Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Marnie Old

Marnie Old is a sommelier, author and educator who has a weekly column in the Philadelphia Daily News.  She also hosts something called "Wine Simplified" on YouTube.  What she brings to the table is a crisp and engaging style that "uses the power of images to explain complex wine concepts."  That is a gift.

One consequence of getting older is we tend to get stuck in our routines and fail to remain open to new information and those who bring it.  With as much history in this industry as we have, Marnie Old was new to us until we recently saw her name in a Lettie Teague WSJ wine article.  To restate what we said above, what she does is she simplifies things to the point where even if you aren't paying 100% attention you can still get it.  Wine Folly is similarly good at this approach.  It's sort of a "wine for dummies" approach.

While we weren't familiar with Marnie Old by name, we have been using something she wrote years ago as a teaching tool here in the store.  It was published in an infinitely forgettable trade magazine and it was so good we tore it out and kept it on the counter.  It would become our text for conducting the wine and cheese "experiment."

The article was a mere three paragraphs long with the other half page being graphics, observations, and a four step technique for conducting the experiment.  The article was entitled "Salt is Wine's Best Friend" and we used it to show how dry red wine has a natural affinity with cheese (since cheese is salty). 

These are her exact words: "Salt blocks the taste buds that detect acidity and sensitizes those that detect sweetness.  So saltiness makes wine taste less acidic, fruitier and less sweet.  In summary, this effect is usually pleasant."  She then goes on to say why sugar doesn't work with dry red wine.  We always stopped our experiment at this point since we always thought sugar was a non-starter.

Marnie Old was a restaurant sommelier for her first five years in the industry before moving on to consultant work with restaurants, consumers and corporations.  She was formerly the director of Manhattan's French Culinary Institute.  She even educated the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (since that state runs the liquor industry).  Currently she is affiliated with the Boisset Collection of Napa-Sonoma wines.

Please join us this Thursday the 12th at 5pm when Bob Reynolds leads us in a tasting of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley Vineyards along with a couple reds from Argentina and Spain.  One week later on the 19th David Hobbs returns with a tasting from his fine wine portfolio.  Then on Saturday the 21st  from 1-3pm we will host a charity tasting to benefit the Gateway Domestic Violence Center.  Please join us for the tastings. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Champagne Palmer & Co.

We just got in a couple cases of Palmer & Co. Champagne.  Since I have never sold this one before, I thought some homework might help with my sales pitch, hence, this post.

Montagne de Reims is one of the five wine districts in the Champagne region.  It is located in Champagne's northwestern quadrant.  Seven grape growers in that region united to form Palmer in 1947.  While Montagne de Reims is known for its Pinot Noir, these growers owned Grand Cru and Premier Cru Chardonnay vineyards, which is wonderful in itself, if a little peculiar considering where they were.

Pinot Noir is recognized as the great grape of Champagne.  It is what gives Champagne its character.  Montagne de Reims Champagne is especially well known for its heady bouquet, structure and acidity.

The Champagne district is situated ninety miles northeast of Paris.  That latitude is the highest of vineyard holdings in the world except for Argentina.  Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the third grape of Champagne, are among the few types capable of producing quality fruit at that latitude.

In a way what the founders of Palmer accomplished in 1947 parallels what is happening today in Champagne - growers are making their own instead of selling their harvest to the maisons, the huge international companies.  Estate-bottled wines are always better than what the big guys can do and the Grower Champagne movement is a microcosm of that larger truth.

The reputation of a Champagne house, however, is built by its non-vintage bottlings where the house cuvee establishes the public's perception of the company.  Most Champagne lovers are introduced to a a new sparkler by trying the non-vintage version first if for no other reason than the price.  Palmer, being a seventy year old company, long ago outgrew its estate wine bonafides.  Those Grand Cru and Premier Cru Chardonnay Vineyards now supply higher tier Palmer labels while the non-vintage product is made largely from purchased juice.  The great brands of Champagne consistently purchase ninety percent of their non-vintage Champagne juice.

While almost all big Champagne houses reside in the cities of Reims or Epernay, one large company calls the town of Ay in Montagne de Reims home.  That would be Bollinger whose big, yeasty, masculine style is indelibly etched into every Champagne lover's memory.  Palmer, by contrast, self-describes as "a moment of celebration associated with elegance."  They claim they get minerality from the chalky soil and salinity from the ocean breezes.  Moreover their wine style displays citrus and tropical fruit, floral notes, nuttiness and a silky mousse.

The best Champagnes show some combination of freshness, richness and delicacy, breed and raciness, and a stimulating strength.  Let's hope Palmer displays all of that.  And more!

Please join us this Thursday at the weekly tasting.  We start at 5 and go till 7pm.