warehouses for each winery, but they share the larger more expensive equipment)

RM Récolant Manipulant

  • This is where it’s at in my book.  They grow the grapes (a minimum of 95% must be estate)

Where do you find this on the label?  Well, it varies, but typically it is in small print on the back label.

RM Récolant Manipulant

RM Récolant Manipulant

Vintage Champagne

Just because you are a grower, doesn’t necessarily mean that you are making “Vintage” Champagne.  You can be a grower and still blend previous vintages and make a cuvée.  And truth be told, if you want to sell a Vintage Champagne, there are a few more hoops for you to jump through regulation wise.  Vintage Champagnes must spend a minimum of 3 years aging on the lees in bottle, where as non-vintage only need 15 months.

Some Growers choose to put the vintage on the label.  Others, while adhering to the standards for a vintage, prefer to focus on the vineyard and site.  You will see this below with the Chartogne-Taillet I tasted.

Regions within the Champagne AOC

Within the Champagne AOC there are Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne, Côte des Blancs, Côte de Sézanne and Côte des Bars.

Map of the regions within the Champagne AOC

Map of the regions within the Champagne AOC

Overall, the Paris Basin is Jurassic sediment covered in Cretaceous Chalk and the Chalk is the key to the terroir in this region.  Chalk can hold water, so the roots struggle to dig down up to 30 meters to tap into this moisture.  The average precipitation in the Champagne region is just 26 inches each year, so this moisture stored in the soil is critical to keeping the vines going.

Each of the regions within the Champagne AOC have slightly different soil breakdowns and each grow a slightly different mix of wine grapes.

Montagne de Reims

This region in the Northwest of Champagne has cretaceous chalk with clay and sand for soil.  The breakdown for grapes in the region is 56% Pinot Noir, 28% Chardonnay and 16% Pinot Meunier.  You might see village names on the label also.  The Grand Cru Villages include: Ambonnay, Beaumont-sur-Vesle, Bouzy, Louvois, Mailly-Champagne, Puisieulx, Sillery, Verzenay and Verzy.  Premier Cru Villages include: Bezzanes, Billy-la-Grand, Chamery, Chigny-les-Roses, Eceuil, Jouy les Reims, Les Mesneux, Ludes, Montebré, Pargny les Reims, Rilly-la-Montagne, Sacy,Taissy, Tauxières-Mutry, Trépail, Troi Puits, Vaudemanges, Villiers-Allernad, Villier-aux-Noeuds, Ville-Dommange and Villiers Marmery.  Vineyards here face multiple directions (northeast, southeast, southwest and west). The tops of the hills have deposits of lignite that nourishes the chalk soils below.

Vallée de la Marne

South West of Montagne de Reims along the Marne River you find the Vallée de la Marne region.  Here Pinot Meunier is king, with 63% of the grapes grown.  Pinot Noir comes in at 27% and Chardonnay at 10%.  The sub soil is Cretaceous chalk with a top soil mix of clay, flint, limestone, marl and sand.  There are 2 Grand Cru Villages: Aÿ, and Tours-sur Marne.  Premier Cru Villages include: Bisseuil, Champillon, Cumières, Dizy, Huatvillers, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ and Mutigny.  The best vineayrds here face south.

Côte des Blancs

South of the Vallé de la Marne you find the Côte des Blancs.  There is a reason for the name, 96% of the grapes grown here are Chardonnay with a mere 3% Pinot Noir and 1% Pinot Meunier.  The soil here is Cretaceous Chalk.  There is a bit of clay and sand, but really it is overwhelmingly chalk.  Vineyards are typically east or southeast facing.  Grand Cru Villages include: Avize, Chouilly, Cramant, le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger and Oiry.  Premier Cru Villages include: Bergèrese-les-Vertus, Coligny, Cuis, Etréchy, Vertus, Villeneuve-Renneville and Voipreux.

Côte des Sézzane

Step a little further south of Côte des Blancs and you find Côte des Sézzane.  Like Côte des Blancs, it is mostly Chardonnay that is grown here.  The vineyards here are about 64% Chardonnay and tend to face southeast which allows them to get a little riper than the grapes of the Côte des Blancs. The soils here are clay and clay silk with pockets of chalk.

Côte des Bars or The Aube

The furthest south you find The Aube or Côte des Bars.  Here the grapes are primarily Pinot Noir (83%) and the soil is marl. Almost half of the PInot Noir grown in the Champagne AOC is grown in this region. While not as well known, this area has some of the prettiest country side.  It includes the 3 communes that make up Les Riceys; Ricey-Bas, Ricey-Haut and Ricey-Haut-Rive.

How does this all affect the flavor?

For the most part you will notice the wines of Côtes des Sézzane and Côte de Bars are more aromatic and have less acidity.  The wines of the Vallée de la Marne are unctuous and fruity (due to the pinot meunier) and the Côtes des Blancs are higher in acidity and racy.

As I was researching I found that the big wine mega shops don’t typically have staff that will recognize the term “Grower Champagne”.  I had a couple of less than pleasant phone and face to face conversations that left me frustrated.  I reached out to the smaller wine shops that, sadly, are all the way on the other side of the valley from me (45 minute to an hour one way trip).  Incredibly, I missed out on a tasting event with Jean-Remy Rapeneau, who’s family owns Chateau Bligny at Khoury’s.  I found out about it too late to manage to go.  I did also contact Valley Cheese and Wine in Henderson.  They had over 20 different grower Champagnes in stock.  We went to look and picked up one bottle and found that they were doing a Champagne Class.  So…you will get to hear about that at the bottom of this piece.

When in Vegas…my go to wine shops are Khoury’s and Valley Cheese and Wine.

From our trek across the valley to Valley Cheese and Wine we picked up a bottle of Grower Champagne from Pierre Péters.  This was their Rosé for Albane Brut NV.  This comes through the Terry Thiese Estate Selection.

Pierre Péters Champagne Rosé for Albane

Pierre Péters Champagne Rosé for Albane

A little about Pierre Péters

So Gaspar Péters, was from Luxembourg.  In 1858 he married Miss Doué who owned vineyards in Le Mesnil.  They started their operation with about 2 hectares. Their son Louis Joseph continued the business.  Louis’ son Camille, was one of the first growers in 1919 to sell bottles under his name.  In 1930 Camille acquired “Le Chétillons” which was 2.5 hectares.  Pierre was Camille’s oldest son.  At the ripe old age of 12 they had him out traveling on his own developing sales.  He evidently took the branding to heart and when his father passed he took over operations and released the first vintage under Pierre Péters.  In 1967 the estate passed to François, his second son who ran the estate until 2008.  In 2007 Rodolphe Péters joined the family estate.  He came with 12 years of experience as an oenologist/winemaker in the wine world. (information from http://champagne-peters.com/en/historical)

This Champagne is from the Côte des Blancs region and within that Le Mesnil-sur-Oger.  This is a 20 hectare vineyard, so around 50 acres and produces 14,000 cases annually.  Soils here are Cretaceous Chalk and they grow 100% Chardonnay.  They are known for their Blanc de Blancs.  So…hmmm how do they make a rosé?  Well, they moved into the rosé market in 2007 adding this “Rosé for Albane” which adds some saignée Pinot Meunier to Chardonnay.  This wine is 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Meunier.

Champagne & Sushi

Sushi with Grower Champagne

Sushi with Grower Champagne

We paired this first with some takeout sushi, we were hungry and it was what was for lunch!  And really, you can’t go wrong with sushi and Champagne.  Rosé Champagne is great against melt in your mouth fish and soy.  We always talk about salt and fat with Champagne (popcorn, potato chips, caviar & créme fraiche) you get that same fat from the fish and salt from the soy.  And for me, the festive atmosphere a sushi platter creates goes great with bubbles.

A selection of cheeses with Grower Champagne

A selection of cheeses with Grower Champagne

I did dive deeper into pairings and later we paired the Champagne with a selection of cheeses.  We visited our friendly Murray’s Cheese counter and picked up a couple cheeses to pair.

Swiss Emmentaler

Swiss Emmentaler cheese

Swiss Emmentaler cheese

I was hoping to pair the buttery and nutty notes of this wine with the Champagne.  It was okay, but I honestly liked the cheese better on it’s own.  This is a raw cow’s milk cheese from the Emmental region of Switzerland.  When you say swiss cheese, this is what you mean.

Grand Margaux

Grand Margaux cheese

Grand Margaux cheese

Brie and Champagne.  No brainer right?  This cheese is double creme and is similar to Brie and leans towards buttery flavors.  It paired as perfectly as expected.

Comte

Comte cheese

Comte cheese

Alpine cheese is a great pairing for Champagne.  We waffled between Comte and Gruyere and thought we were picking up the Gruyere.  No worries, this cheese went very well.  As firm as this cheese can be on it’s own, the Champagne makes it seem lighter in your mouth.  This cheese is cut from 90 pound wheels from the France’s Jura.  It is made from raw, mountain pasture fed cow milk.

Fourme d’Ambert

Fourme d'Ambert cheese

Fourme d’Ambert cheese

Typically I would have chosen this to go with a sweeter wine, but I wanted to see how it would do.  Topped with a bit of honey, it was heaven.  Without the honey, Meh.  Made from pasteurized cows milk in Auvergne, this cheese is made from unpressed curds inoculated with a blue mold.  They start a bit crumbly, but then after 4 months in cave you get a smoother softer blue with notes sweet cream and mushrooms.

We garnished with champagne grapes.  No they are not really the grapes that you make champagne from, but they are cute sweet little grapes that are tasty and look adorable on the cheese plate.  That sweetness was a great offset to the savory cheeses.

We also paired with a fresh cheese bread and quite honestly that was one of my favorite pairing.  All the yeastiness was happy to play together in my mouth.  Bread and Champagne….yeah, I could happily try to live on that.

Bread with Champagne

Bread with Champagne, yeast and more yeast

Now for a brief rundown of my Champagne Class at Valley Cheese and Wine.

A Champagne Tasting

So I spent an evening around a table with a dozen or so people at, Valley Cheese and Wine, tasting through some Champagnes with Bob, who focus’ on the wine here.  We were tasting through 6 Champagnes all but one were Grower Champagnes.

They did provide us pairings for the tasting (after all they are a cheese shop also and Kristin brings in an amazing array of cheeses)  The platter of cheeses included Cremèux de Diteaux with truffle (a cow’s milk cheese from France), Clochette (goat’s milk cheese from France) and Regal de Bourgogne with raisins (cow’s milk from France).  There were blueberries, strawberries, dried apricots, raspberries and bread, plus Jamon Serrano from Spain, Chorizo from Spain and Speck from Italy.  Later in the evening, hot fries and baked macaroni and cheese with crumb topping were served.  The salt the fat the richness, was perfect for the Champagne to cut through.

Duval-Leroy

Run by a family team of mother Carol and her 3 sons Julien, Charles and Louis, this is a Champagne House, not a Grower Champagne. They produce about 4.5 million bottles annually.  The Duval-Leroy Champagne house was formed in 1859 between two families; the Duval family of Vertus in the Côtes des Blancs and the Leroy family, merchants from Reims.  It has been passed down father to son for 6 generations.  Carol Duval-Leroy took over the company in 1991, when her husband unexpectedly passed at just 39 years of age.

2006 Duval Leroy Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs

2006 Duval Leroy Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs

Duval-Leroy Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru 2006 Prestige

100% Chardonnay, 2,000 cases produced.  This is made from grapes from the Grand Cru Villages that include: Avize, Cramant, Chouilly, le Mesnil sur Oger and Oiry in the Côte des Blancs.   This goes under malolactic ferementation to give it a smoothness and that bit of bready yeastiness on the nose.  These wines age in chalk cellars for a minimum of 6 years.  This wine ages on the lees for 6 years.

This was a good Champagne, but it sat as our control.  It was a bright Blanc de Blanc.  Each of the wines we tasted after this were much more intense both in the nose and in flavor on the palate.

Champagne Doyard

Located in Vertus in the Côte des Blancs, this is a family farm. Champagne Doyard has 10 hectares of Chardonnay spread over Vertus, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger, Cramant and Avize.  They also have 1 hectare of Pinot Noir in Vertus and Aÿ.  The vineyards average 40 years in age.  They can trace their family roots in Champagne to the 17th century. They farm biodynamically and the vineyards are worked by horse rather than tractor to keep the ground in the vineyards from compacting.

2011 Champagne Doyard Clos de l'Abbaye Grower Champagne

2011 Champagne Doyard Clos de l’Abbaye

2011 Champagne Doyard Clos de L’Abbaye Premier Cru Extra Dry

“Clos” indicates wall, and this wine is made from a little walled vineyard behind the winery that was planted in 1956.  It spent 4 years on the lees. This is a vintage champagne and it is 100% Chardonnay.

I found this wine to be more fragrant than the first.  There were fruits and florals on the nose and the flavors floated in my mouth and had a lovely length.

Marc Hébrart

Located in the Vallée de la Marne, Jean-Paul Hébrart took over the reins from his father in 1997. With 15.5 hectares of vineyard they produce 8,750 cases annually.  Calculated in acres that is 37 acres, which is made up of 70 different parcels in 10 villages.  They do 6 or 7 cuvées here.  The soil here is chalk and they grow 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay.  Jean-Paul is experimenting with indigenous yeast and barrel fermentation.  Everything here is organic and sustainable and they hand riddle the bottles.

2010 Marc Hébrart Rive Gauche Rive Droite Grower Champagne Extra Brut

2010 Marc Hébrart Rive Gauche Rive Droite Champagne Extra Brut

Rive Gauch Rive Droite 2010 Grand Cru Champagne Hébrart Extra Dry

This wine is named for the vineyards that comprise this blend which sit on both the left and right sides of the Marne River.  This wine is 50% chardonnay and 50% pinot noir, natural yeast, unfiltered and made in barrels. This wine is part of the Skurnik Portfolio.  This aged 6 years on the lees and the pinot noir is old vine.

As we went through the tasting I felt like the aromas in each wine became more intense.  The nose on this wine is intense.  It hit me with notes of apple cider, that type of sweetness, that is tangy on the nose.  This wine was served with the baked macaroni and cheese with a crumb topping.

Champagne Chartogne-Taillet

From the Montagne de Reims region.  This winery has 11.5 hectares of vineyards and produces 7,500 cases of wine annually.  They grow 40% chardonnay, 38% pinot noir, 20% pinot meunier and 2% arbanne.  They are located in the village of Merfy and have been growing wine there for over 500 years.  Alexandre Chartogne now runs things and is delving into biodynamics.  He uses stainless steel, neutral barrique and concrete eggs and allows for natural malolactic fermentation. Another from the Skurnik Portfolio, you can find more information here.

The vines in this vineyard go deep to look for water, some digging down as much as 65 feet.  They are also ungrafted vines (which is risky for phylloxera, an aphid which in the early 1900’s took out over 70% of the vines in France.  Since then most French vines are grafted to American root stock which those little aphids evidently don’t like to eat).  They believe that the ungrafted vines pull more terroir and varietal character into the wines.

We tasted 2 wines from this producer, which were made from a single vintage, but they chose not to label them as vintage Champagnes, but rather to focus on the single vineyards each came from.

*Bob did a follow up to confirm the reasoning for Chartogne-Taillet not releasing as vintage.  The answer was “Chartogne wants to have flexibility and to release them as he wants rather than by regulation. The vintage in which the wines were harvested is on the back label.”

NV Chartogne Taillet Les Barres GrowerChampagne

NV Chartogne Taillet Les Barres

Champagne Chartogne-Taillet Les Barres Extra Dry

This wine is made from grapes from the 2012 vintage, but they chose not to label it by vintage. The first vintage of this wine was produced in 2010. It is 100% Pinot Meunier.

This wine was fragrant and unctuous. I got an herbal-bramble note lightly on the nose.  This wine felt a little more wild to me.  I had not had a 100% Pinot Meunier Champagne before, and it was exotic to me and I liked it!

NV Chartogne Taillet Couarres Château Grower Champagne

NV Chartogne Taillet Couarres Château

Champagne Chartogne-Taillet Couarres Chateau Extra Dry

They make a Couarres Champagne also, but this is the Couarres Château Champagne, a distinction that indicates the specific vineyard.  This is a single parcel wine with vines planted in 1987.

This wine is 100% Pinot Noir.  It was a lovely wine, but quite honestly, I was so enamoured by the Les Barres….

Champagne Geoffroy

Located in the Vallée de la Marne in Cumières the Champagne Geoffroy vineyards span 14 hectares (just over 34 acres) and they produce 10,400 cases anually.  Soils here are calcareous, sandstone and clay.  The family has been rooted in Cumières since the 17th century, but it was in the 1950’s when Roger and Julienne Geoffroy decided to start making their own wine.  René Geoffroy took the reins when his father passes all to soon and together with his wine Bernadette they continued the brand.  Today, Jean Baptiste Geoffroy runs the estate and they have moved the winemaking facilities to Aÿ.  The vineyards are made up of 35 plots of 24% Chardonnay, 34% Pinot Meunier and 42% Pinot Noir.

NV Geoffroy Rosé Saignée of Pinot Noir Grower Champagne

NV Geoffroy Rosé Saignée

Champagne Geoffroy Rosé de Saignée

The Rosé de Saignée Brut is hand harvested and sorted and they avoid malolactic fermentation.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir and you get that Pinot funk the minute you dip your nose in the glass.  This is a Saignée, and we have talked about this in terms of rosé before, where a winemaker will bleed off some of the juice of a red wine to intensify the flavors and then use this bled off juice to make a rosé.  In this case they let the juice sit on the skins for about 4 hrs to get this vivid color and intensity and then bled off all of the juice to use to make this Champagne.  It spends 3 years on lees.

You get bright BRIGHT red fruit on this and some savory notes.  It is cheerful in color and intense with flavor.  (Think Tavel intensity with bubbles)

The Grower Champagne Community

As Bob talked about the winemakers, most of whom he has met.  He talked about what a small community they are and how they help each other out.  The Pinot Meunier that is used in the Pierre Péters Rosé that we started with comes from either Geoffroy or Hébrart.  These growers all know each other and work together, sharing knowledge.  It was heartwarming to know that the type of wine community that we have seen in Oregon and Santa Barbara, winemakers working together and supporting each other, exists across the pond.

And I mentioned hand riddling, horses plowing fields, organic and sustainable farming and really all of these producers are doing that.  Most in fact are gravity flow in their winemaking.  They differ in sites, and in styles, but overall growing philosophies are similar.

Global Warming as it impacts Champagne

They are seeing the signs of Global Warming on  a very locale scale.  They and other Champagne makers are finding each year that they are cutting back on the dosage (the sweetness added to the bottle after disgogement that determines the sweetness of the Champagne).  This is because the grapes are getting riper earlier.  Within their lifetime they are watching tremendous change in the climate and ripening times in the vineyards. Bob mentioned that one wine maker had said “If they tell you Global Warming is not happening, send them to my vineyard, they can see.”

How Much?

Now if you are heading out to buy a bottle of Grower Champagne, be aware that these wines are not cheap.  They run from $85 to $175 retail and there are many in the shop that run $200-$300 each.  You can find Grower Champagnes that are less expensive, and you may find a great deal, but keep in mind, that Grower Champagne is all the rage these days, and many people are jumping into the market without proper experience.  Do a tasting if you can, before settling on splurging on a bottle.

The French Winophiles on Grower Champagne

We are lucky enough to get to associate with some wonderful people in the French # Winophiles group and this month we all dove into Grower Champagne.  So if this has wet your whistle, you can dive into more great information and pairings for Grower Champagne.  And…join us on Twitter on Saturday Morning 11 am EST or 8 am PST!  Just follow #Winophiles to join in the conversation!  And it’s Saturday morning, pop a bottle of Grower Champagne while you join us!

Here are the links to all the other great articles the #winophiles have out there on the subject!

 

And don’t forget to check back here with us  at Crushed Grape Chronicles , you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

We will be continuing our journey through Oregon’s Willamette Valley and the winemakers we met there and…next month with the French #Winophiles we will be diving into Cahors!


A Palette of Pinots – The Hues of Alsace

Famous wine route in the Vosges mountains Alsace France

What comes to mind with you think of “Pinot”? Do you think of a ruby-red pinot noir from Burgundy or a rich deep pinot from Sonoma? Is it the pale straw of a pinot grigio from Italy? Whatever color variation of this grape you thought of, you probably were not thinking of Alsace when you thought of it. I’m here to tell you why you should, because #AlsaceRocks.

The Shades of Pinot

First lets talk about pinot. We begin with pinot noir, a grape with a thin skin that can be notoriously fickle. It has tight bunches (that are shaped like pine cones, hence the name) that are prone to rot.  It wants lots of sun, but doesn’t want to be too hot. Luckily, the Cistercian monks in Burgundy found their penance in the hard work of coddling this grape to it’s greatness.

From here we get the mutations: pinot blanc and pinot gris. Simply enough, pinot blanc is a white grape mutation and pinot gris is a “grey” grape. While not truly grey, pinot gris sits in the in between hue ranging from bluish gray to pinkish brown. Of course pinot gris is the French term for this grape, in Italy they call it pinot grigio.

Beyond this we get Crémant d’Alsace, a sparkling wine that can be made from any of the pinots, (and upon occasion some “not pinots” like chardonnay) but all Crémant d’Alsace Rosé must be made from pinot noir, in the method traditionelle.

Map of the Wine Region of Alsace France

Map of the Wine Region of Alsace France

Alsace

This region is perfect for these wines as they thrive in the dry climate created by the Vosges Mountains. Alsace is a thin strip on the North eastern edge of France. This area has gone back and forth between Germany and France for centuries and the style of houses and names of towns attest to that fact.  It’s a fairytale land with charming villages with half-timbered buildings, dotted with flower boxes. You can explore these delightful towns on the oldest wine route in France, that travels 106 miles from Marlenheim to Thann, stopping to taste the wines and the food as you explore this beautiful region.

The charming city of Eguisheim in Alsace France

The charming city of Eguisheim in Alsace France

Then there is the soil.  We did say #AlsaceRocks right?  This area at the foot of the Vosges Mountains is a patchwork of soils.  You find granite, and sandstone, limestone, schist and volcanic soils. Once, fifty million years ago, the Black Forest and the Vosges were a single mountain range, pushed up by the plates.  When this collapsed it formed the Rhine River.  All that shifting around will geologically mix up some soil, and hence you get all these varied pockets of soil that add fascinating diversity to the vineyards.

The Wines & Pairings

Pinots from Alsace; Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Crémant d'Alsace

A range of pinots from Alsace from Teuwen Communications (and Loki)

Now lets dive into the hues of pinots. @DrinkAlsace was kind enough to provide us a variety of pinots to taste through. (All opinions are my own) We begin with a 2017 Pinot Blanc from Emile Beyer, followed by a 2012 Pinot Gris from Dopff & Irion, on to a 2015 Leon Beyer Pinot Noir and finishing with a Crémant d’Alscace Rosé from Domaine Zinck. All but one of these wines come from the village of Eguisheim. The Pinot Gris is the exception coming from Riquewirh.

Emile Beyer Pinot Blanc Traditional 2017

Emile Beyer is a 43 acre family estate just outside of Colmar in the village of Eguisheim. This wine comes from younger vineyards on the estate.  The soil here is clay, sandstone & chalky marl, and the grapes are mostly Pinot Blanc with a little Auxerrois. Alcohol sits at about 13%. $15

Cheeses

I searched for cheeses to pair with this wine and went off to look for a Saint-Nectaire and a Chaource.

Chaource is a named for the village of Chaource in France. It is a very soft ripened cow’s milk cheese. This cheese is soft and buttery. My Murray’s guy found me a domestic equivalent that did not disappoint. Murray’s Delice is a lovely soft ripened cheese that really and truly melted in your mouth. It went nicely with the wine.

Delice from Murray's

Delice from Murray’s Cheese shop, similar to a Chaource

Saint-Nectaire is a Tomme style cheese again from cow’s milk. It is a semi soft washed rind cheese. It specifically comes from the Auvergne region of France and is made from the mild of cows that feed in rich volcanic pastures. It matures 6-8 weeks on rye straw mats, which causes a pungent smell.

My Murray’s guy pointed me toward a Springbrook Vermont Artisan Cheese which was similar to an Alpine raclette. This gave us a different texture to compare with the Delice. Michael found it too pungent, but I enjoyed it.

 

Springbrook Vermont Artisan Cheese

Springbrook Vermont Artisan Cheese similar to a Saint-Nectaire cheese from France

Appetizer

I had envied a fellow blogger his grilled peaches the other day, and planned on making some myself. I got running behind on dinner and instead sliced my peach and plopped a little goat cheese on it, a leaf of basil and wrapped it in prosciutto. This was definitely the right decision, both time wise and pairing wise. The fresh peach was still a little firm and with the goat cheese was really nice with the wine, picking up on those unripe stone fruit notes. It was also cool and easy to eat. I suggest these bites for all summer!.

Peach slices with goat cheese wrapped with basil and proscuitto

Peach slices with goat cheese wrapped with basil and prosciutto

Frittata

I knew the minute I saw the suggestion of an egg dish with this wine, that I would go that direction. I looked through quiche recipes and then settled on the simplicity of a Frittata. This wine loves spring vegetables so a spring green salad would go along side. I quick pickled some small golden beets and radishes in honey and white wine vinegar to add to the top with some pine nuts.

The frittata I filled with broccoli, peas and green beans that I quickly blanched, then I sautéed golden beets, radishes and zucchini and let them develop a little crunch. I added a cup of ricotta to add a creamy cheese to the mix that would not be too heavy. Red onions were sautéed before dropping in the egg mixture. And it cooked to perfection in my rod iron skillet.