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You Think You Know Malbec Wine.  You Are Wrong.


August 19, 2016 — First, a confession. I’ve long thought malbecs from Argentina vastly overrated, slack-jawed big reds found hanging out in bad steakhouses and touted as $15 retail bargains.

So when a host of new, elite versions costing more than $100 a bottle recently came on the scene I didn’t expect to be won over. But I was. Really.

These reds go way beyond being arm candy to charbroiled steak, though they do that pretty well, too.

They brim with scents of violets and lilies. Their intense flavors—blackberry, juicy red fruits, chalk, and dark stones—unroll on your tongue in layer after layer. They’re subtle, complex, and balanced, the kind of vinos that will make you a malbec convert. Which is why some savvy California buyers who used to stash Napa cabs are now looking to its top examples as the new collectibles….



This is the Year for New World Wines.  Here’s What to Buy



August 15, 2016 — In every wine country, vintners anxiously scan the skies all year, hoping weather challenges will still let them make great, or at least good, wine.

So far, 2016 has been a very rough year for Europe’s vintners, with one weather catastrophe after another. Hailstorms in Barolo. Spring frosts, then mildew, in Champagne, and equally disastrous weather events in Burgundy, Chablis, and Beaujolais. In some instances, 70 percent of the crops were lost. Some tiny growers may go out of business.

Now massive wildfires are raging in Madeira and the north of Portugal. So far the vineyards are safe, but that may not last.

Which all means the inevitable supply vs. demand result of fewer grapes and therefore less wine, no matter what the quality: Expect prices for the 2016 vintage of your favorite wines to go up, maybe way up. Right now your best bet is to hunt down French wines from the great 2015 and very good 2014 vintages (especially in Burgundy and Beaujolais) that are already on shelves.

But for 2016, it’s the New World’s turn to shine…..


Drink the Islands: These Mediterranean Wines are Ideal for Summer


August 2, 2016 — Watching A Bigger Splash, the recent film set on the volcanic island of Pantelleria off the coast of Sicily, set off my recurring summer fantasy: sailing to a remote, sunbaked spot surrounded by a glittering turquoise sea, where I sip chilled local wines overlooking a harbor of gently rocking white yachts.

If, like me, you didn’t make that dream happen this summer, you can let the taste of the best island wines take you to a selection of glam places such as Sardinia, Corsica, Pantelleria, and other fashionable Mediterranean playgrounds.

Many of the native grapes are unfamiliar, with hard to pronounce names (try niellucciu), but don’t worry. The wines, born from grapes grown in volcanic soil and  ripened by luminous sun, salt air, and the mistral wind, are really, really good….

You Should Have Your Own House Wine; Here Are 10 Great Options


July 27, 2016 — I know, your image of “house wine” is based on some cheap, anonymous vino served in a carafe and short tumblers at a pizza joint. That’s why you need an update.

At a new generation of restaurants, top wine directors offer more aspirational house wines, working with famed producers to create high-quality cuvées designed especially to go with the restaurant’s food. The French Laundry’s wine team collaborates with Napa’s Schramsberg Vineyards to create the restaurant’s house sparkler, Modicum Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut, while Au Bon Climat makes special pinot noir and chardonnay cuvees for Daniel Boulud.

So it’s no longer declassé to order them when dining out, which means it’s not gauche to have them in your home either….



The Most Fascinating Travel Destinations for Wine Lovers in 2016


July 14, 2016 — So you’ve been to Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Tuscany and splashed out for the exorbitant winery tasting-room fees in the Napa Valley. Where next?

The current oeno-tourism boom means you don’t have to sacrifice luxury if you branch out to less-traveled spots.  An ever-growing number of wineries are wooing curious wine lovers with sophisticated boutique hotels, serene infinity pools, soothing spas, Michelin-starred restaurants, and insider experiences such as harvesting grapes at midnight wearing a headlight.

My criteria for what makes a great wine destination starts, naturally, with truly superb wines. And spectacular scenery is a must, as is fabulous, creative food. But beyond the grape and the glass, I want other experiences—not just the option of being pummeled with grape skins or lolling in a red wine extract bath….


German Pinot Noir is the Buzzy Alternative to Pricey Burgundy


July 13, 2016 — It’s called spätburgunder in Germany. But just think of it as pinot noir with an umlaut.

If you’re picturing Germany as a place where only whites, especially rieslings, thrive, you’ve got it all wrong. Deutschland happens to be the third largest producer of pinot noir in the world—way ahead of trendy New World spots Oregon and New Zealand.

Now that prices are skyrocketing for the reds from hail-torn Burgundy, can those spätburgunders make their mark as a serious pinot alternative? Wine world buzz says yes….


Winemakers Warn of a Coming Burgundy ‘Apocalypse’


June 28, 2016 —  For years, vintages of Burgundy have been smaller and smaller, while prices have gone up and up. Rain, floods, and hailstorms have decimated vineyards since 2010, especially in the Côte de Beaune (the southern part of the famous limestone strip that’s home to the most famous vineyards). Growers invested in weird anti-hail devices, but, alas, they haven’t worked. Regional businesses are facing a crisis of how to survive.

The chardonnay grape harvest was down 30 percent in 2013, pinot noir as much as 50 percent. In 2014, which had some of the worst weather in recent memory, some winemakers lost 90 percent of their crop; 2016 is already looking to be worse, weatherwise. This means the remaining grapes are much more expensive, and businesses that depend on making wines from them will be forced to pay a premium they increasingly can’t afford.

“Growers essentially say, pay what we ask, or we’ll sell to someone else,” says Blair Pethel, one of the growing number of “micro-negociants”— small domaines who buy grapes from growers to turn into wine rather than owning their own vines….

A Real-Life Prince Is Building an Empire in Bordeaux


June 21, 2016 — Prince Robert of Luxembourg, chief executive officer of a Bordeaux wine empire that includes first-growth château Haut-Brion and neighboring top estate La Mission Haut-Brion, was celebrating good news when he visited New York last week.

He had just released the futures price for his brilliant, powerful 2015 Haut-Brion. Though it costs 83.6 percent more than the 2014, London-based merchant Farr Vintners sold out its initial allocation at more than $6,000 a case (the same price as Château Margaux) in one day.

The prince had also just finalized details for the first-ever auction dedicated to vintages of La Mission Haut-Brion direct from the château cellars, to be held at Sotheby’s auction house in New York on October 19.

 The oldest vintage in the sale, he said, showing me a long list retrieved from his rolling tote, is 1916. One of his personal favorites is the 1978. (I agree.)….


The World’s Best Wine Lists, From Restaurants to Airlines


June 16, 2016 — Wine has become more important than ever to the world’s eaters, whether in South Africa, China, Peru, or the U.S. That’s my take-away from the 2016 World’s Best Wine List awards, which were released Thursday.

This is the third year for British publication World of Fine Wine’s annual restaurant wine list awards, which drew more than 4,500 entries from around the globe in 2016. Full disclosure: I was one of the seven senior judges who gave 817 of them one, two, or three stars. Guided by expertise rather than an official checklist, each judge picked his or her top three in each category, ranking them 1, 2, or 3 (the best). The numbers were tallied, and the lists with the most points won….


Orange Wine Has Finally Arrived.  Here Are Eight Bottles to Buy


June 15, 2016 — When high-end, wine-centric restaurant Rouge Tomate reopens next month in New York’s Chelsea district, there will be plenty of “orange” wines on the list.

Traditionally from Georgia in Eastern Europe, these tannic white wines—made like reds, with grape skins left in during fermentation and aging—have been trending for four or five years as vinous exotica, touted as the fourth wine color. Have they finally become more than novelties?

“They’re here to stay,” says Rouge Tomate Chelsea wine director Pascaline Lepeltier….


Chinese Moguls Are Learning How to Make Bordeaux the Hard Way


June 1, 2016 — When Hong Kong businessman Peter Kwok bought picturesque Chateau Haut-Brisson in Saint-Émilion in 1997, all he wanted was a vacation spot where his three children could learn to speak French.

“I knew nothing about making wine, but the chateau came with vines,” he says. “Fairly quickly I learned that quality is all about the soil—and Haut-Brisson’s wasn’t the best.”

Like so many others who’ve invested in Bordeaux properties, he began to see it the way the French do: Fine wine requires top terroir, which doesn’t come cheap.

In the past four years, he’s purchased four more estates as well as top parcels of vines in Pomerol next to prestigious estates like La Fleur-Petrus and Le Pin, hired a new high-profile management and winemaking team, and consolidated his burgeoning wine brands into something he calls the Vignobles K group, to help in selling his wines through Bordeaux’s traditional négociant system.In the past four years, he’s purchased four more estates as well as top parcels of vines in Pomerol next to prestigious estates like La Fleur-Petrus and Le Pin, hired a new high-profile management and winemaking team, and consolidated his burgeoning wine brands into something he calls the Vignobles K group, to help in selling his wines through Bordeaux’s traditional négociant system….

The 25 Best Rosés Under $25


May 27, 2016 — Brace yourself. Rosé season starts this weekend. The drink pink boom means pale and pretty wines will be poured at patio parties everywhere to jumpstart a hopefully decadent summer lifestyle. An oversize tub filled with ice and bottles of pink wine is now de rigueur for entertaining.

So what to put in it? Rosés from Provence have been in vogue for what seems like forever—a new high of nearly 6.9 million bottles were imported into the U.S. last year—and alas, the number of luxury versions is exploding. But you don’t have to pay a lot to get something you’ll be happy to drink. If you’re having a party or just want to knock back a glass by the pool, the virtues of those expensive rosés—ability to age, complexity—are beside the point.

In taste testing nearly 150 rosés to come up with my list below, I was dismayed by how many of my past French favorites no longer cost less than $25.

My advice is to get adventurous and expand your taste buds. If you still think only Provence rosé is worth drinking, you’re wrong (though I included several). Other regions in France, Italy, Spain, Austria, and, above all, the U.S. are making super interesting pink wine with plenty of personality….

Get Ready for the Wine World’s Richest, Glitziest Weekend


May 20, 2016 — One-of-a-kind jeroboams, a sleepover at first-growth Chateau Latour, dinner with Robert Parker, a meeting with Bulgari’s head watch designer, cool cars, and, above all, plenty of frenzied bidding for these over-the-top lots: That’s only part of what to expect at this year’s glitzy, wine-soaked Auction Napa Valley, which takes place the first weekend in June.

Last year 2,000 attendees at this annual three-day charity event splashed out a hefty $15.8 million, though not quite up to 2013’s $16.9 million or 2014’s record-breaking $18.7 million.

Behind the scenes, the pressure is on to bring in even more….




Naples Winter Wine Festival 2016: Rolls Royce Dawn takes top spot


February 1, 2016 — When bids for the first Rolls Royce Dawn reached $750,000, the wealthy crowd at the glitzy Naples Winter Wine Festival 2016 charity auction went wild, shaking tambourines and fancy rattles.

This glamour car, not a stellar wine lot, was the monetary peak last Saturday. The winning bidder Julian Movsesian, who’s from California, told me, “I came intending to get this, no matter what the price.”

Most of the live auction’s 64 lots, many offered by famous vintners from five countries, included rare wines paired with fabulous trips, sparkly jewels, lavish golf holidays or VIP sports or concert tickets.

The auction was only one piece of a glittering, non-stop $10,000 per couple weekend that included vintner dinners hosted at private local mansions, with food cooked by all-star chefs, and, for an extra dollop of cash, a panel tasting celebrating the 1976 Paris Tasting….


from LE PAN:

Beautiful or Beastly? The World’s Most Artful Wine Labels


November 6, 2015 — People buy wine with their eyes, the late Napa Valley vintner Robert Mondavi once told me. He was talking about how a label design influences what wine we choose to drink. Part symbol, part source of essential information, part marketing and sales tool, a label is like the cover of a book, a clue to what’s inside the bottle and a way to stand out on retail shelves.

A handful of prestigious wine estates take the idea further, enlisting a celebrated artist to create a painting or sketch for the label as a way of announcing that a great wine is also a work of art.

When Château Mouton Rothschild recently revealed its label for the 2013 vintage by Korean-born Lee Ufan, I began thinking about why so many wineries have copied the Bordeaux first growth’s lead. The château has spotlighted a different artist almost every year since 1945, thanks to the ambitious Baron Philippe de Rothschild, a brilliant marketer.

Now his grandson Julien Sereys de Beaumarchais, who, with his brother and sister, inherited the château last year, has taken over the art-beat task. “Our only requirement is that the artist we pick should have a global reputation comparable to that of Mouton Rothschild in the world of wine,” he explains.

Linking wine with fine art elevates it as a key part of culture – or so the thinking goes….


Sonoma’s greatest Pinot Noir vineyards


October 14, 2015 — From Hirsch Vineyards, on a high ridge of Sonoma’s coast, I can see the blue Pacific just a few miles away. The wind is strong and cold, and the vineyard rises above a blanket of fog like a sunny island.

This verdant outcropping is one of the most famous Pinot Noir sites in California. A dozen wineries have sought out its grapes in their quest to make great wines and Hirsch has long been on my shortlist of ‘grand cru’ Pinot Noir vineyards.

Notoriously finicky, the so-called heartbreak grape doesn’t fair well everywhere. California winemakers have struggled for decades to identify the spots where the grapes produce wines with the tart, crushed-cherry flavors and seductive textures you get from Pinot’s home, Burgundy.

In Sonoma, Pinot Noir paradise is in the coolest areas….


Drinking Well at 36,000 Feet

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October 15, 2015 — This past spring, Joost Heymeijer arrived in Bordeaux with the Emirates airline wine team for a four-day marathon of tasting barrel samples. They ended up purchasing almost 1 million bottles as futures, zeroing in on 60 famed crus classés, such as Château Cheval Blanc. When the wines are ready to drink, they’ll be poured gratis in Emirates’ first and business classes.

“A long journey looks a lot better with a glass of fine Bordeaux or champagne,” says Heymeijer, who’s in charge of the airline’s in-flight catering. “That’s why we’ve spent half a billion dollars on the wine program over the past decade.” Two million bottles are aging in a warehouse in Burgundy; the rest are stashed in Dubai.

Emirates is one of many airlines adding elite wines to the list of luxury perks like massage beds and Michelin-starred cuisine as a long-term strategy to win wealthy travelers’ loyalty.



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…

© 2002-2016 Elin McCoy. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction of images or texts in this site without written permission.

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