Enriching your lifestyle through wine, culinary and jazz travel.

The Grapevine

We bring you the best in travel, wine and food with these blog posts.

Posts Tagged ‘French Wine’

The Wines of Languedoc-Roussillon

Posted on: |

Largest Wine Region

Vastness of Languedoc-Roussillon REgion

Vineyards of Languedoc-Roussillon Region

The Languedoc-Roussillon wine-growing region is the largest in the world. This vast region west of the Rhône River covers more than 2.4 million acres. Previously considered a cheap wine region, it now holds Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) status.  There are 30 sub-appellations that call Languedoc-Roussillon home.



The most prominent are:

  • Languedoc
  • Muscat
  • Blanquette de Limoux
  • Côtes du Roussillon
  • Corbières
  • Minervois
  • Saint Chinian
  • Faugères


First in France

Many people will be surprised to learn that Languedoc was the first wine-growing region of France. Did you know that wine has been produced there for the last 27 centuries? That’s a hell-of-a-long time! It boasts a Mediterranean climate, allowing for a long-growing season. The varied soils range from limestone, granite, rock and schist. This results in a wide range of styles and a diverse mix of grape varieties. Red, white, rosé, sparkling and fortified wines are produced throughout.

Steak with Mushrooms and Risotto

Steak with Mushrooms and Risotto

The red wines make great food companions. You can joy them with barbeque, Asian-inspired dishes like beef and broccoli and stews, as well as vegetarian foods like sauteed or grilled mushrooms.

Bordering the Mediterranean Sea, seafood such as anchovies, grilled fish and octopus make natural accompaniments. Also, due to proximity with northern Spain, the Roussillon region is home to many Catalan people, which greatly influences the cuisine.

Great Pairing with a Crab Cake

Great Pairing with a Crab Cake

In recent years, there has been an influx of outside investment to the area, including Brad Pitt. Also, recent technological improvements have helped elevate the quality of wines. Below are some of the better producing regions, along with perfect food and wine pairing ideas:




White Wines
  1. AOC Languedoc-Picpoul de Pinet
  2. AOP Clariette du Languedoc
  3. IGP Pays d’Oc Chardonnay  ( IGP- Identication Géographique Protégée)

Pairings: Various seafood, fresh goat cheese

Red Wines
  1. AOP Côtes du Roussillon
  2. AOP Corbières
  3. IGP Pays d’Oc Syrah

Pairings: Cassoulet of beans and sausage, BBQ

  1. AOP Languedoc-Pic St. Loup
  2. IGP Pays c-Oc

Pairings: Spanish tapas, North African and Asian-influenced dishes

Sparkling Wines
  1. AOC Blanquette de Limoux
  2. AOC Crémant de Limoux

Pairings: Cheese courses, soups, dishes using creamy sauces, salads

Puff Pastry with Ice Cream & Chocolate

Puff Pastry with Ice Cream & Chocolate

Fortified Sweet Wines (Vins Doux Naturals)
  1.  AOC Banyuls  & Banyuls Grand Cru
  2. AOC Maury

Pairings: Desserts, cheeses






Tags: , ,

The Super Bordeaux Rebels

Posted on: |

Bordeaux Rebels

Bordeaux, Hme of Cabernet Sauvignon

Bordeaux, Home of Cabernet Sauvignon and Super Bordeaux?

French wine laws are so strict that certain grape varieties are allowed to be grown in specific regions only. For example, Sauvignon Blanc is grown in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley but it’s not allowed in other wine growing regions. In Bordeaux, only six red grape varieties and three white ones  can be planted. The region’s famous blends contain only these combinations. This has been the case since 1935. But the times, they are a changin’, possibly.

There is a small trend among Bordeaux wine makers to mix things up a bit. Some “rebel” winemakers have started adding a bit of Syrah, the prominent grape of northern Rhone to their blends. Say it aint’ so?! The bold act has some referring to this new blend creation as a Super Bordeaux, reminiscent of a trend started in the early 1970s by Italian winemakers.


The Rise of the Super Tuscan

Italy also had rigid rules governing which wines could be blended in certain regions. The Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) rule-making authorities prohibited the use of non-native or international varieties. Tired of the restrictions, as well as the resulting “lesser quality wine” that was often produced, a few bold winemakers starting breaking rank. They began adding non-Italian grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and other international varieties to their Sangiovese. Of course, there was outrage.


Italian DOC Relaxes Rules

Super Tuscans Influencing Super Bordeaux Producers

Since these agitator winemakers were forbidden from labeling their new-style blends as Sangiovese due to the DOC rules, they had to create another name. The settled on Super Tuscan, which was a nod to the region but not the grape. However, these renegade winemakers got the last laugh. The wines became huge successes, scoring high marks with wine critics and accolades among the experts. As a result, the wines commanded lofty prices on the international markets.

In the end, the DOC relaxed and revised some the rules. Today, the use of international grape varieties is common practice in Italy.


The Rise of the Super Bordeaux

Will the rise of the Super Bordeaux become the latest trend out of Europe? Undeterred by longstanding blending rules, some Bordeaux producers are branching out by adding Syrah. According to Roger Morris of Palate Press, two top Bordeaux chateaux have already ventured where no Bordelais has dared to go. But will others follow?


Rhone producers stand to benefit if this truly becomes a trend. How amazing would it be to have a blend from some of the great Syrahs vineyards of northern Rhone? Cab Sauvingnon, Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Syrah in one bottle? Sounds like my kind of party.


Personally, I’m all for it if it leads to even greater tasting, more structured and longer-lived wines. Do you welcome a change in the ancient blends of Bordeaux or do you think it’s a quickly passing phase? Your comments are welcome.


Tags: , , ,

Bordeaux Wine Cruise

Posted on: | 2 Comments

We’re Heading to Wine Mecca

Bordeaux Wine River Cruise

Bordeaux Wine River Cruise

We are hitting the road. Well make that the river on a journey to wine mecca, Bordeaux, France. We will be leading a small group to Bordeaux, home to arguably the world’s best wine. So, Save the Date, April 15, 2016.

Not to be sacrilegious, but many wine lovers have the Bordeaux wine region on their Bucket List since it is considered Mecca for wine enthusiasts. Our group will be embarking on a 7-day Bordeaux wine cruise, traveling along the rivers through the top communes with winery visits and tastings, wine and food pairing dinners, cultural walking tours and so much more. The cruise will begin and end in the city of Bordeaux, with pre- and/or post-cruise land packages available.


Bordeaux – The Ancestral Home
Bordeaux Red Wine Mecca

Bordeaux – Red Wine Mecca

Serious wine drinkers and of course, I’m referring to those who drink red, all have a bottle or 12 of Bordeaux in their wine collections. Bordeaux is the celebrated offspring of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Typically, a Bordeaux red blend is comprised of the following five grapes:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Petit Verdot
  • Malbec

Due to Frances’ strict viticulture laws, these, along with carmenere are the only red grape varieties allowed to be grown.

These five varieties are used in varying combinations in wine regions the world over but all got their start in Bordeaux. Bordeaux-style red blends are referred to as Claret by the Brits, whereas American winemakers use the name Meritage (rhymes with heritage), which can only be used by members of the association.

Merlot and Cabernet Franc are grown on the “Right Bank”, the name given to the vineyards on the east side of the Gironde River. Merlot, the most widely planted adds fruit and richness to the mid-palate during blending.

Bordeaux Communes Map

Bordeaux Communes Map
Courtesy of CIVBordeaux

Notable Right Bank appellations include St-Émilion and Pomerol. The wines produced in these regions are of excellent quality and have lengthy aging potential, but without the stratospheric prices common for Left Bank reds.

Plan on leaving room in your suitcase or think about shipping a case or two home of these amazing bargain reds. For those traveling with us from the same gateway city, San Diego we can mix and match cases for more cost-effective buying.

The top communes and the ones fetching the highest prices are:

  • Médoc (Haut-Médoc)
  • Pauillac
  • St-Estephe
  • St-Julien
  • Margaux

White wine lovers, do not despair. On our cruise tour, you’ll also get to experience Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion as well as Muscadelle, which is a different grape variety from similar sounding name Muscat. The primary growing regions for these three white varietals are located south of Bordeaux along the Garonne River.  Sauternes is home to the delicious, sweet dessert wine of the same name. The city of Graves produces dry and sweet wines.


Reserve Your Spot
Let's Hang Out Together on the River Cruise

Let’s Hang Out together on the River Cruise

Call us today so we can add your name to our Interest List for those joining us on the Bordeaux Wine Cruise.  Plus, your $400 deposit guarantees you the reduced 2015 pricing.  And, if you change your mind, your deposit is fully refundable until March 31, 2015.

It’s going to be a merry, fun time. Why not join us? Joie de vivre!

Tags: , ,

Wine Review Snapshot

Posted on: | 2 Comments

Wine Tasting Review

Sipping for Wine Reviews

Sipping for Wine Reviews & Education

As a wine educator, I am tasked with tasting wines on a frequent basis. Yes, break out the guitar and play a blues song for me. So, since I drink wine almost daily, I thought it was time again to share some tasting notes. For another wine review snapshot, check out my post on Warm Weather Wines ideal for fall.

What follows is a wine review snapshot of wines I’ve enjoyed recently.


My Wine Tastings Highlights

Domaine Peiriere by Paul Sapin


Pays d’Oc

Salad with orange slices

Salad with orange slices

I love blends. The Viognier in this blend gives it a bit of freshness and lemon zest, while the Chardonnay brings a great golden color that hints of oak. I wish more American Chardonnay producers would blend their white wines instead of making pure single variety wines.

This wine would be a nice accompaniment to a salad with mandarin orange slices or one with pieces of avocado. The acidity would compliment the citrus while matching nicely with the creaminess of the avocado.

It’s not a complicated wine but I’d drink it again as one of my simple, everyday wines. I believe it is priced under $10.


2011 Robert Craig Affinity

Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Valley

This wine has great legs and a beautiful deep, purple color. On the nose, I got plum and blackberry fruit. Although the wine was young, I tasted masculine dark, plum and jam-like fruits. It also had surprisingly tamed tannins.

For a Napa Cab, the Robert Craig Affinity at $39.95 is priced quite reasonable. If you can buy two bottles, you should. Then, you can drink one now and lay one down for another 3 to 4 years. This is a wine that will taste even better in a few years.


2012 Ramey

Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Valley

This Cabernet will set you back around $50, but it is worth every penny. It tastes like a Cab that cost twice as much. And that certainly is not a bad thing given the hefty prices most Napa Cabernets.

Its appearance is an intense dark red but the nose was a bit trickier. I smelled cherry and Thanksgiving spices, which only hastened my desire to taste it. So I gave into temptation and was rewarded with beautiful black cherry and raisin flavors. The tannins were as beautiful as the wine.

After drinking this wine, I was so intrigued that I went to the website to find out more about the winemaker. Dave Ramey developed an impressive resume working in the industry prior to opening his winery  with his wife Carla, in 1996. They have a tasting room in Healdsburg, which I will surely have to visit on my next trip to the region.

To learn more about their vineyards, click http://www.rameywine.com/vineyards/


Mumm Napa

Sparkling Wine Brut Prestige

Napa Valley

Champagne Classy Enough for a Wedding

A Sparking Wine Classy Enough for a Wedding

I could drink champagne and sparkling wine every single day of my life. I love it that much.  And this sparkling is a staple in my wine captain. A Napa stalwart, it is refreshing and has a creamy brioche finish typically only found in expensive French champagnes. It is medium bodied, with a citrus flavor and the perfect amount of acidity.

Mumm’s sparkling wine is classy enough to serve at a special occasion such as a wedding; yet it won’t break the bank. The complexity will have your guests thinking you spent far more. It’s a perfect food wine that typically retails for around $17.


Tags: , , , , , , ,

European Culinary & Wine Immersion Cruise

Posted on: | 1 Comment

Bordeaux Wines & Basque Country Gastronomy Cruise

Drinking wine on the Celebrity Constilation

Drinking wine on the Celebrity Constilation

Enjoy a luxurious, round-trip cruise from Southampton, England with ports of call in Spain and France.  On this 12-day wine and food cruise, you will explore the great European vineyards of world-class Bordeaux and sample the unique culinary foods of the Basque region.

This magnificent food and wine vacation will include several special food, wine and cocktail activities including:

  • Cooking Demonstration with a cookbook signing
  • Hands-on cooking class
  • Dinner with Master Sommelier & Michelin Chef
  • Sake Demonstration
  • Wine tastings and food pairings with a Master Sommelier
  • Michelin-star chef dinner
  • Cocktails-at-Home Class with Mixologist

Also, at this great introductory price of $899*, you get inclusive and complimentary services such as:

  • Specialty restaurants, Fine wines, Champagne, Premium spirits, Non-alcoholic beverages, Pre-paid Gratuities for staff including housekeeping, bar service and dining room

Book with us and receive the Fine Living Enthusiast Special Treatment:

  • Private cocktail reception
  • Exclusive shore excursion including tapas bar and museum tour
  • Concierge Host
  • And of course, a bottle of wine

Francophiles – Live the dream!

Select your departure dates from one of the following:

  • Oct. 13, 2012
  • Oct. 25, 2012
  • Nov. 6, 2012
  • Nov. 18, 2102

* Cabins start at $899 but are filing up quickly so call today for availability. Suites are available from just $1,999.

We book air and have access to travel agent specials.  Give us a call for an opportunity at discounted airfare to London.  Also, ask us about pre- and post-cruise land vacations.

Tags: , , , ,

Rhône Valley Reds – A Brief Overview

Posted on: |

The Rhône Valley benefits from a unique terroir that leads to fruit-forward, notable red wines for collecting and everyday enjoyment

The heart and soul of the Rhône Valley can be found in its distinctive grape Syrah.  Most Americans probably learned about Syrah by its alter-ego name Shiraz, which is how the Aussies refer to it, as do the South Africans.  Many wine enthusiasts have sipped this varietal wine while debating whether its origin is French or Middle Eastern.  Recently, DNA testing has helped quell the discussion as the grape has been shown to be a cross between Dureza and Mondeause Blanc, clearly French. Read More >

Tags: ,

Burgundy & Provence On a Wine River Cruise

Posted on: |

A Food & Wine Travel Extravaganza

Côte d’Azur to Paris – October 30, 2011   from $3,039/pp

Eiffel TowerWhether you’re a wine connoisseur or just an everyday enthusiast, you’ll expand your horizons on this exciting Burgundy & Provence Wine River Cruise. As you leisurely float by the legendary vineyards along the Saône and Rhône Rivers, a distinguished wine authority is available to describe how various grape varieties are cultivated; and will teach you what to look for in a good wine.

wine river cruiseHere are some of the activities you can enjoy on this European wine 11-day adventure:

  • Wine tasting in a wine cellar in Beaune
  • Chardonnay excursion in Burgundy
  • On-board Beaujolais Wine Tasting
  • Food & Wine pairing dinner on-board
  • On-board Wine & Chocolate Tasting
  • World-renown Chateauneuf-du-Pape excursion
  • Visit the France’s gastronomic capital of Lyon
  • Two-night stay in Paris to explore and sight see
  • Architectural highlights of Roman, Christian and medieval influences

Join us for an adventure Bacchus himself would enjoy!  Call today to secure your spot on this extravagant wine and cuisine exploration.  This is one of the best ways to enjoy food and wine travel without blowing the budget.

Ask us about Paris/Nice or London/Paris/Nice pre- and post-cruise extensions on an independent traveler basis.

Tags: , ,