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“have Some Madeira M’dear” | 1810 Rumo Da India

by Stuart George

A while ago a colleague sent me some pictures of a an old bottle of Madeira that they’d “bought at a charity auction… No clues (about what it is) as it’s completely waxed and has maybe been redone.” Having stared intently at the photos of the label, and delved into my archives, I concluded that it was a bottle of 1810 Rumo da India Madeira. The Dutch East India Company used to pick up casks of Madeira wine and take them to India. The intense heat and constant movement of the ships had a profound effect on the wine and led to Madeira becoming a fortified wine that is heated in “estufas” to replicate the conditions of the long journey south. This bottle is probably one of the very oldest surviving examples of Madeira wine that made the trip to India and back in cask...

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“my God, Dad! This Is A 1945 Chateau Petrus!”

by Stuart George

Not having owned a television for more than 20 years, I have never watched Frasier, which was a 1990s American sitcom. But it came to my attention that Petrus 1945 is featured in the Frasier episode “Something Borrowed, Someone Blue”, broadcast in May 2000. The bottle is presented to Frasier Crane by his father. Frasier gasps and says. “My God, Dad! This is a 1945 Chateau Petrus!… it’s one of the rarest bottles in the world!… I’ve never even seen a ’45 Petrus!” His father replies: “Well, if you’re good, maybe Eddie’ll give you a glass out of his half.” Frasier is characterised as a “sophisticated” alumnus of Harvard University and Oxford University – the sort of person who’d know about fine wine. (Or at least thinks that they know about wi...

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Making A Killing With 1977 Petrus

by Stuart George

The US TV series The Killing, first broadcast 2011-2014, has three main storylines: The police investigation into a murder; a family’s attempts to deal with their grief; and the fluctuating electoral fortunes of a political campaign that becomes embroiled in the murder case. In episode 12 “Beau Soleil”, Councilman Richmond offers a glass of Petrus 1977 to Detective Linden when she visits him at home. It’s an odd choice of vintage – unless price was the major consideration, in which case this is the least expensive vintage of Petrus currently available. It was probably the worst year of a difficult decade for Bordeaux. There was serious frost damage in Pomerol in March, followed by a wet summer. By early September it was looking as though it would be a write-off, with t...

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“we’ve Just Run Out Of Wine. What Are We Going To Do About It?”

by Stuart George

Although it was unsuccessful when released in 1987, the British black comedy film Withnail and I has become a cult classic. Written and directed by Bruce Robinson, who has always been a fan of fine wine – or of drinking, at any rate – the plot follows two unemployed actors, Withnail (played by Richard E. Grant) and the never-named “I” (Paul McGann) who share a delapidated flat in Camden Town in North London in 1969. Needing a holiday, they obtain the key to a cottage in the Lake District belonging to Withnail’s eccentric uncle Monty and drive there. The weekend holiday proves less recuperative than they expected. Withnail and I is saturated with alcohol. There is only one specific wine reference: Château Margaux 1953, which Withnail has purloined from Monty’s cella...

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The Wine Label Art Of Valentino Monticello

by Stuart George

I am honoured to present the wine label art of my late friend Valentino Monticello. Born in 1933 in Piovene Rocchette, near Vicenza, Italy, Valentino moved with his family to the town of Thiene at the age of five. There he was raised in a world of food, wine, art and music. His passion for opera had an early start. At the age of six, the artist played Trouble in a local production of Madama Butterfly. He was soon attending opera recitals at the open-air theatre in Verona, making the 90km journey by bicycle. His gifts for line and composition were evident from an early age. At 11, he was awarded first prize in a portrait competition organised by Professor Guerra from Trasche Conca. By 14, he was creating posters and labels for Distillery S. Giorgio of Bassano del Grappa. Valent...

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What Is A Sommelier?

by Jen Reyneri

When Luis and I went on our first date over two decades ago, his knowledge for wine was apparent. Oh, the way he swirled that glass of malbec! Holding the deep, reddish-purple liquid on an angle to the light, sticking his nose in the glass for a whiff, and proceeding to describe ripe notes of plum and berries were all indicators that this man really knew wine. Frankly, I was intimidated. My experience with wine was limited to communion. Shyly, I asked, “excuse my ignorance, but I thought wine was made from grapes?” He smiled, perhaps chuckled, and his passion for wine — sharing his knowledge and experiences expressed through a bottle — began to waft through the air like the ripe notes of dark fruit. I listened to his adventures through ancient French wine vineyards and dining by ca...

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Navigating The World Of Bubbles…

by Claire L. Torbeck, Certified Sommelier

Do you feel special when someone hands you a glass of bubbly wine in a pretty flute? It is festive and fun...and totally confusing when you are tasked with the job of purchasing sparkling wine for a holiday party, dinner or just because. To make your selection easier, let us look at some sparkling wine basics to enable you to buy with a measure of confidence. First, you are asked to buy ‘Champagne’ because that term is just like every tissue is called a ‘Kleenex.’ To cull the herd of production styles of wine, we will limit this to sparkling wine crafted by the time honored ‘traditional method’ (there is also sparkling wine made by tank method – Prosecco, for example – and others by infusing with carbonation, but, these, in my opinion, while less expensive, can be less...

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Natural And Organic And Clean (wine), Oh My!

by Claire L. Torbeck, Certified Sommelier

Just like Dorothy and her cohorts in the Wizard of Oz, there is a lot of chatter about the virtues of these wine ‘styles.’ Are these just marketing terms to capture our discretionary wine dollars or is there real substance and value? First, let us look at a bit of history. Once upon a time, vineyards were planted, fertilized, and protected by using manure and other animal by-products. After World War II, the focus was on growing food rather than on the production of munitions. It began the age of science in wine making which served to give people the illusion that everything could be controlled, and perfect wines could be crafted. That is, until the realization that using a lot of chemicals for any type of food production was not a good thing, for the health of the people or for t...

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Pandemic Wine Tasting Opportunities

by Tim Leiwig

During these different and sometimes difficult times, it is likely the place(s) you were going for wine tastings are currently not offering them. We need to explore alternatives. This is a great time to seek out wines from other regions in the USA or countries or other regions in other countries that perhaps you have little or no knowledge. You can do some research online about the area of which you have interest and learn about the wines they make and if they are available where you live, or can be shipped to you. While you certainly can try an international grape variety from somewhere else (international grape varieties are grown in numerous places throughout the world, i.e. Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir); consider venturing out and try a grape that is indigenous to...

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Behind Bubbles

by Julia Menn - The Wee Tipple, Llc

Sparkling wines are one of the great joys in life. Easy to pair with all sorts of food, perfect for any occasion (and I recommend enjoying the bubbles even when there is no “special” reason), they come in white, rosé, and red, can be sweet to bone dry, with all sorts of flavours like citrus, red cherries, or yummy pastry. Did you know that there are different ways to make sparkling wine? And that different regions have different laws governing the naming of those wines? Let’s start with the most well-known sparkling wine out there: Champagne. This is a region in France and the sparkling wines produced must follow stringent legal guidelines in order to bear that title. Only wines made following these rules and produced in Champagne, France may be called Champagne (although many...

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