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Columns – John Anderson

What I've Been Drinking Lately: Well-Priced Alternatives to Champagne
John Anderson
May 25, 2022

May 25, 2022: My spouse loves bubbly, and, particularly Champagne-le vrai Champagne-and would conceivably drink us out of house and home given the price of the real thing in today's market-a fate we cannot afford! So, the march has been on to find acceptable bubbly, good bubbly that isn't Champagne and that doesn't cost a small fortune per bottle. The goal was to find the best acceptable French bubbly priced around $15. I failed in that task. And so turned to a different goal: To find the best acceptable French-like bubbly priced around $15. For that, I have a winning combination, which I will come back to at the end of this column. But first, let me present some slightly higher-priced ($18-$25) but nevertheless genuine French alternatives to Champagne. They do exist! And the ones I've chosen are broadly available.

What I've Been Drinking Lately: Best Burgundy Alternatives for Hard Times
John Anderson
Apr 6, 2022

Apr 6, 2022: As many of you know by now, the news out of Burgundy isn't good. Killer frosts and short harvests are the order of the day. Two Thousand Twenty-One was, in the words of a noted burgundy specialist, 'an absolute disaster.' And due to the threat of frost, 2022 isn't looking so good at the moment either. It's early days, but still…. So what then are our alternatives? And what's our buying strategy? My counterintuitive answer: Buy Burgundies. But carefully, and from among the last remaining bargains in the region.

What I've Been Drinking Lately: Tastings for a Party of One
John Anderson
Feb 8, 2022

Normally, the great rewards (or at least a recompense) of the wine writer's life include many trade tastings, never more so than in the midst of a cold, blustery East Coast winter. You escape into the warmth of a grand Manhattan hotel or find yourself at a table in some elegant Midtown restaurant. The company is good or at least convivial, and the wines are a treat to contemplate and compare. But that was then. Thank you, Covid. Feeling sorry for myself on many fronts, I decided to put on a series of mini-tastings this winter for a Party of One (a.k.a., me, moi, and myself). The venue: Château Anderson.

What I've Been Drinking Lately: The Devil Made Me Do It!
John Anderson
Dec 7, 2021

There are good reasons other than cost savings to buy by the case-or at least by the six-pack (which in many places will get you a 10% discount). I was reminded of this over the past week or so as I began retasting some Bargain Basement favorites, the kind of wines that I keep around as House Wines for everyday drinking. What I discovered (well, I knew as much, but it's always good to be reminded of these things) was that even your $15 bottle of wine-if it's well made by a good producer-evolves over time. Put another, simpler way: Wine changes in bottle. And you don't have to open a 1982 Château Mouton-Rothschild to discover the magical transformation of wine having been cellared for a reasonable amount of time. No, the wines I tasted, not for the first time (nor last), came from my cellar after having been bought by the case. I dedicated myself to wines I'd bought by the case, at least six months prior to opening. And I learned a lot from the exercise.

What I've Been Drinking Lately: The Age of 'Hot Vintages'
John Anderson
Oct 26, 2021

At Cape Cod in August and drinking mostly young, French wines, I was struck again and again by how often the first words that came out of my mouth or that merely popped into mind were: 'Hot vintage.' And this was true, pretty much across the board, from Burgundy to Bordeaux, Alsace to the Loire Valley in vintages like '15, '18, and '19, to be sure. This is what Climate Change has wrought: Early harvests, often in simmering heat, as early sometimes as the beginning of August, with resulting grapes that are ripe or even overripe, resulting in higher alcohol levels, 14.5%, 15%, occasionally 15.5%. This is not necessarily a bad thing. I am old enough to remember when many a Bordeaux vintage, harvested late in September or even October, produced wines that were thin and acidic, with a stated alcohol level of 11.5% or even 11%. Many a wine produced under those adverse conditions was rightly dismissed as 'nasty.' Because it was nasty.

What I've Been Drinking Lately: Only in Massachusetts!
John Anderson
Aug 24, 2021

My big-value-for-buck discovery from last summer's Cape Cod sojourn has disappeared from the shelf at the local store I most often frequent these days. But it was an eyeopener-and the same or similar wines, being widely distributed, are available elsewhere at very good prices. They should be snapped up! These are the second wines of the Graves Grand Cru Classé Château LaTour-Martillac located in what is now A.C. Pessac-Léognan. LaTour-Martillac is, moreover, one of only six such châteaux classified for both red and white wines. The property has since 1930 belonged to the famous old Bordeaux négociant Kressmann family and has always been best known for its white, a classic blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc. To quote the noted Bordeaux specialist David Peppercorn, M.W.: 'The white wine is elegant and fresh with quite an original character. It has delicacy, real breed, and a fine finish. This is high-class white Graves.' It is indeed, and I could not have said it better. But it's also true that the red has over the course of the past few decades greatly improved. The grand vin, both red and white, is today one of the great bargains of Classed Growth Bordeaux.

What I've Been Drinking Lately: Had I Only Known!
John Anderson
Jun 29, 2021

I've been drinking wine for something like 45 years, and professionally as a wine writer, editor, critic and columnist for at least 35 of those 45 years. Thinking back on my misspent youth and the follies of ignorance, it occurred to me the other day that I bought far too many wines over that first decade or two from less than stellar importers. hese memories of long ago have occupied my thoughts the past few weeks as I tasted a series of wonderful 2018 and '19 Beaujolais crus from the cream of America's specialist wine importers: Kermit Lynch, David Bowler (now representing the outstanding Louis/Dressner portfolio), Neal Rosenthal, Vintage '59, and Vintus, among others. If there's anything I wish I had known about the world of fine wine, circa 1976, it would have been this: Turn the bottle 'round, and look at the Name on the Back Label. It may not tell you everything, but it will tell you most of what you really need to know.

What I've Been Drinking Lately: Good and Surprisingly Affordable Burgundies
John Anderson
May 18, 2021

What I've Been Drinking Lately: Good and Surprisingly Affordable Burgundies It seems that I am eternally in search of affordable burgundies. Good affordable burgundies, that is. There are days when I have to work hard at it, others when the wine is staring at me in the face. I experienced both such the other day at a good, small retailer in the wilds of suburban New York, for there was a bottle of the familiar Joseph Drouhin Bourgogne 'La Forêt' Pinot Noir nestled next to a bottle from a grower unfamiliar to me, Michel Sarrazin, whose domaine and, I would assume, small négoce business, is located in the Côte Chalonnaise hinterland near Givry. The Drouhin was from the 2018 vintage, the Sarrazin from the 2019.

What I've Been Drinking Lately: Beaujolais
John Anderson
Mar 16, 2021

Probably you, like me, grew-up on the wines of Georges Duboeuf. While I've never had much good to say about his flagship (or cheval de bataille, as the French say) Beaujolais-Villages, with its distinctly bubble gummy nose, I've enjoyed a number of his bottlings from individual estates, beginning with the famous 'Jean Descombes' in Morgon. The Descombes, in particular, is age-worthy, and, in a good year, capable of improving over a decade or more in bottle. But today the real value in Beaujolais lies in the bottlings of small, individual growers who deliver tremendous bang for the buck in wines priced under $30 a bottle (even with the tariff!).

What I've Been Drinking Lately: January 2021
John Anderson
Jan 19, 2021

For most of us, the grand wines and grander Champagnes in our cellars met their Waterloo over the holidays. Drunk with pleasure but harder than ever to replace, what with world-wide demand and tariffs. I've been told by countless friends in the trade that they sell perhaps 80% of all their stock of sparkling wines between mid-November and New Year's Day. And virtually all their big-ticket items. I believe it. The holidays over, bonuses eaten up and the Tax Man Cometh, what's a wine-loving feller or lady gonna do? Well, one of the abiding themes of this column will be this: A smart consumer can still, even in this day of Trump tariffs (and let us hope for a better day soon on that front), find really good, interesting French, Italian and German wines for under $25-$30 a bottle, for sure; and perhaps as low as $10-$12 a bottle-if you work at it, read-up and listen to good advice. And that is what I am here for, Dear Reader.

What I've Been Drinking Lately, re Thanksgiving
John Anderson
Nov 17, 2020

My Texas family members combined their varied talents and resources at Thanksgiving each year to produce a highlight of my upbringing. A perfect meal it was, save for one thing. There was no wine at table. Ours was a 'Dry County' in the Deep, Baptist South. I did not taste wine or spirits until I was an undergraduate at Rice. That was forty-odd years ago, and I have done everything I can to rectify that sad situation ever since. Which brings us-you knew this was coming, didn't you?-to Thanksgiving 2020, chez Anderson. There will only be four of us, and no fresh hen from Cousin Fred. But a roasted turkey, yes, and dressing and giblet gravy (with red wine and mushrooms). And much more. I have yet to decide on our Thanksgiving wines, but here are wines that I've been drinking this fall that would more than suffice for the occasion.

Who I Am and What I've Been Drinking Lately
John Anderson
Sep 8, 2020

I began writing about wine as a protest. Not because I didn't like wine-I love wine and have from the moment as an undergraduate at Rice that I first tasted a great red Bordeaux, even if from a minor vintage (Ch. Lynch-Bages, 1967)-but because I had been spoiled. I'd spent six mostly very happy years in New Haven as a graduate student in History and American Studies. I was lucky. I'd gotten into Yale on a fellowship that covered my full tuition-$4,800 or so, which seemed astronomical to me at the time. And because I had generous and loving parents. And because I was spoiled. My parents were not rich-far, far from it-but I was their only child, and they were indulgent, to say the least.