• Wine Regions: Loire Valley

    The Loire is a long storied, wine growing region that traces the Loire River which flows from east of Orleans out Angers and pours into the Atlantic Ocean. The valley has been occupied by humans for thousands of years with Roman Empire ruins and remains still visible today. The culture of the Loire toes the line between agricultural and high society. Who would have thought there was a line that would have connected the two?  It is home to some of the most terroir driven wines in the world. With a somewhat unique trait of the valley being positioned east to west, the valley is able to offer a large range in microclimates. The region is essentially broken down into 4 different sub-regions.

    Loire Valley

    The final sub-region is referred to as the Central Vineyards. It is here that you will find some of the greatest expressions of Sauvignon Blanc in the world. In the vineyards of Pouilly-Fume and Sancerre, Sauvignon Blanc is made in a bright fresh-style that will have you coming back for more, time and time again. In addition to these top-class white wines, Sancerre also allows for Pinot Noir to be grown. From Pinot, you see expressions of both red and rose wines. Typically, there is a more ripe, fruit forward style that is more similar in style to the Pinot Noirs of Oregon than to those of Burgundy.

    As you move westward and the temperatures start to rise, you see an explosion of diversity. As you get near the two largest growing areas of Anjous and Touraine the main focus is on Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc. That being said you will also find plantings of Gamay and Malbec (in the Loire it is called Côt). The diversity doesn’t just stem from the increase in varieties, you will also find wines made in just about every style as well. From Cabernet Franc and Gamay, you will see red, and rose wines being made. From Chenin Blanc you will find dry, sweet, and sparkling wines, even within a single appellation such as Vouvray, you can find all three styles. Learn about the most important appellations:

    Touraine

    Touraine is sort of the wild west of wine in the Loire. You can find wines produced from almost any grape that is allowed in the entire Loire Valley. This gives producers a lot of room to play around with different varieties and styles of wine.

    Vouvray

    One of the most famous region in the world for Chenin Blanc production. They produce just about every style of wine from Chenin. From dry to sweet and even sparkling wines are allowed to use the Vouvray appellation on their labels. The best examples of sweet wines are known to be able to age for lifetimes.

    Bourgueil

    The westernmost region in the Touraine region. This appellation is entirely dedicated to Cabernet Franc. Situated on the north bank of the Loire, these wines present a beautiful intensity that will provide years of potential cellarability.

    Chinon

    Chinon is directly across the river from Bourgueil and is also largely focused on Cabernet Franc. There is a small amount of Chinon blanc that is produced from Chenin Blanc as well, this style is dry.

    Anjou

    A very large growing region that houses mostly Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. The wines currently produced here are very quickly gaining international attention. A huge focus on organic grape growing and a general shift toward sustainability is proving successful for Anjou producers. These wines are almost always dry, even the few Chenins that do have a little bit of sugar still in them tend to be very food friendly.

    Savennieres

    Famous for its dry and off dry expressions of Chenin blanc, this region is home to a number of very important Monopoles formerly owned and maintained by Cistercian Monks.

    Cotteaux-du-Layon

    Sits directly across the Loire river from Savennieres. The climate here is significantly more humid allowing for Botrytis to grow more rampantly. They are famed for their dessert wines.

    Finally there is the Atlantic coastal area that surrounds Nantes. It is here that Melon de Bourgogne finds its home in the Muscadet appellation. Melon does extremely well in the cold overcast climate that is local to the Atlantic shoreline. You can find extremely light and mineral wines meant for immediate consumption, and you can find wines that wineries have already aged in their cellars for the better part of a decade that show a richer fuller style of Melon. The one thing these two styles have in common, is their perfect pairing for shellfish. There isn’t much other representation of other varieties in this region, certainly nothing that has reached the acclaim that Melon has.

    Of the highly regarded wine regions in France, it’s hard to find another that comes close to offering the diversity in wine styles that the Loire does. This may have to do with the East-West orientation of the valley, this may have to do with the long history of Agriculture in the region; the one thing that we can count on is that no matter what you are looking for in your personal adventure in wine, the Loire has something for you.

     

    ABOUT Case by Case Wines

    Launched in 2020, Case by Case Wines committed to sourcing wines of exceptional quality and value from around the world at the lowest price point.

    Their direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales model uses technology to integrate and improve the wine distribution channel, resulting in the market’s most competitive pricing.

  • The World’s Love Affair with Pinot Noir: Everything You Should Know.

    All the world loves Pinot Noir. This wine, produced from the supremely delicate grape of the same name, is some of the world’s most expensive wine. With summer upon us, wines made from the pinot noir grape are well-matched for summer foods and lifestyles. 

    Let’s look at why wine drinkers love this grape, some of its characteristics, and the different styles around the world. 

    Why Pinot Noir is So Attractive to Wine Lovers

    A few reasons for Pinot Noir love:

    • Versatility: The grape makes still red, white, and rosé wines, as well as sparkling wine.
    • Expression of place: No other grape comes as close to expressing the place where it is grown, its terroir. Each location where pinot noir thrives reveals its unique characteristics in the wine.
    • Style variety: Because of this ability to express terroir, pinot noir offers winemakers a wide range of style possibilities. Growers and vintners love the challenge of this grape and are enamored of finding its singular expression in their location.
    • History: Pinot noir has been around for centuries, from Roman times through the ages of the Burgundian monks and on into today’s global passion.
    • Qualities: Pinot noir perhaps yields the most profound complex expression of wine of any grape. With its beautiful color, fresh acidity, compelling body, and complexity of aromas and flavors, wine aficionados never get tired of exploring it.
    • Food: Pinot Noir may be the most perfect red wine for pairing with almost any meal.
    • Availability: Produced in nearly every wine-growing country, everyone can enjoy it.

    Pinot Noir

    What is Pinot Noir?

    Pinot noir means “black pinecone” because the grape bunch of the vine resembles the shape of a pinecone (“pinot”) and the berries are very dark in color (“noir.”)

    Attributes:

    1. delicate and thin-skinned
    2. ripens early
    3. susceptible to disease
    4. sensitive to wind, humidity, hail, frost
    5. doesn’t thrive in extreme conditions
    6. predisposed to mutation so clonal selection matters

    Conditions to thrive:

    1. cooler, more temperate climate
    2. long growing season with enough heat and sunlight to ripen
    3. low humidity to avoid or reduce the risk of disease
    4. protection from extremes (sunburn, frost, wind)
    5. nutrient-poor, well-draining soils, such as limestone, chalk, marl
    6. low yields to concentrate the wine
    7. gentle slopes

    Wine expression:

    1. aromatic
    2. complex
    3. good length
    4. high acidity
    5. transparent pale red color (deeper in warmer climates)
    6. lower tannin but enough for structure and oak aging
    7. lower alcohol (higher in warmer climates)
    8. light to full body and texture

    Pinot noir is grown in more fertile areas, such as mass-produced wines, have a less optimal style: fruitier, fuller in body, higher alcohol, lower acidity, and less complexity.

    Pinot Noir Map

    Pinot Noir Regions Around the World

    The French Connection 

    While Vitis vinifera, the genus of grapevines from which fine wine comes, originated in Europe, these vines did not exist in the Americas. The Spanish brought the Mission grape to Mexico and Chile.

    The majority of Vitis vines arrived with immigrants who carried cuttings from France, Germany, Spain, and Italy to the US, Canada, Chile, and Argentina.

    However, France remains the gold standard.

    With the ideal climate and terroir for pinot noir, more plantings exist in France than anywhere in the world. The most famous and desired Pinot Noir in the world comes from Burgundy. While the vine flourishes in other countries, no more perfect home for this grape exists.

    With limited production, Burgundy’s high-demand Grand Cru and Premier Cru wines command extraordinarily high prices, making it almost impossible for the average wine drinker to afford.

    The climate here is one with a long and cool growing season. Vines grow on tiny plots on east-facing slopes with vine density ranging from 4,000 to 10,000 vines per hectare.

    Burgundy’s famed Cote d’Or sits on a limestone escarpment. Soils, though quite varied depending on each plot, consist of limestone, marls, gravel, clay, and sand.

    General characteristics of the style of wine from Burgundy:

    • high levels of acidity
    • silky texture
    • an elegant balance
    • restrained yet complex flavors of:
      • cranberries, red or black cherries
      • earth, forest, mushrooms, herbs
      • floral notes, rose, violet, hibiscus
    • oaked Pinots show fuller body, rounder tannins, and vanilla notes
    • unoaked wines have bright-red cherry flavors

    Wines of the Cote d’Or show darker fruit in the northern regions, yielding to red fruit and floral wines in the middle, and more earthy and tannic wines in the south. South of the Cote-d’Or, wines are lighter and easier drinking.

    Oregon Pinot Noir

    Why Oregon Works for Pinot Noir

    Compared with France, Oregon is a baby in creating wine from pinot noir. Only recently has the industry begun to explore the concept of terroir in depth. As this knowledge expands, more nuanced wines will come to market.

    Though still very young as a wine region, Oregon has become the standard-bearer of Pinot Noir after Burgundy.

    Similarities between Oregon and Burgundy

    Burgundy Willamette Valley
    Latitude: 47 degrees (Beaune) 45 degrees (Dundee)
    Climate: Continental Continental w/Maritime influence
    Ocean Distance: 350 miles 60 miles
    Rainfall: consistent through the year drier summers, wet winters
    Risk of hail: strong low
    Winter Temps: 30-40 degrees 35-55 degrees
    Summer Temps: 60-75 degrees 45-85 degrees
    Longest Daylight: 16 hours 15.4 hours

    Differences between Oregon and Burgundy

    Geography

    Differences include geography. While Burgundy lies on eastern facing slopes, the well-known Willamette Valley in Oregon sits in an undulating valley lying between two mountain ranges. These ranges protect vineyards from rain.

    Vineyards generally lie on south or southeast facing slopes with vine density of 2,500 to 4,000 vines per hectare.

    Soil

    Unlike Burgundy, volcanic red Jory and basalt Nekia soils underlie the Valley. Other soil types include marine sediment sandstone and loess. All these soils allow for good drainage, the key to growing quality pinot noir grapes.

    pinot_noir_in_glass

    Characteristics of the Oregon Pinot Noir style, particularly in the Willamette Valley

    • lively acidity
    • weightier, satin-like texture
    • darker in color
    • balanced with fuller body
    • robust fruit flavors of:
      • bright red fruits like cranberries, pomegranate, red cherries
      • cherry-cola
      • mushrooms, some green notes
    • oaked Pinots are richer, with spicy vanilla notes
    • unoaked wines show tart red cherry flavors

    Some winemakers showcase fruity characteristics, while others prefer a more restrained style. The use of natural winemaking techniques has become increasingly popular.

    Think of Oregon Pinot Noir as a cross between Burgundy and California, unique unto itself.

    The wines have become increasingly more expensive, though you can find quality Oregon Pinot at lower prices.

    Oregon Pinot Noir has become so popular in the US that the in-demand Pinot Camp Event held annually in the Willamette Valley has a sister event in Birmingham, Alabama.

     

    California Dreaming 

    Californians who were searching for cooler climates in which to plant pinot noir started the Oregon wine industry.

    In California, a hot climate, locations closer to the ocean work best for pinot noir, allowing grapes to reach optimal ripeness over a long growing season. Soils vary throughout the state, and there is less focus on terroir.

    California

    Characteristics of Pinot Noir from California:

    • medium acidity
    • higher alcohol
    • more concentration
    • a richer, velvety texture
    • darker, riper, fuller than Oregon and Burgundy
    • fruit-forward with intense flavors of:
      • black cherry, black raspberry, candied fruit
      • cola, caramel, tea
    • oaked Pinots offer vanilla and sweet spice notes
    • unoaked show brighter but still dark berry flavors

    California has a wide variety of styles and quality levels. Some winemakers pick later in the harvest and use extended macerations to ensure deep dark colors and flavors. Others harvest earlier with shorter macerations to create higher-acid and lighter versions. Large producers plant in hotter areas yielding less complex, more fruity, and less acidic wines.

    With so much Pinot coming from California, aficionados can find a style to suit their palate. Warmer regions, such as the Russian River Valley, produce bolder wines, while cooler areas, like Carneros, produce more subtle, relatively lighter wines.

    Other quality areas include the Sonoma Coast, the Central Coast, including Santa Barbara County, and the Santa Lucia Highlands.

    Pinot noir world

    Surprising Germany

    To many, the fact that Germany produces red wine is a surprise, even though it has more pinot noir vineyards planted than any other country except France and the US. The country’s most important red grape, Spätburgunder (pinot noir) has grown here for centuries.

    Most of Germany’s wine regions produce Pinot Noir, and styles vary less than in other countries. A white version is produced here. Knowing the producer matters in finding quality Pinot.

    Because Germany enjoys a relatively cooler climate, the wines are lighter in color with high acidity and a more restrained style.

    Favorable climates and terroirs include Ahr in the north and Baden in the south. Both allow pinot noir to ripen well. German Pinot Noir shows an earthy quality. Pinot from Ahr brings out rich red berry flavors, while those from Baden tend toward rich dark fruit flavors.

    new zeland pinot noir

    Little New Zealand Makes a Big Impression

    Cool climate New Zealand, with small production, is a haven for Pinot lovers.

    Pinot producing areas include Central Otago and Marlborough on the South Island and Martinborough on the North Island. Each produces a different style.

    Central Otago:

    • Surprisingly. this southernmost, highest altitude and coolest region ripens pinot noir almost as well as California.
    • Wines have high acidity and alcohol, with medium to full body, rich fruit flavors, and a noticeable sweet-spicy finish.

    Marlborough takes the middle road of the three, producing high acid wines of medium body and more subtle red fruit flavors.

    Martinborough: The warmest region produces a dark wine with higher tannins and earthier flavors.

     

    Italy Under the Radar

    Maybe less known, pinot nero (pinot noir) grows well in Northern Italy, the coolest climate wine region in the country. Both sparkling and still wines are produced here.

    Still wines show similar characteristics to those from Burgundy, though more concentrated, with higher alcohol. Instead of mushroom and forest flavors, earthiness shows up as smoke or tobacco. Spice notes can be clove or pepper. Pinot noir from Alto Adige produces an aromatic, elegant wine with floral notes, and clove and deep red berry fruit flavors.

     

    Chile on the Move

    Pinot noir has been grown in Chile for some time though much of the quality is low. As winegrowers moved towards the coast and further south, the potential for high-quality Pinot became apparent.

    Coastal granite soils yield wines similar in style to Oregon, complex and elegant with bright acidity and floral aromas. Further south, winemakers experiment with different soils and locations. More to come from Chile.

     

    The Rest of the World

    The following countries plant and create wine from pinot noir: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, Moldova, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK. Pinot noir grown in the UK makes lovely sparkling wines, like those of Champagne.

    Having only touched the surface of the vast variety and complexity of the world of Pinot Noir, you’ll understand why this grape and its wine are so beloved.

     

    A Note on Champagne

    Pinot noir is the most planted grape in Champagne, especially in Montagne de Reims and the Aube, even with the marginal climate. The high acidity of pinot noir makes for perfect Champagne. Limestone and chalk soils resemble those of Burgundy.

    champagne

     

    CASE BY CASE

    The wine professionals of Case by Case travel the world sourcing unusually good wine from famous and emerging regions. Dealing only in fine wine, they winnow out most of the 5,000 wines they taste every year. By knowing the winemakers and the wine growers, they have the connections to find the few wines that meet their high standards.

    With an easy online experience, wine lovers choose:

    • the type of wine
    • the case quantity (6 or 12 bottles)
    • the delivery term (monthly, every other month, every three months)

    Those wanting premium quality wine can upgrade. Case by Case Wines does everything else. Buyers pay as they go with no time or minimum case commitments.

     

     

     

     

     

    ABOUT Case by Case Wine

    Launched in 2020, Case by Case Wine committed to sourcing wines of exceptional quality and value from around the world at the lowest price point.

    Their direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales model uses technology to integrate and improve the wine distribution channel, resulting in the market’s most competitive pricing.

     

  • Fortified Wines For Winter

    Fortified Wine: A Short Explanation

    If you love cocktails and think you don’t like wine, you will love fortified wines. But fortified wines are not distilled like liquor.
    During the process of fermenting a still wine, the winemaker adds neutral grape spirits, such as brandy or an eau de vie (a clear fruit brandy,) to stop fermentation and raise the alcohol level. This process also adds complexity to the flavor of the base wine.
    Do not drink these wines quickly, but savor them over dessert, after-dinner conversation, or a fireside chat. You can serve some fortified wines as aperitifs as well.
    Before the advent of refrigeration, people added alcohol to wine to prevent rapid oxidation and the risk of their wine turning to vinegar. This technique was successful in the days before the discovery of glass wine bottles and modern transportation methods.
    Today these wines are in a class of their own, with a wide variety of styles and flavors to suit anyone.

    Fortified wine

    Fortified Wine: The Process

    Most fortified wines are blended with different grapes and vintages, though you can find single vintage and single grape styles.
    The process starts with fermenting grapes as with a still wine. Then the winemaker adds alcohol to create the style and sweetness desired for the final product.
    When adding alcohol early during fermentation, the wine will be sweeter. When adding alcohol later during fermentation, the wine will be drier.
    When adding spirits to fermenting wine, the wine’s alcohol rises above 15%. This kills the yeast, leaving residual sugar.
    Most fortified wines are aged in oak or other wooden barrels, especially more expensive wines.
    Except in the case of vermouth, winemakers do not add flavorings to impact the taste. Vermouth includes botanical elements to give it a characteristic herbal flavor.

    Fortified wine Glasses

    Fortified Wine: A Bountiful Variety to Choose From

    With many options available, you can find wines for every occasion, each unique in flavor and style. While classic regions, such as Port and Jerez, produce such wines, you can find local versions in many countries.
    Styles of fortified wines:

    Commandaria
    From the island of Cyprus comes Commandaria. This wine hails from the north of the country near Limassol. Made from high-altitude vines and grapes dried in the sun, it undergoes oak barrel aging. Look for true fortified versions since some new styles lack the additional alcohol.

    Madeira
    From the remote Portuguese islands of Madeira comes a fortified wine nick-named “Vampire Wine.” The wine is deliberately heated with barrels aging in the sun, oxidizing and preserving it. You can’t kill this wine!
    Using only white grapes, the winemaker controls the sweetness by the timing of the added alcohol. The different classifications based on grape variety include:
    • Sercial: a dry style wine served as an aperitif with nuts and olives
    • Verdelho: a semi-dry style served with earthy dishes such as mushrooms
    • Bual: a semi-sweet wine served with desserts
    • Malmsey: a rich sweet wine also served with desserts
    As with Sherry, use cheaper versions for cooking, not for drinking.

    Marsala
    Marsala, created as a cheaper version of Port or Sherry, comes from the island of Sicily, near the town of Marsala. Producers add alcohol at the end of fermentation, resulting in a dry wine. Again, use sweeter styles for cooking.
    Aged for about four months, Fine Marsala has a minimum alcohol level of 17% ABV. With minimum alcohol of 18%, Superiore is aged for at least two years. You can also find unfortified Marsala.

    Mistelle
    Mistelle is a lightly fortified wine drunk as an aperitif in France. Some winemakers use it as an ingredient in other fortified wines such as Marsala or vermouth. The production follows the same pattern of adding spirits to fermenting wine, but it is not fermented dry.

    Moscatel de Setúbal
    Another fortified wine from Portugal, Moscatel de Setúbal comes from the Península de Setúbal, south of Lisbon. The founder of the famous J.M. Fonseca company created this wine. Made from the Muscat of Alexandria grape, it can be vintage or nonvintage. This elegant, layered wine has a rich, viscous quality.

    Port
    Port, along with Sherry, is the most famous of the fortified wines. A red and sweet wine, Port originates in the Douro Valley of Portugal. Winemakers add brandy about halfway through fermentation. You can find dry Port and white Port.
    Port styles include:
    • Ruby – the youngest, freshest and least-expensive style, not generally aged
    • Tawny – aged in wood barrels with some oxidation, can be sweet or medium-dry
    • Vintage – made from grapes of one harvest, aged in barrel or stainless steel for a couple of years, then in bottle for up to 40 years
    • Late Bottled Vintage – a vintage port left to age longer in barrel
    While port-style wines are made around the world, EU law protects the Port or Porto designation.

    Sherry
    Sherry (Jerez in Spanish) is the famous fortified wine made from native white grapes grown in a triangular area in southern Spain. EU law protects the three designations: Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María.
    Winemakers use the complex solera system for aging, blending many vintages. Added brandy after fermentation results in a dry wine. Sweeter styles have added sweeteners.
    Styles include:
    • Fino: dry, very pale, aged under a cap of yeast called ‘flor’ to prevent oxidation
    • Manzanilla: a Fino from the town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda
    • Amontillado: dry, darker in color, aged under flor, but then oxidized
    • Oloroso: dry and oxidized longer than Amontillado
    • Palo Cortado: dry and aged like Amontillado but later fortified
    • Cream Sherry: sweet, a blend of Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez
    • Pedro Ximenez: sweetest of all sherries

    Vermouth
    Vermouth’s distinctiveness comes from the addition of herbal ingredients such as wormwood and spices. This type of wine is called an ‘aromatized’ wine. Created as a medicinal tonic, dry vermouth has a white wine base. There are some sweet red versions, with simple syrup added before fortification.
    Famous as an ingredient in martinis, vermouth is a favorite of bartenders around the world. You can also enjoy it as an aperitif. Not a protected designation, many countries make vermouth, including France, Italy, and the U.S.

    Vins doux Naturels
    Common in the south of France, in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, ‘vins doux naturels’ are fruitier and lighter, becoming more profound with age.
    Grape spirits are added during fermentation. Only the red vins doux naturels have oxidized and unoxidized styles. Using mainly the white grape, Muscat, and the red grape, Grenache, styles include:
    • Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise – white, most well-known
    • Muscat de Rivesaltes – white
    • Muscat de Frontignan – white
    • Banyuls – red
    • Maury – red, can age up to 20 years
    Rivesaults (reeve-salt) is typically served chilled and drunk as an aperitif or with food. They range in color from pale yellow-gold to deep amber.
    Made like port, with alcohol added during fermentation to maintain sweetness, winemakers age these wines in large glass containers called demi-johns. These are then left outside for about a year. After, the wines are aged in wood barrels for up to 50 years. Long-aged versions of these wines are richly layered and textured.
    There are many other styles of fortified wines made around the world, including other aromatized wines like Dubonnet and Lillet.

    Wine Barrels

    Fortified Wines: Other Considerations

    • Store fortified wines in a cool, dark place.
    • Serve cold in small glasses due to the higher alcohol content (15.5% – 22% ABV.)
    • Drink lighter wines, such as fino sherries, sooner because they will not hold long.
    • Drink darker, sweeter styles at room temperatures. These will hold for several months.
    • When serving fortified wines that have extended oak aging, decant and aerate them.
    • With heavier wines, serve with duck, foie gras, truffles with blue cheese, and fruit desserts.
    • Use older or leftover wines for cooking.
    Fortified wines are a fabulous way to start any occasion or end any meal. An after-dinner plate of strong cheeses and nuts is perfect with most of these wines. Most sweet desserts and chocolates also pair well. Or enjoy a sip of a delicious fortified wine on a cold winter’s eve.

     

     

    ABOUT Case by Case Wine

    Launched in 2020, Case by Case Wine committed to sourcing wines of exceptional quality and value from around the world at the lowest price point.

    Their direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales model uses technology to integrate and improve the wine distribution channel, resulting in the market’s most competitive pricing.

  • Case by Case Wines: How We Fell for the Wines of Campania, Southern Italy

    Review of Viticoltori De Conciliis

    Each year, our Founder and Owner tastes over 4,500 wines. Greg Martellotto has been in the wine business for over 20 years and in that time he has enjoyed epic wines, unicorn wines, even perfect wines. Others were perfect for the time and place. Yet rarely have there been wines that haunt him so much so that not even the passage of time mitigates the influence of these special vintages. The wines of Viticoltori De Conciliis from Paestum, Campania in southern Italy surely fit into this category (with flagship wine ‘Naima’ in particular drawing a line in the sand of his memory).

    Wine and Music in Perfect Harmony

    Founded in 1996 by three siblings, Bruno, Luigi and Paola, and Paola’s husband Giovanni Cuni, Viticoltori De Conciliis lies in Cilento, a poor, rural part of Campania, near the Greek ruins of Paestum. It’s roughly two hours south of tourist magnets Naples, Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast and Pompeii.

    Die-hard music fans, the siblings named their wines after jazz musicians and tunes:

    • Selim (Miles backwards re. Davis) is a sparkling fiano.
    • Bacioilcielo (translates as “Kiss the Sky” by Jimi Hendrix).
    • Perella (named after Ella Fitzgerald) is a fiano aged on the skins.
    • Ra (named after Sun Ra and the Egyptian sun god) is a passito of Aglianico.
    • Donnaluna was originally named “Donna Lee” after the tune by Miles Davis and Charlie Parker.
    • Naima (named after John Coltrane’s jazz standard in honor of his wife) is Bruno’s flagship wine.

    Wines Both Deeply Expressive and Humble

    Greg first tasted the wines around 2005 and was star struck from the onset. The flavors had a purity that was expressive, even if the wines weren’t squeaky clean. They screamed authenticity. They were iconoclast and singular, but still of humblecontadino birth.

    How could Greg, a jazz lover, not appreciate a winery that’s so crazy about jazz it purportedly pipes it into the cellar so that the wines may be soothed by the sounds of John Coltrane and Miles Davis?

    Southern Italian Wine: A Change in Fortunes

    Ten years ago, many of the wines that Greg tasted from southern Italy, in particular from Campania, suffered a variety of common flaws: heatstroke in the vineyard led to burnt, overripe flavors of baked fruit and dried prunes. Lacking modern winemaking hygiene standards, many of the winery products were inconsistent and/or flawed, with off-putting smells like nail polish and rubber. Many were simply flat, lacking a vibrant acidity.

    One standard practice was to make backward (wine that isn’t fruit forward) Aglianico that wasn’t intended to be drunk for at least a decade because of the aggressively high tannins. In other words, the wines were inaccessible, shut down, or just so acidic that they weren’t terribly enjoyable.

    The white wines were generally flabby or worse. Plus, there were a disproportionate number of wines that were corked (Greg would know this because he was a distributor who had to deal with innumerable returns and credits for corked bottles!), likely the result of producers looking to save money by buying cheap corks. This sets the scene for when Greg first tasted De Conciliis.

    Donnaluna and Naima: A Tale of Two Wines

    Greg was familiar with well-regarded producers from Irpinia, including the Taurasi from Mastroberardino and Feudi San Gregorio. But these wines represented two extremes for Aglianico; the uber traditional and hard to approach, and the modern, clean examples of the grape.

    De Conciliis produces two versions: Donnaluna is a young Aglianico label that’s free of oak and bottled while still fresh and fruity. It’s truly a delight! No wonder this wine is popular in nearby Pompeii, the Greek ruins at Paestum, and along the Amalfi coast.

    Naima, one the other hand, is aged five to six years in barrel, first in 500 liter neutral tonneaux and then in 3,000 liter botte grandi. The grapes are sourced from five different vineyards (all transitioning to organic and biodynamic viticulture) with a minimum age of 40 years, and fermentation is with native yeasts. Naima, like the song, is a meditative wine. The current release (2009) is nuanced with subtlety, but it exhibits a quiet power.

    Naima is a wine of contrasts, yet it’s alluring and appealing. If your last trip to Italy captivated you in a way that you were reluctant to share the details with others after returning home for fear it would diminish the experience, Naima is like that. When he open a bottle of Naima, he wanted to nurse the wine and watch it unfold in the glass the way that Billy Holiday sings “Solitude”.

    Humanity in a Bottle

    Perhaps, this is where the emotional connection began. In 1996, Greg was a camp counselor at the Stanford Jazz Camp and he had recently made the largest investment in music he’d ever made to buy John Coltrane, the Heavyweight Champion, The Complete Atlantic Recordings. “Naima” is a jazz standard that, when you really listen to it, will make you cry. Perhaps, the loss he felt after coming to know John Coltrane’s music and internalizing the loss of his premature death, he was comforted to know a winemaker from Campania was similarly moved to name his wine Naima.

    Wines are like old friends. They conjure fond memories and bring a smile to your face. If you’re a jazz fan, you’ll appreciate the wines of De Conciliis. If you’ve been to the Amalfi Coast or you’re part of the Italian-American diaspora, or if you appreciate high quality wines that have helped shape and define a wine region, you’ll love these wines too.

    casebycaselogo

    The wine professionals of Case by Case travel the world sourcing unusually good wine from famous and emerging regions. Dealing only in fine wine, they winnow out most of the 5,000 wines they taste every year. By knowing the winemakers and the wine growers, they have the connections to find the few wines that meet their high standards.

    With an easy online experience, wine lovers choose:

    • the type of wine
    • the case quantity (6 or 12 bottles)
    • the delivery term (monthly, every other month, every three months)

    Those wanting premium quality wine can upgrade. Case by Case Wines does everything else. Buyers pay as they go with no time or minimum case commitments.

    Coming soon will be an option for buyers to personalize their case. They can currently select Red Wine Lovers; Red & White; or Red, White & Rosé. Wines vary by month, so something new is always on the horizon.

    Spreading the wine love, a unique rewards program gives customers $10 off when referring their friends. They also earn points toward their next order.

    A Wine Affiliate Program incentivizes significant networkers, content sites, influencers, and bloggers. With each referral to CasebyCaseWine.com, they earn a 10% commission. Details and application on the website.

  • New Wine Deals Website, Case by Case Wines, Launched August 1 Displacing Grocery Stores

    On August 1 Big Hammer Wines launched a sister company wine deals website, Case by Case Wines, offering consumers the best deals on wine delivered to their doorstep.  With the new site, consumers choose curated fine wines by the case at near wholesale prices, free shipping included.

    For more information, visit: https://CasebyCaseWine.com

    “Case by Case Wines is a game-changer. Because of COVID-19, consumers have changed the way they buy wine,” says owner Greg Martellotto. “We want consumers to drink better wine than they get at their local grocery store, at better prices, and have it delivered to their door. No choosing, no comparing price, no pick-up. They order online, and extraordinary wine arrives at their homes on their schedule. Satisfaction guaranteed.”

    Best Deals on Wine

    Buying wine from grocery stores makes less sense every day. In the global wine marketplace, options are endless, but this is not apparent in the grocery channel. The three-tier regulatory system in the U.S. encourages industry consolidation. This results in less availability and choice in wine for consumers. Wines sold at grocery stores are priced higher to cover the mark-up at each tier. Wine drinkers pay more.

    Case by Case Wines, a direct to consumer wine portal, is built on a vertically integrated structure and a volume-based model. Under this model, middlemen are cut out, high-cost infrastructure is significantly reduced, and buying in bulk results in lower prices. Consumers enjoy higher quality, have more choice, and pay less, closer to wholesale.

     

    The wine professionals of Case by Case travel the world sourcing unusually good wine from famous and emerging regions. Dealing only in fine wine, they winnow out most of the 5,000 wines they taste every year. By knowing the winemakers and the wine growers, they have the connections to find the few wines that meet their high standards.

    With an easy online experience, wine lovers choose:

    • the type of wine
    • the case quantity (6 or 12 bottles)
    • the delivery term (monthly, every other month, every three months)

    Those wanting premium quality wine can upgrade. Case by Case Wines does everything else. Buyers pay as they go with no time or minimum case commitments.

    Coming soon will be an option for buyers to personalize their case. They can currently select Red Wine Lovers; Red & White; or Red, White & Rosé. Wines vary by month, so something new is always on the horizon.

    Spreading the wine love, a unique rewards program gives customers $10 off when referring their friends. They also earn points toward their next order.

    A Wine Affiliate Program incentivizes significant networkers, content sites, influencers, and bloggers. With each referral toCasebyCaseWine.com, they earn a 10% commission. Details and application on the website.

  • The Real Story About How Alcohol is Measured in Wine and Why it Matters

    Alcohol levels in wine have been creeping up for years. The sweet spot for alcohol by volume (ABV) used to be around 12% to 13%. High alcohol wines at +14% and even +15% abound in today’s marketplace. 

     

    What you might not know about ABV is what wine producers put on the label isn’t the real story. The real story is that the alcohol level in the bottle can be higher or lower. What does that mean to the average wine drinker?

    Let’s start with the rules. 

    brix

    brix

    Required Alcohol Content Disclosures for Wine

    The U.S. government, through the Alcohol, Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, Department of the Treasury, created an alcohol content disclosure code for all wines sold in the country, both domestic and imported. 

     

    You can find the alcohol content requirements for wine here: 27 CFR 4.36. In layman’s terms, this means:

    1. Disclosure on the wine label
    • required for wines with alcohol levels greater than 14%
    • voluntary for wines with less than 14% ABV
    • not required for “table” or “light” wines
    1. Must be stated as a % of alcohol by volume and the ABV shown on the label must be within a range of:
    • 1% for wines stated as more than 14% ABV 
    • 1.5% for wine stated as 14% or less 

     

    Some producers label their wines at 12.5% giving them the flexibility of a range of 11% to 14% in the bottle.

    For math geeks, the calculation is: 

    ABV = (Original Specific Gravity – Final Specific Gravity)/7.36 * 1000. 

    Specific gravity measures the density of a wine and is used to measure the level of alcohol in the finished wine. It must be adjusted for temperature. Winemakers use refractometers and hydrometers to estimate final alcohol levels during the winemaking process. 

    The Real Story About How Alcohol is Measured in Wine and Why it Matters

    What Does This Mean for Wine Drinkers?

    Most importantly, the percentage of alcohol in the bottle is often not what it shows on the label. This is due to the fact that US Regulations, as determined by the TTB, allow for wiggle room in labeling wine and alcoholic beverages. Think about that the next time you purchase Zinfandel with a label that shows 15.5% ABV. The wine inside could be up to 16.5% ABV. If you buy a wine thinking it is (only) 14% ABV, it could be as high as 15.5%.

     

    If you have ever tasted vodka or grain alcohol, you know that alcohol gives you a warm or hot sensation. The same happens in wine depending on how high the alcohol level is. 

    You can sense the alcohol from the way the wine feels in your mouth. The way a wine feels in your mouth is called the ‘body’ of the wine. The higher the alcohol, the stronger and more viscous the wine tastes and feels. The lower the alcohol, the lighter the wine tastes and feels. The same holds true for the impact of the alcohol in your body: the higher the alcohol, the more you will feel its effects.

     

    Wines can range in alcohol from around 5% to as much as 20%. There is no ‘ideal’ level of alcohol. Preferred levels depend on the winemaker and the wine drinker.

    The balance of alcohol, acidity, sweetness and tannins interplay in the final taste of a wine. When people talk about a ‘balanced’ wine, they mean that none of these elements stand out more or less than any other.

     

    However, some winemakers and wine drinkers may prefer an ‘out of balance’ wine, one that is sweeter, more acidic, more tannic or higher in alcohol. 

    This is partly because some people taste alcohol as bitter or as sweet, while for most of us the taste is neutral. Everyone has their preferences. 

    Wine Drinkers

    How Winemakers Control Alcohol Levels

    The amount of potential alcohol starts in the vineyard. As grapes ripen and harvest approaches, the natural sugars in the grapes increase. As the amount of grape sugars increase, so too does the potential alcohol in the final wine increase.

    Then in the winery, grapes go through alcoholic fermentation, which is a chemical process. Yeast (either natural or added) converts the sugars in grapes into alcohol. It is here where winemakers determine the amount of alcohol for the style of wine they want to make. 

    For a dry wine, most sugars are converted into alcohol. For a sweeter wine, the winemaker stops fermentation when the desired level of sweetness is reached. Every wine has at least some level of remaining sugar because not all sugars convert

     

    For most winemakers, a wine is considered “dry” when there is less than 1 gram/Liter of residual sugar. Most tasters would have a hard time detecting sugar in a wine with less than 0.7 grams/Liter of residual sugar; the perception of the wine would be dry.

    Also, as the alcohol level changes, certain complex esters are released. These are compounds which impact the taste and smell of the wine. 

    Most winemakers intend to create balanced wines. Every wine will have a unique combination of sugar, alcohol, acidity, and tannin (for red wines.)

    Winemakers can supplement sugar or alcohol after fermentation by adding sugar or grape juice or additional alcohol, for example, in a fortified wine. Adding water to dilute a wine that is too alcoholic is another way to manipulate a wine. 

    There is also a mechanical way to reduce or remove alcohol (de-alcoholisation) from a wine by using a spinning column or centrifuge to lightly heat the wine in a process in which alcohol is evaporated. This is how non-alcoholic beer and wines are produced.

    In most wine regions, local regulations determine what winemakers can or can’t add to a wine.

    Winemakers Control Alcohol Levels

    Alcohol Measurement Tips to Remember

    1. Higher sugar accumulation in grapes = higher alcohol.
    2. Hotter, warmer climates and regions tend to produce wines higher in alcohol.
    3. More sugar converted into alcohol during fermentation = higher alcohol and drier (less residual sugar) wine.
    4. Wines with higher tannin levels tend to have higher alcohol to stay in balance.
    5. The % ABV on the label is not necessarily the % in the wine. It can be within a range.
    6. Alcohol levels don’t change after wine is bottled (unless the wine is flawed and re-ferments in bottle due to some residual sugar)
    7. Serving temperatures impact the sense of alcohol in the mouth: colder temperatures will mute the sensation of alcohol and make the wine taste “cooler” and less “hot” in the mouth and throat.
    8. When wine is heated during cooking, the alcohol is reduced.

    casebycasewine

    Case by Case Wines Knows the Details of Winemaking

    With decades of experience in all aspects of the wine trade, Case by Case Wines knows all the secrets of the business. Our professional staff scours the world seeking out the best wines at the best value. We won’t sell you adulterated wines or wines with added sugar. You get pure wines made with care and integrity. Trust us to deliver quality wines at reasonable prices.

    Consider signing up for the Case by Case Wines subscription box. Our goal is to deliver delicious cases of wine for a great price with ease. Our cases allow you to choose your own adventure. Our case selections continually rotate, so you are guaranteed to have a new tasting experience with every shipment.

  • Donatella: Elevating Italian Women in Wine and Crafting Exceptional Wine

    Donatella: just one name, a well-known name in the Italian fashion world. Her brother, Gianni, founded the famous fashion empire Versace. But Donatella Versace is not the only famous Donatella in Italy.

    Donatella Cinelli Colombini created a sensation in the wine industry when she launched her all-female winery, Casato Prime Donne in Montalcino.  The savvy female wine experts of this unique wine estate craft five different Brunello di Montalcino wines.

    Donatella

    Creating Possibilities for Women in Wine

    Donatella Cinelli Colombini is an extraordinary woman and an extraordinary Italian. Bucking Italian tradition and history, she built a wine empire utterly new. 

    A strong advocate for women, she walks the walk for women in the wine business. 

    Her vision extends beyond the winery to an entire project called Progetto Prime Donne which includes:

    • The Casato Prime Donne award for women in journalism and photography for work related to Montalcino and its wine
    • A permanent gallery hosting the winning photographs dedicated to the RAI journalist Ilda Bartolini 
    • The Prime Donne trail snaking through the vineyards featuring quotations from award winners and works from local artists

    Each of the four parts of the Progetto Prime Donne unites women with the wines of Brunello. 

    For the second time, Donatella also heads the Associazione Nazionale Le Donne del Vino as president. Started in 1998, Le Donne del Vino promotes wine culture and women’s role in the culture of wine and the wine trade.

    Donatella focuses not only on supporting women in wine, but also on advancing the knowledge and education of the Brunello wine region.

    Donatella’s Creative Mind

    Donatella’s Creative Mind

    The genesis of the Prime Donne project arose from the patriarchal nature of Italian culture and the wine business in Italy. When Donatella searched for a cellar master, she was told none were available nor would be for several years. 

     

    What they meant was that no MALE cellar masters would be available.

    The day Donatella decided to hire a woman as a cellar master changed her trajectory. From then on, she hired only women, and Progetto Prime Donne blossomed. 

     

    From the beginning of the project over 20 years ago, the steadfast presence of Barbara Magnani has been key to the success of Donatella’s wineries. She remains a consultant and the trainer of two new winemakers while recently starting her own wine shop. 

     

    Donatella hired four wine professionals to taste and blend the wines. Two of them are Masters of Wine, Rosemary George and Madeleine Stenwreth. German wine expert Astrid Schwarz and Italian sommelier and educator Daniela Scrobogna complete the team.

    As if she hasn’t done enough, Donatella researched Montalcino’s native yeasts at the request of the EU. Her research resulted in the extensive use of local yeasts in the making of Brunello wines.

    Preserving History and Creating the Future

    Preserving History and Creating the Future

    Donatella’s well-known Montalcino family, Cinelli Colombini, has owned the historic property, on which Casato Prime Donne lies, since the late 16th century. Mostly used for hunting by the men of the family, Donatella’s mother inherited the land from her mother. 

    Her lineage of women set an example, leading her to the name Casato Prime Donne. The name loosely translates to “house of first ladies.” 

     

    Both Donatella and her brother are active in the wine business. Her brother, Stefano, manages the acclaimed Fattoria dei Barbi winery also in Montalcino, which was previously managed by another female relative. 

     

    Because of the history dating from the Middle Ages, Donatella, also an artist and historian, dedicates time and resources to restoring and maintaining all aspects of her heritage.

    Along with Casato Prime Donne, Donatella owns Fattoria del Colle. This winery lies in the southern part of Chianti, about a 30-minute drive from Prime Donne.

     

    Ever ambitious, Donatella replanted all vineyards, built new wineries, and then implemented organic viticulture. Grapes are hand-harvested. An expanded Fattoria del Colle caters to visitors. The property includes apartments, rooms, villas, a restaurant, and a wellness center.

    She also wrote a tourism manual, has been active in marketing the region for tourism, and teaches wine tourism at the university level. Donatella’s vision created an amazingly rich experience for those who work with her and for those who visit.

    Wine

    About the Wine

    Donatella hired winemaker Valerie Lavigne, a Bordeaux-trained enologist, to manage Casato Prime Donne. From 96 acres of Sangiovese vineyards, the estate produces 150,000 bottles annually. 

     

    Crafted from the Sangiovese Brunello grape, the wines of Casato Prime Donne are powerful. A reputation for elegance and precision is widely held. Well-balanced, the wines exhibit distinctive aromatics. They showcase deep and complex flavors and a lightness on the palate.

    By adding the innovative use of concrete fermentation tanks and native yeasts, Donatella brought creativity and new thinking into Montalcino winemaking.  Due to intricate crafting, the wines maintain their traditional character even with these innovations.

     

    Wines age in 500-liter oak casks for a minimum of two years versus the traditional aging in 225-liter barriques. Additional aging takes place in bottle for at least a year. More extended aging allows for further development and elegance in the wines. Such careful attention has resulted in high praise for these wines around the globe. Vintage Report from James Suckling: “The 2015 vintage is an historical year for Brunello, and nobody should miss it.” 

    You can order the 2015 Marchesi Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello di Montalcino here. Don’t miss it. Order yours today!

  • Are We Over Carbonic Maceration in Wine Yet? Should We Be?

    Paleo Wine.  Keto Wine. Orange wine. Natural wine. Pet-Nat. Carbonic Maceration. So many trends come and go. Let’s take a look at carbonic maceration to see where it stands. Will this worldwide trend last?

    Paleo Wine

    What is Carbonic Maceration?

    Made famous with the world-class wines of the Beaujolais wine region in France, carbonic maceration (“CM”) is a production method that makes lively, fruity wines that drink well young.

    Beaujolais lies at the southern end of the more famous Burgundy wine region, but the two are distinct, perhaps no more so than in the use of CM.

     

    CM is a form of anaerobic fermentation, a natural process historically, but adapted over time for use in wine and coffee. Anaerobic means oxygen-free. In CM, carbon dioxide (CO2) replaces oxygen.

     

    Burgundy favors traditional wine-making techniques for their elegant and savory Pinot Noir-based wines. The juice from de-stemmed pressed grapes ferments with oxygen exposure and yeasts. There are a few producers in Burgundy using whole-berry fermentation as an alternative.

     

    To clarify fermentation terms: 

    “whole berry” – traditional yeast fermentation in which winemakers selectively add whole bunches of berries to pressed fermenting must “whole cluster or whole bunch” – fermentation of full clusters of grapes, including stems  “carbonic maceration” – same as whole cluster and takes place in a closed tank in which carbon dioxide (CO2), which results from fermentation displaces the oxygen in the tank, creating a pressurized system.

     

    Beaujolais winemakers perfected the use of whole cluster and CM to create fresh and fruity Gamay-based wines. Burgundy wines showcase higher tannins and colors with muted aromas and silky deep-red fruit flavors. Beaujolais wines display lighter tannins and color, lower acid, and more aromatics, with bright, almost sweet fruit flavors. Gamay produced using CM can reveal cotton candy, bubble gum, or banana-like flavors. The enzymes activated in CM reduce acid levels in the wine.

     

    In traditional fermentation, the grape must (juice from pressed grapes) turns into wine as yeast and oxygen convert grape sugars into alcohol. 

     

    In CM, the grape sugars convert to alcohol while the juice remains in the berry. Grapes are not pressed but placed into the tank in full clusters with stems.

     

    Berries at the bottom of the tank burst due to the weight of the other grapes and start yeast fermentation, releasing CO2.  Enzymes within the remaining whole berries ferment the juice inside (called intracellular fermentation.)

     

    When the alcohol level reaches around 2%, whole berries burst, and yeast fermentation takes over completing the process.

     

    CM changes the flavors of all wine grapes, but it is mostly used with red varieties because the flavors produced with white varieties were perceived as unappealing. This view seems to be changing. 

    CM produces wines meant to be drunk young, while the traditional method favors wines for aging.

     

    In France, nouveau wines can also be called “vin de primeur”, “vin jeune,” or « vin de l’année.” Don’t confuse “vin de primeur” with Bordeaux’s “en primeur” selling process.

    Carbonic Maceration

    A Short Bit of History

    Historically, most wines underwent CM to some degree. Whole clusters were placed in deep containers that reduced oxygen exposure at the bottom of the vessel.

     

    Rioja winemakers used this method before the influence of Bordeaux. Some still use it to boost aromas and smooth out tannins.

     

    Louis Pasteur experimented with oxygen versus CO2 in wine in the 1870s. Other French scientists conducted trials in the early 1900s.

     

    In the 1960s, Beaujolais négociant, Jules Chauvet, conducted CM studies using the Gamay grape.

     

    The release of Beaujolais Nouveau wines created a sensation. Producersreleased these wines weeks after fermentation finished and the wine bottled. No barrel or bottle aging was required. A good marketing campaign helped propel these less expensive, easy-drinking wines in the market.

     

    The natural wine movement has many proponents of this technique and it has spread throughout the world due to a growing preference toward fresher, lighter wines.

    Some winemakers apply only partial CM, and there are various iterations around the world. Vintners are experimenting to reveal the unique expression of each grape variety and terroir.

    winemakers

    Grape Varieties and Locations

    Nouveau style wines are being made not only from the Gamay variety, but from just about any red grape: 

    • Bonarda
    • Cabernet Franc
    • Carignan
    • Carménère
    • Cinsault
    • Grenache
    • Malbec
    • Merlot
    • Pais
    • Pinot Noir
    • Sangiovese
    • Syrah
    • Tempranillo
    • Valdiguié
    • Zinfandel

    Some vintners create distinctive white wines with CM from Chardonnay, Gruner Veltliner, Marsanne, Pinot Gris, Riesling, or Trebbiano.

     

    Beyond Beaujolais, other countries and regions around the world embrace CM:

    • Argentina: Mendoza, Uco Valley
    • Australia: Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale, South Australia, Yarra Valley
    • California: Central Coast, Lodi, Mendocino, Napa, Santa Barbara County, Sonoma, Seiad Valley
    • Chile: Cauquenes, Itata, Maule Valley
    • France: Burgundy, Cote du Lot, Gaillac, L’Ardeche, Languedoc, Loire, Minervois, Côtes-du-Rhône
    • Hungary
    • Italy: Umbria
    • New Zealand: Central Otago, Hawkes Bay
    • Oregon: Willamette Valley
    • South Africa: Franschhoek, Paarl
    • Spain: Jumilla, Penedes, Rioja/Rioja Alavesa, Terra Alta

    Carbonic Maceration

    Why Carbonic Maceration?

    Winemakers and wine drinkers are exploring alternative vinification methods, varieties, and terroirs, resulting in an explosion of diversity. CM is one example.

    Reasons winemakers use CM include:

    • make more approachable, energetic wines
    • highlight freshness, fruitiness, and aromatics
    • soften strong tannins
    • reduce high acidity
    • add elegance and smoother texture
    • offset riper fruit coming from hotter regions
    • no aging required by either vintner or consumer
    • improve cash flow with a faster turnaround 
    • a shift in consumer preferences away from high-alcohol, heavily extracted wines to lighter, lower alcohol and fruitier wines
    • geeky experimentation and geek appeal with sommeliers
    • easier to sell at a lower price point
    • consumers can drink them right away
    • historical process seen as more natural than modern techniques
    • because they are fun to make and fun to drink

     

    Controversy surrounds the use of CM. Some say it doesn’t properly express terroir, shows a soda-pop mentality, or the wines are not serious or sophisticated. Some see it as a less-risk averse process.

    Sometimes wines can be cloying or too grapey. Like orange wines, those made with CM can be candy-like in flavor, cloudy in the bottle, unbalanced due to little acidity, or exhibit off aromas.

     

    The fun for wine lovers is in comparing different production techniques in the glass. Or in pouring something light and juicy to kick-off the weekend.

    Grab a few bottles and make your own decision!

  • The World’s Love Affair with Pinot Noir: What You Should Know

    All the world loves Pinot Noir. This wine, produced from the supremely delicate grape of the same name, is some of the world’s most expensive wine. With summer upon us, wines made from the pinot noir grape are well-matched for summer foods and lifestyles. 

    Let’s look at why wine drinkers love this grape, some of its characteristics, and the different styles around the world. 

    Wine Lovers

    Why Pinot Noir is So Attractive to Wine Lovers

    A few reasons for Pinot Noir love:

    • Versatility: The grape makes still red, white, and rosé wines, as well as sparkling wine. 
    • Expression of place: No other grape comes as close to expressing the place where it is grown, its terroir. Each location where pinot noir thrives reveals its unique characteristics in the wine.
    • Style variety: Because of this ability to express terroir, pinot noir offers winemakers a wide range of style possibilities. Growers and vintners love the challenge of this grape and are enamored of finding its singular expression in their location.
    • History: Pinot noir has been around for centuries, from Roman times through the ages of the Burgundian monks and on into today’s global passion.
    • Qualities: Pinot noir perhaps yields the most profound complex expression of wine of any grape. With its beautiful color, fresh acidity, compelling body, and complexity of aromas and flavors, wine aficionados never get tired of exploring it.
    • Food: Pinot Noir may be the most perfect red wine for pairing with almost any meal. 
    • Availability: Produced in nearly every wine-growing country, everyone can enjoy it.

    Pinot Noir

    What is Pinot Noir?

    Pinot noir means “black pinecone” because the grape bunch of the vine resembles the shape of a pinecone (“pinot”) and the berries are very dark in color (“noir.”) 

    Attributes:

    1. delicate and thin-skinned
    2. ripens early
    3. susceptible to disease
    4. sensitive to wind, humidity, hail, frost
    5. doesn’t thrive in extreme conditions
    6. predisposed to mutation so clonal selection matters

    Conditions to thrive:

    1. cooler, more temperate climate
    2. long growing season with enough heat and sunlight to ripen
    3. low humidity to avoid or reduce the risk of disease
    4. protection from extremes (sunburn, frost, wind)
    5. nutrient-poor, well-draining soils, such as limestone, chalk, marl 
    6. low yields to concentrate the wine
    7. gentle slopes

    Wine expression:

    1. aromatic
    2. complex
    3. good length 
    4. high acidity 
    5. transparent pale red color (deeper in warmer climates)
    6. lower tannin but enough for structure and oak aging
    7. lower alcohol (higher in warmer climates)
    8. light to full body and texture

    Pinot noir grown in more fertile areas, such as mass-produced wines, have a less optimal style: fruitier, fuller in body, higher alcohol, lower acidity, and less complexity.

    Pinot Noir Regions

    Pinot Noir Regions Around the World

    The French Connection 

    While Vitis vinifera, the genus of grapevines from which fine wine comes, originated in Europe, these vines did not exist in the Americas. The Spanish brought the Mission grape to Mexico and Chile.

    The majority of Vitis vines arrived with immigrants who carried cuttings from France, Germany, Spain, and Italy to the US, Canada, Chile, and Argentina. 

    However, France remains the gold standard.

    With the ideal climate and terroir for pinot noir, more plantings exist in France than anywhere in the world. The most famous and desired Pinot Noir in the world comes from Burgundy. While the vine flourishes in other countries, no more perfect home for this grape exists.

    With limited production, Burgundy’s high-demand Grand Cru and Premier Cru wines command extraordinarily high prices, making it almost impossible for the average wine drinker to afford.

    The climate here is one with a long and cool growing season. Vines grow on tiny plots on east-facing slopes with vine density ranging from 4,000 to 10,000 vines per hectare. 

    Burgundy’s famed Cote d’Or sits on a limestone escarpment. Soils, though quite varied depending on each plot, consist of limestone, marls, gravel, clay, and sand. 

    General characteristics of the style of wine from Burgundy:

    • high levels of acidity
    • silky texture
    • an elegant balance
    • restrained yet complex flavors of:
      • cranberries, red or black cherries
      • earth, forest, mushrooms, herbs
      • floral notes, rose, violet, hibiscus
    • oaked Pinots show fuller body, rounder tannins, and vanilla notes
    • unoaked wines have bright-red cherry flavors 

    Wines of the Cote d’Or show darker fruit in the northern regions, yielding to red fruit and floral wines in the middle, and more earthy and tannic wines in the south. South of the Cote-d’Or, wines are lighter and easier drinking.

    Oregon

    Why Oregon Works for Pinot Noir

    Compared with France, Oregon is a baby in creating wine from pinot noir. Only recently has the industry begun to explore the concept of terroir in depth. As this knowledge expands, more nuanced wines will come to market.

     

    Though still very young as a wine region, Oregon has become the standard-bearer of Pinot Noir after Burgundy. 

    Similarities between Oregon and Burgundy

      Burgundy Willamette Valley
    Latitude: 47 degrees (Beaune) 45 degrees (Dundee)
    Climate: Continental Continental w/Maritime influence
    Ocean Distance:    350 miles 60 miles
    Rainfall: consistent through the year drier summers, wet winters
    Risk of hail: strong low
    Winter Temps: 30-40 degrees 35-55 degrees
    Summer Temps:    60-75 degrees 45-85 degrees
    Longest Daylight:  16 hours 15.4 hours

      

    Differences between Oregon and Burgundy

    Geography

    Differences include geography. While Burgundy lies on eastern facing slopes, the well-known Willamette Valley in Oregon sits in an undulating valley lying between two mountain ranges. These ranges protect vineyards from rain. 

    Vineyards generally lie on south or southeast facing slopes with vine density of 2,500 to 4,000 vines per hectare.

    Soil

    Unlike Burgundy, volcanic red Jory and basalt Nekia soils underlie the Valley. Other soil types include marine sediment sandstone and loess. All these soils allow for good drainage, the key to growing quality pinot noir grapes. 

     Oregon Pinot Noir style

    Characteristics of the Oregon Pinot Noir style, particularly in the Willamette Valley

    • lively acidity
    • weightier, satin-like texture
    • darker in color
    • balanced with fuller body
    • robust fruit flavors of:
      • bright red fruits like cranberries, pomegranate, red cherries
      • cherry-cola
      • mushrooms, some green notes
    • oaked Pinots are richer, with spicy vanilla notes
    • unoaked wines show tart red cherry flavors 

     

    Some winemakers showcase fruity characteristics, while others prefer a more restrained style. The use of natural winemaking techniques has become increasingly popular. 

    Think of Oregon Pinot Noir as a cross between Burgundy and California, unique unto itself. 

    The wines have become increasingly more expensive, though you can find quality Oregon Pinot at lower prices.

    Oregon Pinot Noir has become so popular in the US that the in-demand Pinot Camp Event held annually in the Willamette Valley has a sister event in Birmingham, Alabama.

    California

    California Dreaming 

    Californians who were searching for cooler climates in which to plant pinot noir started the Oregon wine industry.

    In California, a hot climate, locations closer to the ocean work best for pinot noir, allowing grapes to reach optimal ripeness over a long growing season. Soils vary throughout the state, and there is less focus on terroir.

    Characteristics of Pinot Noir from California:

    • medium acidity
    • higher alcohol
    • more concentration
    • a richer, velvety texture
    • darker, riper, fuller than Oregon and Burgundy
    • fruit-forward with intense flavors of:
      • black cherry, black raspberry, candied fruit
      • cola, caramel, tea
    • oaked Pinots offer vanilla and sweet spice notes
    • unoaked show brighter but still dark berry flavors 

     

    California has a wide variety of styles and quality levels. Some winemakers pick later in the harvest and use extended macerations to ensure deep dark colors and flavors. Others harvest earlier with shorter macerations to create higher-acid and lighter versions. Large producers plant in hotter areas yielding less complex, more fruity, and less acidic wines.

    With so much Pinot coming from California, aficionados can find a style to suit their palate. Warmer regions, such as the Russian River Valley, produce bolder wines, while cooler areas, like Carneros, produce more subtle, relatively lighter wines.

    Other quality areas include the Sonoma Coast, the Central Coast, including Santa Barbara County, and the Santa Lucia Highlands. 

    Surprising Germany

    Surprising Germany

    To many, the fact that Germany produces red wine is a surprise, even though it has more pinot noir vineyards planted than any other country except France and the US. The country’s most important red grape, Spätburgunder (pinot noir) has grown here for centuries. 

    Most of Germany’s wine regions produce Pinot Noir, and styles vary less than in other countries. A white version is produced here. Knowing the producer matters in finding quality Pinot.

     

    Because Germany enjoys a relatively cooler climate, the wines are lighter in color with high acidity and a more restrained style. 

     

    Favorable climates and terroirs include Ahr in the north and Baden in the south. Both allow pinot noir to ripen well. German Pinot Noir shows an earthy quality. Pinot from Ahr brings out rich red berry flavors, while those from Baden tend toward rich dark fruit flavors.

    New Zealand

    Little New Zealand Makes a Big Impression

    Cool climate New Zealand, with small production, is a haven for Pinot lovers. 

    Pinot producing areas include Central Otago and Marlborough on the South Island and Martinborough on the North Island. Each produces a different style. 

    Central Otago: 

    • Surprisingly. this southernmost, highest altitude and coolest region ripens pinot noir almost as well as California. 
    • Wines have high acidity and alcohol, with medium to full body, rich fruit flavors, and a noticeable sweet-spicy finish.

    Marlborough takes the middle road of the three, producing high acid wines of medium body and more subtle red fruit flavors.

     

    Martinborough: The warmest region produces a dark wine with higher tannins and earthier flavors.

    pinot noir

    Italy Under the Radar

    Maybe less known, pinot nero (pinot noir) grows well in Northern Italy, the coolest climate wine region in the country. Both sparkling and still wines are produced here. 

     

    Still wines show similar characteristics to those from Burgundy, though more concentrated, with higher alcohol. Instead of mushroom and forest flavors, earthiness shows up as smoke or tobacco. Spice notes can be clove or pepper. Pinot noir from Alto Adige produces an aromatic, elegant wine with floral notes, and clove and deep red berry fruit flavors.

    Chile on the Move

    Pinot noir has been grown in Chile for some time though much of the quality is low. As winegrowers moved towards the coast and further south, the potential for high-quality Pinot became apparent.

     

    Coastal granite soils yield wines similar in style to Oregon, complex and elegant with bright acidity and floral aromas. Further south, winemakers experiment with different soils and locations. More to come from Chile.

    The Rest of the World

    The following countries plant and create wine from pinot noir: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, Moldova, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK. Pinot noir grown in the UK makes lovely sparkling wines, like those of Champagne.

     

    Having only touched the surface of the vast variety and complexity of the world of Pinot Noir, you’ll understand why this grape and its wine are so beloved. 

     

    Enjoy Pinot Noir this summer and raise a glass to International Pinot Noir day on August 18!

  • Quarantine Reading: America’s Top Wine Geek – Thomas Jefferson vs Robert Parker

    Thomas Jefferson and Robert Parker, born 204 years apart, were life-long wine aficionados. Both had enormous influence in shaping America’s relationship with wine.

     

    Jefferson, born on April 13, 1743, died at the age of 83. Robert Parker, currently 72 years old, was born on July 23, 1947.

     

    Tasting his way through Europe, Jefferson developed his love of wine and his palate to become America’s first promoter of quality wine.

     

    Parker’s creation of the 100-point scoring system transformed how Americans, and the global wine world, thought about wine.

     

    But of the two, which one is America’s top wine geek?

    THOMAS JEFFERSON VS ROBERT PARKER

    Different Perspectives and Motivations

    Though both men clearly loved wine, their approaches to wine, and their ultimate influence on the world of wine differed.

     

    Thomas Jefferson held a holistic and expansive view of wine. For him, wine reflected civilized society. An enlightened society was a wine-drinking society. He viewed wine as a bridge between cultures, politics, and science.

     

    Robert Parker developed a trusted and independent source of information to understand and choose wine. He intended his scoring method to provide an objective perspective of wine quality.

    Let’s look at a few similarities and differences between these two influential wine geeks.

    wine

    Similarities

    Though separated by more than 200 years and light-years in terms of viticulture, viniculture, and the wine landscape, these two men had much in common.

    Both:

    • became wine geeks and wine travelers, though Jefferson became America’s first true wine geek and wine tourist
    • developed into wine aficionados, but not winemakers, though Jefferson did plant and experiment with grapevines mostly from a botanical and agricultural viewpoint. Parker is a partner in an Oregon winery,Beaux Frère.
    • thought, wrote, and educated others about wine 
    • appreciated European wines, especially French wines
    • sought out diverse styles and types of wines but for different ends: Jefferson to satisfy his curiosity, Parker for analysis
    • wanted wine to be accessible and inclusive for the public
    • were viewed as wine celebrities, and in some circles, snobs
    • had reputations as adept wine lovers
    • retired at nearly the same age, Jefferson at age 66 and Parker at age 67, though Parker continues to be active in professional activities

    Differences

    These men differed in their philosophies about wine, which guided their journeys. 

    • Jefferson believed in:
      • wine as part of a healthy lifestyle, promoting it over hard alcohol
      • dry, lighter alcohol, flavorful, and unmanipulated wines 
      • low taxes and fair pricing to make wine affordable and accessible
      • developing personal relationships with winemakers 
      • the humbleness of winemakers, wine grape growers, and wine drinkers
      • paying for his wine, solicited or not
      • aging wine to provide greater pleasure
      • America as capable of producing a great wine industry

     

    Jefferson saw wine as an essential part of a healthy life and society. Wine offered relaxation, pleasure, and connection with others. He shared wine to influence opinion over it.

    Wine in Jefferson’s time was a beverage, savored, and shared with food, family, and friends.  He used wine to bring people together and ease conversation. 

    Jefferson wrote about wine for his own knowledge and shared that knowledge with others.

     

    • Parker believes:
      • in the consumer advocacy of Ralph Nader
      • that wine writing and criticism should be independent of the wine trade
      • consumers should have access to trustworthy information about wine quality
      • that conflicts of interest in the trade tainted many wine writers’ opinions
      • in paying for his wine, but with some evidence of conflicts of interest 
      • in more full-bodied, riper, and concentrated wines with heavier oak-influence
      • in pairing a wine’s score with accurate tasting notes to provide the consumer with an in-depth picture
      • that wine is an inherently emotional experience

     

    In Parker’s time, wine became a massive, competitive global industry. From his role as a consumer advocate, he expanded into education and criticism.

    In developing his 100-point scoring system, he became perhaps too influential in how Americans understood and drank wine. Today, this system is widely used.

    Parker wrote about wine for the benefit of consumers.

    While both men drank wine for the pleasure it gave, wine was Jefferson’s hobby. It was Parker’s livelihood.

    wines

    Lasting Impact

    Jefferson:

    • Advocated for American viticulture and inspired the Virginia wine industry
    • Created wine tourism as the first American to travel for wine throughout France, Piemonte and the Mosel in Germany
    • Left an extensive written legacy of wine, vineyards, and viticulture
    • Brought Vitis vinifera vines to America and established experimental vineyards at Monticello, where wine is produced today
    • Appreciated traditional winegrowing and winemaking practices specific to each location in the creation of quality wine
    • Promoted wine as part of a healthy lifestyle for the general population
    • Wanted Americans to know the joys of sharing wine with others and the benefits it brings
    • Understood the benefits of purchasing direct from the producer and avoiding middlemen
    • Promoted bottling wine instead of transporting by barrel where it could be more easily doctored
    • Believed in aging quality wines to drink them at their best
    • Drank wines with meals in the French style, though in retirement tended to drink them after dinner
    • Encouraged Americans to expand their palate beyond the common Madeiras and Ports of the day

    Parker:

    • Created a tool as an independent method for consumers to use in understanding wine 
    • Educated consumers on quality and value
    • Heavily influenced modern winemaking techniques resulting in wine styles that reflected his personal preferences, known as the “international” style
    • Guided America’s taste in wine toward his preferred style
    • Became the most powerful man in the wine trade in his day
    • Wine became a status symbol to be acquired and admired
    • Inadvertently assisted in the creation ofwine as a tradable commodity 
    • Through the creation of a hierarchy, wine prices rose stratospherically, putting many wines out of reach of the average consumer
    • Influenced the rise of “garagistes” in Europe, making wines in Parker’s style that were outside the European regulations 
    • His influence encouraged an expansion ofBordeaux grape varietals, especially Cabernet Sauvignon, replacing ancient and local vines

    Jefferson

    The Men Speak for Themselves

    Jefferson:

    “No nation is drunken where wine is cheap; and none sober, where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage. It is, in truth, the only antidote to the bane of whiskey.” 

    “I am in daily expectation of light wines (which I mostly use myself) from France and Italy.”

    “The delicacy and innocence of these wines will change the habit from the coarse & inebriating kinds hitherto only known here.”

    Jefferson never knew America’s winemaking success, so his preferences were France and Italy.

    Jefferson quotes from “Thomas Jefferson On Wine” by John Hailman

    Parker: 

    The difference between a 97-point wine and a 100-point wine is largely an emotional one. Wines should be emotional, they should be magical. They should move you and if you aren’t moved then you’re drinking the wrong beverage.” 

     

    “The written commentary that accompanies the ratings is a better source of information regarding the wine’s style and personality, its relative quality vis-à-vis its peers, and its value and aging potential than any score could ever indicate.” 

    There can never be any substitute for your own palate nor any better education than tasting the wine yourself.

     

    Jefferson could have made this last statement as easily as Parker.

    Parker may have had this thought about the wines Jefferson preferred: 

    In the wine world, crusaders would have wine consumers believe that the only wines of merit are something completely indefinable but which they call ‘authentic’ or ‘natural.’

    America’s Top Wine Geek

    America’s Top Wine Geek

    While Parker drank wine for the pleasure it gave, he was essentially a businessman, a very successful one. He created The Wine Advocate, a massively successful wine publication. His scoring system led to an outsized influence and involvement in almost every aspect of the global wine trade.

     

    The scoring system and his writings are likely to remain Parker’s most significant lasting contributions. His impact on wine styles seems in decline. The long-term effects of his influence, though formidable in the past, remain to be seen.

    For Jefferson, wine grew beyond his favorite drink or hobby. Though he took great pleasure in serving the wines he loved to friends and guests at dinner parties, his beliefs about wine ran much more deeply.

     

    He believed adopting a culture of wine would improve Americans’ lives.

    For Jefferson, “Good wine is a necessity of life . . .” Not just a pleasure, but a necessity. Through wine, he expanded scientific knowledge, built political and commercial relationships benefiting the U.S., and promoted public health.

     

    In the end, Jefferson wins as America’s top wine geek. Parker’s lasting impact will likely not be as great as it was in his heyday, while Jefferson’s has increased.

    But Parker left us a most useful and appropriate comment about wine given our time of COVID-19: 

    I think of my wine cellar as security – if the apocalypse comes, I can just go down to the cellar.