Vin Connections (April 2003)


Can’t we all just be friends?
The International issue, featuring wines from France, Italy, Australia and New Zealand

As the U.S. war in the Middle East winds down, pre-war tensions between certain European nations and the United States seem to be calming down.

Frankly, we all have our own opinions and points of view on the subject. And for many, “common ground” is not a phrase found easily in the dictionary of diatribe.

But no matter what your political point-of-view, there can be no denying that some great wines come from many other countries besides the U.S. So in this issue, we decided to showcase several recently reviewed wines from around the world, both new (Australia and New Zealand) and old (Italy and France).

The fact is, no matter what the respective governments of France and the U.S. do or do not agree on, chances are there will still be great wine coming out of that country long after the current leadership is a minor footnote in the history books.

Why? In a word, history. French wines have their roots in the Roman Empire, who planted vineyards as they crossed the continent. And before the French, the Greeks. The religious orders in France took care to protect the French grape vines during the Dark Ages. The records kept by them have helped the French continue to make wine perfected over centuries.

France is still the birthplace for many of the world’s best known red and white wines, though different countries and regions around the world interpret them differently. Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc are just a few examples.

So no matter what you call your fried potatoes, know that when you enjoy wonderful wines from Burgundy, Bordeaux, the Loire and Rhone Valleys, Alsace and Champagne, you’re drinking to history as well.


  • This Month’s Reader Question:
    Why do some wines give headaches more than others?
  • This Month’s Wine Pick:
    20 Under $15: Proof that great wine doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg!
  • This Month’s Quote:
    George Burns on Headaches


Why do some wines give headaches more than others?

Q. “Some wines give me headaches more than other ones. Is this something to do with the wine, or with me?”
— Pedro Perez, San Francisco, California

A. Hmmm. I’ve found that any wine in enough quantity will give me a headache. But I digress…

Actually, it’s probably a little bit of both – you and the wine – that causes this headache disparity. But let’s dispense with the obvious answers first. When you have these headaches, do you notice that you’ve had much more wine than when you don’t get a headache? Think back carefully… if you can remember…

Sorry. I couldn’t pass that one up. And if that’s not it, then we’ll proceed to the “scientific” explanation.

In the skin of every grape is a chemical substance called “histamines.” Histamines are almost always the culprits in wine headaches that were not caused through over-indulgence. And since red wines are in contact with the skins of the grapes for longer than white wines, red wines most often cause these types of headaches.

In fact, there was even a medical test done to prove it.

If you really love red wine (like I do) and are sensitive to histamines, there are a couple of things you can do. First, eat before drinking red wine. (It’s best with food anyhow, right?) Another solution is to take a non-sedating antihistamine such as Allegra or Claritin before drinking red wine.

We’ve had other histamine-sensitive readers report this helped them a great deal. I wouldn’t advocate you try this without the proper disclaimer, so check with your family doctor or allergist before trying this solution.

But some of the reds wines in this issue are so good, I know I’d go to some extreme lengths to enjoy a glass – or two. I hope you can enjoy them as well.


SPLURGE: Thunder from down under – New Zealand

2000 Syrah/Shiraz, Mills Reef “Elspeth Syrah, Mere Road Vineyard”
New Zealand, Hawkes Bay
IE: A+, A$30, Grade A+
2000 Merlot Mills Reef, Elspeth Syrah, Mere Road Vineyard
New Zealand, Hawkes Bay
IE: A$30, Grade A
2001 Pinot Noir, Mountford
New Zealand Waipara Valley
IE: A- $30, Grade A-
2001 Sauvignon/Fumй Blanc Villa Maria “Reserve,
Clifford Bay, Awatere Valley”
New Zealand, Marlborough
IE: A+$29, Grade A+
2002 Sauvignon/Fumй Blanc Goldwater “Dog Point”
New Zealand, Marlborough
IE: A-$30, Grade A-

Top Buy-by-the-Case: Australia makes the grade – again

2000 Syrah/Shiraz, Fox Creek “Shiraz-Grenache McLaren Vale”
South Australia
IE: A+, B+$20, Grade A-
2000 Other Reds Marquis Philips, “Sarah’s Blend”
South Eastern Australia
IE: A+, B+$15, Grade A-
2001 Sauvignon/Fumй Blanc, Shaw & Smith “Adelaide Hills”
Eastern Australia
IE: A-, B$17, Grade A-
2000 Syrah/Shiraz,
Primo “Shiraz-Sangiovese Il Briccone, Adelaide”
Eastern Australia
IE: A-, B$18, Grade A-
2000 Syrah/Shiraz Flinders Bay “Shiraz, Margaret River”
Western Australia
IE: A-, B+$18, Grade A-

Widely Available: Yes, we still call it French wine

2000 Bordeaux Lynch-Moussas “Pauillac”
Bordeaux France
IE: A$25, Grade A
2000 Bordeaux “Cardonne Mйdoc”
Bordeaux France
IE: A-$15, Grade A-
2000 Bordeaux Beaumont “Haut-Mйdoc”
Bordeaux France
IE: A-$15, Grade B+
2000 Bordeaux, Beau-Site “St.-Estйphe”
Bordeaux France
IE: A-$20, Grade B+
2000 Bordeaux, Poujeaux “Listrac & Moulis”
Bordeaux France
IE: A-$25, Grade B+

Bargain Wines: Shopping for deals in Italy

N/V Sparkling, Santero “Brut”
Italy, Veneto
IE: B+
$9, Grade B+
N/V Sparkling, Mionetto “Brut, Prosecco”
Italy, Veneto
IE: B+$10, Grade B+
2001 Nero d’Avola, Valle dell’Acate “Poggio Bidini”
Italy, Sicily
IE: B+$9, Grade B+
2000 Zinfandel, Amano “Primitivo”
Italy, Puglia
IE: B+$10, Grade B+
N/V Sparkling, Riondo “Conegliano-Valdobiaddene”
Italy, Veneto
IE: A-$9, Grade A-

Wine Quote

This quote is in honor of this month’s reader question regarding headaches…

“It only takes one drink to get me drunk, but I can’t remember if it’s the thirteenth or fourteenth.”
– George Burns


Understanding our System

Grade: [A-]
Our grades represent a composite score developed using our proprietary system to blend wine quality and scoring information.

Vintage: 1999
This describes both the year of the actual grape harvest as well as the year the wine was made.

Price: $12
The prices quoted in the WPL are the “suggested retail prices” quoted by the wineries and the distributors. Though these are close to what you’d pay at the winery, you’ll often find discounts of 20% and more off these prices at retail.

Individual Evaluations: IE: A, A-, B+
This represents the number of individual reviews and ratings on which the composite grade is based, primarily representing individual reviews in top wine periodicals converted to our scale, and ratings by our tasting panel.

Wine PocketList Exclusive Categories: WPL: BBC, W, S, B
These are four exclusive WPL categories, and many wines rated by the PocketList will fall into one of these special designations.

[W] Widely Available:
These wines typically have bottling of 20,000 cases or more, making them widely available in most regions of the U.S.

[BBC] Top Buy-by-the-Case:
Based on multiple, outstanding reviews and a solid history, these are wines you can purchase by the case to grow your cellar with confidence today, and into the future!

[B] Bargain Wines:
Top-rated wines for $10 or less. Most of these can go head to head with a typical $30 bottle sporting a fancy label . . . and beat it hands down.

[S] Splurge Wines:
For most of us, spending more than $20 on a bottle of wine isn’t something we do lightly. These are wines that, while more expensive, are well worth the price.

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