Daily Wine News: Dropping Wine Wisdom

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 02-19-2015

Gamay in Beaujolais (Flickr: dyfustifications)

Gamay in Beaujolais (Flickr: dyfustifications)

“Countless restaurants have great food. Plenty also have great service. And more open each day,” But, as David argues in Grape Collective, “By imaginatively leading with wine, a restaurant can become a destination — even in a neighborhood where one expects dive bars with canned beer and killer jukeboxes.”

“Reinvention is in Beaujolais’ blood,” says Jon Bonné in the San Francisco Chronicle. “If you think you know the names to know in Beaujolais, think again.”

In Harpers, Damien Wilson takes a look at how crowdfunding is impacting the wine industry.

On the blog for First Vine, Tom Natan shares the ideas for future wine industry trends that came out of last month’s Unified Wine and Grape Symposium.

NPR’s Gabrielle Emanual reports on blind wine competitions held between Oxford and Cambridge students. “We treat wine tasting as a sport. We train for it, the way we train for a competitive sports match.”

“The French national appellation authority is examining a dossier that would create Cru and Premier Cru tiers in Alsace,” reports Decanter, “but not all winemakers agree with the proposal.”

Madeline Puckette investigates the claim that drinking red wine fights obesity and finds that it’s not true with just any red wine.

In Wine-Searcher, W. Blake Gray profiles Cayuse Vineyards.

A Conversation with Terry Theise

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 02-18-2015

Terry TheiseRegular readers know that over the past few years, I’ve become obsessed with Champagne. Last week, while thinking about how popular the region has become — and what a debt we’re all in to Terry Theise — I realized that I didn’t know why, exactly, Theise started importing Champagne.

So we connected by phone and the discussion inspired my most recent Grape Collective column. We covered all sorts of issues — from Theise’s seminal trip to Champagne to what the future of the region will look like. It was fascinating. Check out our conversation below!

David White: How’d you decide to start importing Champagne?

Terry Theise: I was already bringing in growers from Germany and Austria. So my entire mentality was based upon working with small, family producers. The background of my history with Champagne is that when I came together with Odessa Piper — then my girlfriend, now my wife — we were long distance for quite a while. She had a restaurant in Madison; I had a child in the D.C. area. So neither of us really could move.

So, as happens in long-distance relationships, you have a lot of misery and heartbreak when you’re apart. But when you come together, it’s a big celebration. So we quickly ran through all the grower Champagnes that were available in the U.S. market and I found myself thinking, “Is this really all? There have to be more good growers than this.”

So one year, in 1995 or 1996, we just made a detour to Champagne. I had a list of interesting growers from Michael Edward’s first book and other research I had done. So I thought we’d take four or five days and just check out some of these growers.

This was all personal. All I wanted to do was to buy some Champagne to ship back to myself so I’d have stuff in the cellar to open up with Odessa. So we visited a number of producers. And I came away with my mind expanded — I had not realized the profound degree to which Champagne was a wine of terroir, just like every other wine of Northern Europe.

As we’re driving back — fishtailing all over because the trunk is full of Champagne — I’m thinking about how interesting the region is. I must have even observed that out loud, because Odessa then says, “You really ought to do this professionally.”

I say, “Oh, come on, I’m already pushing a rock up a hill with German wine and now I’ve just strapped a safe to my back with Austrian wine. How much misery do you want to put me through?”

And she says, “Do you think these wines deserve an audience?”

I said, “No question about it, they do.”

And she says, “Do you think that someone will be successful with them at some point?”

And I say, “Yeah, I think so, I think the right kind of importer will be successful with these wines.”

So she says, “How will you feel if that person isn’t you — and you had the chance and walked away from it?”

The only proper response to a question like that is, “Yes, dear,” and the result is that I began to import small grower Champagnes.

Once that decision was made, I went back diligently looking to put a portfolio together — and I had a lot of assistance from the producers, because you can get a chain reaction going with growers. If you taste with somebody and you like his wines and you’re personally simpatico, you can easily ask for other addresses to visit. The growers are perfectly happy to be collegial, so I got a lot of references from certain people. So in the first year, I put a portfolio together consisting of nine growers. That’s expanded and has now reached what I imagine to be its apex of 16 growers.

There were just 33 grower Champagnes in the U.S. market at that point. There are around 250 today. Of those nine you brought in, were any already in the United States? I don’t want to ask if you stole them from other importers, but were any already in the market? Or were they all brand new?

A couple of them — one or two — were here with either small local importers or national importers who weren’t doing a very good job for them. And when I surveyed the landscape, I saw a lot of good importers had a Champagne producer in their portfolio, or maybe two, but that struck me as tokenism. As an importer, you wouldn’t claim to represent Burgundy if you only had one or two Burgundy growers in your portfolio. You want to be comprehensive. And you want to show all of the manifold expression possible from Burgundy or, as I came to learn, from Champagne. So if I was going to tell the story that I knew needed to be told, I had to have Champagnes representative of a wide range of terroirs. As I often say, I wasn’t the first one to do it, but I was the first one to overdo it. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: India’s Top Wine

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 02-18-2015

Rajeev Samant of Sula Wines

Rajeev Samant of Sula Wines

Meet Rajeev Samant, the man who wants the world to drink Indian wine. Samant’s Sula Vineyards were the first in India to be featured in Wine Spectator, and is now India’s top wine producer.

“For Parker all that matters is in the glass,” but in Wine-Searcher, Mike Steinberger “argues that the wine’s backstory gives a large part of the pleasure.”

Several Rioja wine producers are expanding to Rueda to produce “top of the range white wine from Verdejo,” reports Decanter.

In Forbes, Per Karlsson explores which countries produce and consume the most wine. France and Italy are still the top wine producing countries. But for how long?

“Faux Luxury or the Real Thing?” In Wine Spectator, Matt Kramer distinguished between wines of quality, and those that are merely expensive.

Rosemary George profiles Michel Laroche of Chablis’ Le Domaine d’Henri in Zester Daily.

In the Wall Street Journal, Wayne Curtis reviews Wood, Whiskey and Wine, which “tells the surprisingly complicated story of barrels in 14 somewhat erratic chapters.”

Elsewhere in Wine-Searcher, W. Blake Gray looks at Walla Walla Valley’s quiet revolution.

Forty years after the first plantings, Wine Enthusiast looks at how Washington State’s Red Mountain wine region is coming of age.

Investing Our Hearts in Champagne

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 02-17-2015

As 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 – Terroirist.com).

In my latest column, by sharing a great love story, I explore why Champagne is such a special beverage.

Investing Our Hearts in Champagne

“Here you have this wonderful, miraculous thing, with hundreds of thousands of little tiny bubbles that are defeating gravity and exploding in this gentle fragrant foam on the lip of the glass. There is something beautiful — in a kind of giddy way — about just the sight of Champagne.”

It was slightly surprising to hear wine importer Terry Theise make this statement.

Since the dawn of global wine consumption, large producers like Moet & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot have dominated the Champagne market. These companies purchase their grapes from thousands of growers across the region to deliver a consistent product each year — and spend millions trying to convince us that their wines are best enjoyed when celebrating.

Theise has spent the past twenty years urging Americans to ignore these companies and instead drink “farmer fizz,” or Champagne produced by the farmers who grow the grapes. And he’s worked harder than anyone to dispel the notion that Champagne should only be consumed on New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, and other special occasions.

But Theise recognizes that Champagne carries an emotional charge. There is, to put it simply, something special about Champagne. As Theise writes in his most recent catalog, “we invest our hearts in it.”

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

Daily Wine News: Drinking in D.C.

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 02-17-2015

Opus One: How Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pregames

How Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pregames (Source: Opus One Winery)

Last week, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg admitted to not being “100 percent sober” when she dozed off at last month’s State of the Union address. So what was she drinking? Opus One, which she reportedly referred to as “an Opus something or other.”

Punch published “The Essential Guide to Drinking in Washington D.C.” Check out David’s contributions to The Best Places to Drink Wine!

“When I was coming up in the wine business, there was this invisible wall between France and Italy.” Alfonso Cevola shares how those lines of distinction no longer matter, and why that’s okay.

Is it time for a truce on wine alcohol levels? W. Blake Gray believes “the war is just about over,” and hopes “we’ll get out of our trenches right where we are, shake hands and learn to co-exist.”

Scientists hope the discovery of 1,500-year-old grape seeds may help resurrect the historically famous “Wine of Negev,” reportedly one of the Byzantine Empire’s most treasured and expensive brews.

Jancis Robinson offers a shortcut to identifying some of the finest wines currently being made in Argentina.

According to Decanter, the FIFA World Cup has been credited with driving a surge in consumer demand for Brazilian wine in 2014, with exports up by 75%.

The Knot breaks the Guinness World Record for the largest Champagne tasting and toast: 518 people.

In Bloomberg, “Bordeaux 2014 Wines Signal Recovery After Low-Yield 2013s.”

“How wine smelling techniques could help solve crime” in the Telegraph.

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Jon Bonné visits Commonwealth, a San Francisco restaurant with a wine list that’s “perfectly casual.”

Daily Wine News: The Douro Boys

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 02-16-2015

The Douro Valley (Wikimedia)

The Douro Valley (Wikimedia)

Alder Yarrow enjoys his experience tasting the wines of The Douro Boys — “the scions of five great winemaking families in Portugal and the proprietors of the most famous wine estates in the Douro Valley.”

Decanter publishes a well-researched travel guide to Jura, France.

Jamie Goode offers advice for young wine writers.

In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague takes on 10 wine “truisims” that she’s “heard recited by oenophiles again and again” and debunks whether they are opinion or truth.

In Wine-Searcher, Brett Jones reviews “two very different books on Sherry” that were each published last year.

Elsewhere in Wine-Searcher, a Q&A with Matt Stafford of Craggy Range in Hawke’s Bay.

In the Washington Post, Dave McIntyre visits one of Virginia’s best wineries, Barboursville Vineyards, to see how it manages its vines in January.

In GOOD, David Sax shares the story of Chateau Hough, the winery transforming Cleveland’s most notorious neighborhood. “These wines may not have the well-rounded body of a Bordeaux, but they come with a narrative that justifies the price.”

BBC profiles Andrew Hedley, the winemaker who had to relearn how to taste and smell after battling throat cancer.

In Grape Collective, Rachael Doob profiles Anthony Dias Blue.

Wine Reviews: California Reds

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 02-14-2015

One of the greatest things about exploring California wines is the diversity. We taste a lot of California classics, Cabernets, Pinot Noirs and Rhone reds, and most of the California red wine samples we receive fall into these tried and true categories. But there’s so much else worth checking out.

After my initial fascination with Petite Sirah wore off, I have experienced something of a regained appreciation for the grape. And some Central Coast producers are doing interesting things with Malbec. There’s some Tempranillo, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Barbera thrown in for good measure. A small drop in the bucket, of course, but I enjoyed exploring these wines, which were received as trade samples and tasted single blind. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: For the Rest of Us

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 02-13-2015

Côte Chalonnaise vineyards (Flickr: Lautergold)

Côte Chalonnaise vineyards (Flickr: Lautergold)

“Recent years have been grim for red Burgundy lovers…Nonetheless, those who crave red Burgundy are not without options.” In the New York Times, Eric Asimov enjoys the more affordable reds from the Côte Chalonnaise. “The best…do convey what makes Burgundy the promised land for pinot noir wines.”

In the World of Fine Wine, how a small group of conscientious producers is intent on unlocking the vinous potential of Crete.

On the blog for First Vine, Tom Natan explains why craft beer is making the wine industry nervous.

Scientists attempt to decode sommeliers’ brains.

In the Wall Street Journal, Will Lyons recommends “Swoon-Worthy Wines for Valentine’s.”

In Palate Press, Simon Woolf’s ode to Schioppettino.

Lily-Elaine Hawk Wakawaka spends time with Rick Grimm on the property of a new label: Grimm’s Bluff.

In Wine Spectator, Ben O’Donnell argues Cabernet Franc will be the next big grape among Americans.

“The supermarket Great Wall of Wine is the Rubik’s Cube of wine buying.” Jeff Siegel, the wine curmudgeon, offers tips on buying wine at the grocery store.

In Punch, Zachary Sussman on why some of NYC’s Italian restaurants—notably, Marta and Maialino—are among the city’s top destinations for Champagne.

Biodynamic winemaker Nicolas Joly to cut ties with Loire body, reports Decanter.

Daily Wine News: Fighting Fraud

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 02-12-2015

rudy Kurniawan

Remember Rudy’s fake labels?

“How big is the fake wine problem? No one really knows.” In Bloomberg, Elin McCoy shares the news about a wine fraud website coming in April that will help you avoid fake bottles: Winefraud.com.

In the Paris Review, Damion Searls explores the issues encountered when trying to translate the language of wine.

“Researchers have poured cold sauvignon blanc on the idea that red wine is good for your health. Eegad, it was all a chimera!” Tyler Colman sums up the results of a (yet another!) new wine study.

“Weaker shipments of Burgundy and Bordeaux to key markets caused an overall drop in French wine exports in 2014,” reports Decanter.

Grandes Pagos de España, a prestigious Spanish association that promotes single-vineyard wines, has accepted four new members, reports Adam Lechmere in Wine-Searcher.

Instead of writing about what worries him, Jamie Goode focuses on reasons to be optimistic about things in the world of wine.

Romanian wine takes center stage in Grape Collective.

What causes red-wine headaches? W. Blake Gray offers a new theory.

In the Washington Post, Caitlin Gibson looks at the success Virginia’s Loudoun County’s growing wine industry is experiencing.

“Could Sauvignon Blanc be entering a golden era?” asks Steve Heimoff.

In Wine Spectator, Tim Fish recommends four new restaurants in Healdsburg and Sonoma Valley that are resetting the local dining scene.

Daily Wine News: Crush Reports

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 02-11-2015

(Flickr: nesson-marshall)

(Flickr: nesson-marshall)

“The Australian wine trade is attempting to regain its momentum, in large part by showing consumers…that Australia is the source of wines with characteristics…” Mike Dunne offers a fresh look at Australian wines in the Sacramento Bee.

What’s the big deal about Sagrantino? In Wine-Searcher, Alfonso Cevola explains. “Sagrantino rates as one of the most tannic wines on earth, yet it is enjoying a spirited surge of popularity.”

At 3.91 million tons of wine grapes, California’s 2014 crop is large, but no record breaker, reports Wines & Vines.

It’s official: Another record state wine crush for Washington.

In Palate Press, Erika Syzmanski on “the problem with being a post-modern wine drinker.”

Wine needs a Pliny the Younger,” says W. Blake Gray.

According to Decanter, Bordeaux is returning to favor among fine wine buyers.

Colette Faller, the matriarch of Domaine Weinbach in Alsace, has died, reports Wink Lorch in Wine-Searcher.

In Punch, Jennifer Fiedler explores how water sommeliers and mustard sommeliers are changing the definition of the word, and what it means for wine.

In the Drinks Business, Bordeaux’s Bruno Prats admits it would be “pure nonsense” to plant international grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot in the Douro.