We are probably at least as surprised as anyone else. That we have reached number 100 of the BKWine Brief! It all started in May 2003. Well, it really started long before that if we talk about us and wine. Further down you will find a short look back on how it started and what has happened since.
It is no secret, we think, that one of the reasons that we write the Brief is that we hope that some of you, dear readers, might one day be tempted to come on our wine tours, to learn and enjoy even more on wine. But we also do it because we love sharing our experiences of good wine and food. Actually, the wine tours that we organise is also very much about that. We probably meet some 500 wine lovers on our tours every year (and many more on tastings that we do), travellers who sign up for a wine tour and that we meet in one of the wonderful wine districts we organise tours to.
One of the big motivators for doing all the tours is also that we love showing you our discoveries, taking people behind the scenes, having our guest meet the real wine people and wine makers (instead of just the hired guides in swanky cellars and gleaming tasting rooms with leather couches). We share all that with you in the Brief and on our tours. We do hope to get the opportunity to meet you one day in person in some wine district. And to share an excellent glass of wine with you!
But back to the Brief that has grown almost into a small wine magazine all by itself.
Who knows what will happen with it in the future? Will we do an “app” or an iPad version? Quite likely, but today we don’t have the technology skills (or the time and resources) to do it. Will we introduce some way to “monetize” it? Yes, we do need to earn a living so we are thinking about if we should have advertising in the Brief or on the site, or if we should have some type of subscription model. Freemium? These are questions we think about a lot, in addition to thinking about what articles we should write in it.
We would love to hear from you with your opinions, suggestions, and comments of what we do and what we might do in the future! Send us an email with your thoughts!
One thing we emphatically would ask for your help with is to get more subscribers. Do recommend to your friends to subscribe, if you enjoy reading the Brief!
It is almost Christmas and soon New Year. We have filled this ISSUE NUMBER 100 with things for you to read. Quite a few of the articles became so long that you will have to click through to the BKWine Magazine site to read it. Do so!
You can read about champagne from different perspectives, or another festive drink, sweet wines from Alsace, about how a Christmas dinner is celebrated in an Italian family, our pick of eleven “unknown” wine regions that we think deserve more, much more attention, several restaurant reviews, and five tips on how to enjoy wine more at table.
And much, much more
Enjoy the BKWine Brief #100 and have a very good Christmas and New Year with lots and lots of delicious wines!
Britt & Per
PS: Recommend to your friends to read the Brief or forward it to them (click here to send them the Brief)!
What’s on at BKWine Tours
“World’s Top Wine Tours” – Travel + Leisure Magazine, on TravelAndLeisure.com
2012 wine tour program
- Bordeaux 9-13 May
- Bordeaux 19-23 September
- Tuscany 10-14 October
- Champagne 14-18 November
Details soon to be published.
For more information please contact us on email or on phone (we’re on French time), or go to our wine travel site on www.bkwinetours.com!
What do people think about a wine tour with BKWine?
That is of course a question that we think is very important. We want it to be a wonderful and memorable experience for everyone. Here are some of the comments we’ve had from customers this season:
- “Many thanks for a fantastic trip. You are so keen to make everything the best for your guests and you are so knowledgeable about wine. A pleasure to travel with you.”, W-A
- ”Thank you for a wonderful trip to Umbria and southern Tuscany. Wonderful in many ways – our initial ideas for the trip on food and wine in Umbria and Tuscany – and discovering sagrantino and sangiovese – were more than fulfilled”, I & P in Umbria and Tuscany
Custom wine tours
We also make custom designed wine tours – on-demand tours for you and a group of friends, for your company (maybe to scout new winegrowers?), for a special event… We can combine winery visits and wine touring with other activities: gastronomic workshops, visit to an oyster farm, truffles hunting, cheese making, and more. We’ve done tours for wine clubs, for sommelier educations, for corporate events, for wine importers, for wine course study groups… just to mention a few.
Wine tours in Finnish
We also do wine tours in Finnish. And in German, Norwegian, Spanish…
Do you want the latest news and updates on our wine travel activity? Subscibe here! (Second alternative BKWineTours.com)
From the World of Wine
BKWine Brief reaches 100 but continues to grow
We have written a short look back on how it started and some thoughts on the future. Here is the introduction and the ending. Read the full story on the site: the 100 issues of the BKWine Brief!
“May 2003. That was when we did the very first BKWine Brief. One hundred issues back. This is what we wrote in the introduction, the “editorial”, of the first issue: “Through my monthly newsletter I aim to bring you personal suggestions (on my favourite wines, wine shops, useful internet addresses and wine bars & restaurants throughout Europe), interesting wine industry news, as well as an update on my activities in case you want to join us in a tasting or on a tour to a wine region to enjoy and learn more about wine.”
[. . .]
Today it would be difficult to quit! We think that the Brief is one of the most read, if not THE most read wine newsletters in Sweden – and also high up there somewhere on the list internationally. Very few others tell you how many subscribers they have so it is difficult to know… The BKWine Brief currently has around 20,000 subscribers. We have almost 9,000 for the English version (8762 is the exact number this very minute) and almost 12,000 for the Swedish version (11,690). Everyone can see the exact number on the site, on the subscribe page. That’s actually similar subscriber numbers to some of the major printed wine magazines. At least in Scandinavia. And what will happen in the future? Who knows? What do you think? Do you have any suggestions, thoughts or ideas? Let us know! Send us a mail! We’d like to know what you think!”
This was just the introduction and the finish of the article. Read all of it here: BKWine Brief reaches 100 but continues to grow
Buon Natale – Italian Christmas
For many people the celebration of Christmas is very much linked to their childhood and the traditions of their native country. But when people move to another country and get married with someone from this country they have to get used to new traditions. I could think of much “worse” traditions to get used to than the Italian. I’m not even sure Åsa really misses the marinated herring or the “temptation of Jansson” or the boiled ham or the meat balls from her native Sweden…
Åsa has written an article about Christmas with the family, with her family, in Italy. “Italy is a strange country, difficult to understand. Even for the Italians themselves. There is chaos in politics and in the traffic, but when it comes to food and drink you have to follow the rules. Otherwise you will be stared at or laughed at, and sometimes even shouted at.” Read the whole article here: Buon natale! Italian Christmas
We have created a small competition for the holidays. Christmas Quiz – guess the French appellation!
Test yourself or your loved ones. See at which score you can guess the French appellation (AOC)! If you guess right on 5p you get, well, five points, etc. There are five questions, one each day, with the last one coming on Christmas Eve. The correct answers will be published on December 31…
Christmas riddle no 1
- 5 p. Only one grape variety is allowed and it is a popular one
- 4 p. Before the phylloxera this appellation was much bigger thanks to its proximity to Paris
- 3 p. The wines are always white
- 2 p. The wines can be described as elegant, fresh and with a fine minerality.
- 1 p. The appellation belongs to Burgundy and the grape is chardonnay.
(An easy start to warm you up!)
The following four questions are on our blog, one per day until Christmas: BKWine Blog
Le Verre de Terres, Restaurant Bar à Vins, Colmar restaurant | BKWine Pick
This is a small restaurant in the restaurant de quartier-style (neighbourhood restaurant) that can be so sympathique. Rickety wooden chairs, a big zinc bar counter, friendly service – there you go. For lunch they have two three course formulas at 12€ and 21 € and in the evening a more elaborate menu but one that changes all the time. The cuisine is a bit modern without going to excesses – one could call it imaginative. The wine list has a focus on organic wines with even a tendency toward “natural”. Some 15 wines by the glass and around a hundred in bottle. The restaurant is also a wine shop so you can take any wine you like with you home. Le Verre de Terres is located just a stone’s throw outside the city centre, which often, as here, means better quality at lower prices and better service. And just a very short walk from La Petite Venise and the hotel where we usually stay in Colmar.
Le Verre de Terres, Restaurant Bar à Vins, Vente à emporter, 11 rue Wickram (on the corner to rue des Ecoles and Quai de la Poissonnerie), ph 03 89 23 61 10, http://verredeterres.free.fr
11 wine regions to discover (or rediscover) during 2012
We probably all have a tendency sometimes to choose the wine that sounds familiar or what happens to be easiest to find on the shelf. Here is a list to encourage you to look for those things that are a bit more off the beaten path in terms of wine regions. In no particular order.
1. Apulia, southern Italy
Today mostly known for Primitivo but interesting things is also made with Negroamaro and Nero di Troia. Ambitious producers have much more to offer than the easy drinking wines mostly sold today.
2. Entre-deux-Mers, Bordeaux
A big region between the rivers of Garonne and Dordogne. Most people just pass it on their way from the left bank to the right bank. But they should make a stop. Today you find lots of ambitious chateaux with amazing quality. Their owners do their utmost to convince people that Bordeaux is not only Grand Cru Classé.
The biggest region in Portugal. Sparsely populated, at least by humans but more so by oak trees. And handsome wine estates that offer a modern interpretation of the classic Portuguese wine style.
Read about the following eight wine regions that deserve more attention! 11 wine regions to discover (or rediscover) during 2012
Sweet things from Alsace
You will probably drink at least one sweet wine during the Christmas festivities. Maybe with a cheese, the Christmas pudding or the walnuts. The foie gras on New Year’s Eve is best enjoyed with a sweet or slightly sweet wine. In Alsace you can find wines with almost any degree of sweetness you can wish for. If you are lucky, that is. The labels hardly ever give you much information but it is worth a try and what good is life and you don’t gamble a bit?
Read Britt’s article about the sweet wines from Alsace here: Sweet wines from Alsace
The wine shops on the internet, are they all rubbish?
This will give you yet another curious view on the Swedish wine scene and the Swedish journalist community. In Sweden there is a retail monopoly. But since a few years back, thanks to EU regulations, Swedes are allowed to buy wine from sellers who are based in other EU countries. This has sparked a budding industry with entrepreneurs who have started web sops based in Denmark, Germany or other countries and selling to Swedish consumers.
Recently, two of the heavy-weight Swedish wine writers, Bengt-Göran Kronstam and Mikael Mölstad commented on these entrepreneurs. The two journalists write wine columns in Sweden’s two biggest daily papers. Both writers are highly critical and negative to the internet wine shops and both praise the Swedish monopoly retailer that they apparently think is doing a wonderful job. In essence it was two frontal attacks on the independent merchants targeting Swedes. We find this so extraordinary that we had to write a commentary. Should it not be in the soul of a wine writer to promote diversity, to help consumers find new and exiting wines, to encourage every initiative that brings a wider choice to the consumer? Well, apparently those two wine writers do not think so.
Per’s article is unfortunately in Swedish only, but with Google Translate you can get a good idea of what it is all about. You can read it here: Kronstam and Molstad attacks the internet wine shops
Word of mouth for wine bars in Paris
ParisByMouth.com has several interesting recommendations for anyone who wants to visit wine bars/wine restaurants in Paris. Some of them are old classics (Juveniles, Willi’s Wine Bar, Café de la Nouvelle Mairie, Le Baron Rouge), some are new classics (La Verre Volée, Legrand, Fish) and some are new discoveries for us (Les 3 Seaux, Jeanne A., Au Nouveau Nez).
Ô Tono Bistrot, Angers restaurant | BKWine Pick
Ô Tono is a very small and very simple café style restaurant some 8 minutes walk away from the central railway station in Angers. You will get simple decent food and a reasonable selection of wines. Solid, rustic cooking with a penchant for meat. The restaurant is definitely better than your average café-resto in Angers but don’t expect gastronomic highlights. Petit resto sympa with petits vins sympas.
Ô Tono Bistrot, bar à vin, bière et cochonnaille, 42, rue David d’Angers, 49000 Angers, close to the city hall (Mairie), ph 02 41 81 03 92.
Primitive French zinfandel?
According to Vitisphere the French CTPS (Comité Technique Permanent de la Sélection) recently published a new list of permitted grapes varieties in France. New on that list is Primitivo, the star grape of Apulia in southern Italy. It is being recommended for Languedoc-Roussillon which seems reasonable. A few years ago they approved the Spanish Tempranillo. vitisphere.com
All pre-packed food products must state on the label if they contain possibly allergenic products. So far, wine has been exempted from this rule. But only for another six months. According to Le Journal du Vin, the EU has, on the recommendation of The European Food Safety Agency, decided that a wine that contain albumin (egg whites), casein (milk protein) or lysozymes (an enzyme extracted from egg whites) has to state this on the label. The rule shall apply from 1st of July 2012. Egg whites and milk protein is used to clarify wines. After the clarification the product is removed from the wine but traces can remain in the wine.
We do not know yet if the rule is to be applied to all wines that have been clarified with these products or if you can avoid it by proving that your wine does not contain any traces at all. More: lejournalduvin.com
When the vineyard land is more expensive than your apartment
According to Le Journal du Vin.com, famous Burgundy house Domaine Leroy has recently bought 7 ouvrées of Batard-Montrachet, one of the most exclusive white Grand Cru vineyards in Puligny-Montrachet. An ouvrée equals 428 m2 and is an old measurement for plots of vineyards in Burgundy which is still widely used here, probably because in Burgundy you seldom buy entire hectares of land, you buy tiny, tiny parts of vineyards (an ouvrée used to indicate the size of land that one person could plough daily).
The price Leroy paid is not confirmed, though it is said to have been between 800 000 and 900 000 euro per ouvrée, which for the 7 ouvrées bought by Leroy means a nice little price tag of nearly 6 million euros. For 2996 m2 – less than a third of a hectare! Price is not confirmed, as mentioned, but earlier this year, also according to Le Journal du Vin.com, 8.5 ouvrées were bought at a price of 700 000 euro per ouvrée so it is probably not unreasonable. Except that it is, of course, unreasonable to pay this kind of money for a piece of land, be it one of the most prestigious vineyards in the world. I cannot begin to imagine the price of one ouvrée of Grand Cru Montrachet. (Update: Can be worth noting that the alleged price would equate to around some 20 million euros per hectare.)
Let’s make a quick calculation. Say they have a yield of 25 hl/ha, 2500 litres. For the 7 ouvrées that means 750 litres, just over 3 burgundy pièce barrels, or 1000 bottles. That means a land purchase price of some 6000 euros per annual bottle production capacity (1000 bottles, 850 k€/ouvrée, 7 ouvrées in total). A quick search seems to indicate that street price from a wine merchant for one bottle of Batard is around 80-100 euro (retail consumer price! But not Leroy). Over how long period do you amortise a burgundy vineyard? If it is over 50 years you have a 120€ per bottle cost per year. For the land. More: lejournalduvin.com
Restaurant Le Petit Jardin, Montpellier restaurant | BKWine Pick
It is not easy to find one’s way around Montpellier with its medieval winding narrow streets. But there is hardly any chance that you loose your way so thoroughly that you wander past the Restaurant Le Petit Jardin by accident. It is in a tiny little alley very close to the Arc de Triomphe just behind the Palais de Justice, on rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau. But it is well worth the effort to find it. It is excellent. It is elegant without being luxurious and pretentious. There are two sections: the restaurant and the wine bar. And in season – you guessed it – they have an outside garden. The cuisine is ambitious and innovative relying on good raw material.
There is a handful of fish courses (bouillabaisse, gambas, sole meunière…) and a handful of meat courses (filet de boeuf, carré d’agneau/lamb chops, ris de veau/sweetbread…) ranging between 19€ and 37€. But don’t be fooled by the very traditional sounding names. The cuisine is actually more modern than old-fashioned – but with good quality raw material. Starters are 10-15€ and desserts just under 10€. Unusually for a French restaurant they also have a children’s selection. The bar section has a separate choice, more tapas-like. Very tempting! It also has an OK selection wines by the glass. The wine list is (naturally) dominated by Languedoc wines – a good selection going from 19€ to 74€ – but also has an honourable list of wines from the rest of France. Definitely one of the better restaurants we have tried in the Old Town.
Le Petit Jardin, Restaurant Bar et ses petits plats, 20 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseaux, 34000 Montpellier, ph 04 67 60 78 78, http://www.petit-jardin.com
What will be next? No-alcohol vodka?
Actually, that is exactly what the Swedish monopolist retailer Systembolaget has launched, but of the flavoured kind, called “snaps”, or aquavit if you prefer. Basically, aquavit is just a white spirit (vodka is a good start) with some spices. The monopoly has launched a set of 0% akvavits. is there a point?
We have not tasted it, we are happy to say, and we fail to see the point with it. If you do not want to drink alcohol why would you want to drink an akvavit? It is not quite the same thing as no-alcohol beer or wine. They have at least some other flavour and structure elements.
The Bordeaux Grand Cru Classé 1855 classification
The Bordeaux Grand Cru Classé 1855 classification is old but still going strong. What ever feelings you have about the fact that a classification that was made more than 150 years ago is still valid, you have to admit that it is an achievement. I doubt that the people of the Chamber of Commerce in Bordeaux in 1855 could imagine the importance the classification they created in two weeks time would have. But beware, Grand Cru does not mean the same thing in Bordeaux as it does in Burgundy. Read more! We have two articles for you to read:
5 tips to enjoy your wine even more at the dinner table
1. Best wine last = not true: Do not save the best wine until the end of the meal. If you have a dinner with several courses and several wines, people are a bit tired and talkative at the end and less inclined to pay attention to the wine being served. If you have a real treasure you want people to appreciate, serve it early in the evening.
2. White with cheese = true: Most people drink red wine with cheese. And often it is fine. But a white wine is sometimes even better. An aromatic white, like a Sancerre, with French goat cheese is a classic combination. But also with Brie and Camembert a white is so much better. For these cheeses, drink a full bodied wine, with a hint of oak if you like. A hard cheese like a well matured Comté is perfect with a white from the Jura region. And if you want to drink a dry wine with a blue cheese a white is definitely better. One of the worst combinations is red wine and blue cheese.
3. Pairing wine & food = use common sense: To combine wine and food does not have to be complicated. Common sense is often enough. Lighter food need lighter wine etc. With a rich and heavy cassoulet stew you would serve a rich wine, with mild veal maybe a pinot noir. If you serve really spicy food, be careful. A lot of spices tend to kill the aromas of the wine, so choose something not too sophisticated. And if you are really longing for a certain type of wine it will be delicious with whatever you eat. Don’t be a slave to the rules!
4. Good glasses!: Always serve wine in wine glasses that are not too small, are not coloured and with a bowl that closes a bit towards the top! And they don’t need to cost a fortune.
5. Reds cooler, whites warmer: Plan ahead so that your wines are served at good temperature. That is, the whites not too cold and the reds not too warm. Sparkling wine can be served directly from the refrigerator but most other white wines should be served a little bit warmer, at around 8-10 degrees C. However, as a rule, it is better to start a little bit too cool, the wine will warm up in the glass. For the reds, room temperature is too warm, try to serve them at around 16-18 degrees. Not over 20!
Harvest report 2011: A good vintage in Austria
The harvest reports keep coming in from various regions. Over all the producers seem happy, more or less, even though there were some problems, at least in France. But of course, nobody wants to be too pessimistic about a vintage! Anyway, each year has its charm, doesn’t it?
Here is a report from Austria. Harvest report 2011: A good vintage in Austria
Trattoria Latte di Luna, Pienza restaurant | BKWine Pick
The Latte di Luna restaurant is at the very end of the main street in Pienza. You can’t miss it. This is a real family affair! Il Signore is running the dining room, La Mama is doing the cooking, and La Figlia is helping with the service. Sitting down is like squeezing in at a big Italian family dinner – don’t expect a romantic dinner for two…
Expect instead to have to argue a bit with Signore before you get to sit down, but it is only just for laughs. (If you tell him you are Swedish he will tell you all about when Victoria Silvstedt was there…) They have the traditional Tuscan cuisine: hand made pici (fat spaghetti) served with a rabbit sauce, or tomatoes, or whatever that is fresh, the Tuscan bread soup that is so appreciated by some, some good grilled beef, wild boar in season (do try it! it is excellent and the more you eat of it the less it will do damage in the vineyards), tender suckling pig (they are very proud of it) and many other excellent home made things.
The wine selection is quite good; many “local” wines from Montepulciano and Montalcino. Go for the “rossos” rather than the DOCG:s if you want a more modest price tag. They are often excellent and good value. When weather permits the restaurant has a charming space outside to sit. One of our favourites in Pienza.
Trattoria Latte di Luna, Via San Carlo 2/4, 53026 Pienza, ph 0578 748 606
Champagne for New Year or celebration?
Some sort of sparkling wine is the obvious choice for New Years Eve. Whether it is Champagne or not, well, that is up to you to decide. Maybe it depends on who your dinner guests are? Champagne is an unusual wine in many respects not the least being that it is a wine “made in the cellar”. Of course you need, as always, healthy grapes, but the character and the quality of Champagne are very much due to the blending and the ageing. Britt writes more about it here: Champagne! How it is made
Champagne from small independent producers
Two thirds of all Champagne bottles are made by the big Champagne houses. And they account for 90 % of the export. So one is forgiven if one forgets that there is another aspect of the Champagne region. That of the small growers that own their land and produce their Champagne from start to finish. They live in a different world compared to the houses. And often their Champagnes have much more personality and character than the Champagnes of the houses. Read more – Britt writes about some of her favourite independent producers: A selection of “grower’s champagne” producers
Participate in the Born Digital Wine Awards!
The Born Digital Wine Awards (BDWA) is a competition that aims to promote and honour good writing and imagery on wine that has been published online. It is open to anyone who produces content on wine online: wine bloggers, wine writers, video makers, photographers etc. The only condition to participate is that the contents have first been published online. This year there are six categories:
- Best Investigative Wine Story
- Best Editorial Wine Writing
- Best Wine Tourism Feature
- Best Wine Themed Video Video
- Best Winery Self Produced Content
- Best Wine Photo Essay
The photo essay category is new. It is nice to see images promoted like that! On the other hand we are disappointed by the rules that for that category, and that category only, says that the contents must have been made in 2011. For the text categories there is no such rule. There the only rule is that it has to be published in 2011. We have photography that has been published in 2011, but not taken in 2011, so we are not allowed to participate with that. Not a level playing field… 🙁 Last year we were we were short-listed for the Investigative Writing category but this year it seems unlikely that we will participate.
Deadline for submissions is on 31 January 2012, so don’t wait! Full information is available here: www.borndigitalwineawards.com. Important: submissions can be in ANY LANGUAGE. It does not have to be in English. Do send in your contribution!
Wine writer seeks strength in wine
There has recently been a curious “debate” on one of the major Swedish wine blogs on what is “the strongest wine in the world”, naturally fermented, excluding fortified wines. It started some time back with the blogger / wine writer Mikael Molstad, who writes for one of Sweden’s biggest daily paper, Svenska Dagbladet. It began somewhere around 16% and with latest post he has reached 16.9%. Since we have recently been in Apulia in the South of Italy we could attest to that they have frequent examples of wines at 17% and 18%. One of our readers talks in a comment about a naturally fermented wine at 19.3%! Read the article we wrote about the alcohol contents in wine here on BKWine Magazine here: Seeking strength in wine?
We also discuss the perhaps more interesting question: Does the alcohol contents really matter? Should you care? Is it not more important to look at the balance in the wine? Read our article and give us your views in the comment.
Vinitaly on 25-28 March 2012
Vinitaly is one of the world’s biggest wine shows. The fair is of course primarily a professional event and is an excellent occasion to meet with many Italian wine producers. The next edition takes place on March 25-28, 2012 in Verona, as usual. More information here: www.vinitaly.com. you can find more things that are “on” in our wine events calendar.
Rueben’s, Franschhoek restaurant | BKWine Pick
Reuben’s is on the main street in the small town of Franschhoek, one of the most beautiful wine regions in South Africa. This is quite famous restaurant. It has a nice outdoor seating on a small court yard, calm and cool in the evening. The restaurant has a very high reputation. When we were there it was certainly good but not outstanding. We will have to go there again perhaps? And why put plastic table cloth? (yuck!) Good wine selection chosen by the Swedish sommelier Josephine Gutentoft.
Rueben’s, 19 Huguenot Road, Franschhoek, http://reubens.co.za/, ph 021 876 3772
Should we go to Swartland?
On our March wine tour to South Africa (sold out in 2012 – let us know if you are interested for 2013) we have extended the wine regions we visit from “the usual”, those that are most commonly found on tour programs to South Africa: Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and the Cape. Now we also include the “new” vineyards in Durbanville and Wellington, not as well known but with a lot of exciting developments in the wine production going on here. Should we also go to Swartland? After having seen the video on “The Swartland Revolution” we think that perhaps we should! Watch it here: Should we go to Swartland and experience the Revolution?
Wine events calendar
Send us an email if you have some event you want on the calendar.
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This post is also available in: Swedish