Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wines of the Titanic

(A short sabbatical is in order - So, for the next few weeks, we'll take a look back at some older posts: This one is from 2012 about the Wines of the Titanic.)

This Saturday, April 14th will mark the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, the largest vessel afloat in 1912. Registered under the British White Star Line, R.M.S. Titanic set sail from Southampton, England on April 10 with 2,207 passengers, including 885 crew members.  The ship struck an iceberg around 11:40 P.M. April 14th and sank just before 2:30 AM, April 15th in the North Atlantic.  Over 1,500 people were lost.  Only seven hundred people survived, mainly first class passengers.

The Titanic was launched in 1911, but a formal naming ceremony was never held.  Nor was she christened with a bottle of Champagne, although that was the wine of prevalent choice for passengers.  When the Titanic pulled out on her maiden voyage, she was carrying over 1,500 bottles of wine, 20,0000 Champagne glasses, 20,000 bottles of beer and stout, and over 850 bottles of liquor.

The White Star Line preferred to offer passengers white wines like Champagne and Moselle, wines that could be served chilled.  Red wines presented a problem since the vibration of the steam engines could dislodge sediment in the older wines and make them unappealing to guests.  According to a 1910 White Star Line Wine List for first class passengers, included on a trip were ten different Champagnes, along with Sauternes, Moselle, Claret, Port, Sherry, Burgundy, and Vermouth.  This is probably similar to the types of wine the Titanic was carrying.

The one wine we do know that was on board was   Heidsieck Gout Americain (Ameican Taste) Champagne.  The R.M.S. Titanic, Inc. salvaged unopened bottles of Heidsieck Champagne from the wreckage. Corks were also discovered in the wreckage from Moet Champagne.  Rumor has it that 6 bottles of the Titanic Champagne were sold to a private Asian buyer in 2004 at an undisclosed price. 

Interestingly enough, this is the same Champagne that was on board the Swedish ship, Jonkoping, when she sank in 1916.  Unopened bottles were discovered in the wreckage, off the coast of Finland, in 1997.  When bottles of this rare Champagne were opened, tasters said that the sweet flavors of the wine took time to develop in the mouth, but the light-bodied wine had a nice, mellow character.  One bottle sold for almost $300,000.

Last month, a Nova Scotia resident reported that she has a bottle of wine that supposedly came from the Titanic.  Betty Thomas of Halifax told reporters that the bottle of Jeanne d’Arc Vin Mousseux, Cuvee Reserve, was rescued by one of her ancestors, floating in the wreckage from the Titanic.  Although this wine was never shown on wine lists for the ship, it could have come from a passenger’s luggage.

Wine was served with each course of the first class passenger’s ten-course banquet dinner that fateful night and included Champagne, white wines, red wines, Madeira, and Cognac.  Most of the wines served were European.

What follows is the first-class menu as served in the first-class dining saloon of the R.M.S. Titanic on April 14, 1912:

First Course: Hors D'Oeuvres or Oysters

Second Course: Consommé Olga or Cream of Barley Soup

Third Course: Poached Salmon with Mousseline Sauce and Cucumbers

Fourth Course:   Filet Mignons Lilly, Sauté of Chicken Lyonnaise, or Vegetable Marrow Farci

Fifth Course: Lamb with mint sauce, Roast Duckling with apple sauce, or Sirloin of Beef; green peas, creamed carrots, boiled rice and Parementier & boiled new                                              potatoes.

Sixth Course:        Punch Romaine

Seventh Course:    Roast squab and cress.

Eighth Course:      Cold Asparagus Vinaigrette

Ninth Course:       Pate de Foie Gras, celery.

Tenth Course:      Waldorf pudding, Peaches in Chartreuse Jelly, Chocolate and Vanilla Éclairs, and French ice cream.

Actual wine bottles from the ship, along with other items are being auctioned today in Manhattan by Guernsey’s Auctioneers & Brokers. 
Over 5,000 salvaged items are to be sold as one lot. The artifacts are owned by the American company, RMS Titanic, Inc., which has the salvaging rights to the site.  The collection was appraised in 2007 at $189-million.

Other items included in the auction are a bronze cherub that once adorned the Grand Staircase, table settings, jewelry and watches, clothing, and money.

The items cannot be sold individually by order of the court.  The court issued 19 pages of rules the buyer must agree to before the collection can change hands.  The buyer must also agree to properly maintain the collection and keep a portion of the artifacts on display for public viewing.  The final sale is subject to court approval.

So tonight, I believe I will pour a glass of Champagne and toast the memory of the Titanic, her passengers and crew.  After one hundred years, we are still captivated by this ship.

~ Joy


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

6 Secrets For a Winning Wine Tour

Over 30 million travelers in the U.S. have taken a professional food or wine tour since the turn of the 21st century. If you’re a wine lover, chances are you check for any wineries located close by whenever you travel. But have you thought about taking a professional wine tour? Here are five reasons to consider "taking the bus."

A Fun Tour Guide
1) A wine tour is only as good as the people leading it, so if the guides are good, you may get all kind of extra perks like behind the scene tours, a bit of wine history, even tips on which wines to try.  Find out if the tour guides are knowledgeable about wine. Do they have personal wine experience?  Have they been involved in the industry? Few people get involved in the tour business unless they want to share a memorable and fun experience to others who have a similar interest.

Winery Production Area
2) Know what YOU want a tour to cover.  Do you want to see where and how the wine is made, or do you just want to taste the wines?  Would a trip through the vineyard be interesting, or would you rather have time in the gift shop?  Hiring a profession wine tour company is a bit like having a personal shopper.  You need to know your basic requirements to be satisfied and then find a tour that meets those needs.

3) Visit the tour company’s web site or Facebook page; check their TripAdvisor reviews. If you like what you read, call them and ask some questions. If they don’t or won’t take time to talk with you on the phone, they probably won’t on the tour either.

4) Ask relevant questions:
What is included in the tour and price?  Is it a winery tour or a wine tasting tour? Is the tour company independent of any winery? Will you meet the winemakers or winery owners?  Do you get a souvenir glass to taste with and keep?  Is a meal or snacks available on the route?  Is food included in the price?  Is bottled water available?  Who pays any tasting fees?  Is tipping of the winery staff expected?  Is there a discount on wine purchased on the tour? Will your tour vehicle be locked during destination stops? Is there an age restriction for tour participants? Are ID’s required in order to be served? Are you limited to the number of bottles/cases of wine you can purchase on the tour? Will the tour company assist you in shipping the wine back home? What is the cancellation policy?

Meet the Winemaker
A winery tour may include a trek through the vineyards, a quick trip through the production facility, a chat with the winemaker, or just tasting at the bar. Know ahead of time what to expect.

A Tasting Flight
5) Do your homework to get the maximum enjoyment from the trip. Take a few minutes and familiarize yourself with the wineries you’ll be visiting. Have an idea what you’d like to taste at each stop and find out how long each stop will be. 

6) Dress for the occasion: If you will be entering the winemaking facility on your tour wear flats or sneakers (No heels!) because the floor may be wet and slippery, and there will be drains in the floor covered with grids. Be on time to the designated meeting area, relax, and have fun.

A wine tour company should allow you to experience the local wines and get a little taste of its terrior, wines, and hospitality. Wine tour companies are in this business because they love sharing the winery adventure with others. Your job is to just sit back, sip and enjoy!

~ Joy

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

6 Suggestions For Storing Wine

Ancient Wine Jars
Storing wines to their best advantage has always been a concern among wine lovers. Just last year archaeologists unearthed the remains of a 1700 BC Canaanite palace in northern Israel and discovered the remains of 40 large ceramic jars: Three-foot tall vessels that were once used for the storage of wine.

 Modern Wine Room
Today, our choices have expanded from clay jars and wine skins to state-of-the-art wine cellars, and temperature controlled wine rooms. But for the everyday wine drinker, there are a few tricks of the trade to keep your wines distinct and ready to drink. Here are 6 tips: Three for short-term preservation, and three for the long haul storage.

Short Term Preservation:

1) Put a cork in it! If you find yourself with a half bottle of wine left over, you have a few options.  You can recork a bottle of white wine bottle and place it in the fridge. For red wines, cork it and store the bottle upright in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. This should buy you another 2 to 5 days on the remainder of the wine.

Wine Vacuum Pump
2) Vacuum pumps specially made to remove the air from the bottle are another option. With the pump, you remove the excess air, and then insert a special cork to maintain freshness.

Inert Gas
3) Inert gas sprayed into the bottle will act as a blanket over the wine and prevent oxidation from occurring. This is one of the methods commercial wineries use to keep wines from oxidizing in tanks.

Long Term Storage:
Wine Library
Depending on the wine, most may be kept from 2 to 5 years: some for up to 10 years. If you’re storing wines for 20 years or longer, you are considered a serious wine collector (and probably have your own wine cellar with temperature controls.) 

Metal Wine Rack
4) Rack’em up. There are multitudes of wine racks out there; metal, wooden, plastic, in counter, above counter, on the counter: The choice is yours. Just consider how many bottles you will be storing and how long you'll want to store them – a couple of weeks, a month, a year. Quality wine racks are made so that the bottles are lying down with the neck tilted down a bit more so the cork stays wet.  (A wet cork stays sealed in the bottle.  A dried out cork allows in air that oxidizes the wine.)

Wine Fridge

5) Wine refrigerators can be a great investment for the white and fruit wine lover. These units come equipped with built-in wine racks to keep your wines at the perfect temperature for serving: 59 – 65º F for dry whites, Roses and blush. For Champagne and sparking wines, serving temp is 43 – 47º F

Wine Cellar
6) Wine cellars and caves are the trend in new homes. A walk-in room that is kept cool, quiet, dark and dry is the perfect spot for aging red and white wines. Ideal temperatures for long-term storage range between 50 and 55º F with 70% humidity being optimal. Invest in a climate controled unit that measures temperature and humidity. Fluctuations in temperature can ruin a wine, as can too high of humidity, which causes mold to grow; but too dry and the cork can shrink, letting air into the wine.

Red wines that cellar well include robust, dry reds made from Cabernet, Zinfandel, Syrah, Bordeaux; wines with heavy tannins.

Red wines that don’t cellar well include Pinot Noir, Merlot and Grenache, along with any wine labeled as “light and fruity.”

For most white and fruit wines, it’s normally suggested not to store them over two to three years.  These wines don't improve with age, so buy them now to enjoy soon.

Wine Closet
Wine storage doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Space in your basement or a spare closet might be adequate for short-term storage – five years or less.  If wine has become a passion instead of a hobby, you might want to go for a wine fridge, or a basement wine cellar.  Just remember to keep your long-term wines labeled with the purchase date and drink-by-date for maximum enjoyment.

~ Joy

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

5 Favorite Steps for Tasting Wine

There are five key steps to remember in order to get the full benefit from a glass of wine; better known as the Five S’s of Wine Tasting!

1)  See – Hold your glass up to the light, tilt is slightly and take a good look. 
With a white wine you’re looking for clarity, brilliance, cleanness. A white wine should always look fresh and clean; even chilled it should look welcoming.  White wines range in color from pale, pale yellow, to straw-colored, to golden, to a robust yellow. There should not be any floaters, no cloudy substance; nothing dull that detracts from the wine's brilliance.  (You can even hold your glass up to a white or lightly colored wall to see better.)

Red wines can be blush colored, ruby, garnet, deep purple, even almost black.  If the red is consistently the same color– you’re in good shape.  Reds should also look welcoming – something you anticipate putting in your mouth. If a red wine has a brownish ring at the top of the wine, or a brownish tinge throughout, it's oxidized and past it’s prime.  Sorry, this is a dumper.  

2) Swirl – When learning, this is best done by placing the base of the glass on a table or hard surface and giving the glass a good rotation, ‘swirling’ it.  Do this for ten to fifteen seconds to allow the air to penetrate the wine’s surface and get some oxygen in there to release the aromas.

3) Sniff – Yes, this looks pretentious, but if you want to truly enjoy all aspects of wine – give it a go.  You will be amazed by the different aromas you can identify.   As soon as you finish the swirl, stick your nose in that glass and inhale those heavenly aromas.  You can't just wave the glass under your nose or hold it several inches away and sniff; You’ll know you have it right when you can breath in the wine’s aroma, and only the wine’s aroma.   

Aroma Wheel
Some of the aromas that you’re looking for include floral, fruity, spicy, nutty, oaky, earthy, mushrooms, cedar, smoke, asparagus, and tar. In fact, if you want to get really good at this order a wine aroma wheel and learn how to put a name to what you smell and taste.

4)  Sip – Notice I said sip, not guzzle it down.  My rule of thumb – the first sip does not count.  Swish it around your mouth and tongue, and swallow.  Is it sweet?  Dry? (What a wine is called with minimal sugar.) Somewhere in between?  The second sip, and on, are where you will start to identify the flavors.  Some people ‘chew’ their wines when tasting – as if chewing a piece of food.  Others open their mouths slightly and draw in air to mix with the wine in their mouths, (called aerating the wine.)  Both ways help you get the full flavors at the back of your throat and nasal passages. And a truly good wine will have several flavors.

Aroma Wheel Close Up
Now, grab that aroma wheel and see if you can identify the taste of those smells. Notice how long the flavors remain in your mouth after you’ve swallowed the wine. This is called the ‘finish.’ 

Finally, it's time to sit back and ...

5) Savor – Because in all honesty, that's why we drink wine, to share it, discuss it, and enjoy.  So, go ahead, pour a glass of your favorite and see, swirl, smell, sip and savor to your heart's content.

~ Joy