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Wines of the Week

What to Expect

Wine Trends – What to Expect

Like most pursuits and professions, the wine world is ever-changing.  Wines go in and out of style (consider the recent craze for rosés, and the popularity of Prosecco), and new winegrowing regions catch the attention (and the dollars) of wine buyers.  A few years back, most California Chardonnays were subjected to heavy oak treatment.  Then the fashion tilted back the other way, and people developed a taste for purer, more fruit-forward flavor profiles. 

So it might be a good idea to look ahead a bit, especially considering the recent global situation, and try to divine what might be in store for wine lovers in the coming months. 

First, industry professionals have noted a trend toward wines from Oregon and Washington State.  Of course, Oregon is best known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and maybe consumers have become a bit tired of the “typical” California style of these varietals.  Example:  a few years ago, I was at the New York Wine Experience, and Wine Spectator Senior Editor Bruce Sanderson and I sampled down a whole row of California Pinot Noirs.  There must have been ten or twelve tables, and they all tasted remarkably similar, with upfront aromas and flavors of strawberry…one after the other.

In Oregon, they tend to make their wines in a more Old World style, perhaps because several winery owners from Burgundy have bought vineyards there.  A bit more complexity, more layers of flavor, more earth, spice, cedar, smoke, and leather.

There has been a swing toward wines from Washington State, as well.  The winegrowing region is in the dry land east of the Cascade Mountains, and quite a hike from the cities on the west coast.  But since it’s colder and drier there, the big reds, like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, are more reserved and austere than those same varietals grown in California.  A distance of around a thousand miles makes for a completely different climate down south, where the grapes ripen more fully, resulting in wines that are more dense, more plush, and a lot more fruity.  Maybe the trend is going toward a more reserved, classic flavor profile.  Plus, the prices of Washington State wines tend to be a bit more consumer friendly.  That’s a biggie.

Another trend that will certainly have long-term effects on the wine we drink is climate change.  Many experts maintain that vineyards will be affected not so much by increasing warmth, but by volatility in the weather patterns.  While it’s true that French grape growers are thinking about moving their vineyards farther north because of increasing temperatures, events like heat spikes or unexpected frost, drought, hail, and flooding are really keeping vineyard managers up at night.

And then there are wine prices.  While we haven’t yet seen the full effect of projected tariffs, the industry predicts that volume of production will slightly decrease (because of weather patterns?) and prices could rise just a bit.  Might be a good idea to stock up now, and fill all those empty slots in your collection.  Hope you enjoy some new recommendations.

Ask the Wine Whisperer
Why is French oak so widely preferred for making wine barrels?  David L., Port St. Lucie

Winemakers use French oak because the grain of the wood is very tight, and the barrels impart more subtle flavors and characteristics to the wine.  The average age of a French oak tree used for wine barrels is 170 years.

Lions Head Panthera Chardonnay Russian River 2017 ($35) – The extended aging in new French oak gives this sumptuous Chardonnay deep notes of candied lemon, smoke, and crème brulée.  A distinctive style.  WW 89

Lions Head Lion Tamer Cabernet Sauvignon Napa 2017 ($60) – Mostly Cabernet, with touches of Petite Sirah and Malbec, this mouthfilling red hits all the right notes.  There are black fruits, cherries, coffee, oak, and chocolate all over the place, and it’s all nicely integrated on the palate.  A winner.  WW 97

Gva’ot Dances in White Blend Israel 2016 ($27) – A blend of 75% Chardonnay and 25% Gewürztraminer, this wine clearly demonstrates that the Israeli wine industry is making its mark on the international scene.  The palate is a mélange of spice and tropical fruit that will go nicely with Thai or other Asian cuisines.  WW 88

Jerry Greenfield is The Wine Whisperer.  He is Creative Director of Greenfield Media & Marketing, and teaches the wine program at Florida Gulf Coast University. His books, “Secrets of the Wine Whisperer,” and “Ask the Wine Whisperer,” are currently available. Read his other writings at www.winewhisperer.com


Wine collecting made easy

How to Start Your Wine Collection

One thing that wine industry studies tell us is that Americans like instant gratification.  Over 95 percent of wine purchased in the United States is consumed within a week -- most of it is enjoyed within a day or two.

Winemakers are well aware of this fact, and most wines are intentionally made to be ready to drink fairly quickly.  It also means that most people can plan a dinner party or other event and buy the wine the same day they expect their guests to show up.

Still, it’s a nice idea to have more than a few bottles on hand, and a nice variety, too, so that you and your guests can have some choices, and maybe even a second bottle during your get - togethers.  Instead of frantically rushing to the local wine shop to pick up a bottle or two for the evening, you can have everything you need on hand.  Starting a small collection is easy…and highly recommended.  Here’s how.

You don’t need any sort of elaborate cellar or wine room to store those 30 or 40 bottles you’ll want to keep conveniently available.  You can invest $200-$300 in a decent under-counter wine refrigerator, or just keep your bottles in a dark place that has a constant temperature.  The main enemies of wine are heat, light, and vibration, so you don’t want them resting in a cute little wine rack on the windowsill.

Next, consider the assortment.  A good small collection will have a selection to accommodate a wide variety of tastes:  a few reds, whites, rosés, and sparklers.

For the reds, consider first the weight, or body of the wine, which is influenced by the tannins that come from the grape skins during crushing and fermentation.  The more tannic the wine, the fuller the body.  So, consider stocking some Pinot Noir, which will be on the lighter side, a Merlot or two for those who prefer a medium-bodied quaff, and Cabernet and Syrah for folks who like big, bold, fruity wines.

On the white side, the idea of body or fullness still applies, but instead of tannin we have to consider acidity.  Pinot Grigio is perfect for an aperitif during pre-dinner socializing because of its light body.  Then, add a Sauvignon Blanc or two, which has higher acidity but also more pronounced flavors of grapefruit, pineapple, and citrus.  Finally, of course, is Chardonnay, the world’s most popular white wine.  Stock both oaked and unoaked versions, and you’re sure to please all your guests.

Rosés are becoming more popular in the US by the day, and there is an enormous range of styles to choose from.  Judge your purchases by the color.  The deeper the pink, the more body and fullness the wine will have.

Finally, there are the sparklers.  You don’t have to spend a fortune on Champagne, though I do recommend having a bottle or two of reasonably-priced versions on hand for the more special dinners and occasions.  Prosecco, an enjoyable sparkler from Italy has soared in popularity recently.  Also consider Cremant, another interesting sparkler made in France and Germany.

When you store it, keep the bottles on their sides, which moistens the corks and prevents leakage.  And, as mentioned above, keep it in a dark place where the temperature doesn’t vary much.  The bottom of a closet is just fine.  Then, invite your friends and offer them a selection that will please every palate…like these new discoveries.

Secco-Bertani Red Blend Verona 2015 ($30)-- The varietal is Corvina, and the area is north and west of Venice.  Remarkably, this wine is aged in chestnut casks instead of oak, which seems to provide a minerality on the nose and palate.  The predominant flavor is raspberry, with hints of tobacco around the edges.  WW 87-88

McIntyre Chardonnay Santa Lucia 2017 ($38)-- A very direct style, true to type, with dimensions of vanilla and peach, and a slightly oaky overtone.  Pleasantly silky with a moderate yet pleasing finish.  WW 86

Abbazia di Novacella Grüner Veltiner Alto Adige 2018 ($17)-- This region high in the hills of Northern Italy was formed as a glacial valley, so it’s perfect for an interesting range of whites.  This refreshing example is round on the palate, with graceful notes of green apple and peach.  Easy to enjoy.  WW 85

Jerry Greenfield is the Wine Whisperer, a wine author, educator and consultant and an adjunct professor in the wine program at Florida Gulf Coast University.  Read his blog at www.winewhisperer.com

 


How to survive a professional tasting

As a wine journalist, and as someone who evaluates wines I believe many people would enjoy, it’s my solemn duty to sample widely, tasting and evaluating as many wines as possible.  It is, as you might imagine, a pleasant responsibility.  I’m required to swirl and sip the bottles sent to me by wineries and their public relations firms, and I’m also forced (forced, I say) to attend wine events where dozens, even hundreds, of wines are poured for appreciative and critical members of the trade, as well as everyday aficionados.

Recently, my wife Debi and I made our way to Miami to attend a major event staged by well-known wine critic James Suckling.  It was held in the Design District, and offered two floors of tables offering a vast array of Italian wines from every region in the country as well as the outlying islands.

Then, the very next night, we journeyed to the Boca Bacchanal, an annual wine and food blast that benefits the area’s historical society and museum.  The difference was that this event offered not only generous pours of wines from all over, but small bites provided by the area’s restaurants, so there was an opportunity for a bit of wine and food pairing practice.

There’s a certain…well, protocol…to sampling through events of this type.  First of all, the individual tables have small buckets on them. These are for dumping any sample you don’t finish, and also for spitting.  The spitting part is important, because even though you may receive only an ounce or two of each sample, they add up fast.  If you don’t spit, you might wind up going home in an Uber or an ambulance.  And by the way, this spitting thing is a subtle, reserved, decorous action.  It’s not polite to go for distance.

There are many chances for wine lovers to attend events like these, since most are open to the public (for a fee).  The Italian tasting sponsored by James Suckling was held in three cities.  Wine Spectator magazine also does “Grand Tour” events offering tastings of hundreds of wines in several cities every year.  And then there’s the Wine Experience, a three-day program of grand tastings and seminars held in New York every October.  We never miss it.

So watch for these events because they’ll give you an excellent opportunity to do what every wine lover should do:  sample widely.  Like these new recommendations.

Prisoner Eternally Silenced Pinot Noir California 2017 ($55)--  The first Pinot from The Prisoner company offers aromas of dark cherry, cranberry and cloves.  Richly textured and round on the palate with a hint of pine.  The distinctive bottle makes for a excellent gift idea.  WW 92

Brumont Petit Torus Madiran 2015 ($13) -- The Madiran area lies in the Gascony region of southwest France, and their signature red grape is Tannat.  This blend also includes a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, for added dimension and complexity.  The nose of warm earth and black plum is followed by sensations of subtle blackberry that’s very light on the palate with a subtle finish.  WW 86-87

L’enclos des Braves Gaillac 2016 ($12) -- Located in southwest France not far from Toulouse, Gaillac may be one of France’s oldest viticultural areas.  We’re way off the beaten track here, with this rich red blend being composed of 70% Duras and 30% Braucol, also known as Fer.  Very straightforward notes of red cherry and smoke.  Not very complex but a pleasant alternative to heavier reds.  WW 86

Ferraton Per & Fils Crozes-Hermitage “La Matiniere” 2015 ($26) – It means “early bird,” which is apparently a private joke in the Ferraton family.  Composed of 100% Syrah, it delivers a fully charged palate of red berries and currants, along with smoke, cedar and spice…and maybe a bit of raspberry.  WW 91


They're Scary Good

Prisoner Eternally Silenced Pinot Noir California 2017 ($55)--  The first Pinot from The Prisoner company offers aromas of dark cherry, cranberry and cloves.  Richly textured and round on the palate with a hint of pine.  The distinctive bottle makes for a excellent gift idea.  WW 92

Brumont Petit Torus Madiran 2015 ($13) -- The Madiran area lies in the Gascony region of southwest France, and their signature red grape is Tannat.  This blend also includes a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, for added dimension and complexity.  The nose of warm earth and black plum is followed by sensations of subtle blackberry that’s very light on the palate with a subtle finish.  WW 86-87

L’enclos des Braves Gaillac 2016 ($12) -- Located in southwest France not far from Toulouse, Gaillac may be one of France’s oldest viticultural areas.  We’re way off the beaten track here, with this rich red blend being composed of 70% Duras and 30% Braucol, also known as Fer.  Very straightforward notes of red cherry and smoke.  Not very complex but a pleasant alternative to heavier reds.  WW 86

Ferraton Per & Fils Crozes-Hermitage “La Matiniere” 2015 ($26) – It means “early bird,” which is apparently a private joke in the Ferraton family.  Composed of 100% Syrah, it delivers a fully charged palate of red berries and currants, along with smoke, cedar and spice…and maybe a bit of raspberry.  WW 91


Tasting Like a Pro

As a wine journalist, and as someone who evaluates wines I believe many people would enjoy, it’s my solemn duty to sample widely, tasting and evaluating as many wines as possible.  It is, as you might imagine, a pleasant responsibility.  I’m required to swirl and sip the bottles sent to me by wineries and their public relations firms, and I’m also forced (forced, I say) to attend wine events where dozens, even hundreds, of wines are poured for appreciative and critical members of the trade, as well as everyday aficionados.

Over the weekend of March 7-8, my wife Debi and I made our way to Miami to attend a major event staged by well-known wine critic James Suckling.  It was held in the Design District, and offered two floors of tables offering a vast array of Italian wines from every region in the country as well as the outlying islands.

Then, the very next night, we journeyed to the Boca Bacchanal, an annual wine and food blast that benefits the area’s historical society and museum.  The difference was that this event offered not only generous pours of wines from all over, but small bites provided by the area’s restaurants, so there was an opportunity for a bit of wine and food pairing practice.

There’s a certain…well, protocol…to sampling through events of this type.  First of all, the individual tables have small buckets on them. These are for dumping any sample you don’t finish, and also for spitting.  The spitting part is important, because even though you may receive only an ounce or two of each sample, they add up fast.  If you don’t spit, you might wind up going home in an Uber or an ambulance.  And by the way, this spitting thing is a subtle, reserved, decorous action.  It’s not polite to go for distance.

There are many chances for wine lovers to attend events like these, since most are open to the public (for a fee).  The Italian tasting sponsored by James Suckling was held in three cities.  Wine Spectator magazine also does “Grand Tour” events offering tastings of hundreds of wines in several cities every year.  And then there’s the Wine Experience, a three-day program of grand tastings and seminars held in New York every October.  We never miss it.

So watch for these events because they’ll give you an excellent opportunity to do what every wine lover should do:  sample widely.  Like these new recommendations.

Prisoner Eternally Silenced Pinot Noir California 2017 ($55)--  The first Pinot from The Prisoner company offers aromas of dark cherry, cranberry and cloves.  Richly textured and round on the palate with a hint of pine.  The distinctive bottle makes for a excellent gift idea.  WW 92

Brumont Petit Torus Madiran 2015 ($13) -- The Madiran area lies in the Gascony region of southwest France, and their signature red grape is Tannat.  This blend also includes a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, for added dimension and complexity.  The nose of warm earth and black plum is followed by sensations of subtle blackberry that’s very light on the palate with a subtle finish.  WW 86-87

L’enclos des Braves Gaillac 2016 ($12) -- Located in southwest France not far from Toulouse, Gaillac may be one of France’s oldest viticultural areas.  We’re way off the beaten track here, with this rich red blend being composed of 70% Duras and 30% Braucol, also known as Fer.  Very straightforward notes of red cherry and smoke.  Not very complex but a pleasant alternative to heavier reds.  WW 86

Ferraton Per & Fils Crozes-Hermitage “La Matiniere” 2015 ($26) – It means “early bird,” which is apparently a private joke in the Ferraton family.  Composed of 100% Syrah, it delivers a fully charged palate of red berries and currants, along with smoke, cedar and spice…and maybe a bit of raspberry.  WW 91


Bright Wines for the Season

May Your Holidays Be Sparkling and Bright

As you know, wine journalists constantly receive sample bottles from wineries and their public relations firms, hoping for a favorable writeup.  And every year, just as the holiday season starts, we are deluged with extra-heavy boxes containing extra-heavy bottles of sparkling wine.  That’s because, aside from their traditional role in all our celebrations, they’re excellent choices to accompany holiday cuisine.  The wide range of flavors and textures in Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts pose quite a food pairing challenge, and sparklers can usually solve the puzzle in the most delightful way.  I truly believe that sparkling whites and rosés can complement just about any kind of dish.

The range of choices in sparkling wine can be a bit bewildering.  First, of course, is Champagne, which must come from the legally-designated Champagne region of France.  It’s made by blending up to three varietals (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meuniere) from dozens of vineyards and vintages, adding sugar and yeast to induce secondary fermentation in the bottle so the released carbon dioxide goes into the liquid and makes the bubbles, , disgorging the dead yeast cells, cellaring for years sometimes…it just goes on and on.

Other sparkling wines can be made this way, but must be called something else.  And sparklers can also be made with the charmat method, where the grapes are fermented in airtight tanks.  The CO2 can’t escape, so it goes into the liquid and bubbles happen.  There are several other methods, as well.

Then we have to deal with the levels of sweetness that the labels indicate…and also the composition of the blend.  For example, “brut” is a dry wine made from blending the three grapes mentioned above.  “Blanc de blancs” is made from 100% Chardonnay, “Blanc de noirs” from all Pinot Noir, and rosé from a blend of the white and red wines.

If it says “brut” on the label, it is the driest wine, with the least sugar.  Then in order of increasing sugar content, comes “extra sec,” “sec,” “demi-sec,” and “doux,” which is the sweetest.  I’d recommend the brut to accompany most holiday meals.

Next, consider where the wines are made.  “Cava” is a sparkling wine from Spain.  Prosecco, mainly made in northern Italy, is enjoying tremendous popularity these days.  And if the label says “crémant,” you’re looking at a French wine that’s made only in certain regions of that country.  A bit less effervescent than Champagne, they are an excellent (more budget-priced) alternative. 

But don’t overlook American sparklers.  Fine examples are made in California, some by wineries under French ownership.  Wineries in Oregon and even Vermont and New Mexico are producing first-rate versions that will enhance your holiday repasts. 

So get ready to pop your cork with some of our favorite selections.  Here’s to you!

Moet & Chandon Champagne Grand Vintage 2012 ($75) – My go-to wine for Thanksgiving has always been Champagne.  It goes with every type of food, including the amazing mix of flavors on your holiday dinner plate.  White flowers on the nose, with walnut, peach and pear.  The palate treats you to tangy acidity, bright citrus and grapefruit.  WW 95

Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace NV ($16) –This attractive sparkling rosé, made in the traditional Champagne method, is 100% Pinot Noir and delivers rich strawberry and cherry flavors with a vein of snappy acidity and a moderately creamy texture.  WW 88

Adami “Garbel” Prosecco Brut Treviso NV  ($16) – A good entry-level introduction to this increasingly popular type of wine made in Northern Italy from the Glera grape.  Very crisp in texture, brimming with flavors of yellow apple, melon, and a bit of pear.  Nicely balanced.  WW 87

Bruno Paillard Champagne Premiere CuveéFrance ($50) – Made from the three traditional Champagne grapes, this cuveéis blended from 25 past vintages and aged on the lees for three years.  This results in a nose of heady citrus from the Chardonnay, and a palate of red fruits like currant and raspberry from the 45% Pinot Noir, plus characteristic notes of toast and almonds.  Very lively.  WW 92

Ask the Wine Whisperer
About those sparklers.  I’ve heard a lot about “’pet-nat” wines lately.  What does that mean? – Rory R., Charlottesville VA

“Pétillant naturel” wines finish in the bottle, just like traditional Champagnes, but without the addition of sugar and yeast for the secondary fermentation.  It’s much more cost-efficient, and produces some excellent wines at more sensible prices.

 

 


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