February '09

Editor's Note


Fined & Filtered

News in Brief

New World Spirits
  Chris Hallowell maps the
  indigenous spirits of the

A New World of Syrah

Year's Best Syrah

Year's Best
  Australian Shiraz

Year's Best Rhône

Year's Best
  New Zealand Pinot Noir

Year's Best Zinfandel

Year's Best Priorat

American New

Imported New

Extreme Values

Features at Wine & Spirits

Antarctic Pinot
"You've heard of the Roaring Forties?" Blair Walter asked. We were standing against the wind on an early November spring day in Bannockburn, the center of New Zealand's Central Otago. "We're at Parallel 45 and in the forties, the winds circulate from west to east. But this wind is coming from the south; that's why it's so cold. It's a bitter southerly from Antarctica."

The complete article is available in the print edition of Wine & Spirits.

The Etymology of Shiraz
James Busby, a colonial administrator and founding father of the Australian wine industry, brought "scyras" cuttings to Australia in 1832. He planted them in Sydney's Botanic Gardens, at Kirkton and at William Macarthur's vineyard at Camden in the Hunter Valley. Macarthur, a member of a prominent New South Wales landowning family, encouraged the widespread planting of shiraz from his vine cuttings.

Silesian and English settlers had arrived in the Barossa Valley and planted what are now some of the oldest shiraz vines in the world. By the end of the 19th century, there were famed shiraz vineyards in the Hunter Valley, Clare Valley, Adelaide and Victoria.

The complete article is available in the print edition of Wine & Spirits.

Niigata Sake
In the world of sake, one of the most significant developments over the last few decades has been an increasing interest in and awareness of regionality. Among today's sake consumers, a trend has emerged toward jizake, smaller-production sakes with a more pronounced and individual character. While the parallels to wine terroir are not exact, the name jizake, which can be roughly translated as "local sake," has come to mean sakes from specific locations that reflect specific characteristics, a trend somewhat analogous to the interest in grower Champagnes or microbrew beers. Jizake hails from all corners of Japan, but the Niigata prefecture, in particular, has established a distinct reputation for the quality and character of its local sakes.

The complete article is available in the print edition of Wine & Spirits.

Three Young Wine Making Stars in South America
Alma. It means soul in Spanish. It's a word we often use to describe a wine that comes from a place, one that retains a sense of that place, as if the place had a soul that could be captured in a bottle of wine.

Whatever that inimitable character is that separates the wine from one vineyard and another, it's not something that can be fashioned in a lab. Twenty years ago, the top enologists in Chile and Argentina started leaving their labs to work in the vines. People like Pablo Morandé and Ignacio Recabarren, Pedro Marchevsky and Roberto de la Mota battled the rigid distinctions that separated enologists from viticulturists, and they transformed the culture of wine in both countries.

The complete article is available in the print edition of Wine & Spirits.

Italian Vines With an Edge
"I failed at retirement," George Vare said as we walked along the perimeter road of his 2.5-acre vineyard in Napa's Oak Knoll District. While part of this vineyard is planted to Napa's king grape, cabernet sauvignon, the best part of it–including the former bed of the nearby creek–is planted to ribolla gialla, a white variety native to the hilly borderlands between northeastern Italy and Slovenia. Curiously, these vines produce some of the most compelling white wine made in California today. Perhaps even stranger is the fact that someone of Vare's stature would be messing around with ribolla gialla.

The complete article is available in the print edition of Wine & Spirits.

Outer Limits
The shiraz vines run in a thin strip through the middle of a vineyard designed for chardonnay and pinot noir, the dominant varieties of the maritime Mornington Peninsula region. The preference for cool-climate varieties here is no affectation: In the 11 years these shiraz vines have grown on the Yabby Lake estate vineyard, they've made a finished, commercially-released wine only once–four years ago.

The complete article is available in the print edition of Wine & Spirits.