Reflection on the 2018 harvest in the Northern Hemisphere

October 18, 2018 by French Corner Cellars

With the bulk of the harvest in the north hemisphere over, we can start predicting how 2018 vintage will look when bottles get pulled from our Avintage wine cabinets later! Let us have a brief look at the 4 major wine producing areas.

 In France, 2018 looks to be a very promising vintage. At least in terms of the harvest, which was above satisfactory in most of the country, showing a 21% increase over the disastrous 2017 vintage. 2018 featured above average rainfalls in late winter which help the vines to strive during the hot summer days. July was the warmest on record since 1947. Consequently, some regions, such as in Champagne and Alsace, harvested significantly earlier than usual. Some areas in the South West and the Languedoc region suffered from the excess of water early in the season, resulting in a significant increase of mildew - Merlot and Ugni Blanc have been highly impacted by the fungus. As a result, the Languedoc production will be below the last 5-year average at 12.4 Mhl. And finally, in Bordeaux, most of the vineyards managed to fight efficiently against the mildew, but some appellations were not as lucky, having been battered by hail in May and June.

 This year Italy is looking at a 10-20% increase over 2017, due largely in part to the abundance of rain over key regions. Prosecco had close to an ideal season – a warm summer, with cool spell right before harvest, helped along by a little rain. Grapes in Tuscany ended up with more acidity, which will lead to wine with more freshness. In Piedmont spring arrived late, accompanied by damaging hail and fungal disease. Despite these challenges, warm temperatures with cool evenings throughout the rest of the season led to a high quality in the grapes. Marche and Campania, much like Piedmont, saw heavy rains, hail and mildew. In Campania, this led to a significant loss of quantity for Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avallino. However, the overall quality of Italian wines in 2018 is expected to be higher than usual, with white wines making a massive leap in expected sales – showcased by an especially sharp increase in Vermentino production.

 Spain has quite a bit of ground to make up in 2018. With a loss in 2017 of over 25% from 2016 due to frost, then a drought soon after, the 2018 vintage has turned things around. Big volumes abound, and like Italy, a hefty increase in white wine production is taking place. Last year’s ‘take it or leave it’ approach from wineries due to its low volumes, pricing is once again back in the hands of the buyers. Wines in Southern areas are expected to show well, with a noticeable increase in quality the further North you travel.

 And to round everything off, we end with California. 2018 had seen an uneventful start for the wine regions, unlike 2017, where the effects of drought, and constant wildfires had led to an early harvest. Wine growers began in mid-August harvesting what is said to be a landmark year for California wines. A little later than expected due to some issues like a late bud break, but wineries in areas like Santa Barbara have described 2018 as a ‘classic vintage’ due to the cooler weather. Paso Robles experienced the hottest July on record, inhibited ripening, much like the effect cold spells had in 2011. Overall, 2018 proved to be a more even, and less challenging vintage than 2017 in California, leaving winemakers and consumers alike excited for the wines to come.

Frio Group at IFA 2018 (Climadiff, Avintage, & La Sommelier)

October 05, 2018 by French Corner Cellars

Our French partner company, Frio Group, has their annual conference showcasing the Climadiff, Avintage, and La Sommelier lines of wine cabinets. Senior Vice President of Frio Didier Grychta presents.

If you were still wondering ‘how much does quality manufacturing matter?

September 28, 2018 by French Corner Cellars
For those of you who enjoyed our video comparing our Avintage wine cabinet against a non-European made unit, we are extending the comparison just a bit further, following a recent event that was brought to our attention.

The newest occurrence involves the failure of the unit to keep itself set at a constant temperature. Having been set at 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the unit began cooling itself reaching a freezing temperature. Had the owner not needed a bottle from his collection and noticed the change, the wine would have been destroyed. Indeed, the content of alcohol and sugar in wine reduces the freezing temperature of the beverage. But when the wine finally freezes, the pressure of the frozen liquid will pop the cork out. Consequently, once the wine returns to a liquid stage, the cabinet is soaking in wine. The wine is then lost and the cabinet probably ruined. As this happened once more after the unit was unplugged and reset, it is now shut down, and used as unrefrigerated storage.

The most surprising aspect of this was the age of the cabinet (barely four years old) and the fact it was kept in the same spot during its entire life time. This type of failure is attributed to the low quality of the components whether it is the thermostat reading the cabinet’s temperature or the digital board triggering the compressor.

All Avintage free standing cabinets are made in Europe use superior components. The quality of materials, and care of production ensures the highest level of performance, and operation consistency. The effort of using quality components and labor has a cost which is obviously reflected in the price of the cabinet. Though, when comparing the additional cost per bottle per year of having a quality unit, it is minimal compare to the cost of the wine which can end up being ruined.

For further insight into Avintage Wine Cabinets, visit our website, or call us at (833) 839-4637.


Comparing a Avintage Wine Refrigeration Unit Against a Non-European Made Model

September 20, 2018 by French Corner Cellars

Bill Schwinghammer of French Corner Cellars give a quick comparison of European made quality vs. the quality of lesser wine refrigeration cabinets.

How to build the perfect multi-temperature wine cabinet: Episode #2 – Sparkling Wines

September 05, 2018 by French Corner Cellars
A six-part series where Bill Schwinghammer of French Corner Cellars gives insight on how to place certain wines in your growing collection into our Avintage DIVA wine refrigeration units.

 Episode #2. – Sparkling wines. For many, the height of sophistication, for others, a fun treat that highlights the perfect day. Either way, it’s one of the most enjoyable beverages on the planet! We go through some of the more notable areas and producers, as well as perfect temperature to serve them!

How to Build the Perfect Multi-Temperature Wine Cabinet: Episode #1 – Sweet Wines

August 28, 2018 by French Corner Cellars

-A six-part series where Bill Schwinghammer of French Corner Cellars gives insight on how to place certain wines in your growing collection into our Avintage DIVA wine refrigeration units.

 Episode #1. - Sweet wines. Not only fun and delicious, but also meant to be stored at the coolest temperature in your Avintage wine cabinet. We go through some of the more notable areas and producers, as well as perfect temperature to serve them!

The Benefits of Aging Wine

August 16, 2018 by French Corner Cellars
The wine enthusiast can be a curious creature to casual wine drinkers. In an age where most wines in North America are meant to be consumed in 1-4yrs, the idea of keeping a wine for a decade (or several), seems odd and unnecessary to people who regularly consume a plump, high-production wine with residual sugar, low tannins, and mild acidity.

But for those who dare to step out of their comfort zone and delve into the ‘how’s’ and ‘whys’ of the wine world, researching and seeking out wines that can rest in a cellar for extended periods of time becomes a hobby, or more often than not, an obsession.

Not that anyone should feel superior or special from this mind you. With the quality of wine increasing, even at a more value price point, it’s hard for some people to justify an extra $20/$30 per bottle for something that A) they’ve never had, and B) they can’t drink for what can be a very long period of time.

Whichever wine consumer you happen to be as you read this, we are going to go over the benefits, and dangers, of putting a good wine down, and letting it knit together in a cellar.

Now, always remember that wines don’t change and develop the same way. It depends on where it’s grown, the vintage, the style of the winemaker, and where it’s stored,

Wines that come from the new-world (California, Australia, Chile, New Zealand, etc.) tend to have more body, more fruit, and less acidity that their old-world counterparts, and you often find that they are plenty drinkable with just a couple hours in a decanter. This is true for two main reasons: the growing seasons are much longer in these warmer climates, and give the grapes more time to ripen (and thus produce more sugar). And secondly, as few consumers are aware of the value of aging wines, when they do purchase a higher-quality bottle, either for a special occasion or for showing off to whomever, they can open it and drink it rather quickly, enjoying the basic notes that come to them.

As round and drinkable as these wines are, what is tasted initially is but a small hint of what’s to come, for under those big, juicy offerings lie a slew of secondary and tertiary notes waiting to be discovered as the aging process lowers the fruity aspects of these big wines, and let the craft of the winemaker come to pass.

On the other end of this spectrum lie the wines of the old world (France, Italy, Spain, Germany, etc.), where many wines have very little to offer in terms of fruit and other pleasurable notes. The term ‘closed’ is often used, as the aging process is not just a formality, but essential to the enjoyment of the wine. These areas see a much cooler climate, with a much shorter growing season, and more challenging vintages. Many believe a more skilled winemaker is needed to craft a wine that can see several decades pass before its able to be consumed.

In the past decade or so we have seen a sort of renaissance if the world of winemaking, as the influences of style and culture cross the oceans, producing wine that feel as though they have been made thousands of miles away, in a climate much different from where they originate. The days of tasting a wine and knowing precisely where it comes from may very well be coming to a close, as the idea that you can make great wine anywhere in the world, in any style you please slowly creep into every corner of the world. Worrying for some, exciting for others.

The one factor that never changes, however, is how to store your wine as it develops. All the research and excitement are wasted if you don’t keep your bottles in a place that sees little-to-no fluctuation in temperature. When someone keeps their wine in a kitchen, laundry room, or above a cupboard, the constant change in temperature can ruin a wine in a matter of weeks.

Keeping a wine for 5-10yrs is relatively easy, but letting a wine rest for 20+ years takes a bit more consistency. For those that have a cellar or basement this can be easier, but for those that don’t have these options, finding a refrigeration unit that best mimics a well-kept cellar is the best course of action. We are more than happy to assist those with questions regarding this, feel free to send us a message.

What makes Avintage wine cabinets so unique?

August 06, 2018 by French Corner Cellars

As we are sure you’ve all noticed, the amount of wine being consumed in the United States and Canada has seen a sharp incline in the recent years. As of 2017, the amount of wine purchases has doubled in the last decade! That increase is paced by the number of new labels to hit our shelves. Walking down the aisles of your local wine shop gives you access to all sorts of interesting and fun bottles you’ve never seen before, many being sold in that sweet $10 spot.

And with all these new, value labels to choose from, comes the other end of the spectrum – imports from other countries, produced by small houses, in small quantities, that range from $30 to past the $100 mark. The difference between both type of labels is usually quality, and amount of time needed to develop in the cellar. And so, in turn, the market for wine cabinets has seen an upward trajectory as well.

Enter French Corner Cellars.

An Avintage Evolution at the Whiteface Lodge, N.Y.

Avintage wine cabinets are a solid alternative to a proper cellar. It replicates the temperature and humidity level needed to age wine or prepare it for consumption. ‘Why Avintage? Why put my money on a product no one has ever heard of in the US and Canada?’

Let’s start with the obvious, which is, we are some of the few that haven’t heard of Avintage cabinets, Frio Group produces over 100,000 units a year. And not combined with other product types, they only produce wine cabinets – that’s a lot of chilled wine! And when we say there is nothing like them in North America, we mean it! Every multi-temperature cabinet currently sold in the U.S. and Canada has a physical separation between temperature zones – picture a cabinet with little compartments separating everything – but Avintage cabinets have a single, open space for your wine without any partitions. This free space is given to us by Frio’s patented Pushed-Air Technology. The cold air generated by the compressor is pushed upwards, and naturally warms up the higher its goes. This circulation gives the cabinets variable temperature, with no partitions!

Pushed-Air technology has been a boon for the wine cabinet market, not only does it supply stable temperature control, it also uses less energy, makes the units barely audible, and gives the option from 1 up to 6 zones of temperature – that’s more variable temperatures than any other unit available on our market! Couple that with a sleek look that goes with any design concept in any room of the house, and you can see why Avintage has become a leading brand in Europe.

There are units for every type of wine enthusiast – our Classic line is single temperature for deep-time storage, the Evolution range is multi-temperature for storage and consuming at proper temperature. The top Avintage cabinet is the Revolution: thin, sleek, modern, with 1-6 zones of temperature. And unlike other cabinets, the multi-temperature units aren’t tethered to any number of zones, it is free and open. A client can have an eclectic wine collection, with any wine ready-to-serve at a moment’s notice, and if they have a special event, perhaps a Champagne evening, you can set your temperature to 45* and fill the cabinet with these friendly bubbles, going right back to the initial settings afterwards.

We hope that this little rundown of Avintage products has given some insight on the quality of our cabinets. When it’s all said and done, French Corner Cellars is about sharing our passion for wine, and hoping that we help with what we all deserve: the best wine, in the best conditions.

How Well Do You Know Alsace?

July 13, 2018 by French Corner Cellars

Alsace, the very mention of its name elicits fond memories for those of us lucky enough to come across one of its dry, racy offerings. Although one of the more highly regarded regions in France, it is also one of the least known to those of us across the pond. With this in mind, we thought we would give you a quick insight into an area responsible for some of the most haunting wines you will ever taste.

Alsace is one of the most Northern wines regions in France, along the southwest boarder of Germany. Because of the location Alsace has seen repeated changes of nationality, as its been passed back and forth between France and Germany several times throughout history, eventually being cemented as a part of France after WWII. Before that, every major power seems to have had its hands on the region, starting as early as 450BC.

Cross-influence between French and German styles began to waiver after 1945, with the German divergence over to less fermented, sweeter wines. Alsace wines, meant to be paired with food, remained dry and fully fermented. As time went on, the differences between their winemaking have diminished, with many German wines becoming drier and more powerful, and some Alsacian wines becoming sweeter. The ‘rediscovery’ of late harvest and dessert wines in Alsace occurred as recently as the 1930’s.

Alsace is split between two main areas: Bas-Rhin to the North, by their Capitol Strasbourg, and Haut-Rhin to the South, by the lower slopes of the Vosges mountains. Haut-Rhine is also home to Alsace’s Grand Cru vineyards. Although winegrowing goes roughly in a North-to-South direction, western influence of the Vosges mountains, and the Rhine river to the east have the biggest impact. The altitude gives balance between sun exposure, temperature, and drainage. The cool evenings afforded by altitude, coupled with the Vosges sheltering from rain and maritime influence brought by the westerly winds keep Alsace dry and sunny, extending their growing season well into the autumn. This gives the grapes good ripeness, and trademark crisp and refreshing acidity.

Many of Alsace’s grape varieties are the same used in Germany: Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner, Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Noir are the main varietals used here. The German practice of naming their wines according to grape variety, rather than location had made its way into their winemaking as well. As far as what to expect, Alsacian wines are predominately white, single variety, and unoaked. So, for those of you accustomed to big, oaky Californian chardonnays – bring some cheese and an open mind, you’ll be glad you did. And as always, be sure you drink your wines at the proper temperature, it makes a world of difference!

The wines of Pouilly-Fumé

June 27, 2018 by French Corner Cellars

The Loire Valley is an area that is part of a growing notion that a region can be at once legendary, but also overlooked and undervalued, especially in a world where the juicy, overdone wines have become the norm. But wine enthusiasts know the best it has to offer is not to be missed, and the big three regions within it – the west around the Muscadet region (melon de Bourgogne), the chenin blanc area around Vouvray, and the “center Loire with Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé – produce wines that leave an indelible mark that you’ll carry with you forever.

Today’s focus is on Pouilly-Fumé, an AOC (Appellation d'origine contrôlée ) created in 1937 around the village of Pouilly-sur-Loire. It is located opposite to Sancerre on the right bank of the Loire river. Wines made here are always Sauvignon Blanc, in fact, Pouilly-Fumé when broken down refers to the village of Pouilly-sur-Loire (Pouilly) and Blanc Fumé - a local nickname for Sauvignon Blanc – (Fumé). The Fumé is French for ‘smoky’, as by derivation these ‘flinty’ notes are a trademark of good Sauvignon Blanc from this region (this smell is called pierre à fusil, or ‘rifle stone’ when literally translated). These flinty notes are attributed to the soil, limestone to the east (also known as Caillotes) and to the west a mix of Kimmeridgian Limestone with presence of fossils, Limestone/clay and siliceous clay.

Pouilly-Fumé’s vineyard dates back from the 5th century, but serious development didn’t occur until the Benedictine Monks received the land in the middle ages. Here’s a fun fact: sacramental wine is traditionally white wine, because red wine constantly stained clothes!

It is also interesting that until the 1860’s, vineyards around Pouilly-sur-Loire were mostly growing Gamay (of Beaujolais fame) and Pinot Noir. Sauvignon Blanc didn’t become dominant until after the Phylloxera louse devastated the land. Indeed, the American rootstock used to graft to the French vines took to the grape more easily. And so, in 2018, Sauvignon Blanc is the most planted grape in the appellation, with Pouilly-Fumé producing 1,859,771 gallons on average years.

A good wine from Pouilly-Fumé should have aromas of green fruit (lime, green apple, gooseberry), grapefruit and citrus notes, supported by mineral aromas of wet wool, slate and smoky flint. The structure and acidity should be vivacious, mouthwatering and nervy. In the mouth, Citrus (grapefruit, lemon) and floral nuances are accompanied by vegetal or mineral notes adding complexity. One of the most common problems when consuming these wines is over-chilling, perfect drinking temperature for cool-climate sauvignon blanc is 44*F, this keeps the balance between the fruit and acidity.