Belvedere not only rides the wave of popularity of luxury vodkas, but also makes a good claim to having established the category.
Wine has long been the subject of hyperbole, whether it’s Pliny the Elder’s statement that “In wine, there is truth” (in vino veritas), Jack Kerouac’s rework that “There’s wisdom in wine,” Ernest Hemingway’s assertion that “Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world,” or Michel Bettane’s more recent comment that “Fine wine is part of civilized life.”
In the courtyard outside Moët & Chandon’s imposing premises in Épernay stands a statue of Dom Pérignon, the Benedictine monk often credited with having created champagne in the 1670s. The statue is popular with the tourists who throng Moët’s tasting room and retail store, and they stand on Dom Pérignon’s plinth to have their photographs snapped with him, as if he were a Disney character.
The grapes for Taylor Fladgate’s 1863 port were picked the year Henry Ford and William Randolph Hearst were born and the Battle of Gettysburg took place. It was a stellar year in the Douro Valley.
A quiet revolution is taking place in Germany these days, and it might well deal with some of the major obstacles German wine has met among international consumers. The revolution is taking place in many vineyards and wineries, and in the ways that the highest-quality German wines are labelled.
The craft of whisky making has not changed much in the Balvenie’s production during the past century, and the distillery is one of the last in Scotland to boast in-house floor maltings that use locally hand-cut peat.
The common stereotypes of the wine world include the idea that all California wines are fruitbombs, high in alcohol, and full of oak. According to this image, California chardonnays are sweet, oaky, and lacking complexity or structure, and California cabernet sauvignons are intensely fruity and high-octane numbers, often with mouth-bruising tannins.
The easiest way of locating Puglia (it’s the way it’s done there) is to say it’s the heel of the boot-shaped Italian peninsula. Wine has been made there for thousands of years.
FROM THE ARCHIVE: If any landscape looks timeless—or (a more modest claim) as if it hasn’t changed for many centuries—it is Tuscany’s. But behind the landscape, Tuscany’s wine industry is anything but timeless.
Geographically, Chile counts as part of the New World, but in terms of its wine, it has a good claim to be part of the Old. Spanish missionaries and settlers planted grapevines there as early as the 1550s—and not just for sacramental purposes, by any means.
FROM THE ARCHIVE:The experience of tasting Rémy Martin’s Louis XIII Cognac—a blend of 1,200 eaux-de-vie that have been aged between 40 and 100 years—is a trip into history. A visit to Poitou-Charentes, France, reveals the soul of this precious liquid.
FROM THE ARCHIVE: Diamonds are forever, but corks are for 25 years. Well, sort of. In reality, of course, there’s no certainty about the longevity of a cork when it’s used for sealing a wine bottle; there are no actuarial tables for corks, and how long they last depends on variables like the quality of the cork and the conditions in which the bottle of wine is kept.
There’s just no denying that cognac is better known than Armagnac. Both are brandies, created by distilling wine, and they’re made in regions only 100 kilometres apart at their closest points. But cognac is dominated by four big brands, while Armagnac is more often artisanal.
The South African wine industry did not have the most impressive of beginnings. In the past two decades, South Africa’s wineries have played catch-up, and done so very successfully. Vineyards have been renovated (and expanded by more than 50 per cent), best international practices adopted, and winemaking modernized.
If you feel like serenading your partner in the middle of the night, or you just feel like expressing yourself musically, you’re in luck if you’re staying at Le Royal Monceau—Raffles Paris hotel.
The world’s most expensive bottle of wine isn’t in a bottle. It’s aging in an elongated ampoule, within a hand-blown glass vessel called a vestibule. The shape of the vestibule is a stylized form of an amphora, the pottery jar—wide at the top and tapering to a point—that was used for centuries to store and ship wine in the ancient world.
The main course for the dinner party you’re preparing would suitably pair with a bottle of Château Cheval Blanc from 1947—widely regarded as the vintage of the century—but you don’t have one to hand. If you live in London, England, you can phone Hedonism Wines.
Being offered a premium wine for $12 a bottle might sound a bit like being offered some prime swampland at a knock-down price. Premium has the ring of quality about it, and many people might well think of premium wines as including first-growth Bordeaux and Super Tuscans.
If Argentines had not dramatically reduced their consumption of wine in the last few decades, the rest of the world might not be enjoying all those Argentinian wines now available in markets as diverse as Europe, Canada, the United States, and China. Fifty years ago, Argentina had one of the highest per capita rates of wine consumption anywhere.
It’s generally easy to spot an Austrian wine. The tops of most screw caps or foils show the design and colours of the country’s flag (two red bars separated by a white one), a smart move that makes Austria’s quality wines readily identifiable.
An hour’s drive from Toulouse in southwest France is Albi. It’s called “the Red Town” for a reason, and it has nothing to do with politics.
For hundreds of years, cognac was anything but a hip drink. It was always drunk straight, sometimes warmed. It was the digestif of choice for older men, who nursed snifters of the amber liquid and slumbered in massive leather armchairs after a heavy meal. So today, drinking a cognac cocktail in a tall glass with a twist of lemon seems almost heretical.
Riesling is still the single most planted grape in Germany and covers a fifth of the land planted in vines. Yet there’s been a seismic shift in the importance of other varieties, and what Germans call the “Pinot Trio” (pinot noir, pinot blanc, and pinot grigio) has made significant gains. Of these, the one to watch is pinot noir.
FROM THE ARCHIVE: Sicily is one of the few wine regions where you can explore grape varieties from A to Z. You can start with ansonica and end with zibibbo—the local name for muscat of Alexandria—and, along the way, taste indigenous varieties like catarratto and nero d’Avola, and international grapes as different as syrah and sauvignon blanc.
There are wine competitions devoted to chardonnay and there are celebrations of zinfandel, but carmenère might be the first grape variety to have an anniversary party.
At 33, Vincent Chaperon looks his age—no older, no younger. He’s smartly dressed in a suit and tie, and looks like a whiz kid in the world of law or commerce. Instead, he’s a fizz kid, the oenologist at renowned champagne house Dom Pérignon.