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    Blog

    Master sommelier and Loire valley native, Pascaline Lepeltier, has been working with key Loire producers over the past months in preparation for the October 2017 Loire Wine Study Trip.

    Take a look at her notes on this carefully curated list of both iconic and rising star estates/producers in the Loire Valley

    An interesting read to get you re-acquainted with some of the more historically famed estates as well as introduce you to some of the new generation vintners who are pushing boundaries and defining the region’s vinous future…

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    Much has been written about the beautiful Loire Valley, well known as “the garden of France.” The wine region follows the meandering Loire River more than 600 miles through the gently rolling hills of a picturesque countryside. There is an abundance of vines and food crops in this fertile stretch of France. The Loire produces the largest amount of white wines of any French region, and it is the world’s largest mushroom producer. As the old adage says, “If it grows together, it goes together,” and this is perhaps nowhere as evident as it is in the Loire Valley.

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    I am pleased to share my Burgundy wine tour experience with the Wine Scholar Guild, as it was the trip of a lifetime.  My wife and I arrived a couple of days early and enjoyed fine wine and dining in Paris before our quick train trip over to Beaune (via Dijon).  We spent Sunday on our own, touring the Hospices de Beaune, wandering the city streets and having a lovely dinner.

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    Italy’s white wines are as diverse as the country’s reds. With a trove of native varieties, there is an Italian white wine to fit every budget and every occasion. In fact, there are so many choices that shopping for an Italian white wine can be overwhelming. It doesn’t help matters that many of the white grapes have similar looking names. However, you don’t have to memorize an encyclopedia to find the perfect wine for dinner.

    Just knowing a few key wines will ease the confusion and simplify the shopping trip (hint, if the grape or wine name has a “v” in it, you will probably love it.)

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    The white wines of France offer unrivaled perfection. With few exceptions, every vineyard growing white grapes is so planted not because reds won’t grow well there, but because whites will flourish. France’s white wines are not an afterthought or a consolation prize. These are vinous treasures worth exploring.

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    Recently, Barbara Philip MW hosted a virtual food and wine tour webinar for the Wine Scholar Guild. The cuisine of central Italy is as fascinating as it is delicious. This is where tomatoes and olive oil begin to replace the butter and cream of the north. Heavy, stuffed pastas give way to long pastas and are joined by more vegetables. The food of central Italy reflects the agricultural treasures provided by the warmer climate. Local grape varieties also enjoy their time in the sun, ripening to juicy perfection, creating wines that really reflect their surroundings.

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    It is almost here. That wonderful day in March that wine lovers all over the world anxiously wait for every year. Thousands gather for jubilant festivities of the wines of Beaujolais. No, my calendar does not need adjusting. November’s annual harvest fete known as Beaujolais Nouveau Day is a distant memory by the time the real stars of this French wine region are allowed to be released to adoring fans. Though you would be correct if you said I was overstating the excitement of the annual release of the crus of Beaujolais (and in actuality most are aged longer than laws dictate), these are wines worth celebrating.

    The Crus of Beaujolais are stand-alone AOCs representing the region’s very best vineyard land. These are high-quality wines reflecting individual terroirs and showcasing the great potential of the Gamay grape. Gamay is one the most underrated red grapes and the Crus of Beaujolais provide an incredible value to quality ratio.

    There are ten Beaujolais Crus, each named for a village within the growing area. Following in succession, the Crus span approximately 20km/12.5mi of northern Beaujolais. The soils in this part of the region are largely what makes these places so special. Primarily a mixture of ancient granite and schist, the soils of the Cru areas bring out the best in Gamay. Across the board, these are structured, complex wines with spicy aromas and the potential to age well, but each Cru has its distinctive signature. The following excerpts from our French Wine Scholar™ manual describe what makes each Cru special.

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    The Gallo Nero (Black Rooster) was the historic symbol of the League of Chianti and has become the symbol of the wines of Chianti Classico. The Black Rooster symbol is linked to a medieval legend that takes place during the time of open hostilities between Firenze and Siena for control of the Chianti territory.

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    As everywhere, it is the nature of the geography that most influences the food and drink traditions of the Jura and Franche-Comté. The diverse landscape of mountains, dense forests, high meadows, vineyards, lakes and the river plain have all shaped what the local population ate and drank. Franche-Comté’s gastronomy has much in common with that of Switzerland’s western cantons, but there are subtle differences. 

    Most of the rural population in the mountains and on the plain lived from their dairy cows and pigs, so the principal specialities are the wonderfully rich cows’ milk cheeses from unpasteurized milk and tasty pork sausages and charcuterie. The sausages and meats are smoked by hanging in a tuyé, a very large pyramidal chimney over the fire, burning wood from conifers.

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    Autumn in Champagne is a spectacular time to explore the region. The countryside and vineyards are abounding in rich palettes of color and the intoxicating fall fragrance instills a unique sensorial experience. Champagne is like laughter as it fills my senses with joy, especially when the cork pops and the bubbles burst with song!

    The educational experience created by the Wine Scholar Guild is a first class escapade! The inception of our tour and taste of Champagne, guided by Master of Wine, Essi Avellan, brought us full circle through the entire region with a sprinkling of the styles between Houses, Growers and Coopératives. Our adventure began with an introduction to the infamous Champagne Houses of Ruinart and Roederer.

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    As autumn is drawing to a close and the wine presses have been washed and put away, the first wines tasted before being blended confirm what had been sensed: 2016 is going to be a fabulous vintage! And if some compare it to the magnificent 2010, some others do not hesitate to go as far as the famous star-vintage 1990… Either way, the evidence that we are witnessing the making of a great vintage is clear.

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    Sadly, time has marched on, since the fantastic Bourgogne Immersion Trip I took with the Wine Scholar Guild lead by Andrew Jefford, October 23 – 28, 2016. Everyone on the trip was definitely a “wine nerd” but the group was composed of a mix of wine industry professionals, wine students of all levels that had “day jobs” and just wine appreciators. I had been on a few wine trips previously that were organized by friends or non-winegroups like Backroads (biking and wine). However, I had never gone on such a blockbuster, action-packed wine trip as this one. So for future participants here are 5 items to keep in mind so you have an incredible trip.

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    Southwest France (Sud Ouest) is best known for what it isn’t. Frankly, and unfortunately, it’s not widely recognized at all. With an accompanying eye-roll, I must report that many people have asked me – quite genuinely – “where is Southwest France?”!

    Let’s get positioned on the map. Sud Ouest is the deepest rural France, la France profonde. “In terroir terms, it’s a big area and rather difficult to generalise about, but most of the high-quality vineyard zones…owe their existence to the slopes created by rivers coming down either from the Massif Central, or from the Pyrenees. The overall zone is the Aquitaine Basin, and almost all of the soils…have been developed from sedimentary rocks of various kinds, or by the action of the rivers themselves.”(1)

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    Meeting Andrew Jefford today could easily lead one to believe that he was born knowing enormous volumes of information about the wines of the world, and has always been able to explain them in the manner of a poet laureate. As the leader of a 2016 Wine Scholar Guild study tour of Southwest France, his presentation (with global parallels) to a small but diverse group of educators and wine professionals was quite natural, charming, articulate, insightful, and generous. 

    Group feedback about Andrew includes these admirable qualities: knowledgeable about local context, well prepared, flexible and adaptive, clear "voice" (speaking and writing), exceedingly patient, gifted at capturing the essence of ideas with beautiful words, an amazing ability to write great tasting notes in record time, erudite yet accessible. In short, it is a privilege to be tutored in person while traveling with Andrew Jefford.

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