Great carafe: Le Comptoir du Relais. We enjoyed a great lunch (excellent salads all around) at Yves Camdeborde’s hot spot right by the Odeon. The wine highlight was a one liter carafe of “KO” Puzelat cabernet franc for 15 euros! (find this wine) Amazing. It’s pretty much gone from NYC where the wine was available for $23 a bottle in a store, making that carafe all the tastier. If only US restaurants could have this quality of wine this cheap. Sigh. (6th arr; 33 1 44 27 07 97)
Great lunch: Chez Michel. Thierry Breton cooks the food of his home region, Brittany, in this homey place in the shadow of a church near the Gare du Nord. We had excellent white asparagus, mouthwatering clams and mussels cooked in a rich, herbed broth, and the largest–and very tasty–rice pudding I’ve ever seen. Solid wine list. Prix fixe: 30 euros. (10, Rue Belzunce, Paris 10e – +33 1 44 53 06 20)
Great wine shop: Caves Augé Manager Marc Sibard stocks some great bottles in this cramped shop (now actually owned by the same owners as Lavinia). The emphasis is on natural wines and it is a treasure trove for wine geeks. Be sure to ask for things if you don’t see them since there is also a large storage area in the basement. Great spirits selection, particularly Armagnac. Read more from my visit last year. And be sure to check out their blowout tastings with producers in the spring and fall. 116, Boulevard Hausmann, Paris 75008
Another great wine shop: La Derniere Goutte. American owner Juan Sanchez presides over a small but well-chosen selection of wines from the growers themselves, including Champagnes. He has weekly tastings with visiting producers on Saturday afternoons. And being a good American, he opens the shop on Sundays. English spoken by everyone in the store. 6, rue de Bourbon le Chateau, 75006 Paris
Best falafel sandwich: l’As du falafel (rue des Rosiers, Le Marais). Great street food, which made me want to sit down and pair it with wine. 4 E 50. I tried come of the competition on the street and the lines in front of l’As are there for a reason.
Best ice cream: Berthillon. Though the now ubiquitous “Amorio” chain does a nice job, their floral presentation of the gelato seems to have slipped since last year as the number of outlets have increased. We tried a chocolate and a mint from Amorio and Berthillon on the Ile Saint Louis and Berthillon won each category. Deep dark chocolate! Fresh mint! A no-brainer. Although the original Berthillon store is closed most of the summer (!), the ice creams are sold throughout the city through various resellers.
Best mille feuille pastry in Paris: Pierre Hermé. Mrs. Vino and I were lamenting the downgrading of the mille feuille pastry as it no longer appeared to have quite the “thousand” layers of its billing. Thanks to a tip from our friend Mike, who is a Pierre Hermé junkie, we discovered their deux mille feuille–inflation! Swallow your pride about not wanting to look like a touron (tourist-moron) and ask for a fork. See if you can make it past the square in front of the church St. Sulpice before you tuck into this absolutely delicious treat. 72, rue Bonaparte 75006
More of my wine odds ‘n ends from Paris and France.
Some of these places may be closed in August.
Since I have sacrificed too many corkscrews to the TSA, I now know where to find them: Georgia! Well, if I ever flew through Georgia that is. The WSJ had a quite hilarious piece yesterday on the bounty that the TSA collects from (presumably) clueless travelers including 12,295 “clubs, bats and bludgeons” and 1.6 million “knives and blades” collected last year.
It turns out that states, not the feds, can dispose of the stuff and many of them have decided to sell it directly. Pennsylvania, which, oddly, sells the 2.5 tons of goods a month collected from JFK airport and others, has a wall of items that they won’t sell just to demonstrate for the sheer outrageousness of what people tried to bring on board: “deer antlers, a foot-long fish hook, nunchucks, a medieval flail and a hand grenade with the explosive drilled out.” As the reporter says, what were they thinking?!?
Anyway, Georgia sells corkscrews it collects for less than a $1. Score! Anyone found any good corkscrews from such piles of miscellany? Ebay? Apparently states do use Ebay to dispose of some stuff. I would love to get a Laguiole for $1.
And remember, it’s only the tiny blade of the foil cutter that makes the corkscrew illegal (why, I’m not sure since they allow metal scissors “with pointed tips and blades” up to four inches in your carry-on. ‘Tis not mine to wonder why.). Pack a cork screw without a foil cutter and you’re good to go this summer!
“Carry-On Items Taken at Airports Find Happy Homes” [WSJ]
Sipped: Peter Singer, Princeton ethicist
“And buying the merlot may help sustain a tradition in the French countryside that we value–a community, a way of life, a set of values that would disappear if we stopped buying French wines. I doubt if you travel to Fiji you would find a tradition of cultivation of Fiji water.” Excellent! He’s clearly been reading his Dr. Vino! [great piece on bottled water in Fast Company]
Sipped: NYC tap water
The NYT gives NYC tap water a thumbs up for taste and price, pointing out that eight glasses of tap water a year has a total tab of $0.49. [NYT]
Sipped: Oregon wine tourism
Oregon Wine has a new interactive map for plotting your next trip to the state. Good stuff–we love maps! [Oregon Wine]
Sipped: Michigan wine country(?)
“There’s a quiet revolution happening here,” Joel Goldberg, a local wine writer, told the NYT about the burgeoning wine life in Michigan. “Go off a side road and through the woods and you’ll find a vineyard here, a vineyard there — hundreds of acres of new vineyards are going in all over the place. And there are some real quality wines.” [NYT travel]
Spit: EU wine reform, in Central Europe
“If this EU reform is passed, I think the size of the vineyards under cultivation in Hungary will be halved. It could create a dramatic situation,” Laszlo Kiss, president of Hungary’s National Council of Wine Communities. [AFP].
Spit: California Rhone-style wine under $10
“Why can’t California deliver the same kind of terroir [as a Cotes du Rhone] for $10? “[SF Chron]
How much wine can you bring back from your foreign travels? More than I thought, it turns out.
I just got back from a great couple of weeks in France, first at Vinexpo, and then with my family. Of course, we found lots of great wines to drink while we were there and even bought too much, and were forced to bring some back.
But I was apparently mistaken about the limit on just how much we could bring back–I thought we were allowed only one liter each, so we were forced to drink almost all the wines we got while we were there. I’ve written up one already — more notes forthcoming.
It turns out that all that guzzling might have been avoided if I had studied up on the US rules first. Customs and Border Protection limits you to one liter of alcohol free of tax. But beyond the one liter, the useful “Know before you go” Customs pamphlet elaborates that “Federal regulations allow you to bring back more than one liter of alcoholic beverage for personal use, but, as with extra tobacco, you will have to pay duty and Internal Revenue Service tax.”
While they don’t mention the IRS tax rate, anyone care to guess what the Customs duty is? Three percent! That’s it!
Despite the inconvenience of traveling with wine, us wine geeks can revel in bringing back wines that are not commercially imported to the US or are much less expensive overseas! Consider these examples: Read more…
“We have a captive audience as most cruises last at least 11 days,” said Toni Neumeister, vice president of food and beverage at Crystal Cruise Lines was quoted in the current issue of Wine Business Monthly. Mmm, captive audience. Monopoly provider. And a new policy not allowing any alcoholic beverages on board. If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, then your cruise will have a poor selection of wines with high prices.
But the story then proceeds to say that wine on cruise ships has a gentler markup than restaurants with 1.5x cost instead of two or three times. So which is it? Share your experiences in the latest poll!
poll now closed
I really like the photo since it shows such contrasts between the vineyard and the surrounding area. The photographer, Alastair writes that after visiting the winery, he “drove up one of the most frightening roads I had ever been on and took a photo from the Te Mata Peak facing east.” He snapped the above photo too (click to enlarge; see a satellite image here). See more of Alastair’s photos on his site, 18percentgray.com.
Related: “Grapes on the half shell“
While you can always drink wine while it’s hot, as Indians are starting to do, how do you make wine in the heat of India?!
India’s climate does not allow grapevines to become dormant, as is typical in winter. With the opportunity for two harvests, growers prune back vines to collect a single harvest per year, allowing for more concentrated fruit. Using the mild, dry winters as the growing season, harvest occurs from February to March as in the Southern Hemisphere. During the forced dormant months of April through September, the heat of summer precedes monsoon rains that nourish the vines.
High altitudes in foothill areas around Nasik and Bangalore create moderate temperatures conducive to wine grape cultivation. Maharashtra state is home to over 40 wineries, with half near the holy city of Nasik, 80 miles northeast of Mumbai. At 2000′ altitude, the wine temperature fluctuations between day and night in Nasik allow for additional flavor development.
Nasik’s viticulture began with excellent table grapes for eating, which garnered high prices due to cool temperatures and excellent water sources. Now contract grape farmers supply the burgeoning wine production with vinifera grapes such as Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Zinfandel, but Thomson Seedless still finds its way into many bottles. Limits on agricultural land holdings require wineries to rely on farmers who lack proper training and tend to over-irrigate.
While much sweet, high-alcohol wine still exists, modern winemaking has arrived in India with gusto. Large, air conditioned wineries are being built at an alarming rate equipped with French oak barrels, temperature-controlled fermentation tanks, and pneumatic presses. A big mystery is the use of gyropalettes, which substitute capital for labor in a country where labor is so cheap that they pay someone to press the button and give you a ticket number when you enter the Air India office. Instead of having a person come along and “riddle” the bottles of sparkling wine as they mature in the cellars, producers have invested in gyropalettes to do this task automatically (someone talked this winery into buying the bridge…).
Flying winemaker Michel Rolland has consulted for Grover Vineyards in Bangalore since 1995 and other foreign consultants present their solutions to various wineries for hefty fees. Winemakers learn to compensate for varying fruit by acidifying, adding enzymes for color, and making other adjustments with no regulatory controls. As site selection, viticulture and experience improves, Indian wine has both the potential and the market to thrive. The next hurdle will be temperature controlled shipping and storage.
Wines to watch for:
Grover Vineyards: the 2004 “La Reserve” (about $20; find this wine) carries the modern Bordeaux influence of Rolland and pairs nicely with masala lamb chops; I enjoy the dry Shiraz rosé (find this wine) and Cab/Shiraz blend for $10 – $15. (find this wine)
Sula Vineyards: the crisp, fresh and zingy Sauvignon Blanc for $12 is a must try, especially with a Kerala fish curry. Sula is owned by Stanford grad Rajeev Samant who is on his way to making Sula India’s top brand. (find this wine)
Reveilo: gets my vote for most promising winery and will be imported to the US soon; I tasted a great range of Sauvignon Blanc, CS, Shiraz and a late harvest Chenin there.
Mountain View is another up and coming quality producer, yet to be imported to the US.
Finally, if you plan to visit Nasik, I recommend a stay at Renaissance Winery‘s guest house with a European restaurant and wine bar next to the villa-like winery to sip their fresh Chenin Blanc. More photos and captions after the jump. Read more…
This postcard from India is by Dini Rao, formerly in the wine department at Christie’s, and currently finishing her MBA at Harvard Business School.
My wine experience during my stay in India was eye-opening. If you told me five years ago that Indians would put down their bottles of Johnny Walker Black Label for a glass of Shiraz, I would laugh. After spending the first portion of my trip in the southern city of Chennai (formerly Madras), my concept of an Indian wine shop was bleak: a wine stand (see the first photo above) with men standing around in lungis all day, taking shots of “wine” i.e. liquor or port.
Then I arrived in Mumbai where swank hotels and restaurants serve Veuve yellow label for Rs. 2000 or $50 a glass. Top wineries attract Indians eager for tours with beautiful tasting rooms (see the second photo). As if welcoming me to the city, the current issue of Time Out Mumbai featured “Wine: Why we’re all drinking it,” a 12 page spread about wine bars, producers and sommeliers around town. According to a Newsweek International online article, Bollywood, which just graduated to showing its first scandalous on screen kiss on the lips, features stars sipping wine in recent movies.
Wine, while trendy, also seems to have serious takers. A friend publishes the wine magazine Sommelier India that circulates to India’s growing wine enthusiasts. When invited to witness a Wine Society of India tasting, I quickly dropped my previous plans to see Stephen Spurrier speak to 500 assembled Indian guests (see photo).
India’s wine future seems bright. Euromonitor predicts 100% growth from the 9 million bottles currently consumed in India over the next five years. Consumption per capita is low in the billion-person country, but concentrated, as Mumbai drinks 40% of wine by value and will continue as one of the highest growing markets. No wonder the WTO, led by the EU and US, pressures India to change the import duties on foreign wines which currently reach up to 550%.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of India’s wine culture is its own wine production. More on this in Wine in India, Part 2.