If you pay any attention to sommeliers and winemakers on Twitter, you will have noticed increasing postings over the past couple of years about something called "unicorn wines."
Here, a picture of Mouton 1928 from New York's NoMad sommelier Thomas Pasturnak, with the caption, "truly special and a legit #unicornwine." Here, a picture of Darting Pinot Meunier Pfalz Trocken 2010 from San Francisco's Acquarello sommelier Davis Smith, with the caption, "Now THIS is a #Unicornwine. And it's delicious."
What, you ask, unites these wines?
Imagine France without wine. Bizarre, non? Wine is so associated with French culture, you would think they invented the stuff. Man has been making wine for thousands of years, but the French made it big business, refining it and marketing it to a thirsty world.
While the image of French wine has arguably never been stronger, especially in young markets like China, the French don't drink nearly as much as they used to. But lifestyles have changed in other ways; the French don't linger at long meals with a bottle or two like they used to, and young people don't see wine as a staple.
When wine isn't seen as part of a meal or something with cultural value, then it becomes just another alcoholic beverage. Maybe it's not so surprising that the French Senate is considering a bill that would impose new restrictions on wine.
This past August, the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) quietly issued a cease-and-desist letter to New Jersey's Wine Library, one of the largest retailers in the Garden State and a popular wine source for many New Yorkers.
The SLA ordered Wine Library to stop shipping wine to New Yorkers, a practice that is technically illegal but that has been happening for years without complaint or repercussion. Cease-and-desist letter or not, the ban is practically unenforceable-the SLA simply doesn't have the manpower to adequately monitor interstate sales.
Because of the letter, Wine Library and a few other out-of-state retailers indicated they would stop selling wine to New Yorkers. New York retailers worried that they would start receiving similar letters from alcohol authorities in other states, as a form of retaliation. Since then, however, there's been nothing but silence from the authorities, and Wine Library has continued shipping wine to New York.
Brunello di Montalcino, the pure Sangiovese in the heart of Tuscany's wine country, is an expensive wine to make. Land is pricey and there's not much to go around. Producers are required to sit on inventory for two years in oak and four months in bottle—but the expected protocol is that the wines not reach the market until five years after the harvest. It's a cost passed on to the consumer: You're hard-pressed to find a bottle under $40 on the shelf.
Two Tuscan value categories can offer an impressive alternative to Brunello: Rosso di Montalcino and Morellino di Scansano.