Author Archives: winemusings
As many have read on these pages, a few wine events have come and gone, – with the last one happening in NY, at the City Winery, this coming Monday. Over the past two years, the Jewish Week/City Winery event has really changed its stripes and has improved quite impressively from the previous years. Last year’s Jewish Week’s kosher wine list for Passover is really hard for me to get my head wrapped around this year. Still, it is a list and a resource you can use as you see fit, 95% of those wines will not be on my list. As I walked around both KFWE this year, and sommelier (in the past) – I was asked again for a list of my top kosher wines for Passover, so here it goes! This is my list of great and reasonably priced kosher wines.
So, with some weeks before Passover – here is my list. A few caveats first, this is MY list! This is not a list that will make many happy. These wines are the wines that make me happy. No wines here would be considered overripe, over sweet, or all over the place. The wines here are listed in the order of cost. That said, the top line wines – what I call Top Flight wines, are not defined by cost at all. In that list, you can find a 2009 Yarden Blanc de Blanc or the Yarden Brut Rose, both are great sparkling wines. At the same time, the list includes some of the best high-end kosher wines I have ever tasted that go for $100 or so a bottle. The list of Top Flight wines are ALL wines that I would buy without hesitation, no matter the cost (if I can afford it of course).
Passover is a time of year when Jews buy the most wine, along with Rosh Hashanah, and the American New Year. That is why all the kosher wine events happened a month or two before the Passover festival. It gives the wineries and distributors a chance to showcase all their wines that each appeal to different market segments. So, no there are no sweet or semi-sweet baseline wines here. There are many very good 15 or so dollar bottles of wine, that can be bought at Skyview Wines, Gotham Wines, Suhag Wine, and of course kosherwine.com and Gary’s store, along with the other wine stores I have listed on the right-hand side of this blog (as always I NEVER make money from them and I never know or care what people buy, the list is whom I buy wines from and so I can recommend them to others).
Also, the amount of money you spend does not define the value or quality of the wine. Take for example the less than 10 dollars 2017 Chateau Trijet Bordeaux, or the slightly more expensive Herenza Crianza, and many others. These are great wines and the price is only an added benefit. However, there are many low priced wines that are not on this list, as they lack the quality required, IMHO.
Seeing the list and checking it twice (could not help myself), I am sure there will be a question – what defines a wine as a Top Flight wine and why are there wines that are not on it? The Top Flight wines, is a list of wines that personally was wowed when tasting them. That does not mean that the 2017 Chateau Trijet Bordeaux, as nice as it is may or may not be, can compare to another wine on the 50 dollars and above list – that would not be fair. What it does mean was that when I tasted one of these Top Flight wines, I was wowed, and I said this is a wine that everyone should get – no matter the price. In the end, this is not about which is better than the rest it is a way to whittle down the list of wines that I enjoyed from a massive set of thousands of kosher wines available here in America. That is why I made the list. In hindsight, I am sure I will have missed some wines. If you do not see a wine you love and it scored a 90 or higher on this blog somewhere, then I can assure you that it was probably an oversight on my part.
Also, this is a PSA – please do not buy 2017 rose wines! PLEASE! They are muted and a waste of your hard-earned money. Wait for the 2018 Roses that will be released soon.
Arba Kosot (The Four cups of Passover)
Finally, it the Jewish custom to drink four cups of wine on Passover, but to power down these wines are far too hard for me (the concept there is to drink the base quantity of wine to fulfill your requirement – which is a Revi’it, within a certain time period). In the past, I was drinking red, Israeli wines that were simple to drink, not complex or impressive. However, with time, I found a better option, drink the majority of a small cup that fulfills the Revi’it quantity of wine. This way, I can drink an Israeli, not Mevushal, red wine – like a Tzora, Netofa, Flam, or Castel wine. This is explained more below. This year, I think I will go with Yarden Rose Brut Sparkling wine. It is Israeli, not mevushal, “red”, and lovely wine, and an acid BOMB!
For the main course, I am happy to open a Top Flight wine and enjoy that at a calm and enjoyable pace. Another option is to get some of these great glasses from Stolzle, that fulfill the official four cups requirements in terms of volume and respect, according to most Rabbis. The glasses hold 3.5 fluid ounces of wine, which according to almost every source fulfills the concept of Revi’it.
NOTE! The first night for ALL Jews, in Israel and the Diaspora should have a cup with at least 4.42 fluid ounces, as it falls on the Sabbath, and that is a Torah law, so you need to drink the Torah size Revi’it. The rest of the cups throughout the first day or the second day for those in the Diaspora will be Rabbinic, and so they will only require 3.3 fluid ounces.
It does not fulfill the Chazon Ish’s requirements of 5.1 ounces, but if you wish to meet that requirement use these glasses by TableTop King. Also, remember that you should drink the entirety of the cups, which is why I recommend the smaller cups. If you cannot, some allow the idea of drinking the majority of the cup, but that is not the best approach. Finally, the LAST CUP, should be drunk in totality, as that is the ONLY cup upon which you say an “After Bracha (Blessing)”, and as such you must have drunk at least 3.3 ounces to say the last blessing.
When Nathan Grandjean from Yavine.fr told me that he was making wines from a winery called Les Vins de Vienne I went blank. Come on we all have dreams of Lafite Rothschild or Cheval Blanc being made kosher, but who is Les Vins de Vienne was all I could think of. I wanted to ask him if he meant he was making Austrian wine, but that would have been Vienna, not Vienne, one vowel makes a big difference. In this case, Les Vins de Vienne is a winery in the Rhone region, and they are quite famous for what they have achieved indeed!
Les Vins de Vienne
Pliny the Elder, no not the beer, the Roman author, saw the future and present 2000 years ago in the Rhone Valley. He said that there was a very successful vineyard, during his time, that was near the town of Seyssuel, on the east side of the river, and north of the city called Vienne. he said that the Romans greatly enjoyed the wines, they tasted of tar, and apparently, there were three types of Seyssuel wines called Sotanum, Taburnum, and Heluicum. Well, that answers the Vienne question, but where do the name and story come from?
Well 2000 years after Pliny wrote his statement, winemaker Pierre Gaillard found this successful vineyard, deserted. Sadly, the vineyard was destroyed by Phylloxera some 100 years before Pierre showed up. But remembering what Pliny had said he took samples and found that the makeup of the vineyard was perfect for wine and would indeed be a great location.
The problem though was the AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée)! You see, the west side of the river, opposite Seyssuel, in the Rhone, had an appellation, Cote Rotie, but sadly that only covers the western side of the river, not the eastern side, where Pierre was looking to revive Pliny the Great’s vision of old.
So, Pierre called two men he knew and asked if they would join in on making Pliny the Great’s vision a reality? The men he knew of were, Yves Cuilleron and Francois Villard. They were the first to bring the Seyssuel winegrowing area back to life.
They started in 1996 with 10 acres where they planted Syrah along with some Viognier. In 1998 the first wine from Seyssuel came to life and it was called Sotanum in homage to Pliny and the Romans of the past. Then came Taburnum in 2000, a Viognier. Finally, in 2004 the dream of rebuilding Pliny’s vision came into full reality with the release of Heluicum, a second red wine from Seyssuel.
Since then, some 100 acres have been planted in an area that has no official region recognition, yet it humorously it may have some of the greatest recognition of all the wines in the Rhone Valley, with thousands of years of proof that it deserves more love from the AOC! Since 1996, and the 100 acres, Seyssuel has been proving its worth, but as I stated above the AOC is where the money is. Here is a GREAT research post from the folks at GuildSomm on the work and issues with an AOC being bestowed on Seyssuel. Like which AOC would you choose? How long does it take, and who actually bestows the coveted AOC upon regions? A great read!
Growth and Kosher
Well, 21 years after the first vintage was released, the name of the cooperative – Les Vins de Vienne should really be changed to Les Vins de Rhone, because even though they make wines from near Seyssuel, the vast majority of their wines now come from all over the Rhone. They now make more than 460,000 bottles of wine per year, and source their grapes from as north of the Northern Rhone as you can get, which is Seyssuel, to the bottom of the Southern Rhone, namely Cotes-Du-Rhone.
The 2017 vintage was the first one that was made kosher and while I think these are exceedingly young wines, they are very Cali in nature. They seem very ripe and control is really not a requirement from Les Vins de Vienne. Just looking at the wines, you can see they let the fruit speak for themselves. The Crozes-Hermitage was probably the only red wine where the winemakers took action and made the wine with whole clusters, to allow the stems to add tannin, structure, and most importantly green and balancing notes to the very ripe and Cali-like fruit structure of these wines. Read the rest of this entry
The night of the KFWE London tasting, right after I left the tasting, I took the tube to the airport. I slept there overnight and at 7 AM I took a plane to Lyon France to start my journey to meet up with the Taieb wines and to taste through their current offerings.
If you remember the story, I had gone from California to Paris, on to London, for the Blue smoke dinner and then the KFWE London tasting. It was after the tasting that I took the train to the airport. I had heard many things about the Taieb wines and it was time to actually taste through the wines myself.
I had to take a plane to Lyon, two trains, and then a car ride to get there, but I think it was worth it, as I had the chance to taste through wines that are rarely seen or tasted here in the USA. It was the same for the way back, so yeah I could have starred in two movies!
Let me get one thing aside right now. Not all the wines are easy to find here in the USA, other than the Burgundy wines, because of the horrible wine distribution of Victor Wines and Touton wines, here in the USA. As you will see Taieb makes some very solid QPR (for France pricing) wines. You can find some of the wines here but most of them are just in France. With that said, Saratoga Wine Exchange, out of NY, seems to stock almost all of the wines, I have no idea why as they are not a kosher wine or near a large Jewish community.
Taieb started making kosher spirits 50 years ago and since then he has added kosher wine to the company. many of the Bordeaux wines that he now makes have been in production for decades. Taieb is famous for the Phenix Anisette, a liquor made from Anis.
Recently, I have been loving the wines coming from Taieb, because they are making some really great Burgundy wines, including maybe the best Burgs to be made kosher in quite some time, the epic Domaine Lescure and the 2012 Domaine d’Ardhuy Gevrey-Chambertin, which may well be the best Burgundy in some time, though I find the 2014 Domaine Lescure to be as good.
Taieb has been spoiling us with great Burgundy wines and the only reason why we know about them is because of Nathan Grandjean and Andrew Breskin. Sadly, distribution of these and many of the lovely Bordeaux wines from Taieb have no distribution here in the USA, without Breskin. Victor Wines officially imports Taieb Wines, but the wines rarely show on shelves, I really hope this will be fixed soon, as the Taieb wines I had in France were wonderful.
Sadly, Domaine d’Ardhuy stopped doing kosher wines with Taieb, after the 2015 vintage, and while Domaine Lescure was epic in 2014 and 2015, the 2016 vintage had some issues. The bottle I had at home showed aspects of Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S), while the bottle I had at the winery had no issues. Others have said they had off bottles as well, though when the wine is good it is great, so I am torn.
The line of kosher wines includes entry level wines for restaurants and weddings. It then has a myriad of wines at the next level, from lovely a Sancerre wine to Brouilly wines. The next level includes some very solid Bordeaux wines and Burgundy wines as well.
Overall, I was very impressed with the lineup of wines and I really dream of being able to have these wines more accessible here in the USA. For now, Liquid Kosher has the wonderful 2015 Domaine Lescure and the very nice 2015 Domaine d’Ardhuy Aloxe Corton.
In 2017 there was a new wine line from Burgundy, the Jean-Pierre Marchand wines. With the loss of Domaine d’Ardhuy from the kosher ranks, following the 2015 vintage, the Taieb’s went out and made the Jean-Philippe Marchand wines. The baseline Bourgogne is really solid for the price, while the upper line wines are nice as well, but as with all things Burgundy they come at a price. Truly Burgundy’s Achilles heel, especially in kosher, is the price. Also, the upper-level wines from Volnay, Gevrey-Chambertin, and Nuits-Saint-Georges are not available here in the USA. Read the rest of this entry
2007 Yarden Blanc de Blancs, Late-Disgorged Zero Dosage Sparkling wine, along with some impressive California wines
This past week a few new friends dropped by and we enjoyed some new and old wines together. Many thanks to Eli for getting the food together and to Beryl, Greg, and Ari for hanging out with us, and of course many thanks Benyo (AKA Benyamin Cantz) from Four Gates Winery for sharing from his wisdom, time, and wines with us all.
I used the tasting to do an interesting side by side comparison of the 2007 Yarden Blanc de Blancs and the newly released 2007 Yarden Blanc de Blancs late disgorged. What was interesting was that I did not know that the late disgorged Yarden wines were also Brut nature wines, AKA Zero Dosage wines!
If you are following the posts, I recently posted about Zero Dosage wines. My take away from them was that they are a DRINK NOW style wine. Overall, many of the French Champagnes that we have in kosher have been drink-now wines. The Drappier which is mevushal has been a Drink-now style wine, and again Drappier prints the dosage date, so use that to decide if the bottle in front of you is too old.
The Laurent Perrier was also having serious age issues here, as the Champagne was not moving fast enough here in the USA. The not-mevushal Rothschild was outstanding in France.
With all that said, the kosher Champagnes here in the USA are not built to age. However, the Yarden sparkling wines age far better, IMHO. The 2007 Yarden Sparkling Blanc de Blancs has been wonderful for many years now. So, when I had the chance to taste the newly released 2007 Yarden Blanc de Blancs Late Disgorged alongside the normal 2007 Yarden Blanc de Blancs I was really excited! I had bought the wines but I had no one to try them with, so when Eli and his friends said we are coming into the area, I told Benyo and we used it as a great opportunity to share some wines.
The notes speak for themselves, but to me overall, the Late disgorged is not worth the money. The wine is GREAT, but for 70+ dollars, not worth it. Still, to taste them side by side, you could see the same style of the wine, but while the normal bottling was still showing very well, the newly disgorged wine was screaming in tart and very bright fruit.
The color was also, lighter in color, and I loved how the 2007 cork was already very crushed, while the new late-disgorged wine showed a perfect sparkling wine cork. See, the image below, along with Eli, big head!!!!
If you have been keeping up with my travels around the world to visit the KFWE venues, you will know that I really was impressed with what Bokobsa did in Paris and I was split over the London KFWE, given its posh settings and solid wine selection, though it has where to grow.
Before I go further, I wanted to define to you my criteria for grading a wine tasting:
- The Venue, of course, its ambiance, and setup
- The wine selection
- The wine glasses
- The number of humans at the tasting
- the food served
- Finally, the reactions of the participants, though for me that is less important to me, as I judge the tasting based more upon the body language of the participants than what they say.
Now, some of these variables are subjective, rather than just objective. Take for example #1, the venue, it is a highly subjective though also objective variable. Pier 60 is a nice place, but in comparison, the Peterson museum of the past few years in Los Angeles was far better. Now, again, this is subjective, some people hate cars. They hated how big the Peterson was, and how spread-out the food and wine was. I loved the Petersen, loved the cars, and while the food and wine were spread out and difficult to find, the roominess and vast space to sit and enjoy art and wine at the same time, was truly impressive.
App and its data needs serious work
One more thing, as I stated in my KFWE recommendation list – the KFWE App is a disaster. It rarely worked. When it did, it was so annoying it was hopeless. Take for instance the go back button went back to the main wine list. So if you wanted to go through the list of Elvi or Capcanes wines, you had to go back and forth OVER and OVER. Worse, and I mean far worse, was the data behind the app, the data was all wrong. The wines at the event did not match the wines in front of you at the tables.
I really hope that next year, Royal Wines puts in more effort into building a proper app, with proper data. Even if the wines that are delivered are different than the wines on the app, change the data! Make sure the data matches reality instead of dreams and rainbows.
Mother Nature took kindly to KFWE in NYC and LA (well mostly)
A quick footnote here, before we dive into the highly contested and dispassionate discussion around which KFWE is the best KFWE, we need to thank the good mother! Mother nature really threw us a pair of bones this year! Yes, I know that flying from NYC to LA was a bit torturous for some, and yes, I sat/slept in my middle seat all the way to LA, but come on, it was that or we get 6 inches of snow a day EARLIER and KFWE NYC would have looked more like a Flatbush Shtiebel during the summer, AKA empty!
Sure, traveling to LA was a pain, but it all worked out, even those who flew to LA on the day. Further, while mother nature opened the skies on the day following KFWE L.A., with what the meteorologists loved to call an atmospheric river, it was the DAY AFTER KFWE L.A. On the day of KFWE L.A. there was a light smattering of rain here and there. The next day, God opened the heavens, when we were driving in our Uber to the airport the streets were almost flooded, and this is L.A. which has a massive concrete drain snaking its way through Los Angeles, with which to dump and maneuver billions of gallons of rainwater.
Further, if we had been at the Petersen this year, the VIP and Trade would have been a mess. There was not so much rain, as it was just not nice outside, this is an El-Nino year in Califonia, and that means more rain than normal here in Cali! So, all in all, God was kind to Royal and the KFWE circuit. The weather was just right, along with some intelligent decisions, turned out to be true blessings for all, especially us Californians who really need the rain! Read the rest of this entry
As I said to me old and new found friends in London, I will miss the people, I will miss their kindness and their civility, but they can keep the weather and their inability to drive on the correct side of the road!
Well anyway, back to wine and food! As stated in my previous post, this was the first year I tried going to more than two KFWE events around the world. I arrived in Paris on Monday, Went to the Bokobsa Sieva tasting, and then on Tuesday, I took the train to London. I arrived in the afternoon and I then got a short rest before heading to a crazy dinner at Andrew Krausz’s house, the master chef of BlueSmoke.
I first met Andrew, and his sidekick, Mordechai, on the hilltop of Four Gates Winery, some 20 months ago! The wines we enjoyed there are listed here. But beyond the wines, one quickly got a sense for the Jewish community of Hendon, London. I must say, I still have nightmares from the dump of a hotel that we stayed at in Golders Green, a large Jewish community kitty-corner to Hendon. Hendon reminds me of everything that is great about London. The people are really nice, the community is tightknit, and they are a bit more aware of the outside world than say Golders Green. That said, I have heard wonderful things about the Golders Green community, I just need to exercise the nightmares of my past. Anyway, enough of my nightmare! The next time you need a nice hotel in Hendon area, Pillar Hotel! Solid, kept up nicely, kosher, and the folks are really nice.
Blue Smoke and Andrew Krausz
Take a quick read of this article to get a sense of Andrew and the work he puts into Blue Smoke and the joy people are getting from it. The dinner at Andrew’s was insane, to say the least, and there were many winemakers there that we would be seeing again the following evening at London’s KFWE! The courses were highlighted by cured more than smoked but streaked with bits of smoke throughout. The dinner started with gravlax and pickled beetroot. The pickled beetroot was straight crack! It was infused for 6 months! I hope this starts to give an understanding to the participants of the level of effort that was made to put this event together. The care and love for the task at hand by Andrew and his family! Yes, the family, were incredible! They have to live with the madness that fed people like me. From what I could tell, they are happy travelers on the road of food madness that is paved by Blue Smoke, but I am sure the 25 or so people invading their home on a weeknight, and the days and weeks of preparations leading up to that day, may not have been a path so easily traveled. Also, please understand that we would see Andrew for a few seconds as he explained the dish and then he disappeared into the same black hole from which he miraculously reappeared from over and over again. That black hole, the cavernous sized kitchen, was packed with humanity and hands coordinated by Andrew to push out 25 dishes over and over again throughout the evening. Read the rest of this entry
So, let’s start from the beginning. As I posted here, about the coming wine events of 2019, there were many options for you to get out and taste great wines almost across the globe. Well, recently, as you know well I have been focusing more on Europe, so I was in Paris later last year again to taste the new 2016 Bordeaux, and now I wanted to return to Bokobsa’s tasting, which is not officially part of the KFWE franchise. Avi Davidowitz, of kosher wine unfiltered, did every KFWE this year, Tel Aviv on the 4th of February, London on the 6th of February, and then on to NYC and L.A. I decided that I did not need to go to Sommelier this year and instead just focused on Bokobsa’s tasting which was on the same day as the KFWE Tel Aviv in Israel.
As I return home, Paris and London KFWE, NYC KFWE, and L.A.’s KFWE are in the rearview mirror. I will be posting on them separately, so I start with Bokobsa Paris.
To start the Bokobsa Tasting, from the company known in France as Sieva, happened in Paris (well not exactly Paris, more on the very outskirts of Paris to be exact) on Monday, Feb 4th, on the stunning grounds of the Pavillon des Princes in the 16th district. I arrived early and after taking a bunch of pictures I just relaxed and waited for the event to start. One of the issues from the tasting in past years was the wine glasses, but this year, Bokobsa had lovely glasses to truly appreciate the wines.
The ambiance and space were both far improved from the previous location, which was the basement of the Intercontinental Hotel in Paris. The table layout was far improved, it was truly a lovely event. The food was a bit mediocre, with it being essentially cold food, like Sushi and elegant salads on crackers, though they had warm chicken further along into the event.
The wines and the setting were the clear stars of the event, and with the lovely glasses, the wines did shine. My main issue with that some of the wines were the old and not showing well, which degrades the very purpose of a show/tasting like this. For example, they poured a 2013 Covenant Sauvignon Blanc and a myriad of older roses that were far over the hill and not showing well. Though at the same time, they poured some lovely Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon and Lavan, along with many of the top Royal Wines from France and Spain, and the new Champagne from Rothschild. There were a few older vintages of the French Royal wines that I do not remember now that were out of place, but they were still showing well. Read the rest of this entry
This is not the first time I have been asked to post this list, and shocker, it will have very little Israeli wine on it. So, if you want to concentrate on Israeli wines at KFWE NYC and LA, you can stop reading right now. Domaine du Castel will be on the list, as will Carmel’s Riesling, one Vitkin, one Tabor, and one Or Haganuz, and that is about it for Israeli wines on this list.
Next, yes download the app, there is an app for KFWE, at least for NYC anyway, the data for the L.A. show is not yet in the app, but it should be up soon, according to my main man in Herzog, David Whittemore, the Marketing, and Public Relations Director at Herzog Cellars Winery. Now, totally separately as a software architect that has built world-class systems around the world, this app really sucks. It is slow, illogical in how the application moves, does not keep state, has loads of wrong data (wines and vintages), and for the most part, not a very good looking application. With all the caveats aside, the tables and the wines on those tables are defined, and therefore, I will list the wines to enjoy based upon that information!
So, let us keep this simple – here are the tables and the wines I say are “cannot miss” or make sure to taste.
- Skip 2013 Bordeaux wines – if any exist
- Skip most whites, unless written here, from before 2015/2016
- Skip all roses unless from 2018
- Taste what you can, the list below is what I liked, but you may like other wines. Learn, explore, and enjoy!!!!
- Finally, the app is horrible but even worse is the data. Many wines and vintages in the app are wrong. So check the wines yourself and follow the guide, in regards to vintages above.
- 2016 Chateau Clarke Baron Edmund de Rothschild
- 2016 Chateau Malmaison (QPR)
- 2016 Chateau Hauteville
- 2016 Chateau Lamothe Cissac (QPR)
- 2015 Chateau le Cailou
- 2017 Domaine Jean-Pierre Baily Pouilly Fume (QPR)
- 2017 Pascal Bouchard Chablis
- 2015 Capcanes Flor del Flor de Primavera Samso
- 2014 Capcanes Flor del Flor de Primavera Garnacha
Carmel Winery Table:
- 2014 Carmel Kayoumi Vineyard White Riesling (QPR)
When I posted my top QPR wines and the QPR kings of 2018, I got lots of complaints that the two kings of 2018 were sold out, or close to it, the 2016 Chateau Larcis Jaumat and the 2015 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico. Well, this next QPR star is not sold out here in the USA, but it is sold out in other regions – so GET BUYING ASAP, before this too becomes another QPR past buy.
If you want to read up on Elvi Wines, you can read my post on Elvi Wines here, my original post and my follow up posts. As always, my disclaimer, Moises is a friend, and a winemaker I have known for many years, but that has nothing to do with this QPR winner!
I wanted to keep this simple, so the wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2014 Elvi Herenza Rioja Crianza – Score: 91 to 92 (Mevushal) (QPR Star)
The nose on this wine is sweet with lovely bright fruit, with rich black and red fruit, followed by raspberry and rich spice. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is tart and bright, really lovely, with bracing acidity, with mouth coating tannin, followed by raspberry, cranberry, with dark cherry and rich green notes of foliage, crazy tart, and juicy strawberry, and lovely earth with juicy fruit. The finish is long and green and red with rich acidity, nice mineral, tobacco, mint, sweet dill, and lovely tart fruit, Bravo! Drink until 2021.
I have spoken about Champagne wines in the past, whether they are made in the AOC of Champagne or elsewhere in the world, with different names, like Cava from Sapin, or Sparkling wine in the USA and Israel.
A quick aside please do not use Champagne unless you mean it! Champagne is wine made in the AOC of Champagne, which is a region of France. It is kind of like asking for the Kleenex when actually they are passing you generic tissues. Or asking someone to Xerox that article, when you mean, copy or photocopy it.
Now, of course, people from Champagne would blanch at that comparison, but sorry, trademark laws are what France is using to mandate the term Champagne be used ONLY for wines from Champagne, so it is LITERALLY the examples I gave.
Impressively France has been waging this war for centuries now. According to Wikipedia: Sparkling wines are produced worldwide, but many legal structures reserve the word Champagne exclusively for sparkling wines from the Champagne region, made in accordance with Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne regulations. In the European Union and many other countries the name Champagne is legally protected by the Madrid system under an 1891 treaty, which reserved it for the sparkling wine produced in the eponymous region and adhering to the standards defined for it as an appellation d’origine contrôlée; the protection was reaffirmed in the Treaty of Versailles after World War I. Similar legal protection has been adopted by over 70 countries. Most recently Australia, Chile, Brazil, Canada, and China passed laws or signed agreements with Europe that limit the use of the term “Champagne” to only those products produced in the Champagne region. The United States bans the use from all new U.S.-produced wines. Only those that had the approval to use the term on labels before 2006 may continue to use it and only when it is accompanied by the wine’s actual origin (e.g., “California”). The majority of US-produced sparkling wines do not use the term Champagne on their labels, and some states, such as Oregon, ban producers in their states from using the term.
Sadly, people use Champagne interchangeably with sparkling wine, much akin to Kleenex and Xerox, and no matter the efforts of France and the education around the name, folks like Korbel still use the label, Korbel Champagne of California.
So, what is Champagne and how do we get all those cool bubbles? Well, it all starts with a grape of some sort, in most cases, Chardonnay, but we will get back to the other varietals further down. For now, like all wine on planet earth, Champagne starts with a grape. It is picked (often early to lower alcohol and increase acidity), then crushed, pressed, and allowed/encouraged to go through primary fermentation, exactly like all white wines on planet earth. At this point, most houses ferment the base wine in metal tanks or barrels. Some still use wood, but they are the minority.
Of course, like much of France (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne), especially in Champagne, the wine can be chaptalized after racking, until an 11% ABV. Now before the heat waves that have covered much of this earth (call it what you wish), Bordeaux and Champagne prayed to hit their desired mark of ABV, and therefore they used to add sugar to bring up the ripeness on their fruit. Nowadays, Champagne is picking earlier and earlier, and Chaptalization is not a common thing anymore, as mother nature is taking care of the fruit’s ripeness all on her own!
Once the wine has been fermented the next question arises, should they let the base wine go through a wine’s second natural fermentation called Malolactic Fermentation? Most allow the fermentation to take place and require it, a fact that is easy nowadays with controlled winery environments, though some do not like it at all. Finally, the barrels/tanks are blended or in the rare case, kept aside as a Vintage Champagne, meaning the base wine used in it, is sourced from one vintage and not a blend of a few vintages.
So, at this point what we have is base wine, and while it may be an OK wine, it is far from what the final product will be like. Most base wines are nice enough, but it would be like licking on a lemon, these wines are highly acidic, and not normally well balanced at that point.
The next step is to bottle the wine, with yeast and basic rock sugar, which causes a second fermentation. The actual amount of the two added ingredients is a house secret. The wines are closed with a simple beer bottle cap. You will notice that ALL wines made in this manner have a lip around the top of the bottle, where the cap is attached to. Again, if the year is exceptional than the wine becomes vintage champagne and is aged for at least three years. If the vintage is normal than the bottle’s content is a blend of a few vintages and is aged for at least one and a half years.
All the while during this second fermentation process, the wine is aged and the wine becomes more complex from the yeast. The yeast breaks down as it eats the rock sugar, adding the effervescence, and while the yeast breaks down, it adds a lovely mouthfeel and rich complexity. This process is known as autolysis, releasing molecules that are slowly transformed as they interact with those in the wine. Read the rest of this entry