5 wines you need to try this summer

Summer is almost here and the weather is warming up. That means it’s time to shelf the heavy red wines and break out some more refreshing, crisp, higher acidity wines. We’re talking Sancerre, Rose, and Picpoul! Of course there are so many options out there, so today we wanted to share a few of our favorite must haves.

Grenache/Garnacha

If you want a red wine but don’t want something super heavy, consider a Garnacha wine. This Spanish wine is super affordable, costing usually around $10 to $20 per bottle. It’s very quaffable, and big on flavor! Still they’re rarely heavy or thick. Think fresh cherries, raspberry, red whips and strawberries!

Sancerre

Arguably the most delicious, summer friendly white wine around, and classy too! Sancerre is just Sauvignon Blanc, produced in the Loire Valley of France. While Sauv Blanc tends to be a bit thicker and riper in California, the stuff made in France is bone dry and comes with a laser acidity.

Beaujolais

Not just any Beaujolais, but a CRU! You gotta step it up if you want to get the most from this oft-maligned region. This red wine has a light body and refreshingly light fruit profile that’s perfect when the mercury starts rising.

Rose

Duh! Need we say more?

Albarino

Spain’s number one white wine deserves a spot here because it’s bracing acidity and truly represents sunlight in a bottle, in our opinion. Citrus spiked and just flat out refreshing.

 

The powerful health benefits of wine

Health fads come and go. Whether it’s Atkins/low carb diets, or sucking down gallons of bone broth, or just fasting and not eating anything at all, there’s always something new around the corner. These trends promise lots of things, but do they deliver? Who knows. It works differently for everybody, but one thing we’re pretty certain about is the health benefit of drinking wine.

Now you can’t just chug gallons of wine each day and expect miracles to happen. No, moderation is key. One or two glasses a day usually. And for the most part, red wine seems to be the big winner here. Both red and white wine have polyphenols, but red wine has the highest amounts of the real powerhouse – resveratrol.

Red wine helps keep your memory sharp, lowers blood pressure, burns fat, and basically keeps you super duper healthy.

Resveratrol is the battering ram that helps in two basic ways. One, it prevents oxidative stress in your cells. Two, it helps reduce inflammation. In fact, this almost mythical polyphenol has so many great effects on the body it’s ridiculous.

Another great reason? Red wine has continually been linked to a reduced incidence of memory loss and degradation.

Ellagic acid is another compound in red wine that helps burn fat. Here’s the rub – this compound is only found in one grape. Muscadine. And that’s not a grape you’d commonly make wine with. However, there’s good news – ellagic acid is also found in oak, which is used to age wine. So chances are if you are drinking a nicely oaked red or white wine, you’re getting a dose of this fat burner.

In addition to this short list of benefits, you’ll notice that drinking a glass of wine actually makes you more attractive. That’s because it loosens facial muscles and helps you look more relaxed.

So drink up!

5 funny wine quotes to live by

We all know wine is awesome, but how many times can you try to explain it’s incredible powers without sounding like a bit of a pompous, arrogant person? It’s easy to let your nose hit the ceiling when talking about “layers of petrichor, saline, and cassis”. That’s why today we’re going to lighten things up a bit, with a few of our favorite funny wine quotes.

Obviously there’s more funny wine memes to go around. Do you have a favorite?

Burgundy vs California: Two styles of Pinot Noir

As you probably know, Burgundy or Bourgogne is famous for two wines – Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, known as “Red Burgundy” and “White Burgundy” respectively. Some of the most treasured examples from from Burgundy’s hallowed clos, and with miniscule production levels, they’re always in high demand. But over the years other regions have shown their fortitude at producing world class Pinot Noir, among them, California, where growers from the Central Coast up to Sonoma produces a wide range of styles.

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Photo credit

Let’s explore the main differences between new world California Pinot and the old world Red Burgundy.

California Pinot Noir

In general, California wines tend to be more fruit driven, ripe, and suitable for immediate enjoyment. The climate there is warmer which helps grapes ripen quicker and to higher sugar levels. Winemakers tend to favor modern techniques, using lots of new oak, extended maceration times, and cold soaks to extract more flavor.

This Pinot, crafted by the Tensleys, shows abundant ripe fruit, polished tannins.
This Pinot, crafted by the Tensleys, shows abundant ripe fruit, polished tannins.

Burgundy’s Pinot Noir

Pinot has been a mainstay here for centuries, grown by monks in the old days. The lands were split into an impossibly large number of plots thanks to Napoleonic era land laws, and today ownership varies greatly across the region. Styles of Pinot differ quite a lot too. In the Cote d’Or which includes the Cote de Nuits and the Cote de Beaune, the vineyards hosting the world’s most prestigious and expensive grapes. Vineyards here have been rigorously divided by their slope, height, soil types and position so that the premier crus tend to be mostly located on hills and the “villages” on the flat ground. Compared to California, Pinot from here tends to have lower alcohol levels, a more earthy funk, and less pronounced red fruit.

Resources:

Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burgundy_wine

Finding affordable Burgundy wine

The Burgundy wine market is a bit of a minefield. You have small allocations of very high priced wines from the precious Grand Crus, and beneath that you have a derth of lower priced and often uninspired quality wines from the villages. Where is the balance you ask?

Well, with the holiday season here, we found ourselves paying a lot of money for all sorts of things – a new 4k flat screen tv from Vizio, a replacement hot tub cover for $300, increased heating bills, and so on. This is a common thread during the holiday season. Naturally you want to supplement special dinners from Thanksgiving to Christmas with great wines. So where do you find a killer bottle of Burg?

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Finding a great quality to price ratio isn’t easy in the most prestigious French wine regions Photo credit

Avoid the Grand Crus

This probably goes without saying, but Burgundy and “affordable” are rarely seen in the same context, but if you know where to look you can find some great values. While Bordeaux and exclusive Napa Cabs seem to be stuck in a holding pattern of prices, Burgundy continues to soar upward every year. To start, you probably want to avoid any wines labeled with the generic, all-encompassing “Bourgogne” designation, which is meant for the lowest rung. Instead, try to find something with a specific region – Cote d’Or or Challonais on the bottle. This great article in the Wall St. Journal explores the subject in more depth. Then you should look for any bottle with a specific village designation – i.e.

Five picks:

  • 2013 Domain Dureuil-Janthial Vauvry Rully Premier Cru ($36)
  • 2014 Patrick Piuze Terroir de Chablis ($22)
  • Domaine Claudie Jobard, Montagne La Folie, Rully 2014
  • Domaine Jean-Philippe Fichet, Vieilles Vignes, Bourgogne 2014
  • Domaine Lebreuil, Aux Grands Liards, Savigny-lès-Beaune 2014

Natural spotlight: The Magic Flight Launch Box

Here in Burgundy, we take pride in tending to the land the way it was meant to be – that means using minimal intervention, zero pesticides or fertilizers, and practicing sustainable, organic growing methods. We feel a kinship with nature, and admire others who take that approach with their products. One such product is the Magic Flight Launch Box, a portable vaporizer designed with elegance and simplicity in mind.

brightidea_w__62868-1456333315-220-290Magic Flight was started by a young man who studied philosophy. He brings that approach to the launch box, and each one has a unique aphorism printed on the back. Every MFLB is crafted by hand by their team in San Diego.

“The Launch Box is believed to be that ‘one simple idea’ whose time has come to create the next ‘right step’ in the evolution of human relationships…We view our vaporizer as a manifestation and symbol of our love, enabling so many people to literally breathe easier every day. “

The name “magic” brings connotations of the spirit that guides their company’s philosophy. Same goes for “flight” which brings the idea of freedom into the picture. Everything they do seems to revolve around this spirit, even the logo brings to mind the idea of vapor flowing through the air.

Is there another company out there that brings such a complete metaphysical vision to their product? We aren’t sure. Visit their website to learn more. Not sure the MFLB is for you? Try something with a bit more power – check out this list of the best vaporizers of 2016 for more ideas.

The time someone tried to poison DRC’s legendary vines

Growers in Burgundy are at tight knit bunch. They stick together, steadfast in their desire to preserve the land which serves as a foundation for their vineyards. Of all the producers, Domaine Romanee-Conti remains the figurehead, the big dog so to speak, of the area. Their world famous Pinot Noir fetches insanely high prices on the secondary market and continues to be the pinnacle for wine collectors around the world.

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So in Vosne-Romanée, the historic and sleepy little town, where a long history of growing wine springs from, it was a surprise when someone declared they might poison or steal the sacred vines of DRC. At first, they thought it was a joke. Who in their right mind would make such a threat?

Then they got the note. Aubert de Villaine realized it was no joke. They were asking for $1 million dollars ransom. The Romanee-Conti vineyard is the most sacred vineyard in the entire world, one that yields a tiny 500 cases of wine each year. That’s just 1/50th the total production of mammoth producer Lafite in Bordeaux for comparison.

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Photo credit

It’s no wonder their wines fetch insanely high prices. If you can penetrate the world of futures and collectible wines, you will likely pay at least $5,000 for a bottle. And in some cases, much more. Some magnums have fetched 30,000+ at auctions in Hong Kong.

MANY PEOPLE COME TO VISIT THIS SITE AND WE UNDERSTAND. WE ASK YOU NEVERTHELESS TO REMAIN ON THE ROAD AND REQUEST THAT UNDER NO CONDITION YOU ENTER THE VINEYARD. THANK YOU FOR YOUR COMPREHENSION.

The Cote d’Or, or “Gold Slope” as it’s known has been home to the world’s most revered vines for centuries, since the monks planted them and made wine in the same parcel of land.  So on that morning, when Aubert received a package on his home doorstep and opened it, he found an incredibly detailed map of the 4+ acres of vineyards. It was remarkably accurate, even describing the placement of some 20,000 rootstocks. Whoever sent the threat knew their stuff.

The note went on to suggest that 82 vines had already been poisoned, with X’s marking their graves. It also hinted that far more would be poisoned, and that an antidote existed. When he called the police to investigate, they found a syringe had been used to poison the vines. A curious thing, since that same tool was used by many winemakers to inject liquid carbon disulfide into the vineyards to prevent disease.

So whoever made this threat apparently knew a great deal about his vineyards, and about winemaking itself. The final note demanded the total ransom be dropped off discretely inside a certain cemetary in Chambolle-Musigny. On one fateful night, an employee of DRC walked there with a suitcase of fake euros and left it.

Not long after leaving the money, the police noticed a man walking into the cemetary to retrieve the money. They arrested him promptly. His name was Jacques Soltys. Turns out this wasn’t his first scam. A lifelong delinquent from Épernay, near Champagne, this man had turned to extortion to make his ends meet. Before he could stand trial, Jacques was found dead in his cell, hanging from a noose.

This story originally appeared in Vanity Fair.

2016 Harvest Report in Burgundy

2016 saw mother nature deal a bad hand to Burgundy. Constant storms, hail, frost, and every other imaginable problem made for a rough year and many vineyards suffered at the hands of foul weather. However, harvest has come and gone again, and growers and vintners are making the best of a difficult situation.

  • Total harvest was down 20-30% compared to last year
  • A mixture of hail, mildew, and frost completely decimated some vineyards
  • They saw the worst frost since 1981, with temps dropping to around 21 degrees

The result? Some predict a sharp increase in prices for Chablis and other red Burgundy. Quality will be marginal to good depending on the skill of the winemaker and the overall quality of the grapes. Still, it looks like a minefield in terms of finding great bottles from the 2016 vintage. Only time will tell though.

On a bright note, some growers are reporting better than expected harvest quality thanks to better weather toward the tail end of the harvest. While Chablis might be the hardest hit area, other regions, especially the Cote d’Or seem to have fared better.

Some growers in Chablis have even employed “hail cannons” in an attempt to prevent hail from destroying further crops. This sort of surface to air attack has a very specific weapon. “What they do is spray silver iodide into the storm clouds to prevent hailstones from solidifying.” reports Gueguen.

Improved weather in Echezeaux made for a bright ending to the year
Improved weather in Echezeaux made for a bright ending to the year. © BIVB/Ibanez, A.
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Vines prepare for domancy after a rough year. Photo credit: Burgundy Diary
Floods don't help either.
Floods don’t help either.
Harsh frosts early in the vintage
Harsh frosts early in the vintage
Credit: Frederic Billet / @fredericbillet1 / Twitter
Credit: Frederic Billet / @fredericbillet1 / Twitter

This week in Burgundy wine news

For a small region, much has been happening lately in Burgundy. Harvest has ended, and winemakers are busying themselves preparing this year’s harvest.

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Harvest thefts are on the rise in Burgundy – according to thelocal.fr an increase in thieves have been pilfering grapes left on the vines.

Overall harvest levels are down 20+ percent thanks to early frosts that prevented strong growth in the early season, and the usual bouts of bad weather that growers fear.

Burgundy producers continue to make for attractive investments and we just saw Maison Chamby sold to France’s AdVini.

The “holy grail” of wine, a 1978 Romanee-Conti, sold for a record busting $18,000 per bottle at a recent auction in NYC.

The supermarket chain Raley’s was awarded “wine enthusiasts retailer of the year” thanks in part to their ability to source some elusive and rare vintages of Burgundy wine.

Last Bottle Wines takes a closer look at the Chardonnay grape, one of the premier varietals grown in Burgundy.

About the “clos” in Burgundy

Some of the most expensive, most renowned, and treasured wines in the entire world originate in the sacred land of Burgundy, France. When it comes to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, few other regions bring the prestige that places like Clos St. Denis, Echezeaux, and Gevrey-Chambertin do.

Burgundy is a complicated place though, thanks to age old land inheritance laws that split the region into hundreds of “clos” – tiny vineyards outlined by rock walls. It’s not uncommon to find one family owning a single row of vines, sharing a small clos with a dozen other families.

The word “clos” comes from the French word for “closure”. Some famous clos in Burgundy include

  • Clos de Tart – famous for Pinot Noir. Located in the Cote de Nuits region.
  • Clos de la Roche
  • Clos St. Denis
  • La Romanee
  • Clos du Val

Although many of the vineyards in these clos are owned by small families, who have maintained them for decades, we’ve seen some big players enter the area recently. For example, LVMH just bought Clos des Lambrays, a famous Grand Cru vineyard. This behavior has been driven by the strong consumer demand for Burgundy wine. With such limited space, it’s no wonder the demand remains high, even as countless other regions around the world expand their wine production.