Tuesday, May 21, 2019

LeDomduVin: The Wine Effect: OMG... shocking how wine makes me feel... A Pop-Art meme

The Wine Effect: 

OMG... shocking how wine makes me feel... 

A Pop-Art meme

The Wine Effect - "OMG... shocking how wine makes me feel..."
- Speech balloon by ©LeDomduVin 2017-2019

The Wine Effect "OMG... shocking how wine makes me feel... so good... I nearly forgot my date... Oh well... He will wait..." by ©LeDomduVin 2019

I love this meme and would like to dedicate it to all the women in the world.  

I created it, back 2 years ago, in 2017, with particular thoughts for all the women in the world who enjoy having this particular type of moment for themselves: drinking wine (or anything else that you would want to put in your glass) while totally forgetting about their date (male or female alike, but more men I think...😊) and everything else. Just having this moment for themselves.... Isn't it great? I think it is...

Just think of it, that specific moment when (and where) nothing else counts, just you and the wine (or whatever else you are drinking), and the whole world could crumble and disappear; you wouldn't even care.    

I call that "The Wine Effect"!  Yes, wine has this kind of effect on people, especially after a long, stressful day at work (or anywhere else) or for whatever reason you did not feel great about that day... 

Who does not like to occasionally have this kind of selfish moment (only for yourself and for yourself only)? When, for a few blissful minutes (or longer), while sipping wine (or another one of your favourite drinks), you completely forget about everyone and everything, relax your body and mind, take it easy, and think about absolutely nothing else other than how satisfying this moment is! Not being disturbed by anyone or anything, and just realizing how pleasurable this wine in your glass (or your drink) is at that particular moment. 

Don't you? I do... I absolutely do! I very much indeed love this kind of moment...

And, to really express how I feel about this kind of forgetful moments, I often even apply (to these specific moments) the quote of "The Merovingian" (Lambert Wilson), in "The Matrix Reloaded", when he says: 

"Château Haut-Brion 1959. Magnificent wine. I love French wine like I love the French language. I have sampled every language, French is my favorite. Fantastic language. Especially to curse with: Nom de dieu de putain de bordel de merde de saloperie de connard d'enculé de ta mère. It's like wiping your arse with silk. I love it." (*)

"Nom de dieu de putain de bordel de merde de saloperie de connard d'enculé de ta mère."  
- The Merovingian

I will not translate this quote, as it sounds so much better and classier in French, (while it would be totally and dreadfully vulgar in English), yet, this is precisely how I feel about this type of forgetful and blissful rare moments of pure joy, self-gratitude, and rewarding selfish satisfaction.....  (more especially with Château Haut-Brion 1959 in my glass preferably...😋🍷)

Consequently, and because I believe that women need these moments much more than men, I would like to dedicate this "meme" to all of you, Ladies of the world, as I'm sure you perfectly understand what I'm saying and trying to convey with this "meme"...  

I dedicate this meme to you, ladies, because, in my opinion, you deserve these selfish, blissful, and forgetful moments! More especially since, as women, in general, you experience significantly higher levels of stress than men daily due to being more involved in your relationship, in your job, in caregiving to your children and/or caring for the daily needs of your family and elders too.  

But also because women are generally more often juggling between jobs and family responsibilities, as well as suffering from and/or being the victim of fatigue, anxiety, stress, fear, depression, and other unpleasant psychological emotions and/or physical consequences, due to constant annoyance, indifference, discrimination, abuse, harassment, verbal and/or physical violence, and other unpleasant things at work, at home, in the street and many other public places. 

Therefore, the need for this kind of moment applies to you, Ladies, more than us as men, I believe... 
(I'm once again surely making some enemies by saying such things....) 

Now, I can hear some of you saying that I'm trying to promote alcohol consumption. But no! Don't get me wrong. I'm not talking about drinking to forget. I'm just talking about this blissful and forgetful moment when occasionally, you have this opportunity to relax on your own with a glass of wine or champagne, a Gin & Tonic, (or whatever else pleases you at that moment), and can forget everything else, uninterrupted for a few minutes (or longer) and enjoy yourself, for yourself and by yourself.  

Yes, this particular moment when you can kick out your shoes and switch off your phone and the rest of the world around you. You know, this moment when you don't want to be disturbed and won't allow anyone or anything to disturb you (at least for a little while). The only thing you want to do at that moment is what you really feel like doing for yourself and by yourself, and yourself only, whatever that is... 

I'll leave it to your imagination; just enjoy the moment and, more importantly, enjoy yourself. You deserve it!    

Go on, just let yourself go! Allow yourself not to think for a moment. Just disappear in your own world for a while, and enjoy this heavenly moment of selfish blissfulness. Feels good, isn't it? Enjoy, it's yours.  

Take good care of yourselves, ladies, and take some moments for yourself.  


Now, for those interested, let's talk about the "meme"...

I found this "comics-like" picture/drawing of a woman holding a glass of wine (about 2 years ago, on the internet) and loved it immediately. At first glance, probably like most people, I thought it was a drawing by Roy Lichtenstein, but then I realized that maybe not after all, as I could not find any reference about this specific drawing associated with Roy's name, or any other name for that matter.

I downloaded it on my cellphone and immediately created a "meme" by adding the "speech balloon" (or "speech bubble", as I prefer to call it) and wrote the text into it, which, surprisingly enough, came to me pretty much instinctively seconds after looking at this picture for the first time. Instant inspiration.  I gave this meme the most apparent title that came to my mind: "The Wine Effect"   

Some people who saw the first version of this "meme" that I first posted on Facebook and Instagram back in June 2017 had to "pardon my French" because the first version of the text contained spelling and grammatical mistakes, and it read as follow:

The Wine Effect - "OMG... chocking how wine makes me feel..." -
Speech balloon by ©LeDomduVin 2017

"OMG... chocking how wine makes me feel... so good... I nearly forget my date... Oh well... He will wait..." by ©LeDomduVin 2017

It is, in fact, only 2 years later, in February 2019, after re-posting this incorrect "meme" on Facebook and Instagram for Valentine's Day, that a very helpful lady was nice enough to write a comment below the post (on Instagram I believe... or was it on Facebook...I do not remember anymore) to tell me that she loved the post, and, more specifically, to point out the fact that it contained spelling and grammatical mistakes: "chocking" instead of "shocking", and "forget" instead of "forgot". (.... how embarrassing.... yet, I'm French (naturalized American, yes, but still French too), so I have an excuse when I make such mistakes.... 😊)

NB: Note that it took 2 years for someone to let me know I made some mistakes; sadly, it shows you how low and to which degree the level of acceptance for spelling and grammatical errors in written English has become over the last 10 years... 

I immediately corrected the "speech bubble". Then, I reposted the "meme", the corrected one this time (refer to the first picture above posted in February 2019), which made me feel much better and look so much better, spelling and grammatically speaking. 

The strange thing is that, during these 2 years (between 2017-2019), I still wanted to find who drew this "Lichtenstein-like" comic/drawing. While doing some research, I was unable to find anything about the artist (and still not yet to this day), and I could not find the original picture I downloaded to create the "meme" in the first place. 

It is as if it disappeared from the internet, and of course, I cannot retrieve the website from which I downloaded the picture either. Despite the corrected "meme" I created, the only other one I could find constantly reappearing (probably due to the interest it generated and the increasing number of clicks on it) was my first incorrect "meme"...

So, I just wrote this post on my wine blog for 2 main reasons: 

The first reason was to share the little story behind this "meme" that I created and love, representing (in my opinion) the perfect Valentine's Day post... Men, you have been warned! This meme is a subliminal message: "Ladies love their wine better than you, and men, you are totally forgettable" (especially regarding dating). 

NB: There, here it is. I have said it (again)... Frankly, that's not surprising.... and I'm a man myself! Yet, I totally agree with what I just said... not sure if I'm gonna make some friends by saying things like this....😇 

The second reason is that I'm still searching for the author/artist who drew this comic to credit him or her and thank him/her for this very inspiring drawing. So, if any of you reading this post have any info/clues/ideas about the author/artist of this drawing, it would be very nice of you if you could please let me know by writing a comment below this post. I will really appreciate it. 

Thanks in advance for helping me search for the artist/author of this drawing. 

And don't get me wrong, this Pop-Art comic-book-like drawing could be a Roy Lichtenstein, but so far, I have not found any clue or info that would confirm it. 

And at the end of the day, Roy Lichtenstein is undoubtedly "THE" most famous artist who used this type of comic-book-like drawing style during the Pop-Art era, during the 1950s and, more significantly, the 1960s.  But he was not the only one. 

Remember that many American comic-book artists and authors started drawing like this as early as the mid-1930s. For example, Marvel was founded in 1939, way before Roy Lichtenstein.    

Nevertheless, I'm a huge fan of Roy Lichtenstein's works. In my opinion, he represents and remains an icon, or, should I say, a beacon of the Pop-Art era, along with famous artists Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, and James Rosenquist. 

And Roy's comic-book-style drawings are true masterpieces that have inspired countless other artists who have been drawing with the same style ever since. Therefore, this drawing could have been made much more recently. Not sure, and I still don't know.... but maybe you do, do you? 

That's all, folks, for today! Please let me know if you know the name of the author/artist who did the drawing of my "meme" and, in the meantime, "Love Pop-Art!!!"

Santé! Cheers!

LeDomduVin (a.k.a. Dominique Noël) 

(*) I just wanted to correct a global misconception: Lambert Wilson (as "The Merovingian" in "The Matrix Reloaded"), at the end of the quote cited above, does not say: "d'enculer ta mère" (like in most websites on the internet where you can find this particular quote), but, (and you can distinctively hear it when you pay attention to it in the video above), instead, he says: "d'enculé de ta mère", which is still as vulgar in French, but not as bad, as it has a totally different meaning, which does not involve "ta mère" ("your mother") the same way and does not imply the same thing.... 

This a critical point to correct, in my opinion, as I really believe the former ("d'enculer ta mère"), which is incorrect despite that you can find it on numerous websites, would not have been authorized to be written and/or said in the scenario of such a popular and large audience-oriented movie such as "Matrix". And no, I still won't translate it...  😁👍 


Unless stated otherwise, all rights reserved ©LeDomduVin 2019, on all the contents above including, but not limited to, photos, pictures, drawings, illustrations, collages, visuals, maps, memes, posts, texts, writings, quotes, notes, tasting notes, descriptions, wine descriptions, definitions, recipes, graphs, tables, and even music and video (when and where applicable).

Thursday, May 16, 2019

LeDomduVin: Wine Bottle Weight, Shape, Glass and Label Design Changes Over Time (Part 1)

Wine Bottle Weight, Shape, Glass 

and Label Design Changes Over Time 

(Part 1)

Wine Bottle Weight by ©LeDomduVin 2019

Wine Bottle Weight (Full and Empty)

Did you ever wonder how much a bottle of wine weight? In kilos (kg) or pounds (lbs)? 

Well, one of my colleagues asked me this question recently, which prompted me to write this little post on the subject to transcribe my answer to him for you all, just in case you'll be interested to know. 

First, let's clarify a huge universal misconception.

Basically, it is common ground to believe that 12 full regular bottles of wine weigh about 9 kg (kilos) or 19.842 lbs (pounds), as their volume per bottle is 750 ml (millilitres) and because 1 ml = 1gr, therefore 750 ml = 750 gr (grams) or 0.75 kg (kilos) or 1.653 lbs (pounds); so

750 gr x 12 bottles = 9 kg or 19.842 lbs (pounds)

1 kg = 2.20462262 pounds (usually rounded at 2.205 pounds)
but check the "Kilos to Pounds" conversion table below for more references.

Kilos to Pounds Conversion Table by ©LeDomduVin 2019

This universal misconception of thinking that a case of wine only weighs 9 kg is purely and simply incorrect. Worst, it is completely wrong. It is wrong as 9 kg (kilos) or 19.842 lbs (pounds) would only be the weight of the liquid inside the bottles (the content only), not including the weight of the bottles themselves as well as the weight of wood of the case (meaning without the container).

NB: For the purpose of this post, I'm not including the combined weight of the capsule, the cork and the label(s), which usually only account for a few additional grams to the fully dressed up bottle. Even if I know that, obviously, the capsule made of tin or wax, (which are usually heavier than the ones made of heat-shrink plastic, PVC, or aluminium), as well as the long and full high-quality natural cork (usually heavier than agglomerate and synthetic corks), could evidently be adding a tiny, yet significant amount of weight that should be added to the total weight of the bottle. But I won't take it into consideration for this post if you don't mind.   

Therefore, to answer the question that opened this post (and we will only focus on A for this post):

The weight of a bottle of wine = A (wine weight + bottle weight) + B (capsule+cork+labels)

But wait, it would be too easy if it was that simple (and that's where it usually gets more complicated), wouldn't it? 

Yes, it would be that simple, if all regular wine bottles had the same shape and weight. However, that is not the case, and that is why it is so difficult to answer this question, as there is not one simple correct answer, but thousands of them. 

Not only bottles of wine come into a countless amount of shapes, but they also come into a countless amount of weights due to the heaviness and thickness of the glass used for the bottle. 


Some French Wine Bottle Shapes by ©LeDomduVin 2019

As you can see, a picture is worth a thousand words... There are 9 different shapes already in this collage with 9 different thickness and heaviness of the glass used for these particular bottles... (sigh)

So, to refute this common (wrong) belief that a case of 12 bottles weighs about 9 kilos and that most regular bottles weigh about the same, let's apply some simple arithmetic to find an answer that will satisfy even the most sceptical ones.

By experience, I can say that a case of 12 bottles of Bordeaux wine weighs about 20-21 kilos on average (which is far above the common believe of 9 kilos, wouldn't you say?). Let's take 21 kilos for this example.

Approximate Weight of a case of 12 bottles of wines by ©LeDomduVin 2019

NB: Please note that I took round numbers for the case weight in pounds (i.e. a wooden case of 12 bottles may weigh between 40 and 50 pounds), as it was easier visually and for the calculation too.
However, also know that, in fact, some wine boxes/cases may weigh as low as 18.5 kilos (or 40.786 lbs) and up to 23 kilos (or 50.706 lbs) or more (which explains the range I took of 40-50 pounds).

As detailed in the table above, you can see that if a "Heavy Weight" wooden case of 12 regular Bordeaux bottles weighs about 21 kilos, then the weigh of a bottle of wine (including the wood weigh of the case) is about 1.75 kg or 3.75 lbs (including the wood weigh... important to repeat it for those who may have not understand it in the table above).

Now that we clarified this point, we still have the issue of the wood weigh included in the bottle weight (i.e. in the calculation above 1.75 kg = (bottle weight + wine weight + wood weight)).

So, I could have applied some simple arithmetic formula there again to determine the wood weight and the full bottle weight, but as mentioned above, bottles of wine come into a countless amount of shapes, but they also come into a countless amount of weights due to the heaviness and thickness of the glass used for the bottle, and therefore, it is very difficult to apply a formula as each bottle has its particular shape and weight.

Consequently, I played a little exercise for this particular post, I weighed some empty bottles I have around the office and in our headquarter's cellar, and I just added to their respective weight the content of the bottle - the volume of the wine if you prefer (750 ml = 750 gr or 0.750 kg or 1.653 lbs if easier to understand, refer to the conversion table above if needed).

To anticipate and prevent from the annoying questions of the sceptics, and other non-believers of all sorts, I took some pictures while weighing the bottles, to show you how I obtained the various empty bottle weights, that I took as references for the numbers indicated in the column "Approximate Weight Empty Bottle" in the table below.

I weighed and compared the following empty bottles:

Pictures of empty bottles on a mini scale to obtain the weight of each bottle
(Bordeaux, Burgundy and Loire) by ©LeDomduVin 2019

The wines in the picture above are:

  • Clavis Orea Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2015
  • Petrus Pomerol 1961
  • Château Haut-Brion Graves 1982 
  • Domaine de la Vougeraie Gevrey-Chambertin 2014
  • DRC (Domaine de la Romanée Conti) Romanée Conti Grand Cru 1966
Loire Valley:
  • Domaine A, Cailbourdin Pouilly Fumé "Les Cris" 2015

Pictures of empty bottles on a mini scale to obtain the weight of each bottle
(Champagne, Napa, Tuscany, Germany) by ©LeDomduVin 2019

The wines in the picture above are:

  • Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs NV 
  • Dom Perignon Oenotheque 1969
  • Château Cheval Blanc Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé A 1947 (A. de Luze et Fils label, I believe, but TBC) 
Napa Valley:
  • SLOAN Rutherford 2004
  • SOLDERA Toscana 2006
  • J.J. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese 1988 

I put the weighing results in this "Wine Bottle Weight (empty and full)" table below, for a better visual.

NB: Please note that the weights of the bottles in the pictures above (transcribed in the table below) are just a few examples for reference only, and therefore, may not constitute definite or accurate numbers for other bottles than the ones I weighed, as each wine bottle has its own shape and weight. Meaning that even 2 bottles of the same producer, same wine, same vintage, same volume, and even in some cases same bottle lot number, may present slight variations in shape and weight. (Needless to say that even scales can have slight variations too, so these weight numbers are for references to these specific bottles only)

Wine Bottle Weight (Empty and Full) by ©LeDomduVin 2019

So, as you probably realized (looking at this table above), the weight of a regular empty bottle of wine for this particular exercise (regular meaning 750ml) can be
  • anywhere between the range of 500 grams (or 1.10 lbs) and 950 grams (or 2.094 lbs), 
  • with the lightest as low as 475 gr (or 1.047 lbs) and the heaviest up to 1012 gr (or 2.231 lbs)    

Interesting, isn't it? Personally, I find this fascinating, but not everyone can be as passionate by the wine and the bottle details as I am... a bad professional habit, in fact, as, as a Wine Quality Control Director, I spend a lot of time studying and scrutinizing wine bottles on a daily basis.

However, I hope that this little post is helping you to better understand that there is no simple answer to the question  "What is the weight of a bottle of wine?" or "How much does a bottle of wine weight?" (as it clearly depends on the empty bottle weight, which can be drastically different from one to the next due to the thickness and heaviness of the glass used for the bottle). 

So, now that we have roughly figured out the weight of an empty bottle and added the weigh of the volume of the wine inside, we just have to deduct the wood weight and/or subtract it to the total of the empty bottle weight + volume + wood weight. 

Let's take an example based on a case of 12 bottles of Bordeaux wine weighing about 21 kilos (or 46.297 lbs) and we can take the empty bottle weight of Cheval Blanc 1947 in the table above (0.824 kg) as an example, then we can separate each component and conclude the following:

A.    If a case of 12 bottles of Bordeaux weight = 21 kg
B.    Then, 1 bottle of Bordeaux weight (including the case's wood weight) = 1.75 kg
C.    Example of an empty regular Bordeaux bottle weight = 0.824 kg
D.    Wine volume weight (per 750ml bottle) = 0.750 kg

Therefore, (B - C - D) = E (Wood weight per bottle) = 0.176 kg
And consequently, (C + D) = F (Full Bottle weight without the wood weight) = 1.574 kg

or, expressed differently,
  • Case weight divided by the total of bottles in the case:  21 / 12 = 1.75 kg
  • Full bottle weight including wood weight minus volume weight: 1.75 - 0.75 = 1 kg
  • Empty bottle weight including wood weight minus empty bottle weight: 1 - 0.824 = 0.176 kg
  • Wood weight = 0.176 kg per bottle (for this particlar example for a 21 kg case of 12 bottles)
  • Full bottle weight = 0.824 + 0.75 = 1.574 kg

Here is another table to make it visually easier for you:

Full Bottle Weight Calculation Example by ©LeDomduVin 2019

NB: And remember, as stated previously above, that the combined weight of the capsule + cork + labels (front and back) was not taken into consideration for this exercise. However, you can definitely add a few more grams to the full bottle total weight if you want, knowing that a tin capsule is about 3-8 gr, and a cork between 3-6 gr.

Tin Capsule and Cork weight examples
- by ©LeDomduVin 2019

FYI: add a few more grams to the tin capsule examples in the picture above as the top of the capsule is missing (the reason why I wrote about 3-8 gr)

A brief history of bottle shapes 

and glass thickness and heaviness

It is interesting to notice that, historically, the bottle's weights and shapes, as well as the thickness and heaviness of the glass used for the bottles, changed over time, up and down, almost like a trend, meaning coming and going, from heavy to light to heavy again to light again, depending on the availability, style and belief (or trend) of the moment.

For example, some Châteaux in Bordeaux had heavier, broader and longer bottles back in the 40s and 50s, then lighter and leaner in the 60s and 70s up to the 80s, to go back to heavier style of bottles with thicker glass (more Californian style) in the late 90s and early to mid-2000s, to once again and finally go back to less heavy, more conventional Bordeaux style bottles since the late 2000s and early 2010s.

Bottle glass colors - Photo courtesy of www.saverglass.com 

Even the color of the glass used for the bottles also changed, from darker brown or green to lighter brown or lighter green, to darker again to lighter again... and don't even get started on the color of the glass depending on the region and wine style, for example:

  • Bordeaux: dark green for reds, light green for dry whites, colorless/transparent usually for sweet whites and rosés  (colorless for rosés pretty much everywhere around the world)
  • Burgundy and the Rhone: dark green or even dark brown/amber up to the 60s and 70s. 
  • Mosel and Alsace: usually dark to medium green, but also traditionally brown/amber and even blue

Colorless/transparent glass is usually used for wines that are made for immediate consumption like most rosés and some dry whites, which, therefore do not require to be protected with a darker glass against the ray of lights (sun lights as well as neon and other artificial lights). Colorless/transparent glass is also used for aesthetics and easier visual recognition of the wine color, more particularly for rosé, orange and blue wines.   

Examples of Amphoras from Ancient Egypt, Greece and Roman Era
by ©LeDomduVin 2019

To go back to the bottle's weights and shapes changes, as well as the evolution of the glass thickness, heaviness and color, we may say that they can be attributed to history itself.

Let's have a brief look at what happened over the last 5000 years:
  • The earliest trace of known man-made glass, found in Eastern Mesopotamia and Egypt, dates as far back as around 3500BC (or 2500BC depending on the source). At that time, black volcanic glass was apparently wrought and used to make weapons, amulets and decorative objects probably mostly used in rituals.  
  • 1550 BC - Ancient Egypt started its production of glass for various purposes, but not necessarily as a vessel for wine (or maybe wine glass and decanter-like style of tools, who knows), they instead used amphorae, sealed with leather or clothes (clay and wax were maybe also used at that time), for the fermentation, storage and transportation of the wine. The wine was kept in clay/pottery amphoras or jars of various sizes and shapes, and wine was served in clay/pottery mugs. 
  • 1400BC  -  The discovery of faience accelerated the evolution of glass and by the mid-1400 BC, glass production was firmly established and further developed in Egypt, yet it remained a costly material, only accessible to the royals and the nobles or the rich merchants at the time. Clay/pottery amphoras or jars and mugs were the norms. 
  • 25BC - The glass blowing technique was introduced during the Roman Era. The Romans and the Gallic having discovered the advantages of using barrels (previously mainly used for beer) instead of the amphoras and pottery jars, mainly used for ageing and storage, gradually extended the use of that new vessel for wine. Aside from leather and clothes, clay and wax were also in use as sealants, cork was apparently also in use as a sealant but necessarily to seal wine containers (like amphoras or barrels). Although the romans had access to glass for various use, amphorae and poettry jars and mugs were mainly used for the service of wine. Glasses were made out clay/pottery, faience or metal.         
  • By 3 AD, due to the abundance and proliferation of oak trees in Europe, the Romans had adopted the oak barrel as the vessel of choice for wine fermentation, ageing, storage and transportation. Compared to other types of wood experimented at the time, and aside of its fine grain, making it an ideal choice to keep liquid safe inside due to its permeability, they realized that oak bestows additional flavors to the taste as well as making the wine softer and in some cases better. Aside from the other sealants, it is said that cork was also used as a sealant at that time (and even since Ancient Egypt, but it was not then the prefered sealant of choice for wine it became centuries later).    
  • Up until the late 1500s, glass was somewhat fragile, expensive and difficult to manufacture as the bottles and other vessels were hand blown at the time. Aside from leather, clothes, clay, wax, or even porcelain, glass stoppers were also in use but not favoured as a prime choice as each had to be created on an individual basis to perfectly seal their corresponding hand-blown bottle/vessel, which was a delicate and painful process. Moreover, if stuck inside the neck of the bottle, the glass stopper could easily break or break the neck of the bottle while being removed.  
  • 1600s - The invention of the coal furnace allowed for the production of bottles made with stronger, thicker and heavier glass, more difficult to break and thus safer than the glass vessels and glass stoppers made until then. Although wine was still aged and transported in barrels during that time, glass bottles began to be used as a prefered container for wine, which was eventually transferred to individual glass bottles, easier for storage, sale, consumption and transportation too. The sealants cited above were still in use, including glass stoppers, but cork use was in rising as it proved easier and more versatile than other types of stoppers. 
PS: The 1600s coal furnace was used to craft glass materials and other tools, nothing to do with the first riveted-steel coal furnace built in 1885 for domestic use as a home heating device.
  • By the late 1600s, creating more uniform and homogeneous bottles, in shape and design, was now more possible, and cork became the sealing material of choice, as proved "somewhat" easier and less dangerous to remove from the bottleneck, compared to glass stoppers which often remained jammed into the neck of the bottle and easily broke during removal. However, people struggled to remove the cork from the neck of the bottle as, although the mention of it can be traced as early as 1676, corkscrews did not officially exist until 1681. The earliest wine bottles were rounded in shape with a round base and were often held in special stands or baskets to enable them to stand up without falling or rolling on their side. Gradually the bottle's base became flat and thus self-supporting. The bottle's bodies resembled more like an onion or were balloon-shaped, while the neck's length varied from long to short, depending on the use and purpose of the bottle. 

Wine Bottle History - Photo courtesy of www.vinepair.com

  • During the 1700s, the bottle became smaller and their shape(s) became more cylindrical, allowing for the bottles to be laid on their side, rather than always standing up, which was better for storage and transport and easier for service too. Glass bottles were now widely used for all sorts of beverage (still wines, sparkling wines, beers, ciders, spirits, etc...), coming in various sizes and shapes still quite different than today's wine bottles: some bottles boasting shorter, sturdier bodies with rather large bases and shorter necks.; and some being large glass wine jars. Cork was by now established as the bottle sealant of choice. Yet, people still struggled to remove it from the neck of the bottle and had to wait nearly a century of trials later for easy-to-use corkscrews to become available, as the first corkscrew patent was only granted to the Reverend Samuell Henshall,  in 1795, in England. (*)
  • Early 19th century, roughly by the 1820s, wine bottle shapes had evolved and resembled more the ones we use today. Their production had increased drastically and although still presenting some defaults and asperities, consistency of shapes and design had become much better, much more uniform and homogenous than previously. Yet, it took real craftsmanship and artisanal skills to create the elegant, stylish and chiselled bottles made for special orders, events and purposes.     
  • 1920s -30s - Prohibition - Glass bottles were quite heavy, made with thick glass, broader shoulder than the bottom
  • 1939 - 45 - WWII -  Still heavy bottle with thick glass made from whatever glass was available at the time. As glass was difficult to find during the war, glasses of various colours were often recycled then melted together, and therefore, it is not uncommon to find bottles of the same château, same wine and same vintage in bottles with a slightly different color (some greener, some browner, some in between) and even shape sometimes.    

How Glass Colors for Wine Bottle are Made by ©LeDomduVin 2019

NB: Did you know that prior World War II brown glass was more in use for bottles of wines (and beer) than green coloured glass? The reason differs depending on the source. However, it is very likely that it is due to a lack of sulfur availability for the production of bottles. Why sulfur? Because the amber or brown color of a glass bottle is produced by the addition of sulfur (as well as carbon, and iron salts) to the glass. And why was it lacking during World War II? Because sulfur was a critical industrial and military substance at the time, which was also used back then in both agriculture and viticulture, but also heavily used in medicine as an antibacterial in a sulfur-based drug called "sulfanilamide". During World War II, sulfanilamide powder became a standard in first-aid kits for the treatment of open wounds, and was therefore restricted or limited for other uses. Green glass is the result of an addition of iron oxide to glass. And iron oxide only having fewer other uses than as a pigment and not being used to produce steel, was more available then sulfur. Consequently, although amber and brown glasses are still produced, green glass became the standard after World War II, and green gradually replaced the amber/brown bottles, some not until a few decades later. A good example is Jaboulet which only changed its bottles from brown to green in the late 70s.      

  • 1950s - Transition period with predominantly heavy bottles with thick glass, yet lighter bottles start to appear as wine production and demand increased
  • 1960s - The firstborn of the baby boomers era (1946-1964) were about to reach their 20s, nearly doubling the earth population, from 2 billion prior WWII to 3.3 billion people in the mid-1960s, time is to party and to forget the wars, celebrate the peace, music is evolving, people feel freer than ever before, wine is in demand and thus production is rising, bottles are becoming smaller, with leaner glass.
  • 1970s - The era of industrialization and factories, the earth population rose to 4 billion people, time is to mass production, quantity over quality, bottles are getting smaller, leaner and even clearer than before. By the end of the 70s, most brown and amber bottles have been replaced by the green bottles, which has been adopted and accepted by most regions, except a minority of only a few producers and within certain regions: e.g. in Germany,
    • where brown/dark amber color bottles are usually used for the wines from the Rheingau region,
    • compared to the dark green used for the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, 
    • as for the switch to blue bottles in the late 70s early 80s, it was more the result of a marketing stunt from a few producers to distinguish and differentiate their brand/wine from the rest
NB: remember that the color of the glass of the bottle does not give any indications on the quality or price or even the provenance of the wine (except in Germany for the latter, maybe)         
  • 1980s - The era of the rise of capitalism, we talk about money, we talk about the dollar bill, also nicknamed "the Greed decade", western Europe was deep under the influence of the American dream (Movies, TV Series, Music, Clothes, Fast Food, etc...), the earth population rose to 4.8 billion people by the mid-80s, the world is experiencing important socioeconomic changes due to drastic advances in technologies and techniques, wine production was still on the rise, quality started to overcome quantity, bottles are now smaller, leaner and even clearer than they were 40 years ago, and became the norm for the Classic Bordeaux and Burgundy bottles
  • 1990s - The end of the cold war and the rise of the technology with major communication, multiculturalism, alternative media, worldwide web, cable television and cellphone advances, luxury goods and brands are also on the rise. Rare artisanal products become cult products, accessible to only a few. By the late 1990s, "expensive" means to be produced in small quantities, be visually different and show a certain weight. Thus, the bottles of the most expensive wines of the world distinguish themselves from the rest by becoming heavier and thicker, more especially in Napa Valley where cult wineries with tiny production excel at being the heavyweight champions of the heavy bottles the wine world has to offer.          
  • 2000s  - The new millennium, the decade responsible (among too many other things) for the rise of the social networks (i.e. MySpace, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc...) the "iPhones" and thus the beginning of the "human's addiction to smartphones" era, which unavoidably resulted into  an incurable global infection known as "the phone zombies", and other significant cultural highlights as well as disasters (i.e. the housing crisis of 2006, followed by the financial crisis of 2008 and their consequences) and political milestones across the globe (i.e. Barack Obama was the first African American elected at the Presidency and became the 44th President of the United States) and so many other things (but as usual I'm derivating from the initial subject).

Examples of Bottle and Label Design Changes Over Time  

Part 1

So, to go back to the initial subject of this post which is the weight of the bottle and thickness and heaviness of the glass of the wine bottles, the 2000s (and 2010s) saw a lot of Châteaux having their label or bottle specially embossed or engraved or redesigned for the celebration of the millennium or specific dates and anniversaries of certain events or people. 

Bordeaux Engraved Bottles and Special Labels Examples by ©LeDomduVin 2019

In the collage above, I put a few examples of engraved bottles and special labels of famous Bordeaux wines (from left to right): 

  • Château Angelus 2012 - Angelus engraved the bottle of this particular vintage with 21-carat Gold to commemorated their promotion from Saint-Emilion 1er Grand Cru "Classé B" (since the classification of 1996) to 1er Grand Cru "Classé A" as the result of the Saint-Emilion Classification of 2012 (the latest classification of this appellation to date) 
  • Château Mouton Rothschild 2000 - Mouton Rothschild celebrated both the New Century and New Millenium by engraving the bottle of this particular vintage with a very finely chiselled and detailed replica of "The Augsburg Ram" in 24-carat Gold
  • Château Margaux 2015 - Margaux offered the best tribute to the late Paul Pontallier who joined the famous 1st Growth estate in 1983 at the age of 27 years old, a few years after graduating as an oenologist and agricultural engineer, prior becoming the Managing Director of this iconic wine estate in 1990, a position he proudly occupied until his passing in March 2016.       
  • Château Pavie 2012 - Pavie was also promoted from Saint-Emilion 1er Grand Cru "Classé B" (since the classification of 1996) to 1er Grand Cru "Classé A" as the result of the Saint-Emilion Classification of 2012 (the latest classification of this appellation to date), and marked the event by redesigning their label in black and gold for this particular vintage (a contrast with their usually so clear and colorful label)  
  • Château Mouton Rothschild 2003 - Mouton Rothschild marked the 150th Anniversary (1853 - 2003) of the Château belonging to the Rothschild family, by redesigning the label to be more conic and representing a sitting Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild. The bottle was heavier with broader shoulder than usual Mouton bottles.   
It is interesting to notice that for all these bottles cited as examples in the collage above, despite the engraving or label design changes, all the bottles were bigger, heavier and thus made with thicker glass than the regular bottles usually used by these châteaux respectively.  

Aparté about the 2000s decade

As an important aparté, we can also talk about the fact that 2000s is also the decade when climate changes, global pollution and global warming (which gradually increase since the late 1960s) became obvious and irrefutable facts, with years starting to get hotter from one year to the next, generating "supposedly natural" disasters more often and more devastating from one year to the next all around the globe.   

Fig. 1. Annual mean, global (80S to 80N) temperature anomalies
(difference from the long-term 1980-2009 average) for the lower troposphere (TLT).
Graph courtesy of 

"Except for 1998, all of the warmest years occur after 2000, providing clear evidence of global temperature increase in the troposphere." hwww.remss.com
Since then, the 2010s have only confirmed these climatic changes, which seem to increase in size and strength, as well as being more destructive and repetitive from one year to the next. It has even become impossible for the sceptics to deny them anymore, their occurrence and frequency being so alarming and challenging in so many ways nowadays.

"Napa, Sonoma wineries hit hard by wildfires" Article of October 9th 2017
- Photo courtesy of www.usatoday.com

For example, Sonoma and Napa (and California overall) have been suffering from wildfires ravaging the vineyards, and the coastline in general, every year now. Before it used to happen more scarcely and sporadically, now we are even talking about "wildfires season" (like for anything else, instead of fighting and eventually eradicating the problem at the roots, humans got used to it, as part of their yearly routine and gave a name to it... sigh). We all sadly remember the wildfires of 2017 (250 wildfires in total), which started early October (October 9th) and lasted nearly a month prior being fully extinguished, and ravaged the equivalent of 99,148 hectares of land (including woods, vineyards, wineries and other buildings) and also destroyed at least 1500 homes. It was a nightmare. And it is now occurring every year, not necessarily with the same intensity, but still. My thoughts go to all the people of California.

Vineyards Across Europe Are Ablaze — 
Winemakers Light Torches To Stave Off The Record-Breaking Cold
- Photo courtesy of www.electroverse.net

Other examples of these catastrophic climatic changes are the late frost and hail storms now occurring nearly every year in Western Europe reducing the annual production of thousands of producers, impacting the whole agriculture and forestry industry and even destroying a countless amount of vineyards and other crops:

  • In 2016, some regions in Burgundy, like Chablis, lost about half of their harvest/crop due to frost, hail and mildew. 2016 will be remembered as one of the country's smallest wine harvest, for the last 30 years in records, across France as a whole, due to a mixture of hail, frost and mildew. 
  • April 27th 2017 - Devastating late frost occurred destroying more than 40% of the early buds  and thus the potential crops in Bordeaux vineyards  
  • May 26 2018 - Devastating hail storm in Bordeaux seriously impacting regions like Blaye and Bourg, the Médoc and the Entre-Deux-Mers, destroying up to 80% of the crop in some places (even 100% at the worst), which already suffered from another hail storm back in 2013. 
  • Early April 2019 and more especially the 13, 14 and 15 of April 2019 - Some regions are touched by a sudden frost lowering the temperatures up to -4°C in some regions of France, while others are devasted by severe hail storms

This was just an aparté, but I thought it was important to talk about these climatic changes and their consequences and impacts on the vineyards. I only took California and France as examples, yet these problems, directly or indirectly generated by these climatic changes, are nowadays occurring all around the globe.

NB: Sorry, I'm derivating from the main subject again (as usual), so let's go back to the conversation about the bottles and labels made for special occasions, events and/or people.

Examples of Bottle and Label Design Changes Over Time  

Part 2

So, as I was saying prior to the "aparté", it is important to mention the bottles produced for particular vintages, occasions or other events, as they are generally rare occurrences in the world of fine wines, which usually tends to stay away from drastic changes and prefers to keep tradition and heritage for recognition rather than embracing innovation and creativity to transform their image. It is the case for fine wines as it is also the case for most luxury goods; changes, in the world of the rich and famous Châteaux and Domaines, are the results a slow process requiring a long time thinking and planning for the long term, and therefore cannot be the results of a hasty decision.

As already expressed above, some Châteaux produced special bottles with a different shape and/or heavier/thicker glass, embossed and/or showcasing a redesigned main label for the turn of the century and/or the turn of the millennial (i.e. vintage 2000), or for the anniversary of the Château or the owners.  

In fact, if we take the first growths, Latour and Mouton-Rothschild are very good examples of these changes over time, compared to their counterparts, Château Haut-Brion, Margaux and Lafite Rothschild, which never really changed their respective label, nor the shape of their bottles and/or the heaviness or the thickness of the glass.

Let's take Château Latour for example:

Chateau Latour Bottle Shapes and Weight Evolution over time by ©LeDomduVin 2019

In this "Château Latour" collage above, (that I made for a better visual of what I'm trying to say), showing the evolution of the shape of the bottle they used over time, you can notice that Château Latour's bottles have changed a little over the years, as well as the label, which has slightly evolved:

  • The 1949 vintage is a tall bottle with broad shoulders larger than the bottom of the bottle 
  • The 1964 vintage is a smaller, leaner and straight bottle
  • The 1985 vintage is a modern version of the 1964 vintage, less lean, but still smaller and straight compared to the 1949 vintage
  • The 2003 vintage is bigger, slightly taller with broader shoulders than 1964 and 1985, but it is more straight than 1949
  • The 2011 vintage is back a what we call a more conventional Bordeaux bottle, taller and bigger than 1964 and 1985, but as straight as them, yet not as thick, heavy or tall as 2003 and definitely not as 1949  

As the scale of the size of these bottles (on my collage above) may not be correct, let's have a look at some pictures I took of some full and empty bottles of Château Latour (bottles I have at the office and in our headquarter's cellar), to see these differences. It might be a better visual.

Chateau Latour 1952, 1953, 1961 and 1982 bottles
- by ©LeDomduVin 2019

As you can see in the picture above:

  • Château Latour 1952 and 1953 vintages have higher and broader shoulders than both the 1961 and 1982, the glass is also darker, thicker and thus heavier 
  • Also to a certain extent, the bottle of 1961 has a slightly narrower body and not as broad shoulders as the bottle of 1982

Once again, to prove it to the sceptics (who might not believe that I took these pictures and/or that I handle this type of old and rare bottles on a daily basis, and, last but not least, also for records and references purposes for future inspection, as I'm a Wine Quality control Director after all), I made some collages with pictures showing the weight of the empty bottles (not the full bottles as they are too expensive and I did not want to take them out of the cellar and handle them for too long, they are old ladies in need of TLC you know.... 😊 ...but I might another day for the purpose of another post).

Château Latour 1950, 1961 x 2, 1982 empty bottles with bottle weights
- by ©LeDomduVin 2019

As you can see in the picture above, the weight of these empty bottles of Château Latour varies quite a bit depending on the vintage. And as already mentioned above, the weight may even vary between two bottles of the same wine and same vintage, like it is the case for these bottles of 1961 vintage.

  • Château Latour 1950 empty bottle weight is 628 gr (or 628 + 750 = 1,378 kg for a full bottle)
  • Château Latour 1961 (1) empty bottle weight is 569 gr (or 569 + 750 = 1,319 kg for a full bottle) 
  • Château Latour 1961 (2) empty bottle weight is 594 gr (or 594 + 750 = 1,344 kg for a full bottle) 
  • Château Latour 1982 empty bottle weight is 545 gr (or 545 + 750 = 1,295 kg for a full bottle) 

Let's do a graph to have a better visual:

Chateau Latour Bottle Weight Comparison by ©LeDomduVin 2019

PS: I will try to find empty bottles of these specific bottles to weigh them with the mini-scale and take pictures to show the difference in weight between these vintages and the difference of bottle shape and heaviness and thickness of the glass used. 

Chateau Mouton Rothschild

Chateau Mouton-Rothschild Label Designs over the last 120 years 
by ©LeDomduVin 2019

I did the collage above and, (as usual), started to write quite intensively (about the history and design evolution of the labels of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild), when I realized how long this post was already. So, I  decided to create a brand new post solely dedicated to the history and design evolution of the labels of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, plus a few more chapters on the bottle shape, weight and glass used for the bottles (like I did above for Chateau Latour).

Read my post on Chateau Mouton Rothschild here 


To conclude this lengthy post (where I derivated from the original subject and lost myself in too many details, as usual), and in order to give somewhat of an answer to the initial question, and based on the numbers in the various tables above, we can finally say that the weight of a full bottle of wine of 750ml (glass + volume) is roughly between 1.3 kg (or 2.866 lbs) and 1.8 kg (3.968 lbs), depending on the 2 main following factors:

  • The shape of the bottles (sizes variations due to)
    • Region
    • Tradition
    • Style
    • Design
    • Wine Type
  • The thickness and heaviness of the glass (depending on)
    • Trend
    • Design
    • Wine Type
    • Winery's owner/Winemaker decision

Voilà! I think that answer the question... 😊

Fact: In this catastrophized time of climate changes, global warming, ever increasing pollution, weather control, and control over Mother Nature (by spraying chemicals into the air to modify the weather; also called "Cloud Seeding", a process of spraying common chemicals, including silver iodide, potassium iodide and/or dry ice (solid carbon dioxide), to dissipate heavy clouds and minimize the impact of hail storms and/or frost wave for example, or to simply prevent from rain to fall and maintain a blue sky and/or dimish the pollution in the air for certain events (e.g. 2008 Olympic Games in Bejing, China, for example) and/or for the venue of President or particular political personalities (occuring in Europe, USA, China, and probably elsewhere), and with men's failed attempts to change anything of his bad habits and behaviours over the last 70 years and the direct and indirect consequences these may have caused on the planet's environmental equilibrium, needless to say that the heavier the bottle is, the less "environment-friendly" it is (for the reasons you can imagine: production's energy and cost, weight, transport, logistics, etc...).

Tips: Diminish/reduce your use of plastic products, for example, do not buy any more water in plastic bottles, buy a kettle water boiler (to boil tap water) and recycle a few of your empty bottle of wines (transparent if possible, like "Rosé" wine bottles) that you will refill with the boiled water on a daily basis (only once the water has cooled down, of course, please do not pour boiling water into a glass bottle as it may explode due to the heat - you've been warned). That is what I personally do at home, and as a family of 4, we easily drink 3 bottles of 750ml of water per meal (3 for lunch and 3 for dinner). That's about 4.5 Liters of drinking water a day!!! Evidently, you roughly know what you spend on drinking water in plastic bottles on a weekly basis, so imagine the savings if you were using a kettle... moreover, you will contribute to helping preserve the environment and at the same time you will reduce your carbon footprint by producing less non-recyclable trash and non-biodegradable waste... just saying...

That's all folks for today!

Stay tuned for more post like this one coming soon, and leave me a comment below if you feel like it. 

Santé! Cheers!

LeDomduVin (a.k.a Dominique Noël)

PS: This post comes as a complement to another post, titled "Bottle Dimensions", that I wrote 2 years ago and that you can read here

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic and Organic wines (and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Preserve the Planet!

(*) Source from Wikipedia and Jancis Robinson The Oxford Companion to Wine
(**) Read more history of the bottles and transport at www.vinepair.com (here)
(***) Info about Chateau Mouton-Rothschild was taken or partly taken from the Château website at https://www.chateau-mouton-rothschild.com/, but also from a very interesting and useful online book (in French) by Philippe Margot, titled "L'intégral des étiquettes de Château Mouton-Rothschild de 1855 à aujourd'hui" that you can read here

Monday, May 6, 2019

Encounter with Chateau Mercian: A Japanese Wine

Encounter with Château Mercian: A Japanese Wine 

Chateau Mercian Logo - Courtesy of www.koshuofjapan.com

When you think about Japanese Wine, you usually think about Sake (or Saké), of course... What else could it be other than the famous Japanese rice wine? The one made with brewed rice (and water) that has been previously polished to gradually remove the bran and thus refine the grain to obtain distinguishable Sakés of various aspects, aromas, tastes and textures. Right? (* and **)

But, did you ever taste a Japanese Wine? And, I'm not talking about Sake now, I'm talking about wine made from fermented grapes. What? Well...What? Japan is producing real wine made from fermented grapes? Since when? ....Well, since quite some times... 

In fact, the production of grapes for consumption (and alcohol production), in Japan, has existed, (like in China), probably for (at least) the last 3000 years, yet the production of domestic wine using locally produced grapes only really began with the rise of Western culture during the Meiji restoration in the mid 1800s.

Another interesting fact is that, in Japan, due to lack of designation of origin and regardless of the types of grapes and/or even grains, the term "Sake" or "Japanese Wine" (which literally means "liquor" or "alcoholic beverage") can be attributed to pretty much anything and everything that is domestically fermented (even if the grapes or grains have been imported) like sake, wine and beer (in fact, any alcoholic beverages for that matter); which is quite confusing, (and quite controversial compared to the "Western World" definition of "wine"). 

However, this last fact is actually changing ("evolving" I should say), as the idea of implementing regulations on the designations of origin and the use of strictly locally grown grapes, for Japanese Wine (not Saké), is emerging and will probably be soon put in place to regulate and clarify the situation.

And, as it exists already in most other wine-producing countries, it is important to establish a system protecting the designations of origin and regulate the use of specific indigenous grapes as well as specific viticulture and vinification methods. 

Even, if not as elaborate as the French AOC/AOP system, it will definitely be good to have an official way to differentiate Japanese Sake (technically rice wine called "Japanese Wine") from Japanese's wine actually made from locally grown grapes.       

Because let's be honest, that's a real dilemma.... as we are now talking about "Japanese Wine", which is not "Sake", made with "grapes" and not with "rice", and produced in a "winery" and not in a "brewery", really confusing, isn't it?

And if we reverse it, it is funny and also pretty confusing to think that "Sake" is referred to as a "wine" made out of "rice" in a "brewery", while "Sake" has nothing to do with "wine" (except the part of fermentation maybe) and it is not a "beer" either.... (sigh... go figure.... they definitely need regulations and a system to be put in place rapidly to avoid the confusion and really define what is what between "Japanese Wine" (from rice) and "Japanese Wine" (from grapes)... sigh) 

"The Sake Dilemma" by ©LeDomduVin 2019

Anyhow, did you ever taste a Japanese wine (the one made with grapes)? Yes? No? Well for me, I've tasted a countless amount of Saké(s) in my 28 years career in the Wine and Spirits industry on 3 continents (*), but wine from Japan (other than Saké, you see how confusing that is... sigh...), I believe that it was my first time last Thursday (***).

I previously heard some of the names/brands and even seen labels of some Japanese's wines in Wine Fair and other wine events, but frankly, I do not think that I ever tasted one before this Thursday. (or if I did, I have no real recollection of it, which is usually a bad sign for the wine...). 

Jameson, the Head Sommelier of Dynasty Garden (the Fine Dining Chinese Restaurant of the company I work for, located in our headquarters building, GFGC, in Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong) told me: 

"Hey, I'm tasting some Japanese wines later on today with a distributor for a Japanese wine dinner I would like to organize at the restaurant later this month. Are you interested?"   

"Yes of course" I answered, as I had no intention to miss an opportunity to taste some wines, more especially wines made from grape varieties and from a region I never tasted before.  

My day at the office came to an end around 6.30 pm, and instead of going home as I normally do, I headed to the restaurant Dynasty Garden (on the first floor of our headquarters office building in Kowloon Bay), where Jameson and the distributor had already started tasting some of the wines, while the Chef was bringing some dishes sampled in preparation of the wine dinner that was to occur a few weeks later.   

Eric C.C. Ng, the Director of "Hing Lung Food Place Limited"
at Dynasty Garden Restaurant - ©LeDomduVin 2019

Jameson introduced me to Eric C.C. Ng, the Director of "Hing Lung Food Place Limited", a food and beverage distribution company, historically founded by his father, with a focus on meat distribution (atop of other food products), in Hong Kong, which evolved and changed its focus a few years back to supply a wide selection of Saké(s) from about 20 Japanese breweries (and thus the major distributor of Sake in HK).

Alongside the Sake(s), they also decided to carry some Japanese wines (made from grapes... again, see how annoying it is to always have to specify what is what... the Japanese really have to do something about this...) to enhance their portfolio and enable their customers to choose among various Japanese products (which makes sense to carry both, in my opinion).

So, after being approached by the winery to promote and distribute their wines in Hong Kong, they added Château Mercian to their portfolio, and are the exclusive agent for the HK market.

After shaking Eric's hand and being invited to sit down to participate to the tasting with them (Eric, the distributor and Jameson, the Sommelier), I started to ask a few questions to Eric about Château Mercian as I knew nothing about this winery and was eager to learn more about it.

You can always visit the website of Château Mercian to find out more details, but here are a few key points about this winery that Eric told me about:

Château Mercian

Château Mercian winery is located in the Yamanashi province, roughly about 100 kilometres west of Tokyo. 

Chateau Mercian map location compared to Tokyo, Japan 
- Map courtesy of Google Map

The vineyard was established 142 years ago when "Dai-Nihon Yamanashi Budoushu-Gaisha" the forerunner of Mercian Corporation was founded in 1877. A turning point and the beginning of a new era in Japanese viticulture.
The brand "Château Mercian" was established in 1970, and planting of various grape varieties in diverse regions of Japan gradually occurred in the following years and evolved gradually with the decades:
  • Merlot in the "Kikyogahara" region, in 1976
  • Cabernet Sauvignon at "Jyonohira Vineyard", in 1984
  • Chardonnay in the "Hokushin" region, in 1990
  • Cultivation started at the Mariko Vineyard, in 2003
  • Koshu wine was first released in 2005
The "Mercian Katsunuma Winery" was rebuilt with state of the art facilities and equipment and officially became "Château Mercian" in 2010. 

The wines are made from various grape varieties planted in several parcels of vines scattered in various regions of various prefectures (e.g. Yamanashi, Nagano, etc...) in the central part of Japan, as you can see on the map below:

Château Mercian Vineyards and Grape Varieties Map -
Original map courtesy of Chateau Mercian edited by ©LeDomduVin 2019

And the rest is history, as, since then, Château Mercian has become one of the leading wineries of Japan, producing exemplary wines that easily compete with their western world counterparts. Their wines have received numerous accolades and medals and recognition in many international wine challenges and wine expositions around the world. Their reputation is second to none and the quality of their wines is now well established, exhibiting cleanness, freshness and balance in all their wines and "cuvées".


Wine Pairing Tasting

As soon as I sat down, Jameson poured me the first wine that they tasted, while they were already discussing and commenting on how it paired with the food the Executive Chef Fung (Man Ip) just served at the table.

Executive Chef Fung (Man Ip) of Dynasty Garden Restaurant 
-  ©LeDomduVin 2019

It is at this point that I understood that I will not keep the promise I made to myself earlier that day to "come, say hello, taste the wines and leave shortly after to go back home to my kids". I mean, don't get me wrong, I love my kids very much, but I could not miss this opportunity to taste these wines and the food served with them. More especially if invited not to only taste but also comments and give my opinion about the wine pairings for the up and coming dinner. After all, it would go against my epicurean nature and status as Sommelier to refuse such an invitation 😊. (And my kids were probably happy to be home with the nanny, doing whatever they want without daddy lurking around). 

FYI: The menu that I saw and the food that was served that day, slightly differed from the finalized menu below, as the Chef modified some of the dishes based on our comments for the food pairing to sublime the wine and vice versa. 

Here is the finalized menu. However, it was subject to some slight (last minute) changes between the time I wrote this post and the date of the dinner, but at least it gives you an idea: 

Chateau Mercian Wine Dinner (V3 June 22) courtesy of Dynasty Garden Restaurant

Nice menu, isn't it? Makes me salivate just by reading it...

The Wines and the Dishes

So, without further due, here are my tasting notes for the wines we tasted that day and a few comments on the food served with them. 

The first wine was 

Château Mercian "Koshu Kiiroka" 甲州きいろ香 , Yamanashi, Japan 2016

As on the menu above, the " Château Mercian Koshu Kiiroka 甲州きいろ香 " 2016 was served first and paired with a plate of 3 appetizers consisting of Marinated Black Fungus / Spicy Wagyu Beef Cheek / Chilled Bitter Melon.  

"Koshu" is a white grape variety, with a distinctive pinkish skin,
grown primarily in the "Yamanashi" Prefecture of Japan 

- edited for ©LeDomduVin 2019

For those of you who might not know, "Koshu" is a white grape variety, with a distinctive pinkish skin, grown primarily in the "Yamanashi" Prefecture of Japan (see the region's map above and below).

Some times ago, depending on the source, it appeared that it was mistaken at first to have European origin by some and believed to be indigenous of Japan by others. But later on, after studying its DNA, it seemed, in fact, to be a hybrid of a Europe's Vitis vinifera and one or more Asian Vitis species. Nowadays, it is clear that parts of its DNA originated from Europe and it is believed to have found its way to Japan via the Silk Road, probably a 1000 years ago, travelling from Europe via the Caucasus, across Central Asia, then on to China and finally to Japan. Consequently, Koshu, being found only in Japan, is now considered the most important indigenous grape variety of Japan.  

Yamanashi Prefecture Map with regions courtesy of web-japan.org
edited by ©LeDomduVin 2019

The name “Koshu” is also a former name for "Yamanashi" and is still the name of a region within the "Yamanashi" prefecture (see map above).

Frankly, I did not know what to expect of that wine made with "Koshu" grapes. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I looked at its "robe" and put the glass to my nose.

Château Mercian Koshu Kiiroka 甲州きいろ香 , Yamanashi, Japan 2016
- ©LeDomduVin 2019

Château Mercian Koshu Kiiroka 甲州きいろ香 " 2016
Very clear, clean, really pale yellow colour with silver and greenish reflects. Very expressive and clean, perfumy, zesty nose where mingle floral, honeysuckle notes and yellow fruit aromas like citrus and peach. Dry-German-wine-like nose in a way. The palate is dry, balanced and zesty, with a crispy mouthfeel enhanced by yellow fruit, peach and citrus flavours (like on the nose), and lemony acidity. I really loved it, more especially the combination of the presence of fruitiness without being sweet, and high acidity without being puckering. Really enjoyable and perfect to start the menu, the acidity generating the saliva in your mouth, it opens up your appetite. Although I did not think that it was necessarily the perfect pairing, it went quite well overall with the appetizers combination of Marinated Black Fungus / Spicy Wagyu Beef Cheek / Chilled Bitter Melon. To my palate and overall senses, this wine was a very nice discovery, not the most complex yet really pleasant, clean and cleansing. I will definitely keep an eye open for an opportunity to try more "Koshu" wines in the future. Definitely, a grape to discover. (©LeDomduVin - May 02 2019)

Château Mercian Koshu Kiiroka 甲州きいろ香 , Yamanashi, Japan 2016 (back label)
- ©LeDomduVin 2019

The second wine was 

Château Mercian "Mariko Vineyard" ソーヴィニヨン・ブラン Sauvignon Blanc 2015

This wine was served with a "Braised fish maw with minced salty fish in casserole". It was definitely a discovery day (for me), as I believe it was the first time that I tried "knowingly" "Fish Maw". I may have previously (during the last 8 years I spent in Hong Kong), but definitely not knowingly. I would have remembered otherwise, as, as weird as it may be, "Fish Maw" is the culinary term for "Dried Swim Bladders". 

I can already hear some of you swallowing hard in disgust and about to puke their last meal, just by reading the word "bladder", but be reassured that "Swim Bladder" has nothing to do with the "Urinary Bladder" (for sure some of you just puked right now....sigh...😉). 

The "Swim Bladder" is "an internal gas-filled organ that contributes to the ability of many bony fishes to control their buoyancy, and thus to stay at their current water depth without having to waste energy in swimming."  (according to en.wikipedia.org)  .... "Gas-filled organ"... hmm ... (oh no, please stop puking please.... sigh... 😊)

"Braised fish maw with minced salty fish in casserole"
- ©LeDomduVin 2019

However, what I did not know either, is that the "Swim Bladder" is rather tasteless on its own, but tend to absorb the flavours of the other components it is mixed with, for that particular dish, it was with mince salty fish (see picture above) and the result was really mouthwateringly delicious. And, believe me, or not, but it was even more astonishingly delicious when paired with the wine.    

Château Mercian "Mariko Vineyard" ソーヴィニヨン・ブラン Sauvignon Blanc 2015
(Front label) - ©LeDomduVin 2019

Château Mercian "Mariko Vineyard" ソーヴィニヨン・ブラン Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Very pale yellow, greenish colour. Typical (really flagrant) cat's pee Sauvignon Blanc nose with hints of green pepper and cabbage and subtle notes of lime zest. Green lime, with high acidity and good balance overall with flavours reminiscent of those of the nose, in this rather surprisingly light, super clean and refreshing wine and not showing its age for a 2015 vintage. I would have thought that it might show some signs of fatigue, but no, it was really vibrant for a Sauvignon Blanc that has already a few years in the bottle. And don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Sauvignon Blanc cannot age well, as there are beautiful examples of Sauvignons that have aged gracefully; yet in general, Sauvignon Blancs are at their prime within the first 5 years after bottling, after that they tend to lessen a bit in quality and/or age rather quickly. However, this one was really delicious and, surprisingly, really impressively well paired with the Fish Maw and Salty Fish. The saltiness elevates and enhances the taste of this Sauvignon Blanc. I was really blown away by this pairing. If such a thing as perfect food pairing exists in this world, then this paring was it. No doubt. I loved it. (©LeDomduVin - May 02 2019)

Château Mercian "Mariko Vineyard" ソーヴィニヨン・ブラン
Sauvignon Blanc 2015
(Back label) - ©LeDomduVin 2019

The 3rd wine was 

Château Mercian Nagano Chardonnay シャトー・メルシャン 長野シャルドネ 2015

Château Mercian Nagano Chardonnay
シャトー・メルシャン 長野シャルドネ 2015
(front label) ©LeDomduVin 2019

A beautifully crafted wine, once again, served with a "Pan-Seared Kuruma King Prawn" and scallion

Dynasty Garden's Pan-Seared Kuruma King Prawn
©LeDomduVin 2019

Served by (then) Executive Chef Fung (Man Ip) himself, below serving the "Pan-Seared Kuruma King Prawn" and scallion (at Dynasty Garden)

Executive Chef Fung (Man Ip) serving the
"Pan-Seared Kuruma King Prawn" and scallion (at Dynasty Garden)
©LeDomduVin 2019

Château Mercian Nagano Chardonnay シャトー・メルシャン 長野シャルドネ 2015

Clean, light, discreet nose, a slight hint of wood (stainless steel + 6 months in new French barrels). Displaying a slightly floral, mineral touch on the nose. Soft, light, mildly buttery mouthfeel. Appeared woodier (oakier) in the palate than on the nose, with light toasted, buttery notes, but not heavy. Quite long finish somehow, but rather simple overall, yet satisfying. More expressive with the food than alone somehow. Well balanced here again, which compensated for the lack of complexity of this partly wooded chardonnay rather light on its feet. Nice and refreshing, nevertheless, but it could have used a touch more of  "je ne sais quoi", to make it more dense and appealing (in my opinion). The prawn was tasty, but maybe too flavorful for this wine, or was it the wine which was not strong enough to withstand the flavours of the prawn... (either way, this pairing was less a success compared to the 2 previous wines)  (©LeDomduVin - May 02 2019) 

Château Mercian Nagano Chardonnay
シャトー・メルシャン 長野シャルドネ 2015
(back label) ©LeDomduVin 2019

The 4th wine was 

Chateau Mercian Hosaka Muscat Bailey A "Selected Vineyards" 2014 シャトー・メルシャン 穂坂マスカット・ベーリーA

For the 4th wine, we did not follow the order on the menu, as we tasted the Hosaka Muscat Bailey A and finished with the “Dalong” style, fried fresh milk and “Shun Tak” spare rib, instead of the "Roasted Whole baby Pigeon" like on the menu. 

Chateau Mercian Hosaka Muscat Bailey A "Selected Vineyards" 2014
シャトー・メルシャン 穂坂マスカット・ベーリーA
©LeDomduVin 2019

“Dalong” style, fried fresh milk and “Shun Tak” spare rib

“Dalong” style, fried fresh milk and “Shun Tak” spare rib
©LeDomduVin 2019 (1)

“Dalong” style fried fresh milk is usually made with Buffalo milk, which is fatter and creamier, mixed with eggs (usually egg whites) and starch, slowly cooked with a clever technique at a certain temperature to give it its foamy, fluffy delicate texture, to which other ingredients are added like peanuts or seeds and even vegetable like asparagus. 

“Dalong” style, fried fresh milk and “Shun Tak” spare rib
©LeDomduVin 2019 (2)

“Shun Tak” spare ribs are usually pork spare ribs that have been seasoned with salt and several spices (at least 4 or 5 spices), then slowly cooked or more traditionally steamed to give them a really soft, almost melting in the mouth texture. 

The combination of fresh fried milk and spare ribs was a delight to the taste buds, so soft, light, fluffy and super flavorful, it was my first time trying this dish and I really loved it. We tried both the Merlot and the Muscat Bailey A on that dish, and I personally prefer the Muscat, which seemed lighter than the merlot and thus easier to pair with that dish (in my opinion). 

I only realized afterwards that they (the Sommelier of Dynasty Garden and Eric the distributor) choose the Merlot to go with that specific dish, which was a mistake in my opinion. 

Muscat Bailey A

For those of you who might not know this grape variety, "Muscat Bailey A" is a dark pink, thick-skinned grape variety used to produce light, fruity red wines, low in both tannins and acidity in Japan. It was created in the 1920s by Kawakami Zenbei, founder of the Iwanohara winery (located in Takada - Niigata Prefecture - on Japan’s west coast). His vineyards suffering heavy snowfalls during winter, he was seeking a grape that could withstand the freezing conditions and start experimenting with crossbreed grape varieties. After years of experimentation, he came up with “Muscat Bailey A” a disease-resistant variety that buds sufficiently late in the season to avoid frosts in spring and ripens sufficiently early to escape those in autumn. Muscat Bailey A is a hybrid, created by crossing “Muscat of Hamburg” with “Bailey” (itself a little-known crossing whose family tree includes Triomphe and two American hybrids "Big Berry" and "Extra". Nowadays, Muscat Bailey A is one of Japan’s most popular wine grapes. (****)

Chateau Mercian Hosaka Muscat Bailey A "Selected Vineyards" 2014
シャトー・メルシャン 穂坂マスカット・ベーリーA
©LeDomduVin 2019 (2)

Chateau Mercian Hosaka Muscat Bailey A "Selected Vineyards" 2014 シャトー・メルシャン 穂坂マスカット・ベーリーA

Somewhat, somewhere between a Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Franc on the nose, kind of weird, but very intense and ripe, a zest smoky and earthy, with notes reminiscent of both grape varieties (strangely enough). The palate is fruity, tangy, with high acidity, almost puckering but with dark, earthy ripe red and dark berries/fruits. Almost Beaujolais-esk in the palate to some extent. Lovely balance overall. A very pleasant surprise as it was my first time tasting a wine made with this specific grape variety, and I thought it went really well with the dish Dalong Fresh Fried Milk and Shun Tak spare ribs. A very interesting example of savoury/umami tastes in the palate. (©LeDomduVin - May 02 2019)

The 5th wine was 

Château Mercian Nagano Merlot 2014 シャトー・メルシャン長野メルロー

Château Mercian Nagano Merlot 2014
©LeDomduVin 2019

Last, but not least, we tasted the Château Mercian Nagano Merlot with the roasted whole baby pigeon. 

Château Mercian Nagano Merlot 2014
and roasted whole baby pigeon ©LeDomduVin 2019

Dynasty Garden restaurant Roasted whole baby pigeon
©LeDomduVin 2019

Château Mercian Nagano Merlot 2014
and roasted whole baby pigeon ©LeDomduVin 2019 (2)

Château Mercian Nagano Merlot 2014 シャトー・メルシャン長野メルロー

Fragrant nose, opened and rounded. Racy, elegant, flavorful, with ripe dark fruits in the palate, a nice Merlot overall. Well made but not memorable. I guess it bored me a little first as it is made with an international grape variety and second as when you're born in Bordeaux like me and from the right bank like me Merlot is in your DNA, so, if not well-made (not saying that this Merlot is not well-made, it is fine and quite pleasant overall, but still...), to my palate it will always generate the same reaction: "He..." (in a bad or mediocre type of "he", not the positive one, the negative one... i.e. the way Gru's mum answers him "he..." in "Despicable Me" - see video below)

That's all folks for today! 

Château Mercian wines tasted on Thursday, May 2nd 2019
©LeDomduVin 2019

Château Mercian wines tasted that day on Thursday, May 2nd 2019

Château Mercian wine and food pairing tasting
on Thursday, May 2nd 2019 with Eric Ng (left),
"Jameson" Chim Kin Yin (middle)
and LeDomduVin (a.k.a. Dominique Noel)
©LeDomduVin 2019

Château Mercian wine and food pairing tasting on Thursday, May 2nd 2019 with Eric Ng (left), "Jameson" Chim Kin Yin (middle) and myself, "LeDomduVin" (a.k.a. Dominique Noel)

Thank you to Jameson (Dynasty Garden Head Sommelier) and Eric Ng (the distributor) for this wine-food pairing tasting, it was really enjoyable and even eye-opening about the wines of Japan, especially those made with the local grape varieties. Thanks again.

Chef Fung Man Ip with LeDomduVin (a.k.a. Dominique Noel)
at Dynasty Garden ©LeDomduVin 2019

And thank you to Chef Fung Man Ip (above with me, "LeDomduVin" a.k.a. Dominique Noel) at Dynasty Garden for the great, tasty food prepared that day. Unfortunately, Chef Fung left shortly after this tasting, a real shame as I loved his food and he was really dedicated to taste and quality. 

Stay tuned for more post like this one coming soon, and leave me a comment below if you feel like it.

Santé! Cheers!

LeDomduVin (a.k.a Dominique Noël)

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic and Organic wines (and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Preserve the Planet!

(*) I once wrote a post titled "A little introduction to Sake: The Japanese Wine!" some years ago, if interested, you can read it here

(**) If you want to read more about Sake, you can also read this factual and more technical comprehensive guide to Sake (© 2011 by Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association and National Institute Research Institute of Brewing) here 

(***) This tasting occurred on Thursday, May 2nd 2019

(****) Text sourced, taken and edited or partly taken from and courtesy of www.wine-searcher.com, read the full article here