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Domaine Sigalas, Cyclades (Greece) Assyrtiko + Monemvasia 2018 ($24, Diamond Wine Importers)
 Greek wines often exhibit a style that combines richness and refreshment in a most enticing way.  This wine is a blend of two native varieties grown in the Cyclades, the group of islands in the Aegean Sea that includes Santorini and Paros, among others.  This 50/50 combo of Assyrtiko and Monemvasia from Domaine Sigalas shows an exotic nose of honeysuckle, lemon, ripe apple and melon.  The flavors exhibit pure apple, honey, melon, and tropical fruits backed by hints of citrus peel and subtle herbs.  It has a rich texture and a lifted and lively finish.  The elegant honey and floral tones of the Monemvasia combine with the depth and mineral character of the Assyrtiko to give this wine an attractive style that is well worth a try.    
91 Wayne Belding


Posted by Michael Franz on May 1, 2020 at 2:22 PM

Best Idea in Recent Memory: Roberto Conterno's Sensory Wine Glass, with a Major Charitable Contribution Included

I’ve tasted with hundreds of different glasses over the course of 25+ years as a wine reviewer, so a new glass needs to be truly remarkable to stand out in a crowd of that size.  Glasses are really the only tool of any consequence in my business, as anything can serve as a spittoon, just as corks can be removed using a shoe or a tree trunk—as you can learn on YouTube from people who clearly have too much time on their hands!

In brief, I really care about wine glasses, and buy them all the time…use them all the time…break them all the time…and replace them constantly with new and different ones.  Having heard some buzz among my colleagues about a glass designed by Roberto Conterno (of the extraordinary Giacomo Conterno winery in Barolo, along with his engineer son, Gabrielle), I bought one for a test drive.

The verdict?  This glass is just fabulous for tasting Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo-based wines from Piedmont, and Syrah-based wines from the northern Rhône.  Better even than the somewhat similar Burgundy glass from Zalto, which I formerly thought could never be surpassed.

The Conterno Sensory Glass may also prove to be a star with other types of wines as I branch out, but it is so strong with Pinot, Nebbiolo and cool-climate Syrah that I had already resolved to write about it…when two other factors arose to spur me to do so right now.

First, when I went back to buy more of the glasses from The Rare Wine Company in California, I learned that they had dropped the price from $90 to $75, and then offered to donate $25 of the lowered price to more than a dozen recently established local organizations—your choice—that are keeping restaurant workers employed to prepare meals for nurses and doctors in hospitals across the USA.

Let that sink in for a second, and then you’ll understand why I entitled this posting, “Best Idea in Recent Memory….”

Second, the idea is even better at this particular moment for those of us living under stay-at-home orders.  We can’t have dinner parties, so we don’t need to buy glasses in large numbers.  We aren’t cleaning up after dinner parties, so our breakage rate is way down.  We limit our trips to wine shops to minimize the odds of contamination, so we’re drinking some of the best wines we’ve laid down in years past.  Cracking into wines we’ve been treasuring is a great way to lift our spirits.  And those wines deserve to blossom in a great glass, making this a five-fold reason to pony up for a few of these marvelous vessels to enjoy at home with your fellow house-hostages.

Of course, I’m aware that $75 is a lot of money for a wine glass by almost anyone’s standards, so if that price is simply too steep for you, just write to me (at michael@franzwine.com) for recommendations of some more affordable glasses that might still upgrade what you’re drinking from during this quarantine period.

But if you can afford to try a few of these, you’ll hit three birds with your expenditure by A) learning how much a great glass can enhance the wines you love; B) helping employ sidelined restaurant workers, and C) getting meals to front-line health care heroes.  If you can afford to buy a dozen glasses, The Rare Wine Company will throw in free shipping while also donating $300 to the cause of your choosing. 

This idea has caught on so effectively that the glasses are currently on backorder, but I called the company this week, and they’ll have more glasses in next month.  You can view the offer, learn more about the glass, place an order, and choose a charitable organization by simply clicking on the link below or pasting it into your URL line:


If you have trouble with those options, just keyword search the RWC site, type “Conterno” in the search window, and scroll down to the bottom entry…and you’ll be a click away from learning about the glass and the many charities to which the donations can be targeted. 

When your glasses arrive next month, clink them (gently!) to toast our friends in restaurants and our benefactors in hospitals.

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
Breathtakingly Beautiful Barolo: 35 Fantastic Wines from the 2016 Vintage
Michael Franz

I started writing about wine more than 25 years ago for The Washington Post, and over this span I have seen my colleagues write again and again-breathlessly-about more than a few 'historically great' vintages. Not wishing to seem ridiculous, I've tried to avoid swooning over growing seasons that produced striking wines. This has proved to be a sound approach to critical writing about wine, preventing me from having to recant praise for a 'best ever' vintage when another, even better one subsequently came around the corner. But my turn to recant has come, as extensive blind tastings of 2016 vintage Barolo wines in the area in late January have convinced me that these wines are even better than their extraordinary predecessors from 2010. I was once sure that 2010 would be the best year I'd live to see from my beloved Barolo district, and though I've definitely not changed my mind about the greatness of the wines made in that year, I confess to having fallen even more deeply in love with the 2016s.
Varietal Madness Today
Paul Lukacs

Varietal identification--the classification of wines by grape--has been one of the most important developments in the world of wine over the past half-century. It has had definite benefits. But it also has brought problems, and it seems clear that the problems today outweigh the advantages of yesterday. For both producers and consumers, an obsessive attention to grape varieties has become a sort of madness.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Tom Yum Rice

The inspiration for this dish began when a friendly neighbor left a gift baggie filled with homegrown Thai red chili peppers on my doorstep. Thai chili peppers may be small, about an inch or two in length, but they can deliver a giant punch of heat as they boast 50,000 to 100,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), making them 60-40 times hotter than the average jalapeño. I am not much of a daredevil when it comes to fiery peppers myself--scorched tongue and flaming taste buds aren't my idea of a good time, plus there's no doubt that too much heat can effectively overwhelm the subtleties inherent in most wines. But I do appreciate the gentle buzz that moderately hot peppers can deliver to the palate, akin, perhaps, to the way one values the tug of tannins in a good red wine from Bordeaux, or the relatively high acidity delivered by certain whites such as Muscadet. And since my interpretation of Thai Tom Yum was designed specifically to be paired with wine, I did give the peppers I minced a brief bath in vodka, which I've heard can leech out some of the heat. If you're bolder than I, feel free to skip this step.
On My Table
Snapshot of Two Vintages in Saint Émilion
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

To a geeky wine lover, comparing the same wines from two different vintages is some of the most fun that can be had during a coronavirus lockdown. Ideally, the wines will reveal differences that go beyond their difference in age and development. Ideally, you will be able to taste the mark of the specific vintage in each wine. Perhaps with the precise intention of intriguing bored, shut-in Americans, Château Lassègue has released its current 2016 grand vin alongside a library selection, the 2012. Father and son vignerons, Pierre and Nicholas Seillan, intend the dual release to enable wine lovers 'to discover the character of a newer release…while at the same time enjoying a library release in its prime drinking window.' I tasted the two wines side by side and did in fact find the 2012 in its prime drinking window - a window that for me extends a few years into the future although the wine is perfectly ready now. The 2016 likewise is very drinkable now - the wine's rich style makes it delicious upon release - but it has a long and promising future appropriate for a young Bordeaux from a fine vintage.