At its best, Pinot Noir is transcendent. F&W's Ray Isle sits down with wine legend Burt Williams to explore its allure and get tips on finding great bottles.
Here, F&W executive wine editor Ray Isle names the top bottles he tasted this year. Read more >
Tempranillo, the signature red grape of Spain, is also one of those varieties that underscores why people find wine so perplexing at times. It is, of course, Tempranillo; but depending on where you are, the grape is also known as Aragones, Cencibel, Santo Stefano, Tinta de Nava, Tinta del Pais, Tinta Roriz, Ull de Llebre and about 20 other names. It's a little like being named Bob, but upon being introduced to people saying, "Oh, but in Dallas I'm known as Stan, and in Denver I'm known as Vladimir, and of course in Vancouver I'm known as Enrico the Magnificent." In other words, confusing. Thankfully, most of the time Tempranillo is just Tempranillo.
Here are a few bargains to look for, plus one of the best versions from California. Read more >
A recent report by a pair of Melbourne, Australia-based Morgan Stanley analysts said thatwe are on the verge of a global wine shortage of unprecedented proportions. Egad! Being a wine critic, of course, this prediction chilled me to my very bones. Apparently, despite the fact that the world's vineyards produce some 2.8 billion cases of wine each year, we want more than that. We're a wine-crazed bunch, we humans.
But before the riots in the street start, I should also point out that several other financial institutions weighed in, more or less saying that Morgan Stanley's report was so much hogwash (if you wash your hogs with wine, that is; not many people do, but it does make them an attractive purple color). These other financial experts note that wine production in 2013 is up, that we used to be swimming in a lake of surplus wine and now we are not (a good thing), and that all this vinous doom and gloom is mighty darn premature.
Not being an economist, I'm not going to tell you who's right. But just in case a wine-shortage disaster is nigh, here are five great affordable wines to buy by the truckload, right now. Read more >
Wine preservation is de-mystified thanks to Ray Isle, who tested every method to make wine stay fresh longer. Here are his favorites. Read more >
News that the Japanese company B&H Lifes has started selling a new wine called Nyan Nyan Nouveau, which is made specifically for cats—yes, cats—makes one wonder what, exactly, the rest of the animal kingdom is supposed to do. Here, a few options for the other members of the four-footed set (which, I’ll add, are all well worth drinking by people, too). Read more >
Pinot Noir is often referred to as the “heartbreak grape.” Ostensibly, this is because it is difficult to grow, thin-skinned, finicky, prone to disease, likes to get into pointless arguments with you in restaurants and other public places, and always returns your calls when it knows you aren't there. However, that is untrue. Pinot Noir should be called the heartbreak grape because trying to find worthwhile Pinot under $15 is an exercise in one’s dewy-eyed expectations being run over by the Greyhound bus of reality. Put another way, if Match.com were about hooking you up with drinkable, inexpensive Pinot, it would have been out of business eons ago.
However, you keep looking, and once in a while you get lucky. Here, without further delay—lest despair get the better of you, and you give up and switch to, you know, Merlot or something. Read more >
2011 Bow & Arrow Gamay Noir ($19)
Scott Frank trained in France's Loire Valley before moving to Portland to make wines that emulate the Loire's fresh, clean Gamay style.
2011 Evening Land Gamay Noir ($23)
This dark-fruited Gamay, made in concrete vats, is from one of the original blocks of Evening Land's Seven Springs Vineyard, planted in 1983.
2012 Division Wine Co. Gamay Noir ($24)
Using the classic winemaking techniques they learned in Beaujolais, Tom and Kate Monroe produce just 63 cases of this cranberry-scented wine.
2010 Willakenzie Estate Gamay Noir ($26)
Burgundy-born Bernard Lacroute's winery specializes in wines from that region—Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and this fragrant, floral Gamay.
2011 Brick House Gamay Noir ($28)
Doug Tunnell has made Gamay in Oregon's Willamette Valley since 1994. His vibrant, organic bottling is from a four-acre plot on Ribbon Ridge.
This fall got me thinking about an elderly fellow I once knew, a friend of my father’s father and a veteran of World War One. He was 85 at the time, and blind as a bat—used to watch TV from the couch through a pair of binoculars perched on a stick, sipping what he referred to as “bourbon and branch.” That simply means bourbon and water (technically water from a small stream; it’s an old Southern term), as opposed to bourbon and soda, but it has an antique resonance to it that’s awfully appealing, I think.
Anyway, he’s gone now—has been for years—but there’s still plenty of good bourbon out there, and since it’s officially “a distinctive product of the United States” (by a 1964 Congressional resolution, no less), why not pour a glass? RAY'S BOURBON RECOMMENDATIONS >>
We all know hail. It always seems kind of fun, or at least surprising, those little pellets of ice dropping from the sky and bipping off the pavement. “Huh,” you think, “look at that—hail! What the heck.”
People in Burgundy don’t feel quite the same way about hail. I was made aware of this one time a few years back when I went to meet a Burgundian winemaker at his estate. I pulled in and parked next to his car, and did a kind of double take: It looked like someone had attacked the thing with a ball-peen hammer. The hood, roof, trunk, everything was covered in quarter- to half dollar–size divots. “What happened to your car?” I asked him.
“Hail,” he said, in a tone that would have made Eeyore seem cheery.
Unfortunately, the Burgundians were all fairly despondent this summer, when a severe hailstorm hit the region. Hailstones the size of ping-pong balls decimated vineyards in the Côte de Beaune, with some growers losing up to 90 percent of their crop. This is particularly disheartening because the region also had to deal with major hailstorms last year as well—for a small-scale grape grower, losing two vintages in a row is financially catastrophic. So, why not help out by picking up a bottle or two of Burgundy? Here are a handful of the best values from the region, both white and red:
2011 Jean-Marc Brocard Petit Chablis ($15) This white is a great, affordable introduction to the fruity-chalky nature of Chardonnay when it’s grown in the limestone soils of Chablis.
2010 Laroche Bourgogne Chardonnay Tête de Cuvée ($18) A range of growers, mostly in the Mâcon, provide the fruit for this pear-inflected, surprisingly complex Bourgogne white. (The 2011 will likely be arriving soon, but for the moment the 2010 is also available.)
2011 Olivier Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc Les Sétilles ($20) Although the label simply says Bourgogne Blanc, most of the fruit for this apple-accented, minerally white comes from vineyards in the prestigious communes of Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault.
2011 Maison Joseph Drouhin Laforet Bourgogne Rouge ($16) Grapes from a dozen different appellations throughout Burgundy go into this fragrant, red-fruited Bourgogne Rouge (which is made from Pinot Noir, as are all red Burgundies). And, a sign of change in a very traditional region: It’s sealed with a screw cap.
2010 Maison Roche de Bellene Bourgogne Pinot Noir ($19) Roche de Bellene is the new négociant company from the well-respected producer Nicolas Potel (who, confusingly, is no longer associated with his old company, Maison Nicolas Potel). Old vines that are farmed either sustainably or organically supply the fruit for this nuanced, aromatic red.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.