Showing posts with label DRC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DRC. Show all posts

Saturday, December 31, 2022

The Water of Life Named Marc

I recently had my first taste of a Marc de Bourgogne, thanks to an old friend. Not just any marc, but one that is made from the pomace of the elusive, exclusive Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (affectionately known as DRC and definitely a bucket list wine). While I am not a connoisseur of fine spirits, this marc was aromatic, luscious, smooth, and without the slightest bit of burn.

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Marc de Bourgogne

Fascinated, I decided to dig a little deeper - What is marc? Is it different from brandy or grappa? What makes it special?

Marc vs. Brandy

Marc (pronounced “mahr”) is short for eau de vie de marc, which literally translates to water of life of the grape pomace. It is more commonly known as pomace brandy. The term “brandy” is generally used to describe a spirit that is distilled from wine. If a fruit wine is used for distillation, then the distillate will be referred to as that particular fruit brandy; such as plum brandy or pear brandy. Marc however is distilled from grape pomace rather than wine. So what is grape pomace? 

Grape pomace by Olivier Colas
In winemaking and especially for red wine, crushed grapes (including pulp, skin, seeds, and stems) are fermented with the juice. When the fermentation is done, the wine is pressed to extract the juice from the solid grape debris. What is then left on the press is alcoholic grape pomace that can be distilled into marc. 

The general opinion of experts in fine spirits is that wine brandy is more refined, aromatic, and complex than pomace brandy. However, Marc de Bourgogne breaks the rustic spirit stereotype. It is multi-dimensional, smooth, and velvety. A vintage DRC marc further brings it up several notches and is definitely la crème de la crème.

Marc vs. Grappa

For the longest time, I had always associated brandy with distillate from wine and grappa with distillate from pomace. Beyond my over-simplified paradigm of grape spirits, the world of brandies spans countries, terroirs, grape varieties as well as distillation and aging methods. Now let’s delve into the difference between marc and grappa.

Grappa by Joel & Jasmin Førestbird on Unsplash

The obvious difference is that marc is French and grappa is Italian and consequently the different grape varieties used. For instance, Marc de Bourgogne is made from one or several of the Burgundian grapes such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Aligoté. While grappa may be made from the respective regional grapes, a special category known as aromatic grappa is made from the more “fragrant” grape varieties, such as Moscato, Gewürztraminer, Müller-Thurgau, and Riesling.

Marc and grappa also have different aging requirements. According to French regulations, Marc de Bourgogne has to age at least two years uninterrupted in an oak barrel. It is not uncommon however for aging to go on for 10 to 20 years. Grappa, on the other hand, is only required to rest for 6 months after distillation and does not have to age in oak. As a result, grappa tends to be a clear spirit while marc is darker with a caramel tinge.

Still intrigued? Check out this educational comparative tasting of Marc de Bourgogne and grappa by YouTube reviewer, Scott of Different Spirits. 

My Verdict: I am so blessed to be able to try a very special Marc de Bourgogne. While you can get a bottle of Marc de Bourgogne for under $100, marcs from many reputable Burgundian wineries run in the hundreds and one from DRC may run in the thousands, that is if you can get your hands on a bottle. If you find marc in a restaurant digestif menu, you should try it. I’d love to know what you think.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

What Makes a High-End Wine?

In the wine world, there are the Two Buck Chucks, and then there are Château Latour or even Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (affectionately known as the DRC). There is a vast price difference between high-end and mass-produced wines, but is there a corresponding difference in taste and quality? Let's consider what goes into a good wine.

Wines of Pauillac
High-end wineries are very picky about their grapes. Many will only use grapes from their estate vineyards, where they have complete control on how to grow the best grapes possible. This includes the type of fertilizers used, pest and disease management, canopy management, irrigation (if even allowed), green harvesting, and actual harvesting practices. While controversial, there is the terroir factor - the secret something in the land that gives the grapes or the wine a distinct character. All the above can be costly.

Wineries of mass-produced wines are less fussy about their grapes. Many of them use excess or leftover grapes or juice from other wineries or vineyards. Or they may own inexpensive parcels of vineyards that are not known for quality grapes. These wineries have limited, if any, control or interest in vineyard management. The main goal is to get a large quantity of decent grapes or juice at a low price.

Estate vineyards

Wine Making Practices
Winemakers of high-end wineries are very particular about how they make their wine. Each may differ in his or her own style and philosophy. Some are almost esoteric and minimalist in their approaches. Lalou Bize-Leroy, a firm believer of biodynamic wine making, is almost mystical in the way she guides the evolution from juice to wine. Others apply scientific analysis and use the latest technology to rigorously and meticulously monitor and direct the wine making process. Christophe Perrot-Minot is one such winemaker, who is extremely comfortable with technology and leverages it to produce the best wine out of his grapes.

High-end wineries are also particular about cooperage. The type of oak, grain, toast, and even size of the casks adds flavor, complexity, and mouthfeel to the wine. Some of these wineries even have their own cooperage so that they can control the quality of the barrels.

Makers of mass-produced wine use technology and equipment extensively to produce huge quantities of wine. In fact, these wineries benefited most from the scientific understanding of the wine making process. With more tests and supplements available, the ability to augment lower-quality grapes to produce viable wine has grown exponentially in the last couple of decades.

Add or remove sugar to manage the alcohol level of the final product. Adjust the acid level to achieve the right level of brightness. Use big steel vats that are easily re-usable and less costly and then supplement with oak chips or beans or staves to mimic the wine maturation process that would otherwise happen in an oak barrel.

Consumer's Taste
Ultimately, the difference between high-end and mass-produced wines today is fairly nuanced. If it tastes good and is within your budget, then that is the right wine for you. If you can't really tell the difference but enjoy and are able to afford to drink high-end wines anyways, knock yourselves out and invite some good friends to join you. If you have a palate that appreciates the higher-end wines and your bank account is agreeable, savor an extraordinary bottle. You are blessed!

My Verdict: Personally, I am not a fan of most mass-produced wines. I like my wine to have some complexity in it. Since I also don't drink very much, a nice bottle will last me a few days to a week with my Sharper Image wine saver. Thankfully, the higher-end wines tend to hold up a little longer as well. And when a friend invites me to taste some Bordeaux First Growths, I am most grateful.