Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Peaches & Cream

 You talk about a misleading title!  This one takes the cake!  Peaches & cream cake, of course!  

What we're really talking about here is the 2017 Beronia Rueda (roo-ay-da) 100% Verdejo (vurr-day-ho) Spanish varietal white wine.  Characterizing this beauty, of course, is where the "peaches and cream" business comes in.  Make no mistake, this wine is dry, like most European whites are dry, so don't think the "peaches and cream" refers to dessert.  The more accurate term for this one would be "stone fruit" and "malolactic" (fermentation) so lets dissect these terms.

In wine lingo, stone fruit really applies to peaches and apricots, two fruits with pits.  For wine geeks the pits flavor the wine also.  Viognier is quintessential stone fruit wine.  From the first sip of our Rueda, the wine explodes with stone fruit except it's more apricotty than peachy.  Apricots and cream just doesn't have the same mouthwatering appeal as peaches and cream.

Malolactic fermentation is that winemaking process that converts the grapes' malic acid into the lactic acid that dairy products exhibit, hence the creaminess referred to in the post title.  While I get that creaminess in this wine it's just negligible compared to other examples of malolactic.  The creaminess that I get may be intrinsic to this grape type.  In any event the creaminess enriches the body of the wine.

This wine also has a distinct herbaceousness that adds yet another dimension to its flavor profile.

Here's some actual information about Rueda, just so you don't feel you've wasted your time here.

Rueda is a DO (denominacion de origen protegida), a legally defined and protected wine appellation.  It encompasses 13,005 hectares (32,000 acres) in the provinces of Valladolid, Segovia and Avila in north central Sspain.  The entire appellation is a plateau at 6-700 meters above sea level.  In the center of the appellation lies the town of Rueda.  

The Rueda appellation has a continental climate of hot summers and cold winters with maritime affected rainfalls in the spring and fall.  The soils are alluvial with an iron content in either a sandy or clayey consistency.  The soil drainage is good here which belies the fact that the soils are poor, which means the grapevines have to struggle for nourishment leading to deeper taproots and ultimately, more flavorful wines.

Verdejo is the indigenous grape of the region and eighty percent of Rueda is planted in that one type.  Some of those vines are a hundred years old.  90+% of the wine produced in Rueda is white wine.  If it is labelled "Rueda" it must be at least 50% Verdejo.  If it is labelled "Verdejo" it must be at least 85% Verdejo. 

Interestingly enough the Rueda appellation is flanked by two great red wine appellations, Toro to the west and Ribero del Duero to the east.  All three lie on the same latitude with their respective wine regions inhabiting the same Duero River basin.  To the west of them all lies Portugal's finest wine region of the same name.

Just in case you can't tell, we like this wine.  So stop in and give it a try.  

Did we mention it's modestly priced?

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Scarlet Vine

 "Scarlet Vine was born in a lush, century-old mountain vineyard, where vines dance in the wind and produce perfect fruit - so intensely flavored and rich in color that they appear as a sea of scarlet red.  Anyone who tastes wine crafted from this fruit is destined to fall under her spell.  Do you dare?" 

I hate winery websites.  

The above quote is taken from scarletvine.com.  It is actually the first thing you see when you go there.  It's a real crock of s__t.

If gag reflexes are your thing, you should check out the back label of the Scarlet Vine bottle.  There you will find some more fine literary grease for your gullet. 

Alternatively, what I would really love to learn from a winery website is technical data - grape types, viticulture and viniculture, terroir.  In short, what I want to know is how the grapes grown in the vineyard become the wine in the bottle.  Am I asking too much?

Scarlet Vine Cabernet Sauvignon is new on the market and my supplier has successfully placed it on several restaurant wine lists.  She did this by tasting it out to us in the trade.  Obviously the wine is quite good.

By the way, the Scarlet Vine label art is frankly beautiful.  It depicts a svelte feminine figure growing from a grapevine.  Doing it justice in words is not possible.  It really is well done.  So well done you don't notice the lack of any information about the wine...and therein lies the rub.

Scarlet Vine is marketed by one of the largest wine companies in the world.  They deserve their success.  They do a good job.  But as a California mass marketer the aim is never to enlighten but rather to turn cases by aiming for where most of us Americans live.  And as we have said, they do a fine job at that.

So in summary - we have a fine moderately priced Cabernet Sauvignon in a bottle that features beautiful label art.  If you look hard enough at the small print on the back label you will find relevant information about the wine but obviously someone doesn't care if you see that so they bloviate about an anthropomorphic grapevine goddess.

Thursday, September 10, 2020


It seems like forever since we've had a Barbaresco in the store and we wouldn't have the Franco Serra model if we hadn't poked and prodded our distributor for "other types."  The Barbaresco, it turns out, is a new addition to the local portfolio.

Barbaresco is one of the truly great Italian reds...period.  It gets short shrift because, according to wine industry royalty, it doesn't compare to Barolo.  I get it.  Barolo is massive.  Barbaresco is lighter.  That's actually the selling point for some of us.

That's not to say Barbaresco is light red wine.  We have the Barbera and Dolcetto from Franco Serra in the store and they are most definitely light.  Body-wise, Barbaresco may be more like a hefty Sangiovese.  The Dolcetto, by the way, has become quite popular here so, by all means, give it a try.

So here's what we learned about Barbaresco from the Hugh Johnson/Jancis Robinson The Concise World Atlas of Wine:

Barbaresco is a single varietal Piemontese wine made from the same Nebbiolo grape as Barolo, the greatest red wine of Italy.  Prior to the 1850's it's style was light and sweet.  Then French-style winemaking overcorrected that effort and turned it very dry and heavily oaked.  Around 1970 modern winemaking began its intervention in this history resulting in the following changes:

    1. Grape picking was greatly improved by measuring phenolic ripeness.

    2. Stainless steel fermentation in temperature controlled tanks brought out the inherent fruit in wine grapes.

    3. Shorter oak aging in smaller barrels became a normative qualifier for estate wines.

    4. Grape maceration was accomplished in days and weeks rather then over months, again, to make a lighter, fresher tasting wine.

The result?

Barbaresco became more complex with layers of leafy lighter red berry flavors over smokey jammy concentrated leather and spice.  The tannins in the wine no longer overwhelm it but rather frame and refresh the wine's inherent complexity. 

Want to taste it?  Stop in this Saturday afternoon.  No promises, but...we just may have it open!

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

One Day in the Wine Business

 My vendor recently told me how she successfully facilitated a large wine event in a nearby community.  One of her clients was a restaurateur in that town who knew key local government employees.  The suggestion was made to hold a community food and wine festival much like A Taste of Gainesville except the wines would be exclusively provided from one source.  Guess who got the contract!

The wines were to be moderately priced California fare since the anticipated crowd would be a cross section of the community and the powers that be didn't want anyone to feel intimidated by anyone else's pretensions.  Everyone involved was in agreement on the plan.

Here's where it got a little sticky - The sommelier employed by the restaurant felt it was his job to match the wines with the foods.  After all, that's his job!  The problem as observed by this industry insider is that everyday California wines really don't lend themselves to sophisticated pairings.  My vendor knew as much and tried to get others to see that non-specific pairings may be a better way to go. 

Just to backtrack for a minute - Most decent moderately priced wines are sourced from coops, "crushpads" or mass marketers whose aim is to make wine just good enough for a given price point and generic enough to not offend anyone.  If this effort touches enough of the right taste buds according to popular public perceptions, then the wine is a good enough example of whatever it is supposed to be.  Food affinities are optional.

So...was the sommelier wrong about wanting to pair the wines with specific foods?  Not hardly!  Whatever he had in mind, given his training, would probably have been perfectly fine.  And if he was really on his game, his pairings may have been tantalizing.  On the other hand, those pairings could have been personally embarrassing or worse yet, they could have appeared pretentious.

Please join us this Saturday afternoon for a tasting of four very special French wines, three reds and a white.  Please call 770-287-9463 or email wineguy@bellsouth.net for an appointment that afternoon.  We don't want too many tasters in our little store at any given time.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Frederick Wildman & Sons, LTD

Wildman is one of the better wine importers we have worked with through the years here at V&C.  We especially like their European whites.  In the paragraphs to follow you will probably recognize several familiar wine brands commonly in the store courtesy of this importer.

Oddly enough, Frederick Wildman got his start in the wine business courtesy of the U.S. Army.  He had come from a cultured affluent Connecticut family heavily invested in the insurance and banking industries.  His military service coincided with the latter part of World War I.  Knowing his background, the military brass tasked him with pairing wines and foods for VIPs during the last six months of the war.  So Wildman became the de facto wine steward/sommelier for the army in Europe.

At the end of the war Wildman returned to the family business but saw an opportunity to pursue his passion at the end of the Prohibition Era.  In 1933 he bought Bellows & Company, a food and wine importer, and personalized his commitment by stressing quality in his stock.  He traveled widely in Europe, often renewing relationships he had during the war, and gradually built his book.

In time Wildman sold his company to National Distillers but bought back the wine portfolio in 1952 and officially renamed the operation Fredrick Wildman & Sons, LTD.  From the very beginning in 1933 Wildman represented Chateau Fuisse, Olivier LeFlaive, Pol Roger and Christian Moreau.  They remain in the portfolio to this day.

In 1971 Wildman retired and sold the company to Hiram Walker Distillers.  In the 1980's Folonari, Hugel, Melini and Santi were added to the portfolio.

In 1993 Richard Cacciato, the company president, partnered with five of the historic wine companies represented in the portfolio to purchase the company from Hiram Walker.  Wildman now represents fifty wine companies.

If you would like to join us for a tasting this Saturday here at the store, call us to set an appointed time at 770-287-WINE(9463) or email us at wineguy@bellsouth.net.  Because of the virus we want to avoid any crowding.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020


"Mosel Kabinetts should be like drinking cool spring water, thirst quenching and delicious." - Johannes Selbach

Hopefully by the time you read this we will have some Riesling Trockens from Selbach-Oster.  They should be some of the finest wines of their kind.  Currently we have two regional bottlings from Selbach and a dry Pinot Blanc from Selbach-Oster.

The Selbach family has been in the wine business in Mosel since the 1600s.  That means they have tended their vineyards for about four hundred years.  Oster was a barrel maker who married into the family on the paternal side centuries later.

The Mosel region is the oldest viticultural region of Germany.  It was originally planted 2,000 years ago by the Celts and Romans.  The Selbach family owns twenty-four hectares (59 acres) in what could be called the classico region of Mosel.  Those estate wines carry the Selbach-Oster label.  All other wines they market carry just the Selbach label.

Johannes Selbach compares his Rieslings to biting into various fruits.  Kabinett quality Riesling, which is basically dry, is like biting into an apple.  Spatlese, which is off-dry, he compares to getting into peaches or apricots.  Auslese, which is noticeably sweeter, is like ripe tropical fruit and Eiswein, according to Selbach, is honeyed smokiness.

We started this post with an allusion to Riesling Trockens which are the driest of German wines.  They are as dry as any white wine anywhere.  What makes them noteworthy?  The grape.  Riesling.  Riesling is the great white wine grape of the world.  Aside from complexity in flavors and aromas Riesling excels in structure, which is the spine and bones of a wine that supports the fruit flavors.  Riesling's unique character is the tension created between the acidity, fruit and minerality of the wine.  With Riesling Trockens that tension is visceral.

If you have read this article and would like to try a dry German Riesling stop in and say so.  We'll discount one down for you!

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Champagne Labruyere

A couple months ago we wrote about Champagne Palmer & Company.  We were excited to get Palmer because it was new to Georgia.  Champagne Labruyere is likewise new to us here at the store and it shares a pedigree with Palmer.  Both own Grand Cru Chardonnay vineyards in the Montagne de Reims district of Champagne.  The difference for us is that we actually have the Labruyere Grand Cru Page Blanche in the store.  Our Palmer is a non-vintage brut which may indicate purchased fruit. 

There are 33,500 hectares (76,000 acres) in vines in the Champagne region and they are spread over 319 villages.  Only seventeen of those villages have Grand Cr vineyards.  For Labruyere their sixty-five year old vineyards lie in the village of Verzenay.  That highly esteemed fruit has been destined for Roederer Crystal and Dom Perignon in the past.

Edouard Labruyere owns 6 hectares (15 acres) in Verzenay which he named Chantravesen.  He also has holdings in the nearby village of Verzy.  Labruyere purchased his Champagne properties because of their similarity to his holdings in Burgundy.  Specifically he wanted vineyards that had Burgundian-style vine spacing, density and pruning for the traditional Burgundian vinification.

The Labruyere family hails from the Moulin a Vent region where they have owned Clos du Moulin a Vent since 1868.  They also own vineyards in the Cotes d'Or of Burgundy and Chateau Rouget which lies adjacent to Chateau Petrus in Pomerol, Bordeaux.

The taster's description for traditional French Champagne may include complex flavors of buttery brioche, baked apple toast, hazelnut, vanilla and yeast.  Two descriptions we found for our Labruyere included "fruity, powerful, smokey and feral" and "perfectly focused, rapier-like in intensity, exuberant and driven."  Apparently they have nailed it.

We are restarting our store wine tastings after a two month respite.  Because of the need for social distancing, we are asking for Saturday afternoon appointments.  If you want more information or want to schedule a time slot please call us at 770-287-WINE(9463) or email us at wineguy@bellsouth.net.