April 20, 2012
The second annual Malbec World Day was celebrated on April 17. “One global superstar” was the slogan.
In a related story “Big Mac with Malbec” is McDonald’s latest value meal. You get a Big Mac, a beef empanada, and some Argentine red made from the Malbec grape. This innovation is probably NOT coming soon to an outlet near you. Unless, of course, you are in Mendoza, the epi-center of the Argentina’s wine industry, where this burger-with-wine pilot is being launched during national Wine-Harvest Festival.
Malbec is the obvious choice of grape. Still going nowhere fast in its native Bordeaux and Loire, Malbec has adapted fabulously to the semi-desert, mineral soils, and high altitudes of Mendoza since it arrived in 1853 and is now Argentina’s signature export grape, like Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. And it has achieved Argentina’s ultimate seal approval; it is one of only five food stuffs declared “Patrimonio cultural alimentario, and gastronomico argentino”. This poor immigrant, “the French grape,” has come a long way. Read the rest of this entry »
January 28, 2012
Marbella is a playground for international jet-setters on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. It is famous for its luxury yachts, expensive international shops, and beautiful weather. It is notorious for conspicuous corruption: its last mayor did hard time for real-estate chicanery after keeping the afternoon gossip shows buzzing for years with his romance with flamenco icon Isabel Pantoja. His immediate predecessor as Marbella’s mayor did hard time for corruption after being the flamboyant president of Madrid’s second soccer team, Atletico de Madrid. In the box-office dark-comedy super -hit “Torrente II: Mission in Marbella”, Marbella is a gross-out swamp of international arms dealers. In the international best seller The Queen of the South by Perez-Reverte, state-of-the-art speed boats connected to Russian mafiosi make night-time “business trips” to Africa.
III World Congress on Climate Change and the Wine Industry
Last April Marbella was also the scene of the “3rd Annual International Congress on Climate Change and the Wine Industry.” Kofi Annan was Read the rest of this entry »
March 12, 2011
Michael Steinberger´s Au Revoir To All That: Food, Wine And The End of France is a premier cru example of the popular sub-genre: The “Decline and Fall of French Cooking.” The basic plot line is familiar to Americans of my generation. Many, myself included, have lived it.
It goes something like this: Act I: Somewhere in France. We experience The Great Awakening from boring American cooking, discover the joy of eating which enhances our joie de vivre. Steinberger´s revelation comes in the Loire Valley as an adolescent. The agent of his epiphany is the humble baby pea, drowned in butter, of course. Act II: We achieve The Ecstasy through a few truly sublime meals and become Francophiles. Steinberger amusingly relates such an experience. The three-star Au Crocodile restaurant in Strasbourg is the venue. The chef´s signature dish, a stew featuring “a gorgeous pink-gray (duck) liver with black truffles” leaves him “whimpering in such ecstasy” that he grins Read the rest of this entry »
January 11, 2011
“Love at first sip on the Danube”- The European Wine Bloggers do Vienna
We bloggers were mostly tasting whites (see last post). About 80% of Austrian wine is white afterall: a lot of best-seller Gruner
Veltliner, some fantastic Rieslings, a few noble rotters. But we learned on a two-day road trip through Burgenland, which hugs the border with Hungary, Austria is producing quite nice reds as well.
Love at first sip backdrop
We were treated, in effect, to a 48-hour total-immersion crash course in Austria’s signature red: Blaufrankisch, In a nutshell: it can be “bold and spicy” to “soft and juicy” according to Karen Mac Neil who compares it to Zinfandel. It can be ”intense and zesty with flavors of blueberries, red cherries, and redcurrents” according to Oz Clark. Most common alias: lemberger in Germany and Washinton state. Etymology: Frankisch from the Read the rest of this entry »
November 15, 2010
“Promiscuity in the Vineyards of Vienna!” –The European Wine Bloggers do Austria
I just spent a week with the European Wine Bloggers in and around Vienna.
The Mayer am Pfarrplatz Heuriga
But isn’t that in Austria, and isn’t Austria like hop-happy beer-guzzling Germany only a little further south? Well, no. Austrians prefer wine; put away a whole lot of it; and a lot of it is, as I found out, quite excellent.
Vienna has one unique iconic wine institution: the heurigen which are tavern/restaurant/ wine gardens. It turns out here are about 1700 acres (sic) of active vineyards inside the city limits of Vienna. No other city can really make this claim. Sure, Paris has a petit vineyard (Clos Montmartre), and a three-day Harvest Festival (see post). But the festival is strictly for the tourists, and the wine itself is Read the rest of this entry »
September 18, 2010
Robert M. Parker is still the most influential wine critic on the planet. His power is mind-numbing. “When Parker spits, the world listens.” So, where does the secret lie? His personal traits? Chance historical events? “The spirit of his times”? I pulled Elin McCoy’s The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste off the shelf looking for answers and this is exactly what McCoy, international wine judge and wine columnist of Bloomberg Markets, explores.
She portrays Parker, both the man and the myth, as typically American. Raised on meatloaf and soft drinks in Monkton, Read the rest of this entry »
June 18, 2010
In 1970s Spain the very words “Vega Sicilia” inspired mystery and awe. “World´s greatest wine”: “Most expensive wine in the world.” Of course nobody I knew had ever tasted it, or even seen a bottle of it, for that matter. (My friends and I might get into a mid-level Rioja on a good day.) Jancis Robinson attributes much of this awe to Vega Sicilia´s “splendid isolation” in the ruggedly inhospitable Castilian backwaters a couple of hour’s drive north of Madrid; steamy hot in the summer, freezing cold in the winter. Vega Sicilia was far from any official wine region. So in those days “the best wine in the world” had to be sold as the lowest of the low: vino de mesa, table wine. And their neighbors were capable of nothing better than plonk. Definitely the stuff of fairy tales. Personally I wasn’t completely convinced that Vega Sicilia wasn’t just some weird collective patriotic hallucination until I saw, with my own two eyes, a bottle of it in a Barcelona wine shop. Read the rest of this entry »
March 18, 2010
In 1985 a bottle of 1787 Bordeaux wine is sold at Christie´s auction house for $156,000. Benjamin Wallace tells the story. It starts with Thomas Jefferson, America´s third president and first world-class wine geek. He is leisurely travelling through France´s major wine regions compulsively taking notes despite the awesome challenges facing his new country and the mounting turmoil of revolutionary Paris. At one point he methodically orders caseloads of the great wines of the time (Haut-Brion, Latour, Margaux, Lafite) but, due to the political chaos, they never arrive. Or do they? Fast forward to the 1980s. A substantial stash of 18th century wine is found in Jefferson´s old Paris neighborhood. The bottles are engraved with Jefferson´s initials (“Th. J.”).They find their way into the hands of secretive German wine expert Hardy Rodenstock who keeps the facts hazy. The resulting mystery gives rise to dark rumours of Nazi bunkers turned wine cellars and/or smuggling rings from Communist Russia. Of course none of this is in the catalog description, but it all adds to the mystique–and dollar value—of the Jefferson wines. At the auction Kip Read the rest of this entry »
February 28, 2010
I was at the Wine Pleasures´ Wine Tourism Congress near Barcelona. This is serious cava country and we visited local winemakers and tasted Irish whiskeys and Catalan bubblies; Italian, Hungarian, and Rumanian reds; local eno-innovations from Terra Alta, Rueda, and Alt Penedes.
So what am I writing about? You guessed it. Persimmon Solera, a fruit wine made in the Spanish sherry style in the southern Illinois town of Birds. No, this is not some joke, but rather a sweet dessert wine from Brian and Joy Neighbor´s White Owl Winery. And it is not just some weird curiosity; Persimmon Solera has won the award for excellence at the Illinois Governor’s Cup, a silver medal at the AWS Wine Challenge at Vienna, and a bronze medal at the Japan Wine Challenge where it was one of only ten American prize winners. Read the rest of this entry »