Break it Down: Legs and Lees

Nobody likes a pompous wine writer, blabbering on in vocabulary that is above the heads of their audience, but I fell in love with this title, Legs and Lees, and couldn’t let it go. When I sent the link to my mother, it was met with a request to “explain the name of the blog to the uninformed”. Today I will do just that. Cheers Mom!

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Legs: (or ‘tears’) are the leftover wine on the glass when you’ve swirled your wine around. These are a basic indicator of sugar and/or alcohol content – as the alcohol evaporates, the wine-water mixture on the glass starts to fall back to the base of the glass due to gravity. If I can let my inner-nerd shine a bit, this is called the Gibbs-Marangoni Effect. (More info – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marangoni_effect)

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Lees: …are much less elegant. Lees are everything that is left behind in the wine due to the winemaking process – we’re talking dead yeast cells, stems, skins, and seeds. However, what’s beautiful about them is how they can enhance wines. White wines are commonly left in contact with lees when they are in oak barrels, resulting in different flavors being created and adding richness and body to the wine. En Francais, on dit ‘Sur Lie’. This method is used for wines meant for aging, and is engrained in the Champagne production method (but more on that later).

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Fresh Vintage, Fresh Blog

What a day to start! Every year the third Thursday of November marks the release of the new vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau. I love the notion of Beaujolais: a reasonably priced, fruity, fresh red wine to give us an uplift as we head into the meat & potatoes of winter. Although it’s taste and structure are reminiscent of Pinot Noir, Beaujolais is made from the grape varietal ‘Gamay’. They also use a special winemaking process called ‘Carbonic Maceration’, where the whole grapes are fermented, which preserves the fresh fruit flavors and avoids bitter tannins. While it is recommended to drink Beaujolais Nouveau by May of the following year, some Beaujolais are built for a bit of aging, especially in stand out vintages like 2000. Beaujolais is hugely popular in the U.S., which no doubt must be linked with the timing of Thanksgiving (I like to serve Beaujolais with a bit of a chill, about 55 degrees).

If you’re looking for a bit of an upgrade, look to the Beaujolais-Village or Cru Beaujolais quality wines. They’re grown in the higher, more granite-dense soils, while the Nouveau is grown on the flatter, more clay-heavy areas. These wines are made in a more traditional method, and the further north you go, the more they begin to resemble the wines of Burgundy.

Here’s a few of my go-to’s:

George Duboeuf 2014– Duboeuf, Beaujolais Nouveau, 2014 ($10)

– Marcel Lapierre, Morgon, 2013 ($31) – *love*morgon label

– Guy Breton, “Vielles Vignes”, Guy Breton, 2012 ($30)

Lapierre_raisinsgaulois_10_web– Raisins Gaulois, Marcel Lapierre, 2013 ($14)

At 12:01am each year it is legal to release the new vintage, and although the wines have only been in bottle for less than two months, that is exactly the essence of Beaujolais Nouveau. In the 50’s the celebration began as a race, to see which producer could get their bottles to Paris first. Then in the 70’s, legendary winemaker George DuBoeuf began publicizing the event and festivities. The parties have only grown since then, and last night we got to join in the festivities here in NYC.

It was the first stingingly cold night here in Manhattan, but SS and I bundled up and headed to Tribeca to celebrate 2014!

“Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!”

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