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An Evocative and Sensual Guide to Wine Tasting

So my first reaction to the luminous still-life images of fruits, flowers, herbs, tobacco, nuts, cured meats and more in “The Essence of Wine”, by well-known American blogger Alder Yarrow, was how different and fresh this book looks. When I dug deeper, I began to realize how useful and informative it is.

The pairings of 47 meditative photographs by Leigh Beisch with short lyrical texts and specific wine recommendations from Yarrow aim to evoke the singular flavors and aromas in wine….


Terroir Gives Champagne Its Soul

Champagne-bottle-lineup-1000459322-Oct-2014 — My Champagne ideal is not just a glass of dependable, consistent bubbly to toast a promotion or celebrate an anniversary. Yes, I know the region is a place where concepts of brand, blend and house style reign supreme, but I think the most exciting development taking place now in Champagne is the antithesis of all that.

The growing number of producers departing from tradition to make single-vineyard and single-village wines that reveal the region’s micro-identities are providing the thrills.

Don’t get me wrong. The tête de cuvées from the grandes marques houses can be fabulous and stunning. But I find no thrills in the polished anonymity of their non-vintage bruts, multi-vineyard blends crafted from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and sometimes Pinot Meunier. In truth, I’m a terroir drinker, fascinated less by smooth harmony than by the wine language of pieces of land….


The Legendary Martine Saunier

The Legendary Martine Saunier

© A Year In Champagne Productions

 10-Oct-2014 — On a warm evening last summer at the International Pinot Noir Celebration’s grand dinner in McMinnville, Oregon, importer Martine Saunier, slim and chic in a white tunic, was pouring wines from the stellar portfolio she started building back in 1979. As I sipped a dazzling 1989 Domaine Leroy Clos de la Roche, I thought of how much she has shaped the landscape of French wine in America in the past 35 years.

Two months later, over lunch in New York, I finally hear the whole story of how this petite French woman became one of America’s pioneer importers.

“I grew up in Paris, but I spent every summer of my childhood in southern Burgundy,” she says. “My aunt had a house and vineyard near Mâcon and I loved everything about winemaking.”

She learned about fermentation at a young age and when her parents took her to restaurants she would cry until they put a few drops of wine into her glass of water…..



Old Vines Grown in Sand make California’s New Must-Have Bottles


September 24, 2014 — Winemaker Tegan Passalacqua is the Indiana Jones of lost vineyards, wandering rural California in a beat-up Subaru, hunting gnarled old vines and forgotten grapes.

His Sandlands wines come from disparate vine plantings in the sandy soils of little-known outlier regions, like Contra Costa County east of San Francisco. Here century-old carignane grows in Delhi blow sand that’s 40 feet deep. (That, he explains, is decomposed granite deposited by wind and water.)

What’s the big deal about sand? Passalacqua believes it gives the wines unexpected dimensions.

The Sandlands project is one of the more exciting California wine debuts of recent years, and the few hundred cases sold out fast to insiders and sommeliers. You can still get on the mailing list for his 2012s, to be released in mid October. And you have to be quick — only ‘members’ (those on the mailing list) will have the chance to snag one of the limited allocations….


Exclusive Club Marries Wine and Business for High-End Networkers


August 19, 2014 — How does one rescue 300 stranded workers from North Sea oil platforms in a snowstorm? William Amelio, chief executive officer of Canada-based CHC Helicopter knows — and earlier this year he used the answer to talk about leadership in front of 30 members of a new club, the International Business and Wine Society.

At the industrial-chic Bouley Test Kitchen loft in downtown New York, the diners plied Amelio with questions, then succumbed to a serious tasting of Chateau Palmer’s silky-textured red Bordeaux with winemaker Thomas Duroux.

In the background, Michelin-starred chefs David Bouley and Anita Lo whipped up the evening’s six-course menu.

The Society hosts monthly dinners where club members talk about business, get an exclusive themed wine tutorial, and chow down on imaginative cuisine. Founder Omar Khan, senior partner of global consulting firm Sensei International, is betting this unique mix is what today’s high-powered networkers want. His goal is to launch 15 to 20 for-profit Business & Wine Society clubs, with 100 to 200 members each, in the world’s key cities.

Launched last September in New York, the Society opened in Hong Kong in February and expects to expand into London by the end of the year.

Is it worth the $5,000 membership fee?….


from The World of Fine Wine:

Are You Tasting What I’m Tasting?


October 3, 2014 — What’s the best way to describe a wine? Do other tasters perceive it in the same way you do? Why do some people like one wine rather than another? To me those questions are at the heart of wine rating and tasting notes, so I was fascinated by the Grand Seminar, “Pinot Noir and the Doors of Perception” at this year’s International Pinot Noir Celebration in McMinnville, Oregon, in July. Moderator Jamie Goode spoke with seven panelists, from a Harvard professor to wine writers to sommeliers, to answer them. They came out one by one, like guests on a late night talk show, for “conversations”.

The problem in describing taste, said Professor Jordi Ballesterof the Université de Bourgogne in Dijon, is that “People are different physiologically, they have different brains and cultures. We’re all living in our own taste worlds.”

Language is the way we bridge that gap; it’s the window into someone else’s experience. But times change and language evolves. Steven Shapin, a professor of the history of science at Harvard University, pointed out that the winespeak we use now is a very recent phenomenon. It arose partly from science and the chemistry of identifying flavor components and aromas, and partly from the need for more precise descriptions because of the flood of new types of wines in the market that people had never tasted before.

Two of the panelists had very different views on what that language should be. Call them the analytic and the holistic.

Josh Raynolds, who tastes and rates 7,000 wines a year for Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellarnewsletter, favors the former approach. “I can’t get too flowery or literary,” he said. He sticks to specific tastes and smells, devoid of obscure references and personal memories. His aim is reductive, to make notes as accurate, thorough, and understandable as possible in objective terms to give some idea of what the wine will deliver, to help people make decisions about what to buy. He thinks of what he does as a kind of basic guidebook.

Elaine Brown, who blogs at Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews, has a bigger, more poetic picture in mind. “I get visual imagery when I’m tasting,” she said. Her first response to a wine is all about its color, its energy. Pictures of flowers float up. She sees its character as though it were a person and incorporates all those images into tasting note drawings, which also include words like “smashed cherry” and “juicy crunch”. They seem like visual wine haikus. “I hand draw, so they are imperfect, which gives a feeling of intimacy,” she said later, after I’d had a chance to study her vivid, intricate drawing of a vertical tasting of Mayacamas Cabernets….


An Autobiography by the Glass

An autobiography by the glass 2

September 12, 2014 — Wine journalists all know the kind of in-depth retrospective tastings winemakers usually put on for the press — verticals showing how a single wine plays out over a span of vintages.

More interesting to me is the evolution of a winemaker, from his early formation (as the French call it) to the path he ultimately adopts in his own vineyard and winery.

At a tasting hosted in June at New York’s Per Se restaurant by Ted Lemon, founder of Sonoma winery Littorai, the selection of bottlings amounted to his autobiography in 34 glasses of wine, from a 1980 Domaine Dujac Echézeaux he helped make as an apprentice in Burgundy to the most recent Littorai release, a 2013 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir.

Lemon likes to say: “Winemakers should leave behind in the bottle no trace of their failings, but only the pure expression of the places where they have been….”


Elin’s Wine Pick:  2009 Seresin Estate Reserve Chardonnay


11.5.12 — I’m always happy to discover another New World producer committed to biodynamic wines — especially when the wines are really good. My latest discovery is the smoky, sophisticated 2009 Seresin Reserve Chardonnay from New Zealand’s Marlborough region. It’s fruity and tangy with a slight taste of nuts, a satiny, polished texture and a surprisingly long finish.

This was one of six Chardonnays from New Zealand that I tasted at a seminar on the country’s terroir and climate, which aimed to illustrate the diversity of styles in various regions. One from Central Otago had deep minerality, while Seresin’s, from the winery’s hillside Raupo Creek vineyard in Marlborough, had more zest and citrus character. Though Marlborough gained its reputation from its Sauvignon Blancs, the terroir clearly suits Chardonnay, too….





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

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