Champagne is the wine of the moment. Restaurants that once offered ten or twenty selections now cellar wines from obscure growers and old vintages, covering three or four pages on their lists. That’s the case at Jean–Georges in New York, where I met Jean–Michel Valette for a bottle of breakfast Champagne. The first–ever American chairman of the Institute of Masters of Wine chose a blanc de blancs as we talked about his personal road to the MW and the future plans of the group. You’ll find excerpts from the interview on page 16, and you can view the entire conversation at wineandspiritsmagazine.com.
Earlier in the fall, another MW, Dr. Benjamin Lewin, approached me about a research project for his upcoming book on cabernet sauvignon. Lewin’s earlier career, as the founding editor of Cell, prepared him to approach wine with the rigorous and sophisticated analysis of a biologist, seeking to clarify matters that many of us take for granted. One such clarification was the aging potential of California’s cult cabernets, for which he organized a tasting at his home in New York. Bill Blatch, Peter M.F. Sichel, Joel Butler, MW, and I joined him to taste through a selection of 1995s, a blind comparison of first–growth Bordeaux alongside what turned out to be bottles of Harlan, Screaming Eagle, Shafer Hillside Select and other notable or notorious names. It was a fascinating exercise, and though I won’t preempt the results that will appear in his forthcoming book, I will say that it spurred associate editor Luke Sykora and me to organize our own comparative tasting, looking at Napa cabernets from the acclaimed 1997 vintage alongside those from the widely dismissed 1998. The results of our Napa Valley Cabernet Shootout are provocative (p. 40), especially in light of Dr. Lewin’s article on the rise of Napa Valley’s cabernet sauvignon as the varietal paradigmfor the world (p. 38).
If you plan to decant Barolo or Barbaresco for the holidays, check out Alberto Taddei’s talk with Alessio Cighetti at Centro Storico, the storied wine bar in Serralunga d’Alba. You can watch them compare their favorite contemporary styles of nebbiolo, matching them to the sort of local fare you’d be likely to find in Piedmont, in a short video at wineandspiritsmagazine.com. And you can read about it here on page 42.
Whether you’re serving Barolo or cabernet, Tokaji or Port, we’ve got you covered for December—and for Champagne on New Year’s Eve.
This story appears in the print issue of December 2012.
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