Guided Tour at G.H. Mumm

While in Reims, we took up the opportunity to do some tours at the big champagne houses. Perhaps if it would not have been a Sunday or we would have had a car, we would have opted for something different; something more personal. However, with the restricted availability we opted for G.H. Mumm. The Gordon Rouge is one of the first champagnes I have tasted and we have rather liked the blanc de blancs, Mumm de Cramant. We also visited Mumm Napa while in California and remember it being, “ahem”, let’s call it a cheerful experience.

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We booked the tour a few hours before at our hotel and off we went, secretly hoping that it would be a small group. It was not. However, the experience was quite well organized, so it worked even with the twenty something people. We started off by selecting the type of tasting we wanted to have at the end. There were three options:

  1. Basic glass of Gordon Rouge
  2. A surprise glass with an aroma set.
  3. The “Black and White” experience with two glasses of very different Mumm champagnes to compare different grapes: The Blanc de Blancs and Blanc de Noirs.

We were not that interested in the Gordon Rouge, nor was the surprise option very inviting from a control freak like me. So we chose tasting number three (3). The price was also a nice surprise, 25€ instead of 39€, as our hotel (Mercure Cathedral) had a significant discount for all of the tasting experiences. Sweet!

The tour started off from the cellars from the process steps when the grapes had already been pressed and made into wine. The guide explained the first and second fermentation, mixing of the wines and the removal of the yeast after maturation. She explained the process of quality control and “dressing”, labeling of the bottle. A fairly comprehensive introduction into the making of champagne. To our (mine and Ms) disappointment, we did not see much production equipment, however the guide used the help of pictures and videos to describe these parts. As it was a Sunday we also were not able to see the people at work at the cellars. Next time I will definitely come on a weekday. The tour ended in the tasting room, where our glasses were already being poured. After spending some time in the humid cellar, the glas(ses) of bubbly felt very welcome.

Even though I was not that enthusiastic about the surprise tasting, I was a little bit jealous when I saw what they were having. I guess I just expected the organizer to cheap out, but they had selected a decent bottle, a Vintage Mumm from 2006. They also had a few snacks, and seeing them made me increasingly hungry. The Black and White tasting was of course good, but the blanc de blancs I was already familiar with (review here), so it was more the 100% Pinot Noir that I was curious about (review here).

After the tasting we headed for the shop. This was perhaps the most disappointing part of our tour, the selection was just plain boring. I was hoping to have the opportunity to browse some vintages and perhaps see some rarer bottles, but the “factory shop” was nothing of the like. The selection consisted mainly of the Gordon Rouge and a few other bottles: the 100% Chardonnay and 100% Pinot Noir that we had tasted earlier. Additionally one could buy some Mumm labelled accessories.

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Even though the tour was not perfect, it was in line with our expectations. We got what we came for which was to hear more about the producer and see the cellars. So if in Reims, G.H. Mumm is not a bad option for an activity. Kids were also welcome, so it is a great opportunity to have some family fun.

Shopping at the Finnish Monopoly

Happy Easter everyone and greetings from Helsinki! We have been celebrating the holidays by having a visit by the flu. Luckily this one is not very persistant, as I am starting to feel better already, but still it meant that a lot of our wine-plans had to be cancelled. We did have, however, some time on Thursday to browse around at the local delicatesse, the Finnish alcohol monopoly, Alko.

As with Systembolaget in Sweden, Alko is the only company that is allowed to sell drinks above 5% alcohol content (in Swden it is avtually even lower than that). That means that many beers, wine and licqueur are all sold through this chain of shops. I am in general opposed to monopolizing this kind of business, as I don’t believe in the constraining effect of a single channel, however if that’s how things are, at least the shop should be good. That is one of the great things about Systembolaget in Sweden, at least they made it a hell of a good shop. Alko in Finland is a bit behind in selection, but perhaps it is also because we Finns are just discovering the European culture of enjoying wine as a part of a culinary experience as opposed to chucking it down at house parties directly from the bottle (or perhaps its just me).

Before we were struck by the flu, we had time to visit the flagship store of Alko, in Kamppi, Helsinki. If you shop somewhere for alcohlic beverages in Finland, it should be here. The store has two floors, one floor for beer and licqueur and one for wine. We headed of course to the bottom floor wher they keep the bubblies. On the bottom floor they also have some well trained staff to help you with selection of your drinks.

I must say that the Champagne selection has improved a lot over the past 3-5 years (after I moved away from Finland). There is a large corner just dedicated for the fine bubbly drink with both pocket friendly (25-35€) champagnes as well as top end (100-200€). Well not top end, but those 500€ babies are seldom on the shelf of a shop anyway. There is not that much small producer stuff, but neither is there in Sweden, so they are perhaps forgiven. The selection on other sparkling wine is actually very good with Cavas, Proseccos and new world sparklings taking up twice as much shelfspace as the champagne. This is something that is different from Sweden (there the focus is clearly on Chanpagne).

This time we did not browse too much around the other wine-sections as it was Thursday evening and the shop was quite crowded. But I did see from the corner of my eye a nice selection of craft beer and other seasonal drinks. There was also quite a lot of gift wrapping materials, so if in need of a quick present, this is the place to swing by.

Unfortunately only a few branches of Alko live up to the standards of the flagship store. Many branches dont carry such a wide selection of bubblies and they focus solely on the big brands. There is also a similar movement in Finland to start up private import as what our business is all about, and that is what many of the wine-geeks go for. Llagrima d’Or is also available as private import, so if you are interested, send me a message.

A little Order to the Cellar

Today I took up a long time pending task, to log all the wines in our possession. I don’t know what was wrong with me when I thought I could go through all the bottles in a few hours. I set up the mood lighting, poured myself a glass of white and sat down next to the “cellar” with my laptop. Now, a few hours, and only some 20 bottles later, I have given up for tonight and moved on to writing this post. A much more pleasant task I must say.

For some time now, I have browsed through the Apple Store for a good app for tracking our wines. Preferably this app should take some notes too (in exactly the way I want them), and give me some price indications from around the world. I haven’t really been satisfied with anything I have found. The best option, and the app I chose in the end was Cellar Tracker. But as with many other apps, it is made in the US for people in the US, so it has some disadvantages for someone living on another continent.

Cellar Tracker is an app that combines a large wine-database with cellar tracking, reviews and some purchase information. In general it has everything I want, but almost nothing in the way I want it (smirk). Small annoyances include only one currency (the dollar of course), a word based search function (I would appreciate filters) and clunky design. The big annoyance is the stiff process for adding a new wine if it is not available in the database. It just takes too much time, especially if one has foolishly thought they could just “whip-up” their inventory. We buy a lot of “rare” small producer wines, so of course many of them are not in the database. This is perhaps just me complaining because I have taken too large of a bite at one time, but one functionality that I will actually email them about is that one can only add a new wine (that is not in the database) with the computer. The functionality is not available on an iPhone or iPad version. A smart person would log a wine into the database immediately after purchasing or receiving it, so I would expect it to be possible to do with mobile devices as well.

Anyway, something positive came out of this experience; the wine I opened was wonderful. It was a Daniele Piccinin Montemagro 2010, a jewel that we bought from London in 2013 when we still lived there. The bottle has traveled a long way and endured several moves. It has even survived a few months “opened” as I took a glass with the Coravin last summer. I will write a review later both on the wine and Coravin. But I can already tell you that the wine was superb regardless of us sucking out a glass a few months back. The Coravin is a real treasure for any wine-lover – no more restrictions due to “only wanting a glass”. After trying it on a few cheap reds and the Montemagro (not very expensive either) I have confidence to use it on some of the more expensive reds as well. Its a shame that it doesn’t work on bubbly, but who want’s only a glass of that anyway (wink wink).

So all in all a fun night regardless of a continuing chaos in the “cellar”. Perhaps I will continue again tomorrow (and sneak another glass of good wine with the Coravin). All and any tips on good apps for wine are very welcome!

Wineweek 6

The last Wineweek of the year! A recap of Christmas week: Great food, wine and of course visiting friends and relatives; and some thoughts about 2015.

This year Christmas was a bit different. We have traditionally traveled away combining the holidays with some weeks of saved-up summer vacation days. Last year we spent three weeks in Hawaii and the year before we were in California. As we are travelling away in January “this year” (technically next year), Christmas was planned to take place here in Sweden. So my family traveled from Helsinki and London to stay with us. It was wonderful, but hectic. I am happy to wait a year to do it again. When Friday finally came, M and I sat on the sofa and thought how wonderful it was that the house was quiet.

So what did we actually do this week? Perhaps most interesting is to discuss what we drank (and ate) on Christmas eve. It was not an easy decision choosing the festive drinks with so many great bubblies in the fridge after the Winecalendar. After some contemplation we opted for the Krug Grande Cuvee. The house of Krug produces very powerful Champagnes with notes of nuts and caramel. A perfect choice for days of celebration. They are heavy on the wallet, but worth trying. For Christmas dinner we went for some Italian red from LaVis and a non-alcoholic Cider from La Ribaude. As a companion to the wines we made a roast with vegetables, boiled potatoes and a fig salad. Not a traditional Christmas meal, but it was our choice as we hosted the event.

What about presents then? What kind of stuff did Santa bring the Winecurious? I don’t know if I have been such a good girl this year, but I sure did get some great presents. There was a few great wine-books: Christie’s Encyclopedia of Champagne & Sparkling Wine revised and expanded by one of my favorite wine-personalities from Finland, Essi Avellan MW (Master of Wine) and the 7th edition of the World Atlas of Wine. M also got a great hamburger cooking book. Mmmm, looking forward to him making those burgers. To my surprise, there was room left in the fridge(s) for some more bubbly (even after the Winecalendar), so Santa got me a box of Cuvee Charlemagne  2008 for my long term storage. I also got a great new tea brewer with a convenient mechanism for keeping the tea pot warm for a second serving. These presents should keep me busy (and drinking) for a while.

We also tried a few other great wines this weekend. Two cavas we brought home from Cavatast last October: Vilarnau Gran Reserva Vintage 2010 and Guillem Carol Millenium Gran Reserva 2005. Both interesting and worth taking some time to write a review. And an Italian red, Gran Verosso Gold Edition. Otherwise we have been enjoying coffee moments and long walks in the winter weather. Here in (our part of) Sweden the first real snow started falling on Christmas day.

What is there to come then in 2015? Well, a lot of course! Our Swedish VAT number has arrived,so we are only short one more registration to start real business. Exciting! We will also do some traveling to old and new wine-countries for seeking out new producers. And we will work on growing our blog with new interesting posts, tips and reviews. But perhaps 2015 is too big to really capture in one post, so I will tell a little about the coming weeks. Next week, we will be travelling to London for touring some wine-shops and spending New Years eve at one of our favorite London Restaurants: Kitchen Table. And in two weeks we will finally head of for our long vacation in Asia, touring in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. It might be a period of fewer reviews on wine, but I suspect there will be some great stuff coming up on restaurants, cocktail bars and other culinary experiences. We read up that the coffee culture is really starting to boom in Bangkok, so that will be interesting to check out. Maybe there will be some posts on wine. I know there are some nice shops in Singapore where we end our journey. After three weeks on a “wineless-diet” I am sure I will be anxious to seek them out.

Wineweek 4

And its Sunday again! December is flying by and our company is still waiting for registrations. So this is the time to accept that our precious Llagrima d’Or will not be reaching customers for the festive season. It’s a shame, but it was to be expected. I can totally understand the entrepreneurs who talk about the frustration of bureaucracy. And its not the actual amount of paper-work, its the waiting. There have been several reasons for the delays we have faced: long queues, sick-leaves and the latest was a software meltdown at the Swedish tax agency. Are we unlucky, perhaps, but its unlikely; there seems to be a pattern here. We have day jobs, so this company is not going to be the bread-winner in our family (yet); but what about those people who give up their jobs (or don’t have jobs) to start a company. Our case may not be the typical one as we are starting up a business in one country and then registering it as a distance sales company in another country, but one can really wonder if it should take as much as four to six months to get all the paper work in order. Well, this post is not a cry out to the politicians (I can’t even vote here yet), it’s just a little thought I had especially when hearing how politicians tend to say they want to make it easier for people to start their own business.

To happier things. We finally extended our office wine-space with two new cabinets. We have previously relied on a Climadiff that fits 142 bottles. Well in reality it doesn’t fit as many, as bottles of sparkling wine tend to take more space (and I am a sucker for nice wine-boxes). But since the summer, we have been stocking the increasing amount of wine on the floor in cardboard boxes. Actually I have been so confused about what we have lying around that M was able to hide all the wine-calendar wines right in front of my eyes, in those cardboard boxes. Well, now our wines are in a proper order and storage, and there should be some space left for more. At least for a while.

Other events this week included the arrival and tasting of our Port wines from Viera de Sousa, a young, interesting winemaker from Sabrosa (Portugal); Champagne after-work at Royal Copenhagen in Mood Gallery and some Perrier Jouet as our Friday bubbly. More about those in the upcoming week. Wishing you all a happy and relaxing evening!

Training the nose – Le Nez du Vin

This sounds like a weird topic, or perhaps not if you are nose deep in the business of wine. Describing a wine based on its scent is a part of the trade. Why? Well everyone can have their purposes, but what I would like to achieve, is to be able to describe what kind of wine I like using a common language that is shared by wine professionals, enthusiasts and hobbyists around the world. Le Nez du Vin is like my “workbook” or “dictionary” for learning to speak wine.

Le Nez du Vin is a product that you can use to train your nose. It is a collection of small bottles containing different aromas that you can use to train your brain to recognize the most common scents you find in wines. Quoting the creator of this product “to fix aromas in your mind is to give yourself the chance to recognise them”. I like the sound of this! Additionally, you know those moments when you are inhaling the aromas of your wine and you just cannot put your finger on it what the scent is? Well, Le Nez can help you verify that. Off course scent as well as taste are individual things, but Le Nez can get you started. And it is not like this is it, this is the pallet of scents you have, there is always more. But the 54 bottle Master Kit is a pretty comprehensive set and will get you far.

Le Nez offers several different collections or “kits”: for the reds, the whites and even for faulty wines. So you don’t have to go for the full 54 scents, you can start with a light collection of 6 and work your way up from that. Le Nez du Vin is also only one brand for such a product. There are not that many on the market, but a few different ones. So if you are shopping have a look around also for other names than Le Nez. They also have aroma sets on the market for coffee and whiskey, omnomnom (that spontaneous omnom was targeted towards coffee, not whiskey) if you are in to other drinks than wine.

I have done my fair share of desperate attempts with sales people and sommeliers to describe what I like, and though I do get better over time, I really want to be able to take my reviews and descriptions to the next level. If for nothing else, then to be able to order exactly what I want in a restaurant. I am just not experienced enough that the name on the wine-list would tell me enough; especially when it comes to reds and whites (I am pretty fluent in speaking bubbly)! And I hope this helps. If not, at least it is quite fun to play with the set while drinking wine. It makes for a fun activity.