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  Michael Apstein
  Wayne Belding
  Gerald D. Boyd
  Tina Caputo
  Jim Clarke
  Michael Franz
  W. Blake Gray
  Paul Lukacs
  Ed McCarthy
  Linda Murphy
  Rebecca Murphy
  Marguerite Thomas
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  Guest Columns


Columns – Michael Apstein

Estate Wines: What are They, and Are They Worth the Price?
Michael Apstein
Oct 14, 2014

The word 'Estate' on a bottle of wine lends prestige and often entails a bigger price tag. But what does the term really mean…and is this designation actually worth the price premium? The Alcohol, Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau (a.k.a. TTB) regulates wine in the US. According to their rules as detailed in the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (eCFR) (Title 27, Chapter 1, Subchapter A; Part 4.26) a winery can label a wine as 'Estate' if: 1) the winery grew all the grapes on land it owns or controls with at least a 3-year lease; 2) the entire wine making process took place at the winery, and 3) the winery and the vineyards are in the same AVA (American Viticultural Area). An estate wine should not be confused with a 'single vineyard' wine, which may or may not also be an estate wine, depending on whether it conforms to the TTB regulations.

Back to School
Michael Apstein
Sep 16, 2014

Along with the burgeoning interest in wine among American consumers has come an explosion of opportunities to learn about wine. It's a far different state of affairs now than in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when I was learning about wine. Back then, there were few opportunities for novices to attend reasonably-priced tastings to develop their palates. Indeed, the sort of in-store tastings that have become commonplace were actually illegal in many states not long ago. Today, however, those who are just becoming interested in wine are fortunate to have a diverse set of opportunities by from which to learn about the wonders of the grape.

A Chablis Primer, With Good News Regarding 2012
Michael Apstein
Aug 19, 2014

Forgive me for beating this drum again, but Chablis remains one of the best--and perhaps the single best--white wine value in today's world. As for recent developments, the 2012 vintage now on retailers' shelves is not to be missed. Although the wines from 2012 are not quite up to the superlative level of the 2008 and 2010 vintages from Chablis (which are largely sold out), the 2012 vintage is not far behind. Making them even more appealing, the 2012 Chablis have retained their quintessential vibrancy and electricity, which are characteristics lacking in many whites from the Côte d'Or in this vintage.

Prosecco: The Pinot Grigio of Bubbly?
Michael Apstein
Jul 22, 2014

What is real Prosecco? The name has such wide spread recognition that it is already becoming synonymous with 'I'll have a glass of bubbly,' especially among Italians, and much to the dismay of the Prosecco producers. Much as most American consumers refer to any wine with fizz as 'Champagne,' Italians, at least in the Veneto, the region in the northeast that includes Venice and the Prosecco production zones, refer to all bubbly as 'Prosecco.'

Age-Worthy Italian White Wine is not an Oxymoron
Michael Apstein
Jun 24, 2014

Livio Felluga's Terre Alte redefines Italian white wine for me. Andrea Felluga, the current winemaker and general manager of the family-run firm, was recently in New York and led a vertical tasting of eight vintages of Terre Alte, spanning 15 years, back to 1997, that showed how magnificently this white wine developed with bottle age. People marvel that a white wine could still be alive at 15 years of age--and truthfully only a small fraction of white wines, no matter their origin, are. But these Terre Alte weren't just alive; they had improved and developed flavors than arise only from aging, while remaining fresh and vigorous.

Jadot in Oregon: Another French Invasion?
Michael Apstein
May 28, 2014

Jadot's seemingly sudden expansion into Oregon was, as Pierre Henry Gagey, President of Maison Louis Jadot, one of Burgundy's top producers, describes it, 'a perfect storm,' though a good one in this instance. Their recent (August 2013) purchase of the 20-acre Resonance Vineyard in the Charlton Yamhill AVA was not, as it turns out, in the works for years, according to Gagey. Rather, he describes it as 'Having the right people available at the right time. For something like this to be successful, you need the right people. The timing was perfect because Jacques (Lardière) had just retired after doing 42 vintages for us (at Jadot) and was ready for a new project and to accept a new challenge.' Moreover, he notes that his son, Thibault, had worked the harvest at Domaine Drouhin Oregon the previous year and would be the perfect person to manage the new venture should it become successful.

Groundbreaking Rosé From a Bordelais in Provence
Michael Apstein
Apr 29, 2014

Sacha Lichine's upbringing in Bordeaux explains to me why his rosés from Provence are so stunning. Of course, it helps that Lichine's consulting enologist, Patrick Léon, was, for almost 20 years, the Managing Director in charge of the vineyards and winemaking for all of Baron Philippe de Rothschild's properties, including Château Mouton Rothschild.

An Unknown Tuscan Treasure
Michael Apstein
Apr 1, 2014

Move over Brunello, Chianti Classico and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. There's a new kid on the Tuscan block, Montecucco, which is positioned to join this elite trio of regal red wines. With only 2,000-planted acres and about 70 small producers, Montecucco is tiny. But remember, as recently as 1980, when Brunello was awarded Italy's top official wine designation (Denominazione Origine Controllata e Garantita, or DOCG), it was also a small area with only about 50 producers.

Gran Selezione: The True Pinnacle of Chianti Classico or Hype?
Michael Apstein
Mar 4, 2014

With the 2010 vintage of Chianti Classico, consumers will see a new class of wine identified by the words 'Gran Selezione' on the label. Whether this new category represents progress depends on whom you ask. The Consorzio of Chianti Classico announced the world wide inaugural release of Gran Selezione with great fanfare in what could not have been a grander setting.

Why Wine Prices Are Rising
Michael Apstein
Feb 11, 2014

I'm no economist, but the idea of supply and demand is a fundamental economic principle that even we non-economists can understand. As far as fine wine is concerned, the demand is rising rapidly and the supply is not. My recent trip to Hong Kong and Vietnam demonstrated just how much demand is rising. The broad Chinese market for fine wine is still in its infancy but it is poised to explode. And even Vietnam, with 'only' a population of 90 million (compared to China's 1.3 billion and India's 1.2 billion), provides an insight into the future of wine consumption in Asia.

Are Barrel Tastings Worthwhile?
Michael Apstein
Feb 4, 2014

Every spring, as predictably as the blooming of daffodils, journalists and merchants attend the en primeur tastings in Bordeaux and bombard us with reams of tasting notes. Indeed, wherever great wines are made, producers are eager to show them early on, just as critics and merchants are keen to taste them for comment or purchase. Despite the enthusiasm of these various participants, I would assert that what can be learned from these tastings is actually quite limited and that, with rare exceptions, one ought never make pronouncements about particular wines.

Apstein's Winery of the Year 2013: Mastroberardino
Michael Apstein
Jan 7, 2014

Mastroberardino is my Winery of the Year for 2013 because it excels, not only by consistently making a fine range of wine, but also by preserving history. They make distinctive and enticing lower end--as measured by price, not quality--wines, such as Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio and Greco di Tufo. At Mastroberardino, they produce stunning upper level wines, such as Taurasi, which are under-priced for what they deliver and, at the same time, rival Italy's more famous Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello. With Mastroberardino's focus on indigenous grape varieties, they have preserved Italian heritage, and with their Pompeii project, they are bringing history alive.

Burgundy Bargains from 2011 Vintage
Michael Apstein
Dec 10, 2013

The 2011 vintage in Burgundy runs the risk of being forgotten despite producing very fine wines. The first strike against it is that it was sandwiched between two stellar vintages, 2010 and 2012. The 2010 vintage in Burgundy was superb for both whites and reds, and some of these wines remain on retailers' shelves. Though the 2012s are still a year away from the retail market, they are developing beautifully and have already received high praise, justifiably so judging from my tastings in Burgundy last month. Strike two is the price of the wines. Poor weather resulted in low yields in 2011, forcing prices up. And even lower yields in 2012 put further pressure on the prices of the 2011s. Once producers saw that yields were down by an astonishing 50 percent in 2012, many raised the prices of their unreleased 2011s because they knew they couldn't raise the prices of the 2012s sufficiently to accurately reflect the paucity of wine.

Lambrusco: A Wine for Thanksgiving
Michael Apstein
Nov 12, 2013

Just the idea of taking Lambrusco seriously causes snickers. We all know that it's nothing more than a sweet slightly bubbly red wine, right? Well, no--it isn't just a cheap sweet bubbly after all. Or at least not all Lambrusco fits that description. There is, after all, another Lambrusco, a much more serious one, and indeed it is a wine made just for Thanksgiving.

Franciacorta: A Stylish Sparkler from Italy
Michael Apstein
Oct 15, 2013

Most wine geeks are not familiar with Franciacorta, so it's understandable that this terrific Italian bubbly is not on the radar screens of most casual consumers. When I told a friend I was going to Italy to learn about their sparkling wines, his response was, 'Oh, I love Prosecco.' He, like most Americans, was unaware of any other Italian bubbly. Christina Ziliani, currently the head of the communications for the Guido Berlucchi winery, cringes when she hears the all-too-familiar refrain from importers that, 'We don't need a new category. We already have Prosecco.'

The Stunning and Affordable 2010 Bordeaux
Michael Apstein
Sep 17, 2013

For me, the real success of the 2010 vintage in Bordeaux lies not in the Big Name Châteaux, but in the wines of the Cru Bourgeois. They are harmonious and delicious. Best of all, the Cru Bourgeois are relatively affordable. Enticing to drink now, they have the requisite balance to be cellared and transformed into complex wines to be sipped and savored. For example, I recently had a1982 Château Greysac, usually one of the most widely available of all the Cru Bourgeois, which was marvelously mature yet still fresh.

Chilling Red Wines
Michael Apstein
Aug 20, 2013

I had to look twice. On a warm June night in a lively Paris bistro many years ago, diners had bottles of Crozes-Hermitage in ice buckets. I found this surprising, because the wines were red and conventional wisdom tells us to serve red wines at room temperature or--among sophisticates--at 'cellar' temperature, but certainly not chilled.

The Left Bank Bordeaux Cup: The College Bowl of Wine
Michael Apstein
Jul 23, 2013

Hollywood could not have orchestrated the prelude to the Left Bank Bordeaux Cup any better. On a breezy summer evening under a brilliantly blue sky, the judges, guests and contestants assembled on the beautifully manicured lawns outside the cellars of Château Lafite Rothschild, snapping pictures and chatting nervously. After the judges and contestants were whisked away, the guests were ushered down the dim candle-lit steps into Lafite's breath-taking illuminated circular barrel room. Then, from stage right, the contestants--15 men and 9 women--took their seats at the eight round tables, each with three chairs, arranged on the podium. Finally, amid the regal sound of trumpets, the judges, 10 members of the Commanderie du Bontemps de Médoc et des Graves Sauternes et Barsac, dressed in their official robes and hats entered and seated themselves at the long head table facing the contestants.

Mike Grgich: Multi-National Treasure
Michael Apstein
Jun 25, 2013

It's better to be lucky than smart. Of course it's better to be both, like Miljenko 'Mike' Grgich. Time after time, he's been in the right place at the right time, although at the time, neither the place nor the situation seemed appealing. But in each instance he's been smart enough to take advantage of what came his way, 'turning lemons into lemonade.' Naturally, Grgich is known for his Grgich Hills Estate winery, which makes some of California's best wines. To me, Grgich Hills Estate's ability to produce equally stunning red and white wines is what places him among the world's best producers.

The Illusion of Knowledge
Michael Apstein
Jun 4, 2013

Everyone buying and selling wine--wineries, wholesalers, retailers and consumers--does it. We wine writers also fall into the trap. We carefully note the blend of grapes in a particular wine and what oak treatment the winemaker has chosen, as though that gives us valuable information about the wine. It's a form of shorthand, much like a number on the 100-point scale, that's supposed to impart knowledge. However, it is far too easy to allow a fixation on varietal character and composition to eclipse other factors that can be even more important in determining how a particular wine actually strikes our senses.

Port: It's Not Just for Winter any More
Michael Apstein
May 7, 2013

When I asked Adrian Bridge, CEO of The Fladgate partnership, the family-run company that owns Taylor Fladgate, Fonseca and Croft, 'Do you drink Vintage Port in the summer?' he responded with a laugh and a smile, 'Why not?' But then he spewed out statistics that only a CEO has at his fingertips. He noted that on-premise sales (sales in restaurants) of Port vary very little month to month. The type of Port consumed changes, but overall consumption, according to Bridge, is fairly constant. In the winter, restaurant sales of Vintage Port and Late Bottled Vintage Port do indeed increase, but in summer restaurants see a surge of sales of Aged Tawny Port.

Does the World Need Another Super Tuscan?
Michael Apstein
Apr 30, 2013

Caiarossa is the new Super Tuscan on the block and the other 'aias' should take note. It's not yet in the league of Ornellaia or Sassicaia, but based on my first introduction to this young estate, it could be soon.

Chianti Classico's Gran Selezione: Grand Idea or Grand Mistake?
Michael Apstein
Apr 2, 2013

Chianti Classico producers have been hitting home runs with recent vintages. But they are on the verge of striking out with their new category, Gran Selezione, debuting with the 2010 vintage. Francesco Daddi, one of the grower representatives on the Board of Administration of the Consorzio of Chianti Classico, the group that has promulgated the new category, and owner of Castello La Leccia, a star producer in the region, says the Gran Selezione designation is meant to 'stress the importance of soil, or to use the French word, terroir.'

Vintage Matters…and So Does Ownership
Michael Apstein
Mar 26, 2013

Bruno Eynard, the man in charge at Château Lagrange, the St. Julien estate in Bordeaux classified as a 3rd growth in the Médoc Classification of 1855, was in New York recently to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Suntory's ownership. To demonstrate the dramatic turnaround at the estate since Suntory, the Japanese drinks company, acquired it, Eynard led a tasting of 19 vintages of Château Lagrange extending from 1959 to 2010 (plus 5 vintages of Les Fiefs de Lagrange, their second wine, dating from 1990 to 2009). The results were impressive, and strikingly so.

Feat of the Feet
Michael Apstein
Mar 5, 2013

Treading the grapes by foot 'is fundamental for making Vintage Port,' insists Natasha Bridge, the chief blender at The Fladgate Partnership, the family run company that owns Taylor Fladgate, Fonseca and Croft, three of Port's best houses. 'It may only account for a 3 to 4% difference in quality, but it's one of the differences between making good and great Port.'

The Languedoc is Worth Exploring
Michael Apstein
Feb 5, 2013

The Languedoc is undergoing a tremendous transformation. Formerly known as France's 'wine lake,' this vast area in Southern France that extends in an arc from the Rhône River towards the Spanish border is evolving into one of France's most exciting wine regions. Experimentation abounds as many producers eschew the traditional appellation d'origine controllée (AOC) regulations, preferring to bottle under the more flexible IGP (indication geographique protégée) designation. The commitment of the growers and producers, most of whom are small, is apparent: fully one-third of France's organic vineyards are in the Languedoc. It's an area where you find wines that we all are looking for--those that deliver more than their price suggests. But finding them takes work, a bit of trial and error and a willingness to experiment.

Castilla-La Mancha: The Place for Value
Michael Apstein
Jan 8, 2013

Everyone is looking for value in wine, which I define as a wine that delivers more than the price suggests. Using that definition value can be found in Bordeaux where an $80 wine wows you the way a $120 wine does. More commonly though, consumers looking for value wines are searching for the $10 or $15 wine that tastes like it cost twice as much. And these days, those wines are easier to find than you'd suspect, especially if you head for Spain's Castilla-La Mancha region.

Thank you, Jacques Lardière
Michael Apstein
Dec 11, 2012

Pierre-Henry Gagey, President of Maison Louis Jadot, set the tone for a dinner honoring the retiring legend Jacques Lardière with the invitation he sent months in advance. The invitation noted that the dinner was to thank Lardière for all he has done for 'Burgundy and Maison Jadot.' Note the order--Burgundy and Jadot. It was not thanking him just for what he had done for Maison Jadot, which was enormous, bringing Jadot from a small négociant to one of the preeminent Burgundy producers of today, nor was it for Jadot and Burgundy. It was first and foremost, for Burgundy.

Chablis: The World's Best White Wine for Food
Michael Apstein
Nov 13, 2012

That's a bold claim, but I think it holds up to scrutiny. The only other contender would be Champagne, but once one takes price into account, the medal goes to Chablis because these wines are so well-priced. Albariño from Rias Baixas, a region tucked away in Galicia in Spain's northwest, is in the running, except so little is made and distributed that it's not a reasonable choice. So Chablis gets my vote, and here's why.

Burgundy Update: Tiny 2012 Yields Presage a Pricey Future
Michael Apstein
Oct 16, 2012

'The most expensive vintage ever,' was how Louis-Fabrice Latour, President of the prestigious Beaune-based négociant, Maison Louis Latour, and current head of the association of Burgundy négociants, described the 2012 vintage in Burgundy. 'Yields are down by 60% in many areas and we [négociants] are paying growers up to 30% more,' he explained.

Sicily: Hotbed of Italian Innovation
Michael Apstein
Sep 18, 2012

Winemakers in Sicily bubble with enthusiasm and a sense of discovery the way Etna bubbles with lava and smoke. Three decades ago, Tuscany was Italy's epicenter of experimentation. It was there that a revolution took place, expelling white grapes from Chianti, demonstrating the stand-alone greatness of Sangiovese, introducing French varieties as fuel for 'Super Tuscan' wines, and propelling Brunello into stardom. But today, if you want to see a comparable outburst of imagination and creative energy, you'll need to turn your gaze to the south, especially Sicily.

Good Dirt, Yucky Dirt
Michael Apstein
Aug 21, 2012

As I drive around Alexander Valley with Ronald Du Preez, the assistant winemaker at Jordan Winery, he points across the road and exclaims enthusiastically, 'That's really good dirt,' or in an equally emphatic manner, 'that's yucky dirt over there.' He is expressing a paradigm shift in California winemaking philosophy that's exemplified by Jordan's now virtually complete transformation from an 'estate' winery to one that buys almost all of their grapes from local farmers.

Negroamaro: Black & Bitter from Italy's Heel
Michael Apstein
Jul 24, 2012

'Black and bitter.' It certainly wasn't a name create by a public relations firm. To be fair, Luigi Rubino, President of the Puglia Best Wine Consortium points out the name really means 'black and black' from both the Latin (negro) and Greek (amaro) for black. Whatever the etymology, consumers should embrace Negroamaro, a wine from Puglia, the sunny heel of the Italian 'boot,' because it fills a void. It's a robust red that's not tannic or astringent even when young, and has an appealing bitter black cherry finish. This makes it a complete contrast to the many over-ripe New World wines that finish sweet, and a great choice for the remainder of the 'grilling season' or to pair with hearty wintery fare.

Puglia Will Fool Ya
Michael Apstein
Jun 26, 2012

Puglia, the heel of Italy's boot, is hot, mostly flat, and sun drenched. Italy's third largest wine producing region after the Veneto and Emilia-Romagna, Puglia accounts for more wine even than Sicily. This is, basically, a recipe for low-quality bulk wine. Indeed, in the past, Puglia's been an ideal place for tanker trucks to load up with large amounts of ripe high alcohol red wine to be shipped north--often to France--for blending with wines that could use a little help. Yet, I was continually surprised during my recent visit to Salento in southern Puglia.

Banfi Does It Again
Michael Apstein
May 29, 2012

Earlier this month a $12 wine, Castello Banfi's 2010 Centine, was voted the best red wine at the Ninth Annual Critics Challenge International Wine Competition held in San Diego. To be voted best red is a high honor for any wine, but is absolutely extraordinary for one costing twelve bucks. Nevertheless, the judges' selection of the 2010 Centine, a blend of Sangiovese (60%) and equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, as the best red wine does not surprise me. I've been a fan of this wine since I first tasted it over a decade ago, calling it my 'Wine of the Year' in 2006.

Chablis Short List
Michael Apstein
May 1, 2012

One of my goals for Les Grands Jours de Bourgogne, a weeklong series of tastings held in Burgundy every two years, was to learn about the differences between vineyards in Chablis. It was the ideal setting, a day-long tasting with over 100 Chablis producers pouring over 600 wines, all from Chablis. The owners or the winemakers, sometimes both, did the pouring and were more than willing to discuss the wines. With the vast number of growers and négociants represented and all showing a wide array of their wines, you have the opportunity to revisit producers you know, taste wines from those you've heard of but don't know well, and discover new growers.

Chablis: The World's Greatest White Wine Bargain
Michael Apstein
Apr 3, 2012

Chablis has a long history of being misunderstood. The appropriation of this regulated site-specific name to generic white California jug wine--Gallo White Chablis (as if there were red wine in Chablis)--ruined Chablis' image and cachet for decades. Now, with the movement away from super ripe, buttery, oaky New World Chardonnay and the increasing popularity of 'unoaked' Chardonnay, interest in Chablis is making a resurgence.

A Tale of Two Vintages
Michael Apstein
Mar 6, 2012

Is it hype or is it true? Do 2009 and 2010 represent back-to-back great vintages for Burgundy or is it just another case of the French crying wolf with yet more 'vintages of the century?' My vote goes to truth rather than hype, although the two vintages couldn't be more different. Both vintages are currently available for purchase. The 2009s have just arrived on retailers' shelves along with a few whites from 2010. Most of the 2010s are currently being sold as 'futures' (pay now to reserve the wine and receive them in a year or two).

2009 Bordeaux: Voluptuous Wines
Michael Apstein
Feb 7, 2012

They're here! The much-praised 2009 Bordeaux, the region's priciest vintage, has arrived. Representatives from the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGC) were in New York this past week as part of their nationwide tour to give the trade the first comprehensive look at this much-heralded vintage.

The Scientific Low-Down on High Alcohol Wines
Michael Apstein
Jan 10, 2012

Absent from the controversy about wines with high alcohol content--those over 14 percent--is the effect these wines have on blood alcohol level. Many winemakers and consumers don't even consider the effect, or discount it if they do consider it. When discussing this topic with consumers, and even winemakers, I've often been told that an additional one or two percent is 'trivial.' Hearing this, the image that pops into my mind is that of an ostrich with its head in the sand.

The Paradoxes of Champagne
Michael Apstein
Dec 13, 2011

Champagne must not have gotten the memo about the French appellation controllée (AOC) laws. They have their own regulations--after all, Champagne is an AOC--but they seem to have originated in Rome or Athens, not Paris. Elsewhere in France, the most prized and expensive wines come from individual and distinct vineyards. But in Champagne, most of the prestigious and expensive wines, such as Moët & Chandon's Dom Perignon, Roederer's Cristal or Laurent Perrier's Grand Siècle are the equivalent of Burgundy's or Bordeaux's down-market 'regional wines' made from grapes grown in vineyards spread all over the region.

Sardinia: Italy's Other Island
Michael Apstein
Nov 15, 2011

'People can't find Sardinia on a map,' complained Valentina Argiolas, a member of the family that owns Sardinia's leading winery. She was speaking literally in describing the fundamental hurdle producers need to overcome to sell their wines. At a recent tasting and seminar of Sardinian wines in San Francisco and again in Japan, she was mortified when the map the organizers projected onto the screen failed to show Italy's second largest island. 'There was the boot and Sicily, but Sardinia was nowhere to be found,' she said, lamenting that Sardinians constantly need to remind people that they are part of Italy.

Our Burgeoning Wine Culture
Michael Apstein
Oct 18, 2011

Despite the economic turmoil, wine consumption in the United States continues to increase. Up only a mere one percent in 2010, according to the Wine Market Council, but that was enough to make us the world's largest wine market, surpassing France. Although our per capita annual consumption, about 10 liters or 2.6 gallons, lags well behind the French (53 liters or 14 gallons per person), our much larger population catapulted us into first place for total consumption.

A Simple Strategy for Buying Burgundy
Michael Apstein
Sep 21, 2011

Burgundy produces some of the world's most exciting wines. Although many, such as those from Domaine Romanée Conti, Domaine Leroy, or Domaine Rousseau are priced in the stratosphere, affordable well-priced Burgundies do exist. But finding them can be like walking through a minefield.

Krug: How to be the Best
Michael Apstein
Aug 23, 2011

In June, I was one of three Americans included in a group of about 20 journalists from the United States, Japan, China, and Europe that Krug brought to Reims for what they called, 'Voyage d'Assemblage,' an in-depth view of the exceedingly complex art of blending Champagne. Although I was fascinated at the prospect of learning the intricacies of creating this marvelous beverage from still wines, my deeper mission during our 36-hour visit to their cellars and vineyards was to discover why Krug is, in the microcosm of Champagne, simply the best.

Beaujolais Renaissance
Michael Apstein
Jul 26, 2011

Six centuries after Philippe the Bold exiled the 'vile and noxious' Gamay grape from Burgundy in favor of the 'elegant' Pinot Noir, Burgundians are once again embracing the grape in the wines of Beaujolais. The region has long been known primarily for Beaujolais Nouveau, a beverage closer to alcoholic grape juice than wine, but is now undergoing a dramatic change as Beaune-based négociants buy vineyards and identify unique parcels for separate bottlings. In short, even the most skeptical need to reacquaint themselves with Beaujolais.

Location, Location, Location: Port's No Different
Michael Apstein
Jun 28, 2011

In all the great wine producing areas of the world it is an article of faith that where the grapes grow determines the style and quality of the wine. However, when we think of Port, we tend to forget this fundamental notion. Perhaps this is understandable on grounds that Port is a blended wine made from several grape varieties--and then fortified with brandy. It is conceivable that blending and fortification would mask the influence of vineyard location on the character of the finished wine. This might be conceivable, but it isn't correct according to David Guimaraens, winemaker for the Taylor Fladgate Partnership.

China and Wine: We've Not Seen Anything Yet
Michael Apstein
May 31, 2011

By now every wine lover knows that the Chinese are having an enormous impact on the world's wine market. But the current wave of wine buying frenzy by the Chinese may seem tame compared to the potential tsunami coming in the future.

Under the Radar: Long Island Merlot
Michael Apstein
May 3, 2011

Some wine areas are vaguely familiar but not well known or fashionable. Parts of Southern Italy, such as Puglia, fit this category, as do parts of Spain, such as Manchuela. But there are other areas, such as Long Island, that fly almost completely under the proverbial radar, showing up on the 'screen' of very few consumers. This is understandable enough in the case of Long Island, which evokes images of traffic jams and suburban sprawl rather than vineyards.

The Alchemy of Wine: A Reason to Cellar
Michael Apstein
Apr 5, 2011

Wine is distinguished from other beverages by its potential for undergoing a transformation--almost akin to alchemy--in which simple fruit flavors give way over time to other nuances such as leather, coffee, leaf, or damp earth. All winemakers start their work with fruit, and good young wines have plenty of appealingly ripe, succulent fruit flavors. But great wines, even when young, tantalize you with something else. It's hard to describe precisely what that 'something else' is. Some call it minerality, others earthiness. The near magical transformation of fruit to non-fruit flavors that occurs with extended bottle aging may be hard to describe, but it is impossible to miss.

Not Just Any Port in a Storm
Michael Apstein
Mar 8, 2011

In the cellar of a small grower was a family heirloom, four barrels of Port that had been passed from one generation to another. No one ever thought they had the right to sell it. But when the last surviving family member, a widow without children, died and the estate was left (to nieces, nephews, the museum of the Douro and the social security office of Portugal), the executor needed to raise money to resolve the estate. He contacted Taylor Fladgate, which had been interested in the wines while the widow was alive, but never reached agreement. Now they did. Taylor originally planned on using the wine in their 40-year-old Tawny blend, but after tasting it, they decided it was unique. They had never seen a wine quite as complete as this.

Renaissance in South Africa
Michael Apstein
Feb 8, 2011

'We had to leapfrog the sanctions,' explained Simon Barlow, the affable owner of Rustenberg Wines in Stellenbosch, South Africa, as he described the dramatic transformation of his family's estate following the democratic elections in South Africa in 1994 that marked the official end of apartheid. Since that point, the renaissance at Rusterberg has been emblematic of the advance of the entire South African wine industry.

Malbec: Another Merlot?
Michael Apstein
Jan 11, 2011

Malbec is the new 'black.' Then again, maybe not so new, since the wine from Cahors in south central France, the traditional home to Malbec, was known as the 'black wine' in the 13th century because of its power and concentration. But you know it must be a hot wine today when the French, who eschew putting grape names on labels of their appellation controllée wines, start labeling the wines from Cahors with the Malbec moniker.

Gifts for the Wine Lover
Michael Apstein
Dec 14, 2010

Friends and professional colleagues always tell me they shy away from giving me wine. They profess not to know what to give. They say that they don't want to embarrass themselves with an 'ordinary' bottle. Those excuses, and all the others, are silly. Wine lovers typically love all types of wine, not just the 'important' ones. So there's no need to shy away from giving wine to your wine geek friends this holiday season. Here are some suggestions.

2009 Burgundies: A First Look
Michael Apstein
Nov 16, 2010

The Bordelais are not the only ones licking their chops as they offer the 2009 vintage for sale. Burgundians too are smiling as they taste their 2009s currently aging in barrels. In the words of Philippe Prost, the technical director at Bouchard Père et Fils, the wines are, 'La beauté du Diable,' a French idiom that roughly means 'too good to be true.'

Burgundy: Sorting Out the '0 Tens'
Michael Apstein
Oct 19, 2010

The vintage will be remembered for two things: an extremely small crop and a pleasant surprise. Louis-Fabrice Latour, the current head of Maison Louis Latour and president of the négociant organization, thinks the crop could even be smaller than in 2003. Fetzman noted that they could understand the short crop that year because of the drought and heat. But the size of the crop in 2010 caught many by surprise. Bruno Champy, tapped by Domaine Latour to replace Fetzman in 2012, said that the bunches of grapes weighed half of normal.

In Defense of the Burgundy Négociant
Michael Apstein
Sep 21, 2010

I am always surprised how many experienced Burgundy aficionados, be they sommeliers or just plain passionate consumers, overlook or denigrate Burgundy's négociants while heaping praise on the growers' wines. Sommeliers may shun them because of commercial reasons. Négociants' wines are more widely available and many sommeliers prefer to list wines from small growers whose wines are difficult for diners to find in retail stores. But other Burgundy lovers have no excuse and are missing the boat.

Rose Love In Bloom
Michael Apstein
Aug 24, 2010

Despite the tsunami of enthusiasm that appears every summer, I've never been a fan of rosés, except, of course, for rosé Champagne. The argument for rosé is that they are perfect for summertime because they are not too serious, they stand up to and go with hearty cold salads or grilled fish, and they cut through summer's heat and humidity. I don't dispute that some rosés have those attributes. Far more are limp and innocuous, lacking energy. More often I have found a chilled light, low-tannin red wine, such as Beaujolais or an aromatic vibrant white wine, has far more character and fills the bill better than rosé-until now. A rosé included in the first tasting during a week-long visit to Navarra, a region in northern Spain nestled between the French border and Rioja, made me rethink my previous opinion.

Riesling: America's Favorite Wine Grape?
Michael Apstein
Jul 27, 2010

It's not of course. Chardonnay still holds that position. But to listen to wine professionals, it should be. Belinda Chang, the talented and charmingly enthusiastic sommelier at the Modern in New York effuses, 'I've yet to find a food that doesn't go well with Riesling.' (Alsace Wines has adopted the clever--and appropriate--promotional phrase, 'Just Add Food,' to reemphasize Chang's statement.)

Ornellaia: An Italian Icon, Part 2
Michael Apstein
Jun 29, 2010

As Axel Heinz, the winemaker at Ornellaia, pointed out, luck played a role in Ornellaia's success. It was lucky that Lodovico Antinori, Ornellaia's founder, went to California in search of vineyards because it was there that he met André Tchelistcheff, Beaulieu Vineyards' legendary winemaker. Without Tchelistcheff's urging, he may not have looked to Bolgheri, on the Tuscan coast, for his project. Nor after starting the project would he have focused on Merlot and planted it in the Masseto vineyard. After all, Lodovico had already made a mistake--bad luck--by planting Sauvignon Blanc, for which he had a passion, in what was later determined to be a prime area for red grapes. But it's not luck that Ornellaia makes consistently exceptional wines. It's their attention to details.

Ornellaia: An Italian Icon
Michael Apstein
Jun 1, 2010

'It was luck,' according to Axel Heinz, the winemaker at Ornellaia, that accounted for the extraordinarily rapid ascent of Ornellaia in the eyes of the world. 'It was lucky that Mario Incisa della Rocchetta [owner of Sassicaia] planted Bordeaux varieties when [in the 1940s] and where he did [Bolgheri]. Remember, there were no consultants or elaborate soil testing back then to help determine what to plant and where to plant it.' But the story of Ornellaia's success is far more than luck. There's good ol' fashioned sibling rivalry, a clear vision and extraordinary attention to detail.

Spring Whites
Michael Apstein
May 4, 2010

Few regions deliver the extraordinary diversity of wines, especially whites, like the Loire Valley. From the flinty Muscadet in the west to the herbal Sancerre in the east and the lush sweet wines from Coteaux du Layon, consumers can find every style of white wine perfect for summertime fare. The Loire producers with whom I spoke recently are very enthusiastic about the quality of the 2009 vintage there. The 2009 Muscadets I have sampled confirm that assessment.

Brunello di Montalcino 2.0
Michael Apstein
Apr 6, 2010

These tastings reinforced my image of Brunello as a powerful, yet classy, wine. It should deliver a distinctive core of bitter cherry, dark chocolate, and/or an earthy minerality. The black cherry fruitiness of Sangiovese is apparent, but Brunello should convey what I call a "not just fruit" element-an alluring, dark, pleasing almost bitter aspect. Around the core are firm but polished tannins and the bright acidity characteristic of Tuscan wines in general.

Manchuela, or Mushrooms After A Rain
Michael Apstein
Mar 9, 2010

One of the great things about wine is how new areas appear or spring up seemingly overnight--almost like mushrooms after a rain--and wind up producing world class wines. It happens all over the world. The Marlborough region in New Zealand was a cow pasture, but now is producing great Sauvignon Blanc and showing strong potential for Pinot Noir as well. In the United States, it was brave pioneers like David Lett who showed that Oregon's Willamette Valley was well suited to making high quality Pinot Noir. All of which brings me to Manchuela, which, in 2000, became Spain's latest Denominación de Origen or DO.

California Chardonnay: A Paradigm Shift
Michael Apstein
Feb 9, 2010

It may be odd that I, a confirmed Francophile with a special affection for Burgundy, should be extolling the virtues of California Chardonnay. But it's true. Don't think I'm comparing California--or any New World Chardonnay--with Burgundy. I'm not. Burgundians insist their wines are vehicles for transmitting the flavor of the vineyard--a.k.a. terroir--not the flavors of the variety. Jacques Lardière, the masterful winemaker at Maison Louis Jadot, has said more than once, 'If you taste Chardonnay in my wines, I've made a mistake.' He means of course that you should taste the minerality of Puligny-Montrachet or the earthiness of Chassagne-Montrachet.

Please, No More Killer Cabernets
Michael Apstein
Jan 12, 2010

My hope for the New Year is that winemakers turn down the "volume" so we wine drinkers can savor the music. It is clear that current popular taste embraces the ultra-intense style of wine--both white and red. Alcohol levels in these wines often soar to 15+ percent--and acid levels drop--as winemakers leave grapes on the vine to achieve ever more ripeness. What is less clear to many consumers is that there is a downside to making wines is this massive-but-soft style--regardless of its present popularity.

Burgundy on the Rise
Michael Apstein
Dec 15, 2009

Burgundians were heralding the quality of the 2009 vintage--perhaps another 'vintage of the century'--even before the grapes were harvested, let alone transformed into wine. That's because the weather during the growing season predicted an extremely successful vintage. Prices at the just concluded 2009 Hospices de Beaune auction confirm the locals' enthusiasm for the vintage. The average price of the red Burgundies was up by 31 percent compared to last year, while prices for the whites overall fell by about 3 percent. And that's in euros. Consider the weakness of the dollar over the past year and we Americans can expect an even greater increase in price.

The Wines of . . . Madrid?
Michael Apstein
Nov 17, 2009

When you think of Madrid, what pops into your mind? Vino or Prado? Prado, of course, one of the world's most magnificent museums. But Madrid, not the city proper, but the autonomous region of Madrid--the roughly 3,000 square miles around the city--is home to about 50 wineries who produce a wide range of wines from indigenous as well as international grapes. They range in price from $10 to over a $100 a bottle.

Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc: All the Same?
Michael Apstein
Oct 20, 2009

'All Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc tastes the same,' is the major misconception that the industry must combat, according to Darryl Woolley, Chief Winemaker for the Constellation Group, which controls about ten percent of Marlborough's production through their labels. Certainly the hallmark of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is the zesty, pleasantly pungent, grapefruit-like zing that makes these wines extraordinarily versatile--and popular--with a wide variety of foods, from simply grilled fish to Asian-influenced cuisine. It is equally certain, however, that they don't all taste the same, as demonstrated by a tasting organized recently by Woolley in New York.

An Unlikely Area Producing Very Likeable Wines
Michael Apstein
Sep 22, 2009

The Niagara Peninsula is as unlikely a place as you can imagine for producing fine wines. Let's start with the obvious. It's in Canada--and not Western Canada where more temperate climate prevails. The Niagara Peninsula is a strip of land in Eastern Canada separating Lake Ontario from Lake Erie. And in case you've forgotten, Buffalo, with its hundreds of inches of snow each winter is on Lake Erie, the only one of the Great Lakes that actually freezes in the winter.

Please Don't Dilute
Michael Apstein
Aug 25, 2009

Many wine regulations make no sense. But to me, the worst is the one that allows a portion, usually 15%, of grapes from outside of an appellation to be included in a wine and yet keep the appellation's name of the label.

2007: An Excellent Vintage for White Burgundies
Michael Apstein
Jul 28, 2009

White Burgundy fans should be very happy. The 2007 vintage produced a wide array--from Chablis to Mâcon--of excellent white wines. And the world-wide economic crisis means that prices are lower. That combination is a 'perfect tranquility' for Burgundy lovers.

Are Stags Leap District Wines Unique?
Michael Apstein
Jun 30, 2009

Everyone seems to agree that the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley is unique because of its topography, climate and soil. The question remains whether that uniqueness translates into distinctive wines that reflect the site. To test the theory, I spent two days in the Stags Leap District comparing the same vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon made from grapes grown in the Stags Leap District to those made from grapes grown in other California locales.

American Viticultural Areas (AVAs): Do They Make Sense?
Michael Apstein
Jun 2, 2009

Americans have never been particularly adept at geography. Since most would fail to locate Kansas on an unlabeled map of the United States, how would they fare with finding Chambolle-Musigny? This is why the American practice of naming wines by grape name is so successful for marketing. However, winemakers everywhere--from California to France--insist that wine is 'made in the vineyard,' and that location matters. Europeans have long had a rigidly codified appellation system that controls, among other things, the origin of grapes for wine. In a half-hearted way the American wine industry has adopted a superficially similar system--establishing American Viticultural Areas or AVAs. The half-hearted aspect is shown by the fact that regulations only require that 85% of the grapes come from the specific AVA. By contrast, in all European appellation systems, all the grapes must come from the designated geographic area indicated on the label.

Age Matters
Michael Apstein
May 5, 2009

Most everyone agrees that old vines produce better wines. But why? Why do old vines produce better fruit and hence, more complex wines? Explanations abound. But in medicine, when there are competing explanations or treatments, the reality is that no one really knows. I suspect the same is true with this topic.

Sherry: The World's Most Under-Appreciated Wine
Michael Apstein
Apr 7, 2009

Sherry is confusing and misunderstood. Most Americans think Sherry is sweet because of the predominance of Cream Sherries--which are sweet--on the market. In the United States, 60% of the Sherry consumed is sweet. In Britain, two-thirds is sweet. In truth, the best Sherry is dry, which probably explains why the vast majority (80%) of the Sherry consumed in Spain is dry.

Abruzzo, The New Tuscany, Part II
Michael Apstein
Mar 10, 2009

Although I've said it before, it's worth repeating: wines from Abruzzo deliver more bang for the buck than you'd expect. The region is starting to realize its enormous potential for making high-quality, well-priced wines.

Abruzzo on the Rise
Michael Apstein
Feb 10, 2009

If you are looking for wines that deliver more than their price suggests (and who isn't during these economic times?), it pays to learn about Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, an intense red wine that stands up to the flavorful, chili-laden Abruzzi cuisine.

An American in St. Emilion
Michael Apstein
Jan 13, 2009

Stephen Adams is a low profile but very wealthy American businessman who was bitten by the wine bug relatively late in life on a honeymoon trip to Bordeaux in 1999. Unlike most wealthy Americans who opt for Napa or Sonoma when they want to 'get into wine,' Adams chose Bordeaux and started collecting properties there. As with many 'collectors,' Adams started low, with Château Lagarosse, a property in the down-market appellation of premier Côtes de Bordeaux, but rapidly starting buying in the more upscale St. Emilion and Pomerol appellations.

How Women Transformed Champagne
Michael Apstein
Dec 16, 2008

Dom Perignon, step aside. Although the famous monk is often credited with 'inventing' Champagne, in reality, the women of the region made it what it is today.

Terroir Exists
Michael Apstein
Nov 18, 2008

"When we can't explain something, we call it terroir." That was Jean-Philippe Delmas' answer to the question of why such notable differences mark the wines from Chateau Haut-Brion and Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion. At some points, these two stellar properties literally across the road from each other in the Bordeaux sub region of Pessac Léognan actually dovetail with one another. Although Delmas' comment was met with laughter from the guests at a wine dinner at Blantyre (an upscale Relais & Chateaux property in Western Massachusetts that is rapidly becoming known for their sensational wine dinners), the truth is that--at least in this case--terroir does indeed explain the difference between these two legendary properties.

An Early Overview of 2007 Burgundies
Michael Apstein
Oct 21, 2008

Even though it's hard to recommend specific wines from the 2007 vintage at this stage because most are unfinished and still developing in barrel, an early assessment of the 2007 vintage in Burgundy is important because it helps determine a buying strategy now. The size and quality of the 2007s will affect prices of both existing stocks and the new vintage. So, even an early look at the new vintage as a whole will help you to determine whether you want to save your money and buy the '07s when they are offered for sale or scour the market now for the remaining wines from prior vintages.

What Does a Medal Mean?
Michael Apstein
Sep 23, 2008

With the recent completion of the Olympics, we are reminded of the incredible skill, precision and commitment it takes to win a medal, competing against the best in the world. An Olympic bronze medal--recognizing one the third best in the world at one's sport--is high praise indeed. Why, then, are bronze medals from wine competitions shunned by some as though they'd been damned with faint praise?

Wine Cellar 101
Michael Apstein
Aug 26, 2008

With the current economic downturn forcing people to cut back at all levels, perhaps it's foolhardy to suggest that now is the time to start a wine cellar. But paradoxically, now is a perfect time.

A Wine Lover's Guide to Boston and Western Massachusetts
Michael Apstein
Jul 29, 2008

"You have a finite number of meals in your life, so don't waste one." This is a guiding principle for me, as I take food very seriously. However, finding satisfying restaurants when traveling to unfamiliar cities can be a challenge, especially if the wine list plays an important role in your choice.

CD: Cork Dysfunction
Michael Apstein
Jul 1, 2008

We've all heard -- and probably muttered -- aphorisms to explain the disappointment after opening and tasting what was supposed to be a "great wine." The most common explanation is "bottle variation," as in, "I had a great bottle of that wine only last week," or 'the last bottle of that wine showed much better than this one." Someone invokes the cliché, "It just goes to show you there are no great wines, only great bottles of wine." I maintain that the explanation for bottle variation -- a very real phenomenon -- is the inherent inconsistency of using corks as closure for wine.

Robert Mondavi--The Patriarch of California Wine
Michael Apstein
Jun 3, 2008

No person has had as great an influence on California wine--and how the world viewed it--as Robert Mondavi. Andre Tchelistcheff, Beaulieu Vineyards' legendary winemaker from 1938 to 1968, made great Cabernet Sauvignon--and less well realized, but no less great--Pinot Noir. Ernest and Julio Gallo sold more California wine (and their company still does) than anyone else. But it was Robert Mondavi who put California wine on the world's wine stage.

Great Wine Via Corporate Management Principles?
Michael Apstein
May 6, 2008

With his closely cropped beard and an almost flattop-like haircut, Kaj Ahlmann (pronounced Kye) could double as a slide-rule toting engineer from the 1950s. His winemaking philosophy confirms your first impression when he emphasizes, 'we collect data all the way through' and the name of the winery, Six Sigma, accurately reflects his mantra.

Let's Copy the French
Michael Apstein
Apr 8, 2008

If imitation is the greatest form of flattery, then we should flatter the French. Not by copying their wines, but by copying how to show them to the public. Something the California wine industry--as well as Oregon or New York for that matter--would be wise to copy from the Burgundiansis Les Grands Jours de Bourgogne, a week-long series of intensive tastings.

Wine Pricing: Still Economics 101
Michael Apstein
Mar 11, 2008

I have ongoing discussions regarding wine pricing with Michael Franz, my friend and colleague here at WRO. He believes that part of his responsibility as a critic is to consider whether the price of a bottle of wine bears a reasonable relation to its cost of production. I, on the other hand, ascribing to the free market philosophy, believe that the market should be the sole determinant of price.

Is it Really Terroir or Is it Just Marketing?
Michael Apstein
Feb 12, 2008

It is often difficult for American consumers, who are accustomed to varietal labeling, to understand and the see the virtue in the European tradition of naming wines by reference to place of origin rather than the name of the grape--a system that highlights the importance of terroir or place. Part of the difficulty stems from determining whether the character of the wine is due to the producer's style or whether it is truly due to the origin of the grapes.

A Plea for Reasonable Restaurant Wine Service
Michael Apstein
Jan 15, 2008

Wine service in restaurants, even many that carry one of the Wine Spectator's awards for superior wine lists, seems to be an afterthought. Although the Spectator's awards are solely for wine lists, you'd hope that those restaurants with stellar lists would also have stellar service--or service that is at least reasonable. But that's rarely the case.

Dedication to Estate Wines Guides Trefethen Family
Michael Apstein
Dec 18, 2007

Tasting and talking with Janet Trefethen, who along with her husband, John, and their family, owns Trefethen Vineyards, illustrates how California wine can still wow you with subtlety. Despite the current vogue for overdone powerhouse wines, Trefethen continues to produce Cabernet Sauvignon that, while intense, is most notable for its finesse, complexity and ability to develop. Similar to a great sauce, Trefethen Cabernets have a glossy texture and a plethora of flavors, none of which dominate. Trefethen's white wines are stylish and precise. Their wines make you smile from first taste to last drop.

20 Great Values in '05 Burgundies
Michael Apstein
Nov 20, 2007

Great vintages, such as 2005, produce wonderful wines at all levels, from the simplest Bourgogne Rouge and lesser-known village wines, such as Marsannay or Santenay, to the grand cru. And with the rising prices of the 2005s coupled with the plummeting value of the dollar, it's time to look at village wines in general. Village wines, those that are usually a blend of wine from various non-premier or grand cru vineyards within a single village, such as Meursault, may lack cachet, but can offer great value when made by talented producers, such as Jadot or Latour, especially in 2005.

The Mystery and Magic of Murcia
Michael Apstein
Oct 23, 2007

One of the mysteries of Murcia, a province in southeastern Spain that is unknown to most North American wine lovers, is how such a hot climate can produce powerful wines with elegance and freshness. And why are they such good values?

Pouilly-Fuissé: The Bargains of Burgundy in 2005
Michael Apstein
Sep 25, 2007

Pouilly-Fuissé is poised to become the next 'hot' area for white Burgundy. It's quite a step up for this area, the most important appellation within the Côte Mâconnais, because, up until now, it has been widely considered little more than a solid, safe choice in Chardonnay-based white wine.

Bierzo: The Next Priorat, Only Better
Michael Apstein
Aug 28, 2007

Dismissed by many in Spain as a region suited only to producing bulk wine, Bierzo is poised to become one of Spain's leading wine regions. The landscape, the focus on indigenous grapes, and the personalities involved convince me that still-obscure Bierzo is destined for the big time.

Château La Nerthe: A Châteauneuf Standout
Michael Apstein
Jul 31, 2007

There is no better overall producer of Châteauneuf-du-Pape than Château La Nerthe. They may not make the 'best' wine from the region every year, but they produce incredibly consistent wines year in and year out, as do the handful of other top producers such as Beaucastel and Vieux Telegraphe.

Aussies Could Conquer the Riesling World…Or Blow It
Michael Apstein
Jul 3, 2007

One of the paradoxes of the wine world is the discrepancy between wine writers' and consumers' love for Riesling. Wine writers love it. So why then isn't the public listening to what we wine writers say on this subject? I think the problem lies with Riesling's spectrum of style, from cuttingly dry to almost syrupy sweet.

Regional Diversity in Australian Wine, Part 2
Michael Apstein
Jun 5, 2007

John Larchet, an importer of Australian wines, and Bob Harkey, a wine retailer, both expressed the same troubling idea about Australian wines--albeit in very different ways.

Regional Diversity in Australian Wine
Michael Apstein
May 8, 2007

Every wine producer I met on my recent trip to Australia wanted to discuss regional diversity of Australian wines. They know that in order to grow, they need to expand beyond what they have already mastered: delivering wines that are simple, fruity, inexpensive, and easy-to-drink, with a cute critter on the label.

2005 Burgundies: Don't Miss 'em, But Bring Your Wallet
Michael Apstein
Apr 10, 2007

Are the 2005 Burgundies as extraordinary as first reports indicate? The Burgundians themselves are heralding the 2005 vintage--but that's not news in and of itself, since wine producers always rave about the vintage they have to sell. However, I believe this is an extraordinary vintage for the reds and excellent one for the whites.

Change at Lagrange: Global Warming and Robert Parker
Michael Apstein
Mar 13, 2007

What do Robert Parker and global warming have in common? They are the two major forces in Bordeaux over the last two decades, according to Marcel Ducasse, who has a unique perspective on the changes in Bordeaux during that time. Ducasse will be retiring next month after 23 years as the managing director of the now resurrected cru classé property, Chateau Lagrange in St. Julien.

There's More Than One Way to Make Coq au Vin
Michael Apstein
Feb 13, 2007

Although I'm lucky to be able to interview individual winemakers or managers of wine estates, it's unusual to sit around a table with a group of them to discuss their individual winemaking philosophies and techniques. You learn very quickly that, just as there are multiple ways to cook a chicken, there's more than one way to make great wine.

Dynamic Duo Changing the Face of Kiwi Wine . . . Again
Michael Apstein
Jan 16, 2007

After helping Cloudy Bay bring New Zealand wines to the world's attention with its racy Sauvignon Blanc -- Cloudy Bay's 1985 Sauvignon Blanc awakened Americans to New Zealand's potential for making unique wine -- Ivan Sutherland and James Healy are changing the New Zealand wine industry again.

An American in Beaune
Michael Apstein
Dec 12, 2006

It's dinnertime in Beaune, the capital of the Burgundy wine trade, and Ma Cuisine, an unpretentious bistro, is packed and bustling as usual. When the door opens and an American with a charming boyish grin enters, the locals greet him with enthusiasm. Alex Gambal works the room like a politician works a crowd.

HdV Brings French Accent to Carneros
Michael Apstein
Nov 28, 2006

Here on the Eurocentric East Coast -- remember we're nearly as close to France as to California -- I still am asked, albeit less frequently than two decades ago, whether America produces wines comparable to France. As my daughters would say, 'Duh.'

Don't Miss The 2004 White Burgundies
Michael Apstein
Oct 24, 2006

There is a good reason why fans of white Burgundy are smiling. Wines from the underrated 2004 vintage are now on retailers' shelves, thankfully replacing the 2003 vintage.

Louis Latour's Corton-Charlemagne: An Age-Worthy White Burgundy
Michael Apstein
Sep 26, 2006

Maison Louis Latour's Corton-Charlemagne is the benchmark wine for that grand cru vineyard. Always tightly wound when young, its remarkable character opens and expands with years-even decades-of age.

Another French Paradox: Alsace Riesling
Michael Apstein
Aug 29, 2006

Everyone is familiar with the French Paradox: the French eat a diet rich in fat, but have a low rate of heart disease. Another French paradox is why Alsace Riesling is not more popular in the United States. By all rights, it should fly off the shelves.

For Seafood, Spanish Winemakers Finally Getting It White
Michael Apstein
Jul 25, 2006

Unlike France with its grand white Burgundies, a bevy of whites from the Loire Valley, and alluring Alsatian wine, Spain's white table wines don't command worldwide attention. (Cava, Spain's unique and refreshing bubbly, and Sherry are another story). But thrilling Spanish white wines are just around the corner as a new generation of winemakers challenge the accepted dogma and explore new frontiers

Prosecco: Sparkling Summer Sipping
Michael Apstein
Jul 4, 2006

Prosecco, Italy's unique and stellar contribution to the world of sparkling wine, must have been invented for summertime. Although the Italians drink it year round as an aperitif, summer is the perfect discovery time for those unfamiliar with the joys of this light and "friendly" wine.

It Takes a Noble Grape to Make a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Michael Apstein
Jun 6, 2006

The Italians name their wines by place name, such as Chianti, or grape name -- think Pinot Grigio -- or both, Dolcetto d'Alba. When the name of a town, Montepulciano, is the same as the name of a grape, Montepulciano, the potential for confusion is understandable.

Everybody Loves a Deal: Alter Ego
Michael Apstein
May 9, 2006

Everybody loves a deal, and some of the best deals in Bordeaux these days are the "second" wines of the top-rated Bordeaux properties. While they never will develop the complexity and class of the property's grand vin (first wine), they are ready to drink far sooner, and typically sell for a fraction of the price.

Western Australia: A Different Style of Shiraz
Michael Apstein
Apr 11, 2006

Shiraz from Western Australia is stylish, refined, and seriously under appreciated. Thanks to the cooling influences of the Indian and Southern Oceans, these wines typically have a wonderful complexity based on peppery or spicy notes that balance their plumy, ripe flavors.

Refined Reds from the Wild West
Michael Apstein
Mar 14, 2006

The labels say "product of Australia," but red wines from Western Australia are about as un-Australian as you can get. Those expecting super ripe flavors and 15 percent alcohol so common in Australian wines are in for a major--and pleasant--surprise. These wines, whether made from Cabernet or Shiraz, have elegance, finesse and complexity.

Vintage New York
Michael Apstein
Feb 14, 2006

The current fashion in wine, certainly in New World wines, is for ripe, fruity flavors and the massive alcohol that invariably accompanies them. Consumers looking for alternatives need to look outside the mainstream. Wines from New York State, which certainly qualify as "outside the mainstream," offer an extra touch of ripeness that is the New World's signature, while retaining vibrancy that a cool climate imparts.

Selecting Wine in a Restaurant
Michael Apstein
Jan 17, 2006

It is the part of restaurant dining that most people dread. You are with a group of colleagues or friends, or perhaps on a special date. The conversation is flowing, everyone is relaxed and having a good time. Then, the waiter gives you the wine list.

Reserve Wines Score, But at What Price?
Michael Apstein
Dec 20, 2005

Bait and switch, an unsavory tactic in the used-car business, is finding its way into the wine industry. Think of the bait as a New World reserve wine that is produced simply to generate a 90-point-plus score from a top wine critic. Think of the switch as the regular bottling of the same wine, which is more likely to be what's available to the average consumer.

Who Says New World Wines Don't Develop?
Michael Apstein
Nov 22, 2005

The major criticisms of wines from the New World are that they have too much fruit and alcohol and too little subtlety and elegance. Critics go on to say that these wines are unbalanced and fail to develop complexity and layers of non-fruit flavors as they age.

Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough: A True New World Terroir
Michael Apstein
Oct 25, 2005

The French speak passionately about terroir, a concept maintaining that the character of a wine comes from the unique climate and soil where the grapes are grown. But the French do not have a monopoly on terroir. Sauvignon Blanc grown in the Marlborough region of New Zealand imparts a "sense of place" as stongly as any wine in the world.

A Conversation with Christian Moueix, Part II: Dominus Estate
Michael Apstein
Sep 27, 2005

Christian Moueix, perhaps the most influential wine figure in Pomerol and St. Émilion where he oversees his family's ten properties, also owns Dominus Estate in the Napa Valley. During a recent trip to California to supervise activities at Dominus, he stopped in Boston and we met and tasted for three illuminating hours in my kitchen.

2002 Red Burgundies: Catch Them While You Can
Michael Apstein
Aug 1, 2005

Although they may lack the cachet of wines from small growers, such as Lafarge or Mongeard-Mugneret, the Burgundies made by négociants, especially in 2002, are not to be missed.