One of the most popular beverages over the past 15 years, has been Prosecco. Virtually coming out of nowhere in the late 1990's, it is now so popular that there is constant pressure to expand the production zone, while maintaining vigilance on the use of the name. But what is and why so popular?
What does it taste like?
Food Pairing suggestions:
The Classic Prosecco Cocktail
Walk through any restaurant kitchen in the morning and you will inevitably see someone breaking down a salmon. They are smoked, baked, grilled, poached, souped, ceviche, crudo and pizza-ed. Occasionally we serve them on a bagel.
But what to offer for beverage suggestions?
Aside from a cup of coffee to go with the bagel, schmear and lox, there are any number of choices that can work really well with this versatile fish – a lot depends on how it is cooked and plated.
Salmon is a large fish, dwelling in the ocean except when it travels up fresh water rivers/streams to spawn. The part we eat is the muscle, and large fish such as this have much less connective tissue than land animals, as such there is less fat in the meat, and this means it can cook much quicker. It is also “lighter” when compared to beef and other meats. Therefore, when looking to pair with certain wines, it is important to consider what will work best with the various factors involved in the palate.
Important factors with salmon:
Salmon is a fish, and therefore the weight and fat content would almost always mean starting with something in the white wine category.
Texturally, though, it is medium in its overall weight on the palate (this may be obvious or not, but remind your guys that weight refers to the texture and feel in the mouth – not to actual pounds of fish).
Often grilled or cooked like a steak, so the smoke and char from the grill will allow it handle oak.
There has been a lot of interest in the Level 2 Wine Award for the next series, and I just wanted to remind all that this Monday (today essentially - Feb 3rd) is the cut-off for the next session which starts on February 17. I will be ordering the class materials on Tuesday morning, so please if you have not signed up, yet, take a minute and click on the button below. If you have any questions about the class or how it operates - feel free to reach out to Brain Mitchell - firstname.lastname@example.org.
Full class details are available by clicking the 'CLASSES' button above and going to the L2 page.
Click below to buy ticket for
WSET Level 2 in Wine - ONLINE
February 17, 2020
March 22, 2020
Deadline to sign-up is February 3
Exam date will be set for March 28, 2020 - 11am.
Session cost is $599, and includes all materials and fees.
Not a ton of notable things came across my desk this week (sorry guys), but there were a couple items that I felt warranted a mention. Its hard, because I actually had the opportunity to taste quite a few things - some were OK, but as is often the case - a lot was not. So, just a short list this go round, which is probably just fine since most of you are watching or recovering from the Super Bowl (I am writing this Sunday afternoon, not game-time, quite yet).
The two best items I tasted were from France - the 2014 Jean-Paul Brun Terres Doree Moulin a Vent (aka Beaujolais pretty much at the top of the game), and the 2018 Yves Cuilleron Syrah Les Vignes d'a Cote (aka Syrah from the Northern Rhone).
The Moulin a Vent (which means windmill and is a reference to the windmill in Moulin a Vent, but also to the fact that the region happens to be quite windy) is just a superb example of Gamay. This is a Cru that has vineyards at elevation and on granitic soils - two perfect combinations for making elegant and delicious wine with deep concentration. I decanted, which was a good call, due to the fact that it is a little fuller and at first the nose is a bit closed. BUT, on the palate the wine is super elegant and smooth, lower alcohol and acidity make it simply glide across the palate. The bottle goes down quick so be careful
The Syrah is produced by Yves Cuilleron, who took over his family's domaine in 1988, and has lead the charge in the northern Rhone for Syrah-based wines for years. I actually had the pleasure of dining in a restaurant in Ampuis that is partly owned by Yves - while he was there for lunch - this was last March with my traveling companions to the Rhone and Burgundy (yeah, these two guys to the right - it was a lot of fun). This particular Syrah is basically the entry level of the range, but it is quite good - better than most in fact. Deep, and a little brooding - the Syrah opens to black fruits and some spice, but kind of holds its own as a bigger, blacker version of what would basically be Cotes du Rhone level/priced wines. There is an elegant streak of acidity through the middle that provides lift to the wine, and this is what makes it a great choice for meat, poultry and anything that has some fat and sauce.
In a completely different direction from the reds above, the other thing that hit my desk this week was a couple of new wines from Ted Diamantes - owner of Diamond Wine Imports. These are Assyrtiko, which is a beautiful and well regarded white wine, most often from Santorini in Greece. Both wines tasted were from the 2018 vintage, but the Alexakis is a Cretian wine, while the Santo Winery is from Santorini.
It is easy to see, when tasting side-by-side, why Santorini is the preferred region of origin. Not to take away from the Alexakis - it is a smooth and easy drinking wine with a complex approach and finish - but the Santorini wine shows higher tones of acidity and balance. Alexakis Assyrtiko was a bit broader in the middle and had weight similar to Chardonnay. The Santo Winery Assyrtiko glides across the palate with a balanced and fresh acid structure that carries the mineral / saline fruit, gracefully.
If you are not familiar with Assyrtiko or with Greek wine in general, now is a great time to check them out. Very good values (although prices are creeping up on Santorini wines), with more and more selections available each season. Lots of letters and a few challenging names - but the wines are worth seeking out - they work with food very well.
The week started off with a dinner featruing the wines of an old friend - Il Poggione from Montalcino. I had the pleasure to visit this estate a number of years back, and the wine were impressive then, as they are today.
I also had the pleasure to revisit with Alessandro Bindocci, the current winemaker at Il Poggione and out guest for the evening. Alessandro makes wines that are very easy to get to know. Basically a Sangiovese specialist, Il Poggione is perfectly situated on the southern facing side or the 'back' of Montalcino, a perfect home for this grape. Il Poggione has been in production for more than a century, and as such they have the good fortune of vines that are old, with many revisions done in the early 1960s - these are 50+ year old vines at the core pf production. What does this mean to the average drinker, like you and me? Very well balanced and concentrated fruit in the glass - just like silk. You do not have to be a wine geek to like these wines - they are perfect for those of us who like a little more round and supple feel to the tannins in our wines.
The dinner had a number of current releases, including a Toscana Rosso, Rosso di Montalcino, and the 2014 Brunelo di Montalcino, but the wine that may have been my secret favorite was the Rosato, 2018. Also made from Sangiovese, and done in a very dry style - it is light and delicate with beautiful freshness and balance between the fruit aromas and flavors and the acidity.
Sancerre has been a bit of quandary for wine-buyers the past few years. There is a significant consumer demand for this wine style, but the region has had its ups and downs with weather, which has created a situation with lower production for many producers. Why is it so popular?
Sancerre is made from Sauvignon Blanc - and people like to drink Sauvignon Blanc. Sancerre is a region that has a lot of limestone in the ground. This limestone helps to really focus the acidity and freshness in the wines, while the Sauvignon Blanc grapes deliver what they are made to deliver: fruit and chalky flavors. Usually not terribly pungent and tropical like a Sauvignon from New Zealand might be, the Sancerre style is built around balance and elegance, but also richness and drinkability. Which is how we get to Tabordet Sancerre, 2018.
In a nutshell - its a pounder. Almost silky smooth, the feel on the palate is rich but smooth and light, all at the same time. Not overly fruity, but in check with great citrus and pear notes that are carried to the finish with some chalk and mineral notes. It goes down easy on a Wednesday night.
Sancerre is also a classic pairing for the other great food of the region - Chevre or goat-cheese. There is no better food and wine pairing perhaps than Sancerre and goat-cheese, in my opinion. The acids in each are perfectly suited to compliment the other and when you have them together something magical happens in your mouth. Get some Sancerre. Make a salad or other dish with goat-cheese. Drink together. Enjoy.
I am told I was the first person to taste the first sample bottle of the Jameson Cold Brew Whiskey & Coffee to hit the CT market. While I feel honored by that occasion, this will probably be the only mention of that event. Not that there is anything wrong with this product - in fact it was tasty - it's just that I am a not a huge fan of market research driven concoctions.
Jameson has been on a release train the past few years, bringing a new item out each year or so and working to capture or maintain drinkers with 'innovative' and timely concepts, such as the IPA Cask Edition last year. Now I guess Cold Brew is the thing, although I think we got over the Cold Brew moment a couple of years ago. Maybe it took a while to get to Ireland, or wherever the decisions are made on new items.
Smells like coffee. Tastes like whiskey and coffee. Falls off a little quick, but for those looking for a more delicate attack on the palate - this will fit your bill. True whiskey fans will pass. Fans of flavored shite will like it.
As part of my day-job, I get to work with winemakers and craft a few of wines that are sold with good success in the restaurants. I would never go so far as to say I 'make' the wine, of course, but I do get to sample and comment on the style and production methods, to a certain point. A couple of years ago when I was looking to add a new wine to the portfolio, I wanted a particular style of Chardonnay, from a particular source region, and in a certain price-point. I was able to find this with the guys at Campbell & McGill - Kevin McGill being a friend and supplier here in CT.
Kevin makes a wine in Sonoma that he markets under his own label, and when we discussed the opportunity to make one for my needs, we decided to piggy-back the production to keep costs in line with what our combined goals were. The result is a Sonoma County designated Chardonnay. Our first vintage, which is out and selling now, was the 2018. This week, I had a tank sample of the 2019 vintage delivered to my desk inorder to preview and comment. One of the criteria I had from the beginning and certainly after the initial vintage was made, was to increase the amount of oak used in the making and aging of the wine. For 2019, we bought a number of additional barrels, and stepped up the aromatics and mouthfeel by employing more wood in the program. With lees stirring on a regualr basis, we are able to build great fruit and balance, with delicious apple and pear flavors that are slowly being wrapped by toast and vanilla. Even at this young age, the 2019 shows a ton of promise.
Taking into consideration that we were briefly not sure if there would even be a 2019 vintage made, as the winery was evacuated due to wildfires back in October/November, this wine is a real pleasure to drink, and I cannot wait to release it later this year.
If you are working the floor in the wine business, you know the value of a good, no hopefully GREAT, corkscrew - or wine key as we sometimes refer to it as. I get asked somewhat frequently what my favorite corkscrew is and the answer often surprises. Most people expect that I have a fancy (read that as expensive) wine key form a top producer. Well, I have a few of those, but most are actually broken.
The brand I prefer to use has a number of different styles and feels, but ultimately Coutale is what I have come to value for its durability and styling, which is comfortable and functional. For the most part, I get wine keys form suppliers for no cost, and these are given out to my staff to use. But for my personal needs it is Coutale in my pocket. And when I am working an event or taking care of guests as a Sommelier, I prefer to have two keys in my pocket - never know when one will break - and different corks sometimes call for different means of extractions. What does that mean?
The Coutale Sommelier series of wine keys has multiple levels (see the picture), of which there are slight differences in how they are made. Each has a slightly variation to the worm, the blade, and the way it is engineered - giving a different feel or practical nature to various corks and other closures.
For me, these are the tools of the trade that are there and reliable when needed. It may seem like a small thing, but when you open 30, 40 or more bottles every day - you need something that you can count on - and hopefully is a little stylish, as well.
If you are studying for a qualification through any of the programs offered in the wine community, you have probably used flashcards - I personally have thousands of them. One thing becomes clear after a while, they can be helpful but take up space and hard to keep organized.
Over many years I have added to my collection as I have worked through various programs and levels of study, and now with some very high level exams on the horizon in my personal plan, as well as in conjunction with the many candidate students using this website for WSET classes - I have made my cards available online. This was a big jump that I took on a few years ago, but it helped me to revamp and organize the cards, as well as use them anywhere I had my phone or tablet available - such as while traveling, commuting or simply while lying in bed. I also have the ability to edit the cards as new or modified information becomes available.
For those studying for certain qualifications, I have broken the cards down into appropriate level material, as well as by subjects and sub-topics. The wine world can be intimidating with the vast amount of information, but having a cohesive and level-appropriate set of study material available has helped a lot of my students work through their programs - assuring that we all are able to handle the info we need.
Brainscape is my flashcard program of choice, and there are a number of 'decks' that I have built in my account for various levels of study. You can access the list via the Resources icon at the top of this page, or by clicking here. I am currently in the process of revamping the Advanced Sommelier decks, taking care to remove redundant ones and update/correct the rest. I will also be adding WSET Spirits Level 1 decks, shortly, as we have added that the New England Wine Academy class offerings this week.
Brainscape is available to add to your phone or tablet by clicking here or in your App store.
For fans of Rum (and you can count me in as one), there are a number of opportunities to attend Rum Festivals throughout 2020, and in various locations around the country. I have not attended any of these particular events, so go at your own risk, but they look like a lot of fun. I am of course a big fan of the classic rum drink - the Daiquiri - so this seems like it would be a great opportunity to find some new and creative ideas for making different variations of this iconic drink.
I will attach the specific dates to the calendar, but here is the link to the host company for the festivals in Miami, Chicago, New York, Puerto Rico and California - all throughout 2020.
Here is the link to find all the info from the Rum Lab...
New online class scheduled by New England Wine Academy. See the full schedule on the Classes page or directly below. Online classes cover the same material as in-person classes, and can have the advantage of providing a flexible schedule for study and tasting while still providing structure to the schedule preparing for the exam. This can be great for those with busy or non-traditional work schedules, such as can often be the case in the restaurant industry.
Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) Level 1 Award in Wine ONLINE
Mon 24 February 2020 - Sun 22 March 2020
Mon 4 May 2020 - Sun 31 May 2020
Mon 29 June 2020 - Sun 26 July 2020
Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 Award in Wine ONLINE
Mon 27 January 2020 - Sun 1 March 2020
Mon 17 February 2020 - Mon 23 March 2020
Mon 23 March 2020 - Sun 26 April 2020
Mon 13 April 2020 - Sun 17 May 2020
Mon 8 June 2020 - Sun 12 July 2020
Mon 22 June 2020 - Sun 26 July 2020
Please pay attention to the registration deadlines. Because WSET is based in London there is some lag-time for ordering materials and getting you registered for specific classes. Each posting above details the cut-off dates. For additional information, please contact NEWA.