The Grapevine

What They’re Reading – Wine Spectator 6/30/13, New York Times

May 30th, 2013

The June 30, 2013 issue of Wine Spectator cover stories roar about Zinfandel’s return, review Brunellos, and take a “first look” at 2012 Bordeaux. [level-members]

Chinese Scale Back on High-End Wines
First, of course, the front-of-the-book features. Good news, perhaps, for wine lovers in the west: the Chinese government has officially made ostentation a bad thing, so the political elite are being forced to scale back on their purchases of super-high end wines like Bordeaux’s first-growth bottlings.

According to Vincent Yip of Topsy Trading, a Hong Kong-based importer, “Customers are educated. The brand era is over. Now they are looking for taste and value.” More than the inevitable lowering of prices, that may be the best news of all for wine drinkers globally.

Fair Trade Producers
The fair-trade movement has come to the wine world, with large retailers providing the impetus. Some are truly committed to improving their impact on the environment and conditions for producers in developing economies; others are simply in it for the marketing hook. Either way, the premium producers are paying for fair-trade grapes helps support growers and their workers, improving conditions and communities.

Cheese, Please
The cheese column profiles Kristian Holbrook of Doe Run Farm. If you’re a “buy with apples, sell with cheese” believer, you could do worse than having Doe Run cheeses around for your tastings.

The Spirits column was well-timed for me. I found some interesting-looking ginger beer in a local beer market, which lead to a bottle of Goslings which lead to Dark and Stormy night at our house. There are a lot of choices if you want to explore beyond what you’re likely to have had on vacation in the Caribbean. Interestingly, spirits snobs may look down their noses at spiced rums like Captain Morgan, but apparently there is a long tradition of adding local flavors to rums in the Caribbean.

Going Local
Matt Kramer’s always-good column discusses the importance of indigenous wines, wines made from grapes local to a region rather than wine made from the same handful of varietals that are being farmed everywhere else. I hope he’s right and this movement takes root. More variety is better for small shops. Homogeneity is the enemy.

California Zinfandels and Larry Turley
Love ’em or hate ’em, if you’ve got an opinion about California Zinfandels, you’ve probably got Larry Turley to thank for it. Zinfandels are certainly a bargain compared to their high-flying California brethren like Napa Valley cabs, but they share the same polarizing super-rich, fruit-forward style. The fact that Turley is a passionate foodie and pairs his wines with big flavors when cooking at home says a lot.

Some other producers worth checking out include Bedrock, Easton, Epoch, JC Cellars, Linne Calodo, Miraflores, Ridge and Seghesio. Kunde Estate and Cline also offer nice value-oriented bottlings.

2012 Bordeaux
2012 Bordeaux’s are, shockingly, NOT another vintage of the century. (We’ve had, what, 4 or 5 of those in the past decade, no?) Choose carefully when these come to bottle in 2014. Pomerol seems to be the safest bet if you’re buying by appellation.

Greek Wines in The New York Times 5/29/13
Eric Asimov’s wine column this week is As Greek as the Sea and features the white wines of Greece.  Along with pointing out how delicious and food-friendly these wines can be, he has a great rant about “starter wines.”

From some of the thorough, painstaking producers in Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, pinot grigio can be a delight. But much of it is mundane. Why should anybody who cares about what they eat and drink settle for familiar and icy rather than something full of character?

The wine industry has no problem with that sort of unconscious drinking. It feeds sales and increases profits. Hence it promotes the notion of “starter wines,” mediocre bottles that help ease newcomers past the shock of transition until they are ready to try the better stuff. Nonsense. The idea is merely a rationalization for selling millions of bottles of mass-market junk wines.

Skip the insipid wines. Go right to good bottles. Discriminate.

He and his panel are particularly taken with the wines of Santorini, and are delighted that their top picks range from about $15 to about $25 a bottle. Definitely worth a read and definitely worth stocking a few bottles for customers who are ready tobreak away from the same old-same old this summer.