Archive for May, 2017

Ask Sid: How do I get a Vintage Card?

May 24th, 2017
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IW&FS vintage card chart wine

Question: I have a friend who was using his vintage wine card to make a wine purchase and I found it to be a valuable tool. Is there any way I can order one for myself?

Answer: Yes thanks for this opportunity to promote it. Founded in 1933 by Andre Simon the annual Vintage Card & Chart is a “valuable tool” using 7 as the highest score with helpful guides on current drinkability. A lot of research and yearly reviews by the Wines Committee and Consultants goes into making it a reliable general guide to wine vintages by wine producing regions around the world. It is widely reproduced in diaries and other publications but to order one contact IWFS at 4 St. James’s Square London SW1Y 4JU, UK or email

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Riesling & Spatburgunder are Stars in the Pfalz!

May 22nd, 2017

Riesling & Spatburgunder are Stars in the Pfalz!

Impressed with the Riesling and Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) on my trip to the Pfalz this month. This region has the largest area in the world planted in Riesling and they are producing superb wines from this variety. Really impressed with the dedicated focus on terroir and the resulting Riesling definition in the wine depends on the soil where it is grown. Generally slate soil shows elegant minerals, sandstone (yellow & red) gives more apricot fruit flavours, and clay results in a more citric character. However there are still issues because the hot 2015 vintage has resulted in some dry Trocken at a tiring 15 degrees of alcohol lacking the usual wonderful freshness and vibrancy they usually do so well. Spatburgunder is thriving with global warming especially on limestone soils but is still only just over 7% of the vineyard area (there is 3 times that amount planted in Baden) well behind the dominant easy drinking red Dornfelder. Highly endorse the delicate round complex pinot noirs from Weingut Friedrich Becker ( now into their 6th generation. The winery is in the south Pfalz at the French border with a key unique 50 year old vineyard planted in 1967 with Swiss clones which actually is still in France! This results in some labelling and legal issues which I won’t get into here.

During my trip I was able to attend the annual Pfalzer Lagen Art held at historic Hambach Castle with the opportunity to taste some 400+ wines from 89 producers. Lots of worthy wineries showing some excellent wines so here are just 20 of them that impressed me in the order I tried them:

KNIPSER: 2015 Mandelpfad Riesling GG (VDP. Grosse Gewachs); 2012 Kirschgarten Spatburgunder GG

PHILIPP KUHN: 2015 Schwarzer Herrgott Riesling GG

FRITZ-RITTER: 2015 Herrenberg Riesling GG

PFEFFINGEN: 2 Riesling 2015 GG – Herrenberg & Weilberg

PFLUGER: 2014 Durkheimer Fronhof Spatburgunder “R” – Balanced big cherries with lots of richness!

DR. BURKLIN-WOLF: 2 Riesling 2015 with 100% barrel fermentation – minerally Ruppertsberger Hoheburg & more peachy on sandstone soil of Wachenheimer Goldbachel

GEORG MOSBACHER: 2015 Ungeheuer Riesling GG

HEINRICH SPINDLER: 2015 Forster Ungeheuer Riesling Auslese

DR. BASSERMANN-JORDAN: Do 90% Riesling – 2016 Deidesheimer Kieselberg Riesling

VON BUHL: Good wines from Deidesheim including apple aromas of Sparkling Riesling

GEORG SIBEN ERBEN: 2014 Langenmorgen Riesling GG

VON WINNING: Winemaker Andreas Hutwohl likes screwcap for up to 5 year consumption & uses cork for his Grand Cru. Good 2016 Rieslings.

A.CHRISTMANN: Delicious maturing 2013 Reiterpfad Riesling GG but sold out.

MULLER-CATOIR: Family owned since 1744 with historic Manor House in Haardt built in 18th century using 100% own vineyards for refined wines by owner Philipp David Catoir & Winemaker Martin Franzen. Interesting to taste the difference between 2 Haardter Riesling 2016 –  one from Burgergarten yellow sandstone with layers of clay & loess against Herrenletten sandy soil with layers of limestone & marly clay.

BERGDOLT KLOSTERGUT ST. LAMPRECHT: Lovely Kalkberg Spatburgunder 2013 GG

THEO MINGES: Impressive GG 2015s Weissburgunder & Riesling (but 14.5 a bit hot)

OKONOMIERAT REBHOLZ: Talented experienced winemaker Hans Jorg Rebholz has a wonderful portfolio of wines. Great 2015 Ganz Horn Im Sonnenschein Riesling GG at 12.5 very fresh with petrol. Making superb Spatburgunder on only limestone soils.

GIES-DUPPEL: Young dynamic Volker Gies in Birkweiler is looking for freshness in a modern German style. 2 years on yeast for 2104 Weissburgunder (70%) & Chardonnay (30%) blend at reasonable 13.50 euros. Juicy cherries in 2014 Ilbesheimer Kalmit Spatburgunder.

SIEGRIST: Top quality with 2015 Sonnenberg Riesling GG (24 euros) & marinated sweet cherries of 2012 Kalmit Pinot Noir GG at 14 alcohol is delicious (35 euros)!

FRIEDRICH BECKER: Admire everything this amazing Schweigen winery does. The 2 Spatburgunder 2013 they showed were both so balanced elegant and complex. Winners with both bigger style from limestone clay of Rechtenbacher Herrenwingert & more delicate ethereal Schweigener Steinwingert.

Have you tried any of these exciting wines from the emerging Pfalz region of Germany? If not you should!

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10 Essential Dishes for the Perfect Picnic

May 20th, 2017

10 essential dishes for the perfect picnic

By Joseph Temple

Now that the nice weather is here and summer just around the corner, we all want to spend more time in the great outdoors.  And one of the nicest ways to spend a lovely day in the warm sun and cool breeze is with a fabulous picnic.  So here are some new and classic ideas for your next outing.

Chickpea Salad
1. Chickpea Salad

Potato Salad
2. Potato Salad

Deviled Eggs
3. Deviled Eggs

4. Sandwiches

Fried Chicken
5. Fried Chicken

Pasta Salad
6. Pasta Salad

7. Lemonade

8. BBQ Skewers

Chickpea Salad
9. Charcuterie

Keylime Pie
10. Key Lime Pie

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Ask Sid: Rare Cognac Fraud?

May 17th, 2017
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rare wine fraud possible wine fraud

Question: I have a bottle of Cognac Grande Fine Champagne 1811 Reserve Impeatrice Josephine. I am trying to find out a value. The cork is intact, no damage or leakage. Thank you I am attaching some photos.

Answer: This is supposed to be a rare valuable bottle. I was asked this very same question and on Ask Sid October 28, 2015 answered “$7000” based on a Christie’s auction history. Last year someone asked me the same question again and now you have raised it. Suddenly I am becoming slightly suspicious of the possibility of cognac fraud. How many bottles of this cognac are out there, where are these old bottles coming from and how valuable are they really? Has anyone tasted the contents? Is your bottle authentic and what is the provenance? Your photo is encouraging because it shows “State of Illinois Series H 1937” on the bottle. However, you need to investigate and provide more details on when and where you acquired it, the bottling date and the like. Suggest you get an Auction House to do a more thorough inspection of your bottle and give you a definitive range of value.

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German Wine Tour in the Pfalz + VDP Classification of Vineyards

May 15th, 2017

German Wine Tour in the Pfalz + VDP Classification of Vineyards
“Rhineland-Palatinate” by Wolfgang Staudt CC BY 2.0

Just returned from last week spent in the Pfalz region of Germany on a very informative media wine tour organized by Wines of Germany. Impressed by the wines, the scenic countryside, the friendly locals, and lots of fresh spargel (white asparagus). The Pfalz name is derived from the Latin word “palatium” for palace which often in English is referred to as the Palatinate. The wine region runs for almost 50 miles from the north by Rheinhessen to the south at the French border along Germany’s oldest wine road established in 1935 as Deutsche Weinstrasse. Leading all plantings with 25% is some excellent Riesling (world’s largest planted region of it), popular Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) as well as Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) & Muller-Thurgau, and reds ever increasing (now up to 36%) helped by global warming led by the surprising quality of Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) plus Dornfelder & Blauer Portugieser. Diverse soils with prevalent loam, sandstone, limestone, clay, sand, loess, granite and schist together with the slopes, micro-climates & yields is resulting in a great focused emphasis on the terroir of individual vineyards! Important to know that there are many growers (around 3000 – many of whom are part time) in the Pfalz and 50% of them are members of wine cooperatives. On the other side wines from the small private estates show a more impressive focus on the quality of their specific vineyards. More next week on some specific wineries in the Pfalz and some wines that are highly recommended.

One factor that really struck me this trip was the strong ever increasing influence of “terroir” and the VDP (Association of German Pradikat Wine Estates) that includes just under 200 invited member wineries that goes back to 1910 followed in 1926 by their VDP eagle design for best sites. In 2012 they implemented a four tier classification of vineyards linked closely to “terroir” ranking by origin & quality of a wine based on history, soil geology, slope, and distinctiveness among other assessed factors. This helps to market their ever increasing dry wines as well as the classic Pradikats reserved for wines with natural ripe sweet styling. Stated to be only binding for the VDP members it is now receiving such an increased intense following by everyone studying quality German wines to try to determine Germany’s best vineyard sites and those best wines from a specific vintage year. Their pyramid of 4 levels starting at the top are:

1. GROSSE LAGE  “The peak of the pyramid”. Best sites planted with traditional grape varieties of reduced yields of maximum 50 hl/ha as determined by each region for exceptional aging potential. In Pfalz this includes Riesling, Weissburgunder & Spatburgunder. (Note: In Mosel-Saar-Ruwer & Nahe it is only Riesling while Rheingau & Rheinhessen both include Riesling plus Spatburgunder). Best wines receive VDP.GROSSE GEWACHS for whites on September 1 of the year following the vintage harvest & reds on September 1 two years after (having spent at least 12 months aging in oak casks).

2. ERSTE LAGE “First Class” Yields increased up to 60 hl/ha and wider permissible grapes. In Pfalz includes Grauburgunder, Chardonnay; and exclusively for wines with some residual sweetness: Scheurebe, Gewurztraminer and Muskateller.

3. ORTSWEIN or village wines “Sourced from Superior Soils” with yields up to 75 hl/ha.

4. GUTSWEIN or regional wines “Good from the Ground Up” are entry level wines also with a maximum of 75 hl/ha.

Be sure to check out these important classifications on your new German wine purchases!

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