At its heart, Tuscany is home to the red sangiovese grape. You might not have heard of it, because like many of Italy’s indigenous vines, this one doesn’t love to travel. But you’ve probably heard of Chianti, which has grown up from its bottle-as-candle holder days into a high-quality offering at prices that range from steal to splurge. As with many Italian wines, the Chianti name refers to the growing district rather than the grape. “Classico” refers to the historic heart of the Chianti zone, and “riserva” means the wine has had extra aging. If you have heard wine geeks refer to so-called “Super Tuscan” wines, these are wines made to push the boundaries of Tuscan tradition by mixing French grapes and, very often, French barrels with the local varieties. The results are magnifico, so if you feel like splurging, check them out.
PARIS. Synonymous with gaiety, good food for gastronomes, gorgeous gowns, delectable wine, all the good things of life, is unrivaled, appealing Paris. The early morning mists on the Seine, the lazy-plying barges, the ever-patient fishermen, the spellbinding orators in the Chamber of Deputies, the gaunt, leafless trees along the quays in the fall, the flowering horse-chestnut trees in the spring, the breath-taking vistas from the bridges, the ageless, awe-inspiring beauty of the churches, the avid poets and painters, all this and much, much more is Paris. For centuries generation after generation of people from all over the world have gravitated to her narrow alleys and wide boulevards, for Paris “is not just a city, she is a world.” To women, she is the undisputed center of high fashion, the acknowledged authority on what well-dressed beauties everywhere should wear. As style leader, the showings of top Paris dress designers draw all the editors, manufacturers and buyers of the fashion world, while their collections continually attract wealthy shoppers and less-wealthy window-shoppers. The noted Rue de la Paix is identical with Parisian- elegance, an air every woman openly or secretly strives to exude. Not only the epitome of glamour, this fabulous capital has been a focal point of culture, too. In Paris, history, poetry and art sit on every doorstep, set the backdrop for everyday living, and great painters, musicians and writers have all been caught in the seductive web she weaves. The left bank of the Seine, lined by the famous open-air book stalls, is the intellectual and governmental section. Here is the Sorbonne, center of the University of Paris, perhaps the most influential and greatest school of liberal arts in Europe; the classical Church of Saint-Sulpice, with famous paintings by Delacroix, and noteworthy Saint-Germain-de-Pres, oldest church in Paris, dating from the eleventh century. The gallery of nearby Ecole des Beaux Arts, scene of the annual wild Art Students’ Ball, displays works of Fragonard, David and Ingres. Radiating from the university is the Latin Quarter, second oldest and one of the most picturesque sections in the city. For centuries these streets around Boulevard Saint-Michel have been the haunt of university students and teachers. Also in this area are the Cluny Museum, one of the fine medieval buildings still standing in Paris, housing a rare collection of medieval arts and crafts, and the Luxembourg Palace and Museum, surrounded by its beautiful gardens, housing contemporary painting and sculpture.
NYC Wine & Food festival
In October, international chefs and TV personalities converged to showcase their culinary chops. At the 100-Mile Brunch, all ingredients were sourced within 100 miles of NYC. Last held: October 8-11, 2009. nycwineandfoodfestival.com/2009
Food & Wine Classic in Aspen
Five thousand foodies converge for three days of culinary trends, cooking seminars and wine tastings, with more than 50,000 bottles to be sampled. June 2010. foodandwine.com/classic
South Beach Wine & Food festival
In its ninth year, Miami’s “SoBe” Wine & Food Festival draws culinary personalities and winemakers from around the world for four days of seminars, tastings and live auctions. February 2010. sobewineandfoodfest.com
Singapore’s World Gourmet Summit
A celebration of international gourmet cuisine and wines, the Summit hosts more than 40 high-end events, including the Wildlife Gourmet Safari, over the course of 14 days. April 2010. worldgourmetsummit.com
Cornucopia, Whistler, Canada
Many seminars throughout the four-day festival. At night, meet acclaimed chefs and sommeliers at a tasting gala or two. Last held: November 12-15, 2009. whistler-cornucopia.com
En route to the city of Bordeaux from Bergerac, France, where Belingard is located, is the impeccably preserved medieval town of St. Emilion. Its winding, cobblestone streets are lined with expensive wine shops, all touting “worldwideshipping” in English and Japanese. Here you can descend into the cramped hermitage where the monk, Emilion, received pilgrims in the 8th century. The disciples who followed Emilion herewere the ones who started a wine trade in earnest.
At Chateau Franc Mayne, a nearby vineyard, it’s possible to tour the former limestone quarries whose pale ochre innards were used to build the town. The quarries beneath this and many other St. Emilion chateaux are now wine caves-happily, they possess the perfect conditions for aging wine in oak barrels. A tour guide points out a skylight punched into the roof of Franc Mayne’s cave. It shows the cross-section of limestone that gives St. Emilion’s mostly merlot and cabernet franc grapes their character, along with the stories of Roman poets and monks and queens, of course.
In Bordeaux, the busy Place de la Comedie is the city’s social center. Mayor Alain Juppe launched an aggressive clean-up and modernization initiative when he was elected in 1995, and today the city is an obvious “after.” A sleek tram makes it easy to get around, and the bulk of 8th century facades have been sandblasted to remove centuries of built-up dust and grime from the porous yellow limestone. The broad avenues gleam, and the tiny squares at the ends of the St. Pierre quarter’s narrow streets are packed with students, young couples and families, caffeinating, kissing and splashing in fountains.
On the banks of the Garonne River, many plaques advertise the offices of negociants, or wine merchants. Negociants have been trading from this port since the mid-r2th century, when Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henryof Plantagenet, the future Henry II of England, which led to many trade exchanges between Bordeaux and England and the golden age of claret.
That tidbit is imparted duringatwo-day course called “Bordeaux Wine Tasting, from A to Z” at L’Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux, a few blocks from the Regent Grand Hotel. After this crash course in a classroom with white-slab countertops and chrome spit-sinks, it’s practically required to apply the new knowledge downstairs at the posh Le Bar a Vin. More than go wines by the glass are available, and little foldout maps on each table pinpoint where each wine originated. The servers are well equipped to steer people toward clarity when the breadth of choices becomes overwhelming.
Just 45 minutes from Santiago is Concha y Toro’s Casillero del Diablo(cellar of the devil) winery. It is one of Chile’s most historic wineries, and the cafe and tasting room make it a delicious jumping off point to Chile’s Valle Central wine-growing region. On wine labels, you are likely to see the names of top subzones such as Maipo, Colchagua and Curico, which are famous for growing Chile’s best reds from the cabernet sauvignon and carmenere grapes. The cabs can be every bit as elegant and powerful as their counterparts in Bordeaux and California, often at a fraction of the price. And the carmenere, with its spicy-meaty-savory notes, is a truly distinctive red that’s irresistible with hearty dishes like stews and rich cheeses.
What about whites? Chile has that covered in the Casablanca district. Sandwiched between Santiago and Chile’s gorgeous Pacific coastline, it gets cooled by oceanbreezes, making it the perfect home for growing lively, zingy, passion fruit-scented sauvignon blancs that are the best white wine deals going right now.
Fori the foodie and wine buff, it’s no exaggeration to say that Sonoma could be called heaven. l can think of no other place where you can find local, world-class examples of every possible wine style-and the artisanal food to go with them.
The reason is the county’s incredible climate and geographical diversity. For example, near the seacoast, ocean breezes create the cool climate needed to grow amazing chardonnay whites along with pinot noir reds that are every bit as good as French Burgundy. Look for the subregions of either Sonoma Coast or the Russian River Valley on the label, and you’ll know you’re in the right place. Away from the coast, there are sun-soaked valleys with ripe and juicy chardonnays, sauvignon blancs and merlots that are often labeled as Sonoma County and typically budget-friendly. The Dry Creek Valley and Alexander Valley subregions serve up wind-whipped hillside vineyards and pleateaus so rocky and rugged you’de thinl no vine would want call them home, yet, big zins and cabernets thrive there. For a sensory experience of wine and food, visit Kendall-Jackson’s estate in Santa Rosa. For a taste of history and excellent pinot noirs, visit Buena Vista, California’s oldest winery, in the town of Sonoma.