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Campania, an Italian Gem!

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Campania, located on the front of the “ankle” of Italy’s boot, boasts some of the most remarkable historic, ancient and modern attractions in all of Italy. From Naples to Pompeii, the Amalfi coast and some of the most fertile lands in Italy, you should definitely not skip it when you plan to visit Italy.

Campania has a long history. The Greeks, then the Etruscans, both settled the area. The first major city of the area, Capua, formed in the 5th century BC. Although the name Campania seems to come from the word “Campus,” Latin for field, it actually pre-dates the Romans. Perhaps they got the word for plain from the name? It remains to this day the best place to grow all sorts of Italian staples, from tomatoes to eggplants to, of course, grapes!

It became culturally Roman in the 4th century BC, eventually becoming first a colony, then an official region, of the empire. After the Romans, the Goths, Byzantines, and Lombards all conquered the region. In the 11th century, the Normans incorporated Campania into the kingdom of Sicily. It then became part of the Kingdom of Naples after the Wars of Sicilian Vespers against the French in 1282. It took until 1860 for it to be united with what we now think of as modern day Italy.

Today, the region thrives on agriculture, tourism, fishing, and modern industry. In fact, it is Italy’s southernmost area with an industrial center, mostly around Naples. Artisans throughout the region craft coral, pearls, tortoiseshell, leather, and lace into gorgeous works of art that make unforgettable souvenirs. And of course, Naples makes the world’s most famous pizzas!

Though the Amalfi coast is perhaps the most recognizable, and visited, attraction Campania has many other fantastic sites dot the land. Pompeii, of course, is a must see, as are other areas also buried by the famous eruption of Mount Vesuvius (still an active volcano!). Non-roman architecture and still active towns offer nearly limitless sights and adventures all on their own! And that’s not even mentioning Campania’s amazing wines, revered throughout Italy.

To celebrate this gorgeous, historic, and welcoming place, we’ve highlighted two amazing wines in our Wine Club! When you make it to Campania, let us know, and we can help you set up some winery visits!

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Wine Club Release: Rosé All Day!!!

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It’s officially summer at Grand Cata! Our rosé table is in full force, the fridge is packed with every shade of beautiful pink juice there is, and the weather builds a thirst that can only be quenched by a freezing cold glass of rosé!

We take great pride in our role in bringing rosé into the spotlight by finding and promoting excellent bottles that change perceptions and taste amazing. We want you to feel confident that when you reach for a bottle of rosé in our shop, it’s something truly special, interesting, and fun.

In keeping with this, we’ve decided to focus on rosé for this month’s release. Both hail from South America - one from each coast, in fact. The first, a light salmon colored selection that is a textbook Provence-style. It’s light, citrusy, super fresh, and infinitely poundable. A true poolside wine, from the Atlantic coast in Uruguay, this wine comes from Grazón, a producer we can’t get enough of. Descorchados named this wine the best rosé in South America this year!

For the other, we travel to the Pacific coast in Chile. It comes from Erasmos, another producer we absolutely love, and the only one to have two wines featured in our wine club. It’s a more robust rosé, in both texture and color. This wine has striking flavors of young strawberries, summer flowers, and crunchy minerals. Drink it with grilled salmon, and thank us later!

We will release these two beauts this Sunday, starting at 2pm. We’ll have other rosés open to taste, and we’ll also have a seasonally appropriate cocktail on hand for you to taste. It promises to be a fun party! See you Sunday!

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Grape to Glass - Pay Attention to Extraction

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We keep a close eye at Grand Cata on the concept of extraction. Though most of this process happens during fermentation, we felt it needed its own Grape to Glass installment.

Why is extraction so important? Put simply, balance. We love wines with the proper balance between all of its core components. A wine that’s over-extracted, or one that’s under-extracted, will have holes and lumps that distract from the overall enjoyment of a wine. Basically, improperly extracted wines are distorted.

But what is extraction? If you’ve ever made stock before, you’ve already got your head wrapped most of the way around the concept. Just sub out the vegetables, herbs, bones and aromatics, and replace them with grape must, comprised mostly of the grape skins.

Skins have a ton of flavor and textural compounds in them. Pull too much of these compounds into the wine, and just like stock, the result is too intense and devoid of finesse. Too little, and what’s the point? And also like stock, the appropriateness of the result depends on the ingredients and the goal at the end.

For example, the prized pork stock that’s used in Ramen takes almost two days to make. There’s a lot of extraction going on. Yet, it’s still subtle in the right ways, extremely flavorful, and completely inappropriate for making another Japanese classic, Miso soup. The context matters.

In the wine world, compare Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. One has thin skins and delicate flavors, the other thick skins, and rich, complex flavors. If you over extract Pinot Noir, you end up with something that tastes like cough syrup. If you under extract Cab, the wine feels weak and uneasy, and you’ll miss out on key characteristics that fill out the experience. However, with both grapes, you can easily go too far the other way. Over-extracted Cabernet will take decades to calm down in the bottle enough to drink, and even then it may never even out. And Pinot Noir that’s not extracted enough has little character.

So what are some of the ways that a winemaker controls extraction? They start in the vineyard, by assessing things like sun exposure, timing of harvest (recall the first Grape to Glass piece on the importance of grape-picking), soil type, and the age of the vines. In the winery, some classic techniques include punching down the must using a pole to make sure more of the skins come into contact with the juice, rack and return, and pumping over.

Rack and return means you let the must settle, then “rack” from below the must, and then pour the juice over the must. Pumping over is similar, except instead of transferring the bottom layer of juice into another vessel first (racking), a pump is used to take the juice from the bottom of the tank and spraying it over the top. In all three cases, the goal is to get more of the juice in contact with the must.

If you want less extraction, removing some of the must is one option. You can also remove it all together once you get the extraction you want. Finally, shortening up or elongating the fermentation will either lead to more extraction (longer), or less (shorter). You can do this though temperature control, choice of yeast, or both.

So next time your looking at a crystal clear Sauv Blanc (super low extraction), or a young Cabernet (high extraction), marvel at the dance between nature and humans that wine represents, and think about how different that wine could have been had the winemaker made different choices as it relates to extraction.

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