Saturday, January 4, 2014

Do You Live Near Boston? Want To Learn About Wine?

Boston Massachusetts:

Tour de France - Exploring the Wines of France   Thursdays  April 24 through May 15 6:30-8:30pm (4 weeks, 2 hour classes)  price: $250 ($62.50 per class). This includes cheese and gourmet nibbly plates, six or more wines to taste from various regions per session, and instruction and discussion led my me, Marc Soucy. Remove your questions and apprehension about understanding one of France's pride and joys: It's wine industry. Learn to read the labels, better understand what you like, and how to connect the dots. French wines are arguably among the best wines to enjoy with a meal, and this course will explain why. This 4-week course is very friendly for wine lovers with little or no experience with French wine, and is a great way to skyrocket your own knowledge. Many of the concepts are applicable to the rest of the world's wines also. I am a certified FWS (French Wine Society) and have become the Boston Wine School's point person where this area is concerned. I really enjoy spreading the word, so to speak.

visit the Boston Wine School's website for additional info and to sign up:

Feel free to ask me any questions, and I'll be sure to answer asap.

Also please remember I am available for private wine events that we can design and set up at any location you'd like in the Greater Boston and Eastern New England areas..

Kind Regards,

Marc Soucy,  FWS - CSW
Wine Educator & Consultant

visit my blog:

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Health Benefits of WHITE Wine: The Latest Info

By Now, Almost Everyone Knows That Red Wine Has Health Benefits

This has become a truism anywhere that wine is drunk regularly. I hear it said fairly often in conversation, and it is widely accepted as fact. The information regarding the beneficial properties of resveratrol and other polyphenols and antioxidants in red wine is based on research in the late 1990s that followed a now famous "60 Minutes" segment on the "French Paradox". This paradox is that the French, while enjoying a relatively high fat diet, are statistically much healthier than Americans, who seem almost diet-obsessed. The theory proposed is that French consumption of wine plays a role in this. 

Subsequent research has provided a lot of support for this theory. There is now extensive evidence that red wine's levels of phenolic compounds and specifically the compound resveratrol, contributes to life extension, reducing the likelihood of heart attack, stroke, and heart diease....and even some studies indicate, cancer.  So, in the ensuing decade, more and more Americans have been focusing on red wine as a kind of health elixir. We all remind ourselves (and each other hopefully) that limiting wine to a glass or two per day is important because clearly alcohol can be damaging. However, this argument is often offset by the now perceived healthful properties red wine brings. 

Enter the latest studies on WHITE WINE:  It took a while to get around to this, but research often takes time. It turns out that white wine contains its own polyphenols, tyrosol and hydroxityrosol. These substances also reduce the likelihood of blood clots and improve heart function. While white wines are produced by removing the grape skins before fermentation and as such contain fewer of the phenolic materials that exist in those skins, it turns out that the nature of those that make it into the wine are several times more powerful--and effective--than those in red wine. This makes white wine nearly as beneficial as red wine where circulatory function is concerned. It had already been established that white wine in particular has healthful benefits for lung function and the absorption of oxygen by the body. 

I'm sure that tyrosol in pill form is on the market already. There's always somebody looking to make a profit on limited information. Be advised that wine brings its health benefits largely because of its complex nature and all the different substances that exist in wine working together. This includes alcohol, and so remains the caveat: Limit your intake to a glass or two per day (1 bottle of wine gives 5 glasses) for the maximum health benefits. 

But now don't worry so much about red or white wine. Just drink what you enjoy most, or what will go best with the food you're having.

To Your Health!
Marc Soucy   FWS  CSW
Wine Consultant & Educator

Monday, October 21, 2013

French Wine and Its Place in Our World

It's taken me a little while to get back to my blog, since I had to go to France to do some research (just kidding). Last time, I wrote about the position of France as a recognized "major wine power" in the world. So what makes their wines so special, I asked.

First it's important to recognize a fact about French--and for that matter most European--wines. They are and have always been considered a part of the meal, much like butter, mustard, or gravy might improve the dish you are serving, wine can elevate the eating experience by introducing enticing additional flavors. The French have been on top of this idea for centuries. 

Your Typical French Wine Dinner?   Not Really.

The term "French wine dinner" may conjure up images of bite-size decorative gourmet food on little plates, but wine is such an integral part of the typical French meal, you will find it paired with the simplest of foods. I often call pairing the right wine with even a sandwich an "elevating your meal" type of experience. What wine lover hasn't said at least once, that they would be completely satisfied with just some good bread, perhaps a little cheese, and a nice glass of wine? Is it only the French who have discovered this simple pleasure? Of course not. They did however turn it into an international commerce, a systematic approach to agriculture, a formal regulatory system, and the envy of the world, quite a while before anyone outside Europe was making wine that could compare in quality.

A Bottle of Wine Awaits at Home. (The kid gets Orangina, I guess.)
Developing a disciplined approach to picking vineyard sites that will eventually produce the best wines is something the French worked at for centuries. Many of the best quality wines of France were once produced by monks. Their record keeping traditions helped to monitor and alter what they were doing year to year. Through this trial and error approach, they found patterns to look for, like certain mineral deposits or soil density and porousness, that would lead to better wine production. Today, it is accepted without question in France that the unique characteristics of a vineyard locale has a direct impact on the resulting wine. They even have a word for this which has no direct English equivalent: terroir. While there are contrary opinions about this, more and more viticulturalists in other countries are pursuing terroir as their mantra. And once they start, they usually don't go back, so it's doing something. 

Lastly, France's wine industry has set the bar for the rest of the world on what good wine really is. Different styles are evolving and quite a few countries now have respectable wine industries. The United States is now the biggest consuming country of wine (in real volume), and the world's fourth biggest wine producing nation. It's been a gradual steady process, and thanks to inspiration from the French (and our own competitive spirit, it should be said), our wine industry has improved dramatically. Some of the top schools of viticulture in the world, like the University of Bordeaux and the University of California at Davis, have emerged as two sides of the same wine culture that France's traditions have triggered in the world. Even respected wine powerhouse Italy has increasingly embraced many of the practices and standards that France has inspired. If you look at the average American wine lover in the 1960s, you will find that, other than a few good Italian wines available, the only choice for something "special" was:  you guessed it, French. 

Try pronouncing Pouilly Fuissé correctly. Somehow, back in the '60s, they weren't intimidated.

'Till Next Time

Marc Soucy   FWS  CSW
Wine Consultant & Educator

Monday, September 30, 2013

Serious Wine for Beginners: What's the Big Deal with France, Anyway?

As an American wine lover, I've run into some fellow Americans who do not have much awareness of wine's history in the world. American wine culture is rapidly developing in some parts of the country, but it is still very young. As a consumer product, wine is seen through the lens of a commodity, like crude oil or soda pop. The fact that what we call the "New World" wine industry (hint: we're a part of it) has only existed in its present form for a few decades gets lost.

More than one person has asked me "What's so special about French wine? We make good wine too. I like California wine better anyway." ...or something along those lines. The question is not about what you personally like, and sure, tons of good wine, and many great wines are made in the U.S.A.  We're getting better at it all the time, in spite of the nagging trend of industry consolidation and the corporatization of the industry. However, that again is really not the point.

Some perspective: We experimented and failed at quality wine making during colonial times. A century later, we successfully planted French grape vines, and started making decent wines, but disaster after disaster--some from nature, some man made--doomed our wine industry to failure. It wasn't until the 1970s that we really started making some world class wines. We've been doing quite well ever since, and so have a number of other New world countries, like Australia and Argentina for example. 

As all of this has been unfolding, it's important to remember that France, Italy, Spain, and others had already been making quality wine for centuries, in some cases millennia. Look at the map of France above. Those blotchy colored areas are its major wine producing regions. If you go back three hundred years, they existed and made wine in what today we would certainly call relative isolation. Local traditions develop over time, and expectations are built regarding what each of those wines is supposed to be like.

The E.U.'s Seal Designating The Class of Unique Quality Wines

Today, those traditions and expectations have become partially codified into an elaborate regulatory scheme, which the French led the way on. The European Union is enthusiastically mimicking this approach for all of its member countries. We Americans have little concept of this, and that's understandable. We are all a product of history after all, and our history is simply too short at this point.

So what makes French wine special?    More on this next time!

Marc Soucy   FWS  CSW

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Learn About Wine: What is Room Temperature? Red Wine Comment #1

"Red Wines should be served at room temperature."

This statement is a truism that everybody has heard a great many times. But what is room temperature?

"Room temperature" is in fact the cellar temperature of old. Somewhere between 62-65 degrees Fahrenheit is best. Red wines should almost never be served above 68 degrees, and those should be full bodied, intense red wines. Lighter more delicate reds (like Pinot Noir) should be served cooler than that.

 If it's 80 degrees out, and you're seated outside, and they bring you your wine at the ambient temperature, it will not be showing its best. It will be "soupy", "flabby", and not showing at its best potential. I actually once asked for an ice bucket under these conditions, so I could cool off the wine a bit. Yes, you might get a weird look, but it will send a message. ...AND the wine will taste better!

'Till Next Time

Marc Soucy  FWS  CSW

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Rosés: Domaine Ott Bandol Rosé 2012

  Château Romassan, Bandol, Provence, France    
  Grapes:  58% Mourvèdre - 32% Cinsault - 10% Grenache

A Very Distinctive Bottle
The Ott family—who own two other wineries in Provence—purchased Chåteau Romassan in 1956, and spent thirty years getting it ready to produce the quality of wines they envisioned were possible. They completely replanted their vineyards with quality grape varieties ideally suited to the Bandol region (mostly Mourvèdre), and totally renovated the vineyards, winery, cellar, and performed other construction. The Ott family has been making wines since 1896, when Marcel Ott worked with great passion to find true quality grape vines that would bring Provence wines back to popularity after the devastation of the phyloxera infestation. In 2004, Domaines Ott merged with Louis Roederer Champagne, but the Ott family continues to run all operations. Domaine Ott Rosés are considered among the world’s finest, and Bandol itself is an iconic source for fine Provence style Rosés.
The View from Domaine Ott (amazing!)

Marc's Tasting Notes:
The wine appears a pale pastel pink in the glass. Fairly aromatic, it gives off white flowers, tart cherry, and citrus on the nose. The palate shows honeydew melon, lime, and notes of strawberry. The texture is sublime and memorable. The finish is very dry, almost surprisingly so, but silky to a fault. This wine has a reputation as an elite Rosé and this tasting showed why. Subtlety and nuance seems to be the goal of the best Rosé makers, focusing on body and mouthfeel instead of fruit forwardness. The press method of Rosé production is shown at its very best here. If you are tempted to find out why a wine like this costs this much, you might just have to cough up the bucks to do it…just this once at least.
Domaine Ott Rosé is Very Much in Vogue with a Certain Crowd (hey notice the bottle!)

 -- Marc Soucy, FWS CSW 

Wine Tasting Notes Prepared for BLM Wine 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Rosés: Commanderies de Peyrassol Côtes de Provence Rosé

  La Commanderies de Peyrassol, Provence, France    
  Grapes:  Cinsault - Grenache - Syrah  (%s not published)

Arguably one of the most historic wineries in the world, the Commanderies de Peyrassol was established by the Knights Templar in the year 1204. Bequeathed to the Order of Malta in 1311, the winery operated under their direction until 1789, when the new directives of the French Revolution made it a property of the state. A hundred years after that, the property was bought by the Rigord family, who have managed it ever since. The bottling and selling on the open market of their wines began in 1977, when Françoise Rigord became known as a trailblazer for being one of the only females in this industry at the time. This Rosé is made using the press method from the “noble” grape combination of Cinsault, Grenache, and Syrah, considered by Provencal winemakers to be the gold standard for making Rosé wines.
Marc's Tasting Notes:
This Rosé shows an extremely pale salmon color, and the nose is initially similarly light. Quite shy aromas of strawberry and watermelon rind make themselves known, just peeking out from the table grapes and clean acidity apparent even on the nose. A taste brings something totally consistent with the aromas, as if this wine is more about the texture and body than about the intensity of its flavors. Fleeting notes of strawberry and melon appear, but what remains in the forefront is the mouthfeel. It is impressive, and elegant would be an understatement. A must try for frequent Rosé drinkers.

 -- Marc Soucy, FWS CSW 

Wine Tasting Notes Prepared for BLM Wine 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Rosés : Garbó Montsant Rosat 2012

Viñas del Montsant S.L., Montsant, Marçà, Spain  
  Grapes:  70% Garnacha - 30% Syrah

This small production Rosé (only 2100 6-packs were produced) hails from the Montsant region which is Intertwined with the illustrious Priorat region in eastern Spain. Montsant grows Spain’s national grape Tempranillo, along with Rosé producers’ favorites Garnacha (aka Grenache) and Syrah, these last two of which are used to produce this Rosé. This wine is hailed as an “ultra-premium” wine of distinction from Spain’s Denominación de Origen regions. The grapes are grown in a complex multi-layered soil which it is said gives the grapes unusual richness and character. Spain produces a significant amount of rosé wine, which often presents unusual value for the price. Typically, the wine is made in the “saigné” method, explaining the deeper reddish coloring. This usually results in more berry flavors than the lighter pink press versions.
Marc's Tasting Notes:
A pale reddish pink in the glass, the nose jumps with the smell of red berries, red apple skin, and melon. The palate unfolds quite consistently with raspberries and strawberries coming into more focus, joined by smooth herbs and hints of tropical fruit. The wine has a long smooth finish. This wine is both typical in flavor due to the grapes used, and full in style due to the winemaking techniques used, and represents darker Rosés at their best. Smooth, fruity, but certainly dry enough to pair with lots of foods, it’s hard to beat at its price point.

 -- Marc Soucy, FWS CSW 

Wine Tasting Notes Prepared for BLM Wine 
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