Web Extra: More One-Liners from Belinda Chang
How to Silence the Insufferable Wine Snob at Your Table, Part 2
Three bonus one-Liners from Belinda Chang, sommelier and wine and spirits director for Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand’s restaurant company, Cenitare, based in Buffalo Grove
1. “I love Dom, too; but when I really want to throw down I order Salon.”
EXPLAINER: Tradition-bound Champagne houses declare vintages only in great years, and Salon is the most selective among the prestige brands, having declared only 32 vintage years since it was founded in 1921. Furthermore, Salon produces only about 50,000 bottles in a declared vintage, compared with Cristal and Dom Pérignon, each of which produces numbers in the hundreds of thousands. (The most recent Salon vintage, 1996, sells for $500 a bottle at Tramonto’s Steak & Seafood, which Chang notes is priced only $25 over her wholesale cost. “I want to reward the people who know what they’re doing,” she says.)
BELINDA SAYS: “Salon’s blanc de blancs [made exclusively from the white-wine chardonnay grape] are truly some of the finest and the rarest Champagnes made. The ’85 is remarkable, as is the ’73.”
2. “Everyone was drinking Tavel rosé in the Hamptons last year. It reminds me of the south of France, and I love how it goes with everything!”
EXPLAINER: Tavel (pronounced “tah-VELL”) is a region in France known for making great pink wines, called rosé. The thing to know about the rosé-making process is that many of the world’s best examples are made through a process called saignée (pronounced “sehn-YAY”)—or the salasso method if the wine is from Italy. This means the juice is allowed to ferment briefly with purple and black grape skins, resulting in a more “serious” rosé because it has absorbed flavor and tannins through contact with the skins. The cheap way to make a rosé is to mix red and white wines fermented separately.
BELINDA SAYS: “The saignée method is only sometimes marked on the bottle. But wine people will make a point of telling you if a rosé is made this way. Or you can ask, as in: ‘Is that rosé saignée method?’ ”
3. “I really prefer more terroir-driven styles to the international wines that some people are making these days. If you can’t taste the Tuscan sun or the stones of the vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the wine, then what is the point?”
EXPLAINER: First off, it’s “tair-WAHR,” and the word is French for “land.” When people speak about terroir and wine, they’re saying that a wine should taste like a product of the place where the grapes were grown. For example, a chardonnay from the Chablis region of France should taste mineraly and sea-salty, owing to the fact that the grapes there are planted in soil that contains fossilized sea creatures from ancient lakes. Wines made in the “international style” simply mimic known styles, grape blends, and processing methods.
BELINDA SAYS: “This whole terroir thing—if you’re a sommelier and you don’t believe in it, you should be in a different line of business. Wine is all about those supersubtle distinctions.”