Scotch Class 2010

December 8, 2010 at 12:21 am (class, Current Events, What we are thinking) (, , , , , , , , )

by Ms. Erin

This past Friday, Ms. Jane Lopes and I taught a rousing Scotch class to a private group of eight, partly populated by a Real Live Scotsman. To note that I was nervous, particularly given the audience, is a a gross understatement. Would I pronounce all those difficult words correctly? Would I remember the names of all the small parcels of land known as “The Islands,” when discussing the regions of Scotch production? [They are Jura, Arran, Mull, Orkney, and Skye, for what it’s worth.]

My fears turned out to be largely unfounded, with the group genial, and the Scottish guest happy to help with the quirks of pronunciation, and sharing stories about his childhood in the Outer Hebrides–where there are few Scotch distilleries–and summers cutting peat to be used for the family home’s source of fuel come winter. And, despite my initial apprehension, the result was a cozy little class peppered with many anecdotes, Jane’s encyclopedic spirits knowledge, my wisecracks, and a whole lot of new information floating around that jumble that is it my winter brain.

Now, we Lushies love to share new and exciting tidbits. Here are a few of my favorite facts and figures learned while prepping for and teaching the class:

* Scotch is always aged in used barrels. Happily, those Scots who brought their distilling techniques to the US are now benefiting from a beautiful cycle: since American bourbon can only be aged in new oak barrels, the Yankee distillers can recoup some costs by sending their once-used barrels over to Scotland, where they will contain another generation of whisky.
* I already knew this, but: in Scotland, it’s whisky. Not whiskey. Don’t even try it.
* Scotch took over Europe as the premier spirit of choice when the phylloxera louse destroyed grape production in the Cognac-producing parts of France.
* Once known as the “upper Highlands,” the Speyside region is only about 10 miles by 50 miles, yet contains the majority of Scotch distilleries in the nation. It’s named for Scotland’s longest river, the Spey, which is 200 miles long.
* A Scotch can be smoky but not peaty: there are many ways of drying malted barley, and peat is only one of them. That said, peat expresses a definitive sense of terroir, from both the water flowing through it, and the composition of the plant life decaying into peat [or, as Jane calls it, “unsquashed charcoal”].
* The more you know, the more you want to know. Time to go do some more research. Sip!



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Mission Vin Jaune: An obsession continues

February 4, 2010 at 10:51 am (Geek, What we are thinking) (, , , , , , , )

So, a few months later and I still have yet to find a Ploussard in Chicago to drink, much less sell.  Alas.  I have hope, though.

Now, however, I am expanding my obsession and thirst to the real quirky wine of Jura…Vin Jaune.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Mission Ploussard: Drink it.

September 8, 2009 at 4:32 pm (Current Events, Our Favorite Things, What we are thinking, What we're drinking) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

by Rachel

Get your WINE GEEK on: Grape of mystery… Ploussard is on my mind. One of the lushes has requested a number of specific bottles, from a specific producer…a bottle she drank at a restaurant in New York City. So, I consider it a personal mission to track this wine down.

2007 Philippe Bornard ‘Point Barre’, Arbois Pupillin, Jura, France

So, I do know that Jura, France is a fairly small wine region 80 kilometers east of Burgundy, tucked into the Alps, just outside of Switzerland. Other than that, I have sipped on Chardonnay from Arbois, the town on the north side of the Jura wine region, and we currently offer a bottling by Rijckaert. Super tasty. But, I digress. This intriguing and complex little place apparently only grows Chardonnay and Savagnin as the official white grapes and Ploussard/Poulsard, Trousseau, and Pinot Noir as the official red grapes. And, vin Jaune, a wine very similar to Sherry, is another bizarro traditional libation. Wha? Labeling is a bit wonky, too, but I will not accost you with nitty gritty details, but do inquire if you would like more details.

Every so often, us Lushes will stumble upon a grape that we have never previously tasted, and very rarely something we have not heard of, but it’s not everyday that the complete trifecta of obscure, and tiny, wine region jumps us on knowing the grapes and style of wines, too. Back to my focus, the elusive Ploussard…red wines, vinified as such, are often pale enough and labeled as if they were pink. Yep, confusing. The soils range from limestone to clay and marl, the gently rolling Jura hills begin reaching taller into the Alps. The cool climate produces bouncy, lightly tinted, but fairly high acid, tannic reds. The reds are aged in large, old oak foudres and often bottled and released prior to the whites. Ploussard, although I have never tasted and therefore can’t really personally attest to this, but trust the tasting notes of those familiar with the region and the grape, tends to taste of raspberry or red currant, and smoke, and may show oxidized characteristics. And, apparently, the wine pairs smashingly well with charcuterie and smoked sausage. Basically, I have now discovered that at least one bottling of Ploussard from Arbois lurks in Chicago, but not the label I am searching for and I still have yet to taste this curious beast. So, bring it on! I want.

Cheers, rd

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