Diamonds in the rough: Cru Bourgeois 2014

Heterogeneous in quality, the sprawling cru bourgeois category from Bordeaux also can mean diamonds in the rough

(This is part 2 of a two-part article on affordable Bordeaux. For part 1, click here.)

22 January 2017

By Panos Kakaviatos for

I recently visited Washington D.C.-based fine wine importer/retailer Calvert Woodley. Owner Ed Sands said that shelf space for fine Bordeaux has shrunk significantly over the past 10 years as prices have skyrocketed upwards.

And even if many consumers have searched for alternative wines from outside Bordeaux, shelf space for value Bordeaux of quality has expanded, Sands said.

That could be because advances in better winemaking and viticulture have not only benefitted the great names like Latour, Montrose, Haut Brion, Palmer and more. Indeed, the overall quality of wine and winemaking has led to better quality as well for economically priced Bordeaux, such as the wines under the category known as cru bourgeois.

The cru bourgeois category in Bordeaux as it stands today counts some 250 estates. And many people have never heard of most of them. Furthermore, more famous brands – such as Poujeaux, Les Ormes de Pez, Haut Marbuzet, Chasse Spleen and others – disengaged from an earlier official “cru bourgeois” appellation definition, when a 2003 classification that had rated such great brands as “exceptional” was (rather stupidly) annulled at least in part because of typical Bordeaux infighting. Read More

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Port in the Winter

A snowstorm? Or just cold? Port is perfect!

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

20 January 2017

So far, Washington D.C. has not seen excessively cold weather. But I have seen photos and videos from colleagues and friends in Strasbourg, France, with plenty of snowfall. And more than likely, Washington D.C. should see some snow.

Port is great any time of year, but particularly pleasing in the winter. Whether an opulent and intense vintage port or a 10-year-old Tawny, Port can warm your spirits in the winter.

For more details on the various types of Port, I highly recommend this page.

With that in mind, here some notes from a great tasting late last year in Lisbon, on Saturday morning 26 November 2016, at the Instituto da Vinha e do Vinho.

Thanks to Adegga Wine Market‘s André Cid Proença and André Ribeirinho for the invitation to taste. I have had great pleasure to meet both before in various wine venues as members of the #winelover community.

The evening before at Lisbon’s Time Out Market eatery, I had met with Ribeirinho – who will be writing about Porto wines in the next edition of Hugh Johnson’s wine guide (bravo André, see video below from the tasting) – and Norwegian wine expert and #winelover pal Roger Kolbu.

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Haut Brion and Yquem verticals and so much more

Starting 2017 on the right foot

By Panos Kakaviatos for

6 January 2017

2017 already started with a wine bang, thanks to this dinner organized by Randy McFarlane. So consider this text a part 2 of sorts – and what a great tasting dinner this was, too.

Holiday dinner organizer par excellence, Ken Brown

Each January, Ken Brown organizes our annual holiday dinner, where participants bring two or three top wines. And at Ripple Restaurant, we had loads of great wines. It was all French, and “I like it like that,” Brown remarked. Given much fascination in recent years with wine regions outside of France, may we say that the Empire Strikes Back? With Krug, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne and Dom Perignon – by way of Hermitage, Haut Brion, grand cru Burgundy and Yquem – I think that we may.

In any case, for my return to Washington for the winter break, it was great to see fellow wine drinking buddies again here to kick off 2017. Thanks to Ken for organizing the dinner. In addition to Ken and myself, participants included Ken Barr, Chris Bublitz, Karl Kellar, Howard Cooper, David Ehrlich, Scot Hasselman, Paul Marquardt, Randy McFarlane and David Zimmerman. Read More

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Bordeaux bargains 2014

Part 1 – Tasting wines from the Grand Cercle de Vins de Bordeaux

(To go to Part 2, click here)

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

5 January 2017

Like most of you, when I cannot actually do so, I sometimes dream of enjoying Haut Brion, Latour, Petrus and Le Pin. Or Leoville Las Cases, Palmer or Ducru Beaucaillou. To take some examples of very pricey Bordeaux.

But most of us mere mortals cannot afford these treasures too often if at all. Sky-scraping price tags in recent years have far surpassed the intrinsic qualities in bottle.

Tasting through mostly 2014s of the Grand Cercle

I still buy (some) classified growths, because they can constitute relative bargains in a given vintage (2014 is a good, recent example), but I understand why people get bored with the dough… when it comes to Bordeaux.

Late last year, I had the pleasure of tasting through many fine – and thoroughly affordable – Bordeaux wines from the 2014 vintage that was recently bottled: both red and white. Two tastings revealed excellent wines, with modest price tags. Read More


Randy McFarlane’s feast of wine at 1789

Haut Brion, Climens, Dom Ruinart, Dauvissat, Barolo – and so much more

By Panos Kakaviatos for

4 January 2017

Leave it to Randy McFarlane to organize such a great event. I have known Randy and his wife Caroline for over 10 years now, and we get together annually on several occasions to drink and eat. Drink great wine, eat great food. Life is too short. Yes indeed.


A gorgeous private room and setting, thanks to Randy McFarlane (right side, third from the front) and wife Caroline (right side, second from the front).

And thanks to Randy, I re-discovered 1789: a traditional American restaurant which takes you back in time, with decor that seems 18th century like indeed. Read More

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