by Dave Williams
I would bet most of us are familiar with “new wine” because of George DeBoeuf and Beaujolais Nouveau which appears annually on the third Thursday of November. George certainly did a marvelous job as a promoter or extraordinary marketer. To the point where it has become cause for grand, and some say crazy, celebrations; and certainly increased revenue for wineries and retailers across the globe, regardless of whether people like Beaujolais Nouveau or not. In Japan one ritual is for the consumers to bathe in giant pools of the stuff. Makes one wonder if they drink their way out of the pool. While George may have latched on to wildly successful marketing ploy he certainly has no claim of exclusivity or originality as new wine has been made in the Old World for hundreds of years.
As far back as Medieval times wine makers traditionally first tasted their “new wines” around St. Martin’s Day (November 11). In Eastern Europe the Czeck Republic and Hungary also have such celebrations around wines called Svatomartinske Vino and Marton bora or wine of St. Martin, respectively. Not all are made via carbonic maceration, although most are. (Carbonic maceration is when harvested grapes are fermented in closed vats bathed in carbon dioxide prior to crushing producing simple wines with low levels of tannins. These wines are quickly bottled and consumed with no intent for longevity.) In fact, the Czech Republic has quality standards for Svatomartinske which undergoes evaluation by the state wine making institute. In Hungary, Marton bora is strongly connected to goose dishes with goose feasts occurring throughout the country upon release.
All so called, “new wines” are produced from early harvested grape varieties, Gamay being the most well-known. However, in Central Europe Muller-Thurgau, Fruhroter Veltliner and Muskat Moravsky are used to make white, as well as rose, “new wines”. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending upon your opinion of these wines, most are unknown outside the local areas they are made. For example, the Gaillac appellation in Southwest France makes Gaillac Primeur and releases it on the same day as Beaujolais Nouveau. I would bet you have never heard of this new wine, let alone tasted it. “New wines” also appear in Austria, Italy and Spain during fall in the year of harvest although few if any are imported to the US. Released on October 30, Italy’s “vino novello” is probably the only one likely to find its way Stateside.
In summary, “new wines” bring energy and some excitement to the wine world. Celebrations occur after release for a few weeks then all is quickly forgotten, very ephemeral.
by Cathy Boyd
Recently I attended a christening for my newborn nephew and instead of arriving at the christening with an age appropriate gift, I gave the parents an IOU. I would buy a bottle of wine from the child’s birth year, store the bottle for 20+ years, and then give it to the child on their 21st birthday.
What are some guidelines on choosing a wine that will be palatable in 2038, considering most wine produced is best consumed within 5 years of bottling? First, choose a varietal that is known to have potential to hold up over the 2+ decades. Reds – Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Vintage Port. Whites – Riesling, Semillon, and Champagne.
Research the vintages. Because the year is already chosen for you, review the professional’s opinion on the potential of the vintage. Look for producers who consistently make great wine no matter the seasonal difficulties. Buy the bottle when it is released. The cost of the bottle at release will be less than purchasing it several years after release at an auction, plus you will have the provenance.
Plan the purchase of the bottle. Purchasing the bottle is done long after the candles on the 1st birthday cake is blown out. Don’t forget! If available, purchase a magnum bottle (1.5L) of the wine of your choice. Magnums age more reliably and will provide the opportunity for more to share in the celebration when opening.
Finally, store the wine carefully. Proper cellaring conditions allows the wine to age rather than deteriorate.
For birth of a nephew in 2017, I purchased a Joh. Jos. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese Riesling. I consulted professional reviews – Wine Spectator 95 points, drinking from 2025 to 2039. Price $45. The bottle is tucked away in my wine refrigerator (with a tag noting the intended recipient). And of course, I bought a second bottle for my collection.
by Dave Williams
A bit of history: PA Wine Excellence is one of our most enjoyable and educational events. It should be attended by those who have both a negative and positive impressions of PA wines as opinions will be changed or confirmed, respectively. Today PA’s wine industry is about 50 years old, however, it all started with William Penn in 1863. While his Bordeaux cuttings did not survive they did manage to produce a cross hybrid called Alexander which became popular mid-18th century. Pierre Legaux emigrated from France to America in 1787 and started PA’s first commercial vineyard and nursery based on the Alexander grape. By mid-19th century PA was the 3rd largest producer of wine.
The locus of PA wine making moved from the southeast to the northwest with the 1864 establishment of the South Shore Winery (recently purchased and reactivated by Mazza Vineyards). The Concord grape moved Lake Erie’s focus to table grapes aided by prohibition. After prohibition the legislature created the PLCB which hindered the growth and development of PA wineries. It wasn’t until the passage of the Limited Winery Act in 1968 which allowed farm wineries to make and sell up to 50,000 gallons of wine. (Thanks to effort of Doug Moorhead who then started Presque Isle Winery with William Konnerth.) Pennsylvania’s wine industry grew from 11 wineries in 1976 to 270 or so today. Act 39 was passed in 2016 which further enabled wineries to self-distribute to licensed outlets like grocery stores and wine shops. It also authorized up to $1 million for marketing and research supporting PA wine.
I have many opportunities to chat with Customers throughout the work day in my capacity as a Wine Specialist. This is undoubtedly the most pleasurable part of my job! I love the myriad of wine-related discussions upon which we touch. Of the topics that frequently arise is that pertaining to the differences in wines made from the same grape variety when it is grown in different places. As a “for instance”, consider the difference in taste between a Sauvignon Blanc from California versus the same wine from Washington. These distinctions always comes down to “place”. It matters a great deal where the grapes are grown, as the resultant wine will reflect the characteristics of that place. The French refer to the characteristics that place causes and imparts upon a wine as terroir (pronounced terˈwär).
There are no words in the English language that are analogous to terroir. The “terre” in “terroir” comes from the French word for “land”. The traditional definition of terroir is “the complete natural environmental conditions in which a particular wine is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography, and climate in which grapes are grown and that give a wine its unique flavor and aroma.” Notice that this definition refers to the “natural” environmental conditions of the place in which the grapes are grown. In other words, anything that is not a manmade characteristic is natural. Irrigation is a good example of a manmade intervention that is not included as a component of terroir. Trellising is another example of manmade influence upon the conditions under which grapes are grown. On the other hand, aspects such as soil composition, climate and weather (two separate things), degree days, annual rainfall, drainage characteristics, wind, elevation, proximity to a body of water, and exposure as it relates to the sun (both facing or orientation, as well as the degree of slope of the land) all comprise terroir. One begins to appreciate the importance of vineyard site selection after taking into account all of these natural variables!
So, when you next taste a California grown Sauvignon Blanc (and, again, depending on where the grapes were grown in California), you may taste a drier, somewhat “grassy” wine as opposed to, say, a fruitier, more aromatic Sauvignon Blanc from Washington. The same grape variety, but grown in two very distinct terroir, will result in two vastly different wines.
by Marty Cook
Beaujolais Nouveau is the first wine of the new harvest! The third Thursday of November is traditionally observed as Beaujolais Nouveau Day and is a national holiday in France that features fireworks, music and festivals. This occasion marks the first day on which wines from the current year’s new harvest are permitted to be sold and consumed. Under French law, the wine is released at 12:01 am, just weeks after the wine’s grapes have been harvested. The slogan heard far and wide on the release date is, “It’s Beaujolais Nouveau Time!”
As part of the festivities, producers delight in trying to outdo each other with colorful wine bottle labels. An annual race used to be staged to determine which producer would be the first to deliver their Beaujolais Nouveau to Paris, and this contest would garner much media attention; but the current practice is to ship the Beaujolais Nouveau in advance of the third Thursday in November with the stipulation that the wine will not be released for sale until 12:01 am on Beaujolais Nouveau Day.
The Beaujolais Nouveau Day phenomenon has captivated the enthusiasm of the wine-drinking public around the globe. It first spread to neighboring European countries around France, then swept across the Atlantic Ocean to America, and eventually reached oenophiles in Asia. The epicenter of this phenomenon is the Beaujolais Region of France, which is a wine region located at the southern tip of the famous French Bourgogne (Burgundy) Region.
Beaujolais Nouveau is a young wine made from Gamay grapes by employing a special vilification process known as Carbonic Maceration (CM), or “whole berry fermentation”. The essence of CM is that whole, uncrushed clusters of grapes, stems and all, are placed in a fermentation tank that is then sealed and flooded with carbon dioxide. Yeast is added to the tank just prior to the addition of the grape clusters. The weight of the clusters will rupture some of the grapes on the bottom of the tank, which releases enough juice to activate the yeast, and the fermentation process begins. The whole berries then commence to ferment inside their skins. These fermenting berries are eventually pressed, and the resulting must is then allowed to complete the fermentation process.
The CM process results in a wine that is softer, fruitier, and more floral than would be the case if the Beaujolais was produced using typical winemaking means. This is because the CM technique preserves the fresh, fruity quality of the grapes without extracting bitter tannins from the grape skins. It is desirable to enjoy Beaujolais Nouveau when it is young and still portraying these characteristics to their maximum potential. This is not a wine to lay down in your wine cellar! Drink it now!
Beaujolais Nouveau wine is an excellent pairing befitting of any Thanksgiving table and will compliment all of your festive foods throughout the ensuing holiday season. Enjoy!
by Dave Williams
As they rise to a crescendo of delight, the quality of champagne has often been measured by the size of the bubbles. A steady stream of tiny bubbles has long been recognized as the indicator of quality. Recently, Professor Gérard Liger-Belair, a chemical physicist at the University of Reims, spent time measuring bubbles size and impact on sparkling wines, in particular Champagne. Once a bottle is opened, some one million bubbles form in the average glass of Champagne. These escaping little spheres of dissolved CO2 range from 0.4-4.0mm (.016-.160”) in diameter. Viscosity and the glass can influence bubble size to a degree. Ultimately, his findings indicated that bubbles 3.4mm (.136”) across were optimum at delivering the aroma and flavor of the wine.
Using high speed photography he examined what happened to the bubbles as they form a raft at the top of the wine. Bubbles form a hexagonal pattern on the surface, much like petals of a flower. When a bubble collapses it creates a cavity that strains the adjacent bubbles increasing the likelihood of their collapsing. When bubbles collapse they explode tiny aromatic droplets into the air. The more bubbles that collapse the greater the aroma and flavor impact. Prof. Liger-Belair previously discovered that chilling a Champagne to 39⁰F. reduces the amount of alcohol carried by each bubble which can overpower the expression of more delicate flavors. He also claims that that flutes enhance the flavor of Champagne over wider coupe glasses. However, personal experience with glass size and Champagne would cause me to disagree with this statement. Sounds like more empirical testing is in order!
We encourage you to join us and experience bubbles at our upcoming Champagne event in December!
by Dave Williams
Some food for thought about wine. I have just finished reading Alice Feiring’s recent book, “The Dirty Guide to Wine”. Her earlier book, “The Battle for Wine and Love -or- How I Saved the World from Parkerization”, indicates her perspective. In that, Alice railed against how many wineries attempted to make wines that pleased the big, bold flavor preference of Robert Parker rather than make wines that truly reflect their identity and traditions. She felt that in doing so, they violated their authenticity. Usually these changes required manipulations that masked or ignored the terroir and traditions that created and established the wine.
Today we see a trend towards sustainable, natural, organic and biodynamic techniques, which is somewhat of a response to the many manipulations of earlier decades. She also frets over the many chemicals and processes used in the vineyard and winery to execute the manipulations. In her recent book she looks at wine through the soil, thus the title, “The Dirty Guide to Wine”. She identifies soil types and themes that run through good-great wine and explains why she, and many others, think soil along with climate and wine making process are keys to understanding what composes great wine. She makes a strong case for following the soil to great wine but also credits the wine makers that respect the soil to produce a natural and authentic expression of terroir without chemical manipulations. Variation from year to year and location to location are essential to great wine. A good read worthy of contemplation.
by Kimberly Hawkins
1530 North Second Street, Harrisburg, PA 17102
note. bistro and wine bar is located in the heart of Midtown, Harrisburg. A trip into this 1910 renovated Victorian house is one you will not soon forget. Whether you are here for brunch at their outside seating area or a delicious dinner inside, the menu will delight you with fresh ingredients that are crafted into dishes with a European flare.
We have enjoyed many brunches and dinners here over the past several years. However, during a recent visit, it was the bottle of 2015 Seculo, a Spanish red that caught our attention. With hints of raisin and spice, it was a spectacular selection. A personal recommendation by the owner, we were more than happy to partake.
Owner Ruth Prall prides herself on offering a wonderful selection of wines that you are not likely to find elsewhere in Central Pennsylvania. Her diverse and exquisite selection of wines does not disappoint. From a merlot from Tuscany to a German Riesling, there are choices for even the most discerning sommelier. Wine is served by the glass or bottle, and every Sunday from 4pm to 9pm you can enjoy half price bottles of wine.
Reservations are accepted and highly recommended for larger parties: (717)412-7415
by Dave Williams
I have seen a number of new faces at some of our recent tastings, some even joining PWS. In particular at the Galen Glen event many of those new to PWS thanked the team for such a wonderful and educational event. How often do you get to go behind the scenes of a winery with key personnel who actually make the wine? The stories and their passions come through to connect you to the wines we later enjoyed. This relationship of soil, people and place is what constitutes “authenticity” in wine. It is definitely not a soulless, mass-produced production line product.
From my perspective most new attendees at PWS events are pleased, if not delighted, with their experience and plan to attend future events. If that is so, then why are people curious about wine not beating a path to our door, so to speak? I suspect it is because we do not have a large public profile. Most first time guests attend our events at the invitation of a current member. This one-on-one approach has been our most effective recruiting process. Given that, I am going to ask each one of you to invite a friend or friends who have some degree of curiosity about wine to join you at an upcoming PWS event. We host a range of events from more introductory to graduate level tastings. We even host several social events like our August and September’s at The Inn at Herr Ridge. Our aim is to control prices as much as possible. However, facilities, quality foods and wines dictate costs. Pick one that appeals to your friend(s) and introduce them to fun way to learn about wine.
By Zach Ortenzio
We arrived at the restaurant and were told that Saturday night was buffet night, so we should look at the buffet and then decide if we wanted to select that option or request a menu. After looking at the buffet the four of us decided to order from the menu. We looked at the appetizers and did not find any that looked appealing. For our main courses two ordered the Crab Cakes that came with two side dishes, one ordered the Flounder stuffed with crab meat and topped with a cream sauce over garlic mushroom risotto with no side dish and the other ordered the Chicken Carbonara with one side dish.
I will speak to the main courses and then the side dishes. The crab cakes did not have a lot of filler, but they also had very little if any taste. The Chicken Carbonara had a cloying aftertaste. Surprisingly, the Stuffed Flounder was very good. But it was given extra care because the first plate had slipped off the edge of an overloaded tray and crashed to the floor! For side dishes we had french fries, which were very good, two Caesar salads and a Citrus Spinach salad. The lettuce on the Caesar salads was fresh, unfortunately, the croutons and the Caesar salad dressing appeared to have been purchased at your local grocery store. The spinach salad was a large bowl of stemmy spinach heavily coated with oil and with slices of one large strawberry, a few pieces of canned mandarin oranges and, if you searched closely, a few shreds of candied pecans. We did not even consider dessert.
I titled this article “How Wine Saved The Meal” because we brought three whites: a California Sauvignon Blanc, a Sancerre from
France’s Loire Valley, and a Sauvignon Bianco from Alto Adige, Italy. We also brought two reds: a Pinot Noir from California and a Pinot Nero from Alto Adige, Italy. The white wines added a freshness and citrus flavors that woke up the three, to put it kindly, boring meals and they enhanced the Stuffed Flounder. The Pinots with their berry aromas were a welcome contrast to the citrus notes of the whites. Having any wine would have enhanced these meals, but ours were fortunately fine examples!
National Wine Day January 1 – December 31 (just to make you smile!)