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How Japanese Single Malts Surpassed Scotland’s Finest


My first sip of a great Japanese single-malt whisky was back in 2004, when the 18-year-old Yamazaki was first introduced into the U.S. I found its suave smoothness and elegance as sleek as a new Lexus. It had the familiar spicy, caramel-and-honey notes of a luxury single malt from Scotland but with its own exotic appeal from partial aging in Japanese mizunara oak.

Since then, Japan has been quietly scooping up gold medals at world whisky competitions, and in 2012, the 25-year-old Yamazaki beat out 300 of the world’s single malts in an international blind tasting…..


Merlot Politics: The Bi-Partisan Grape?

RedWineBottlePourPoor merlot! The disparagement of this much-loved grape and wine started in the movie Sideways and hasn’t let up since.

The latest? A scathing reference by Republican Steve Scalise, Congressman from Louisiana’s 1st district, at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference last week. “John Kerry’s flying around and drinking merlot and saying ‘Let’s be friends,’ and people are laughing at us,” he said, using the consumption of merlot as, well, a smear.  I get that he doesn’t like Kerry, but why did he finger merlot?

The grape’s been strongly tied to Democrats since 2005, when Howard Dean, then Democratic National Committee chairman, relied on the catchy phrase “merlot Democrats” to describe the secular, deep-pocketed base of the party.

According to an article published back then in the Washington Post, the person who actually coined the phrase was DNC pollster Cornell Belcher. I guess the moniker “merlot Democrat” was the other-side-of-the-aisle equivalent to “country club Republication.’’

Dean was widely criticized for using it. A New York University professor, Mitchell Moss, thought that instead of referring to a “French grape,” Dean should have opted for a more American comparison. In the article, he’s quoted as suggesting Gallo Hearty Burgundy. I guess Moss, whose specialty is urban planning, didn’t have a clue that Gallo’s familiar red is a tad downscale, much less that Burgundy is a French wine region.

But times are changing. Maybe Scalise should have remembered that the Speaker of the House, Republican John Boehner, is a merlot fan. When he became Speaker in 2010, and Diane Sawyer asked in an ABC News interview whether he would agree to the “Slurpee summit’’ President Obama jokingly suggested, Boehner countered, “I don’t know about a Slurpee. How about a glass of merlot?”

And Boehner did drink merlot during negotiations with Obama over the debt ceiling, according to Bob Woodward’s recent book The Price of Politics. 

So is merlot a political crossover drink?  Maybe. A January research report from National Media Research, Planning, and Placement investigating whether drinking habits predict voting behavior, found highly-likely voters of both parties are also highly likely to be wine drinkers.  For Republicans, the labels of choice are Kendall-Jackson and Robert Mondavi, both labels with merlot in their lineups, while for Democrats, they’re Chateau Ste. Michelle, Turning Leaf, and Clos du Bois—all merlot producers as well.

But back to Kerry. In December he toured a winery in Moldova, and sampled their wine as part of promoting a trade mission to the US for the country’s winemakers. No word on whether it was a Moldovan merlot, but it does prove Democrats aren’t afraid of diplomacy by the glass.


Elin’s Wine Pick: 2011 Lohsa Morellino di Scansano Terre del Poliziano


1.6.14 –  After splurging on plenty of great (and expensive) wines during the holidays, I’m ready to retrench. At $15, this bright, juicy 2011 Lohsa Morellino di Scansano is the right kind of deal, a medium-bodied red packed with generous flavors of cherry, raspberry, earth and spice, and intriguing aromas of dark cherries and violets. It’s yet another example of the fine values to be found in Italy’s less well-known wine regions.

This red comes from the Maremma, a hilly coastal strip in western Tuscany on the Tyrrhenian Sea, where the local name for the Sangiovese grape is Morellino. Wine was produced there back in Etruscan times, but it wasn’t until Bolgheri, the northern part of the Maremma, gained prominence as the home of Super Tuscan wines like Sassicaia that anyone looked farther south and discovered Morellino….

© 2002-2014 Elin McCoy. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction of images or texts in this site without written permission.

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