Spain’s Great Match: Castilla Y Leon

Every year I look forward to “Spain’s Great Match,” the day-long tasting, seminar and tradeshow in NYC meant to educate tradespeople on the great wines of Iberia, from Sherry to Bierzo to Cava. I don’t make it to the party every year, but thrilled that I could this year.  It was a beautiful day in Manhattan, and although I couldn’t get into my friend Ana Fabiano’s Rioja class, I was able to sit in for two seminars – one on the Castilla Y Leon region, as well as one on Cava, Spain’s answer to the delicious wonders of Champagne. Each was hosted by Marnie Old, who packs an astonishing amount of information into an hour, and who talks fast enough…

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Eye On Iberia!

I recently had the pleasure of tasting a bunch of Spanish wines, courtesy of Wines from Spain USA.  More Americans are drinking Spanish wine these days as far as I can tell just from what I’m served in friends’ houses, what I see on wine store shelves, and what people who talk about wine are, well, talking about. That’s good for Spain (and for consumers) because not too long ago, the only Spanish wine that American really knew was Vino de Jerez—Sherry—and a lot of it was cheap cooking wine you bought at the A&P. That itself was a shame, because good Sherry is a delicious and unique type of wine, produced through the Solera system in which some new vintage…

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Wine Term(s) of the Week: Spain

The Spanish take their wine aging very seriously--they are truly concerned with not releasing a wine "before its time."  So much so that they've written it into their wine laws: A Spanish quality wine labeled Crianza (red wine) must be aged a minimum of 2 years, with at least six months in barrel (barrica de vino). In Navarra, Rioja, and Ribera Del Duero, the minimum time in barrel is a year. White wines must be a year old, with at least six months in barrel. Reserva wines (red) must be aged at least three years, with one year in barrel. Whites must be two years old, with at least six months in barrel. Gran Reserva wines (red) must be aged…

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Italy’s Wonderful Whites

When you think of Italian wine—and I’m just guessing here—you probably think of reds. Dr. Hannibal Lecter aside, Chianti is the wine everyone knows best, made from Sangiovese grapes grown in Tuscany, and it’s a truly great food wine.  Amarone, one of my favorites, is lush and powerful, with a hint of sweetness, made from partially-dried Corvina grapes, and works best with rich food. And Barolo and Barbaresco wines, made from the Nebbiolo grape, are among the greatest red wines of Europe.  And of course there are the Super-Tuscans, fairly expensive wines often (but not always) made from a base of Sangiovese, and then "suped-up" with Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Merlot.  The most famous of these, Sassicaia, actually has no Sangiovese at all, and can…

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The “A.P.” Number on German Wine

German wines carry an "A.P. number," which can give you a lot of information if you're so inclined to parse the number and do the research. Frankly, I'm not. But if you must know, the AP number is like an Internet IP address, but with five sets of numbers rather than four, separated by spaces rather than dots. The first number indicates the region, the second the village or town, the third number is the estate, the fourth is the barrel or bottling, and the last number is the year that the wine was tasted before bottling. Of course, you have to know what all these numbers mean, or else it's like E.T. looking at a can of beer. And we…

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Like to Cork…or Screw (cap)?

People ask me all the time about screwcaps on wine. Now, most people don't think much about the science of wine; they just want to know one thing: can a bottle of wine with a screwcap be any good? Simple answer? Yep. Lots of really good wines today are closed with a screwcap, including so-called super premium wines, which can fetch $100 a bottle or more. But I’d like to qualify what I'm saying with a few points. First of all, the jury is out on whether or not screw caps will work effectively and enable some wines, particularly big, bold reds, to age in bottle for 10, 20, or even 30 years. We just don't know, because screw caps…

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Wine Tasting: You’re as Good as an Expert

I built this website to help you de-mystify the world of wine, so that you can try new stuff at your local retailer, or order confidently in a restaurant. And this little article should also give you some gumption when you attend your first, or 20th, wine tasting. So - you're invited to a formal wine tasting...and you want to go. After all, it's for a worthy charity that you know, and they've got some wonderful cult California reds and brilliant French white Burgundies. Yum. So you register, and pay your $75, and you show up with anticipation. You're new to the world of wine, and the only "tastings" you've ever attended are at a friend's house. And we all…

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A Little Bit About Burgundy: Great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

France, and specifically Bourgogne, what we in the great USA call Burgundy, is where the world's best Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays are grown. And I say "grown" because Burgundy is all about the vineyard rather than the chateau or winery. Not to say that there aren't some excellent Pinots and Chardonnays from other places - old world and new, oaked and unoaked, cool climate and hot climate, austere and crisp.  Of course, there are also sweet, caramel-y, and in my view pretty much undrinkable wines from those places, too. Think Yellowtail, or, actually, don't. I've tasted Pinots from New Zealand and Oregon that rival the best from Burgundy, and recently I had a Chardonnay from Italy that I might have…

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