Notes from the Cellar: Make a list, check it twice: part I

by Jeff Cox, Wine and Beer Merchandiser

This article was originally published in November 2007

The Holidaze are upon us. There are hoops to jump through, boxes to check, rituals to observe and retail races to run. Eat this, drink that and… Whoa, easy there, it doesn’t have to be like that …

Regardless of the theological flavor of your holiday, let’s assume that you’ll be celebrating in some fashion. Meaning eating and drinking. In that spirit, here are a couple seasonal observations aimed at making every glass deliver maximum comfort and joy.

Fizz. Amazingly enough, in this arena you can drink more (better) wine for less (ducats). Grande marque Champagne producers have tremendous budgets devoted to convincing you that the big name brand delivers the best quality. But it ain’t necessarily so (remember P.T. Barnum?).

Large Champagne houses like Moët & Chandon or Veuve Clicquot buy grapes from an array of vineyards spread throughout the vast Champagne appellation, creating huge quantities of mass-produced wine — good wine, generally, but mass-produced wine nonetheless. For these producers, the bottom line is the bottom line, and the huge distribution network required to sell huge quantities of froth necessitate that multiple layers of mark-up are included in the retail price.

Récoltant-manipulant, or “grower” champagnes offer both site-specific terroir and the singular character of the producer. As importer Terry Theise notes, grower-producers are often “utopian wine-freak types who are driven to make superior hooch.” And, without the various mark-ups and marketing budgets to support, grower Champagnes are quite reasonably priced—all the more so when one considers both quality and character.

This season, PCC is pleased to offer Champagnes from Baron-Fuente and Drappier, Loire valley sparkling wines from Château de Gaillard and Domaine Ducolomb, and a delicious Prosecco from Trevisiol.

Beaujolais. Beaujolais at its best evokes elegance, charm and joy (not to be confused with the flower-festooned, gamay-flavored marketing product of Georges du Boeuf that has, sadly, become synonymous with Beaujolais).

Producers like Jean-Paul Brun and Domaine de Vissoux make gorgeous, authentic wines by keeping yields low, meticulously sorting their grapes, using only indigenous yeasts and as little sulfur as possible. Their primeurs are made with the same care as their other cuvées and offer a festive taste of the just-completed vintage, yet maintain a character and depth not found in typical nouveaux Beaujolais.

OK, that’s all for now … stay tuned. Oh, and have fun.

Also in this issue

Letters to the editor, November 2007

Paradoxes in corporat-ocracy, The Non-GMO Project, What is “slow pasteurization?”, and more