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After a Blockbuster Year for Bordeaux, the Top 18 Wines to Buy

April 12, 2017 — As spring sun blazed in blue skies over Bordeaux on Friday, March 31, I set out to taste nearly 500 barrel samples of red and white wines in the legendary French region. My mission was to discern how the 2016 vintage stacks up against the superb 2015s I tried last year.

I’m not going to beat around the bush: The best wines from this vintage are exceptional, with plenty of superstars as impressive as, or much better than, their 2015 versions. Many chateau owners feel the wines are the best they’ve ever made. (Of course, I’ve heard that before.) The style of 2016 is different and enticing: The wines brim with fresh, floral aromas and cool red fruit flavors, silky textures, complexity, and smooth, tightly packed tannins….



The 15 Best Chardonnays Under $50

March 22, 2017 — If you’ve been avoiding chardonnay on the grounds that too many examples are garish and overblown, stop. It’s the most popular white in America—and better than ever.

What to know about the grape?

First, it’s native to Burgundy, where winemakers embrace a spectrum of styles, from steely, edgy, and chalky to creamy, rich, and golden. Chablis in Burgundy’s far north and Mâcon in the south are sources of delicious, reasonably priced bottles, and the two vintages now in shops are excellent. The 2014s are classic, pure, mineral, and savory; the just-arriving 2015s, from a warmer year, are exotic and rich.

And second, because the grape is so easy to grow, it’s ubiquitous around the globe, planted in wine regions from Chile to California to New Zealand….



These Chain Steak Houses Have the Best Wine Lists

March 14, 2017 — Before I stick a fork into a sizzling steak, I insist on a large glass of a great red wine that I can swirl alongside it and savor between juicy bites.

So do most people who go to steak houses, which is why their wine lists reflect the reality that big reds and rare, charred meat is a timeless combo.

And in an era when sommeliers champion obscure grapes from esoteric regions you’ve never heard of, chain steak houses offer reassuringly recognizable bottles: Napa cabs, big deal Bordeaux, classic Burgundy, muscular Argentinian malbec….



How to Find Affordable Bottles From the World’s Best Winemakers


March 1, 2017 — Last week I was sipping the latest vintage of cult Italian red Ornellaia in a light-filled downtown loft with bearded winemaker Axel Heinz. He gives a name to each year’s cuvée–the 2014 is L’Essenza, the essence—and when this ripe, chocolatey cabernet and merlot blend makes its debut a couple of months from now at a golden price tag of $240 a bottle, it will sell out to collectors.

But over a lunch of rich, slow-braised beef, we also savored the winery’s 2014 Le Serre Nuove, a silky, polished red that echoes Ornellaia’s plummy taste in a lighter style.  “It’s our second wine,” Heinz said as he swirled his glass and inhaled deeply, “but that doesn’t mean it’s a second-rate version of Ornellaia.” At $70, it doesn’t come with the same fancy artwork on the label or the same hit to the wallet….




Cabernet Who? The Hot New Wines Out of Napa Valley Are White


February 22, 2017 — When a collector friend offered me a glass of Screaming Eagle recently, I automatically pictured the cult winery’s polished, pricy red. Instead, I got my first taste of its sophisticated, wildly expensive, almost entirely unattainable white.

Chances are, when you think of Napa Valley, you think of red wine. Well, get ready to be surprised. In this classic cabernet territory, dozens of top-end wineries are focusing the same kind of every-detail-matters approach to whites that they’ve long lavished on their more prestigious reds.

Fortunately, to try any of them you don’t have to splash out as much as you do for Screaming Eagle’s 300-bottle-a-year sauvignon blanc that I tried. (The 2010 vintage is selling for $4,650 (!) a bottle at…..



Nine Best Burgundy Wines Under $100


February 14, 2017 —  A week ago, I elbowed my way through crowded New York tastings of 2015 Burgundies, touted as the best in decades. The city is a hotbed of Burgundy lovers who swoon over the world’s most famous pinot noirs, so sommeliers, retailers and journalists were sipping, spitting, and, I have to admit, shoving, to sample as many as possible. The goal: to decide whether or not the hyperbole was just hype.

Trust me, it’s not. The reputation of this vintage is deserved, especially for the reds. Rich, ripe, hedonistic, succulent, and mouth filling, they have cashmere-like texture and that juicy acidity that makes you want to take another sip, and then another. You’re really going to want them. Most are so good they even make you forget current politics, at least while you’re drinking….


New Zealand’s New Sauvignon Blancs Will Change How You See the Grape


January 31, 2017 — Whip-cracking acidity, tongue-tingling, citrusy-herby flavors, and pungent aromas give New Zealand sauvignon blancs a punchy, kick-boxing appeal.

Immediately recognizable, reliable, predictable, and cheap, they’re tartly crisp wines you either love or hate, with grassy aromas some have likened to cat pee—not, I admit, the most appealing description. One critic suggested that if you dislike New Zealand sauvignon blanc, it might be because you had to mow the lawn when you were a kid.

But adventurous New Zealand winemakers are now lifting the category to a new dimension of quality, creating more serious (and more expensive) examples in a variety of styles. If you’re not a fan of the country’s sauvignon blancs, these are the wines to try….



Soil, Not Grapes, Is the Latest Must-Know When Picking a Wine


January 25, 2017 — OK, you know the names of dozens of grape varietals and wine regions and all (well, almost all) the Bordeaux crus classes. You can name with ease the best Burgundy estates and famous vineyards such as Napa’s To Kalon.

But you’re not done yet.

Now it’s time to bone up on the latest must-know: the “dirty” side of wine. Not the geographic region, grape, or vineyard, but what’s below the surface of the land, where vine roots sink deep into the earth that (supposedly) gives a wine its true character and quality. Soil type is the latest way to classify wines….



Half of US Wineries Might Be Sold in the Next Five Years


January 18, 2017 — When billionaire Stan Kroenke, owner of Napa cult winery Screaming Eagle and a slew of sports teams (including the L.A. Rams), bought a majority stake in December in iconic estate Bonneau du Martray in Burgundy, France, shock waves ricocheted around the wine world. The historic property has belonged to the le Bault de la Moriniere family since the French Revolution. Its grand cru Corton-Charlemagne is one of the planet’s great white wines.

But that was only one of many high-profile wineries and vineyards to trade hands last year. In California and Oregon, more than 35 were sold.

Get ready for 2017: The Silicon Valley Bank’s State of the Wine Industry 2017 report, released on Wednesday, predicts a continuing vineyard land grab this year…..


Can Cava Convince the World It’s Worth $200 a Bottle?


January 13, 2017 — Does the idea of ultra-luxe, pricey cava sound like a joke? It’s not to Spanish winemakers.

If you think all Iberian sparkling wines are simple, $10 cheapies to pop open for a budget-brunch drink, it’s way past time for you to recalibrate your wine radar.

There are very good value cavas at $25, but I’m talking about the long-aged examples with elegance and complexity that only recently started making a splash outside of Spain. This spring, much more expensive bottles will arrive in the U.S. and other far-flung countries; giant producer Codorníu, for example, is launching its first Ars Collecta prestige cuvées in the U.S in March. Cost: $125 to $200 a bottle.

Would you fork over Dom Pérignon-level bucks for high-end cava….?

Free Wine Fountains and Other Bold Ways Wine Will Change in 2017


December 29, 2016 — If there are two words for wine in 2017, they’re experimentation and exploration. An unquenchable thirst for the new means wines made from less well-known grapes, such as Verdejo, and unfamiliar regions in Portugal, South Africa, and Arizona will gain buzz. (Hey, a wine from the Azores made my top 10 list for 2016.) The days when wine drinkers stuck with familiar brands, easy-to-pronounce grape names, and the standard bottle are gone forever.

That doesn’t mean, however, that we’ll give up what we’ve already embraced—for example, prosecco and rosé, which have moved from fads to wine-world fixtures, with a few stumbles. More luxury versions of all, especially pink vino, are coming, which will, hopefully, put a quick end to the frosé (rosé slushie) eruption….

The Top Wines of 2016, Tasted by Critic Elin McCoy


December 21, 2016 — To come up with this list of my most memorable wines, I scrolled through the tasting notes of nearly 4,000 wines from around the globe that I sampled in 2016. The following highlights are those I marked with additional stars, which meant I was seriously impressed, seduced, or totally bowled over. The wines range from a great vintage of a Rhône classic to a savory white from emerging wine territory in the Azores to an uber-historic California cabernet.

All wowed me, but they also reflect what’s new and important in the world of wine—and what might happen next. The influence of hot new winemakers, the emergence of new regions and grapes, and the rediscovery of old classics will help shape what we drink in 2017….




The 50 Best Wines Under $50 to Buy in 2017


December 13, 2016 — Believe it or not, it’s easier than ever to buy great wines without spending a fortune. From my tastings this year, I’ve picked 50 wines that cost under $50 a bottle—and deliver both value and sheer deliciousness for the price.

To find the biggest bang for the buck, look in emerging regions and those with less buzz, such as Mendocino instead of Napa, Beaujolais instead of Burgundy.

Rather than hunting the best-known grape varieties, try such neglected classics as chenin blanc or hard-to-pronounce obscure ones, like voisinho. Entry level and second wines from the best estates almost always offer top value…..


These 10 Ultra-Luxury Champagnes Are Worth the Really Big Bucks


December 2, 2016 — Glass of bubbly in hand, I took in the panorama of Manhattan’s twinkly lights from the terrace of a posh penthouse in Chelsea for the U.S. debut of the grand 2009 Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne back in October. It was the perfect elitist bling to match the view, and I happily lapped up my fair share.

Just in case you didn’t know, Cristal is a tête de cuvée (aka prestige cuvée), created in 1876 for Russian Czar Alexander II. Much, much later it became a favorite fizz of rappers. Most Champagne houses, from grandes marques such as Moët to grower-producers like Jacques Selosse, make at least one of these luxury cuvées. You spot them by their stratospheric prices, starting at about $150 and going into the thousands.

In a world happy enough with prosecco and pét-nat, are any of these pricey bubbles truly worth it? Absolutely….

The Decade’s Best New World Chardonnays Are From … Ontario?


November 28, 2016 — The Kingston, Ontario, town crier, in fur-trimmed tricorn hat and bright red coat, rang a brass bell and shouted “Hear ye, hear ye” as the lead-in to my most surprising tasting this year: “The Judgement of Kingston.”

The blind competition, held Nov. 6, pitted such top California chardonnays as Chateau Montelena against those from Prince Edward County, a little-known, newly exciting wine region on the north shore of Lake Ontario.

I was the lone American on the judging panel, but like the Canadian judges, I ranked Ontario chardonnays as No. 1 and No. 2, ahead of the oakier Napa examples. They were brilliant: light and crisp, with spiky acidity, succulent layers of lemon-lime and stony flavors, and a flinty elegance missing from the California wines….

The Five Wines Everyone at Your Thanksgiving Tables Will Enjoy


November 18, 2016 — This week I’ve been flooded with e-mails and texts from friends and readers pleading for Thanksgiving wine advice. The all-American holiday seems to cause more wine stress than any other meal, especially this year.

After a divisive election, everyone is asking for the one wine that will not only go with every dish, but also please every guest from twentysomethings to grandparents, whatever their politics.

Sorry. I’m here to tell you that no single “unity” Thanksgiving wine exists. And that’s true even if you’re hosting a feast with just your partner and your best wine-loving friends.

But take a deep breath—and relax. The five wines I’m recommending below are sure to satisfy everyone at your table….


A Sommelier for Water? Seven Ways Somms Are Moving Past Wine


November 3, 2016 — In June, five international water sommeliers judged the second water tasting competition in Guangzhou, China. They swirled, sniffed, and sipped about 70 different brands of the simplest beverage on earth and awarded gold, silver, or bronze medals.

One of them was Martin Riese, the first and only water sommelier in the U.S. who does exactly what a wine somm does, but with water—understanding its taste complexities, selecting a list of waters from around the world for a restaurant, and pairing them with food. “Most people,” he says tartly, “are doing water wrong.”

You can roll your eyes, but this is a real job, and one of many: A whole new wave of sommeliers pour beverages other than wine….


Is This Australian Red Wine Really Worth $850 a Bottle?


October 27, 2016 — At 9:15 p.m. last Thursday, I was being happily seduced by a first taste of the 2012 vintage of Penfolds Bin 95 Grange, Australia’s iconic red that’s now being released to the world along with other whites and reds in their luxury collection.

Is this deep, rich, seductive, tongue-stroking red really the star of them all?

Well, this year, the answer is a definite “Yes,” but several immensely appealing also-rans are worth trying….

See Exactly How Bordeaux’s Chateau Palmer Makes Its Top Wines

Chateau Palmer vineyard during harvest, in Margaux, France, on october 4, 2016. The Palmer vineyards cover 66 hectares in the commune of Cantenac. Most of the plots are concentrated on a plateau of thin gravel from the Güntz period on the top of the rises of the Margaux appellation. Seasonal pickers during the harvest of a plot of Merlot grapes. Photographer: Marlene Awaad / Bloomberg

October 6, 2016 — With four turreted towers and flags flying, Château Palmer looks like a small, perfect castle surrounded by a vineyard, proudly situated in the Margaux commune of Bordeaux. Right now its vines are heavy with bunches of purple merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and petit verdot grapes. Harvest is here.

The grapes will go into a wine that is one of the top reds in the world: sensuous, with lush red fruit flavors and plenty of elegance. Classified a third growth in the famous 1855 classification that ranked Bordeaux châteaux from 1st to 5th “cru,” Palmer has punched above that level in the past decade in price and quality.

That’s because of young, energetic winemaker and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Duroux, who arrived in 2004 after a stint in Italy at Ornellaia and Masseto. He’s shifted the vineyard to biodynamics, an uber-organic farming method that few in Bordeaux follow. And a risky one at that. This year, despite threats of mildew and possibly botrytis, his team didn’t spray the vines and got lucky.

“2016 has been a year of strange weather: a wet spring and a dry summer with no rain for almost two months,” he says. “But this harvest season is perfect. I have a smile on my face.”

Here’s how harvest went on Oct. 4….


A Frantic, High-Stakes Day in the Life of Aaron Pott, Napa’s Wine Whisperer

Aaron Pott, a winemaker and wine making consultant, works on pushing down grape skins that had risen to the top during the fermentation process of wine from his own label at Quixote Winery in Napa, Calif., on Friday, September 30, 2016. In addition to consulting there Pott shares space with the winery and produces his own label, Pott Wines, at the location.October 5, 2016 — For top consulting winemaker Aaron Pott, harvest time in the Napa Valley starts before dawn. Every day he juggles the needs of 12 client wineries as well as making his own wines. Constantly on his cellphone, driving from one end of the valley to the other, he’s ready at any moment to change his plans, based on a new weather report or a sudden problem to solve.

Well-known consultants such as Pott are hired guns in hot demand in the Napa Valley. Their rise parallels the boom of tiny boutique producers whose owners have millions to invest but no expertise. For some, he’s the part-time winemaker, buying additional grapes, choosing barrels, making the blends; at others, such as Fisher Vineyards, he’s an adviser, helping the winemaker kick up the wines’ quality and bring out individuality.

His days are filled with tasting, looking, and decision-making. Are grapes at optimum ripeness for picking? How long should the wine macerate on the grape skins to pick up the right amount of tannin and flavor?

Here’s how his Sept. 30 starts….


See How Pét-Nat Wine Is Made, From Vine to Bottle in Just Nine Days


October 3, 2016 — This year’s harvest in New York City’s local wine region, the Hamptons, started 10 days later than usual for Channing Daughters‘ pét-nats, aka pétillant-naturels, the current bubbly wine craze. These lightly fizzy, naturally sparkling wines are made by the centuries-old méthode ancestrale, bottled before fermentation has finished.

The winery began picking white grapes for its Sylvanus pét-nat on Sept. 21. Why harvest dates vary from year to year is partly mysterious, governed by the weather over the entire growing season.

Depending on the vintage, the ever-experimental winemaker Christopher Tracy makes six or seven pét-nats in white, red, and rosé versions each year….



Why Piemonte, Tuscany’s Lovely Stepsister, Is the Perfect Wine Trip Right Now


September 30, 2016 — At harvest time in northern Italy, layers of fog drift romantically over hillside vineyards of ripened nebbiolo grapes. Those from five tiny villages near Alba, the sleepy capital of the Langhe region of Piemonte, will go into the country’s greatest red wine, Barolo.

Right now, the crisp autumn air is accented with the scents of wood smoke, pungent, fermenting wine, and the fragrant, earthy-musky aroma of white truffles, sold at an annual market in Alba during October and November.

What could be better than wine and truffles at the source?  The combo makes this region, the home of the Slow Food movement, a gourmand’s paradise, especially during harvest season…..


Meet the Hottest New Names in Napa Wine


September 27, 2016 — Scouting the latest must-taste wine projects is a serious Napa Valley sport, and I play the game every time I visit.

Earlier this year a hot tip took me up a steep, twisting, rain-slicked road to the top of Diamond Mountain, in the northern part of the valley. I bumped over the rocky soil of a just-planted vineyard in an open ATV with Jasud Estate’s passionate, bearded owner, Ketan Mody, who didn’t seem to notice we were getting soaked. Later, when we tasted his first wines in the tiny cabin where he lives, I decided, despite being cold and wet, that this was one of the valley’s most fascinating new ventures…..


Which Wine Apps Actually Help You Choose and Buy the Best Wine?


September 26, 2016 — The new mobile app “Wine Ring” sounds great: With the help of secret, patented algorithms, it can predict whether or not I’ll like a wine before I buy it.

It’s the latest in a series of apps that all swear they’ll solve your myriad wine-related problems—even ones you never knew you had.

I’m a skeptical non-techie, so I spent last week testing out Wine Ring, the just launched Omnipair (which aims to help you pick the right wine in a restaurant), and the latest versions of a dozen other wine apps to see what, exactly, they deliver. Several stood out as worth downloading; others seriously underperformed….

How To Buy Wine at Auction—and Why You Should


September 2, 2016 — Maybe you’ve been put off by the numbers. When 10 bottles of 1945 Château Mouton Rothschild go for $343,000, it can feel as though a wine auction is a wee bit … inaccessible.

Or maybe you think buying wine at auction is a stuffy process, involving sitting on uncomfortable chairs in bland boardrooms, raising paddles out of sheer boredom. Wine auctions, you figure, are not for you.

Well, you’re wrong. Wine auctions are no longer just one thing. I’ve been to raucous live sales where collectors battled for expensive bottles while sipping Krug champagne and savoring food by Daniel Boulud. But you can also bid online while hanging out at home in your sweats and eating pizza from a box, or even while flying from New York to L.A. ….





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

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 12.08.04 PM (2)


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…

© 2002-2017 Elin McCoy. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction of images or texts in this site without written permission.

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