Stephen Tanzer's


How important to you is bottling wines with “manageable” alcohol levels? If you make a conscious effort to limit the alcohol levels of your wines, why is this—and what steps do you take to achieve this objective in the vineyards and in the winery? If you don’t believe that the level of alcohol should be a critical variable in wine production, why not?

Editor’s Note:  I’ll let Marcelo Pelleriti, who makes wine in both Argentina and Bordeaux, have the last word on this subject, as his comments neatly encapsulate the responses of many other winemakers in recent installments on this issue.

Marcelo PelleritiBodegas Monteviejo (Mendoza, Argentina). It is true that alcohol levels in wine are a more and more important debate, among producers as well as consumers. I’d like to offer my point of view. READ MORE »

April 23rd, 2014 | no comments

Why should you care? For more than four decades Ridge Vineyards has been the producer of choice for many fans of California’s signature variety, zinfandel. At their best, zinfandels offer great fruit intensity, often with exotic floral, spice and earth character, and they are seldom  forbiddingly tannic. Ridge’s highly esteemed, long-time winemaker Paul Draper rose to fame largely on the reputation of his zins, especially the Geyserville and Lytton Springs bottlings. While those wines are justifiably prized, Draper’s more modestly priced and widely available zinfandel bottlings often approach the same level of quality as their famed siblings, as is the case here.

What does it taste like? From an outstanding vintage, the 2012 Zinfandel East Bench Dry Creek Valley displays powerful aromas of blackberry, cherry compote, vanilla and woodsmoke, with a spicy overtone that adds urgency. Fleshy, spicy and smooth, it shows very good clarity to its strong bitter cherry and dark berry flavors. Youthfully firm tannins give shape to the persistent finish, which features a subtle licorice note. Drink it now or age it with confidence for a decade. My score: 91 points.

How much does it cost? $28; Ridge Vineyards.

April 21st, 2014 | no comments

Guest Stars
Guest Stars

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

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?

Pietro RattiRenato Ratti (Piedmont, Italy). I got my enology-viticulture degree in 1988 in the wine school of Alba, the second oldest wine school in Italy (1882). My father also attended the same school, as well as most of the winemakers here in Piemonte. I believe that in a wine region it’s very important to have a good wine school. Formal training is very important to provide the first basis of our job. At the same time, practice, practice and practice is the real training to be a good winemaker. This means a lot of work and application, with no shortcuts, but straight ideas and strong determination. It’s like being an artisan and an artist at the same time: you want to create the best but you already know you will never be able to make the same wine again.  Fantastic! READ MORE »

April 18th, 2014 | no comments

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