Wine Reviews: Chilean Carménère

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-09-2017

tGsMQlKCTyBQOEOpeLHT4fdC0tFsQn7Z5QBkadUn8KwpX92IBAlright, folks, it’s Carménère time!

As many wine nerds know, this native Bordeaux grape has found a thriving home in the warm, high elevation vineyards of Chile. Brought over from France in the 1800s, its true identity lay undiscovered until relatively recently — most people thought it was Merlot.

Nope! Carménère endures, and we have Chilean growers to thank for that. The country accounts for the lion’s share (>95%) of Carménère wine made anywhere in the world.

Within Chile, the grape has been challenging Merlot for the #2 spot (after Cabernet Sauvignon). With so many different valleys, terroirs, winemakers, growing and winemaking philosophies, Chilean Carménère is a diverse and dynamic category. I love the dark fruit, the herbaceous and spicy qualities, along with the tannic grip and moderating acidity I find in a lot of these wines, but the nuances are significant. While many are made to be consumed young, the more structured Carménères are clearly built to last.

And, when you consider the value of these wines, there’s a lot to get excited about. Year after year, I find more of these wines on offer in the U.S., and the quality and value seems to be consistent, with a few notable standouts.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: How AI Saved a Winery

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 12-07-2017

Palmaz Vineyards' gravity-flow and gravity-finish subterranean winery, the Cave. (Source: Palmaz Vineyards)

Palmaz Vineyards’ gravity-flow and gravity-finish subterranean winery, the Cave. (Source: Palmaz Vineyards)

In Bloomberg, Larissa Zimberoff reports on how artificial intelligence helped save Palmaz Vineyards during the wildfires in California wine country. “Palmaz says his homegrown temperature-tweaking AI at his family’s vineyard saved at least $10 million worth of wine…”

Tim Atkin reflects on how wine has become a luxury product over the last decade. “Provenance and authenticity are a large part of this, but so is scarcity… most fine wine has an identifiable sense of place and, just as importantly, is still made by human beings. Does that explain its growing popularity?”

“It has been almost two weeks (at time of writing) since a French website alleged that a Bordeaux wine trader had managed to pass off more than 400,000L of Languedoc wine as Bordeaux… I have struggled to find a single major wine news source that has followed this up…” In Wine-Searcher, Oliver Styles looks at the bigger picture of wine fraud.

“Vineyard 48 wasn’t the cause of many of Long Island Wine Country’s problems. It was the result,” writes Lenn Thompson in the Cork Report. “So the question now becomes what can and will the industry do to change the culture it has helped cultivate?”

In Purple Pages, Chris Hardy of Charles Sydney Wines reports that the Loire 2017 harvest shows early promise.

Grape Collective talks with Bruno Paillard about his winemaking philosophy and going organic in Champagne.

W. Blake Gray shares a few notes from PinotFest. “I was thinking, wow, the West Coast is really doing great things with this grape… Then I ran into a sommelier and wine instructor I have known for years, and she was shaking her head.”

In Forbes, Tom Mullen explains why he thinks Crus du Beaujolais wines deserve renewed attention.

Daily Wine News: On Subjectivity

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 12-06-2017

(Source: Pixabay)

(Source: Pixabay)

“Is there any more legitimate or valid assessment of wine—especially fine wine—than the subjective?” wonders Matt Kramer in Wine Spectator. “Without the subjective response why would we even bother with wine?”

In SevenFifty Daily, a drinks lawyer demystifies the recent buzz around legal changes affecting alcohol shipping in the U.S.

W. Blake Gray reports on the efforts being made to get wine shipping laws before the Supreme Court in Wine-Searcher.

“West Coast Nouveau is America’s best and most essential wine trend right now,” says Jordan Michelman in Sprudge Wine. “That stuffy wine bullshit my generation of drinkers are working to recast, democratize, and dismantle? West Coast Nouveau is the tip of the spear.”

On the eve of his Hall of Fame induction, Warren Winiarski shares his thoughts about Napa’s wine industry with Henry Lutz in the Napa Valley Register.

On his blog Do Bianchi, Jeremy Parzen wants to know when sexual harassment in the wine trade is going to be addressed.

In Food & Wine, Jillian Kramer looks at the steps you need to take if you want to become a Master of Wine.

Can Midwestern wines compete with California’s? To find out, the Wall Street Journal’s Lettie Teague travels to Kansas City for the Jefferson Cup Invitational Wine Competition. (subscription req.)

Daily Wine News: Is Natural Wine Over?

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 12-05-2017

(Flickr: Chris Pople)

(Flickr: Chris Pople)

“Sometimes it seems that being cool is what counts, and that natural winemakers are immune from criticism, even when they are making placeless wines while speaking a lot about the importance of terroir. You can’t have it both ways: Does the wine taste of the place or the process?” In VinePair, Jamie Goode wonders if natural wine is over. “Could it be that the natural wine movement has sort of done its job?”

“From a health point of view, alcohol levels belong on labels: no question. From the aesthetic perspective, though, I deeply regret the free availability of this information… Why? Because it unduly and often inaccurately influences tasting judgments.” In Decanter, Andrew Jefford suggests we’re getting it wrong with alcohol.

According to the National Association of Wine Retailers, “89% of wines available in the American marketplace are unavailable in Michigan.”

In Wine & Spirits Magazine, Deanna Gonnella reviews two new books on Champagne—Peter Liem’s Champagne and Tyson Stelzer’s The Champagne Guide—and considers their different views.

“Writing about wine is at a turning point. If the writing is well done, it can serve to lift us out of the constant sea of disruption,” says Alfonso Cevola, who shares a few wine stories that have recently given him hope.

In Vinous, Stephen Tanzer offers his thoughts on the Mâconnais 2016 and 2015 vintages.

Tom Wark looks at how cannabis is impacting alcohol sales in California.

In Forbes, Tom Mullen considers the challenges Barolo faces in a modern world.

Daily Wine News: The Death of Terroir?

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 12-04-2017

wine listIs climate change going to be the death of terroir? James Lawrence explores the complicated answer in Wine-Searcher. “Terroir, we’re taught, is the coming together of the climate, soil and the landscape… Climate, we’re told, is just one of many key elements. Yet would any grower question the axiom that climate, or indeed the growing season’s weather is the most important deciding factor in determining style and quality?”

Kelli White of Guild Somm reflects on the importance of wine list awards. “What is the benefit of these awards? Does prestige necessarily lead to profit? Are these accolades simply another notch on the resume of the receiving sommelier, or is their value tied to their ability to put “butts in seats,” per the old restaurant adage?”

In Wine Enthusiast, Roger Voss looks at what makes Champagnes that come from Le Mesnil-sur-Oger so special.

“Does being a sommelier sometimes mean your liver is a martyr for the business?” In SevenFifty Daily, Victoria James, beverage director of Cote in New York, chronicles what a month long hiatus from drinking is when you’re a sommelier.

Vine diseases are moving at a rapid clip across the world’s vineyards. In Meininger’s, Michaela Morris looks at how Monferrato in Italy is being affected.

In VinePair, Courtney Scheissl explores the appeal of demi-sec Champagne.

Jancis Robinson recommends a list of dry white wines for festive drinking.

In the Washington Post, Dave McIntyre offers three tips for giving the gift of wine.

Wine Reviews: Arizona Wines from Aridus

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-03-2017

uVESaUeSc5MSZLpKUY5RWYs5hVFWcG9oKYNo_cSkmBopX92IBScott and Joan Dahmner founded Aridus in 2012 in Wilcox, Arizona. Their winery, whose name is a derivation of the Latin word for dry or arid, sources grapes from about 40 acres of estate vineyards (which rests at 5,200 feet in elevation). They also crush grapes from other vineyards in Arizona, and some grapes from New Mexico and California.

Built in a re-purposed apple warehouse, the Aridus winery produces a dizzying array of wines, everything form a New Mexico Pet-Nat Malvasia Bianca to Cochise County, Arizona Syrah and Malbec.

2017 marked the fifth vintage for this winery, and the first year their estate vineyard yielded white wines (Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Malvasia Bianca). This ambitious effort is another good example of what I see in the evolving face of Arizona wine. I find Arizona to be a dynamic scene full of exciting producers and diverse, delicious wines.

Why Arizona? “Hot days, cool nights, minerality in the soil,” Proprietor Scott Dahmer says. “I believe Arizona is the next up and coming grape growing region which will produce unique, world-class delicious wines.” (For more details on my Arizona wine country jaunts, and why I tend to agree with Scott’s strong statement, check out this piece I wrote earlier this year.)

I received these wines as trade samples and tasted them sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: International Grab Bag

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-02-2017

This week I have another catch-all report, sourced from various samples received from wine regions around the world. The stars of the show for me are the Don Melchor, which is true to form and so suave, and a killer Merlot from McLaren Vale’s Hickinbotham. Oh, and Spanish producer Arinzano makes another appearance. We also have some more budget-friendly wines from France, Spain and Italy.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review: The New Wine Rules, by Jon Bonné

Posted by | Posted in Book Reviews | Posted on 12-01-2017

The New Wine Rules - CoverIn naming his book The New Wine Rules, Jon Bonné has essentially asserted the authority of his own line in the sand. But hey, someone has to do it. Because in a world of 24-hour opinion sharing, sometimes we need to hit the pause button, collect ourselves, and establish basic guidance for those who, amidst so much noise and so little objectivity, are just trying to enjoy a bottle of wine.

We need, in Bonné’s words, a “framework for embracing this weird, wonderful wine world that we get to live in.”

There’s something for everyone in Bonné’s book, which consists of 89 rules. But it will be especially helpful for beginner wine folks in need of a confidence boost—the two words I think best capture the sentiment of the book. From the five essential wine tools you should own, to the basics of malolactic fermentation, to starting a wine collection for under $300, you’ll get practical information, concisely presented.

Bonné has an impressive resume: senior contributing editor at Punch, author of The New California Wine, wine consultant for JetBlue Airways, and former wine editor and chief wine critic at the San Francisco Chronicle. But he won’t overwhelm you with knowledge. Each rule is pared down for quick consumption and broad understanding.

I particularly enjoy Bonné’s aggressive attempts to wrest wine from a past marked by pretentiousness and exclusivity—“Screw that. Fear was the guiding principle of the past. We’re officially done. Wine is too great a thing to be limited by fear”—and a present drowning in an abundance of choices—“Endless fretting takes place over this simple question: what do I drink with what I eat? … In any case, stop worrying. There is no single perfect pairing. Drink what you like. … We’ll all get out of this alive.”

The New Wine Rules is a sharp book. It’s small (roughly 5”x7”) with a stitched binding and full of crisp, colorful diagrams and pictogram-like illustrations.

My Recommendation
As Bonné says, “Certainly the world doesn’t need another ‘drink this, not that’ book.” I think he’s succeeded in giving us something else: an expert’s compilation of practical advice for the average drinker who wants to talk intelligently with friends and make semi-educated choices for Friday nights and special occasions. It’s an ideal read heading into holiday party season. On that note, I’ll leave you with Rules 81 and 82: “Don’t be the guest who brings the cheap stuff” and “Don’t assume your bottle will get opened.”

Daily Wine News: Sparkling & Sweetness

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 12-01-2017

Flickr, Jérôme-.

Flickr, Jérôme-.

Dosage isn’t all about sweetness, says Peter Liem in Wine & Spirits Magazine. “Rather, the importance of dosage in Champagne lies in its intricate interaction with other elements of the wine… dosage functions much like salt: We don’t necessarily add salt to a dish to make it salty, but to enhance our perception of other flavors.”

SodaStream has introduced a sparkling wine product. According to a press release, the latest addition to the DIY soda line is a “fine alcoholic concentrate” called “Sparkling Gold” and essentially allows SodaStream owners to turn tap water into a sparkling wine that has “the taste of a fruity Riesling wine.” (Sparkling Gold is currently only available in Germany.)

Does a better glass for Champagne exist? In Meininger’s, Felicity Carter contemplates a new glass invention, the “Synergy” glass.

In Decanter, Jane Anson reports on how the Bordeaux 2017 vintage is shaping up.

Are the reputations of the world’s “great” wines based on simple class snobbery? Oliver Styles explores the answer in Wine-Searcher.

In Forbes, Cathy Huyghe talks to Pascaline Lepeltier about what will shape the future of the wine industry,

In the New York Times, Eric Asimov recommends five wine books to gift this holiday.

In SevenFifty Daily, Vicki Denig explores the pros and cons of shelf talkers.

Daily Wine News: Bubbly & Beyond

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 11-30-2017

(Source: Charles Heidsieck)

In the World of Fine Wine, Anthony Rose is granted access to the collection of old Champagnes stored beneath Charles Heidsieck’s Reims headquarters.

Aaron Goldfarb delves into the strange history of drinking bubbly from women’s shoes in VinePair.The strange, once-popular practice is said to be of Russian origin, dating back to the late 19th century… Drinking from a shoe eventually spread to other countries, footwear, and beverages.”

W. Blake Gray takes a look at Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 Wines list. “Basically, the Wine Enthusiast list reads like its critics get in a room and fight for their favorites, which are all over the map… But it also represents the way the modern wine world actually is.”

Andrea Frost writes her final column for “Looking back to February 2015, it’s hard to believe it’s the same world in which I wrote my first article. The transformation has been gargantuan.”

In SB Nation, Tim Cato looks at LeBron James’ taste in wine based on bottles he has posted on Instagram.

In Meininger’s, Felicity Carter speaks to the founders of Wine Mosaic, which wants to change how heavily the world of wine relies on a handful of grapes.

Not Drinking Poison in Paris’s Aaron Ayscough offers an update from Paris, where he has been managing a restaurant called Chez La Vieille and working to sell a book about the wines of Beaujolais.

Bert Celce shares a report from this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau Day in Paris.