In August 1977, Neal Rosenthal quit his “stagnating career as a lawyer specializing in the arcane rules and regulations of corporate and international tax law, and, in a desperate attempt to maintain some semblance of financial stability, . . . purchased the remnants of my parents’ retail business, a neighborhood liquor store” in “a tiny cube on the corner of Seventy-second Street and Lexington Avenue” in “the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a tony residential quarter.” The store’s selection of wines and Rosenthal’s knowledge of wine were limited, but he set about improving both, with impressive results: He and his wife, Kerry Madigan, are now co-owners of Rosenthal Wine Merchant, a “little importing company” that is “little” only in the sense that it serves a limited clientele, one that appears to be knowledgeable, choosy and rich.
The wine shop can be intimidating, with so many different styles of labeling. Here’s help in decoding a dozen basic types.
Buying wine can be a paralyzing challenge. Facing a wall of unfamiliar bottles can frustrate even the most worldly consumer.
Those bottles have labels, of course, often with loads of information about the character and nature of the wine within. But the more detail they offer to knowledgeable wine consumers, the more baffling they seem to the uninitiated.
To cut through the confusion, some wineries simply furnish fewer facts. These wines — often hugely popular ones like Yellow Tail, Barefoot and 19 Crimes — rely on brand names and marketing to build an audience. For dedicated wine lovers, though, the facts are crucial, even if it takes some education to decode a label.
By Eric Asimov
Sept. 3, 2020
This month we’re going to try something a little different.
Ordinarily, I suggest three bottles of the same type of wine. Instead, I want to compare three wines that are closely related but come from different appellations within a larger region, the Northern Rhône Valley of France.
Each is made with the syrah grape. But what if anything distinguishes one from the others? That’s what we are going to examine.
The French appellation system suggests that each place will have its own distinctive characteristics. It’s one thing, say, to compare a Chambolle-Musigny from Burgundy with a Chinon from the Loire Valley. One is made from pinot noir, the other with cabernet franc. You would expect that they would differ for that reason alone.
But if wines are made with the same grape, other factors come into play. In the case of the Northern Rhône, the French authorities concluded long ago that the wines made in St.-Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage and Cornas were all sufficiently distinctive to warrant separate appellations….
We have not covered Cornas previously, so if you cannot find the Granit 30, please consider bottles from Franck Balthazar, Alain Voge, Guillaume Gilles, Mickaël Bourg, Domaine Lionnet and Jean-Baptiste Souillard. I’m not suggesting legendary producers like Thierry Allemand and Auguste Clape, but if you have a spare bottle, by all means go ahead and drink it.
Beyond Champagne, excellent bubbly now comes from all over in a diversity of styles. You don’t require a special occasion to enjoy them.
Domaine de Montbourgeau Crémant du Jura Brut Zéro NV $26.99
The Jura region of France is a reliable source of Champagne-style sparkling wines that are subtly different from Champagne. This one, from the excellent Domaine de Montbourgeau, is a fine example. It’s rich and creamy, yet precise — bone dry and still rounded and lush. In most Champagne-style wines, producers add a dose of sweetness just before sealing the bottle to balance the often searing acidity. But if the wine is balanced without the dosage, as this one is, it can be omitted. Hence the designation, Brut Zéro. (Rosenthal Wine Merchant, New York)
Last year a friend asked me a question I had never considered before: Over the many years I had been writing about wine, what was the greatest thing this job had given me?
I answered almost reflexively. As a New Yorker who has spent most of my life living in Manhattan, wine had provided me a connection to nature that I most likely would never have experienced otherwise.
I’ve thought about this a lot over the last few weeks, as the pandemic has now been with us for more than four months. Most of that time, I’ve been in my apartment, far away from vineyards, much less anything that might reasonably be construed as wild and natural, like a forest or ocean. I feel the difference, physically and emotionally.
My friend professed surprise at my answer. He’d assumed that I would cite the wonderful, otherwise inaccessible wines I had been able to drink, or maybe the many intriguing personalities in the wine world with whom I’ve spent time.
These, of course, have been wonderful benefits as well. If I were not representing readers of The New York Times, I would never have had an opportunity, to drink, say, great old wine made from grapes harvested in 1846, or to try 16 vintages of Château Lafite-Rothschild going all the way back to 1868.
I also know that my understanding of wine would not be nearly as rich without having had the opportunity to spend time with people as diverse as Jean-François Fillastre…
Many people assume that the paler the rosé, the better. Yet one of our three bottles, the Tiberio, was cherry red. The great Bandols are pale, yes, but some of the world’s best rosés, like Château Simone in Palette, a small town in Provence, and Domaine Ilarria in Irouléguy in Southwest France, are as dark as the Cerasuolo.
By Eric Asimov
The best examples of these white wines, made with red techniques, are striking and wonderful. Still some dismiss this ancient wine, now trendy once more.
From a distance, what divides white wines from reds seems pretty clear. Yes, the color is obvious, but it’s also the methods of production.
To make red wine, the producer begins by macerating the juice of the grapes with the pigment-bearing skins. This adds not only color to the juice but also tannins, which contribute texture and structure to the darkening wine. When the fermentation is complete and the winemaker is satisfied, the wine is drawn off the skins to begin the aging process.
“Wines like those from Josko Gravner…”
“Farther south, in Umbria, Paolo Bea produces Arboreus, a waxy, bright and juicy wine made of trebbiano spoletino.”
Even a global pandemic can’t dampen interest in the pink wine juggernaut. According to VinePair’s internal data, rosé is off to an earlier than usual start to its strongest seasonal period, with a 19 percent increase in reader interest this March compared to 2019.
That interest comes off the back of four years of solid growth. According to Nielsen data, off-premise sales of pink wine increased almost 300 percent between January 2016 and January 2020, starting the decade with a value of over $576 million. It’s a remarkable success story, and one that looks set to continue based on the increasing diversity and elevated quality of wines VinePair recently tasted for our annual rosé ranking.
This year’s list encompasses bottles from mainstay regions like Provence and southern Italy, with fresh additions from throughout the Mediterranean, including Spain and Greece. There’s also a strong selection of domestic offerings, many of which can be purchased and shipped right from the wineries. Winery-direct sales are particularly resonant right now, as much of the country is sheltering in place; it’s a sales channel we expect to see grow in importance moving forward in the new normal.
The number of bottles tasted for this year’s list surpassed 100 labels. With a staff panel of tasters, we hotly debated our selections and rankings based on drinkability, mass appeal, quality, and value for money, with prices taken from wine-searcher.com or the winery itself, in the case of direct-to-consumer (DTC) offerings.
On the topic of price, the top 25 bottles of 2020 offer further proof of the value offered by the rosé category: More than half of the bottles on this year’s list deliver change from a crisp $20 bill. At least 10 come in at $15 or less.
Château Peyrassol is one of the top 25 rosés of 2020. A delightful reminder of what makes Provence rosé so popular, this wine ticks all the boxes. The nose is delicate but serves layers of white flowers, red fruit, and a sprinkle of savory spices. The palate is both bold and refreshing, with tangy fruit cut by a piercing jolt of acidity. Add a hint of wet rocks and a dusting of white pepper to the equation, and you’ve got yourself the best rosé of 2019. If you can’t find this exact bottle, the producer’s entire range is equally impressive and should be sought out. Average price: $35.
Change has come glacially, but now is the time to explore these Alpine imports.
At first glance, Switzerland’s four official languages, six primary wine regions, 26 political cantons, and 62 appellations take some work to wrap your mind around. But the important things to know are fairly straightforward: the Valais and Vaud — mostly French-speaking and in country’s sunny southeast — produce glorious pinot noir and refreshing chasselas that represent almost all of what we see of Swiss wine in the U.S. These are followed by a smattering of whites and reds from the Three Lakes district just above that and then the many little denominations of the north-easternmost region, known plainly as German-speaking Switzerland. There is also Ticino, extending into the Italian boot, ably if curiously meeting this part of the country’s thirst for merlot.
These intriguing wines are sometimes quirky and often unusual. All are delightful, whether with a meal tonight or as gifts to those who could use one.
By Eric Asimov
April 2, 2020
Where I live in Manhattan, wine retailers appear to be experiencing a sales boom, even though many shops are in delivery- or pickup-only mode.
While these are financially difficult times for many people, the desire for wine and spirits remains strong.
People want to drink away the coronavirus blues, at least that’s part of it. But people are also finding comfort in good food, an intriguing bottle of wine, a new cocktail. That’s part of it, too.
So I thought I would put together an inexpensive case of wine, six whites and six reds that I highly recommend and that won’t break the bank. I threw in a few extras, a couple of sparklers and a sherry look-alike. Let’s call it 15 under $15.
Domaine de Fenouillet Vin de Pays de Vaucluse 2018 $14.99
This juicy, stony red comes from the Southern Rhône Valley. It’s labeled Vin de Pays de Vaucluse, because the blend of merlot and marselan falls outside of the appellation rules. You already know merlot, and marselan you may get to know. It’s one of seven grapes now permitted in certain Bordeaux appellations as winemakers begin to plan ahead for profound climate change. This one is certified organic and certifiably delicious. (Rosenthal Wine Merchant, New York)
When Neal Rosenthal took over his father’s Upper East Side pharmacy-turned-liquor store in 1977, he couldn’t have predicted that it would mark the start of his decades-long career in wine. “I had no experience in wine from both a business or drinking standpoint,” says Rosenthal, adding that, at the time, he had no intention of pursuing it either.
But before long, the one-man retail operation quickly morphed into its current iteration: Rosenthal Wine Merchant, his namesake wine importing business that’s been going strong for more than four decades. In 1979, he started buying wines from California, then, within a year, began looking to Burgundy and beyond to expand his portfolio.
Champagne used to be such a simple thing. You popped a cork, and the gushing fountain of wine cued celebratory joy.
You might have had a preference among the house styles of the big Champagne producers, or grand marques. Or maybe you simply chose a brand as your own, as if it were cigarettes or beer.
Also worth noting were the chalky, energetic Vertus Premier Cru from Guy Larmandier.
★★½ Guy Larmandier Champagne Rosé Vertus Premier Cru Brut NV $50
Tangy and energetic, with creamy, chalky citrus flavors.
Food & Drink
I cover wine at work, with attention to makers and growers.
When the holidays roll around, no one wants to seem impersonal or cheap. Entertaining, gifting, dressing, dining—everything gets a special flair this time of year and that’s the fun of it. But, let’s be honest, an element of ease is important too.
I’m of the opinion that a bottle of wine is a lovely gift for most adults, but I’m also sure that the people on your list would enjoy receiving some extra dazzle. Here are a handful of easy-to-purchase yet oh-my-goodness gifts for wine lovers.
Neal Rosenthal is one of the most respected wine importers in North America, and his offshoot, Mad Rose Specialty Foods, bears his characteristic instinct for tasty, terroir-driven products from around Europe. While the site is packed with intriguing items—a vertical of vintage-dated Italian honeys, for example—the olive oils from Provençal wine domaines caught my eye. Château Peyrassol’s 2018 olive oil ($30) from their estate groves in the Var region is the perfect gift accompaniment for 2018 Commanderie de Peyrassol Château Peyrassol Rosé ($26). It can also be purchased as an element of the Premier Olive Oil Collection ($105) which also includes a bottle each from Italian family producers the Armatos and the Beas.
‘Producing Wine With Each Other and the Creator’: A Group of Nuns on Operating Their Italian Vineyard
Religious women at a monastery outside Rome produce serious wines.
Passing by the vineyards at Monastero Suore Cistercensi, you may see figures pruning the vineyards or checking out clusters of grapes. What’s unique about these figures, though, is they are each wearing a nun’s habit.
We’ve all heard of beers made by Trappist monks—Chimay—and liqueurs by Carthusians—Chartreuse—but there is wine made by religious women too. At this monastery in Vitorchiano, Italy, the Sisters of the Cistercian Order tend five hectares of vineyards to make two white wine blends, Coenobium and Ruscom, as well as a red wine blend called Benedic.
IF I’M BROWSING for wine in a retail shop and chance upon an unfamiliar one, I’ll turn the bottle around and check the back label for the name of the importer. That name may be writ small or large, depending on the importer’s ego and/or typeface selection. Either way, it can be a useful indicator of the character, quality and even style of the wine.
Certain importers, such as Neal Rosenthal and Kermit Lynch, became famous decades ago thanks to their consistently well chosen, high-quality, interesting portfolios of wines. (See “The Old Guard,” below, for more about them.) They also inspired a new generation of professionals who have put together their own portfolios of characterful wines. I’m happy to see the name of any of the following companies when I check a back label. I know the wine will be an interesting one—and I’m that much more likely to try it out.
Weeknights are a state of mind. More accurately, they are a state of fatigue.
Whether it’s a Tuesday or a Saturday, sometimes all you want is an uninterrupted stretch of peace and quiet, maybe some leftovers and a chance to wear out the Netflix subscription. That, and a couple of glasses of decent wine.
Wine with dinner is an easy win, especially with a bottle that is not only good enough to pique your interest and reward your attention, but one that is also inexpensive, without requirements for concentration or close observation.
By Eric Asimov June 6, 2019 June is here, and in wine shops and on restaurant wine lists that can only mean one thing: The rosés have arrived. For the next three months, the world will be awash in rosés. When the summer ends, they will disappear, consigned to dusty back shelves until the calendar […]
No. 4 was the 2015 Cuvée Carlan from Mas Jullien, a bright, balanced and structured blend of 60 percent grenache, 30 percent cinsault and a mixture of other varieties in the remainder.
VINS Pour ces trois spécialistes anglo-saxons, les bourgognes sont des vins à part, fruits d’une région qui a su garder son âme. Propos recueillis par Laure Gasparotto Publié le 14 septembre 2018 à 17h58 – Mis à jour le 14 septembre 2018 à 17h58 « L’expression du terroir a trouvé son apogée en Bourgogne. » « […]
Agile, energetic wines that are versatile with many foods are best for the holiday feast. But with delicious food and lively company, it’s hard to go wrong. By Eric Asimov Nov. 1, 2018 Somewhere in this great land on Thanksgiving Day, a guest on the corny side will arrive at the feast, grinning and bearing […]
White and red, Bordeaux bargains abound. Here are 12 elegant, affordable picks. RAY ISLE October 09, 2018 French wine for Thanksgiving? Sacrilege! Why not drink something all-American, like Zinfandel … oh wait, that probably has its origins in Croatia, where it’s known as Crljenak Kaštelanski. The truth is, almost all of the wine we drink […]
GuildSomm Kelli White 18 Oct 2018 Neal Rosenthal throws open the door to his upstate New York farmhouse. Two red-tinted standard poodles spill out from either side of his legs and begin their inspection. I hold out my hands in greeting—one to Neal, one to the dogs. “You made it!” he exclaims, sounding as surprised […]
I thought considerably about this pairing, and it might be one of my favorites. “Many more people agree they hate poetry than can agree with poetry is,” writes Ben Lerner in this slim little volume that explores why, for millennia, people, even poets themselves like Lerner have been actively hating poetry even as its held […]
The Pour Eric Asimov Sept. 20, 2018 When you come home and you just want to flop, you want a wine that is inexpensive and undemanding. But that doesn’t mean the wine can’t be great. Weeknight wines are a genre of their own, but don’t take the phrase too literally. Plenty of people work weekends. […]
by Simon J Woolf 15/07/2018 Latest, Orange weekly Every week, Simon selects an orange wine (a white wine made with extended skin contact) that grabbed his attention. View the whole series here “The first problem for wine producers is not oidium, it’s ego”, states Paolo Vodopivec disarmingly. “I don’t want my ego in my wines”. […]
BY JOSH RAYNOLDS | JULY 18, 2018 Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s monumental 2015 vintage was a tough act to follow, but 2016 was up to the challenge. In fact, in many cases the wines from this uniformly outstanding warm year actually outclass – or at least outmuscle – their older siblings. If exuberant ripe fruit, harmonious tannins and […]
BY NEAL MARTIN | JULY 17, 2018 Domaine Bitouzet-Prieur farms 12 hectares around the village of Volnay and Meursault, including a clutch of serious Volnay premier crus. I tasted a small selection of 2016s that had been recently bottled with winemaker François Bitouzet, the son of Vincent Bitouzet and Anne Prieur. Bitouzet practices organic viticulture […]
BY THE GLASS || By Ellen Bhang || GLOBE CORRESPONDENT || MAY 28, 2018 || The Mediterranean-hugging region of Provence in the sunny French South is arguably the most rosé-associated place on the planet. And while there is plenty of pink to be had, don’t let glossy ad campaigns lull you into thinking that’s all […]
Empire State South’s wine director recommends five of his favs. May 2018 || Steven Grubbs || The text message usually comes early evening: I’m at a wine shop what do I buy I could list some of my favorite French and Italian vintners, but there is zero guarantee that their bottles will be on the […]
BY IAN D’AGATA | MAY 17, 2018 | No other region in Italy offers as large a selection of outstanding white wines from so many different grape varieties as Friuli Venezia Giulia does, while the region’s native red grapes yield wines that are equally distinctive. Make no mistake about it: Friuli Venezia Giulia is the […]
From the advantages to staying small to the nuances of scaling the intimacy factor. By Cathy Huyghe Co-founder, Enolytics. Not every entrepreneur can afford to wait over 40 years to launch a brand extension. But for Neal Rosenthal, one of the most respected and established wine merchants in the world, his new venture into wine […]
2015 Domaine de la Petite Mairie, Bourgueil Rouge “Butte de Tyron” Loire Valley, France. A new domaine to me, Domaine de la Petite Mairie, is owned and managed by Corinne and James Petit, an enthusiastic couple who passionately care for their vines in the Bourgueil region of France’s Loire Valley, making studied and elegant versions […]
APR 30, 2018 Food & Drink Cathy Huyghe , CONTRIBUTOR How do you know which bottle to choose when you’re standing in front of a wall full of wine? That’s a question I hear a lot. For the answer, I rely on a lesson learned long ago. “Turn the bottle around.” To the back label, […]
Wineaux By Susana Leonardi My high school biology teacher, Sister Mary Justine (or maybe it was Sister Mary Martine — I confuse them) made the class spell aloud, in unison, the name of our current unit: S-E-X. I have no idea why shouting the letters was somehow more acceptable than her just saying the […]
By Eric Asimov March 1, 2018 Back in the early days of Wine School, we focused on Chianti Classico, the signature red of Tuscany. Now we head to a different part of Tuscany to drink Rosso di Montalcino. Rosso di Montalcino is the younger sibling of Brunello di Montalcino. Brunello must be aged for at […]
excerpt from: THE POUR By Eric Asimov Feb. 26, 2018 POMEROL, France — The word Bordeaux connotes magnificent chateaus, aristocratic (or at least wealthy or corporate) landowners and wines that occasionally live up to their pretensions. But in the vine-covered countryside surrounding this sleepy village, where the tiniest undulation of the land constitutes a hill, […]
FEBRUARY 7, 2018 story: JON BONNÉ Meet the winemakers leading the revolution in dry, mineral-driven wines in the Roussillon. When anyone thought about the southern French region of Roussillon, it was as the latter half of the awkward geographic mashup “Languedoc-Roussillon,” which was mostly known for stylish, ripe wines. A few informed souls might have […]
WINES OF THE TIMES By Eric Asimov Feb. 8, 2018 Oakiness was not an issue in the bottles we liked best. Our top wine, from De Forville, was a classic Barbaresco of the old school, with beautiful floral and anise flavors and an earthy minerality. It was a complete wine and, though accessible now, will […]
By Eric Asimov Feb. 1, 2018 For our next topic, let’s return to what may now be familiar ground, Bordeaux. Previously, we’ve looked at two very different appellations within Bordeaux, Haut-Médoc and Pomerol. This time, the topic will be defined by value rather than place. The dominant image of Bordeaux is one of imposing chateaus, […]
BY STEPHEN TANZER | JANUARY 25, 2018 Despite extreme weather conditions in both 2016 and 2015, Burgundy’s Côte d’Or has produced an outstanding pair of back-to-back vintages studded with hauntingly beautiful reds. Domaine Bitouzet-Prieur || Domaine Georges Lignier || Domaine Ghislaine Barthod || Domaine Fourrier/Jean-Marie Fourrier Ten years from now, when their painful memories of […]
Proof it’s possible to find charming expressions of the region’s native grapes, without undue manipulation and around $30. JANUARY 17, 2018 story: Jon Bonné photo: Lizzie Munro. Bordeaux may be big business, but this most influential of wine regions exists far outside today’s currents. At times, with its baked-in sense of superiority, it can come […]
Raise a glass for holiday wines. By Andrea Clurfeld | | November 27, 2017 It’s the time of year when almost everyone’s thoughts turn to gift giving. Yes, ’tis the season to be giving. There’s hardly a situation when giving a gift is wrong. The rub, it seems, is what to give. I’m going to […]
By Eric AsimovNov. 16, 2017 Thanksgiving is just about here. Preparations are well underway, everything seems to be in order, except … we forgot about the wine. This is not a drill. Whether Thanksgiving, Christmas or any other outsized entertainment situation, it is entirely possible that crucial but peripheral elements to the feast are […]
Lauren Mowery , CONTRIBUTOR In 1917, Woodrow Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war on Germany. In 1926, real estate on Broadway and Wall Street sold for $7 per square inch. In 1936, Robert Redford, John McCain, and Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy were born. In 1944, The United States and allied troops invaded […]
Eric Asimov THE POUR Sept. 21, 2017 The requirements for weeknight cooking are easy to understand, but weeknight wine? It’s a bit more conceptual. The last thing anyone wants after a long day of work is to put in another few hours over a cutting board and stove. But where is the labor in opening […]
2015 Domaine du Gour de Chaulé Gigondas Cuvée Tradition Brilliant ruby. A heady bouquet evokes ripe red and blue fruits, Indian spices and smoky minerals, along with a hint of candied lavender in the background. Deeply concentrated yet energetic black raspberry, boysenberry and spicecake flavors unfold slowly, picking up a licorice quality that expands on […]
Robert Camuto: Letter From Europe Wine Spectator July 24, 2017 Calabria Rocks Can Cirò be Italy’s next big thing? A new generation is on the move. Cirò is the kind of wine place I want to root for. This ancient Calabrian wine region in sun-baked southern Italy offers a gorgeous countryside of ancient olive trees […]
BY JOSH RAYNOLDS | JUNE 27, 2017 Among the oldest of many wine cliché’s is that Rosés don’t age well and, like seersucker suits, are out of style after the Labor Day following the vintage. While wearing summer suits out of season might not be in good taste, drinking the best pink wines year-round is […]
Eric Asimov THE POUR JUNE 22, 2017 If for no other reason than popular demand, summer is rosé season. These wines, once pitilessly disparaged as dull and anemic, have been hotter than July for a decade, a climactic shift that shows no signs of letting up. In the past few months, three books on rosé […]