Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bubbles for your Valentine

In the world of Champagne there is much beauty, passion and majesty. It sparkles like a precious stone dancing in the sun’s last light and although all Champagne is sparkling wine not all sparkling wine can be Champagne. Although the methode champenoise is duplicated in wine growing regions across the globe, true Champagne is a sparkling wine from Champagne, a region in France. It does not come from Spain, California, Canada or anywhere else for that matter. It is unique to the region and as such its name is jealously guarded by the ever vigilant French and rightly so! Therein lies the crux of a life long battle between the fortunate Champenois and their wonderful elixir and the not so lucky, located outside the region, producing good bubble in the time honed method.

All sparkling wines, the good, the bad and the ugly strive to emulate Champagne, the Holy Grail of fizz, if not in style at least in name. Through due diligence and aggressive litigation this is no longer the problem it once was and it is unlikely you will ever come across a bottle of Greek or Chinese Champagne. Today most wine making countries have come up with terms to indicate if a sparkling wine, though not Champagne, has been made utilizing similar methods. Look for such terms as cremant, cava or tradional method on the label. This is the best way to put the sparkle in your favourite bubble and indicates the producer is serious about what they are doing.

Today most people enjoy sparkling wine that is fairly dry. If you want a dry Champagne or sparkling wine look for the term Brut on the label. It will be dry, much drier than a bottle labeled Extra Dry, which really means off-dry and is therefore sweeter than a Brut. Very strange these funny little terms but what is a person to do?

Serving sparkling wine is easy. A standard (750 ml) bottle will serve 6 people a glass of wine each. Just refrigerate the bottles for at least a couple of hours or plunge into a bucket of ice and water for 20 minutes. To open grasp the cork firmly and twist the bottle and resist the temptation to let her rip. The “pop” of a cork is magic but a big waste of bubble and money. Just ease the cork out with a sigh, not a bang and gently pour into flutes or tulip shaped glasses and enjoy. Look deep into your sweetheart's eyes and utter the appropriate salutation!

Lanson Black Label Champagne Brut France

Lanson is one of the few Champagne houses to not put its new wines through malolactic fermentation to soften the acidity. The finished product leaves the cellar crisp and clean with plenty of fruit and a core of underlying acidity that needs time to soften. When given that time the flavours of this little brut can be sublime. Very refined with tiny bubbles, biscuit and apple aromas, a lovely creamy texture with great depth of flavour and a steely resolve. Highly enjoyable!!!

Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne Brut France

This well managed growers co-operative is one of the fastest growing Champagne brands in the market today. Beautifully balanced with delicate citrus, apple and toasty aromas that ease onto the palate and linger through the finish. Tight and restrained with understated elegance!

Piper Heidsieck Champagne Brut France

Florens-Ludwig Heidsieck was the son of a Lutheran pastor and made a living as a draper in Reims before getting into the fizz bizz. Two hundred and twenty-five years later his Champagne house is still hanging in there. A good all rounder with gentle floral aromas and crisp citrus flavours makes this sassy little brut a good introduction to any evening.

Delamotte Champagne Brut France

Bubble is a wonderful thing! As they say “you can have too much champagne, but never enough!” Delamotte is light gold in colour with tiny but persistent bubbles. Seamless and superbly balanced with sweet pear and peach flavours, good length and a crisp elegant finish!

Duval-Leroy Champagne Brut France

Family owned and operated, Duval-Leroy farms about 150 hectares of prime real estate, much of it located in the heart of the Cote des Blancs. This provides about 25% of the company’s annual grape requirements and helps maintain the quality and consistency of these fine champagnes. Big and bold with an attractive yeasty, toasty bouquet, great balance with lively citrus flavours, fine acidity and a soft creamy finish that just keeps going!

Charles Heidsieck Champagne Brut Reserve France

Light gold with a gorgeous mousse and a wonderful nose of hot buttered toast, baked apple and white honey. Very ripe but not heavy, with great length and balance. If you are in the market for bubbly this beauty has it all.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

It's not 2005, but it's still great!

Call me irresponsible, but for the most part, until the Liquor Distribution Branch brings down their prices for it, we here at Spiritmerchants are giving most of the 2006 Bordeaux a pass -- the quality was pretty good but the prices were still up there in the stratosphere with the 2005's. (And we won't even think of the relatively even pricier 2007's still in the pipeline!) So until the somewhat more sanely-priced 2008's come out (and the very good-looking 2009's even further down the road) we'll be searching under rocks and in basement cubbyholes for Bordeaux from the halcion pre-millionaire, pre-2005 Bordeaux vintages.

One winner we've discovered is Fronsac's 2004 Chateau les Tonnelles, a nifty 100% Merlot offering from yet another of Bordeaux's undervalued regions. You can find effussive praise for it (and for what it's worth, a 90-point rating) here; I'm just going to say it's yummy and leave it at that!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

One last, brilliant 2005 Bordeaux bargain!

Is this the last of the 2005 Bordeaux to pass through our doors? It’s certainly the greatest bargain! In a year where we’ve seen wonderful Bordeaux from even the most modest producers, Chateau la Maroutine stands out — a big, plush, yummy merlot-based stunner! Don’t hesitate — it’s going to be a long time before the 2008 Bordeaux comes to call!
Price? $21.65 (+ deposit)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Stand by, We're Back Soon!

Larry's Page will be up and running again in its usual splendor in a day or two!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Week in Alcohol

First they supported the Hutu in Rwanda and now this The government of France is now advising its citizens not to drink wine. "The Ministry of Health has published guidelines which advise, 'The consumption of alcohol, and especially wine, is discouraged.' " In other news, the majority opinion of the civilization that gave us the Maginot Line is that wine poses a risk to health

For a start, they're both better taken in drunk "Terre d'Asti, a promotional body representing the Asti region in northern Italy, has launched Wine & Passion, an international literature competition to promote Grignolino d'Asti wine. The Italian trade body is looking for writers to come up with the most original literary work on the affinities between the Grignolino grape and football..."

So they must be just ecstatic about their government's latest health guidelines Champagne sales dropped nearly 5% in 2008, drawing a sour-grapes reaction from industry representatives. "Ghislain de Montgolfier, co-president of Champagne trade body the CIVC, said continuous growth and a record year in 2008 were 'too much' for the region. 'The fall is a good thing: our purpose was to decrease sales by 2% at the start of 2008. ' "

The "Domaine de Bernard Madoff" label should have been a giveaway Millions of bottles of wine from France falsely labeled as Pinot Noir were sold in the US over the last several years. "According to southern French newspaper La Depeche, the fraudulent wine was sold by winemakers and cooperatives to the negociant which in turn sold the wine to Sieur d'Arques for export to the US. It is not clear at which stage the fraud occurred. Citing an informant, the newspaper said the profit margins for those concerned were 'huge'. Pinot Noir fetches double the standard price for red wine from the region."

The rain of frogs at harvest didn't help the 2008 vintage either Gloom and Doom about Bordeaux is pouring in from all directions: Sales dropped more than 30% in the last 5 months of 2008; The Vintage Wine Investment Fund dropped 30% of its 100m Euro value; Chateau Latour is being dumped by its owner, the Luxury goods group PPR; Publicly traded funds like the International Wine Investment fund are off by as much as 85%; and the worldwide recession is destroying the market for the high-priced luxury cuvees as bankers spit into the outstretched hands of former billionaire hedge-fund managers everywhere

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Three New 2005 Bordeaux!

Ho, hum---another day, another great (and reasonably-priced) 2005 Bordeaux! An old favorite and two new friends arrived at Spiritmerchants this week, all yummy, and all in the low-to-mid $20 range!

The Medoc Cru Bourgeois Chateau La Gorce has been a buddy of ours for a long time, but we've never had one as fine as their 2005---and if memory serves, the price may even have gone down since the last vintage!

The 2005 Chateau Bergeron is from the Cotes de Blaye on the Right Bank of the Gironde---which these days is becoming notorious both as a region of under-priced works of genius, and a regular Bordeaux Home of Bargains. It's a mix of 85% Merlot, 10% Cab and 5% Malbec and as such is supple, muscular and structured to last. We've brought in 20 cases, and that's the quantity a lot of our customers have been buying it in!

Chateau Peyraud is from the P.C. de Blaye as well and clocks in at 100% Merlot. It's as ingratiating as only a Bordeaux-grown Merlot can be: Earthy, plump and user-friendly, it's also the real bargain of the trio, lightening you wallet by just north of $20---and lightening your day as well!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Fistful of Malbecs!

Malbec makes no pretense to being a wine for all seasons: January is when this varietal really shines! Winter stews, roasted vegetables, evenings when the sun goes down early... that's malbec's home ground. Here are three wines that show you both the fruit and the soil, and manage to be both earthy and sophisticated!
  • Don Eugeno Reserva 2005, from the Uco Valley in Mendoza, Argentina: Full-bodied with good tannins; big without being dopey---Sam Elliot rather than Ben Afflick.
  • Pascual Toso Malbec 2007, from the Maipu vinyards in Mendoza: Its maker calls this wine "sincere"; James Molesworth of the Wine Spectator called it "...fresh and open, with a mix of raspberry and black cherry fruit followed by a modest dose of toast on the easygoing finish"; I call it potent, earthy and rich! (And at less than $15, I also call it a steal!)
  • Altos las Hormigas Malbec 2007 from Mendoza: What can I say? A mighty wine---rustic, with fresh cherry fruit andjust a hint of anisette on the finish. Roast a squash and get out the glasses!