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Archive for December, 2008

Wine Wisdoms #12: Champagne 101

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008 at 2:20:51 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Champagne Toast

Though traditional Champagne is made as a white wine, it is made from a blend of red and white grapes including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. The juice has no contact with the grape skins so despite the red Pinot Noir grapes in the blend, the final result is a white wine.

There are 7 basic steps to making Champagne by the Traditional Method, also called Fermentation in Bottle or Methode Champenoise:

1)  First Fermentation: a still wine is produced from each grape variety that is to be a component of the Champagne (usually Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier).

2) Blending: still wines are blended together from different grapes, vineyards or perhaps different vintages to create a consistent style.

3) Liqueur de Tirage: a blend of wine, sugar, yeast nutrients and a clarifying agent is added to the blend to set off a second fermentation in the bottle and create the sparkle. After the liqueur de tirage is added, the bottle is sealed temporarily.

4) Maturation: the bottles mature horizontally while CO2, yeast and alcohol build inside. An important process called yeast autolysis also occurs in which the yeast digests and interacts with the wine, creating unique flavor components. This process can last as long as ten years!

5) Riddling: the bottles alternate from horizontal to vertical positions to move the deposit of yeast up to the neck of the bottle, so it can be removed. In the past, a skilled person did this work by hand but recently Champagne houses have started to use mechanical techniques. A further period of aging typically occurs after riddling.

6) Disgorgement: the neck of the bottle is frozen so that the yeast deposit can exit the bottle in a clean way. During disgorgement, the pressure inside the bottle from the CO2 releases the deposit fully from the bottle.

7)  Dosage: a small amount of wine is lost during disgorgement so some more wine is added along with liqueur d’expedition (mix of wine and sugar). This process is called dosage and will vary depending on the desired sweetness of the resulting Champagne. Further aging can be done after this depending on the producer’s needs.

Finally the Champagne is sealed and dressed with a label and foil covering. Sparkling wines can be made in a variety of methods but traditional Champagne from France must be made in this method in order to be called “Champagne.”

Learn the best vintages and regions in Roger Voss’s “Champagne’s Brightest Stars”

Find affordable Champagne and sparkling wine at

Shop great Champagne accessories like our beautiful Fusion Infinity Champagne flutes 

From all of us at Wine Enthusiast Companies, have a very Happy New Year!

Top Regions for Great Buys in 2008

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008 at 5:14:55 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Last week, we announced our Top 100 Best Buys of 2008, these represent quality wines with a suggested retail price no more than $15. These wines offer outstanding value and are a great springboard for building an everyday wine collection. Like we did with the Enthusiast 100, I analyzed the list only this time to determine the best wine-producing regions for value. Refer to this list when you’re next in a wine shop, looking for the most bang for your buck:

  • Countries with the most Best Buy wines in the Top 100 are the U.S (28), Chile (15), Australia (10), Spain (10) and Portugal (9)
  • At the lowest end of the price range, for just $8, you find wines rated 87+ from California, Central Valley (Chile), Columbia Valley (Washington), Portugal and Spain.
  • Other hot regions to look for: Mendoza (Argentina), Provence (France), Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma, California), and Stellenbosch (South Africa)
  •  The list crosses a wide spectrum of wine styles including everything from Pinotage to Albarino to Bordeaux and the Douro, showing that you can find great wines of every style, at low price points. Why spend a lot for great wine?

What are some of your favorite great buys this year? Where are you seeing the most value?

Top 100 Best Buy Regions

Wine Wisdoms #11: Bordeaux, Left and Right Banks

Monday, December 22nd, 2008 at 6:55:18 PM
by Josh F., Wine Enthusiast Companies

mapfrancebordeaux.JPGThe Bordeaux region is divided by the Gironde river into two major areas. On the left bank you find the Medoc and various sub-regions while on the right bank you find St. Emilion and Pomerol and various sub-regions. Cabernet Sauvignon is the primary grape variety on the left bank and Merlot dominates on the right. Often the right bank wines are softer than the left due to the prominence of Merlot rather than Cabernet Sauvignon. Because the right bank region is larger there is more Merlot planted than any other grape in Bordeaux.

Wine Wisdoms #10: Are Reserve Wines Important?

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008 at 6:48:25 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Unlike old-world countries like France and Italy which have levels of designation which are enforced by the government (AOC/DOC), new-world wineries build their reputation on perceived quality by the consumer. As a result, many wineries use the term “Reserve” to denote special bottlings made from top grapes/vineyards or wines made in a different style than their other labels. The term “Reserve” is not regulated, so it is up to the winery’s discretion. As a result, a “Reserve” wine can be a quality wine, or it can be a clunker. A low level winery can produce a “Reserve” wine if it’s better than their other wines, but it’s not necessarily a great wine because the term “Reserve” is used.

For more basic wine education, check out our selection of educational products at

For a comprehensive glossary of wine terms at your finger tips, check out our brand new iPhone Application, available now!

Just Launched! Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Wine Buying Guide iPhone Application

Monday, December 15th, 2008 at 5:08:49 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Wine Enthusiast Wine Buying Guide iPhone App

We are excited to announce that our brand new, wine buying guide application is available now in the iPhone App Store. The guide features our entire database of thousands of wine ratings plus handy wine information, a comprehensive vintage chart, and more.  If you are an iPhone/Touch user, it’s a must.

•    Search wines by price, rating, style, varietal, appellation and special designation
•    Save wines to your wish list for future purchases
•    Cross-reference potential wine shop purchases with ratings from our experts
•    Make informed wine list choices with our vintage chart featuring ratings since 1990
•    Use our glossary of thousands of wine terms including everything from Abbocatto to Zymurgy
•    Learn about Wine and Health, Storing and Cellaring, Serving Wine and more in our Wine 101 reference guide.

Wine Enthusiast Wine Guide iPhone App

For just $10, you’ll have a wealth of portable wine information at your fingertips, whenever you’re in need. It’s a perfect stocking stuffer as well, and a great way to impress friends!

Do you have an iPhone/Touch? Try out the app, and let us know how you like it!

Wine Enthusiast Wine Guide iPhone App

Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Enthusiast 100: By the Numbers

Friday, December 12th, 2008 at 4:12:12 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Each year during holiday time, the editors of Wine Enthusiast Magazine compile their much-anticipated Top 100 Wines lists. They are printed in the January issue which hits news stands in a few weeks but we’ve released a sneak preview to e-mail subscribers. (If you are not a subscriber and you’d like to be, please submit your e-mail address here) Four lists are created: The Enthusiast 100, Top 100 Cellar Selections, Top 100 Best Buys, and Top 50 Spirits (coming soon). Perhaps the most buzzworthy is the Enthusiast 100, which represents the most diverse and dynamic wines available, offering extraordinary quality at the price of affordable luxury.

Wine Wisdoms #9: Why Barrel Fermentation is Special

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008 at 1:45:47 PM
by Josh F., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Barrel Fermentation

Most wines are fermented in large steel tanks. Some high quality white wines, particularly Chardonnays, are barrel fermented. This means that the grape juice is put into small (50 gallon) oak barrels along with the yeast, and wine is made. Barrel fermentation is very labor intensive as many, many barrels are used and must be tended to. It’s also an expensive technique because the barrels must be purchased, maintained and replaced frequently. The benefit is that the wines produced this way are richer and more complex than tank fermented wines.  Top burgundy producers barrel ferment and so do many exclusive California wineries.

We offer an assortment of “barrel” themed home decor items like our Personalized Barrel Top Lazy Susans, which make great gifts!

Hosting a Wine Tasting Party: 10 Tips and Tools

Friday, December 5th, 2008 at 6:17:37 PM
by Francis J., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Wine Tasting PartyThere’s much talk about wine appreciation as a social exercise—a way to connect with friends and family while learning about a topic that’s undeniably entertaining. Hosting a wine tasting party sets a stage for fun exchanges and surprising discoveries. Add flavorful food to the mix and you pretty much guarantee a good time for anyone with a pulse. But how to plan it? Wine tasting parties needn’t be a study in luxury—many of the best gatherings are simply organized, and don’t break the bank, making them an ideal choice for tight times.

Announcing The Grand Opening of our New Showroom

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008 at 3:05:43 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Wine Enthusiast Mt. Kisco Headquarters

We welcome you to our new Mount Kisco, New York home with our Showroom Grand Opening sale, taking place this weekend (December 5th, 6th and 7th).

Join us in the celebration at 333 North Bedford Road between 9AM and 6PM from Friday-Sunday and enjoy:

  • 50% Off Merchandise
  • A Free VIP  Wine Tasting
  • Free Wine Cellars with Purchases Over $350
  • Le Cache Wine Cellar Auction
  • Coupon Giveaways, On-Site Demos and More!
  • We are located just 45 minutes north of Manhattan in Mount Kisco which is in Westchester, NY. Find easy directions from your house here.

    We hope to see you for this fun-filled day!

Wine Wisdoms #8: It’s All About Balance

Monday, December 1st, 2008 at 5:18:33 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

balance.jpgThe simplest way to judge the quality of a wine is to determine whether the wine is well-balanced. A wine of high quality will have flavor components that are integrated and in sync with one another. Attributes such as alcohol, acidity and tannin should work together well. If something seems out of wack, it may be an indication of a poorer quality of wine. For example, if you sense a hotness in your throat after sipping the wine, the alcohol may be out of balance. If your mouth is watering profusely, the acidity may be too high. Balance is the most crucial element of wine tasting. And of course if YOU don’t like it, none of this matters at all!

Educate yourself further on the components of wine with any of our wine taste and aroma kits, they  make great gifts too!