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.
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.
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.
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)
Lonely Planet has released their Best in Travel 2017 guide about THE places to visit in the next year…and Bordeaux tops their list as the No. 1 city destination in the world!
While we think every wine lover and Francophile should take that tour, here are 7 great reasons to tour Southwest France:
A BIT OF WINE CHEMISTRY: Lessons from Champagne
Day one of the Champagne study trip initiated a discussion which continued throughout the week of factors impacting aromas and flavors in champagne. Broadly, aromas can be categorized into the impacts of grape variety, terroir, vinification, and post-production events (influencing individual bottles versus entire “batches”).
This article will focus upon the biochemistry of sulfur, nitrogen, oxygen, and sugars in an acidic environment (esters arising from acidification of alcohol); the intent is not intended to be comprehensive. For purposes of this essay, the use of the word aroma will include the complex notes of aging characterized as “bouquet.”
“Although many efforts have been made to characterize the quality and flavor of the compounds in wine… tasting remains the single universal test used… This is because the taste of a molecule, or blend of molecules, is constructed within the brain of a taster.” F. Brochet and D. Dubourdieu, 2001
France has been a leading actor in international wine commerce for centuries. This session summarizes France’s current position relative to other wine-producing countries and provides historical perspective. The composition of France’s external trade is discussed, focusing on regions which figure significantly in the country’s export portfolio, among them Bordeaux, Champagne, Beaujolais and Burgundy. Trends of note are evaluated as are issues faced by France in an increasingly competitive marketplace. France enjoys distinct advantages given the reputation of its wines and its longstanding role as an exporter. The country’s future success is seen as hinging on the ability to adapt to changing tastes and circumstances.