JULIAN HITNER TORONTO WINE CONSULTANT

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JULIAN'S FINE WINE BLOG

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Wine Preservation

Posted by hitnerwine on June 23, 2012 at 9:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Preserving opened bottles of wine is a tricky business. There are so many products out there, in what has really become an excessively saturated market, guaranteeing to keep your wine fresh for days on end.

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But which ones actually work? Many studies have been done on the subject. Of actual closures, wines under screwcap have shown to boast the best track record, while glass closures (more expensive to produce) are quickly gaining in popularity. As for synthetic corks, these have been panned by virtually every expert.

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And what about all those devices invented by fledgling entrepreneurs to keep wine bottles with cork enclosures fresh? In Ontario, the LCBO offers compressed nitrogen spray bottles for $15.95 (120 full uses). These are believed to help keep wine fresh for only a few extra days.

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Another popular preserver is the air vacuum pump. Inserting a special cork, or stopper, over the bottle, you use your air vacuum device to pump all the air out of the bottle. For my part, I used to have one of these contraptions, but I never thought much of it. Were it not still in a drawer somewhere in my kitchen, it would literally be collecting dust at this very moment.

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Finally, I’ve come across closures that expand at the top of the bottle, providing a complete seal. On balance, these aren’t bad, and they only cost a few bucks. What can we learn from all this? Sometimes the cheapest, most basic devices are best.

 

Eliminating transfer restrictions

Posted by hitnerwine on April 4, 2012 at 9:40 AM Comments comments (0)

A few days ago, I read in the Toronto Star that a parliamentary committee in Ottawa is set to hear a private member’s bill that would permit alcohol to be shipped between provinces, thus eliminating a rule that has been in place since 1928 forbidding such transfers.

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One would expect opinions on such an issue to vary.

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For provincial liquor monopolies, such a bill would likely be neither supported nor welcomed. By eliminating transfer restrictions, consumers would then be able to purchase, or supplement, wine and other types of alcohol from alternate sources, thus lowering provincial revenues. For example, a wine buyer in Ontario would no longer be wholly dependent on the LCBO, but would be able to order wine from a private merchant in Alberta. The taxes from such a purchase would then go to Albertan coffers, not Ontario’s.

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On the other hand, consumers might view things differently. By eliminating transfer restrictions, there would be no more reliance on a single source for alcohol. There would be more choices of products, wine or otherwise. There would even be more flexibility in pricing. Need I say more?

Delta Chelsea: Bb33 - Bistro + Brasserie:

Posted by hitnerwine on February 17, 2012 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Every few years, my parents and I head to Bb33 - Bistro at the Delta Chelsea in downtown Toronto for dinner. Vouchers in hand, we get to do this once in awhile on account of my father having stayed at various Delta hotels so many times when travelling on business.

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Excellent fare at the Bb33 - Bistro as usual, this year there was one difference: we were able to bring our own wine, subject to a reasonable corkage fee. Many thanks to management for accommodating us!

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My selection: Château Branaire-Ducru 2003. Immaculately cellared, my father and I were astonished at the youthful vigour of this outstanding claret: Dark-opaque ruby, offering sensationally elegant, fragrant aromas of minerally-laced currants, black raspberries, black cherries, crushed rocks, pain grille, whiff of truffles, vanilla, and spice. Extremely complex, with extraordinary, seductive fruit, firm yet well integrated tannins, balanced acidity, and a fantastic hint of minerals, currants, and black raspberry parfait on the finish. Simply magnificent, though its milder acidity was readily apparent. A common attribute of many ‘03s.

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For the main course, I had Pommery mustard and fine herb crusted rack of lamb, replete with cookstown vegetables and Italian cannellini beans. Prepared perfectly rare, the meat—poignant yet delicate—paired sensationally with the wine.

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Oh, by the way, did I mention we were there to celebrate my mother’s birthday? Happy birthday, Mom! Many happy returns.

Bordeaux 2009 Notes

Posted by hitnerwine on February 3, 2012 at 10:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Typed up much sooner than I anticipated, here are the first of my notes from the outstanding 2009 vintage.

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White Wines:

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Château Pape Clément Blanc 2009, Pessac-Léognan AOC, Bordeaux, France: After Haut-Brion and La Mission, this could very well be the top white Bordeaux of 2009—a creation of magnificent posture, intensity, elegance, and breed. Pale lime in colour, the whimsical Pape Clément Blanc starts off with dazzling, slightly exotic scents of star fruit and lemon citrus, giving way to pears, orange zest, the most delicate of caramel, white chalk, almonds, quince, passion fruit, minerals, and an extraordinary hint of vanilla and spice. Insatiably complex, delivering stupendous, elegant fruit, perfect acidity, and an absolutely darling, endearing hint of lemon citrus, kiwi, almonds, and minerals on the finish. So multilayered and intense, it almost seems as if the wine is telling a story. 48% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Sémillon, 6% Muscadelle, and 6% Sauvignon Gris. Now-2028. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

96 $245.00 (#275495) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

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Domaine de Chevalier Blanc 2009, Pessac-Léognan AOC, Bordeaux, France: Consistently one of the greats of Pessac-Léognan, the 2009 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc tops the charts as an unbelievable, incontestably fabulous wine of remarkable refinement, intensity, and breed. Pale-light lime in colour, it exhibits astounding scents of lemon citrus, pears, star fruit, kiwi, minerals, almond paste, and the slightest touch of lanolin, vanilla, orange peel, acacia, and spice. Truly complex, with extraordinary intensity of fruit and balanced acidity, ending with an unfathomably elegant hint of lemon citrus, minerals, and subtle almonds on the finish. Resolutely seductive, collectors should have no hesitation acquiring a few cases of this heavenly wine. Typically 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Sémillon. Now-2025++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

95+ $149.00 (#581041) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

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Château Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc 2009, Pessac-Léognan AOC, Bordeaux, France: A liquid lesson in delicacy at its near-finest, the 2009 Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc is probably the most engrossing, ethereal wine co-proprietors Daniel and Florence Cathiard have ever produced (the ’07 is more verbose). Pale lime in colour, the wine is finely toasted, offering utterly brilliant scents of lemon citrus and pears, switching to almonds, orange zest, kiwi, gooseberries, minerals, and the slightest hint of vanillin and white flowers. Truly complex, carrying excellent, intensely delicate fruit, balanced acidity, and a magnificent, ponderous hint of lemony pears, minerals and citrus oils on the finish. Fabulously subtle, tempting, and refined. 90% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Sémillon, and 5% Sauvignon Gris. Now-2024+. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

93++ $135.00 (#201418) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

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Red Wines:

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Château Figeac 2009, St-Emilion AOC Premier Grand Cru Classé AOC, Bordeaux, France: With clear aspirations of promotion to the same status as Ausone and Cheval Blanc, the 2009 Château Figeac is a testament to what can be achieved at this terrific estate; a wine so wonderful, so close to perfection, that proprietor Eric d’Aramon might be forgiven for thinking, price-wise, that his château has already been given the nod. Dark-opaque ruby in colour, this legend in the making, beautifully toasted, presents astoundingly multilayered aromas of slightly fragrant mocha and currants, plums, blackberries, black cherries, espresso, graham crackers, violets, licorice, vanilla, and spice. Blatantly complex, possessing profound, wondrously elegant yet generous fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and an almost holistic, stupendous hint of perfumed mocha, currants, plums, and pencil lead on the finish. An out-of-body experience, this is a claret of tremendous allure, structure, style, depth, and finesse. Equal parts Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Now-2045++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

98+ $375.00 (#202689) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

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Château Haut-Bailly 2009, Pessac-Léognan AOC, Bordeaux, France: As if by subterfuge, the wines of Haut-Bailly have rapidly, though almost subtly, emerged as some of the most mesmerizing, most alluring wines of the appellation. The question, however, is whether or not the ’09 is Veronique Sanders’ best ever wine? Could be: dark-opaque ruby in colour, this blossoming beauty is amazingly toasted, featuring awe-inspiring aromas of currants, mocha, spring flowers, black cherries, plums, coffee, licorice, intense graphite, asphalt, espresso, vanilla, and spice. Resolutely complex, possessing dazzling, elegant fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and a lingering, profound hint of deep graphite-laden currants and espresso on the finish. A claret of astounding layering, refinement, pedigree, and the like. What a wine! 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Franc. Now-2036++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

97++ $179.00 (#201343) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

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Château La Conseillante 2009, Pomerol AOC, Bordeaux, France: While I have many other recent notes from La Conseillante, none come even close to matching the awesome allure, finesse, intensity, and concentration of the illustrious, poet laureate-like 2009 bottling. Dark-opaque ruby in colour and retaining brilliantly toasted oak, it offers ecstatically multilayered aromas of mocha-espresso, blackberries, black cherries, crème de cassis, Oreo Cookies®, crushed rocks, licorice, leather, forest floor, vanilla, and spice. Outrageously complex, displaying decadent, ‘classical’ fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and a lasting, distinctly refined hint of espresso, plummy currants, graphite, and licorice on the finish. Incredible in almost every respect, could this be the best vintage ever? Hard to say, as La Conseillante has produced so many great wines. For my part, however, the ’09 will probably become my favourite wine from here when matching it against others in the decades to come. 81% Merlot and 19% Cabernet Franc. Now-2042++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

97 $325.00 (#201913) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

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Château Pape Clément 2009, Pessac-Léognan AOC, Bordeaux, France: The attitudinally rock star-like wine of Pessac-Léognan, the 2009 Pape Clément seduces its audience with all the skill of a performer who knows just how to please his/her fans. Amazingly toasted, this legend in the making includes incredible multilayered aromas of espresso, currants, crème de cassis, blackberries, graphite, Oreo Cookies®, black cherries, blueberries, forest floor (very mild), vanilla, and spice. Extremely complex, showcasing amazingly elegant, multidimensional fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and a wholly luxurious, emphatic hint of espresso, currants, and pencil lead on the finish. Truly the best wine proprietor Bernard Magrez has ever been associated with. 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Franc. Now-2040+. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

97 $225.00 (#202309) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

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Château Clinet 2009, Pomerol AOC, Bordeaux, France: Hands down the greatest Château Clinet ever, proprietors Jean-Louis Laborde and son Ronan have effectively blessed collectors everywhere with their immortal ’09. Dark-opaque ruby in colour, the wine is heavenly in virtually every detail, revealing stupendous, hedonistic aromas of finely toasted and mocha, seamlessly switching to currants, black cherries, espresso cream, crushed rocks, licorice, loamy earth (of the highest quality), woodsmoke, vanilla, and spice. Incredibly complex, delivering unbelievably seductive, elegant fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and a long, heavenly hint of currants, black cherries, graphite, and nougats on the finish. Fantastically done: a wine of miraculous intensity, depth, multilayering, and allure. 87% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon. Now-2040++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

96++ $265.00 (#165449) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

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Clos Fourtet 2009, St-Emilion AOC Premier Grand Cru Classé AOC, Bordeaux, France: Easily the greatest Clos Fourtet ever produced, quality at this estate has soared beyond measure under current owner Philippe Cuvelier and his son Matthieu. Dark-opaque ruby in colour, the phenomenal ’09 is brilliantly toasted, revealing magnificent aromas of creamy black cherried mocha, plummy currants, crème de cassis, coffee, ‘dusty’ red licorice, flowers, woodsmoke, vanilla, and spice. Supremely complex, possessing elegant, almost voluptuous fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and an extraordinary, lingering hint of velvety cherried currants, mocha, and plums on the finish. Of unbelievable intensity, profoundness, and desire, collectors’ affection for this gem shall certainly be considerable. 88% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 4% Cabernet Franc. Now-2034++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

96+ $175.00 (#580399) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

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Château Léoville Barton 2009, St-Julien AOC, Bordeaux, France: Strikingly similar to the ’05, only that much more concentrated and agile (typical of the vintage), the 2009 Léoville Barton effectively catapults this exquisite estate into the category of the ‘Super Seconds,’ even if the price remains lower—and so much more reasonable. Dense ruby in colour, the wine is finely toasted, presenting exciting, decadent aromas of ‘crunchy’ currants and blackberries, mocha, black cherries, crème de cassis, spring flowers, licorice, crushed rocks, charcoal, vanilla, and spice. Outstandingly complex and multilayered, revealing fantastically elegant fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and an amazingly pure, lingering, and slightly hedonistic hint of currants, graphite, and delicate cherried spring flowers on the finish. Fantastically integrated, refined, bountiful, and alluring. 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22.5% Merlot, and 0.5% Cabernet Franc. Now-2042++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

96 $149.00 (#201376) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

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Château Lynch Bages 2009, Pauillac AOC, Bordeaux, France: The best Lynch Bages ever? Hard to say, as there have been so many great vintages from this much-beloved estate. Perhaps a thorough review of the stunning ’09, the wine in question, would help: dark-opaque ruby in colour, it is brilliantly toasted, showcasing magnificent, unusually decadent aromas of espresso-laden currants and mocha (seamlessly integrated), blackberries, black cherries, licorice, charcoal, graphite, suede leather, vanilla, and spice. Immensely complex and multilayered, featuring outstanding, classic fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and a lingering, extraordinary hint of currants, graphite, and black cherries (rather poignant) on the finish. Such allure, intensity, and stature, is the ’09 the best Lynch Bages ever? Could be, but even if it isn’t, it comes exceedingly close. 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot. Now-2040++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

96 $235.00 (#274902) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

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Château Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2009, Pauillac AOC, Bordeaux, France: The most sensual of the Pauillacs, the 2009 Pichon Comtesse is a testament to terroir—a wine so different from its same-named, across-the-road counterpart that you’d never know Lalande and Baron were neighbours. Dark-opaque ruby in colour, this intoxicating, Burgundian-inspired claret, beautifully toasted, exhibits dazzling aromas of strawberried currants, plums, blackberries, dark cherries, violet perfume (intermixed with assorted potpourri), licorice, crushed rocks, mild herbs and leather, vanilla, and spice. Truly complex, delivering outstandingly refined fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and a sinful, sensually elegant hint of silky strawberried currants and pencil lead on the finish. This has all the marks of a legend in the making; the only thing now needed is time. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot. Now-2036++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

96 $295.00 (#202200) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

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Château Canon-la-Gaffelière 2009, St-Emilion Grand Cru Classé AOC, Bordeaux, France: Quite likely the most decadent, luxurious wine Stéphan von Neipperg has ever created, the 2009 Canon-la-Gaffelière is a masterpiece at appealing to the lusty, provocative side of our senses. Dark-opaque ruby in colour, this seducer of cellar space presents unbelievably opulent aromas of beautiful toasted oak and mocha that eventually switches to black cherries, plums, blackberries, crème de cassis, espresso, licorice, vanillin, graphite, and spice. Really complex, possessing abundant yet magnificent fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and a lasting, luxurious hint of plummy blackberries, creamy mocha, and black cherries on the finish. About as profound and inviting as a wine of this type gets. 55% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Cabernet Franc. Now-2035++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

95++ $145.00 (#200196) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

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Château Smith Haut Lafitte 2009, Pessac-Léognan AOC, Bordeaux, France: Could this be the Cathiards’ opus vintage? Subtle in some respects while prodigiously enticing in others, the 2009 Smith Haut Lafitte is a stupendous achievement no matter which way you look at it. Dark-opaque ruby in colour, this wondrous wine is finely toasted, possessing classic, elegant aromas of exotic coffee-laden mocha and currants, blackberries and cherries, plums, graphite, licorice, sushi wrapper (top notch), forest floor, vanilla, and spice. Almost dramatically complex, delivering outstandingly elegant, multilayered fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and a fantastically refined hint of currants, plums, and graphite on the finish. With such personality, subtleties, and depth, collectors needn’t shy away from this beauty. 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot. Now-2035+. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

95++ $145.00 (#580241) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

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Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 2009, Pauillac AOC, Bordeaux, France: Quintessential ‘Baron,’ the 2009 Pichon-Longueville encapsulates the spirit of (arguably) the greatest appellation on the Left Bank. Dark-opaque ruby in colour, the wine is beautifully toasted, presenting pure ‘Pauillac’ aromas of mocha, currants, blackberries, plums, black cherries, pencil lead, violets, licorice, saddle leather, premium coffee brew elements, minerals, and a seamless hint of vanilla and spice. Intrinsically complex, delivering magnificently focused, intense, and elegant fruit, firm yet slightly supple tannins, balanced acidity, and a lingering, amazingly polished hint of currants, black cherries, and graphite on the finish. Immensely elegant, generous, stylish, and robust, this closely resembles the ’05, only with more concentration—such is the only really substantial difference, in my opinion. 67% Cabernet Sauvignon and 33% Merlot (according to one source). Now-2036++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

95 $209.00 (#201764) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

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Château Canon 2009, St-Emilion AOC Premier Grand Cru Classé AOC, Bordeaux, France: A startling improvement in comparison to most of its other vintages, one can only hope that Château Canon has turned over a new leaf (for good) with its astounding ‘09—a wine of such style, intensity, and structural brilliance that it’s almost unrecognizable from many of the estate’s other bottlings. Dark-opaque ruby in colour, this astonishing wine exhibits ultra-unique, alluring aromas of beautifully toasted oak, mocha, black cherries, currants, plums, coffee ice cream, licorice, red currants, graphite (almost fragrant), minerals, spring flowers, vanilla, and spice. Amazingly complex, featuring fantastic, elegant fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and a decisively refined, superlative hint of mocha, plummy currants, and coffee ice cream on the finish. The best Canon ever? It sure as hell looks like it. 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc. Now-2036++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

94++ $209.00 (#209270) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

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Château Rauzan-Ségla 2009, Margaux AOC, Bordeaux, France: Restored to its original lustre under the prudent administration of John Kolasa since 1994 when the estate was taken over by Chanel, Rauzan-Ségla has quietly yet steadfastly assumed its place as the best château of the appellation, after the eponymous Châteaux Margaux and Palmer. Hence, the fabulous 2009: dark-opaque ruby in colour, the wine, finely toasted, presents absolutely exquisite aromas of subtle, fragrant mocha and currants, giving way to dried raspberries and violets, black cherries, crushed flowers, licorice, pencil lead, vanilla, and spice. Sincerely complex, boasting stupendously elegant, wonderfully integrated fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and a wholly refined, tantalizingly silky, yet texturally expressive, hint of pure fragrant currants and violets on the finish. Probably the best Rauzan-Ségla I have ever tasted. Bravo! 68% Cabernet Sauvignon and 32% Merlot. Now-2035+. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

94 $145.00 (#200725) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

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Château Troplong Mondot 2009, St-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé AOC, Bordeaux, France: Likely the most powerful of the ‘09s, though it logs in at a massive, unprecedented 15.4% alcohol, the 2009 Troplong Mondot retains all the necessary constituents to both handle itself and excel like few other ‘blockbuster clarets.’ Dark-opaque ruby in colour, the wine delivers rich aromas of ‘thick’ mocha, currants, plums, kirsch liqueur, licorice, sesame oils, leather, port-like black fruits, vanilla, and spice. Fabulously complex, proffering amazingly velvety fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and an astonishing, lingering hint of smooth plummy currants and mocha on the finish. Excellent, powerful, and wholly unique—my, my, my. But will this wine last as long as its peers? Only time will tell. 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. Now-2030++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

94 $209.00 (#201004) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

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Château Beau-Séjour Bécot 2009, St-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé AOC, Bordeaux, France: With this wine, along with a terrific ’08 and several other excellent back vintages, Beau-Séjour Bécot has now firmly secured its place as one of the most improved, most collectible Premier Crus of St-Emilion. Dark-opaque ruby in colour, the fantastic ’09 is finely toasted, displaying startlingly alluring, surprisingly fragrant aromas of spring flowers, currants, blackberries, plums, licorice, mild incense, graphite, leather, forest floor, vanilla, and spice. Truly complex, delivering excellent, elegant fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and an incredible, almost heavenly hint of spring flowers, currants, and pencil lead on the finish. Even at 14.5% alcohol, a wine of superlative purity, style, structure, and breed. 70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Now-2036++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

93++ $109.00 (#580274) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

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Château Gruaud Larose 2009, St-Julien AOC, Bordeaux, France: As elegant and graceful as ever, the 2009 Gruaud Larose performs like a Schubert string quartet: so lyrical, harmonious, and emotionally relevant that all one can do is sit back, take a sip, and enjoy the music. Dark-opaque ruby in colour, this gem is finely yet delicately toasted, offering amazingly refined aromas of slightly fragrant currants and black cherries, switching to mild mocha shavings, blackberries, licorice, graphite, subtle grilled herbs, vanilla, and spice. Truly complex, possessing strikingly elegant, extraordinary fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and an almost ‘strict,’ pedigree-oriented hint of currants, plums, and flowers (plus a few black cherries) on the finish. The epitome of great St-Julien, from one of my favourite wineries in Bordeaux. 68% Cabernet Sauvignon and 32% Merlot. Now-2032++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

93++ $125.00 (#580753) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

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Château Cantenac-Brown 2009, Margaux AOC, Bordeaux, France: Indisputably the best vintage ever, the 2009 Cantenac-Brown should settle all doubts as to the potential of this long-underperforming estate. Dark ruby in colour, this great wine features enticingly fragrant aromas of dried raspberried black currants and violets, switching to blackberries, blueberries, flowers, pencil lead, minerals, mild graham crackers, vanilla, and spice. Truly complex, presenting exceptional, unusually decadent yet decisively delicate fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and a lingering, absolutely marvellous hint of silky violet currants, black raspberries, and graphite on the finish. Uncannily focused, supremely elegant, and stylish. Fantastic claret. 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 35% Merlot. Now-2030++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

93+ $199.00 (#580639) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

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Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste 2009, Pauillac AOC, Bordeaux, France: For Pauillac lovers, the wines of Grand-Puy-Lacoste are continual must-haves for any thoroughly assembled collection; and while the 2009 is just a shade less ambitious than the phenomenal ’05, there is absolutely no reason not to adore this wine. Dark-opaque ruby in colour, it is finely toasted, with—what I assume to be—deliberately ethereal yet superb aromas of currants, blackberries, plums, roasted herbs, graphite, black cherries, licorice, vanilla, and spice. Very complex, possessing excellently structured, supreme ‘Pauillac’ fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and an elegant, stylish hint of currants, graphite, and black cherries (all extremely pure) on the finish. Marvellously assembled: focused, upright, and sincerely harmonious. Now-2030++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

93+ $115.00 (#199406) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

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Château Saint-Pierre 2009, St-Julien AOC, Bordeaux, France: A shame this smaller-sized estate isn’t better known, for its wines are often of superlative calibre, with the exquisite ‘09 ranking among the best ever made. Dark-opaque ruby in colour, this brilliant wine is beautifully toasted, displaying magnificently engaging, assertive aromas of suggestively fragrant currants, blackberries, plums, dried black cherries, licorice, burning embers, forest floor, vanilla, and spice. Innately complex, featuring excellent, harmonious fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and a wonderfully elegant hint of delicate mocha, currants, and flowers on the finish. In the end: a claret of incredible purity, structure, depth, and finesse. The vineyard is planted to 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc—a shame I was unable to learn the exact percentages of the vintage. Now-2034++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

93+ $119.00 (#229526) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

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Château Brane-Cantenac 2009, Margaux AOC, Bordeaux, France: Remarkably similar to the ’05, only a shade fuller, the 2009 Brane-Cantenac is a claret of unabashed pedigree, finesse, balance, and fragrant, sensual delight. Dark-opaque ruby in colour, the wine is wonderfully perfumed, featuring superlative aromas of raspberry-driven currants and blackberries, plums, spring flowers (mostly violets), licorice, delicate graphite, minerals, vanilla, and spice. Very complex, offering excellent, aristocratically pure fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and an utterly refined, (appellation-) ‘Margaux’ hint of violet currants, black raspberried plums, and minerals on the finish. Likely the best wine owner Henri Lurton has ever presided over. Beyond enviable. 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 7% Cabernet Franc. Now-2032+. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

93 $109.00 (#580621) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

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Château Langoa Barton 2009, St-Julien AOC, Bordeaux, France: The greatest Langoa Barton I have ever tasted, while other recent vintages have also been excellent, it’s the extra concentration and finesse that puts the ’09 in a league of its own. Dark-opaque ruby in colour, the wine, with a shade of the ‘Margaux’ appellation about it, reveals sensational aromas of finely toasted oak and fragrant currants, switching to blackberries, violets (spring flowers), black fruits, black cherries, fresh herbs (extremely subtle), forest floor, asphalt, and spice. Very complex, boasting wonderfully pure, elegant fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and a refined, suggestively velvety hint of currants and flowers on the finish. Pure, smooth, and refined, collectors will want to hurry and secure a case or two of the stuff. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Franc. Now-2032+. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

93 $95.00 (#201061) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

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Château Pavie Macquin 2009, St-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé AOC, Bordeaux, France: Burgeoning with unfettered uniqueness, generosity, and character, the 2009 Pavie Macquin is a testament to proprietor Nicolas Thienpont’s refusal to rest on his laurels after securing his estate’s well-earned promotion in 2006. Dark-opaque ruby in colour, the wine shares extraordinary aromas of fig-laced mocha, currants, black cherries, kirsch, forest floor, licorice, subtle wild game, flowers, woodsmoke, vanilla, and spice. Truly complex, possessing wonderfully vibrant, expressive fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and an outstanding hint of figs, mocha, and red currants on the finish. So delicious and fulsome, its otherwise sinewy characteristics only serve to enhance its allurement. 85% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot. Now-2032++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

93 $145.00 (#229260) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

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Château Beychevelle 2009, St-Julien AOC, Bordeaux, France: A St-Julien of extraordinary finesse, structure, and style, the excellent 2009 Château Beychevelle, to put it mildly, continues to put the estate on a firm footing of successful, successive improvement. Dark-opaque ruby in colour, this superb claret is finely toasted, displaying extremely refined, inviting aromas of slightly raspberried/black cherried currants, blackberries, plums, licorice, asphalt, charcoal, dried herbs, and a hint of perfumed flowers (extremely subtle), vanilla, and spice. Very complex, showcasing remarkably refined fruit, firm tannins, balanced acidity, and a plentiful, elegant hint of black perfumed currants on the finish. Outstanding effort from an outstanding vintage. 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Petit Verdot. Now-2028++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

92 $105.00 (#200543) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

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Dessert Wine:

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Château Climens 2009, Barsac AOC, Bordeaux, France: Widely considered second only to d’Yquem, the wines of Château Climens have an uncanny ability to excite the ‘sweet senses’ like few other stickies. Pale-light golden-yellow in colour, the prodigious ’09 reveals astounding scents that seem like they’re only beginning to present themselves: exotic lemon blossom, honeycomb, Honey Nut Cheerios®, acacia flowers, orange zest/peel, marmalade, melon rinds, and spice. Extremely complex and pure, possessing amazingly intense, preposterously elegant, and alluring sweet fruit, balanced acidity, and a long-lasting, ‘golden liquid’ hint of honeycomb, lemon blossom, and Honey Nut Cheerios® on the finish. About as intense, elegant, and enticing as they come—a definite candidate for ‘sticky of the vintage.’ 100% Sémillon (as intimated by their website). Now-2055++. (Julian Hitner, The Successful Collector, January 2012)

97 $175.00 (#274936) Vintages 2009 Bordeaux Futures

Union des Grands Cru de Bordeaux: '09s

Posted by hitnerwine on January 28, 2012 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Scrambling to taste as many wines as possible, by the time the evening was over I’d amassed a small yet handsome sum of 28 detailed notes out of 115 wines. I would have recorded much more, but meticulous wine commentary takes lots of time.

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Still, it would have been nice if I’d been able to record many more wines, but three hours is not enough time to properly taste the great estates of Bordeaux, particularly from as lauded a vintage as 2009, which, by the way, lives every bit up to its hype. Since tasting the ‘05s, I have never tasted so many stupendous wines at one event, and I have the hangover the prove it—no willpower for spittoons on this occasion.

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For collectors, then, all one should know is that the ‘09s are must-haves as cellarable additions. And while I will not be posting my notes until the next few weeks (possibly earlier), here’s a list of my top ten red wines:

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Château Figeac: probably their best wine ever; exceedingly multilayered, almost holistic, and piled to the rafters in terms of fullness, pedigree, balance, and structural superiority; a privilege to taste. 98/100 ($375 per bottle)

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Château Haut-Bailly: now rivaling Pape-Clément for top wine of the appellation, that is, after Haut-Brion and La Mission, the ’09 Haut-Bailly is a wine of astounding layering, refinement, and pedigree. Bravo! 97++/100 ($179 per bottle)

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Château Pape Clément: insanely decadent, luxurious, and refined; this will likely be hailed as the most immortal wine proprietor Bernard Magrez has ever been associated with; the white version is also astounding. 97/100 ($225 per bottle)

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Château La Conseillante: a little piece of heaven in liquid form, this is Pomerol at its most luxurious, most sophisticated, and most desirable; in the past, fantastic wines were always made here; now it seems they’re shooting for the stars. 97/100 ($325 per bottle)

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Château Clinet: a stratospheric achievement, the ’09 Château Clinet possesses all the hallmarks of a legend in the making; fantastically styled, deeply rich, and incredibly multilayered; an exercise in indulgence. 96++/100 ($265 per bottle)

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Clos Fourtet: the culmination of countless improvements, this is the greatest Clos Fourtet ever, with such a direly profound, intensely sumptuous disposition that I ended off the night with a sturdy helping of the stuff. 96+/100 ($175 per bottle)

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Château Léoville Barton: similar to the ’05, only fuller in design, the refinement of this wine is incredible; a claret of fantastic integration, style, balance, and breed; truly a classic. 96/100 ($149 per bottle)

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Château Lynch Bages: the epitome of great Pauillac, this is the greatest Lynch Bages I have ever tasted, possessing such incredible, heavenly structure, breadth, posture, and ‘fat’ in just the right places. 96/100 ($235 per bottle)

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Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande: the most Burgundian wine of the night, almost enigmatic in strawberry perfume, yet unmistakably ‘Pauillac’ in density, fullness, and breed. 96/100 ($295 per bottle)

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Château Canon-la-Gaffelière: with so much going on here, this is the most luxurious, decadent Canon-la-Gaffelière ever created; it’s also one of the most generous, desirably ‘fatty’ wines of the vintage. 95++/100 ($145 per bottle)

Meyer Family Vineyards: Part III

Posted by hitnerwine on January 26, 2012 at 10:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Having tasting roughly four different wines from Meyer Family Vineyards, I have now arrived at several conclusions.

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First, rather than focusing on quantity, co-owners Jak Mayer and Janice Stevens have opted to trudge a far more difficult path—that of focusing on quality. Second, while their Chardonnays are not without charm, it’s the Pinots that truly stand out.

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Last night, I made my way through several glasses of their Reimer Vineyard 2010 Pinot Noir, which turned out to be the best wine I’ve had from Meyer Family Vineyards, thus far. Deliciously pure, balanced, and elegant, the ‘Pinot’ thumbprint was so transparent and sensual that it was difficult to avoid gulping the wine rather than sip it—a problem I wish I encountered more often...

Another article on LCBO price gouging

Posted by hitnerwine on January 10, 2012 at 3:15 PM Comments comments (0)

A delightful, to-the-point piece by Toronto Star columnist Martin Regg Cohn on the recent findings of Ontario Auditor General Jim McCarter, on the blatant heavy-handed price gouging of the LCBO. For his part, Mr. Regg Cohn blasts the LBCO for forcing wineries to sell products to the LCBO at an inflated price, just so the latter can charge its Ontario-based customers more.

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And yet, both Mr. McCarter and Mr. Regg Cohn suggest the LCBO should simply ask producers to charge less and pocket the extra money, themselves, instead of reducing inflated costs to consumers, so the provincial government can rake in even more money; which I am dead set against. And here’s why.

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In case Ontarians have forgotten, not long ago Mr. McCarter discovered what many Ontario-based wine writers have long known all about, and argued against, for so many years: the heavy-handed price-setting polices of the LCBO, where the consumer is oftentimes forced to pay much more for fine wines and spirits, among other types of alcohol, than other places such as Europe or the United States, when we should actually be paying less on account of the LCBO’s unparalleled purchasing power.

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For years, the LCBO has defended its pricing strategy with the age-old argument that lower prices contravene its mandate of "social responsibility.” Buried deep on its official public website, the LCBO explains that it sets “minimum prices, since research shows that price affects consumption levels.”

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Now, if you were a skeptic, like all journalists—and all intelligent people—ought to be, you may probably want to examine such research for yourself. Granted, common sense would dictate that a bottle of vodka costing only a buck would invariably drive alcoholism through the roof, especially with people already suffering from addiction. In short, though it might seem contrary to what I’m trying to impart, I have no objection to minimum prices on alcohol.

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Still, there must be limits to how these prices are to be set. While dollar-vodka seems grossly irresponsible, why do I have to shell out a minimum of $40 for any bottle of champagne? In the UK, one can buy a bottle of champagne for £15, sometimes even less.

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Need another example, what about a bottle of Rémy XO? Why do I have to pay a ludicrous $226.80 for a 750-mL bottle, when I can purchase it for up to half that price abroad?

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And then there’s wine. You wouldn’t believe how many wines, especially premium ones, you could buy cheaper outside of Ontario, not necessarily anywhere else in the country (government-monopolized, as mostly it is) but outside of Canada, where responsible alcohol buyers are treated with more respect. Here’s just one example: at a large liquor store in Buffalo, a bottle of 2006 La Parde de Haut-Bailly costs $31.44. Know what the LCBO price is? $48.00.

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What can we learn from this? In each and every case, my right to purchase a bottle of champagne, fine Cognac, or premium wine at a reasonable price is being infringed, not because of some patently self-serving "social responsibility" mandate, but because I’m strictly being gouged.

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That’s the trouble with approaching the matter of price setting with the deeply flawed notion that everyone who buys alcohol just wants to get drunk. What about all those moderate imbibers out there who merely, legitimately want to get a fair deal for the wine, beer, and spirits they purchase? I’m not saying such products should all cost a dollar, but they should at least be in line with what people pay elsewhere.

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At present, the fact that a government monopoly is charging us so much more, especially for finer products, is simply rubbing salt in the wound.

Chablis, champagne, and oysters

Posted by hitnerwine on January 10, 2012 at 9:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Chablis, champagne, and oysters: one of the most classic pairings known to my profession.

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This past Saturday, my father and I dined at Rodney’s Oyster House in downtown Toronto with local, internationally focused wine writer Liz Palmer, a good friend of ours. Starting off with a plate of twenty-four oysters, sourced from various parts of Canada and abroad, we first began our little soirée with a bottle of champagne, Liz’s excellent contribution for the evening: Godmé Père & Fils Brut Réserve, sourced from Premier Cru grapes from the Verzenay village. A delicious, more fruit-driven bubbly, still rather zesty, elegant, and full of finesse. It seemed to pair best with meatier, slightly sweeter oysters, the names of which for the life of me I simply cannot recall at this time.

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Switching to Chablis, our main, crème-de-la-crème wine of the evening was the Christian Moreau 2005 Les Clos Grand Cru. I recall several bottles of this about six years ago as part of a Vintages Special Offer, one of the best ’05 Chablis’ I’d ever tasted; and you wouldn’t believe how stunning it’s become over time: creamy, masterfully minerally, and ever-so complex. Brooding over this wine for over an hour, helping myself to an oyster now and then, despite all the commotion around me (Rodney’s can be a little noisy—part of its charm), I was in my own little world …

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Oh, and speaking of Rodney’s, let me take this opportunity to extend my sincerest compliments to manager Julius, our servers, and the entire staff at Toronto’s best oyster establishment! Put simply, they could not do enough for our modest party of three; plus the oysters, later replaced by a moderate platter of mussels immersed in white wine sauce along with a small order of smoked salmon, were all first-rate.

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Done with our Les Clos, we still had one more bottle: the 2008 La Chablisienne Chablis Vieilles Vignes, a Vintages Essentials product, and one that seldom fails to impress. A great deal humbler than the Moreau, the steely, more ‘pointed’ attitude of the ‘Vieilles Vignes’ (who knows how the vines really are) was a perfect way to end off the evening … not to mention the Christmas break.

Beer or champagne?

Posted by hitnerwine on December 28, 2011 at 4:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Just read Toronto Star beer critic Josh Rubin’s short piece (or insinuation) on how one might view it as questionable that people are so quick to gravitate towards champagne or other types of sparkling wine to celebrate the New Year. In short, Rubin argues “why not go for a change and toast [the New Year] with a beer?”

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A fair argument from a beer critic, who, almost by definition, is in constant competition with wine writers to promote his suggestions. After all, there are many beers of outstanding quality, even complexity, which I would have no objection enjoying for celebratory purposes. Plus, the fact that beer’s carbonated is also in its favour (more on this in a moment).

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But sparkling wine, particularly champagne, is different. Most famously used for celebration, this is both fortunate and unfortunate. On the one hand, it ensures that there will always be a ready market for champagne at a particular time of year. On the other hand, it leads people to believe that champagne can, or should, only be enjoyed on special occasions. Why, if it were up to me, I’d have a glass or two of champagne every day.

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Back to the subject at hand. What I think I dislike most about Rubin’s approach is his suggestive, almost grandiloquent stance that wine enthusiasts, high and mighty as they supposedly are, may not be capable of appreciating fine beers, in this case for celebrating the New Year.

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Assuming I am gauging his position accurately, is such an intimation correct? If I’m anything to go by, it isn’t. I see nothing wrong with using beer to toast the New Year; although my first choice would be wine. Truly, is there anything finer than popping open a cork of Charles Heidsieck, watching as its frothy contents are poured into a slender flute, its tiny bubbles exciting the tongue and going right to my head (via the bloodstream)? No doubt this has been a primary reason why champagne has had such a success at becoming the drink of choice on celebratory occasions.

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But this is beside the point. In the end, it all comes down to choice; and Rubin would be well reminded that not everything is a competition, even if, in my point of view, champagne is a better celebratory drink than beer. Oh, how I adore (near-) self-contradictions!

David Kamp: wine snobs

Posted by hitnerwine on December 26, 2011 at 1:50 PM Comments comments (0)

An unusual wine website I just visited, called snobsite.com, and created by David Kamp, a writer from Vanity Fair. Hard to, at least initially, make out the point that Kamp seems so compelled to impart, that people who take wine seriously are all snobs.

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Is such an assertion correct, or is it yet another example of unnecessary posturing by someone with too large an ego for their own good, a kindred spirit to myself, even? Personally, I’ll give my nod to the latter, having read the contents of Kamp’s site thoroughly. Looking through his archives (last updated February 2009), it would appear that Kamp harbours a witticism-laced dislike for knowledgeable persons who, in this case concerning wine, present their knowledge in an educated manner. More specifically, he dislikes any and all sort(s) of pretension, the undesirable behaviour of persons who, in possession of much knowledge, present their knowledge in pompous, bombastic manners.

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On the other hand, confining our brief discussion to wine, I would submit to Kamp that there are many ways to express one’s knowledge, or appreciation, about wine, or fine food, or art, or literature, or architecture, or supermarket magazines that do not necessitate the act of snobbery. Of course, nobody enjoys individuals acting snobbish; but simply being knowledgeable about wine and speaking about it while using such terms as described by Kamp is not, I would argue, behaving snobbish. It is the simple exercise of knowledge, nothing more, nothing less.

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However, if you, Kamp, prefer enjoying wine in the company of persons who have taken a vow of silence, by all means. Or perhaps that is an exaggeration. Perhaps all you would like are persons that just love drinking wine for wine’s sake, persons that don’t want to talk about wine’s attributes. Sounds a little boring, but don’t let me stop you.

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In any event, I strongly urge you to revisit your opinion of people who are knowledgeable about wine. Who knows? Perhaps you might even learn something, though judging by your having written an entire book on the subject, such an outcome is perhaps highly unlikely.


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