Daily Wine News: A White Bordeaux Year

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 02-12-2016

James Suckling prefers the 2013 white Bordeaux wines to the reds. (Wikimedia)

James Suckling prefers the 2013 white Bordeaux wines to the reds. (Wikimedia)

James Suckling offers his thoughts on Bordeaux 2013 (for free), and says the whites are excellent but doubts he “will buy many 2013 reds.”

The potential for natural wine in the USA is “huge” according to Isabelle Legeron MW, founder of RAW, which will be held in Brooklyn in November.

In Decanter, Jane Anson examines the impact of a recent French television documentary on the danger of pesticides, and finds out more about experiments to create a ‘no spray’ vineyard using disease resistant grape varieties.

In the New York Times, Eric Asimov finds a range of differing terroirs all over Mendoza and impressive wines beyond malbec. “…as Australia has been stereotyped, perhaps unfairly, as a source of only heavy, fruity wines, so has Argentina been typed by the popular style of malbec.”

The Economist looks into how the Turkish government is repressing the country’s wine industry at home, while helping it to sell abroad.

Wine-Searcher reports that an authentication expert has linked a Hong Kong auction house to Rudy Kurniawan.

Steve Heimoff on the ups and downs of the sparkling wine market.

James McWalter pens a guest post for Academic Wino about the feasibility of Ireland becoming a wine producing country due to climate change.

Daily Wine News: Muscadet & Marijuana

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 02-11-2016

A bottle of Muscadet. (Wikimedia)

A bottle of Muscadet. (Wikimedia)

In Punch, Jon Bonné considers Muscadet’s past and future through the eyes of the winemakers looking to reshape it. “The most basic changes here can be found many other places in France: better farming, lower yields, improved winemaking. But Muscadet has a different burden than other regions. Its wines were rarely exalted, and it never really shaped a distinct identity.”

Tom Wark ponders what portion of wine consumption marijuana consumption will replace. “I’m absolutely convinced that the coming state-by-state legalization of marijuana will replace some wine consumption. How could it not?”

In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague talks with winemakers, sommeliers, and collectors about the moment they first fell in love with wine.

Elsewhere in the Wall Street Journal, James Sturz travels through Salta, “Argentina’s most extreme wine country.”

Tim Atkin writes about high-altitude wines, specifically those from the province of Salta in Argentina.

Penelope Bass highlights where to find great natural wines throughout the country in Imbibe.

In Food Republic, Richard Martin features Sebastien Auvet and his French-style wine bars in New York.

Sideways is now being adapted for the London stage.

Steven Spurrier wonders if Chianti is the new Bordeaux in Somm Journal.

Wine-Searcher exposes Bordeaux’s pesticide problem.

Daily Wine News: Wine Bank

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 02-10-2016

Slow Food's Banca del Vino. (Source: Slow Food)

Slow Food’s Banca del Vino. (Source: Slow Food)

In Punch, Molly Hannon on the “slow wine” movement and Slow Food’s wine bank. “The Bank’s goal in preserving these wines and using them to educate is not only to disseminate Italian wine culture, but to conserve it as a means of combating the pace of globalization and its negative impact on the Italian wine industry.”

Amazon has just launched a sommelier service in Japan to help give wine-buying advice over the phone.

In Somm Journal, David Ransom discovers Sangiovese’s potential in the Maremma.

According to the Daily Mail, Argentinean wineries are investing in Cahors, the Malbec homeland.

Will Lyons explains why South America’s fine wines deserve to be taken seriously. “The wine growing regions of Chile and Argentina, sandwiched either side of the Andes couldn’t be more different…But both countries have moved on significantly and to couch the wine styles of these two countries in such terms is missing the point.”

Rob McMillan just returned from Cuba for the California Wine Symposium, and shares details and discoveries from the trip.

Total sales of Franciacorta increased by 7.1% in Italy and 7.5% in export markets last year, despite what the Consorzio Franciacorta described as “an extremely complex climate in the economy as a whole,” reports the Drinks Business.

In Vinous, Ian D’Agata reviews the 2014s and late-release 2013s from Alsace.

Mike Dunne covers Chilean carmenere in the Sacramento Bee.

Unfortified: The Still Wines of Madeira

Posted by | Posted in Grape Adventures | Posted on 02-09-2016


Vineyard views from the north side of Madeira.

Like few other wines in the world, the wines from the island of Madeira are synonymous with their distinctive method of production. For centuries, producers here have fortified their wines with neutral spirits, then aged the wines in cask for long periods of time, oxidizing them and exposing them to heat. The result is one of the world’s winemaking gems — a seemingly indestructible wine that can age for centuries and retain its exotic characteristics for long after the bottle is opened.

After a week-long trip this Portuguese island, I have a whole lot to write about these magnificent wines and the island and people responsible for them. But, first, I wanted to explore the state of the island’s still wines. Yes, they make unfortified, dry, white and red table wines on Madeira. The wines ranged from the eccentric and odd to the refreshing and impressive.

The entire island is home to less than 500 hectares of vines, which cling to unreasonably steep hillsides in tiny, terraced vineyards. And still wine production counts for a mere 4-5% of the island’s total production. So there are not a lot of bottles to go around. The still Madeira wines (which fall under the appellation “DOP Madeirense”) are made in very small quantities, and the majority of the wine stays on the island. But the evolution of the still wine movement in Madeira signifies a desire to adapt and innovate. And that’s notable for a tremendously regulated wine industry on an island typified by a stick-to-your-guns respect for tradition and history.

As a collective group, DOP Madeirense white wines are fresh, vibrant, low in alcohol, high in acidity, and laced with citrus peel and floral flavors. Like seemingly everything produced on the island, the wines exude a sense of sea salt and oceanic vibrancy. As a surfer and lover of all things of the sea, these wines excite me. And they’re perfectly matched to local cuisine like lapas and scabbard fish. The red wines (frequently blends of two to five varieties) tend to have lighter tannic structure, high acidity, crunchy red fruit and plenty of earth and spice elements to go around.

While these wine are quirky, tasty and fit well on the table, it makes little sense for producers of still Madeira wine to export them. Portugal (which everyone here calls the Mainland) produces plenty of Verdelho, for example. And the Mainland has plenty of not-so-treacherous places to grow grapes. Like any major wine category, Mainland Verdelho can be very good, but there are many serviceable wines with large production and moderate price tags, something Madeira producers simply cannot match. A wine competition between the Mainland and Madeira is like pitting a heavyweight against a bantamweight. Madeira winemakers aren’t eager to step into that ring.

On the other hand, it makes little sense to import brisk, fresh white wines that pair wonderfully with local seafood when producers have access to at least some amount of quality white grapes on the island. More than one million people visit Madeira every year, and those people want to eat and drink everything the island has to offer. Madeira already imports a large amount of the food that appears on the restaurant table. Some producers figure they can make still wines for consumption right here on the island. And I’m glad these wines exist. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Generation Riesling

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 02-09-2016

Giacomo Tachis

Giacomo Tachis

Andrew Jefford finds a new generation of German winemakers emerging from a country with a strong vineyard tradition but a corroded wine image towards the end of the last century in Decanter.

“Giacomo Tachis, 82, giant of Italian wine and creator of Sassicaia, has died,” reports Jeremy Parzen.

In Wine Spectator, Robert Camuto visits with Matilde Poggi, who says “Bardolino has the potential to be an Italian-style Beaujolais-Villages.”

Elsewhere in Wine Spectator, MaryAnn Worobiec reports that Diageo sells Chalone Vineyards, a historic Monterey County winery, to Foley Family Wines.”

In Eater, Hilary Sheinbaum looks at the new wave of wine lists, and how classifying wine is getting a facelift.

Jamie Goode explains how framing — “a social science term which refers to a set of concepts and perspectives that then form the background that influences how we think on certain issues” — impacts our experience of tasting wines.

In Wine-Searcher, Caroline Henry goes behind the scenes at Champagne’s assemblage process.

Liz Thach says a review of the 2015 wine statistics and buying trends for 2016 are generally positive, and reports on hot wine trends now and for 2016.

According to the Telegraph, “world’s best chef” Benoit Violer, who committed suicide, was “victim of a £1m wine scam.”

“Why aren’t there more black Americans making wine?” wonders Batya Ungar-Sargon in VinePair.

Daily Wine News: Trouble for Spain

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 02-08-2016

Autumn in Rioja. (Flickr: thirstforwine)

Autumn in Rioja. (Flickr: thirstforwine)

With news that one of the most admired producers of Rioja, Artadi, announced that they would no longer be calling their wines Rioja, Jancis Robinson says “Spanish wine is in a pickle.”

The CDC has suggested that the only time women should drink a glass of wine is when they’re actively taking birth control pills. Alder Yarrow comments on the ridiculous recommendations. W. Blake Gray also reacts to the suggested guidelines.

According to the Drinks Business, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, president of Château Mouton Rothschild, has made Chardonnay his focus at his Champagne project as he believes the grape to be the “white truffle” of the region.

Alfonso Cevola wonders if Ripasso wines are losing momentum in the U.S.

In the Los Angeles Times, S. Irene Virbila recommends a handful of lively wine bars to visit in Paris.

Dave McIntyre explains the impact of Virginia’s Governor’s Cup in the Washington Post.

In VinePair, Laura Burgess reports on the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium, held in Sacramento, “the most important wine geek-fest of the year.”

In Wine-Searcher, Adam Lechmere finds DRC’s 2013 wines strike a great balance, despite being from a difficult vintage.

Sam Behrend takes a look at the new Somm film elsewhere in Wine-Searcher.

In Wine Spectator, Ben O’Donnell explores how the tastes of 30-plus Millennials compares to those of 20-somethings.

Wine Reviews: Galerie – Cabernet & Sauvignon Blanc from Napa & Sonoma

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 02-06-2016

Laura Díaz Muñoz. Credit: Galerie Wines.

Laura Díaz Muñoz. Credit: Galerie Wines.

Through her solo project, Galerie Wines, Laura Díaz Muñoz offers up a series of varietal wines, two Sauvignon Blancs and two Cabernets, one apiece from Knights Valley and Napa Valley. The grapes are treated the same way, with the same amount of skin contact, same winemaking methods, same barrel regimen, which allows the wines to speak to their different origins. The Knights Valley wines come from Kellogg Vineyard, while the Napa Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet come from a variety of sites around Napa.

Both Sauvignon Blancs were handled the same way in the cellar. Half of the grapes were whole-cluster pressed, and the juice was then racked into a mix of concrete eggs, stainless steel, new and used French oak. The wine was aged on the lees for six months, with stirring done twice a week. Both Cabernets are 100% Cab are aged 19 months in 55% new French oak.

Laura is no newb to these grape varieties. After studying food science as an undergraduate and receiving a graduate degree in oenology from Polytechnic University in Madrid, she worked in Sauvignon Blanc hotbeds of New Zealand and Chile. Laura then joined up with Chris Carpenter, (who produces some incredible Napa Cabernets under the Cardinale, La Jota and Mt. Brave labels) and became the assistant winemaker.

At a dinner with Laura last year, she told me she’d never been to California before accepting the gig with Chris. But she fell in love with Napa, and stuck around, though she travels back to Spain frequently to visit her family.

After working with Chris, Laura said she wanted a project that was fully her own, a wine label that would bare her unique signature. Laura says she and Chris share a similar winemaking philosophy. They both use wild fermentation and Galerie uses the same coopers as Chris, but Laura says she prefers a bit less oak and brighter red fruits in her wines (a preference that rings true in her Cabernets).

While Galerie’s focus is on Cab Sauv and Sauv Blanc, in 2014 Laura crafted one heck of a Riesling. The Spring Mountain Riesling was the first time she’s worked with this grape, but said she was thrilled about the prospect. Spring Mountain seems to produce some really high quality Riesling, and this one stunned me. (Smith-Madrone comes to mind as another example). The fruit comes from a very small plot (less than two acres), so there’s not much to go around. The wine is slightly off-dry, but the intense acid needs a slight bit of sweetness to tame it (and Laura maintains it helps lift the aromatics as well).

Taken together, these five wines comprise quite an impressive portfolio. Major league quality, but AA league prices.  These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Weekly Interview: Ben Cane

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 02-05-2016

Ben Cane

Ben Cane

Each week, as our regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we are featuring Ben Cane, the winemaker of Westwood Estates, located in Sonoma.

Westwood Estates was founded by a close group of friends, all oenophiles, who shared a passion for great wine. In 2005, they purchased the winery, whose history stretches back to 1984. Westwood has now just started to present their wines to the world; 2014 is its first vintage.

Ben joined Westwood as winemaker in 2014. But Ben was armed with a truly global winemaking education by the time he began working at this current job. Below, you’ll see Ben describe his wide-ranging winemaking experience, stretching multiple continents and some of the most important winemaking regions. Reading the interview, one gets the sense that Ben is truly a bon vivant – and that Westwood is only the latest chapter of a book continuing to write itself.

Check out the interview below the fold!

Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Rebirths & Makeovers

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 02-05-2016

Pinot Meunier (Wikimedia)

Pinot Meunier (Wikimedia)

Eric Asimov finds that Valtellinas are experiencing a rebirth in interest. “I remember back in the 1990s, a few Valtellina wines would occasionally show up on shelves in New York. But the prevailing attitude was that these wines were too austere, too acidic, to appeal to many Americans. So much has changed since those dark old days.”

In the holy trinity of Champagne grape varieties, Meunier has not only suffered the indignity of coming third, but it’s also been given the wrong name. In Meininger’s, Christian Holthausen reports on Meunier’s makeover.

Jonathan Lipsmeyer discovers the first ever wine flame war, a searing debate raged over Burgundy vs. Champagne from the mid-17th to mid-18th century between the Universities of Reims and Paris.

In Grape Collective, Michael Mondavi speaks about painful lessons from his famous father.

Joshua David Stein reviews Somm: Into the Bottle in Eater.

Elsewhere in Eater, advice for wines to pair with Super Bowl snacks.

In VinePair, Rachel Signer visits Gruet Winery in southern New Mexico, which has soils and a climate “fairly similar to the climate of Champagne.”

Cathy Huyghes looks at the most in-demand wine jobs in Napa in Forbes.

In Le Pan, Kent Tsang gets a preview of the 2002 Krug Champagne, a Champagne for “Krug Lovers.”

Daily Wine News: Wine + Music

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 02-04-2016

CC0 Public Domain.

CC0 Public Domain.

Bryce Wiatrak considers music and wine in Vinous. “Wine is a multi-sensory experience. We smell it. We taste it. We see it shimmer in the glass, and we feel it wash across our palates. The only sense we don’t use when evaluating wine is hearing. Thus, the comparison to music is vital in completing the metaphor. “

In Decanter, William Kelley is one of the first people to get a look inside Ulysses Estate, the new Napa Valley venture of Bordeaux veteran and Dominus owner Christian Moueix.

Michael Austin explains why he believes your pinot grigio should come from Italy’s Alto Adige region in the Chicago Tribune.

In the Food Republic, Christine Haughney explores why Bordeaux winemakers are suddenly so keen on the U.S. market.

In the Wine Spectator, Aaron Romano considers the potential of wine in kegs.

USA Today looks at NFL legends making a second career in wine country.

Grape Collective interviews Greg Tresner, the only Master Sommelier in Arizona.

Douglas Hillstrom profiles Kathy and Bob Ruis, a couple from New Jersey who moved to the Finger Lakes wanting to grow grapes, not make wine.

Wine Enthusiast catches up with Jasmine Hirsch of Sonoma Coast’s Hirsch Vineyards.