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Bordeaux Is Illiquid and Other Wine Investment Hazards

iF_HoFCW0vl8January 23, 2015 — More than half a dozen firms peddling wine investments in the U.K. alone went belly up last year. Why have there been so many flops?

“Most funds collapse because they have the wrong structure, the wrong strategy and no focus on how to exit,” says Brian Mota, co-manager of The Wine Trust, a U.S. fund founded in 2010 with $15 million to $20 million in assets. Mota is convinced The Wine Trust’s private-equity-fund-type setup, in which investors’ money is locked in for eight years, is the most appropriate for wine, Bloomberg Markets magazine will report in its February issue.

“It’s an illiquid investment,” Mota says, chuckling at the irony of his statement. “You can only maximize returns if you can sell at the right moment.”

Funds that allow investors to cash in whenever they wish have been vulnerable. Luxembourg-based Nobles Crus said it had wine assets worth 102 million euros (about $125 million) at the end of 2012, when a Belgian financial analyst and various media outlets questioned its valuation methods. Some investors rushed to get out, and the fund couldn’t raise cash fast enough to honor redemption requests….


Canadian Icewine Primer: Drink Your Dessert


Jan 5, 2015 — While most of us are dreaming of escaping to a warm Caribbean beach, Canadian Icewine pioneer Donald Ziraldo is craving temperatures below zero. To make his luscious riesling icewines on the Niagara Peninsula he needs frosty frozen grapes on leafless vines.

I’m a huge fan of these expensive elixirs—and so are sweet-toothed Chinese. In 2013 they swallowed more than 42 percent of all Canada’s icewine, about 104,000 liters worth more than $8 million. The rest of Asia—South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore—snapped up another 30 percent.

Demand is so high that fakes, some made from flavored alcohol and water, are a serious, growing problem.

The real stuff is ideal for Chinese New Year gifts, but for me, taste is the big appeal: ripe tropical fruit or caramel apple sweetness contrasted with zingy acidity and a thick, rich texture that coats your tongue like liquid honey. Maybe that’s why imports to the U.S. are finally growing, having tripled since 2011….

Elin McCoy’s Top Ten Wines of 2015, from a Star Burgundy to an Alpine Bargain


December 16, 2014 — In my quest for the world’s most recommendable wines, I sampled more than 4,000 this year. My top ten most memorable bottles range from a great vintage of a Napa cult classic to a bargain from France’s snowy alps to a new, rare Italian collectible. All say something about what’s hot in the wine world, and what’s in store for 2015.

2012 Antica Terra Angelicall rosé ($75) 

Made from pinot noir vines planted on a rocky pre-historic seabed in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, this unusual rosé — named for alchemy’s invisible Angelicall stone — is one of the most intriguing pink wines I’ve ever tasted. Over dinner in the Dundee Hills with talented winemaker Maggie Harrison, I savored its exotic mineral and spice character and perfumed aromas, the result of macerating the juice longer on the skins. The rosé craze is still with us, so expect more expensive experiments.

2001 Harlan Estate ($900 to $1,300) 

When you’re invited to the first-ever tasting of 26 vintages of Napa’s Harlan Estate at the winery, you don’t say no. Founder Bill Harlan’s ambition has always been to create an American cabernet-based red that’s the equivalent of Bordeaux’s famous first growths. This dark, powerful stunner, my top wine of the tasting, comes pretty close. Its lush, sensual texture is a Harlan trademark…..

Legendary Port House Quinta do Noval Crafts Luscious Dry Reds


Dec 11, 2014 — When the maker of the world’s rarest and most collectible vintage port experiments with dry red table wines, the results are bound to be pretty exciting.

That’s my take after a recent New York tasting of Quinta do Noval’s three exceptional reds — the stunning flagship cuvee Quinta do Noval Douro, the intense, fruity Touriga Nacional, and the surprising bargain Cedro do Noval.

These wines, now in the U.S., are emblematic of the ambitious wine revolution sweeping the sleepy, remote Douro Valley in northwest Portugal. Their quality shows why imports of the country’s dry table wines are up 21 percent in the first six months of 2014.

The mastermind behind this project at Quinta do Noval, Christian Seely, is an urbane Brit who was wearing his trademark dark blue Charvet bow-tie and a Savile Row suit at the tasting event in October…

Would You Go to the Wine Equivalent of a Tupperware Party?


December 8, 2014 — This is a serious question. When a major wine producer embraces the Tupperware selling model, an at-home wine-buying party just might be in your future.

“It’s the social marketing way of selling wine, friends to friends,” says Jean-Charles Boisset, proprietor of the Boisset Collection, his family’s group of 20-odd wineries in California and France. He started quietly testing the in-home tasting experience idea about a year and a half ago with his new venture, Boisset Wine Living. Now, based on its success, he’s aiming to expand.

“Our program is like Tupperware’s, but it’s high end,” Boisset explains over lunch in New York, during a stop off on his way to Burgundy’s annual Hospice de Beaune auction.

Noted for innovations like putting a screwcap on a $200 grand cru Burgundy, he explains the Boisset Wine Living concept as we sip his bright, fruity JCB #69 Brut Rose Cremant de Bourgogne, a good fizz for the price ($20)….


New York’s Sommelier Old Guard

Kevin-Zraly-10004646November 11, 2014 — Long before America’s 1970s food revolution, New York was a serious restaurant town. But only a few fancy spots employed a sommelier back then. He – and he was always a man – was generally considered a master of wine intimidation, a snob in a tuxedo who used his French accent to humiliate customers into buying the most expensive bottle on the list.

A handful of influential pioneers in the 1980s and 1990s, mostly at downtown restaurants, transformed all that. They brought wine to center stage, shifted the somm image away from the stuffy and, along the way, changed what and how New Yorkers drank. Thanks to their lead, the number of somms in the city has exploded in the past decade and the best have gained star status.

First came breezy, enthusiastic Kevin Zraly, now a prominent wine educator and author.

He started at Windows on the World restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center in 1976, when he was only 25…

New York’s Sommelier Young Guns


November 18, 2014 — The sommelier boom in New York’s restaurant world is less than a decade old.

But vino-centric restaurants and the advent of social media have already made the younger generation of Big Apple somms – many of them women – into influencers of what’s worth drinking and what’s not. Their wine philosophies are reflected in their lists, which are often studded with bottles from obscure regions.

Some served early apprenticeships under Old Guard somms like Paul Grieco and Daniel Johnnes (whose La Paulée Scholarships have taken many young ones to Burgundy); others studied to obtain Master Sommelier status.

French-born Pascaline Lepeltier, wine director of Rouge Tomate, is the leading somm proponent of organic, biodynamic, and natural wines….


November 12, 2014 — When winemaker  Ted Lemon of Sonoma’s Littorai winery hosted a retrospective tasting of his brilliant Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays at Per Se restaurant last June, most of the guests were sommeliers. They’re the people, Lemon says, who really helped make his winery a success.

How so? In the late 1990s, when Lemon launched his wonderfully elegant wines, the country’s most powerful critics were heaping praise on super-ripe, oaky, alcoholic ones. So he turned to sommeliers seeking wines with the balance and freshness to show off their restaurants’ food. They bought, poured, and the rest is history.

Lemon’s wine-attention-getting strategy was a harbinger of how important sommeliers would be in the 21st century.

About a decade ago, ‘somms’ (as they’re popularly referred to in the US) started morphing into major wine world influencers with the kind of rock star status once reserved for celebrity chefs….

from The World of Fine Wine:

The big boys are back in town


November 14, 2014 — “Big wine bottles make me happy,” said a student pouring the stellar 2005 Château Pichon Baron from magnum in a recent Bordeaux class at Columbia University. “Me, too,” I thought, even though I almost always buy standard 750 ml-size bottles.

I know oversized bottles, from magnums to jeroboams to huge 15-liter Nebuchadnezzars, have many virtues. They look wonderfully grand, even bacchanalian. Because the wine inside has less contact with oxygen per volume, it ages more slowly and gracefully and endures longer. When someone popped the cork on a jeroboam of Champagne at a party I attended not long ago, the spectacle generated oohs and aahs, adding an exclamation point to the celebration.

That’s the drawback: you have to like inviting a crowd….

from SAVEUR magazine:

How Sweet It Is


November 13, 2014 — In 1983, on my first trip to Bordeaux, France, my host paired chilled white asparagus with one of the region’s dulcet sauternes. An improbable but dynamic combination, it had me falling for sweet wine. In ancient Rome and elsewhere, sweet wines were the most valued. It wasn’t until the 18th century that glass bottles and corks, which keep oxygen at bay, allowed dry wines to gain quality and eclipse sweet ones. Today, with the interest in unique, local winemaking, sweet wines are making a comeback. The best seduce with aromas of honey and wildflowers and flavors of dried apricot, caramel, and candied lemon peel. They roll over your tongue like silk, but zingy acidity keeps them from seeming syrupy. Each has its own personality. France’s sauternes and barsacs (from a town within Sauternes) are made mainly with sauvignon blanc and sémillon grapes, which are left on the vine to develop Botrytis cinerea, a fungus that concentrates their sugar, yielding an elegant, full-bodied wine that pairs well with savory foods. Made similarly, Hungary’s tokaji aszú wines go back nearly 450 years. The sweetest, labeled “5 Puttonyos” and “6 Puttonyos”—120 and 150 grams of residual sugar per liter, respectively—are delicious with chocolate and, like sauternes, with blue cheeses….

© 2002-2015 Elin McCoy. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction of images or texts in this site without written permission.

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