Monday, February 27, 2017

Screw the Wine/Gender Binary - Part #2

As regular readers know, I contribute to a monthly collective column on the wine site Snooth. 

This month's topic was related to wine and gender, and whether "masculine" and "feminine" are helpful terms when related to wine. 

I laughed when I read the prompt, because I had just written one of my most popular columns in months called "Screw the Gendered Wine Binary."

Well, I chimed in, along with some other thoughtful writers, on this topic. 

If you're interested, here's the full article. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Wine Reviews: International Grab Bag

We’re back with another grab bag of wines from all over the world. This report features some bargain Riesling from Mosel, a killer South African Chardonnay, some inexpensive Mendoza goodness, some Portuguese reds, and a few interesting blends from Locations Wines. 

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. 

2015 St. Urbans-Hof Wiltinger Riesling Alte Reben - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
SRP: $18
Pale yellow color. Explosive aromas of white peach, sliced limes, kiwi, with honeyed tea, chalk dust, river rocks. Creamy texture on the palate with bright acid, deep minerality. Orange peel, kiwi, lime, bright fruit but a rich honeyed sense too, backed up by saline, minerals, potpourri, ginger. Lots of depth but so zesty and fresh, especially impressive for the price. (89 points)

2014 Capensis Chardonnay - South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch
SRP: $80
Golden color. Gorgeous aromatics of sliced oranges, cantaloupe, lime, doused in sea salt, chalk, floral perfume and a hefty but nuanced dose of toasted nuts, oak and sliced ginger. Creamy and rich texture but the acidity keeps this wine precise and balanced. Rich orange and melon, drizzled with lime, the fruit is matched with notes of white flowers, honeycomb, lemon crème, and chalk dust. There is some pronounced oak in this wine (roasted peanut shell, chestnut, toasted bread), but if you’re OK with that, there is far more going on in this wine. Could age nicely but gorgeous now. A blend of vineyards in Stellenbosch, Overberg and Robertson, half the wine is aged in all new oak for 10 months. (93 points)

2014 Trivento Amado Sur - Argentina, Mendoza
SRP: $15
Bright purple color. Juicy dark plums, black cherry, cola, pipe tobacco, vanilla. Juicy, punchy texture with mild tannins, moderate acidity and fresh red and black pllum fruit. Notes of sweet cola, violets, mint and coffee. Earthy, spicy clove notes on the finish. Lots of fun but not simple, this would please many a palate. A near-term drinking blend of 79% Malbec, 11% Bonarda, 10% Syrah. (87 points)

2009 Quinta de Lemos Dão Dona Santana - Portugal, Beiras, Dão
SRP: $25
Vibrant purple color. Aromas of smoke, charcoal, scorched earth, some mushroom and anise on top of juicy black currant and plums. Full but quite fresh on the palate, sturdy tannins, dark plum and currant fruit, a juicy, complex but delicious wine. Such vibrant black currant and cherry fruit, maintains a tart edge, and it’s laced with mushroom, pepper, coffee, leather, clove. So much going on here, with a seriously complex finish. Good time ahead but delicious now. 60% Touriga Nacional, 20% Tinta Roriz, 10% Jaen, and 10% Alfroceiro varieties. (90 points)

2009 Margarida Cabaço Monte dos Cabaços - Portugal, Alentejano, Vinho Regional Alentejano
SRP: $21
Deep purple color. Smoky nose of charcoal, grilled herbs and raw tobacco on top of rich black cherry and dark plum, some clove and pepper sauce notes too. Full-bodied with some serious grip to the tannins, moderately fresh acidity, a chewy black cherry and currant fruit sense but stays fresh. Lots of undertones of earth, smoke, charcoal, black pepper and soy, with some magic marker, clove, grilled meat and cedar too. Wow, surprised at the depth, concentration and length of a wine at this price point, but the Alentejo delivers yet again! A blend of 45% Alicante Bouschet, 30% Touriga Nacional, 20% Aragonez and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. (89 points)

2013 Quinta dos Poços Douro Colheita - Portugal, Douro
SRP: $16
Vibrant ruby color. Aromas of vibrant red plums and currants, violets and roses, sweet sage, coffee, this is a warm winter kitchen of aromatic goodness. Medium-bodied, fresh acidity, a bright wine but solid grip from dry tannins. Tart red and some black currant fruit, lots of dark earth, coffee grounds, black tea, lots of potpourri spice and floral tones. Pretty but structured, could use a nice decant or a few years in the cellar. A blend of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional. (88 points)

N.V. Locations P-4 - Portugal
SRP: $20
Deep purple color. Smells of rich plums, juicy blackberries, dark earth, charcoal smoke, topped in sweet vanilla coffee. Full and juicy with accessible, dusty tannins and some moderate acidity helps it move forward. Plum cake and blackberry jam, a rich but silky wine with charcoal, dark chocolate, black pepper and vanilla. Juicy, delish, crowd-pleasing style but multi-dimensional and long on the finish. A blend of Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira and Touriga Franca sourced from the northern Douro and Alentejo regions and aged in French and American oak. (88 points)

N.V. Locations F-5 - France
SRP: $19
Light copper color. A mix of sweet melon and strawberry jam aromas with a kick of white pepper and dandelion. Plump wine on the palate, almost honeyed texture but crisp acidity. White cherries and strawberry shortcake mix with rose petals, slight pepper, cut flower stems. Lots of fun but a good amount of complexity. 100% Grenache. (87 points)

N.V. Locations I-4 - Italy
SRP $19
Bright ruby color. Smells of juicy cherries, raspberries and dark plums, along with roasted hers, black tea, clove and rose petals. Full-bodied, some dusty tannic structure, moderate acidity. Juicy plums and roasted cherries, fresh fruit but dark and savory, too, with notes of mocha, clove, leather and topsoil. Quite complex and seriously delish at this price point (which seems to be the theme with this Locations wines). A blend of Negroamaro and Nero d’Avola from Puglia and Barbera from Piemonte (Alba) — definitely the first time I’ve had a Northern/Southern Italian blend like this. (88 points)

2015 Cusumano Nero d’Avola Terre Siciliane IGT - Italy, Sicily, Terre Siciliane IGT
SRP: $
Juicy ruby color. Smells of bright raspberries, red plums, smoked herbs, anise and black tea. On the palate this is a bright and juicy wine with easy tannins and fresh acidity to frame the red plum and cherry fruit. Spicy, earthy, with clove and anise, but also clean and floral. For 10 years or so, this wine has been a dependable Sicilian red for the price, and a no-brainer in terms of an inexpensive pizza wine. (87 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist

Saturday, February 18, 2017

High-Quality Beaujolais from Château du Moulin-a-Vent

I buy, cellar, and drink a lot of Cru Beaujolais. I love the freshness, approachability, food-friendly appeal, brisk flavor profiles. They perplex me with their seemingly contradictory traits: they age beautifully but can be so crazy expressive in their youth. On a weeknight, when I’m cooking dinner (it doesn’t really matter what I’m cooking), popping a bottle of Cru Bojo makes everything better.

I recently tasted through four wines from Château du Moulin-a-Vent. While not inexpensive, these wines delivered exactly what I had hoped for. The estate and brand have undergone seismic changes since 2009, when grocery store chain owner Jean-Jaques Parinet bought the estate. More than 70,000 vines were replanted and the cellar equipment was updated. Parinet, now overseeing 37 hecrates of vineyards, also decided to vinify four different terroirs separately, emphasizing the diversity of expressions within the vineyards.

Two wines hail from 2012, and two from 2011. 2012 was a rough vintage, with yields way down, but the finished wines managed to get a good amount of ripeness, but are dominated by this zesty acidity, lighter frame, more tangy-fruited than deep, richer fruit. But these wines, for palates like mine, are a total blast to drink – easy, fresh, complex, lots of juicy red fruit but some fascinating herbal and savory elements even at a young age.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind.

2012 Château du Moulin-a-Vent Moulin-à-Vent - France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Moulin-à-Vent
Vibrant ruby color. Aromas of juicy red cherries and red plums, underlying notes of mushroom, fallen leaves and pepper. Palate shows crisp and brisk acidity on a bed of fine and dusty tannins. Tart but ripe cherries and plums, the fruit is clean and fresh and matched with notes of bay leaf, pepper, fallen leaves and sautéed mushrooms. Finishes clean and fresh. Some further near-term aging perhaps but this is vibrant and lip-smacking right out of the bottle. (88 points) 

2012 Château du Moulin-a-Vent Moulin-à-Vent La Rochelle - France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Moulin-à-Vent
Bright ruby color. Vibrant aromas of strawberries, red cherries and tart plums, along with roses, bay leaf, pepper, and dusty earth. Dusty tannic structure with crisp acidity and a bright, clean appeal. Tart red cherries, strawberries, red plums, the fruit is tangy and crunchy and shows complex elements of mushroom, soy, clay soil, dusty earth, black tea. Long and lingering. Delicious stuff, a bit more density than the regular level 2012, this should improve nicely over the next two to five years. (90 points) 

2011 Château du Moulin-a-Vent Moulin-à-Vent Champ de Cour - France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Moulin-à-Vent
Medium ruby color. Juicy dark cherries and fresh raspberries with rose petals and pepper on the nose. Fresh acid, dusty but dry tannins, great structure but really fresh, too. Crisp cherries, raspberries, but the fruit has excellent concentration and I get notes of violets, wet earth, graphite, iron. Long, lingering minerals and dark floral tones on the finish. Beautiful but plenty of time to improve in the cellar. (91 points) 

2011 Château du Moulin-a-Vent Moulin-à-Vent Croix des Vérillats - France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Moulin-à-Vent
Medium ruby color. Aromas are juicy with raspberries but dark with plums, mixed with rose petals and iron. Fresh acidity, such a vibrant wine, dusty but dry tannins, it combines to form a wine that’s pure, brisk but structured firmly. Rocky soil, graphite, iron and violets on top of juicy raspberry and cherry fruit. Wow, very pretty now but years of improvement to come. (91 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Crocker & Starr - Celebrating 20 Years of Awesome Napa Wine

Crocker & Starr - St. Helena Estate. Credit: Crocker & Starr
2016 marked the 20th vintage for Pam Starr under her Crocker & Starr Label. They just opened a new winery last year as well, so the future is looking bright for these delicious St. Helena wines.

The estate vineyard dates back to the late 1800s, but venture capitalist Charlie Crocker purchased the estate in the early 70s and began replanting Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon where Merlot, Riesling, and Zinfandel had put down roots. When the St. Helena AVA was approved in 1995, Charlie tapped the winemaking talent of Pam Starr, who was making wine at neighboring Spotteswoode, and this project was born.

Over the past two decades, the estate has grown to some 85 planted acres, mostly Bordeaux varieties. The team transitioned from conventional to organic farming, which Pam credits for providing a sense of “verve” to the wines. They held onto the best older Cabernet Sauvignon vines, but planted Cabernet Franc and other red varieties, and Sauvignon Blanc in some more clay-dominated soils.

I recently tasted four new releases from Crocker & Starr, all four of which are exciting, absolutely delicious, and age-worthy (even the Sauv Blanc would be cool with three or four years on it). I was really impressed with the flagship Stone Place Cabernet, but especially surprised by the depth and purity of the Malbec-dominated blend and their Cabernet Franc.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2015 Crocker & Starr Sauvignon Blanc - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $34
Medium yellow color. On the nose I get lemon/lime, green melon, guava, and a host of sliced jalapeno, white pepper, white tea and herbal spice notes. Bold texture on the palate, a creamy/waxy feel combines with bright acidity for a fresh balance. Yellow apple, lime, green melon, the juicy fruit is topped in honeycomb, white flowers, white pepper, some sea salt notes, too. Quite harmonious on the palate, and straight-up delish. Crocker Vineyard fruit blended with some from Las Trancas Vineyard in southern Napa. Fermented in a mix of stainless steel, new and used French oak, and concrete eggs, and aged eight months on the lees. (90 points)

2014 Crocker & Starr Cabernet Franc - California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
SRP: $80
Bright purple color. Beautiful dark but vibrant plum and currant fruit on the nose, along with sweet pipe tobacco, eucalyptus, pine forest and slight notes of vanilla and clove. Full-bodied and structured but maintains a fresh appeal and lively acidity. Juicy black currant and dark plum fruit is doused in charcoal, tobacco barn, black pepper glaze, along with vanilla, cedar and coffee mixed in nicely. Very pretty and silky despite a bold presence on the palate, this has plenty of time to open up in the cellar. From the Crocker Vineyard. Aged 20 months in 80% new French oak, includes a 1% shot of Petit Verdot. (91 points)

2014 Crocker & Starr Casali 7th Edition - California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
SRP: $80
Deep purple color. So dark and juicy on the nose, with plum cake and blackberry, also some cola, coffee, scorched earth and violet petals. Full and juicy on the palate but quite serious in its tannic grip, medium/low acidity. Great concentration of fruit (blackberries and dark plums), bold but also smooth. Notes of violets, charcoal, iron and coffee grounds with a loamy, mineral streak. Lots of fun, but a serious wine for the cellar. 92% Malbec, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot, aged 17 months in 55% new French oak. (91 points)

2014 Crocker & Starr Cabernet Sauvignon Stone Place - California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
SRP: $120
Deep purple color. Deep and dark on the nose but pops with liveliness as well, black currants and blackberries mixed with tobacco, menthol, rich dark soil, coffee, Full-bodied and saucy but structured tannins and moderate acidity keeps it balanced despite its boldness. Juicy blackberries, black cherries and currants, the fruit is ripe but zesty, with notes of eucalyptus, coffee, dark chocolate, loamy soil, graphite, rounded out with warm spice, roasted chestnut and vanilla. Beautiful now but should improve nicely over the next five to eight years. All Cabernet from 40-year-old vines, the wine is aged 19 months in 90% new French oak. (93 points)

This post first appeared in the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Explore Virginia Cider in RVA's Scott's Addition

American cider appears to be entering its heyday. Following a similar route of the American craft beer explosion, cideries are popping up all over the country. Distinguishing themselves from mass-produced and sometimes overly sweet ciders available at the grocery or corner store, a new generation of cider-makers is producing fruit-based booze with a modern twist.

Cider has been providing Americans crisp alcoholic beverages for centuries, but we’re in the middle of a 21st Century cider boom, and there’s a lot to be excited about. From herb-infused options to barrel-aged ciders, the range of styles and flavors is eye-opening. Virginia, home to some excellent old apple orchards, now claims 14 cideries. Recently, I tasted some ciders that offer Virginians some exciting examples of what’s going on in their corner of the cider world.

Blue Bee and Buskey are injecting new life into Richmond’s historic Scott’s Addition neighborhood, a hopping area with lots of foot traffic and thirsty people. Located a few blocks from each other, these two new operations are focused on sourcing Virginia apples and introducing cider to open-minded drinkers. Like craft breweries that have gained popularity in Central Virginia, these cideries seem driven by experimentation, which is great for drinkers looking for something unique.

Blue Bee is Virginia’s first urban cidery, and dedicated to bottling small batch ciders and providing a unique tasting room experience. It has operated out of a facility in Manchester for several years, but now boasts a lively tasting room and a host of cider and food events.

Buskey's Will Correll. Credit: Buskey Cider.
Buskey’s Will Correll cut his teeth home brewing, and won $10,000 in a competition, so he clearly has fermentation chops. He spent four years preparing a team and finding a spot, but all that hard work has paid off. Buskey became neighbors with Blue Bee when they opened their tasting room on W. Leigh S. It’s a draft-centered operation that hopes its apple-based pints will fit right in at bars around the region; they’re also looking to expand their retail reach as well.

The available ciders may change frequently, but here are my impressions of a few of these ciders. 

Blue Bee Cider Rocky Ridge Reserve 
Bright and fresh, creamy texture, crisp acid. Very pretty and dry, definitely gulpable. Delicious, expressive, so food-friendly. Aged in light toasted oak barrel (used for fruit brandy) then carbonated and bottled. 

Blue Bee Cider Aragon 1904 
A chalky and floral element to the juicy fruit. Slight nutty and honeyed sweetness, but balanced by fresh acidity. Delicious stuff, very impressive. 

Buskey RVA Cider
A lighter style with moderate acidity, touch of sweetness. Light-bodied and thirst-quenching. Fermented dry and then blended back with some apple juice for slight sweetness.

Buskey Belgian Candi Cider
Deep honey aromas, some richer apricot and orange marmalade. Juicy texture, lovely richness, but fresh acid. A bold, rich, toffee element to the juicy darker fruit flavors. Really exciting stuff.

Blue Bee
1320 Summit Ave.
Richmond, VA
Sunday-Friday: 1:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Saturday: 1:00 pm – 9:00 pm 

2910 W. Leigh St.
Richmond, VA
Wednesday: 3:00 – 9:00 pm
Thursday: 3:00 – 9:00 pm
Friday: 3:00 – 10:00 pm
Saturday: 12:00 – 10:00 pm
Sunday: 12:00 – 9:00 pm

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Grab Bag of California Wines

Near the turn of the year, I had a bunch of unrelated California wines left to taste, and none of them seemed to fit into a coherent category. So I threw them together for a grab bag tasting.

I’ve got a few from
Gamling & McDuck, a label with an off-the-wall aesthetic approach but seriously good juice in the bottle. We also take a look at some wines from Jamieson Ranch, which sources grapes from Napa, Sonoma, and beyond, and produces several brands at varied price points. Lastly, Chronic Cellars makes an appearance; these wines are a few steps up from some of the big brands that purvey those residual sugar-laden, generic California AVA wines. These are jammy, fun, un-structured wines for easy-drinking. Oh, and a 2013 Cardinale Cabernet — whoa.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. 

2015 Gamling & McDuck Chenin Blanc Mangel's Ranch - California, North Coast, Suisun Valley
SRP: $26
Pale yellow color. Gorgeous aromatics of dandelion, cut flower stems, honeysuckle, chalk dust, drizzled over lemon, apple and apricot. Medium-bodied, vibrant acidity keeps this wine so crisp but there’s a pleasant richness and lees-aging notes of waxiness to the texture as well. Green and yellow apples and lemons mix with chalk, minerals, honey, and notes of flowers and herbal tea. Beautiful stuff with a long, crisp, blissful finish. (90 points) 

2015 Reata Chardonnay - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $20
Light gold color. Smells of salted lemon, apricot, dandelion and honeysuckle. Creamy texture on the palate but lots of fresh acidity. The creamy pear, tart apple and apricot fruit is topped in toasted nuts, sea shells and honeysuckle. For $20, this Chardonnay brings a lot of freshness and depth. (87 points) 

2014 Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Chardonnay Light Horse - California
SRP: $15
Light gold color. Aromas of baked apple and pear, some salted nuts and honeysuckle. Juicy and plump on the palate but moderate acidity freshens it up, and I get flavors of yellow apples, apricots and baked pear, with some cinnamon, nuts and honeysuckle thrown in. For a $15 generic California AVA Chard, this has a lot of personality. (86 points) 

2014 Gamling & McDuck Cabernet Franc Pickberry Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Mountain
SRP: $36
Deep ruby color. Aromas of tar, violets and pepper on top of juicy black cherries, with some sweet clove, graphite and cherry wood thrown in. Medium-bodied, moderate tannic structure, fresh acidity, refreshingly balanced. Tart but so juicy with these black cherries and roasted plums, along with plenty of chewing tobacco, oregano, black pepper. Vibrant yet rich, structured but so easy to sip right out of the bottle. Delish! (90 points) 

2013 Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Pinot Noir Light Horse - California
SRP: $15
Medium ruby color. Aromas of juicy cherries and raspberries, sweet roses, cola and rhubarb. Soft tannins meet fresh acid on the palate with simple but pleasant cherries and strawberries, juicy appeal yet fresh. Notes of cola and rhubarb. Lacks that sweet baked fruit and fake character of a lot of generic California AVA Pinot Noirs, which is a good thing. Toss the Meomi, I’ll take a glass of this. (85 points) 

2014 Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Malbec Whiplash - California
SRP: $15
Light purple color. Aromas of sweet cherries, plum cake, cola, coffee, vanilla. On the palate, light tannins combine with medium acid and soft, juicy blueberry and candied cherry. Sweet and office party-friendly, but lacks personality and depth. (79 points) 

2015 Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Whiplash Red - California
SRP: $15
Juicy purple color. Aromas of jammy raspberries, cherries, sweet cola, vanilla and Swedish fish candy. Full-bodied, soft tannins, medium acidity, this is a jammy, simple wine with flavors of candied black and red fruit, Fig Newton cookies, cola and sweet coffee. (81 points)

2014 Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Double Lariat - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $55
Rich purple color. Smells dark and juicy with black cherries and plums, vanilla coffee, charcoal and dark chocolate. Full-bodied with velvety and approachable tannins, medium acidity. Juicy dark fruit (blackberry and black cherries), shows some tanginess, and the fruit is backed up by sweet coffee, vanilla, and some earthy charcoal notes. Plush and smooth yet shows some liveliness, and could likely improve for a few years. (87 points)

2013 Cardinale - California, Napa Valley
Credit: Cardinale.
SRP: $250
Gorgeous purple color. Intoxicating and deep aromas of rich black cherries and currants, sweet pipe tobacco, eucalyptus, violets, loamy soil – so much to unpack. The palate is full and structured marvelously but there’s freshness despite the density. The black currant and cherry fruit is pure, complex and delicious, smooth but maintains a tart edge. Crazy complex elements of cedar, tobacco, vanilla, crushed rocks, hot clay, loamy soil, menthol, cigar lounge and leather jacket. Wow. Cardinale is a stunner as always, but in 2013 they really killed it. This is fantastic, and has so much to show over the next five-to-ten years. 86% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Merlot aged 19 months in all new French oak. (96 points)

2015 Chronic Cellars Sofa King Bueno - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $20
Light purple color. Aromas of jammy rasberries, black cherries, red hot candies, sweet vanilla coffee and black pepper glaze. Full-bodied and chewy with easy-drinking tannins and medium/low acidity. The black cherries and raspberries and candied and jammy and topped with cola, coffee, pepper glaze. Simple, forward, fun if you like this style. A blend of 52% Syrah, 25% Grenache, 13% Petite Sirah, 7% Mourvedre. (85 points)

2015 Chronic Cellars Dead Nuts - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $24
Light purple color. On the nose: raspberries, juicy plums, smoke, cola, violets and chocolate. Full but smooth and velvety on the palate with medium/low acid and soft tannins. Candied cherries and raspberry jam mix with vanilla cola, pie filling and a note of sweet tobacco and earth. A bit sweet but tasty and probably a good office party kind of wine. 81% Zinfandel, 13% Tempranillp 6% Petite Sirah. (85 points) 

2015 Chronic Cellars Purple Paradise - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $15
Light purple. Smells like raspberry and strawberry jam, some peppery spice, sweet coffee and red licorice candy. Chewy texture on the palate, soft tannins, low acidity. “Purple” is right! I get jammy fruits and laffy taffy with coffee and some spicy, earthy notes underneath. Simple, sweet, fun. (85 points)

2015 Chronic Cellars Petite Sirah Suite Petite - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $15
Medium purple color. Aromas of sweet blackberries and plums, along with coffee, vanilla and chocolate shavings. Medium-bodied and juicy but shows hints of freshness. Dark and saucy black cherry and currant fruit, but shows some vibrancy, and I get notes of sweet clove, pepper, coffee grounds, earth. Unserious but seriously delicious. Less candied than the others in the lineup. Includes 15% Syrah. (86 points) 

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Fox's Shep Smith Goes on Epic Rant About How Champagne Only Comes from France

Champagne is one of the world's greatest wines because it comes from one of the world's greatest wine regions, Champagne. In France. 

Sparkling wine made via the Champagne method is just that, sparkling wine. Some producers from California, most notably the massive Korbel brand, insist on putting the word Champagne on their labels. This causes some French to get justifiably defensive. They want to protect their reputation and name. Putting Champagne on a label of a wine not from Champagne is illegal in France and most other countries, the same way you can't put Napa Valley on a wine that isn't from Napa Valley. 

Korbel has been selling "California Champagne" since the late 1800s, and they don't give a damn. During the President's recent Inaugural Lunch, the Members of Congress, the President, and other distinguished guests gathered for lunch in between the Inaugural Address and the Inaugural Parade. Most newscasters, stuck in a boring period of their full-day coverage, were left to pass time by chatting with talking heads and rambling.

Fox's Shepard Smith, however, took this time to analyze the lunch menu, including the wine selection: Korbel Natural Special Inaugural Cuvee California Champange. With no time constraints, Shep riffs and drops some truth on this "California Champagne" thing, which, he correctly points out, "doesn't exist." I watched this bit twice and knew I had to record it and share. It's that awesome

Many casual wine-drinkers are aware of this distinction between Champagne and sparkling wine, even if Champagne continues to be used in normal conversation as an interchangeable term for sparkling wine from anywhere. Incredible sparkling wines come from California; they're just not Champagne. 

But Korbel, in releasing a special cuvee for the Inauguration, and labeling it California Champagne, is proving how little they care about this distinction. After all, their brand is sustained by hawking mediocre bubbles and milking Champagne's reputation.