Featured in this issue

More accolades for The Personal Wine Curator

We're pleased to announce that Decanter Magazine has reviewed PWC in its April issue, and it's a rave! Decanter says PWC is "simple and clear...slick and effective...Mercifully easy and stress-free to use...Good for the computer semi-literate, and for the impatient." We're proud to keep bringing you the best wine cellar software around!

When is a riddle not a riddle?

When it's a twist! Champagne is the most celebrated sparkling wine in the world (though it accounts for only 1 in 12 bottles of sparkling wine worldwide) and has certainly become a brand name along the lines of "Band-Aid" and "Kleenex," despite the fact, and much to the consternation of the locals, that only sparkling wine from the Champagne region can technically be called "Champagne."

Making Champagne is a very different art than making still wines, employing special methods and materials to get the right wine blends, imparting the aromas and flavors, and preserving the carbonation. The Champagne Method (Méthode Champenoise) is the most meticulous way of making sparkling wine and may be employed by any quality sparkling wine maker in the world. Chiefly, the main difference between this method and all others is that the second fermentation of the wine, the one that gives it its bubbles, takes place in the bottle that goes to market. Not a bottle, that gets transferred later, or a tank, or – gasp – injecting the wine with carbonation like soda-pop, but the bottle. This has to be a very strong bottle, by the way, to withstand all that pressure.

Of the unique aspects of Champagne making, a process had to be developed to allow the dead yeast in the bottle to be disgorged when the wine is ready. This process is known as riddling, whereby each bottle has to be turned and angled on a riddling rack incrementally over a period of 2 – 6 weeks to gather the dead yeast deposit at the neck of the bottle. Once the bottle is “sur ponte” (turned upside down on its point) the riddling is complete.

The Blend’s Monthly Featured Producer: BRUNO PAILLARD

Bruno Paillard is a Champagne native whose lineage of Grand Cru brokers and growers dates back to 1704.  He took the bold move of selling his vintage Jaguar as a young man of 27 to finance his winery in a region that hadn’t seen a new house in almost a century.  He started in a rented garage with grapes purchased from selected growers and released his first wines in the 1980’s, eventually purchasing his own vineyards in 1994.

Paillard’s vineyards cover 25 hectares of land over the best crus of Champagne.  40% of his vineyards are classified as Grand Cru, which is remarkable considering that less than 10% of all Champagne vineyards are Grand Crus.  The vineyards are maintained using sustainable viticultural practices, and are subdivided into 40 different parcels.

The Bruno Paillard style strives for a “marriage of elegance and complexity” offering “light and smooth effervescence, remarkable purity, true freshness, and silky texture.” 

Paillard was the first Champagne producer to put the disgorgement date on the back of every bottle, a practice that is now widely embraced, and one that has benefited the consumer greatly.

Recommended Wine:

Named “Premiere Cuvee” because only the first pressing of the grapes is used, this seamless wine sees three years of aging before disgorgement.  The pink copper color is a delight to the eyes, as are the fine and smooth bubbles.  The initial aromas of red fruits evolves to cherry, strawberry and violet.  A touch of lemon denotes the discrete presence of Chardonnay. With age, aromas tend towards dark fruits like dark cherry, fig and blackberry.  The mouth reveals red fruit captured at their full freshness. The finish is bright and long.  So effortless to drink, you’ll want to keep tabs on your refills.  Retails for about $50 US. Should drink well for several years after disgorgement./p>
Catalog this wine in The Personal Wine Curator cellar software like this:

  • Producer: Bruno Paillard
  • Wine Name/Appellation: Brut Rose Premiere Cuvee
  • Vintage: NV
  • Varietal: Champagne Blend
  • Type: Sparkling
  • Vineyard/Sub-sub:
  • Sub-region:
  • Region: Champagne
  • Country: France
  • Body: Medium
  • Drink after: 2007
  • Drink by: 2010

PWC Tips and Tricks

This month we'll look at the "Ratings" feature. PWC gives you three pre-defined rating fields (My Rating, 100 Pt. Scale, and Outs.-Poor) as well as three custom rating fields that you may name whatever you like. You may enter a rating in any, all or none of these fields for each wine in your collection. Let's take a closer look... CLICK HERE.

Did you know: Los Angeles was once the center of wine production in California

“Gidget Goes to Bordeaux”?  You may think of Los Angeles as the land of fun and sun -- a mecca for movie stars and beach bums, a major metropolis on the cutting edge of pop-culture, a sprawling suburb in search of a city -- but an important wine growing region?  Probably not.  In fact, southern California dominated the wine industry for nearly 50 years from the 1800s until the industry itself came to a grinding halt with prohibition in 1920. While the Franciscans began making wines with the establishment of the Spanish Missions, it was really a French winemaker, aptly name Jean-Louis Vignes, who established the California wine industry, bringing the first European vines from his native Bordeaux to Los Angeles in 1833.  By the turn of the century, Los Angeles was California’s premiere appellation for grape growing and winemaking.  During prohibition, only one winery (San Antonio Winery) managed to stay open with a special dispensation to sell sacramental wines to the Catholic Church.  While that winery still produces wine in downtown LA, (without actually growing grapes there), other winegrowers have sprung up in such unlikely places as Bel-Air and, yes, even Malibu.  Surf n’ turf indeed.

Cataloging your wine collection - Part 2

You’ve determined your individual needs in terms of space, taste, cost, and usage.  Now what?

Once you know where to store the collection, you’ll want to keep the following basic principles in mind:  Always plan for a bigger cellar or locker or cave than you need (it’s a big world out there, with a lotta great wine); organize to minimize re-shuffling (keep the aforementioned Zins in the front of the double deep rack);  store long-terms “agers” out of the way (in the rental locker, high up, low down, in the back);  always use neck tags, especially with double deep bins (put them both on the front bottle);  avoid organizing alphabetically or too specifically. (Ever try to reshuffle your alphabetically organized CD collection after buying 20 new ones at a garage sale? Fun.)  These tenets will help tremendously in narrowing your focus.

When it is actually time to conquer the beast that is your wine collection, start with the basics.  How many bottles or cases do you have?  Understand the scope of the project in front of you.  Based on how many bottles you have, how much space do you have at home to store them and do you want or need a remote storage location?  You may have to adjust your thinking about your current space allotment. 

Once you have the right space, what kind of space do you want it to be?  Individual bottle bins are pretty and easy to access, but don’t offer maximum capacity.  They might be a great choice though, if you collect mostly ones, twos and threes of a particular wine.  Case bins are perfect for boxes, diamond bins for grouping bottles of the same wine.  Sometimes, the only choice you may have is to stack cases tightly in a locker.  This situation is far from ideal for myriad reasons, not the least of which is getting to that one bottle in the back at the very bottom of the pile …

The Bottom of the Barrel Index

Recently, the Wine Spectator featured a summary of their 2006 tastings, which included over 14,000 wines.  These wine reviews were broken down by region, varietal, and country, and separated by ratings in five categories ranging from “Mediocre” to “Classic.”  At a glance, one could read the percentage of classic scoring wines from the 1,689 California wines tasted (1%) or determine the percentage of mediocre and worse wines of the 521 wines that were tasted from Germany (1%).  These tasting summaries led us to compare the various results for each featured region to see from what part of the world one is least likely to pick up a bad bottle of wine.  Call it the “Bottom of the Barrel Index,” if you will (the BBI).

While it may be a less than scientific approach to analyzing the data (is it fair to compare the results of 1,689 California wines tasted to those of only 521 German wines tasted?), the BBI does offer some interesting information to contemplate when springing for your next bottle of some unknown wine.

We thought it was fun, if not necessarily wholly accurate, to compare the results in order to come up with a method of fool-proof purchasing.  If you like to play roulette with your wine purchases, you could probably do a lot worse than going by the BBI.

Taking as our threshold any wine that rated below 84 points, or merely “Good,” the top five regions/wines for the fewest wines with sub-par ratings are:  1. Champagne (1%), 2. Germany (9%), 3. Australia (12%), 4. Loire (<13%), and 5. Washington (13%).

Here is the “Bottom of the Barrel Index” for all of the Wine Spectator’s featured regions:

California: 32%
Cabernet: 43%
Chardonnay: 17%
Pinot Noir: 23%
Syrah: 28%
Zinfandel: 41%
Merlot: 46%
Sauvignon Blanc: 44%
Other: 34%
France: 18%
Red Bordeaux: 20%
Red Burgundy: 14%
White Burgundy: 21%
Rhone: 16%
Loire: <13%
Alsace: 23%
Champagne: 1%
Languedoc: 29%
Other: 37%
Italy: 35%
Tuscany: 29%
Piedmont: 37%
Other: 40%
Argentina: 49%
Australia: 12%
Austria: 21%
Chile: 51%
Germany: 9%
Greece: 42%
New Zealand: 24%
Portugal Table Wines: 34%
South Africa: 45%
Spain: 45%
United States:
Oregon: 12%
Washington: 13%
Other States: 73%
Other Countries: 50%

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