Ask Sid: What is Meursault Charmes-Dessus?

September 19th, 2018
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chateau mersault Charmes-Dessus?

Question: Tasted a 2015 Meursault Les Charmes-Dessus from Château de Meursault and wondered what is Dessus?

Answer: Some vineyards in Burgundy historically divided the appellation between the higher section (Dessus) normally considered better and the lower part (Dessous). These terms are still used on labels to explain which part of the vineyard the grapes in the wine come from  though you see the preferred Dessus more often than the usually lesser Dessous. Meursault Charmes is quite a large and diverse area so if there is no Dessus on the label you don’t know the specific part of it where the grapes are grown within that Premier cru region. May or may not be all Dessus or a mix of Dessus and Dessous. Hope this helps.

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Château Lagrange: A Solid Underrated 3rd Growth Bordeaux in St. Julien is Value Choice

September 17th, 2018

Château Lagrange: A Solid Underrated 3rd Growth Bordeaux in St. Julien is Value Choice

Château Lagrange is a classified Third Growth St. Julien that still remains somewhat under the radar for a top value well made Bordeaux choice. Since November 1983 when a sale to Suntory was government approved (might have been more difficult to get today) this château has gone from strength to strength with vineyard replanting, winery investment, and quality improvements in the wine. The hiring of Marcel Ducasse from Haut-Pyrennes region who studied at Bordeaux University and is a disciple of Emile Peynaud was a wise choice indeed. Several visits there and tasting-interviews with him. Impressed also with his record keeping since 1984 and all the stats on the Grand Vin and second wine Les Fiefs. Extensive time spent in June 1997 when plantings were 64.8% cabernet sauvignon (70.7 hectares), 27.9 merlot (30.4ha) and 7.3 petit verdot (7.9ha). This latter variety not much used till 1990 when major 12% added that “blueberry” element to the complexity. At that time the total production was 63,000 cases with 23,000 Château Lagrange (55% new oak) and 40,000 Les Fiefs de Lagrange (20%). Tasting the young 1996 & 1995 vintages was surprised then by the major differences in their grape mixes with 1996 Lagrange 57CS/36M/7PV and 1995 Lagrange 44CS/43 M/13PV while 1995 Les Fiefs is 87CS/13M.  All this was reinforced to your scribe at a vertical tasting-dinner at Blue Water in Vancouver on September 11, 2018. Some brief comments:

2005 Lagrange: 46CS/45M/9PV Young dark excellent deep ripe cassis full rich flavours with brilliant mid-palate still in a structured balanced “shell” needing more time to really sing. Outstanding vintage!

2001 Lagrange: 62CS/27M/11PV Palest rim of first flight of three is more open, spicy cloves, elegant and forwardly drinking but simpler lighter bodied.

2000 Lagrange: 76CS/24M Dense somewhat browning edge with attractive St. Julien bouquet developing from large percentage of beautiful cab sauv in this blend- so smooth & stylish. The neighbouring Gruaud Larose & Talbot on north and east side showing in the terroir here. Collected this vintage of Château Lagrange and it is very good indeed. Can be a little bottle variable but a super vintage.

1999 Lagrange: 58CS/25M/17PV Lighter colour with evolved classic nose leaner tighter palate but a good 1999.

1990 Lagrange: 44CS/44M/12PV picking started September 22 ending October 10 using 16% press wine with great quality selection using only 32% in Grand Vin, 50 Les Fiefs and 18 Lot 3. Paler rim showing earthy open mature bouquet drinking well now in an attractive older Bordeaux style. Tried last year a fresher bottle that was much more youthfully impressive.

1989 Lagrange: 55CS/45M/picking earlier September 6 finishing September 28 using 13% press wine with 44% Lagrange, 52 Les Fiefs, and 4 in Lot 3. Darker colour right to the rim best bottle showing structure and vibrancy. No rush.

1988 Lagrange: 59CS/41M picking later October 3 to 19th using 14% press wine 42% Grand Vin, 55 Les Fiefs, and 3 in Lot 3. Good colour and style despite more herbal notes. The sleeper of the tasting but showing more style of the bordering vineyards of St. Laurent on the west like Belgrave & Camensac.

1975 Lagrange Magnum: Don’t have exact grape mix but higher merlot. Big surprise of the tasting from a tougher tannic vintage and before the Château improvements. For 43 years old has a remarkable red colour with maturing rim. Old style classic drier Bordeaux excelling more with the grilled lamb T-bone chops than on its own with softening tannins. Lovely.

Your scribe has tried this year also the 1986, 2002, & especially ripe 2003 (57CS/33M/10PV) which reinforces the quality value of the wines from this property. Highly recommend buying some of the 2016 and 2015 presently in the market for cellaring!

Have you tried any vintages of this Château Lagrange St. Julien?


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Looking back at America’s oyster craze

September 16th, 2018

oysters 1800s craze

By Joseph Temple

Today, with oyster consumption at an all-time low across the United States, it may seem surreal to think that oysters, described by James Beard as “one of the supreme delights that nature has bestowed on man” were at one time considered quintessential American fare. That’s right—back in the late 1800s, the average person from Maine to California ate a whopping 660 oysters per year—a figure that was triple the amount of what was being consumed in the United Kingdom!

So why is it that you rarely see anyone eating this seafood outside of Boston’s Union Oyster House or New York City’s Grand Central Oyster Bar?  And how did oysters get to be so popular in the first place?

To answer the latter, you need to go back to early nineteenth century when oysters were strictly a local affair. Harvested in places like the Chesapeake Bay, the shelf life of an oyster was short, making it extremely difficult to ship this delicacy to the American interior without spoiling. But with arrival of refrigeration in the 1830s, improved railroad lines, and the canning industry, what was once only available on the coasts could now be enjoyed all over the Midwest too.

Having these technological advances, the supply of oysters skyrocketed in the two decades after the American Civil War. While harvested in numerous spots, the mecca for oyster beds was New York City, specifically the bays of New York Harbor and Long Island Sound. From 1880-1920, as the city’s population exceeded over a million people, New York alone produced approximately 700 million oysters per year. Using techniques that would make modern day ecologists cringe, this rapid depletion led to oysters representing nearly a third of the total value of all U.S. fisheries during this time.

Helping to fuel this full-blown craze by the 1870s was the oyster bar—an American institution that should be studied by every culinary student. With an abundant supply being transported around the country, the cost of oysters was only half the cost of beef per pound, making it the perfect seafood to compliment one’s beer or whiskey. By the 1880s, nearly every city and town had either an oyster bar, an oyster lunchroom, or an oyster cellar, where they were offered to a thirsty clientele the same way pretzels are today. Appealing to both rich and poor, oyster houses could serve them many ways, from broiled and roasted to pickled and scalloped. “Oysters are not only a delicious luxury for the wealthy epicure, but are an economical and wholesome food for those of limited means,” according to one industry-sponsored pamphlet. “They should not be regarded as a rare treat, but as a frequent and appetizing item of regular food supply.”

But how did all this come crashing down? Well, by the twentieth century, oysters received a wave of bad publicity, being blamed for several breakouts of cholera and typhoid, causing demand to plummet. Also, with the enactment of the Volstead Act in 1919, Prohibition had pretty much wiped out the [oyster] bar, a venue where most Americans were getting their supply. Sadly, since this time, very few have survived.

Arguably the most popular food of the 1800s, the oyster, given its rich history really is as American as apple pie. So the next time you want to honor your nation’s culinary past, why don’t you try serving this wonderful seafood. Whether it’s Oyster Soup, Oysters on Toast, or Philadelphia Fry, you’ll take great pleasure in rediscovering a classic dish!


Flood, Charles. Lost Restaurants of Seattle. Charleston: The History Press Inc., 2017.
Greenburg, Paul. American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood. New York: Penguin, 2014.
Isa, Mari. (2017, February 23). The Great Oyster Craze: Why 19th Century Americans Loved Oysters. Michigan State University. Retrieved from
Maruzzi, Peter. Classic Dining: Discovering Americas’ Finest Mid-Century Restaurants. Layton: Gibbs Smith, 2012.
Smith, Andrew F. Savoring Gotham: A Food Lover’s Companion to New York City. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

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Ask Sid: Frozen Yogurt?

September 12th, 2018
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frozen yogurt probiotic ice cream

Question: Liked your informative post on probiotics in yogurt with new trends Sid but what about using frozen yogurt instead?

Answer: Yes frozen yogurt is very popular and usually is a healthier choice than ice cream. However please keep in mind that that the heating or freezing of it does adversely affect those valuable probiotics found in regular yogurt. Check out the process used. Really are entirely different products but enjoy them both in moderation.

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Yogurt 2.0: Beneficial Probiotics But Sugars Not so Much!

September 10th, 2018

Still like me a daily consumer of yogurt? Posted a blog here on it back on January 20, 2014. Focused last time mainly on fat levels and additives including artificial sweeteners. The buzz for health benefits of probiotics (live micro-organisms) has been well documented including help for your large intestine, cholesterol levels, blood sugars, plus flu & colds. The yogurt industry has been on the move recently with many success stories such as Turkish immigrant Hamdi Ulukaya starting his Chobani (“shepherd”) brand in 2007 reaching now over $1 billion in annual sales for his Greek yogurt. Most consumers are not aware that yogurt has sugar in confusing amounts and sometimes quite high levels. My usual 3 go to 0% fat yogurts are the lowest priced Astro Balkan Plain (5 grams sugar/125 grams), local Olympic Natural Plain (7 grams/175 grams) and my fav Liberte Greek Plain (6 grams/175). The newest product is Liberte Skyr Icelandic style advertising less sugar and no sugar added. Oikos has Triple Zero (Artificial Sweeteners, Preservatives, and Fat) as well as Organic. Non-Dairy yogurt are expanding too using almond, coconut, and soy for lactose intolerant, vegan, dairy allergic and all of us. There does seem to be a trend to a more natural product with less sugar which is good news. Still it is somewhat of a nightmare shopping for yogurt with so many choices but some much better than others. What is your preferred yogurt?


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