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Friday, November 17, 2017

Giving Thanks...




This upcoming week reminds us to give thanks for our blessings.   I have many, most of them big blessings like great health and wonderful family/friends. On a less serious note, here’s my list of wines for which I am thankful.

Tropical Sauvignon Blancs
I love Sauv Blancs that offer a tropical profile (usually from in warmer climates).   I don’t find cool climate Sauv Blancs with their green, grassy, herbal notes particularly appealing (but many do).   Merry Edwards is my current fave Cali rendition.

Buttery Chardonnays
Yes, I’m going to buck the trend of those shying away from these wines and put in a plug for a well-crafted Char with a voluptuous, velvety texture and other subtle nuances that stem from Malo-Lactic fermentation.  

Wines with a great finish
While many concentrate on a big fruit forward wine that offers enticing aromas and a great palate, one of the most important things for me is a lengthy finish.

Wines that offer a great bang-for-the-buck
I don’t mind paying some serious money for a killer wine.   That being said, my faves are those that provide killer price/quality ratios.  One of the best producers for quality/price is Joel Gott (Napa Valley) who sources all of his grapes.  His wines are in the 20 bucks range.   Another great producer is Barrel 27 (Paso Robles) which offers off-the-chart-values for their well-crafted wine in the same price range.

Wines with fruits and minerals
I’m falling in love with subtle mineral nuances, especially if they are layered with fruits.  Suggestions:  Assyrtiko (a wine from the Greek island of Santorini), or Nero di Avola (from the Mount Etna region of Sicily).

Obscure varietals
I am so excited to learn about new varietals, especially indigenous varieties that aren’t available anywhere else.  Look for the Torrontes (a white fruit-bomb) from Argentina, or Bierzo (a heavenly red) from Northern Spain.  Be adventurous!


Happy Thanksgiving!


Friday, November 10, 2017

Red Burgundy in Your Glass

                  Burgundy is all about Old World winemaking where“less is more”

Before we delve into how wines of France’s northeast Burgundy translate into what one experiences in the glass, let’s start with other differences in Burgundian reds.  Before one even opens the bottle there are differences to note.  First, notice that the Burgundian bottle is distinct with feminine, sloping shoulders.  In contrast, the Bordeaux bottles have harder edged, masculine shoulders.

Bordeaux (L), Burgundy (R)

Next, we need a glass.  A Burgundy glass.  The Burgundian glass has a large bowl which tapers in at the top, designed to enhance Pinot's delicate aromas.

Bordeaux (L), Burgundy (R)

Now, pour the Burgundy.  Reds in Burgundy are made from Pinot Noir, one of the lightest colored wines.  (Burgundian Pinots are generally lighter in color than their American counterparts).  That being said, Pinots as a group are pale raspberry or cranberry shades, and are transparent.   Bordeaux, on the other hand, is composed of dark grapes such as Cabernet and Merlot.  Syrah (Shiraz), from the Rhone Valley is the darkest of all wine grapes in the glass.  Bordeaux and Rhone wines also differ from Burgundy in that they are opaque.

                                                  Pinot Noir is the lightest red wine

Before we move on to aromas and taste profiles, let’s first discuss the differences in Old World vs. New World techniques in producing Pinot Noir.  Burgundy (Old World) is all about “less is more.”  Less manipulation in the wine-making process.  Less extraction of fruit.  Less oak.  Wild yeasts vs. cultured yeasts.

Aromas and flavors in Burgundian wines are very influenced by this less is more philosophy.  The area’s terroir also plays a huge role.   Unlike California or Chile  where sunshine is abundant, grapes in Burgundy are typically less ripe because of the weather.  This means Burgundian reds are not jammy like their super ripe New World counterparts.  Since high sugar levels also translate to high alcohol, this means that Burgundian wines have traditionally lower alcohol levels and therefore pair better with most foods.   It also means that Burgundy’s Pinots are less fruit-forward, and instead are more about earth profiles (think the scent of the forest), as well minerals (think the smell of wet stones).

Red Burgundy, in general, is quite expensive due to the phenomena of supply and demand.  There are, however, some good buys regarding price/quality to be found.  Try Jadot's Marsannay ($40), or Latour's Santenay ($30).  Both are excellent and readily available in the US.

Wine-Knows will be visiting the creme de la creme producers of Burgundy on their 2019 tour.  There are 4-5 spaces remaining.   www.WineKnowsTravel.com.




Friday, November 3, 2017

Amarone---from Obscurity to Stardom

     The historic estate of Dante Alighieri's has been leased for Wine-Knows' 2018 harvest tour


Pick up a wine magazine published in the last few years and chances are there will be an article about these rich, dark, voluptuous reds from northeast Italy.   Amarone has moved from relative anonymity to more front and center stage.  This is even more impressive in an era when lighter style wines are in vogue and consumers are shying away from higher alcohol wines.  Amarone is big, bold, and complex with alcohol levels that can vary between 14-17%.

It’s full name is Amarone della Valpolicella, but it is usually referred to simply by Amarone.   The wine is named after the district in which the grapes are grown, Valpolicella (which means the “area of many wineries”).  Located just north of Romeo and Juliette’s city of Verona and only 70 miles from Venice, Valpolicella has been producing wines since the Romans arrived a few millenniums ago.  Amarone was given its own special DOCG status by the Italian government in 2010.

                    
                    Amarone's grapes are dried for months prior to being made into wine

Amarone is like no other wine in that it is made by an ancient technique called appassimento.   The appassimento process involves laborious air drying of the grapes on wooden racks for more nearly four months, carefully turning the dehydrating fruit regularly to check for rot.  It involves a special building designed for ultimate ventilation.  The wine also relies on a lot of help from Mother Nature.  Winds from the nearby Alps are essential; however, moisture (which promotes mold) is a big problem.  Grapes (all local varietals unknown to Americans) typically lose 30-40% of their moisture before they are vinified.

The final product is a full-bodied, high-powered wine.  Raisin-like grapes have concentrated sugars which ultimately convert to alcohol.  In spite of its strength, if Amarone's alcohol is in balance with the other elements, the wine can be seductive with an enticing nose of black cherries, figs and spices such as cloves.  Its taste yields beguiling rich, dense, and velvet textures.  To appreciate its charm, however, it must be served with the right food.  Full-bodied foods, such as hearty meat dishes, are a great pairing.   Fish or chicken generally won’t work.  Amarone can pair with strong cheeses such as Stilton, or other big-flavored, aged cheeses.

                  Braised short ribs and a glass of Amarone are a marriage made in heaven

Amarone production has risen to 15 million bottles per year, a staggering increase of nearly 700% in the last 20 years.   Again, considering the trend is moving away from high alcohol wines, this ought to tell you something about how special Amarone is.   Why not try an Amarone during the upcoming holiday season?  Masi, an outstanding producer, is readily available in the US.   BTW: Wine-Knows’ 2018 harvest tour to Valpolicella and Piedmont will be staying on the historic Masi estate which was once owned by Renaissance personality Dante Alighieri.   Join us!   www.WineKnowsTravel.com



Friday, October 27, 2017

How Rotten Luck Created an Amazing Wine

                  Botrytis Cinera causes chemical changes which enhance aromas & flavors

The year was 1847.  California was not even a state yet and the Mexican-American War was full throttle.  Across the Atlantic in France, however, the Bordeaux region was enduring its own battle against a horrible fungus that had destroyed their production of Sauternes wines.  Vineyards lay in decay, a huge disaster of rotting fruit covered with an invading army of organisms which had attacked the grapes’ skins and caused them to dry and shrivel like raisins.  Many chateaux didn’t even bother to pick their fruit.  

                  Chateau Yquem's location near the convergence of 2 rivers is perfect for Botrytis

Chateau Yquem, one of the top wineries of the time and the most prestigious producer of Sauternes today, decided to pick some of its fruit, however, the quality was so bad that Yquem decided not to release the wine for sale.  Their entire 1847 vintage remained in Yquem’s cellar until 1859 when the brother of Russia’s Czar visited the esteemed chateau.   This visit changed the course of history for Bordeaux’s sweet wine industry.

The Russian monarchy and aristocracy of the 1800’s had long been great admirers of Hungary’s sweet wines, Tokaj (Tokay).   These very special sweet wines were like no other sweet wines.   While Hungary had been producing these unique wines for 200 years, their production was limited.  The wines were not produced every year as their production was entirely weather dependent.  As the demand of Russia’s royalty was high, these special sweet wines commanded regal prices.  When the Russian Grand Duke visited Bordeaux in 1859 he heard the story of the grey fungus invasion of 1847.  A light bulb went off in his head.

                                     Liquid gold from Bordeaux's Chateau Yquem

The Grand Duke knew that the limited Hungarian sweet wine of Tokaj was made only during the years of the Tokaj’s grey fungus.  He asked to try Chateau Yquem’s 1847.  The owner did not want to offend him with this swill, but who could say no to the Czar’s brother?  The rest is history.  The Russian monarchy bought every single bottle of Yquem’s 1847 vintage. 

                           Wine-Knows enjoys a private tour & tasting at Chateau Yquem

The grey fungus responsible for all of this is now referred to as the “Noble Rot.”  Its technical name is Botrytis Cinerea.   Known simply as Botrytis, this organism which has always been part of Hungary’s Tokaj region, has become a welcome visitor to Bordeaux for the last 150 years.  Modern science now knows that Botrytis creates very unique sweet wines.  The Noble Rot not only dehydrates the grapes into nearly raisins, but it actually changes the chemical composition of the grape adding new enticing flavors and aromas.  

Weather conditions must be perfect for the Noble Rot to attack vineyards.  Like any fungus, Botrytis organisms thrive in damp, warm conditions.  Both Bordeaux and Tokaj vineyards are located alongside rivers.  If there is river fog and sun simultaneously during October-November when the grapes are already super ripe, this creates the perfect storm for the Noble Rot.
  
                               Hungary's Tokaj wine district has idyllic conditions for Botrytis

If you’re coming with us next year on the Austria-Hungary tour, you’ll experience some of these flavor bombs made from Botyrtis in Hungary’s Tokay region.   If not, you’ll have to wait to 2021 when Wine-Knows conducts its tour to Bordeaux.

Let's hope Botrytis is visiting both Hungary & Bordeaux this Fall!




Friday, October 20, 2017

A Burgundy Primer

                       Burgundy's Cote D'Or is home to some of the priciest cult wines on earth

Many serious wine lovers believe that some of the world’s greatest wines come from Burgundy.   Others would argue that Bordeaux is the pinnacle.  I don’t think you can compare the two.  Burgundy’s production is miniscule;  Bordeaux’s is mammoth.  Burgundy is boutique producers;  Bordeaux is large-scale chateaux.  Burgundy’s wines are quietly elegant;  Bordeaux’s are bold and massively-structured.  

History
The famous Cluny Abbey played an important role in Burgundy 


The Catholic monks, abbeys, and the monasteries have played an enormous role in shaping Burgundy’s wine history.  From 900 A.D., the clergy were actively involved in not only making and selling wine, but actually developing the notion of terroir (soil, microclimate, slant of the hill, drainage, wind, environmental pests, etc.).  Early on they learned that different plots of earth made consistently different wines.  

    Centuries ago monks surrounded vineyards with special characteristic with walls               

The monks mapped out an intricately complex quilt of vineyards throughout Burgundy which today are the basis for the region's Cru’s.  They built walls around each plot.  Wall in French is “clos,” thus many of Burgundy’s vineyards begin with the word “clos.”

Location

                                           In French Burgundy is known as Bourgogne

Burgundy begins just 120 miles south of Paris.   The actual wine part of the region is a long, narrow area that runs about 150 miles in length.  Burgundy is composed of these five distinct sub-districts (north to south):
1)    Chablis
2)    Cote D’Or
3)    Cote Chalonaise
4)    Maconnaise
5)    Beaujolais

Two Great Grapes of Burgundy

Reds in Burgundy are made from Pinot Noir (the only exception is Beaujolais which uses the Gamay grape).  Difficult to grow, fickle Pinot Noir thrives in a narrow band of soil and climate parameters.  Red Burgundy is mecca for many oenophiles.  In fact, many in-the-know consumers feel that Pinot Noir is at its very best in Burgundy.

White Burgundy is made a 100% from the Chardonnay grape.  The Chardonnay varietal is actually is native to the Burgundian region of France.  While Chardonnay is a now a universal grape, white Burgundies are some of the most divine wines on planet earth---complex layers with a long finish.

Burgundy is Terroir-Driven
Every plot of earth has been painstaking rated for the quality of its terroir


Unlike Bordeaux where the pecking order is established by a chateau’s land holdings, Burgundy’s hierarchy is purely terroir based.   For example, Mouton Rothchild in Bordeaux owns many parcels in different parts of the huge wine region.  All of them may be used in the making Rothschild's wine as Bordeaux wines are all about blending.  In Burgundy, vineyards have been carefully mapped out into very small plots based on their unique terroir.   In contrast to Bordeaux, Burgundy "Cru" cannot be blended as their intent is to showcase the specific single vineyard and its terroir.

Stay tuned for future articles on Burgundy, including Pinots and Chardonnays that won’t break your bank, pairing Burgundy's wine with foods, and many other favorite experiences of mine awaiting you in Burgundy.




Friday, October 13, 2017

Facts Champagne Lovers Should Know

                            A private dinner will be held at the producer of Dom Perignon

Wine-Knows will be taking its last group to Champagne (there are currently 5 spots available on this tour that will also visit Burgundy).  Below is important information that any serious wine lover should know about this oh-so-special bubbly.

Nomenclature
  • Only sparkling wine made in the demarcated Champagne region of France can be called Champagne.
  • Wineries are call "houses."  The Veuve Clicquot company is referred to as the House of Veueve Clicquot.
Grapes
Most Champagnes are a blend of these grapes


  • Champagne may only be made from the above three grapes (from left to right):  (1) Pinot Noir  (2) Pinot Meunier  (3) Chardonnay.
  • If a Champagne is Blanc de Blanc (white Champagne made from white grapes) it is 100% Chardonnay as this is the only white varietal of the three.  The often very slight greenish hue in these Blanc de Blancs is characteristic of Chardonnay wines. 
  • If it's a Rose Champagne, the wine can be made from either or both of the two red grapes allowed.  Rose, however, also can have Chardonnay added.

Taste Profiles
                The entire Champagne region millenniums ago was covered by an inland sea

  • Champagne's limestone is composed of chalky layers, remnants of ancient sea creatures.  These highly porous limestone soils are easily penetrated by root systems of vines heading downward to seek water.  While water is brought up into the plant, so are minerals from the fossilized remains of sea shells.  Due to this, Champagnes offer mineral nuances.
  • Yeasts also play a critical role in the taste profile of Champagne.  Unlike non-sparkling wine, Champagne undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle.  Yeasts and a small amount of sugar to "feed" the yeasts are added after the initial fermentation has been completed and the wine has been placed in bottles.  Carbon dioxide is given off during this process but is trapped by the cork in the bottle, thus creating the wine's famous bubbles.   The spent yeast cells add flavors to the Champagne which are described as "bread dough,"  "freshly baked cake," or "brioche."

Land Ownership

Unlike most wine districts where the land is owned by wineries, 90% of Champagne is owned by grape growers.  Only 10% of the land is controlled by actual wineries.


Best Glass
                  Glasses popular in Champagne have tapered tops to enhance the aromas

In the Champagne region of France you rarely see the typical flute glass.  While flutes do help with the visual effect of the bubbles, its narrow top does not fully allow the aromas of Champagne to be appreciated.  While there are many variations, all  glasses in Champagne have the same tulip shape---wider bowls taper (but not near as narrow as the typical flute), allowing one to both swirl and capture the aromas. 

Changing Climate is Problematic

Temperatures in the Champagne region have risen 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 20 years.  This is especially an issue with fickle Pinot Noir which has a narrow band of cooler temperatures in which it grows.  Moreover, shifting rainfall patterns are posing further problems.

At the same time, England’s climate is also changing, with warmer summer and milder winters.  England is now experiencing a boom in the production of high quality sparkling wine.  More unnerving is the fact that several of France’s famous Champagne houses have purchased land in the south of England.  The country’s southern limestone soil is very similar to that of the Champagne region.


Protecting the Champagne Brand

            Many, from famous perfume producers to lingerie makers, have been successfully sued

An army of attorneys around the globe are employed by the Champagne professional association to protect the Champagne brand.  They’ve done battle with a variety of companies who made the mistake of naming their product Champagne.  A big no-no.


Have a bubbly kind of weekend.



Friday, October 6, 2017

Italy's King of Truffles

 White truffles are the gastronomic world's most decadent ingredient

This weekend Italy begins its official 2017 season for the world’s most expensive culinary item, the illustrious white truffle.  I may be 10,000 miles away, but I can almost feel the excitement beginning to pulsate as the annual festival kicks into gear.  Foodies from all over Europe are preparing to descend upon the town of Alba, home of not only Barolo and Barbaresco, but the epicenter of the White Truffle Festival.  The enchanting town will soon swell to nearly double its size as masses of gastronomic pilgrims pay homage to Italy’s "edible diamonds."

                   Colorful truffle hunters descent upon Alba to sell their products during the festival

Truffles are an exotic fungus, a kind of distant relative of the wild mushroom family.   They come in black and white, but the white version is overwhelmingly the most prized because of its intense aroma.  You can notice the intoxicating smell of a white truffle the minute you walk into a restaurant where even a very small truffle is being served.  The white truffle is also known to have the most intense taste of all of the truffle family. While black truffles are found in Umbria and some parts of France, the white truffle is only found in northern Italy in the district of Piedmont.


                     Wine-Knows forages truffles in the forest with two truffle hunters 

Unlike a mushroom, the tartufo (truffle) grows several inches underground.  This makes finding the hidden treasures challenging.  Truffles are found with the help of special breeds of dog.  The dog spends months at a doggie university (don’t laugh---there is actually such a place in Piedmont!).  The dogs are used for their keen sense of smell.   Due to the current exorbitant price of white tartufi, these specially trained dogs have become equally valuable (in fact, some have actually been stolen and held for a sizable Euro ransom).  No joke.


                                            Dogs are vital to finding the buried truffles

The pleasure of indulging in a white truffle comes at a mammoth price which has escalated dramatically over the last ten years.  In the last few years the prices have ranged between $6,000-10,000 US a pound. Just what the price for this year will not be known until the festival begins tomorrow.  It’s all about supply and demand.  The demand seems to be never-ending.  

Wine-Knows will be attending next year's Truffle Festival in Alba.  There are only two spots remaining in the group.   Come and experience the magic of this special culinary festival with us.




Friday, September 29, 2017

EATALY….A Gastronomic Shrine

                             Eataly in Istanbul offers a cheese & ham counter worthy of Caesar

Ten years ago Eataly opened in a former vermouth factory in Turin.  Today there are more than 35 locations around the world stretching from Rome to Tokyo and even to Dubai.  It’s appropriate, however, that the first Eataly opened in Italy’s Piedmont district.  Piedmont is home to the Slow Food Association, a kind of Noah’s Ark of Italy’s heirloom foods that was born in outrage to the first McDonald’s opening in Italy back in the 1980’s.

                               Chicago's wine department sells the best of Italian vino

Eataly’s founder, an Italian bazillon-Euro magnate, grew up in a household involved in the grocery business.  His extended family were artisan pasta makers.  After selling his electronics firm, he took the old-fashioned concept of a food-hall and turned it into the greatest foodie emporium on planet earth.   Before doing so, however, he toured all of Italy’s regions looking for its best local food products.  He found a cornucopia of producers making foods the old way…everything from boutique pasta located in the boot of Italy, to capers from an island off the coast of Sicily.

                                 Eataly in Florence serves up a serious array of breads

Think of Eataly as a Whole Foods on steroids, then add a William-Sonoma Super Store, a cooking school, several dining venues (including a mozzarella bar, a wood-fired oven featuring to-die-for breads and pizzas, and a pasta cafe), as well as a second-to-none culinary bookstore.  I spent several hours in Rome’s three story Eataly (built in a once derelict bus terminal on the outskirts of town).  I ate lunch, shopped for dinner ingredients (to be whipped up that night in my rented apartment), bought most of my Christmas gifts, and simply wandered from department to department in awe of the mind-boggling array of Italian foodie-related products.

                              Eataly, regardless of location, has multiple dining venues

Eataly is finally opening a long-awaited outpost in Los Angeles late this year.  My birthday is in December and I’ve already made plans to spend it at their new location.  I’ll celebrate with a cooking class, but will leave plenty of time to explore, marvel, and shop for holiday goodies.

Viva Eataly!



Friday, September 22, 2017

Enticing Valpolicella

                                  Sensational Lake Garda is home to Valpolicella wines

How can you possibly go wrong with a wine district whose name means “valley of many wine cellars?”  Another no-brainer:  its location is between the magical cities of Venice and Verona.  Last, add to the equation that the stupendously beautiful Lake Garda is part of the wine region.  Valpolicella is compelling on all of these levels, and many more.

Wines have been made in the Valpolicella district since the time of the ancient Greeks before the birth of Christ.  In 1968 the region was awarded its own DOC (appellation) by the Italian Government.  Since then, parts of the district have been bestowed a further award by the granting of a special DOCG to the area's Amarone wines.  (Amarone, the region’s pricey flagship wine, will be discussed soon in a future article.)

Valpolicella is both a wine-producing district and a wine.  Red is the dominant color.  Reds are made from a combination of grapes, all mostly unknown to Americans.  Corvina, the main varietal, is blended with other grapes such as Rondinella and Moninara.   The most basic level Valpolicellas are light-bodied, lower in alcohol, and noted for their cherry flavor.  Valpolicella Superiore wines, however, must be aged a minimum of one year in oak barrels.  The Superiore is more complex and offers more structure along with more intense aromas of dried cherries.  Often times the Superiore version is made using an old wine making method in which the aristocratic skins remaining from the area’s powerful Amarone wines are mixed in with Superiore must and undergo a secondary fermentation.

Both levels of Valpolicella wines frequently offer great quality/price ratios on wine lists.  Equally important, these wines pair well with most foods.  The Superiore is especially nice with grilled poultry and meats, and can stand up to pastas that use strong cheeses such as Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Wine-Knows will be in the Valpolicella district next year on its Northern Italy & Truffle Tour in early October 2018.  Moreover, we’ll be staying on the historic estate of one of the area’s best Valpolicella and Amarone producers, Serego Alighieri (descendants of one of Italy’s most famous authors, Dante Alighieri).   Availability on this tour is just two spaces.  www.WineKnowsTravel.com.



Friday, September 15, 2017

The Country that Shaped the Wine World: ENGLAND !


Many of you may be scratching your head regarding how England could have played such an unparalleled role in the historical development of wine.  Indeed, Bordeaux, Champagne, Port, Marsala, and Madeira wines all owe their existence today to the English.  The reasons for this are intriguing and encompass royal kingdoms, dowries, shipping fortunes, and wars. 

Southwest France becomes part of the British Empire

                           Eleanor of Aquataine's dowry gave England control of Bordeaux

Let’s start with how profound the English influence has been in the Bordeaux wine business.  Queen Eleanor (wife of France’s King Louis VII) was one of the most powerful and wealthiest women in Europe during the 12th century.  She later married King Henry II of England.  Her dowry comprised all of Southwestern France, including Bordeaux.  This royal union of France and England produced many things, including one of Europe’s most famous monarchs (Richard the Lion-hearted, Eleanor and Henry’s son), as well as the English love affair with Bordeaux wines.

As the entire region of Bordeaux came under English rule, King Henry extended favorable trade privileges to Bordeaux's merchants to ship their wines to England.  This allowed Britain to receive Bordeaux wines far in advance of other European countries, and at far better rates.  While Bordeaux wine wasn’t cheap, it was the preferred beverage of the English upper class and monarchy.  Profits were massive as volume was extraordinary.  Records from the early 1300’s show that wine shipments between Bordeaux and England accounted for the largest shipping traffic in the world at the time. 

The English birthed the Port wine industry 

            Port was shipped downstream on small boats for loading on England-bound ships

Then, came the Hundred Year War between England and France.  By now the English were smitten with Bordeaux’s red wines which essentially became unavailable during the war.  English importers sailed further south to the northern part of Portugal for their red wines.   As the shipping journey was considerably longer than from Bordeaux, alcohol was added to prevent spoilage during the lengthy journey.  As British demand for Port (fortified wine with alcohol) grew, London merchants and their families moved to Portugal to oversee their empires and control their costs.  Interestingly, many of these original English families still control the Port industry today (e.g. Croft, Dow, Graham, Symington and Taylor).

The Brits put the bubbles in Champagne

                                     2 absolutely profound elements were added by the Brits

Now, let’s fast forward from Portugal to the Champagne district of Northern France.  In the 1600’s the wine produced in the Champagne countryside was “still” wine….there were no bubbles.  An English physician and scientist by the name of Christopher Merret was the first to discover how to make sparkling wine.  (This fact is often incorrectly attributed to the French monk Dom Perignon).   The Brits further played another role in the groundwork for the Champagne industry.  It was England’s Royal Navy that invented the thicker glass bottles to prevent Champagne bottles from exploding under the higher pressures.  Without these two important English contributions, Champagne as we know it today wouldn’t exist.

English merchants promoted Madeira

                                            The Brits had a love affair with Madeira island 

Next, there’s Madeira wine.  Like Bordeaux, Port and Champagne, the English played a pivotal role in the Madeira wine business, especially in the shipping of these wines to the rest of the world.  One of their most popular routes was to the British Colonies in America.  Madeira was considered to be the most important wine of the colonists.   In fact, it was so popular that George Washington used Madeira to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Marsala’s Origin is English

                    While Marsala can be an aperitif or dessert wine, it is also used in cooking

Marsala is another wine that owes its global success to the English.   A fortified wine, like Madeira and Port, Marsala is credited to a British merchant in the mid-1700’s who first added distilled spirits to the local wines surrounding the city of Marsala in Sicily.   This fortification with brandy was used to keep the wines from spoiling during their voyage on the ship back to England.  Marsala became so popular in England that British merchants soon descended on Sicily to increase production and commercialization of the beverage.

The Brits seed the New World

                 The British Empire in the 18th century reached nearly every corner of the globe

In addition to promoting wines in the American colonies, the Brits were also influencing wine habits in their Empire.  Settlers from Britain immigrated to South Africa, Australia and New Zealand and with them they brought vines for making wine. Centuries later, while no longer a part of the British Empire, these countries are known for producing quality wine.  And, their wines are widely exported back to England.

England is finally making its own wines

                    Churchill would be thrilled with England's new-found sparkling wine fame

Today, after more than 900 years of influencing the development of the modern wine business, England is finally producing its own wines.  While production is still relatively small, English wines have captured the attention of the wine world by winning competitions and acing out many of the globe's most prestigious brands. England's sparkling wines have been getting lots of traction, beating out in blind tastings famous Champagne houses such as Veueve Clicquot, Tattinger and even Winston Churchill's favorite Champagne, Pol Roger.


In summary, more than any other nation in the world, England has influenced throughout history the course of wine.  Wine-Knows will be visiting England in June 2019.  Join us to learn about England’s impressive new lineup of wines, in addition to Stilton cheese and Bombay Gin.  The trip is detailed at www.WineKnowsTravel.com.