Tag: Wall Street Journal

Sep 09 2012

New Zealand Pinot Noir: What Sets it Apart?

Posted on September 09, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

I was intrigued to read Lettie Teague’s recent article in the Wall Street Journal entitled What Happened to New Zealand Pinot Noir? Fortunately, the article was not about a decline in the quality of New Zealand pinot noir, but rather a lament about its disappearance from the shelves of many American wine stores. Teague cited a few reasons that I’m sure would also ring a bell with Australian wineries: not enough distributors, an unfavourable exchange rate and poor brand recognition. (WSJ, 1 September 2012)

Teague also shared Felton Road‘s head winemaker Blair Walter’s comment that “The USA is about the only place where New Zealand Pinot competes directly with the other New World Pinots.” He noted that in other markets New Zealand pinot noir is second only to Burgundy since most U.S. pinot makers don’t export their wines.

Teague interviewed an Oregon wine buyer, Mike Dietrich, who happens to love New Zealand pinot noir and has managed to put together a reasonable selection for the Fred Meyer store in Tualatin, Oregon. He believes that New Zealand and Oregon pinot noir have a lot in common: “Oregon and New Zealand Pinots are less about fruit and more about earth and minerals,” he told Teague. “There’s an earthy complexity to the wines—they’re not just fruit-forward like California Pinots.”

While Teague was less than impressed with lower price point New Zealand pinot noir (around $20 a bottle), she believes that the higher priced wines express a uniquely New Zealand point of view: “The Pinots from producers such as Ata Rangi, Felton Road, Craggy Range and Greywacke were quite good. Some, particularly the Felton Road and Ata Rangi, were truly impressive, marked by dense, dark fruit, firm minerality and a pleasing savory quality. But as Mr. Dietrich had noted, ‘fruit-forward/ they were … Read the rest

Sep 09 2010

What makes a Good Wine List?

Posted on September 09, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, Building a Better Wine List, 7 August 2010, wine writer Lettie Teague discussed the surprising lack of consensus around the best way to present a restaurant wine list. Some restaurants list their wine according to country of origin, others groups the wines according to the standard varietals or simply colour, eg. red, white, rose. Sometimes wines are listed according to intensity, eg. light, medium, full bodied etc. or texture and aroma, eg. lush or floral, and occasionally emotion comes into play, eg. “intense and brooding.”

So, “which kind truly serves diners best?” Teague asks. If you’re reading this post or have already clicked on the link to Teague’s article, you’re probably the one who is usually given the task of choosing the wine! Invariably, I often find myself in that position, and if none of the names on the list look familiar, I call on the waiter for his or her advice!

Nothing wrong with that according to Teague. She argues that an enthusiastic and knowledgeable waiter or sommelier is just as important as an engaging wine list when it comes to selling restaurant wine. But surely we could all benefit from a few well thought out guidelines about how to present a wine list.

Here are Teague’s suggestions:

  • Geography-focused wine lists should contain maps. (If a place is important, then show it)
  • Varietal-focused wine lists should come with descriptors of the grapes. (What does a Coda di Volpe taste like, anyway?)
  • Descriptive wine lists should be limited to flavors and textures. (And those flavors and textures should be universal—words like crisp, fruity and oaky tend to be widely understood.)
  • A passionate sommelier is terrific—but better in person than on the page. (Emotional excess can annoy as much as appeal.)
Read the rest