Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
January 29, 2015 | Mark Aselstine

Champagne vs Sparkling Wine

Champagne vs Sparkling Wine. Why there is a difference between the two, even if the French and American governments can't exactly agree what the difference should be.

Hi guys. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.

Couple of things today. I want to spend a couple minutes talking about the difference between champagne and basic sparkling wine. In essence, there's kind of one thing that happens here.

In California, there's been a large kind of ... not a fight, but an argument over can California vintners use the word champagne on their label. One of the examples that we have here is Korbel. Korbel's maybe the best-known kind of American producer of what is champagne or sparkling wine. In essence, they're the same thing.

Champagne is supposed to be made only in the Champagne region of France, but the French don't do us any favors here in using a, basically varietal name for something that they make with the growing region, making them one and the same. Yeah, from a marketing perspective in the 1800s, this probably made a lot of sense, but these days, it probably makes less sense. Just like although if there is a town in France called Napa, we wouldn't want Napa Cabernet Sauvignon or we wouldn't want a vintner in Sonoma using the Napa label. Just like, when I went to the Fancy Food Show, I wasn't thrilled to see a chocolate vendor from New Jersey using the Napa Chocolate Factory label. At the same time, there's got to be some influence of ... Dom Perignon basically invented this way to make wine, and there's got to be some way for people to be able to differentiate what's a sparkling wine in a champagne style, versus what's just a sparkler. Korbel uses the... Which is, at least in America what we're allowed to do is put California champagne.

It is what it is. I have 3 wines with me, none of which are technically champagne, all of which would love to call themselves champagne, and they're all not allowed to call themselves champagne for different reasons. First Korbel. Korbel is kind of a classic name in American wine. There's two brothers that came to, in essence, what is Sonoma in the late 1800s. They started producing champagne. Then they survived prohibition and everything that's come after. This is probably still served ... it came up I think in Obama's first inauguration, they served a California champagne, and the French government kinda threw a hissy about it. I think things have settled down enough for everybody to cool our heads for real. I think everyone realizes that if you want a champagne from France, buy champagne from France. If you want an American sparkling wine, calling it champagne is not going to kind convolute it enough for anybody to really be confused. [Inaudible 00:02:25] we've talked a little bit about in this space before. I think it's one of the truly up and coming names in California Wine.

They're from down in Monterey. The thing that people don't realize about the champagne region of France is it's pretty damn cold. I think that's why the kind of wine got made the way that it did. In essence, what happens with champagne when they're producing it is that when you have a normal fermentation ... and we have some pictures of this up on our site ... is that CO2 is produced. It goes up in to the sky. It goes away. Done, goodbye, thanks for coming. If it's cold enough, fermentation can stop midway, and the CO2 is trapped. One of the things that they figured out in the champagne region of France is that they were just cold enough that they weren't being able to finish fermentation before the cold really set in after harvest, so they were allowing fermentation to finish in the bottle. If you think about it, if you put everything into a bottle of wine and put the cork on, where's the CO2 go? It's trapped within the wine itself, and so then the only way for it to escape is in bubbles once you open the thing. That's how you end up with a sparkler. Jacques Pelvas, this is another French guy. They're from the Languedoc. I've talked about the Languedoc a little bit in this space before. The French, just like champagne, burgundy, Bordeaux, there's a lot of rules that go int o what can be grown, what can be made, how do you label your wine. They're certainly the most restrictive country in the world when it comes to wine labels and how to create them and even what you're allowed to plant in your vineyard. The one region in France that is truly open for anything, which reminds us a little bit of California, is the Languedoc. The Languedoc has done a little bit of everything. They'll remind you of the [Rhone Valley 00:04:09] in parts where they're Syrah and Grenache and doing a pretty good job of it. They'll remind you a teeny-tiny bit of Bordeaux in parts where they've growing [cab 00:04:17], and this is kind of a grower cooperative champagne from ... no, not a champagne. See? Now I've got myself doing it. From the Languedoc too. Three wines, none of which can actually be champagne but all of which are champagne, at least production-wise. I hope that over the long-term that they can come to some conclusion. I think putting an American champagne on the label is frankly ... it's fine. I think there's bigger things for everyone to worry about within the wine industry than simply how to label something, especially when you have two different countries and two different laws and much different laws going into it. BTW, I think there's a quick answer here, I talk about this stuff and pay attention to it because as a wine of the month club, I think it can be important to follow trends and fads within the wider wine industry.

The French definitely do a larger amount of rules and regulations than do American wine companies and American wine kind of oversight. I think there's going to be naturally some butting of head there. I think there's probably more than there should be right now. Once again, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. I hope you've enjoyed this short talk of what is champagne versus sparkling wine, and wine in California is technically all sparkling wine, but some folks if you had your label before 2006 are still allowed to use champagne on your label one way or another. Champagne versus sparkling wine.

Thanks again

Mark Aselstine
January 26, 2015 | Mark Aselstine

GSM Blends in California

A short intro to GSM (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre) blends in California. Why they're more important than you probably think:

Hi guys. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.

First, happy Monday. Secondly, I hope everybody on the East Coast, especially in New York City, is going to survive what everyone seems to be calling The Storm of the Century.

Wine club shipments have been delayed a couple days. They're going to go out in the next day or two, especially if you're on the East Coast. I didn't want the wine sitting somewhere in the Midwest or on the East Coast where it was going to show up to you like a wine Popsicle, so we avoided that. The wine will go out today or tomorrow.

In any case I did want to take a couple minutes then to talk about something that I see happening more and more within the wine industry. When you look at kind of traditional France, Bordeaux and Burgundy you see single varietal wines, or at least in parts of Bordeaux it's like that. Burgundy, especially with Pinot Noir, it's like that. Napa has kind of made a name for itself with both kind of single vineyard or single source Chardonnay, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon. But there's this whole wider wine industry that's starting to turn more toward blends and there's a couple reasons for that. First, if you don't own your own vineyard you're constantly sourcing stuff from multiple vineyards. It's a heck of a lot easier to have more of a consistent style if you're sourcing from multiple vineyards and blending it together yourself as opposed to sourcing a single vineyard and saying, you know, we've got this great example of a cool climate Russian River Valley Saralee's Vineyard Grenache, only to see Saralee's Vineyard then sell the Grenache to a larger winery after you've done it for a few years and you're basically stuck at zero. We saw that happen to a few folks that we know pretty well.

In any case one of the natural offshoots, if you can't own a vineyard in Napa or Sonoma and you are left a little bit more on the periphery of the wine industry, you may find yourself growing Rhone varietals. As we've talked about numerous times, in this space at least, Syrah is a difficult sell in California and elsewhere, so you're probably looking at a GSM blend as a way to present your label, your style, and get the wine out there without having to fight the whole consumer sentiment that "I don't like Syrah." Here's a couple great examples. First [inaudible 00:02:07] this is a GSM blend from down in Paso Robles. According to the bottom of the bottle 48% Grenache, 29% Syrah, 2% Mourvedre. The Mourvedre, if you're familiar, it's traditionally a blending grape in the Rhone. It's used the same way here in California. In essence the wine maker puts that in for only one purpose so it is a little chalky and it's thick and syrupy, but more than anything else the biggest thing about Mourvedre is that it's dark purple in color. It's one of the darkest, non-black skin grapes that you're going to find. That's why they use it, because it darkens everything up a little bit. Fore Family Vineyards, it's another good example of the GSM. I don't think they even have the percentages here listed, which is something that frankly I don't mind. If you're saying it's a GSM then it just kind of is what it is, whatever the percentage is. It can change from year to year. Fore Family is based up in Lake County. It's kind of one of the preeminent growers up there in Lake County. I think they're, kind of, other than an estate wine program that's starting to take steps forward that kind of commensurate with the quality of wines that are being produced by others with their fruit. I think that's what you're starting to see. If you're a wine region on the periphery of what thought of as the classic wine regions in California and also in France, [inaudible 00:03:29] France in Languedoc where they've kind of adopted GSM blends as one of the things that they do, and they do quite well. You're going to see that continuing more and more. I would be frankly quite surprised if there wasn't another ... there's this whole other 46 movement and that's the wine producing states in the United States that in essence are not California, Oregon, Washington, the three we cover, and not New York because you have New York City and you don't have to try very hard. I'd be surprised if one or two of those didn't focus on Syrah or at least on GSM to try to see what they could get in the market place with it. These are kind of bold, intense wines and that's something that people are gravitating toward. If you look at the success of Cabernet in the market place you can see why somebody would think well if Cabernet does so well and Syrah does so poorly, maybe we can blend to something and get it closer to Cabernet, even if I don't have grapes from a Cabernet vineyard that would lead itself to $125 wine.

In any case, Mark Aselstine, Uncorked Ventures. I hope everybody is staying warm. I almost hesitate to admit that we're sitting at close to 70 degrees here in the Bay Area and everybody is feeling quite good about that.

Hope everybody is doing well. Thanks again.

Mark Aselstine
January 18, 2015 | Mark Aselstine

January 2015 Wine Club Shipments

Just a really brief update that we'll be shipping January 2015 wine club shipments over the next 3-4 days. Looking at the weather forecast, it appears there is a pretty good set of weather being predicted for the next week to ten days, so we'll have all January shipments out during that time frame.

Please note, with the holiday things may take slightly longer than usual to get to the east coast, so we'll find a nice warm section of the country to have your package spend the weekend.

If you have questions about an upcoming, or even a past shipment, please don't hestitate to drop us an email.

Staff Writer
January 18, 2015 | Staff Writer

Simple Sangria: Recipe & Information

There are not many versatile ways to drink a bottle of wine, you simply open the bottle and pour it into your glass. It’s a fuss free drink. Every once in a while it’s fun to try and spice things up a bit.

A fabulous alternative method for drinking wine is to use it in conjunction with fresh fruit and club soda. This concoction is called Sangria. Even though the origins of this fruity cocktail is not native to the United States, doesn’t make us love it any less. While it is possible to purchase a pre-made version of this drink, it can easily be made at home with a few easy steps. The process is so easy, that it may become your new go-to party drink.

The original Sangria’s were made with the use of red wines, and this is perhaps still the most common ways it’s made. However, this is not the only way that you can make this beverage. Feel free to use any wine that you may have on hand or that you are interested in trying. The best aspect of making Sangria is that it’s completely customizable. It’s a simple recipe that you can continuously tweak until you find the combination that blows you away.

A quick Google search will bring up a slew of easy recipes to use, but that basis for all Sangria is as follows: -bottle of wine -fresh fruit of your choice -sparkling water, club soda or tonic water - sugar (optional to taste) -liquor (such as brandy, optional)

The process of making the drink is as easy as gathering the necessary ingredients. To begin, you will need to chop your fruit and add it to the empty pitcher. Next, add the wine. If you choose add in the optional liquor at this point too. Stir it well to ensure that everything is mixed evenly. At this point it is common to do a taste test, completely normal; you’re creating a masterpiece so why not get a quick glimpse of your hard work. While it is okay to taste it now, understand that the end result will differ greatly. Cover and refrigerate. It’s best if you let the blend sit and marinate overnight, if possible. When you do this it allows the fruit to absorb the flavors of the wine.

When ready, pour in the club soda or sparkling water and stir. Add sugar if needed, but the sugars from the fruit should be enough to sweeten up this lively cocktail. Sip and enjoy. You will need to add an additional bottle of wine or an extra cup or two of the other ingredients depending upon how many people you are serving. Regardless of the crowd size, whether you’re solo or serving 24, the Sangria is sure to please. It’s a great way to enjoy a nice glass of wine. When you’re done, don’t forget to eat the fruit that will be left at the bottom of your glass. Eat it and savor the wine infused flavors. As delicious as this drink is, it’s easy to get caught up and have another one or two to follow. Just remember to please drink responsibly.

(Editor's Note: Yes, it's a bit different for us here at Uncorked Ventures, but we have considered a party pack type of gift basket in the past, so why not consider Sangria? We hope you enjoyed a slightly different and hopefully fun, article)

Staff Writer
January 17, 2015 | Staff Writer

Learning the Basics of Wine

Why do we drink wine?

Is it simply because we like the dry taste of the warm Merlot, or the sweet tingle of the Moscato? Could it be because movies and T.V. shows romanticize wine, that we feel like we want to follow suit?

While many of us drink it for taste alone, we would be remiss to say that we didn’t enjoy the pleasant sense of relaxation that we feel after a glass. The depiction in movies and shows couldn’t be more accurate. You usually see someone opening a bottle after a long day at work or alongside a candlelight dinner. A small glass of wine can indeed help you to relax. Just savoring the taste alone and concentrating on what you inhale with that very first sip, is a sure way to ease your mind off of the day’s woes.

To begin one must notice the obvious when it pertains to wine, the color. There are specifically two distinct classifications of wines, the reds and the whites. One of the major differences between these two is the manner in which they are served. Red wines, such as Merlot’s and Cabernet’s, are known for being served at room temperature. Most reds can offer you powerful warmth, unlike any other, that will be sure to elicit the taste buds with its array of flavors. It’s because of this temperature that we may feel that these wines are often stronger than their lighter counterparts, the whites.

Truth is, not everyone likes their wine warm. Sometimes you may prefer something a bit cooler rather than warm. For those that love the taste of a red but prefer it to be chilled, feel free to call in a red such as the Lambrusco. The red is best served chilled, and offers you’re a sweeter side of the group. White wines are best known as the cold or chilled wines. These wines also offer a wide range of flavors. From the Pinot Grigio, to the Chardonnay to the Moscato, each one will provide your pallet with a different interaction. Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay will leave you with a bit of a bitter aftertaste, while a Moscato will set your sweet tooth ablaze. Although known best as a dessert wine, the Moscato is perhaps one of the easiest wines for anyone to try. It’s rich in flavor and provides you with a sweetness that can easily be compared to that of a pure juice. So is it wrong to drink a white warm? Or perhaps to sip an alternate red, such as a Shiraz (Editor's note: we'll use the French term here most of time since that's where the grape calls home, that's Syrah), chilled?

Honestly speaking, it’s a matter of personal preference. The best way to figure you which wine is best for you is to use a simple process known as just trial and error. (That's where a wine of the month club comes in, we focus on helping you try wine and wines that you might not have otherwise) The serving temperature will have an effect on the wines overall taste. A strong red may seem less potent chilled and a warm white may offer you a more subtle taste. Dare to be different, push the boundaries and chill a Merlot or sip on your warm Chardonnay. You will be amazed at how different each will taste with the variation in temperature. Everyone has heard the saying that wine is an acquired taste, the only way to know for sure is to uncork that first bottle of wine and give it a try.