Posts Tagged ‘wine’

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Thomas: Mendoza (mas vino, por favor)

September 28, 2011

Words cannot describe how great this past weekend was. On Thursday night, me and four friends took an overnight bus from Buenos Aires to Mendoza (a 13 hour ride), a city located in the West-Central portion of the country and on the foothills of the Andes Mountains. About 110,000 people inhabit Mendoza, and upon arriving I was genuinely surprised by how nice the people were, and how well kept and quiet the city was. A pleasant change from the fast-paced and sometimes rude Buenos Aires.

The Mendoza Province is of course known best for their top industries, wine and olives. The Cuyo region, which includes the Mendoza province and two other Western Argentinian provinces, produces the most wine in all of Latin America and serves people all over the World. Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon are the top varieties of wine produced in the region.

Mendoza has been growing and thriving economically recently because of the growing popularity of wine tourism. My friends and I were added to the list of the thousands of tourists who visit each day to tour vineyards and taste the wine. Saturday was our vineyard touring and wine tasting day. With the sun shining and temperatures in the high 70s, it was a perfect day to be outside. Our group of young tourists became much larger when we merged with people from our hostel we stayed in. Our group now included twelve people from five different countries (Ireland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Australia, and the U.S.). Besides being ridiculously affordable, the best thing about staying in hostels (instead of hotels) is that you get to meet all kinds of cool people from all over the World.

We decided the best way to visit the many vineyards in the countryside was by bicycle. After renting twelve bikes we rode several miles, visiting close to ten vineyards and tasting 3-4 different wines at each location (you do the math). Somehow we all managed to stay on our bikes. It was such a surreal experience, riding quietly along a rode lined with perfectly lined trees on one side and the beautiful Andes mountains in the distance, past the many rows of grapes. What a weekend, indeed.

Our Hostel for the weekend


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Michelle: Vineyard tour

February 22, 2011

While Bordeaux may be the capital of wine in France, Montpellier is the capital of viticulture and Bezier is the oldest wine producer. Montpellier is SE of Bordeaux on the coast.

Last weekend, I went to a vineyard just north of Bezier owned by my upstairs neighbor’s family. There, his brother in law gave us a little tour, so I’m passing that all on to you virtually:

First, the grapes are grown…

…then they go into this contraption to separate the grapes from the twigs and the leaves.

Then they go through the pressoir. In white wine and rosé, the skins are generally discarded. In red wine, they help give the wine it’s distinctive flavor and  color.

From there, the juice (and skin depending) gets transferred into the large barrels for fermentation. The three holes in the wall are the large reservoirs.

From the second story, you can look down into some of the barrels. During fermentation, it is essential that the juice is kept at a specific temperature. The temperatures are different for white and red. To accomplish this feat, les drapeaus circulate cold water within the barrels. When les drapeaus are removed, they are covered in a chalky, acidic residue. This is sold and used to make candy. (He’s holding a clean drapeau below.)

When opening the barrels, there is a lot of carbon-dioxide that builds, new viticulturists often experiences the sensation of suffocating.
After fermentation, the juice is transfered to smaller barrels for aging. This wine is only aged about 5 years. The date is written on the side of the barrel.

Cooking wine is aged in sunlight:

Quelle bonne journée!

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Eric: Wine… and more wine…

June 7, 2010

As great as the title may sound, it’s really not all that great. For the first time I felt the effects of alcohol. Our excursion today included two wineries/vineyards, Castello Banfi and Fattoria di Rignana. Castello Banfi, owned by the Mariani family from the US, is a castle located in the Brunello region of Tuscany. Next to the castle is an estate of 7100 acres that is a combination of vineyard, olive groves, other agricultural products, and forests. The Banfi company was founded in 1911 in New York as a foreign wine importer. Today. the company is operated by the original founder’s children and grandchildren. Castello Banfi was created as the Banfi company’s own winery, which produces 26 kinds of wine exported to 85 countries today.

We were first given a brief introduction to the estate and the company, and then the process of how wine is made at the place. We then entered the cellar, where barrels and barrels of wine are stored both above and below ground. It was quite astounding to see so many barrels, side by side and of different sizes (some of them could easily fit everyone on the program in it with plenty of room left), containing wine to ferment before going into bottles.

Visiting a winery obviously won’t be complete without tasting the wine. As Castello Banfi is located in the Brunello region, it produces the historic wine of the region, Brunello di Montalcino, a kind of red wine with alcohol content of 13 to 13.5%  according to vintage conditions. We were served this kind of wine, and like I mentioned in an earlier post, I really didn’t have much experience drinking wine, let alone telling the different flavors it has. Well, after the second half-cup, I started feeling dizzy. It’s not like I couldn’t think clearly, but I could tell that my head was getting heavier, and I was having a little trouble standing still. With all that going on, we were led to lunch at the place, where more wine was served along the two dishes. Having no intention to fall to the ground before everyone, I politely declined the two wines served, and I felt much better after having the two dishes (Home-made fusilli with Chianina beef ragout and roast pork loin with rosemary flavored potatoes) and coffee.

It really was a new experience, as on the previous excursion where we had wine, I didn’t really feel anything even after the fourth round of tasting. I was really glad that I didn’t have any wine with my lunch.

Back onto the bus, we headed for Fattoria di Rignana, located between Florence and Siena in the heart of Chianti Valley. As the place is on top of a hill, we had a fun time sitting in a bus that was apparently too large for the roads that lead up to the place. One thing about Italian bus drivers: they are amazing (or simply doing their jobs), as on the three excursions we now have gone to, all three bus drivers managed to get us to where we needed to be, no matter how remote, small, or not-bus-fitting the place might be. After a near roller coaster ride, we arrived safely at Fattoria di Rignana, where more wine was waiting for us.

The owner of the place explained the method his winery uses to produce the local wine, Chianti Classico. Contrary to Banfi, a big company, Fattoria di Rignana only has 295 acres of land, and yet still successfully produces and sells wine to different countries.

We tasted three kinds of wine: Rosato, Chianti Classico, and Chianti Classico Riserva. The first was made by leaving the grape skin in the juice for only 48 hours, producing the pink color (grape skin is what gives the wine the color, the color of the juice is all the same for all grapes). The second was matured for 12 months in oak barrels, while the third was matured for 24 months. Strangely enough, I didn’t really feel any different after drinking the three rounds of tasting.

Back on the bus again, we headed for Florence, without much traffic except we met this car on a narrow bridge that could hardly fit our bus. Let’s just say the driver of the other car was not happy to keep backing until we could pass around his car. We got back to Florence without much difficulty after that.

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Britta: Wine tasting

May 27, 2010

Today we had a crash course on how to experience wine and try different cheeses. It was a lovely afternoon outside with friends, laughter, and wonderful flavors. I will try my best to account for the events of the afternoon, however some people dedicate whole blogs to solely wine, so this just the surface of the surface.

For those that don’t know anything about wine:

  • 5,000 varieties of grapes in the world
  • 500 varieties used for making wine
  • La Vendange (grape harvest) is from late August to late October
  • 5 Wine families: Red, Rosé, White, Moussu, Liquereux

Tasting is all about:

  • La Vue ( how it looks)—the “robe” (dress) of the wine, i.e. color and legs. (The faster the legs move the lower the alcohol content, the slower the higher)
  • L’Odeur (smell) the boquet
  • Le Goût (taste) aromas, feel (fruity, woody, sweet, acidic)

White wines: Start green

  • 1 Month transparent
  • 1 year pale
  • 2 years pale yellow
  • eventually become a slight brown

Red Wines: Start purple

  • 1 ½ years turn black
  • 3 years black orange


We sampled 4 wines from 3 different regions of France a white, rosé, red, and champagne/port (making sure to hold the glass on the bottom to prevent heating up the wine).

White: Jean Marie Strubbler Riesling 2008 12.5%, from Alsace

  • “green wine”
  • apple, pear, sweet
  • goes well with fish & salad

Rosé: Gallician, Costières de Nîme Cuvée Tradition 2009 12.5%, from Nîmes, Languedoc

  • Strawberry
  • Raspberry

* Rosés are a young wine, have been around for 20 years, and are considered to be for women

Red: Bordeaux, Grand Vin de Bordeau, Les Maitres Goustiers 2009 13%, from Bordeaux, Aquitaine

  • Black fruits
  • Cherry

*Bordeaux was the first region to mix different varieties of grapes together

Champagne: Muscador, Cèpage

  • Peach

Tips on Buying Wine:

  • Whites and Rosés don’t preserve very long, so always buy a young wine from the last 1 to 2 years
  • Good wines come from specialty shops
  • If the neck is sticky, the cork is permeable and therefore the wine is no longer good.

Next comes the cheese…

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Christina: the wine connoisseur

May 14, 2010

In the medieval village of St. Émilion, there is a wine connoisseur who allegedly had his first blind taste test at the age of four. He has spent most of his twenty-seven years in constant search of the best wines, and now he wears woolen scarves and Converse sneakers and works in a shop in the Bordeaux wine region.

The skies were insisting on a persistent springtime drizzle that day, but somehow, I felt that made our excursion to wine country even more appropriate. Walking up the steep stone roads, we found his store and asked for a dégustation. Our ignorance about wine was apparent from the moment we walked in, but with both humility and grace, he spent the next 45 minutes guiding us through the complexities of fine wines. Outside the cold rain was making the streets seem miserable and forgotten, but inside we were warm and well-looked after.

“This wine is still a teenager,” he told us apologetically, proffering a bottle of wine older than myself. “But try it anyway.”

Wine, it turns out, is a fickle thing. That an older wine is always better than a younger one is a myth I had long believed to be fact. The disappointing truth is that the bottles I buy with my student budget aren’t about to turn into 500 euro grand cru classés even if I let them sit around for the next 50 years. Wine follows the same pattern as any living thing, reaching its peak within an indeterminate amount of years, after which point its quality begins to diminish. But how to know when wine is ready to drink?

“You cannot know,” our expert explained with a wink, “without tasting it.”

Wine vendors must closely monitor their caches, searching out the ones that are ready to be sold. Those that aren’t at peak will be left alone to slumber within their wooden barrels. It was a nice to think of our Converse-wearing Frenchman wandering the murky cellars, gently rousing wines from their sleep, putting others back to bed, and tasting thousands of brands every year.

He poured us each a taste of white wine, rotating his wrist and raising the bottle ever so slightly to stop the flow of liquid and swishing each glass several times before presenting them to us. This was a sweet wine, often served as the sole dessert at French dinner parties. It was heavy and impossibly sweet, with strong undertones of honey and rose petal, fragrant and comforting. As we nodded our approval, he offered us a surprising recommendation: this French wine would perfectly compliment to the spicy flavors of Thai and Chinese food.

45 minutes later and in a happy haze, we each purchased a bottle of the sweet white wine. Before saying goodbye, our connoisseur told us a story about recently having the “the good fortune” to try a Bordeaux red from 1939. There had been a reverent silence, “like church,” as he and his friends drank those first sips of an elixir older than most of the people in the room.

And I think maybe this is one of the reasons I love wine: there is so much story within a bottle. The idea that something is worth preserving for years, the belief in the investment despite the risk that wines may not reach peak until after their original caretakers have died: well, that’s history, and diligence, and sacrifice all at once.

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