F&W Free Preview All You Coastal Living Cooking Light Food and Wine tab Health myRecipes Southern Living Sunset
My F&W
quick save (...)

Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

RSS
Wine

AOC Wants Winemaker in Jail

default-image

Olivier Cousin.

© Courtesy of Jenny & François Selections.
Olivier Cousin.

Popular Loire Valley winemaker Olivier Cousin faces prison time after boxes of his wines turned up labeled with the initials AOC, which happens to be the acronym for France's superstrict wine classification system Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée. Cousin opted out of AOC Anjou status several years ago, giving him the freedom to make wine however he wants, but under the less prestigious vin de table designation. For years, one of Cousin's labels has included the name of the region Anjou, the use of which is also restricted, but authorities seem to have turned a blind eye to the infraction until this more flagrant offense.

Cousin's American importer, Jenny & François Selections, says that a European distributor is to blame for taking a jab at France's governing wine authorities by labeling boxes with initials that stand for Appellation Olivier Cousin. The official AOC was not amused. Cousin's charges could result in a fine of more than $50,000 and a two-year imprisonment.

The AOC system is, to say the least, controversial. (When we interviewed writer Alice Feiring last week she told us it should be abolished.) Cousin, who works his vineyards with horses, is part of the natural winemaking coterie that has a history of run-ins with the organization. For example, the Beaujolais producer Jean-Paul Brun failed an AOC tasting panel in 2008 after being told his wine wasn't representative of the region. The wine is critically acclaimed, something that is not characteristic of Beaujolais.

Jenny & Francois is circulating an online petition in support of Olivier Cousin here.

Related: Loire Valley wines
Natural Wine: Weird or Wonderful?

Wine

Writer Alice Feiring Talks "Naked Wine"

default-image

Alice Feiring.

© Andrew French
Alice Feiring.

"When it comes to wine, I can be polarizing. I don't mean to be; I just have unnaturally strong opinions," Alice Feiring writes in her new book, Naked Wine: Letting Grapes Do What Comes Naturally. Feiring is a fierce advocate for wines that strive to be "natural"—organically farmed and made without the help of industrial yeasts, enzymes and other additives that are commonplace in conventional wine production. Here, the influential wine writer reveals why she's an anarchist, what to look for in a supermarket, and the new producers she loves in California—a region she's disparaged in the past.

Do you see Naked Wine as a manifesto for the natural wine movement?
Not at all. There's been so much interest and debate about what natural wine is. I just figured there had to be a book that put the movement in context. It's not at all a manifesto—it really is an exploration of how certain styles evolved. What became a movement used to be just a type of wine. It became a movement because people need to define things.

What do you mean when you call wine "naked"?
It's a philosophical approach: nothing added, nothing taken away. That's the starting point.

The variety of opinions you found from known natural winemakers was surprising. Like Eric Texier and Thierry Puzelat, who said that under some circumstances, they might use enzymes (an intervention that most natural-wine aficionados would frown on). How do you explain that?
It's not a religion, and people want to make it a religion. It's not a regime. It's sort of like there are all sorts of vegetarians—lacto-ovo, vegan—but they're all vegetarians. A point of difference between some hard-core people is that some believe wine without sulfur is the only way to express terroir. Other people, who may just have a philosophical difference, say that a tiny bit of sulfur helps to bring out terroir.

Do you think it's a common misconception that there are set rules for natural winemaking?

Yes I do, and I think it's just human nature to need those rules. And then there are those of us who are just basically anarchists and who don't need the rules. What it comes down to is, do you like the way the wine tastes or not, and I do find that the more you get used to wine with very low sulfur or no sulfur, the more difficult it is to drink other wines.

Terms like organic and biodynamic have entered consumer—and marketing—lexicons. Do you think that's a positive thing?
Yeah, I do. Without that rising level of awareness, big business—the big wine industry—would be left unbridled. I think ultimately, the result of this will be less manipulation even among the more industrial wines. Just because somebody makes a half million cases of wine doesn't mean it can't be a relatively authentic product. Hopefully there'll be more of that even on the supermarket level.

If you need a bottle and your only option is a supermarket or liquor store, what do you look for?
I delight in doing that. I like challenging myself, going into a really crappy wine store and saying "Ok, what could I do if I didn't travel with my own," which I always do. If I'm in California, I can luck out by going to the supermarket. If I'm in upstate New York, I'll look for something from the Finger Lakes, or I look to the Rhône or Alsace. And if that fails, I'll look to see if there's any sherry, or I drink Scotch or a gin and tonic.

After going through the wine process for the book, do you have more or less sympathy for winemakers who use modern techniques?
Way less, because making wine is so easy.

Is there a new-world region that you think is headed in a great direction right now?
California. They're on the verge of a huge breakthrough, and it's quite encouraging. Coturri is definitely worth taking another look at. La Clarine Farms is emblematic of a new generation. Arnot-Roberts is doing some really fascinating stuff. I recently had some wines from Ryme cellars and I thought they were beautiful. Sonoma's kind of a hotbed right now.

Alice Feiring's three-bottle introduction to natural wines:

2007 Domaine de la Tournelle Fleur de Savagnin

"It's a wine that would really surprise people. It has some oxidation, it's nutty, and it would send somebody more to the savory side than the fruit side. It really has such life in it."

2009 Clos Roche Blanche Cot

"It's something I adore and it's a benchmark. Thierry Puzelat's In Cot We Trust, from a nearby vineyard, would be a good runner-up. To me, Cot in the Loire Valley is terroir on a silver platter."

2009 La Clarine Farm Home Vineyard Red Blend
"This shows what California natural can look like. It's wild and brambly and extremely enjoyable. It does have California fruit in there but it's restrained—and more animal. It's just purely delicious."

 

More Natural Wines to Try:
Wild Yeast Wines
Organic Wine Pairings

Wine

China Loves Bordeaux, Could Try German Riesling

default-image

Value Bordeaux.

© Theo Morrison
Value Bordeaux.

Decanter reports that mainland China now imports more Bordeaux than any other country—more than 40 million bottles' worth in the last year. Though China was already famous for its love of the French wine region, the figures are amazing: Including Hong Kong (which is Bordeaux's #1 customer by value, not volume), China now accounts for more than a third of all exports.

While big spenders there certainly have access to amazing food that pairs with Bordeaux, the blend of tannic Cabernet and Merlot can clash with the sweetness and heat of traditional Chinese food. For those meals, we suggest 10 alternative pairings like German Riesling and Oregon Pinot Noir.

Wine

Food & Wine Remembers Joe Dressner

default-image

Joe Dressner sought out genius winemakers like Thierry Puzelat.

© Antonis Achilleos
Joe Dressner sought out genius winemakers like Thierry Puzelat.

The pioneering, super-influential, widely admired wine importer Joe Dressner died of cancer last weekend, and the wine world has been bursting with remembrances. Dressner was famously (or infamously) blunt and opinionated, and though he championed a style of winemaking that could appear to edge on dogma (traditional methods, wild yeasts, low sulfur), he was no ideologue. Dressner's bottom line was that these wines tasted better—so, as our tribute, F&W editors salute the Louis/Dressner wines they've loved.
 


Ray Isle, Executive Wine Editor
Marco de Bartoli Vecchio Samperi Marsala
It's hard to land on one specific wine from Joe Dressner's portfolio to write about—there are so many that are so good. But if I have a sentimental favorite, it's Marco de Bartoli's Vecchio Samperi Marsala. De Bartoli, who also passed away this year, was occasionally known as the wizard of Marsala—a nondescript mass-produced dessert wine that in his hands (and in this particular bottling) could become a kind of exotically aromatic, layered liquid, all hazelnut and dried orange peel and wisps of smoky tea, and, contrary to expectation, not sweet at all but dry. The nickname was deserved, in other words. I also love this wine because when I was in Sicily for my honeymoon twelve years ago, I visited the winery with my wife and chatted for an hour with de Bartoli, who was unexpectedly friendly despite his obvious surprise that two Americans would turn up unannounced at the doors of his (rather difficult to find) winery. For years it was essentially impossible to find his wines here; why am I not surprised that in the end they wound up with Joe Dressner?
 
Megan Krigbaum, Associate Wine Editor
Agnès and René Mosse Moussamoussettes
I can't claim responsibility for discovering Agnès and René Mosse’s Moussamoussettes, but I will fully accept responsibility for buying most of the cases allotted to New York City. A few years ago, myboyfriend picked up a bottle of this sparkling rosé on the way to dinner at our neighborhood BYOB Middle Eastern place on a whim. We popped open its soda cap top and were entirely delighted. Now we beg our local wine shop for more. It’s a happy wine, a wine that makes it easy to drink the whole bottle. The Mosses are one of my favorite organic producers of top-notch Chenin Blanc in the Loire—they bottle Chenins from several different AOCs, essentially a study of that grape grown in different terroirs. But Moussamoussettes is not this sort of thinker's wine; it’s a pure pleasure wine. And it’s completely different every vintage. The first year, it was quite dry with juicy strawberry fruit. Last year, it was more earthy than fruity, and more bubbly. And this year it was shockingly sweet—better for dessert than with spinach pie, admittedly. There probably aren’t any more bottles of this year’s Moussamoussettes on shelves, but I’m already waiting for next year.  
 
Lawrence Marcus, Associate Digital Editor
2006 Jean-Paul Brun Terres Dorées Beaujolais L'Ancien
Odd as it might sound, this lowly non-cru Beaujolais was, for me, a bit of a revelation. I bought it expecting a simple Gamay to go with roasted chicken, but that's not what it turned out to be. This wine had none of the wild, edgy flavors that are sometimes associated with the "natural" approach favored by Dressner's producers. Instead, it had real polish. The tannins and deep berry flavors were perfectly balanced in a way that was striking; few wines have quite that much finesse. Basically, this Beaujolais was insanely good. I went out and bought six more bottles, and drank them over the next few years. That a $15 Gamay could age gracefully amazed me, and proved that price and prestige don't have everything to do with great wine.
 
Kristin Donnelly, Senior Food Editor
2004 Clos du Tue-Boeuf Le Buisson Pouilleux
I was indoctrinated into the “real wine” movement while working at Chambers Street Wines in 2004. During a dinner with some wine business people, I brought out this bottle, made by rock-star natural winemakers Thierry and Jean-Marie Puzelat. It was nothing like other Sauvignon Blancs from the Loire Valley, which were typically almost clear and very minerally. This was deep golden and cloudy. “Orange wines” were still a fringe phenomenon, so people assumed the wine was flawed. By then, I had learned not to judge a wine by its appearance so I convinced everyone to try it. It was rich, floral and exotic smelling and almost honeyed on the palate—a truly gorgeous wine that was a big hit at the dinner. When I told Joe how much I loved the “Tue-Boeuf Sauvignon Blanc,” he chided me: “You mean Le Buisson Pouilleux,” he said in his Queens-accented French. Typical Joe. He was never a fan of referring to wines the American way, by grape variety, and often made fun of the habit on his blog. Just one of the many reasons people loved him.

Wine

Vineyard Shocker: Grapes People Steal

default-image

© iStock

Here's an item that Eater might want for its series on food-world theft: Thieves in Germany have taken an entire vineyard's crop, nearly three tons of grapes. Winemaker Stephen Attmann awoke to find the vines bare, Spiegel reports. Concerned tasters should be on the lookout, in a couple of years, for a 2011 that tastes suspiciously like Weingut von Winning's well-regarded Pinot Noir.
 
This caps a long summer of wine crime, during which rare bottles disappeared from a London warehouse, scrap-metal thieves stole vineyard irrigation systems and an ex–New York sommelier went on a stealing spree that netted three bottles of Pétrus and a Picasso.

Related: Legal Wine Steals
Pinot Noir Alternatives

Wine

Where to Vacation During Wine Harvest

default-image

Les Crayères hotel in Champagne.

© Courtesy of Les Crayères.
Les Crayères hotel in Champagne.

Harvest season started in August for much of the wine world, but Reuters reports that vintners in Burgundy and other French regions are currently divided over when to haul in the grapes. While waiting increases ripeness (which could result in better wine), it also raises the risk that storms could damage the bounty. Something easier to agree on: Harvest time, which can run into October in some climates, is a great chance to tour wine country. In addition to temperate weather, regions bustle with celebratory events like Bordeaux's annual festival in Saint-Emilion, taking place this weekend. Napa offers a string of wine-release parties (like those at Duckhorn and Beaulieu Vineyards this Friday and Saturday), grape-stomping competitions (like Castello di Amorosa's on September 24) and harvest dinners (Pine Ridge Vineyards will hold one on October 8). To help you plan, F&W presents guides on where to eat, sleep and, of course, drink in top wine regions.

WINE REGION GUIDES

FRANCE
Champagne
With picks from Master Sommelier and Champagne fanatic Laura Maniec

SPAIN
Rioja
With picks from El Bulli alumnus Lucas Paya

UNITED STATES
Santa Barbara
With picks from Addison sommelier Lucas Paya

Napa
With picks from chef Michael Chiarello and winemaker Jamey Whetstone
 
Sonoma
 
Oregon
 
Washington State

Wine

Chilling with Chilled Red Wine

default-image


Beaujolais is very nice with a light chill.

It’s one of the big mysteries—up there with crop circles, the second gunman in Dallas, and why anyone on earth eats Marmite. Why don’t people drink red wine cold? It’s hot, you love red wine, so what’s the answer? A big warm glass of Zinfandel? Body-temperature Cabernet? The thing is, there are a number of red wines out there that chill down just fine. The main consideration is this: If you have a big, tannic red, serving it cold will accentuate those tannins and make it astringent and harsh. But a lighter red, not so heavy on the tannins and bright with fruit, well, chuck it in the cooler and go. Here are a few possibilities. Or you can just go on drinking that steaming glass of Syrah while you sweat in the blazing sun. Along with a big schmear of Marmite on toast.
 
Beaujolais
The perfect picnic wine, and so, unsurprisingly, nice with a light chill. The gamay grape, from which Beaujolais is made, is unprepossessing, not very tannic at all, and full of lively cherry-raspberry fruit. The 2009 Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages ($10) is a fine option. (pictured: 2009 Georges Duboeuf Domaine des Rosiers Moulin-a-Vent ($17) is also great.)

Bardolino
Italy’s answer to Beaujolais (though Frappato from Sicily is another strong contender). Bardolino comes from the hills near Lake Garda, uses the same grape varieties as Amarone (oddly enough, given that Amarone is one of the higher-octane reds around), and has a gentle wild-cherry-ish flavor. The 2010 Corte Giara Bardolino ($11) is a good one to seek out.
 
Pinot Noir
Some Pinots don’t chill well—more robust versions, for instance a good percentage of what California produces. But find a delicate, lighter style, and Pinot tastes great chilled down. Oregon’s a good place to look; among the best choices there is the floral 2010 Willamette Valley Vineyards Whole Cluster Pinot Noir ($20).
 
Sparkling Shiraz
Freaky stuff: black-purple in color, big and hearty in character, and fizzy. But for a cookout it’s a fun option, and it tastes far better cold than regular, non-sparkling Shiraz. Plus, when your friends see you holding a glass, they’ll say entertaining things like, “What the heck is that?” The best I’ve run into recently is the NV The Chook Sparkling Shiraz ($19).
 
Related Links:
Summer Drinks
More Great Summer Wines

Entertaining

Last Call for Summer's Best Wines

default-image

East Coasters lost the last weekend in August to tropical storm (née hurricane) Irene, so the pressure is on to get outside for Labor Day. If the weather cooperates where you live, enhance the best summer activities with these perfect wines:

Sula's 2010 Sauvignon Blanc is light and cooling.

© Courtesy of Sula Winery
Sula's 2010 Sauvignon Blanc is light and cooling.


Seafood Extravaganzas: For lobsterfests and clam bakes, there are many options beyond the ubiquitous rich Chardonnay, like melony Godello and crisp, citrusy Vermentino.

Sunning Sessions: When the weather is genuinely hot, superlight whites, like Vinho Verde and Albariño, are good bets.

Park Picnics: Awesome portable dishes include shrimp-and-noodle salad in a gingery dressing, which is great with Riesling.

Backyard Cookouts: Grilled foods need assertive wines to stand up to strong flavors. Moderately oaky wines, which can otherwise be tough to pair with food, are often great with smokey meats.

Sunset Toasts: Try wine with some color, too. There are few things more refreshing than Provençal rosé, and low-tannin Beaujolais are among the best reds to serve chilled.

Beach Trips: Pulling corks with no leverage, while sitting in sand, can be troublesome. Try these 10 excellent boxed wines, plus 10 great-value screw-capped wines.

Beer

Wines to Root for the Top US Open Contenders

default-image

During the US Open Tennis tournament in New York, there's one question on the minds of the sport's elegant spectators: What can I drink at home (or smuggle into Flushing Meadows like this guy) to show appreciation for my favorite player? Many of the top contenders come from prolific wine-producing nations (though good luck finding Danish bottles, Wozniaki supporters). When in doubt, there's always beer. Here's what to buy:

Tennis star Kim Clijsters with wine on the sidelines.

© AFP/Getty Images
Tennis star Kim Clijsters with wine on the sidelines.


Rafael Nadal: If it's typical summer weather in Queens, Spain's Rafa would probably go for a bracing, vibrant Albariño. Open a really good one, like the single-vineyard 2010 Saiar from Benito Santos ($16).

 

Serena Williams: A toe injury forced Williams to exit the Cincinnati Open early, but she has reportedly recovered and might actually benefit from the rest. Drink an equally fresh American rosé, like the 2010 Copain Tous Ensemble ($20), to cheer her on.

Novak Djokovic: For more than a millennium, Serbians have been making wine—and consuming most of it within their borders. Look for a lush, Zinfandel-like Plavac Mali from nearby Croatia, such as the 2007 Lirica ($20).

Li Na: Though China produces wine, its high-end consumers are now famous for buying up tremendous amounts of top-dollar Bordeaux. Avoid sticker shock with a bottle from the overlooked 2006 vintage, like Chateau Gloria St-Julien ($40). 

Roger Federer: Swiss wines can be excellent. Robert Gilliard's 2009 Les Murettes Fendent ($26), a minerally white, is both delicious and available in the US.
 
Francesca Schiavone: Choose an in-vogue grape—Moscato, whose US popularity is skyrocketing—to represent the player who hails from Italy's fashion capital, Milan. Tintero's 2010 Sori Gramela ($12) is a light, limey Moscato d'Asti.
 
Andy Murray: UK wine made news recently when outspoken French winemaker Michel Chapoutier declared that he was looking to buy vineyard land in England. Try one of Chapoutier's existing bottles, like the dependable, berry-rich 2009 Belleruche Côtes du Rhône ($10).

Andrea Petkovic: Leitz's Dragonstone ($16) is one of the best Riesling values out there. Drink the crisp, peach-scented 2010 to support Germany's Petkovic.
 
Richard Gasquet: Food & Wine's October issue calls out an incredible number of brilliant new French wines. Until the issue arrives, plan to acknowledge Gasquet's hometown in the Languedoc region by drinking the exceptional 2007 Leon Barral Cuvee Jadis Faugeres ($40).
 
Kim Clijsters: Salute the reigning women's Open champ, who is sitting out due to a stomach muscle injury, with a Belgian beer. A caramelly Quadrupel, like the 10 percent-alcohol St. Bernardus ($8), is a delicious painkiller.

Related: Sports Star Wines

Summer Wines

Summer Party Foods

Wine

Rockin’ Wine and Spirits

default-image

Justin Timberlake raises a glass of his new 901 Silver Tequila.

© Larry Busacca/Getty Images
Justin Timberlake raises a glass of his new 901 Silver Tequila.

 

I am super-excited that Lady Gaga will be performing at the upcoming MTV Video Music Awards—both for the music and to see what she’ll be wearing. Another version of the meat dress? A tiara of frozen confections to echo the ice cream truck in her newest video? She’s not the first out-there artist to venture into the food and wine world, though. Audacious rocker Marilyn Manson is now making an absinthe cheekily dubbed Mansinthe in Germany (perhaps it induces the sort of hallucinatory effects he employs in his videos). Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan, who became enamored with Arizona as a “harsh yet mystical” winemaking terrain, debuted his first wine from his Arizona vineyard, Caduceus Cellars, back in 2006. Justin Timberlake has devised yet another way to get us on the dance floor with his new 901 Silver Tequila. Even Aussie rockers AC/DC are getting in on the action with their own wine label. It launches in Australia this week with hilarious varieties like Back in Black Shiraz, Highway to Hell Cabernet Sauvignon and You Shook Me All Night Long Moscato. Gaga’s currently working on a fashion collaboration with Nicola Formichetti for Barneys. If she doesn’t start making wine, at least maybe she can think about meat dresses for the masses?

Related: Surprising Celebrity Food Products

advertisement
The Dish
Receive delicious recipes and smart wine advice 4x per week in this e-newsletter.
The Wine List Weekly pairing plus best bottles to buy.
F&W Daily One sensational dish served fresh every day.
American Express Publishing ("AEP") may use your email address to send you account updates and offers that may interest you. To learn more about the ways we may use your email address and about your privacy choices, read the AEP Privacy Statement.
How we use your email address
advertisement
Congratulations to Nicholas Elmi, winner of Top Chef: New Orleans, the 11th season of Bravo's Emmy-Award winning, hit reality series.

Join celebrity chefs, renowned winemakers and epicurean insiders at the culinary world’s most spectacular weekend, the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen, June 20-22.