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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted: December 3, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Last week the University of California at Davis announced its latest research into terroir, that elusive concept that says wine profoundly reflects the place where the grapes it's made from grew. And now we're all trying to figure out what it means. So, I should add, are the scientists who did the study.
Prof. David Mills analyzed the mix of fungi and bacteria in crushed grapes from widely spread vineyards in Napa, Sonoma and Central Coast. By sequencing genes in 273 different lots over two vintages, he and his colleagues found that the microbe communities fell into distinct and predictable patterns depending on their location and grape variety. Intriguingly, the communities in Sonoma looked very different from those in Napa, and Sonoma showed more similarities to Central Coast than it did to Napa.
The big question is what this means for wine.
Posted: December 2, 2013 By Bruce Sanderson
My first stop in Piedmont was at Oddero (I last visited here in November 2010), where Maria Cristina and Isabella Oddero are at the helm, along with enologist Luca Veglio. This is a very traditional house, with firm, long-lived Barolos, an elegant Barbaresco from the Gallina cru in Neive, a fruity Langhe Nebbiolo and two Barberas, one from Alba and another from Asti.
Since Maria Cristina took over from her father in 1997, she has been observing the vineyards carefully and, along with moving toward organic farming, has changed some small details, both in the vines and in the cellar.
Posted: December 2, 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 eight day, he tasted at Jérôme Despesse, Nicolas Serrette and Domaine du Coulet. Here are his notes.
Posted: November 27, 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 seventh day, he tasted at A. Clape and Jean-Luc Colombo. Here are his notes.
Posted: November 26, 2013 By Bruce Sanderson
Rajat Parr, wine director for the Michael Mina group, began making wine in California with the 2004 vintage. What originally began as a quest to vinify whole-cluster Syrah led him to Beckmen's Purisima Mountain Vineyard. He also sourced a little Chardonnay from Jim Clendenen at Au Bon Climat from the 2004 and 2005 harvests.
From 2006 through 2009, Parr's wines were under the Evening Land umbrella before consolidating the Sandhi project with partners Charles Banks and winemaker Sashi Moorman in 2010. Parr and Moorman purchased a 40-acre Pinot Noir vineyard in Sta. Rita Hills from Evening Land in 2012 with plans to make wines from it under the Domaine de la Côte label. Sandhi wines are from purchased fruit.
Now, Parr and Banks are making wine in Burgundy, under the Maison l'Orée label, with the help of Nicolas Potel and his team at Domaine de Bellene in Beaune. I caught up with Parr recently in New York.
Posted: November 26, 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 sixth day, he tasted at Delas, Maison Nicolas Perrin and Domaine Vallet. Here are his notes.
Posted: November 25, 2013 By James Laube
One of the hard truths about wine is that eventually you'll get priced out. That is, the wines you gravitate to and find so comfortably affordable will cost more.
These are often wines your special go-to wines, the wines you "discovered," and didn't want anyone else to find out about. Barring your own dramatic shifts in good fortune, they will eventually extend beyond your financial reach. The main reason is that quality wines will almost always reach a broader audience, which inevitably leads to higher prices.
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