Wine Spectator: January 15, 2008

Dec 18, 2007 at 12:20 pm

Gut Check reads the leading food and beverage publications -- so you don't have to!

Next Time: The Science of Beer Goggles I love how almost every issue of Wine Spectator includes a news item on how drinking wine can improve your health. This time it's a study on rats that shows drinking wine in moderation might -- key word -- improve your memory. At any rate, the Heavy-Drinking Rats is a good (though not great) band name. Also: 90210 star Jason Priestly has invested in a winery.

Asti Spumante Pairs Well with Chex Mix The only time I ever had vintage Champagne was at a party a few years ago. It had a musty, slightly apple-like flavor, and everyone who drank it promptly felt ill. That has nothing to do with Sam Gugino's article on pairing food with Champagne. Useful tip: Pair raw seafood with a blanc de blancs. Mark Pendergrast notes a few blends coffee geeks don't have to be ashamed to drink.

I'm Sure a Missouri Wine Was #101 This issue's cover feature is the magazine's annual list of the year's 100 best wines. (That is, wines released this year, not made this year. Obviously. Stop rolling your eyes, wine snobs.) The big winner is the 2005 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which has "an enormous core of fruit and minerality along with massive structure." SRP: $80. Good luck finding it at that price.

A Writer and His Kangaroo When I was a grad student at the University of Iowa, the local supermarket held a drawing for a large stuffed kangaroo. This was a promotion for Yellow Tail wine, which -- thanks to its cheap cost and availability in magnum size -- was the drink of choice for pretty much every dinner party I attended those two years.

At any rate, I was obsessed with this fucking kangaroo. I must have entered my name at least two dozen times. My girlfriend was quite concerned for my sanity and probably rethinking her plan to move to St. Louis with me. Alas, I didn't win. There's no moral here. I mention this only because Yellow Tail's 2005 "reserve" shiraz is #72 on the list of the year's best wines. Not bad for a brand I associate more with bull sessions on the future of American fiction than with, you know, taste.

Still No Mention of Asti Spumante? A report on Champagne finds that scores and prices are rising. Looking to splurge? The Krug 1996 Brut Champagne weighs in at 99 points for $250. American sparkling wines are also on the way up. Argentina offers a -- Oh, wait. This is one of those multi-page advertising supplements made to look like an article. Never mind.

OK: No Asti Spumante -- But Beaujolais Does Get Thrashed I'll Drink to That, a history of the Beaujolais region and its divisive wines -- which Jancis Robinson wonderfully describes in the Oxford Companion to Wine as "quanitatively important" -- is among the magazine's wine books of the year. Other noteworthy tomes include The House of Mondavi, Julia Flynn Siler's history of the Mondavis, and To Cork or Not to Cork by George M. Taber.

And Then a Nap A q-and-a on the magazine's blind tastings reveals that the editors taste from 30 to 50 wines a day. In general, a feature on the annual Wine Spectator "Wine Experience" in New York elicits envy as well as a few groans. Like when editor and publisher Marvin Shanken asks an audience, "Did anyone drink some wine last night?" I'd like to think at least one oenophile made the devil horns in response.

Ten Random Flavors from the Buying Guide Braised chestnut. Mocha- and mesquite-tinged toast. Loam. Pencil shavings. Stem. Guava. Buttered brioche. Dusty sage. Smoky sage. Linzer.

-Ian Froeb