I Love French Wine And Food – A Bordeaux Merlot

If you are looking for fine French wine and food, consider the world-famous Bordeaux region of southwestern France. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you’ll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour in which we review a red Merlot from a internationally renowned producer.

Among France’s eleven wine-growing regions Bordeaux ranks first in acreage with about 50% more land devoted to vineyards than the second-place Rhône Valley. But it’s more than just a question of acreage and volume. Bordeaux is widely considered as one of the top wine producing regions of the entire earth and has been for centuries. The wine reviewed below comes from the Pomerol area on the right bank of the Garonne River, which divides Bordeaux in two.

Bordeaux produces over seventy million cases of wine per year, about 85% red, 12 white, and the rest rosé. That works out to more than two million cases of rosé wine per year. I don’t remember ever tasting a Bordeaux rosé. I promise to deal with this problem later in the series. There are more than twenty two thousand vineyards in Bordeaux covering about 280 thousand acres, which works out to somewhat less than 13 acres per vineyard. Approximately half of the vineyards produce wine, and altogether about 6000 properties produce and sell their own wine, the rest selling wine through cooperatives. Bordeaux boasts about 60 different wine appellations ranging from fair-to-middling to world class with plenty in between. Some Bordeaux wine classifications date back to 1855 and have barely changed since, except that Baron Rothschild was able to get his best wine promoted from Second Cru (second growth) to Premier Cru (First Growth). Those in the know say that his Château Lafitte definitely deserves this honor. We’ll review some fairly top-notch Bordeaux wines sooner or later, but the wine reviewed below is very affordable. Interestingly enough, its noble cousin, Chateau Petrus, crafted by the same producer with the same grape in the same area holds no prestigious classification. However, Chateau Petrus is definitely world class and comes with a price to match, if the wine merchant will even look at your money.

Believe it or not, Merlot is the major red grape in Bordeaux. Cabernet Sauvignon comes in a distant second. We’ll talk about the remaining important Bordeaux red grape varieties elsewhere in this series. The major white grapes are Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. The Pomerol region of Bordeaux is a small, rural area of Bordeaux producing only red wine. Its major grape varieties are Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.

Pomerol’s main tourist attractions are the wine chateaux. Perhaps surprisingly the world famous Chateau Petrus is not all that special to look at. The most attractive Chateaux are Chateau Nenin and Vieux Chateau Certan but even they are far from spectacular. As the famous phrase goes, you can’t judge a book by its cover. Of course the Bordeaux region is brimming with sights to see which will be described in the appropriate articles.

Before reviewing the Bordeaux wine and imported cheeses that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring this beautiful region.
Start with Gravette Huitres (Oysters from the Arcachon Bay).
For your second course savor Lamproie au Pomerol (Eels cooked in Red Wine and Chocolate).
And as dessert indulge yourself with Cannelles de Bordeaux (“Portable Crême Brulée).

OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.

Wine Reviewed

Moueix Merlot 2003 12.3% about $13.00

Let’s start by quoting the marketing materials. No one knows Merlot better than Christian Moueix, owner of the world famous Château Pétrus. Year after year, his wines define Merlot. Soft and round with aromas of raspberry, cedar and blueberry, this wine delivers ripe fruit, great balance and a medium long finish. It’s magic with veal medallions and sautéed mushrooms, or baked pasta.

My first pairing was with turkey meatballs, potatoes, and sautéed vegetables in a moderately spicy tomato sauce. This wine was round and full-bodied. It was quite long with pleasant acidity but overpowered the meat. The Merlot tasted better after eating the potatoes. When I finished the glass after the meal, the wine was quite rich and I started tasting blackberries.

My next meal consisted of slow-cooked beef stew and potatoes with a somewhat spicy sauce and two rather spicy side salads. The wine was full-bodied and agreeably acidic, tasting of plums and black cherries. Once again I enjoyed finishing the glass after the meal. The spices were intensified. I can only imagine what its famous cousin, Chateau Petrus, would taste like but at forty times the cost (or more), I can only imagine.

The final meal included hamburgers, rice, cauliflower and red peppers in a tomato sauce, once again with Harissa, a Moroccan hot pepper spice that was fairly weak. The Merlot tasted of dark fruits and tobacco with a bit of black pepper. The only downside was that the wine was not long.

As always, the cheese tastings came last. I started with a Palet de Chevre, which is a goat’s milk cheese from the Poitou Charentes region of central-western France. Honestly, if I didn’t know that it was a goat’s milk cheese I never would have guessed. It simply looked and tasted like a slightly runny Camembert. The combination was almost OK, but deadened the wine’s flavor somewhat. The other cheese was a Swiss Gruyere. The wine bounced back in the Gruyere’s presence, but frankly was too good for the cheese.

Final verdict. No doubt about it; I want this wine again. And should the day come that I’ll buy its noble cousin, Chateau Petrus, I’ll still be buying this wine.

A Guide to Buying Australian Wine

Why buy wine?

In Australia, wine has become the new beverage of choice for people in all walks of life. Moreover, Australia has developed an enviable reputation amongst wine drinkers and appreciators the world over. Myshopping.com.au can help you make the right selection of wine for any occasion and to suit any taste. Listed on our website, you will find some of the most celebrated labels and award winning wines and you can make a selection based on reviews, price and supplier, regardless of why you want to purchase wine.

There are essentially three reasons that we can think of why you might want to buy wine: to drink in some social occasion, to give as a gift, or as an investment with a realisable future.

Buying wine to drink

Winemaker Greg Gallagher at the Charles Sturt University, South Australia, says judging a good wine is simple. “It starts with asking, ‘do you like it?’ ” he says, “and finishes with ‘did you like it?’” When you have a list of favourite wines, all you need to do is find them on Myshopping.com.au, and you will find out where it’s sold for the best price.

But, because it’s not always easy remembering the name, style and vintage of the wine you enjoy, it’s a good idea to keep a record of wines you drink that you really like (and those that you’d prefer to avoid), for future reference.

When you’re buying wine to drink, there are a number of considerations you might like to bear in mind, the first being: what is the occasion? It stands to reason that a wine for an intimate dinner with a partner might be a different choice than one for a footy night with the boys. Sharing a wine with someone is a lot more than simply sharing the drink. It’s also sharing your taste, your values and your standards, so it pays to think carefully about the occasion and the company with whom you are sharing the wine.

A second consideration might be, what is accompanying the wine? Wine is often enjoyed with a meal, but you might like to consider also how the occasion (or meal) will develop. Matching the perfect wine with the perfect food and mood is an exhilarating experience, and is often at the heart of great memories.

You may also want to consider the ambience of the occasion. A wine for enjoying at an evening symphony concert will have a different character to that enjoyed at a beach picnic.

Buying wine as a gift

Wine makes an excellent gift for many reasons. It’s an easy purchase; you can buy a wine to suit practically any budget. And it is a demonstration of your taste and standards, subtly imparted to someone whom you may care for.

However, as well as meeting your taste standards, you also need to choose a wine that will meet the tastes of the receiver. It pays to find out what sort of wine that person enjoys, and buy within that person’s style or region preferences. A person who enjoys sweet white wines will appreciate a gift that matches that personality.

Buying wine as an investment

Some wines make a good investment because they are rare and have an established reputation causing them to appreciate in value. Possibly the most famous of these in Australia is Penfolds’ Grange Hermitage, a Shiraz style Claret that has been made since 1951 (a bottle of that vintage now might set you back $50,000 or more if you can find one). Although young in terms of wine heritage, Australia has some notable wines that do and will appreciate in value.

A good investment wine is not necessarily a guarantee of a high quality drinking wine. The investment values are arrived at by reputation. A particular vintage may have enjoyed popularity for any number of reasons and become scarce because only a limited number of bottles were produced. What results is a collectors market and wine changes hands through auctions, private sales, estate dissolutions and wine club memberships.

What makes a good investment wine however, is the fact that you are able to sell the wine at some future date for a sum greater than what you paid. Therefore the condition of the wine-or more importantly, the bottle-is of paramount consideration. The provenance of an investment wine is important. Before buying, you need to establish its history of origin and previous ownership. Satisfied that the bottle is in good condition, once in your possession it needs to be cellared correctly in the absence of heat, light and movement. You should document your ownership and the conditions of its cellaring before selling it to a new buyer.

What makes good wine?

The winemaking process

The quality of a wine is affected by a wide variety of factors that occur in and as a result of the winemaking, cellaring and handling processes. One of the key factors is the terrain and climate, commonly referred to as a ‘region’, where the grapes are grown. Different conditions affect different varieties differently. A Shiraz style from McLaren Vale in South Australia, for example, is a heavier and darker wine than the same style from the Swan Valley in Western Australia, which tends to be lighter and more peppery. A Chardonnay from the Hunter Valley is more full-bodied than one from Margaret River.

While knowing which vines are best suited to a soil type and climate is one aspect, another is knowing when to pick the fruit for particular effect. The fruit’s flavour at the time of picking is a major character of the residual flavours of the wine. After initial fermentation, some winemakers choose to ferment in oak, others not to. Using oak affects the reduction of tannins in the wine. Different types of oak-English, American, old-affect the flavour and character of the wine as it matures to its nominal alcohol level. It is in the barrel that a lot of transformations in flavours and character occur, and a great deal of skill is required to know exactly when to bottle the wine.

Different winemakers have different techniques and, while a good wine can’t be made from bad grapes, it is largely the winemaker’s skill that produces a good wine.

Taste

One of the ways we can tell the quality of wine as judged by its taste, is whether it has had successes in any of a number of wine shows held around the country. Experts from the wine industry judge wines on their quality and medal winners enjoy the benefits of being recognised and written about in the main media.

While not every medal winner is a wine that suits our taste, it is as a direct result of the shows and competitions that Australian wines have grown in popularity and quality. At Myshopping.com.au you can compare many award winning wines.

What’s your taste?

Regions and style

When you are shopping for wine, one of the first questions to answer is whether you are choosing a red wine or a white wine. Once you have decided this, you can then start to narrow down the different styles. Begin with the question of whether you are seeking a dry wine or a sweet wine.

Styles of wine are named after the region from which the grape originated. In the popular dark reds you have the Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot styles that tend to be drier wines. Lighter reds feature Beaujolais, Pinot Noir and Rose styles and these tend toward sweeter wines.

Popular white wines include the Chablis, Riesling, Semillon, Chenin, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay styles in dry wines, with Traminer Riesling, Moselle and late picked Verdelho in the sweeter styles. Aperitifs include sweet and dry sherry and Marsala. Dessert wines include Sauternes, Muscats and Ports.

Many wines are now presented as blended wines, a way to offer wider variety in taste and a way to use up less popular grapes and thereby minimise waste in the industry.

Australia has more than a dozen identified wine growing regions that produce distinctive wines of the main styles. The Barossa Valley in South Australia is possibly the most famous region with the richest heritage, and features many labels from subregions such as Claire Valley, McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek and the Adelaide Hills. These regions produce some of the most spectacular Riesling wines, and Shiraz styles in the country. East of this region, near the border with Victoria lies the Coonawarra district (also known as Riverland), famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon. In Victoria lie the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsular districts. The Goulbourn Valley lies on the border with New South Wales. The Hunter Valley in New South Wales produces some of Australia’s finest wines, while in the West, Margaret River, t4he Swan Valley and the Plantagenet districts all produce fine wines.

Trends

Recent economic conditions and consecutive years of oversupply have changed much of Australia’s wine market. There are many small boutique wineries whose products can be bought direct from the cellar door. Many of these wines are featured on Myshopping.com.au by style and region.

The wine industry is encouraging the buying of wines and cellaring them (storing them in a cool place) for a period of time and enjoying them at a later time. To cellar your wine, store it somewhere cool, dark, airy, and free from vibration and dampness. Temperature stability is the most important factor in preserving wine in the cellar. Storing wine in an environment where the temperature varies gradually with the seasons is better than in a room that varies with the day and night.

For long-term storage, the ideal cellar temperature is 18 degrees Celsius and a relative humidity of 60-75%. Warmer conditions accelerate the development of wines, which could mean a reduction in the pleasure of drinking them.

The second phenomenon to occur through oversupply is the introduction of cleanskins, a method of selling wine without a brand label. This is presented as being ‘money saving’ because of a reduction in marketing expense, however the real cost saving per bottle is around 3-5 cents (the cost of printing and applying a label).

Cleanskins enable a wine producer to present a lower cost bottle, but this is mostly achieved by not having to identify the origins of the grape, or the varietal blends that make up the wine. And while it is true that some cleanskins are eminently drinkable wines, evidence suggests that they are generally of a far poorer quality than branded label products. It is suggested that you taste the wine before purchasing any cleanskins.

Wine is a high fashion product, and wine trends emerge on a regular basis. The best way to follow these trends is to shop using Myshopping.com.au — comparing prices and suppliers, and following medal winning labels.

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Wine Cellar: Know Its Myths and Facts

Though the essence of wine collecting is in the appreciation you develop for each bottle, the most crucial aspect to consider is its storage.

Sadly, many a great wine collection has been damaged because of instability in temperature and moisture. And in order to keep your wine stored properly, it is essential to maintain the right conditions. This is because it reacts and is susceptible to the effects of its environment. Fortunately, wine cellars offer more effective climate control solutions.

So no matter what your motive is, whether you collect wine either for pleasure or profit, owning a wine cellar or its alternative, a wine refrigerator, is a worthwhile investment as they will enable you to enjoy your wine to its greatest potential for a long time.

Here are some Myths and Facts about Wine Cellars

Myth – Location is the top priority in building a wine cellar.

Fact – Location isn’t everything that you should consider in building a cellar. Though, technically, a wine cellar should be located in the coolest and most humid place. However, this doesn’t mean you should build it in your basement.

As a matter of fact, you can utilize virtually any area, whatever space is available, provided that it demonstrates the environmental qualities needed for wine storage. Take note that what makes a wine cellar is the purpose of wine storage, not the location. Location maybe one of the factors that determine the quality of its storage, but it’s not an indispensable factor.

With the growth in industries relating to wine storage, offering a wide range of versatile wine cooling systems on the market in recent years, along with realizing the value of a vapor barrier in your wine cellar, building your cellar in whatever space available in your home is definitely okay.

Myth – Painting your wine cellar can be toxic to you and your wines.

Fact – Painting them can be safe. Staining your wine racks can be safe and environmentally friendly. Thanks to the eco-friendly paint alternatives, painting racks is no longer an environmental and health issue.

Nowadays, there are a wide range of eco-friendly paint or stain options and custom finishes available. These include water-based stains, lacquers, and finishes. These alternatives contain less VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), of which some are carcinogenic or neurotoxic and exposure to them can certainly be a health hazard; thus, removing the potential health and environment hazards.

Myth – The bigger wine refrigeration units, the better.

Fact – Functional wine cooling system gets the job done regardless of its size. Having the biggest or most expensive refrigeration system doesn’t necessarily mean that you can achieve total environment control in your cellar. What’s crucial in storing wine is being able to maintain ideal storage conditions in your cellar with a unit that is able to maintain the right temperature and humidity levels.

Take note that wine cellars, having a nature akin to the wine that it stores, also react and are susceptible to the effects of its environment. Keep in mind that summer heat may raise your household temperature into the eighties. And this heat can eventually flow into a regular cellar through the ceiling, adjacent basement rooms, and the soil, regardless of the size of your cellar.

Therefore, keeping a constant temperature within your storage area should be your number one priority, not the size. Also, with a range of flexible line of wine cooling units that are actually compact and customized to suit the storage conditions of your cellar available in the market today, size doesn’t matter anymore. And also, it goes without saying that the more space-efficient and functional the wine cooling system is, the easier total environment control in your wine cellar can be achieved and maintained.