Monthly Archives: July 2012

Rioja Gems Part II: Family and Tradition

The Peciñas have been growing grapes in Rioja for five generations, but only started making their own wines in 1992. They are not widely known yet, but they’re making terrific wines, in a very traditional style, that deserve greater recognition. Continue reading

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Rioja’s All-Powerful Consejo

Living in California wine country, I think of our local appellations as a convenient way of dividing up the winegrowing regions. They each generally have a loose membership association, including growers and wineries, that sometimes puts on tastings for the trade or the occasional advertising campaign aimed at bringing attention to the area. They are not the super powerful bodies deciding, for example, what grape varieties can be grown and used in what percentages in the region’s wine, as they are in many DOCs in Europe. It was therefore fascinating to me to learn on my recent trip to Rioja just how powerful the control board of one of Europe’s most aggressive, and successful, DOCs is compared to what I’m used to in the U.S. Continue reading

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Rioja Gems Part I: Bodegas Franco-Españolas

In a trip filled with highlights, my visit to Franco-Españolas was a standout for me for several reasons. I’d been curious about this producer ever since its wines—including a 1968 Royal Reserva and 1964 Excelso Gran Reserva–had come out on top for me in a couple of retrospective tastings of older Riojas in the past year. It’s also an incredibly beautiful winery, dating back to the 1890s, in the heart of Logroño, Rioja’s largest city. And the wines are exceptional—from the good quality, fresh young wines, to the Reservas and Gran Reservas, to the aged examples (especially an outstanding old white Gran Reserva, one of the best wines I’ve tasted this year). In short, this is a producer deserving of much greater attention, especially from those, like me, who are fans of the world’s great traditional producers. Continue reading

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Best of Hospice du Rhône 2012

Report on 172 wines tasted at the two Hospice du Rhône grand tastings this year, including new finds (for me): Kale Wines, Keplinger, Paul Lato and Torrin. Also some great Chateauneuf-du-Papes and Northern Rhônes. Continue reading

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Chianti: Vast Region Makes Vast Improvements

Quality improvement has been the watchword for most of the wine world over the past few decades. As a result, those of us who love wine have access to better wines, from virtually all regions, than we’ve ever had before. A vast, region-wide example of conscious planning to make better wines is the huge project the leading organization of Chianti producers in Italy, the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico, launched nearly 25 years ago. Continue reading

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The Advantages of Lowering the U.S. Drinking Age

So why does the U.S. (along with several Muslim countries) have the world’s highest drinking age–21? Why can one get married, serve in the military and drive in the U.S. years before one can legally drink? Does it make any sense that our soldiers serving abroad who are less than 21 can’t legally drink when their comrades from other countries can? Wouldn’t it make more sense for us to lower the drinking age so young people can learn to drink moderately and responsibly from their families and role models while growing up? Continue reading

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Greek Wines: Aromatic Whites and Ageworthy Reds

Greece is estimated to have over 200 indigenous grape varieties. Roughly 70% of Greek production is white wine, and I’m a big fan of the terrific, minerally and often highly aromatic whites made from indigenous grape varieties. They’re ideal for summer drinking. I also enjoy many of the reds, especially those with a few years of bottle age. Increasingly available in the U.S., most of these wines are not only wonderfully food friendly, they’re also excellent values. Continue reading

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