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Holiday Wine Pairings: Celebrating the Seasons

Holiday Wine Pairings: Celebrating the Seasons

Gathering family and friends together for a holiday often demands food and wine to enhance the celebration. Such a memorable repast, prepared with carefully selected courses, deserves the company of carefully selected wines. Ensure each culinary milepost is met with a glass that brings out the best in both cuisine and company by engaging a wine merchant’s enologic expertise. Even if you have extensive wine knowledge, you will likely be pleasantly surprised at the wealth of possibilities stocked here at The Wine Cellarage, your local New York City wine store.

First courses often find shellfish, cheeses, and crisps of various types plated for service. To complement this range of appetizers, pour a Sparkling Wine or a crisp, minerally Chablis to enhance the first bites while refreshing the palate. A Pinot Gris made in the slightly richer style of the Alsace region of France pairs nicely with additions of salmon and Pâté to the plate.

Second courses are intended to prime the palate with savory soups. To complement the course, a Meursault with high-altitude, medium body Chardonnay, hinting of yellow fruit, cloves, and earth, maximizes the spice and character of clear soups. A good Riesling will gather together the flavors of a cream soup for an elegant second course.

Third course salads, whether hot or cold, are refreshed with a medium bodied white that will begin to set the stage for the main course. A good Sauvignon Blanc from Napa, or a Chardonnay, will crisp and cleanse the palate throughout the course, smoothly leading to fourth course entrée.

Fourth courses provide for greatest variation, from light seafood and vegetarian fare, to substantial prime rib and game, allowing for broad interpretation by the hosts in wine selection. Here is where your own personality will shine as you select your favorite vintages for the main event. It is also a fine time to break open the bubbly, further highlighting the most important course of the meal, and supplying the effervescence to lighten the plates. The importance of the choice focuses on matching the weight and flavors of the dish with the wine so that neither is overpowered, and the aromas entwine to compliment and engage each other, elevating the course to more than the sum of its parts.

If you have yet to discover your favored Champagne or substantial Burgundy, as your local New York Wine merchant, we are here help!

Port wines deliver just the right spark to dessert courses, especially where chocolate is involved. The sweetness of the wine should match that of the course. Heavy tannins here would work against pleasing the palate in this closing course, so avoid Champagne and edgy reds in favor of sweeter, younger reds, jammy ports, with perhaps a demi sec Champagne for light, fruit-based desserts.

Most important of all is to serve what you love. Introducing friends to your own personal favorites is a joy and a pleasure that will be the stuff of memories for generations to come, creating new traditions with each celebration. For special birthdays and anniversaries, you might opt to purchase a few extra bottles of wines served to store and present at a later date in memory of the occasion. The recipients will be both surprised and grateful.

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Champagne Coquillette : Quite a Charmer

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Champagne Stéphane Coquillette Carte D'Or Premier Cru Brut

With such a charming name, it may be hard to turn down a chilled flute of Stéphane Coquillette’s NV Carte D’Or Premier Cru Brut $45/btl. Located in Chouilly, a Grand Cru classified village in the Cote des Blancs, Champagne Coquillette is run by fourth generation winemaker Stéphane Coquillette. Stéphane’s grandparents established Champagne Saint-Charmant (see, it’s all about the charm) in 1930, which Stéphane’s father, Christian, then took over in 1950. When it came for Stéphane’s turn, his father sent him off to start his own brand, hence, Champagne Stéphane Coquillette.

To fully appreciate and understand Champagne Coquillette, it is crucial to go back to the roots…literally. The vineyards are planted in limestone soil and chalky rock, stretching tens of meters deep. This type of rock, called “roche mère” is capable of soaking up water in order to supply the vines with adequate hydration during dry spells. This particular soil is key to contributing specific aromas and flavors of the wine.

Coquillette offers several excellent champagnes, but our favorite is the NV Stéphane Coquillette Carte d’Or Premier Cru Brut, a blend of Grand Cru and Premier Cru Pinot Noir (about two thirds) and Chardonnay (one third). This pale yellow bubbly exhibits citrus-rich aromas of lemon and grapefruit, blackberry fruit and hints of smoke and vanilla. Some of the lemon and citrus notes carry on over to the palate which brings a refreshing flavor to the taste buds. Also present are floral notes, which carry through to the energetic and pleasant finish.

The great thing about champagne is that in can be enjoyed in accompaniment with almost anything: various appetizers, desserts, cheeses, or nothing at all! For Coquillette’s Champagne, we have chosen a stellar match: crab cakes topped with a mango salsa. This duo is one you don’t want to miss out on, so check out the simple recipe above and grab yourself a bottle of NV Stéphane Coquillette Carte D’or Premier Cru Brut to charm away any dinner party!

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2012 Wine Trends: A New Year of Vino

Looking forward to a new year of wine discoveries.

2012 is here, presenting a fresh new year of wine trends to contemplate.  It’s an exciting time for all of us wine lovers as we stand at the edge of an entire year of wine discovery and imbibing ahead.  What will be hot in the wine world this year?  What will we fill our glasses with in 2012?  Here’s a bit of forecasting for 2012 wine trends, along with some divulgence as to the wines we anticipate buying and drinking the most of and why…

1. Grower Champagne is Vogue

Grower Champagne producers and smaller Champagne houses are becoming more and more popular as bubbly lovers everywhere discover the world beyond Dom Perignon, Krug and Cristal.  Of course we’ll never turn down a glass of Veuve Clicquot, but there are so many other high quality, great value Champagnes out there.  Grower Champagne producers are grape farmers that make their own Champagne, using the grapes that they grew themselves, as opposed to the bigger houses that buy them in.  While these small, artisanal producers lack the marketing power of the ubiquitous big brands, their Champagnes are gaining recognition and are the new fashion.

We’re looking forward to discovering and drinking more under-the-radar, high value Champagnes in 2012, and will continue to drink and promote our favorite grower Champagnes.  The Wall Street Journal’s recent article, Bubble by Bubble by Lettie Teague, is a great read on the topic of Champagne.  Lettie gives a shout out to some of our favorites, including Pol Roger Brut Réserve, Pierre Moncuit Blanc de Blancs Brut and Pierre Gimonnet Brut Blanc de Blancs Sans Année.  Our New Year’s resolution is to drink more Champagne!  Additional recommendations:

NV Pierre Peters Brut Cuvee Reserve ($46) “Fresh, precise lemon and pink grapefruit aromas give way to deeper tangerine and melon with air. Fine-grained and focused citrus flavors stain the palate, gaining richness on the back end while retaining a tight, nervy personality. The citrus notes linger nicely on the long, sappy, mineral-tinged finish.” – 91 pts, International Wine Cellar

NV Champagne Laherte Freres Brut Tradition ($36) – “The NV Brut Tradition is a beautifully precise, chiseled wine. Citrus, flowers and minerals are woven together in fabric of unusual elegance. This mid-weight, focused Champagne offers terrific energy all the way through to the finessed finish. It is a lovely effort…” – 90 pts, Wine Advocate

NV Rene Geoffroy Brut Empreinte ($50) “The NV Brut Empreinte offers up licorice, smoke, mint and dried apricots in an exotic, compelling style. There is wonderful richness and clarity to be found in the glass. The weight and sheer presence of the Pinot Noir is clearly felt on the palate, while cool mineral notes provide a wonderful foil to the wine’s silky texture…” – 92 pts, Wine Advocate

NV Henri Goutorbe Brut Rose ($55) “The NV Brut Rose Grand Cru is a rather wild, unrestrained wine loaded with baking spices, kirsch, game and sweet red cherries. The wine reveals gorgeous inner perfume and tons of class, with a refined, silky close. Striking aromatics linger on the finish.” – 93 pts, Wine Advocate

2. Bonjour 2010 Burgundy

The 2010 vintage for Burgundy is just beginning to enter the market.  While many of the reds have not even been bottled yet, the white Burgundies are just starting to arrive.  The 2010 vintage was a small one for Burgundy, which means that we can expect the prices to be higher, but these wines will be worth the investment. In general, the 2010 Burgundy vintage has a lighter, more classic style than the lush 2009 vintage, promising many age-worthy wines with great structure and acidity.  Since the quantities will be limited, we suggest grabbing them up while you can.

Anxious to get your hands on a refreshing 2010 white Burg now?  Our 2010 Domaine Vincent Dauvissat Chablis La Forest is in-stock and ready to ship.

Although we’re looking forward to the arrival of our 2010 Burgundies, we are still head over heals for the 2009 vintage.  The 2010 red Burgundies will need some time in the cellar, so while we wait, we’re going to continue to enjoy the approachable, delicious 2009 vintage.  Recommendations for great value 2009 Burgundies to drink now:

2009 Maison Louis Jadot Gevrey Chambertin ($52) “The 2009 Gevrey-Chambertin is the best of the village-level wines. It shows tons of Gevrey character in a sweet, perfumed style I find irresistible, with gorgeous length and fine overall balance. The level of quality is admirable, considering there are 200 barrels of this cuvee. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2019.” – 87-88 pts, Wine Advocate

2009 Domaine Michel Lafarge Volnay Vendanges Selectionnees ($72) “Bright red. Deeper, richer and more complex on the nose than the basic village offering, showing aromas of red fruits, rose petal and spices. Richer and broader on the palate, offering very good presence and depth for village wine. Spreads out nicely on the impressively long finish.” – 89 pts, International Wine Cellar

2009 Domaine Jean Marc et Hugues Pavelot Savigny-les-Beaune ($35) “This is also aromatically quite pretty with ripe red berry and plum aromas liberally laced with ample amounts of Savigny-style earth that continues onto the round, supple and appealing flavors that culminate in a balanced and naturally sweet finish. Lovely and fashioned in Pavelot’s usual understated style.” – 87-90 pts, Burghound

2009 Domaine Thierry et Pascale Matrot Puligny Montrachet Les Chalumeaux ($64) “A more expressive and airier nose that features high-toned notes of white flower, pear, white peach and mineral hints is followed by rich, naturally sweet and racy medium-bodied flavors that possess ample size, weight and sap on the solidly persistent finish. This will drink well almost immediately and I like the underlying sense of tension here.” – 91 pts, Burghound

3. Locavore Trend Extends to Wine

The farm-to-table trend has taken America by storm and that movement extends beyond potatoes and carrots, encompassing wine consumption as well.  As Americans become more conscientious when it comes to their carbon footprint, we’re sure to see a rise in local wine sales.  We oenophiles on the East Coast are beginning to pay more attention to our local wine regions, especially New York’s Finger Lakes region and the North Fork of Long Island.  We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, Dr Konstantin Frank is an exceptional local producer if you’re living on the East Coast.  We’re big fans of the 2010 Dr. Frank Dry Riesling, 2008 Dr. Frank Cabernet Franc and the delightful, sparkling 2006 Chateau Frank Blanc de Blancs.

4. Organic and Sustainable Wines

Just as more and more people seek out organic food products, over the past several years, the consumption of organic and sustainable wines has been rising.  Many European wine producers have practiced organic, sustainable and biodynamic winemaking for centuries.  These practices are publicized more frequently now than ever before because they have become selling points for many modern consumers.  Organic wine certification varies from country to country and is a complex issue.  Producers that advertise organic and sustainable practices are not necessarily certified organic.  As the collective consciousness becomes greener by the day, we’ll see more producers adopting sustainable and organic winegrowing and winemaking techniques.  Recommended organic and sustainable producers from our portfolio:

Flora Springs Wine Company, Napa Valley – Practices organic farming.

Tablas Creek Vineyard, Paso Robles – Certified organic.

Talley Vineyards, Arroyo Grande Valley – Practices sustainable farming.

Podere Salicutti, Tuscany – Certified organic & biodynamic.

Adelsheim Vineyards, Willamette Valley, Oregon – Practices sustainable farming.

Evening Land Vineyards, California, Oregon & France – Practices organic farming.

5. Food Friendly, Low Alcohol Wines

Sommeliers have long been advocates for lower alcohol wines (below 14% ABV) because of their great compatibility with food.  European wines generally have lower alcohol than their New World counterparts and are specifically made to compliment the cuisine of their native lands, which explains the predominance of European producers on many restaurant wine lists.  Ripe, over-extracted, high alcohol wines have the affect of overpowering most foods. New World winemakers (and wine drinkers) are becoming wise to this fact and have begun to abandon the over the top, sometimes out of balance, style that was the longstanding fashion.  In the year ahead, look for lower alcohol wines coming out of regions such as Napa and the Willamette Valley.  Not only will these low alcohol wines enhance your dining experiences, you won’t be bowled over by the first glass!  We’ve already started spotting, and drinking, these food friendly beauties from New World regions:

2009 Breggo Cellars Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley ($27, 13.4% ABV)

2010 The Pinot Project Pinot Noir, California ($14, 13.5% ABV)

2008 Mt. Difficulty Riesling Roaring Meg, Central Otago ($20, 11.5% ABV)

2008 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast ($42, 13.9% ABV)

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An Exquisite Evening of Champagne Awaits You

Champagne cascading into flutes

Enjoying a glass of Champagne is both relaxing and rejuvenating at the same time.  Its bubbles and ethereal flavors instantly commemorate festivity. Not only does it set any party in motion, it also pairs wonderfully with a variety of foods.  So, after four solid days of rush hour commuting and long hours at the office, by the time Thursday evening rolls around, a glass of bubbly is just what the Dr. ordered, right? Or better yet, a glass of the finest Champagne paired with delectable gourmet cheeses and some light-hearted socializing!

Next Thursday, May 12th, Wine Cellarage and the bulthaup showroom in Soho have joined together to host an amazing evening filled with Champagne!  Not only will the very best Champagnes be poured, Cristal, Krug and Dom Perignon to name a few, the event will be an enlightening adventure.  This exciting tour of select, premium Champagnes will showcase styles ranging from Blanc de Blanc to Rosé and is sure to put a sparkle in your eye.

Antonio Galloni, wine critic for Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate, will be the featured guest for the evening.  He will be available throughout the event to answer any Champagne questions you may have and will share his insights with all attendees at 7pm.

This is an incredible opportunity to taste a great selection of the world’s finest Champagnes in one night.  If you love Champagne as much as we do, this is an event that you won’t want to miss!

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the featured Champagnes…

2002 Moet Chandon Dom Perignon – Moët & Chandon’s prestigious Dom Pérignon is a vintage Champagne that is only made in the most excellent grape-growing years. Named for the legendary Benedictine monk who made great contributions to the craft of sparkling winemaking, this Champagne is a tribute to the noteworthy man. Truly the best of the best, there have only been 36 vintages of Dom Pérignon produced since the first, the 1921 vintage.

2002 Louis Roederer Cristal - A remarkable vintage, the 2002 Louis Roederer Cristal is rich, powerful and refined with great ageing potential.  Made with 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay, this wine exhibits complex aromas and flavors of ripe red fruit, cocoa, caramel and Viennese pastries.  Cristal is the perfect choice for special dinners and celebrations, pairing wonderfully with lobster, scallops, salmon and oysters.

2002 Pierre Peters Brut Cuvée Spéciale les ChétillonsPierre Péters is a small family-run estate located in the center of the Côte des Blancs region, in the Grand Cru village of Le Mesnil sur Oger.  The Péters family has worked together to maintain their vineyards, growing and selecting only the best grapes and producing superior grower Champagne, dedicated to expressing the terroir and varietal character in each of their ethereal wines.

NV Krug Brut RoséKrug Rosé is pure extravagance, combining the chic taste of the celebrated Champagne with an intriguing elegance and style of its very own. Exquisite aromas of wild berries, exotic spices and flowers give way to opulent, seductive flavors on the palate. As with all of Krug’s Champagnes, power and finesse come together in each harmonious, sublime sip.

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Champagne: A Short Guide to the Sparkling Delight

Celebratory Flutes of Champagne

Champagne is the drink of celebration.  Its bubbles and ethereal flavors instantly commemorate festivity.  Not only does it set the party in motion, but it pairs wonderfully with a variety of foods.  From potato chips to sushi, you can’t go wrong with a glass of Champagne.  When shopping for this sparkling beverage, we are faced with a number of choices and must decipher a set of labeling terms that tell us about the style of the bubbly in the bottle.  Will it be dry, full-bodied, fruity?  To begin to understand the language of Champagne and the various styles that it is made in, let’s take a look at the region and a bit of history…

In the most northern reaches of French wine country, and the farthest north of all the European vineyards, lies the legendary Champagne region.  Northeast of Paris, hugging the Marne River valley, the region is divided into three main subregions, the Vallée de la Marne, the Montagne de Reims and the Côte des Blancs.  Here, the short growing season and severe growing conditions produce light wines that have high acidity and low alcohol, the perfect foundation for sparkling wine.  Millions of years ago, a sea covered the Champagne region, the fossils and sediments of which formed the area’s chalky soils.  If it weren’t for these mineral-rich chalk soils, vines would not grow nearly as well here.  The chalk retains water and slowly releases it as the soil dries, ensuring that the vines are always hydrated. The mineral content in the soil nurtures the vines and gives the grapes their character, making wines of quality and distinction.

The bubbles in Champagne come from an intriguing and complex process entailing not one, but two fermentation cycles.  Once the wine goes through its initial fermentation, it is bottled as a still wine.  Right before bottling, a mixture of sugar, wine and yeast nutrients is added to the wine.  In French, this mixture is called “liqueur de tirage”.  The bottle is topped with a temporary seal and laid down in the cellar where the second fermentation begins.  During this stage, the yeast digests the added sugar, which in turn produces more alcohol and carbon dioxide.  The CO2 builds up in the bottle, slowly dissolving in the wine…and viola! Bubbles!

Although Champagne production was initially accidental and it is unclear who actually discovered the process, it is certain that the monk Dom Pérignon was a leader of the Champagne wine movement in France during the mid-1600s.  During the early 1800s, Champagne was first commercialized by the infamous Madame (Veuve) Clicquot.  The popularity of the bubbly drink continued to grow and around this time, the celebrated Champagne names that we know and love entered the scene, the local merchant Monsieur Moët, as well as Krug, Bollinger and Roederer, all young, business savvy German entrepreneurs.  Since those early times, the region struggled with difficulties, from vine-destroying pestilence to fraudulent wine production, occurrences that shaped and strengthened the modern Champagne industry.

There are three grape varietals used in Champagne: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.  Each of these grapes dominates one of the three Champagne subregions and creates wine with specific characteristics.  Chardonnay grapes, most common in the Côtes des Blancs subregion, produce a lighter style wine with high acidity, citrus characteristics and fine bubbles.  Pinot Noir is widely planted in the Montagne de Reims subregion, and imparts body to sparkling wine blends.  Pinot Meunier, the dominant grape in the Marne Valley, provides fruity character to the blend.  These three grapes varietals, used in combination or on their own, produce an array of Champagne styles, which brings us to a set of vocabulary that you’ll encounter when buying your bubbly.

A familiar term in Champagne speak is Non-Vintage (NV), which is bubbly made from a blend of wines from different years.  NV is considered by some to be superior to Champagne from a single year’s harvest because it allows quality control and insurance that no matter how bad one year’s vintage is, it can be evened-out by the blend.  Vintage Champagne shows the year of harvest on the label and has distinct characteristics based on the particular year’s growing conditions.  The term Prestige Cuvée is given to Champagne that is made from the highest quality wine and blended with the utmost care.  These wines are usually aged for longer periods prior to their release.  Examples of Prestige Cuvées from top producers are Moët & Chandon’s Dom Perignon bottling and Roederer’s Cristal.

Champagne labeled Blanc de Blancs, meaning white from whites in French, is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, and is usually a lighter style wine with bright acidity and core flavors of citrus and apple.  The labeling term Blanc de Noirs refers to white Champagne made from black grapes, specifically Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier, or a blend of the two.  Blanc de Noirs are usually fuller-bodied, fruit-forward Champagnes with a lengthy finish.

Rosé Champagne, with its fun pinkish hue, is made from all three grape varietals, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.  Interestingly, Rosé Champagne is most frequently made by blending some red wine from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier with white wine from Chardonnay.  A few Champagne houses use the saignée method, allowing the dark grape skins to have limited contact with the musts and impart some of their color to the wine, but this method is far less common.  Rosé Champagnes tend to have a full body and extra fruitiness on the nose and palate.

The level of sweetness in Champagne is determined by the portion of sugar that is added after second fermentation and ageing.  The terms listed below refer to the amount of sweetness in Champagne and will help you decide which best suits your taste:

Term Dryness Level & Grams Sugar per Liter
Brut Nature The Most Dry; Below 3 g/l
Extra Brut Very Dry; 0-6 g/l
Brut Very Dry – Dry; 0-15 g/l
Extra-Sec Off-Dry; 12-20 g/l
Sec Medium-Dry; 17-35 g/l
Demi-Sec Sweet; 33-50 g/l
Doux Very Sweet; 50+ g/l

Brut is the most common of these styles, however, since the levels of sweetness overlap, it is left to the producer’s discretion to use the labeling term of their choosing.

On a final note, there are many incredible and delicious sparkling wines made throughout the world, but in order to be labeled Champagne, it must come from that specific region in France.  When searching for the Champagne that will put a sparkle in your eye, try different brands and styles, and don’t forget to pair it with food for a truly amazing dining experience!

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