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December 27, 2023

Wine Review Onlineā€™s Ed McCarthy Shifting into Columnist Emeritus Status

It is with profound gratitude that we at WRO thank Ed McCarthy for his consistently excellent columns published every four weeks since we founded this website in August of 2005.  Ed addressed a wide range of regions and wine types in an informative and appreciative manner but also with some critical bite where it was deserved.  He led readers to the world’s best wines and values, but just as important, explained why excellent producers were achieving excellence—and why mediocre ones were falling short.

Ed’s writing has always been refreshingly straightforward.  For example, regarding practical matters such as how cold to chill top-shelf Champagne or how long to age fine Barolo before pulling a cork, Ed didn’t engage in much subjectivist hand-wringing.  His advice didn’t begin with clauses like, “Perhaps you could try this...” or “Some people report good results from such and such.”  Long experience informed by sharp attention and a keen palate led Ed to offer definitive recommendations.  

By not mincing around, he gave readers clear starting points for their exploratory adventures in the complex world of wine.  Some readers might re-calibrate their practices by a few clicks based on their own preferences once they’d started as he advised, but that was fine with Ed, who was more intent on providing a flying start than dictating a “correct” flight path to everyone.

Ed’s writings and accomplishments range far beyond Wine Review Online, earning him recognition of his as one of the most influential voices in fine wine in a generation—maybe two.  As a wine writer, a Certified Wine Educator, and wine consultant, he’s been active in the wine trade for forty years.

With his wife, Mary Ewing-Mulligan MW, he is co-author of Wine For Dummies, White Wine For Dummies, Red Wine For Dummies, Wine Buying Companion For Dummies, French Wine For Dummies, Italian Wine For Dummies and California Wine For Dummies (Wiley & Sons).  Wine For Dummies is one of the largest-selling wine books ever; having sold about one million copies to date and having been translated into 34 languages.  Both Wine For Dummies and Italian Wine For Dummies were nominees for a James Beard Award, in 1995 and 2001 respectively.

Ed's own book, Champagne for Dummies, was also nominated for the James Beard Award as best wine book of the year, in 1999.  McCarthy is considered a leading Champagne authority in the U.S.

Ed was wine columnist for Nation’s Restaurant News and a quarterly columnist for Beverage Media.  He has also written for Decanter magazine, Quarterly Review of Wines, and Wine Enthusiast.

Ed’s working life began as an English teacher in the NYC school system.  While teaching, he pursued part time jobs in wine shops, began collecting wine and became active in wine-tasting and collecting circles.  Soon after retiring from teacher, he began writing about wine.

In addition to his writing, McCarthy is a regular guest speaker at wine events.  He has appeared frequently as a guest on radio and television programs in various U.S. cities.  He is also a frequent judge at wine competitions in the U.S. and abroad. An avid wine collector, he has a temperature-controlled wine cellar of over 3,500 bottles.  He travels extensively to the world's wine regions to visit winemakers and to research new developments.  

I’m fortunate to have traveled and judged with Ed many times in many places, and I’ve always admired how he stays balanced between critical professionalism and appreciative enthusiasm.  No wine that he tastes “gets a pass” simply because it showed well in earlier vintages, and he never seems to dismiss a wine out of hand due to being an upstart that’s made from a new region or a minor grape variety.

Ed’s long career was interrupted last year by a bout with cancer of the tongue.  He underwent major surgery, and is now engaged in a of period of recovery that can return him to near normalcy in the summer ahead.  His most recent PET scan in late October showed him to be free of cancer, and we’re optimistic that we’ll continue to enjoy our friendships with him for many years ahead.

Many of Ed’s columns will remain on Wine Review Online as the thoroughly re-designed website debuts toward the end of the first quarter of 2024.  During the past year, we scrutinized the 944 columns published on the site since it launched, looking for examples that were truly excellent and strongly viable as “evergreens” not diminished by the passage of time or the march of vintages.  Ed contributed a conspicuously large share of the columns meeting that standard for retention on the new WRO.  

For that reason, this is not a piece of “farewell” writing to Ed, but rather an appreciation of our friend and all the wine wisdom he has imparted to our readers to date, with more to come as we cycle some of his best writing through the site (including one on Champagne this week) while retaining much more in his “Columnist Emeritus” archive.

Thank you Ed...with all best wishes for the future, from all of us at WRO!
Posted by Michael Franz at 4:42 AM

December 13, 2023

The Best Gifts for Wine Aficionados This Season

The holiday season is upon us, and what better way to celebrate than by raising a glass to the wine lover in your life?  Finding a wine-related gift can be among the most festive holiday offerings, whether they are a seasoned oenophile or a casual imbiber.  

Here's a curated list of holiday suggestions that will surely delight the palates of those who appreciate the art of the vine.

Wine Subscription Service:  Bring the world of wine to their doorstep with a subscription service.  There are many options, but Master The World Wine Kits ($120 for a single box with six 187ml wines) are a perfect way to try small bottle samples from around the world.  Evan Goldstein, Master Sommelier, is one of the masterminds behind these kits.  He saw a demand for small sample bottles and wine kits when wineries moved to virtual tastings during the pandemic.

Another option is Ownroot Collective ($89.95 for the year/or $8.95 a month), an online wine subscription service on a mission to elevate some of the best-undiscovered micro-wineries in California.  Ownroot members can join talented winemakers for virtual tastings and access and purchase high-quality wines that are only available in small quantities and have primarily been undiscovered.

For bubbly enthusiasts, Sparkle-ist, a sparkling wine and Champagne subscription service ($109 a month), will deliver three monthly bottles from different origins and production styles and grapes from small-production, family-owned wineries.

“Raj Glass” Wine Glasses ($78 for 2 glasses):  Raj Parr, a James Beard award-winning author, wine professional, farmer, and sommelier, designed a universal wine glass in collaboration with New York’s Glasvin that is designed to have a broad, snifter-like bowl that tapers to a narrow rim to offer the purest expression of the wine.  This is a great way to elevate the sipping experience for a wine lover.

Walden Decanter ($195): The Walden is the newest decanter from Simon Pearce, just released this spring.  It is designed to roll gently but safely on the tabletop in a soft circular motion, aerating the wine inside it.  This puts on a show for guests while improving the taste of wines that benefit from decanting.

Vinarmour Travel Wine Carrier ($299):  Though not inexpensive, this luxury wine carrier is collapsible, maintains wine temperature 30 percent longer than neoprene, and protects your precious bottle of fine wine from sudden impact, thanks to a Kevlar lining that prevents puncture.  This bag is made in the USA (Seattle, WA) and has a lifetime guarantee.

Le Creuset Wine Cooler Sleeve ($30):  If your wine enthusiast is the outdoor type, this Le Creuset wine-cooler sleeve uses two removable gel packs to chill a bottle of wine in 30 minutes — and keep it cold for another 90.

Wine-Themed Books:  Feed their curiosity with a captivating book on the world of wine. There are several recent wine books released for every level of interest.  Some of my favorites include:

Vintage Crime: A Short History of Wine Fraud, by Rebecca Giff ($25):   A look at wine fraud from Roman times right up to the trial of Rudy Kurniawan and his subsequent imprisonment.

How to Drink Australian: An Essential Modern Wine Book, by Jane Lopes and Jonathan Ross ($45):  Both Jane Lopes and Jonathan Ross are seasoned sommeliers who have relocated to Australia.  They bring an outsider’s perspective and abundant experience to the very detailed How to Drink Australian.

The Wine List: Stories and Tasting Notes behind the World's Most Remarkable Bottles, by Grant Reynolds ($28):   Beginning in the late eighteenth century with a tale about Thomas Jefferson’s secret White House stash to spanning to social media’s effect on Chenin Blanc’s popularity, The Wine List explores the relationship between culture, politics, history, and wine.

Blood From a Stone:  A Memoir of How Wine Brought Me Back from the Dead, by Adam McHugh ($15):  A deeply personal and beautiful story of Adam’s journey from a hospice chaplain to a sommelier in the Santa Ynez Valley of California.

Climbing the Vines in Burgundy:  How an American Came to Own a Legendary Vineyard in France
, by Alex Gambal ($25):   Alex Gambal is an American who moved to France in 1993 and founded his wine business in 1997.  In part, the book is a unique tale about the first non-Frenchman to ever own one of the Montrachet Grand Cru vineyards in Burgundy, France.  It was aptly described as “Think Moneyball, Kitchen Confidential with a splash of Julia Child.”

Wine Education Classes or a Gift Membership to a Wine Society:  Give the gift of knowledge by enrolling them in a wine education class.  Where I live, in D.C., Capital Wine School has many offerings and several online platforms like the Napa Valley Wine Academy offer courses that provide a deeper understanding of the world of wine.  You can also gift an annual subscription for a professional membership ($135) to the Society of Wine Educators (SWE).  Members receive access to wine maps, wine updates, and webinar recordings.

Cheers to a season filled with good company, good food, and, of course...good wine!
Posted by Miranda Franco at 6:55 PM