Pour to Impress: How to Host a Wine Tasting and Wine Degustation

So you’ve managed to find a date when all your closest friends are free to join forces for an epic night of wine-ing and dining. And you’ve offered to be the host. The excited moments of turning your home into the evening’s venue for cheers and toasts are slipping away as you start to feel the pressure to impress set in. Forget decorating the table and ordaining it with the correct cutlery, you have a five course to eight course meal to plan. And, whatsmore, to find the perfect wine to go with each course!

So, what’s a degustation?

Degustation is a culinary term; a careful, appreciate tasting of various foods focusing on the gustatory system, the senses, high culinary art and good company. Rather than a large portioned meal, a degustation is a sampling of smaller portions of signature dishes, each accompanied by a matching wine.

The Basics

You’ve got your company and found a corkscrew. There are a few more things to keep in mind when setting up for your wine degustation to create the ultimate tasting experience.

Table

 To allow your friends to examine the colour of the wine, use a white table cloth. Gasp! Your friends are too messy to even consider white as an option? Place a sheet of white butcher paper under their glass (on top of your dark coloured table cloth resilient to spilt wine).

Glasses

Without getting into the nitty gritty, wine is in fact affected by the size and shape of the glass. So, to keep your two most unruly friends from battling over a subtle difference they smell in a wine, do yourself a favour and purchase a set of all-purpose tasting glasses.

Temperature

 It’s best to pour your white wines between 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit and reds between 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit. For whites, the temperature of your fridge may be too cold, so give them time to warm up on the counter. As for your reds, to ensure they’re not feeling the heat, store them in a dark, cool place on their side – like on the ground in your closet.

Palate Cleansers

Palate cleansers don’t have to send you over the moon with anxiety. Think simple, neutral crackers or biscuits – you can even toast French bread, too. And water is also key.

Spit Buckets

A taste may not sound like that much, but in fact it is! If you’re serving up 8 different wine tastings and you’ve greeted your guests with an aperitif, do yourself a favour so you don’t have any drunks on the couch at the end of the night and place a spit bucket (AKA spittoon) at each end of the table. These can be discrete and easily removed from the table following the tasting.

Pen & Paper

Your friends may be horrified to see they’ve jumped back to primary school when they see pen and paper at their seat, but they’ll be thankful by the end. Comparing notes at the end of the tasting can provide for amusing consulting, and allow you to easily vote of the group’s favourite.

Now, if the idea of preparing a five to eight course meal is far too daunting (or too high brow for your friends) we’ve broken it down for you!

Wine Degustation

One of the most entertaining ways to learn about wine is to host a tasting with your friends at home. It’s amusing, and educational!

There are two types of tastings you can organize: Varietal and Horizontal

Varietal Tasting

A varietal tasting includes wines of the same grape variety from different parts of the world. For example, take Sauvignon Blanc. You can get a Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough (New Zealand), Sancerre (France) and California (USA). Or, for a red, Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux (France), California (USA) and Coonawarra (Australia). It’s best to select wines of the same (or nearly same) vintage – that’s the year the wine was harvested. Varietal tasting is a great starting point, and will allow you to see and taste the differences of wines made in various regions around the world.

Horizontal Tasting 

A horizontal tasting will require a bit more leg work, and attention to detail. This requires wines of a single variety and single vintage. For example, Pinot Noir (your grape variety) from 2012 (your vintage) from France. This could include a Pinot Noir from Cote de Nuits, Cote de Beaune and Cote Chalonnaise, all from 2012.

To keep the party lively, be sure to keep the wines a secret! No jock socks big enough to disclose the origin of your wines? Grab some aluminum foil and roll each bottle. Be sure to number the bottles and keep a list tucked away so you remember the order to pour in, and what the wines are. In your discussion, you can simply refer to the wines as ‘wine 1,’ ‘wine 2,’ etc.

Whether you’ve decided to go vertical or horizontal, stick to 6 to 8 wines for your tasting. You’d be surprised the lengthy conversations your most wine-adverse friends will want to carry on.

So when do we actually taste the wine?!

Put to rest your hoity-toity image of wine-o’s swirling their glass and nearly submerging their nose in the wine itself. Here’s a simple framework you can follow for each wine:

See

Here’s where that white table cloth or butcher paper comes in handy – hold the glass against the white backdrop to examine its colour, intensity and clarity. For red wines, this can be especially helpful in seeing if it’s a youthful wine (brighter with purple hues) or has some age to it (ruby with garnet hues).

Swirl

And here’s where consistency of your glassware comes in handy – swirl the wine around in the glass to allow air to come in contact with the wine. This will let the wine breath and unwind a bit.

Smell

When smelling a wine for the first time, ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. What is the aromatic intensity of the wine?
  2. Is this an aromatically complex wine?
  3. Are there any troubling or problematic aromas?

Aromatic Intensity

Aromatic intensity can be determined by asking yourself: how easy is it to smell the wine? Can you smell its aromas while holding the glass at arm’s length, or are you having to stick your nose well into the glass to smell the wine’s characteristics? A wine is high in aromatic intensity if it easily identified and has distinguished aromas. A wine is low in aromatic intensity if you have a hard time identifying any characteristics when smelling the wine, or if you cannot distinguish a certain flavor or point of reference with what your smelling, or not smelling for that matter.

 Aromatic Complexity

Wines will also vary in their complexity, depending on age, winemaking style and grape variety. There are three aroma types that you can associate with the complexity of a wine:

  1. Primary Aromas: Aromas from the grape variety itself, along with the environment in which it grows. Includes aromas such as fruit flavours, herbal flavours, earthiness, floral notes and spice
  1. Secondary Aromas: Aromas from the winemaking and fermentation process, including a bready or yeasty like aroma. Typically found in young wines that have yet to experience ageing.
  1. Tertiary Aromas: Aromas that have evolved with the ageing of a wine, sometimes referred to as the bouquet. Tertiary aromas often come from oak aging, and attribute to dried fruit aromas or nutty characteristics.

Problematic Aromas

It can happen even to the best of wines – a wine can simply be ‘off.’ Can’t quite put your hand on what you’re unpleasantly smelling? There are 3 typical culprits: reduced, and oxidized wines, and wines with cork taint.

Reduced wines can have a burnt rubber or cabbage aroma that can often times be nearly unbearable. Keep in mind, there is a difference between a reduced wine and reductive aromas. Reduced wines

Oxidised wines are wines that have been exposed to too much oxygen. It is the most common wine fault and results in a loss of brightness in colour and flavor. The wine is flat.

Cork taint smells like damp cardboard or nail polish remover. It can be caused by the cork itself, or, in the unfortunate case, be present in the winery and negatively impact entire batches of wine.

Sip

No slurping needed, though not discouraged. Take a sip of your wine and make sure to swish it all around inside your mouth. You want to engage all senses – from your tongue to your gums. You can ask yourself it is a heavy wine, if it is thin, if it’s rich or velvety.

Savour

This is what your friends are here for, other than your dashing looks and free offering of alcohol. Allow yourself to enjoy the flavours and textures of the wine – it’s saltiness, bitterness, sweetness or acidity. Lastly, remind yourself to enjoy the finish, and to see how long it lasts. Is it dropping off like a bad first date, or holding on like your Great Aunt at afternoon tea?

But what about the pen and paper? Hopefully your guests have made more than just doodles on their papers. This is when you can converse and summarise the wines, and hold a playful voting. Another great reason to keep the wines a secret – your guests won’t prejudge the wines based on country of origin, brand or grape variety.

Wine & Food Degustation

You’re ready to join the pros and master this whole wine and food pairing thing. Keeping all the basics above in check, be sure to also set two glasses for both white and red wines that you’ll be matching throughout the degustation.

For starters, you’ll be better off if you first think of the courses you’d like to (and have the ability to) prepare, and then pair your wine to match. You can choose to share your wine selection with your guests, or keep it a mystery – up to you!

A quick introduction of some important wine and food pairing elements:

Fat

If you’re serving up a fat-driven dish, be sure to pair a wine that can balance it with its acidity, cut through with its tanning or match the richness with alcohol.

Acid

We find acidity in our wines, and our food. When pairing an acidic dish with a wine, be sure to match it with a wine of equal or greater amount of acidity – this will ensure that the wine is not perceived as bland. 

Salt 

Salt heavy foods can pose a threat to finding a well-suited wine. If you’re setting out an assortment of cheese, particularly blue cheese, a sweet white wine will hold its balance. Another safe bet is sparking wine with salty, fried foods – the carbonation and yeasty acids can serve as a cleansing element to the salt.

Sweetness

 Depending on the level of sweetness, you’ll want to be weary of what wine you’re setting with your favoured dessert. You should be certain that the wine tastes sweeter than the dessert. Light, fruity sweetness can be matched well with rich white wines, like Chardonnay and bitter, dark chocolate are a sure match with a late harvest Zinfandel (that’s a sweet red – not dry!)

 Texture

A safe rule to follow is light with light and heavy with heavy.

Alright, on to the food! When in Paris, do as the Parisans do, right? To highlight a French structured degustation, here’s the Frenchman’s components. However, take it or leave it – play with the number of courses you’d like to serve, along with the theme of the cuisine.

Amuse Bouche

This course will take you longer to say than it will to eat it. Usually a one-bite, one-size-fits all item.

Suggested food: Black radish, smoked salmon and fromage frais

Suggested wine: Bubbles! Stick to dry or brut Champagne or refreshing Prosecco

Soup
This isn’t your bowl of chicken noodle soup your mom makes for you when you’re sick in bed with a cold. Think of a slight enhancement of the amuse bouche in terms of flavor profile and heaviness. This can be served cold or hot, but a warm soup is a nice transition for the courses yet to come.

Suggested food: Creamy fennel soup with coconut and apple

Suggested wine: A Spanish white Albarino with suit here

Hors d’euvre

This is slightly more robust than your amuse bouche, but don’t give too much away. You can include carbs and meat, but shouldn’t require your guests to ponder over which fork to use – usually finger food!

Suggested food: Rabbit rillettes on toasted baguette

Suggested wine: Think pink. Try a dry, crisp rose from Provence (France)

Entrée

In Western cultures, this can be considered as the main course, but in France it is the entry to the main course. This is a small course featuring white meats, starches, vegetables and a sauce.

Suggested food: Tarragon chicken with asparagus

Suggested wine: Alsace Gewurztraminer

Salad

No need to shout at your guests to eat their veggies as they push them away on their plate – this is an entire course designed for veggies, and naturally, a great palate cleanser. 

Suggested food: Goats cheese salad with beetroot

Suggested wine: Malrborough (South Island), New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Main course

 Time for your protein. This is where you can turn up the heat and prepare a filling red meat dish.

Suggested food: Crunchy almond-crusted duck breasts

Suggested wine: A California or Oregon Pinot Noir will be a well married complement

Dessert

Bring on the sweets. Famous for their croissants and macaroons, the French know how to cater to those of us with an unquenchable sweet tooth.

Suggested food: Tarte Tatin – think caramelized upside down apple pie

Suggested wine: To balance the thicker texture of the caramel with the apple, try a Liquer Muscat from Victoria, Australia

Cheese

A variety of soft, hard, pungent and smoked cheeses will be well enjoyed by a lively dinner part, especially at this stage in the night. Serve with candied nuts, dried fruit and quince paste.

Suggested cheese: Assortment of cheeses, crackers, candied nuts and dried fruit

Suggested wine: No better offering than a sweet Sauternes from Graves in Bordeaux

This menu structure and offerings are a framework for you to build off of – take it down a notch or beef it up (literally) with more meat driven courses. When in doubt, you can stick to these key pointers:

  • Bubbles for beginners – Champange or Prosecco is always a safe bet to welcome your guests with, and a great pairing with a light amuse bouche or salad
  • White wines – Paired best with lighter faire, including white meats and vegetables
  • Rose wines – Well suited for light pasta and rice dishes, along with seafood
  • Red wines – Structured to pair with a red meat driven course or rich pasta dishes
  • Sweet white wines – Sure to compliment the sharp taste, salt and texture of an assorted cheese board served after dessert

Happy wine-ing and dining!

Cheers!

Cellar Doors Do’s and Don’ts

You and your friends have decided to spend your Saturday visiting your local wine region. Great! Kudos to you for wanting to expand your wine knowledge and tasting experience. As excited as those Cellar Doors (aka Tasting Rooms) are to host you, there are some simple Do’s and Don’ts to follow when out sipping wine. Follow these and you’re sure to maximize your tasting experiences.

Do plan ahead. You and your friends may be more ambitious than what your pallets can handle. Stick to visiting 3-4 wineries in a day. This will allow you to taste the wines at a leisurely pace, and ensure that you’re enjoying all the hospitality the Winery has to offer.

Don’t wear fragrances. This isn’t just for the ladies. Gents, refrain from wearing your favorite cologne. Heavy perfumes interfere with the nose of the wine, and the last thing you want to be is the group that comes waffing in the Cellar Door interrupting other guests’ experience.

Do ask questions. Cellar Door staff are the experts on the winery’s wines and history. They are usually in the hospitality industry because they like engaging with visitors. So be inquisitive and friendly!

Don’t be late to any tasting appointments or tours you’ve booked. You are not the wineries only guests of the day, and they have allocated their staff accordingly so that they can provide everyone with an incredible experience. If anything, arrive a few minutes early.

Do buy wine. This will allow you to enjoy your favorite wine at home later on, and see if you still have the same appreciation and thoughts on the wine. Wine also makes for a great gift, and you’ll have a story to share about the wine since you selected it from all of the wines you tasted that day.

Don’t hog the bar. If you are part of a medium to large size group, be conscious of your surroundings and sounds. Be courteous of other guests who are just as eager to get their next pour, and not dying to hear about the latest gossip from last weekend’s outing. Stand clear of the bar and keep your chatter to low levels.

Do appreciate the wine! Be sure to take time to look at the wine’s colour, smell its nose and swish its flavours around in your mouth. This is not the time to slug back what’s offered to you – take a moment to savour all that the wine offers.

Don’t go wine tasting on an empty stomach. This is pretty much a given when it comes to alcohol, but can sometimes be lost when wine tasting. Eat beforehand, and pack along snacks for between wineries, including plenty of drinking water.

Do organize a designated driver. If you are out to enjoy your day, and no one offers to spit or refrain from tasting, chip in to organize a private driver. Nearly all wine regions have a variety of transportation options, so be safe and hire a designated driver.

We hope these offer you some ways to maximize your Cellar Door experiences! So get out and enjoy your local wine region.

Cheers!

What Every Wine-O Want You to Know: The Difference between Old and New World Wines

If you’re a wine novice and looking to up your knowledge on wine, search no more. Here is the most basic breakdown that every wine-o wants you to know.

For starters, let’s define the two categorical basics when it comes to wine: Old World and New World.

Old World wines come from countries that are considered to be the birthplaces of wine, that is, countries where wine production has been taking place for a long, long time. These are the countries where the grape Vitis Vinifera first originated and includes all of Europe and the Middle East.

New World wines are those countries that used to be colonies, and where Vitis Vinifera grapes were imported after exploration. (Sounds a bit more complicated? Don’t worry, we’ll break it down for you!) New World wine countries include Argentina, Asian countries Australia, Canada, Chile, India, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa the United States.

So what’s all this Vitis Vinifera talk?

Vitis Vinifera is simply a wine grape. They make up 90% of the cultivated wine grapes in the world. In fact, Vitis Vinifera is the most economically important of the Vitis species and accounts for nearly all commercial grape plantings throughout the world. Vitis Vinifera has been identified to have ancestral roots in Iran. Thus, making Old World countries the home of Vitis Vinifera, and explorers brought these grapes to New World countries.

So what’s the catch? Do Old World and New World wines taste different?

Why in fact, yes. Old World and New World wines are different stylistically, and this has to do large in part to where the wine regions are located, along with legal requirements and tradition.

Old World wine countries are situated in the Northern Hemisphere between the 30th and 50th latitudes. Old World vineyards are located further North, away from the equator. This affects these wine producing countries’ climates; they tend to be cooler, which results in lower levels of alcohol in their wines. Old World wines (as a generalization) are lighter bodied with higher acidity and are less fruit driven.

New World wine countries are situated in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, and vineyards lie closer to the equator. This leads to hotter climates and, in some wine regions, desert-like, arid conditions. Ultimately, this enhances the levels of alcohol in New World wines. New World wines tend to be riper, with richer fruit and body, along with less acidity.

However, this, as prefaced, is a generalization, and you’re sure to find a light bodied New World Wine and a highly alcoholic Old World wine.

All countries, whether Old World or New World, have legal requirements they must abide to when making wine. However, these legal requirements tend to be stricter in Old World countries, where long-standing traditions stipulate when winemakers can harvest (pick) their wines, at what level of sugar ripeness they must harvest their grapes at, winemaking practices and ageing requirements. New World wine countries do have legal requirements to fulfill, but they tend to revolve around varietal labelling and marketing claims, rather than viticulture and winemaking practices.

As we know, Old World wines have been in the winemaking game a lot longer than New World wine countries, and this has amounted to a great deal of tradition. Old World winemakers will refrain from the unknown, and are proud to continue making wine in the same style that their parents and grandparents did. New World winemakers are more experimental, and are at the liberty to push the boundaries and try new winemaking practices.

Final Research Thesis: HK Wine Consumers

Hong Kong consumers’ decision making…

when it comes to purchasing wine

While interning with the Flying Winemaker in Hong Kong, I’m finishing my Masters in Business Wine through the University of Adelaide. For my final research thesis, I’ve constructed a proposal around Hong Kong wine consumers’ decision making when it comes to purchasing wine. More specifically, I’ve hypothesized that Hong Kong wine consumers use the extrinsic value of Country of Origin in their selection criteria for purchasing wine. Country of Origin is simple the country in which the product, in this case wine, originates. And in Hong Kong, there is a great deal of perception of countries of origin, and this is no different when it comes to wine. As studies have shown, France dominates the wine market in Hong Kong, and France as a wine producing country is not unknown to Hong Kong city dwellers.

If you have any contacts in Hong Kong who you can share my survey with, please let me know! The more respondents, the more robust my data and the stronger my thesis will be. You can email me at ezegar@me.com

I’ll be sure to share the results and findings of what is sure to be an interesting research paper!

Wine Night, Movie Night

Pop some popcorn and pop some champagne! I know I’ve just shared my favourite reads about wine, so I thought I’d share two wine-o film favourites of mine. Both, as you may have guessed, are set in France. These by no means are entirely wine-centric films, but they both highlight vineyards, and in two very different manners.images

Vagabond

Recommended Wine Pairing: Tessellae Vieilles Vines Carignan

The first film I’d like to share is Vagabond. This isn’t your glamorous movie with picturesque sunsets over vineyards and beautiful rolling hills of vines. It tells the unbecoming story of Mona, a cimmerian woman, and is a bit grungy, aphotic and impetuous. Discovered nearly dead in a ditch in the South of France, Mona is a struggling young woman who finds herself being used by a series of men and women as she tries to find her way amidst the vineyards of Southern France. Each character tries to impose their own needs on Mona while providing her with an opportunity for survival. In one of these situations, Mona finds herself pruning grape vines with a Tunisian labourer. While this film doesn’t go into the details of viticulture or winemaking by any means, it does, even if briefly, show the cruelty of winter in the South of France and how it affects the vines, and Mona herself.Vagabond_Current_original

 

A Good Year

Recommended Wine Pairing: Hecht & Bannier, Cote de Provence Rose AOCUnknown

The second film of choice is more light-hearted and more of your happy-feely movie. A Good Year could almost be considered a classic (or at least will be later down the track). With the dashing Russell Crowe and the ever so charming Marion Cotillard, A Good Year is the story of an uptight English banker who unexpectadley inherits his long lost Uncle’s Chateau in Provence. With his intention to sell the home and vineyard, Max (played by Russell Crowe) finds himself in turmoil with himself as memories of his boyhood conflict his financial ideals for selling the Chateau. As if this wasn’t enough, an old and stubborn viticulturist who has tended to the property’s vineyard for refuses to bid farewell to his precious vines. The vineyards and beauty of his Uncle’s wine cellar overcast Max’s pragmatic approach to life, and the beauty of Provence, along with the beauty of a French woman, make him cast doubt on his decision to sell the property. Along the way, viewers do gain some knowledge of French appellation laws, when a twist in the plot reveals that a wine was unlawfully made from the Estate, claiming an appellation it was not viable to claim.

462full-a-good-year-screenshot

3 Books for the Wine Novice

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Unbeknownst to some, there are a variety of books that involve the history and culture of wine in a fresh and different way than your latest edition of James Haliday’s Wine Companion or The Oxford Companion to Wine. Not to disregard these books as dull, but they can be a bit daunting to those who are interested in wine, but want something to grab their attention in a more light and engaging way. Here are three approachable books sure to enhance your wine knowledge.

The Widow Clicquot – The Story of Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It

Written by the brilliant Tilar Mazzeo, this is the biography of the visionary widow who built a champagne empire and created a legend not only for herself, but France’s Champagne industry as well. WK-AN946_EVENTS_DV_20081211124949This is the story of Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin – the woman who was widowed at a young age and left with the beginnings of what evolved to be one of the world’s greatest champagne businesses. Mazzeo brings to life Barbe-Nicole’s turbulent journey in a fascinating way that combines family speculations and historical events to showcase the process of making the temperamental wine into a successful business. The pages reveal an empowered woman who forged the path for future female entrepreneurs with her audacity and intelligence and determined business sense. You will forever have a great appreciation for the bubbles with the iconic yellow label, that is Veuve Clicquot, after this read.

GirlsBooks.jpg

My five best friends and I have recently formed an international book club, and this was our first read – suggested by yours truly. It was an incredible experience reading such an engaging novel, while sharing my passion and future field of work with those who I hold dearest to me. All of the girls enjoyed learning about champagne and the wine industry, the world which I am setting myself up to thrive in. We even found some inquisitive discussion questions, which were great to guide us through our first discussion as a group. You may enjoy them once you finish the book, too!

  1. Why do you think Philippe Clicquot kept giving the young Barbe Nicole so many chances during the early years of failure?
  1. What do you think was Barbe Nicole’s bigger achievement: her discoveries in the world of wine or her success as a businesswoman?
  1. How do you think her competition with Jean Remy Moet shaped the direction of her company?
  1. What do you think was the secret to Widow Clicquot’s success as a businesswoman? What do you think allowed her to succeed at a time when women didn’t traditionally run businesses?
  1. How did the technologies of the nineteenth century shape the Widow Clicquot’s story?
  1. What do you think was the real story of what happened with George von Kessler?
  1. Why do you think the Widow Clicquot excluded her daughter from the business?
  1. What do you think happened at the end of the nineteenth century that gave the Widow Clicquot and Louise Pommery the idea to launch the first wine tourism?
  1. Why do you think there are so few women in the champagne industry today?
  1. If you could discover one new “lost” letter by the Widow Clicquot, what would she be writing about?

Wine and War – The French, The Nazis & The Battle for France’s Greatest Treasure

Wine and War offers both wine enthusiasts and history nuts a fascinating adventure filled with trials and tears. You’ll feel as though you’ve been thrown right into a French vineyard in the midst of war trying to help the French vintners save their most prized possessions from the impeding Germans. 51H3pNhlu9LThe authors intertwine the romance of French villages and winemaking families with the brutality and confronting events of World War II in a seamless way. This book will have you laughing one moment, crying the next and angry by the end of the chapter. It is an emotional and enlightening read, and one that will only enhance your appreciation for France’s deep history in wine.

One of the most rewarding experiences I had with this novel was passing it along to my Dad, who is a history buff, to say the least. It was incredible to revisit the chapters and discuss with him the historical events and how they related to France’s wine industry, and what an important role it played for all of Europe during World War II.

A History of World in 6 Glasses

Tom Stand Age guides readers through the story of humanity all the way from the Stone Age to the 21st Century through the lens of 6 beverages: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and cola. 6 Glasses_thumb[1]An appealing read that provides a narrative of world history through recognizable anecdotes and illuminating stories. The book is structured in a way that allows the beverage to tell the story of the time period through local happenings, international events and whimsical historical connections. As you read the book, you find yourself comparing the drinks and their significance throughout history, whether they’ve been represented in society as currency, medicinal drinks, status indicators or nutritional supplements. The book offers readers a new perspective on how beverages, in our everyday lives, are interrelated with our social structure. A quick and light read, this is the perfect travel companion!

As featured on the Tongue Explorers World Wine Warriors Blog!

Planning your Food & Wine Festival Agenda

IPNCAs if we needed another reason to indulge in travel, food and fine wine, there are plenty of food and wine festivals across the U.S. to entice our taste buds. From wine focused to chef central, there are a variety of events to incorporate into travel plans or to gift to your foodie or wine-o friend! Here’s just a brief highlight from East to West of what the States has to offer for food and wine festivals.

Kennebunkport Festival – Kennebunkport, Maine

June 6 – 11, 2016 

This event in Kennebunkport, Maine combines the town’s oceanfront charm with acclaimed chefs, fine wines and engaging art. In addition to these attractions, there are a series of musicians to entertain guests while they enjoy the variety of activities enticing all their sensations – from taste, to touch, to sight and smell. kennebunkport-festival-2016-70The event is geared towards high-net worth individuals aged between 35 and 70 from Main to the North Shore of Massachusetts. The Festival takes place over the course of six days, Monday thru Saturday, with the Grand Finale event on Saturday evening. Guests have the opportunity to purchase tickets to individual events throughout the week, and some of the Festival’s most popular events have already sold out. The event sponsors Full Plates Full Potential, a program that connects kids in Main with sustainable meals all year long. In addition to supporting a worthy cause, the Kennebunkport Festival brings Northeast ocean charm to the forefront through art, food and wine, and supports the local community by inviting guests to take advantage of what the Kennebunkport area has to offer.

 Charleston Wine + Food – Charleston, South Carolina

March 1 – 5, 2017

Charleston-Wine-Food-Party-by-Andrew-Cebulka

 Moving down South, Charleston Wine + Food is a celebration of the excellent culinary the town of Charleston boasts and its renowned culture. Located in the heart of South Carolina, Charleston Wine + Food offers guests five days of fine dining curated from fresh ingredients. In addition to its focus on wine, the Festival features beers and cocktails, crafted by the Nation’s best mixologists and brewers. Tickets can be searched for by ‘Food’ or ‘Wine,’ and a pre-festival hosted by Veuve Clicquot is held in the Old Village Street. Additionally, guests are enticed to select tickets as organised with accommodations, or as a gift certificate. The Culinary Village is a great way for entrants to enjoy a variety of food and wine daily throughout the event from 12 – 5PM for a ticket price of $100. Charleston Wine + Food is partnered with local charities, along with hospitality and culinary related scholarship programs, and 88 cents of every dollar spent on producing the festival goes back to the non-profit organisation’s mission. This is not a festival to miss if visiting the South!

Food & Wine Classic – Aspen, Colorado

June 17 – 19, 2016 

Already sold out for this year’s celebrations, the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen is not an event for the faint or hearted, or penny pincher. The three-day event draws 5,000 engaged epicureans and over 500 restaurant and wine trade professionals. It is a highly publicised weekend filled with celebrity chef cooking demonstrations, wine tastings, which are organised for both consumers and trade. AspenNow in its 34th year, the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen has created a strong reputation for both consumers and those in the wine trade business. The featured continued event, the Grand Tasting, is held three times each day of the event. Set in beautiful Aspen, this is not event to overlook when thinking to visit the dynamic state of Colorado – but plan ahead, tickets sell out fast!

International Pinot Noir Celebration – McMinnville, Oregon

July 29 – 31, 2016

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West coast is the best coast, right? Heading home to Oregon, the International Pinot Noir Celebration, better known as IPNC, is now in its 30th year running and is not an event for the Pinot-lover to miss! IPNC is held on the Linfield College campus in McMinnville – the heart of Oregon wine country – and features over 70 of the world’s best producing Pinot Noir wineries and vintners. The event takes place over the course of three days, and is always held the last weekend in July. Tickets can be purchased as a full weekend package (Friday morning to Sunday afternoon), or separately to attend Passport to Pinot or the highly acclaimed Salmon Bake on Saturday night. The amazing culinary is carefully curated by over 60 guest chefs who partner with Northwest farmers to transform locally sourced ingredients into edible art, and can be enjoyed at breakfast at the patio on campus, at winery lunches or the Grand Dinner.

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IPNC offers guests both amazing experience for their palate, but also their wine knowledge – a series of Pinot courses, referred to as University of Pinot, are offered throughout the weekend to enhance the Pinot Noir knowledge of the black fruit’s enthusiasts. This year’s featured wineries consist of North American, European and Southern Hemisphere Pinot producers, and attendees have the opportunity to taste Pinot Noir from around the world. Due to the draw of epicureans and wine enthusiasts from around the United States and internationally, a series of pre-IPNC dinners are held at a variety of wineries the Thursday evening prior to the commencement of the IPNC weekend. As someone who has had the opportunity to attend the IPNC Salmon Bake, the Sunday Sparkling Finale Brunch and Passport to Pinot, I can attest that this is not an event to miss!

 Save your pennies and mark your calendars – there is much to smell, taste and see across the United States when it comes to food and wine festivals!

As featured on the Tongue Explorers World Wine Warriors Blog!

The Perfect Camping Wine

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There is something so beautiful and refreshing about cooking outdoors. It is one of my favourite things about camping. You grow a fond appreciation for how long everything takes – from rummaging through your pack for your cooking utensils to spending twice as long washing dishes under your head lamp after dinner. But, what makes all of this even more charming is a perfect glass of wine, not only because how it enhances your meal, but how it enhances your camping experience.

Depending on if you’re car camping or backpacking, you may or may not have room, or willing to carry the weight, of a bottle (or two) of wine. During my backpacking adventures in New Zealand, I refrained from brining any wine along with me, considering the pack-in-pack-out policy. However, I did splurge when I trekked the Abel Tasman Track December 30 – January 4 and brought along a 350Ml bottle of champagne, because you have to have bubbles on New Years Eve!

My most recent backpacking adventures were shared with three of my best girlfriends at Deep Creek Conservation Park in South Australia. We didn’t hit the trail until late afternoon on Friday, and only had a short distance to go to our first night’s campsite. With this in mind, and a birthday to celebrate, I decided to bring along a bottle of New Zealand sparkling I bought in Martinborough in January. I kept the sparkling in the esky with ice on the drive down, and popped it in my pack last thing before we hit the trail.

The sparkling, which was The Naturalist from Cambridge Road, was a blend of Pinot Gris (48%), Pinot Noir (36%) and Chardonnay (16%). Upon opening the bottle, there was an amber sediment that had formed around the rim of the bottle.IMG_1260There was a bit of overflow of bubbles (probably due to being in my pack hiking in), but none was wasted! It had a strawberry shortcake essence and was beautifully effervescent. It was not a serious sparkling, which we decided was perfect for our night under the Eucalyptus trees and stars. Had we brought along a champagne made it the traditional method champenoise, it may have been too serious and structured for our relaxed evening outdoors amidst the kangaroos. The Naturalist, which its name alludes, is made in a natural style with native yeasts. It was the perfect wine for our camping adventure.

If you have the means, I would highly encourage you splurge the next time you are heading out into the woods for an adventure and bring a long a bottle of vino. Of course, logistically it’s easier to pack along a red, as you don’t have to concern yourself with keeping the wine cold. When it comes to camp cooking, you may want to consider what you’re dishing up when you select your wine. However, this is one of those situations in life where I think you don’t need to be too worried about how the wine will pair with your meal – they will both be well enjoyed after a long day’s hike and time spent pitching your tent!

Interview with an Oregon Wine Exporter

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One of the most incredible things I’ve experienced about the wine industry is its international reach and connectedness. The generosity and passion of those involved in the wine industry never ceases to amaze me, and was once again realised when I had the opportunity to talk with Catherine Douglas of Adelsheim Vineyard in Oregon. Catherine was a contact of a woman whom I met prior to commencing my Masters in Business Wine at the University of Adelaide in January 2015. Given the nature of my studies, and upcoming work with The Flying Winemaker in Hong Kong, I was put in touch with Catherine to pick her brain about her experiences exporting Oregon wine abroad.

Catherine is the Export Manager for Adelsheim Vineyard in Oregon, a small high-end producer of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. She has been working with Adelsheim for seven years, and over the course of the last four years has transitioned her objectives to furthering Adelsheim Pinot, and Oregon Pinot Noir, abroad. Catherine’s background is in marketing, and she believes that exporting is truly an extension of marketing. I couldn’t help but agree. She has wine industry experience working in New Zealand, and has been able to translate the skills she learned in the Southern Hemisphere and the differences in business models to her work back in Oregon.

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Adelsheim Vineyard is part of the Chehalem Mountain AVA in the Willamette Valley. They produce around 40,000 cases per annum, the majority of which is Pinot Noir. However, their portfolio includes Rose of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris as well. 4 – 5% of Adelsheim’s current production is exported, and their 5-year goal is to increase that to 10%.

Currently, Adelsheim Pinot Noir, and some Chardonnay, is present in 17 export markets. The wines they export have a slightly different label than their domestic products, but fall under the same branding. Of course, the labels do have to contain different content for legal purposes, depending on the country.

Catherine relayed that the markets with the most success as of late are Mainland China and Hong Kong. Wine is becoming more accessible and there is a lot of opportunity in the market – you just have to be savvy enough to maneuver your way in. Adelsheim was connected with reputable importers in China through good relations with a California winery. This has allowed Adelsheim to work closely with their importer to develop a strong relationship, educate them on their brand and trust that the logistics and financial end of the business interactions will be well maintained and honoured.

Catherine travels to China at least two times a year to strengthen these relationships, and to create more. During the interim, most communication is conducted via email and all in English. She acknowledged that as an American winery, she is fortunate that nearly all international business is conducted in English.

Another strong export market for Adelsheim are northern European countries, specifically Denmark. Denmark does not have any government regulations when it comes to importing alcohol, so the winery can work directly with distributors. Additionally, the demographics in this region have the discretionary income to pay for Oregon Pinot Noir because, let’s face it – Oregon Pinot is expensive. It’s a premium product and Catherine is not shy in expressing this. Oregon is being positioned to an equivalent of Burgundy as high quality Pinot Noir, with a price tag to reflect it.

Catherine recently returned from ProWein in Germany – an international wine tradeshow that Adelsheim has attended for the past four years. Having attended ProWein consecutively, Catherine has been able to witness the positive progress its brought to not only Adelsheim’s brand, but that of Oregon’s. Between 60,000 – 65,000 tradeshow guests, including both distributors, wine connoisseurs and wine enthusiasts alike attended the three-day event. It is at international Trade Shows like ProWein that Adelsheim has the opportunity to create relationships with distributors in new markets and strengthen connections they have already made abroad.

Catherine clearly has a passion for her work with Adelsheim, and extending the brand of premium Oregon Pinot into new markets. In fact, Adelsheim has most recently entered Nova Scotia and the Philippines. Catherine says her work is a constant balance between maintaining the markets Adelsheim is currently present in, and looking for new opportunities in others. It can be challenging for Oregon producers to see the value in expending time and effort into extending their reach abroad, but Catherine believes in the long run, it is one of the most valuable extensions a winery can do for their own portfolio, and for the image of Oregon Pinot Noir internationally.

You can read more about what Catherine has to say about exporting Oregon wine on her LinkedIn page.

As featured on the Tongue Explorers World Wine Warriors Blog!

A splash of Pink and a blush of Rose

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While once thought of as a sweet, inexpensive and not-so-pretentious wine, California White Zinfandel was pivotal in getting Rose wine recognised by U.S. wine consumers. Today, winemakers in California, Oregon, Washington, are producing more refined and delicate styles of Rose, earning themselves international recognition as New World Rose producers.

Some would call it an accident and others, such as wine expert Jancis Robinson, would call it a ‘marketing triumph’ when during the 1972 harvest California winemaker Bob Trinchero of Sutter Home did the best he could with saving a stuck ferment. He released a paler, sweeter version of the Zinfandel he had envisioned and labeled it as ‘White Zinfandel.’ Though he was not the first California producer to make a lighter style from Zinfandel, Trinchero was the first California producer to aggressively market his white ‘Zin’ as a new style of wine.

It wasn’t until the latter part of the 20th century that ‘blush wines’ became a significant segment of the American wine market. First with the rich pink and sweet White Zinfandel, and then with Cabernet Blanc and White Merlot. However, the early 2000’s saw a shift in consumer preferences, as sweet Rose wines starting to fall out of favour and were replaced by sweet, red blends. Due to the fact that White Zinfandel represents the majority of Rose wine production in the United States, Rose production is in decline, which has been escalated by the wine’s poor brand recognition by Millennials.

In recent years, Rose wines are regaining their place in the market, but this time at a different perception level, and price point. American tastes have shifted to desire a drier style of Rose, rather than the sweet, luscious characteristics of 1990’s California Rose. This in turn has stimulated an increase in Rose imports, specifically from Provence and the Southern region of France. In 2012 alone, the Provence Wine Council reported a 41% increase in exports to the United States. Though a bit dated (from 2012), Vinepair reported that American wine consumers drink 13% of the world’s Rose, of which metro NYC consumes 20% of all imported Rose and Miami consumes 15% of all imported Rose.

Reinvigorated market interest has spawned room from cooler climate wine producers, such as those in Oregon and Washington to create Rose from Pinot Noir. These Rose wines are made in a dry style with minimal residual sugar and crisp acidity. This style Rose makes the wine impeccable for food pairings.

The interest in Rose and its ability hold its own against food and serve as a chef’s playmate has driven Rose-specific wine events across the United States. Colorado boats the Drink Pink Vino International Rose Wine Festival, Miami hosts the Rose from Around the World event and La Nuit En Rose Wine Festivals take place in New York, Los Angeles and Miami. On the West Coast, most producers release their Rose wines in the spring months, once the weather starts warming up, with a spirited reveal during their Memorial Day Weekend celebrations (a highly popular wine tasting weekend amongst wine connoisseurs and novices alike).

While the mystery of Rose’s popularity is slowly unfolding to reveal a more sophisticated and accepted reputation, many consumers are still in wonderment as to how the wine is actually made. One unique aspect of Rose is that the winemaker has total control over the colour of the wine. Once the wine reaches the desired colour, the winemaker removes the red grape skins, which is the source of the wine’s would-be red pigment. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There are three main methods in which Rose can be made: Maceration/skin contact, saignee or ‘bled’ method or blending method.

Maceration may be the most well-known and utilised method for producing Rose wines in the United States. The red grapes (whether they’re Pinot Noir, Zinfandel or Grenache) are let to soak, or macerate, in the juice for a duration of time. This can be anywhere between one to up to twenty hours, depending on the desired colour. Once the winemaker is pleased with the colour, the grapes are pressed away from the skins to release what will then be the Rose wine.

Saignee or the bled method is not as common, due to the fact that its final product does not create a large quantity of wine. During the initial stages of making red wine, a portion of the juice is bled off and put into a separate tank. This is to concentrate the red wines’ intensity and often results in a very fine Rose. The bled method is used in the wine regions of Napa and Sonoma in California.

Lastly, the blending method entails just that – when red wine is blended into white wine. It does not take a great proportion of red wine to dye a white wine pink, so typically the blend may only include 5% of the selected red wine. This particular method is not as common with still Rose wines, and is seen more in sparkling wine regions in Champagne.

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The next time the sun is out and you’re seeking something refreshing why not try a Rose of Pinot Noir from Oregon or a Grenache Rose from Washington State? These wines will tantalize your taste buds, and redirect your association of pink from the outdate California White Zinfandel. Of course, I can’t help but make a plug for my home state, so if you’re keen to try an Oregon Rose, here are my recommendations:

Cheers!

As featured on the Tongue Explorers World Wine Warriors Blog!

This article was published following my post, but I wanted to share! 8 Great Roses from the PNW