Of all the health-related questions that end up in the Wine Spectator electronic mailbag, some get asked with a you-can-set-your-watch-by-it type of regularity. We've answered them before, and we'll answer them again, but I thought I'd address these topics here with the help of Dr. Andrew Waterhouse, professor of enology at the University of California at Davis, to weigh in on the three most enduring topics.
When Maryland state comptroller Peter Franchot presented a "Study on the Impact of Direct Wine Shipment" to the state's General Assembly this past December, it confirmed everything direct-shipping proponents have been saying since the 1980s: Direct shipping offers consumers greater choice, brings more tax revenue in for the state, and poses no credible risk of increased underage drinking.
New Orleans is a little insane right now. Maybe that sounds silly describing a city where it's not odd to witness a brass band marching past your front porch, with your neighbors dancing behind it. But New Orleans is a little more insane than usual right now. This year, wedged tightly in the middle of the Carnival parades that start Friday, the NFL has brought the Super Bowl to town.
Are you coming for the game? Good. (If not, pay attention, because you should visit soon.) It's not hyperbole to say that New Orleans is one of the greatest cities on the planet in which to celebrate. If you enjoy good food, wine, beer, cocktails and music, it is hard to go wrong. Here are some tips for making the best of a trip down here. This isn't a comprehensive list of the best places to eat and drink. It's a handy cheat sheet for anyone coming to watch the 49ers and the Ravens, or just coming to enjoy our insanity.
Walkaround wine tastings and by-the-glass pours are a bit like movie trailers. You catch a glimpse of what to expect. Probably you can even tell whether you like it enough to buy a ticket. But to see the full picture, so to speak, you need to see how the wine drinks with food, how it develops in the glass and the cellar. You need multiple screenings.
Unfortunately, when tickets start at around $40, "moviegoing" becomes an expensive hobby. For many wine regions and styles in the world, this is about the entry-level price for a bottle in the U.S. market. But it's possible to get a sense of the techniques in the vineyard and the winery, the grapes, the quality of the vintages and even a bit of the terroir of the greats without dropping more than $20 on a bottle-benchmarking on a budget. In an earlier post, I recommended crémant de Bourgogne from Burgundy's "Golden Gate" as a cousin to Champagne and Lirac for a taste of what Châteauneuf-du-Pape is all about.
I'm going to take a slightly different tack here. You can benchmark on a budget for Sauternes by drinking ... Sauternes.
What's the best way to get a rudimentary understanding of Burgundy as a wine region? Jennifer Fiedler talks to Burgundy expert David Gordon about learning the ins and outs of Burgundy, from villages to vintages.
Wine is a funny commodity. As with fine art, a smart investor with a sharp eye, a secure cellar and a little luck could buy a few cases of wine today that, 20 years from now, might pay for their child's college tuition. (Unlike fine art, wine has to be destroyed to be appreciated.)
But for a select few wineries around the world, their bottles tend to double or triple in value as soon as they leave the cellar door, no investor patience required. That group expands and contracts depending on the latest wine ratings, the economy and vintners' efforts to keep release prices in line with demand without overstepping the bounds of fiscal good taste—bounds that are leapt across with abandon when so-called "flippers" resell their allocations to wealthy wine lovers who are happy to pay through the nose for highly rated hard-to-find wines. Like it or not, flip happens.
How much would you pay for a bottle of California Sauvignon Blanc?
The only wine from that category to ever earn a classic rating, the 2007 Merry Edwards Russian River Valley (96 points), cost $29, and the current vintage, 2011, is $30. So would you pay more than 8 times that for a bottle of Screaming Eagle Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley? No? Well what if I told you that you could immediately turn around and re-sell it for 10 times that price? (That's more than $2,500 for a single bottle of Napa Sauvignon Blanc, for those still trying to do the math, at a profit of $2,250 per bottle.)
Some list members sold their wines, and a few months later, there were some angry people who had been kicked off the mailing list.
Whether you find it wonderful or intimidating, we can all agree wine's variety is plentiful. Well, maybe not. A recent study asked: Who owns all those brands on the store shelves? Is wine really a business of thousands of small family wineries, or is it just as corporate as spirits and soda?
Everyone at my end of the table thought we knew what the wine was. We were all wrong.
The object of our confusion was a bottle sitting a few feet away, covered in a sheath of tartan wrapping paper. We all had some of the wine in our glasses. A few of my friends thought it was a California red, maybe from Sonoma County. Ron was pretty sure there was Cabernet Franc in it, thanks to a taste of tobacco leaf. I tasted it too, but I thought the wine was from France—maybe a Right Bank Bordeaux made from Merlot and Cab Franc.
Bryant, the charming (and apparently devious) friend who brought the wine, unwrapped the bottle. Inside was the gift of humiliation—a bottle of Boekenhoutskloof Syrah Coastal Region 2009—from South Africa.
Welcome to wine's most humbling game—the blind tasting.