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THE GRAPEVINE

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


Columns – Ed McCarthy

The New Wines of New York State
Ed McCarthy
Mar 25, 2014

I have been living in New York State all of my life, and have been following the wines of the world since my early twenties. You might think that I would have become an expert on the wines of my own state by this time, but that is not the case. I became more engrossed with the wines of France, Italy, and the West Coast of the U.S. So, when New York State held its Grand Tasting of NY Wines a few days ago, I was surprised by the exceptional quality of many of the wines I tasted--especially from the state's two leading regions, the Finger Lakes and Long Island. Of course, I had tasted these wines from time to time over the years, but until I attended this tasting, I had not realized what heights of quality New York State wines had reached in the cumulative years.

Hanzell: The Gold Standard of California Chardonnay
Ed McCarthy
Feb 25, 2014

California Chardonnays remain the most popular wine sold in the U.S. today. I don't often write about them, because this style of wine generally does not appeal to me. But there are exceptions (there always are), and Hanzell's Chardonnays are exceptionally delicious and age-worthy.

Buying Bordeaux Today
Ed McCarthy
Jan 28, 2014

Apart from purchasing older vintages of great Bordeaux at auctions or online, there are two reasons to buy red Bordeaux: Either you want top quality young red Bordeaux to store and wait for them to mature and become 'glorious' (you hope); and/or you want inexpensive ($10 to $35) young Bordeaux to drink now or within the next year or two. I understand that many wine drinkers don't want to lay wines away for 10 to 15 years or more; they want to drink the wines now. Fortunately, Bordeaux is a huge wine district and makes a ton of inexpensive Bordeaux, ready to drink when you buy them. If you tend to favor Old World wines, such as those from Bordeaux, I urge you to try these ready-to-drink Bordeaux wines.

Prestige Cuvée Champagnes
Ed McCarthy
Dec 24, 2013

In general, prestige cuvée Champagnes are more complex in flavor than other Champagnes and they are capable of aging the longest. They are kept longer in producers' cellars (five to eight years) than other Champagnes, and they also need more time to mature before they are at their best; most prestige cuvées can benefit from 10 to 15 years of aging before they are at their peak. I always suggest that you not buy a young prestige cuvée with the intention of drinking it right away; a young prestige cuvée cannot possibly show its true potential in its youth.

Non-Vintage Brut Champagnes, Plus a Great, New Book on Champagne
Ed McCarthy
Dec 3, 2013

Before I focus on non-vintage brut Champagnes, I must tell you about a newly-published Champagne book. Every once in a while a wine book is published that so impresses me that I feel I should bring attention to it. Richard Juhlin, a Swedish wine writer specializing in Champagne and clearly one of the world's great Champagne experts, has debuted his latest epic tome on Champagne, A Scent of Champagne, 8,000 Champagnes Tasted and Rated. This book follows his three other works, 2,000 Champagnes, 3,000 Champagnes, and 4,000 Champagnes. And so you get the theme: Juhlin has been tasting and rating more and more Champagnes as his career unfolds.

Alsace: Home to a Great Riesling Producer
Ed McCarthy
Nov 5, 2013

Most of Trimbach's vineyards are located around Ribeauvillé, where the mineral-rich soil is mainly chalk and limestone. When in 1983, Alsace decided to designate its finest vineyards as Grand Cru. Trimbach became one of the few Alsace wineries that chose to ignore these designations and not use the term on their bottles--even though many of its best wines come from Grand Cru vineyards. Trimbach is the only Alsace wine sold in all of the 26 Michelin-3 star restaurants in France.

Vallformosa: An Exciting Brut Cava Debuts in the U.S.
Ed McCarthy
Oct 8, 2013

Spanish wine producers have been watching the amazing success of Italian Proseccos in the U.S., and are taking action to get a piece of the sparkllng wine pie in this country. Previously unimported Cavas are now showing up in the U.S. market. I am delighted by the increasing number of Spanish Cavas that are now available here because, for my palate, the better cavas are superior to Proseccos. One reason for my preference is that Cavas are produced using the traditional Champagne method (second fermentation in the bottle), unlike Proseccos, which are made by the tank method. Another factor is that some of the better Cavas are using top varieties, such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and the indigenous Xarel-lo, in their blends.

Alto Adige: Italy's Northern Gem
Ed McCarthy
Sep 10, 2013

Alto Adige is one of the most dramatically beautiful wine regions in the world, dominated by the Dolomite Mountains (part of the Alps), on both sides of the Adige Valley, where most of the inhabitants live. One of the unusual aspects of wine production in Alto Adige is that about two-thirds of the wine is made by co-operatives--because small farmers dominate, and only a limited number of growers are large enough to make their own wine. The co-operatives are excellent, on the whole, and their wines are great values.

Chianti: Still Tuscany's Flagship Wine?
Ed McCarthy
Aug 13, 2013

A few days ago, a friend asked me, 'Are there still any true Chianti wines left?' I told him that there were, but their numbers have decreased substantially in the past 25 years, at least in my opinion. Please don't get me wrong. I still very much like to drink Chianti, when I can find one that I like. For one thing, Chianti goes so well with much Italian cuisine, of which I am a big consumer. I wrote some time ago that Chianti was one of the wine world's great value wines, and that is still true, compared to most other fine wines, including Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino.

The White Wines I Drink
Ed McCarthy
Jul 16, 2013

My wine drinking habits have changed dramatically over the years. When I first started drinking wine regularly, many decades ago, I was a confirmed red wine drinker; at least 90 percent of the wines I consumed were red. I started collecting wines back then; and still today more than 90 percent of the wines in my cellar are red (not counting sparkling and dessert wines). But nowadays, at least half of the wines I drink are white, along with some rosés. And that percentage increases during the summer. Moreover, when I do drink red wines, I crave light-bodied, crisp reds--not the Bordeaux, Barolos, and Cabernet Sauvignons that dominate my cellar collection. Like many other wine collectors, I bought red wines that would last 20 years or more--a bit short-sighted of me, as I ponder my present wine drinking predicament.

Codorníu, Queen of the Cavas
Ed McCarthy
Jun 18, 2013

In 1872, Josep Raventós of the Codorníu Raventós family from Catalonia made Spain's first bottle of sparkling wine using the traditional method (second fermentation taking place in the bottle). Today these wines are known world-wide as Cavas. The Codorníu company, the oldest family-owned business in Spain, itself dates back to 1551, when Jaume Codorníu planted the family's first vineyards in Sant Sadurní, outside of Barcelona. When Anna de Codorníu married Miquel Raventós in 1659, the name of the company officially became Codorníu Raventós, although it is known to the world as Codorníu.

Wines Well Worth Drinking
Ed McCarthy
May 21, 2013

We fortunate wine writers get the opportunity--through tastings, luncheons, samples, etc.--of tasting dozens of wines each month, some of which are impressive. Unfortunately, we often can write about just a few of these wines. In this column, I focus on the wines that have impressed me during the last few months, but that I have not yet had the opportunity to cover in print. The wines I am listing here, in no particular order, are all currently available and, in my opinion, well worth buying and drinking.

Insignia from Joseph Phelps Vineyards
Ed McCarthy
Apr 23, 2013

The early 1970s was an exciting time for wineries emerging in Napa Valley, such as Chateau Montelena, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, and Joseph Phelps Vineyards--now all considered iconic Napa Valley wineries. The Joseph Phelps story is similar to many other successful Napa Valley properties; Joseph Phelps was running one of the largest construction companies in the U.S. at that time. But he fell in love with Napa Valley and decided on a career change. In 1973 he bought a 600-acre cattle ranch in Spring Valley and planted vineyards.

The Wines of the Lubéron
Ed McCarthy
Mar 19, 2013

When discussing the wines of the Lubéron AOC district, the most obvious question to address is, 'Where is the Lubéron?' Okay, it is in France, but where? That question does not have an easy answer. If you think it's in the Rhône Valley, you're right…sort of. But if you think it's in Provence, you are also right. A map of the wine regions of France reveals that the Lubéron AOC area (known as the Côtes de Lubéron before the 2010 vintage) is in the extreme southeast corner of the Rhône Valley. When I co-wrote French Wine for Dummies about a decade ago, I placed Lubéron in the Rhône Valley chapter. But the travel brochures will tell you that Lubéron is in the northern part of Provence, north of Provence's capital, Aix-en-Provence.

Super-Tuscan Wines, Featuring Ornellaia…Super Indeed
Ed McCarthy
Feb 26, 2013

About 35 years ago, a new category of Italian red wines emerged in Tuscany. Chianti was selling poorly in the 1970s, primarily because it was being over-produced, with many of the wines coming from inferior vineyard sites. As a result of the then-poor reputation of Chianti, some producers began making wines that diverged from the DOC wine regulations for Chianti. Some made wines that were 100 percent Sangiovese; even more made blended wines, using Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and other varieties, with or without Sangiovese in the blends. These wines were typically more expensive than Chianti wines; they began to be called 'Super-Tuscan' wines.

The U.S. East Coast versus West Coast Palate
Ed McCarthy
Jan 29, 2013

Is there a difference in the palates of wine drinkers living on the East Coast of the U.S. as opposed to those west of the Mississippi River, especially those on the West Coast? In other words, does geography make a difference in wine tasting? Judging by my own experience and observation, I believe that many wine drinkers living in the East Coast cities, such as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C., do taste and/or appreciate wines differently from those on the West Coast. Not really because of their different geographic locations, of course, but more so because of the wines that each group has been exposed to in their environment.

Drinking Mature Wine
Ed McCarthy
Jan 1, 2013

I am focusing on fine wines in this column, the ones that really need time to develop to reach their optimal, prime time for drinking. These include many types: The better red and white Bordeaux; red and white Burgundy; Northern Rhônes; certain Loire Valley wines; German and Alsace Riesling; from Italy Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico and others; California Cabernet Sauvignons; Champagnes; and certain dessert wines, such as Vintage Porto, Sauternes, Vintage Madeira, and German dessert wines.

Prosecco Today…and a Special Prosecco
Ed McCarthy
Dec 4, 2012

Today, almost everyone who drinks wine in the U.S. knows about Prosecco. It is hugely popular, and competes with the equally popular Spanish sparkling wine, Cava, in stores and in restaurants. Both bubbly wines are doing very well versus Champagne, and it's easy to imagine the reason: Even the least expensive Champagnes are three times the price of Cava and Prosecco. And Prosecco has one important advantage over Cava: just about every Italian restaurant in the country now has Prosecco available, and there are a lot more Italian restaurants than Spanish restaurants in the U.S.

Piedmont's Everyday Red Wines
Ed McCarthy
Nov 6, 2012

Italy's Piedmont region has been my favorite area in the world for red wines for some time. Needless to say, I have more Barolo and Barbaresco wines in my cellar than any other type, by far. And so one might think that I drink these great Nebbiolo wines all the time. But, as much as I love Barolos and Barbarescos, I do not drink them frequently. These wines are excellent with certain cuisines--beef dishes for sure, heavier pastas such as those with a Bolognese ragu (with meat and tomato sauce), or with full-bodied cheeses. But I eat lighter fare on a daily basis, and so I find myself drinking a lot more of Piedmont's lighter-bodied red wines.

Concha y Toro: King of Chilean Wine Producers
Ed McCarthy
Oct 9, 2012

Just as Gallo is the U.S.'s dominant wine firm, Moët & Chandon is Champagne's icon, and Baron Philippe de Rothchild's Mouton Cadet is the giant of Bordeaux, Concha y Toro is South America's largest and most important producer. The difference for Concha y Toro is that its dominance is a fairly recent occurrence--taking place mainly within the last 25 years.

Grower Champagnes
Ed McCarthy
Sep 11, 2012

Grower-producer Champagnes--commonly known as Grower Champagnes--are exactly what they sound like: Champagnes that are made by the estate that actually grows the grapes. Grower Champagnes make up just a small segment of all Champagnes produced; 71 percent of Champagne is still made by négociant houses, especially such large houses as Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot. A few years ago, Grower Champagnes represented less than 3 percent of all Champagne sales in the U.S. They have increased a bit, but they still account for no more than 4 percent here, and even less than that in most other countries.

Charles Heidsieck: World's Most Underrated Champagne
Ed McCarthy
Aug 14, 2012

I noticed an amazing improvement in Charles Heidsieck's Champagnes, particularly the Brut Réserve, around 1990, and began singing its praises in my articles, as did many other writers. Charles Heidsieck became an insiders' Champagne, appreciated by the cognoscenti, but still not recognized by consumers. In the U.S. particularly, Champagne sales have been so dominated by the few big Champagne houses that few other Champagnes have caught on.

Provence Rosés: the Perfect Summer Wines
Ed McCarthy
Jul 17, 2012

France is by far the largest producer of rosés in the world. Within France, Provence is by far the largest (and the oldest) region that makes rosé wines. Provence today makes 38 percent of all French AOC rosés. When the Greeks first arrived in what is now France in 600 BC, they docked their boats in the region we now call Provence, planted vines and made France's first wines--rosés, the prevailing wine at that time. If you have been fortunate enough to visit the French Riviera in southern Provence, crowded with its yachts, sailboats, and beachside cafés, you cannot miss the amazing consumption of rosés taking place. Provence also makes a small amount of red wine and an even smaller amount of white, but rosé rules.

The Summer of Rosé Champagne
Ed McCarthy
Jun 19, 2012

Summer is here, and my thoughts turn to rosé wine. I'm all for that. What is more refreshing than sitting outdoors somewhere beautiful, such as by the ocean or on the French Riviera, sipping a glass of cold rosé wine with good company, and watching the world go by? But the absolutely best scenario for me is the time when that rosé wine is rosé Champagne. That brings the sometimes vin ordinaire rosé wine up to a new level. Of course, I do enjoy rosé Champagne any time of the year. But there's something magical about sipping it outdoors in the summer that makes me happy just thinking about it.

Cobb Wines: California's Greatest Pinot Noirs?
Ed McCarthy
May 22, 2012

Cobb Wines came to my attention last year when I helped organize a tasting of over 20 Pinot Noirs from the True Coast for members of the Wine Media Guild in New York City. I had my epiphany moment when I tasted the 2007 Cobb Emmaline Ann Vineyard. Yes!, I said to myself. Here is the California Pinot Noir that I have been looking for; it was fairly light-colored, elegant, had great acidity combined with vibrant berry-flavored fruit, and, most importantly to me, it was delicate in structure--the way that the best Burgundies are structured.

Wining and Dining in New York City
Ed McCarthy
Apr 24, 2012

It's high time that I, a born and bred New Yorker who still resides here, write a column sharing with my readers some of my favorite restaurants in this city. I realize, of course, that many tourists have no particular interest in fine food and wine--judging by how crowded ordinary diners, coffee shops, etc. have been in mid-town Manhattan lately. But all of the popular, well-known restaurants are crowded as well, making one doubt that a recession exists in my city. And I suspect that readers who peruse the columns in this publication are definitely interested in fine food and wine.

The Nebbiolos of Northern Piedmont
Ed McCarthy
Mar 27, 2012

Most wine lovers are familiar with Barolo and Barbaresco, but relatively few know about the Nebbiolo of northern Piedmont, whose wines account for only 10 percent of Piedmont's Nebbiolo wines. There are two distinct districts where Nebbiolo grows in the north: Carema in extreme northwest Piedmont, and the Gattinara/Ghemme district, which is also in northwestern Piedmont, but closer to the center of the region. The fact that Nebbiolo is cultivated in these remarkably challenging growing areas, especially Carema, is amazing.

What Happened to My Red Burgundies?
Ed McCarthy
Feb 28, 2012

I wish I had bought more red Burgundies when their prices were not in the stratosphere--which means over twenty years ago. I still have a varied collection of wines, and so I shouldn't complain. But it seems that my Burgundies have disappeared the fastest. Does this mean that I have stopped buying red Burgundies? Not at all. I do not deprive myself or my family of one of the great gastronomic experiences that I know.

Starting with Bordeaux
Ed McCarthy
Jan 31, 2012

I can't afford to buy top Bordeaux now. Even if I could, I wouldn't buy any because serious red Bordeaux usually needs about 25 years of maturing before it's at its best drinking stage. And I have enough Bordeaux wines to last the rest of my life. Does this mean that younger generation of wine lovers (leaving out that top one percent in income who can afford expensive Bordeaux wines) cannot buy Bordeaux wines? Definitely not. The expensive red Bordeaux wines I referred to--let's say those over $100 a bottle--make up less than two percent of the 700 million bottles of Bordeaux produced annually. You can find tons of red Bordeaux at decent, competitive prices.

Vintage 2002: A Great Champagne Year
Ed McCarthy
Jan 3, 2012

The Champagne region in northeast France sits on the northernmost latitude that grapes can ripen--and even then, grapes don't fully ripen every year. (Read last week's WineReviewOnline column by Michael Franz, explaining the necessity of making non-vintage Champagne in this marginal growing climate). During the past 20 or so years, the climate definitely has been warmer throughout France, and consequently more vintage Champagne has been produced than ever before.

Lusty, High-Value Red Wines from Southwest France
Ed McCarthy
Dec 6, 2011

On a recent trip to France, I visited the beautiful, quiet, southwest France region situated west of Languedoc-Roussillon. It is an area unspoiled by tourists, just north of the Pyrénées Mountains, which separate Spain from France. Most of the red wines from this area are made primarily from indigenous French grape varieties such as Tannat and Negrette, and until recently, were not commonly available in the U.S. But the French, who dominated the world wine market for so many years, are feeling big time competition from other wine regions--Italy, Australia, Argentina, Chile--and are now actively promoting their inexpensive wines abroad to grab their share of the market.

The New Germany: Dry Rieslings, Good Pinot Noirs
Ed McCarthy
Nov 8, 2011

My recent trip to Germany, specifically two regions, Baden and the Pfalz, was a revelation for me. Admittedly, I had not traveled to Germany in a while, and I was pleasantly surprised by two trends taking place: Germans are making and drinking mainly dry Rieslings nowadays; about 85 percent of its Rieslings are now dry; second, Pinot Noirs, known in Germany as Spätburgunders, are better than ever in certain regions, such as Baden. Germany's first attempt at producing trocken (dry) and halbtrocken (semi-dry) Rieslings a couple of decades ago was generally not successful. Many of these early attempts resulted in wines that seemed to be denuded of flavor, character, and structure. I am happy to report that the dry Rieslings being produced today are far superior to the dry versions made then.

Santorini: Greece's Great White Wine
Ed McCarthy
Oct 11, 2011

Greece today has become a hotbed for interesting, previously-unknown wines made from grape varieties that are mainly indigenous to Greece. This small country has uncovered well over 300 different varieties, second in the world in this category only to Italy. Principal among them is the Assyrtiko variety, grown on the island of Santorini. Greece now ranks 13th in the world in wine production, just behind Chile. This is rather extraordinary for a country smaller than the state of Georgia.

Blanc de Blancs: The Best Champagne Style?
Ed McCarthy
Sep 13, 2011

Why do I enjoy Blanc de Blanc Champagnes so much? One reason is that I believe that the Chardonnay variety reaches its greatest heights in the Champagne region. Chardonnay really shines only in very cool climates, and Champagne is about the coolest region where it can grow. With its chalky, limestone soil, Champagne provides the ideal environment for this often-maligned variety, allowing it to exhibit concentration and minerality that it does not show in warmer regions.

France's Jura Wine Region
Ed McCarthy
Aug 16, 2011

Like so many other confirmed wine drinkers, I'm always looking for something new to add to my wine repertoire. This past year, I've re-discovered the amazing--and very different--white wines of the Jura in eastern France. They're not going to replace Chablis for me, but I find the unique white wines of Jura to be a refreshing change.

Ch. Montelena: Napa's Classic Cabernet
Ed McCarthy
Jul 19, 2011

Napa Valley's greatest wine, in my mind, has always been Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact, make that California's--if not the whole country's-- greatest wine. Napa Valley's pre-eminence with Cabernet Sauvignon was confirmed for me by recent tastings of one of my favorite wines, Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon--for my palate, Napa's classic Cabernet.

Toro: Spain's Tiny Dynamo
Ed McCarthy
Jun 21, 2011

When the Toro wine region, located in the huge province of Castilla y León, was officially recognized by Spain with its D.O. appellation in 1987, it had only four wineries. Today, about 50 wineries exist, still a small number compared to other wine regions, with only eight or nine wineries of any size or renown, and only a few of these that export its wines to the U.S. But that will change rapidly, I'm thinking. Toro produces bold red wines, based mainly on Spain's leading red variety, Tempranillo--called Tinta de Toro locally.

Marvelous Madeira
Ed McCarthy
May 24, 2011

I read up on Madeira, realized what a bargain the advertised wines were, and bought about 37 or 38 bottles over the next few months. I supplemented the supply slowly over the next few years. Today, I still have about 20 bottles left from those purchases, with vintages ranging in age from 1827 to 1910. I drink about one bottle a year. Vintage Madeiras from that time period are in the $500 to $1,000 price range today, and difficult to find. Even at these prices, they are a great value, when you compare their prices to old Bordeaux or Burgundy, or even old Sauternes and Vintage Port.

Moët & Chandon Sets the Tone: Dryer Champagnes Are Now the Norm
Ed McCarthy
Apr 26, 2011

The movement towards producing dryer Champagnes is the best thing that has happened in the Champagne region in a long time. I rank it in importance with the region's gradual adoption of Blanc de Blancs Champagnes about fifty years ago as a new style of bubbly. Those readers who have read previous columns of mine on Champagne might recall that my chief complaint about many so-called 'brut' Champagnes has been that most of them were too sweet. The large Champagne houses normally made their bruts with 13 to 15 g/l dosage (15 grams per liter dosage was the legal limit for brut Champagnes until July, 2009, when it was changed to 12g/l.)

The True Coast
Ed McCarthy
Mar 29, 2011

Quite a few wine writers, including yours truly, have written off California Pinot Noir as a lackluster example of the variety, especially by comparison to the standard bearer renditions sourced from its native Burgundy. True, there is only one Burgundy, which produces some of the world's finest wines, such as Romané-Conti and Musigny. However, it has long seemed that California Pinot Noirs were different that Burgundies not by degree but in kind--and not in a good way.

Everything Is Coming Up Rosé
Ed McCarthy
Mar 1, 2011

Dry rosé wines never really caught on until recently in the U.S. (they've always had a following in Europe) among American wine drinkers because they used to associate all pink wines with white Zin and its blushing cousins, thinking that all rosés would be sweet, bland, and simple. I have a few theories to explain rosé wines' current popularity; more young people are drinking wine; more casual drinkers are trying wine; and people are generally eating lighter-styled foods, that complement rosés more than robust red wines.

Napa Valley Sauvignons, Red and White
Ed McCarthy
Feb 1, 2011

Napa Valley produces other varietal wines, but the only other one that I think can compete with Cabernet Sauvignon for general excellence in Napa Valley is its white cousin, Sauvignon Blanc. This wasn't always the case; it has taken most Napa Valley producers several decades to begin making fine Sauvignon Blancs. Even today, there are far fewer great Napa Sauvignon Blancs than Cabernet Sauvignons, but at least they exist.

Confessions of a Wine-Collecting Lifer
Ed McCarthy
Jan 4, 2011

As we begin the new year, I've become a touch nostalgic, and I'm looking back on how I've spent my life. One passion that stands out is wine, and I've examined how it has influenced my life. For the past 40+ years, I have been collecting wine. As a young adult (and struggling teacher) bitten by the wine bug, I confess that I started spending an inordinate amount of my income on wine, much to my then-wife's chagrin. It got to the point that I had to sneak my newly acquired wine into the house when she was working (I know quite a few wine collectors can identify with this ignominious behavior).

Some Gems Among Champagne's Smaller Producers
Ed McCarthy
Dec 7, 2010

December is the month Champagne producers love best, because as much as 40% of their annual retail sales takes place during the holiday time. An overwhelming amount of the Champagne sold will be by eight large brands: Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Pommery, Nicolas Feuillatte, G.H. Mumm, Laurent-Perrier, Lanson, and Piper-Heidsieck.

Malbec Rules in Argentina
Ed McCarthy
Nov 9, 2010

I asked wine producers why Malbec had become so much more important than Cabernet Sauvignon in Argentina. I was curious because I had always thought that Argentine Cabernet wines were just as good, and sometimes better, than its Malbecs. The answer, always the same, made sense. Practically every red wine region in the world makes Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Many of them are excellent, and it's difficult for Argentine Cabernet Sauvignons to compete with them in the marketplace. Argentina is the only place in the world that offers easy-drinking, moderately-priced Malbec wines.

The Wines of Italy's Lake Garda
Ed McCarthy
Oct 12, 2010

Beautiful Lake Como in northern Lombardy--summer home of the wealthy for centuries--might be Italy's most famous lake. But Lake Garda, Italy's largest lake, might also be the country's most renowned wine destination, at least for those who wish to combine the pleasures of lakeside living along with wine exploration. Lago di Garda is in north-central Italy, shared by the regions of Lombardy and Veneto--with a little bit of Trentino-Alto Adige at its northern end. Milan is to its west, with Verona and Venice to its east.

Dolcetto, Piedmont's Affordable Red
Ed McCarthy
Sep 14, 2010

Many of my favorite red wines come from Italy's Piedmont region. They include, of course, Barolo and Barbaresco. But frankly, these two great wines are too big and powerful-and too expensive-to drink on a regular basis. Instead, I find myself drinking a lot more Barbera and Dolcetto, Piedmont's affordable reds, both at home and in Italian restaurants.

Cool Is 'Hot' for Sicilian Wines
Ed McCarthy
Aug 17, 2010

The Mount Etna area in northeast Sicily, the island's coolest wine region, has suddenly become one of Italy's most acclaimed wine locations for both red and white wines. Wine connoisseurs are becoming familiar with grape varieties that they never heard of a mere few years ago, such as the red Nerello Mascalese and the white Carricante.

My Search for the Perfect Wine Glass
Ed McCarthy
Jul 20, 2010

Admittedly, I am a fanatic when it comes to wine glasses. On more than one occasion, I've brought my own wine glasses to restaurants and to friends' houses when I knew their glasses were inadequate. Of course, I always ask permission of the friends to do so; most of them happily agree, accepting their wine geek friend's eccentricities.

The Lord of the Vines
Ed McCarthy
Jun 22, 2010

Four years ago, one of the world's great winemakers passed away at the age of 72, but few wine drinkers except a handful of Italian wine aficionados had ever heard of him. His name was Edoardo Valentini, and he made wine in Italy's most mountainous region, Abruzzo, on the eastern, Adriatic coast. And oh, what wine! Valentini was revered locally, where he was known as 'The Lord of the Vines.'

Some Great Barolos, Thanks to Mother Nature
Ed McCarthy
May 25, 2010

I just returned from the Langhe region around the town of Alba in Piedmont, Italy, and am thrilled to report that I have tasted a number of super Barolo wines, some of which will be arriving on our shores shortly, but many of which are here already. The so-called global warming--or at the least the extended period of very warm vintages Europe has been experiencing in the last 15 years--has actually been a blessing for Piedmont's Nebbiolo-based wines.

Chianti Classico at the Crossroads
Ed McCarthy
Apr 27, 2010

With all the improvements in viticulture and winemaking that have taken place in Tuscany during the last 30 years, you would think that Chianti Classico wines should be better than ever. But confusion still reigns in this region, regarding what type of wine Chianti Classico should be, and how the wine should actually be made. As a result, the consumer seldom knows what style of wine he or she is getting when Chianti Classico reaches the table.

The Time Has Come for Portuguese Wines
Ed McCarthy
Mar 30, 2010

Portuguese table wines, red and white, have been on the brink of making a breakthrough in the U.S. market for many years now, but they still remain unfamiliar to most American wine drinkers. This is a bit mystifying to me, because the wines are authentic, basically well made, and certainly offer value to the consumer--one reason that I think, during this economic climate, the time might finally be right for these wines to find acceptance.

Iconic Italian White Wines
Ed McCarthy
Mar 2, 2010

Thirty years ago, I couldn't have written this column. There were no great Italian white wines. But at some point within the past 25 years, Italian winemakers started paying more attention to their white wines. Advances in viticulture and vinification clearly helped. Today, Italy is one of leading white-wine producing countries in the world. And almost all of its great whites are made from varieties indigenous to Italy.

Robert Mondavi's Enduring Legacy
Ed McCarthy
Feb 2, 2010

It is difficult to imagine that one man could have had so great an impact on such a huge wine region as California. But Robert Mondavi almost single-handedly placed California, particularly Napa Valley, on the world's fine-wine map. California's wine history can be looked upon as BM and AM, Before Mondavi and After Mondavi, with the dividing line occurring in 1966.

Italian Reds with Italian Food--A Perfect Marriage
Ed McCarthy
Jan 5, 2010

The temperature is hovering between 10° and 24°F. in the frigid Northeast U.S. as I write this early January column, and my thoughts are on red wine. Like so many Americans, I consume lots of Italian dishes, this country's overwhelmingly favorite ethnic cuisine. Consequently, I find myself drinking more Italian red than any other type of red wine. During the holidays, my Italian-American relatives have treated me to many plates of pasta, lasagna, sausages, broccoli rabe, eggplant parmigiano, and so forth. As the designated wine expert in the family, I invariably provide the wine, and it's invariably Italian red.

So Many Great Champagnes, So Little Time!
Ed McCarthy
Dec 8, 2009

In the hope that you may be willing to strike out in search of excellence beyond the big brands this year, here are profiles of 12 excellent, smaller Champagne houses which I believe do not receive the recognition they deserve in the U.S.-- and all are nationally available. In no particular order, they are Henriot, Deutz, Charles Heidsieck, Ayala, Alfred Gratien, Philipponnat, Bruno Pailliard, Jacquesson, Delamotte, Gosset, Louis Roederer, and Pol Roger.

The Legendary Williams Selyem Pinot Noirs
Ed McCarthy
Nov 10, 2009

Burt Williams was a newspaper printer in San Francisco. His friend, Ed Selyem, was an accountant/ wine buyer in Forestville, a small town in Sonoma County's Russian River Valley. What both friends had in common, besides living in Russian River Valley, was a passion for Pinot Noir. They became weekend winemakers in 1979, using a local garage as their first winery. They made their first commercial Pinot Noir in 1981, under the name of Hacienda del Rio, which they changed to Williams & Selyem in 1983. Four years later, Williams & Selyem's 1985 Rochioli Vineyard Pinot Noir won the top prize at the 1987 California State Fair!

Returning to Soave
Ed McCarthy
Oct 13, 2009

My recent trip to the charming, medieval, walled town of Soave, near Verona in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy, confirmed my belief that excellent Soave wines--indeed, better than ever--are being produced today. In fact, the best Soave producers are now making some of the best white wines in Italy, and the wines are selling at very attractive prices, because many consumers have not yet discovered how good they are.

For Long Island Wines, White Might be Right
Ed McCarthy
Sep 15, 2009

Over 36 years, as Long Island's wineries grew from a mere handful in 1980 to over 60 wineries today, quite a few Long Island wine producers have come to the conclusion that white wine production, and lately, also sparkling wines, are more suited for Long Island's climate than are red wines.

Taking Stock of Champagne Dom Perignon
Ed McCarthy
Aug 18, 2009

I love Champagne, and have many favorites, but no other Champagne impresses me more than Dom Pérignon. I'm certain that quite a few of you are surprised by my enthusiasm for the Dom. After all, it's so "out there," so well-known, so available. You would think that a wine writer who specializes in Champagne such as I would choose a more esoteric Champagne to rhapsodize about. But my premise is based on the very fact that Dom Pérignon's production is huge, and yet its quality remains so high that it consistently ranks among the top Champagnes, vintage after vintage.

The Louis Roederer Dynasty
Ed McCarthy
Jul 21, 2009

During the past two decades, Champagne Louis Roederer, a prestigious, family-owned, medium-sized Champagne house, has become one of the most important wine firms in the world.

An Austrian Red Wine Surprise
Ed McCarthy
Jul 14, 2009

I visited Austria recently with the intention of enjoying its dry, elegant white wines; after all, Austria is white wine country. But I came away enamored with one of its red wines, a wine with the classic Germanic name of Blaufränkisch. If you haven't yet tasted or even heard of Blaufränkisch, I promise you that you will be getting to know it soon, because Austrian Blaufränkisch, somewhat ignored until recently, is now better than ever.

The Pinot Noirs of Anderson Valley
Ed McCarthy
May 26, 2009

Exciting Pinot Noirs are emerging from several different wine regions in California today, as well as from Oregon. But a region we hear little about might be one of the best: Anderson Valley. There are at least two possible reasons for its anonymity. First, Anderson Valley is rather small, being only about 15 miles long, with just about 25 to 30 wineries within the Valley making Pinot Noir, and another 20 or so non-Valley wineries making Pinot Noirs from grapes grown in Anderson Valley. The other reason is that its location is somewhat remote.

Pizza Wine for Dummies
Ed McCarthy
Apr 28, 2009

A few times a year, some of my wine writing colleagues and I gather in a pizzeria in New York, one in which we're allowed to bring our own wine, and feast on various pizzas. One of the main topics of conversation, of course, is which wines go best with the pizza. Over the years, I have formed some strong ideas on the best pizza wines, and I thought it would be a good idea (at least to me!) to publicly express my views on this important topic.

The Sonoma Coast: Pinot Noir's New Frontier
Ed McCarthy
Mar 31, 2009

In early March of this year, I toured California's Sonoma Coast, a region which I think is already turning out some world-class Pinot Noirs--and it will only get better. I believe that the Sonoma Coast, even now, might be the best region in the U.S.--and perhaps the entire New World--for Pinot Noir wines, at least the type that I love.

California Merlot: Dissed but Wrongly Dismissed
Ed McCarthy
Mar 3, 2009

Merlot at its best is a deeply colored red wine -- full-bodied and dry, with soft, velvety tannin and aromas and flavors of ripe, dark plums, a hint of chocolate, and a slight toasty note of oak. It fills your mouth with its fleshy texture and its plump, fruity flavors, yet it's not too soft; it has enough firmness to give it definition. That's the experience of California Merlot at its best. And who wouldn't love such a wine? Its plumpness, richness, and softness are the reason that Merlot became popular in the first place.

2004: A Great Vintage for Brunello
Ed McCarthy
Feb 3, 2009

I've just returned from a mammoth 2004 Brunello di Montalcino tasting in New York, and I can assure you that 2004 is going to be a superb vintage for Brunello. A large majority of the 2004 Brunellos I tasted were truly top-notch.

The Return of Traditional Barolos
Ed McCarthy
Jan 6, 2009

I just returned from a trip to Piedmont, Italy, and I am happy to report that traditional Barolos are once again in fashion among the barolistas--the local name for Barolo winemakers. Roberto Conterno, proprietor-winemaker of the iconic Giacomo Conterno Winery, long the bastion of traditional Barolos, laughed when I brought up the topic to him. 'They never went away. I'm making Barolo the way I always did, the way my father (Giovanni Conterno) did, and the way my grandfather (Giacomo Conterno, the founder) did!'

Cal-Ital Wines, Where Logic Meets Reality
Ed McCarthy
Dec 9, 2008

Italian-inspired varietal wines have enjoyed limited success in California, up to this point. Whereas most French varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc have had few problems adapting to California terroir (although some might argue about Pinot Noir the Italian varieties -- Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and company --have been a bitch for California vintners, to put it mildly.

California Cabernet Sauvignons
Ed McCarthy
Nov 11, 2008

Over the years, many changes have taken place in California Cabernet Sauvignons, and not all of them for the better. Of course, many improvements have occurred because of advances in knowledge and technology. But many of today's Cabernets are too jammy, extracted, and high in alcohol for my palate (and this applies not only to the Cabernets from California, by the way, but Cabernets from all over the world). Lest you dismiss me for just another old-timer living in the past, I do believe that fine California Cabs are still being made today in a more restrained style, and you can find them especially in the current 2005 vintage.

Wines from Brazil: The Next Wave Coming to the U.S.?
Ed McCarthy
Oct 14, 2008

Brazilian wines? I can hear some readers saying, 'Do they make wine in Brazil?' Most of us in the U.S. probably have had little or no experience with Brazilian wines, but that will be changing shortly. Those of us who have enough grey hair can recall when Chilean and Argentine wines were unknown quantities here, and look how popular these wines are now in the USA!

The State of California Pinot Noir
Ed McCarthy
Sep 16, 2008

I happen to love the Pinot Noir grape variety, like so many wino friends of mine. When I recall the greatest wines that I have ever tasted, about half of them have been red Burgundies. When California Pinot Noir started becoming popular in the 1990s, I was thrilled. But something has happened to too many California Pinot Noirs during the last decade or so. For me, they've gone in the wrong direction.

U.S. Consumers Welcoming Uncommon Grape Varieties
Ed McCarthy
Aug 19, 2008

I'm seeing a new trend in wine drinking in this country in the 21st century. Restaurants and retail stores are starting to carry non-mainstream varietal wines, which hail primarily from their original home, Europe--especially Italy, France, and Spain.

Full-Bodied Dinner Champagnes
Ed McCarthy
Jul 22, 2008

Many people like Champagne, but only a few of us, I have observed, actually enjoy Champagne throughout dinner. I love to have Champagne with dinner, and have found that it really complements most of the foods that I enjoy.

Light, Elegant Champagnes
Ed McCarthy
Jun 24, 2008

Lighter-styled Champagnes are ideal as aperitifs, and also go very well with fish and seafood, an important part of my dining lately. Lighter-styled Champagnes also complement all kinds of Asian cuisine, especially Japanese food.

Sauvignon Blanc's New Life in California
Ed McCarthy
May 27, 2008

California Sauvignon Blanc, or Fumé Blanc as it is sometimes called, is the darling of many winemakers, sommeliers, and some wine writers. But up until recently, it did not stir the same enthusiasm among many consumers. I agree with those consumers; up until recently, most California Sauvignon Blancs were not very good.

Barolo's Hot Streak Continues with 2004 Vintage
Ed McCarthy
Apr 29, 2008

Global warming appears to be actually benefiting Italy's Piedmont wine region, at least for now. Never in the region's history have so many fine vintages occurred within such a short period.

Chablis: One of the World's Great White Wines
Ed McCarthy
Apr 1, 2008

When I tell people that I don't drink much Chardonnay, I'm not exactly speaking the complete truth. True, I hardly ever buy varietal wines named 'Chardonnay,' or order them in restaurants. But I certainly drink more than my fair share of Chablis, other assorted white Burgundies that I can afford, and Blanc de Blancs Champagnes, all of which are made entirely from the Chardonnay grape.

Chardonnay: Still Queen of U.S. Whites
Ed McCarthy
Mar 4, 2008

For more years than I can remember, I've been hearing that consumers are, or will be, getting tired of Chardonnay, and that they will be turning towards other white varietal wines. Well, it ain't happening in the U.S. right now, and doesn't seem likely to take place in the near future. Chardonnay is still reigning as Queen of our domestic white wines, and is resting comfortably on her throne.

Expense Account Wines
Ed McCarthy
Feb 5, 2008

Economic times might be tough, but you might be one of those fortunate people whose job allows you the opportunity to order fine wines for your clients when entertaining them in restaurants. In fact, this could be an important requisite of your job--but it's a challenge many professionals don't look forward to, because they're not wine geeks, and the often inscrutable wine list might as well have been written in an unfathomable language. Many view it with a combination of fear and dread. If this applies to you, I can offer some advice.

Champagne for the Dinner Table
Ed McCarthy
Jan 8, 2008

Over the years, through trial and error, I've compiled a list of full-bodied, powerful Champagnes that work best for me at the dinner table. Many of these Champagnes have the body and style of still wines; for me, they typically are very Burgundian, but with bubbles.

New Planeta Style Leads Quality Charge in Sicilian Wine
Ed McCarthy
Dec 11, 2007

I recall that the Planeta Chardonnay, always their biggest-selling wine, was really dominated by oak, to the point that it certainly was not to my taste. The owner of Valentino, the affable Piero Selvaggio, was beaming with pride for his fellow-Sicilian, the attractive, charming Francesca, as we tasted the wines. Well, Piero, I can tell you now that you have reason to be proud of Planeta. The Chardonnay is no longer oak-dominated; in fact, it's a real beauty.

Could Western Australia Have Oz' Finest Shiraz?
Ed McCarthy
Nov 13, 2007

A major difference between Western Australia -- especially the southern part -- and other Aussie wine regions where Syrah is made is the temperature. Most Australian wine regions get quite hot in the summer; the Barossa Valley, where much elite Shiraz is made, is a prime example. While Cabernet Sauvignon can perform admirably on the Napa Valley floor, South Australia, and many other relatively warm regions, Syrah, or at least the Syrah that I enjoy, seems to do best in cooler regions. The Frankland River sub-region in the Great Southern, for example, is a particularly fine growing region for Syrah.

Western Australia: Riesling's New Frontier
Ed McCarthy
Oct 16, 2007

Before I visited Western Australia, I accepted the common wisdom that this region produces good Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. By the time I left, I realized that Western Australia's greatest vinous strength is its Rieslings.

Barolo's Hot Vintage
Ed McCarthy
Sep 18, 2007

I don't want to condemn the currently available 2003 Barolo vintage with faint praise. But after tasting other 2003s from various wine regions in Europe, I really was not looking forward to the '03 Barolos. It was just too damn hot throughout Europe that summer, as many of you can recall.

Israeli Wines Can Now Compete on the World Market
Ed McCarthy
Aug 21, 2007

There's a common misperception that Israel is too hot, too much of a desert, to make fine wine. True, Israel is dry, with rain falling only in the fall and winter. But with the use of well-controlled irrigation and the discovery of good vineyard sites in the higher altitude northern regions--such as Golan Heights and Upper Galilee--Israel is now making fine wines, especially red wines.

Reds That Refresh for Summertime Sipping
Ed McCarthy
Jul 24, 2007

As much as I enjoy drinking lively, refreshing whites and rosés during the summer, I cannot go through an entire season without my 'fix' of red wines. But I have discovered over the years that only certain kinds of red wines are satisfying in warm weather -- at least in my neck of the woods, the humid East Coast of the U.S.

The Northernmost Winery in Italy--Or Is It Austria?
Ed McCarthy
Jun 26, 2007

I've just returned from my fourth visit to northeastern Italy's Alto Adige--and have concluded that it might be the world's most beautiful wine region. I know that's a big claim, with Alsace, the Douro Valley in Portugal, the Mosel in Germany, and New Zealand's South Island all strong contenders, but for sheer dramatic, breath-catching beauty, I'll take Alto Adige.

The Unique Wines of Campania
Ed McCarthy
May 29, 2007

After many years of letting Tuscany, Piedmont, the Veneto, and other Northern Italy regions take the spotlight in the wine world, Southern Italy--primarily Sicily, Puglia, and Campania--is now getting its share of attention in a major way. And for me, the wines from Campania are Southern Italy's most interesting, largely because almost all of Campania's wines are made from native varieties.

Fabled '82 Bordeaux Vintage Passes Blind Taste Test
Ed McCarthy
May 22, 2007

I've heard some grumblings from my friends, who share the same passion for Bordeaux that I have, that some '82 red Bordeaux are getting tired and have 'passed their peak' of fine drinking. And so it was with some trepidation that I recently attended a tasting of 17 top 1982 Bordeaux wines, served 'blind.' I do happen to own a number of 1982 Bordeaux myself, and so this was a golden opportunity to check their progress.

Italy's Great Unknown: Aglianico del Vulture
Ed McCarthy
May 1, 2007

Almost all the Italian wines that are acclaimed by critics hail from north of Rome: renowned wines like Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico, and the Super-Tuscans, such as Sassicaia and Ornellaia. But one of Italy's best red wines comes from a region in southern Italy which is practically unknown to the outside world--Basilicata.

The Loire Valley: Home of Great Sauvignon Blancs
Ed McCarthy
Apr 3, 2007

Sauvignon Blanc, long the Pretender to the White Wine Throne of Queen Chardonnay, is once again making serious attempts to depose the queen. Two regions in France--Bordeaux and the Loire Valley--have always made fine Sauvignon Blanc wines, but lately, the Loire Valley in particular is really focusing on this variety.

DRC Up to the Challenge of Quirky '04 Vintage
Ed McCarthy
Mar 6, 2007

The 2004 vintage for red Burgundy, according to most reports and based on my own visit to Bourgogne last September and from subsequent tastings, generally is average to good (the whites are considerably better). But rating charts don't really apply to the six exceptional Grand Cru red wines of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti - and its one sublime white, the Grand Cru Montrachet.

The Wines of Chile: Better than Ever
Ed McCarthy
Feb 6, 2007

Like so many other winemaking countries during the last two decades, Chile has made enormous strides in its winemaking: better vineyard practices, improved winemaking from experienced, highly educated winemakers, more consultants, and perhaps most importantly, attending more closely to its terroir--especially, growing particular grape varieties in the most suitable locations.

Barbera, My Favorite Red Wine
Ed McCarthy
Jan 2, 2007

My favorite red wines are Barolo, Barbaresco and Bordeaux (I love Burgundy, as well, but not quite as much as the other three "B" reds). But the wine I drink the most is Barbera.

Tired of the Same Old Wines? Off-the-Beaten-Track Reds to the Rescue
Ed McCarthy
Dec 12, 2006

The red wines that I find complementing food especially well invariably come from fairly cool-climate regions. Many are made from indigenous varieties that might be unfamiliar to some, but in my judgment are definitely worth trying.

Opus One: American Royalty
Ed McCarthy
Nov 14, 2006

Most of the world's well-renowned wines come from Europe -- many of them being either Bordeaux or Burgundy. That's no surprise, because European wine regions have been established for hundreds of years. The California wine industry really didn't get moving until 40 years ago, and so it is somewhat amazing that the state can boast of a wine that is regarded by many as world class, but Opus One has attained that status.

The Case Against Globalization of Wine
Ed McCarthy
Oct 17, 2006

Like a matador waving his cape at the bull to attract his attention, Robert Whitley has managed to get this bull's attention. I can just see Robert chuckling to himself as he was writing his pro-globalization piece, knowing that he would be pressing the buttons of many of his colleagues. Well, Robert, you succeeded. I am dead set against the globalization of wines.

Red Burgundy Under $30
Ed McCarthy
Sep 19, 2006

I know, you're saying, 'What kind of red Burgundies can I buy for under $30?' Burgundy's image always has been that it's expensive and rare. That is certainly true for its grand crus and most of its prestigious premier crus, but I found a number of very satisfying red Burgundies from lesser appellations retailing in the $10 to $30 price range in a recent shopping expedition.

Re-Visiting Champagne's 1996 Vintage
Ed McCarthy
Aug 22, 2006

Last August, I wrote a Wine Review Online column about the 1996 vintage in Champagne; my message was that 1996 is a truly superb vintage in the region, and Champagne lovers should get their hands on as many 1996s as they can before they disappear. But the 1996 vintage warrants a re-visit now for several important reasons.

Dom Pérignon: A True Prestige Cuvée Champagne
Ed McCarthy
Jul 25, 2006

Cuvée Dom Pérignon remains one of the great Champagnes, worthy of its price tag. But to truly appreciate Dom Pérignon's greatness, you really have to allow it to mature slowly and gracefully, in a cool, dark, preferably humid place.

Summer Wines: Aromatic Whites
Ed McCarthy
Jun 27, 2006

During summer, we drink a lot more white wines and rosés than red wines. The thought of drinking a full-bodied, tannic red in warm weather is a bit overwhelming for me. I know that lots of fine, light-bodied red wines are out there, but the foods I eat in the summer--salads, fish, seafood, and vegetables--just lend themselves to pairing with white wines. But not just any white wines. I prefer a style that I call 'Aromatic Whites.'

The Incredible Importance of the Wine Glass
Ed McCarthy
May 30, 2006

It is astonishing to me that someone can spend thousands of dollars on fine wines and then skimp on his or her wine glasses. I suspect that the explanation for this is that many wine drinkers simply don't realize how important wine glasses are in conveying the taste and complete flavor profile of the wine to our palates.

Red, White, and Rosy in Provence
Ed McCarthy
May 2, 2006

Is there a more beautiful wine region in the world than Provence? It is difficult to believe that I am actually "working" when I travel from village to village along the French Riviera, soaking in the fragrance of the flowers and the aromas of the Mediterranean Sea, enjoying the warm sunshine and the brilliant light underneath the dazzling blue sky. No wonder so many artists were inspired to do their best work here!

A Champagne Man Is California Dreaming
Ed McCarthy
Apr 4, 2006

The Champagne region of France has the loftiest reputation for sparkling wines, while Spain leads the world in the quantity of sparkling wine produced. In the middle are California bruts, a step up in quality from under $10 Spanish cavas, but generally less expensive than Champagne. The best California bruts are top quality -- for me clearly the best in the world after Champagne. (By the way, I use the word "brut" interchangeably with "sparkling wine," because almost all of the better California bubblies fall into the brut -- very dry -- category.)

Climate and Soils Drive the Flavors in Spain's Rias Baixas
Ed McCarthy
Mar 7, 2006

On my first trip to Galicia's Rías Baixas district a couple of years ago, I thought that I had entered another country. This was not the Spain that I knew. Spain, to me, meant hot, sunny, clear days, and very dry in most places. Each day that week in late September in Rîas Baixas and in the nearby pilgrim mecca of Santiago de Compostela, of Crusades fame, the sky was dark and gloomy, and it rained ceaselessly. I later confirmed that it doesn't rain every day in Galicia; we just picked a bad week.

Rías Baixas: Spain's Great White Wine Region
Ed McCarthy
Mar 7, 2006

As recently as five years ago many winedrinkers had never heard of Albariño or Rías Baixas. Today you can find Albariño varietal wines on many restaurant wine lists and in better wine shops throughout the U.S.

Maison Joseph Drouhin: A Burgundy Icon
Ed McCarthy
Feb 7, 2006

There are two important questions I consider when buying Burgundy, whether from a restaurant wine list or in a wine shop. First, is this producer consistently reliable, vintage after vintage? Second, is this wine a good value? Drouhin is one of very few Burgundy producers whose wines consistently meet these criteria.

Chianti Today
Ed McCarthy
Jan 10, 2006

Chianti has gone through more changes in the last 40 year than almost any other important wine. Invariably, wine drinkers have many diverse opinions about Chianti, but we would all agree that it remains one of the most well-known red wines in the world.

Exploring Champagne's Non-Vintage Classics
Ed McCarthy
Dec 20, 2005

During this time of year, most of us will be buying and/or drinking Champagne. For me, the Holiday Season, culminating with New Year's Eve, is such a special time that I serve only the real thing, Champagne, from the Champagne region of France.

Mendoza, Argentina: The New Napa Valley
Ed McCarthy
Nov 22, 2005

When you talk about Argentine wines, you must start with Mendoza. This gigantic region in the western part the country, directly west of Buenos Aires on the coast, accounts for over 70 percent of the country's wines.

The Great Everyday Red
Ed McCarthy
Oct 25, 2005

The Rhône Valley is a vast wine region in southeast France; the Rhône River runs southwards through the Valley, winding its way through vineyards on both banks. The region has two distinct parts: the Northern Rhône, with its continental climate and serious red wines such as Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie; and the Southern Rhône, with a warmer Mediterranean climate, renowned reds such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas, and the popular rosé, Tavel. But the vast majority of wines in the Southern Rhône Valley are red Côtes du Rhône wines.

Affordable Bordeaux
Ed McCarthy
Sep 27, 2005

Big, fruity, ripe, high-alcohol wines have been popular choices for many wine drinkers during the past decade or so, but I am starting to detect a backlash. Or is this just wishful thinking? I know that I cannot drink that style of wine with pleasure, nor can quite a few of my colleagues. I enjoy subtle, graceful, understated wines-wines that can complement my dinner. That is the reason that I still drink red Bordeaux.