Wine glasses matter, but should not cause tunnel vision

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

2 September 2015

So, you are meeting with fellow wine friends, tasting through different wines. If you and your fellow oenophiles drink from the same type of glass, then you all have the same vantage point, correct?

So why the hell would you really need to pay $100 for an ultra fancy wine glass?

Or even $25?

Besides, it may be a good time to reject the most widely sold producer, Riedel.

That company is threatening legal action against a humorous blogger known as the Hosemaster of Wine for a post where the blogger pokes fun at the company’s owner Georg Riedel.

Talk about poor public relations. Read More

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Grand cru in all but name? Clos Saint Jacques

30 August 2015

By Panos Kakaviatos for

I’ve never had a disappointing Clos Saint Jacques. Then again, I have not tried that many. Why? The 6.7 hectares of vineyards in this highly touted Burgundian appellation are expensive – and with historical significance. Named for a stopping point on the pilgrim’s route to Santiago de Compostela (in French, Saint Jacques de Compostelle), the vineyard was once a prestigious monopole. The famous 1855 rating system for Burgundy terroirs, by Dr. Jules Lavalle, graded Clos Saint Jacques as first of the so-called premières cuvées.

By the time Burgundian terroirs were graded as we know them today as village, premier cru and grand cru, some vineyards with grand cru quality were not included as such, on occasion because then owners wished to avoid paying higher taxes associated with that higher grade. I am not sure why Clos Saint Jacques was not named grand cru. Could it be, as Jasper Morris MW posits in his lovely book, Inside Burgundy, that a former owner, the Count of Moucheron, did not wish to fill out the paperwork needed to formally obtain that status? The website of Armand Rousseau states that the count was a royalist and did not wish to be part of any such Republican ratings. Whatever the case may be, many critics over time and today say that the terroir/appellation of Clos Saint Jacques is grand cru in all but name. Read More


Yes, Napa reds can age very well (and more tales with Washington D.C. winos)

By Panos Kakaviatos for

8 August 2015

Back in Washington D.C. I flew in to see my mother who is going to have to undergo surgery. At 85 years of age, a delicate matter. It was great to be able to meet great friends from the Washington D.C. tasting group I have known now for over 10 years. The theme was Napa Valley reds – including some older ones – and white Burgundy, with a few other regions including, of course, Champagne to start. We were Ben Giliberti, former Washington Post wine writer and currently working for Calvert Woodley Importers and fellow D.C. -based winos and wine aficionados Ken Barr, Howard Cooper, Paul Marquardt, Ken Brown, Chris Bublitz, Randy McFarlane and myself.


Randy getting ready for some bubbles!

This tasting proved yet again how quality wine producers from the Napa Valley make wine that is built to age – as well as seductive early drinking wine. The white Burgundies we enjoyed were all delicious. Three clearly flawed bottles including a 2004 J-M Pillot Chassagne “Clos St Marc” that Paul brought, tainted by TCA. Ben brought a 1987 Burgundy that was also corked. Randy’s 1995 Spottswoode could not shake an excess of what seemed to be volatile acidity. But most of the bottles brought were great. Many thanks to dear wine friends for bringing in some of their drinkable treasures, which we drank with much pleasure! Always good to start with bubbles. Two NVs and one 2008, that shows the promise of that vintage! Read More

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“Sweet” is too simple: Appreciating late harvest wines

By Panos Kakaviatos for

9 July 2015

“Sweet” wine?

Some people shrug. Many who dislike “sweet” wines base their judgment on supermarket shelf stuff, the kind of wine that is merely sticky (and/or sweet), without vivaciousness from balancing acidity and/or intriguingly complex flavors and aromas from botrytis-derived spice.

Yet some of the world’s greatest wines are “sweet”. Most readers have heard of Yquem. And I am certain you have come across Klein Constancia Estate or Domaine Disznoko or Weingut Dr. Loosen. In fact great “sweet” wines can be found worldwide.

Why the quotation marks? Because that adjective diminishes the complexities of truly fine late harvest wine. At least for serious producers.

Yes, you can start with fabulous fungus

Also known as “noble rot” (pourriture noble in French, Edelfäule in German), botrytis tends to develop later in the harvest period, shriveling grapes, removing water and leaving behind concentrated fruit sugars, minerals and natural acids, yielding a more viscous juice. The fungus typically occurs when warm, dry and sunny conditions follow early morning humidity, generated from nearby lakes and rivers. Take for example the famous Ciron – a tributary of Bordeaux’s Garonne river – which has cooler waters than the Garonne.


Thanks to botrytis

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Haute Couture at Haut Bailly

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

30 June 2015

This is one of a series of articles on some superb lunches and dinners I was lucky enough to attend during the intense Vinexpo week in Bordeaux in June 2015. Keep checking my website for more Vinexpo highlights throughout July 2015! 

Dinner with Pingus, Le Pin, Bonneau du Martray, Quinta do Noval Nacional and Haut Bailly? And with the owners all present? Sure! Guests included winemakers, sommeliers, esteemed wine writers and others associated with the wine industry – from China and Europe to the U.S. and India. I had the pleasure of having Will Harlan of Harlan Estate seated across from me.


That’s Will Harlan of Harlan Estate and Bloomberg writer and wine author Elin McCoy being served Haut Bailly 2009

All in a thoroughly elegant setting.

Haut Bailly is a veritable cru classé de Graves of tremendous breed and refinement and the 17 June dinner ambiance reflected that style. Every two years – at Vinexpo – owner Robert G. Wilmers organizes a lovely dinner, preceded by a comprehensive vertical of at least the last 10 vintages. This year lucky participants tasted vintages from 2004 until 2014 from barrel and then – over dinner – enjoyed a superlative 2009 vintage and a very good 2000 vintage – with the aforementioned wines from around the world.


With master chef Alain Dutournier of Carré des Feuillants, who prepared a superb dinner for the superb wines!

The entire event, from A to Z, reflected the elegance and refinement of the wine. Following the vertical and servings of Pol Roger 2004 vintage Champagne, some 100 participants were enchanted by the superb culinary art of Alain Dutournier, chef of the famous Carré des Feuillants restaurant, who prepared a meal that was as savory as it was aesthetically appealing. Read More

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