Archive for October 20th, 2021

October 20, 2021

The wines of La Rioja, Spain!

Wine is part of my life since birth, my maternal grandmother was the one who offered me a tiny bit of wine at age 8! It has been a love affairs ever since and in my house we cannot eat without wine. That is wine as culture in our home, we know how to drink in moderation.

That first sip of wine came from Marqués de Riscal in the Rioja region of Spain. It was, also, my first bottle of wine I purchased; many many years ago. From then , I even worked in a liquor store wine department in Florida. Went on to have diploma from ICEX the commercial office of Spain abroad and Sopexa ,food and wine from France. My cellars is not big but any day you can find 50 bottles in it , ready to drink shortly; who wants to aged the wines, they are meant to be drunk!!!

Guillermo Hurtado de Amézaga inherited vineyards and old wineries from his sister in Elciego in 1858, founding in 1860 together with his son Camilo Hurtado de Amézaga the Marqués de Riscal winery, considered the oldest modern winery in La Rioja. He conceived the winery in the style of the French Château, bringing in 1868 the first vines of French origin that were grown in Spain and the best French techniques from the hand of Jean Pineau.

The Rioja is Spain in a glass of red wine. The wine is known for its structure and tannins, similar to Cabernet Sauvignon , but it also has a fruity characteristic. This is a wine perfect for a drinker who loves Cabernet but is also looking for the dominant cherry flavor that’s often present in a wine like Pinot Noir. Rioja is made from a blend of grape varieties, with Tempranillo the dominant grape (Garnacha is typically included in the blend to add some fruitiness. Mazuelo and Graciano may also be included). Spain is very proud of its indigenous Tempranillo grape because they have been making it into wine for over 2,000 years. When choosing to buy a Rioja, the most important thing to know is that the wine separates into four levels of classification, which depends on the amount of time the wine spends in oak. The classification of each Rioja will be labeled clearly on the bottle.

Rioja: This is the basic form of the wine. It has been aged for only a short amount of time in oak, potentially only a few months, and then the wine is bottled and sold. It is in this wine where the juice will taste the “ripest” because the wine is very young. Therefore, sometimes is sold as Joven or young on the label.

Crianza: For a wine to be labeled a Crianza, it must spend a minimum of 1 year in oak. Following its removal from oak, the wine must spend at least another few months in the bottle, before being sold. This is the level of Rioja that is most affordable.

Reserva: This is a Rioja made from the best grapes of the harvest, and is only made during years that were considered to have a good growing season. A Reserva must be aged a minimum of 3 years, with at least one year being in oak, and the rest in the bottle.

Gran Reserva: This is a Rioja that is only allowed to be made in years with exceptional growing seasons from the most exceptional grapes harvested. Gran Reserva’s must be aged in oak for at least 2 years, and then must spend at least 3 more years in the bottle.

Rioja wines are aged in 225-liters oak casks, with periodic racking, followed by a further period of bottle ageing. There are about 567 ageing bodegas in Rioja. The Rioja wine region is located in northern Spain, on both sides of the River Ebro. The local terrain perfectly delimits the region and sets it apart from surrounding territories. From an administrative point of view, however, its 63,593 hectares of vineyards are divided between three provinces on the Upper Ebro – La Rioja (Rioja Alta) (43,885 ha), Alava (Alavesa) (12,934 ha) and Navarra ( Rioja Baja)  (6,774 ha). The grape varieties that are currently authorised by the Regulations of the D. O. Ca. Rioja are:

RED: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano, Mazuelo, and Maturana Tinta.

WHITE: Viura, Malvasia, Garnacha Blanca, Tempranillo Blanco, Maturana Blanca, Turruntés, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Verdejo.

To help with the ranking of harvest years  ,which are only to be used as a general rule, the most important one is who is the producer. These are the rating on last few years from the wine council. , 2016 MB( Very good), 2017 MB, 2018 Buena (Good), 2019 (Excellent), 2020, MB (Very good).

Rioja wines are protected by the oldest Designation of Origin in Spain, officially recognised in 1926. In 1991, it was awarded the highest category -Calificada- making Rioja the first designation in Spain to be so honored.(now there are two ), To learn more of Rioja from official sources see the Rioja denominacion de Origen Calificada (DOC) webpage:  https://www.riojawine.com/en/home-en/

If you can read Spanish you can see this site to learn all about the Rioja from harvest to the bottle.  Webpage : https://www.lomejordelvinoderioja.com/doca-informa/

And on the same site, you can find information just by knowing either the name of the label or the town from where it comes from here in Spanish webpage : http://bodegas.lomejordelvinoderioja.com/

An Apolo y Baco webpage, that I have below in my blogroll ,and I help input info when it began many years ago, now much better. IN Spanish, but you have all info here even contact information for all Bodegas in Spain. Webpage :https://www.apoloybaco.com/vinos/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=36&Itemid=136

OF course, it would not be complete if I do not give some of my best bottles of Rioja wines. Again, the main thing is the producer, if he/she/they are good, the bottles eventually will be good on any given year, all else been equal. I stick to them over the years and never disappointed. Of course, again, tastes differ and new ones are coming in the market, and we should try to taste ,but these will never disappoints . Enjoy the wines, even if not all with photos….. Disfruten de los vinos de la Rioja, mi España!

Ramon Bilbao , Marqués de Riscal ,Bodegas Palacio, Unión Vitivinícola, S.A. better known as Marqués de Caceres , Montecillo, S.A.  part of the group Osborne , Bodegas Lan, CVNE is Compañia Viñicola del Norte de España, Bodegas Bilbaínas, S.A. part of group  Codorniu, Bodegas Muga , Bodega Lopez de Heredia, Bodega Rioja Alta , Bodegas Berceo, S.A.  part of Group Gurpegui , Bodegas Marqués de Murrieta , Campo Viejo, S.A.  part of Pernod Ricard group , Bodegas Baron de Ley , Bodegas Luis Gurpegui Muga S.A. part of Manzano Entreprises group  , and Bodegas Beronia.

And you can’t come to these bodegas ,you can shop their wine in your local wine shop or as I past by Madrid quite often ,I get mine at Lavinia, Calle Ortega y Gasset store. webpage: https://www.lavinia.com/es-es/tiendas/ortega-gasset

And another old time favorite in Madrid is Santa Cecilia at Calle Bravo Murillo location. webpage: https://www.santacecilia.es/tiendas-de-vino-madrid

There you folks, now you have a choice go out and try them, love them you will. The Rioja is the best known of Spain, and for good reason, Hope you enjoy the post as I ! And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all !!!

October 20, 2021

The wines of Alsace, France!

And need to tell you all eventually! I admit this would be the least experience with as the region is mostly whites and I am mostly red. However, over the years I have my share of Alsacian wines and even done a bit of the wine route of Alsace. Therefore, let me tell you a bit of the wines of Alsace! Hope you enjoy it as I.

The Alsatian vineyard is a long ribbon 170 km long, located at the foot of the Vosges massif, which stretches from Marlenheim in the north to Thann in the south, completed by a wine-growing island on the border of Germany, around Wissembourg and of Cleebourg.  In 1828, the vineyard thus extended over 30,000 hectares (ha). But competition from wines from the South and phylloxera in the second half of the 19C and then the world wars of the 20C led to a long process of decline: in 1948, the vineyard had only 9,500 ha. Today, the vineyard covers more than 15,000 ha and produces around 1.2 million hectoliters per year, a quarter of sales being exported; and ironically mostly to Germany.

Recognised in 1962, today the protected designation of origin AOC Alsace represents ‘ over 70% of the production including 90% of white wines. In 2011, AOC Alsace was supplemented with two geographical names: the Communales (villages) and the Lieux-dits (localities).

The majority of Alsatian wines are dry whites (around 80%), aromatic, fruity and floral, well typified by their grape variety. Most of the wines come from a single grape variety, with the exception of a few grands crus (Kaefferkopf or Altenberg for example), crémant and edelzwicker. Frequent, on the label, the mention of the grape variety is not mandatory. Recognized in 1984, the Alsatian “late harvest” and “selections of noble grains” are sweet wines from overripe harvests and subject to very strict production conditions, particularly with regard to the sugar level of the grapes. There are also 51 grands crus in Alsace, corresponding to terroirs defined according to geological and climatic criteria, and meeting strict production and development criteria (limited yields, manual harvesting, use of limited grape varieties, etc). Finally, Alsace is at the top of the production of crémants (sparklers méthode champenoise) in France.

The 12 appellations of Alsace are Chasselas ou Gutedel, Edelzwicker, Gewurztraminer, Crémant d’Alsace, Klevener d’Heligeintein, Pinot noir, Riesling, Sylvaner, Alsace grand cru, Muscat, Pinot blanc or klevner. Good years are 2016 excellent, 2017 very good, 2018 very good, 2019 excellent.

The grapes and some description, keep it simple folks, are:

Riesling, the driest of Alsace wines. The Sylvaner, dry, fruity and fresh.  The Gewurztraminer, full-bodied and fruity. The Pinot Blanc, all in balance. Pinot Gris, ample and fragrant. The Pinot Noir, the only red of Alsace wines, Light, dry and delicately fruity, is drunk chilled and replaces the usual summer rosé. Crémant, festive and sparkling from Pinot blanc, Pinot noir or Riesling, Crémant d´Alsace is a sparkling wine. Muscat d ‘Alsace comes from the assembly or not of three varieties of muscat: white muscat with small grains, pink muscat with small grains and muscat Ottonel.  Only the Alsace wine called either “Edelzwicker”, or “Zwicker” or “Gentil” is a white wine made from the assembly of white grape varieties. The AOP Alsace, AOP Alsace Grand Cru, which has 51 identified terroirs, and finally, for sweet and syrupy wines, Vendanges tardives (VT) and Sélections de grains nobles (SGN).

The official wines of Alsacehttps://www.vinsalsace.com/en/terroirs/ 

The wine routes of Alsace: https://www.wineroute.alsace/

The Alsace tourist boardhttps://www.visit.alsace/en/must-sees-in-alsace/

Of course, could not leave you with just the info. I like to show some of my latest forays into the world of Alsace wines chez moi! Hope you enjoy them as I.

My wonderful red Klipfel Pinot Noir: produces rustic, light wines that give off aromas of cherry, cranberry, strawberry and raspberry with supple, smooth tannins. Pinot Noir in Alsace is required by law to be bottled in tall flute-shape bottles, just like the white wines produced in the region. Webpage: https://boutique.klipfel.com/fr/cuvee-louis-klipfel/19-pinot-noir-cuvee-louis-klipfel.html

alsace klipfel pinot noir 2016

Louis Hauller Family.  A pale gold color, limpid and brilliant Riesling. A nuanced nose revealing aromas of white flowers, citrus fruits and mineral notes. Its attack on the palate is lively with fresh acidity. In the mid-palate, a nice volume with these mineral notes that we found on the nose. webpage: https://boutique.famillehauller.com/riesling-s13.html

Alsace louis hauller riesling 2012

Wolfberger is cooperative whose history dates back to 1902 with the grouping of winegrowers around the cellars of Eguisheim and Dambach-la-Ville. Wolfberger continues its development and counts, in 2021, 420 vine growers members of the cooperative and more of 1200 ha of vineyard. Produced from the seven Alsatian grape varieties (Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sylvaner and Muscat d’Alsace). It also produces wines from localities producing Appellation Alsace Grand Cru wines which include: Rangen, Pfersigberg, Eichberg, Kirchberg-de-barr, Steinert, Ollwiller, Steingrubler, Mandelberg, Hatschbourg, Hengst, Florimont, Pfingstberg , Spiegel, Muenchberg, and Frankstein. Also produces and markets AOC Crémants d’Alsace. In addition to wines and crémants, Wolfberger also produces Eaux-de-Vie and Liqueurs. These range from traditional eaux-de-vie, such as Mirabelle or Raspberry, to innovative liqueurs such as the NEO range of liqueurs. I have tried what you see in the bottles! Webpage: https://www.wolfberger.com/en/

Alsace Wolfberger 2016

There you go folks, a dandy selection of Alsace, and some contribution introduction to the wines of Alsace. WE do love wines, and its shows in my blog. Hope you enjoy them too!

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

October 20, 2021

The Grand Cascade in the Bois de Boulogne!!!

Why not head for a park in Paris, and even better with plenty of water. The beautiful city has plenty of parks and water spots. I like to tell you about a favorite of my family.  We really did not seek this even if I worked for a while not far across the Seine river. Seeking always new things to see in our belle France. I notice this big park, the Bois de Boulogne. Yes ,it is big ,but it has many things to see. I rather just tell you about one, the Grand Cascade. The big waterfall!

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Napoleon III, an emperor like his more-famous uncle emperor, loved waterfalls as much as he loved hunting. So, when he ordered the massive renovation of Paris in the second half of the 19C, he was going to make sure there were waterfalls at the end of it. He instructed his city planner, Baron Haussmann, to turn the royal forest on the west of Paris, the Bois de Boulogne  into a large park complete with lakes, 420,000 trees, waterfowl, and deer to hunt. And, of course, a big waterfall. La Grande Cascade was built in 1856 with four thousand cubic meters of  rock brought in from Fontainebleau, and two thousand cubic meters of cement. The lakes and the waterfall are fed with water from a canal on the Ourcq River, so that in this case the waterfall is gravity-fed. In addition to the picturesque waterfall, it has two artificial grottoes. one over the other, which can be visited.   What’s special is that you can walk inside the grottos behind the cascade and view the lake and the park through the falling water !  There was a hunting lodge ,later expanded and turned into what is today a Michelin-starred restaurant also called La Grande Cascade, one of our more enjoyable restaurant experiences in Paris. Located at Allée de Longchamp, 16éme arrondissement of Paris.

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A bit of history I like on the Bois de Boulogne, briefly.

The Bois de Boulogne is a remnant of the ancient oak forest of Rouvray, which included the present-day forests of Montmorency, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Chaville, and Meudon. Today is a large public park located along the western edge of the 16éme arrondissement of Paris near the cities of Boulogne-Billancourt and Neuilly-sur-Seine, both in Hauts de Seine dept 92. And across from my old work spot in Suresnes! The land was ceded to the city of Paris by the Emperor Napoléon III to be turned into a public park in 1852. The Bois de Boulogne received its present name from a chapel, Notre Dame de Boulogne la Petite, which was built in the forest at the command of king Philippe IV of France . In 1308, Philippe  made a pilgrimage to Boulogne-sur-Mer, on the French coast, to see a statue of the Virgin Mary which was reputed to inspire miracles. He decided to build a Church with a copy of the statue in a village in the forest not far from Paris, in order to attract pilgrims. The chapel was built after Philippe’s death between 1319 and 1330, in what is now the city of Boulogne-Billancourt.

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What things you can see here beside the Grande Cascade.

Within the boundaries of the Bois de Boulogne are an English landscape garden with several lakes and a cascade; two smaller botanical and landscape gardens, the Château de Bagatelle and the Pré-Catelan; a zoo and amusement park , the Jardin d’Acclimatation; also , the GoodPlanet Foundation’s Domaine de Longchamp dedicated to ecology and humanism, The Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil , a complex of greenhouses holding a hundred thousand plants; two tracks for horse racing, the Hippodrome de Longchamp and the Hippodrome d’Auteuil,  a tennis stadium , Roland Garros, where the French Open tennis tournament is held each year, and windmills,(the original wheat breads of Paris see pic) etc.

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Napoleon III, in order to decorate its stops in the wood, built the Buffet of the waterfall in 1856. Enlarged for the Universal exhibition of 1900 it is enlarged and adopts a Belle Epoque decor. Damaged during the bombardment, in 1870, the pavilion was demolished around 1950. It is replaced by the current restaurant of  La Grande Cascade , its style retro-modern. And great meals here too ! For reference, their webpage: https://www.restaurantsparisiens.com/la-grande-cascade/en/home-page-en/

Its creation date, its environment and its vegetation bring it a lot of charm. It can be a step in your walk in visiting this green lung from Paris. In the setting sun, the orange light shaving brings very colorful touches to this waterfall. A wonderful spot in Paris especially in Summer and Fall. Bring the whole family going under the grotto waterfall is fun!

Some webpages to help you plan your trip are:

The city of Paris on the Bois de Boulognehttps://www.paris.fr/equipements/bois-de-boulogne-2779

The Paris tourist office on the Bois de Boulognehttps://en.parisinfo.com/paris-museum-monument/71494/Bois-de-Boulogne

There you go folks, a dandy in beautiful Paris, the Grand Cascade in the Bois de Boulogne is an off the beaten path site that must be visited especially with nature lovers’s and children, me think, You will have a good time here for sure.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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