Monday, November 18, 2019

The Seychelles: Another World

Anse Source d'Argent, La Digue

It’s no secret that travel is my #1 passion. The thing I would do every single day if money was no object. I love to get out, see the world, and enjoy the people, food, and drink of a new place. Over the course of the last year, I have been on some spectacular vacations including: China, London, Scotland, Amsterdam, and Australia. What has been missing is a true tropical vacation. A vacation where all you pack are bathing suits, cover ups, and some sunblock. I recently attended a press luncheon for the island of Seychelles and I was blown away. Blown away by the beauty, the calm, and the total island vibe of this beautiful place. It is DEFINITELY on my bucket list!

Anse Lazio, Praslin

The Seychelles consists of 115 granite and coral islands in a secluded part of the Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of Africa. The Seychelles includes the granitic “Inner” islands, the cultural focal point of the country, that cluster around the principle islands of Mahé, Praslin, and La Digue. And the “Outer” islands, which extend west towards the coast of Africa and where the majority of the population lives. 

Ox Cart

The Seychelles is a great destination year-round. The only times to avoid are the months of July and August, which are characterized by rain, wind, and choppy waters. Otherwise you’re in the clear! There are three official languages: English, Creole, and French. And yes, William & Kate did honeymoon here:)

What separates the Seychelles from many luxury tropical destinations are their conservation efforts. All 5-star properties employ a conservationist and a whopping 50% of their landmass has been set aside as land for national parks and marine reserves.

The Seychelles are home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Vallée de Mai on Praslin Island and the raised coral atoll of Aldabra. The main island is Mahé, where you can find the international airport and a cruise dock (see below)! They have also banned overwater bungalows because of their conservation programs. 

Hawkbill Turtle

What does one do in the Seychelles? The islands lie outside of the cyclone belt, so a year-round sailing season can be enjoyed. Activities such as spas, birdlife, fly fishing, deep-sea fishing, diving, golf, water sports, and hiking are plentiful. Fun fact: all beaches in the Seycelles are public! 

Natura Trail, Morne Blanc

The islands have a mere population of 95,000 people and no visas are required, which makes traveling here a breeze.

If you’re looking for a more all-inclusive type trip, perhaps a Crystal Cruises journey on the Crystal Esprit ship is in order. This is their most premium ship; it embodies boutique and luxury, and yet they follow the casual, laid back Seychelles vibe. No sport coats or high heels here! This small, yet mighty ship boasts 31 all-suite, butler serviced staterooms. This ship is truly all-inclusive to the highest caliber. There are Seychelles sailings in January, February, and March or an 8 day/7-night journey. 

Crystal Esprit

Where are you off to next? I'm heading to Copenhagen, Denmark tomorrow. A far cry from the tropical Seychelles!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Bourgogne Wines 101

I really, really, really wanted to call this piece “Burgundy Wines 101”. BUT the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne is pushing for the region to be called Bourgogne vs Burgundy in international markets. Ok, I’ll oblige. 

In fact, this is a perfect introduction to the confusing world of Bourgogne. There’s no way around it. I have been studying wine for the better part of five years, and I still don’t quite GET Bourgogne. And I remember while I was in WSET Diploma study mode, many of my classmates felt the same.

A few months ago I attended an all-day Bourgogne educational seminar put on by Somm360, which is a continuing education platform for somms. My favorite quote of the day was from Christian Oggenfuss, founder of the Napa Valley Wine Academy. “Generalities are dangerous in Bourgogne because there are so many exceptions.“ See…it’s confusing!!

Bourgogne is a geographical and a wine region in the east of France. In regards to wine, the sub-regions north to south are: Chablis, the Côte-d’Or (which includes the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune), Côte Chalonnaise, and the Mâconnais.

Here are some basics facts about Bourgogne to get your feet wet:

*The main red grape is Pinot Noir, secondary is Gamay
*The main white grape is Chardonnay, secondary is Aligoté
*61% of wine production is white, 28% is red, and 11% is sparkling
*The US is the #1 export market for Bourgogne
*In 2015, Bourgogne was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Let’s briefly explore the quality pyramid in Bourgogne (top to bottom):

Grand Cru (1% of production)
There are 33 Grand Crus. Examples include: Montrachet and Charmes-Chambertin. These wines are of the highest quality level within the region.

Village Level & Premier Cru (47% of production)
There are 44 Village and Premier Cru. Examples include: Chablis 1er Cru, Mercurey, Pouilly-Fuissé). 

Regionale AOC Level (51% of production)

There are 7 regional AOCs that makeup 50% of the entire surface area of Bourgogne AOC. An example is Mâcon-Villages.

So what separates us from Bourgogne wines. For one, it’s confusing. And secondly, it’s expensive!

Why is Bourgogne Confusing?

Labeling of wines in the Old World is confusing AF for American consumers. French (and all Old World wine) is bottled by the region/village and NOT the grape. For example, a white Bourgogne would not say “Chardonnay” anywhere on the bottle. Also, unless it is of the basic regional quality level (see below), the label might not even say Burgundy/Bourgogne. Let’s say it’s a white Chardonnay from Meursault (a sub-region of the Côte de Beaune), it would only say Meursault on the label, plus the name of the producer, who you may or may not know. So if you don’t know the producer and/or that sub-region, you’re SOL!

Another confusing part of Bourgogne are the inheritance laws in the area, which are bonkers. Called the Napoleonic code, the law is that a vineyard is split equally among heirs from generation to generation; making for an extremely fragmented system that adds to the confusion.

The Burgundian even have their own word/notion for terroir. The term is “climat”. Climat is unique to Bourgogne. A climat is a specific area within Bourgogne that enjoys particular geological and climatic conditions. No joke, there are several THOUSAND climats in Bourgogne. And a climat is not to be confused with a lieux-dit, which is a small area of land whose name recalls a specific aspect of topographical or historical nature.

At the seminar, I asked one of the instructors to break down climat vs lieux-dit simply, as I didn’t quite get it. This person is a top Bourgogne expert. As they were explaining it, it slowly got complicated and we were back to where we started. I found that this person was unable to break it down in an easy to understand and simple manner. Now this is not to put someone down. This is to give example to why Bourgogne (fuck it…Burgundy) is so damn complicated. Why is it so expensive and why do only fancy, rich people drink it? Because it’s confusing AF and ain’t nobody got time for that! I love wine, but I just don’t have the energy to comprehend Bourgogne. I’ll keep trying (a little bit at a time), but I don’t really have the patience nor the pocketbook to really “get” the region.

Why are Bourgogne wines so expensive?

For one, scarcity. There are only 29,000 hectares under vine in Bourgogne. By comparison, Bordeaux has four times that. Another reason why Bourgogne is expensive is because the quality level of the wine (as a general rule) is so high and their popularity is equally high. The basic law of supply and demand. Many of the high-end wines in Bourgogne are vanity wines. Wines meant to show off and flaunt. For example, a Grand Cru from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti can easily run a few thousand dollars, for those willing to fork it over. What does that mean for the rest of us? Not much. Most of us cannot afford those wines and are not their target market. But know that there are lovely Bourgogne wines for the rest of us! There are plenty of entry-level wines that provide enormous value.

Bottom line. I have nothing but respect for all of the classic wine regions of the world, including Bourgogne. I just don’t have time for them all. One thing that really trips up wine consumers is the vastness of the wine landscape. Just because you don’t “get” Burgundy, don’t just throw up your hands. I hold a pretty high-level wine certification and I don’t quite “get” it either. And that’s ok. I am always open to learn and I hope you are too!

Hard stats above came from