Vin Connections (February 2003)

IN THIS ISSUE

St. Valentine’s Day Wines!
Special Bottles for Lovers (and REALLY good friends…)

This month we’ve brought together Valentine’s favorites for you to enjoy with close friends.

Our reader question this month inspired us to find out what folks are really drinking together for Valentine’s Day. Are the assumptions about Champagne as the aphrodisiac of choice accurate? For the most part, yes. But there are some surprises.

After all, any good wine will do if you’re in love… but if you’re still looking, Champagne has a pretty good track record of speeding the process along. No matter your romantic state, wine is often employed as an instrument of seduction.

Of course, we advocate enjoying wine year (and week) round. And we make sure to practice what we preach. But some special occasions evoke associations more strongly than others. And Valentine’s Day is clearly one of these.

It’s also just not true that good bubbly always costs a lot. Indeed, we’ve purposefully included sparkling wines at the high end (our splurge wines this month) as well as the lower cost (bargain wines $10 and under.) And while the grades and number of reviews tend to be higher in the Splurge wines, there are some strong A- picks in the Bargain wines too.

The sparkling wines you’ll find in the Wine PocketList – whether from the Champagne district of France (and thus qualified to be called Champagne) or elsewhere, are made by the traditional mйthode Champenoise. What’s important to know is this: The bubbles weren’t created (like those in a soda or the Charmat bulk-process wines you’ll want to avoid); they occurred naturally over time (typically several years) inside the bottle. And the best part is, sparkling or “real” Champagne, they both can taste great.

So no matter what you choose to imbibe, enjoy this Valentine’s Day… as well as the days leading up to it, and those after.

Cheers!

  • This Month’s Reader Question:
    “What are the most popular wines for Valentine’s Day?” (You might guess this one…)
  • This Month’s Wine Pick:
    Great bubbly from abroad – $10 and less
  • This Month’s Quote:
    Three On Champagne – Mark Twain, Napoleon and Winston Churchill

THIS MONTH’S READER QUESTION

“What are the most popular wines for Valentine’s Day?” (You might guess this one…)

Q. “For years, I’ve always just assumed that Champagne is the wine of choice for Valentine’s Day. Is this just an excuse to get me to buy bubbly? What do people really drink?”
— Richard Miller, San Francisco, California

Richard, it may well be an excuse to try get you to buy more bubbly. But really, who needs an excuse to enjoy a great sparkling wine? The fact is, most people (around half) turn to sparkling wine as their first choice on Valentine’s Day. Served with dinner or in the bathtub, it’s simply great fun (the Heidsieck NV and the ’97 “J” from Sonoma County are a couple that spring to mind.)

Though bubbly is clearly the most popular Valentine’s Day drink for wine lovers, Cabernet and Pinot Noir are the next in line. Cabernet Sauvignon, king of Napa Valley’s best-known red wines and the backbone of Bordeaux’s first growths, commands around 15% of the cupid-inspired population. Another 10% choose Pinot Noir over any other. This once elusive varietal has exploded in popularity, and in planting in the Western U.S., particularly in California, Washington and Oregon.

The remaining (wine) lovers choose several different wines, with about 5% each choosing Merlot, Zinfandel, Chardonnay/White Burgundy and Syrah/Shiraz before all others. The last 5% is as varied as the PocketList itself, and as personal as all wine choices ultimately are.

So if you, or someone close to you, enjoys sparkling wine, now is as good a time as any to grab a bottle. And if it doesn’t appeal to the wine lover in you, then no amount of advertising will ever make it right.

Thanks for the question; you’ve inspired this issue’s wine picks, where we’ve given you some great choices in sparkling wines, as well as Cabernet and Pinot Noir.


VINCONNECTIONS FEBRUARY WINE PICKS

SPLURGE: Sparkling Wine

NV Sparkling Wine, Heidsieck “Brut”
Champagne

IE: A
$30, Grade A
WPL: S
1997 Sparkling Wine, J “Sonoma County”
California
IE: A, A-, B+$28, Grade A-
WPL: S,BBC
NV Sparkling Wine, Bruyne “Cuvee Absolue, а-Sezanne”IE: A+$27, Grade A+
WPL: S
NV Sparkling Wine, Feuillatte “Brut, Premier Cru”
Champagne
IE: A$30, Grade A
WPL: S
NV Sparkling Wine, Juvй y Camps “Cava, Brut, Gran Juvй”
Spain
IE: A+$30, Grade A+
WPL: S

BUY-BY-THE-CASE: Pinot Noir

1997 Pinot Noir, Beringer “Stanly Ranch, Los Carneros”
Napa Valley
IE: A,A,B,B$30, Grade A-
WPL: S,BBC
2000 Pinot Noir, Cosentino “Carneros”
Napa Valley
IE: A,B+$30, Grade A-
WPL: S,BBC
1999 Pinot Noir, King “Eugene”
Oregon
IE: A-,B+$20, Grade A-
WPL: BBC
2000 Pinot Noir, Lane Tanner
“Julia’s Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County”
Santa Barbara
IE: A,B+$30, Grade A
WPL: S,BBC
1999 Pinot Noir, Sebastopol
“Green Valley-Russian River Valley”, Sonoma County
IE: A+,A,B,B$30, Grade A-
WPL: S,BBC

WIDELY AVAILABLE WINES: Cabernet Sauvignon

1999 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sterling “Napa Valley”
Napa Valley
IE: A-,B+$24, Grade A-
WPL: W,BBC
2000 Cabernet Sauvignon, Marquis Philips
Australia
IE: A,B+,B$12, Grade A-
WPL: A-
2000 Cabernet Sauvignon, Concha y Toro,
“Marquйs de Casa Concha, Puente Alto Vineyard,
Maipo Valley”, Chile
IE: A-$14, Grade A-
WPL: W
2000 Cabernet, Santa Rita “Reserva, Maipo Valley”
Chile
IE: B+$13, Grade B+
WPL: W
1999 Columbia Crest, Valley Grand Estates,
Columbia Valley, Washington
IE: B+$11, Grade B+
WPL: W

BARGAIN WINES: Bubbly from Abroad!

NV Sparkling, Jaume Serra “Cava, Extra Dry, Cristalino”
Spain
IE: B+
$9, Grade B+
WPL: B
2000 Cuvйe Cle’Mente, “Brut, Blancs de Blanc, Chardonnay”
France
IE: A-$9, Grade A-
WPL: B
NV Sparkling, Riondo “Conegliano-Valdobiaddene”
Italy, Veneto
IE; B+, A-$9, Grade A-
WPL: B
NV Sparkling, Lornet “Cremant de Jura Rosa”
France
IE; A, B+$10, Grade B+
WPL: B
NV, Astoria “Extra Dry, Prosecco di Valdobbiandene”
Italy
IE; B+$9, Grade A-
WPL: B

Wine Quote

Three On Champagne – Mark Twain, Napoleon and Winston Churchill

“Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!”
– Winston Churchill

“Come quickly! I am tasting stars!” – Dom Perignon [at his first sip of champagne]

“Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.”
– Mark Twain


DEFINITIONS AND GLOSSARY


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.

Oksana C
Author: Oksana C

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