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WineSpeed | Felton Road

Weekly insights from veteran wine writer Karen MacNeil

BY Karen Macneil | Life | Oct 9, 2017
Photo by Mark Meredith/Getty

Felton Road | “Calvert” Pinot Noir 2015

(Central Otago, New Zealand) $70 (750ml)

Mesmerizing flavor without mass. Richness without weight. I’ve always imagined that for the monks of Burgundy, a great pinot noir must have been a vinous “holy spirit”—a wine that transcended the corporeal. Felton Road’s “Calvert” Pinot Noir comes as close to this idea as any wine I’ve had in a long time. Ethereally light yet rivetingly rich, spicy and mineraly, it springs onto the palate with gymnastic grace. And then the wine begins to slowly unfurl itself. If it weren’t so monastic, it would be X-rated. (14% abv)

97 points KM

Available at K & L Wines

Burgundy, France, is famous for its chardonnay and pinot noir, as well as what food?

A. Walnuts
B. Mustard
C. Venison
D. Beets

Scroll down for the answer!

The Birthday Present You Always Wanted

It is an old tradition among the wealthy British upper classes to give a newborn child a “pipe” (about 61 cases!) of Port from the newborn’s birth year. In the past, vintage Port and single quinta vintage Port would generally be given. These would be shipped in cask to a British wine merchant who would bottle the Port, after which it would be stored in the parents’ cellar. By the time the child was old enough to drink, he or she would have a lifetime supply of perfectly matured Port. Today Port is bottled in Portugal, not Britain, but (for the U.K.’s aristocratic classes) the tradition remains essentially the same.

“Good wine is, by nature, fleeting, mysterious, ever-changing, subject to the imperfect, unpredictable nuances of weather, place and human judgement. It changes continually, reacting to temperature and touch, food and mood, its years in the bottle and its minutes in the glass. Whether it is cheap or expensive, those who love wine live for the thrill of the surprise, the sense of discovery, the pleasure of knowing that the best wines can take you places that you never anticipated.”

—Eric Asimov, the New York Times, May 17, 2017

Petrol

One of the characteristics certain rieslings have is what is commonly called “petrol”—a potent, distinctive aroma that some wine drinkers love and others hate. Petrol is caused by trimethyldihydronaphthalene—TDN for short. Several research studies have found that TDN is up to six times more likely to occur in riesling than in other varieties. One of the leading factors responsible for the molecule’s formation is too much sun exposure on riesling grapes as they grow. As a result, top riesling growers are always careful to allow leaves to slightly shade riesling clusters.

Steals under $20

My friend Dave McIntyre at the Washington Post recently rated 29 of the most popular cheap wines (some cost as little as 7 bucks). Go Dave! Check out which wine tasted like “berries and cherries” and which wine was “sewer gas” here.  

Calling Rambo

You can use nets. You can use cannons. You can walk around a vineyard randomly firing a shotgun in the air. But a better solution? Rambo—or one of his feathered friends. In some places like Carneros, Calif., small birds that eat grapes (only when they’re perfectly ripe, of course) are a curse this time of year. Draping the vineyard with expensive nets is only partially effective. Booming cannons scare the birds, at least until they get acclimated to the sound. But a falcon circling overhead? A falcon could eat you. Which is why grape-loving birds leave your vineyard immediately. Rambo, one such falcon, has been employed by a company called Authentic Abatement to swoop over several Carneros vineyards while looking hungry. (Apparently Rambo doesn’t really eat any little birds, preferring to be fed by his falconer master). One downside of this new “technology” for minimizing bird damage to vineyards: Eagles and hawks like to eat falcons.  

“I keep hearing about not holding my wine glass by the bowl because it will warm my wine. I can’t understand how holding the glass by my fingertips, some of those fingertips above the level of the wine, could change the temperature of the glass significantly, let alone the liquid inside it. I could understand warming my Chardonnay that’s too cold by holding the bowl with my palms, but no one unintentionally holds their glass that way. Can you clarify this for me?”
—Stephen O., Kansas City, MO

Stephen, I’m with you. I’ve never read any numerical data on this, but I, too, find the “warming argument” hard to believe—unless one had exceptionally sweaty fingers (?). I think the injunction against holding the bowl for temperature reasons might actually have been a bit of a ruse to remind people to hold a wineglass by the stem, which then allowed you to swirl the wine more easily (and more elegantly). Hey, WineSpeed readers: Anyone have another theory?
—Karen

Got a wine question for Karen? Great. She loves questions, and chances are, she’s got an answer. Send your question to AskKaren@winespeed.com.

B. France’s best-loved condiment, mustard is a Burgundian specialty. Most of it is moutarde de Dijon—a creamy, smooth, especially pungent style. Many Burgundian villages have their own moutarderie, or mustard shop, where artisanal mustards are made, often with slightly fermented white grape juice in place of vinegar.

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