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Wine can sometimes seem complicated and intimidating but it doesn't have to be. Wine should bring joy not stress and you don't have to be an expert to learn to love wine.

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Wine in China

July 5, 2014 8:29 pm - Posted by Jody in Drink

China is on every wine producer, distributor and lover’s mind. It has and will continue to change the world of wine. Frankly China wine will continue to be a huge story in the years to come and this is a region that the Editors of Wine Portfolio have long focused on. Why? Because we love opening up new consumers to the world of wine. And so we are proud to present this exhaustive report of wine in the Middle Kingdom.

Recent years have seen substantial growth in Chinese grape wine market. From 2001 to 2012, the grape wine output in China had shown an upward trend with the CAGR of 16.5%. However, the 18th CPC National Congress called on the restriction of spending by central government bodies on official overseas visits, official vehicles, and official hospitality, “six bans”, and alcohol prohibition in the military, leading to the slowdown of growth or even decline in China grape wine market. In 2013, the output and consumption of grape wine in China went down by 4.7% year-on-year and 13.7% year-on-year, respectively.

By region, the consumption in China grape wine market varies a lot in terms of development. For now, China’s southeast coastal regions, including Shanghai, Guangdong, Fujian and Zhejiang where are economically developed, have achieved provincial-level market scale valuing RMB1-3 billion, city-level market scale valuing RMB100 million, and county-level market scale valuing RMB10 million. However, in the north and the vast central and western regions, the grape wine consumption is still at a stage of market incubation, with the exception of such cities as Beijing and Chengdu.

Due to the restriction of weather and geographical conditions, the grape wine production in China demonstrates higher regional concentration. In China, there are just three provinces and municipalities seeing the annual grape wine output of 100 million liters or more. Among these, the largest grape wine producers come to Shandong (the Bohai Bay area) and Jilin (Tonghua), with the combined output in 2013 amounting to 712 million liters or 64% of the national total. In Shandong, Chardonnay, Carbernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Carignane are major grape wine varities. Also, planting bases of homegrown grape wine producers like CHANGYU, Great Wall and Dynasty are located in Shandong.

With China’s accession into the WTO, China’s import tariff on grape wine was reduced from 65% to 14%, bringing a large inrush of foreign wines into the Chinese market. In 2012, the wine import volume of China reported 394 million liters, equivalent to 2.4 folds of the figure in 2008. In 2013, the Ministry of Commerce launched anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations on made-in-EU wines. Together with the impact brought by the government call to restrict the spending by the central government bodies on official overseas visits, official vehicles, and official hospitality, China’s total import volume of grape wine witnessed a year-on-year decline of 4.5%. In 2013, China’s import volume of bottled wine accounted for 74% of the total, with France as the major import origin.

China grape wine industry is to enter into a stage for structural adjustment after 2013 (for instance, de-stocking targeting wine dealers, grape wine producers’ orientation to low-and medium-end market), in order to pop the market bubble for a comeback to the right track. It is estimated that the CAGR of grape wine consumption in China between 2013 and 2016 will post 9.7%.



There’s no place like Rhone

June 27, 2014 3:06 pm - Posted by Tracy in Drink, Learn

Situated in southern France, the Rhone Valley is among France’s most important wine regions, producing more quality (AOC) wine than any other with the exception of Bordeaux. Covering a large area (the region runs 125 miles long), the Rhone produces a wide range of wine styles from full-bodied, aromatic whites and deep-colored roses to powerful reds.

Among the best known appellations in the region is Chateauneuf-du-Pape, named for the Pope’s castle when the papacy was centered in Avignon. Producers of Chateauneuf-du-Pape are permitted to select from 13 different grape varieties, with the reds mostly focused on Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and, to a lesser extent, Cinsault. Although not as well known (since they account for only 5% of production within the AOC), the white Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines are also produced from a blend of varieties, notably Grenache Blanc and Clairette.

This diverse selection of grape varieties is partially attributed to Joseph Ducos, a local winegrower who was instrumental in replanting the area’s vineyards in the wake of phylloxera. Ducos was owner of Château La Nerthe, one of the region’s oldest estates (dating to the 12th century).

Situated within the heart of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation, wine production at Château La Nerthe has been documented since 1560. Originally under the aegis of the Tulle de Villefranche family, Ducos purchased Chateau La Nerthe in 1870. Since 1985, the property has been owned by the Richard family and it is presently managed by Christian Voeux. The Chateau’s vineyards are 40 years old, on average, and have been certified as organic since 1998.

Chateau La Nerthe produces four wines: Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge, Clos de Beauvenir and Cuvée des Cadettes, the latter being a name first used by Joseph Ducos and revived in 1986.

Chateau La Nerthe Clos de Beauvenir Chateauneuf du Pape 2010, Rhone Valley, France, $130.00
A beautiful blend of Roussanne, Clairette (along with a bit of white Grenache and Bourboulenc), this small special cuvee is produced from a small (2.5 ha) single vineyard. Fermented in used barrels, with 8-9 months on the lees, the wine is dry with medium+ acidity and full body; aromas and flavors of waxy, peach, floral, musk, oak linger in the wine’s long length. Chateau La Nerthe has been certified organic since 1998. Previous vintages of this wine could easily age 10-12 years, but with a shift to fermenting a percentage of the wine in oak (in addition to aging it in oak), it is expected that the wine can age for 15 years.

Chateau La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 2010, Rhone Valley, France, $48.00
With a majority of the blend given over to Grenache Noir, the wine is rounded out with Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault and aged in a combination of oak barrels, casks and wooden vats. The oak is well integrated on both the nose and palate, offering notes of vanilla, wood and spice, along with black cherry, smoke and leather. Beautiful and complex, this wine can certainly age for a decade or more.


Dessert Wine and Food Pairings from De Bortoli Winery

April 10, 2014 10:18 am - Posted by Jody in Drink

Delicious combinations fit for a luxurious hamper


De Bortoli Wines is a well known private wine company that’s been run by three generations of De Bortolis. It was first established in 1928 by Vittorio and Giuseppina De Bortoli, and then expanded by their son Deen. After his passing his children maintained the company’s premium status with their iconic Noble One dessert wines and prominent wines from Yarra Valley.

The core values of this family business involve “a culture of hard work, generosity of spirit and of sharing good food, good wine and good times with family and friends”. What better way to share great memories with loved ones than by gifting them with wine and dessert?

Below are just a few ideas on how to pair De Bortoli dessert wine with the most decadent desserts, resulting in hampers rich in sweet and tasty goodness.

Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2010

Desserts like stilton cheese, pear and almond tart, and a peach trifle can very well enhance the citrus and butterscotch flavors of Noble One. The wine could also be packaged with a pannetone since it also seems to be a recommended pairing; however it also appears to be an unpopular and also unforgiving dessert. It might be best to stick with the cheese or tarts.

The Hermits Hill Botrytis Semillon 2008

According to The Atlanta Wine Guy, Marks and Spencer’s wine expert Chris Murphy once said that when picking the right wine, “it’s certainly not about paying more money; it’s about a tangible difference in quality and discovering something new”. This budget friendly yet excellent tasting wine is best paired with fruit tarts, cream puffs, and blue cheeses. An assortment of desserts could really make the gift basket that much more luxurious.

De Bortoli Sauternes Botrytis Semillon 1983

From the family’s vintage collection, this wine has earned multiple awards from the early 1980s to the early 1990s. A truly remarkable wine, it boasts the essence of honey and marzipan. An orange soufflé packaged with this Sauternes would complete a gift basket with light and sweet flavors.




One Minute Wine – Bordeaux (Yes they do whites)

March 21, 2014 10:21 am - Posted by Jody in Drink
One Minute Wine: White Bordeaux (via Wall Street Journal Digital Network)

Bordeaux is more famous for its lush red wines but few realize that the region also produces dry, crisp, floral white wine. Wine columnist Will Lyons tracks down one of the top white wine producing estates and unearths their latest project.


Jody’s WTF E11: Good Food Isn’t Fast

March 12, 2014 6:29 pm - Posted by Jody in Behind The Scenes, Eat, Learn

Join us for more every Wednesday at 7:30 PM (EST)


Matua celebrates 40 years of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

March 11, 2014 5:17 pm - Posted by Tracy in Drink

Courtesty of Matua

Sure, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is hot right now; the NZ section in your neighborhood retailer is lousy with them and nearly anyone making wine in New Zealand these days has at least one in their line-up. But, despite its pre-eminence in today’s market, this grape variety has only been grown by the Kiwis for a few decades.

In fact, this popular grape owes a debt of gratitude to brothers Bill and Ross Spence for its Southern Hemisphere fame. The visionary duo first planted the variety in Auckland on the North Island in 1969 as a result of Ross’ studies at the University of Fresno, CA. Their first commercial production of Sauvignon Blanc was in 1974.

After studying viticulture from two separate hemispheric points of view – Ross in California and Bill at Massey University in New Zealand – the two brothers eventually established Matua Vineyard in 1973 in a tin shed on the North Island in West Auckland. From there, they went on to purchase land in Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough, eventually establishing their largest vineyard holdings in Marlborough.

While the first set of Sauvignon Blanc vines were susceptible to disease and didn’t prove to be agriculturally viable, the Spence brothers went on to identify better suited clones and eventually identified the best material from which to plant a larger Sauvignon Blanc vineyard in 1978. By then, Matua had developed a solid reputation for its Sauvignon Blanc and other wines, winning numerous awards and acclaim.

In 2000, the Matua company was sold to Beringer-Blass Wine Estates, but the brothers remain actively involved with the venture. While Nikolai St George became Senior Winemaker as a result of the sale, Bill took on the role of Ambassador and Vintrepreneur.

I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Bill at a recent press dinner held in New York. Tromping through snow piles and trying to maneuver around knee-deep, lake-size puddles at every street corner, I made my way to The Musket Room. Prior to the invitation, I had never heard of this restaurant, but I won’t soon forget its delicious New Zealand-inspired cuisine.

We started off with Matua’s signature Sauvignon Blanc, produced with a blend of fruit from the three valleys in Marlborough. As a result of this blending, the wine is very well balanced, with a good dose of fruit, herbs and minerality. At Bill’s recommendation, I had the foie gras appetizer, which was a lovely match for the lively acidity of the wine. The main course was accompanied by a Pinot Noir, also from Marlborough. The earthy aromas and flavors, coupled with beautiful red fruit, were a perfect complement to my venison.

Although Matua doesn’t produce a dessert-style wine, Bill graciously ordered the Vinoptima Late Harvest Gewurztraminer from Gisborne for us all to enjoy with dessert; a sweet ending to a lovely meal.

Describing them as “porch wines,” Spence encourages consumers to open these wines and enjoy them with whatever they wish to eat or simply on their own – no need to pontificate on aromas or flavors or worry about pairing principles.

Both wines, which are part of the Matua Regional Range, feature newly redesigned labels. With their vibrant turquoise blue backgrounds and a Maori symbol called a Ta Moko created especially for Matua, which means “head of the family” in the Maori language, the new labels speak equally to the heritage and future of Matua and its wines.


What the Hell is a Confit? Relax here’s all you need to know.

March 7, 2014 3:15 pm - Posted by Jody in Eat
What is a Confit on a French Menu? – Behind the French Menu. (via Behind the French Menu)

        A confit on a French menu may be poultry, pork or meat; or fruits and vegetables. Poultry and meat confits. Poultry, pork and meat confits are dishes that would never have been created today; today everyone has a refrigerator with a freezer…


Jody’s WTF E10: Steak

March 5, 2014 8:44 pm - Posted by Jody in Eat

On tonight’s WTF, Host Jody Ness talks about the dos’ and dont’s of ordering steak. Join us for more every Wednesday at 7:30 PM (EST)


MMMM Malbec

March 3, 2014 3:12 pm - Posted by Jody in Drink
One-Minute Wine: Argentinian Malbec (via Wall Street Journal Digital Network)

Malbec is what Argentina does best. WSJ’s wine columnist Will Lyons explores the flavors of this soft, generous grape variety and reviews Achaval Ferrer which makes wine from some of the country’s oldest vines.


Beer is the Thing in Denmark

February 28, 2014 3:35 pm - Posted by Jody in Drink

Wine Moves Aside as Gourmet Beer Steals the Spotlight at Copenhagen’s Top Restaurants

By: The Culture-ist

mik bar Wine Moves Aside as Gourmet Beer Steals the Spotlight at Copenhagens Top Restaurants

Can a five-star meal be enjoyed just as well with a glass of beer as it can with wine? According to Danish contract brewery Mikkeller, a well-crafted beer is perfectly suited to upmarket dining

 By Jane Graham

Stig Mansfeldt and Mikkel Bjergsø of Danish brewery Mikkeller have a mission. They believe beer has great potential as an accompaniment to gourmet food and hope to change people’s perceptions of it as something to be swilled down as quickly as possible into something to be savored.

To illustrate this, Mikkeller has teamed up with a number of Copenhagen’s top restaurants to create a handful of exclusive, complimentary gourmet beers ““ including one for Noma, the Copenhagen restaurant voted world’s best restaurant for the third consecutive year at the 2012 San Pellegrinio Awards.

mikkeller founder mikkel bjergso 242x300 Wine Moves Aside as Gourmet Beer Steals the Spotlight at Copenhagens Top RestaurantsNoma Novel

“It never quite sat well with me that Noma, with its focus exclusively on Scandinavian produce, should compromise with French grapes,” Stig explains. Noma cooks were therefore invited to a tasting at Mikkeller’s bar in the vibrant Vesterbro district of Copenhagen, shortly after its opening in 2010.

One thing led to another, and Mikkeller’s Mikkel Bjergsø teamed up with a sommelier to create an exclusive Noma beer. They opted for a smooth, Belgian strong ale with a malty body and a hint of hops; unusual for this type of beer, but something of a Mikkeller trademark.

The beer, “˜Noma Novel’, is often served as an aperitif in a thin champagne glass.

Beer vs. Wine

With Copenhagen’s top gourmet restaurants considered as among the world’s best, they’re also known for being open to new ideas and innovation ““ and thus the perfect places to change perceptions of beer.

When Henrik Yde, owner of luxury Thai restaurant Kiin Kiin in Copenhagen’s Norrebro district, held the concept dinner, “˜Beer versus wine’, Mikkeller was asked to provide the beer. Guests were introduced to a glass of beer and wine with each course, and had to choose which they preferred.

“We actually won a few rounds,” recalls Stig.

“Yde then had to acknowledge that even in the world of gourmet food, where wine has always been king, there might be something about beer. Our “˜Kiin Kiin’ beer is a spiced pilsner that complements Asian food and is spiced with lemongrass.”

Qualities of greatness

One of Mikkel’s favorite restaurants is Mielcke & Hurtigkarl, in the Copenhagen suburb of Frederiksberg, and it was here that a partnership began based on Mikkel’s status as a restaurant regular.

“˜Mielke & Hurtigkarl’ is perhaps the most refined beer Mikkeller has produced to date, and like Noma Novel – a Belgian strong ale, but one that has been aged in barrels from one of the world’s finest wines, the French Sauterne Chateau d’Yquem. This brings hints of oak, fruitiness and both sweet and sour touches to the beer, comparable to great wines.

When asked what qualities are needed to make a Michelin star beer, Stig Mansfeldt turns the question around: “What does a wine possess to become a Michelin star wine? Reputation?”

28. Beer Geek Brunch Weasel 142x300 Wine Moves Aside as Gourmet Beer Steals the Spotlight at Copenhagens Top Restaurants

“The perception of beer in general has to change,” says Stig. “Most people don’t know there are other styles of beer than a boring lager, but when the reputation and knowledge of beers gets stronger, I can foresee some excellent beers in world class restaurants.”Stig’s top beers to enjoy with a meal

When it comes to starters, Stig favors a beer produced by spontaneous fermentation, an unusual process that gives the beer a distinctive flavor, and one used traditionally in Belgium.

“A hoppy pilsner, a guezue or a lambic can do very well with light dishes, starters and fish. Spontaneously fermented beers often have a refreshing sourness comparable to a good white wine.”

To follow, “I could always drink a full-bodied hoppy IPA with meat,” recommends Stig. “For desserts, I think a particularly heavy stout complements very well. For example, Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Brunch, an oatmeal coffee stout made with Vietnamese kopi luwak (an exotic type of coffee made from the bean droppings of wild weasels), is excellent with chocolate, cakes and cheese.”

About Jane Graham

British by birth, Jane Graham has travelled around much of Europe and some other places too. Settled in Denmark, she advises and writes for a number of travel guides and blogs regularly for NileGuide. More food enthusiast than foodie, she lives just outside Copenhagen with her partner and four children, freelancing as writer and translator.

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This article, Wine Moves Aside as Gourmet Beer Steals the Spotlight at Copenhagen’s Top Restaurants, is syndicated from The Cultureist and is posted here with permission.