Rose, I know, is for summer drinking. Or that’s the way it’s always been. That’s a natural assumption, because the very best of rose wines come from places where it is almost always summer. But that rose from Chateau de Nages was perfect last night with a baked filet of cod slathered in olive oil and bread crumbs. In spite of bleak, chilling weather, the sun had broken through, and I set aside a five-year-old full-bodied Napa Cabernet and took out the rose and pretended that winter was really over.
Nages made such pretension easy. Barely six months ago, I drove right past Chateau de Nages late for dinner at the two-Michelin-star Restaurant Alexandre on the edge of Nimes. Fast as I was driving, I could still look wistfully at the Nages vineyards surrounding their earth-colored home and winery. For weeks I had anticipated a visit to Nages, and while Tina Gassier could not guarantee a meeting with her husband Michel because of the round-the-clock harvesting duties, I would receive plenty of warm hospitality.
There had been several appointments that September week, and for most of them, I had not reckoned on the traffic and road construction in and around Arles where I had encamped. It seems I was tardy for nearly everything. So the day before my Nages visit, I had to tell Tina it would be best to come at another time. Though her regrets were gracious, I could sense relief, and having spent several days between Nimes and Arles witnessing the labor in the fields and wine houses, I could well understand it.
The ButiNAGES (honey nectar) rose took my wife and me directly back to the Costieres de Nimes, the southern most appellation of the Rhone Valley and that day last September far warmer than our sunny day of this March. The 60% Grenache in the blend brought the aromas and flavors of the Camargue, and the 40% Syrah brought the body and firmness I had yearned for earlier in the day.
I have long been a fan of the red and white wines produced by the Gassiers, but on this particular wintry early evening, their rose told me we should include more pink in our winter meals. Wine does have a way of communicating over time and distance.
Market forces are once again afoot (or should I say amouth) in Champagne conversations. This month’s DECANTER questions — and seems to advocate — that Champagne flutes should be outlawed.
The flute, you know, is that cone-shaped glass with a stem on the bottom that we have spent decades and decades learning to use instead of that flat, bowl-shaped glass that is rumored to have been molded around Diane de Poitier’s left breast. The bowl, we were told, allows the hard-to-produce and retain bubbles to dissipate all too quickly, thus destroying the main purpose of enjoying Champagne. The flute, we have been taught, channels the bubbles and directs them and the wine’s aroma more directly to the nostrils and lips and prevents rapid dissipation. (Never mind for now that we have since learned that the bubbles do not dissipate when we leave the Champagne in an open bottle; however, the unstoppered bottle leaves far less exposure to air than the does the surface of an ample bosom.)
The question above was posed by Maximilian Riedel the famous glassware manufacturer. While my tastes prefer Baccarat glasses, I concede that the Riedel glasses enjoy the highest prestige among wine producers and consumers around the world. The Riedels have designed and produced glasses to match just about every wine grape varietal and every wine producing region. The company has even had great commercial success marketing stemless wine glasses, thus proving that clutching a glass by the bowl rather than the stem does nothing to harm the wine. Why, then, did we ever have those stems to begin with.
There is support in the DECANTER piece for Riedel’s position about flutes, including the Chef de Cave at Dom Perignon and from the author of the book The Finest Wines of Champagne. Those opposing the Riedel contention do so only modestly, suggesting that perhaps the flute should be modernized or become slightly more tulip-shaped.
Even so, I have found very little evidence across France and the USA that wine servers are rushing to glassware other than the revered cone for their Champagnes and other sparkling wines. That observation suggests to me that Herr Riedel is seeking to establish a new marketing niche. If he can make it sound trendy enough, he may succeed and sell a lot more new glasses.
If you love wine and have lots of time on your hands, you may want to think about becoming a Sommelier. The term, loosely used, refers to an expert who acts as a wine steward, trained to choose, recommend and care for wine.
Wine producing countries have their own associations–the French, for example, have the Union de la Sommellerie Francaise. Their Maitre Sommellelier qualification is awarded after at least 10 years of intense study and experience.
The Italian Sommelier Association is the largest sommelier association in the world, with over 33,000 members. Don’t be fooled into thinking membership is easy, though. The training is rigorous, involving technical tasting and methodology, food and wine pairings, publications and course work. Only those who work in a food and beverage establishment can become sommeliers.
NASA–the North American Sommelier Association–has two levels of acheivement and a variety of learning opportunities.
England’s Court of Master Sommeliers offers 4 levels of study. The highest level, called the Master Sommelier Degree, was introduced in 1969 and by 2013 had 214 members, 135 of them, American. This is the creme de la creme of sommelier degrees. The 2012 movie, Somm, documented the story of 4 sommelier candidates and their extraordinary efforts to gain the designation of Master Sommelier.
IF you want to become a Master Sommelier, check out the websiite at www.mastersommeliers.com. There are courses offered throughout the US, and were even offered in Indianapolis as recently as 2012. Just beware, we are talking about spending the next several years, LOTS of money and repeated failures before gaining this much sought after prize!OLDER POSTS »