While Kevin & I are in Alaska, we've asked some friends and
colleagues to post on their wine loves, wine experiences and more. For
this post we welcome Kevin Keith, who does an excellent job of introducing himself. Thanks Kevin!
Hi y’all! My
name is Kevin Keith, and I am currently the wine buyer for Liquor Direct Wine
& Spirits, with two locations in Northern Kentucky, as well as local wine
blogger for Under The Grape
Tree. Michelle asked me to
help keep her blog going with a little post, so I tried to come up with
something that would fit with her readers, as well as not repeat anything she
or Kevin (her husband) has touched on in the past.
What I came up with is a little something that I am very
passionate about, and have had many questions on in my stores over the years,
and that is Italian wine. I tell
people who ask about Italian wine, that this subject is the hardest to teach
people on due to the overwhelming amount of information there is about the
subject. You see, while other
countries in the world dedicated specific areas of their lands to viticulture
(growing grapes), in Italy, there are vineyards everywhere, in each of the 20
regions (provinces actually), with each region as diverse as the others.
Vineyards Near Barola, Image Credit
Italy has long been in the top three in wine production,
becoming #1 in 2005 with a total of over 8.5 million metric tons that year
(over 2 million metric tons more than France!). Italy can be divided up into 4 main sections:
1. 1. Northwestern
2. 2. Northeastern
3. 3. Central
4. 4. Southern
The Northwestern portion of Italy consists of 6 regions
spanning from the greater portion of the arc of the Alps and Apennines, which
slope toward the Po River: Valle
d’Aosta, Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany. Topography, soil, climate and grape
varieties vary from one region to the next, and much of this area is considered
very prosperous, with the cities of Florence, Milan, Turin and Genoa all
inhabiting this area. A total of
27% of Italy’s wines are produced here.
The Northeastern portion of Italy is also called the Tre Venezie, or “Three Venices”. The three regions are Veneto –
the largest producer of DOC wines, Trentino-Alto Adige – which has the
highest percentage of DOC wines comparatively to total output, and
Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Together,
these 3 regions producer a total of 17% of Italy’s wines.
While Kevin & I are in Alaska, we've asked some friends and colleagues to post on their wine loves, wine experiences and more. For this post we welcome David Lazarus, another local wine blogger and soon-to-be wine shop owner. Thanks David!
The mission of the Consortium Mendocino is to increase the awareness and value of Mendocino wine and winegrape products through the production of “Coro Mendocino”, a controlled, ultra premium blended wine that reflects the quality and commitment of the Mendocino County wine industry.
Coro Mendocino in it’s simplest is a Zinfandel blend made exclusively from fruit from Mendocino and their first vintage was 2001. However there is much more to it than that. This is a dynamic style of wine which is awarded Coro status by a jury of Mendocino growers/ producers. The current vintage (06) features wines from ten wineries, while last years had eleven.
Photo from Michelle's Parducci Wine Brunch
I have tried four of the wines that have been in the Cincinnati market for the last several years and they are very good, while each unique. The Coro Consortium allows for up to nine other varietal (commonly found in Mendocino) to be blended into the finished product. The percentage of any one varietal, however cannot exceed that of Zinfandel, which must fall between 40% and 70%. These restriction are just the begining of the protocol, which is quiet specific and can be found on the web site for Coro Mendocino.
All of these wines are priced the same (the 2005’s were $37 each) and feature labels that show the winery name and information, as well as the specifics on the blend. The blends vary greatly from winery to winery and even from year to year in some cases. This is a wonderful showcase of Mendocino fruit and I consider it to have better quality control, as all wines that eventually feature the Coro badge have been peer review twice in the barrel and twice after bottling. A wine maker cannot just pay for the privilege of using the title as is the case with meritage wines.
It is rare in this part of the country to see more than a couple of these wines in stores because of twisted distribution laws. I have been able to find complete sets of Coros from SIP Mendocino in California at www.sipmendocino.com or 707-744-4375. I am a fan of anything different when it comes to wine and that puts Coros right up my alley. They are fun for the adventurous, but will surely please even the novice wine drinker with their varied complexity.
Kevin Keith of Liquor Direct emailed me this weekend to let me know he's donating a 5L bottle of Steele Syrah to our Krystal Pepper Memorial Scholarship silent auction. (Remember, that's on April 18. You can buy tickets now.)
Aside from marveling at Kevin's generosity (what a great donation!), it started me wondering on Wine Bottle sizes. They've all got Biblical names, such as Jereboam and Reheboam. I discovered that in the US, wine may be bottled in sizes larger than 3L if the capacity if in even litre sizes (4L, 5L, etc). Those additional sizes don't have fun names that I can find.
Shortly before Thanksgiving, Kevin & I spent a weekend in Knoxville, TN, for the Wines of the South competition. There were 25 judges and 433 wines. Folks, that’s a lot of wine. Wineries in thirteen states
are invited to participate:
Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, South Carolina, and Virginia.
All wines are judged blind, served in a certified tasting glass at the appropriate temperature, and ranked with the industry standard 20-point scale.
The judges were split into groups of 5 and we each had to taste, in total, a little over 100 wines. The flights were anywhere from three wines on up to flights of 24 wines. Wine judging, while fun, is actually a pretty hard business. At the end of the day, everyone pretty much wants a beer. (Read about my first experience judging.) You do get palate fatigue and no, you don’t get drunk. There’s a lot of spitting going on. I used to think I’d never judge wine professionally, but I learn so much each time that I don’t ever want to stop.
Now, because these are the Wines of the South, we tasted more than vinifera. Vinifera is your standard cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, etc, that you can find in your local wine shop. We also got to taste domestic grapes (often French-American hybrids) and fruit wines.
Champagne! In victory one deserves it; in defeat, one needs it.
– Napoleon Bonaparte
image by Flickr user Andy Ciordia via Creative Commons
In the upcoming winter issue of Taste Magazine, on news stands soon, I write about Champagne. With the election today, I thought it was the perfect time to share a small excerpt from that article. This particular excerpt is about grower Champagne – your best bet for a bargain on the real stuff.
There are a lot of sparkling wines on the market, but they aren’t all Champagne. In order to be labeled “Champagne,” the wine must come from the Champagne region of France. This region pioneered the method of making Champagne that is now used worldwide. But it is the unique terroir of the region that makes true Champagne special. The region is uniquely suited for growing the three grapes that can make up the bubbly wine: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. This northern French region is cooler, and the chalk in the soil contributes to the acidity and character of the grapes.
Large Champagne Houses, such as Taittinger or Moet & Chandon, grow some of their own grapes. However, a large percentage of their grapes are purchased from farmers throughout the Champagne region. Alternatively, grower Champagnes, often called “family fizz” or “farmer fizz,” are created by farmers who grow the grapes and tend the vineyards. Grower Champagne often meets or exceeds the quality of large House Champagne, but has a smaller price tag. Brett Davis, Sales Manager for importer/distributor Vintner Select, says that the “best values are your grower-producer Champagnes as far as quality to price ratio.”
How can you recognize a grower Champagne when you’re shopping for bubbly this holiday season? On the bottom of the front label, there will be a tiny number preceded by two letters. NM (Négociant-Manipulant) signals a larger house that purchases many of their grapes, whereas RM (Récoltant-Manipulant) tells you that the winemaker grew the grapes. According to Terry Theise, one of the leading importers of grower Champagnes, there are now nearly 180 RM Champagnes imported into the U.S, up from 33 in 1997. Grower Champagnes occupy only 2.95% of the market, presenting a great opportunity to try something new.
There’s a whole lot more to the article, so I hope you’ll pick up the issue when it’s released. In the meantime, pop open a bottle of Champagne tonight, regardless of the election results.
I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes, I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it if I am. Otherwise, I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.
– Lady Lily Bollinger, Bollinger Champagne
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