Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Ask Sid: Rare Cognac Fraud?

May 17th, 2017
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rare wine fraud possible wine fraud

Question: I have a bottle of Cognac Grande Fine Champagne 1811 Reserve Impeatrice Josephine. I am trying to find out a value. The cork is intact, no damage or leakage. Thank you I am attaching some photos.

Answer: This is supposed to be a rare valuable bottle. I was asked this very same question and on Ask Sid October 28, 2015 answered “$7000” based on a Christie’s auction history. Last year someone asked me the same question again and now you have raised it. Suddenly I am becoming slightly suspicious of the possibility of cognac fraud. How many bottles of this cognac are out there, where are these old bottles coming from and how valuable are they really? Has anyone tasted the contents? Is your bottle authentic and what is the provenance? Your photo is encouraging because it shows “State of Illinois Series H 1937” on the bottle. However, you need to investigate and provide more details on when and where you acquired it, the bottling date and the like. Suggest you get an Auction House to do a more thorough inspection of your bottle and give you a definitive range of value.

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German Wine Tour in the Pfalz + VDP Classification of Vineyards

May 15th, 2017

German Wine Tour in the Pfalz + VDP Classification of Vineyards
“Rhineland-Palatinate” by Wolfgang Staudt CC BY 2.0

Just returned from last week spent in the Pfalz region of Germany on a very informative media wine tour organized by Wines of Germany. Impressed by the wines, the scenic countryside, the friendly locals, and lots of fresh spargel (white asparagus). The Pfalz name is derived from the Latin word “palatium” for palace which often in English is referred to as the Palatinate. The wine region runs for almost 50 miles from the north by Rheinhessen to the south at the French border along Germany’s oldest wine road established in 1935 as Deutsche Weinstrasse. Leading all plantings with 25% is some excellent Riesling (world’s largest planted region of it), popular Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) as well as Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) & Muller-Thurgau, and reds ever increasing (now up to 36%) helped by global warming led by the surprising quality of Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) plus Dornfelder & Blauer Portugieser. Diverse soils with prevalent loam, sandstone, limestone, clay, sand, loess, granite and schist together with the slopes, micro-climates & yields is resulting in a great focused emphasis on the terroir of individual vineyards! Important to know that there are many growers (around 3000 – many of whom are part time) in the Pfalz and 50% of them are members of wine cooperatives. On the other side wines from the small private estates show a more impressive focus on the quality of their specific vineyards. More next week on some specific wineries in the Pfalz and some wines that are highly recommended.

One factor that really struck me this trip was the strong ever increasing influence of “terroir” and the VDP (Association of German Pradikat Wine Estates) that includes just under 200 invited member wineries that goes back to 1910 followed in 1926 by their VDP eagle design for best sites. In 2012 they implemented a four tier classification of vineyards linked closely to “terroir” ranking by origin & quality of a wine based on history, soil geology, slope, and distinctiveness among other assessed factors. This helps to market their ever increasing dry wines as well as the classic Pradikats reserved for wines with natural ripe sweet styling. Stated to be only binding for the VDP members it is now receiving such an increased intense following by everyone studying quality German wines to try to determine Germany’s best vineyard sites and those best wines from a specific vintage year. Their pyramid of 4 levels starting at the top are:

1. GROSSE LAGE  “The peak of the pyramid”. Best sites planted with traditional grape varieties of reduced yields of maximum 50 hl/ha as determined by each region for exceptional aging potential. In Pfalz this includes Riesling, Weissburgunder & Spatburgunder. (Note: In Mosel-Saar-Ruwer & Nahe it is only Riesling while Rheingau & Rheinhessen both include Riesling plus Spatburgunder). Best wines receive VDP.GROSSE GEWACHS for whites on September 1 of the year following the vintage harvest & reds on September 1 two years after (having spent at least 12 months aging in oak casks).

2. ERSTE LAGE “First Class” Yields increased up to 60 hl/ha and wider permissible grapes. In Pfalz includes Grauburgunder, Chardonnay; and exclusively for wines with some residual sweetness: Scheurebe, Gewurztraminer and Muskateller.

3. ORTSWEIN or village wines “Sourced from Superior Soils” with yields up to 75 hl/ha.

4. GUTSWEIN or regional wines “Good from the Ground Up” are entry level wines also with a maximum of 75 hl/ha.

Be sure to check out these important classifications on your new German wine purchases!

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Got Seaweed?

May 13th, 2017

seaweed algae health benefits nutrients vitamins thyroid iodine

By Joseph Temple

Having thyroid problems? Looking to add more fibre to your diet? Want to improve digestion? How about lowering your blood pressure or reducing inflammation?

If you answered yes to just one of these questions, consider adding seaweed—an algae that grows along shorelines all over the world—to your diet immediately. Loaded with everything from beta-carotene to omega-3 fatty acids, ounce-for-ounce, seaweed is perhaps the most nutritious food on the planet today. Yet sadly, while consumed for thousands of years by Asian cultures, Americans have been slow in bringing this delicacy into the mainstream. As Professor Ole Mouritsen from the University of Southern Denmark explains, “people don’t like the idea of eating something washed up and smelling [like] the seashore.” Thankfully, this perception is changing as more information becomes available to the health-conscious consumer.

For starters, a major benefit that comes from eating a reasonable amount of seaweed is a chemical element known as iodine. Essential for maintaining a healthy thyroid, which is a gland in your neck that produces and regulates hormones, iodine deficiency can result in a whole host of issues, from fatigue to auto-immune diseases such as psoriasis. And while most table salts contain iodine, many processed foods that are ubiquitous in grocery stores across the nation do not. This, along with what journalist Nick English describes as “salt-ophobia” amongst society-at-large has certainly contributed to a spike in thyroid issues over the past few decades. In contrast, with seaweed being a food staple in Japan, it is simply unnecessary to iodize table salt in that country. It could also be why the Japanese are near the bottom when it comes to diseases in the industrialized world.

Then there’s the minerals and nutrients in seaweed that are almost too long to list. But here’s a small sample: Vitamins A, C, E, B₁₂ (which is rare in plant-based foods), iron, magnesium, potassium, calcium and protein. Therefore, it’s no real surprise then that seaweed is known to be good for:

  • hair and nail growth
  • reducing blood cholesterol
  • strengthening bones and teeth
  • nerve transmission
  • improving your skin
  • treating osteoarthritis
  • reducing the risk of breast cancer
  • enriching your metabolism

So if you’re interested, head down to your local grocer or health food store and see what they have available. The three basic varieties are: brown (which contains the highest amount of iodine), green and red with the most popular types being kelp, wakame, and nori. Now if you’re interested in reaping the numerous health benefits but can’t stomach the idea of chowing down on some algae, consider purchasing pills or seaweed powder, which can easily be added into a smoothie. However, since the supplement industry isn’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it can sometimes be the wild west when it comes to safety and accuracy. With that being said, it’s usually a good idea to check the label carefully and be sure that it’s a reputable name brand.

Move over kale—seaweed is the new superfood!


Fuchs, Nan Kathryn. The Health Detectives’ 456 Most Powerful Healing Secrets., 2009.
Kirk, Mimi. Live Raw: Raw Food Recipes for Good Health and Timeless Beauty. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, Inc., 2013.
Moosewood Collective. The Moosewood Restaurant for Health: More Than 200 New Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes for Delicious and Nutrient-Rich Dishes. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009.
Simoons, Frederick J. Food in China: A Cultural and Historical Inquiry. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 1990.

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Ask Sid: Pfalz or Palatinate?

May 10th, 2017
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Pfalz or Palatinate wine region germany
By David Liuzzo [CC BY-SA 2.0 de], via Wikimedia Commons

Question: What is the difference in Germany between the wine regions of Pfalz and the Palatinate?

Answer: No difference really as both terms seem to be used interchangeably for that emerging exciting wine region in south west Germany highlighting spatburgunder (pinot noir) a variety which has been helped by global warming. Used to be historically the Upper Palatinate and the Lower Rhenish Palatinate. However after the Second World War the latter became officially Rhineland-Pfalz (or Rhineland Palatinate).

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Château Ducru-Beaucaillou St. Julien Vertical

May 8th, 2017

Château Ducru-Beaucaillou St. Julien Vertical
Photo by Megan Mallen [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Last month I was delighted by an invite to the challenge of trying with dinner 10 red wines double blind. It always is stimulating to approach such an exercise with an open mind but bringing with you all your wine experiences and personal preferences. You usually outguess yourself as to whether it is a vertical, a horizontal or mixed group of wines but with something in common. The wines were served in 3 flights matched with Blue Water Cafe outstanding courses of Tagliatelle Aglio e Olio (with fresh black winter truffles), Fraser Valley Rabbit Porchetta (stuffed with portobella mushroom, swiss chard & foie gras served with pretzel bread pudding, roasted baby carrot, onion soubise, cassis jelly), and Roasted Rack of Lamb (lightly smoked & parsley crusted braised fennel heart, green chickpeas cumin panisse, tomato hazelnut puree, hay scented lamb jus). The wines in the order served as later disclosed with my initial impressions and some brief reflections:

1. 1966 Ducru-Beaucaillou: Browning rim with a distinctly open Left Bank Bordeaux aged herbal noted iodine elegant bouquet. Thinking old cooler year Leoville-Barton. When disclosed at the end as 50+ everyone was amazed. Brought back fond memories for me being on a tasting panel with Michael Broadbent and Bruno Borie (present proprietor of Ducru-Beaucaillou but then the owner of his recently purchased Lillet) at KPBS Auction in San Diego on November 5, 1986 conducting a choice event of 111 red Bordeaux wines (with 2 California ringers of BV Private Reserve & Martin Ray) in 19 flights all from the 1966 vintage at 20 years of age. We started at 9 am tried 47 and continued after lunch with 64 more. The 3 of us agreed that 1966 was indeed “a long distance runner” and Ducru-Beaucaillou served as #103 exemplified that with youthful balanced higher acidity that needed time to integrate. Slow developer. Now 30 years later a big surprise here and showing that breeding of a Second Growth!

2. 1975 Ducru-Beaucaillou: A bit more red colouring at the rim but also old with a drier nose but full rounded flavours. Surprised this was the 1975 because not showing those early big harsh tannins of this vintage but much softer now at 40 with a fair amount of fruit left. Almost creamy.

3. 1981 Ducru-Beaucaillou: Clearer younger claret red with less aged rim has clean fresh lively styling with lovely fruit. An underrated (before the 82) balanced wine on a drinkable plateau showing the vintage well. Excellent with the pasta course! End of first flight with our guesses including 3 St. Juliens of the 1985 vintage or three Leoville-Barton from the seventies. Close but no cigar!

4. 1982 Ducru-Beaucaillou: Deep rich full impressive sweet fruit compared to drier first flight. Naturally everyone liked this and suggesting 1982. What gorgeous complex mature St Julien is all about.

5. 1985 Ducru-Beaucaillou: Slightly corked bottle spoiled the experience. Does have fruit and elegance underneath it.

6. 1986 Ducru-Beaucaillou: Musty cellary nose seems unclean but structured. Maybe these 1985 & 1986 do have that wet cardboard/TBA (Tribromoanisole)/TCA from those contaminated wooden beams of their old cellars that affected the wines of the late eighties and resulted in checking and recorking by the Château of vintages 1985-1989 stored there and the better re-releases. I bought my bottles on their initial release and they have all showed clean and excellent. However, beware of all these vintages of Ducru-Beaucaillou from 1985 to the early nineties because there is big bottle variation and some bottles are badly flawed. Thought less so for 1985 & 1986 before this tasting.

7. 1988 Ducru-Beaucaillou: Shows clean pure full big fruit and some picked this as their top choice of second flight with others the 1982. An excellent 1988 paired so well with the rabbit porchetta course – and especially that cassis jelly.

8. 1996 Ducru-Beaucaillou: Much younger riper deep classy fruit with perfect tannins which will be a classic. Already great at 20 years. Has a WOW factor! Outstanding. Sings with that rack of lamb.

9. 2003 Ducru-Beaucaillou: Riper full and luscious. Easy drinking forwardly style. Rather delicious.

10. 2005 Ducru-Beaucaillou: So different. Some woody turpentine-like strange aromas. Almost Malbec-like. Must be a ringer as doesn’t seem to have those typical Bordeaux aromas. Startled to learn it was the remarkable 2005 vintage as not showing well for this bottle at this time. Question mark?

Spotlighted earlier this year verticals of two other top Second Growth St Julien wines: Leoville Poyferre & Leoville Las Cases. Another great one here of arguably the best situation of “beautiful stones” for drainage and a unique terroir near the river. Obviously the wine from this property ages well and shows the class, breeding, and elegant balance you prize. Increased focus since mid-90s on cabernet (70%) and merlot (30%) and dropping cab franc & petit verdot. Also more new oak (75-90%) is being used with better strict selection for the Grand Vin. The future looks bright indeed!

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