Beaujolais: The Greatest Secret in Wine

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 07-22-2014

Bernard DiochonAs regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country.

These columns are hosted by Grape Collective. If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at –

In my latest column, I explain why Beaujolais is the greatest secret in wine.

Beaujolais: The Greatest Secret in Wine

One hundred years ago, the Wine Society, a wine club in London, offered its members a Beaujolais from the appellation of Moulin à Vent for $29 per case. It offered cases of Burgundy from the appellations of Beaune and Pommard for around $36 each.

Today, a case of wine from Domaine Diochon, a top producer in Moulin à Vent, costs around $250. And it’s one of the most expensive wines in the region. In Burgundy, however, most Pommard and Beaune on offer from the Wine Society go for well over $1,000 per case.

So whereas consumers seeking compelling reds from Burgundy instead of Beaujolais once paid a premium of about 25 percent, today’s consumers can expect to pay a premium of 400 percent — or more.

Burgundy is quite different from Beaujolais, of course. But serious wines from both regions effortlessly combine vibrant acidity with depth and complexity. And wines from both regions can age for decades.

That’s why today’s price differential doesn’t make any sense. Had those 1914 prices tracked inflation, that case of Moulin à Vent would retail for $690. Without any question, the top wines of Beaujolais represent the greatest value in the wine world.

Consider the wines of Domaine Diochon.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!


Daily Wine News: Unfashionable

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 07-22-2014

1982-bordeaux“But for a significant segment of the wine-drinking population in the United States, the raves heard around the world were not enough to elicit a response beyond, perhaps, a yawn.” Eric Asimov explains why, “for young Americans in particular, Bordeaux has become downright unfashionable.”

“The Álvarez family problems began around the time of the patriarch’s third wedding.” In the New York Times, Ian Mount explores the family feud at Vega Sicilia.

In Grape Collective, Jameson Fink chats with master sommelier Alpana Singh, Proprietor of The Boarding House in Chicago.

“I visited several wineries that will remain nameless, as the wines were far from thrilling—often quite salty and not terribly good, especially some unlikely combinations of grapes such as Cabernet and Grenache, and Nebbiolo and Cabernet.” In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague visits the Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California, Mexico.

In Palate Press, W. Blake Gray concludes that lower yields don’t necessarily mean higher quality.

In Wine Spectator, James Molesworth visits Château Miraval.

“His lair was a hole in the ground, no larger than a shallow grave. Across the top a tarpaulin was pulled taught and camouflaged. The hole smelled like cheese.” In the New York Post, Michael Kane reviews Shadows in the Vineyard: The True Story of the Plot to Poison the World’s Greatest Wine by Maximillian Potter.

In the San Jose Mercury News, Laurie Daniel visits Washington’s Red Mountain AVA.

Daily Wine News: Riesling Hero

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 07-21-2014



CellarTracker has launched a mobile app!

“Most of the wine trade loves… but many wine drinkers dislike it.” Elsewhere, Jancis Robinson explains why her “hero” is Riesling.

“The name of the new Newton winemaker may not mean much to the California wine scene, but it means a great deal to Australians.” Jancis Robinson profiles Newton’s new winemaker, Rob Mann.

Last week, the Malibu Coast became an American Viticultural Area.

“We have a band, Private Reserve. Ed Sbragia is in it. I play lead guitar. We do cruise ships. We do wine lectures in the morning and then play at night.” In Wine-Searcher, W. Blake Gray chats with Mike Martini.

In Wine Enthusiast, Roger Morris profiles Clos de Vougeot.

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Jon Bonné explains why “brightly flavored, aromatic, low-tannin wines are what you want” this time of year.

“Plenty strive to deliver a creative beyond-the-glass experience, and it’s never been easier to find them, on Yelp and TripAdvisor, on the advice of your friends or even in your favorite wine-and-food lifestyle magazine.” Ben O’Donnell visits wine country as a tourist.

From Wine-Searcher, “10 Things Every Wine Lover Should Know about Château Clinet.”

In Decanter, Andrew Jefford visits Languedoc to spend some time in La Clape.

Grape Collective profiles Adam Strum.

Wine Reviews: Hourglass

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-19-2014

At Hourglass, premium Napa Valley red is more than just Cabernet Sauvignon. Their Cabernets deserve serious credit, but Hourglass has been working on some great varietal expressions of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec from the Blueline Vineyard in Calistoga.

2012 was the first full vintage for Hourglass’ winemaker Tony Biagi, who took over from renowned winemaker Bob Foley. It appears Tony arrived at a great time because 2012 was a good growing season, and the resulting wines show balance and depth. The 2013 vintage marks Hourglass’ first white wine, a Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, which I found refreshing and intriguing.

The new oak in these wines is nuanced and integrated, adding creaminess to the texture and accents to the fruit and earth flavors. But given the complexity of flavors, the structure and the balance, the oak never overpowers, at least for my palate.

These wines aren’t cheap, but they’re delicious and cellar-worthy. All of the wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted from 375ml bottles. The prices below represent the mailing list allocation cost for a 750ml bottle.

2013 Hourglass Sauvignon Blanc
A pale straw color. Crisp apple and lime aromas, orange blossom, honeysuckle, a striking amount of slate and minerals. Creamy and rich on the palate, but the acid cuts through with impressive power. Richer notes of apricot, honey and orange marmalade blend with elements of oyster shell, sea salt and minerals. Lots of concentration and depth here, this is a beauty of a Napa Sauv Blanc that refuses to fit in a stylistic box. Hourglass’ first shot with white wine, and they nailed it. This wine sees stainless steel as well as some new and old French oak. (91 points IJB)

2012 Hourglass Malbec Blueline
Generous purple color. Vibrant and playful aromas of deep plums and black currants laced with violets, cola and charcoal. On the palate, fine grained but grippy tannins meet with medium acid, almost crisp. Rich and boisterous, full of bright floral tones, this wine is plummy and packed with tart berries. There’s an underlying mix of cocoa powder, charcoal, vanilla bean, cola and black olive. Bold but elegant, this is impressive stuff that shows some solid aging potential. Aged 16 months in 40% new French oak, this wine also includes 25% Petite Verdot. (91 points IJB)

2012 Hourglass Merlot Blueline
Nose of roses, raspberries, caramel, roses, a lot of explosive ripe fruit but it’s backed up by earth and smoke, menthol and smoked meat. Full bodied but this wine shows an elegant texture with fine tannins and medium acid. I get berry compote, raspberries and dark plums; all the fruit is juicy but very tangy. Significant amount of mushroom, balsamic, soy, barbecue sauce and sweet floral elements. Chewy, elegant, rich, complex, this wine is all of these, with a long finish. Could use two to four years and I think this will develop for quite a while longer. Includes 5% Petite Verdot, this wine is aged 16 months in new and seasoned French oak. (93 points IJB)

2012 Hourglass Cabernet Franc Blueline
Deep and saucy on the nose, I get blueberry, blackberry and plums, but also lots of deep loam, granite, paved road and mushroom. On the palate, wow, this is just beautiful — medium acid, great concentration, dusty tannins. Full of tart blueberry and currant fruit, like crunching through the skins, but then the earth, charcoal, cedar and eucalyptus notes come in. The mushroom, granite and tobacco flavors need time to fully show themselves. Great structure here for aging. This sees 20 months in 40% new French oak. Gorgeous. (93 points IJB)

Daily Wine News: Respect

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 07-18-2014

Flickr, rudynorff.

Flickr, rudynorff.

“While it may be sad for Soave producers and their fans that the wines have not achieved an appropriate level of respect, some do benefit from the situation. Seven of our 10 favorites were $20 or less, and the remaining three were $25 or less. Advantage consumer.” Eric Asimov finds lots to love in Soave.

Reuters reports: “Billionaire oenophile William Koch has settled a lawsuit worth millions of dollars against New York wine retailer Acker, Merrall & Condit.”

“Scores have always lacked rigor and carried a false sense of precision, but with inflation like this, the central bank of Zimbabwe looks like a model of restraint.” In Vineyard & Winery Management, Tyler Colman contends that the era of the super critic is over.

“Most tastings I go to merely confirm what I already know and give me a chance to identify the plums in any representation of a region, producer or new vintage. This collection really did confirm the existence of a whole new era in South Africa’s wine history.” Jancis Robinson is optimistic about South Africa.

W. Blake Gray doesn’t think we decant enough.

“The emergence of “natural wine” as a category for people who share a similar concern for how their beverages are manipulated is, well, perfectly natural. But, it only gains real weight if its integrity can be protected and guaranteed.” In Palate Press, Simon Woolf reflects on natural wine.

“If you’ve ever wondered what some of the top sommeliers in New York are drinking during their nonworking hours, or perhaps even while they’re still on the floor, there’s an app that will help you find out.” In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague profiles Delectable.

In Grape Collective, Jameson Fink chats with Robert Dwyer of the Wellesley Wine Press.

Elsewhere in Grape Collective, Christopher Barnes chats with Fred Frank and Meaghan Frank, the grandson and great granddaughter of Finger Lakes wine pioneer Dr. Konstantin Frank.

In the Boston Globe, Tom Wark explains why Massachusetts’ direct shipping bill isn’t an unqualified victory.

According to Will Lyons, Robert Parker is “a glass-half-full kind of guy.”

Creativity in Wine PR

Posted by | Posted in Commentary | Posted on 07-17-2014


Complexity New Zealand’s Grapes on a Train

Scrolling through the inbox of a wine writer would be an enlightening experience for most wine industry PR professionals. A quick perusal would reveal that the standard PR toolkit relies on the following common tactics:

- press releases (yawn)
- requests to send samples
- invitations to large, walk-around tastings
- invitations to seminars, often called “master classes”
- invitations to dinners or lunches, sometimes with winemakers
- invitations to press trips

It’s hard for a message to stand out when every producer or trade group wants their press release shared, their “master class” filled, or their wines reviewed. So, what can PR do to make their efforts more memorable and effective?

I can think of two recent programs that have been particularly creative.

The first one was crazy and random. However, I still find myself talking to other attendees about it. Complexity New Zealand organized an event called “Grapes on a Train,” where a group of press and trade attendees took a scenic, 10-hour train ride to Montreal via the historic Adirondack train from Penn Station. Six winemakers joined us from New Zealand – Matt Dicey of Mt Difficulty Wines, Brett Bermingham of Nautilus Estate, Ben Glover of Mud House Wines, Nick Picone of Villa Maria, Tim Health of Cloudy Bay, and Rudi Bauer of Quartz Reef.

On board, we were handed wooden trays with stemless glasses (new ones for each seminar – I can’t imagine the logistics that went into organizing this event on a moving train). Attendees were then ushered through four seminars, which highlighted the variety and quality of New Zealand wines.


The event was brilliant in that it held a group of busy, easily-distracted writers and somms captive for the entire day. And it got all of us talking. Why had we all agreed to do this? Why were a bunch of New Zealand winemakers going to French Canadian Montreal? How did they get the budget to pull this off, including accommodations for the night in Montreal and flights back to New York in the morning?

It didn’t make sense. But somehow, it worked. The execution was flawless. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: What We Taste

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 07-17-2014

taste vin“Having spent a big part of his career as a critic in blind tastings, he now fully embraces context as one of the major parts of his enjoyment of and appreciation for wine.” In the New Yorker, Maria Konnikova explores “what we really taste when we drink wine.”

“For those of us on the sidelines, watching the crusaders on both sides saddle up for yet another joust leaves a bad aftertaste.” Matt Kramer wonders when wine became so partisan.

“An article in the International Herald Tribune in 1981… provided premature credibility, but there was no demand for Burgundy in the U.S. One knocked on doors.” In Wine-Searcher, Elin McCoy chats with legendary Burgundy personality Becky Wasserman-Hone.

Elsewhere in Wine-Searcher, Elin McCoy explains how different wineries are beating counterfeiters.

“At its root, Officer’s early love for seashells carries the same dedication now behind his work with old vine vineyards.” Lily Elaine Hawk Wakawaka spends a morning with Mike Officer of Carlisle Vineyards.

While visiting Champagne, Tom Natan finds himself “standing on land that was part of a decisive battle of World War I.”

Burgundy continues to become more and more expensive. Of the world’s 50 most expensive wines, 38 are from Burgundy. And land in the region now averages a whopping $5.4 million per hectare.

“In the mountains of the Tahoe National Forest,” Assyrtiko is now being planted.

Oregon Wine Press chat with Dorothy Gaiter.

“Will there continue to be consumers who buy and drink by the scales? Of course. The scales themselves are becoming more scientific and strangely personalized. But if there is any time in the last 35 years that Parker’s 100 point scale has looked its weakest, it is now.” So contends Michael Woodsmall in Grape Collective.

In Enotbytes, Pamela Heiligenthal profiles Alexandrine Roy, a fourth generation winemaker who is the owner and winemaker at Domaine Marc Roy in Burgundy and the winemaker at Phelps Creek Vineyards in Hood River, Oregon.

A Trip to France and a Brief Hiatus

Posted by | Posted in Terroirist | Posted on 07-05-2014

parisSince November 9, 2010, has been updated every single (business) day – and more. But after 1,708 posts, it’s time for a brief break. Plus, I’m in France!

Don’t worry. I’ll return to regular blogging on July 17. Until then, follow my travels on Instagram and Twitter.

On July 4th, my trip began with an awesome tour of Paris’ natural wine bars and retailers led by Aaron Ayscough of Not Drinking Poison in Paris. After the tour, I dined at Le Baratin.

Still to come? For food, I’ll be visiting Spring, Clamato, Maison Troisgros, Le Café des Fédérations, L’Atelier du Cuisinier, L’Assiette Champenoise, and Les Avisés.

In Beaujolais, I’ll be visiting Château Thivin, Domaine Diochon, Domaine Michel Chignard, and Domaine Jean Foillard. In Champagne, I’ll be visiting Krug, Frédéric Savart, Vilmart, Didier Gimonnet, Anselme Selosse, and Taittinger.

It should be epic. Be back soon!

Daily Wine News: Carrying Forward

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 07-03-2014

“The new team has spent extensive time discussing the hallmarks of Mayacamas style in an attempt to hone in on their role carrying it forward.” mayacamasLily-Elaine Hawk Wakawaka visits Mayacamas to explore what changes, if any, are ahead.

In Food & Wine, Charles Antin lists “10 Wine Superstars to Follow on Delectable.”

“Moments before I took this photo, the rack on my bike collapsed under the weight and the nearly two cases (22 bottles) of Mailly Grand Cru Champagne” In Grape Collective, Jameson Fink chats with Jeff Kralik, the Drunken Cyclist.

Elsewhere in Grape Collective, Kralik names his favorite places to wine and dine in Philadelphia.

In Winery & Vineyard Management, Christopher Sawyer chats with Helen Bacigalupi about “the past, present and future of her family’s legacy and the renaissance of the Bacigalupi wine brand.”

On Tuesday at the Wine Industry Technology Symposium, many industry leaders learned that social media can, indeed, offer a return on investment.

“Virginia wine has gotten some prominent loving recently from two of DC’s top toques.” According to Dave McIntyre, Robert Wiedmaier and Jose Andres have fallen for Virginia wine.

In Wine-Searcher, “10 Things Every Wine Lover Should Know about Marqués de Riscal.”

Daily Wine News: Hail & Fire

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 07-02-2014

FireFollowing Saturday’s devastating hailstorm, vintners in Burgundy have asked government officials for help. Panos Kakaviatos has the details.

And in Napa County’s Pope Valley, a 2,500+ acre wildfire continues to burn.

Terry Thiese shares his 2013 German vintage report.

“If Wong and Nick and the crew could work wonders with what was dealt them in 2011, this 2012 is a vinous walk in the park.” Dorothy Gaiter profiles one of my favorite wineries, Peay Vineyards.

When it comes to wine auction sales, Burgundy has “basically replaced Bordeaux.”

“If you want a cellar filled with fascinating wines,” then according to Matt Kramer, “there’s no substitute for seeking out the particular.”

“Most people with an interest in history will have heard of the first Battle of the Marne, but it is surprising how few realize that it was fought in the Champagne region.” In Wine-Searcher, Tom Stevenson shares this remarkable story.

Meanwhile, in Palate Press, Daniel Demers goes back in time to when Champagne makers were covered in “honourable nicks” from riddling.

“I am going to create a winery in Los Angeles, on the banks of the Los Angeles river, on the edge of what was once the greatest grape growing region in the whole country.” Abe Schoener’s latest missive is long but worth reading.

In Wine Spectator, Alison Napjus visits Schramsberg Vineyards.

Frank Morgan chats with Paul Wilkins, winemaker at Alta Maria Vineyards.

Panos Kakaviatos is “tired of expensive wine.” Fortunately, there are more fantastic affordable wines than ever before.

In Moldova, CNN travel writer Pat Kinsella got his hands on Putin’s wine.

In the Daily Meal, Jess Novak names the “101 Best Wineries in America.”