Archive for February 11, 2014
11th February, 2014 by Lauren May
A compound found in red wine combined with aspirin could kill abnormal cells that lead to cancer, new research suggests.
According to a report in the Irish Independent, both the wine extract resveratrol and aspirin help to destroy “tetraploid” cells that contain multiple copies of chromosomes.
These cells cause genetic instability and have been linked to the development of cancer.
The research, led by Dr Guido Kroemer, from the Gustave Roussy Institute in Villejuif, France, was published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in which scientists said they believed one pathway to cancer involves a temporary phase of “tetraploidisation”.
The research suggested that “resveratrol and aspirin involves the elimination of tetraploid cancer cell precursors”.
In tests, laboratory mice genetically engineered to have bowel cancer had fewer tetraploid cells in their guts when fed the wine compound and painkiller.
Exposure to the two substances also reduced the survival of tetraploid cells in human bowel cancer tumour cultures.
Resveratrol, is derived from red grapes and is said to have antioxidant and anti-cancer properties.
Last month a study found that the compound could help boost the immune system, and counteract the effects of a high-fat diet.
Aspirin, though primarily a painkiller, has been shown to protect against some cancers, especially those affecting the intestines and stomach.
As we explore the ancient roots of traditional and popular music, we can also delve into the healing power and consciousness of our favorite music. In my (currently unpublished) book Whole Music (Soul Food for the Mind Body Spirit), I delved into both the academic and metaphysical sides of music by wedding ethnomusicology with new age philosophies while including experiential practices at the end of the fourteen chapters. Here is one of my favorite excerpts from the book from Chapter One, Delphi Temples & Pyramids: Healing Music of the Ancients.
Where does human music originate? Were the first humans inspired by frogs chirping in ponds, by the songbirds in trees, from the wind whispering in reeds (which flutes were made), and the hush that appeared after the sun set below the horizon and stars peppered the twilight skies? We do know that early humans played flutes made from bird bones, drums made from wood and animal skins, and stringed instruments (most likely lyres). Nature, sounds, and the cosmos fused together creating a human sonic experience, in which today, we attempt to recreate so we can usher in thousands of years of harmony.
We know that these early humans employed voice and instruments for a variety of purposes from organizing war campaigns to healing their fellow humans to sacred temples, to assisting with various tasks, for reproduction (frenzied music for orgies), and educating children. Since music always possessed a purpose, the potential for music was most likely common knowledge, unlike music is today. While musicians composed and performed music for entertainment, such as with Greek theater and festival games, music often fulfilled a task. Much of the music we enjoy today has roots in sacred music practices, military marches, healing rituals, or preceded modern reporters, shamans, and educators rolled into court musicians.
Today, indigenous people from around the globe still carry on the traditions of their elders. The Sami people (one of the oldest people on earth), of Nordic countries still sing the magical yoik, even if the sorcery element has disappeared in favor of praise songs (for the deceased), or fused to rock music for entertainment; ditto for the ancient Finnish runo-song that finds its roots in the Kalevala Legend, according to the late Ted Andrews in his book Sacred Sounds, was conceived three thousand years ago.
According to a National Geographic News article, “Lord of the Rings Inspired by an Ancient Epic,” only one Finnish elder, Jussi Houvinen exists in Finland who understands the powers and intricacies of the epic Kalevala.
When did we lose the magical side and healing consciousness of music? As dominant cultures moved into regions occupied by tribal people, indigenous people often lost connections to their language, rituals, music, and nature-based healing practices due to dominant cultures and religions enforcing new rules that forbid “animistic” practices, often seen as the devil’s work and definitely viewed as uncivilized.
Some cultures such as in Latin America, fused Catholic saints to Yoruba gods (Brazil and Cuba), or lost their spiritual roots completely, but not the rhythms of West Africa (US American slaves whose work songs fostered the birth of gospel, jazz, blues, and early rock music). Is it ironic that musicians from the Black Church (the church of African-Americans), such as Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis, and the cosmopolitan band Earth, Wind & Fire gazed backwards to ancient Egypt, West Africa and Latin America for spiritual and musical inspiration? However, ancient Egyptian music with its harps, lutes, rousing drums, and esoteric renderings would have sounded nothing like contemporary African-American music, and gave roots to belly dancing and Coptic Christian music and not American funk.
Court musicians were initiated and trained in the power of words and sound architecture.
The biggest different between today’s pop musicians and celebrated ancient musicians was that the purposes went beyond entertainment, and these musicians possessed an awareness for resonance and rhythmic entrainment. They knew about magic, alchemy, and intent. Contemporary musicians still supply the intent, and instead of alchemy, they provide cathartic music that is often therapeutic given the right circumstances. Musicians have not completely lost the ancient groove.
From Pan’s Flute to Rock Guitar
However, to give you an idea about the evolution of music, we need to also look at the evolution of humanity from pastoralists and hunting gatherers to urban dwellers. While we find wool gathering songs or sea shanties quaint, these songs performed the purpose of energizing workers and sailors of another age. The sung-legends with magical songs educated both adults and children about pre-Christian culture and about alchemy. Shamanic heroes on quests provided listeners with archetypical healing long before Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell arrived on the scene. Hero-worship is not a new thing.
Early Christians had their music too that spread the word of Christ’s teachings and to share “the good news”. Sufis of the Moslem faith employed trance dancing and sacred poetry to connect with the Divine. Jewish, Hindus, and Buddhists as well as animistic religions also included music for worship in temples, for weddings, for meditation, and ceremonial uses. If you listen to modern adaptation of ancient music from these religions, you can feel the sacred lingering in the room, even if you don’t practice any of these religions. Music with intent powerfully impacts our hearts, minds, and souls. As we listen to Persian Sufi poetry set to Iranian classical music, to ragas of India, or Native American sacred chants, or American gospel, we pay homage to a Universal God; we connect with the rainbow of humanity and all creatures.
A Quest for Whole Music
My definition of “whole music” revolves around music that wakes up consciousness through intent, resonance, and entrainment. Whole music comes in many guises from overtone harmonic chants of Tibetan monks, to the power of drum circles, didgeridoo players, to renaissance Christian chants, to the lush vocal harmonies of the Canadian band the Wailin’ Jennys. Whole music appears on street corners, farmers markets, outdoor music festivals, concert halls, temples, and Cathedrals. And in Bellingham, Washington, whole music drifts out of a chocolate and dessert shop on the corner of Cornwall Avenue and Champion.
Sound healers and psychoacoustic experts (they study sound’s effect on the nervous system) promote toning the body with vowel sounds. According to Jonathan Goldman, a sound-healer and proponent of over-toning (singing harmonics overtones to balance the body), musical practices that emphasize vowel sounds including Gregorian chant, Tibetan monk chant, and Indian raga vocals. When the chanter elongates vowel sounds harmonics result. Harmonics exist in all musical vibration, but when used with intent, healing occurs in the mind, body, and spirit.
Goldman quotes Sarmad Brody in his book, Healing Sounds describing the healing effects of Gyuto Monk overtone chants. “If you can be conscious of that fourth overtone you can begin to heal yourself through sound since this brings one’s whole being into tune and raises consciousness to a high pitch. Also, if you can sing very softly and send this sound, while being conscious of this fourth overtone, into an area where energy is blocked or tensed, you can release tension.”
We don’t often hear about overtones, yet, this important aspect of music provides healing frequencies. When we strike a note on a piano, notes above that note resonate, creating overtones. And it is overtones that shape the timbre of an instrument causing the flute to sound different than a piano, and a clarinet to sound different than a trumpet. If you elongate three vowels in a row such “o,” “u,” and “e,” you will hear yourself singing overtones. For most singers this takes practice, but I have developed throat-singing capabilities by using this method.
The ancients from Egypt to India practiced overtone singing and I once heard a story that the Giza Pyramid’s crystal floors once provided a resonating chamber where healers practiced overtone singing on their patients.
While we have forgotten this knowledge as music took the unfortunate journey from purposeful to a product of the entertainment industry, we still have the tools in our self-healing toolkits, including quartz crystals, vocal harmonics (which you could teach yourself in a manner of hours), and shakers which you can make by filling a container with dried beans. You can follow your intuition in combination with reading books by sound healers…
Excerpt from Whole Music (Soul Food for the Mind Body Spirit) by Patricia Herlevi, copyright, Patricia Herlevi 2013
Μια συγκλονιστική ανακάλυψη έφεραν στο φως οι άνδρες του τμήματος αγνοούμενων προσώπων της Ελληνικής Αστυνομίας, οι οποίοι στα πλαίσια ερευνών κατά τη διάρκεια του σαββατοκύριακου ανακάλυψαν έναν μυστικό, δαιδαλώδη σταθμό του μετρό που βρισκόταν κρυμμένος στο κέντρο ενός γιγαντιαίου λαβύρινθου στο Παλαιό Ψυχικό.
Όπως έγινε γνωστό στη συνέχεια, ο σταθμός είχε κατασκευαστεί υπό άκρα μυστικότητα πριν από τους Ολυμπιακούς Αγώνες της Αθήνας το 2004 με σκοπό να εξυπηρετεί τις ανάγκες του υπηρετικού προσωπικού της προέδρου της οργανωτικής επιτροπής των Αγώνων, Γιάννας Αγγελοπούλου-Δασκαλάκη, η οποία διαμένει στο Παλαιό Ψυχικό. Έκτοτε χρησιμοποιείται μόνο από όσους γνώριζαν την ύπαρξη του — κυρίως φιλιππινέζες οικιακές βοηθούς σε σπίτια της περιοχής, δασκάλους του τένις και συγγενείς χτυπημένους από την οικονομική κρίση, οι οποίοι είχαν αναγκαστεί να μετακομίσουν μακριά από το προνομιούχο προάστιο.
Σύμφωνα με πληροφορίες από αστυνομικούς κύκλους που ερευνούν την υπόθεση, ένα στα πέντε τρένα της γραμμής 3 που φθάνουν μόνο μέχρι την Εθνική Άμυνα και όχι έως το αεροδρόμιο «Ελ. Βενιζέλος», αφού περιμένουν εκεί για περίπου 20 λεπτά κάνουν επί τόπου στροφή και κατευθύνονται με σβηστά τα φώτα προς το σταθμό του Ψυχικού. Όσο για την επίγεια πρόσβαση, αυτή είναι πρακτικά ανέφικτη για τους μη μυημένους καθώς η μοναδική είσοδος στον λαβύρινθο που οδηγεί στον σταθμό είναι κρυμμένη κάτω από ένα πλακόστρωτο στην Τρίτη Πλατεία του Παλαιού Ψυχικού στην οποία δεν φθάνει δρόμος και είναι, ακόμη κι αυτή, άγνωστη σε όσους δεν κατοικούν στην περιοχή.
Όπως αναφέρουν αστυνομικές πηγές, η ανακάλυψη έγινε τυχαία όταν ο 23χρονος Λύσσανδρος, φοιτητής Παιδαγωγικής, πήρε το μετρό το βράδυ της περασμένης Πέμπτης για να πάει στο σπίτι φίλων του στην περιοχή του Νέου Ψυχικού. Ο Λύσσανδρος επιβιβάστηκε σε συρμό με κατεύθυνση την Εθνική Άμυνα αλλά δυστυχώς για τον ίδιο, νυσταγμένος καθώς ήταν αποκοιμήθηκε μέσα στο βαγόνι.
«Όταν ξύπνησα είδα έναν σταθμό που δεν είχα ξαναδεί ποτέ στο παρελθόν» αφηγείται ο Λύσσανδρος. «Ήταν κυριολεκτικά ένας λαβύρινθος, με δεκάδες σκάλες και διαδρόμους που διασταυρώνονταν, αδιέξοδα και μονόδρομους παντού καθώς και πινακίδες σχεδιασμένες για να σε παραπλανήσουν. Είχε λιγοστό κόσμο, κυρίως ασιατικής καταγωγής αλλά και Έλληνες δασκάλους που πήγαιναν για ιδιαίτερα, προσωπικούς γυμναστές, σεφ με άσπρους σκούφους, μπάτλερ και κλόουν για παιδικά πάρτυ. Κανείς δεν μιλούσε, επικρατούσε μια απόκοσμη σιωπή. Όλοι περπατούσαν σκυφτοί και πριν προλάβεις να τους μιλήσεις εξαφανίζονταν, βρίσκοντας με κάποιο μαγικό τρόπο τον δρόμο για την έξοδο» συνεχίζει ο νεαρός.
«Έμεινα κλεισμένος εκεί μέσα για πάνω από 40 ώρες, περιπλανόμενος σε κύκλους και με το κινητό μου να μην έχει σήμα. Ευτυχώς τελικά βρήκα έναν συντηρητή πισίνας που με λυπήθηκε και μου έδειξε πώς να βγω» καταλήγει.
Αφού βγήκε στην επιφάνεια της γης, ο 23χρονος κάλεσε την οικογένειά του που γυρνούσε τα νοσοκομεία για να τον εντοπίσει και στη συνέχεια την Αστυνομία, την οποία και οδήγησε στα ίχνη του άγνωστου έως σήμερα 66ου σταθμού του αθηναϊκού μετρό. Σε επικοινωνία του με το «Κουλούρι», ο υπαστυνόμος που είναι επικεφαλής των ερευνών δήλωσε: «Πρόκειται σίγουρα για ένα εντυπωσιακό εύρημα. Είναι νωρίς για να πούμε περισσότερα, σκεφτείτε ότι ακόμη δεν έχουμε χαρτογραφήσει ούτε το 10% του σταθμού. Ελπίζουμε μόνο να μην βρούμε εκεί μέσα τα πτώματα άλλων αγνοούμενων πολιτών, που τους πήρε ο ύπνος όπως τον Λύσσανδρο».
«Τουλάχιστον τώρα γνωρίζουμε γιατί στα δρομολόγια με κατεύθυνση την Εθνική Άμυνα τοποθετούνται αποκλειστικά τυφλοί οδηγοί» συμπλήρωσε με νόημα ο υπαστυνόμος.
Από : It’s okay to be smart
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, here’s my latest: Everything you’ve ever wanted to know and more about the evolution, neuroscience, and psychology of kissing, which, when you really consider what you’re doing, has got to be the absolute strangest human behavior out there.
I mean, really, what other animal is like “Hey, great to see you, let’s wipe our open mouths all over each other!”
Anyway, there’s some amazing evolutionary biology and neuroscience behind the humble kiss. Share this bit of science with someone you love!
Yesterday, my dear, sweet, 95-year-old grandma asked me if the Germans still make the best beer in the world. That should give you a pretty good idea as to how hip German beer is at this point (hint: it’s really, really, unhip). But the answer I gave her wasn’t an easy one to land on. There is no doubt that the Germans do still make incredible beer. What it lacks in sexy youth, German beer certainly makes up in quality and tradition. The American beer drinking public sometimes forgets that.
Maybe it’s that lager doesn’t seem that exciting, maybe it stems from shocking run-ins with rauchbier, or maybe it’s just all the umlauts. At any rate, something is scaring many folks away from zee German stuff. But there’s a lot of pleasure to be found in German beer, and it’s time y’all got comfortable with the beer styles you’ll run into at the store. Here’s our quick and handy guide.
Let’s start with the lagers.
Walk into the beer section at your local supermarket, spin around a couple times and stick your hand out. You’ll probably hit a pilsner or some variation on the ubiquitous style. The Buds, Pabsts and Millers of the world owe their inspiration to this pale lager style that originated at what is now the Czech Republic’s Pilsner Urquell brewery. Proper all-malt pilsner comes in two variations: Czech (AKA Bohemian) and German. Both are pale yellow in color and finish with a bitter snap of spicy, floral hops. German-styled takes tend to be lighter in body, drier, and a touch more bitter than their Czech counterparts, but both should be easy to drink and refreshing.
Helles was born as an early German take on pilsner as well. Less hoppy than its Czech cousin, helles is a more malt-driven style that often leans toward the sweeter end of the spectrum.
Find a beer with a goat on the label and you’ve probably found yourself a bock. This is a class of beers that range in color from fairly light (maibock) to quite dark (doppelbock and eisbock, more on those later). Plain ol’ traditional bock sits right in the middle—amber to brown in color, it’s a strong, very malty lager that weighs in around 6 or 7% ABV. Expect a toasty, bready, slightly sweet flavor from the Munich and/or Vienna malt that make up the bulk of the grain in this beer.Maibocks are a springtime seasonal variation (Mai means May in German) that are a lighter in color and a bit hoppier with a floral bitterness on the finish.
So, why the goat? It’s a little bit of wordplay—these beers originated in the town of Einbeck, Germany. That name Einbeck got telephone-lined around a bit and ended up sounding sorta like “ein Bock,” which translates to “a billy goat.”
Stronger, even maltier bock beers are known as doppelbocks (which translates to “double bocks”). Born of a monastic tradition of brewing beers to sustain the monks during Lenten fasting, the style-defining example was first brewed by the monks at Munich’s Paulaner brewery. Almost all commercial examples you’ll encounter today are very dark in color, but doppelbocks can technically be fairly pale as well. Expect a very rich beer with a lot of caramelized (but not burnt!) sugar flavor. Darker examples can taste chocolatey and dark fruit-like as well. These tend to be rich, decadent sippers that are often named ending in “-ator” as a reference to Salvator, the original doppelbock brewed by Paulaner.
If you’re looking for an even bigger bock, find yourself an eisbock. These are doppelbocks that have had a portion of their water content removed via freezing. If you drop the temperature of a beer to between the freezing points of water and alcohol, the water will freeze, leaving just a boozy, concentrated beer behind. Eisbock brewers will typically remove around 10% of the water content, leaving a massive, intense beer in the 9-14% ABV range. Expect flavor characteristics similar to those of doppelbock, but bigger. Boozy, fruity, and intense.
Oktoberfest/Märzen/Dunkel/Vienna Lager (okay, that one’s from Austria)
Let’s get a few terms clear first: Oktoberfest and Märzen are generally used interchangeably to describe one style. I’ll just use Märzen from here on out. Vienna and dunkel lagers are beers that are fairly similar in character, though the history is a little different.
Way back in the 1500s, Bavarian lawmakers forbade the brewing of beer between April and September to ensure quality. In the warmer months, wild yeast and bacteria could thrive, leading to nasty, spoiled beer for the people. Without an understanding of modern fermentation science, the lawmakers were unknowingly establishing a long future for German lager. Fermented and stored in cool caves, the beers produced in the winter and early spring would eventually evolve into the modern dunkel (“dark”) lager.
Märzen (meaning March) takes its name from the frantic brewing that occurred in the month leading up to the summertime ban, but it and Vienna lager didn’t emerge in their modern forms until the mid-1800s, with the isolation of lager yeast. Two friends, Gabriel Sedlmayr from Munich and Anton Dreher from Vienna, released similar amber-colored lagers in their home towns and watched their respective Märzen and Vienna lagers rise to popularity. Sadly, Vienna lager has since fallen out of popularity, but the tradition lives on to some degree in Mexico (yep, really! Ever had a Negra Modelo?), where Austrian immigrants settled in the late 1800s.
All of these beers are malty lagers with an amber-brown color imparted by nutty, bready, toasty Munich and Vienna malts. Märzens are sometimes paler in color and dunkels are the darkest of the group, but that’s the gist of it. None of these beers are hop driven in flavor and all should have a clean, neutral yeast flavor—they’re really all about the malt.
Schwarzbier is a notch darker than dunkel and doppelbock—it’s the darkest of all the German lagers. As it should be, too—the name translates to “black beer.” Despite its ominous appearance, the schwarzbier is an easy drinker—it’s only about 5% ABV and is lighter in body and drier than dunkel lager. Roasty bitterness is fairly restrained—don’t expect this to taste like a stout. Instead, look for a lightly bready malt character backed up by a touch of roast and hop bitterness on the finish.
My love for rauchbier is no secret (especially when these beers are paired with food), but it’s a style that is certainly not for everyone. The defining characteristic is that the beer is made with a large portion of malt that’s been smoked over the flames of a beechwood-fueled fire. The result is a powerfully smoky, sometimes meaty-tasting beer that is usually based on a Märzen recipe. A specialty of the Franconian town of Bamberg, Germany, rauchbier is an unusually savory beer that you’ll probably either love or hate.
Now, let’s move onto the ales, shall we?
Wheat Ales: Hefeweizen/Dunkelweizen/Weizenbock
When it comes to ales, Germany is most famous for their wheat beers. Hefeweizen is the most common—poured into towering vase-like glasses, this cloudy southern German specialty is all about the yeast. Heck, it’s right there in the name—hefeweizen translates to “yeast wheat” in German. The beer’s cloudy appearance and powerful banana and clove-like aromatics are the direct result of an unusual yeast strain that is essential to producing this classic style. Darker variations are referred to as dunkelweizen (“dark wheat”) and stronger versions are called weizenbock (as in, a wheat beer brewed to bock strength). Dunkelweizens take on a caramelly, dark-fruit like flavor that some liken to liquid banana bread, and weizenbocks are like hefeweizens and dunkelweizens on steroids—stronger and more flavorful in every way. All are delicious!
Altbier is an unusual specialty hailing from Düsseldorf. Its strangeness lies in the fact that it is fermented cooler than most ales with a yeast that operates best just above the temperatures that are usually reserved for lagers. This process allows rich, nutty, bready malt character to shine alongside a firm, spicy, floral hop bitterness. Most are around 5% ABV, but stronger variations exist and may be labeled as “sticke” or “doppelsticke” altbier.
Kölsch also has a strange fermentation process. Fermented a touch warmer than altbier (but still cooler than most other ales), the yeast produce a delicate, mildly fruity flavor profile. This pairs up with a relatively assertive hop profile from those spicy, herbal German hops and a more mellow pale malt presence. It’s a nice, easy drinking beer with about 5% ABV. Kölsch is also unusual for the fact that the name is protected within the European Union so that only breweries within the city of Cologne can give their beer the respected Kölsch name.
Berliner weisse and gose are the only German beer styles that are likely to be accused of being hip (Grandma surely hasn’t heard of them). The craft beer world has thoroughly embraced sour beer in recent years and Germany’s entrants are among the most popular amongst American craft brewers. Berliner weisse is a tart wheat beer that is soured through a fermentation with the bacteria Lactobacillus. This bacteria produces lactic acid—the same acid that gives yogurt and sour cream their signature tang.
Gose is also soured with the aid of Lactobacillus, but has a couple other ingredients that make it quite unusual: coriander and salt. The final product is cloudy, tart, and spicy and it’s one of the most refreshing beers you can drink.
About the author: Mike Reis is a Certified Cicerone working as Minister of Education for California-based distributor Lime Ventures. Previously, he co-managed the beer program at San Francisco’s Abbot’s Cellar and The Monk’s Kettle. Follow him on Twitter @beerspeaks or find him behind a pint near you.
More from Mike Reis
How Draft Systems Work: Getting Beer From Keg to Glass
The Serious Eats Vermont Beer Guide
How to Identify Hops in Your Beer: The Three C’s
Beer Issues: What’s Up With the Three-Tier System?
How to Host A Beer and Cheese Tasting Party
The Flux Capacitor: A Tool for Better Beer on Tap
Aging Beer: 6 Tips to Get You Started
5 Brewing Terms Every Beer Drinker Should Know
Stacey Gibson http://drinks.seriouseats.com Feb 10, 2014
The idea of tackling France—the accents and the growing regions and the different vintages—can feel like a vast, unmanageable task for anyone who wants to start learning about wine. But even the most seasoned wine professionals sometimes mispronounce words, so you shouldn’t worry. Today’s guide will help you get a little more comfortable in the French section of your local wine shop.
French wines can be confusing because they rarely put the name of the grape on the bottle. Instead they put a controlled place name, appearing on the label as the “Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée.” You will often see this abbreviated as AOC or, to get in line with EU terminology, AOP. The rules for winemaking and grape growing in each appellation have grown out of each region’s long history.
Why put the place on the label instead of the name of the grape? Many people would say that it’s because of the notion of terroir. Essentially, terroir is the wine’s expression of the place from where it came. When winemakers speak about terroir, they’re talking about a variety of things that influence the vine, including the type of soil it’s growing in, the slope and elevation of the vineyard, as well as the climate and weather.
Though it’s hard to make broad generalizations, you might find that French wines tend to focus less on fruit flavors than wines from newer growing regions in the New World. French wines might be described as earthy or mineral—which means they taste a little like dirt, chalk, or mushrooms.
Today we’ll cover a few of the major regions that you should know.
When someone says “red Burgundy,” they’re talking about Pinot Noir. And when they say “white Burgundy”, they mean Chardonnay. But as with most French wines, you won’t see those grapes on the label, so it’s worth getting to know a bit about the famous wine-growing regions of Burgundy: there’s Chablis in the north, the Cote d’Or between Dijon and Lyon, Cote Chalonnaise, the Mâcon, and Beaujolais.
Most wines from Burgundy are split into four major tiers of quality. Regional wines (which are just labeled, say, Bourgogne Rouge, Bourgogne Blanc, or Cremant de Bourgogne) are at the base, made from grapes sourced anywhere in Burgundy. As the prestige goes up, you’re getting grapes from a more and more specific area. Next up from regional wines are those specific to one village, then wines sourced from premier cru vineyards, and finally, the top classification is for wines from the most prestigious sites, called the grand cru vineyards.
The appellations in Burgundy are attached the piece of land, regardless of who is making the wine. Some pieces of land may have dozens of producers, with each winery owning a few rows of grape vines. How did Burgundy end up with this system? Well, it’s all about the history. Monks have been farming this land for centuries, and noted which spots seemed best for growing grapes. The vineyards were split among multiple owners as generations went by because the Napoleonic code stipulated that a family’s vineyards were split among their children, not inherited all together.
Chablis, the northernmost part of Burgundy, is famous for white wines made from chardonnay. If the label says Appellation Chablis Contrôlée, the wine will generally be fresh with a chalky, oyster shell-like minerality—many of these wines are not aged in oak barrels.
The Cote d’Or is made up of two main regions, Cote de Nuits in northern area, and Cote de Beaune in the south. Cote de Nuits is more known for its Pinot Noir and the Cote de Beaune is famed for its Chardonnay.
Moving south, you will find two regions that serve as excellent (and often more affordable) introductions to the wines of Burgundy: the Cote Chalonnaise and the Mâcon. You’ll find great deals in Pinot Noir from Givry or Mercurey. For Chardonnay, look for Pouilly-Fuissé, St-Véran, or Rully.
Red wine in Burgundy is mostly about Pinot Noir, but there is one exception: Beaujolais. In this area, delicious red wines are made from the gamay grape. There’s much more to these wines than the quickly-produced Beaujolais Nouveau meant for harvest celebrations; those cheap wines really don’t represent the quality of the region on the whole. Wines from the ten ‘crus’ of Beaujolais are beloved among wine nerds and often a great bargain. There are ten crus, but some of the ones you’ll see the most are Morgon, Fleurie, or Moulin-A-Vent.
Wines from Bordeaux are almost always a blend of different grapes. If you’re buying red wine, it might include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and/or Petit Verdot. What’s the dominant grape in the blend? It depends on where the bottle is from…
The region of Bordeaux is often divided into the Left Bank and the Right Bank. The area is split by the Gironde river, which has two smaller rivers, the Garonne and the Dordogne, feeding into it (picture an upside-down ‘Y’ shape.)
The Left Bank, on the west side, includes the Medoc and Haut Medoc (north of the city of Bordeaux) and Graves (south of the city). The famous villages of St. Estephe, Pauillac, St. Julien, and Margaux are all in the Haut Medoc. The Graves region to the south of the city includes Pessac-Leognan, home of the renowned Chateau Haut-Brion.
The blends for wines from the Left Bank are generally dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, while blends from the Right Bank—the east side, which includes St. Emilion and Pomerol—are more focused on Merlot.
Between the two branches of the river-‘Y’ shape is a region called Entre Deux Mers, known for its white wines made from Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle.
You might have heard the terms ‘first growth’ or ‘second growth’ in relation to fancy wines from Bordeaux. These classifications come from a ranking system from way back in 1855, when the wine estates of the region were ranked in order of quality from ‘first growth’ to ‘fifth growth’. 160 years later, some of the top wines are still truly mind-blowing….and expensive. Unlike in Burgundy, the classification in Bordeaux is based on the producer, not the specific piece of land where the grapes are grown.
The wine regions near the Loire River can be thought of in four sections: The Pays Nantais, Anjou-Saumur, Touraine, and the Central Vineyards.
Let’s start at the ocean, shall we? The Pays Nantais (named for Nantes, the largest city in the area) is the closest to the Atlantic and famous for Muscadet, an oyster-loving white wine made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape. You’re likely to see ‘Sur Lie’ on a good bottle of Muscadet—it means that the wine was left with the dead yeast cells, or lees, after fermentation. This adds a creamy, textural richness to the fresh, salty tang of the wine. (One thing to keep straight: Muscadet is definitely different from Muscat, an aromatic grape that is often made as an off-dry wine.)
Traveling east from the Pays Nantais, we come to the Anjou-Saumur and the Touraine. The white grape Chenin Blanc and the red Cabernet Franc are the most common here. We love the dry Chenin Blancs from Savennières, as well as both the dry and sweeter examples of the grape made in Vouvray. If you’re looking for Cabernet Franc, seek out red wines from Chinon and Bourgueil. While also found in the Bordeaux blend, on its own, Cabernet Franc expresses itself with black cherry, herby green vegetables, and plenty of potting soil. You’ll also find peppery, tangy, and bright Pineau d’Aunis in Anjou and Touraine.
The Central Vineyards are known mainly for their Sauvignon Blanc. The appellation of Sancerre is the most well-known and often the most expensive. Its neighbors can provide a great entry point with the same tart, sometimes grassy expression. Look for wines from the adjacent appellations of Menetou-Salon and Pouilly-Fumè, or the nearby Reuilly and Quincy.
You might have heard before that you’re not supposed to call every sparkling wine Champagne. It’s only Champagne if it’s from the region of Champagne. (And they actually make some still, non-bubbly wines there, too, though those aren’t called Champagne, either.)
What makes Champagne special, beyond the region where the grapes are grown? The methode champenoise, also known as the traditional method. The basic idea of this labor-intensive process is as follows. Somewhat underripe grapes are first fermented to make a normal still wine with pretty low alcohol. This wine is bottled and then undergoes a second fermentation in the very same bottle that comes home with you from the store. A little yeast and sugar is added to each bottle of wine to get a second fermentation started. The bottle is usually closed with a crown cap (like a beer cap). The yeast converts the added sugar into alcohol, and since the bottle is capped, the carbon dioxide that is naturally produced is captured and remains in the wine as bubbles.
After this secondary fermentation, Champagne bottles have to go through a laborious process called riddling. Over the course of several weeks, the bottles are slowly, gradually turned and lowered until they are turned upside down. The goal is to get all of the dead yeast into the neck of the bottle so that it can be removed. Seeing a pattern with this leftover yeast? Lees add a lot to the resulting wine and Champagnes have to age with the yeast for at least a year before taking the next step.
When they’re ready to go, the necks of the bottles are frozen and, in a moment of organized chaos called disgorgement, the crown cap on the bottle is popped off and the pressure that has built up in the wine pushes out the frozen yeast deposit. The bottle is topped off with some wine and sometimes sugar (the dosage) before being corked and sealed with a wire cage.
Since the grapes often struggle to ripen fully every year in the cool, northern environment, wines from Champagne are often non-vintage (NV), which means the bottle holds a blend of wines from different years. Champagne can also be from a single vintage, which is generally a very good year.
All this hard work means that Champagne is definitely pricey—often starting around $40. You can also look for wines made from the traditional method in other areas of France, often for around $20. One easy kind to spot is anything labeled ‘Cremant.’ These wines will come from other areas around France, such as Burgundy, Alsace, or the Loire.
You will see ‘Premier Cru’ and ‘Grand Cru’ on bottles of Champagne—this label applies to the entire village from which the grape comes, rather than specific vineyards.
You’ll find Alsace right on the German border of France. Over the last few hundred years, France and Germany have alternated possession of the area and a unique blend of each country’s wine heritage remains. Unlike in most French regions, wines from Alsace most frequently do have the grape of the label. The most exalted grapes in the region, called noble grapes, are Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, and Muscat. In Alsace, these wines are unusually intense and mineral, not the fresh-and-fruity wines you might expect from these grapes.
If you see ‘Gentil’ on a label of an Alsatian wine, it means the bottle holds a blend of the noble grapes (as well as up to 50% wine from other grapes). These blends can be a particularly good value. Alsatian examples of Pinot Blanc and Sylvaner are also delicious and are generally much cheaper than wines made from the noble grapes.
While most grapes grown in Alsace are white, Pinot Noir does make an appearance on its own as a red wine and in bubbly Cremant d’Alsace.
You might have heard of Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Hermitage: those appellations are in the Rhône. The Rhône River starts up in the Alps and flows down through Valence and Avignon, ending in the Atlantic Ocean in the area near Marseille. The area is generally split into two main parts: the Northern Rhône and the Southern Rhône.
When you think Northern Rhône, think Syrah. The grape finds its most peppery, meaty expression on the steep hillsides that line the river. A good way to get into these wines is to try St. Joseph or Crozes-Hermitage, but even these can be a bit pricey. Some talented producers make wines under the humble Vin de Pays Collines Rhodaniennes, and these can be delicious and extremely affordable. You’ll also see white wines made from Viognier grapes in this area.
The sunny Southern Rhone is all about the blend, with Grenache leading the charge. They’re usually “GSM,” shorthand for Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. Other grapes, such as Cinsault and Counoise, also make an appearance and in fact, thirteen different grapes are allowed in the blend for Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The white wines are often blends of Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier, though a few other grapes are also allowed.
The Rhône wines you will most often see in a wine shop or on a wine list will say Côtes-du-Rhône on the label. These, too, are likely to be GSM blends, sometimes including Cinsault, Carignane, and Counoise. If you want to take one step up from the basic Côtes-du-Rhône wines, look for one of the 18 villages that are allowed to add their name to the label. (You’ll often see Visan, Sablet, and Cairanne.) Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Beaumes-de-Venise, and Vinsobres often offer a bit more quality; they used to be under the Cotes-du-Rhone name, but have been elevated and now stand on their own as appellations.
Languedoc and Roussillon
Languedoc and Roussillon are two large regions that lie on the coast of the Mediterranean. Red and rosé wines from these areas are generally a blend of Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, with other indigenous and international varieties making an appearance. White wines are less common, but when you see them they are also usually blends that include Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Muscat, and sometimes other grapes.
If you love the warm climate wines of California or Australia, these regions are a wonderful way to introduce yourself to France. The sunshine gives plenty of fruit flavor and body to the red wines from the AOCs of Côtes du Roussillon, St. Chinian, Minervois, and Languedoc (Languedoc is the general name for the region and a specific AOC, you still with me?). Rousillon is also known for its fortified sweet wine, made in spots like Rivesaltes, Maury, and Banyuls from a Grenache blend.
You might see ‘Vin De Pays d’Oc’ on a wine label from this region—it’s a country wine classification that is one step up from table wine but without as many restrictions as Appellation Contrôlée wines. Good value alert!
When we think of Provence, we first think of rosé. They make a lot of it here, usually a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, and Mourvèdre that pairs perfectly with sunshine and beach umbrellas. But there’s more to Provence than just these lovely, dry pink wines: if you’re looking for reds, look to Bandol. This region sits along the coast and produces mostly red wines from a blend dominated by Mourvèdre. Producers in Bandol also tend to make exceptional rosé wines from younger vines that aren’t quite ready to be used in red wine.
There are more grapes and regions in France than you probably have time to read about on your lunch break, but we hope we’ve given you a few handy basics. Got questions about the wines of France or any of the regions we’ve mentioned? Please share them in the comments below!
About the Author: Stacey Gibson is an Advanced Sommelier, practicing her craft at Olympic Provisions in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter @stacey_gib.