Italy: Piedmont, featured
What makes a great Barolo vintage? Unlike some regions, Bordeaux being the most notable, Piedmont does not have an established framework that sets out the criteria required for a vintage to be considered very high in potential quality. What follows is my framework of objective criteria that are necessary in order for a Barolo (or Barbaresco) vintage to be considered truly great. It is inspired by the late Denis Dubourdieu and the model he developed for assessing young Bordeaux vintages and the research my colleague Alessandro Masnaghetti has done in collecting and analyzing weather, harvest dates and other data. To that, I add my 20+ years of visiting the region and all of the information I have gathered in speaking with winemakers, agronomists and other professionals over that time, plus drinking more than my fair share of the wines. As with Dubourdieu’s model, this framework addresses the growing season, and does not venture into an assessment of the wines.
Chilean wine producers are developing new styles, using grapes from vineyards planted in the far south of the country and the granite rich soils of the coastal mountain ridge known as the Cordillera de la Costa. Meanwhile, in Maipo, the Cabernet Sauvignons are growing ever more precise. This report provides an overview of these trends and what the changes mean for lovers of Chilean wine.
California Vineyard Series, United States: California, featured
With its undulating hills and striking contours, Kamen is one of the most evocative estates in Sonoma. The vineyard is just a short drive from the town square, yet it feels very remote. Screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen bought his property in 1980, mostly for the views, as he tells it. “I had just sold the screenplay for The Karate Kid and I wanted to celebrate,” Kamen told me recently.
The challenges posed by summer drought and sheer precocity of vine evolution are evident in the Rheingau and Mittelrhein, but there are numerous wines that no Riesling lovers should miss.
France: Loire, Verticals & Retrospectives, featured
In search of something to drink to mark a milestone birthday, those of us with a less-than-legendary birth year are resigned to the fact that our first breath did not coincide with the perfect growing season in Bordeaux. Revealing your date of birth to châteaux owners keen to open a special bottle often leads to a pitying shrug of the shoulders and a gallic ‘Bof’ when you disclose your parents poorly timed your entry to the world. But there’s hope for us yet: an underground cellar in a small Loire Valley town could be the answer to that elusive anniversary bottle that doesn’t require you to remortgage your house simply to mark a special date in the diary.
Change comes slowly in Rioja. Many of the winemaking practices that were in place when the region was established in the third quarter of the 19th century are widely used today. Grapes are pressed traditionally and most of the best wines are aged, sometimes for many years, in oak barrels of various sizes, with a preference towards American oak. Many winemakers see oxidation during aging as an asset, not a flaw, that when done correctly, brings the unique perfume, complex flavors and supple texture that make serious Rioja among the world’s greatest wines.
featured, Vinous Remembers
The news came over the weekend. It was not unexpected, but shocking just the same. Pio Boffa had succumbed to COVID-19 after a two-week battle in the hospital the texts said. And with that, Piedmont had lost another reference point.
Verticals & Retrospectives, featured, France: Bordeaux
It all started innocently enough with a few bottles of 2005 Bordeaux during lockdown. Then a few more, and then some more after that. Before I knew it I had tasted through a good number of the reference points. The wines were absolutely thrilling, just as I remembered from my last large tasting of the 2005s, about five years ago. One of my close friends suggested a comprehensive look back at the vintage, so here it is.
featured, Italy: Tuscany
Italy is one of the world’s most fascinating and diverse countries. There are of course famous wines like Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo and Chianti Classico. But the country is also home to many other wines that have enjoyed periods of prominence mixed with less brilliant eras of near obscurity. Vino Nobile and Carmignano are two wines with long, rich histories, deep connections to the land and much for the curious wine-lover to explore.
featured, Italy: Tuscany
This brief update mostly covers a number of Tuscan wines with releases that fall in between my larger regional reports as well as a handful of notable wines that were missing from our database.