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A Wine Critic Defends Sauternes, Bordeaux’s Sweet, Unloved Stepchild


May 6, 2015 — Pity poor Sauternes. The Bordeaux region’s unfashionable sweet white wines are always trying something new and controversial to appear cool and with-it to attract drinkers.

The latest attempt is the just-launched SO Sauternes(€18), a new, lighter style of the luscious white intended for mixing with Perrier over ice as an aperitif cocktail. If it’s a success at bars in France, it will come to the U.S. and U.K.

What a waste: The combo is light and vaguely refreshing, but the golden-hued, opulent wines from Sauternes and neighboring Barsac are better than ever, even sublime. And they’re one of the wine world’s great bargains. Deeply fruity and sweetly tart when young, they age brilliantly. Older vintages taste like liquid crème brulee.

So why are they neglected…?

Luxury Rosés Are a Real Thing, and Here Are the Ones Worth Splurging For

-1x-1-2April 27, 2015 — Pink-wine season is almost upon us. In recent years, dry rosés have become so essential to drinking al fresco that the wine is practically a synonym for summer. The craze is the wine success story of the past decade. But much of the rising tide has only elevated low-price rosés. Now many important wine houses are trying to enter the market with premium-price, luxury versions.

It was only a matter of time, really. Last year sales of expensive rosés (translation: over $20) grew 41 percent in the U.S., compared with 1 percent growth for all other wine categories.

And last May, a single bottle of a U.S.-made rosé — 1995 Sine Qua Non Queen of Hearts — sold for $42,780 in a auction.

OK, that was a fluke. Only 25 cases of this rare wine were made. Each Sine Qua Non bottling boasts a different name and artwork on the label, which inspires obsessive collectors to aim for a complete set. But are top-end rosés worth extra money in general, or do they just have delusions of grandeur….?


How to Judge a Great Wine List, According to Critic Elin McCoy



April 21, 2015 — For weeks I’ve been combing through hundreds of wine lists from restaurants around the globe in my role as judge for the World of Fine Wine’s annual wine list awards.

My first takeaway: The heavy leather-bound wine tome stuffed with staid, predictable reds and whites is, happily, in deep decline, if not a fossil.

Deconstructing the elements that make one list great and another completely mediocre, I realized a brilliant selection of wines was only part of what I was looking for.

Fairly quickly I developed a surprisingly long list of pet peeves: misspelled wine names, missing vintages, preachy essays, exorbitant pricing, and stupid jokes and comments. No one really wants to know that a guest at Scottsdale’s Cowboy Ciao described its list as “better than pornography….”

Bordeaux Preview: Will the 2014 Vintage Be Worth Betting On?


March 31, 2015 — Several thousand people from around the world are in Bordeaux this week for the annual spring rite of en primeur, roaming from the Medoc to Graves, from Pomerol to Saint-Emilion to get a first taste of the 2014 vintage.

The wines are still aging quietly in barrels as merchants assess which ones to offer their clients as futures, and journalists furiously scribble their tasting notes.

Overall quality looks to be pretty good. The vintage story is a familiar one: a cool, damp summer with the grapes finally ripened by the “miracle” of September sun.

No one is calling 2014 a great, must-have “vintage of the century,” as they labeled 2010, 2009, and 2005….




Boom Time in the Vineyards


March 30, 2015 — After golf ball–sized hailstones battered vines at Château d’Issan in Bordeaux for two years in a row, managing director Emmanuel Cruse was in the market for something—anything—that might protect his grapes. That’s when he decided to try a device that promises to prevent hailstones from forming, Bloomberg Markets reports in its April 2015 issue. Different types of hail cannons, as they’re known, have been around for more than a century in France, even though it’s far from clear they do what they’re supposed to do.

“We had to do something,” Cruse recalls. “Storms destroyed 70 percent of our grapes in 2008 and 2009. Each of those years, we produced less than 6,000 cases of wine,” compared with the typical 19,000 cases. The total financial loss to this third-growth estate in the Margaux appel­lation was almost €3 million ($3.4 million), Cruse says. Insurance paid out just one-fifth of that.

So Cruse invested €150,000 in two cannons that are now permanently installed in his vineyards….



How I Learned to Love Australian Wine

awesome-australian-wines-10005024March 3, 2015 — Australia’s thick, jammy Shirazes, cheap fruity/oaky blends from industrial producers, and cellar-wizard winemaker philosophy have long shaped that country’s wine image abroad – and never appealed to me.

So what turned me into an Aussie wine fan? The stunning new wave reds and whites I tasted not long ago on visits to two cool-climate valleys. They reminded me once again how diverse a wine country Australia is and showed me what I hope is the face of its vinous future.

I found dozens of ambitious young-gun winemakers, who are ignoring fruit-bomb styles and lashings of oak for leaner, subtler wines. And instead of blending grapes from different regions, they’re embracing single vineyards….

from The World of Fine Wine:

Romancing the Grape


Issue 47 – 2015 — I admit it: I’m a wine romantic. I respond to those special landscapes in wine country, the rows of gnarled vines tended by passionate families attached to their land for generations, the ever-repeated miracle of clusters of grapes being transformed into a drink that reflects their patch of ground, the dark cellars of cobwebbed barrels that hold history in liquid form. The wines that most capture my imagination seem imbued with a kind of meaning that no other beverage can match, their tastes conjuring cultural values that often tap into deep emotions.

My first visit to a California winery, several decades ago, was just the type of wine experience that fosters that kind of romantic view…



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

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