Archive for the 'wine picks' Category

Blind taste test: Stradivarius

stradivariusWe all know about the record of wine experts at blind tastings: decidedly mixed.

What if professional violin players played a 300-year-old Stradivarius worth millions of dollars and a newer violin (worth tens of thousands) under double blind conditions? Would they fare better than professional wine tasters? SPOILER ALERT: It turns out, no, the professional players picked the older violins as superior only on par with the odds in chance.

Check out the story on the most recent Planet Money podcast from NPR. And here’s a link to the one of the studies in PNAS.

Mathieu Lapierre and 2013

Mathieu Lapierre said that the 2013 showed more “Burgundy influence.” At the Kermit Lynch portfolio tasting in New York yesterday, he elaborated briefly that given the location of Beaujolais, vintages can oscillate between “Rhone-influenced” (e.g. 2009) and “Burgundy-influenced.” He said 2013 for him ended without hail, the grapes were healthy and they harvested as late as October 28, a record.

The Raisin Gaullois 2013 is a vin glouglou from the estate’s youngest vines, bottled en screw. (Too bad that the 5L bag-in-box is not imported!)

The Morgon, always a reference point for the region, has a beautiful poise between come-hither fruit of the semi-carbonic macerationo and tannic structure from the granite soils in the 2013 wine. The “Cuvée MMIX” (2009) was a tad ripe for me (Rhone-ish, if you will), but the “Cuvée MMXI” (2011) more successfully combines the ripeness of the wine with intriguing structure. Thing for my “to do” list: taste this MMXI with the Foillard Pi Morgon wine for a fuller understanding of their differences and similarities.

Asked if he prefers to drink the Morgons now or with some age on them, Mathieu replied that with friends he prefers young wines but that for more serious occasions, he’s currently drinking the 2007s. He invoked the late Henri Jayer, saying “a good wine must be good young and old for different reasons.”

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Put a Burg on it: d’Angerville Jura


Guillaume d’Angerville has made sophisticated and elegant wines at his family domaine in Volnay since he took over in 2003. But recently, the story goes, his curiosity was piqued in the wines of the Jura: a Parisian sommelier poured him a chardonnay from the region blind and d’Angerville took it to be a white Burgundy. And we all know that happens with a successful and ambitious vintner who has his curiosity piqued: before long, d’Angerville had purchased two estates in the Jura.

He placed them under the name Domaine du Pélican complete with a pelican on the label. You might think that because the Jura is the ultimate wine for hipsters that, in deference to Portlandia, he had to “put a bird on it.” But apparently it is a reference to the coat of arms of Arbois, where the wines are made. Burgundy…Jura…is this a match made in sommelier heaven or what?

D’Angerville settled on the two properties after an extensive search. Even though Arbois is only an hour from Volnay, it gets twice the rainfall. Also, some of the plots can be quite windy, given the rolling countryside. Throw in his high standard for excellence and it’s no surprise that it took d’Angerville a few years to find the right spots. Wink Lorch has a detailed backgrounder (pdf) about the new domaine and writes that they are looking for yet another vineyard parcel in the area. They are also experimenting with the local “sous-voile” style of winemaking, wherein white wines mature under a natural yeast blanket giving them an oxidative quality.

The current wines are made in a Burgundian style, which is to say that the white barrels are topped up and not oxidative. The 2012 Chardonnay has a vibrancy and elegance with layers–strata?–of minerals and a lingering finish. The 2012 Savagnin Ouillé is richer, with a faint nutty character, and big dose of minerals (can’t vouch for vitamins). The red 2012 Trois Cépages is a blend of Pinot Noir, Trousseau, and Poulsard (60-35-5) that has the terrific acidity you would expect as well as lively, prickly tannins that give it good structure.

These exciting wines are hard to find but worth seeking out. (Find these wines at retail)

This week in vineyard photos: drones, buds, caterpillars

Vineyards and wineries can post some photos to social media that let us know what’s going on in their corner of the world. Here are a few worthwhile ones:

Starting in the southern hemisphere, this one is a photo of the Craggy Range Te Muna Road vineyard in New Zealand. It’s taken by drone and, since you know our love of all things drone and wine related, we had to post it for you. Queried via DM, the folks at Craggy Range said the drone belonged to an employee and was used for fun, not in any particular vineyard application. Read more…

Which states drink the most wine?


Which state is the thirstiest for wine? It’s a question we’ve noodled before as Washington DC is the thirstiest non-state in the nation! The good folks at Business Insider have taken the initiative to produce this handy map showing comparative wine consumption data, which they also list in a table. (Since the data relate to wine sales as opposed to pulling corks, some states with friendly policies to wine sales–such as New Hampshire–or places with a good selection next to lousy places–such as DC and adjacent the Montgomery County, MD–skew the results somewhat.)

Wine is popular across the country today. And it’s a non-partisan imbibing as the appeal of cabernet and Champagne spans party lines. Yet, after the jump, check out how the map of wine consumption correlates with the 2012 electoral returns: Read more…

A visit to Lopez de Heredia


I’m in Rioja attending the Digital Wine Communicators’ Conference.

I got to stop by Lopez de Heredia, the shrine to fine wine in Haro. As the sun set and the last grapes of the 2013 harvest arrived, Mercedes Lopez de Heredia took a break from her duties to show a few of us around. Because the celebrated winery, a shrine to fine wine, has been around for over a century, it’s not exactly breaking news. But the mold-covered walls and the cellars where 13,000 barrels a phenomenal 2 million slumber should be on the bucket list for all wine geeks. Although I’ve tasted as far back as the 1945 vintage with collectors in New York, this was the first time I’d been to the bodega.

The last grapes from this late vintage were still trickling in (see above). The workers to this day bring them in via tall poplar baskets called “comportas.” The conical structure means that the wood bears the load and the grapes don’t start the crush on the way to the winery. Read more…

Grand cru, says who? Nespresso edition

Ah, the power of wine terminology in conveying cachet to food, drink or other luxury products never ceases to amaze. Today’s case in point: Nespresso, pre-ground espresso beans encased in tin pods that stay fresh for a decade.

As I wandered out of Grand Central Terminal one day last week, I was accosted by a phalanx of men and women in black suits with white shirts and black ties. I feared for a moment that I had walked on to the set of the latest Men in Black movie and considered taking cover, lest they be in pursuit of aliens. But one garrulous steward trotted over to me and offered me a coffee. Since I rarely refuse coffee in any form offered me before 3 PM, I felt my eyes open wider as I nodded approval. He guided me over to bins containing the colorful pods of Nespresso. The instantaneous, one-touch coffee has been tremendously popular in Europe; if they hung out signs touting sales as McDonald’s does, I’m sure it would say “billions brewed.”

As a wine geek, the thing that struck me the most was that they bins offered selections from the “16 Grand Crus” of Nespresso. Grand cru, says who? While I have seen the term handwritten on bags of beans at boutique roasters, it seems to more tolerable and chuckleworthy there as the bags tout a single coffee plantation. But the Nespresso pods on display had no visible connection with the place(s) of origin and their “grand crus” simply evoked flavor profiles.

If the Champenois went nuts about the mere rumor of a champagne iPhone, shouldn’t a defender of the grand cru system be flipping out over Nestle’s brazen marketing?

Oh, and as to the quality of the Nespresso cappuccino itself? While the system may be long (lungo?) on convenience, the quality was more akin to vin de pays than grand cru.

Related: “Sea Smoke declares own vineyards “Grand Cru” on the label

Sunier, Fleurie, 2011


It’s going to be a cool and rainy Memorial Day weekend here in the Northeast–boooo! So I’ll spare you the dummer quaffers and hit you with something structured yet fun and gulpable at the same time: Sunier, Fleurie, 2011.

It turns out that although Julien Sunier is from Burgundy, he’s not from a wine family. In fact, his mother is a hair stylist. One of her customers was Christophe Roumier who allowed young Julien to to work at the Domaine, where he decided that the whole wine thing was pretty fun. After exploring the wine world’s corners in California and New Zealand he came back to Burgundy and later Beaujolais, starting making his own wines in 2008. He has parcels in Fleurie, Morgon and Regnié that have old vines, which he hand harvests and uses indigenous yeasts in the fermentations in concrete vats. After the fermentation, the wines are aged in older Burgundy barrels from… Christophe Roumier.

I bought the 2011 Fleurie for $25 (find this wine). It’s worth seeking out. I give it my highest (Beaujolais?) rating: quickly emptied.


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