Friday, August 5, 2022

Important Changes in Bordeaux

                           Old world Bordeaux chateaux are preparing for global warming 

This is the second article in a four-part series on Bordeaux.  Today's article addresses what’s new in Bordeaux?   In many ways that’s an oxymoron as typically there is nothing new in this tradition-centric wine district.   For example, there’s only been one change in the Classification System of the Left Bank in the last 167 years, and that was when Mouton Rothschild was elevated to a First Growth in 1973.   But, there’s been a mammoth change recently.

French law has always dictated which exact grapes can be grown in Bordeaux---if it’s not on the approved list it’s against the law.  Up until last year, the only red grapes that were allowed to be grown for >100 years were the following five:

1.     Cabernet Sauvignon

2.     Merlot

3.     Cabernet Franc

4.     Malbec

5.     Petite Verdot

Similarly, white grapes grown in Bordeaux have legally been restricted for over a century to the following three:

1.     Sauvignon Blanc

2.     Semillon

3.     Muscadelle

                 Bordeaux's grapes are now ripening weeks earlier than they did a few decades ago

Bordeaux has long been worried about global warming’s effect on grapes.  For the past ten years, the wine industry has invested beaucoup Euros in research to investigate potential new varietals that will fare better in higher temperatures.  Based upon this research, Bordeaux’s wine laws were recently changed to include the following grapes---all of these reds and whites have demonstrated to be more heat tolerant.


  • Touriga Nacional:  (Red)  native to the Iberian peninsula where summer temperatures often soar beyond 100 degrees
  • Arinarnoa: (Red) a Bordeaux hybrid created from crossing Petite Verdot & Merlot
  • Marselan:  (Red) another Bordeaux lab grape created by crossing Cabernet Sauv with Grenache
  • Castets: (Red)  almost extinct varietal grown in France’s Southwest
  • Alvarinho:  (White) Portugueese / Spanish varietal
  • Liliorila:   (White) a crossing between Chardonnay and obscure French grape called Baroque

Currently, Bordeaux laws limit the above varietals to a maximum of 10% of the blend.  Those coming to Bordeaux for September's harvest tour may have a chance to barrel taste these new varietals.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Bordeaux’s Best Kept Secret

                       Most white Bordeaux comes from the sub-region called Entre Deux Mers

This article is the first in a four part series on Wine-Knows' September trip to Bordeaux.  

White Bordeaux?  That’s an oxymoron for many.   Production of white wine accounts for a mere 10% of Bordeaux’s total (and 3% of this is sweet wine from Sauternes), thus, it’s not surprising that a dry white Bordeaux is even less known.  Indeed, Bordeaux’s dry white is rare, with little of the miniscule amount produced ever making it across the Atlantic.  Dry white Bordeaux is definitely worth seeking out, and when you find it you’ll be astonished at the inexpensive price. 

                                     Entre-deux-Mers is just east of the city of Bordeaux

Most dry whites produced in Bordeaux come from the Entre Deux Mers sub-region of the wine district.   One of the top from this area is Chateau Marjosse which can be found online for about $15 a bottle (and the chateau’s owner is the managing director of Cheval Blanc and Yquem).    Other stars of Entre Deux Mers include Thieuley and Haut Garriga, both under twenty bucks.

                      Chateau Roqufort in Entre Deux Mers produces a stunning Bordeaux Blanc

Bordeaux’s dry white is a blended wine made from mainly two grape varietals,  Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.  Sauv Blanc is often the majority of the blend, which is not surprising since this grape originated in Bordeaux.  Contributing citrus notes and a mineral profile, Sauv Blanc forms a solid acid backbone for the area’s whites.   Semillon, on the other hand, is responsible for the unctuous texture of white Bordeaux.  Moreover, Semillon’s deep golden color also adds to the wine’s color by intensifying the hue. 

As dry white Bordeaux remains relatively unknown in the US, there is little demand and prices are downright a steal for the quality.  Why not have a Bordeaux Blanc party and spread the secret?

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Seductive Sarlat

               Sarlat is located in the Dordogne river valley only 100 miles inland from Bordeaux

France's medieval village of Sarlat, a tangle of pedestrian-only cobblestoned lanes, secret squares and beautiful honey-colored stone buildings, is sure to seduce.
  It’s no wonder why this enchanting town is a favorite location for film directors (>20 movies have been made here including Chocolat).   Sarlat is just the right size for travelers in that there are a host of services available for visitors, but small enough that it still offers the feel of a romantic getaway, especially after day trippers return home and twinkling lights appear in this Hollywood-set city.

                                 Sarlat is France's epicenter for goose & duck products

Although I have visited Sarlat at least 10 times, it’s the kind of place that one never tires of returning.   Located a few hours inland from Bordeaux in the area of the Cro Magnon caves, Sarlat is the perfect spot to unwind from jet lag.  The town is a stroller’s dream with all kinds of nooks and crannies---ancient alleyways wind throughout town and beg for exploration.  While the beautiful main street is usually filled with visitors, the equally charming back streets are often empty.   

          Sausages come in every flavor (L to R): pheasant, nuts, mushrooms, & duck

Sarlat is a gourmand’s paradise.  The region surrounding Sarlat (Perigord) is one of the epicurean centers for French gastronomy:   foie gras farms, walnut orchards, and forests filled with truffles & wild mushrooms.  The area’s many culinary treasures are palpable during the city’s outdoor markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  Local cheeses, honey, a cornucopia of fresh produce, sausages, foie gras of both ducks and geese in every conceivable preparation, endless walnut confections, and bottles of earthy walnut oil all compete for hungry shoppers’ attention.

             Rotisserie chickens are accompanied by potatoes cooked in duck fat with onions & fresh herbs

I've timed by upcoming September visit to Sarlat so that my stay includes Saturday, their largest outdoor market.  I intend to fill my suitcase with Perigord's tantalizing delicacies.  But, I'm equally looking forward to Sarlat's mid-week nights when the village feels its most alluring.




Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Croatia Wines Sweep International Awards

                               Korcula Island boasts two of Europe's highest scoring wines

Wine-Knows' leasing of a private yacht in Croatia next year couldn’t be more perfectly timed.   Decanter Magazine (the European equivalent of Wine Spectator) has released its annual World Wine Awards, the globe’s largest and one of the most influential wine competitions.  Decanter has a rigorous analysis process where wines are judged by panels of hundreds of experts including wine critics, retailers and winemakers.  Croatia’s wines were some of the highest-scoring wines of the entire competition.

                         We'll board our yacht next September--- only 1 or 2 spaces are available

I’ve got even better news for the “hottie yachties” with confirmed spots on the Croatian yacht:   the stars of Decanters awards were all coastal wines from Croatia.   But, the story keeps getting better:  two of the three wines with nearly perfect scores (97 out of 100) are from an island that Wine-Knows will be visiting on the yacht, Korcula.   Another winner’s circle Decanter wine is from Hvar island…which Wine-Knows will also be visiting. 

                                             This producer's GRK stole the show

It isn’t by chance that Wine-Knows’ itinerary includes both of these islands.  Korcula has long been known for production of under-the-radar but world-class wines.   The island’s stunning wines remain basically unknown for a mixture of reasons.  First, production is small.  Second, the wines are made from native grape varietals that are only grown on Korcula.  Third, who would buy a wine made from a grape they can’t even pronounce such as “Grk?”   Wine-Knows would!  We love the complex white wine made from this unknown grape!

                                 Like Grk, Posip is a grape varietal only grown in Croatia

Korcula, however, isn’t a one-trick wine pony.  Another 97 point Decanter wine is made from the Posip grape, an indigenous varietal to coastal Croatia. The white wine made from Posip can be rich and exotic.  On the reconnaissance trip to select the yacht, a Posip wine from Korcula really rocked my world.  While it wasn’t on Decanter’s final list, it still remains indelibly etched in my wine memory bank.

                         One of Croatia's 10 Michelin star restaurants is located on Korcula

But, Korcula island isn’t just about exemplary wine.  It’s also a foodies’ paradise:  Korcula boasts one of the few Michelin star restaurants in Croatia, and its olive oil and cheeses are well known.  Perhaps the island’s most famous claim to fame, however, is the fact that it was the birthplace of 13th century explorer Marco Polo.

                      Plavac Mali, indigenous to Croatia, is the parent grape of Zinfandel

Hvar island is home to another of Decanter's highest scoring wines.   Unlike the two Korcula whites, this award-winner is a red wine made from the only-grown-in-Croatia grape, Plavic Mali.  DNA research has shown Plavic Mali to be one of the parents of Zinfandel (the other being Dobricic, another native grape from Croatia).  Age-worthy Plavic Mali produces complex rich reds.

                           The doorway to a private Croatian yacht awaits 1-2 more travelers

While the second week on the yacht is sold out with a full waiting list, there is a spot for one or two persons on the first week, September 2-9, 2023:





Sunday, June 26, 2022

White, Red & Blue Sangria

                          White Sangria kicked off a "magnifico" Wine-Knows evening on Mallorca

July 4th is around the corner and I have the perfect drink sensation for your festivities:  white sangria made with Cava!    Decorated with strawberries and blueberries, this special rendition will have all of your guests begging for the recipe.  This was certainly the case on the island of Mallorca with Wine-Knows during a private dinner.  Fortunately, the chef was willing to share the ingredients, and the star component was unknown to me.

                                                        Spain's "43" is available in the US

I’ve had several white Sangrias but this one was unusually superb.   True, this version was made using Spain’s sparkling Cava, but it wasn’t the bubbles that were tantalizing my taste buds.  There was subtle, yet mesmerizing flavors that I couldn’t identify.   It turned out to be a Spanish liqueur called “43.”

Licor 43 (Quarenta Tres)  is a popular liqueur used throughout Europe, but remains essentially unknown in the US (except by bartenders who specialize in concocting upscale cocktails.)   Named because of the 43 herbs and botanicals used, it has a unique taste with notes of vanilla, cinnamon and orange peel.  In Spain, it’s not unusual to see "43" added to a coffee for an after dinner drink.  

                              This group of Wine-Knows is on their 2nd white sangria

I bought a bottle of "43" at Duty Free (Malaga's airport had a huge display) to bring home, however, I was surprised after I returned to see that BevMo carries it.   This white Sangria recipe is simple, but the flavors are complex.   I’ve adjusted the recipe for a 4th of July party (12 servings):

2 bottles of Cava

½ bottle of still, fruity white wine (avoid Sauv Blanc)

3/4  -  1 cup Licor 43 (to taste)

1 Quart (4 cups) sparkling lemonade

Strawberries & blueberries

Happy 4th!

Friday, June 17, 2022

The Surprise Origin of Fried Green Tomatoes

Savannah's Pink House serves the Holy Grail of fried green tomatoes in the form of a BLT salad

Gardens are now filled with green tomatoes and I've got just the dish for you.  Like many of us, my first introduction to fried green tomatoes was its namesake book published in 1988 and the popular movie that followed.
  For the last 30 years I’ve ordered these southern culinary morsels in Atlanta, New Orleans, Savannah, Charleston, Williamsburg, and all points in between… including Appalachia.  If they were on the menu (and even if they weren’t), they were my go-to dish.  Few times have I been disappointed.

Fried green tomatoes scream quintessential Old South….or so I thought.  My recent trip to rural Georgia piqued my curiosity on exactly how this scrumptious Southern signature dish originated.  After some research, I was shocked at what I found.  I think you will be, too. 

                  Unripe tomatoes are used because they haven't developed juice or sweetness

According to noted food historian Richard Moss, fried green tomatoes are Yankee imposters.  In his book, The Fried Green Tomato Swindle & Other Southern Culinary Adventures, Moss discloses that they may have been introduced to the US by Jewish immigrants in the Northeast or Midwest (recipes began appearing in American Jewish cookbooks as early as 1919).  But, wait a minute as there’s another theory on the origin of fried green tomatoes.  The LA Times published a recipe for them in 1908.   Indeed, Californians were eating them eight decades before the movie!  This makes total sense as California is the largest tomato producer.

   Fried green tomatoes are versatile:  this version is topped with burrata & fig with a balsamic drizzle

Surprisingly, the seemingly Southern classic fried green tomatoes didn’t make it to the South until after the movie.  There’s not a trace of them in Southern cookbooks before the 1980’s.   That being said, the South has fervently adopted this dish like no other region of the country.  On my recent Georgia trip, they were represented in some form on every single menu.  There was a standout rendition, however, heads and toes above all of the others.

Savannah’s Pink House, one of the South’s bastions for gastronomy, has long been a favorite of mine, and their rendition of fried green tomatoes is one of Georgia’s culinary masterpieces!   Food TV star, Aaron Sanchez, lists among the “best things I ever ate” a Fried Green Tomato BLT Salad from the Pink House.   I have dreamt of this salad and the stunning setting in which it is served since I first had it ten years ago.  (The beautifully coiffed building, which served as the headquarters for General Sherman, is a National Landmark offering all the glitz and glamour of pre-war Gone with the Wind). 

South City Kitchen (Atlanta) knocked it out of the park with goat cheese, fresh tomato coulis & basil oil

If you’re one of the Boswell Scholarship recipients coming on the private Scholar’s trip to Georgia, you can be assured fried green tomatoes will be on most of our menus.  And, the Pink House’s BLT salad interpretation will surely convince you that even though the South didn’t invent fried green tomatoes, Southerners have drawn it into their culture like a bee to honey.  

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Marvelous Mouvedre

The French Riviera's village of Bandol is one of the epicenters for Mouvedre wine 

The red Mouvedre grape loves heat.
  That’s why you’ll find it growing in places like Spain, the South of France, California and the warmer parts of Australia.  Thought to be native to Spain, Mouvedre is perhaps most famous for the French wine it produces in the southern Rhone Valley.  The Rhone’s celebrated “GSM” blend, is composed of Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre.

                         Domaine Tempier produces rock-star Mouvedre in the Rhone

Mouvedre is a deeply pigmented, thick skinned grape which translates to a very dark colored wine (only Syrah is darker).  As tannins are also in grape skins, this  means a more tannic wine.   Because of these two attributes, Mouvedre is often blended with other varietals to provide more color and structure.   Mouvedre is also used for the same reasons in making Rosé wines in southern France.   Spain even uses this grape in making Rosé Cava.

                                        In Spain, the Mouvedre grape is called Monastrell

In addition to making big, full-bodied wines, the Mouvedre grape produces flavors of dark red fruits, a floral component (think violets), and herbaceous notes such as black pepper and thyme.    This is not a sissy's wine.   For food pairing, think big and bold such as BBQ meats that have been marinated in flavors that complement the wine such as lavender, rosemary and thyme.   For veggie lovers, try grilled portobello mushrooms with garlic, olive oil and fresh complementary herbs.

Those coming on this September's Week with Julia Child in Provence will have the opportunity to sample many wines made from 100% Mouvedre,  GSM blends,  and even Rosés.   For more information on this trip, check it out: