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Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Grading the 100-Point Scale

Winemakers have come to embrace the 100-point rating system as much as consumers have

Posted: November 11, 2013  By James Laube

One big benefit of the 100-point scale is that it has given winemakers a target. It's one way for critics to show vintners where their strike zone lies.

Consumers embraced the scoring system a long time ago. Vintners were more skeptical and cautious. They can rate their own wines intellectually, by flavor, density, balance—any number of ways—but assigning a number, or even using the esoteric descriptors most wine writers use, hasn't fit their comfort zone.

That's changed.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

There Are Brunettes, and Then There Are Brunettes

Côte Brunes were a few of the day's many highlights at Jean-Paul & Jean-Luc Jamet and Georges Vernay

Posted: November 8, 2013  By James Molesworth

Wine Spectator senior editor James Molesworth is back in France's Rhône Valley to taste the 2012 vintage of Cote-Rotie, Hermitage, Cornas and more. On his second day, he started off with visits to Jean-Paul & Jean-Luc Jamet and Georges Vernay. Here are his notes.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Memories of Charlie Trotter

Chicago's legendary chef showed the way for many others

Posted: November 7, 2013  By Harvey Steiman

The news Tuesday stunned the food and wine world. Charlie Trotter, the legendary Chicago chef who, as much as anyone, defined modern fine dining in America, was dead. At 54, how could this be?

It turns out he had a secret. He had been diagnosed with an aneurysm deep inside his brain, according to friend and sommelier Larry Stone in Chicago Tribune's obituary. It was inoperable. But he refused to use his illness to play for sympathy. Instead, he announced just after midnight on New Year's 2012 that he would be closing his restaurant after a 25-year run to pursue an advanced degree in philosophy and travel with his wife.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

How Do You Become an Expert in Bordeaux?

4 tips for getting a handle on this uber-famous, sort-of-complicated, not-always-pricey wine region

Posted: November 7, 2013  By Jennifer Fiedler

It’s no secret that Bordeaux wines have a bit of a perception problem among U.S. consumers. In a 2012 blog post, senior editor James Molesworth, our lead taster for Bordeaux, said the Bordelais see the U.S. market “slipping away” on account of an “image issue, driven by the escalating prices of the top châteaus.”

A number of good reasons for exploring Bordeaux wines were outlined in that post, including a raft of under-$20 values, cellar-worthy wines at modest prices, stylistic diversity and a move to green farming and winemaking practices. But still, for many people just getting into wine, Bordeaux remains something of an unknown. How much does a consumer really need to know to buy a good bottle?

I asked Bernard Sun, corporate beverage director for Jean-Georges Restaurants, how he would recommend tackling the region. Here are his tips.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

A Blonde and a Brunette

My first day back in the Rhône Valley, I visited Benjamin & David Duclaux and Michel & Stéphane Ogier to taste the 2012 Côte-Rôties

Posted: November 6, 2013  By James Molesworth

Wine Spectator senior editor James Molesworth is back in France's Rhône Valley to taste the 2012 vintage of Cote-Rotie, Hermitage, Cornas and more. On his first day, he visited Benjamin & David Duclaux and Michel & Stéphane Ogier. Here are his notes.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

Hearty Reds for the Fleeting Sunlight

Put away those frivolous wines of summer and drink something fit for autumn

Posted: November 6, 2013  By Tim Fish

Fall arrived in Sonoma County on Monday, or at least it finally felt like it, finally. It was something in the air, that hard to define mix of fleeting sunlight, long shadows and leaves in the breeze. Autumn comes late in Northern California and lingers only until the first serious storm blows in from the Pacific.

I'm in the mood for different wines when the weather changes. The flavors are generally richer, deeper and more multifaceted, so I look for a wine that's similar. A zesty red Rhône blend is often perfect, likewise Syrah and Zinfandel, plus red blends from Italy and Spain. Here are a few affordable picks for the fall.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Books to Boost Your Green IQ: The Green Vine

Shannon Borg's new tome offers a jumping-on point for wine lovers interested in eco-friendly drinking

Posted: November 5, 2013  By Dana Nigro

When I first decided that how a wine is grown mattered to me as much as whether I enjoy the taste, I wished I had a handy reference that laid out all the environmentally friendly practices, certifications and wineries. Instead, I spent months reading books and websites, interviewing experts, tracking down certified or practicing producers, touring vineyards and wineries and poring over retail shelves. (See Green Revolutionaries.)

Washington wine writer, educator and sommelier Shannon Borg wanted the same thing when she started her journey, so she curated her own personal introduction to the topic, focusing on the U.S. West Coast. The result is The Green Vine, a nice stocking stuffer of a book for eco-minded foodies who want to learn more about wine or for wine lovers who've decided it's time to know more about sustainable, organic and biodynamic winegrowing.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

No Time Like the Present

There's no guarantee when it comes to aging wines

Posted: November 4, 2013  By James Laube

More than one person asked me during the Wine Spectator Wine Experience, "What is the fascination with wines aging?" To one man's ears, several vintners emphasized not only the youth of their wines but that they had long lives ahead. Since I'm not a fan of aged wines, the answer was easy and came in parts.

In my experience, and to my tastes, most wines don't improve with age. Most of the time they stay about the same for the first few years of their lives. Therefore, there's little motivation to cellar them.

But there are just as many wine lovers on the other side of the ledger. Old or long-lived wines evoke excitement among connoisseurs, a sort of time travel that can provide a unique drinking experience, provided you like the wines once they've aged. The biggest tradeoff that comes with age affects its fruit profile. The compromise: pure fruit vitality for the subtle nuances that may come with time.

Lynch isn't much a fan of California wine, yet it appears that he disqualifies himself from passing judgment on the mere basis that he hasn't and doesn't follow California's wines as closely as many. His import business is based in St. Helena, in Napa Valley, run by a Napa vintner, Bruce Neyers, and I suspect Lynch pays far greater attention to California wine than he allows. He is, after all, a businessman who competes against California.

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

Returning to the Rhône for Syrah's Northern Lights

Back in France's Rhône Valley, to taste the 2012 vintage and more

Posted: November 4, 2013  By James Molesworth

It's time. Time to head back to the Rhône. It's been a little while since my last trip in June 2012. Prior to that, I worked my way through the Northern Rhône in April 2011. So I wonder: Could I be rusty? Nah, I doubt it ...

My current annual Rhône report is in the Nov. 30 issue and it focuses on the 2011 vintage, now on retail shelves in the U.S. There will be plenty more 2011s to taste, but I am also beginning to turn my attention to 2012, which is the vintage I will be tasting during this trip (though sometimes producers will show other vintages as well.)

Blogs  :  Bruce Sanderson Decanted

17 Vintages of Bruno Giacosa

A vertical tasting of the master’s Barbaresco and Barolo riservas illustrates a transparency that reveals vintage and vineyard character

Posted: November 4, 2013  By Bruce Sanderson

Bruno Giacosa is an icon of Piedmont. A guardian of the traditional style, he has made benchmark Barbarescos and Barolos since 1961. I recently had the opportunity to taste 17 vintages of Giacosa’s Barbaresco Asili Riserva, Barolo Falletto Riserva and Barolo Le Rocche del Falletto Riserva spanning the years 2008 to 1967.

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

In Rare Harmony with Matt Kramer

At Matt Kramer's Wine Experience seminar, our wine tastes aligned

Posted: October 31, 2013  By James Laube

It happens. Not often, but it happens: Matt Kramer and I agree on a wine. In this case, three wines.

Kramer had just led a seminar of Portuguese and Spanish wines from terraced vineyards, and I complimented him on his wine selections, which momentarily caught him off balance.

"I'm happy," I offered in jest. "Your palate is really coming around."

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Let the Consumers Decide if Natural Wines Are Popular

An interview with Kermit Lynch asserts that ripe wines are off the menu, but sales don't bear that out

Posted: October 30, 2013  By James Laube

Last week, while in New York for the Wine Spectator Wine Experience, many people brought up Kermit Lynch's interview in the New York Times, in which he discusses high-alcohol wines, the 100-point rating system, terroir and natural wines, among other hot-button wine topics. I have a few thoughts of my own to offer …

Lynch isn't much a fan of California wine, yet it appears that he disqualifies himself from passing judgment on the mere basis that he hasn't and doesn't follow California's wines as closely as many. His import business is based in St. Helena, in Napa Valley, run by a Napa vintner, Bruce Neyers, and I suspect Lynch pays far greater attention to California wine than he allows. He is, after all, a businessman who competes against California.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

When Did Clean Become a Dirty Word?

A spin through the Wine Experience proves good wine doesn't need funk for character

Posted: October 29, 2013  By Harvey Steiman

Am I the only person dismayed at how the discourse about wine seems to have devolved into posturing about whether this particular wine is "natural" enough, or that one has enough "authenticity"?

Blogs  :  Stirring the Lees with James Molesworth

Pierre Lurton Talks Yquem Magic

Sneak peaks at the newest releases from Château d'Yquem show amazing quality

Posted: October 24, 2013  By James Molesworth

With the 2013 New York Wine Experience about to kick off tonight, it's no surprise to see a few vintners strolling through the Wine Spectator offices today. I sat down with Pierre Lurton this morning to get a sneak peek at the two newest releases from the famed Château d'Yquem—both the 2011 Sauternes and 2012 dry white.

Blogs  :  Bruce Sanderson Decanted

Remembering Burgundy's Patrick Bize

An honest and inviting winemaker who shared his sophisticated taste in wine and music

Posted: October 24, 2013  By Bruce Sanderson

The wine world lost a talented winemaker when Patrick Bize died Sunday. Patrick was genuine, warm and had a great sense of humor.

I had the good fortune of visiting Patrick twice in the past four years at his domaine in Savigny-lès-Beaune, where he made terrific reds and whites from an assortment of villages and premier cru parcels. He also bottled a little Corton-Charlmagne and Latricières-Chambertin.

His wines reflected his personality: Frank, honest, warm and inviting.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

What's a Unicorn Wine?

Parsing sommelier speak

Posted: October 24, 2013  By Jennifer Fiedler

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?

Blogs  :  James Laube's Wine Flights

Do I Smell Mocha in this Wine?

I find the caffè mocha aromas of coffee and chocolate in today's wines much more frequently than those of yesteryear

Posted: October 23, 2013  By James Laube

"Mocha" has worked its way into my vocabulary as a wine descriptor over the past decade or so. I use it in reference to the aroma of a caffè mocha, particularly that dusting of cocoa powder on top of the foamed milk.

I first used "mocha" as a tasting descriptor in the magazine in 1998. In 2000, it appeared in 43 Cailfornia wine reviews and 150 Wine Spectator reviews from around the world; in 2005, it appeared in 134 and 246, respectively. So far this year, "mocha" has popped up in 232 reviews of California wines (out of more than 3,700 total), and it's been used in 614 reviews of nearly 20,000 wines around the world, so it's not just me: Mocha's popularity as a tasting descriptor is at an all-time high.

But where does that mocha aroma come from?

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

12 California Merlots for $20 or Less

Good quality comes at a fair price if you shop wisely

Posted: October 23, 2013  By Tim Fish

Snidely debating what wine is "in" and what wine is "out" is a favorite pastime of industry insiders. First, Merlot was in, and then it was out. In and out, in and out-you get whiplash after a while. How much of that trickles down to consumers is hard to say. I'm not sure they care.

The 2010 vintage in California certainly didn't show Merlot at its best, and it's too early to call the 2011s, which are just being released. For my annual Merlot report, I tasted more than 180 wines, and I offer my take in the Nov. 30 issue. Despite the challenges of recent vintages, there is a solid selection of California Merlots on the market that sell for $20 or less. These are wines that can compete with values from Argentina, Portugal and Washington state.

Blogs  :  Mixed Case: Opinion and Advice

Liberté, Egalité, Sobriety

A proposed law in France would change wine from cultural treasure to public health threat

Posted: October 22, 2013  By Mitch Frank

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.

Blogs  :  Harvey Steiman At Large

Oregon Pinot Noir 2011

A meditation on finesse and transparency

Posted: October 18, 2013  By Harvey Steiman

The 2011 Pinot Noirs from Oregon are going to polarize wine drinkers. Vintners will tell you how much they love their 2011s. They expect that those who value deftness, lightness and delicacy will too. But if you want consistency, clearly delineated flavors and a sense of presence, you might be disappointed.

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