Posted: August 20, 2013 By Ben O'Donnell
In Old World regions especially, we tend to think of estates as regencies to be passed down from generation to generation, the longer the pedigree, the stronger the bind to the terroir. A certain breed of purists sneers at "flying winemakers," spreading their seed in every corner of the wine world and leaving the next morning. What does Bordeaux's Michel Rolland know about Argentina, anyway?
The reality is that many of the most daring, and sometimes the greatest, wines today are made by individuals who come into a region as outsiders, with little incentive other than to innovate and little regard for the supposed limitations of the terroir and culture.
Posted: August 15, 2013 By Robert Taylor
If you're anything like me, you have quite a few wine bottles in your home, and not all of them are full. A quick tally in my apartment came to more than two dozen empties on display or in storage. Some are mementos from special occasions, but most simply serve as art.
It's no coincidence that so many wine labels are suitable for hanging. Product packaging is as important to sales as the product itself. For a collectible competing against other products that bear the exact same size, shape, appellation and vintage, it makes sense that most vintners enlist the help of artists and marketing firms when creating a wine label.
Posted: August 13, 2013 By Mitch Frank
Imagine a bacterial scourge that was silently spreading from vineyard to vineyard, striking down grapevines in their prime, bankrupting wineries and threatening to turn even the most basic of wines into a rare luxury. Take a deep breath—it's fiction, for now. But it's a horrible reality for farmers who produce another of our favorite beverages—orange juice. Since 2005, bacteria has been spreading through orange groves from Florida to California, inflicting a disease called citrus greening. Infected trees produce small, sour oranges.
Posted: August 7, 2013 By Tim Fish
Americans now say they like wine just as much as they do beer, which is a huge preference shift in the past 20 years. That was the main takeaway from a new poll by Gallup.
While you shouldn't read too much into the results—Americans continue to spend a lot more money on beer and spirits—it says a great deal about this country's increasingly friendly attitude toward wine.
Posted: August 2, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Every state in America makes wine. So everywhere I go, I try to taste at least a few examples of the local product. As my wife and I spend several weeks every summer in the Colorado Rockies, we have been exposed to Colorado bottlings from time to time. I've ordered glasses or bottles of local wines in places such as Arizona, Texas, Michigan, Maryland and Virginia, which get little respect except for a relatively few supporters. Generally I find what I've tasted likable enough. But two big questions keep me from hopping up and down with excitement. I ran into both of those questions as I tasted through a representative sample of 10 Colorado wines with Kyle Schlachter of the Colorado Wine Press website.
Posted: July 31, 2013 By Tim Fish
Back in school, there was always a smartass who'd taped a sign to a kid's back. California Merlot has been wearing one of those signs for years now, and it reads "Kick Me." The 1990s boom years are long gone, even though Merlot is still popular with consumers looking for an easygoing red for $10 to $20. There are a few high-end Merlot producers like Duckhorn, Lewis and Pahlmeyer that can charge a premium, but many wineries with $25 to $50 bottles can't give them away.
But if the 2009 vintage proved anything, it's way too soon to write off California Merlot.
Posted: July 30, 2013 By James Laube
A lay person could be forgiven for thinking a group of vintners and enophiles talking shop were speaking another language. In many ways, they are—the American winespeak vernacular draws on words rooted in many foreign tongues, but predominantly French. But some of our idiomatic terms are occasionally adopted by the general populace.
"Vintage" might be the most prominent example. Collectibles of every ilk are now referred to by aficionados as "vintage," from cars to clothes. Sportscasters regularly call a veteran ballplayer's banner day a "vintage performance."
Thanks to a bubbling battle of Paris cola drinkers and the Wall Street Journal, terroir could be the unlikely next wine term to make the leap into the mainstream.
Posted: July 25, 2013 By Jennifer Fiedler
It's no secret that wine people can come off as a little cultish, with their special vocabulary, tasting rituals and intensely focused gatherings. Yet it's an interesting hobby in the sense that it bumps up against the real world on a regular basis—at meal times, business dinners, and fun moments with friends and family. That means that wine people get to share wine with lots of folks who may not exactly have the same enthusiasm when it comes to talking about wine.
Posted: July 19, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Aspen, Colo., tucked high in the Rocky Mountains, may not be an ideal indicator of economic trends in America. But at the luxury hotel the Little Nell, the expensive wines have started to fly out of the cellar. It has sommelier Carlton McCoy shaking his head in wonder.
Bottles and magnums of first-growth Bordeaux and big-name Burgundy stud a 700-bottle glassed-in wine storage unit that holds a bottle or two of the most-ordered wines and some top-shelf labels. It runs the length of a cocktail bar at the entrance to Element 47, the awkwardly renamed restaurant that won a Wine Spectator Grand Award as Montagna, its previous incarnation.
Posted: July 18, 2013 By Ben O'Donnell
If you're an American in the wine industry and are within my age range (mid-twenties to early thirties, not to put too fine a point on it), you have, or are somewhere on the path toward, a Master Sommelier diploma. That is barely an exaggeration. (Some folks pursue a Wine & Spirits Education Trust diploma, or go on to a Master of Wine, instead.) For a generation that purports to care little about what the so-called experts have to say about wine, it seems we all want to become one anyway.
"It definitely helps to have it on the résumé when it comes to scoring a great job in the wine world," said Dustin Wilson, wine director at Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning Eleven Madison Park and MS class of '11. "It's a title that earns you some automatic respect."
Posted: July 17, 2013 By Tim Fish
It's blasphemy, I know, but I don't always drink the perfect wine with my food.
Forget perfect: Sometimes I don't even remotely drink the right wine. This isn't a radical idea for old wine hands, but I think it's worth restating for new wine lovers. The right wine with the right meal remains the ideal, but who lives in an ideal world?
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.
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