Stephen Tanzer's

Winophilia

Why should you care? The La Niña-influenced cool, overcast summer and very late harvest of 2012 resulted in many unsatisfyingly lean, green sauvignon blancs from Marlborough. But the more protected continental Central Otago region a bit farther to the south on New Zealand’s South Island enjoyed somewhat more clement summer conditions, and its pinot noirs were in a better position to benefit from a warm-up at the end of the very long growing season. Thanks to slow ripening and slightly lower alcohol levels than usual, the best of these wines display uncanny clarity of flavor and complexity, often with enticing floral lift.

What does it taste like? The basic estate bottling from Terra Sancta shows an attractive bright medium red color and complex aromas of dark cherry, raspberry, earth, herbs, lavender and sandalwood. It’s supple and tangy on the palate, with nicely ripe but brisk red fruit flavors leavened by pepper and herb notes from a percentage of whole-cluster fermentation. This sappy wine shows captivating lift and definition and its firmly tannic, spicy finish leaves the palate feeling energized. My score: 90 points.

How much does it cost and where can you find it? $28; Terrell Wines

August 23rd, 2014 | no comments

Ask most wine pros and they’ll tell you that outside their clique-y world syrah is hurting for love these days. From my own past retail experience it’s easy to see why: syrah is simply too distinctive to be liked, much less loved, by many wine fans who have been weaned on user-friendly pinot noirs, merlots, grenaches and even cabernets.

The traits that mark typical syrah, such as olive, smoked meat, espresso and bitter chocolate, are acquired tastes, and it’s easy for those of us who work in the wine world bubble to forget that fact. Surround yourself with enough like-minded wine aficionados and before long you might start to believe that your group’s shared tastes are actually universal, not isolated by personal preference. READ MORE »

August 18th, 2014 | no comments

Last month I recommended some exceptional values in village and premier cru Chablis from the outstanding 2012 vintage. Today I spotlight the top rung of the Burgundy hierarchy, the region’s grand cru vineyards. Planted on a single continuous, essentially southwest-facing hillside, the grand crus of Chablis benefit from maximum sun exposure. These wines typically turn up the volume on premier crus, offering more of everything—greater complexity and intensity of aromas and flavors, more concentration and depth, firmer structure, and a longer aging curve—while demonstrating greater finesse. They are also considerably more expensive. But while grand cru white Burgundies from the Cote de Beaune are among the priciest white wines in the world—routinely $200 a bottle or more, and sometimes much more—their counterparts from Chablis are generally priced at least 50% lower. They are far better value. READ MORE »

August 14th, 2014 | no comments

Why should you care? Although very few New Zealand wines are exorbitantly expensive, the average price for the country’s wines is hardly cheap. That’s because, in contrast to places like Argentina, Chile, Australia, South Africa and Spain, where land and/or labor costs are lower, New Zealand produces virtually no creditable wines for less than ten bucks. But I tasted a sauvignon blanc the other day that sells for just a couple bucks more than that and is way better than merely well-made: it’s a brisk, nicely concentrated, classic example of Marlborough sauvignon blanc—all the more miraculous because over 100,000 cases were produced.

What does it taste like? The Kono 2013 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, a brand owned by Tohu Wines, offers pure but shy aromas of gooseberry, pepper and fresh herbs. It shows a typical sauvignon blanc herbaceousness, but with a pliant texture and good ripeness to its piquant flavors of lime, grapefruit pith and crushed herbs. For a wine that’s widely available for $9.99, this sauvignon has serious palate presence. The brisk finish features firm, lingering flavors of lime, green tropical fruits and salty minerality.

How much does it cost, and where can you find it? $12; Total Beverage Solution.

August 11th, 2014 | no comments