California Wine Club
From time to time we turn to the wine dictionary to take a look at one of the many obscure (but useful) terms that turn up in wine lingo.
The word of the day is "chai," and no, we're not talking about a trendy hot drink of tea whipped with spices and milk.
This chai is French, pronounced "shay," and it's defined as a building where a winery stores its wines aging in barrels or, sometimes, in bottles. This distinction between a "chai," which is above ground, and an underground wine-storage "cave" (pronounced "cahv"), may be lost on the average non-wine maker (or even the non-French wine maker); but it seems to be important to the French, particularly when it comes to distinctions between Bordeaux, where the chai is commonplace, and Burgundy, where the cave is the thing.
For most of us, this might sound similar to the old legend that Eskimos have hundreds of words for "snow" (see footnote below). And indeed, "chai" and "cave" and "cellar" are all pretty much interchangeable. But keep the chai in mind, because it turns up on occasion in French wine-marketing language in a distinction that is worth knowing.
Here's the story: A French wine that is "estate-bottled" (or, in Burgundy, "domaine-bottled") carries the guarantee that the wine in the bottle was grown by the winery and made and bottled there, under the producer's ownership and control throughout the process. These wines will be labeled with the language "Mis(e) en bouteille(s) au chateau" (or " ... au domaine") - "put in bottles at the winery" - as a guarantee.
But a French wine made from purchased grapes or even bottled from finished wine produced in bulk elsewhere will often carry seemingly similar words on the label, "Mis en bouteille dans nos chai" ("bottled at our chai"), a phrase that may seem imposing but that actually has no legal significance at all.
And that's the good word for today.
UNRELATED TRIVIA DEPARTMENT: This has nothing to do with wine, but I can't resist sharing an enjoyable essay I ran across that happily debunks the myth about Eskimos and snow. If you enjoy words and word lore, I think you'll find it worth the effort to click to "'Eskimo' words for snow" by Steven J. DeRose: http://www.stg.brown.edu/~sjd/mymusings/eskimo.html. In which, by the way, he makes a brief allusion to wine tasters having far more words for wine than Eskimos do for snow.Last call for Rhone and Provence in June
As many of you know, I'm planning to guide a seven-day wine journey through the southern Rhone Valley and Provence in June. Lauriann Greene and Jean-Pierre Sollin, the wine experts who run French Wine Explorers, a high-quality American tour company that specializes in wine tours of France, will join me to present this tour, which will feature a week of in-depth exploration of the wines of these two beautiful regions.
As anyone who knows my approach to wine and food and the people who enjoy them will immediately appreciate, this is going to be a far cry from your usual regimented, climb-on-the-tour-bus-if-this-is-Thursday-it-must-be-Avignon trip. The mood will be relaxed and the attitude easy as we make our way through some of France's most enjoyable wine regions as a small community of wine-loving friends, taking a close-up, inside look at the wines and food of the region and meeting the people who make them. It will be a rare and memorable week.
We still have a few spaces left, but time is running short; so if you have been thinking about participating but haven't yet made your reservations, I urge you to get in touch with French Wine Explorers before we have to close the list.
For more information about the tour, click to the details at http://www.wineloverspage.com/tour. And if you have any questions you would like to ask me first, please don't hesitate to use the form at http://www.wineloverspage.com/ask_a_question.phtml to get in touch.Emeril Sweepstake On WineLoversPage.Com!
We are now well into the third week's contest of "Emeril's Missing Ingredient Sweepstake," in which WineLoversPage.com joins with Emerils.com to bring the fun of celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse and his cooking to wine lovers on the World Wide Web.
Each week for four weeks, we present a recipe for a good wine-pairing dish from Lagasse's latest book, "Prime Time Emeril" ... with one essential ingredient missing. Your challenge is to study the recipe and figure out what key ingredient has been left out. Winners will get a free, autographed copy of Lagasse's latest book, "Prime Time Emeril," and the Grand Prize winner will win an entire Emeril Cookbook collection.
This week's missing ingredient recipe is Mississippi Mud Cake. To join the fun, click to http://www.wineloverspage.com/emeril/index.phtml for the entry form and instructions.Administrivia
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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.
Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.