Posts Filed Under wine review

Surprising Stars From Aussie Wine’s “A+” NYC Event

Vinted on January 26, 2012 binned in elegant wines, kick-ass wines, sexy wines, wine review

Considering that I’ve been so surprised by the high quality of some Aussie white wines in the last several months, it seems surprising that I should be surprised at all when Aussie wine surprises me these days.

And yet, my mind is simple enough (and apparently entrenched enough in its own little preconceived notions) that the Aussie wine surprises keep coming (good and bad, but probably much more good than bad right now).

Such was the case at last week’s A+ Aussie Wine public tasting event at Espace in NYC, called “Around Australia In 80 Sips” and organized jointly by Bottlenotes and Wines of Australia (of whom I was a media guest). [ By the way, the “A+” thing is their marketing label, not mine. ]

The Aussie’s in the biz who attended refer to this sort of public tasting event as a “swim through” – I’ll let your imagination fill in the blanks on what that means, but let’s just say I had to fight to make my way to poorly-placed spit buckets, and I was by far in the minority in terms of actually using them.

The volume of imbibing aside, it was great to see so many people (a few hundred NYCers) – and predominantly young people, who apparently haven’t heard (or are just ignoring) the misinformation that Aussie wine is dead – coming out to get a crash-course in what Aussie wine has to offer the U.S. market.  Something like forty wineries participated – mostly the big ones, which very likely isn’t a true representation of the diversity of the Aussie wine market, but was certainly an accurate representation of the Aussie producers most people are likely to find available on our shores.

The surprises for me this time? The reds

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Stop Hating On Pinotage, Already

Vinted on January 19, 2012 binned in best of, commentary, overachiever wines, wine review

Seriously. Stop hating on Pinotage.

Why? Because there’s nothing “wrong” with it.

I am here today to tell you that Pinotage is not bad; it is simply different. And if you don’t like this oft-maligned but more-oft-misunderstood South African cross between Pinot noir and Cinsaut, that’s your prerogative. Just stop drinking it and shut about it, already, then. I mean, Pinotage has some high-profile wine critics who are haters right now – for Pete’s sake, Lettie Teague expresses disdain for it on her friggin’ homepage.

Yes, the worst of them (Pinotages, I mean, not wine critics) smell too much like overly-aged smoked meat wrapped in bananas and dipped into a vat of acetone that’s being bioled over a tire fire. I fully acknowledge that, okay?

But riddle me this, Wine Man: what bargain-basement version of any variety doesn’t have its fair share of sh*tty-tasting bottlings? Ever had really bad Cab? Terrible Pinot? Of course you have. Pinotage is no different than any other fine wine grape (yes, I meant to put the “fine” part in there), in that bad fruit in incapable winemaking hands results in a terrible wine, overemphasizing the worst qualities of any grape. It just so happens that Pinotage has more ammunition with which to work than most in the off-odors department.

That doesn’t mean that Pinotage cannot be beguiling when the right fruit gets into the right winemaking hands. It just means that there’s a little more of a deft balancing act to be attained when dealing with Pinotage.

But I know it can be done, and done well, because I’ve tasted some first-hand…

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Blast From A Cult Winemaker’s Past: Buehler Vineyards 1985 Cabernet Sauvignon

Vinted on January 16, 2012 binned in California wine, wine review

In the world of winemakers, Heidi Peterson Barrett is a household name, and not just because she shares a last name with her husband, who founded the only winery that can rightfully claim to be a full-fledged movie star.

That Heidi Barrett is a household name, a winemaker’s winemaker, can be attributed to two words: Screaming Eagle – Napa’s Cult Cab among Cult Cabs, manifest in concentrated style, produced in small quantities and regularly fetching over $1000 per bottle.

Those slugging back bottles of SE in the comfort of the temperature-controlled cellars inside their custom yachts probably don’t know that Heidi Barrett landed her first head winemaking job back in 1983, when at the young age of 25 (now that I’m nearly forty, I can call 25-year-olds “young”) she was hired by St Helena’s Buehler Vineyards (for more on Buehler, check out my interview with owner John Buehler’s daughter Helen, who now looks after their Social Media and Sales).

So when I was invited to talk shop over lunch by long-time wine biz veteran (and very nice guy) Bob Trimble, I was intrigued by the selection he picked to help us wash down our meal – Buehler’s Napa Cabernet Sauvignon from 1985 – since it was not only a glimpse into Napa Cab’s past, and into Buehler’s past, but also an opportunity to turn back the clock on Barrett’s (now storied, but then just promising) career

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