Sunday, October 17, 2010

2007 Tour des Gendres Rouge "Le Classique" de Tour des Gendres Bergerac Southwest France

This morning, my son and I decided to make Pizza for the lunch. What a mess! We first tried to knead the dough, the best we could with our hands. Things would have been better if we had had a rolling pin. Once the dough was slightly unevenly covering the bottom of the rectangular pizza pan, (but hey that was our first pizza together, so it doesn't matter), my son tried to spread out the tomato base sauce. He surely ate more than putting it on the dough.

While the oven was starting to reach the right temperature, we put a few tears of olive oil on the sauce, and spayed out a first layer of grated Italian cheeses, then added a thick layer of grated Mozzarella. Here again, my son, for each handful of grated cheese put on the Pizza, another handful was disappearing in his month. We then covered the layers of cheeses with as much pepperonis and mushrooms as we could, leaving a small line only with cheese just in case. Then another layer of grated Mozzarella and other cheeses with a last sprinkle of olive oil. Once satisfied by the way it looked, we put it in the oven and waited until ready to add a little touch of white truffle oil atop to add more flavors, just before serving.

Although making it is quite fun, especially with my 4 years old messing around with everything, the waiting part is the part that I prefer, because that is usually when I open my wine fridge to choose a bottle of wine. I didn't know what to try, but a bottle of red Bergerac was taunting me.

Nestled in Dordogne, touching the eastern part of the Gironde department and often assimilated with Bordeaux, Bergerac is a misunderstood place. Quite well known from the Britts who refurbished and repopulated the area over the last 30 years, it is a place of peace and quiet, a lost treasure grove of history, stories and legends. Some counts the adventures of the first hunters, covering the wall of underground prehistoric cave (like Lascaux), and other make knights and dark creatures reappearing in the multiple scattered hilltop medieval villages and Châteaux surrounded by impenetrable forests where time seems to have stop and remain still since the 12th century.

Therefore, in my quest of always trying to introduce you to lesser known wines, regions and producers, I think that a Bergerac wine is very "à propos"!

Moreover, the Bergerac that I'm about to describe today is somewhat sentimental because it is the first Bergerac that I ever tasted when I was younger (around about 14 years old, not very American I know, it is the French side of me) and then, that I first visited in my early twenties, in 1997. It was also one of my first Bergerac wines that I sold to my customers when I was starting my career as young waiter-Sommelier in a Relais & Chateaux restaurant in Péssac, in the outskirt of Bordeaux. This close to my heart Bergerac winery has managed to keep up with the high quality of their wines and even after all these years remains one of my favorite top Bergerac producers.

Château Tour des Gendres Bergerac

Owned and run for the past 3 generations by the "De Conti" family, Château "Tour des Gendres" is the flagship of the Bergerac appellation.

Known since the 12th century as the winery of "Château de Bridoire", Château “Tour des Gendres” (literally “Tower of the sons in law” in English) is located on the site of an old Gallo-Roman villa. Referenced in the “Féret” of 1903, the Domaine gets its name from its then owner, Mr. de Peyronny, who was none other than the son in law of the Marquis de Foucault Lardimalie, lord of Bridoire. Destroyed by phylloxera in the early 19th century, the vineyard now covers only one-tenth of its original surface.

Originally from Italy, Vincenzo de Conti and his wife and children settled in the Southwest of France in 1925. In 1956, Primo de Conti, his son takes over the family farm with Michelle, his wife, who is raising a few horses. In the early 80's, belonging to the third generation, Jean de Conti, guided by his passion for the land and Luc de Conti, guided by his passion for horses, finally settled in Ribagnac (home of "Tour des Gendres"), a little village of Dordogne located about 12 kilometers south of Bergerac. For several years, with their wives, Carol and Martine, they carry out their projects separately.

In 1986, the “de Conti” brothers find themselves in a common project. They combined their properties, associated their families and created the “SCEA de Conti”, a company regrouping the family farm, lands and vineyards. After both families took over the vineyard and the farm lands, they restructured and improved them. Then tasks were divided and remain the same til today: Jean takes care of the farm grain and Luc of winemaking and wine marketing; Carol supports the accounting and Martine, the reception at the Domaine for guests and customers. Francis, the cousin, joined the operation in 1990, adding his 20 hectares of vineyards of “St. Julien d’Eymet” to the vineyards of “Domaine des Gendres” and of “Grand Caillou”. He took over the culture of the vine within the 3 Domaines now encompassing 52 hectares of vineyards.

Chronologically, here is what happen since Jean and Luc decided to regroup the Domaines:

  • 1984 - early work of replanting the vineyards, first on two hectares to experiment
  • 1986 - first wine, Chateau Tour de Gendres, the classical Bergerac red was born
  • 1987 - first white wine, the Cuvée des Conti, the addition of a new classical white
  • 1988 – Beginning of ageing the white on its lees to add extra dimension and depth
  • 1989 - first bottling of “La Gloire de Mon Père”
  • 1994 - First vintage of “Moulin des Dames” Rouge, a very upscale Bergerac,
  • 1994 - first tests of organic viticulture at the “Domaine des Gendres”
  • 2005 – Organic Farming established and practiced on the property’s 52 hectares
  • 2005 – first 100% Muscadelle à petits grains Since the beginning of the conversion to organic farming in 1994, de Conti family has been witnessing significant Nature changes in the vineyards and their immediate surroundings.

The physico-chemical equilibrium of the earth, the exploitation of all layers of the soils and sub-soils, and the strength of the vines have naturally altered the taste of the wines: the alcohol level has lowered, the natural acidity has increased, the mineral character of the soil is more assertive on the red and white wines, tannins are riper and soft and the flavors are typical of their plot of origin. The persistence of these features perfect the style of the wines, these are qualities appreciated by wine lovers and easily recognizable during tasting.

Nature’s advocate and being raised as the grandson of a winemaker in a natural agricultural environment for the first 24 years of my life, I have always been very supportive of Organic, Biodynamic and other natural vinification processes and techniques. Many times, I wrote my views and opinions about them in some other posts.

However, writing about Domaine “Tour des Gendres” is particularly enjoyable for me, because I adhere totally to the philosophy and natural agricultural approach of the "de Conti" Family. And to confirm what myself and many more have said about Natural ways, here is once again facts about why everybody should be more aware and respectful of the Nature, with the words of Luc de Conti:

“By practicing organic farming, we raised a few secrets about the natural mechanisms, we realized that we were part of a whole, one and indivisible. Every day we see its benefits on our vineyards, our wines and our environment.” - Luc de Conti

Here are some of his own personal advices and keys (with a few of mine intermingled with them), which I respect tremendously and actively incite people to follow, regarding the complex mechanisms of organic (Biologique in French) farming and agriculture:

  • The herbicides destroy life in the soil; but constant periodic tillage under each vine aerates and purifies the earth.
  • Chemical fertilizers trivialize the soil; but natural compost promotes the natural life of the sub-soil and reveals the character of the Terroir.
  • Chemical treatments weaken the vine; but treatments using natural products strengthen it against diseases.
  • Planting "buddies" or “partners” seeds of other plants, encourages biodiversity and reveals the character of soil (and Terroir)
  • Planting plants with deep root penetration - as the oats & phacelia - promotes aeration and the life of sub-soils.
  • Deeply rooted, the vines can easily manage and benefit of the cool and moisture of the sub-soil and mineralization of the bedrock, which is indispensable especially with the rise of temperatures, more signs of global warming and climatic changes with sudden heat waves across Europe, like in 2003 and 2005.
  • Promoting biodiversity in the sub-soils acts on biodiversity at the soil surface and reveals the character of the Terroir: insects, earthworms, rodents and birds live in the vineyard; they graze, touch and land on the berries and deposit Natural yeasts, the true signature of the Terroir, which irrefutably will reflect in the produced wines.

Their website is in French and I translated some of the above texts adding my personal touch on some of them, however Tour des Gendres produces 5 different labels coming in white and red (and rosés) and 1 sweet wine:
  • Château Tour des Gendres Classique (blanc, rouge, rosé)
  • La Gloire de mon Père (blanc, rouge)
  • Moulin des Dames (blanc, rouge)
  • Anthologia (blanc, rouge)
  • Cuvée des Conti (blanc, rouge)
  • Conti-ne Périgourdine (sweet white)
Therefore, I invite you to go visit their website for more info on the different cuvées at

2007 Tour des Gendres “Le Classique” rouge Bergerac France
Suggested retail price $11-$14
Imported / distributed by Baron François in NYC

Tour des Gendres “Le Classique” Bergerac Rouge wine is a benchmark for Bergerac appellation. A well-structured, enjoyable and versatile red to enjoy at any occasion, preferably with local food from the Perigord. It represents the outstanding result of the work of talented winegrowers and an exceptional winemaker: Luc de Conti, often referred as “the Prince of Bergerac”. Considered as one of the best winemakers in France, Luc, his brother Jean and his cousin Francis, as well as their respective families, run this innovative Bergerac estate with upmost respect for the terroir and to the balance of the ecosystem.

2007 Tour des Gendres “Le Classique” Bergerac Rouge is a blend of 70% Malbec and 30% Merlot from south exposed vines planted on clayish soils resting on calcareous-limestone bedrock. After full destemming, the grapes were pressed then underwent a long fermentation of about 30 days immediately followed by the malolactic fermentation, both in stainless steel tanks and Bordeaux size oak barrels. The ageing process also occurred in both stainless steel tanks and oak barrels, with the wine resting on its lees to add richness, roundness, complexity and depth. It was finally bottled without fining or filtration to maximize and emphasize its lush, earthy, Terroir oriented profile.

2007 Tour des Gendres “Le Classique” Bergerac Rouge offers a dark ruby color; quite intense and opaque with just few, light ruby reflects near the rim. The nose is clean, somewhat delicate and discreet, yet definitely refine with aromas of ripe dark berries and dark fruit, light touch of eucalyptus, mint, spice, mineral, earth and smoke intermingled with profound and well integrated dark bitter chocolate and toasted oak nuances. The focus and dark palate is lush, rich and soft with well-balanced ripe dark juicy fruit flavors framed by a solid and present yet extremely well integrated, earthy tannic structure and enhancing acidity. The generous mid-palate is expanding with the same yet more expressive notes as in the nose. The textured finish is lingering and call for another glass.

This gorgeous Bergerac wine is as dark and appetizing as the black truffles (Tuber melanosporum), which grow exclusively within the oak roots and abound in the forest of the Périgord, enhancing further the already rich and flavorful local traditional food often prepared with Duck, Goose, Game, Venison, Wild Boar and Rabbit.

FYI: Périgord, which by the way gave its name to the eponymous truffles, is a former province of France, which corresponds roughly to the current Dordogne département (county), now forming the northern part of the Aquitaine region, in the southwest of France.


LeDom du Vin

Info partly taken and edited from the winery website at and from the importer website at

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines (and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability. Also support 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses that donate at least 1% of their annual revenues to environmental organizations worldwide.

Friday, October 15, 2010

2009 Damilano Langhe Arneis Piedmont Italy

Damilano has always been producing great Piedmont high quality wines at very affordable prices. I’ve sold their wines for the past 8 years and never been disappointed. Their Barolos are their benchmarks, especially their entry level Barolo that is always sought after equally by amateurs and connoisseurs. An excellent Barolo for less than $25-$30 is a rare thing these days.

However, even if a bit late in the season, I would like to introduce you to their Arneis that I’ve been enjoying all summer, but which is still such a great juicy and easy going white that it deserves a bit of attention; even with the cooling temperatures, yet it has been a beautiful Indian summer so far, in New York.

This winery has ancient traditions. Its origins go back at the end of 1800, when Giuseppe Borgogno, great-grandfather of the actual owners, begun to grow and vinify vines. Now, thanks to the work of the young members of the family, Damilano has been enjoying a deserved success over the last 10 years. They produce the classical Langhe wines, and above all, very approachable complex Barolos (including 7 Barolos from various vineyards, a Barbera d’Asti, a Nebbiolo d’alba and their unique Arnies white).

The vineyard of “Cannubio” (or Cannubi) was already famous before the coming of the wine Barolo. The prestige of Cannubi never knew misfortune, in fact it always improved the name of the firms that bought its grapes or owned a small part of these vineyards. The 10 Piedmontese giornate (less than 4 hectares) place under the road that goes to the pasture and exposed to the east, are named “Liste”. All the witnesses gathered agree saying that “the soil is good” while higher and toward the woods the soil tends to be particularly cold and damp. The Damilano family is making a smart calculated turn for their “cantina” from forty-year-old industrial base to aritsanal frontier. Gifted in two Barolo sites, the fifty-year-old “Cannubi” vines are delivering superb, inviting results, while the “Liste” vineyard, a four-hectare eastern exposure, produces a mysterious strength for the Barolo district. A classic player to keep an eye on.

2009 Damilano Langhe Arneis Piedmont Italy
Suggested retail price $14.99
Imported / Distributed by VIAS Imports in NYC

Damilano Langhe Arneis is a gentle Piemontese white wine made from 100% Arneis grapes, by Damilano renowned oenologist Beppe Caviola. The grapes come from vineyards located near the villages of Canale (in Roero region) and Diano d’Alba (in the Langhe region), with Southeast exposure with an average altitude of 900 feet. The vines are planted on sandy, clayey-calcareous soils. The grapes underwent skin maceration for 7 days, followed by the alcoholic fermentation at controlled temperature in stainless steel tanks. Bottling occurred shortly after to keep maximum freshness.

The 2009 Damilano Langhe Arneis shows a pale straw yellow with slight greenish reflects. The nose is fresh, clean, refine and fruity with aromas of citrus and stone white fruit intermingled with blossom and mineral hints. The palate is dry and refreshing, quite delicate and elegant with yellow and white fruit flavors combined with slight fresh almonds notes. An inviting, versatile and friendly white wine that is suitable for any occasion with appetizers, fish courses and white meats.


LeDom du Vin

Info partly taken and edited from the importer website at

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines (and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability. Also support 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses that donate at least 1% of their annual revenues to environmental organizations worldwide

2001 Cataregia Gran Reserva Terra Alta Spain by Gruporeserva de la Tierra

Two days ago, my rep. from Vinaio came unexpectedly to the store with a few bottles for me to taste. Unfortunately, too busy to taste them right away, he told me that he will come back and left 3 sample bottles on the tasting table in the back of the store. The end of the day arrived sooner than I thought and I totally forget about the wines.

The next day, I asked my boss if he had the chance to taste the wines. He said “yes” and “you should taste this wine from Terra Alta, it is great Gran Reserva. I’m sure you’ll like it and the price is unbelievable”. It was about 11 am when I decided to try it. Surely the best time to do it, when the taste buds just woke up and start to crave for something to drink or to eat. And the wine was amazing!

Moreover, it is a Spanish wine, and people who know me well will tell you that I’m very fond of Spain, more particularly its food and wine in the Northern part of the country.

Startled, I decide to give a closer look to the label:

2001 Cataregia Gran Reserva Terra Alta Spain 
produced and bottled by Gruporeserva de la Tierra

First, I was agreeably surprised because it came from Terra Alta, which is not so common. Then I was really surprised that it was a 2001, which was a great vintage in Spain overall. And finally, how come a Gran Reserva could be still available especially when so inexpensive? It was time to investigate to better understand this enigmatic wine that triggered such an interest to my taste buds and brain.

The wine comes from Terra Alta, an often forgotten yet up-and-coming Spanish appellation (DO), located in the most southwestern part of Tarragona, next to Priorat in Catalonia, about 180 kilometers southwest of Barcelona.

Terra Alta has recently begun producing modern style wines with similarities to other Catalan regions bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Fresh, mineral, fruity, complex and approachable, Terra Alta wines are reminiscent of the style from Monsant wines in structure and texture, yet less opulent and/or concentrated than Priorat wines. The Terra Alta now produces more modern-styled wines for the export market, yet traditional styles like the wine of today, can still be found even if they were historically made for local consumption.

Terra Alta literally means “High land”. And like the characteristic landscape of Priorat and Montsant, the “paysage” is mountainous where vines are planted on steep terraced slopes with very rugged, clay-textured calcareous soils. The dry climate is Mediterranean with continental influences tempered by the Cierzo and Abrego winds.

Although winemaking here goes back to the twelfth century, it always remained primarily a local endeavor until recently, because the rugged land consisting mainly of rivers and mountains crossing one another made transport and communications difficult.

Common to Priorat and Monsant, and Catalonia in general, the local grapes are:

  • Red: Carinena, Garnacha Peluda, Garnacha Tinta, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot.
  • White: Garnacha Blanca, Parellada, Macabeo, Moscatel and Chardonnay.

Bodega Grupo Reserva de la Tierra was founded in 1972 and renovated extensively in the early nineties. State of the art facilities, excellent vineyards and focus on quality wines. It has enabled wine like Bodegas Gormaz to export of over one and half million bottles annually. They offer an outstanding selection of Jóvenes, Crianzas, and Reservas. The company is a leading Spanish winery group with both its own and partly owned wineries that is completely dedicated to producing and marketing private-label and own-label wines. Today, the Reserva de la Tierra Group (Gruporesera de la Tierra) controls the production over 2,000 hectares of vineyards, three of its wineries, and further three partly-owned wineries in well known and more prestigious wine-growing zones, such as Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Rueda, Priorat, Montsant and Terra Alta.

2001 Cataregia Gran Reserva Terra Alta Spain produced and bottled by Gruporeserva de la Tierra
Suggested retail price $10-$14
Imported / Distributed by Vinaio Imports in NYC

Made with 70% Tempranillo and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, this Gran Reserva was aged for 30 months in French and American oak barrels, before spending another 2 years resting in bottles at the winery before release. Gran Reserva wines are an art outperformed only by the Spaniard, no other country in the world, not even France or Italy can claim be able to keep their wines out of the market for so long, it is a traditional costly yet rewarding process. I have yet to taste a bad Gran Reserva, which are understandably only produced during the best and most promising vintages.

The 2001 Cataregia Gran Reserva Terra Alta offers a dark red-brownish ripe cherry color with old prune reflects. The nose is clean, warm and inviting with bright aromas of dark and red ripe cherry fruit intermingled with cedar oak, spices, cacao, underbrush and slight toasted vanilla hints. The palate is rich and complex yet remains quite light and bright. It is definitely not very heavy or too opulent, like some neighboring Priorat can be. It is somewhat more traditional and earthy, with great tannic structure, excellent balance and racy acidity, complemented by enhancing juicy red fruit and oaky flavors similar to the ones on the nose. The mineral Terroir driven attitude add dimension and depth. The finish is earthy and mineral, long and pleasing, and command for another glass.

The 2001 vintage, which was an excellent vintage overall in northern Spain, is surely the reason of the addictive profile and complexity of this wine. 30 months in oak barrel + 2 years in bottles really allowed for a perfect integration of each element, and despite the fact that this wine is ready to drink now after a good hour of opening; it still shows great ageing potential.

Highly recommended, although a touch light (which I prefer anyway), it could have had a touch more fruit for some other palates, may be. However, I personally love it and it remains a superb Spanish wine from a fairly undiscovered appellation at an incredible price for a Gran Reserva. At under $15 a bottle, it is a steal! Not to be missed!


LeDom du Vin

Info partly taken and edited from the importer website at

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines (and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability. Also support 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses that donate at least 1% of their annual revenues to environmental organizations worldwide

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A few wine tasting tips to perfect your memory, taste and vocabulary

Recently, while looking through all my tasting notes and books of tastings, I realized that I pretty much kept most of my wine descriptions since 1997. That’s a lot of wines, champagnes, beers, spirits and other beverages tasted over the last 14 years.

I approximately tasted between 3600 and 4500(+) wines a year, which represents about 9-12 wines a day, without necessarily always counting or writing about the ones that I drank during lunches or dinners with family and/or friends. Sometimes even more when traveling in France and Spain (and elsewhere) to taste multiple wines at the barrel in the Chateaux and wineries’ cellars and during many special tastings where sometimes the amount of wines exceeded 300 different labels. But it is not much compared to professional critics who can taste easily up to 10,000+ wines a year, which represent more than 27 wines a day.

You may wonder how critics and wine buyers like me can taste so many wines and spirits in a year without being alcoholic or drunk pretty much everyday? Well, it is easy, when tasting wine and spirits, the secret is that you have to spit, and you have to be diligent at it.

The high numbers are easier to access than you may think. A few weeks ago, I went to a few portfolio tastings over a period of 2-3 days (Weygandt Selections, David Bowler Wine, etc..). Each portfolio tasting had about 14-18 tables showcasing between 8 to 12 wines, which represent between 112 and 216 wines depending on the number of different wines, labels and brands per table. But I also went to a much bigger tasting (Martin Scott Wines) held at the Lincoln center, where they had more than 75 tables… I let you imagine the amount of wine tasted there.

Me (LeDom du Vin aka Dominique Noël at Lincoln Center, New York, Martin Scott tasting)

After spiting, the other secret is to possess discriminating tasting attributes, nose and palate, which will hallow you to quickly dissect each tasted wine in a matter of seconds rather than minutes. For some people, the olfactory sensation, better known as the scents and aromas perceived by the olfactory receptors in the nose, represents about 50-60% of the quality of the wine and the rest is dictated by the taste buds.

In my opinion, the nose only represents 25% and the remaining 75% constitute the gustatory sensation, better known as the sensation that results when taste buds in the tongue and throat convey information about the chemical composition of a soluble stimulus during its short journey through the palate. In clear the most important and usually most memorable part. Because, even if you and I could spend hours conversing about the bouquet of certain intriguing and/or very expressive wines on the nose, at the end of the day, you don’t only smell wine, you drink it!

The palate is mostly everything to me, and the more accurate and sharp your palate is, the better to precisely assess the quality of a wine. As a consumer, you may make mistake and be disappointed when drinking a wine not to your liking. As a wine buyer, this is my job to make sure that I completely understand and comprehend a wide array of wines ranging from the lightest, more acidic, bright and crisp wines to the heaviest, bold, powerful and opulent ones.

Tasting is everything and it is the only way you will educate and sharpen your palate and learn about what you like and how you like it. Reading is the second best way to complement and increase your knowledge. Despite the fact that “The World Atlas of Wine” by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson, and the “Oxford Companion of Wine” by Jancis Robinson, remain in my opinion the most comprehensible and authoritative wine bibles in the market, (both that I profoundly respect and that I met quite a few times in tastings on both sides of the Atlantic ocean but also as customers when I was a Sommelier in London), ...there are plenty of other great authors out there.

In the wine world, it is impossible to generalize, as it is impossible to be specific about certain colors, aromas and flavors, because it all comes down to personal perception and interpretation. Each of us has his or her own way to interpret the different olfactory and gustatory sensations transmitted to our brain. For example, where most of us will distinctly smell cherry fruit aromas in a red wine, some of us may say that it smells like red cherry, while other will say ripe dark cherry, as other may even say raspberry or blackberry. But only the most educated nose and palate will really make the difference.

A great way to transform your palate into a discriminating mean tasting machine is to observe, smell, taste and record in your brain all the colors, scents, aromas, tastes, sensations and flavors in everything that you can see, smell and eat. In short open your eyes, clear your nostrils and awake your taste buds, and remain open minded to everything all the time.

Do not say, I do not like that type of grape or region or wine, because you never know, you might be agreeably surprised by something you previously thought was not to your taste. As I said previously, do not generalize or be too specific, just go with your feelings and sensations and try not to be influenced by the price, the region of origin, the winery and more especially the ratings.

More than anything about it, don't be snob! Wine is a noble yet humble agricultural product usually crafted by hearty and earthy, down-to-earth people who spend most of their time in contact with Mother Nature to extract the best from the soil and the vines. And every-year, winemakers have only one shot to succeed producing the best wines they can. Nothing snob about it. They are magicians that allow us to drink the fruit of their labor which will become a moment of sharing and happiness once in our glasses drinking with family and/or friends.

Here is my simple yet undeniably useful tasting technique that consists of looking, smelling and tasting and recording in your brain all the colors, scents, aromas, tastes, sensations and flavors in everything that you can see, smell and eat, everywhere you go (note how important this sentence is; it is the 3rd time that I use it in this post).

As much as I can, diligently, I try to do it with my 4 years old kid, like my grandfather did it with me. It is fun and interesting, and may even surprise you. Where ever you are: in town or in the countryside, at the local green-market or at the supermarket, or visiting a local farm or a winery, just take the time to observe, smell, taste and record in your brain all the colors, scents, aromas, tastes, sensations and flavors in everything that you can see, smell and eat.

Observe and learn how to recognize plants, fruits, herbs, vegetables and meats: their color, their smell and more especially their taste. Record their distinctive smell and taste, and slowly learn how to recognize them in wine (spirits and other beverages). Mother Nature is a natural display of color, smell and taste at your disposal everyday and pretty much everywhere. And wine color, smell and taste are greatly influenced by the type of soil but more especially by the immediate nature that surrounds the vines from which the wine was made from.

When you look, smell and taste something, even meat, just take your time to appreciate it and define the sensations and impressions that it procures you. Your vocabulary will be enhanced by your knowledge and your aptitude to recognize the smell and taste that you previously record. Do not doubt yourself, your first guess is surely the best, because it is the first image triggered by your mind. At first, you may only smell apple or citrus in a white wine, but if you concentrate a little you might find other nuances and aromas complementing your first impression.

Do not feel that other may know better, because you have a different impression. It is just a question of personal interpretation and your palate will always differ from someone else. Moreover, your taste buds (or gustatory papillae) detect predominantly the four major tastes: Acidity, Sour, Sugar and Salt; but it is the harmony and balance and complementarity of each element and the final overall sensation (from the attack to the finish) of the wine that is important. Yet here again, each of us will have his or her personal experiences and points of view, but some patterns of smell and taste may be similar because more distinct, even to two different palates.

Of course, after century of debates and innumerable tastings, wine vocabulary now follows certain worldly recognized patterns, which have been divided in a few specific categories by various persons within the 20th century. Imitating Mother Nature most precious gifts (color, smell and taste), the two most notorious accessories manly created, that you can also use at home, (but definitely not better than real fruits, vegetables, herbs and meats), are:

  • Le Nez du Vin - The definitive world renowned olfactory wine essence kit. Kit choices feature the common essences or smells of the great wine growing regions of the world. Developed by world-renowned French wine expert, Jean Lenoir, each kit contains small vials of essences, which replicate the complex array of aromas and esters found in wine. Each kit consists of a number of different aromas (ex. clove, cassis, cherry, etc.), a small booklet giving a scientific presentation of recent research and descriptors of each wine aroma. This is a great aid for both the novice and professional enthusiast!
  • Ann C. Noble aroma wheel - The Aroma Wheel provides a visual graphic of the different categories and aroma components that one can encounter in wine. Both professionals and amateur wine tasters used this standardized terminology. The wheel breaks down wine aromas into 12 basic categories and then further sub-divided into different aromas that can fall into those main categories. The aroma wheel is obviously only for aromas but can be also used for some flavors.

The following list, which is in no way exhaustive, resumes some of the most common aromas and flavors you may find in wine. It should help you refine your wine vocabulary and help you to be more specific (whenever you can). Some categories may overlap or contain similar aromas and flavors.

  • Chemical – Includes aromas like sulfur, petroleum, copper, etc…
  • Pungent – Aromas like alcohol, volatile acidity, vinegar, etc…
  • Oxidized – Aromas like acetaldehyde, slight nuttiness, madeirisation, etc…
  • Microbiological – Aromas like yeast, lactic acid, Brettanomyces, etc…
  • Floral – Aromas geranium, blossom, violet, rose, linalool, etc…
  • Spicy – Aromas like licorice, anise, cinnamon, cumin, etc…
  • Fruity – Aromas like red and black cherry, strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, blackcurrant, blueberry, plum, prune, pomegranate, elderberries, bramble fruit, stone fruit, mango, citrus, orange, pear, apple, peach, apricot, tomato, etc…
  • Vegetative – Aromas like eucalyptus, artichoke, tobacco leaf, green bell pepper, freshly mown grass, black or white pepper, mint, etc…
  • Nutty – Aromas like walnut, hazelnut, chocolate, etc…
  • Caramelized – Aromas like butterscotch, molasses, etc…
  • Woody – Aromas often imparted by oak like vanilla, coffee, smoke, tobacco, etc…
  • Earthy – Aromas such as mushroom, underbrush, forest floor, mildew, leather, tar, pencil shavings, barnyard, farm, funky, truffles, etc…
  • Minerality – Minerals, wet stone, stony, flinty, siliceous, etc…
  • Herbal – Thyme, Rosemary, clove, mint, etc…

Now, armed with a few more words in your wine vocabulary and the simple yet undeniably useful technique of looking, smelling and tasting and recording in your brain all the colors, scents, aromas, tastes, sensations and flavors in everything that you can see, smell and eat, everywhere you go; you are fully ready to brave the wine world, explore the shelves of your local wine boutiques and supermarkets and more importantly impress your taste buds and yourself with new sensations that will make you a more accurate taster and help you define what you like best in the wines you enjoy drinking.

Have a good tasting, Enjoy!

LeDom du Vin

Remember also that if you are looking for a very specific wine or label or brand (spirits or any beverages), make sure to go to, which is in my opinion the most customer friendly website to find any wine in the world within the inventory listings of participating wine & spirits retailers across the globe. You can refine you search to New York only or anywhere else in the world. It's pretty neat.

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines (and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability. Also support 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses that donate at least 1% of their annual revenues to environmental organizations worldwide.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Brooklyn: once again the Hub for New York distilleries, breweries and wineries

Winter is once again upon us. The weather is shifting with more rain, cooler temperatures and shorter days. Pullovers, jackets and longer, warmer coats resurface from the deep of our closets where they were resting for the past few months.

Walking down the streets of Brooklyn Heights to go to work, the scent and the colors of Halloween announce the real beginning of Fall and Winter seasons. Despite the warm smell of burning wood in the cheminées, Cinnamon and chocolate perfume the air, while a display of orange darkening into cacao brown colors adorn the façade of the brownstones and townhouses.

Brooklyn Heights is quiet and peaceful. And each morning is a real bliss to walk down these charming streets, which have more to do with a little village in the countryside rather than one of the richest neighborhoods of one of the most active and eccentric city in the world. That’s the magic of New York. Each district has its atmosphere and ambiance, its tunes, secrets and treasures for who is willing to pay attention and appreciate them.

The heights of Kings county throne like an old, yet wise and serene sovereign overlooking his young and somewhat undisciplined sibling that Manhattan is. And despite its bad and rough reputation, Brooklyn has become a hub for great inventive minds, energetic young entrepreneurs and daring artists. It is a borough of mixed traditions and culture, which combined old established family traditions and respect with outgoing attitude and desire to achieve better.

Brooklyn was an independent city until its consolidation with New York City in 1898, and continues to maintain a distinct culture, independent art scene, and unique architectural heritage. Many Brooklyn neighborhoods are ethnic enclaves where particular ethnic groups and cultures predominate.

The Dutch West India Company established the Village of Breuckelen, named for Breukelen in the province of Utrecht in the Netherlands, in 1646; it became the first true municipality in what is now New York State.

Over time, the name evolved from Breuckelen, to Brockland, to Brocklin, to Brookline, to Brookland and eventually, to Brooklyn. Kings County was one of the original counties, and Brooklyn was one of the original six towns within Kings County. The county was named in honor of King Charles II of England. Charles II (29 May 1630 OS – 6 February 1685 OS), the monarch of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, consequently was surely a beer drinker and an Irish and Scottish Whisky amateur.

Today, with its many quaint places, lanes, terraces and quiet cul-de-sac, Brooklyn Heights in one of the most exclusive family-oriented neighborhoods in the city. And despite the fact that most of its main streets are filed with bars, clubs, small craftsman boutiques, eclectic food markets, modest factories and gourmet restaurants and much more; Brooklyn also encompasses wineries and breweries and distilleries lead by ingenious and creative people, which have for the past few years helped revived and reestablished Brooklyn needs to shine and demonstrate.

I could also talk about Brooklyn's music, musicians, artists, actors, writers, artisans, culture, art and more, but it will be too long of a post. Therefore I’m going to stick with things that we can drink as usual, and more especially Beers.

Fall and Winter are definitely great seasons to gather with friends or/and family around the table and show your culinary skills and wine knowledge. Yet beer isn’t a bad way to relax after a hard day at work or on a lazy weekend afternoon. It is refreshing and friendly too before getting to the more traditional food and wine match of Lunch or Dinner.

And I rarely talk about Beers which I love probably as much as wine and food, so yes, for once, I will not write pages about the subject; I will just write a few lines and then list some breweries rather than the usual wineries.

Beer is the world's most widely consumed and probably the oldest of alcoholic beverages; it is the third most popular drink overall, after water and tea. The brewing and fermentation of starches produces Beer, mainly derived from cereal grains, most commonly malted barley, although wheat, maize (corn), and rice are widely used. Most beer is flavored with hops, which add bitterness and act as a natural preservative, though other flavorings such as herbs or fruit may occasionally be included. Some of humanity's earliest known writings refer to the production and distribution of beer.

The basics of brewing beer are shared across national and cultural boundaries. Beers are commonly categorized into two main types—the globally popular pale lagers, and the regionally distinct ales, which are further categorized into other varieties such as pale ale, stout and brown ale. The strength of beer is usually around 4% to 6% alcohol by volume (abv) though may range from less than 1% abv, to over 20% abv in rare cases. Even non-alcoholic beers, like O'Doul's, are pretty good. When wine & spirits are not around, beers are definitely great substitutes.

From the late 17th century up until Prohibition, Brooklyn homed dozens of distilleries and breweries (and wineries), and Beer has always been, culturally and historically, part of Brooklyn. Although, Prohibition in America lasted from 1920 to 1933, Beer was already banned in 1919.

The above picture depicts a barrel of Prohibition's beer disposal in street sewer.
(Picture courtesy of, taken from the article from Martin Diano that you can found at

After 1933, when the alcohol ban ended, small-scale booze-making facilities and other moonshine-spirits garage and basement-hideouts nearly disappeared. Yet, Brooklyn remained on the beer (and wine) map, thanks to irreducible (and incorruptible…) brands and freshly arrived new brewers, distillers and winemakers. In the last 10 years, these new comers completely revamped the image of Brooklyn beverage industry and restored its innovative notoriety in the New York alcohol scene.

Amongst just few others, Edible Brooklyn ( is surely one of the best local magazines that will continually gives you update about what is happening in the food and beverage scene of Brooklyn, in a more organic and people oriented way.

However, here are a few very interesting addresses of pure local, Brooklyn but also New York, handcrafted beverages and places where you can even make your own cutting edge beer and wine. (Sorry, I won’t list any New York wineries; it will take too long.)


Beer and breweries :

Wine and wineries:

Red Hook Winery

Beer and Winemaking places:
Brews Brothers at Kedco


There are surely more places than the ones listed above, in any case, this is a very good start, and you can add more by writing comments to this post.

For Port wine lovers, I know that a few producers are trying to make some fortified wines in upstate New York. I'm sure we will hear from them too very soon.


LeDom du Vin

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines (and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability. Also support 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses that donate at least 1% of their annual revenues to environmental organizations worldwide.