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Columns – John Anderson

What I've Been Drinking Lately: The Ole Professor Waxes Philosophical
John Anderson
May 22, 2024

May 22, 2014: Some of you have asked why The Ole Professor only writes about wines he has bought for himself-and drunk (usually over several nights to see how the wines evolve) and not merely tasted. Well, simple soul that he is, the Ole Professor has a simple answer. He views himself as the surrogate for all his readers who don't have access to samples-to-the-press and major trade tastings and who can't afford to drink expensive bottles of wine every night there is-but who, like The Ole Professor, do want to have good, affordable wines to drink every night there is. Now that's the cause to which The Ole Professor has set himself, and on your behalf, Dear Reader!

What I've Been Drinking Lately: The Departure Issue
John Anderson
Feb 7, 2024

Feb. 7, 2024: The Ole Professor preaches thrift year 'round-and mostly he adheres to his own preachings-but there are times of the year when even he has to reach into the depths of his cellar for something a little bit more . . . special. Two of my favorite Christmas wines this year didn't, however, cost an arm and a leg. In fact, both were distinct bargains (about $20 each) when purchased online from the Wines 'Til Sold Out (WTSO) folks. I liked them a lot when I bought six bottles of each in the fall of 2021. But both wines were better still after two years cellaring. These were the 2017 Alsace Grand Cru 'Zotzenberg' Gewürztraminer and 2016 Alsace Grand Cru 'Wiebelsberg' Riesling, both from the excellent Domaine Boeckel in Mittelbergheim.

Holiday Cheer That Won't Deplete Your Bank Account
John Anderson
Dec 13, 2023

Dec. 13, 2023: When last he appeared at this site, this Ole Professor promised on his return to deconstruct the tale of how a small and obscure Cape Cod wine shop turned itself into a model for other aspiring retailers. Since then, however, friends-both those who are lucky enough to live on the Cape and those, like the Ole Professor and his family, who are regular summer visitors-asked that I put this off until the beginning of the vacation season, when the story would be more relevant-and useful-to them! Points well taken! And so, instead, my focus today will be on the Season That Is Now and some wines to drink that won't deplete your bank account.

What I've Been Drinking Lately, on Vacation: New and Different Wines!
John Anderson
Oct 11, 2023

Oct. 11, 2023: The Ole Professor, his Spouse and their Young'Un just returned from two weeks' vacation at Cape Cod-and wish now that they'd booked for three! One of the things the Ole Gent likes best about vacation time is the opportunity to discover new and different wines. And one of the few things the Ole Gent actually does like about the USA's Three-Tiered Wine & Liquor Distribution System is that when you go from one state to another, the wines on offer are likely to be wildly different. Sometimes for the better, often not. But nevertheless, a fact of life. If the Wine Drinking Me is to be stranded in another state-Massachusetts is one of the best places to be. To begin at the beginning, there are any number of extremely able distributors working there. Then, of course, there is my favorite Wine Fact of Life in the Commonwealth: There is no tax on wine and spirits. Zero. Nada. Zip. And at most, if not all, retailers, you'll get 20% off mixed cases. Mixed cases, mind you! And more than a few retailers will even give you 10% off six bottles-six mixed bottles. Beat that kind of a deal!

What I've Been Drinking Lately: Under $25 a bottle, All Red or Rosé-and French
John Anderson
Aug 16, 2023

August 16, 2023: Let us turn to the topic at hand: Good French wine that retails for under $25 a bottle. And, I do mean, good French wine. Today, we turn our attention to some outstanding value reds and to one very special rosé. But first, let me proffer some advice that is especially relevant to us in times of upward pricing volatility. That is to say: When French wine prices start going through the roof, look to full and mixed case discounts, scheduled and advertised sales, and, above all, one day flash sales at reputable retail wine stores. Merchants you trust and whose advice you know to be sound. That said, let us proceed to the goods!

What I've Been Drinking Lately: Under $25 a bottle-and It's Real White Burgundy!
John Anderson
Jun 21, 2023

June 21, 2023: Class is now back in session, so I propose to return to the topic at hand: Good white Burgundy that sells for under $25 a bottle retail. And, yes, such wines do exist! Really, they do! I'll begin with Chablis because the 2020 vintage was so good there and in the surrounding area, the Côtes d'Auxerre. My starting point is the excellent Domaine Goisot located in Saint Bris and run by the tandem of father Jean-Hugues and son Guilhem Goisot (imported by Polaner). I have long been a fan of the Goisots' delicious Bourgogne Aligoté and can confidently recommend their Côtes d'Auxerre 'Cépage Chardonnay' as well as the Saint-Bris Sauvignon Blanc. The wines are organic and biodynamic-'And boy does it ever show!' as my enthusiastic note indicates. The Aligoté retails for about $22 and the 'Cépage Chardonnay' sells for about $25. The Saint-Bris, where, unusually (for Burgundy), only Sauvignon Blanc grapes can be grown, for about $20. These are all beautiful examples of what they are.

What I've Been Drinking Lately: Under $25 per Bottle and Worth Every Dime
John Anderson
May 31, 2023

May 31, 2023: As faithful readers know, I generally focus on value-for-the-buck wines, most of them French. With spring about to give way to summer, I will continue in that vein since I am increasingly buying-and drinking-cool, dry summer whites. 'Cool' in more ways than one, I might add! From the time I was a grad student, lo these many, many years ago, I have loved Rieslings, especially German Rieslings in summer. Unfortunately, the kind of German Rieslings I grew-up with-elegant, zippy, low alcohol, and greatly underpriced-are no more. Or at the least, very hard to find. That said, I've mostly been drinking Rieslings-along with Muscats, Sylvaners, and Pinot Gris-from Alsace these days.

What I've Been Drinking Lately: 2009 and 2010 Louis Latour Burgundies in Retrospect
John Anderson
Mar 29, 2023

March 29, 2023: My friend and colleague at Wine Review Online Michael Apstein is, I know, writing about the 2020 vintage in Burgundy, and, specifically, about the 2020 wines from Maison Louis Latour, so I thought it might be useful for me to weigh-in on two near-mature vintages of the Latour wines. Two Thousand Nine and Two Thousand Ten turned out to be one of the great twin vintages in the vinous history of Burgundy, in which, most unusually, the reds and whites proved in both cases to be extremely good, if not outstanding. I well remember having tasted both reds and whites from 2009 and 2010 when they were young and just coming to market at a series of Wine & Spirits magazine blind tastings. We all knew by then that '09 was a great vintage for the reds and a slightly lesser vintage for the whites; and that the '10 whites were, by almost all accounts, splendid. The great surprise was how good, how very good the reds proved to be in 2010.

What I've Been Drinking Lately: My New Favorite House Red
John Anderson
Jan 26, 2023

Jan 26, 2023: I have a new favorite House Red. AND it typically retails for under $20 a bottle. One of my local retailers here in the Wilds of Westchester has it for $18+ tax, but I've found that a few of the larger Manhattan stores carry it for as little as $14-$15+ tax. Beat that with a big stick! And this mystery wine is? The 2020 'Clos La Coutale' from Cahors in the Southwest of France. Interestingly, the importer is Kermit Lynch. Now I don't normally think of the words 'Kermit Lynch' and 'Bargain Wine' together, but I have to admit that two of my favorites are in fact 'Kermit Wines,' the 'Clos La Coutale' red and the Alsace white blend from Domaine Kuentz-Bas.

What I've Been Drinking Lately: Fresh as a Daisy
John Anderson
Nov 9, 2022

Nov. 9, 2022: As keen readers of this column have perhaps noticed, my aim is in focusing on what I consider to be 'bargain wines'-and, especially, those retailing for $25 and under. I do so not least because these are the wines that I myself most often buy. But also because I fear that too many wine buffs imagine that there's nothing much really 'interesting' worth discovering at such a price point and in such wines. Nothing could be further from the truth. I was thinking this just the other day after buying a mixed bag of…bottles priced under $25. And after opening a few. Now I won't pretend that every bottle that I opened thrilled me. There were a couple of minor dry Loire whites-both in the $17-$18 a bottle range-that seemed a tad heavy or simply 'clunky,' as my colleague Michael Apstein would say. On the other hand, there were a couple of delicious red Burgundies that proved to be, as the Brits would say, 'a real snip!'

Having Your Cake-and Eating It!
John Anderson
Sep 28, 2022

Sept. 28, 2022: I was having lunch the other day with a lifelong friend of mine who happens to be a retired Foreign Service officer. We got to talking about all the usual things: Books, baseball and the movies, politics…and wine. He told me that when he was posted in Brussels, he took a wine course tutored by a well-known Belgian wine merchant. 'The Belgians really are very knowledgeable about wine,' he told me. 'They love their wines-French wines in particular.' At a tasting of high-end, classed growth Bordeaux, his wine counselor advised him: 'These are the wines you want you to be offered by someone who can afford them! … and these are the wines you can afford to buy for yourself!' These days, myy friend's advice to his now-adult son is: 'Skip the $10-15 wines and pay the extra $10. You won't get as much wine, but the wine you do get will be much better!'

What I've Been Drinking Lately: A Tale of Three Families in Burgundy
John Anderson
Jul 27, 2022

July 27, 2022: The Côte de Brouilly is one of the four smallest crus of Beaujolais, typically producing less than 20,000 hl of wine per year. At the heart of this Appellation Controlée (A.C.) is an ancient volcano, the Mont de Brouilly, which rises to 1,640 feet with vineyard land stretching up its steep incline on all sides. In this case, small really is beautiful, and, without dismissing Brouilly in the least, I think it's fair to say that the best wines of the Côte de Brouilly are easily among the best in all of Beaujolais. Certainly, they are quite unique. Fortunately for us, three of the best of these estates have been in the hands of three interrelated families for over a century and a half: Jambon, Chanrion and Geoffray. Their history is rich and illustrative.

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.