Valentines Day Pity

Palate shame and pain in a blind tasting

By Panos Kakaviatos for

14 February 2018

Today is a day of love. I could use some humble pie.

A dear friend gathered some people over to his place the other evening for his birthday party and – as he had done two years ago – he organized a blind tasting of four bubblies.

He wanted to see how well a mass market Champagne could fare against a more upscale product – and this time added two non Champagnes in the mix.

He divided the guests into groups of four or five people who would take notes on each of the four wines served, which had been popped and poured before us (but all wrapped in aluminum foil).

The first two wines were evaluated. We then broke for some food. Then the next two wines.

Some people know that I write this wine blog. They were concerned that the group I was in would have an unfair advantage.

They had no need to be 😍…  Read More

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California Dreaming

Fine Cabernets from 1984

By Panos Kakaviatos for

11 February 2018

A few years back, I attended a symposium of Masters of Wine in Florence Italy. It was a fantastic gathering, and I learned many things about the world of wine.

One negative memory, however, also sticks in my mind: a California producer sponsoring a lunch and serving too many over-the-top BIG wines that still seem to define California. It did not help that they were served on a hot afternoon, but still.

Now, I am not a California wine expert by any means, having focused the vast majority of my wine tasting to France and other so-called Old World wine producing regions and countries. So, yes, I have some basic knowledge that reflects as well my upbringing in the U.S. – with childhood memories of Orson Welles flagging simplistic American wine in the 1970s for example, long before we even thought of evoking Cult Cabs that cost loads of cash.

Of course, those who appreciate fine wine know that California is capable of making wonderful reds of both balance and refinement. I have posted about this as well in the past. For example, take a look at this tasting from 2015.

The famous “Judgment Of Paris” confirmed that back in 1976, when French judges deemed California wines better than their French counterparts. And not just any counterparts, but wines like Château Mouton Rothschild and Montrose, among others. Read More

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Château Franc Mayne sold

By Panos Kakaviatos for

31 January 2018

Jean-Pierre Savare his family yesterday bought an excellent grand cru classé of Saint-Emilion, which has been known not only for making savory wines, but also for its marvelous bed and breakfast accommodations just near the centre of the most charming town in Bordeaux.

Griet Van Malderen was the owner since 2005. Savare, a Parisian businessman and winemaker pronounced having a “real crush” for Château Franc-Mayne, and in a press release said that he was “seduced” by the “consistency” of the property: a vineyard of seven hectares, located on both the plateau of Saint-Emilion and the slope below, just near Châteaux Beau-Séjour Bécot and Grand Mayne. He also said that he appreciates its wine tourism aspects.

Cellars at Franc-Mayne. Crédit photo: DR

Martine Cazeneuve is taking over Château Franc Mayne’s management. Read More

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Fine wine fireworks

Happen once a year

From a magnificent Salon 1996 to a surprisingly great Latour 1967 – in a vertical of the first growth – by way of Yquem 83, we had a fabulous time.

By Panos Kakaviatos for

31 January 2018

Once again Ken Brown succeeded in organizing a most memorable holiday dinner for a group of great wine loving friends in the Washington D.C. area.

Each of us brought wine and the overall effect of the evening was (far) greater than the sum of the wines brought. It was quite important to spit, because there were quite a few bottles, divided into 8 flights.

From left to right: me with the MacBookPro laptop, David, Ken Barr, Scot, Ken Brown, Karl, Paul, Chris, Howard and Charles.

Many thanks to Karl, Randy, Howard, Charles, Ken Barr, Ken Brown, Paul, Scot, Chris and David for bringing so many fantastic wines for one dinner sitting in late January.

Tasting notes: As usual, if in bold, I like in particular. If red and bold, even more. If underlined, too, a veritable wine nirvana.

Flight One: Apart from one faulty bottle, a great series of bubbles

  • 1996 Krug Champagne Vintage Brut – France, Champagne
    The color looks evolved. It is fine enough, but over evolved. Somewhat nutty. Proof positive that there are great bottles more than great wines. It gets better in glass, and there is a core of energy, impressive, but a far cry from the magnum I had had earlier this month, which earned 100 points. This just seems either premoxed. Or just faulty. NR (flawed)
  • 1996 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Les Clos Saint-Hilaire – France, Champagne
    Wow! Really crisp and pure, lovely freshness, the color is far healthier than the Krug 1996, but let us get beyond comparing a faulty bottle with a healthy one. Apple and citron, precise. Delicious. Very fresh, and the best Billecart Salmon I can recall ever enjoying. Including their rosé bubblies. Thanks to David Zimmerman for this. Rivals the Salon 1996 – coming later – for precision, even if it cannot match it for density. (95 pts.)
  • 2004 Pol Roger Champagne Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill – France, Champagne
    Not as nuanced or as interesting as the Billecart Salmon. Well, not yet? It is tightly wound up. It is too young methinks. There is lime and lemon. Over time, it develops brioche notes. But the palate is not as consequential to be sure as the Salon and not as fascinating as the Billecart Salmon, for now. Still a very elegant expression, finesse in the bubbles and texture, but give it time if you have any in your cellar. (93 pts.)

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Bordeaux 2015 from bottle, part 3

Better whites than expected from the Graves region

By Panos Kakaviatos for

UPDATED 30 January 2018

It is always fun to review the wines of the Graves in Bordeaux because they are known just as much for whites as they are (these days) for reds. Furthermore, red Graves – dominated for the most part by Cabernet Sauvignon – tend to be more supple than the Left Bank wines of the Médoc further north. And of course, the Graves region is the oldest of Bordeaux: wine was being made there when the Médoc was still a swamp.

Tasting recently bottled 2015 AOC Graves wines – primarily from Pessac-Léognan – I was thinking that the whites would not be as good as the reds, given the nature of the vintage.

But based on wines tasted at the UGCB, on the first stop in Washington D.C. of their annual multi city U.S. whistle stop tour (and, in this update, including wines tasted in New York City also in January 2018), the mixed bag was not so much whites being not as good as reds, but somewhat varying quality throughout.

Don’t get me wrong. Most UGCB members are making darn good wines these days – they don’t call it the Union of Grands Crus for nothing – and in a high quality vintage like 2015, one expects (very) good things. And, yes, broadly speaking, the reds were better, but I was surprised how some whites performed as well as they did… and how some reds did not measure up to vintage hype.

It is clear that making white wine was more challenging in 2015, as Olivier Bernard, owner of Domaine de Chevalier, explains in the video below.

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