Things are happening here at 'The Academy', and we are adding classes and study opportunities.
BORDEAUX BASICS ACADEMY CLASS
New England Wine Academy has announced a new Academy class, this week. On Feb 23, Brian Mitchell will host an in-depth class covering the region of Bordeaux, with a particular focus on the Right Bank regions. Class is held online, and there is an optional wine pack available to purchase from the Wise Old Dog in West Hartford who has all the wines used for the class.
Click here to get all the details and enroll in the class.
You will receive a Zoom link the day prior to the session for anyone enrolled.
The class cost is $29 per person, but anyone who has read this far or is a member of NEWA can use the coupon code BRDX-50 when checking out, and you will receive a 50% discount. Wadda bargain!
WSET HYBRID CLASSES for Level 1 and Level 2
First, the addition of Julia Menn as an associate educator is great news for anyone looking to jump their WSET study in wine off. She will be hosting a Level 1 Wine Award class beginning in February, and then a Level 2 Wine Award class session, beginning in early March. These courses are a little different than the standard online class as these are being conducted in the hybrid-model, so you will have the opportunity to study, learn and interact with Julia during the class sessions. Everything else is exactly the same as the standard WSET online sessions, and covers all of the same material. For more info and to enroll in these sessions click below.
NEWA Partner with the Edinburgh Whisky Academy to offer Whisky Certification
This week, Thomas Hadis, wine-pro-Xtraordianry, came over and we popped a few corks on new and old friends. We discuss the brand new DOC in Prosecco, now officially available as a Rose and including a good dollop of Pinot Noir.
We also had a run through of a few of our favorite wines from the Loire Valley - all made from Cabernet Franc - something we feel everyone should get to know a bit more often. Especially since these are gorgeous wines with great fruit, great balance and very food friendly. Plus, most of the wines we encounter are very eco-consciously farmed and produced.
Then we did our version of stump the wine geek with a blind taste of a couple of wines. Spoiler alert - we were both waaaay off the mark. But it was fun and of course we learned something just by doing. Enjoy the show...
I get asked a lot about what additional material or sources are available for study purposes and to round out information that the text book may not provide, or at least go in to in full detail.
There are several answers here, but one of the best resources that I have used over the years, and continue to use are podcasts. I listen to them while walking or doing work around the house when I cannot be sitting and reading, so these are great 'in-between' study opportunities. You can listen to winemakers, journalists, and other experts (and sometime not so experts) discussing all kinds of topics and material. Podcasts are great for historical background as well and I have mentioned Levi Dalton's I'll Drink to That podcast many times, as I feel there are few people who have the access and ability to interview the way Levi does - often, these are insightful and even brilliant pieces of information.
This week, I have found a podcast called "Interpreting Wine Podcast Episode 353" and although its aimed at students a little farther up the study ladder, I thought it could be useful for anyone to give a listen. So even if you are not a WSET Diploma level 4 or MW student, still give it a go as it is chock full of great info. The guest speaker is Jim Gore former WSET Principal on the art of blind tasting.
There are many other podcasts out there on wine and related topics, so give a search on your app and see what you can discover.
New England Wine Academy is very pleased to announce a new partnership with Julia Menn, as an associate educator. Julia will be guiding students through Levels 1 and 2 Wine Awards, with class set-up and delivered as hybrid sessions. What is a Hybrid session? Glad you asked...
Hybrid sessions are classes that are offered with the delivery being done online via a webinar format. The real difference here is that during the class sessions you will have facetime with a real instructor. The WSET Online model is a great format, but the only small drawback is that you are not in a live session with an instructor. And while the instructors are great at getting back to students with answers to questions, and tasting note feedback, there is really nothing like having a person answer your questions and give you all the information needed, right then and there.
Julia has earned her Level 3 in Wine, works in the wine industry, and even teaches classes on her own. You can read her bio by clicking here.
We are pleased to offer two WSET wine levels, initially, starting in February and March, with Julia as your guide and instructor. Click on the buttons below for full details, and do not be afraid to ask us questions. Cheers
My brother Adam and I got into a conversation about a wine he was drinking, why he bought it, and was it something I would ever buy. Plus we discuss a little about the appellation system in the US and a few other things. Don't mind his Ali G outfit - he drops it shortly in the video.
His wine was the Cooper & Thief Pinot Noir (California)
My wine was Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile)
Gianni Brunelli Rosso di Montalcino, 2018
Not the cheapest Rosso by any stretch, but sometimes you need to pay a little bit more for something a bit special - or at least things that are limited in availability.
So what is Rosso di Montalcino?
Simply put, it is red wine (rosso) from Montalcino. Montalcino is a fantastic city in southern Tuscany, that sits atop a large hill. If you approach from the north, say from Siena, then you are faced with this intensely dramatic wall that the city is perched on. I have been here several times, and stayed in a hotel where my view was facing north across the plains that stretch away from the city. Beautiful. The back and sides of this massive hill slope away from the town, and it is on the back or southern side of the hills that some of my favorite producers are located; their vineyards baking in the sun.
Montalcino is one of the great wine towns of Italy and Tuscany, making the vast majority of wines from the Sangiovese grape. In fact, the local name for Sangiovese is Brunello, or little brown one, noting the difference between the Sangiovese grown here and in other areas. The skins on the Brunello variation tend to be a bit thicker, and the berries a bit smaller - thus gaining flavor, color and tannins - a hallmark of many Brunello di Montalcino, which is made exclusively from Sangiovese.
Rosso di Montalcino is the secondary wine of the area, and is often made from younger vines or vineyards that do not make the premium tier quality for the Brunello bottlings. Also from Sangiovese, this DOC can deliver wines of great affordability and elegance - as well as some simply dependable wines depending on the producer. I do go for the Rosso di Montalcino regularly because it is approachable at a younger age, costs much less than Brunello and is a great food wine - as are many sangiovese based wines.
Gianni Brunelli is a small estate, today run by Gianni's wife Laura, since 2008. With some vineyards dating back to 1947, but most planted in the late 1980s, this estate is small but producing powerful wines. The reputation has come on a bit over the past few years, and their wines have become more and more sought after - and as such harder to find. And as noted above the cost on this wine may be slightly higher than some of the competitive frame, but in the end it is worth it. The wines are tremendous - if you can find them.
How does it taste?
Approximately $40 retail for this vintage.
I had an email come in this week from a really great bartender in one of the places I work with. His observations were spot on, but not one that I think a lot of people might make right away, and the answer(s) are layered. Because this is a slight complicated answer dealing with a weird - unique to Connecticut - side of the business, I decided it would be good to post the response, as this is not the first time I have explained answers such as this. Here is the questions...
I was in the package store looking to pick up a White Burg. No special occasion; just to drink by myself while watching TV. The store (not to be named) had 4 by Louis Jadot:
Bourgogne (described as lightly oaked) $17
Macon Villages (100% unoaked) $13
Pouilly Fuisse $27
“Steel Chardonnay” $50!
I asked the proprietor if the prices were correct. I can understand the Bourgogne costing a little more than the Macon Villages, even with its less specific origin, because of the oak. I know oak barrels cost money, and the cost is passed along in the price of the wine.
So why did the Steel Chardonnay cost so much? There’s no way it should cost as much to produce, right? It’s not even a village wine.
Anyway, your thought when you get a chance.
And here was my response...
It's a slightly complicated answer on a couple of fronts, and since I do not know when the owner bought the wines or the vintages, it may not be 100% accurate, but I'll do my best.
In theory, a Macon-Village would be a bit more expensive than a Bourgogne Blanc, as Bourgogne is a regional wine - covering all of Burgundy, of which the Macon is a region within. This means that Maconnaise wines are from a more selected or limited area, and when you make wine from a more selected area the idea is that they are theoretically better than the more broad geographical area, or tier below in classification.
Think of this in the terms of a pyramid, with the wide base being the broadest region of wine production, and the best wines being from the top of the pyramid - and often being the most limited in quantity / highest quality of production (ie: the Grand Crus).
But in a retail setting often the price on the shelf will be dictated by the case cost, as well as the CT listed minimum retail price for that item, which is called "Min Bottle" - something basically unique to CT. Min Bottle is the minimum price a retailer may sell an item for, and it is the individual unit wholesale price for the item if is bought in quantities less than a solid case from the wholesaler. The Min Bottle is something that is not pegged to a specific or regulated equation but rather is set by the wholesaler. It can be set close to the case price unit cost or set somewhere above. Often the Min Bottle price is set high as it gives the retailer a guaranteed profit when they sell the item, and no other retailer can under-cut that price as it is registered with the State and has to be observed by all retailers in the state.
Ok, so, so far we have the factors of the region, cost, and min bottle in play.
Next, we have vintage.
The vintage itself, is not so much a factor, except that prices often rise from vintage to vintage - sometimes a little and sometimes a lot depending on demand, quality, etc. With a company like Jadot, the prices are fairly stable, though, as they are a well-established, American owned company, that has a lot of longstanding placements that benefit from stable pricing. The big issue over the past year has been tariffs. Tariffs on French wine began to kick in about a year ago and have carried through all year. The prices do not just jump on wine that has already been imported though, so as wine is brought in - usually with new vintages - then the tariffs kick-in, and the price is raised. Not really knowing the vintage on these wines or when they were imported, I can only assume that some of the pricing discrepancies are due to the timing of the imports. At least for the difference in the price between the Macon and Bourgogne Blanc.
That leaves the issue of the Steel Chardonnay, and why that is so much higher than the others. Your logic and assumption of costing less to produce because no wood is being used is correct. That wine is in fact a Macon Village wine, and no oak is used to make it, so it is good quality but very cost-effective to produce, and its market target is actually to be used for restaurant placements and by-the-glass pours. So why is it $50 on the shelf?
The answer is a weird one, but it is the Min Bottle - again a unique aspect of the CT market and a hold-over of our lovely Blue Laws.
The cost on that item from the wholesaler is $10 (sorry Mr. Retailer), and as such, it would often be listed for sale at about $15 (retail mark-up is basically 1.5 x cost, for a 50% margin). BUT, the min bottle is set at $49, so the retailer has to observe this and list for $49, and cannot discount below this price.
This retailer is kind of dumb in one or two respects. Dumb point one - he is stocking a wine that is fully intended to be only in restaurants, and is drawn in by the absurdly high min bottle that the wholesaler has placed on it. Wholesalers do this to deter retailers from listing these items, thus preserving them for on-premise use only. The wine is on the shelf at the correct legal price, but in the wine world, this is the wrong price. Dumb point two - he is also trying to take advantage of someone who might not question the apparent pricing anomaly, as you have, and then pay an extremely high price for a wine that is really intended to be sold for much less money. To me, that is not good business ethics, as the customer may buy that item once, but could then discover that the item is actually far over-priced and find a new shop with better integrity.
So the way your list of wines should price out, in theory and based on current Ct cost, is as follows:
In general, the retailer's shelf prices on these items seems to be quite fair, with the exception of the Steel Chardonnay, which is not his fault. He should just not even have this in the store, as it could potentially risk his customer's loyalty. He is following the outdated Connecticut liquor control regulations, but it is kind of a dumb item to list with this absurd min bottle, and careful consumers can pick up on this - such as you did.
Happy New Year - if you are reading this message - you made it. Hopefully not too scathed by the wrath of the Year-That-Must-Not-Be-Named, and hopefully with all family and friends in one piece. Cheers!
With our second full year in business as New England Wine Academy, I just wanted to thank everyone who has taken a class or has participated in the school's progress, thus far. I have been teaching wine education in various forms for many years, and The Academy as we now jokingly refer to it as, has become the culmination of all that I have assembled and worked on over the years - mostly on the side while doing my regular jobs.
There is still a long way to go, and there are plans for many improvements and additions to the program in the coming months and throughout the year. Stay tuned and let me know if there is anything you want to see from an educational point of view or otherwise. There are a lot of connections and resources that are on the drawing board or stuck on my hard-drive - but they will get here, I promise.
The WSET courses have been a big driver for NEWA, and we continue to offer as many as are available, primarily as an online option. There are plans to bring on new associate educators to helps bridge the gap between only being online and doing hybrid offerings. Hopefully, as we emerge from the confines of quarantine and social isolation, there will be opportunity to get back to learning in person. I think it will be a while, but it will happen. Wine and drinks are a visceral experience and are meant to be shared. this is what make teaching about wine so great - I get to help you discover a new experience, a new smell or a new taste, and perhaps even guide you to understanding a little bit more about what is in your glass. That is the true pleasure I derive from all of this - helping people find their own, new experiences through a better understanding and more knowledge of what they are consuming.
Ok, enough of that. Thanks to everyone for being a part of the New England Wine Academy, and here is to getting out there and kicking some ass in 2021 - we all deserve it!
Cheers - Brian Mitchell
I made a new friend not too long ago, and that connection lead to a package in the mail over the holidays and a bit of a treat for me with some samples to try. One of the samples from a winery I am quite familiar with and one from a new (to me) producer. Check out my video as I pop the corks on these wines in my sexy cellar (it's a working cellar so no frills attached, but very functional), and then the info below to see the actual links to the producers/wines.
Hopefully that was not too painful...and yes, the cat decided to make himself present during the shoot, so I apologize for the interruption. Meow
Link to Lingua Franca Winery in NW Salem, Oregon - www.linguafranca.wine/
The wine tasted above is the 2017 Estate Chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills by Lingua Franca
Link to Cramoisi Vineyards in Dundee, Oregon - www.cramoisivineyard.com/
The wine tasted in the video is the 2017 Sofia's Block Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills by Cramoisi Vineyards
Thank you to the producers for sending the samples.
And special thanks to the Oregon Wine Board for making the wines and winery connections available. Check out Oregon wine at www.oregonwine.org/ - I drink Oregon wines as often as possible.
We all eat, right? But in my experience some eat with a bit more attention than others. I know people that just "eat" to get sustenance, and I know others that eat with passion: savoring every bite, critical of the texture, the ingredient sourcing, attentive to the calories and the balance of nutrients, as well as the look o fthe food and how it photographs (a modern habit). I tend to fall somewhere in between. I care about my food, like to know about it, and am always thinking about where it would fit on a menu or the drink pairing I might suggest alongside - a habit of the job.
But there is one area that I am quite passionate about - and that is the condiment or the sauce or the addition that can take ordinary to another level. Often, hot sauces are the thing that I am as interested in as wine to pair, and this year my most favored discovery is from an old favorite. Named after the oldest inhabited city in Mexico, Cholula was introduced to the US in 1989 and has become a staple not only in Mexican establishments, but in many other types and styles of dining. Originally used as an ingredient in Sangrita, the classic red Cholula is a tad less intense than say the classic Tabasco sauce, and brings a slightly different, perhaps more complex or broader flavor to whatever you may be shaking it on to - I prefer it on my eggs, and use it in my Bloody Mary mix, rather than Tabasco.
For me, Cholula has had a place in the fridge for as long as I can really remember, so it was with a certain amount of joy that I stumbled upon a new flavor (at least to me), not too long ago. The Green Pepper is without a doubt, the best counter-style to the Original as I could have imagined. Subtle green chili notes derived from a mix of Jalapeno and Poblano peppers, and with just enough mouth-coating smoke and spice to warm any dish. I like to mix my salsa, and so I often find myself putting both the green and the red on the same plate - creating a more complex and layered flavor profile
I will admit that one of my favorite combinations is to use the Green Pepper Cholula with the classic American red salsa - aka: Ketchup. Yup, I am a die-hard fan of Ketchup - it is another type of condiment and sauce - and I can have ketchup on just about anything, and I do. But the sweetness of the typical ketchup, mixed with the pepper smoke of the Green Pepper Cholula is just a great combination, and again, I like it on my eggs.
So there you have it - my condiment find of the year is the Cholula Green Pepper. Found it on my local supermarket shelf and have been enjoying it ever since. According to the web, there are actually six different styles of Cholula sauces on the market, but I have only found three thus far..,.maybe I need a better supermarket?
ABOUT THE Author
Brian Mitchell runs The New England Wine Academy, and is responsible for the content of this blog. With 30 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.