New England Wine Academy is please to host April's monthly Academy class: Get Your Gamay On, which of course focuses on a single grape from multiple regions in Central France - Gamay.
Gamay is the grape of Beaujolais, but is also the grape of parts of the Loire and elsewhere. Having a well-deserved renaissance, Gamay is a cultivar that has been maligned and heralded depending on where you look in history and who you ask. But for this class Brian Mitchell will dive deep into the wine, discuss the regions, styles and why it should be in your glass.
We have once again partnered with our friends at the Wise Old Dog to offer a tasting kit to go along with the class.
You can purchase the kit at this link. Six Bottle Sampler: 'Up Your Gamay' ($100)
And for more info and to register for the Academy class on April 21 (FOR JUST $10) - follow this link.
Thanks and see you on the 21st.
Here is just a friendly reminder about some key courses and registration dates for anyone looking to enroll in certain classes. I mention these as a few of the courses are only offered on a limited basis, and as we approach the latter part of the WSET Academic Calendar (ends July 31), it is important to keep these in mind if you wish to participate.
Please keep in mind that all registrations must be made 8 days prior to the start date of the course. You can find full details by clicking on the "Classes" tab on the website. Also keep in mind that NEWA offers returning student discounts on Levels 2 and 3, corporate rates for groups of 10 or more, and a free 1 year access to the Brainscape study site with each enrollment.
WSET Level 1 SAKE
This course has two options before the end of July:
WSET LEvel 1 WINE
This course has three options before the end of July:
WSET Level 2 Wine
This course has multiple dates still available, but the next classes are:
Click here to view the course page and register
WSET Level 3 WINE
Four sessions remain in this academic year:
WSET Level 2 SPIRITS
There are just two sessions left for this course:
Yes, sometimes I do talk about things other than wine...and a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of speaking with Sean Lawson of Lawson Finest Liquids in Vermont, and we discussed his extraordinary beers among other things. All this was in conjunction with an event that I participated in, and we were fortunate enough to have some fantastic seasonal additions to our line-up as well as a few of the classics.
The one thing I will mention about these beers is that I (along with a lot of other folks) are often fatigued by the over-hopped and thick-hazy IPA styles that seem to be everywhere. Interesting to taste, but often tough to drink. I know there is a lot of popularity in these beers, but sometimes you just need something with more balance rather than just being in your face. Lawson's has this balance factor across the range of styles. Sean and I discuss this in the videos below, but I think it is a key factor in his success and the lasting popularity of his beers They are balanced and very drinkable - even above 8% abv, which means you can have more than one, and people will come back for them again, and again.
I broke the discussion into two parts: first part focuses on the back-story and general knowledge of Lawson's, and the second part dives into some of the beers as we taste a selection. Enjoy.
Speaking Session Part 1 with Sean Lawson
Speaking Session Part 2 with Sean Lawson
It was not that long ago (about 15 years in fact) that Australian wines dominated the shelves of American wine shops. So what happened? Well, a couple things...
First, critter labels. This is the category of wines known for the animals on the labels rather than the actual producer. Many of these labels became popular in the early 2000s, mimicking and following the big driver brands coming out of Australia at the time. Unfortunately, many of these wines were not only low in price but tended to be low in quality as well. Easy drinking and popular (some would say trendy) but their abundance started to shift with the Australian's focus on other markets - but more on that in a minute.
The other things that changed in the early 2000s, was that Americans had been enamoured with Shiraz in the late 90s for a period of time, but then Sideways the movie came out, and not only put a slow knife in the back of Merlot, but it also had a ripple effect on other grapes, as well. Pinot Noir has dominated shelves for years (and I am not arguing about this too much as I love Pinot Noir), but it has resulted in a lot of Americans thinking that Pinot Noir should taste more like Cab Sauv rather than elegant Pinot Noir. A lot of this has to do with the fact that many large commercial producers tend to add grapes (like all that leftover Syrah and Merlot out there) to their Pinot Noir in order to build up the color, tannins and body (all things good quality Pinot Noir tends to not have too much of), in order to satisfy a middle ground of styles and consumer interest. Blah
The other big thing that happened was that the Australians took their eye off the American market for a minute. China became a massive market for the Australians and life was good for a number of years. Then a couple of things happened: climate change induced fires, and some dumb-ass Aussie politician blaming Covid on the Chinese.
Massive wildfires over a number of years, caused by an increase in temps and a lack of water, has severely damaged the output of Australian vineyards the past decade. They still make wine, and plenty of it, but the fight for increasingly precious water resources has put an immense amount of pressure on the high volume producers in marginal areas of production. Oh, and then there was that politician, whose comments basically cut the Chinese pipe-line off overnight. Countless containers of Australian wine were exported to China for years, and there were expensive campaigns to promote Australian wine across China - much of paid for by the Australian Wine Bureau. But, essentially that ended as a comment-turned-insult has led to a change in attitude among the Chinese drinking public.
Today, we are seeing a slow shift back in attention back to Australian wine, and why not? They have great vineyards, many of which are very old and produce extraordinary wine. The value of the wine is relatively stable and on par with our own wine costs, if not better. And the wines taste like what Americans like to drink.
Personally, I think a whole generation of young wine professionals has missed out on the opportunity to really explore what Australia has to offer and take advantage of offering their clients and guests some fantastic wines. Unfortunately this is due to the fact that the Australians shifted their focus away from the US market for a long time, and so they have themselves to blame, in part. But, we as a drinking community and as a professional wine community really owe it to ourselves to revisit Australian wines and (re)discover the beauty and depth that is achievable in the country. They do have some of the oldest vines on the planet, diverse climatic regions, easy to understand labels, and all the grapes we like to drink - and then some (hello Semillon!)
Here is my short list of what you can do this weekend to become better acquainted with Australian wines...
1 - Watch this video
2 - Listen to this Podcast
3 - Go to your local wine shop and have them order in some Vasse Felix Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Margaret River Region in Western Australia. There are several levels to choose from. You can get the Filius range for about $20-25, or step to the Premier range for about $35-40, per bottle. Either way these wines are fantastic. Well made and from a region that is literally at the end of the Earth. The Margaret River is located at the cross-roads of the Indian and Southern Oceans, have ancient soils and historical vines. Their chief winemaker is Virginia Willcock who has been at the winery for 29 years, and really knows the terroir, the vines, and how to make the best of these elements translate to extraordinary wine. Take advantage of this and enjoy something different, yet familiar.
5 Irish Whiskeys for St. Paddy’s Day
By Julia Menn
With Saint Patrick’s Day fast approaching, you may be on the hunt for some excellent Irish whiskeys to appropriately celebrate the day! Look no further! We’ve compiled a list of 5 delicious Irish Whiskeys ranging all price points and styles. Try one or try them all - you’ll be glad you did!
A blended whiskey made from malt and grain whiskeys, Slane Irish Whiskey undergoes a unique triple cask maturation process which really dials up the flavour. A robust whiskey, the nose is brimming with banana bread, marshmallow, and spice cake, while the palate delivers those sweet notes along with baking spices and rich dried fruits.
Jameson Caskmates Stout
Live the best of whiskey and beer with this special Caskmates edition from Jameson. Their triple distilled, blended whiskey has been aged in a local brewery’s stout barrels, resulting in a dram whose nose is light with hay, pear, green apple, and chocolate, where the palate deepens with sweet pot still character spice, hops, and cocoa from the stout. The long finish is full of dark chocolate notes.
Redbreast 12 Year Cask Strength
Ireland is renowned for their Pot Still whiskey - made from a mash of malted and unmalted barley distilled in copper pot stills. Redbreast 12 Year Cask Strength showcases the complexity and distinctive qualities of Pot Still whiskey. Matured in bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks, this cask strength whiskey has aromas of exotic fruit and spice, along with dried apricots, and toasted wood. The palate is rich and round, with luscious fruit, sweet vanilla, spice, and oak. A satisfying and sophisticated whiskey, indeed!
Dingle Single Malt Batch 4
A small, independent distillery located in the seaside village of Dingle in County Kerry, Dingle Distillery focuses on quality over quantity. Rather unique in the Irish Whiskey sector by producing Single Malts, this whiskey is worth a mention! Made from 100% malted barley aged in sherry, bourbon, and Port casks, this whiskey is full of flavour and balances the sweet and creamy vanilla from the bourbon barrels with the rich fruit flavours from the wine casks.
Known as “The Dubliner’s Tipple of Choice”, Yellow Spot is a Pot Still Whiskey aged for 12 years. The name comes from how barrels used to be marked, with the colour of the paint indicating the age of the whiskey. Aged in ex-Malaga casks, Yellow Spot is complex and sophisticated, showcasing aromas of hay, black pepper, nutmeg, and green tea. Flavours range from red apples and toasted oak to coffee, milk chocolate, and Crème Brûlée. The finish is long with sweetness throughout.
WSET Servers Get Hit By Fire
We hear about and use "The Cloud" everyday, but we rarely think about what or where the cloud really is. In fact The Cloud is a massive number of servers in various places around the globe, and a lot of attention is placed on making sure these are in stable and secure locations. Occasionally though, shit happens. Last week the main email servers for WSET were affected by a fire at just such a location in France. While nothing really dramatic happened on the student side of things, email communications were down for about 5 days for those of us on the backside of the business.
Fire Destroys OVHCloud Servers in Strasbourg
Check Out All of the New Drinks Articles By New England Wine Academy on FLIPBOARD
For years, now, New England Wine Academy has been consolidating Drinks articles into Magazines on the Flipboard platform. You can access these articles and all of the magazines using the link on the logo to the right. Ranging from up-to-date wine, beer and cocktail news, to more broadly related topics such as cannabis news and travel links. Lots of great info, curated each week. Enjoy!
It was a warm, bright, sunny, almost-Spring morning, and we were tasting Gamay in the backyard. What could be better? Nothing.
But what exactly is Gamay? Well, to begin with it is the bastard child of Burgundy. Banished from the golden slopes in 1395 by Philip the Bold (and then again in 1459 by Philip the Good), so that to this day, Gamay is not to be found mingling with the illustrious Pinot of Bourgogne. Or sort of.
Gamay is an old grape. In fact, it is a crossing of Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc, which itself is a wild grape that has parentage to many of the wines we know today. The style of Gamay shares some characteristics with Pinot Noir – lots of delicate fruit, soft tannins and an ability to age when made by the right hands. But Gamay is not Pinot Noir. It is a little more on the wild side. It is a bit less finicky to grow and as such can be a good cropping grape, albeit with slightly less concentrated juice if allowed to grow too wild, which is why farmers like it but also why it was banned from Burgundy.
Throughout central France, Gamay plays a role in many wine regions, but in general the best come from Beaujolais, as well as certain areas of the Loire. Many would agree that the granite slopes of the northern part of the Beaujolais district is where Gamay shines brightest; it loves the pink granite soils and the rolling hills of the area, which is France’s hilliest wine region, BTW.
The Gamay here is pure, rich, and almost cult-like in a way. The farmers of the villages of Morgon and Fleurie and Moulin-a-Vent make some of the most dramatic wines – all from Gamay; be warned though, these are not your 1990s Nouveau. Here we find, even demand, serious, old vine, fruit driven but textural wines that are perfectly suited for food. Shift a little to the north and Gamay has a number of home appellations along the Loire (aka Le Jardin du France), where produces will often use it to blend with a few other grapes, most notably Pinot Noir. The variety of soils and cooler climates makes for more consistent wines year in and year out if your Pinot doesn’t quite ripen but your Gamay does. Plus – it just tastes good.
Our tasting pack includes selections from each of these regions, and includes some of the region’s top producers. It was tough to limit ourselves to just six, but these are our favorites for the moment, and these will help you up your Gamay game, big time.
A quick note on vintages: 2018, 2019
In a nut shell: Get in My Belly!
These are spectacular vintages, period. Buy, drink, enjoy. Rinse your glasses and repeat.
2019 was a smaller cropped vintage, but the wines from across Europe are delicious, and the Gamay below are no exception. Bursting with fruit and concentration, the wines are fresh and beautiful. Do Not Miss Them.
2018 is a Cru year. These are drinking so well now, but the top Crus can be set aside for a few years and will shine as good as the best in Burgundy. Slightly lower alcohols, good acidity, and a concentrated purity that is rare.
We split the wines up by region, but in the end did a quick ranking by preference and the wines ended up being mixed, which only proves that you can get great Gamay from both the Loire and the Beaujolais regions. Notes below are in the original tasting order, but please don’t ask us to reveal the final order – it can easily change if we did this tasting again.
Domaine Les Hautes Noëlles Gamay Vin de Pays du Val de Loire, 2019
Super bright, just basically explodes with fruit on the palate. I called this the raspberry Starburst wine because it had so much lovely red fruit on the palate, backed by lush acidity that carried the flavors on an on. Young as can be, which is a good thing. 12%abv.
François Cazin Cheverny Rouge Vendanges Manuelles, 2019
This is one of the BIG DOGS of the Loire, and this tasting. Right away you notice the color – it is beautifully saturated in the glass. The aromas are mellow but complex with an underlying intensity that pulls through the long finish, which include soft tannins that do not quit. This wine gets better after being open for a bit and was easily a favorite.
2/3 Pinot Noir, 1/3 Gamay. 13.8% abv
Domaine Des Terres Dorées (Jean-Paul Brun) Beaujolais Le Ronsay, 2019
And the other Big Dog, Brun is an icon in the Beaujolais. This wine comes from younger vines in the southern part of the region, and is meant to showcase the fresh, youthful side of the grape. To me there was an abundance of raspberry and cinnamon, mixed with some tart cranberry and lush acidity. Fermented all in concrete and sees no oak (yes, that is a thing), it has beautiful texture through the finish. Lovely wine for any night of the week. 13% abv
Domaine du Clos du Fief (Michel & Sylvian Tete) Juliénas, 2019
This wine has great fruit on the nose, and is perhaps the most well-balanced wine of the group. Dusty tannins, smooth in texture and the red fruit just goes on and on. A very lifted style of wine with complexity. 14.5% abv
Domaine des Marrans Beaujolais-Villages, 2018
This is a family estate located in Fleurie, with holdings essentially only in Crus. This is actually older vines from those Crus, and the wine shows its pristine pedigree wonderfully. Round, juicy, super smooth and very complex for a “simple” Beaujolais-Villages. Don’t get fooled – you are drinking The Villages in this wine. 13% abv
Domaine Des Terres Dorées (Jean-Paul Brun) Morgon, 2018
BOOM. Brun. (Mic drop, please.)
Here you go. And then some. Wonderful wine. The essence of what Cru Beaujolais is meant to be; what it can be; why Burgundy should be shaking in their muddy-boots. Brings everything together: huge nose, super polished style, loads of fruit on the palate, super well integrated tannins. Blackberry leaf, plum, bramble, savory, earthy – just get some. (I read a review for this wine that recommended it is best from 2023-2055+. What will you be doing in 2055? Drinking Beaujolais, baby!)
That's right. This week New England Wine Academy has been approved to offer the WSET Level 1 Award in Sake qualification as an online option. We are very pleased to bring this class to you as there has been a big upswing in interest with sake in recent months, perhaps because of the pandemic and people are simply looking for new things to try, or perhaps because Sake is so good - especially with food.
The Course Description
A beginner level introduction to sake suitable for those starting a sake career or pursuing an interest in sake.
For individuals new to sake study, this qualification provides a hands-on introduction to the world of sake. You’ll explore the main types and styles of sake through sight, smell, and taste, while also gaining the basic skills to describe sake accurately, and make food and sake pairings. Upon successful completion you will receive a WSET certificate and lapel pin.
What you'll learn
To see when the next class begins and for full details follow this link to our class descriptions page.
This week, I had the distinct pleasure to speak with Piero Mastroberardino, 10th generation owner of the famed winery Mastroberardino in Campani, Italy. A leader of the region, with a history of preserving the recent and distant past, Piero and his father Antonio have been strong voices in the wine scene of Campania since the 1940s. Working with grapes from the Hellenic and Latin side of the culture in ancient Italy, there is probably no other winery with such a strong connection to the wines and the land of the ancient times as Mastroberardino. We will be publishing some tasting notes ont er current releases in the coming weeks, but these are exciting wines, unlike any other grapes from any other regions. And what is perhaps understated here, is these are grapes that may play an event more important role in vineyards around the world as the temperature in the atmosphere continues to rise due to climate change.
Check out the winery website here to see all of the wines and learn more about their fantastic production.
This week, I went into the archives and pulled out an old video I made in 2009, while on a trip through Napa and Sonoma. We were visiting a number of wineries, including St Francis Winery in Sonoma, and took a few minutes to stop along the road and shoot this quick video in the Pagani Ranch Vineyard, near Santa Rosa. These vines were planted in the 1890s and early 1900s and have massive trunks almost like trees. Most of the fruit from this vineyard ends up in either the St Francis or the Ridge bottlings, and it has always been a favorite of mine. The Ridge Pagani Ranch wines from the late 1980s and early 1990s were some of my first encounters with wines of this nature. My dad used to buy them and share with me, long before I really knew what fine wine was all about - although I do remember tasting some of those wines and really liking them. Enjoy the video, and please remember to like/subscribe (trying to get to 100 followers so I can update the URL on my YT page - so thanks in advance).
ABOUT THE Author
Brian Mitchell runs The New England Wine Academy, and is responsible for the content of this blog. With over 25 years of drinks industry experience, Brian has learned a few things, but everyday he is learning more. This blog helps to bring that knowledge to you.