Muscadet. Do I Taste Seashells or is it Just a Fluke?

Chapter Sixteen. Part Twelve.WineSnark Muscadet on the Coast copy

The Muscadet wine region surrounds the French city of Nantes, where the Loire River meets the Atlantic Ocean. This is the westernmost of the Loire Valley appellations and is the home to the Melon de Bourgogne grape. As the name implies, Melon de Bourgogne originated in Burgundy but despite the other half of its name, it has no connection to the cantaloupe.

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Wine Industry Battles ‘Silent But Deadly’ Gas Emissions

Mucca al pascoloIn the aftermath of Auction Napa Valley’s annual charitable fundraiser it’s clear that those in the wine industry are seriously invested in helping their fellow man. Some in the trade go further than others in their mission to make the world a better place for our children, in their quest to preserve our precious natural resources, or in their resounding commitment to save the world from cow flatulence.

There are many serious threats to the future of mankind and paramount among these are global warming, worldwide pandemic and insipid Pinot Grigio. While the wine industry is powerless in the fight against frightening new diseases and wishy-washy wine, there are some winemakers who are partnering with agricultural concerns to combat global warming.

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When it Comes to Wood, Size Matters

Chapter Thirteen, Parts Three, Seven & Eight.

Surrounded by botti with Filippo Fedriani at Marchesato degli Aleramici in Montalcino.

Surrounded by botti with Filippo Fedriani at Marchesato degli Aleramici in Montalcino.

Different wine regions use barrels of varying size to fit their needs (and maybe their warehouses). The volume of the popular Hogshead barrel seems to vary with every industry, but for wine it has come to mean a 63-gallon barrel, while the uniquely named butt barrel holds two Hogsheads or 126 gallons. The winemakers of Bordeaux find a barrel holding 59.4 gallons is perfectly suited for Cabernet and Merlot based wines. In Montalcino, where tradition dictates that Brunello di Montalcino be aged in cask for three years, wine is matured in large Slovenian casks called botte, or the plural botti, a term presumably derived from butt (those are 6 words I never imagined myself writing). Smaller barrels have a stronger impact on wine, so most Brunello producers use botti because they feel three years aging in small casks would produce overpowering oak flavors in the finished product.

The winery owner said to his winemaker, “This wine is completely over-oaked! It tastes like vanilla extract, it’s too sweet, and lacks any sense of terroir! Congratulations, it will be a huge success!”
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The Angel’s Share. It Will Be Mist.

Chapter Thirteen, Part Five.
Angel in Montepulciano wine cellar copyCenturies ago, Cognac producers learned that impermeable oak barrels were very good for keeping spirits in, but not very good at keeping spirits out. When cellarmasters discovered their precious product was disappearing from the barrels locked in their basements, they came to the logical conclusion that angels must be visiting the cellars and drinking from the heavenly casks. The missing portion became known as “la part des anges” or the “angel’s share”. I think most Cognac producers believe the 2% to 4% that disappears every year is fair compensation for the angel’s empyrean influence on their maturing brandy.

Two to four percentage points might not seem like much but it adds up over time. A single Cognac cask holds 263 bottles when full. Sixty years later the angel’s share will reduce that by 83 bottles, or approximately half the Cognac Busta Rhymes and Snoop Doggy Dog drink on Tuesday night. On the bright side, Cognac producers don’t have to pay tax on the missing spirit, leaving me to wonder; what does a line item deduction for angel’s consumption look like on a tax return?

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Can’t See The Forest For The Lees – Of Oak, Wine & Bacon.

Chapter Thirteen, Part Two.

“Oak is here and it will be with us for at least the remainder of the current generation—a generation that has been carefully taught that if a little oak is a good thing, a lumber factory is wonderful.” Dan Berger

2009 Chateau Margaux barrels copy

Wood barrels have been used by the wine trade for over two thousand years, but just over a century ago astute winemakers recognized the transformative effect that oak has on wine and they began to look at barrels as more than storage vessels. Over time, patient old-world vignerons learned that the species of oak, outdoor seasoning, the degree of toasting over fire and the time spent in barrel all bear heavily on how oak “flavors” wine. They learned that one type of oak may add spicy allspice and cinnamon nuances while another may add a smoky bacon flavor. I don’t know about you but I’d eat my left foot if it had a smoky bacon flavor.

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