Vacqueyras at Wine Club

My gosh, happy new year! Motherhood has been challenging, in ways I didn’t expect. The #1 thing is time management. I learned that I can get a lot done in little blocks. There’s absolutely no more, I don’t feel like doing it now, so I’ll do it later when it comes to chores. The same goes for this blog, and my new website (which I’m hoping will be ready soon. I just got the first draft last week and I sent a lot of change requests back). So target launch date of mid-Jan has been pushed. It’s currently 8:15 am, Tuesday, Jan 16 and if I don’t write something now, I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to next.

Rhone valley

Sneaking in a review session on the Rhone while sweet baby sleeps.

This weekend will be a busy one. I have my wine club meeting on Saturday and then on Sunday, we have a family dinner with the in-laws. Hubby and I will be making the food and pairing them with wines! I’m excited for both. At wine club we’re focusing on the Rhone. The 3 course family dinner wine is a Christmas gift. I’m trying to give the gift of experiences rather than things and I’m so looking forward to helping them discover the joy of the right wine pairings with food.

I thought I’d focus on the Rhone on this update. As at every wine club meeting, everyone needs to share 3-4 facts about the bottle they’re bringing. Hubby will be joining us at this meeting, so I picked up two bottles. I haven’t decided which I will be presenting yet.

southern rhone

Just two if the wines we are tasting this weekend.

8:27 am – Baby just woke up!

Ok, it is now 10:50 am Sat, Jan 27 and baby is sleeping, and although there is laundry to do, I really need to get this blog post published. The food and wine pairing dinner hubby and I put together for the in-laws was a hit! More on that in a later post.

This past weekend was also wine club. I decided to present Vacqueyras. It was the first wine we tried and I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious it was. There was a dustiness to it that pulled me in. Some red fruit, earthiness, herbs and a hint of white pepper. It wasn’t in your face and that’s what I loved about it.

Before I share what I shared for my 3-4 points at wine club, I should briefly talk about the Rhone in general. The Rhone really is in two parts: Northern Rhone and Southern Rhone. In the north, reds are made of Syrah and some appellations allow for some Viognier or Masanne and Roussanne in there. The whites are Vigonier, Marsanne and Roussanne. In the south, it’s all about blending. In fact, where the north only has those 4 varieties, and only one or two of each is allowed in the wine, depending on the cru. According to Wine Folly, the south has 21 different varieties and the wine is all about complex blends (I couldn’t find reference to how many different varieties in the WSET 3 book). Anyway, the most popular blend is GSM: Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah.

The north in general commands higher prices as the area is much smaller and the quality is more consistent. The south on the other hand, prices will vary. However, with Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC, you’ll always pay a premium price because the quality is always there — it’s mmm mmm good! By the way, AOC stands for Appellation d’Origine Controlée .

Northern and Southern Rhone wines

Rhone wines we tasted at wine club

Here are the notes I shared on Vacqueyras.

Vacqueyras is a cru

It is the highest appellation in the Rhone. The appellations in order of entry level to the most strict:

1. Côtes du Rhône – technically, it could include wines from the North as well, but winemakers wouldn’t labels their wines as such since those don’t command as high a price.
2. Côtes du Rhône -Villages
3. Côtes du Rhône-Villages with village name indicated
4. Cru

Vacqueyras is the second Rhone village to be promoted to AOC status.

The first one was Gigondas. I haven’t tasted this, but it’s supposed to be more powerful and intense than a Vacqueyras and can age longer. Note though, I did read that Vacqueyras can age for up to 10 years. One article even said it is good for up to 20 years!

Vacqueyras must contain at least 50% Grenache, then Syrah, Mouvedre and some may also contain Cinsault.

Vacqueyras is called “the poor man’s Chateauneuf”

As noted above, Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a higher priced wine compared to its southern counterparts. Here in Canada, it starts at about $40. But if you’re looking for

112:28 am – baby crying.

Now it’s 12:27 pm and baby fell asleep again. Who knows how long she’ll sleep. Fortunately, I am almost done.

As I was saying, if you’re looking for something similar but not as pricey, try Vacqueyras. It lies just east of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Vacqueyras was a favourite, along with CDP at our meeting. For the price point, I think it’s a great value. I bought this bottle for $24.99 before tax at the government liquor store.

I have lots to share. I just need to find the time to write them all down. Some very exciting news I’d like to share with you in the next post. Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss it!

Petit Chablis

Since spring of this year, every two to three months, a few friends and I gather and enjoy wine. It’s sort of formal in that we taste wines, sometimes blind taste, discuss, and then each person gives three to four facts about the wine they brought. So far, I’ve been finding it fun and educational – a great way to learn.



As I write this, it’s a couple days before our next gathering. The theme is French wines, and my bottle is a Petit Chablis. I wanted a white since I’v been drinking more whites lately. Aside from it being a French Chardonnay, I didn’t know much else about Petit Chablis. After some quick research, here are three facts I’ll be sharing with the crew.

Fact 1 – Petit Chablis is from the surrounding area around the town of Chablis, in the northern Burgundy region in France, closer to Champagne and the Loire’s Sancerre. Burgundy is located in east central France, as shown in the map below. When you see a Chablis appellation, this indicates that the wine is made with 100% Chardonnay.

French wine map

Map from Wine Folly

Fact 2 – There are four Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in Chablis.

  1. Petit Chablis
  2. Chablis (village level Chablis)
  3. Chablis Premier Cru
  4. Chablis Grand Cru.

In 1944, the Petit Chablis appellation was created for wines that don’t fall in the other AOCs.

Fact 3 – The main difference between Petit Chablis and the more prestigious appellations is the soil. Petit Chablis wines come from vineyards on Portlandian soil and the others are planted in Kimmeridgian soil. Both are a mixture of limestone and clay; the main difference is the amount of oyster fossils. Kimmeridgian is packed with it. This influences the minerality of the wine. Indeed, a common pairing for shellfish is Chablis.

Having to present some facts about your wine is not a bad way for everyone to learn, eh?

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Hey I’m back + Chenin Blanc

Over 1 year ago.

That was the last time I made an update here on my journey. My last job (yeah, I got a new job a couple of months ago, more on that below) was so demanding. You can read m last couple posts if you want to learn more. Although I loved it and the challenge (and the wins!), I couldn’t find the balance between being able to perform the way I wanted to in a job, which is to kick ass obviously, and to pursue this passion of mine. I needed to combine the two. It had to be wine-centric and I had to have enough spare time to update my blog. I wasn’t using what I learned. As the saying goes, when you don’t use it, you lose it.

more wine

I’m selling wine kits now. I’m talking about wine again, now not only personally but professionally, too! Last week, someone asked me to recommend a kit of ours that would be similar to this Chenin Blanc kit we used to sell. OMG, I was using my wine knowledge!

Ok, so I think I’ve shared a decent update on myself. Since you’re here, you may as well learn something, too. Maybe that’s the reason you’re here in the first place… Chenin Blanc is:

A French Varietal – It’s originally from France, made famous in the Loire Valley.

wine regions in France

Vouvray – Further to the above, it’s famous because it’s the varietal that makes Vouvray, a wine that ranges in style from still to semi-sparkling to sparkling, and from dry to succulent sweet. You won’t find Vouvray on the map above, it’s a sub region in Touraine.

Steen – That’s what Chenin Blanc is called in South Africa. It’s the most widely planted there.

p.s. I created a Facebook page. Like it and get a daily dose of me! I post every day there. Although not as in depth as here, I share what I learn there, too. I sometimes even post live videos! — that’s a big deal for me!

Thank you for following. Feel free to leave me a comment below. I love getting comments!

Sauternes in Bordeaux

I hope you all had a fantastic weekend. Doesn’t it feel like just yesterday it was Thursday? Seriously, Saturday and Sunday fly by. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it. I spent the weekend setting up our new place.

My Ma is coming over this week, so the bf and I scrambled to find a dining room table and a bed. Not as much reading was done as I had liked, but I got in as much as I can. Obviously, no blogging was done either. I’m doing as best I can with the time challenges, so I can’t beat myself up for it, right? My goal to pass WSET 3 will happen one way or the other, even it it means taking a few days off work to get it done.

I’ve re-read Bordeaux and let me tell you, I’m so glad I did. There’s so much I didn’t absorb the first time around and I’m recalling where places are now. That’s good news.

When you think of fine wine, you think Bordeaux. Well, I do, anyways. Do you ever associate it with white wine though? They make some pretty tasty whites and in the wine world, Sauternes is very well known. Sauternes is located on the left bank of Bordeaux, in the south of Graves. 


Graves is #34 and Sauternes is #37 on this map. Image from Wikipedia Commons.

Sauternes makes sweet white wine made mostly from Semillon grapes. Other varietals include Sauvignon Blanc and sometimes Muscadelle. The conditions in Sauternes are perfect for botrytis (grapes that have started to rot from a fungus, also known as noble rot). Passerillage (grapes are kept on the vine until they start to shrivel) is also practiced in Sauternes when conditions aren’t suitable for botrytis to happen. Both make sweet wines, regardless.

Next time you see Sauternes, you may notice that it’s not cheap, but after reading this you’ll know why.

Sauternes AC

Chateau d’Yquem is ranked at the top in Sauternes. Photo from Wikipedia Commons

Harvesting is done over several weeks as only grapes that are shriveled or infected are picked. You can correctly conclude then that this is very labour intensive and the yields aren’t high.

Expect to taste orange marmalade (that’s associated with botrytis), apricot, honey and vanilla from the best Sauternes. If you want to sample a cheaper version, the characteristics noted above aren’t as outstanding, according to the WSET 3 book.

In British Columbia, at the BC Liqour Store, a bottle of Sauternes ranges from $23.95 for a 375 ml to $788.99 for a 750 ml. The higher priced ones are rare to find here, too. The 2005 750ml Chateau d’Yquem is the one that goes for $788.99 and there are only 4 units available in one store.

At this point in my life, I can’t imagine spending that kind of money on wine. I will gladly taste it though.

Have you had a Sauternes? Are you tempted to buy a bottle (maybe a more reasonably priced one first) if you haven’t? Don’t be shy. Leave a comment!

Reading a Burgundy Label

Before I had @VinoVanny on Instagram, I shared (and still do) tidbits of my life on a different account. I was looking for wine photos and came across this one I shared while I was studying for my WSET 2 exam, because you know, it’s only appropriate to have some wine when you’re studying it.

Red Burgundy is Pinot Noir

The act of taking the photo and sharing it helped me remember that Red Burgundy = Pinot Noir. When I saw this photo again, I kind of freaked for a moment. I had finished reading the Burgundy chapter and couldn’t tell you immediately what the label is all about except that it’s a Pinot Noir from the Burgundy region of France. As much as I wanted to put my books down and delay this post, I remembered how badly I want to ace this exam. As I’m writing, I’m glad I didn’t.

Now, back to the label. It’s actually pretty easy. Maybe it’s the fancy cursive font that threw me off for that split second.

First let’s talk about “Appellation Bourgogne Controlee.” This indicates the broadest in the hierarchy of regional appellations, Bourgogne (aka Burgundy) and made from grapes grown anywhere in Burgundy. 

Side note, Pinot Noir is the only red grape in Burgundy of major importance while Chardonnay is the only white. Burgundy is located in eastern France where you find the Saone River. The area enjoys a continental climate (short dry hot summers and long cold winters). If you look at a map, Switzerland is directly east of the area.

Second, from “Louis Latour mis en bouteille a Beaune Par Louis Latour négociant-éléveur…,” we can determine Louis Latour makes the wine in Beaune in Cote D’Or in France.

There you go! That wasn’t bad at all! I’m basically doing this half asleep. Gotta catch some ZZZ’s now. Packed Saturday ahead!

Champagne, Sparkling Wine, Cremant

“If it’s sparkling wine not from Champagne, but made in the Champagne method, what is it called?” the teacher asked in class. We were talking about France.

I promptly answered, “sparkling wine.” Phew, that was an easy one! What else could it be?

“Crémant,” another student responded right after me.


French sparkling wine

Photo from Wikipedia Commons.

Oh well, now I know. It’s better to get it wrong in class than on the exam. Sparkling wine made in the Champagne method from elsewhere in France other than Champagane is called Crémant.

In fact, traditional Champagne varieties (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Meunier) do not have to be used to make Crémant. It’s generally made from grapes that produce the best still white wines in the given region, but aromatic varieties such as Muscat and Gewurztraminer are forbidden.

One other interesting fact, you may have seen rose Champagne. It’s the only type of rose wine in the EU where red and white wine can be blended to make a rose. Typically, roses are made from dark skinned grapes only.

I hope you had some tasty wine today. After all, it is Wine Wednesday! I’m probably the sole person I let down yesterday because I didn’t post and I didn’t meet up to my daily challenge. I’m sorry if I let you down too. I eventually forgave myself and made a studying schedule for the remainder of the month, vowing again to not disappoint myself royally with the ultimate goal of acing the WSET 3 exam. I hope you’ll forgive me. As my friend Shannon had put so well in her health blog the other day, life happens. I talked about Bordeaux in my last post and definitely will revisit that. I have to. If there’s anything you want to know in the meantime, please leave a comment below.

Oh, what are you doing Friday night? Want to drop by the blog that evening? That’s when I’ll publish my next post. Until then, you can always see what I’m up to on Twitter @VinoVanny or Instagram @VinoVanny.

Bordeaux Left and Right

Have you ever read something and asked yourself, “What the ____ did I just read?” I found this happening to me at least 100 times today. No lies. The WSET 3 textbook is drier than a salted cracker.

Anyways, I did retain a few things today (yay me!). I’m catching up on the France section and I’m reading about Bordeaux. I found it the most interesting so far, maybe because the region’s a marketing powerhouse and marketing is what I do in my day job. I promise a post on that at a later date, but today, it’s intro to right versus left.

Bordeaux is divided into the left, right and middle.

Bordeaux wine map

The inset shows where Bordeaux is in France. Map from Wikipedia Commons.

See the Garonne River at the bottom? The area where the vineyards lie west of this river and south of the Gironde estuary is called the Left Bank. They include the districts Medoc, Graves and Sauternes.

See the river immediately north of the Garonne? That’s the Dordogne River and vineyards north of this river is in an area called the Right Bank. When someone mentions the Right Bank, they’re referring to Saint-Emilion and/or Pomerol.

Grand Cru Classe Bordeaux

Right Bank, Left Bank, Left Bank

The area in between the two rivers? That’s Entre-Deux-Mers. Just remember, it literally means “between two seas.”

So, what’s the difference between right and left bank? In the case of red wines, the Right Bank is mostly Merlot and the Left Bank is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon.

Let me get back to you about Entre-Deux-Mers tomorrow. Time for bed now as midnight is just a minute away!