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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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White Wines for Hot Summer Days

A refreshing glass of white wine!

A nice cold glass of white wine is perfect for these hot summer days. There are so many different white wines out there and so many different styles that it can get a little overwhelming and confusing. We hope that this will serve as your summer white wine guide and will help you to choose a varietal and style that perfectly suits your taste.

Sauvignon Blanc

In each region where Sauvignon Blanc is grown, the grape and resulting wine expresses a unique set of flavors and styles.  Sauvignon Blanc thrives throughout France, and especially within Bordeaux, where it is the prominent grape varietal in Bordeaux Blanc blends and the coveted dessert wines of Sauternes . The climate of Bordeaux allows the Sauvignon Blanc grapes to ripen more slowly than in other areas, giving a wonderful balance between acidity and fruit. The climate is also an important factor in the development of the wine’s aromas.  The flavors in these wines are fruitier than those from other regions in France. These wines can also age a bit more than the Sauvignon Blancs that are produced elsewhere.

The Loire Valley is the home of Sancerre, producing some of the most celebrated Sauvignon Blancs in the world. Sancerre is considered an elegant wine that is vibrant and crisp. Sancerre has good fruit and minerals, which combine to make a deep and complex Sauvignon Blanc. The fruit flavors that are typically present in Sancerre are from the citrus family, including lemon, lime and grapefruit. However, when the grapes are really ripe you can taste pear, quince, and apple.  The wines that are produced in Sancerre have a good acidity, making them among the most refreshing wines out there.

Sauvignon Blanc Grapes

California Sauvignon Blanc is made in a variety of styles, some of which were inspired by the regions of France.  Fume-Blanc is a “French look a-like” that came into being when Robert Mondavi  began using oak aging to remove some of the grassy flavors that were showing up in his California Sauvignon Blanc.

The flavors that are present in Sauvignon Blanc/Fume-Blanc, grown in California, tend to be minerally, grassy, and tropical. The wines that show more tropical fruits tend to be mixed with Semillon, which helps add ripe and aromatic fruit flavors. In addition, there are wines produced in California that offer citrus fruit aromas, showing notes of passion fruit, grapefruit, and lemon.  On the other hand, the Fume-Blanc style shows melon flavors, as well as some other tropical fruits.

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is very tropical and refreshing when the weather is really hot. There is also something about New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs that I really enjoy in general, but especially in the summer. Just like all Sauvignon Blancs that I have covered here, they are bright, refreshing, and crisp. Marlborough is the most well-known area in New Zealand where this grape variety is grown and produced.

A typical New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is very aromatic with tropical notes of pineapple, passion fruit, grapefruit, melon, gooseberry, and other citrus flavors. Some of these wines can have grassy and floral notes too. The cool climate that the grapes are grown in allows for these flavors to be quite intense, but also gives a good balance between sugars and acidity. Moderate to high acidity is typical for these wines.

View all Sauvignon Blanc available on our website.

Chardonnay

Chardonnay Grapes

Chardonnay is the chameleon of the white wine grapes, having a variety of expressions depending on the region and the winemaker’s influence.   Chardonnay is one of the most popular and widely planted white wine grapes in the world.  Chardonnay is a native grape varietal to France’s Burgundy region.  Consumers always get confused when it comes to Burgundy – red or white. It seems confusing with the different appellations within a village, the many different growers within the same vineyard, and then of course you sprinkle in the negociant.  When it comes to White Burgundy, the first thing you need to know is that 95% percent of the time, the white wines produced there are made from Chardonnay! And Burgundy produces some of the finest and most age worthy Chardonnays in the world.  Depending on the area of Burgundy, the flavors that can arise range from citrus fruit to licorice and spice notes, and can be rich and creamy in style or very racy and brisk.   Chablis is perhaps the most distinctive expression of Chardonnay within Burgundy.  View all White Burgundy available on our website.

Chablis will always be 100% Chardonnay, no blending of any kind. Because of the cool climate that the grapes are grown in, Chablis is always refreshing and very crisp, but don’t let that fool you, Chablis can be aged.  Expressing a deep mineral character in its youth, the wine tends to softens with age and develop floral and honeyed notes.  Another typical characteristic of young Chablis is a green apple-like acidity, as well as a flinty-mineral flavor.

California is another popular Chardonnay producing region.  California Chardonnay tends to be fuller-bodied in style, filling the palate with rich flavors and textures.  Chardonnay is wonderfully versatile, which is why it works so well for all seasons!

View all Chardonnay available on our website.

Pinot Grigio

Pinot Gris/Grigio Grapes

Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio is a mutant form of the Pinot Noir grape.  The grapes can actually have a purplish hue, although the wine produced is light in color. This is a wonderful warm weather wine and is sure to cool you off on a hot summer afternoon.  It tends to be light to medium-bodied in style and is usually very pale in color. It is extremely bright, crisp, and refreshing.  Pinot Gris thrives in Alsace, California and Oregon, while Italy is known for Pinot Grigio.  View all Pinot Grigio available on our website.

Italian Pinot Grigio is very bright and clean. It is very light in color and in body. Sometimes there is an effervescent feel to an Italian Pinot Grigio. This makes the wine elegant and delicate, which means you want to drink it in its youth.

Pinot Gris is a major grape varietal in Alsace, and is very different from the Pinot Gris/Grigio that is found everywhere else. These wines have very intense flavors, because of the long autumn season, which allows for the grapes to ripen very slowly. The Alsatian Pinot Gris is medium-bodied and can be aged for longer than those of Italy and the United States.  Alsatian Pinot Gris can have a nice spice flavor to it, which is unique to this variety.  In general, Pinot Grigio makes a great cooler for the hot weather!

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Summer Wines 2013!

Summer is finally here, which means that it’s time to fire up the grill and break out the best of summer – light, bright, refreshing wines!  There are several good summer wines that I would like to recommend. I would also like to briefly mention what makes a good summer wine! These wines have been selected, because I feel that they are great for summer BBQs and fun low key gatherings, but they are also great for other times in the year as well. I hope that you enjoy them as much as I have so far this summer!

The summer white wines that you want to buy for BBQs and gatherings are light, crisp, and refreshing.

Refreshing glasses of Sauvignon Blanc being served on a hot summer day!

The white wine recommendations are fruitier, but are not sweet. This style of crisp white wines is light and refreshing, especially when served well-chilled. These white wines can be great for a typical summery BBQ or party meal, like chicken or seafood, or they can be great for pre-main course snacks and appetizers!

Sauvignon Blanc is a great white wine for the hot days ahead! Sauvignon Blanc is perfect for summer, because it is typically a refreshing, crisp white wine variety. It can be a fruity white wine, but it can also be minerally and dry; there is a style out there for everyone.  Sauvignon Blanc is grown in various regions across the globe, including Bordeaux in France, Napa Valley in California, South America, South Africa and New Zealand.  Each of these growing regions lends a different character to the grapes and the finished wine, offering a lot of variety in Sauvignon Blanc flavors.  One of our favorite Sauvignon Blancs this summer hails from Napa Valley, the 2011 Mason Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley ($15/btl).

The 2011 Mason Cellars Sauvignon Blanc is 100% Sauvignon Blanc. On the nose, this spectacular wine offers aromas of fig and exotic floral notes.  The flavors on the palate are of summer fruits including citrus, honeyed grapefruit, melon, and quince! Don’t let all of this fruit turn you away though, because there is good acid present as well, which places this amongst the best dry white wines.  This is really a great white wine and a great value, I would say that this is one of the best sauvignon blancs under 20!

Our second white wine recommendation for summer 2013 is the 2011 Chateau Cantelaudette Graves de Vayres Blanc ($15/btl), a blend of white Bordeaux blend, which includes semillon, sauvignon blanc, and muscadelle.  This is a wonderful dry white wine type considered a fantastic Graves “look alike”, and Graves produces the best white wines in Bordeaux. This is not only a dry white, but a fruity white wine as well, which are two typical characteristics of Graves. The aromas consist of citrus and some florals. The palate is long and has flavors such as melon, citrus, and fig, with a touch of wood and minerals. This white wine will go perfectly with summer salads, seafood, lobster, and any kind of appetizer that you would typically have in the summer.

Once the BBQ gets started, a glass of red or rosé is perfect! The types of rosé wine that we are offering are perfect summer wines! ‘Do you chill rosé wine?’ is a commonly asked question, and the answer is yes. Also, I find that the more chilled a rosé is, the more uplifting it is on a scorching day. Rosé wines are light, crisp, refreshing, and can be a bit more full-bodied than some whites. Rosés are great for everyone, but they are also great for the person who loves red but wants a cooler drink on a hot day. There are many spectacular rosé wines that we are offering for the summer…two of them are mentioned below!

For a softer wine that still packs a punch, 2011 Saintsbury Vincent Vin Gris of Pinot Noir Carneros ($15/btl) is wonderful. It is a medium to full-bodied, refreshing pink wine made from Pinot Noir.   The wine offers zesty aromas and flavors of plum, apricot, raspberry and blood orange. On the palate, the wine is vibrant with bright fruit, but not overly fruity, and a touch of acidity to make the wine perfectly refreshing. The finish is satisfying and lasts long. After one sip, you’re left wanting more.

Food pairing for the 2011 Saintsbury Vincent Vin Gris of Pinot Noir Carneros is easy, because it goes with almost anything, with the exception of heavier red meats. You can serve this with your snacks or appetizers at your BBQ or party, but you can also serve it with the main course of chicken, fish, or burgers. The 2011 Saintsbury is truly a good summer wine that is crisp and refreshing and is a great value under $20.

For a crisp, lighter rosé wine, 2011 Ponzi Vineyards Pinot Noir Rosé Willamette Valley ($15/btl) is among our best wines for summer. Strawberry, orange zest, spices that build over time, and white flowers appear on the nose of this pink wine. This is a dry rosé wine on the palate, but it also has plenty of fruits and other surprises as well.  On the palate, red berries and citrus fruits make an appearance, followed by a good clean finish with some floral notes at the very end.  Ponzi Vineyards Rosé is a lively and fun rosé for any occasion during the summer and it is a great value too.

Your typical light summer fare will go particularly well with the 2011 Ponzi Vineyards Pinot Noir Rosé. For example, I would recommend any kind of summer salad, like potato salad or a roasted vegetable salad tossed with citrus vinaigrette. Other salads that are ideal rosé pairings include baby spinach and arugula with a summer fruit and nut blend, tossed with a light summer vinaigrette. Risotto with fish and veggies is also a great summer dish to pair with rosé.  Chicken or seafood dishes will go spectacularly as well. Mediterranean style food is perfect since you want to keep it light and simple when serving a lighter style of rosé.

Any wine with bubbles makes a great summer wine.  Bubbly is always so versatile and you can have it before, during, or at the end of a meal! However, not everyone wants to spend the money for true champagne, which is why Prosecco is a great bubbly option.

The Prosecco grape originated during Roman times and is one of the oldest grapes in Italian history. Its origin and name can be traced back to the town of Prosecco in Trieste.  Prosecco grapes are transformed into sparkling wine using the Charmat method in which stainless steel tanks and yeast are utilized to produce a natural second fermentation. The process takes approximately 60 days depending on acidity, residual sugar and pressure. The Charmat method allows Prosecco to preserve its original flavors and perfumes longer. Prosecco is traditionally a dry wine with hints of apple and citrus.

NV Lamberti Prosecco Extra Dry ($16/btl) is a great bottle of Prosecco. It has notes of white peach, lemon zest, and smoke on the nose.  For the palate it offers great flavors of granny smith apples, sweet spices, and floral notes. The finish is long, which leaves your mouthwatering and wanting another sip! It is dry, crisp, light, and oh so refreshing for these hot summer days ahead. Also, if you like a good dry white, then you will love this bubbly.

Pink bubbles are always fun for a celebration, but in the summer time, there is just something extra nice about them. If you want a sparkling Champagne rosé for a great price, NV Champagne Laherte Freres Brut Rose ($38/btl) is a wonderful choice. The red fruit and strawberry flavors are really what make this rosé Champagne the finest summer bubbly!

The best red wines for the summer are elegant in style…wines such as Pinot Noir and Beaujolais.  Today Beaujolais is a wine that has depth, concentration, great structure, good balanced acidity and length. These wines are more like Burgundy than ever before. The days of carbonic maceration are practically gone. Today the serious producer treats the Gamay grape just like its counterpart, the Pinot Noir. The result is a wine that has wonderful fruit (but not too fruity), structure and length.

2011 Domaine du Vissoux Beaujolais Cuvee Traditionelle Vieilles Vignes ($14/btl) is, in my opinion, one of the best wines under 20, for its variety. It has such interesting flavor combinations that really get your taste buds excited. There are flavors of Middle Eastern spices, plum, red licorice, and black cherry. The nose is quite different than what you would expect with the flavors though. On the nose you smell woodsmoke, cherries, raspberries, and the minerals from the soil. This red wine is definitely vibrant and playful with good minerality, a fine core, and a finish that will impress you.

As a red wine lover, finding a good red wine for summer is a must for me!  Finding a great red wine like the 2011 Domaine du Vissoux Beaujolais Cuvee Traditionelle Vieilles Vignes is a real treat!  I recommend trying this great red wine under 20 as soon as possible.

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Summer Wines: A Seasonal Guide

Sit back, relax, and cool off with a refreshing glass of wine in hand!

All of this warm weather, bright sun and our constant search for a cool or air conditioned space is a definite sign that summer is upon us! It’s the time to enjoy weekends at the beach, vacations abroad, or even some rooftop barbeques with family and friends. Whatever your summer plans may be, I am sure a refreshing summer wine would be a great companion to bring along, whether it be for a casual dinner with the family or for a momentous occasion such as a wedding.

Keeping your needs in mind, we have compiled a great list of summer wines spanning the traditional favorites like Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay, and adding several unique wines for you to consider including Chenin Blanc, Prosecco, Rosé Champagne, and Gewurztraminer. Here, at The Wine Cellarage, we are thrilled to share our newly composed summer wine list with you. These wines have been chosen for their excellent quality and great value. They are sure to keep you cool and refreshed all summer long!

Here’s a closer look at our summer wine list…

Rosé

Summertime is here and it’s the perfect season to open up a bottle of refreshing berry-scented, floral rosé. Rosé is the ideal wine for summer barbecues and parties and is incredibly food-friendly. Perfect pairings include barbecue flavors, sausage, hamburgers, and just about anything on the grill – veggies, fish, shrimp, pork and so on.  Also, fresh salads and side dishes are easily matched with just about any rosé. How could you possibly turn down a glass of beautifully pink, crispy chilled wine on a warm summer night?

The 2011 Chateau Sainte Marguerite L’Esprit Rosétes de Provence ($16) from Côtes de Provence, the biggest appellation of the Provence wine region, is a beautiful blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah grape varieties. This rosé is deliciously fruity and balanced with crisp strawberry and raspberry flavors and attractive acidity. It serves very well as an aperitif but is structured enough to withstand various entrées as a companion.

The 2010 Domaine Saint Ser Côtes de Provence Saint Victoire Rosé Prestige ($16) is an elegant rosé, offering lovely aromas of wild red berries, hints of watermelon and lemon zest; a perfect pairing for traditional Provencal meals like Bouillabaisse.  This wine definitely has the structure to stand up to substantial dishes. The Domaine Saint-Ser is located in the Saint Victoire sub-appellation of the Côtes de Provence and is home to a small number of elite producers.

The 2011 Bieler Pere et Fils Sabine Rosé Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence ($14) is the perfect summertime sipper with aromas of raspberry, watermelon and undertones of Provençal herbs.  Charles Bieler has been crafting his charming Provençal rosé for the last 7 years. This particular rosé is named after his daughter, Sabine, who was born the same year as the wine’s first vintage, and honors his father, Philippe, who introduced both Charles and his sister to the wine business.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc wines are perfect coolers for hot summer weather. Their aroma, ranging from herbal greens to citrus fruits, often sporting refreshing acidity, makes them an attractive pick for a summer drink. Sauvignon Blanc is usually at its prime within a few years of its release while it still showcases its fruitful and fresh youth. This native French varietal is the main constituent of white Bordeaux wines and is widely planted in the Loire Valley, most notably in the regions of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé.

The Seresin estate in New Zealand produces wines from organic and biodynamic vineyards where the fruit is hand-picked and sorted. This 2009 Seresin Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough ($45) embraces typical traits of Marlborough, with herbal and floral flavors and underlying minerality. The fruit flavors, especially gooseberry, and complexity give way to a drawn out finish of juicy citrus.

We have another New Zealand wine for you! 2010 Craggy Range Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Te Muna Road Vineyard Martinborough ($19) is great to drink now, with herbal and lime aromas and a hint of vanilla. The concentrated fruit flavors balance out with the citrus-like acidity. This drinks well as an aperitif or with lighter and fresh foods such as salads.

While we love New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, we’ll always have a taste for those from the Loire Valley. Pascal Jolivet is one of the Loire’s youngest estates producing exceptional Sauvignon Blancs.  Established in 1987, Domaine Pascal Jolivet is devoted to natural winemaking and sustainable techniques.  Based in Sancerre, the estate owns over 70 acres of the best vineyards in the appellations of Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé.  The 2009 Pascal Jolivet Sauvignon Blanc Attitude ($17) offers floral and citrus aromas, bright acidity and minerality on the palate.  This delightful wine drinks like a Sancerre at half the price.

This 2010 Gerard et Pierre Morin Sancerre Vieilles Vignes ($22) is a great Sancerre which I recently had the privilege of tasting. It offers aromas of citrus fruit zest and freshly cut grass, both scents reminiscent of summer days. The wine tastes ripe, tight, and crisp with good minerality.

Chardonnay

Chardonnay is the chameleon of the grape varietals, thriving in a range of climates and crafted in a variety of styles. Relatively neutral in character, Chardonnay is easily influenced by its environment and the winemaker’s techniques.  For these reasons, it is one of the most popular and widely planted white wine grapes in the world.  Native to France’s Burgundy, Chardonnay is the only grape variety permissible in Chablis and one of three grapes varieties used in Champagne.  Outside of France, Chardonnay has flourished in the New World wine regions, growing happily in California, Chile, South Africa, Australia and beyond.

Chablis is always a refreshing choice for summertime and perfect for pairing with lighter dishes, especially seafoods.  The 2009 Domaine William Fevre Chablis Montee de Tonnerre ($38) is representative of elegance and finesse with notes of fruit blossom and the great combination of smokiness and minerality on the palate, which leads to a powerful finish. This premier cru is terroir-driven and expressive, as most Domaine Fevre wines aim to be.

This 2006 Maison Deux Montille Soeur et Frère Saint-Aubin sur Gamay ($32) is a premier cru from St Aubin in the Burgundy region. The estate is run by two siblings with vineyards located mostly in the Côte de Beaune region in 20 appellations. This particular Chardonnay offers lemony stone flavors that are round and focused with aromas of pear, minerals, and white flower.

This 2009 Domaine Bouchard Pere et Fils Meursault Genevrieres ($79) is great for any seafood dish especially with a butter or sorrel sauce. Coming from Domaine Bouchard, the estate is one of the most renowned in Burgundy and has a reputation for producing exceptional wines. This particular Chardonnay is silky with citrus and floral flavors and a very smooth finish. This wine is great to drink today or to let age for the medium-term.

Now let’s head over to the new world with New Zealand’s 2008 Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay Auckland ($32) offering sweeter exotic fruit aromas such as passion fruit and mango, with hints of toasted hazelnuts. This Chardonnay is crisp and tight with concentrated flavors and can be enjoyed now or until 2016. The estate is run successfully by the three Brajkovich brothers, and managed by their mother Melba, who is not only the head of the household, but head of the winery as well.

Another Chardonnay that we’ve fallen for this year is from a fantastic South African producer with a rich history, Glenelly Wine Estate. Located in Stellenbosch, the estate’s heritage goes back to the 17th century.  May-Eliane de Lencquesaing purchased the property in 2003, after running the famed Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande for 30 years prior.  May de Lencquesaing is renowned for the wines of her Pauillac Grand Cru Classé Chateau and has upheld the same level of excellence at Glenelly. The 2010 Glenelly Chardonnay The Glass Collection Stellenbosch ($14) showcases the exceptional quality and value coming from this estate.

Unique Summer Wines

If you love Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley as much as we do, François Chidaine’s Vouvrays are not to be missed.  Crafted in a range of styles from bone dry to sweet, Chidaine’s Vouvrays share an ethereal, elegant quality and great complexity.  This summer we’re sipping Chidaine’s dry style – the 2009 Francois Chidaine Vouvray Clos Baudoin ($25). If you’re looking for a more sweet-styled Chenin Blanc, we suggest the 2003 Domaine Huet Vouvray Cuvee Constance 500 ml ($89) which showcases dried fruit aromas and flavors with a refreshing touch of acidity in the lengthy finish. This is a sweet wine that can be enjoyed now until 2030.

Breggo Cellars’ extraordinary white wines from unique varietals (Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Riesling) places this Northern Californian producer on our summertime favorites list.  The 2009 Breggo Cellars Gewurztraminer Anderson Valley ($25) is exotic and enticing with opulent aromas of orange zest, lychee, honeysuckle and rose.  Elegant and refreshing on the palate, bright tropical flavors mingle with zippy acidity and a long, lovely finish.

Now how about a combination of two of our favorite style summer wines, rosé and sparkling, for a rosé champagne! NV Varnier-Fanniere Champagne Brut Rosé Grand Cru ($58) is great served as an aperitif to accompany prosciutto or smoked salmon hors d’oeuvres, with berry or chocolate-based desserts, or even meat dishes. This energetic champagne offers great citrus and red fruit flavors, finishing off with a spiced ending. Definitely crisp and refreshing!

Another sparkler that is undoubtedly very enjoyable is our beloved Prosecco.  Both the NV Lamberti Prosecco Extra Dry ($16) and the NV Mionetto Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG ($18) are great accompaniments for salads, seafood or simply as aperitifs. Chill one of these Proseccos down and enjoy the bubbly!

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Summer Wines: What to Drink All Summer Long

Cool off with crisp, refreshing summer wines!

Memorial Day has always been one of my favorite holiday weekends, the unofficial start of the summer season. The official turning of the season may be a few weeks away still, but these long, hot sunny days and warm, pleasant nights sure have me fooled, and I couldn’t be more thankful.  It’s time to break out the whites in our wardrobe and to fill our glasses with light, bright, refreshing summer wines.

Here at Wine Cellarage, we’ve compiled a selection of great summer wines that we’re thrilled to share with you.  These wines have been chosen for their excellent quality and great value. They are sure to keep you cool and quenched all season long without draining your summer vacation fund!  There are certain wines that go hand-in-hand with the summer season, classic choices that will never go out of style, including Rosé, Prosecco, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.  In addition to these classics, we’ve added some slightly more unusual wines to our summer wine collection.  Among them, delicious Chenin Blancs from the Loire Valley, a Gewurztraminer from Northern California and a fantastic Methode Traditionelle sparkler from New Zealand.

Our homage to the summer season doesn’t stop with our exciting portfolio of summery wines.  This year, we’ve partnered with Eating Vine, a new recipe sharing and wine pairing community, to create three different Summer Wine Packs. Each pack is an intriguing wine tasting adventure, filled with six carefully selected wines from Wine Cellarage and paired with amazing recipes from Eating Vine!

Our Summer Wine Packs are a great way to stock-up on crisp, cooling summer wines, such as Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Prosecco and even Champagne.  Perfect for picnics, parties and gifts, the delicious recipe pairings will make entertaining easy, breezy and elegant all summer long.

Here’s a closer look at our summer wine collection…

Rosé

There’s no better way to welcome the warm weather and to kick off the summer ahead than by opening the season’s first bottle of crisp, refreshing berry-scented rosé. Rosé is the ideal wine for summer barbecue’s and parties.  Incredibly food friendly, Julia Child put it best when she said, “Rosés can be served with anything!” As you gear up for summer entertaining, don’t forget the rosé!  Perfect pairings include barbecue flavors, sausage, hamburgers, and just about anything on the grill – veggies, fish, shrimp, pork and so on.  And of course, fresh salads and side dishes get along incredibly well with this cool, crisp rosy wine!

One of the best rosé values out there comes to us from an award-winning South African producer, Mulderbosch Vineyards. Renowned as one of the country’s very best white wine producers, Mulderbosch makes two highly regarded reds and an excellent 100% Cabernet Sauvignon rosé.  The 2010 Mulderbosch Vineyards Rosé Stellenbosch ($12) is a delicious, refreshing rosé, showcasing complex aromas and flavors of rose petals, lime zest and wild strawberry.

The 2010 Domaine Saint Ser Cotes de Provence Saint Victoire Rosé Prestige ($21) is an elegant rosé, offering lovely aromas of wild red berries, hints of watermelon and lemon zest; a perfect pairing for traditional Provencal meals like Bouillabaisse.  This wine definitely has the structure to stand up to substantial dishes.  (I paired this with grilled sausage and peppers last weekend and it was wonderful!)  The Domaine Saint-Ser is located in the Saint Victoire sub-appellation of the Côtes de Provence and is home to a small number of elite producers.

The 2010 Bieler Père et Fils Sabine Rosé Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence ($14) is the perfect summertime quaff, showing aromas and flavors of raspberry, cherry and wild strawberry, along with racy minerality and bright acidity.  You’ll want to drink this rosé every chance you get this summer.  Charles Bieler has been crafting his delicious Provençal rosé for the last 5 years. Named for his daughter, Sabine, who was born the same year as the wine’s first vintage, this rosé honors Charles’ father, Philippe, who introduced he and his sister to the wine business.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blancs are the perfect coolers for hot summer weather. Their vibrant, zesty character, citrus aromas, herbal notes and crisp acidity make them a classic choice for summertime imbibing.  Sauvignon Blanc is best consumed within a few years of its release, while youthful, fruity and refreshing.  This native French varietal is the main constituent of white Bordeaux and is widely planted in the Loire Valley, most notably in the regions of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé.

This year we can’t get enough of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  Craggy Range wine estate makes one of our favorite Sauvignon Blancs.  Owned and operated by the Peabody family, Craggy Range specializes in exceptional single-vineyard wines that are true to their terroir.  The 2009 Te Muna Road Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc ($19) is from their Te Muna Road Vineyard in Martinborough and is produced from vines that grow on stony, limestone-rich soils.  Minimal cellar intervention results in an elegant Sauvignon Blanc with a delicate, soft texture and mineral undertones.

Another favorite from New Zealand is the 2010 Cloudy Bay Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc ($27).  Located in the Wairau Valley of Marlborough, Cloudy Bay’s vineyards benefit from the cool, maritime climate bestowed by the South Pacific. This sustainable, environmentally conscious wine estate single-handedly pushed Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc into the spotlight.  Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc delivers classic characteristics of ripe lime and grapefruit, along with a remarkable tropical medley of papaya, mango, orange blossom and gooseberry. Vibrant and refreshing, this is just what the doctor ordered on a hot summer afternoon and makes an ideal accompaniment for the fresh flavors, herbs and spices of Asian cuisine.

While we love New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, we’ll always have a taste for those from the Loire Valley. Pascal Jolivet is one of the Loire’s youngest estates producing exceptional Sauvignon Blancs.  Established in 1987, Domaine Pascal Jolivet is devoted to natural winemaking and sustainable techniques.  Based in Sancerre, the estate owns over 70 acres of the best vineyards in the appellations of Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé.  The 2009 Pascal Jolivet Sauvignon Blanc Attitude ($17) offers floral and citrus aromas, bright acidity and minerality on the palate.  This delightful wine drinks like a Sancerre at half the price.

If it is true Sancerre that you’re after, the 2010 Domaine des Vieux Pruniers Sancerre Blanc ($20) is a wonderful, affordable option.  Domaine des Vieux-Pruniers is located in the village of Bué, a few short miles from Sancerre.  Here the grapes grow on incredibly steep, hillside vineyards renowned for their limestone-rich soils.  This is a quintessential Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc – clean and pure, showing aromas of citrus fruit and blossoms, zesty lime and orange flavors and brisk minerality that lingers on the palate.

Chardonnay

Chardonnay is the chameleon of the grape varietals, thriving in a range of climates and crafted in a variety of styles. Relatively neutral in character, Chardonnay is easily influenced by its environment and the winemaker’s techniques.  For these reasons, it is one of the most popular and widely planted white wine grapes in the world.  Native to France’s Burgundy, Chardonnay is the only grape variety permissible in Chablis and one of three grapes varieties used in Champagne.  Outside of France, Chardonnay has flourished in the New World wine regions, growing happily in California, Chile, South Africa, Australia and beyond.

Chablis is always a refreshing choice for summertime and perfect for pairing with lighter dishes, especially seafoods.  The 2009 Domaine Gilbert Picq et Ses Fils Chablis Vieilles Vignes ($25), made from fifty year old vines, is a classic Chablis with plenty of zippy minerality and pure fruit character.

The 2009 Bouchard Pere et Fils Bourgogne Blanc ($18) is a great summer Chardonnay from Burgundy – lively and fresh, offering pear and peach aromas and a smooth texture with just a touch of oak.  The Bouchard Bourgogne Blanc is an ideal accompaniment for grilled seafood, shellfish and poultry dishes.

Another Chardonnay that we’ve fallen for this year is from a fantastic South African producer with a rich history, Glenelly Wine Estate. Located in Stellenbosch, the estate’s heritage goes back to the 17th century.  May-Eliane de Lencquesaing purchased the property in 2003, after running the famed Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande for 30 years prior.  May de Lencquesaing is renowned for the wines of her Pauillac Grand Cru Classé Chateau and has upheld the same level of excellence at Glenelly. The 2010 Glenelly Chardonnay The Glass Collection Stellenbosch ($14) showcases the exceptional quality and value coming from this estate.

Unique Summer Wines

If you love Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley as much as we do, François Chidaine’s Vouvrays are not to be missed.  Crafted in a range of styles from bone dry to sweet, Chidaine’s Vouvrays share an ethereal, elegant quality and great complexity.  This summer we’re sipping Chidaine’s dry styles – the 2009 Francois Chidaine Vouvray Clos Baudoin ($25) and the 2009 Francois Chidaine Vouvray Les Argiles ($23), which are enchanting now and will age gracefully for years to come.

Breggo Cellars’ extraordinary white wines from unique varietals (Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Riesling) places this Northern Californian producer on our summertime favorites list.  The 2009 Breggo Cellars Gewurztraminer Anderson Valley ($27) is exotic and enticing with opulent aromas of orange zest, lychee, honeysuckle and rose.  Elegant and refreshing on the palate, bright tropical flavors mingle with zippy acidity and a long, lovely finish.  Only 398 cases made!

On of the best value sparkling wines we’ve come across is the NV Quartz Reef Sparkling Methode Traditonelle ($28) from Central Otago, New Zealand.  Blended from 76% Pinot Noir and 24% Chardonnay, this is a beautiful, brisk and refreshing sparkling wine that you’ll want to enjoy poolside, dockside and just about everywhere else you go this summer.

When we think of summertime sparkling wine, we think Prosecco.  Both the NV Lamberti Prosecco Extra Dry ($14) and the 2009 Bisol Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Crede ($20) are amazing!  When looking for the ideal wine to pop open on a hot Saturday afternoon, you can’t go wrong with either of these delightful, summery Proseccos.

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New Zealand: An Intriguing Young World of Wine

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc picnic on the shore of Lake Wanaka, Otago, South Island.

All of these gray, early April days have me longing for the sunshine more than ever.  For me, nothing invokes the spirit of summer like certain wines, and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is one of them.  This bright, vibrant wine, with invigorating tropical fruit aromas and zippy, refreshing qualities immediately conjures memories of hot, sunny days and warm, pleasant evenings.  Thoughts of this distinctive Sauvignon Blanc, the wine that New Zealand has become most associated with for better or worse, got me thinking about the country as a whole, and more specifically its wine industry and individual regions.  New Zealand’s wine industry has had a tumultuous, albeit short, history and is one of the most interesting New World wine regions to explore in depth.

New Zealand Wine History: Challenges & Triumphs

Still very much in its youth, New Zealand’s wine industry was born less than 200 years ago, in 1819.  We can thank the British missionaries of that era for recognizing New Zealand’s various and textured landscapes as viable grape growing territories.  The Reverend Samuel Marsden was the first among them to plant vines, in the aforementioned year, choosing a site on the northeast coast of the country’s North Island (now the Northland wine region).  In 1836, the British expat James Busby started a vineyard near Marsden’s location, began making wine and sold it to British troops.  Since its early days, the wine industry has experienced many ups and downs, and has had to compete with the country’s taste for beer, consumption of which far exceeds that of wine.

Despite New Zealand’s relatively isolated location, the same pestilences that have ravaged the rest of the world’s wine regions have made their way here and had destructive affects on the vines.  During the late 19th century, phylloxera, the insatiable louse that feeds on vine roots, and powdery mildew, the vicious fungal disease that attacks grapevines, caused major damage to New Zealand’s young vineyards.  In response to these pests, New Zealand’s winemakers planted resistant American hybrids.  Since the 1960s, these vines have gradually been replaced with European vinifera grafted to phylloxera-resistant American rootstock, which has long been the wine world’s solution to the devastating louse.

Subsequent to the damages caused by natural pests, New Zealand’s budding wine industry met with additional challenges in the form of the country’s temperance movement, prohibition and post-World War economic depression.  On the bright side, all of the lows in the country’s wine trade have been matched with periods of growth and success, including government restrictions on wine imports, which began in 1958 and encouraged national support of the industry.  Soon after, restaurants were given permission to sell wine, followed by the issuance of a BYO license, permitting restaurant patrons to bring their own wine.  These legislative changes significantly boosted wine sales and, in the face of hardship, New Zealand’s wine industry has prevailed!

Geography & Climate

New Zealand is the most southern of the world’s wine regions and its location in the South Pacific Ocean provides a moderating maritime climate.  The surrounding ocean currents bring about mild winters and relatively cool summers.  During the hottest days of summer, the nights in New Zealand are cool, producing grapes with consistently high levels of acidity.  Together, the North and South Islands span a remarkable range of climates and geographical differences.  For starters, the North Island is much warmer than the South Island.  The country’s topography ranges from gravelly, alluvial valleys to rich, green pasturelands.

Due to frequent rainfall, New Zealand is a lush, green country for the most part, which is great for grazing cattle, but not always so good for vineyards.  In soils where excess moisture cannot drain properly, vigorous leaf growth and dense vine canopies have been a major issue, resulting in wines with green, vegetal flavors.  All of the verdant vine growth shades the inner grape bunches, preventing them from ripening and encouraging the spread of fungal diseases.  It wasn’t until the 1980s, when Dr. Richard Smart served as government viticulturist and taught canopy management techniques, that the affected vineyards took a leap in quality.  As a result, New Zealand viticulturists are the authority on the topic of canopy management.

Wine Regions of New Zealand

New Zealand’s wine regions are each unique, producing signature wines with distinctive qualities.  From north to south, the major regions are Northland, Auckland, Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa (including Martinborough), Nelson, Marlborough, Canterbury (including Waipara) and Central Otago.

North Island Regions

Northland is located at the northern most tip of the North Island and is where vines were first planted in New Zealand.  The climate here is warm, damp and fair, which hasn’t been so advantageous for the region.  The warmth and wet weather are breeding grounds for rot, getting in the way of quality wine production, although there have been some success stories here.

Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city and the vintners here make wines from grapes that are brought in from all over the country, making it the most diversified region of production.

Located on the east coast of the North Island, Gisborne once had an unappealing reputation for producing bulk wine.  Now the region is known for producing supple, peach and pineapple inflected Chardonnays.  Gisborne’s vintners are indeed proud and have dubbed the region the Chardonnay Capital of the country.  Within the region, the runner-up to Chardonnay is Gewurztraminer.

South of Gisborne, on the North Island’s east coast, Hawke’s Bay is one of New Zealand most prized wine regions, producing exceptional Bordeaux-style blends of Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.  These Merlot blends have rich black currant flavors and delicate herbal notes.  Chardonnay is the co-staring varietal of the region, with a signature concentrated citrus fruit character and resounding elegance.  The Sauvignon Blancs from this area also have a distinctive flavor profile, tasting of nectarines and peaches.  In addition to Merlot and Chardonnay, Syrah is an up-and-comer here, gradually becoming more widely planted and having great potential within the region.

Hawke’s Bay encompasses an array of terrains and soil types, from coastal mountains to fertile, gravelly flatlands, and gets more hours of sunshine than the rest of the country.  The region’s gravel soils support water drainage and cause water stress, which is actually a good thing for grape quality.  Stressed vines lead to more intense and complex flavors in the grapes, resulting in better wines.  Conversely, the more fertile areas of the region, consisting of alluvial and gravel soils, contend with vigorous vine growth and require more canopy management.

The most famous area within Hawke’s Bay is the Gimblett Gravels district.  The deep gravelly-shingle soils here are renowned for producing arguably the country’s very best Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots.  One of the area’s noteworthy wineries is Te Awa, a single-vineyard estate situated in the heart of the Gimblett Gravels.  If you’d like to experience the signature wines of Hawke’s Bay and Gimblett Gravels, we recommend trying both the 2007 Te Awa Cabernet Merlot and the 2007 Te Awa Syrah!

In the southern part of the North Island lies the Wairarapa region, including the Martinborough sub-region, which is home to small boutique wineries that have remained committed to making wines of the highest quality.  Both Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon do well in this elite wine region.

Dry River is one of Martinborough’s finest wine estates, consistently crafting cellar-worthy wines that reflect the vineyard sites from which they come.  A few favorites include the 2008 Dry River Chardonnay, the 2008 Dry River Pinot Noir and the 2009 Dry River Craighall Riesling.

Craggy Range wine estate, owned and operated by the Peabody family, specializes in exceptional single-vineyard wines that are true to their terroir. The highly rated 2008 Craggy Range Vineyards Pinot Noir Te Muna Road Vineyard is a wonderful example of Martinborough Pinot Noir, showing aromas of dark fruit and violet, flavors of rich, ripe raspberry, silken tannins, impeccable balance and finesse.

South Island Regions

Traveling further south and leaving the North Island behind, we reach the South Island’s most northern wine region, Nelson, where fifteen wineries lie amidst picturesque undulating hills.  Here Sauvignon Blanc rules over Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as the leading grape variety.

Next up on the South Island is Marlborough, New Zealand’s largest wine region and home to the Cloudy Bay wine estate, which single-handedly pushed Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc into the spotlight.  Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc delivers quintessential characteristics of ripe lime and grapefruit, along with a remarkable tropical medley of papaya, mango, orange blossom and gooseberry. Vibrant and refreshing, this is just what the doctor ordered on a hot summer afternoon and makes an ideal accompaniment for the fresh, bright flavors of Asian cuisine or mussels steamed with white wine and herbs.

Located on the South Island’s central coast is the region of Canterbury, including the Waipara sub-region.  Here the cooler weather is a great fit for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, along with long-established cool climate lover’s Riesling and Pinot Gris.

Last but not least, we come to Central Otago, the world’s most southern vineyard area!  Here the climate is continental and the region experiences unpredictable temperature fluctuations on a daily basis, as well as from season to season.  The vineyards of Central Otago are planted on hillsides to increase sun exposure and decrease the threat of frost.  One of New Zealand’s developing wine regions, the growth of Central Otago viticulture has been astounding.  Pinot Noir accounts for three-quarters of the region’s wine production and is the star of the show!  Showing a rich, fruit-forward character, Central Otago’s Pinots have caught the eye of the wine world and have garnered great recognition for New Zealand red wine as a whole.  One of our favorite Central Otago wineries is Mt. Difficulty, which owns some of the region’s oldest vineyards and produces exceptional Pinot Noirs, Sauvignon Blancs and Rieslings.  We’re big fans of the 2008 Mt. Difficulty Pinot Noir Roaring Meg Central Otago, the 2008 Mt. Difficulty Riesling Roaring Meg Central Otago and just in time for summer, the 2008 Mt. Difficulty Sauvignon Blanc Central Otago!

To browse our entire selection of New Zealand fine wine, click here.

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Getting Acquainted with Bordeaux

Bordeaux vineyard overlooking the village of Saint-Émilion.

Named for the beautiful port city on the Garonne River, the Bordeaux wine region is the pinnacle of prestige, producing the most celebrated and desired wines in the world.  The region has a long and rich history of vine growing and winemaking, with written record dating back as far as the first century!  From the Atlantic Ocean, the region spreads southeast along the banks of the Gironde Estuary, eventually branching off into the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers with vineyards sprawling from their vital shores.

Situated at 45° latitude, Bordeaux has a temperate, maritime climate, due to the influence of the Gironde Estuary and the region’s close proximity to the Atlantic.  On the coast, giant sand dunes and evergreen forests aid in the moderate climate and protect the vineyards from powerful ocean winds.   All of these environmental factors combine and result in mild weather year-round.  The springs are usually pleasant with plenty of rain, ensuring water supply for the growing season, and summers are generally sunny, hot and humid.  The temperature typically remains warm with nice coastal humidity well into the fall.  This temperate climate, strongly influenced by the ocean and rivers, has the potential to vary greatly from one year to another, which is why knowledge of each vintage is so important when considering the wines of Bordeaux.

The red and white wines of Bordeaux are almost always made from a blend of different grape varietals.  The reason for this is directly related to the variant weather patterns and climatic differences between years.  The various grapes each have a different reaction to the weather, so by planting different grapes and blending their wines, winemakers can make good wine even if the weather was bad during the growing season.  The main grapes used for Bordeaux’s red wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot, and for the white wines of the region, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle.

For any wine lover, it is a worthy investment to spend some time getting acquainted with Bordeaux, its various areas and wine styles.  Not only does it produce some of the most exquisite and age-worthy wines, Bordeaux has also had an enormous influence on winemaking styles and techniques throughout the world, most notably in the “New World” regions of California, Chile, Australia and South Africa.

Areas and Appellations

Bordeaux is divided into three main areas: the Left Bank, the Right Bank, and the area between the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers, called Entre-Deux-Mers (meaning ‘between two seas’).  There are three levels of Appellation Contrôlée (AC) status in Bordeaux.  The Generic AC status is at the base of the pyramid and can be given to wines produced anywhere in Bordeaux.  Generic appellations include Bordeaux AC and Bordeaux Supérieur AC.  District AC is the next step up and can sometimes be the highest status possible for certain areas, such as Entre-Deux-Mers.  A District AC can encompass multiple Commune ACs.  For example, the Haut-Médoc is a District ACs, which covers a handful of the most prestigious communes.  Commune AC status is at the top of the pyramid and is the highest designation in Bordeaux.  The only exception is Saint-Émilion Grand Cru AC, which is superior to the commune status of Saint-Émilion AC.

The Left Bank

The Left Bank of Bordeaux hugs the western shores of the Gironde Estuary and the Garonne River.  This area is divided into three main district appellations, from north to south: Médoc, Haut-Médoc and Graves.  The Médoc AC and the Haut-Médoc AC lie west of the Gironde, and the Graves AC is south of the city of Bordeaux and lies west of the Garonne.

The Left Bank is renowned for long-lived, red wine blends in which Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant grape varietal, and Merlot and Cabernet Franc make up a lesser proportion.  Cabernet Sauvignon thrives in the gravel and clay soils of the Left Bank, which support water drainage, and the very best wines come from the vineyards with more gravel content.  Five commune appellations are famous for producing some of the finest Cabernet blends in the world:  Saint-Estèphe, Pauillac, Saint-Julien and Margaux within Haut-Médoc, and Pessac-Léognan in Graves.

The Left Bank is also home to the infamous white wine appellations, Sauternes and Barsac, known for their sublime botrytis-affected dessert wines.  These luscious, sweet wines are made from a blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc.  The Sémillon grape is thin-skinned and therefore highly susceptible to botrytis mold under the right conditions – misty and humid autumn weather.  These grapes are carefully hand-harvested and produce luxuriant, sweet wines that are high in refreshing acidity.

The Right Bank

The Right Bank of Bordeaux lies east of the Gironde Estuary and the Dordogne River. Here, Merlot and Cabernet Franc are the main grape varieties, with small amounts of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon grown as well.   This area is home to the important commune appellations of Saint-Émilion, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru, Pomerol, Fronsac and Canon-Fronsac.

Saint-Émilion, the namesake of the charming, picturesque town is the most significant of these appellations.  Within Saint-Émilion, the vineyards cover a range of soils and produce a variety of wine styles.  The appellation can be divided into three different areas, each with a special soil type.  To the northwest, the gravel and limestone soils are more conducive to Cabernet Franc vines.  To the southeast, the elevated plateau has high limestone content and produces the finest Merlot dominated blends. Many of the wines classified as prestigious Saint-Émilion Grand Cru come from the limestone rich vineyards of these two areas.  These wines are marked by complex red berry qualities, opulent tannins and cedar notes that develop with age. The third growing area is located at the base of the elevated plateau and is composed of sandy soils.  The wines from this area are lighter-bodied with relatively lower price tags.

The Pomerol appellation lies in close proximity to Saint- Émilion and boasts intriguing, rare wines that come at a higher cost.  These wines offer rich notes of blackberry and a unique spiciness.  The prestigious vineyards of Pomerol include the legendary Pétrus and Le Pin.

Finally, the Right Bank’s greatest value wines come from the appellations of Fronsac and Canon-Fronsac, which are to the west of Pomerol.

Between the Rivers

The Entre-Deux-Mers appellation lies in between the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers and produces Bordeaux’s dry white wines from Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc.  The important commune appellation of Saint-Croix-du-Mont is located here, making divine sweet wines that are similar to Sauternes.

Bordeaux’s Classification System

Bordeaux’s well-known 1855 Classification has remained intact to this day, despite many changes to the individual estates (châteaux) and their properties.  It all came about in the event of the 1855 Exposition Universelle de Paris when Napoleon III requested an official classification of Bordeaux’s best wines.  The wine brokers got together and devised a system, based on their own judgment as well as market values, which organized 61 châteaux into five classes according to importance, first through fifth growths.  Bordeaux’s Chamber of Commerce then presented the 1855 Classification at the exposition and it has been in place ever since.

Under the 1855 Classification, all of the red wines are from the Médoc appellation, with the exception of Château Haut-Brion, from Graves. It is an undertaking to memorize all of the château and their classifications, but the five First Growths (Premiers Crus) are relatively easy to remember:

Château Lafite
Château Latour
Château Margaux
Château Mouton-Rothschild (classified as Second Growth until 1973)
Château Haut-Brion (Graves AC)

The classified white wines were all from the Sauternes appellation, with Château d’Yquem given Premier Grand Cru Classé status, followed by 11 First Growth châteaux and 14 Second Growth châteaux.

Later Classifications

In 1932, the Cru Bourgeois classification was introduced, which includes 200 plus estates and is essentially the status just below Fifth Growth.  The three Cru Bourgeois classes: Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel, Cru Bourgeois Supérieur and Cru Bourgeois, are meant to be updated every ten years or so.  The wines of Graves were classified in 1959, and, unlike the 1855 Classification, each listed wine is simply awarded Cru Classé status.

Saint-Émilion has a unique procedure in which classifications are built into the appellation system.  The Saint-Emilion Grand Cru appellation is divided into the following:  Premier Grand Cru Classé, Grand Cru Classé and Grand Cru.  Every 10 years, the châteaux in the region can submit their wine to be considered for initial Grand Cru classification or for reclassification.

Consumer Tips

As consumers setting out to explore Bordeaux, there is a wealth of knowledge to wrap our heads around.  It is important to have a general understanding of the various areas and wine styles of the region because this will help in choosing bottles that are to your taste.  For those of us who fall in love with Bordeaux, it may be worthwhile to delve a bit deeper into more specific knowledge of the great vintages, the châteaux and the classification system.

If you’re just getting acquainted, start out with a selection of red wines from both the Left Bank and Right Bank.  There are many reasonably priced Bordeaux wines out there that are perfect for exploring and comparing Cabernet Sauvignon-based Left Bank blends and Merlot-based Right Bank blends.  Pop a bottle open with your next meal, or set up a side-by-side tasting comparison of wines from the two areas.  And don’t forget to try the delicious, refreshing, dry white wines from the Entre-Deux-Mers.

CLICK HERE to browse our entire selection of wines from Bordeaux.

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