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Category: Wine

16 Best Gifts for Wine Lovers

16 Best Gifts for Wine Lovers

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year, but it can also become quite stressful, especially when you have to find perfect gifts for your entire family and friends. Luckily, if your loved ones appreciate good wine and call themselves wine connoisseurs, there is a great variety of useful or just funny gifts for them (and no, we are not talking just about a regular bottle of good wine).

Discover our list of 16 best gifts for wine lovers!

 

1. Electric Wine Opener

Available here

A cordless electric wine bottle opener with a nice modern design is a gorgeous accessory. It will be really useful during the busy Christmas time and will allow to remove corks very fast, without much effort.

 

2. Personalized Wine Glasses

Available here

There are many nice wine glasses, but only personalized ones are really unique. What is written on the glass is only limited by your own imagination!

 

3. Elegant Decanter

Available here

A wine decanter is an essential accessory to have in a home wine bar. It adds class to the wine serving and will definitely make the wine taste better.

 

4. Online Wine Course

Become a wine expert in 3 days

Available here

If your friends love wines and talk a lot about it, they are ready to make the next step and learn how to choose, drink, serve and pair wines with food like a professional sommelier. The online course format is an easy way to do it and is a wonderful gift.

 

5. Fancy Bottle Stoppers

Available here

Stoppers seal wine bottles, helping preserve the wine for a few days. You can choose Christmas theme, your friend favourite movie heroes shape or just elegant modern design for it.

 

6. Wine Thermometer

Available here

Wine thermometer makes it easy to chill a bottle of wine or champagne to just the right temperature.

 

7. Voucher for a Wine Tasting

Available here

Every wine lover likes to visit vineyards and taste new wine types, especially when traveling abroad. You can buy a Wine Tasting Voucher, which will allow your friend to attend a wine tour or a wine tasting of their choice.

 

8. Wine Chiller

Available here

This strangely shaped gadget is the Corkcicle Wine Chiller – it keeps wine at the perfect temperature. You should just freeze it and place in your wine bottle. The wine chiller can be washed and reused. One of the best gifts for wine lovers!

 

9. Wine Tasting Kit

Available here

A set of mini wine carafes and a slate wine flight board will help your friends to create an atmosphere of a professional wine tasting at home! You can also pair this gift with an online course, where you can learn how exactly to organize a wine tasting.

 

10. Books about Wine

Available here

If your friend wants to know more about wine including its history, types and food pairings, books are a good place to start. You can consult our list of Best Books about Wine for Amateurs.

 

11. Unusual Wine Glass

Available here

Wine glasses or carafes in a funny shape are always a good idea for a Christmas gift. For example, this giant wine bottle glass will definitely be a great gift for the wine lover in your life!

 

12. Wine Glass Markers

Available here

Wine glass markers are very useful for all kinds of parties and events. They make an excellent hostess gift, as well as a nice thing to offer to a friend during Christmas.

 

13. Wine Chilling Pearls

Available here

Extremely chic little stainless steel pearls to pop in a freezer or drop in a drink to keep wine and cocktails chilled. These cubes are a nice alternative to ice cubes, which can water down your drink.

 

14. Sparkling Wine Making Kit

Available here

Instead of opting for pricey prosecco or champagne, wine lovers can turn Chardonnay grape juice into a sparkling wine with this DIY kit.

 

15. Magic Wine Bottle Holder

Available here

The Lasso Wine Bottle Holder is one of the most eye-catching wine accessories ever. It is destined to become one of the most talked about items in your friends home.

 

16. Wine Cork Map

Available here
Turn your wine corks into the ultimate home decor with a wine cork map. A great gift for any wine lover!

 

 

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Top 20 Wine Blogs

Top 20 Wine Blogs to Follow in 2018

In an ideal world, how would your day end?

  • With a glass of your favourite wine and some soft music floating through
  • Curling up under the warm sheets after spending a day exploring vineyards
  • Searching books or websites for the next wine varietal to taste

If you’ve said a silent yes, then you’ll probably enjoy reading what comes next. We are taking you on a journey that involves fermented grapes and everything else connected to it.

Remember our Top Food and Travel Bloggers List? We’ve attempted something similar, but this time the spotlight is on wine enthusiasts, experts, connoisseurs, tasters, writers, and travellers.

The bloggers on the list talk about a lot more than wine reviews. They narrate travel and food stories, tantalise you with their images, share their knowledge about wines, and provide an insider’s view on the wine industry.

1. Tim Atkin

Author – Tim Aktin and guest contributors 

Tim’s site is unique in that it showcases music and wine pairings. Apart from this, the Master of Wine and his guest writers review wines, producers and regions. You’ll also find opinion pieces on tasting and wine investments, special reports, videos and recipes.

2. Reversewinesnob.com

Author– Jon Thorsen

Along with suggestions on finding budget-friendly wines, this wine drinker and blogger posts wine reviews and adventure stories from his travels.

3. Matt Walls

Author – Matt Walls

This UK wine lover wants to educate you on choosing the best wine for every occasion and how to taste like a wine expert. There are wine and winery reviews for those who like that sort of stuff.

4. Vinography.com

Authors – Alder Yarrow and contributors

Wine expert Alder, wears many hats including author, columnist and speaker. He and team post articles related to wines including reviews, commentary, industry news, places to dine, and wine books to read.

5. Wineanorak.com

Author – Jamie Goode

This award-winning wine journalist from UK reveals his love and knowledge of wines with travel and tasting notes, pictures and book reviews. One of the best wine blogs for both wine geek’s and novices.

6. Nataliemaclean.com

Author – Natalie Maclean

This Canadian blogger rates and reviews wines she has tasted and helps readers pair the best wines with food recipes.

7. Grape Wall Of China

Author – Jim Boyce

Jim Boyce has been covering the Chinese wine scene from 2007 and his site includes tasting notes, industry news, and expert interviews

8. The Wine Doctor

Author – Chris Kissack

if you wan tan insider view of the tow of France great wine regions – Bordeaux and Loire Valley, bookmark this blog. There is something for everyone from producer profiles, tasting notes to book and restaurant reviews.

9. Sipnzwine.com

Author – Caro Jensen and Emily Camblin

Sipnzwine covers the New Zealand wine scene. You’ll find guides on wines, vineyards, best regions, wine events and even info on wine bars.

10. Wine Explorers

Author – Jean-Baptiste Ancelot

This site journals Jean and his team’s wine travel project spanning 92 countries and 250 wine growing regions. You’ll find travel anecdotes, wine tasting experiences, and vineyard reviews among other gems.

11. Ozwinereview.com

Author – Andrew Graham

A wine judge on the side, Andrew talks about Australian wine in particular, although he reviews wines and beers from other regions on his site.

12. The Wine Siren

Author – Kelly Mitchell

Do you want to know the complex process that involve both wine making and cooking? Kelly explorer the world of wine, farming-to-table stories, and the people behind it all.

13. Wine Peeps

Authors – Kori and Colby Voorhees, John and LaGayle Sosnowy

This is the place for readers who want to know more about inexpensive wines, their taste and flavour, and where to find them. The authors post the results of their blind wine tasting sessions, along with travel notes that revolve around wines.

14. Ilovegreekwine.com

Author – Ted Lelekas

Ted’s goal is turn this site into the ultimate destination on Greek wines and wineries. You’ll find vineyard reviews, news, tips, and business listings here.

15. Around The World in 80 Harvests

Author – Amanda Barnes

What to do some armchair wine travelling? Join Amanda and her team as they travel across the globe exploring wineries, vineyards, and of course, tasting unique wines along the way.

 

16. Vindulge

Author – Mary Cressler

In addition to running an event and catering business, this writer and sommelier posts interesting food recipes and their wine pairings on her blog. You’ll find some travel stories in there too.

17. Provence Wine Zine

Authors – Susan Newman Manfull and others

This wine blog is the brainchild of an American Journalist who traces her love for Provence and wines to her French roots. Susan focuses on wines from this region along with food pairing tips, wine news and guides.

18. Wine Terroirs

Author – Bertrand Celce

Bertrand Celce, French photographer, writes about his country’s wine routes, dining spots and wine trivia. You find interesting images and stories about vineyard and winery visits, and the people involved.

19. Wine Wankers

Authors – Conrad And Drew

If you’re looking for wine infused sartorial notes, head to this site. The Aussie duo (who own it) have a humorous take on wine which is reflected in their travel stories, tips, guides and reviews.

20. Wine Camp

Author – Craig Camp

This blog is about Craig’s life as a winemaker. Along with his vineyard photography, the blogger tells his story of making natural wines in Oregon.

Did you enjoy this round-up of wine blogs? Ready to embark on your own wine tasting and hosting adventure?

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New Wine Tourism Destinations: Russian Wine Tours in Krasnodar Krai

What do you know about Russian wines? If you’re not a professional wine expert, the answer will probably be «nothing». This situation can change in the nearest future – winemaking and wine tourism industry in Russia has been growing intensively, particularly in the format of small family vineyards in the South of the country.

Wine industry in the Soviet Union was rather powerful, but only when it came to the amount of wine produced, not its quality. That’s why till today even Russians themselves usually consider their wine cheap and low-quality and prefer wines from Italy, Spain, France, Chile and other known wine regions. The problem is that good Russian wine, created with modern technology and great passion in the regions of Krasnodar, Rostov, Stavropol etc., still remains a local product, that you hardly can find in the supermarkets in Moscow or abroad. For now the best way to try it is to travel to the South of Russia and visit the vineyards directly – such wine tour can be no less interesting than the same one in well known regions of Italy or France!

Russian wine makers are glad to receive guests and there are also professional wine guides who assist local and foreign guests during the wine tours in the South of Russia. One of them is Daria Bezrukova, who worked for several years in marketing of international wine companies and now helps tourists and sommeliers from all over the world to discover the world of the Krasnodar Krai wine makers.

Daria Bezrukova

– Daria, how was your passion for wine and food tourism born?

I had been working for big wine importers for 13 years and I didn’t believe in Russian wine at all. But it happened that I moved to Novorossiysk and I went to a local wine festival. After trying some local wines I was really surprised by their high quality. I decided to visit some vineyards but I didn’t find anyone to organize my tour, nobody offered such service in our region. Really nobody! That’s how I discovered the whole market that was really empty. It took me a month to create an idea, then another month to build a website and after two months the first sommeliers contacted me. In three years I organized visits of many foreign winemakers and sommeliers, Russian restaurateurs and officials, and of course a lot of fans of good food and good wine. My ex-colleagues say that my project is a «dream job» and that’s true.

– What do you want to show and tell your guests first of all?

Recently I realized that I have no program and not even a draft of what I’m going to tell my guests. That’s because the audience can be so different! Some visitors don’t know anything about Russian wine or even about wine in general, other people are real experts in this field. That’s why I ask a lot of questions when I meet the guests to understand what they already know. After that I develop a plan for my tour. I speak about the history of our region, that has a fascinating history, about the history of winemaking (and it is not as young as many people believe). We talk about climate, problems of modern wine industry, imperfect laws. It’s also very interesting to discover the stories of our winemakers, all of them could be made into a movie!

– What makes Krasnodar Krai special for visiting?

Many tourists that come here, they take a map and want to make a food tour by themselves. But in reality it is not that easy, because not all the farms are open for the visitors due to some strange legal rules. That’s why you absolutely need a guide! I will show you the best of the region. In summer there are a lot of possibilities to make a food tour during your holidays at the seaside. You can participate in cooking classes, food and wine tastings and even learn to make wine by yourself.

– What is your favourite local wine?

Well, really this question is the most difficult. I love my job and every vineyard inspires me. Every maestro of wine makes something that I like. For example, in Gaikodzor I adore all the white wines, at Villa Viktoria I always try different types of Chardonnay, but my favourite wine here is Cabernet Franc. Every vineyard has something special.

– What impresses your visitors most of all about the region and local winemakers?

Of course, everybody is impressed by the courage of our winemakers. It’s a real adventure to be pioneers of the industry! Also the high quality of wines is always a great surprise, because here you can try the products that you can’t find in supermarkets. Good food, high level of service… Don’t believe to those who say that we don’t have it! We do, but sometimes it’s difficult to discover the best places when you travel without a local. So don’t be afraid to ask for help of a local guide, in this way you can really enjoy your food and wine tour in Krasnodar Krai!

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Where the Best Wine Comes From: Terroir and Importance of Soil

I recall clearly an evening at a glass of Bordeaux in a company with my old French friend. That was the time when my interest to wine had just started to arise and I was a grateful listener of any wine related topics. Michel told me that the real wine is a product of earth. It is born by terrain and baptized by a good blend of several different varieties. I felt as if an oracle mystery had just been shared with me. Later on the time working with wine, constant desire to learn new and interaction with wine makers helped me to find the answer to the question where the wine is born and what it takes to get a good wine. So was the oracle right?

4 whales

Trying various wines you couldn’t help but notice a very interesting fact – all of them differ from one another, they have different tasting characteristics, personal notes and some of them do have very expressive meaningful taste which stands for their good quality. For a better understanding what makes the wine different we have to think about following: a grape variety, the land it’s born at (terroir), production method and a wine maker conscience. Those factors are like the 4 whales that all good wines stand on.

Grapes

Hundreds of grape varieties can be divided in 2 groups international and local. The former are met all around the world like Chardonnay and Merlot, the latter are normally grown in one particular region like Cataratta in Sicily or Tempranillo in northern Spain. Every variety gives the wine certain aromatic characteristics, tannins, sugar and acidity level. That’s why the ripeness of the grape is highly important. But you’ve known for a fact that Cabernet from Chile is not the same as Cabernet from France. German Riesling is not the same as the one from New Zealand. Sauvignon Blanc from Loire Valley can hardly be confused with any other Sauvignon. And the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay of Burgundy are so unique. So the answer to our question put its roots deeper to the land where the vine is growing. And it’s called terroir.

Terroir as a key ingredient

The notion of terroir hasn’t been translated into other languages as its concept has been underestimated everywhere but France. So it became a pure French notion that is proudly known in France as a key ingredient to a successful winemaking. The French have always believed that the great wine is born by the land and nothing on Earth can make them change their mind. Even quite interesting and successful experiences of New World’s wine makers that put into their philosophy the wines of a single variety to show their indigenous characteristics.

What does the notion involve? There is a concrete definition that leaves no questions behind. The terroir is not just a soil or climate it is a combination of 3 factors: climate conditions of the area – day and night temperatures throughout the year, quantity of rainy and sunny days, the quality of the wind; the 2nd is the soil content and the drainage quality; and finally the exposition of the vineyard ie the direction to the sun among which the south east considered the best and the angle of the vineyard location on the hill. All of the factors are deeply considered before planting a vineyard in the area.

A great wine is born from the union of a high quality grape grown on the generous terroir suitable to this particular grape. Before planting any grapes the soil is studied very thoroughly.

The importance of the soil

All the factors mentioned above are important however I’d like to put more light on the importance of the soil. The soil nurture the roots with life important minerals. The Earth gives all the necessary to the vine to form the grape that acts as a link between the wine and the soil. It translates all the secrets of the earth and wine receives a strong body. The best quality soil for wine growing are limestone or calcarious rock, volcanic, clay (argile). The soil has to be well drenaged.

Winemaker’s responsibility and production methods

Wine maker is responsible for guiding and controlling all the processes starting from the vegetation of vines to bottling. That’s why the best case scenario is when all the vineyards are in the property of the wine estate. But alas it’s expensive. In that case a serious estate establishes trustworthy relationships with vine growers or rent vineyards to take care of them in person.

The terroir concept for a long time wasn’t used by other countries but nowadays all wine regions invest a lot to explore and find the best terroirs to produce the great wines.

 

PS. All wines contain alcohol that is bad to your health

 

Svetlana_Kasparova

This article was written by Svetlana Kasparova, a wine expert who has been working with wine estates across Europe for over eight years. She is a graduate of the famous wine school “Entoria” and a Wine Games medalist.

Svetlana runs an online course “Become a wine expert in 3 days”, you can learn more about it here:

 
 
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How artisan cheese is made: traditions of Italy and France

People have been trying to preserve milk products for hundreds and hundreds of years. Cheese was a revolutionary and unexpected discovery – it turned out that the fermentation process could be controlled.

As Clifton Fadiman once said: “A cheese may disappoint. It may be dull, it may be naive, it may be oversophisticated. Yet it remains cheese, milk’s leap toward immortality.” We shall start our tale of cheese with milk.

Industrial vs artisan cheese

Classification of cheese is not quite straight forward, so let’s start with the basics. First of all, experts divide cheeses into “industrial” (produced by large companies, on a large scale) and “artisan”, which is produced by farmers in small batches, and often it is completely handmade.

For production of industrial cheese, only pasteurised milk is used. First, the milk is heated up to 57–68 °С  (it allows to eliminate harmful bacteria and to prolong shelf life of cheese), and then it is cooled down to 6–7 °С. Even though the heating process destroys the bacteria, it also destroys the milk structure and its original taste qualities.

Artisan cheese producers, who are especially famous in France and Italy, always follow traditional methods of production, typical to the respective region. They use varieties of cow, sheep and goat milk. The milk is neither pasteurised nor homogenised – it is used “raw” and unprocessed.

How different cheeses are made

The basic principles of cheese making haven’t changed since the times of The Odyssey, where it was described by Homer. A special bacteria or rennet are added to the milk, it turns a part of lactose into lactic acid, and milk starts to curdle. For most of the cheeses coagulation happens at 30–35 °С. Some cheeses, especially made from goat cheese, could be made at 20–25 °С, and some would need the temperature to go up to 40 °С.


One of the most famous cheese dishes is Fondue – a simple dish, prepared and eaten in the same pot. Originally, cheap wine (sometimes even slightly sour) was added to a pot and heated, and then hard cheese, which was already dry and quite old, was melted in the wine. People would enjoy their melted cheese by dipping pieces of old bread in it. It was a great solution to consume food which would otherwise go waste.


The production of soft cheeses like Italian ricotta, French brie or camembert doesn’t need complicated heating and cooling procedures. Once the curdling process is complete, they can be either be served immediately (like ricotta) or put in suitable shapes and left for ripening.   Hard varieties of cheese, like Swiss or Dutch cheeses, require curd to be heated and cooked. Thus, during the production of hard long-lasting cheeses like Parmigiana and Grana Padano, the curd is “cooked” for at least 40 minutes at about 55 °С, and only then it is transferred to the moulds.

Whey, a by-product of cheese-making (of hard cheeses), is also used for making very rare cheese varieties. It contains a large amount of protein that only curdles at high temperatures. For example fresh Roman ricotta is made from whey left after making of Pecorino. The whey is heated up to 70–75 °С, then curdled with citric acid and heated up to 85–90 °С at the end again. Separated milk solids are distributed in small baskets and left for at least 12-14 hours to drain remaining liquid from the solids. At the end of the process ricotta is ready for serving!

Besides Roma, famous whey cheeses are produced in Norway and France (Corsican brocciu).

The types of cheese and ways of their production do not end here. A special category of cheeses is called “stretched-curd” or “pulled-curd”, which is especially popular in the South of Italy, where they are called “pasta filata”. The most famous types are Mozarella and Provolone.

For the production of these cheeses, milk solids are mixed with skim milk and then cooked at high temperatures, at the same time the kneading process starts, until the mixture becomes elastic “dough”.

The origins of this method date centuries back, when people had difficulties with transporting fresh milk.  Because of hot climate, milk became acidified by the time it reached cheese makers, and curd started to separate. If you keep this curd in a warm place for a few hours, or even better if you put it in hot water or whey, it becomes elastic. If you keep kneading this mass, then it becomes stable and obtains a “string” structure.

Depending on the type of cheese, granular curd can either be made very small and dry (like for Provolone), or large and wet, like for Buffalo Mozarella. this technique is supposingly originated from ancient Greece, from where it came to the South of Italy.

Now, let’s look at the last stage of cheese making process – ripening.

Cheese ripening process – temperature and humidity 

Except for fresh cheeses which can be consumed immediately (like ricotta), all other require ripening process, which results in the unique taste and aroma qualities. Almost all cheese which produced with rennet is stored for the ripening and aging in special cheese cellars.

From the moment of ripening process, cheese becomes a responsibility of “affineur”, who is practically a “raiser” of the cheese, taking care of it during the ripening and aging process. Affineurs still follow traditional methods of their regions, which have been passed down from generation to generation.

Climate of the cheese cellars is very important, and it depends on outside temperatures, humidity and air circulation. The temperature can be anything between 0 and 25 °С, but most common temperature for the cellar is between 8 and 15 °С. Humidity normally stays in the range of 85–95%

Most of hard cheeses require relatively high temperatures, for example, French cheese Comte requires high temperatures (19 °С) and humidity (92%). On the other hand most of goat cheeses ripen at 10 °С in the cellars with good air circulation and humidity of 80%, that is considered rather “dry”.

Normally, as the aging process continues, the temperature in the cellar should be slightly lowered. Of course, it is much easier to do in artificial conditions and industrial buildings, rather than in traditional cellars and caves. Moreover, ripening and aging process of most cheeses made for raw milk doesn’t end in the cellar – it continues during transportation, storage in the shops, and even in our own fridges.

Thus, Parmigiano Reggiano is kept in salted water for 20-25 days, then it is dried in the sun and afterwards kept in the cheese cellar with good air circulation and high humidity, and stored at 16–18 °С. From time to time it is tubbed with olive oil to avoid mold formation.

Aging process lasts for at least 12 months, but to receive a famous tag of Parmigiano Reggiano it needs to stay in the cellar for at least 24 months (the date of manufacturing will always be written on the cheese).

The “blue” cheese Roquefort is kept for 4-9 months on oak shelfs, in the caves with good air circulation, which are located in the Combalou mountain, next to the village Roquefort in France. A real underground maze has 11 levels and has barely changed since the XVII century.  The caves are cold (9 °С ) and humid (95%), and a perfect natural ventilation is ensured by a complex system of stone cracks. In winter, in cold weather, warm air leaves the cave through the cracks (the more cheese is stored in the cave, the warmer the air is). In summer, it works other way around: hot air cools down on the Northern cliff, absorbs humidity and enters the caves.

The process of mold formation happens naturally, because of the tiny cheese particles set on the walls of the cave, that create a perfect environment for the mold (Pénicillium roquefort).


The ideal temperature for cheese storage is 10 °С and it should be well covered,  for example, wrapped in parchment paper. Fresh cuts of soft cheese should always stay covered. Soft cheese prefers warmer temperatures – it is aways best to let camembert or chevre sit outside of the fridge for at lest 40 minutes before serving, only then the full taste comes out.


French emmental cheese  is kept in a cellar for 4-5 days at 13 °C, and then at 16–18 °С. After one week it is moved to a different cellar, where it is kept for another month at 21–25 °C, then it is moved back to the cellar at 16–18 °С, and at the end of the process it stays at 10–13°C.

French Cammembert is moved to a “dry room” on the third day of the ripening process, where it is stored for about 12 days at 10 °С, and then the final ripening takes place. Camembert which was ripened for 21-22 days only is considered to be very young, and it reaches its best on the 30th-35th day of the ripening process.

Artisan cheese making process is an art and science, with centuries of knowledge, passed down from generation to generation. Because of the need of special environment and simply plenty of family-kept secrets of manufacturing process, replicating them home is almost impossible. In this article, we hardly touched general stages of cheese making, and you can see how complex it might be. If you travel in the cheese regions – don’t miss your chance to try raw milk cheeses straight from small producers, and you will feel the rich history and tradition stored in this unique product!

This guest post was contributed by Natur Produkt (“Натур Продукт”), the first Russian media project a natural, environmentally friendly life style. It shares knowledge about how to make our lives and surroundings better. The original text of the article (in Russian) can be seen here.

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Champagne vs other Sparkling Wine Types: 4 Things to Know

Champagne must be the most famous sparkling wine in the world – it is always associated with celebrations and luxury. In a wine shop, however, you will always see other names next to Champagne: Prosecco, Sekt, Cava, Cremants, Franciacorta… It is natural to assume that they are inferior in quality comparing to Champagne and to choose the most expensive bottle of the famous French bubbly drink – but according to wine experts it is not necessarily the best choice!

If you are new to sparkling wines, choosing the right one can become a daunting task. Luckily, there are only a few things you need to know about the difference between champagne and other sparkling wines to understand the quality of the drink:

1. Region of wine production

The main difference between Champaign and other sparkling wines is the region where it is produced. As the name suggests, the sparkling wine by the name Champaign is produced in Champagne, in northern France, the North Pole of the wine globe.





If you happen to pass by the Champagne region you wouldn’t even think of it as a wine producing area. It’s a dull, windy place with frosts in spring. Nowadays no one would dare to plant a vineyard down there. But the Romans proved us wrong centuries ago as the climate may have been different. Today the temperature is never high enough to make the grapes ripen well. The limestone chalky soil with high concentration of minerals make Champaign simply powerful, generous and most sensual drink on the planet. The most exquisite samples are produced from 100% Chardonnay and called Blanc de Blanc.

Madrid Treaty 1891 gives France protection of the term Champagne. No other drink can legally have the same name. Some other regions, however, give birth to absolutely excellent sparking wines as well – they are just called differently.

2. Method of production of sparkling wines

The other major difference between cheaper and expensive sparkling wines (including Champagne) is the way it is produced.

La Methode Champenoise – Classical Method of production

It’s a complicated historical type of production but it gives birth to most beautiful and exquisite ones like Champagne, Cremants, Cava, Sekt, Franciacorta and some others.

It starts as per normal with an alcoholic fermentation when grape juice turns into wine. After that when the still wine is already in bottles they add sugar and yeast and close bottles with a temporary plug, leaving them in racks for at least 9-15 months to form perlage. After the 2nd fermentation is over it’s time to get rid of yeast sediments inside the bottles. For this purpose masters of wine caves use a traditional and mysterious trick called remuage. The famous widow Veuve Clicquot has contributed to creation of its modern look. The bottles are placed down to riddling racks and turned every day to several degrees until the sediments come down to the bottle neck, which afterwards gets frozen with a special freezing tool. Then they open the bottle, the iced sediment shoots out, the bottle gets corked and in several months we’re already enjoying it.

Reservoir method of sparkling wines production

Other types of sparkling are produced by reservoir method. The bubbles formation takes place in steel tanks under pressure. It takes little time and much more modest investments.




3. Alternatives to Champagne: world’s best sparkling wines

Some sparkling wines that are produced by classical method can easily compete with Champagne when it comes to its quality. Here is the list of the best and most famous of sparkling wines, including the region of production:

Cremant (France)

Cremant is a sparkling wine produced in other regions in France, from French varieties, aged from 10 months sur lie. Cremant d’Alsace, Cremant de Bourgogne, Cremant de Loire are the best examples. Very classical, elegant with a hint of buttered toast.

Franciacorta (Italy)

Franciacorta is considered the most “Champagne” sparkling wine outside Champagne which is reflected unsurprisingly in its price. Produced in a beautiful Lombardy in the North of Italy from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc it dictates her own rules, so no man in the area ordering a bottle can ever call her a sparkling or Champagne. The name Franciacorta means “a free from taxes land” from Lombard language. Lombards of today, however, believe that it is the main competitor of Champagne and refer the name to Francia Corta, implying that French Champagne glory is soon to fall.

Sekt (Germany / Austria)

Sekt is a German and Austrian version of Champagne produced mainly from Riesling variety, very elegant and crispy at the palate, it has clean aromas of green apples and pears. Aged at least 12 months sur lie.

Cap Classique (South Africa)

The new world gives us many decent samples, but the highest ranked sparkling is South African Cap Classique. It is aged from 12 months sur lie from Champagne grape varieties.

Cava (Spain)

Cava is one of the best sparkling wines where price meets quality. Born in 160 villages all around Spain it is apparently the only wine that is not linked to the particular area, though 90% of it is produced in Catalonia. It is made from 3 Spanish grape varieties: Macabeo, Xarello and Parellada. Chardonnay is a very important ingredient as well, it has only natural sugar (unlike Champagne) and is aged at least 9 months in a bottle sur lie. You can easily define its age by a sticker on a bottle – a black one indicates over 30 months of ageing, a green one stands for 15-30 months, and a white sticker tells us that Cava is young and fresh, between 9 and 15 months old.



4. Cheaper alternatives to Champagne

Sparkling wines that are produced by reservoir method will always have a smaller price tag. Here is what you want to look at:

Asti Spumante (Italy)

Asti Spumante is the best alternative for those who consider Champagne and Champagne-like sparklings too serious, acidic and expensive. Asti is a light, fruity and tender aperitif from Piedmont made of Muscat grape. This sparkling is sweeter in taste, so it’s best enjoyed when it is nicely chilled.

Prosecco (Italy)

There is nothing better than a glass of joyful and fruity Prosecco on a terrace on a warm summer evening. The famous Italian easy-going sparkling that is enjoyed by the Venitians and the rest of the world is born in Veneto and embraces a vast territory of Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG area. It is kept in the caves for several months before release. Some producers experiment with Champenois method as well.

Sparkling wine is a classic and most amazing aperitif. It’s a drink that no event should go without. Easy-going sparklings go well with fruits and salads. Champagne, Franciacorta, aged Cava make exquisite pairings with caviar, sushi, raw salmon, dry desserts. And a powerful structure of aged Champagne is capable of handling a nice steak.

Make up your mind and enjoy!

P.S . Drink responsibly: all wines contain alcohol and should be consumed in moderation.

Svetlana_Kasparova

This article was written by Svetlana Kasparova, a wine expert who has been working with wine estates across Europe for over eight years. She is a graduate of the famous wine school “Entoria” and a Wine Games medalist.

Svetlana runs an online course “Become a wine expert in 3 days”, you can learn more about it here:


Become a Wine Expert in 3 Days | Online Introductory Wine Course

Upcoming Wine Tastings

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How to Taste Wine: Do’s and Don’ts at a Wine Tasting

Have you ever wanted to get closer to the wine world but you didn’t know what to begin with? Start visiting wine tastings!  There you can learn more about wine in general and discuss the samples offered at the tasting in particular.

Would you feel shy or confused because you may think you don’t know wine at all and you’re afraid you may look silly, please leave it with us! In this article you will find useful guidelines how to avoid that puzzled look on your face when you don’t know what’s going on.


Types of wine tastings


We can split wine tastings into 2 types – professional tastings and amateur or client tastings. A professional tasting is normally a closed event for those involved into wine business. The 2nd type  should be more attractive for those who are at the beginning of their way to the wine downtown. At such tastings you are given a very good and clear idea of wines you’re trying, their origins, grape varieties, production method, history and cultural peculiarities of the appellation area. All questions (even if you think they are silly!) are answered by a professional sommelier or a wine expert. The beautiful experience of a wine tasting is always followed up by a nice non-formal conversation with a pleasant aftertaste! 


How to get the most of your wine tasting: Tips from a professional


Don’t use perfume before the wine tasting. Even antiperspirant with strong fragrances can be very disturbing to your sense of smell and taste buds. 

– Ladies, do not put on your lipstick. It can make your glass look unclean, and the smell of it can cause confusion while you taste the wine.

– Avoid wine tasting killers. And here are some of them: chewing gums, garlic, coffee, chocolate, all citrus fruit, cigarettes. Please don’t have them on the day of the tasting, and do not smoke right before it either. 

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How to behave at the tasting


You may have seen professionals at a wine tasting talking about aromas and tastes of a wine with a thoughtful conceptual look on their faces. You would probably think that they simply show off. Well, some of them certainly do. But in fact every stage of a tasting has a meaning behind it.

Normally, wine tasting starts with dry white wines, then it goes to reds and sweet ones. But in the end it’s down to the wine expert to set up the right order.

– Don’t miss the label. First, have a close look at the bottle label. It will give you most information about the wine.  Where it comes from, when it was born (vintage), its alcohol level.  The style of the label may even give you a hint about the style of wine.

 

 

We say that wine has an eye, a nose and a mouth, which refers to the way the wine looks, smells and tastes.

 

– Take a note of the color. Take a glass of wine and place it in front of a white surface. Use a napkin or a sheet of paper.  It will help you distinct the colour. Spin the glass and see if the colour has changed or not. How it changes from the centre to the sides. How transparent the colour is. If it’s more purple or brick red colour, the it witnesses the age of wine. Light yellow colour says to us that the white wine is young and fresh. Deep yellow usually appears in oak aged or sweet whites.

– Indulge in wine smells. Put the tip of your nose into the glass and smell the wine.  What do perfumes that you smell make you think of? Fruits, herbs, flowers, wool, leather gloves, cigars, animal farm, smoke, chemicals. Yes, all these types of aromas can be found in wine. Try to identify which aroma families you’re finding in the glass and then specify them. Your ability to catch the smells quicker will depend on your experience in tasting and ability to memorize fragrances.

– How to taste the wine. Now taste the wine. Take some wine into your mouth, don’t swallow it right away. Don’t forget to breathe through your nose as you normally do. Try to feel which tastes prevail on your tongue, how acid, bitter or sweet the wine is. Take a sip of air into your mouth to mix with the wine and feel wine aromas in your nose. Feel if they remained the same as you smelt them or if they changed. Swallow the wine. Think of the first impressions you had when you just took the wine into your mouth, how it felt while keeping it there and after swallowing. The aftertaste is the feelings of taste and aromas that remain in your mouth and nose after you have swallowed the wine.

– Take notes. You can use a notepad to write down your impressions and give wine a mark.

 – Don’t drink more than required. If you are at a tasting with many samples you can spit the wine into a crachoir, a vase used at tastings to spit the wine to. 


Where shall I find a wine tasting?


Whether you live in a wine producing region or not, in a city or in a small town it doesn’t matter. Nothing should stop you if you have a will to learn more about wine and your mind is set up for it.

Wine tastings are very often held by wine distributors such as wine caves/wine boutiques, wine shops etc.  You can take a look at a winery or a wine estate while travelling. It’s just another perspective to explore a region you are travelling about! Find and book a wine tour that suits you the best and get your chance to meet a wine maker and to listen to their wine story.

But if a travel is yet on your schedule you can always find some interesting events in your town- like our signature wine tastings in Moscow

Enjoy your next tasting!

PS. All wines contain alcohol that is bad to your health

 

Svetlana_Kasparova

This article was written by Svetlana Kasparova, a wine expert who has been working with wine estates across Europe for over eight years. She is a graduate of the famous wine school “Entoria” and a Wine Games medalist.

Svetlana runs an online course “Become a wine expert in 3 days”, you can learn more about it here:

 
 
Become a Wine Expert in 3 Days | Online Introductory Wine Course


Upcoming Wine Tastings

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Red or White: How to Choose the Right Wine for Your Dish


 

Red wine goes with meat, white wine goes with fish – A myth or reality?

Our lives are all about important choices and decisions that we make on a daily basis.  Some of them are easy to make, others take more time to consider. To pick a good bottle of wine to match your dinner is certainly one of them. And I bet that at some point we all have relied on the advice that red wines go with meat and white wines go with fish. So is it a myth or reality? It is one of the most popular questions I’ve been asked through my wine career and tasting experience.

When it comes to wine one can never give a definite answer. Many world famous sommeliers would even say that it’s a complete nonsense. At the same time such a notion does exist and can be fairly useful. For example rich red wines are able to make fish have metal taste. And delicate white wines can lose their charms at the presence of a good steak.

What are the basic rules of pairing?

Let’s try to look more closely on the menu and the wine list to see how they can work together. Albeit the best pairings are those selected during your own tasting experience, there are certain rules that I will recommend to follow.

 – Don’t try to make wine taste the same as your food. Take into consideration how heavy and acid to your palate the wine is, or if it’s oaky or crispy. If you are about to enjoy a delicate food, don’t pair it with oaky and powerful Shiraz as it’s going to kill the food taste. Pinot Noir would be a better choice in this case. Fatty meal will go very charmingly with crispy white wines like good Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.

 – Always consider sauce as an important part of your dish. When you pick a wine think of what kind of sauce it goes with.  For example, grilled or oven baked duck/goose will go fine with rich whites from Alsace region, mature Bordeaux and Burgundy reds. Fatty marinated duck pairs with young tannin Bordeaux, Californian Cabernet and Merlot, as well as some white wines like Alsace Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris. Duck with apples and oranges with sweet sauce will go interestingly well with some sweeter whites like Riesling Auslese and Sautern.

More pairing examples

 – Best wines to pair with chicken

Grilled or baked chicken has a great variety of both red and white matches: white Burgundy wines, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, light red wine from the North of Italy, Bordeaux, Spanish sparkling wine and easy going Champaign.

 – Best wines to pair with red meat

Full bodied, tannin red wines are perfect with rare beef, lamb, and steak with fruit or sweet & sour sauces. Grilled lamb is great with red Bordeaux, New world Cabernet Sauvignon, Spanish Rioja and Ribero del Duero wines, if lamb has herbal or spicy sauce it makes a wonderful match with Pinot Noir.

Kebab goes well with Zinfandel, Shiraz, Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. But if it has intense garlic sauce try Sauvignon Blanc.

If you choose to enjoy a burger with a glass of red wine, it will match with young Beaujolais, Chianti, Zinfandel, or light Cabernet.

 – Best wines to pair with fish

This may come as a surprise to you, but salmon makes a perfect match with elegant red wines like Pinot Noir, Merlot, light Bordeaux. If you look for more conservative marriage on your palate then treat it with white Burgundy: Mersault and Chablis, Rieslings, Chardonnay, especially from New Zealand.

Red mullet is a Pinot Noir delight as well as most good full bodied whites. Sardines go well with white Greek wines, Soave, Verdicchio.

Somber (mackerel) pairs wonderfully with Sauvignon Blanc, English whites, white Rioja.

Remember that delicate fish demands delicate whites like those from Burgundy, Rieslings from Alsace and Mosel areas.

Fish and chips find its fans as well. As a matter of fact it’s quite liberal in terms of wine matching. You can start from simple whites to more interesting ones like Sauvignon Blanc, Gavi or Pinot Blanc. Or simply go for sherry or beer if we are in an English mood indeed!

It is all about following your own palate

As you can see when it comes to wine there is always a choice that is unlikely to be limited. Red or white the choice is yours. Follow your own palate. We gave you a range of recommendations and food pairing examples that you can fire away with.

The food is able to influence and even alter the taste of wine, it can make it taste better and worse that’s why a thoughtful concept of food and wine relationship can promise a pleasant marriage with a good aftertaste. We’ll continue speaking about it next time.

Bon appetit!

Disclaimer: Remember that wine contains alcohol that is bad for your health

 

Svetlana_Kasparova

This article was written by Svetlana Kasparova, a wine expert who has been working with wine estates across Europe for over eight years. She is a graduate of the famous wine school “Entoria” and a Wine Games medalist.

Svetlana runs an online course “Become a wine expert in 3 days”, you can learn more about it here:

 
 
Become a Wine Expert in 3 Days | Online Introductory Wine Course

Read More