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!)
By Dave Williams
Last month I asked for input for future events. To that point, I want to thank those that approached me at the last tasting, offering suggestions and further input. Please continue to provide your suggestions and ideas to President@PaWineSociety.com Some even offered to meet for a brainstorming session, which I plan to make happen. There is never an end to this process. Again, I want to state our goal is to bring interesting, educational and enjoyable events to you to enhance your appreciation and pleasure for wine.
The Board recently had our annual planning meeting for 2020 and beyond, and I am pleased to say a number of interesting and new topics were presented. This does not preclude your idea from becoming a reality. While we composed a draft schedule for 2020, unforeseen changes and obstacles are bound to occur necessitating alternative events. One event that we are committed to is in January—PA Wine Excellence, where we present the great Pennsylvania wines that can play on the world stage. This is a must attend event for those both familiar and disillusioned with PA wines.
When planning we try to achieve a balance of introductory level events, with mid and senior level events. PWS recognizes that wine education for all of us started out of curiosity. We aim to provide a non-intimidating environment to encourage those with curiosity to attend. Having reviewed the events PWS has hosted over the last 30+ years, we have presented some remarkable wines and truly noteworthy speakers. It is the Board’s desire to see that continue. Again, your suggestions and input help us to do so.
by Joyce Soroka
6617 Carlisle Pike, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050 Tel: 717-691-0111
This restaurant offers a casual family dining experience at moderate prices. An Italian mother and her three sons have forged the nuance of the Palumbo family traditions into their menu selections.
The menu selections are traditional Italian cuisine. The dinner menu includes appetizers and entrées. Dishes “From the Land” and “From the Sea” include a choice of either pasta or potatoes & vegetables. Every meal includes homemade garlic bread served piping hot along with your choice of butter or olive oil with herbs for dipping. Soup or a side salad are an extra charge and pair well with the entrées. My favorite entrée is the Classical Parmigiana with veal, which I consider to be the best of its kind in this area. The generous portions typically require a take-home box. In addition to the dinner menu, there is also an expansive list of pizza, sandwiches, cold and hot subs, Stromboli’s and salads, all of which are available for eat-in or carryout, and DaVinci’s Grandma Pizza is a long time favorite of area pizza aficionados!
Our BYOB wine selection was a 2013 Hook and Ladder, The Tillerman, a red blend from Los Amigos which happens to be one of my favorites! It paired well with our Classical Parmigiana chicken and veal entrées.
We passed on dessert, but it was a difficult decision! Mrs. Palumbo makes all of the desserts, among which is a moist, delicious carrot cake that, although not typical Italian fare, is always a satisfying end to any wonderful DaVinci meal!
There is something for everyone at DaVinci Italian Eatery, where every menu item could be the perfect pairing for your carefully selected BYOB wine of choice!
DaVinci Italian Eatery is open 10:30 am-10:00 pm Tuesday through Saturday and 11:00 am-9:00 pm Sunday.
by Dave Williams
I don’t know how many of you have given thought to what goes on within the Pa Wine Society or what needs to happen to present a tasting event. Not that you have to, it’s just that we try to bring interesting topics and wines to your attention for your education, entertainment and enjoyment. To that point, I would like to ask what you would like to learn about, or taste or experience relative that pertains to the subject of wine?
Have we overlooked a topic of particular interest/curiosity to you?
Do you have an idea for an entirely different type of event or a different venue?
Are there things we have done in the past you want us to revisit?
Do you have suggestions to improve what we do?
Would you like to participate in planning and hosting an event?
What would it take for you to invite a friend to an event?
Our planning typically reaches out 6-18 months for events. We are always open to new and different ideas. Events range from light social to highly focused topics with a more academic tone. Our volunteers conduct PWS business and host events for you and your education and pleasure. For without your participation there would be no PWS.
I encourage you to contact me at President@pawinesociety.com with your comments, criticisms, suggestions and ideas. Alternatively, approach me at any tasting. I truly welcome your input.