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Columns – Andrew Holod

What Is It About Tuscany?
Andrew Holod
Jun 12, 2024

June 12, 2024: Tuscany as a region seems to have entered the psyche of Americans and refused to leave. There are so many factors which contribute to the popularity of Tuscany and its centrality in how Americans think of Italy and Italian wine. The region is pinned to the map by the important cities of Florence and Siena, with Rome just a bit farther south. It offers picturesque rolling hills, dotted with stone villas (that seem to have inspired many a Napa winery), towering cypress and olive trees, and vineyards as far as the eye can see. Combine those indelible images along with the historical fiaschi (plural of a fiasco, which initially were straw-wrapped bottles, not a group of small disasters), which seem like a cultural echo for modern wine drinkers, even if they have never imbibed from this classic bottle shape. Finally, the wine regions themselves, which are some of the most famous in Italy: Chianti and its higher quality Classico brother, Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino, Vino Nobile and Rosso di Montepulciano, the "Super Tuscans" of Bolgheri and Maremma...and the list goes on.

Generational Shifts in Family Wineries
Andrew Holod
Apr 10, 2024

April 10, 2024: As a first generation American, the idea of a family business that spans generations or even centuries, feels nearly unimaginable to me. In Western Europe, there are dozens of wineries which have existed for 100 or more years and several which date back multiple centuries. Each major winemaking country can claim some extremely old wineries, such as Germany's Schloss Johanisberg (1100) and Schloss Vollrads (1211); Italy's Barone Ricasoli (1141) and Frescobaldi (1308); France's Château de Goulaine (c. 1000), and Spain's Codorníu (1551). These exceptional and extremely old wineries have survived wars and pestilence of both vineyards and owners/workers including the plague, phylloxera and nearly unimaginable changes in the world around them. The resilience may have to do with insular culture within a winery where few changes in grape growing and winemaking happen over time. Another answer may be that incremental, intergenerational changes have led to positive adaptations and reactions to both the market and environmental conditions.

In Praise of 'Country' Wines
Andrew Holod
Feb 2, 2024

Feb. 14, 2024: I define rustic, 'country' wines as wines from lesser-known regions which have either faded from popularity or rarely found commercial success outside of local environs. Their producers usually eschew (or can't afford) technical additions such as cultured yeast, aging in new oak barrels, and would almost never consider the use of additives such as powdered tannins, oak blocks/staves or Mega Purple. As such they represent, for me, authentic expressions of their locale, true to the character of their local grape varieties. 'Country' wines offer a wide range of benefits to you as the consumer. They tend to offer tremendously food-friendly styles, matching not just unique local dishes but foods you might actually make and eat as well. The wines provide exceptional value allowing you to buy world-class wines at working person's prices. Finally, there is amazing variety in these lesser-known wines. Pairing wine with food, while occasionally confounding, can be one of life's great pleasures. I find that these 'country' wines usually elevate the flavors on the plate. As such the wines are not only food-friendly, they are flavor-enhancing and experience elevating.

Tasting Your Way to Better Wine Selections
Andrew Holod
Dec 6, 2023

Dec. 6, 2023: Welcome to a guide offering some advice about how to select an appropriate wine for the moment. I'm following up on my previous column, in which I wrote that picking a single, favorite wine is nearly impossible, at least for me. And as I started writing this column, I realized that a large part of my decision process about selecting wine is informed by a matrix of aromas, flavors, weight and acidity levels for grapes and regions. This is rather an unwieldy concept to explain in writing, or even visually via some mind-numbing list of hierarchies, without the aid of tasting some wines. These ideas are also based on years of tasting wines with an analytical rather than hedonistic bent. Since it is unfortunately unlikely or impossible for us to meet to taste wines together, it seems that offering some advice about how to taste mindfully may be more helpful.

What's My Favorite Wine?
Andrew Holod
Oct 18, 2023

Oct. 18, 2023: It's not unusual for me to be asked, in the course of my work as a wine merchant in a bottle shop, 'What is your favorite wine?' Sometimes I'll answer, 'I'm ombibulous,' a term coined by H. L. Mencken that effectively suggests that I drink all types of drinks and like most of them. The real answer? I don't have a single favorite wine. While I don't have any issues with anyone having a favorite wine, I do think the world of wine is so wide that experiencing a broader swath of it can enrich one's life. I don't believe that my lack of a favorite shows a lack of discrimination. Selecting a single favorite wine would be nearly impossible for me, given the range made of examples from myriad grapes, origins and climates using varying winemaking techniques yielding a spectrum of aromas, flavors and textures. Rather than singling out a favorite, I can more usefully suggest how I choose my favoed wine for the moment based on curiosity, mood, setting, and food matching.