State wine cellars compared

Game time: see if you can correctly identify the photo of an official state wine cellar with the correct country, US, UK, and France.

UK wine cellar

elysee wine cellar

wine fridge

Okay, okay, it’s photographic hyperbole — but the White House really doesn’t have a wine cellar to speak of. Downing Street (top) buys the wines on release and stores them for official occasions. Buckingham Palace has some terrific wines too as you may recall that when Obama went there on a state visit, the Queen uncorked some DRC and ’63 port. The Elysée Palace (middle) has an impressive cellar, as you might expect. The White House, by contrast, procures wines for state functions on-demand so rarely serves wines with much age on them.

The relative paucity of the White House wine cellar has its roots in our country’s love/hate relationship with alcohol: loved it so much that it became a political issue leading to Prohibition. While the shadow of Prohibition looms over the industry in the form of restrictions interstate shipments (among other things), the fact is that Americans are into wine now, as witnessed by instagram feeds or the fact that per capita consumption has increased for 20 consecutive years. So a big chunk of America would probably take pride in having some decent American wines slumbering in the White House basement.

How likely is that to happen? When pigs fly. The UK and France have both reduced their wine collections recently in the name of austerity. China introduced a ban on expensive alcohol at state banquets in the last quarter of 2011. And with an economy that’s not exactly firing on all cylinders here, there’s no way the White House would engender criticism for that kind of expenditure. Still, an American wine lover can but dream. Maybe, as a matter of national pride, Bill Koch could endow the White House with a starter collection of well-vetted wines from his cellar? Read more…

Wines for tonight’s state dinner: wine world shrugs

white house state dinner salad

Breaking from tradition, the White House announced the wines to be served at tonight’s state dinner honoring President Francois Hollande and Madame–oh nevermind. So instead of engaging in subterfuge or speculation, we have the list. Here they are: Read more…

Paying up for Provenance

jayer cros parantoux When fear of wine counterfeits remains high in the wine wine auction market, bidders will pay a premium for wines with superlative provenance. Such was the case with the Burgundies from the H. B. Harris collection, which fetched $7.5 million over the weekend in Chicago at Hart Davis Hart.

Harris, a real estate developer known to his friends and family as “Bubba,” got into wine in his twenties. He amassed a trove of fine wine that he kept initially in an apartment that he had customized into a wine cellar but then switched to professional storage in 1994. He died last year at the age of 78.

The 986 lots at the Hart Davis Hart auction all sold and the total of the auction exceeded the $4 – $6 million estimate. HDH printed some of the original receipts in the catalogue. I liked the fact that Mr. Harris bought the ’85 Jayer Cros Parantoux for $68.99 a bottle or $828/case back in the day. Six of those bottles ended up selling for $101,575 on Saturday.

Pedro Parra digs dirt

pedro parra Wine enthusiasts know that where grape vines grow can contribute to the flavors of the resulting wine. But Pedro Parra has decided to dig a little deeper: the “terroir consultant” has excavated over 20,000 holes to study vineyard soils.

Based in Chile but trained in Paris, the Chilean has more views about soil than your average wine consumer. For one, he tries to drink only wines from a certain soil type, rather than amorphous blends. And even there, not even all soils pass the sniff test: clay soils produce wines that are too fruity and sweet for him, with sensations in the front of the mouth that he admits have broad appeal, though just not for him. He’s more of a schist, granite or limestone man.

To illustrate the flavor profiles of each type of soil, Read more…

Rudy, the documentary

I love a good documentary. I just saw “Blackfish,” about the treatment of killer whales at Sea World and thought it was effective in taking an issue that I hadn’t really thought about, making me interested in it, and giving me some basis for forming an opinion about the issue (free the whales!). “The Cove” was similar in presenting the capture and brutal killing of dolphins in Japan; that documentary was gorgeously shot had a dramatic tension as the camera crew inserted themselves into the narrative. In that vein, Morgan Spurlock’s stunt of eating McDonald’s for 30 days in “Super Size Me” was a good way of getting at the broader issue of the health and fast food. More recently, my kids and I enjoyed the “The Short Game,” a Netflix original about competitive golfing among seven and eight year olds. Again, we don’t even golf but it had good arc and did raise the issue of how much is too much competition for such young kids as well as what it takes to succeed at an early age.

catch me if you can This is all a long-winded background to the fact that Decanter reports that a documentary entitled “Sour Grapes” is in the works about the Rudy Kurniawan wine counterfeiting story. They say that the film is being made by a British team with the full cooperation of Laurent Ponsot and will be completed by the end of this year.

While I look forward to seeing the documentary, I’m not sure a documentary is the best treatment for the material. The Rudy saga is terrific and it definitely has the ability to draw the interest of the casual viewer not really into wine. But to me it is a character-driven story that speaks to the larger themes of hubris, duplicity, gullibility and more. In other words, the stuff of Shakespeare more than policy issues, such as dolphin hunting, orca abuse, or nutrition gone off the rails. So I hope that this documentary treatment doesn’t crowd out what I see as the huge possibility of a fictionalized movie version, in the vein of “Catch Me If You Can,” which was based on a true story of check forgery and grossed almost $200 million. However, I’m not exactly sure who is working on such a treatment of the story so I guess we as wine enthusiasts will take what we can get in terms of further exposure to the story and the wine world.

Because having a blockbuster movie about wine might just be the best way for the Rudy saga to end, assuming it gets more people into wine generally and not just into ’45 DRC RC. Look where that got some people!

Next wine class at NYU

nyu class We’re closing in on the start of my next wine class at NYU! Now in its eighth year. It’s open to all adult learners and, don’t worry, there aren’t any grades and the only homework is tasting wine.

In classes running for six consecutive Wednesdays, we explore the fundamentals of tasting, lap up history and geography, and delve into hot-button issues of the day. Join us–it will be fun! Starts next week.

Register now

GoVino, opprobrium, Cambridge, Yale – sipped & spit

govino1 Going, going, gone: GoVino, the “#1 best seller” in wine glasses on Amazon, has been sold. Pat Stotesbery, owner of Ladera Vineyards in Napa, has bought the developer and designer of polymer (aka “plastic”) extremely practical glasses for an undisclosed sum. He told North Bay Business Journal that the possibilities for the glasses are “endless” and he will take them to the “next level.”

SPIT: bile. Robert Parker’s most recent comments get a public airing. Drink every time you hear “extremists” or “elitists”!

SIPPING UNABATED: John Boehner says he wouldn’t give up wine (and smokes) in order to become presidents. The wine color? Red, natch.

SIPPED, not chugged. Cambridge spends $5 million a year on wine. Should we infer that they do barrel stands there instead of the more plebeian keg stands? [Telegraph]

CROWNED: NYU Stern and Yale Law will represent the US at the Bordeaux Cup in June. [winespectator]

Dr. Vino’s verdict: one glass to rule them all

zalto universal I think I mentioned previously my regular space over at foodandwine.com called “Dr. Vino’s Verdict.” In the series of short posts, I render judgement on pressing issues of the wine world. I can’t promise the wisdom of Solomon with my verdicts, but I do aim for more than Judge Judy.

Anyhoo, in my post over there this week, I strongly urge you to cut through the marketing clutter that suggests a different glass for each grape variety. Instead, reach for one glass–the Zalto Universal–to elevate your wine drinking experience.

Don’t you think varietal stemware is just a tad overkill?

In related news, not from The Onion, Riedel announced a $20 glass for Coca-Cola this week. But will it work for Diet Coke?

Related: “The urge to splurge
Durability test – youtube


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