Have you had your Epiphany Wine Moment?
How a fabulous bottle of wine can change your life…
As featured in Wine Enthusiast
For those of you who have already basked in your epiphany wine experience, allow me to congratulate you. And if you are not sure if you have had it or not, then it most definitely has not happened, as it is unmistakably crystal clear when it does occur. The beauty of the epiphany wine moment is that you never know when that illuminating discovery of the senses will come and knock you off your feet.
My moment came early on in my wine journey, and as it happens would end up leading me into wine as a career. I was living in New York City and going to school for my Master’s in Education while working to put myself through school. I had always been interested in, and enjoyed, wine as part of our Sunday Italian family dinner ritual at my grandparents’ house. Of course, it was usually baskets of Chianti on the table, but on special occasions my grandpa would bust out a bottle of somewhat generic Burgundy—comparatively it was a real treat.
California reds were next; and, boy, were those wines eye opening. All that fruit, oak and alcohol opened a whole new world of flavors and textures. But they still didn’t provide my “holy crap, is this wine phenomenal” moment. That happened at Sparks Steak House in Manhattan where my family was celebrating my dad’s birthday. He was feeling saucy that night and splurged for a bottle of 1986 Premier Cru Gevrey-Chambertin, which at that point was about 10 years old.
I swirled; I smelled; I sipped. Then I think I passed out for several seconds. But when I came to, the berry fruit flavors combined with the black pepper spice, floral notes and earthy, mushroom undertones lingered unlike anything I had experienced before. And the unwavering creamy texture on the palate is something I have yet to experience again. It literally left me speechless for about a minute, but once I came to and started raving about it, I haven’t stopped since.
What is this epiphany experience though? It can be an ethereal sniff and sip of wine that mystically opens all your senses to how an incredible wine can smell and taste. All those wine descriptors that you may have heard in the past that probably sounded a little wacky, start to have meaning. The crushed rose petals, the grilled bing cherry, the delicate and harmonious balance of searing acidity and sleek, silky tannins. It’s astonishing when a wine can turn on that sensory light bulb in your head. It’s downright emotional.
It also feeds into the potentially lifelong quest of replicating it. Wine lovers search their whole lives trying to wrap their arms around another epiphany wine experience, but it is easier said than done.
The moment the aha-wine passes your lips it opens your eyes to the intricacies of the universe inside a grape, and you start to question and understand the differences in varietals, regions, terroir, ageing, vintages, winemaking processes and cellaring. It almost forces you into thinking while you’re drinking to decode the mystical experience to determine what you love so much about certain wines and why, and what you don’t enjoy and why not. Yet when it comes to that one wine, the one that lit the fuse, there is no thought on that one. It goes directly on the Janis Joplin theory of enology: “You know you got it, if it makes you feel good.”
Left Bank vs. Right Bank in Bordeaux: What’s the Difference?
As featured in Wine Enthusiast …
If you have spent time in Bordeaux, France, or chatted with friends over a bottle that hails from the region, the inevitable conversation of Left Bank versus Right Bank wines will arise. Just to clear the air—this debate has nothing to do with cash flow or basketball (as in, bank shots), but everything to do with the river banks in Bordeaux, which correspond with different styles of wines.
Confused? Fret not. We have demystified the differences between Left Bank and Right Bank wines so you can drink and discuss them confidently.
What Are the Banks?
The wine region of Bordeaux is located close to the Atlantic Ocean, giving it a maritime climate. Within Bordeaux lies a body of water, called the Gironde Estuary, that connects the Atlantic Ocean to two rivers. The river that runs along the east side of Bordeaux is called the Dordogne and the river on the west side is called the Garonne. These two rivers connect at the base of the Gironde Estuary and fork outwards.
The wine regions that are located to the east (right) of the Dordogne River are considered part of the Right Bank. The regions that are located between the two rivers and to the west (left) of the Garonne River are called the Left Bank. All of that underwater turmoil where the two rivers connect contributes to differences in soil composition on the two banks, which can create uniquely different wines.
Bordeaux Appellations to Know
The two banks have numerous appellations that are well-known for producing exquisite wines. The Left Bank includes the Médoc and Haut Médoc wine regions, which encompass some of the highest-rent districts in the wine world. This is where the most recognized and world-renowned Bordeaux appellations are located, such as Saint-Estèphe, Pauillac, Saint-Julien and Margaux.
To the south of the Médoc, but still in the Left Bank, you have Pessac-Léognan and Graves, and then Sauternes and Barsac further south, which are known for their sweet wine production.
The Right Bank’s most famous appellations are Saint-Émilion and Pomerol, noted for the most age-worthy wines. The area also includes those of Fronsac, Canon Fronsac, Lalande de Pomerol, Côtes de Blaye, Côtes de Bourg, Côtes de Bordeaux and Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux.
Unique Soils and Terroir
While only a proverbial stone’s throw away from one another, the soil between the Left and Right Banks vary significantly. Thanks to all that underwater mix-up, which happens when the rivers meet the estuary, the Left Bank’s soil possesses more of a limestone base, but with a gravel layer on top. It has minimal clay to retain moisture, so the vines must go deeper for water. That struggle often leads to more concentrated flavors in the fruit.
Meanwhile, the Right Bank inherently has that same limestone, but it is closer to the surface. Additionally, clay dominates the soil composition and has far less gravel. Why is that important? Funny you should ask…
Left and Right Bank Grape Varieties
Different grape varietals thrive in differing types of soil—and this is especially true when it comes to what thrives in the Left and Right Banks. Cabernet Sauvignon prefers the struggle that the rocky, gravelly soil that the Left Bank offers. The gravel captures and holds heat, helping the area’s wines to develop ripe fruit flavors and those big, chewy tannins. This allows these wines to age for the long haul. Other varietals such as Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec play accompanying roles on the Left Bank, but far and away Cabernet Sauvignon is the star and the main grape used in the majority of wines.
On the Right Bank (the northeast side of the Dordogne) Merlot reigns supreme. It relishes in the extra water that clay tends to hold, and doesn’t require extra heat, as Cabernet Sauvignon does. It is typically blended with Cabernet Franc (certain Chateaux will even use Cabernet Franc as the dominant grape), with Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec making cameo appearances in certain wines.
Different Wine Styles
So, with all the varying soils, terroir, grapes and appellations, how do the wines differ in the bottle? The Cabernet Sauvignon-heavy blends from the Left Bank are typically bigger, bolder and more ageable wines. That’s because the higher fruit concentration and tannin levels are conducive to wines that will evolve and improve with time in the cellar.
In comparison, the Merlot-based blends of the Right Bank tend to be smooth and supple in their youth, with soft fruit and mellow tannins making them ideal for early enjoyment. Of course, the top-tier wines of St. Emilion (from Pavie, Figeac, Clos Fourtet, Angelus and others) and Pomerol (from Petrus and Cheval Blanc) are certainly cut from the same cloth as those ageable Grand Cru Classe wines of the Left Bank and can benefit from decades in the cellar.
The Left Bank is also home to the notorious 1855 Classification of the Médoc, which includes the five “first-growth” estates of Château Margaux, Château Mouton Rothschild, Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Latour and Château Haut-Brion. (Although Château Haut-Brion is technically in Graves, not Medoc.)
Beyond this exclusive first growth club, there are 14 second-growth estates, 14 third-growth, 10 fourth-growth and 18 fifth-growth. The area’s Sauternes and Barsac sweet wine producers also have their own classification system.
The only classification in the right bank is that of St-Emilion. It originated in 1955, and wines are tasted, reviewed and updated every 10 years. The top-tier wines receive the Premier Grand Cru Classé designation, which are further distinguished by “A” and “B” rankings. The latest 2022 edition includes 14 Premier Grand Cru Classés, with only two (Chateau Figeac and Chateau Pavie) awarded Grand Cru Classé A status, and 71 Grand Cru Classés.
Not too complicated, we hope? Armed with this knowledge, drinking your way through Bordeaux has never been easier.
Cos d’Estournel Le Medoc de Cos 2014 Wine Tasting Video
Meet Wine Enthusiast’s Chief Revenue & Education Officer, Marshall Tilden III, DWS
by WSET Global
This week we are chatting with Marshall Tilden, Chief Revenue and Education Officer at Wine Enthusiast, to mark the launch of Wine Enthusiast Academy in New York on 1st August. Marshall tells us about setting up Wine Enthusiast Academy and becoming a WSET course provider
It’s a long way from wine publishing and commerce to wine education, talk us through Wine Enthusiast’s strategy…
Wine Enthusiast has been the ultimate source in the US for everything wine for the last four decades. From our reviews and ratings to our colourful and insightful editorial pieces, to our exclusive wine cellars, coolers, glassware, and other wine accessories to our bridal registry for the ultimate wine-centric newlyweds. We have always had such a personal involvement with our audience’s wine lifestyle and education, that offering WSET classes seemed like a perfect partnership and the best way to help educate our ever-curious followers. And with my background in education and wine, everything came together just perfectly.
How is Wine Enthusiast Academy starting its journey as a WSET course provider? What classes will be offered?
Our goal was to start our classes in our Westchester County, NY headquarters in April this year. However, with COVID-19 that obviously will be delayed. So, we quickly switched to online courses and will be offering WSET’s Level 1 Award in Wines starting this August. Once we are all back to some form of normality, we feel offering an online programme as well as classroom teaching will be a perfect combination for our students. We also plan to offer the Level 2 Award in Wines by the end of 2020 in both the online and classroom formats as well.
What type of students are you hoping to attract?
We have so many customers, readers and followers that are thirsty for more wine knowledge. They continually voice their desire for us to help them learn more about the wine world. So, we hope that both the everyday wine lover, as well as wine industry professionals, will come and join in the fun… particularly when it comes to the Level 1 Award in Wines. It is such a great introduction to the world of wine and offers so much useful information for the at-home collector as well as the wine professional. Our main goal is to make this wine education as fun and engaging as it is informative.
What are your ambitions for Wine Enthusiast Academy as a WSET course provider?
To help educate those wine consumers and professionals both in our community and now throughout the US, with our online classes using all the wine knowledge that we at Wine Enthusiast possess. We are so fortunate to have some of the most enlightened wine editors and professionals in the world. To have them contribute to our programme and help educate those who are interested in learning more about the wonderful world of wine makes our academy like no other course provider in the world.
The wonderful part about Wine Enthusiast is our diversity across so many channels in the wine industry. Our enrolled students will be able to take advantage of special promotions through our commerce division and receive benefits and discounts on products and subscriptions, which makes us unique in our offering.
How would you describe your own WSET learning journey?
My WSET experience started with the online Level 3 in Wine and Spirits course… and that was no walk in the park! I had always considered myself fairly knowledgeable about wine, but just a few weeks, in I knew I was going to be learning about wine at a much higher level.
And then there was the Diploma… that programme truly brings about a roller coaster of emotions. Working a full-time job and having two young children at home, I had to take my Diploma online. It took almost three years of early morning studying, late-night tasting and just continual learning of the overall wine business in general. It required focus, persistence, dedication and a continued desire to succeed in order to pass all six units (which I did on the first try for each level). But it has transformed the way I think about tasting and brought my analytical skills to an extremely heightened level. I can no longer take the first sip of any glass of wine and not go through the full Systematic Approach to Tasting grid in my head. And I love to share that information with others who are interested in how that process works.
What is the most exciting aspect of becoming a WSET course provider?
Being able to share the wine experience with others. Wine is a wonderful beverage that brings people together. We celebrate with it; we enjoy meals with it, and it helps lead to meaningful interactions between family and friends. Any way that we can help our audience learn more about wine, and bring them into our Wine Enthusiast family, will only help improve the overall wine culture in our global community.
If you are interested in learning more about wine, spirits or sake, why not take a WSET course online or in the classroom. To find a course provider near you click here.
A Rich and Complex Pinot Grigio from Livio Felluga
The Best Wines for Thanksgiving
We’re approaching holiday season and it’s about time to set the table with the best wines for Thanksgiving. This is one of my favorite days of the year, since we know the day will include a couple of our favorite things… wine and food (and lots of it!) However, sometimes it can be a challenge to figure out what wines will pair best with such a variety of foods served at the turkey table. Don’t worry, I got you covered!
Check out my recent video which highlights t some of the best wines for Thanksgiving, it is sure to steer you in the right direction for the holiday ahead! Of course, the best wines are always the wines that you enjoy most, especially when enjoyed among family and friends.
A classic white wine to pair next to turkey and mashed potatoes would be Chardonnay, thanks to its rich and full body. Chardonnay is also a great option to pair with a variety of hors d’oeuvres that might be getting passed around before the main event.
Try this Beringer 2020 Chardonnay, Private Reserve, Napa Valley
Pinot Noir is a go-to red wine on Thanksgiving Day thanks to its versatility, great fruit and mouth-watering acidity that will hold up to Turkey and all of the trimmings, without overpowering them.
Try this Primrose Trail 2017 Pinot Noir, Grand Reserve, Sonoma Coast
An American Holiday calls for an all-American grape, Zinfandel. We like red Zinfandel on the Thanksgiving table for a lot of the same reasons we like Pinot Noir. Zinfandel is versatile, offers berry fruit and acidity, and pairs splendidly with cranberry sauce and the variety of sides served.
Try this Buehler 2015 Zinfandel, Napa Valley
Riesling is another great high acid, fruit forward wine that will help cut through some of the fattier, and rich foods you’ll be reaching for.
Try this Trefethen 2021 Dry Riesling, Napa Valley
If you want to venture to the Old World, look no further than Chateauneuf-Du-Pape. One of our favorite fall wines and a great red option for the holiday feasts ahead.
Try this Chateau La Nerthe 2019 Chateauneuf-Du-Pape Les Graniers
Is it a celebration without a little Bubbly? Not only is Champagne a great wine to kickoff the holiday with passed hors d’oeuvres, but it is a great wine to gift to the host if you’re visiting family or friends for the holiday.
Try this Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label NV Brut (w/ Ice Jacket!)
There’s Nothing Petite About Petit Verdot
BY MARSHALL TILDEN III as featured on Wine Enthusiast
If there is one grape variety that exemplifies the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” it is Petit Verdot. This small grape earned its name, which translates to “little green,” due to its tendency to ripen later in the season as compared to its Bordeaux cohorts, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. When allowed to fully ripen, this compact yet dynamic grape unveils jammy black fruits, enticing floral aromas and firm tannins along with a deep, dark purple color.
Due to its long, leisurely ripening period, many Châteaux in Bordeaux have replaced Petit Verdot plantings with varieties that ripen to their full potential more expeditiously. However, many New World wine regions are welcoming Petit Verdot into their vineyards to be celebrated as a single-varietal wine, as opposed to a petite percentage of a larger blend.
In the North Fork of Long Island, New York, Pellegrini Vineyards Winemaker Zander Hargrave believes that “the variety works well because it is late to go through veraison.” This later ripening protects it from early weather fluctuations. Further, the smaller berries are able to concentrate sugars in mid to late October, resulting in depth of flavor and more intense color. The wines exude wild fruit flavors and earthy undertones. In Virginia, many wineries are using Petit Verdot in place of Cabernet Sauvignon to satisfy consumers looking for an alternate big, bold style of red wine. These wines carry vibrant acidity along with ripe dark-berry fruit and, in the best examples, firm and gripping tannins.
Australia’s largest plantings of Petit Verdot can be found in the Riverland region, but it has also found success in the Barossa and Murray valleys as well as Riverina. Its ability to retain acidity in these warmer climates is key, leading to full-bodied wines with a flavor profile similar to Shiraz: intense red berry fruit, black pepper spice and floral notes such as lavender and violet.
With more than 1,600 acres of Petit Verdot planted in Argentina, 72% are in the high-altitude, warm continental-climate region of Mendoza. Today, the regions of San Juan, La Rioja, Patagonia and the Calchaquí Valley all have the grape under vine. “Petit Verdot gets fuller with sweeter, gentler tannins than you find where it originally came from,” says Tomás Hughes, winemaker at Finca Decero.
Does Swirling Wine Do Anything?
Does Swirling Wine Do Anything?
as featured by Wine Enthusiast
There are few things more mesmerizing than watching a deep, ruby colored wine skillfully swirled around a large-bowled glass. Conversely, watching an “over-swirler” throw the wine around like a ride at an amusement park can seem quite pompous.
Regardless of style and technique, there’s a tremendous amount of value and purpose to the wine swirl. Most of it has to do with oxygen and aeration, but there are other reasons why the swirl is a key component in the 5 Ss of wine tasting.
It Opens the Wine
As soon as wine is exposed to oxygen, its aroma compounds become more detectable as they attach themselves to evaporating alcohol as it lifts from the glass. Oxygen also can help to soften harsh tannins on bigger wines, allowing them to become smoother and silkier.
Just about every wine will benefit from swirling to some extent, though younger, bolder wines may require more. But be cautious about overswirling an older vintage wine—oxygen can turn from friend to foe, and it’s easy to overoxidize a delicate, aged wine with too much swirling.
It Removes Off-Putting Odors
Oxygen will also help “blow off” a wine’s unwanted aromas. Sulfites, which may be added during the winemaking process or occur naturally as a biproduct of fermentation, can create an odor of burnt match or rotten eggs upon initially opening a bottle. With several seconds of swirling, those malodors often dissipate, leaving behind the aromas intended by the winemaker.
A Better Visual
By swirling wine higher up in the bowl, you can better analyze its color and viscosity. A given wine may seem medium ruby in color when resting at the bottom of the glass. But give it a few laps around the track, and its hue may appear lighter than originally detected.
Moreover, swirling leaves behind legs, also called tears, on the glass. They can indicate a wine’s viscosity and signify higher alcohol levels. The more legs that streak down the glass, the more you may want to watch how much you consume in one sitting.
How to Swirl Wine Correctly
There can be a fine line between executing an impressive swirl and potentially ruining everyone’s clothes with flying wine. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when perfecting your swirl.
Start small and keep the base of the glass on the table. Imagine there’s a small bead or pebble floating atop your wine, touching the side of the glass. See if you can envision moving that bead around the edge of the glass, without it off the table. Once the flow looks good, try to keep that same rolling motion as you raise the glass a few inches off the table.
Use a big-bowled glass. When it comes to wine glasses and swirling, size matters. Wider bowls create a lower center of gravity and better momentum for the liquid inside, allowing for a more stable experience. Start with one of these and save yourself the hassle of learning to swirl in a tiny tumbler—a recipe for disaster and nearly guaranteed to cause a spill.
Avoid the overswirl. Several seconds, or even a minute of swirling, does wonders for most wines (though again, be careful of those older vintages). But a glass of wine doesn’t need to be swirled constantly. After the initial swirl to kickstart oxygenation, the wine will continue to breathe and develop in the glass by itself. Also, all it takes is one overpowering flick of the wrist to send a nice Bordeaux sloshing out of the glass, left only to be enjoyed as a permanent stain on your favorite rug.
Christmas Eve Wines
What better reason than Christmas Eve to share and enjoy a couple of gems from two of my favorite #wine producers Pride Mountain Vineyards and Joseph Drouhin.
The 2014 Reserve #Pride Cab was still a pup, delicious but opulent and massive. Needs another 7-10 years in the bottle. The 2010 Clos des Mouches #Burgundy was drinking beautifully with a perfect balance of dried cherry, pipe tobacco and earthy undertones leading to a silky, smooth finish.Continue reading