We recently devoted an entire section to
the exceptional wines of the Banfi folio.
There’s a very good chance you’ve seen the name Banfi; it makes an appearance nearly everywhere you see even a moderately-sized selection of wine. You may also know that Banfi is one of the more established names in wine, with a history stretching back to 1919. But you may not be aware of how extensive Banfi’s folio really is. It includes familiar old world names like, Bolla, Castello Banfi, Cecchi and Vigne Regali, but it also includes some of the most respected names in new world wines as well, like Concha y Toro and their Don Melchor, Terrunyo, and Casillero del Diablo wines, as well as other fine new world wines like Palo Alto, Trivento, Maycas del Limari, and Emiliana (the organic vineyards of Chile). I remember well the first time I personally saw the name Banfi. It was the 1970’s, and I was about ten. The wines typically available in a restaurant in the states back then were often limited to mass market “Chablis” or “Burgundy”, but my folks were splurging at a hip Mediterranean restaurant in my hometown. The place was garishly decorated in a style catastrophe common to the era; a sort of “mirrored fern bar meets rustic hanging wicker Chianti bottles” theme. One of these wicker Chianti bottles happened to be sitting on our table, and my folks seemed to be enjoying the contents quite a bit, so I asked if I could try some. I was, as I said, about ten, but my parents were trying to raise a continental kid, so they poured some for me. I took a swallow, and shuddered. The snobs amongst you will say “of course you shuddered, you were drinking a crappy 70’s mass market Chianti from Banfi!” But the fact is, I only shuddered because I had never tasted wine before, and the wine in question – Banfi’s Bell’Agio – is still in production today, serving the same purpose it did back then. Which is providing a drinkable wine in a charming and romantic package, perfect for picnics or patio quaffing. But this amusing image has little to do with the Banfi of today, which is a sophisticated and brilliantly evolved organization. Banfi fuses the best of many worlds in their now global business vision – family and tradition, combined with a passion for the art of – and devotion to the science of – winemaking. This commitment to the art and science of fine winemaking is evident in the gorgeously illustrated and detailed book The Pursuit of Excellence, a 440+ page volume about the history, methods, vision and philosophy of Banfi. We happen to have a copy on hand if you’d like to stop by and peruse it. Short of actually planning a trip to three continents, it’s probably the best glimpse of Banfi’s estates, vineyards, and scientific methods and analysis you’ll ever see. Some samples of the book are featured below. Like we said, feel free to stop by and see for yourself. But it might be even more fun to actually try one of the 30 or so Banfi wines we’re currently featuring! More on the Banfi folio below. (more…)
Posted By:Admin March 31, 2011
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In much the same way that the labeling for organic food products can be confusing, using the word “organic” on the label doesn’t mean that the wine you’re drinking is 100% organic. But the guidelines for organic wine aren’t that complicated, and once you know them, you can know what you’re getting, and know that no matter how organic a particular wine is, simply purchasing it sends the message that more people want organic wine, encouraging producers to pursue organic production. So what are the basic classifications? In the states, there are four: “100% Organic”, “Organic”, “Made With Organic Ingredients”, and “Some Organic Ingredients”. For a wine to be labeled with the USDA “Organic” seal, it must be made from organically grown grapes and give information about who the certifying agency is. It may not contain added sulfites. It may contain naturally occurring sulfites, but the level must be less than 20 parts per million. A wine may be labeled “Made with Organic Grapes” or “Made with Organically Grown Grapes”, which means (obviously) that the wine was made from organic grapes, but it can include added sulfites. And just what are these sulfites we’re always hearing about? Well, they’re anti-microbials and anti-oxidants often used in the production of wine, which also may occur naturally in the production, without being added. There’s considerable debate about any health issues related to them, but here are the basic guidelines for labeling: If the level is above 10 parts per million, the label must say “Contains Sulfites.” If the level is below the ATF’s ability to detect it, there may still be sulfites, but the label can say “Sulfite Free”. The label “No Added Sulfites” means just what it says – the winery did not add sulfites to the wine – but there may be naturally occurring sulfites in the wine that are a byproduct of fermentation. It’s important to note that the label guidelines we mentioned above are for domestic wines; there are other agencies in Europe and Latin America that will use different regulations and labels, but mostly based on the basic idea of “all organic”, “made from organically grown grapes”, or “no added sulfites”. In fact, a number of producers abroad have always utilized methods that would qualify as “organic”, simply because of faith in traditional natural methods. Whatever your reason for wanting your wine to be organic, there are a growing number of producers pursuing the organic route, and we wholeheartedly support the movement, so we’ve devoted an entire section to local and organic wine. Because as we suggested above, no vote is more powerful than the one we send with our wallets. We have over fifty organic wines on hand (not including those from abroad which would qualify but choose not to label), and plan to continue expanding the selection. If we’re missing a good one, let us know, we’ll see if we can get it for you. And about local wine? This gets interesting. The most local of the wines we carry – DeAngelis wines from Ann Arbor – are made from grapes that are not local, but everything else from end-to-end is local. And then there’s a matter of “how local is local?”, because we also have over 60 wines grown and bottled right here in Michigan. Below is a small selection of exceptional wines from all over that we have on hand, that are probably known more for being great wine, rather than simply because they’re organic.
Posted By:Admin March 7, 2011
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For scale, those are magnums on
top, and regular wine bottles in
the background and lower right.
The other day I was standing in our “secret cellar” in the back of the store, talking to Joe, the owner. A guest walked in and was a little stunned at the sight of the Nebuchadnezzar (that’s 15 liters!) of Veuve Clicquot that we have in stock. They asked “Good God! How do you POUR a thing like that?” I said “It helps to have a butler with a REALLY BIG THUMB, so he can pour it in the classic thumb-in-the-dimple-style“. We all had a chuckle, but it reminded us of something that we sometimes find as frustrating as our guests do. If you’ve ever been in our store, you probably noticed right away that quarters are a little tight. We apologize. We only have about 2500 square feet to work with, and we have nearly 3000 wines, over 1500 beers, several hundred premium spirits. And that’s on top of a full selection of popular liquors. We mean that literally. You actually have to look near the ceiling for the premium whiskeys, brandies, and tequila. And then we have a small deli selection, and all the snacks and sodas you’d expect in a party store. So these cramped quarters create a few obvious problems, which we’re doing our best to resolve. One of these problems is signage and “shelf talkers”. If we were to provide detailed signage and tasting notes for all the wines on the shelf, it would look like a Macy’s holiday parade, and you probably wouldn’t even be able to SEE the wine. So we’re working on a computer-based kiosk that lets you scan a wine and see notes. In the interim, we’re cleaning up the signage, and looking at ways to physically expand, which may include adding a partial second floor. We also have had to opt to arrange the wine in a manner that’s a little different than what you may be used to at a roomier store. At first glance it may seem bewildering, but it actually makes a lot of sense when you know the lay of the land. And that’s why we’re providing a little map. We’ve included it below, but a physical version also exists at the store, right in the center where all the aisles meet. And you’re probably still wondering how you pour a 15 liter bottle of wine. Well, traditionally servants would attend to that, so if you’re able to spring for the bottle, maybe you already have servants too, and you’re all set. But if not, and you’re still hankering for a 15 liter bottle of champagne for your next party, stop by the store and we’ll explain the various siphoning or decanting cradle methods that are more commonly employed. The map of the store is below, and if for some reason you want a printable version, there’s one here in PDF. (more…)
Posted By:Admin February 28, 2011
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Please drink responsibly. If this
happens when you drink Absinthe,
you’ve probably had too much.
Absinthe. The Green Fairy. La Fée Verte. Probably no other drink has a more magical, mysterious, and myth-laden history. For many, the word conjures images of French cafes filled with tragically brilliant artists and poets like Toulouse Lautrec, Vincent Van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Arthur Rimbaud, and Paul Verlaine. An excellent example of the mythology that has evolved around Absinthe is the devastating toll it took on Edgar Allan Poe. The reason that this is such a great example is that in spite of the fact that Poe is widely referenced in relation to the drink, according to the Virtual Absinthe Museum, he never touched the stuff, never once mentioned it in volumes of writing and personal letters, and may in fact not even have known what it was! Such is the stuff of Absinthe legend and Green Fairy tales. This kind of rumour and legend likely evolved from a combination of ignorance, intoxication, and prohibition. While many drug-like qualities are historically attributed to Absinthe, actual research reveals that most of its hallucinogenic and psychotropic effects are probably imagined, and some of the 19th century medical descriptions of visions, seizures, and emotional disturbances are typical of simple alcoholic withdrawal. The substance that is supposedly responsible for the secondary effects of Absinthe is Thujone, which is the principle active ingredient in Wormwood (Artemesia absinthium), the key herb that gives Absinthe its distinctive character. Interestingly, Chartreuse, Benedictine, Bitters, and Vermouth also contain small amounts of Thujone. In fact, Vermouth takes its name from the German “wermut” which means “wormwood”. The secondary effects of Absinthe remain contested by the subjective experience of many, but if you’re interested in exploring them yourself, there’s good news for you. In spite of strict controls on the amount of Thujone allowed in Absinthe since it was legalized in the US several years ago, research has shown that the Absinthe of a hundred years ago contained much less than was suspected, so you’re probably drinking a similar or perhaps even more potent concoction in that regard. Regardless of all this talk of secondary effects, a well-made Absinthe is a delight to drink, and a satisfying ritual as well, with the whole sugar cube and spoon routine. And regarding what makes a fine Absinthe? This is also hotly debated. We’ve learned that the only person more demanding than a wine enthusiast is a beer enthusiast, and the only person more demanding than a beer enthusiast is an Absinthe enthusiast! We’ll let you decide for yourself, we have about a half-dozen Absinthe varieties in stock, and would be happy to add more to our selection if there’s demand. Let us know in the comments if we’re missing any essentials. (more…)
Posted By:Admin January 23, 2011
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No. They’re relocating, according to AnnArbor.com. You might think that as a competitor we would derive some sort of pleasure from this fact, but nothing could be farther from the truth! We wish Village corner a speedy and painless relocation. One of the great things about selling wine in Ann Arbor is that – much like the variety of people you’ll meet from all over the world here – the town has a great deal of diversity in selections and styles of selling wine. From focused selections like that of Everyday Wines and Morgan & York, to the large inventories at stores like ours, to newcomers like The Wine Seller, and even volume retailers like Plum Market, Whole Foods and Bush’s. Village Corner is a vital part of that mix, having been on the scene for decades. We wish them the best.
Posted By:Admin November 3, 2010
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