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November 6th, 2014

This past week at our staff meeting we talked all about Bordeaux. Each of us was assigned homework, then brought their facts about Bordeaux wines to the meeting, which we talked about as we sampled of course!

Here’s just a taste of what we gleaned:

The Bordeaux wine region is separated into two main regions, the Left Bank and the Right Bank. The Left Bank, including the major wine regions of the Medoc and Graves, is dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, while the Right Bank, including the major regions of St. Emilion and Pomerol, is dominated by Merlot. Cabernet Sauvignon gives wine flavors of black currants, plums, cedar, cigar box, violets, and roasted coffee, while Merlot tends to be softer and red fruit dominated. Thus depending on what you’re looking for, you just need to go to the correct bank!

Bordeaux red wines are allowed to include 5 grapes, called the “noble” grapes. These are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. While Malbec is not very commonly used in Bordeaux (Malbec is far more popular in the Bordeaux blends that come from other regions, particularly Argentina and Chile). These blends are often called “Claret” or “Meritage”. The term Claret is pronounced with a hard “t” because it is an English term for Bordeaux wines rather than a French term.

Bordeaux also produces white wines with Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion, and Muscadelle (meaning “little Muscat”) grapes. Bordeaux Blanc wines can be crisp and dry, but they are also very well known for the sweet dessert wines coming from the Sauternes region. The grapes in Sauternes are allowed to remain on the vine until late in the fall, when the botrytis sets in. Botrytis, also called “Noble Rot” is actually a fungus, but it brings a rich sweetness to the grapes unlike any other. These wines are similar in character to ice wines, though the process is different.

Learning more about wine, and then being able to share it with you, is one of the joys of our jobs. Thanks for reading, and we hope to see you soon to talk more about Bordeaux and other great wines.

What’s an Oktoberfest?

September 18th, 2014

Oktoberfest is both a celebratory festival in Germany (and West Michigan!) and a style of beer. Let me tell you a bit about the history and characteristics of the beer style:

Before refrigeration, it was nearly impossible to brew beer in the summer due to the hot weather and bacterial infections. Brewing ended with the coming of spring, and began again in the fall. In March, brewers would brew a high gravity beer to be kept in cold storage and served until beer could be brewed again in October. When the barrels were needed for storage of the newly brewed beer in the fall, the last of the Marzen had to be finished, and quickly! The festival of Oktoberfest became an excuse to finish off these March-made brews. Thus, these beers can either be called “Märzenbier” or “Oktoberfestbier”.

Traditionally, Märzenbier was full-bodied, rich, toasty, and dark copper in color with a medium to high alcohol content. Over time, the malt bill was lightened, and with the invention of refrigeration, storage was no longer an issue over the summer months. Thus the long aging period is no longer true for Oktoberfest beers. Today’s Oktoberfest beers are still malt-forward, but they are generally lighter brews, though each brewery (especially in America) often takes a little bit of liberty with the style.

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