Welcome to another week of #wine101 !! This week we are going back to the roots of wine and discussing the wine history of Spain. Spain is the number 3 country in world wine production, so there is plenty of vino to talk about !!
Historically, there have been grapes in Spain for a very long time. We do not know for sure when they figured out how to make wine, but they had it figured out before the Romans took over the show. When they were eventually made a part of the Roman empire, Spanish wine was exported to different parts of the empire because it was great.
Why Spanish wine? Spain has an excellent climate for growing grapes for wine. Countries like France, and Germany can be too cold and the grapes do not reach the ripeness to make many of the fuller bodied, high alcohol, in your face wines like we see all the time in California. Many of these countries used wine from Spain to mix in with their own grapes to add a little bit of body to their own wines.
After the Roman empire fell, wine stuck around in Spain through the Muslim rule even which is a little surprising considering that Muslims are not supposed to be drinking wine, but it was documented that a few high ranking Muslims even had their own vineyards in Spain. It is hard to resist it what can I say? ; )
Like the rest of the wine industry there was some setbacks because of the North American bugs that attacked a lot of the roots of grapevines, but by the time it hit Spain the panic was already dying down and the cross breeding method to save the plants was already known to everybody. If you are gonna be late to a party, it might as well be the terrible party where all of your wine grapes get destroyed. ; )
After some changes in the Spanish government, the wine industry began to pick up again in Spain in the late 1990s. Before that, the biggest thing Spanish wine had going for it was their own sparkling wine Cava, the Spanish twist on Champagne. Many Spaniards call their Cava champagne or something close to it, but it is illegal to market it as champagne because that is protected by European trade laws. It is also illegal to market a wine as Cava in Spain unless it is made a certain way.
There are some major differences when it comes to Cava and Champagne though !! Cava sometimes uses chardonnay grapes while Champagne is dominantly chardonnay. Instead of chardonnay grapes, native Spanish varietals are used like Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarello. Both sparkling wines also blend with red wine varirtals, but a big difference is that Cava sometimes uses Cabernet Sauvignon, when Champagne does not. So even though they are both popular sparkling wines, they can also be very different !!
The laws for labeling wines in Spain are interesting, they are based on the aging of the wines and indicate to the buyer how long the wine has been aged or not. That is good to make sure you are buying what you want, but it also seems like a lot of work in labeling. What do you think ?? Should we label our wines like the Spanish do ??
Leave your comments below or tweet me @Fabioviviani #wine101. Next week we will continue our historia del vino de Espana !! How is my spanish ?? ; )
Welcome to another week of #wine101 where my goal is to get you in the know about everything WINE !! This week we are gonna talk about the top wineries in California because it is the capital of wine in the United States !!
As we should know by now, the crown jewel of California wines is the Cabernet Sauvignon. California makes all kinds of great wines, but the California Cabs are considered by many (including me) to be among the best in the world.
So it would make sense if you are going to be visiting wineries in California to go to where the magic happens – the wineries of some of the best Cabernet Sauvignons the world has to offer. Of course there are great Cabs all over wine country in California, but most of the major, well-known, high-rated Cabs come from Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Here are a few of the top-shelf producers of Napa and Sonoma.
Corsion is one of the top names in the California cab business. It is unique as a California winery in the heart of Napa Valley because it has not followed the trend of the new world wines in that it is not so hot or full bodied. It is more of the Old World style and the wines are made to be aged and develop complexity over time. Corsion thinks that the bold, hotter wines are just a fad. What do you think ?? Corsion is open for tastings by appointment.
Caymus also makes a very popular and high rated cab just about every year. The alcohol content is like Corsion, it is not over the top, but the bold new world style of very forward fruit flavoring is definitely still there. These two wines are not too over-the-top when it comes to alcohol, but they are still very celebrated among critics, amateur or professionally. You can visit the winery and have a tasting too, but don’t forget to make an appointment ; ) !!
If you want to spend some money and go with another bold, New Worldy feel, the Screaming Eagle winery of Napa Valley is a classic high roller in the world of California Cabernet Sauvignon. It is not super high in alcohol content, but it is above the normal old world styles and the bold flavor is in line with the new world style. There is nothing wrong with that, different does not mean better only different. Constant high ratings and high prices put this wine near the top of the world’s Cabernet Sauvignon rankings. One negative is that they do not do any tastings or tours of the winery or the vineyards, so that is disappointing.
Hall Rutherford is a Napa Country winery that produces wines from Kathryn Hall. It is a very new and high tech winery with some beautiful architecture and designs. This winery in specific is made for the higher end Hall wines produced by Kathryn herself, and these are gonna be another round of bold, in-your-face fruit flavoring in the new world style. The ratings are great in general for a Kathryn Hill cab with a vintage in the past 10 years, and the price is also reasonable compared to some of the other popular wineries. Some vintages can be almost 16% so be prepared for the heat !! ; ) Hall Rutherford is also open for touring and tasting with appointments and it is gorgeous so you should stop by if you have the chance.
So there are FOUR somewhat popular wineries of more than 1200 in California. Of course there are gonna be some amazing wineries that are not in the list, but that is where you can come in !! What is your favorite cabernet sauvignon winery ?? Comment below or tell me on twitter @Fabioviviani #wine101 !! I cannot include all of the wineries in one blog because there are just too many with amazing cabernet sauvignons – there is Shafer, Beaulieu, Heitz, Beringer – the list goes on !!
I hope everybody has been enjoying and learning from my wine 101 blogs over the past six months !! This week I am gonna tell you all about wine school – why it exists, why you should or should not go, and what it can do for YOU !!
My blogs can teach you a lot about wine, but you can only go so far by reading. A big part of learning about wine is tasting and smelling, and a lot of people have different types of learning styles. Some people can learn from reading a book, and some people have to learn by experience. That is a HUGE difference.
For people who want to learn by experience and who want to have a fun and challenging time, a wine class is a great idea. There are wine classes all around the world for all kinds of levels of wine knowledge.
I know what you are thinking: “Fabio, I want to go to wine school but that sounds scary.” Yes, of course it CAN be intimidating, but there is no reason to be !! As long as you are willing to learn, there are all kinds of classes for beginners that you can really learn a lot from.
Wine classes know all about how it can be scary going into a place where there is so much seriousness about wine. They want to bring people in and teach them, they are not gonna laugh at you because you do not know the difference between old world and new world wine. If you like it and do good in the classes, you can even move up to more advanced wine classes !!
The biggest thing to keep in mind is that you have to be serious about wanting to learn. The classes can be very expensive, so it is an investment. If you take it serious enough, you can even be a sommelier !!
How expensive ?? Well you are gonna have to take MINIMUM 4 tests, coming from one of the more advanced wine schools in the world, and the cost of that can pile up. The final test for your certification is supposed to be very hard though and hardly anybody makes it past. You are gonna have to pay again if you do not pass. With that being said, I cannot say that it is or is not worth it for YOU, unless you are ready to devote your life to it and fail and try again over and over.
If you are just doing it for fun, introduction class can be a little pricey from what I have seen, but it is worth it if you really try. I am sure it is a good learning experience and you can probably even meet some new friends there that you can drink wine with out of class ; ).
Have you ever gone to wine classes ?? What was it like ?? Was it worth it for you ?? Do you want to go to wine class ?? Leave a comment here or tweet me @fabioviviani #wine101 !!
This week we are continuing our French Wine history lesson !! We are gonna cover the French, “Old World” style of wine and some of the most widely grown French wine grapes and a little bit about each one. So let’s get started !!
The first thing we should cover is the difference between French and other “Old World” styled wines of Europe and the “New World” style wines of the rest of the world. Like I said before in last week’s Wine 101, the French have ALWAYS had a lot of attention on the terroir of their wines – basically the environment where the grapes are grown. But what else is different about these “Old World” wines ??
That is a good subject for a whole other blog !! Basically what you should know is that “New World” wines are more technical and less earthy. Think test tubes and meters compared to tradition and the Earth.
That is not to say that “New World” wines are just better because they use more science, or that “Old World” wines are better just because they have tradition, but they are all good in their own ways. Like your nonna says: “It is OK to be different !!”
“Old World” wines are usually better suited for pairing with foods. A lot of the “New World” wines are meant to be drank by themselves. Some of the “Old World” ones are too, but in general. ; ) This is true with most French wines.
So onto the wines !! Usually when I talk about wines I talk about the grapes to name the wines. For French wines, we are going to do as the French do and talk about them in terms of where they are produced.
Some of the most popular French wines come from these 5 different parts of France: Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Cotes Du Rhone, and the Loire.
Alsace is the furthest Eastern part of France. It is small, but the wines are not so small ; ). The red from Alsace is the lightest red you will ever see !! They are made mostly with Pinot Noir – the region is mostly known for the rose and white wines. Drink them with a light sandwich for lunch. The whites are the bread and butter for Alsace – they are higher in alcohol than most others because there are a few late harvest varieties which means more sugar and more alcohol. They go great with spicy foods !!
Bordeaux is huge compared to Alsace. It is the largest region so we have a lot to cover here ; ). It is in the southwest of France. We could probably do an entire blog about Bordeaux wine history, but let’s get the 30 second version ; ). For reds, Saint Emilion is a popular choice. It has a very earthy flavor and larger body that go well with all kinds of meat dishes. They are mostly from Merlot grapes, and they are usually all blended. Graves is another popular red wine region. The wines produced here tend to have a medium body with a little dryness. They also go good with pretty much any meat dish, but are better suited for heavier dishes than the wines of Medoc. Medoc has a medium body similar to the Graves. Like graves and Saint Emilion, they also go well with most meats, but lighter dishes, not so rich.
For whites, a good white Sauterne is sweet and fruity, a little “New World”-y. They are the perfect wine to eat with your desserts, or heck even for dessert ; ). The perfect white Graves is not too sweet and a little mineraly. Good for dishes with eggs or lighter meat dishes.
Burgundy’s most popular wines are red, so we are gonna talk about a couple of those !! Burgundy is in the East of France. The reds from the Beaujolais region in Burgundy are fruity, lighter, and not TOO dry. They go with EVERYTHING, so that is a safe pick for a dinner party : ). Cote de Nuits are LARGE bodied, with the aroma of flowers. They go well with very rich meat dishes.
Cotes Du Rhone
This location in the southeast of France in the Rhone Valley. Reds from Cotes Du Rhone are known to have some mineral tastes with a big body. They go well with tomato sauce dishes and broiled meats. The white wines are unique because they are some of the heaviest white wines around !! They go great with asian food and seafood.
What better place to grow grapes and make wine than right by the river ?? The Loire river is another large winemaking region right in the middle of France. Once the premiere location for wine in Europe, their most popular wines are now known for fresh crispness and fruit forward flavors. There are TONS of wines from the Loire, like Bordeaux, so it is hard to give a detailed guide on all the wine characteristics.
Do you wanna hear more about French Wine History ?? Comment below or tweet me @Fabioviviani #wine101 !!
France is a major player in the wine world. France is number one in the world when it comes to wine production. Italy is in a close second place. That is very impressive.
Like Italy, France is one of the original wine countries. Several very popular grapes first were grown in France – they are like one of the mother ships of wine for the rest of the world. The California special Cabernet Sauvignon, along with the grapes Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay FIRST grew in France, so let’s all take a minute to thank France for these gifts to the world ; ).
Wine first came to France, like it came to Italy, from Greeks during the rule of The Roman Empire. Like in California missions (but a thousand years before), the spread of religion and the need for ceremony wines helped spread wine in France too.
It was pretty smooth sailing for French wine up until the little bugs and mold wiped out many crops in Europe and America. Then pretty much right after that, World Wars 1 and 2 happened, and France was right in the middle of everything, so of course there is going to be a major negative impact on the wine industry of Europe around this time.
I have talked a little about them before, but the little bugs actually came from the Americas !! The thing is that some North American grape vines are not affected by the phylloxera, so they bred the dying plants with the vines that are immune to save them. It is a really interesting story that they have written books about. The bugs actually killed a lot of the vines in California because those were also original European vines.
After this terrible time in the industry, France made sure that the revival was pure and high quality with many different laws to do that. It has worked, as you can tell, being the second biggest wine producing country in the world.
What is France’s secret to making amazing wines year after year for so long ??
If you have been reading my wine blogs, you will recognize this word: Terroir !! If you have not, I will explain. Terroir is the French word that basically means, when you are talking about wine, the environment in which the grapes are growing. It is everything – the minerals in the soil, the humidity, the climate, the texture of the ground, altitude, pretty much anything you can think of.
Now it is not known for sure how much of each factor affects the qualities of wines, but the French have been using it for so long, so I am sure that it has at least some kind of effects on the grapes and the wine. The topic is very debated, some people do not believe it makes a difference, so maybe you do not believe in terroir. I am OK with that, believe what you want ; ).
You can tell how important it is in France because of how the wines are traditionally labelled with the name of the specific region where the grapes were grown and wine was made. For example, in California you will often see the name of the grapes on the label, but that is less important in French wine.
There is much more to the wine of France !! We still have not talked about the top wines !! That is for next week. What are YOUR top French wines ?? Maybe I will talk about one of them ; ) Tweet me @Fabioviviani #wine101 !!
We have all heard it before: wine is good for your health and one glass every day is super good for you. But why? For this week, we are looking at HOW wine is good for you and why it is good for you to drink it !!
All of the data and polls in the world are gonna SOMEHOW say that wine is good for you, but you really have to think about it when you are looking at them. Like this fact: wine drinkers have a mortality rate 34% lower than people who drink beer or liquor.
There is no way to say that this is from the effects of wine on your body, and I think it probably says something more about the lifestyle of your typical wine drinker compared to the typical beer or liquor drinkers – what that is, I am not so sure. But if a beer or liquor drinker started to drink wine because of reading this poll, I am not sure that their mortality rate would go down by 34% ; ) .
With that being said, wine does have some really good effects for your body that are unique to wine, and also some that are common to all kinds of alcoholic drinks in moderation.
That is one of the keys here. If you are drinking way too much that is not gonna be good for you no matter what. We are all adults – drink as much as you like !! But don’t say Fabio told you to drink 2 bottles of wine every night ; )
Moderate wine drinking is known for having all kinds of health benefits.
I would say that in our current society, one of the best things about drinking wine is the relaxation !! I say our current society because it seems everybody is more stressed out. I am not sure why, but something about having all of your email sent to your phone, and having your phone around you all the time seems like it makes life a lot more stressful than before you could do all of that. It is very nice to unwind with one or two glasses of wine and RELAX.
I think that is a big part of the health benefit of wine – it is like taking a long warm bath with the candles on, in fact, that is the perfect time to drink a glass of wine !!
A glass of wine does not only relax your mind, it also relaxes your heart and body !! There are a lot of studies that have been done that show that a glass of wine a day for adults OVER 65 can slightly reduce blood pressure. If you are under 65, two is OK, but you should always check with your doctor FIRST to make sure that it will be good for YOU, because everyone is different.
A chemical found in red wine, resveratrol, has been shown to lower your bad cholesterol and also lower the risk of blood clotting and inflammation. This is really good news, but moderation is important. If you drink too much you will do way more bad than good, I promise you : ).
More studies link red wine drinking to lower risks for cataracts, colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, brain decline, and strokes. So drink your red wine !! An apple a day is the old school saying, but a glass a day is just as great !!
What is your favorite red wine ?? Tweet me @Fabioviviani #wine101 !!