This year’s Penfolds collection consists of all of their icon bottlings, including a few surprises. In 2017, the flagship Grange was made entirely from Shiraz, only the seventh time this has happened since the first Grange was produced in 1951.
Western Australia is a virtual island unto itself within the country’s wine world. Its most famous viticultural region, Margaret River, is located almost 3,000 kilometers from the heart of the famed Barossa Valley, with precious little of anything except space in between. It’s a long way to the west, and the style of wines couldn’t be any more different.
Stretching from Galicia in the far northwest and along the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay of Biscay to the Basque Country, Atlantic Spain is the country’s coolest winegrowing region. Mostly indigenous varieties that are grown virtually nowhere else in Spain are the rule. The almost universally ocean-influenced climate and the intrinsic character of those local grapes define vibrant wines that are increasingly capturing the attention of wine lovers across the globe.
Change comes slowly in Rioja. Many of the winemaking practices that were in place when the region was established in the third quarter of the 19th century are widely used today. Grapes are pressed traditionally and most of the best wines are aged, sometimes for many years, in oak barrels of various sizes, with a preference towards American oak. Many winemakers see oxidation during aging as an asset, not a flaw, that when done correctly, brings the unique perfume, complex flavors and supple texture that make serious Rioja among the world’s greatest wines.
In recent vintages, the Mediterranean wine-producing regions in Spain have produced a large number of outstanding wines. The range of wines influenced by the sea is staggering, from bone-dry bubblies to structured, world-class reds and some of the most decadent sweet wines in the world.
While serious wine fanatics are well acquainted with Ribera del Duero, Toro and Rueda, much of the world consumes millions of gallons of wine a year made in the less lofty nearby regions, especially La Mancha and the far-reaching Castilla y León, both of which often deliver excellent value. Then there are unsung DOs like Campo de Borja, where readers will find some of the biggest bang-for-the-buck Grenache in the world.
cellar favorite, Cellar Favorites, France: Bordeaux
I have been fortunate to taste the legendary Château d’Yquem a number of times since the early 1980s but hadn’t had the opportunity to actually drink it in many years. That was until a generous friend brought a surprise bottle along to an indulgent Château Petrus vertical this fall, to be shared among a small group of wine lovers at the outstanding Peppercorn’s Grill in Hartford, Connecticut.
United States: California, featured
It’s an ongoing mystery to me that, aside from a small handful of producers, San Luis Obispo hasn’t received the attention it deserves for its almost universally high quality wines. In the excellent 2018 vintage, SLO’s wineries outdid themselves.
United States: California, featured
Following the hot 2017 vintage, growers and winemakers in Paso Robles were relieved to have a cooler vintage in 2018. The long growing season and moderate conditions led to an unhurried harvest and a larger-than-normal crop of healthy fruit. The results are outstanding.
featured, Verticals & Retrospectives, France: Rhône & Beaujolais
One of the world’s iconic estates, Domaine Auguste Clape has long set the standard for the Cornas appellation and has featured on any Rhône aficionado’s short list of the region’s very best properties. With a mere eight hectares of vines spread across Cornas, Saint-Péray and Côtes-du-Rhône, the Clapes produce two different examples of Cornas, a Saint-Péray, a red Côtes-du-Rhône and a red Vin de France. All of the reds are made with whole clusters and fermented in concrete vats before being moved into ancient, traditional oval foudres for aging. Because of small production (roughly 2,500 cases per vintage, total) and longtime worldwide demand, especially for the flagship Cornas, the wines are not always easy to find. Unfortunately, the world has caught on, and prices have risen sharply as well. These are structured, long-lived wines that are definitely built for the patient consumer. As this retrospective shows, patience is consistently rewarded, even in tough vintages.