Couples are under a lot of pressure to plan for Valentine’s Day. There’s the restaurant that has to be booked weeks in advance, the romantic gift and bouquet of flowers that have to be bought, and the perfect bottle of wine that needs to be found. What’s more, that wine not only has to taste delicious with dinner, it also needs to be special in some way. After all, if you’re dining at a James Beard Award-winning restaurant and it took you months to book a table, you need a wine that will match the caliber of the food. Whether you already have reservations at a fine restaurant, or you plan on cooking a rustic, romantic meal at home, the perfect wine for Valentine’s Day will complement your meal, making the occasion feel even more luxurious.
Calling the 2017 Loire Valley vintage “difficult” is a serious understatement. Winemakers had to navigate worrisome spring frosts shortly after bud break, which threatened to destroy most of the crop before it even had a chance to grow. However, now that the harvest is over and the wine is aging in vats across the region, Loire winemakers can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Early Loire vintage reports show that both red and white wines are developing beautifully in spite of the difficulties that winemakers faced early in the season, and these may be among the most drinkable (and potentially collectible) Loire wines of the past few years. While it’s still too early to say exactly how these wines will compare to past vintages like the 2016 and 2015, winemakers are very optimistic about the investment potential of the 2017 vintage.
What affects wine quality? The answer to this question isn’t so simple. A number of different factors, from the age of the vine’s rootstock to the vineyard’s climate, can dramatically impact how a wine tastes and how long it will last in your cellar. If the winemaker starts off with underripe, poorly grown grapes, then the resulting wine won’t taste elegant or refined, even if the producer ages the wine in the finest French oak. To invest in the highest-quality wines on the market, it’s a good idea to understand some of the growing techniques that affect wine quality, including climate, vine age, soil composition, pruning, weather, and harvest dates. By considering each of these factors as you shop for collectible wine, you’ll learn how to identify the best wines from the top producers–and be able to pick out unlikely gems from lesser producers as well.
Receiving a spoiled or fraudulent wine from an online retailer is immensely frustrating for wine collectors. Unfortunately, this is exactly what one Wine Berserkers forum member experienced when he bought bottles from an auction website a few years ago. After winning an online auction, the bottles arrived on his doorstep seemingly unscathed. But when he inspected them more closely, he saw that a couple of the bottles had signs of seepage around the cork, and appeared to be completely cooked. Based on the old, dried-on appearance of the damage and the fact that the other bottles in his order were perfectly fine, he assumed that the online auction house hadn’t performed a proper wine bottle inspection before selling the lot off.
Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is so much more than a bold, jammy fruit bomb; in years when the weather is perfect and the harvest conditions are just right, even the boldest of producers can craft wines that are balanced, refined, and elegantly supple in personality. This is precisely what happened during the 2014 growing season. The best 2014 Napa Cabernet has that rare, legendary combination of elegance, youthful charm, and robust tannins that will allow these wines to age spectacularly over the next 25 years or more. In other words, these are wines that will impress you whether you choose to uncork them now or wait until they’ve reached their full potential in 30 years. The 2014 vintage is the perfect balance of soft fruit and a firm backbone, making it one of the greatest Napa vintages of the past two decades, and well worth a space in your cellar.
Although sommeliers are well-versed in nearly every wine style imaginable, some still struggle with one wine in particular: German Riesling. They might be able to talk for hours about the origins of the obscure Négrette grape of southwest France and easily pronounce words like “Pouilly-Fuissé,” but there’s something about reading German wine labels that sends shivers down their spines. It’s easy to see why; knowing how to read a German wine label means not only understanding the basic mechanics of the German language, but also the complicated rules of their wine rating system. While most countries keep their labels simple, Germany packs as much information onto the front of the wine as possible–you often have to read through at least five, sometimes ten, different words at the top of the label just to get to the producer’s name.
For Christmas one year, my aunt gift-wrapped an entire case of wine for me. At first, I was excited to receive what was clearly a case of wine, but when I finally got the wrapping paper off, my excitement turned into dismay. The wine was low-quality white Zinfandel that I knew I would never drink. Although my aunt clearly meant well, she didn’t realize that the wine she had given me wasn’t at all to my taste. Moreover, I had no place to store those 12 bottles. I politely accepted the gift, but later on, I ended up regifting a few bottles to some white Zin-loving friends and taking the rest to a massive New Year’s Eve party.
When you think of the aftermath of a New Year’s Eve party, you probably picture dozens of empty and half-empty Champagne bottles scattered around the room. But while many people love a splash of bubbly on December 31st, not everyone wants to sip on it all night. Even though Champagne (and, increasingly, sparkling wine) has had a virtual monopoly on New Year’s for the past few decades, it’s certainly not your only option. In fact, some of the best red wine for New Year’s can be just as impressive as a vintage bottle of Krug, and may win the hearts of even the most diehard bubbly fans. Whether you want to break out of a Champagne rut or you simply want to offer your red wine-loving guests a few more choices this year, choosing a handful of high-quality, rare red wines could make your New Year’s party a raving success.
Champagne and New Year’s Eve go together like bread and butter–no New Year’s celebration feels quite right without a flute of bubbly to toast with when midnight strikes. The night of December 31st is all about new beginnings, and the right bottle of Champagne can make this special event feel like a major milestone in your life. Rather than kicking the new year off with a less-than-exciting glass of Prosecco, sipping on finely aged 1971 Moët & Chandon Dom Perignon feels significant and can set a positive tone for the year. The best Champagne for New Year’s Eve will make even the most casual party feel like an iconic, once-in-a-lifetime event, and it’s a great opportunity to uncork your true showstopper bottles.
From nutty, caramelized pecan pie to spiced gingerbread cookies, the holiday season is chock-full of decadent desserts. When you find the perfect dessert wine pairing for each of these classic treats, you make the experience feel even more indulgent for your guests. A honey-like German Riesling can bring out the nutmeg and cinnamon notes in a slice of pumpkin pie, while a rich ruby Pinot Noir can add a complex layer of fruitiness to a cup of chocolate mousse. Fine wine has the power to elevate even the simplest desserts, making them taste as though they were made from scratch in a French patisserie.
Every year, my family makes an enormous batch of lasagna on Christmas Eve. While this Italian holiday tradition makes for a delicious dining experience, sometimes, finding the perfect wine pairing can be a challenge. The layers of creamy ricotta, spicy sausage, acidic marinara, and buttery noodles have so many flavors that the lasagna tends to overpower all but a handful of wines. That’s why we usually go with a full-bodied, acidic wine like 2004 Vietti Barolo, which can pair well with just about any savory Christmas dish, from lasagna to prime rib. Whether you’re serving a holiday classic like Christmas ham or you’re cooking up something a little more exotic this year, the best wine for Christmas dinner usually falls in the category of acidic, full-bodied reds and whites. These varieties will enhance the food at your table and elevate the holiday experience for you and your guests.
One of the best Christmas gifts I ever received was a high-quality wine fridge that my parents filled to the brim with some of my favorite wines, including selections from Côtes du Rhône and a delicious bottle of 2005 Chevalier Père et Fils. It took me almost a year to get through all of the wonderful wines inside, but even after I opened my last gift bottle, that wine fridge remained an essential staple in my home. For the past six years, I’ve used it to store dozens and dozens of bottles, from wines for holiday celebrations to collectible Bordeaux.