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Blogs  :  Robert Camuto: Letter from Europe

The Human Face of Wine

Wine's personality comes from the winemakers and grapegrowers behind the labels

Posted: January 13, 2014  By Robert Camuto

There are lots of reasons to love wine, but for me the most important reason is people. Wine is, after all, a story of humans working within the dynamics of nature, culture and history. When you put those forces together, you are bound to have tales of operatic proportions. These are the stories I love telling and will share in my new twice-monthly blog, Letter from Europe, reporting from the wine regions of France, Italy and beyond.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

What You Drink May Reveal How You Vote

Research suggests Republican and Democrat voters have different tastes when it comes to wine and spirits

Posted: January 8, 2014  By Tim Fish

If you drink Robert Mondavi wines and Jim Beam Bourbon, you probably vote Republican. If you prefer Moët & Chandon and Courvoisier Cognac, chances are you’re a Democrat.

Who knew that you were making a political statement every time you reached for a bottle of wine or spirits? Consumer data supplied by research group GFK MRI and analyzed by the National Media Research Planning and Placement, suggests that what you drink says a lot about how you vote.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

When to Put a Cork in It

The trials of two winemakers with screw caps are part of broader momentum shifts in the Great Closure Wars

Posted: January 7, 2014  By Ben O'Donnell

In recent years, the shift from cork to screw cap seemed inevitable. Forward-thinking regions like Australia and New Zealand now use screw caps for around 70 percent and 90 percent, respectively, of all their wine to better protect the quality.

So it came as a surprise two years ago, when winemaker Adam Mason, working for South Africa's Klein Constantia at the time, announced that he'd be returning the Perdeblokke Sauvignon Blanc to cork, after four vintages under screw cap—for technical reasons. Not long after, Christian Canute of Barossa's Rusden Wines made the same switchback on the Driftsand Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre, after five years under metal, despite an Australian wine press hostile to cork. "There is a fear that non-conformity on this issue might affect how a producer's wines are rated," Canute told me.

Blogs  :  Bruce Sanderson Decanted

Roberto Voerzio: Making a Difference in the Vineyards

Roberto Voerzio and his son Davide have invested in great vineyards. Their 2010 Barolos show their dedication to viticulture

Posted: January 3, 2014  By Bruce Sanderson

Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson is blogging on his recent trip to Italy's Piedmont region, where he visited growers and tasted the new vintages that will be released in the United States in 2014. In this installment, he tastes the Barolos and more at Roberto Voerzio. Here are his notes.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

Getting Fit Amidst a Sea of Wine and Food

How do wine and restaurant industry folks stay healthy?

Posted: January 2, 2014  By James Molesworth

It's that time of year. Time to make a resolution, only to watch it fade out. Common wisdom says that most New Year's resolutions are broken in less than two weeks. And of course, the most common resolution folks make is to lose weight. In 2012 and 2013 I made the same resolution …

With the calendar turning, I thought I'd ask a few people in the wine and restaurant industry how they first got into and now stay in shape. It's an industry rife with pit falls—long hours, big restaurant meals, travel and, of course, alcohol. Being a sommelier, restaurateur or a wine journalist can easily become a built-in excuse for taking your health for granted.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

What Does Wine Enlightenment Look Like?

Is there a common trajectory to appreciating wine and, if so, an endpoint?

Posted: December 24, 2013  By Jennifer Fiedler

Do you still drink the same wines you did when you started drinking wine? I don't, and I'm guessing you don't either.

It's a truism that understanding wine is a journey. With so many styles and types of wine out there, it's natural that people start in one place and end in another.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Sizing Up Bottle Sizes

Testing the Big Bottle Theory with five sizes of Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cépages 1995

Posted: December 19, 2013  By James Laube

Bottle size matters when it comes to wine, but maybe not as much as you might think. That's important to understand if you own larger-format bottles, or are considering buying some.

Conventional wisdom is that smaller bottles age faster than larger ones because smaller bottles have a smaller ratio of wine volume to oxygen, of which there is about the same amount in all bottle formats. That anecdotal thinking has been passed along for decades, becoming one of winedom's golden rules. Actually testing the theory is more difficult.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Rudy Kurniawan Could Be the Tip of a Fake Wine Crisis

Are counterfeits a victimless crime? Not when they rob us of the pleasure wine can deliver

Posted: December 18, 2013  By Mitch Frank

I love hearing people's "aha!" moments with wine—that instant when they realized that wine is more than just a beverage, that great wine has personality.

Here's a good one: A young man takes his visiting father out for dinner to celebrate dad's birthday. Neither knows much about wine, but the son decides this is a special occasion so he orders the most expensive bottle on the list. The wine—a 1996 Opus One—opens the young man's eyes. Within a few months, he's buying several bottles of Opus One, then other top wines. (Luckily, he has a decent amount of money.) Soon, he's hooked. Wine becomes his passion, and he's attending tastings and collecting rare bottles. Burgundy in particular beguiles him.

Like much of what we know about Rudy Kurniawan, it's hard to tell how much of this story is true and how much he concocted. Kurniawan told this tale to a journalist in 2006, just after an auction of his wines raised $24.7 million, a record for a single-consignor auction. Since he began attending auctions and tastings a decade ago, Kurniawan had always been vague about his origins and his seemingly deep pockets.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Can't Hear the Music, Part 2

Most wine companies fail to make a natural match with the music world, but one small importer may have unlocked the secret

Posted: December 18, 2013  By Ben O'Donnell

The youngest generation of wine drinkers wears an iPod like an appendage. Yet the wine industry fails again and again to gain traction with the music world, largely because celebrity brand allegiances look—and usually are—forced and phony, as I wrote yesterday. I became skeptical that wine companies could create cred out of nothing. One small import company, however, is topping all the charts and hitting high notes in sales.

In 2006, Jay-Z publicly boycotted Cristal Champagne over a clumsy remark by Roederer's managing director. The same year, Jay rapped about "gold bottles of that Ace of Spades," and the Champagne's shiny fuselage made a cameo in his video for "Show Me What You Got." Ace of Spades, in its shimmery metallic gold casing, is perhaps the most slickly packaged wine since, well, Cristal. The brand was officially called Armand de Brignac; it had no pedigree in Champagne—it seemingly materialized out of nowhere—but bottles cost $300.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

My Favorite Wines of 2013

Plus a few winemaker friends pick their favorites of the year

Posted: December 18, 2013  By Tim Fish

So many good wines and only 365 days to drink them. That's what makes it tough to pick the best wines of the year. My go-to list of course is Wine Spectator's Top 100 of 2013, but I also have my personal favorites. These are wines that left an impression on me for many reasons: where I was when I tried it, who I was with, the meal that went along.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

Between Blind Tastings, Médoc Detours

Into the Médoc for tastings at Domaine Andron, Château Calon-Ségur and Malescot-St.-Exupéry

Posted: December 17, 2013  By James Molesworth

Wine Spectator senior editor James Molesworth is back in France visiting châteaus in Bordeaux and blind tasting the 2011 vintage. Between blind tastings, Molesworth visited Domaine Andron, Château Calon-Ségur and Malescot-St.-Exupéry.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Can't Hear the Music

When it comes to the seemingly natural pairing with the music world, wine is tone-deaf: Some lessons in how not to sell a wine

Posted: December 17, 2013  By Ben O'Donnell

Some Boston University School of Public Health professors and students were jamming out pretty diligently to produce a recent study tallying alcohol brand mentions in 720 Billboard-charting songs from 2009 to 2011. "The most striking finding was that alcohol-brand references are concentrated among a small number of brands [in pop music] …," according to the research published in Substance Use and Misuse. "Four brands alone—Patrón tequila, Hennessy Cognac, Grey Goose vodka and Jack Daniel's whiskey—accounted for more than half of all alcohol-brand mentions."

Yes, here we are, 17 years after Biggie Smalls proclaimed "Cristal forever!" on Jay-Z's "Brooklyn's Finest." Wine fervor among young people is at an all-time high—especially for bubbly and rosé, which are the most party of all wines. Yet most wine brands are still clueless on how to get a shoutout and a lucrative lyrical plug when, as the study shows, there are plenty of outs to be shouted: 64 brand mentions in 720 songs. But for wine? Two Moëts and two Cristals in the "urban" genre, plus a Dom Pérignon in a country song.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

The Curtain Is Dropping on California's 2011 Vintage

A difficult vintage has resulted in tough reds with drying tannins, and careless vintners ended up with musty, moldy-tasting wines

Posted: December 13, 2013  By James Laube

With the exception of the 2011 California Cabernets, which are trickling in, most of the 2011 wines from California have passed through our tasting room.

For some vintners, 2011 was the worst harvest in decades. For many, 2011 was the most difficult in a career. It's impossible to put a happy face on a year marked by uniformly cold temperatures, hard rain at harvest, crops at 50 percent of hope and minimal financial returns.

Yet for all the headaches and ordinary wines from 2011, there are plenty of lessons. One is that modern viticultural practices could salvage what was in most ways a nightmarish vintage.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

More Thoughts on Terroir

What's more important: character or quality?

Posted: December 12, 2013  By Harvey Steiman

One of the comments on my blog last week about UC Davis' study on microbes and terroir reminded me why this is such a slippery concept. It shouldn't be, but it is.

Some see terroir, the idea that wine profoundly reflects the place where the grapes to make it grew, as wine's be-all and end-all. Call me simple-minded, but let's not lose sight of the fact that wine's first duty is to please our taste buds. If it can do that and also express the nuances of flavor and texture of a certain site, all the better.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

Mental Acuity Breaks Amidst the Vines

Between blind tastings of the 2011 Bordeaux vintage, visits to Domaine de Chavalier, Haut-Villet and Clos Fourtet

Posted: December 11, 2013  By James Molesworth

Wine Spectator senior editor James Molesworth is back in France visiting châteaus in Bordeaux and blind tasting the 2011 vintage. Between blind tastings, Molesworth visited Domaine de Chavalier, Haut-Villet and Clos Fourtet.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

Great Wines and Great Values for Holiday Bubbly

California offers something for every taste and budget this season

Posted: December 11, 2013  By Tim Fish

Now that I've been reviewing California sparkling wine for Wine Spectator for the past decade, I can say the wines have never been better, whether it is the luxury "tête de cuvées" or the value wines the Golden State has long been known for.

Look for reviews of some of my favorite California bubblies in the Dec. 31 issue. Meanwhile, here is a selection of the top wines as well as three great values priced at $20 or less.

Blogs  :  Bruce Sanderson Decanted

A Taste of Barbaresco and More

Pio Cesare, La Spinetta and Cigliuti reveal the charms of Barbaresco, young and mature

Posted: December 10, 2013  By Bruce Sanderson

Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson is blogging from Italy's Piedmont region, where he is visiting growers and tasting the new vintages that will be released in the United States in 2014. In this installment, he tastes the Barbarescos and more at Pio Cesare, La Spinetta and Cigliuti. Here are his notes.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Wine's Greatest Tradition? Innovation

Winemakers like to say that they do things just like the previous generation. Nonsense

Posted: December 10, 2013  By Mitch Frank

In 2008, I had the chance to walk through the cellars of François Raveneau, one of Chablis' greatest producers, to taste the wines and ask Bernard Raveneau how he and his brother Jean-Marie crafted such mind-blowing expressions of Chardonnay. It was one of the most frustrating hours of my life. The wines said a lot. But coaxing lengthy answers from the reserved Bernard was about as likely as getting the small French oak barrels to talk to me. What was the secret of Raveneau's success? "We are just doing what our father did," said Bernard, the first of several times he spoke those words during the day we spent together.

Numerous winemakers have told me the same tale: I am just doing what the previous generation did. Tradition informs every move I make.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

Off to Bordeaux: There's a Bad Moon Rising

Here I go again, again

Posted: December 5, 2013  By James Molesworth

Wine Spectator senior editor James Molesworth is back in France visiting châteaus in Bordeaux and blind tasting the 2011 vintage.

Blogs  :  Bruce Sanderson Decanted

A Day in Serralunga d’Alba

Tasting the latest vintages at Giovanni Rosso, Schiavenza and Rivetto

Posted: December 4, 2013  By Bruce Sanderson

Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson is blogging from Italy's Piedmont region, where he is visiting growers and tasting the new vintages that will be released in the United States in 2014. He spent a day in Serralunga d'Alba to taste the most recent vintages at Giovanni Rosso, Schiavenza and Rivetto. Here are his notes.

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