Posted: January 27, 2014 By Robert Camuto
The 2013 vintage was tough for all of Montalcino, Tuscany's premier wine region. But for Jacopo Biondi Santi, it was a moment of truth.
It was the first harvest at his family's legendary estate following the death of his father, Franco Biondi Santi, this past spring at the age of 91.
"I have been harvesting here since I was eight years old, first with grandfather, then with my father," Jacopo, 63, said in his office over the winery. "This was the first time I did it alone."
Posted: January 22, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Australian wine is gaining the attention of American wine drinkers again, significantly that of the gatekeepers: wine merchants, sommeliers and writers.
The reasons for Australia's slide in these parts from 2008 to 2012 probably involve some combination of their own overreach and a wine-drinking public's fascination with some other Next Big Thing. Whatever, every Aussie winemaker I've met trying to sell their wares in the U.S. this past year has spoken of doors opening that had been shut to them.
Posted: January 21, 2014 By Jennifer Fiedler
Gianpaolo Paterlini, wine director of Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning Acquerello in San Francisco, lays out a game plan for understanding Italy's Piedmont region.
Posted: January 17, 2014 By James Laube
Wine Spectator senior editor James Laube reports his latest findings on the percentage of corked and tainted California wines that were tasted in Wine Spectator's tasting room in 2013. Cork taint frequency was up just a tick last year to a 4.26 percent failure rate.
Posted: January 15, 2014 By Tim Fish
California is thirsty—and not for wine. It barely rained in 2013, and the wine industry is worried.
How bad is it? Some of the growing regions in Napa Valley got less rain than Las Vegas. Paso Robles, on the California Central Coast, got 1.92 inches of rain in 2013 instead of the average 12.78, according to the National Weather Service. By comparison, Death Valley got 2.17 inches.
That makes 2013 the driest year on record in California, and the records go back to about 1880. Droughts are nothing new here, but this is a new level of parched. It doesn't help that 2012 was an exceptionally dry year as well.
Posted: January 14, 2014 By Harvey Steiman
Victor Hazan's late wife, Marcella, whose cookbooks have afforded me no end of pleasure, taught many of us about Italian food. Victor often supplied the wine-half of the equation, but he was no stranger to foodways himself. Since Marcella's death last year, he has been writing occasional posts to thousands of followers of her Facebook account. At first he penned eloquent reminiscences about Marcella. Lately he has been commenting on cuisine.
This past week he stirred up a bit of a reflexive firestorm among his Facebook friends. Inspired by a photo of New York's new mayor, Bill di Blasio, eating pizza with a knife and fork, he waded into the age-old debate over the best way to consume Italy's signature flatbread.
Posted: January 14, 2014 By Mitch Frank
Chinese businessman Lam Kok's deal to fulfill his dream of owning a Bordeaux château with the purchase of Château La Rivière turned tragic when he and la Rivière's former owner died in a helicopter crash.
Now someone has decided to take advantage of the tragedy. A group calling itself the Agricultural Action Committee has sent a letter to a local newspaper and numerous real-estate agents, claiming that Gregoire "paid with his life for selling the vineyard to a foreign buyer exactly 10 days after we had warned him not to."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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