Stephen Tanzer's

Winophilia

This has probably been the best month of the year for wine values in the International Wine Cellar, especially with our coverage of Argentina and France’s southern Rhône Valley. At the IWC, we don’t throw around 90-point ratings, but when wines at this level of quality can be had for $20 or less that’s a cause for celebrating—and for buying by the case.

We’ll publish more coverage of Argentine malbec and Côtes-du-Rhônes bottlings in the next few weeks, but today it’s Argentina’s cabernets that get top billing. As I’ve noted before on this site, cabernet production in Argentina is dwarfed by the ubiquitous and ever-popular malbec. Some malbec proponents in Argentina are not yet convinced that Mendoza’s dry high desert is an ideal climate for producing truly velvety, refined cabernets with thoroughly ripe tannins, but in my tastings in recent years, a growing number of cabernets have unquestionably caught my attention. The fact that Mendoza has not experienced a really hot growing season since 2009 has definitely been constructive for these wines. Years without an extended period of heat allow for slower, more even ripening of the fruit, so that the grape skins can reach good physiological ripeness before potential alcohol levels skyrocket and acidity levels plunge. READ MORE »

April 16th, 2014 | no comments

Don’t expect to find as many under-$10 wines from France these days as you might from Spain, because land and labor costs in France have made that category pretty much a thing of the past. But in the $10 to $15 range, the southern Rhône Valley’s less-swanky appellations, including wines simply labeled Côtes-du-Rhône, yield a wealth of delicious, mostly grenache-based wines that deliver quality way beyond their prices. In my annual tastings of Côtes-du-Rhônes for my coverage in the International Wine Cellar, I found a number of winners from the 2011 and 2012 vintages, all of them ready to enjoy. As the weather finally warms up, these are the wines I’m looking forward to drinking with anything off the grill, alongside fresh vegetable and pasta dishes, or with charcuterie and cheeses—or even on their own. READ MORE »

April 12th, 2014 | no comments

Retailers bemoan the fact that as much as they love syrah, it continues to be a tough sell. Is that the case at your restaurant as well? Which syrahs do you use as ice breakers for syrah guests who think that syrah isn’t their thing, and what kinds of dishes do you pair them with?

Chuck Furuya, M.S., DK Restaurants (Honolulu). Yes, syrah can be challenging to sell on the restaurant floor. Professionals have been trying to figure out why for many years. As a restaurant person, however, I truly believe there is a HUGE opportunity on winelists to fill the gap between pinot- and cabernet-based red wines, in terms of weight and drama, with well-farmed, well-made syrah- and grenache-based red wines. If one spends the time searching and selecting the right renditions, one can create a step ladder from pinot to cabernet to recommend to customers. READ MORE »

April 10th, 2014 | no comments

Guest Stars
Guest Stars

How important is a degree in enology (part two)?

Winemaker Roundtable

Many of the most esteemed winemakers around the world hold degrees in enology from well-known universities but quite a few do not, having learned on the job, often at their parents’ or grandparents’ knee.  How critical to success do you think it is today to have received formal training in winemaking and farming techniques, and why?  Whatever your opinion on this subject, do you think that there’s such a thing as too much formal training?

Olivier Humbrecht, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht (Alsace, France). If your job only consists of “making wine,” I guess that a combination of formal oeno/viti [enology and viticulture] education and family experience is probably enough. However, managing a certain size estate nowadays also requires some solid knowledge of business management that can only be provided by proper schools or universities. READ MORE »

April 8th, 2014 | no comments