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I just read three back issues of the Wine Spectator (the Spec).  Itís bad enough that Iíve had a major project occupy all of my daytime, but the commute has occupied so much time that Iíve been unable to keep up with the wine news AND the wine consumption.  Wino Bob, I salute you and your liver!

Anyhow, the September 15, 2002 issue of the Spec profiles the great wines of Tuscany.  WBís buddy, Marvin Shanken, leads us to believe that his Senior Editorís move to Tuscany three years ago precipitated the popularity of Tuscany.  I doubt it.  James Suckling moved to Tuscany because the climate is a hell of a lot better than the UK where he had been living.  Not only that, but the area is a wine growing area and there arenít many notable vineyards in the UK.  Come on, Marvin, step that ego of yours down a notch!  I like some of the more notable Tuscan wines, but am concerned that their pricing has outstripped Californiaís.  There are other areas of Italy producing decent wines!

MRS (Marvin R. Shanken, maybe I should call him ďMarvelous MarvĒ) has a great line that I should quote.  ďAs this issue is reaching you, summer is winding down.  At this time of year, our attention turns to red wines again, and this issue offers plenty of wines to think about.Ē  Winos Bob and John, take heart.  Itís okay to like red wines again because the summer is winding down.  Winos everywhere, itís okay to like any color or flavor of wine regardless of the time of the year or the food that youíre eating while youíre drinking wine.

Wino John made reference to some trips that I made over the summer.  One of those trips was a golfing adventure to Ireland with some of my golfing buddies.  While I wrote about that adventure and published it on WinoStuff (parts to be added later), I did not mention the wine trend I noticed.  Very few Irish restaurants served American wines.  Iíve been a big fan of California wines for years.  However, itís a good thing that Iíve been increasing my consumption of Spanish and Australian wines.  Two thirds of the wines served in Irish restaurants were either Spanish or Australian.  I believe the choice was driven by price.  California wine prices have been driven up by capitalism and the laws of supply and demand.  While I believe that many of the highly rated California wines are excellent wines, the prices charged to Joe Consumer have escalated out of the reach of many of us.  Not a good way to increase U.S. wine consumption.  Meanwhile, back in Ireland, the Spanish and Australian wines that I sampled were above average and great values.  Iíve decided that Iíll continue to focus on those two countries for price/value during the Fall.

I was fortunate to return to continental Europe later in the summer for a family excursion through Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and France.  While it is difficult to sample wines on a scale commensurate with Wino Bobís consumption, I made a concerted effort to drink wine wherever I traveled (except I did have a beer or two in Munichís Hofbrauhaus).  I found most of the selections in many of the restaurants biased toward the local fare which shouldnít have been surprising.  After all, wineries in Europe have been around for hundreds of years, long enough to create a local demand for their products.  In Germany, many Rhine wines were available on the menus.  Austria featured their products and while I can say that I havenít sampled any Austrian wines in the U.S., I found them to be enjoyable when I asked the sommelier for a description of the wines on the list and a recommendation.  Switzerland, as you might expect, had the most international-oriented wine list.  In fact, a restaurant that my wife and I dined at in Lucerne had a wine selection with 80 percent of its selections from California.  To my surprise, the wines I was most impressed with during the trip were the Alsatian wines that I sampled while traveling in France.  Usually, the only Alsatian wine that I am familiar with is the Gewurztraminer, a dry white wine recommended for serving with lamb.  However, a two day stay in Strasbourg provided me with an opportunity to tour the vineyards in that area of Alsace as well as the opportunity to sample many of the area red wines.  While many of the reds were a little fruitier than I normally consume, I found them to be fairly priced and substantial in flavor.  Iím going to have to work with several of my retailers to see if I can obtain a few of these over the winter.  Strasbourg, by the way, is the home of the European Unionís Parliament, so its growth has been substantial over the past few years.  The new EU Parliament building under construction is one of the most impressive architectural designs that I have seen.  Meanwhile, Strasbourgís cathedral is also one of the finest architectural examples that I have seen in any of my travels.  For those of you who are history buffs, the Alsace region is an area in Europe whose nationality has changed approximately eight times over the past 600 years.  As a result, it combines the best of the German with the best of the French (actually, I believe that much of Alsace is more of a German flavor, but thatís just my impression).

More to comeÖ.later.

Wino Wally
Baltimore, MD
September 26, 2002



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