Posted: July 11, 2013 By Mitch Frank
Is there a China backlash in France's wine regions?
China's growing thirst for wine, particularly French wine, has been a favorite topic in wine circles for several years. Our fascination is understandable—the People's Republic of China has engineered a spectacular economic story during the past two decades, growing from 2 percent of global GDP to 16 percent, according to International Monetary Fund data. As China's wealth has soared and an upper class has arisen, wine sales have grown dramatically.
But anytime a new group joins an industry as tradition-minded as wine, some people are going to grumble. The three men in Hostens may be just isolated criminals, but they might also have given voice to an underlying tension: Some wine people may not welcome the planet's newest big spenders.
Posted: July 10, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Washington wine writer Paul Gregutt got himself into quite a kerfuffle earlier this year when he sprung Waitsburg Cellars onto the world.
The longtime resident of the Evergreen state is a veteran critic and author of Washington Wines and Wineries, the definitive book on Washington wine, whose wine reviews appeared on his own blog and in several print publications. He had never been a winemaker, but in 2011 partnered with Precept Wines, the state's third-largest wine company, to craft his own wines for the new label. Questions were raised. Could a wine critic also be a winemaker without raising conflict-of-interest issues? Could an untrained neophyte's wines be any good?
Well, I tasted them blind with their peers, as we always do around here, and I can say they are better than good.
Posted: July 10, 2013 By Tim Fish
There's one thing you can say about the recent growing seasons in Northern California: They haven't been boring. 2010 was chilly then blazing hot. 2009 and 2011 were soggy. Only 2012 was a dream.
As for 2013, it's too early to tell.
Because of warm weather in late winter and spring, the season began early, with budbreak starting March 1 and bloom unfolding in mid-May. Skies were mostly sunny as summer began, and the season was moving along at a good clip, and then an extended heat wave arrived (with temperatures hovering around 100° F) in late June and continued through the Fourth of July.
Posted: July 3, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
The news media has jumped on a new study of judges at the California State Fair wine competition as evidence that all wine tasting is baloney. But the author of the study says that's not what he meant. Not by a mile.
Posted: July 3, 2013 By Robert Taylor
The 21st century has been a tumultuous, albeit productive, one for Drinkers Rights, were one so inclined to dub the movement. The tug-of-war over where, when and how alcohol can be bought and consumed has played out everywhere from local community boards to state legislatures to the U.S. Congress and the Supreme Court.
In the past 10 years, interstate direct-to-consumer shipping has vastly expanded for wineries, but contracted for retailers; wholesalers continue to thrive and exert political influence despite claims that deregulated wine markets would drive them out of business; politicians perpetuate stereotypes of politicians by pandering to special interests. Yet somehow one group affected by each development—consumers—never seems to have a say. The founders of a new wine lovers' advocacy group hope they can change that.
Posted: July 3, 2013 By Tim Fish
I usually smoke ribs or a brisket or chicken on Independence Day, but that's not going to happen this year. Thanks to the heat, I'll be outside as little as possible. As Woody Allen said, "I don't tan. I stroke." This year I'll grill salmon or something else that's easy and light.
As for the wine, it's bubbly for me. Not only will it go well with the heat and salmon, but also the Fourth is a day of celebration after all, right?
Posted: June 28, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
This story should sound familiar to anyone who has fallen for the world of wine. One day about a decade ago, a budding opera singer and his wife were sitting outside a caffè in Rome. "I had quit drinking in my very early 20s due to the financial constraints of college and grad school," said Matthew Polenzani, "but on a beautiful warm evening the moment called for a nice glass of wine. We've never looked back."
Posted: June 27, 2013 By Jennifer Fiedler
Among the beer-drinking community, the ongoing "winification" of beer—750ml bottles, beer sommeliers, ultra-high-alcohol products—is a fairly controversial phenomenon. But looking at this development from the wine side of things, one facet is particularly interesting: the rise of single-hop beers.
Posted: June 26, 2013 By Tim Fish
Nail biting over the wine to drink with Thanksgiving dinner pales next to the challenge of pairing wine with a classic Fourth of July barbecue. That's one reason so many Americans reach for a beer.
I'm something of an anarchist when it comes to food and wine. There's too much fuss put into finding the seamless match in my view. Seamlessness is boring. I prefer a wine that offers a playful contrast and enhances the food or brings out something new.
And face it, if you can't be playful and have fun with food and wine on July 4, then you don't deserve to watch the fireworks.
Posted: June 24, 2013 By Bruce Sanderson
In 1995, Vittorio Frescobaldi of Italy's venerable Marchesi Frescobaldi joined forces with Napa Valley icon Robert Mondavi to produce a Tuscan red called Luce della Vite. The grapes came from vineyards in Montalcino, adjacent to the Frescobaldis' Castelgiocondo estate.
Luce debuted two years later with the 1993 vintage. There is also a second wine called Lucente produced from the same vineyards. Earlier this year in New York, Lamberto Frescobaldi, vice president of the company in charge of production for Marchesi Frescobaldi, presented a vertical tasting of every vintage of Luce from the past 20 years, exclusively for Wine Spectator. Here are my scores and tasting notes.
Posted: June 20, 2013 By Ben O'Donnell
"We have chaptalized. We have done in it California, on rare occasions, but we have, and we've done it in wines from Oregon, again on fairly rare occasions." That's probably not something you'd expect to hear from any veteran winemaker, much less Adam Lee, co-owner of Siduri and Novy Family, whose current releases total 37 single-vineyard and appellation bottlings, from the Sta. Rita Hills in California's Central Coast up to the Chehalem Mountains, in Oregon's Willamette Valley. After all, in California, chaptalization—the addition of sugar during fermentation—has long been illegal.
It's time to change that.
Posted: June 19, 2013 By Tim Fish
It's good to see that Americans are beginning to ignore one of the long-standing "rules" of California wine—that it has to be varietally specific: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, etc.
Blends have been a no-no, particularly when it comes to value wines, but America is now more confident and comfortable with wine, and we no longer have to live down the days we swilled cheap "Hearty Burgundy" and generic jugs of "Chablis."
Millennials, the industry is learning, are open-minded about blends, and that changing mindset has lead to a new generation of value-oriented California red blends.
Posted: June 18, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
After offering my take on ingredient labeling for wine, I got to thinking about why this is such a vexing issue. We do, after all, want to know what goes into what we consume, including wine. The tricky aspect for wine, of course, is that what goes in does not necessarily wind up in the bottle.
All of the adjustments winemakers can apply to wine remind me of what can happen in making music recordings. It's an apt analogy on several levels. One can even argue that, as humans, we need music as much as we need food and wine. At least some of us do.
Here's the thing. Just as manipulations in the winery can make a wine seem like more than what the vineyard actually produced, what we hear on most recordings is not exactly what the musicians actually played and sang. Sophisticated electronic and digital processes add reverberation, replace flubbed notes, and these days can even modify pitch to get a sour note in tune.
Posted: June 18, 2013 By Mitch Frank
Every third day, I play my version of wine roulette, uncorking a bottle I first opened two days earlier and seeing if the last one or two glasses worth of wine at the bottom still taste good. Most recently it was a bottle of RdV Vineyards Lost Mountain Red, a lovely Bordeaux blend from Virginia's emerging Middleburg area. (RdV employs Eric Boissenot, a Bordeaux winemaking consultant I profiled in our June 30 issue.)
When faced with an unfinished bottle, I shove the cork back into place and put the bottle in the fridge. I know, I could pour the leftover wine into a smaller bottle or try some fancy inert-gas device; some of my colleagues have been known to freeze leftover wine. But I've settled on the cork-it-and-cool-it technique, and it works most of the time if I drink the wine within three days. Sadly, this time it failed. The RdV was bright at first, but the finish held a touch of vinegar. It wasn't the wine's fault—it was probably too much air and not enough wine.
Posted: June 17, 2013 By James Laube
There are so many things that Neyers winery is doing right these days that it's hard to know where to begin. Bruce and Barbara Neyers have been married for 46 years, sweethearts since they were teens; they have three children and reside at their winery in Conn Valley, a slender offshoot midway through Napa Valley.
What impresses me about their winery goes beyond the quality of the wines, which is often exceptional, and extends to the sensibility of pricing.
Posted: June 6, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Ingredient labeling for wine seems to make perfect sense, but the devil is in the details. Despite several concerted attempts, some dating back 40 years, it hasn't happened yet, in part because making wine is not like bottling soda pop or mixing cereal. In those, ingredients are the same as contents. Not so with wine.
Wine is a product of fermentation, and not everything that goes into it comes out in the end. And alcohol, one of wine's prime constituents, is not added to table wines. It results from fermenting the sugar in grapes. How to handle those pesky details has derailed previous attempts at ingredient labeling for wine.
Posted: May 30, 2013 By James Molesworth
Wine Spectator senior editor James Molesworth is in California, where he visited with Jasmine Hirsch of Hirsch Vineyards on the Sonoma Coast and tasted a lineup of their Pinot Noirs. Here are his tasting notes.
Posted: May 30, 2013 By Robert Taylor
The last time you had friends over, you probably made a run to the supermarket for supplies before playing the good host. If you live in Pennsylvania, it wasn't so easy. You drove to the supermarket, you drove to the state beer distributor and you drove to the state wine and spirits store. Pennsylvania is one of the few remaining "control" states, meaning that the state exerts direct control over alcohol sales.
Sound like a wasteful, inconvenient and costly hassle?
Most Pennsylvanians think so. The governor and lieutenant governor think so. Most of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives thinks so. Labor unions do not, however, and their full-throated opposition has stymied a proposal to privatize alcohol sales in the state Senate. Despite all the initial support, the longer the debate drags on, the further Pennsylvania seems to be from privatizing its alcohol distribution and sales. For the consumer, that means limited selection and more hassle.
Posted: May 29, 2013 By Tim Fish
You've missed a lot if you haven't followed Zinfandel the past few years. A quiet revolution has been going on in California, as a group of Zinfandel firebrands are raising the bar on quality. It's something I've written about as far back as 2009, but it's finally seeing fruition.
I explore the trend more thoroughly in "Zinfandel Renaissance," part of the cover package for the June 30 issue of Wine Spectator. The cult favorite and distinctly Californian wine just may be poised for a long-deserved mainstream revival.
Posted: May 28, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
The National Transportation and Safety Board recently recommended lowering the maximum allowed blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for drivers to 0.05 from its current 0.08. Beer and restaurant industry groups called foul. So far official voices of the wine industry have been silent.
For me it's simple: I don't want to be the cause of someone's death if I can help it, and I can minimize that risk if I don't get behind the wheel buzzed. If I am driving, I simply won't take that extra drink. That's my choice. The sticky issue is whether the law should be tightened.
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