Archive for May, 2015

Marques de Caceres

May 18th, 2015

Do you know the difference in Rioja among crianza, reserva, and gran reserva?

Do you know the difference in Rioja among crianza, reserva, and gran reserva? At a recent tasting producer Marques de Caceres founded in 1970 by Enrique Forner certainly showed wines displaying these levels with both vineyard age and yields being important keys.

CRIANZA:   Consistent vintage year (presently 2011) best seller in USA 85% tempranillo, 10% spicy garnacha, & 5% graciano aged 12 months in new and used oak French (60%) & American (40%) shows good freshness.

RESERVA:  Better vintages (currently 2008) using same grape mix of older 30 year vines with lower yields (30hl/ha) aged 22 months French oak (1/3 new) displays more concentration & elegance.

GRAN RESERVA: Same grape mix but slightly more natural acidity of graciano (7%) best years (currently 2005) oldest vines and lowest yields aged 26 months in French oak (1/2 new) shows fruit depth with ripe prunes complexity.

Also have a structured GAUDIUM ( “joys of the senses ” in Latin – not the famous Spanish architect Gaudi) GRAN VINO in 2009 (10th one, first one 94) limited production of 94 new French oak barrels (28,200 bottles) 18-20 months where the malolactic fermentation takes place from 95% tempranillo & 5% graciano from 6 special parcels of very old vines with one 1.5 hectare plot pre-phylloxera over 120 years (average 70+) & low yields (18hl/ha) results in more tannins for cellar aging potential.

Appreciated as well the good value of both their fragrant white 100% verdejo (harvested at night in Rueda when temperatures are cooler to intensify their mineral attributes) first own vineyards vintage 2014 but from vines 30-40 years old and fresh flowers Rosado (Rose) from 96% tempranillo & 4% garnacha.

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10 interesting facts about the Argentine wine industry

May 15th, 2015

Argentina wines

By Joseph Temple

Twenty years ago, few people living outside the borders of Argentina knew about its local wine industry.  Today, exports are at nearly a billion dollars per year, fueled largely by its world-famous Malbec grapes and a cost-friendly price tag (although this may be changing soon).  With Argentine wines being sold across the globe, it’s hard to imagine that at one time, the nation’s growers gave little thought to exports.  Of course, with a per capita consumption of twenty-one gallons per year – one of the highest in the world – satisfying their own people’s thirsty palates took top priority.  But with increased foreign investment, Argentina began aggressively looking at markets beyond South America.  And although the country has become synonymous with Malbec, other varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sangiovese are being cultivated near the Andes, where the melted snow from the mountain tops is used to nourish the land through an impressive irrigation system.  So for this week, have a look at ten interesting facts about the Argentine wine industry.

Argentine wine production
By Rod Waddington from Kergunyah, Australia [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

1. Argentina is the number one producer of wine in South America
and the world’s sixth-largest producer.

the history of Argentine wine

2. Wine grapes have been grown in Argentina since at least the mid-16th century.

Argentina grows more Malbec grapes than any other country
By Fred von Lohmann from san francisco (Wine Tasting: Malbec) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

3. More Malbec is grown in Argentina than anywhere else in the world.

Argentina's vineyards have the highest altitudes
By Emilia Garassino [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

4. Most of the nation’s wine regions are located in the west central part of the country near the foothills of the Andes Mountains. With elevations
up to 4,900 feet above sea level, some of these vineyards have the highest altitudes in the entire world.

Labor and land costs for producing wine in Argentina
By Fabio Ingrosso (Flickr: Francois Lurton, vigneti in Argentina) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

5. In Argentina, the land and labor costs are roughly $30,000 per acre. In comparison, the same costs per acre in the Napa Valley are $300,000.

Argentina's Mendoza wine region
By European citizen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

6. Mendoza is the largest and most successful region for viticulture in Argentina. Located east of the Andes, it accounts for 70% of the country’s wine production and is the sixth-largest producer of grapes in the entire world.

Argentina railroad wine

7. With completion of the Mendoza-Buenos Aires railroad in 1882, the region became vital in supplying Argentina’s political and financial capital with agricultural products—including wine.

Argentina's domestic wine industry
By Tjeerd Wiersma (Flickr: Argentinie 123) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

8. Up until the mid-1990s, Argentina’s wine industry almost exclusively focused on domestic consumption, producing mostly inexpensive wines that were blends from many different grapes.

Hyperinflation in Argentina and its effect on the wine industry

9. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Argentina experienced hyperinflation at approximately 1,000 percent a year. With price controls placed on wine during this time, many growers shifted away from grape production.

Inflation and its effect on wine in Argentina
By Juan Pelizzatti (Bodegas Chakana) [CC BY 3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

10. Those who stuck with growing wine grapes were given financial incentives to destroy older and traditional varieties in favor of high-yield and inferior varieties designed for domestic consumption.


Catena, Laura. Vino Argentino: An Insider’s Guide to the Wines and Wine Country of Argentina. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2011.
Koplan, Steven, Smith, Brian H. and Weiss, Michael. Winewise: Your Complete Guide to Understanding, Selecting, and Enjoying Wine. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.
Luongo, Michael, Mroue, Haas and Schreck, Kristina. Frommer’s Argentina and Chile. Hoboken: Wiley Publishing Inc., 2005.
MacNeil, Karen. The Wine Bible. New York: Workman Publishing Company, 2000.
McCarthy, Ed and Ewing-Mulligan, Mary. Wine For Dummies. Hoboken: Wiley Publishing Inc., 2012.
Nowak, Barbara and Wichman, Beverly. The Everything Wine Book: From Chardonnay to Zinfandel, All You Need to Make the Perfect Choice. Avon: Adams Media, 2005.
Parker, Robert M. Parker’s Wine Bargains: The World’s Best Wine Values Under $25. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009.

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Ask Sid: 2003 Bordeaux

May 13th, 2015
Ask your question here The International Wine & Food Society

How good is 2003 Bordeaux?

Question: I drink mainly New World wines. Just received an inheritance of some red Bordeaux mostly from the 2003 vintage including a case of Chateau Duhart Milon. Any guidance?

Answer: 2003 Bordeaux have some of the characteristics of the riper New World regions because of the heat wave experienced that year so you should enjoy them. Many were made from quite ripe grapes with lower acidity resulting in more forwardly drinking wines. In any event they are over 10 years of age and can be consumed now in that softer style. You have a real treasure in the Duhart a 4th Growth from Pauillac in the 1855 Classification but  much improved under the Lafite Rothschild management. Their replanted vineyards from the 1960s are mature and thriving. I bought this 2003 on futures at what turned out to be a bargain price as every bottle I open is better still and no rush to drink up. Low yields of just over 30hl/ha for the blend of 73% cabernet sauvignon & 27% merlot show that typical cedar cigar box complex bouquet with rich full balanced flavours. A special treat. Lucky you as this is definitely one of the stars of the 2003 vintage!

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Chianti Classico Gran Selezione

May 11th, 2015

Chianti Classico DOCG
By Arnaud 25 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

DOCG Chianti Classico (CC) includes Italian vineyards between Florence & Siena of Castellina, Gaiole, Greve, and Radda and parts of 5 other surrounding communities.  CC was exported in 2014 to more than 60 countries led  by USA 31%, Italy 18%, Germany 12% and Canada 10%. There is now a new classification for Chianti Classico above Riserva (CCR) called Gran Selezione (GS) which requires the use of only grapes harvested from a winery’s own vineyards. The Consorzio led by Sergio Zingarelli of Rocca delle Macie have been on a North American tour explaining this new system and conducting formal tasting of the wines. More details on the classification with a useful chart can be found here. Interesting to note that the maximum yields for CC, CCR and GS are the same at 7.5 tons/hectare (or 3.35 T/acre) yet different minimum alcohol, maturation, and characteristics prevail:

CC:      Minimums: Alcohol 12  Maturation 12 Months “Young Full of fruit, Pleasant, Appealing and Very Drinkable”

CCR:   Minimums: Alcohol 12.5 Maturation 24 Months “Bigger Structure & Greater Aging Potential than the Year’s Vintage CC”

GS:     Minimums: Alcohol 13 Maturation 30 Months (no stipulation on minimum barrel aging at all) “Perfect Balance between Elegance & Potency, Careful Grape Selection in Finest Years Ensures Great Structure & Equally Great Aging Potential”

The seminar dwelt on GS finesse, refinement and the sensorial characteristics of the Sangiovese Variety “Signature” showing great structure, balance and harmony, depth of flavour, aromatic spicy persistent complexity with the immediacy of the fruit on the palate and the nuances to age. Yet the wines varied widely in style from a very oaky Castello di Gabbiano to 20% merlot added in the Principe Corsini-Villa Le Corti. Still questions are raised about no production volume maximums where large landowners are blending big lots from various regions while smaller producers are only making 2400 bottles (200 cases) or less. GS doesn’t help you understand the different vineyards and regions of CC but is more selection orientated rather than a terroir driven classification. Certification is obtained based on “chemical-physical tests conducted by authorized laboratories and approval of the wine’s organoleptic characteristics by special tasting committees”. Ripeness seems to be important factor as most GS wines were around 14.5 alcohol. Prices vary greatly too from around $35 (Bibbiano) to just under $200 (2010 Felsina Colonia). Nevertheless there are some excellent GS wines arriving in the marketplace that are worth exploring. Check them out.

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The Oyster Bay atmosphere: Wining and Dining in TR’s White House

May 8th, 2015

Theodore Roosevelt food wine drink
By Joseph Temple

While most presidents get the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue after winning an election, others are thrust into this top spot due to extraordinary circumstances.  One such occurrence happened when President William McKinley was assassinated in Buffalo, New York. With this horrific event, Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt, the “Hero of San Juan Hill” instantly became America’s new commander-in-chief.  “That damned cowboy” as one Republican senator infamously called him was heading back to Washington DC and upon his return, the country’s most prominent residence was about to change drastically.  That’s because TR, the legendary Rough Rider would not only remake the presidency—he would also remake the house that enhanced its power.

Vowing to bring an “Oyster Bay atmosphere” to this nineteenth century home, many alterations would be made during TR’s time in office, including the building’s name, which was known prior to 1901 as the “Executive Mansion.” Inspired by the paint color used to cover up the damage done by British soldiers during the War of 1812, Roosevelt re-christened it “The White House,” signaling the start of a new American century.  For the next seven and a half years, numerous additions from the West Wing to a tennis court were built at a feverish pace.  But arguably the most important renovation occurred where the first family ate, drank and entertained others.

Jackie Kennedy’s 1962 White House Tour Documentary.  At 21:08,
she discusses the Roosevelt renovation of the State Dining Room.

After noticing that the State Dining Room could only fit around sixty visitors, TR’s wife Edith demanded that something be done about the lack of space.  To accommodate all the guests expected to dine with the Roosevelt’s, the room had to be expanded to house over 100 occupants, a task that required removing both its northern wall and a neighboring staircase.  Unfortunately, the wall held up a sizable portion of the house’s west side and over time, its elimination along with numerous instances of architectural malpractice had essentially turned 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue into a giant piece of Swiss cheese.  The situation was so dire that by 1948, a massive three-year reconstruction began to repair a building whose foundation was on the verge of collapse.

During Roosevelt’s time, the greatest worry wasn’t support beams or wall studs but big furry rodents who had complete rule of the mansion.  Since the late 19th century, rat infestation inside the White House had been an ongoing nuisance.  According to historian Deborah Davis, “when they were hungry, they were fearless. If the cook turned her back on a chicken or a roast she was preparing for the President’s dinner, a wily team of rats raced out and dragged it away.”  And it wasn’t exclusive to the kitchen either.   Throughout his presidency, TR and his sons had to frequently get up from the dining room table in order to chase off the rats that were trying to steal their food.  It was a problem that despite the many efforts to combat it, continued to plague the house right up until the Truman administration.

Looking at what TR ate during this time, one can definitely see the influence of Martha Roosevelt, his socialite mother born south of the Mason-Dixon line.  According to the diary of military aide Archibald Butt, the president’s secret recipe for fried chicken was sure to make your mouth water:

“I forgot to mention the fact that the fried chicken was covered with white gravy, and oh, so good!  The President said that his mother had always said it was the only way to serve fried chicken; that it gave the gravy time to soak into the meat, and that if the gravy was served separately he never took it.”

In addition to this memorable dish, White House Chef Annie O’Rourke was famous for preparing another classic Southern combo of hominy mixed with gravy, which could sometimes be seen on TR’s plate for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Topping that off were sweet potatoes, fiddlehead ferns and wild lettuce all picked from the gardens at Roosevelt’s home in Sagamore Hill—an entire century before the whole farm-to-table movement!

 trkitchen2  White House Kitchen early 20th century

Photo of the White House Kitchen, circa 1901-1908. Courtesy: Library of Congress. (Click to enlarge both)

Washing down all this delicious Southern fare, the president often ordered his favorite drink– a Mint Julep ala Roosevelt.  Using fresh mint grown on the White House grounds, TR added rye whiskey instead of bourbon and topped it off with a splash of brandy, making it the perfect libation after a grueling game of tennis in the hot sun.  When not court-side however, the president usually abstained from cocktails, confining himself to a glass of white wine.

Writing back in 1878 that wine “makes me awfully fighty,”  Roosevelt usually drank in moderation.  But that didn’t stop him from letting others think that alcohol had let his guard down.  Always having a bottle of wine and sherry at the table whenever his guests arrived for dinner, the president had a valet pour his glass to the top with crushed ice and only a small amount of actual wine.  While others thought he was keeping up, in reality, TR was probably the most sober person at the table.  Serving as a de facto truth serum, wine became such a powerful tool that Roosevelt had a cellar installed on his presidential yacht, the USS Mayflower.  This decision probably came in handy when he negotiated a peace treaty between Japan and Russia in 1905 on board the vessel, which earned him the Nobel Peace Prize.

Theodore Roosevelt White House Dining RoomState Dining Room during the administration of Theodore Roosevelt. Courtesy: Library of Congress.

Back at the White House, the newly renovated State Dining Room had essentially become an extension of Roosevelt’s personality.  Reflecting the president’s deep passion for big game hunting, biographer Edmund Morris writes, “a disgruntled-looking moose, and some dozen other North American game mammals, stared glassily out from the walls, bracing for years of presidential monologues.”  It was here, surrounded by oak paneling and mahogany furnishing, where some of the most historic moments in American history occurred, including the night Booker T. Washington became the first African-American to dine at the White House when he had dinner with Roosevelt early in his administration.

As the power of the United States grew substantially during TR’s time in office, so did the mansion that came to symbolize the country’s growing strength.  A house originally built on a swamp was emerging as the epicenter of pomp and circumstance, designed to impress each and every visitor who stepped inside its walls from the chandeliers that hanged on the walls to the food served on their plates.  And ushering in this new era was Theodore Roosevelt who transformed 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue into something much more than a home, but also as a hospitable venue to wine and dine the world’s most powerful leaders while letting them know that America had finally arrived on the world scene.


Davis, Deborah. Guest of Honor: Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and the White House Dinner That Shocked a Nation. New York: Atria Books, 2012.
Leech, Margaret. In the Days of McKinley. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959.
Klara, Robert. The Hidden White House: Harry Truman and the Reconstruction of America’s Most Famous Residence. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2013.
Morris, Edmund. Theodore Rex. New York: Modern Library, 2002.
Morris, Edmund. tThe Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. New York: Modern Library, 2001.
Will-Weber, Mark. Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking. Washington DC: Regnery History, 2014.

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