The Grapevine

What They’re Reading – Wine Spectator, October 15, 2013

September 19th, 2013

This week in our mailbox we found Wine Spectator’s October 15, 2013 issue. Here’s what your clients are reading about now: California Pinot (the good and the bad), sustainably-farmed salmon, alcohol levels, and values from around the globe. [level-members]

The cover story is about Josh Jensen and his success as a “Pinot Pioneer” in California. There are also cover stories on Spanish wines (both top scorers and top values), and Italian whites from Friuli.

First, the front of the book. In the letters to the editor section, there’s a great piece featuring responses to a column from July about talking wine with wine newbies. Two great quotes:

For every person who obnoxiously states how superior expensive wines are, there is another who claims that ‘spending more than $15 on a bottle of wine is a waste of money.’

Even better:

I work in retail and alter my degree of “wine-nerd” descriptors depending on my impression of the customers. Many times I’ll point to a wine and say, “This one rocks!” or “That’s a fun one!” – and that’s all that’s necessary. I may also spend minutes describing wines or exchanging vino thoughts with a customer. This customer may be well-versed on the topic, or may be a rookie who’s fascinated by the information.

Jordan Feldman, Baltimore MD

Great advice and a reminder about how worthwhile it is to pay attention to your customers. They’ll always give you the information you need to give them what they want.

There’s a nice column on sustainably farmed salmon, which the reviewer feels is worthy competitor to regular farm-raised salmon and even wild-caught fish.

James Laube’s column focuses on the ever-popular debate surrounding alcohol levels. 14% is the line in the sand, it seems, more wineries are trying to get below that number. Laube feels that is perhaps a fools mission, and that the goal should be “balance and flavor,” which seems pretty obvious.

In what to me seems like a rare almost-negative review, WS notes that California Pinots weren’t quite up to recent standards in the 2011 vintage. “Rains wreaked havoc at harvest, resulting in lighter wines of uneven quality. Of the five regions they track only Santa Lucia Highlands scored above 90 for the vintage. (The others are Anderson Valley, Carneros, Santa Barbera, and Sonoma.)

Top values for the 2011 vintage include Meiomi Pinot Noir Monterey-Santa Barbera-Sonoma Counties, Robert Stemmler’s Carneros, and Roth’s Sonoma Coast.

We loved the World Values piece, which lists 100 wines for $15 or less. Rather than try to cherry-pick the real values, let’s focus on the regions they identify, and their strengths:

Argentina is great for “muscular reds based on … the Malbec grape.”

Australia’s strength is Shiraz, but don’t forget their Chardonnays.

California provided values in Petite Syrah and Zinfandels, as well as Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blancs.

In France, seek out Syrahs from the Rhone and Malbecs from Cahors.

Tuscany gives us Chiantis that go with more than Italian food.

New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blancs match well with shellfish.

Portugal’s distinctive reds and whites can be tremendous values.

Chenin Blancs are the treasure of South Africa’s Cape.

And Washington gives us rich Chardonnays and crips Sauvignon Blancs.

Interestingly, the piece on Spanish wines includes few of the choices I would expect for top values. Most of the top end of the list hovers around $20. You can do better than that and still drink well …