No crystal balls: assessing prenatal 2014 Burgundy

16 November 2014

By Panos Kakaviatos for

I always enjoy tasting the pre natal wines of the Hospices de Beaune with Michael Apstein, M.D., who is a frequent contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle, a wine educator for more than 20 years, a freelance contributor to many national magazines, James Beard Award winner for wine writing, former wine columnist for the Boston Globe, and a judge for numerous national and international wine competitions.


Tasting with Michael Apstein

For the third year in a row he provided measured and methodical comments on the pre malolactic fermentation Burgs, some with CO2, with others cloudier than a milkshake (OK, that is a bit of exaggeration). Also present was Amanda Regan, who provides no less valuable advice on how to taste these wines. I must say that after five years of tasting at this time period, I am getting a sense of how to evaluate them. No crystal balls, but a sense of where we are going with Burgundy 2014.

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Burgundy’s world famous auction kicks off

15 November 2014

By Panos Kakaviatos for Wine-Chronicles.Com

November in Burgundy is known for Beaujolais Nouveau and the Hospices de Beaune wine auction.

The latter is more interesting.

This year’s auction takes place in the midst of absurd prices for top Burgundies, so we should not be surprised if another sales record is broken. As I reported last year for, last year’s Hospices de Beaune auction proved to be the biggest sale in the books – despite 2013 being a troubled and small harvest.

Some 150 journalists including your humble writer have traveled to Beaune from around the world to cover this event – which Christie’s estimates to include about 800 bidders, including a percentage online, from Hong Kong to London. Many bidders will be packed in the Beaune auction house for the ambiance.

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Cru Bourgeois, if bored with the dough


Readers take note: The fact that I have a full time job unrelated to wine permitted me to co present these wines without any payment – from either the cru bourgeois producers or from the DWCC. My interest and passion for these wines is not influenced in any way by commercial interests. 

By Panos Kakaviatos for

1 November 2014

The theme for this year’s master classes at the Digital Wine Communications Conference in Montreux, Switzerland was rare and unusual.

So when I suggested a tasting of cru bourgeois Bordeaux – whose producers release hundreds of thousands of bottles per year – it seemed counter intuitive.

Or was it?

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Alsace’s “classic” harvest in 2014

Seems to favor fresh styled dry wines, and could be great for crémant

By Panos Kakaviatos in Strasbourg

2014 looks to be a “classic vintage” with high acidities and good ripening especially for Riesling and Pinot Blanc, reported Olivier Humbrecht of Zind Humbrecht in Turckheim, who finished harvesting in late September at his precocious vineyards.

A fresh and cool August helped maintain acidity as in 2007, Humbrecht remarked.

While June and July were hot, August was fresh and rainy and thus good for maintaining acidity, but it also meant that sensitive grapes like Gewurztraminer had more difficulty to deal with botrytis, he explained.

In Rouffach at Domaine Muré, Thomas Muré on 3 October echoed Humbrecht’s assessment. He reported fine ripeness and freshness for Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Sylvaner with lower than average potential alcohol, which he prefers. The domain’s celebrated Riesling Clos Saint Landelin will be about 12.5% and not at 13.5% he said.

Readers may think that “classic” is code for mediocre, but that is not what I mean in this text. From what I have heard, the vintage could result in fresh and pure Riesling, which sounds good to me. It is said in Alsace that Riesling likes its feet in the water and head in the sun. Sounds like 2014 to me. On the other hand there were challenges, so read on …

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Salt of the earth: discovering Portuguese culinary ease

18 September 2014

By Panos Kakaviatos for

I’m drinking 20-year-old Tawny Port and smoking a just decent enough Cuban as I write this after dinner feeling like worn out nobility. But I bought the bottle at the Lisbon airport before leaving Portugal and was truly impressed by the choice of Ports – and dry wines – that flyers could take home with them. I could have picked something more interesting like a Colheita but I was not sure about the 1999 or 2005 vintages available, so a 20 year old Graham’s proved to be a sure fire success. And I was in the mood for Tawny.


And why not?

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