Karen MacNeil, WineSpeed

Veteran wine writer Karen MacNeil shares insights with subscribers in her weekly newsletter, WineSpeed. Read excerpts from this week’s edition below.

Wines to Know

Klein Constantia | “Vin de Constance” 2013
(Constantia, South Africa) $95 (500ml)

It’s hard to express just how devastatingly good—drop dead gorgeous—this wine is. A sweeping uplift of flavor that explodes in the mind. As if every pear, apricot and orange in the world were reduced to atomic density. The key to a great sweet wine is an underlying sculpture of fresh acidity, so that the wine has energy. Unlike, say, most Sauternes, Vin de Constance is not unctuous. It’s a brilliant whirlwind that you should drink by itself some wonderful evening before dinner—which is how it has been drunk for centuries. Founded in 1685, Constantia is South Africa’s most famous winery. (13.5%)

98 points KM

Available at Cape Ardor

Wine Question

Which of the following regions produces a dry red wine?

A. Tavel
B. Condrieu
C. St-Péray
D. Cornas

Scroll down for the answer!


“Accept what life offers you, and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.”

—Paulo CoelhoAuthor of The Alchemist

Fascinating Facts

Old Vines

Treasured everywhere in the world, old vines are often described as “wise.” They don’t expend useless energy forming unnecessary leaves. They focus on producing just a few grape clusters and ripening them well, rather than generating lots of clusters. Interestingly, what makes an old vine old is not defined by law. That said, most top producers consider a vine to be old once it’s over 40 years old. (There’s a human parallel here, I’m afraid). Following are some different country’s terms for old vines.   

•           France: Vieilles Vignes
•           Germany: Alte Reben
•           Portugal: Vinhas Velhas
•           Spain: Viñas Viejas
•           Italy: Antico Vitigno
Windspeed with Karen MacNeil - Winespeed blog

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Karen MacNeil, WineSpeed-Wine Words


A vine shoot (or stem) that has turned from green to tannish brown and has become hard and fibrous. Shoots turn to canes in the fall in order to withstand the oncoming winter. A vine’s canes will ultimately be pruned back, usually in the late winter around this time.

Wine Question Answered

D.Cornas is a tiny region at the southern end of the northern Rhône Valley of France. Only red wines are made here, exclusively from syrah grapes. Condrieu and Saint-Péray are both white wine appellations located also in the northern Rhône. Tavel is an all-rosé appellation in the southern Rhône.