Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Stress Free Wine Tip #8: Chilean Wine and Argentinean Wine

Stress Free Wine Tip #8:  South America's Wine Countries

South America's two big wine producers, Chile and Argentina, lie on either side of the Andes Mountain range, both being fed by streams and rivers created by the mountains' melting ice and of course rainfall. Chile's wine country is largely a long series of valleys running east to west, each with a river travelling from the Andes: a country that seems to have been designed to be a wine producer. Argentina's wine output is substantially larger than Chile's due to its size, but Chile's quality is not to be overlooked. 

Chile's and Argentina's Wine Regions
Separated by the Andes Mountains
If you notice on the wine map above, Argentina's regions reach much further north--towards the hotter equatorial regions--than Chile's does. This is due to the huge high elevation plateaus in western Argentina that provide cooler temperatures than the surrounding low lands. Argentina's current famous export, Malbec has been a hit with American wine drinkers, and has joined the small list of beef lovers' go-to favorites. Argentina also makes wine from two other lesser known grapes, Torrontes and Bonarda. Chile, for its part, does make an attractive wine from the Carmenere grape, but mainly sticks to the better known grapes of French origin that we all know, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc.

There are still many real bargains to be had by shopping in the Chile and Argentina sections of your local wine department, so check them out. 

 -- Marc Soucy, FWS CSW
Marc Wine Blog

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

American Wine Industry Has had A Spotty HIstory

America's Wine History in a Flash 

The United States considers itself a major wine producing country today, and rightfully so. With the contributions mainly from California, but spreading into many other states, the U.S. has become the fourth largest wine producer in the world. (note: If you read last week's Wine Tip, you already know that France, Italy, and Spain occupy the first three spots.) 

Dots Represent Wineries.
(Magnifying Glass May Be Needed)

When the English colonists started arriving on the East Coast, they were thrilled to see grape vines growing all over in the wild. They had had access to wines from France, and dreamed of making their own here in the New World. After many attempts, they realized that the grapes growing here just weren't the same. Meanwhile, Spanish Catholic Missionaries had brought some vines from Europe to South America and California to produce sacramental wine.  By the 1800s, vines from Europe were being imported in much larger numbers, and the wine industry started to become substantial. Blights, bad weather, and the devastating phylloxera epidemic (an insect deadly to European grape vines), dealt successive blows to our fledgling wine industry, and then the final blow: Prohibition.

The Final Major Obstacle to America's
Growth as a Wine Producing Nation
The repeal of Prohibition finally released the industry to grow, but much damage had been done, to American tastes and receptiveness to fine wine. Much work was needed in the fields as well. It wasn't until the 1970s that California was finally recognized--after years of hard effort--for the production of some world class wine.  

Today, we tend to take this state of affairs as if it has always been. It hasn't been easy but we have arrived!

'till next time... -- Marc Soucy, FWS CSW
Marc Wine Blog

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Stress Free Wine Tip #5 How Wines Are Named

Wine Tip #5:  Naming Wines

The names of wines can appear confusing initially. Throughout the "new world" (meaning outside Europe) wines are usually named after the grape they are made from. A Merlot for example is made from a strain of grape actually called "Merlot". The wine industry refers to this as "varietal" naming. This might become taken for granted, and mystery ensues when you encounter wines with no such names on the label. 

A Typical California Wine Label

While some countries--and some areas of certain countries--label their wines with the name of the grape, it is also quite common for the wine producing region to give it's name to the wine instead. This has been the tradition in France, Spain, Portugal, and much of Italy for centuries. Think about it:  If a pretty large wine region grows mainly Chardonnay as their white grape (as in the Burgundy region of France), over time, differences are noticed between the Chardonnay grown in one location vs Chardonnay grown in another. For the sake of telling them apart, the place becomes more important than the grape itself. 

When Europeans started colonizing the rest of the world, their wine came with them, and so did the vines needed to produce quality wines. The vines were called by their grape name, and the resulting wines named after them. We are today seeing the start of place names becoming quite important in the new world, such as Napa Cabernets, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and Mendoza Malbecs from Argentina.  

A Typical French Wine Label

The above French wine label names the source of its grapes, Cotes du Rhone as the actual name of the wine. "Cotes" means slopes, and the Rhone is a major river in eastern France. On either side of the river lies some incredibly good vineyard land, and the grapes used in this wine are grown within the boundaries of this region. It is in fact a blend of Grenache grapes, Syrah grapes, and sometimes others, but this is hardly ever listed on the bottle. In the Rhone Valley, it's simply common knowledge. Wine drinkers learn to rely on the style they can expect rather than focussing attention solely on the grape content.

Learn a few new names and expand your understanding and appreciation of wine!

 -- Marc Soucy, FWS CSW
Marc Wine Blog

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Stress Free Wine Tip #6 -- Spanish Wine Facts

Wine Tip #6:  Some Facts About Spain's Place in the Wine World

Spain is considered one of Europe's "Big Three" wine producing countries. Owing to both ancient Iberian traditions and influence from both Bordeaux techniques (France) and modern global wine trends, Spain is producing more and more world class wines. 

Spain has more acreage planted to wine grapes than any other country on earth. The output per acre is smaller however than either France or Italy, so Spain is perennially in third place for total volume of wine production. Spain's brandy industry accounts for a portion of the grape harvest as well.

The almost unknown white grape Airen is the most planted white wine grape in the world, even though almost its entire vine count is grown within Spain, mainly in the La Mancha and surrounding areas in the center of the country. Spain produces more brandy--which is made by distilling wine--than any other country.  Airen is the grape of choice in that industry, so much so that it accounts for the lion's share of Airen grapes grown. 

Spain Has Many Recognized Wine Regions

Some of the grape varieties made famous in the world of wine by French winemaking, like Grenache, Carignan, and Mourvedre, in fact were growing in Spain first, and migrated into southern France over time. The Rhone region of France first popularized these grape varieties commercially across the world. Spain's Garnachas (Spanish for "Grenache") are a not-to-be-missed side to this wine tradition.

Spanish Reservas Must Spend Time in Barrels in Their Aging Cellars
Spain is one of only a few countries for whom the word "Reserva" means something legally binding. A Reserve wine in the U.S. for example, is largely based on a perceived assurance that the head winemaker made a "special batch" for that bottling. In Spain (as in Italy and Portugal), that word means a minimum amount of time--months to years, depending on the wine region--has been spent in oak barrels and then bottled in their cellars before release. Spain has one of the most generous wine aging regimens in the world, intended to present their age-able wines "ready to drink" when you buy them.

Spain has two wine regions that have special designations that put them a level above all other "D.O." regions:  Rioja and Priorat. Both of these regions specialize in blends and winemaking techniques learned from migrant Bordeaux winemakers during the phylloxera epidemic of the late 19th century. 

Spanish wines today present a wonderful combination of bold and versatile style with relative affordability. They are great food wines, and should not be left out of your thinking when picking a wine.

'till next time...

 -- Marc Soucy, FWS CSW
Marc Wine Blog

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Stress Free Wine Tip #4: Wine in a Restaurant -- Part 1

Wine Tip #4:  Restaurant Wine -- Part 1

Ordering wine in a restaurant can be a very different thing from buying it in a store. Not only is it a lot more expensive, you're expected to evaluate it when the server opens it up. What is all that about anyway?  Many people have--understandably--gotten the impression that that taste they give you is to see if you like the wine.

It Doesn't Have to Be Like This, You Know.

In fact (not to add more pressure) you are expected to either ask advice from the server, or know the choice on your own. Giving you a taste of the wine for approval is to make sure that the CONDITION of the wine is acceptable to the person who ordered the wine. The word "condition" refers to the presence or absence of flaws in the wine, not to whether you like the wine's style (flavors, body, intensity, etc...) or not. Once you have agreed that the bottle is in fact the one you intended to order, you are taking responsibility for that bottle... ...UNLESS it is actually flawed somehow. In that case, the restaurant will get you a new bottle or something different.

So this shine a light on the fact that learning to spot flaws can be a pretty important thing if you plan to eat out in restaurants a lot. We'll cover some of these flaws in future articles.

 -- Marc Soucy, FWS CSW
Marc Wine Blog

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Stress Free Wine Tip #3: Keep Some Wine On Hand

Wine Tip #3:  Keeping Wine on Hand

This time of year, people are starting to plan to be outdoors: maybe that first backyard barbecue of the season, maybe just a get together with friends. The weather can get quite warm one day, and still a bit frigid on others. Are you going to grill some tuna or a steak? Burgers or salads...or both?  Let's be honest, maybe you just want to stay in and keep warm. You still want wine though right?

We can get into the art of pairing wine with food at a later date. It's a fairly complex process, however fun and satisfying. For now let's assume you want a good variety of wines to suit any situation and to satisfy the tastes of friends and guests. And what do you bring to someone's home when you don't know what they'll have to eat?

Generally speaking, consider keeping a few bottles of various types of wine in your home. You'll save on time and travel, plus have something to grab anytime. Just keep them in the coolest part of your home, and away from sunlight. Chill whites and rosés a couple of hours ahead of time instead of keeping them in the fridge indefinitely. Cheers!

 -- Marc Soucy, FWS CSW
Marc Wine Blog

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Stress Free Wine Tip #2: Rosé Season

Wine Tip #2:  What's "Up" With Rosé Anyway?

Rosé: that strangely feminine looking wine is growing in popularity by leaps and bounds in the United States, even among men. Preconceptions and prejudices are gradually falling by the wayside as more and more wine drinkers discover the truth: Rosé is one of the most versatile and refreshing forms of wine. On those 90 degree days, Rosé can be the antidote. They go with burgers, salads, grilled seafood...and of course alone as a cocktail.


Wine makers in southern France have been making Rosé wines for nearly a thousand years. It is in short, a white wine made from red grapes. It is NOT a blend of red and white wines. Today, every wine producing country turns out some Rosé. They are typically quite dry (though fruity), and range in flavor from light and airy to near fruit juice like intensity. Though the flavors seem subtle, this is part of the truly refreshing nature of Rosé wines.  

Be sure to use my search engine for several articles about Rosé wines.

-- Marc Soucy, FWS CSW
Marc Wine Blog

Monday, June 15, 2015

Stress Free Wine Tip #1: Sauvignon Blanc

Wine Tip:  Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is America's second favorite white grape. Many lovers of this wine don't know how many forms it actually comes in, and how broad your options are. France (Loire Valley & Bordeaux), California, New Zealand, and Chile are major producers. They vary a lot in style and flavor, with zesty citrus being the one constant. 


To explore this summer-perfect wine, try these unique selections: a white Bordeaux, a Sancerre, a Marlborough New Zealand Sauv Blanc, or compare the various styles that come out of northern California. We love Sauvignon Blanc! Just ask us for our favorite picks next time you come in!

 -- Marc Soucy, FWS CSW
Marc Wine Blog
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