Archive for April, 2015

From Frappato to Nebbiolo

This is just a quick post as I have more house sale and moving tasks to attend to today.  My two favorite wines in today’s post are both from the 2009 vintage in Italy.  The 2009 Carminucci, Naumachos, Rosso Piceno Superiore has taken on attractive maturity but still offers ripe fruit, texture, and a hint of minerals.  It drinks great right now and I suspect if you are a fan of the Southern Rhone you will dig this wine.  I will buy more and so should you!  The 2009 Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo, Agamium, Colline Novaresi is an attractive, mature wine made from Nebbiolo.  It is not terribly complex but strikes a good balance between maturity, interest, and price.   I like Frappato and was very much looking forward to the 2013 Paolo Cali, Mandragola, Vittoria Frappato.  It smelled good but I was too distracted by the elevated level of carbon dioxide to enjoy it.   These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.


2009 Carminucci, Naumachos, Rosso Piceno Superiore – $18
Imported by Verity Wine Partners.  This wine is a blend of 70% Montepulciano and 30% Sangiovese that was aged in French oak.  Alcohol 14%.  There were aromas of ripe fruit, cedar, and mature notes.  In the mouth were focused flavors of ripe black and blue fruit that had attractive texture and density.  The maturity was evident in the middle.  The texture continued through the wine as a hint of minerals, a little smoke, and creamy blue fruit wrapped things up.  Drinking well.  *** Now-2018.


2009 Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo, Agamium, Colline Novaresi – $20
Imported by Tenth Harvest.  This wine is 100% Nebbiolo.  Alcohol 13%.  There were candied red fruit aromas.  In the mouth the wine fleshed out with some concentrated red fruit supported by very fine and powdery texture.  The drying, tannins persist through the finish where a bit of tart, yet creamy fruit come out.  Mature but will last  **  Now-2018.


2013 Paolo Cali, Mandragola, Vittoria Frappato – $17
Imported by RWK Imports.  This wine is 100% Frappato that was fermented then aged for 4-6 months in stainless steel.  Alcohol 13%.  An attractive nose but one is quickly distracted by the rather frizzante beginning.  There was unique bright and mineral infused blue fruit that was brought forth on assertive grapefruit acidity.  A little odd.  * Now.


Four diverse red Burgundies

The tasting area at MacArthur Beverages is located in the back of the store near the Bordeaux and Burgundy sections.  It was only natural then that while tasting 2012 Burgundy, a local wine lover began to recommended several bottles to try.  To this were added several recommendations from Joe.  This post features four of these wines which I found great fun to taste due to their diversity.

I clearly do not drink that much Burgundy so this was good fun. I rather liked the 2012 Hudelot-Noellat, Bourgogne for its defined, old-school personality.  Even the neglected remains were drinking pleasurably three days later.  The pair of wines from Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux struck me as incredibly different.  It turns out that Pascal Lachaux’s son Charles, produced the 2012 vintage.  Charles has made notable changes such as the use of whole cluster fruit and aging in large casks to lessen the oak flavor.  The 2012 Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux, Pinot Fin, Bourgogne showed bountiful aromas of grassy, red fruit with dry flavors in the mouth. The 2009 Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux, Pinot Fin, Bourgogne was my preferred choice with its darker fruit, texture, and savory flavors. Finally comes the 2009 Domaine du Chateau de Chorey (Germain), Vieilles Vignes, Bourgogne.  The wines of the domaine were produced by Benoit Germain.  The 2009 vintage is the last from the domain for he died in 2010 after which the estate was sold off.  Joe related that the vineyard had incredibly low yields.  This particular bottle revealed mature notes on the aromatic nose but in the mouth the core of fruit  and structure show plenty of life ahead.  If I could pick only one of these four wine this would be the one.  These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.


2012 Hudelot-Noellat, Bourgogne – $25
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir that sees approximately 20% new oak.  Alcohol 12%. There citrus-backed, red fruit flavors and acidity that made the wine pop before the grippy, textured middle.  It certainly had an old-school flavor.  This bottle drank well for several days.  ** Now-2019.


2012 Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux, Pinot Fin, Bourgogne – $30
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is 100% Pinot Fin sourced from 60+ year old vines that was vinified with at least 30% whole clusters.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose was continually aromatic with clean, grassy, red fruit.  In the mouth were watery, red fruit flavors, a lighter body, and generally dry nature.  The wine was energized by salivating acidity and with air, it took on some weight and wood notes.  Has verve.  ** Now – 2019.


2009 Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux, Pinot Fin, Bourgogne – $30
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is 100% Pinot Fin sourced from 60+ year old vines.  The fruit was completely destemmed, the wine underwent malolactic fermentation and a few months of aging in used French oak barrels.  Alcohol 12.5%. There were dark notes on the nose.  In the mouth the ripe hints of black fruit showed focus.  There was fresh acidity and a structure that subtly built in strength only to leave ripe tannins on the back of the tongue.  The wine had bits of texture and spice.  Though still young it showed some savory, softening from age.  *** Now – 2020.


2009 Domaine du Chateau de Chorey (Germain), Vieilles Vignes, Bourgogne – $25
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose was rather aromatic with maturing notes, a little blood, and old wood.  In the mouth were red then tart red fruit, a slight wood note and plenty of acidity.  Firm wood tannins do build before the tart red finish which leaves grapey, ripe tannins on the gums.  With air a core of fruit develops.  Drinkable now but will last.  *** Now-2019.


The 2012 Burgundy blogger and industry night at MacArthur Beverages.

The 2012 vintage in Burgundy was troubled by destruction from hail, coulure, and millerandage.  While this ultimately resulted in a significant reduction in the amount of wine produced, what was made is regarded as very good.   That combination of small amounts of very good wine certainly drove up prices but as I recently learned, there is still good wine to be found in all ranges.  This experience came at the annual blogger and industry night at MacAthur Beverages.  Organized by Phil Bernstein, we were treated to six wines from generic red Burgundy at $22 per bottle all the way to Corton Grand Cru at $220 per bottle. I cannot draw any conclusions from such a tasting but let me just say that I was generally pleased by the fruit, acidity, and ability to age.  Last night, I even dreamed of drinking Burgundy.


2012 Joseph Faiveley, Pinot Noir, Bourgogne – $22
Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons.  Alcohol 13%.  There were spiced red fruit aromas followed by grapey,  young fruit in the mouth.  There was more red fruit with the structure immediately apparent with wood notes returning in the finish.  I would cellar this for a year or two.


2012 Joseph Drouhin, Cotes de Nuits-Villages – $25
Imported by Dreyfus, Ashby & Co.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir that was fermented with indigenous yeast then age for 12-15 months in French oak.  Alcohol 13%.  There was a pretty nose with some sweet aromas.  In the mouth was watering acidity, red and black fruit, and less obvious structure.  Though young, this wine was accessible, with developing raspberry candy flavors and eventually some structure.  I think it showed better definition with air.


2012 Domaine Joblot, Clos du Cellier aux Moines, Givry 1er Cru – $45
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir that was fermented in barrel with indigenous yeast then aged for up to 16 months in 50% new oak.  Alcohol 13%.  In the mouth were blacker, dark floral flavors followed by a vein of fruit.  The black fruit remained focused, showing weight, a little more structure, and watering acidity.  Will age.


2012 Louis Jadot, Domaine Gagey, Beaune 1er Cru Les Greves – $50
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Alcohol 13.5%.  There were smoky hints to the black, floral aromas.  In the mouth were black fruit flavors that were finely ripe and texture.  The acidity kept the wine moving along as tannins were left on the gums.  The wood flavor does come out.  Needs a few years to absorb the wood but should develop quite well.


2012 Domaine Heresztyn-Mazzini, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Champonnets – $100
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir sourced from vines planted in 1972.  The fruit was fermented with indigenous yeast then aged for 16-18 months in 40-50% new oak.   Alcohol 13%.  There was a serious but tight nose.  In the mouth the acidity and structure were perfectly integrated with the raspberry and mineral, black fruit.  The fine grained tannins suggested several years of aging are required.


2012 Domaine Faiveley, Corton Grand Cru Clos des Cortons Faiveley – $220
Imported by Frederick Wildman and Sons.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir sourced from vines planted between 1936 and 2002.  It was fermented in a combination of stainless steel and wooden vats then aged for 16 to 18 months in mostly new oak. Alcohol 13%.  The complex nose made way to concentrated, complex, and gently spiced flavors in the mouth.  There was broad ripeness, lipsticky raciness, and black graphite flavors.  Very attractive now this will unfurl with further time in the cellar.  Lovely.


Under Contract

April 28, 2015 1 comment

We listed our current house for sale last week after purchasing our new house less than two weeks ago.  I am happy to report that we are now under contract to sell our current house.  There are still many demands on time, particularly with a move looming in several weeks, so continue to bear with me.


Young Vacqueyras from Domaine le Sang des Cailloux

April 24, 2015 1 comment

I have been enjoying the wines of Domaine Le Sang des Cailloux for over ten vintages now.  While 2011 is generally regarded as a good rather than great vintage for the Southern Rhone, the 2011 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Doucinello, Vacqueyras proved to be made of serious stuff. Interesting enough, this cuvee saw only six months in wood, yet it took three days to finally open up.  When it did, it revealed the earthy, minerally flavors I have come to love.  I recommend  you stash away several bottles to try again in five years. This wine was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


2011 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Cuvee Doucinello, Vacqueyras – $29
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 7% Mourvedre, and 3% Cinsault that was aged for six months in foudre.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose eventually opened up to reveal tight black fruit and tar.  In the mouth were rounded, earthy, cherry fruit flavors mixed with spices.  There was a little zip in the finish from the acidity.  After three days the wine eventually drank well.  The tight fruit, acidity,and mineral infused tannins were all in balance.  There was even an inky flavor.  ***(*) 2020-2030.


Excellent Crozes-Hermitage from Natacha Chave

I am excited to report that we finished updating and staging our current house.  Photographs were taken yesterday and it will be listed for sale tomorrow.  Last week we closed on our new house which we will take possession of within one month.  That should mean I can return to my regular research and writing until we must move.

Natacha Chave is the younger sister of Yann Chave whose 2012 Crozes-Hermitage was featured in an earlier post.  Natacha Chave released her first vintage in 2006.  Today, she produces wine both from St. Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage.  In the later, she purchased a 5.5 hectare vineyard of old vines to which she has added new plantings.  The vineyard is steep so it is worked entirely by hand.  At times, the wines of Crozes-Hermitage comes across as weak introduction to the Northern Rhone.  There is no confusion with the 2012 Domaine Aléofane, Crozes-Hermitage.  This is a serious, attractive Northern Rhone Syrah at an affordable price.  With a bit of that hallmark fat this balanced wine should develop of the next couple of years.  It makes for great drinking now so save several bottles for the future.   This wine was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


2012 Domaine Aléofane, Crozes-Hermitage – $20
Imported by Exclusive Wine Imports.  This wine is 100% Syrah.  The fruit is destemmed then fermented with indigenous yeasts and aged for 12 months in demi-muid.  Alcohol 13%.  There was young, tart fruit that turned darker towards the middle.  The wine had some attractive fat as well as a seamless blend of juicy acidity and riper tannins.  Clearly a Northern Rhone Syrah this wine eventually developed prune and black fruit flavors.  *** Now-2022.


Four Barbera d’Alba from the 2012 vintage including the excellent Andrea Oberto

As we continue to seemingly spend all of our money on paint, cleaning supplies, and pillows for staging, we maintain a need for affordable, interesting wines.  The 2012 vintage is a strong one for Barbera d’Alba so in this post I focus in on four selections priced from $13 to $18 per bottle.  These selections were all vinified in stainless steel with all but one aged in wood.  The wines ranged from rather ripe and forward to balanced.  The 2012 Mauro Molino, Barbera d’Alba offers a decent value with subdued flavors of tangerines, red fruit, and bacon fat. The 2012 Rocca Giovanni, Pianromualdo, Barbera d’Alba steps up a bit with better acidity, minerality, and structure leaving the impression of a good wine for the price.  Our hands-down favorite is the 2012 Andrea Oberto, Barbera d’Alba.  From the aromatic nose to the long aftertaste it is a wine you will want to smell and drink.  What’s great is that it is approachable right now, just give it half an hour in the decanter.  It is a clear step up from the other selections so go grab a few bottles! These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


2012 Cascina Chicco, Granera Alta, Barbera d’Alba – $17
Imported by Vinifera Imports.  This wine is 100% Barbera sourced from vines averaging 10 years of age.  It was fermented in in stainless steel then aged in wood casks and used French barriques.  Alcohol 14%.  There seemed to be some volatile acidity on the nose along with linear aromas of fresh floral black fruit.  In the mouth were nice focused flavors of floral citrus fruit, watering acidity, and some rough structure. *(*) 2016-2019.


2012 Rocca Giovanni, Pianromualdo, Barbera d’Alba – $14
Imported by Monsieur Touton.  This wine is 100% Barbera sourced from vines planted in 1958 that underwent temperature controlled fermentation followed by 10 months aging in barrique.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose bore very ripe, grainy fruit aromas.  In the mouth the flavors were fruit forward before a tight, ripe core of black fruit came hint.  This had a mineral hint with salivating acidity and a dry, textured finish.  The wine shows some density, a little wood note, and leaves the impression of being a nice wine for the price.  ** Now-2018.


2012 Mauro Molino, Barbera d’Alba – $13
Imported by J.W. Sieg & Co.  This wine is 100% Barbera that was vinified then aged for six months in stainless steel tanks.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose of black fruit was lifted by both greenhouse aromas and fresh tangerines.  In the mouth were attractive flavors of tangerine red fruit that came across in a slightly creamy and subdued fashion.  It took on some tart flavor but that was tempered by bacon fat flavors.  ** Now-2017.


2012 Andrea Oberto, Barbera d’Alba – $18
Imported by M R. Downey Selections.  This wine is 100% Barbera sourced from vines in La Morra.  The fruit was vinified in stainless steel then 60% was aged for 8 months in stainless steel and 40% was aged for 6 months in new barriques.  Alcohol 14%.  This wine had a fine, proper nose.  In the mouth the black and red fruit was slightly brighter than the nose suggested.  There was both a citrus flavor and bacon fat aspect.  There was moderate structure with citric pithe tannins.  The aftertaste left flavor on the inside of the gums. Top-notch.  *** Now-2018.


Five bottles from old and new estates

Lou and I met up last week for some Spring Break bottles.  We each bagged up our wines for fun.  I was fairly confident that the 2013 Chateau Graville-Lacoste, Graves Blanc was mostly Sauvignon Blanc.  I could not place a location though and in truth, I am not sure if I have drunk a Graves Blanc before.  It turns out it only has a minority of Sauvignon Blanc in the blend which speaks to its strength.  This bottle proved to be on the young side so I’d check back in a year or two.  For the 2012 San Salvatore, Trentenare, IGP Paestum Fiano I guessed some chalky Italian white wine.  On the first night this wine was in perfect balance with a sort of fruit and acidity combination I usually find in German wines.  It drank perfect.  On the second night it was a touch softer and nuttier.

Incredibly I never knew that Chateau de Vaudieu is an 18th century estate. French books from the 19th century often include the de Vaudieu name as amongst the best of Chateauneuf du Pape.  This includes la Nerthe and de Condorcet.  Today the estate is owned by Famile Brechet and Philippe Cambie is the consultant. The 2012 Chateau de Vaudieu, Chateauneuf du Pape is clearly young and rugged so I would cellar it for a year or two.  The 2012 Chateau de Vaudieu, Amiral G., Chateauneuf du Pape is all old-vine Grenache which delivers hedonistic flavors.  It is weighty yet textured with plenty of salivating acidity and just enough structure that it comes across as more drinkable than the first.  It is a lovely wine with a very long aftertaste which coats the gums.   Finally, the popped-and-poured 2012 Xavier Vignon, Xavier, Cotes du Rhone Villages Rasteau held its own.  Its a brighter wine that was initially rounded and subdued in a way that I thought Chateau Mont-Redon.  Of course I was wrong, it was a sexy Rasteau, that finally revealed its origins after a few hours of air.  It was not out of place with the regular Chateau de Vaudieu.  The Graville-Lacoste was purchased at Pearsons, the Xavier Vignon at Fleet Street Wine Merchants, and the remaining bottles at MacArthur Beverages.


2013 Chateau Graville-Lacoste, Graves Blanc – $18
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 75% Sémillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Muscadelle sourced from ~45 year old vines on soils of clay and limestone on fissured rock.  It was vinified and aged in stainless steel.  Alcohol ?%.  At first there were grassy, Sauvignon Blanc aromas but with air, deeper notes from the Semillon developed.  In the mouth were lighter, white fruit with a clear start and tart finish. Seems young. **(*) 2016-2020.


2012 San Salvatore, Trentenare, IGP Paestum Fiano – $23
Imported by Banville and Jones.  This wine is 100% Fiano sourced from vines on calcareous clay that was vinified and aged in stainless steel.  Alcohol 13%.  This was a crisp wine with perfectly, enlivening acidity.  The wine was textured with a long aftertaste of chalk.  With air the wine remained lively on the tongue but showed nuttier flavors.  It had lovely balance, a more prominent fruit profile, and an attractive citric tang in the aftertaste.  **** Now.


2012 Chateau de Vaudieu, Chateauneuf du Pape – $40
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is a blend of 74% Grenache and 26% Syrah with the later aged for 14 months in barriques.  Alcohol 15%.  The nose revealed higher-toned aromas that were followed by similar flavors on the tongue tip.  The wine developed weight in the midpalate then eventually showed its rugged, youth in the finish.  There was also good acidity and an aftertaste that brought dense, grapey flavors, spices, and a touch of heat.  This wine is approachable now but best cellared for the short term.  *** Now-2025.


2012 Chateau de Vaudieu, Amiral G., Chateauneuf du Pape – $90
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is old-vine 100% Grenache which was aged for 18 months in demi-muids.  Alcohol 15%.  There was a smooth, weighty yet textured start with dry cinnamon spices.  The wine comes across as more forward but it still has very fine tannins supporting the blue fruit flavors.  It show grip in the back of the throat as it ends of salivating acidity and flavors that stick to the gums.  Long aftertaste.  **** 2017-2027.


2012 Xavier Vignon, Xavier, Cotes du Rhone Villages Rasteau – ~$23
Imported by Petit Pois Corp. This wine is a blend of 75% Grenache, 15% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre that was aged 50% in tank, 25% in demi-muid, and 25% in smaller barrels. Alcohol ?%.  There were young grapey aromas that had a hint of raisins.  In the mouth was a rounded start with flavors that became bluer towards the finish.  With air the wine took on attractiveness roughness with a firm structure of very fine tannins supporting the wine.  It finished with spicy, black fruit that had both smooth and rugged aspects.  *** 2017-2025.


A pair of Oregon Pinot Noir from the 2012 vintage

The effort involved in the final preparation of our current house for sale and the purchasing of our new house will continue to occupy all of my spare time for at least the next week.  So please bear with me!  In the mean time we recently tried two Oregon Pinot Noir from the 2012 vintage.  This was a warmer than average vintage, particularly when compared to 2011.  The 2012 White Rose Estate, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley clearly needs time in the cellar.  It remained firm over two nights and did not give up too much. The 2012 Lenne Estate, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley reveals the warmth of the vintage with generous, complex fruit. It is a fun, fuller than nought, Oregon wine that should be in a great spot next winter.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


2012 White Rose Estate, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley – $35
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir sourced from multiple vineyards.  The majority whole-cluster fruit was basked pressed then aged for 11 months in 10% new French oak. Alcohol 13.2%.  The varietal aromas made way to a tart start with more obvious structure in the mouth.  The wine remained firm with good acidity and very fine tannins.  It became drier with youthful roughness in the finish.  Needs time in the cellar.  **(*) 2017-2022.


2012 Lenne Estate, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley – $37
This wine is a barrel selection of 100% Pinot Noir sourced from estate vineyards that was aged for one year in French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.1%.  There were ripe, spiced aromas.  In the mouth the ripe cherry fruit was underlaid by a developing and complex note of bitters.  The flavors turned blacker with an attractive cola-like aspect that made for a spicy, complex, textured finish.  The long finish made way to some vanilla notes in the aftertaste.  ***(*) Now-2022.

“[W]arm weather is on us, and what better refreshment than a cold sparkling wine”: The forgotten wine columns of Jane Nickerson from the 1940s and 1950s

I spent some of my free time this winter reading recent newspaper articles about wine.  One particular article focused on the wines of Domaine de la Romanee Conti stating that “bottles are so rare from the smaller vineyards that drinking the wine is always a great event.”[1]  The domain in general produced “the greatest of all the red Burgundies”.  This was much in part due to the domaine being the first to estate bottle the wine a practice that was “revolutionizing the wine industry of Burgundy.”  I should add that I consider anything published in the 20th century as recent.  This particular article was published by The New York Times in 1951 and the vintage of focus was 1947.  This was an “outstanding” vintage but the wines were not yet ready to drink.  Sam Aaron of Sherry Wine and Spirits was quoted, “Assuming their potential of 100, one might say they have achieved at this point seventy-five”.  Sadly I could not find other instances of this scale but it was briefly thrilling to think that the 100-point scale for wine was used in New York during the 1950s!

Empire State Building at night. c.1937. [0]

Empire State Building at night. c.1937. [0]

Far more important than the contents of the article is that it was written by Jane Nickerson.  She was the first food editor at The New York Times from 1942 through 1957.  Jane Nickerson wrote frequently and extensively about food in all forms but she also wrote about wine.  Sometimes her column was a mixture of short news on wine, food, and restaurants but other times the column was dedicated exclusively to wine.  For this post I surveyed over 100 wine related articles she published between 1946 and 1957.

I have only remotely looked at wine journalism in the 20th century let alone culinary journalism.  A quick investigation into Jane Nickerson reveals that she is a highly regarded food editor; if somewhat overshadowed by Craig Claiborne.  Strange enough there seems to be more attention to her writing on food than wine.  In reviewing her wine writing it is clear to me that she developed a deep interest in wine.   Yet she seems to be missing from the history of wine journalism.  In this post I do not try to place Jane Nickerson’s writing into a larger context.  For that I recommend you read Kimberly Voss’ book “The Food Section” as well as check out her website Women’s Page History.

Robert Lawrence Balzer related that he begin writing the column “Concerning Wines & Foods” for the Beverly Hills Citizen in 1937.[2]  This was “the first regular wine column west of New York City.”  Perhaps he was alluding to Jane Nickerson in mentioning New York City.  Robert Lawrence Balzer eventually wrote about wine for the Los Angeles Times from 1964 through 1995.[3]  Thomas Pinney wrote of Robert Mayock’s efforts in the early 1940s and that Hank Rubin, Bob Thompson, and Jefferson Morgan were amongst the earliest postwar wine writers.  These authors were all in California.  Frank Prial began his wine column for The New York Times in 1972 and is the first east coast author to be mentioned by Thomas Pinney.

Jane Nickerson’s wine writing is so different than that of today.  She began to write about wine when the wine market in America was redefining itself.  Her articles track the return of the American armed forces, effects of rationing, national efforts at promoting wine, and the increasingly diverse selection of imported wine.  The stage for post war wine journalism is clearly set by the title of one Nickerson article, “War Brides, Beware! The GI wants a wife who can cook something tastier than dehydrated eggs”.[4]  Before World War II, Americans only drank an average of half a gallon of wine per year as compared to the French at 40 gallons per year.[5]  Consumption had steadily increased with the repeal of Prohibition but the wartime rationing of grapes for raisins and tankers for transportation stymied the increase.  By the spring of 1946 the Wine Advisory Board was planning for an increase in wine consumption because “many men who were in Europe learned to drink wine, and undoubtedly will continue to do so.”

Simultaneous to a changing domestic wine selection, the importation of European wine had to be redeveloped.  Hampered through the two World Wars many German wines had largely been absent for decades in America.  Within France there was wine rationing and transportation issues that had to be resolved before long-favored wines could be enjoyed again.  Frank Schoonmaker, the wine importer turned spy and writer, chronicled the postwar wine scene in France in the pages of Gourmet magazine.  During the German occupation and even in the years afterwards, transportation was deeply impacted.[6]  Both people and goods traveled slowly by gasogene, a car or bus powered by boiler that burned charcoal or wood.  Though wine rationing was in place, there were areas were the wine could not be transported from.  As a result, the one bottle per week ration could entitle you to “as much vin ordinaire as you can carry away.”

It was not until the Spring of 1946 that Frank Schoonmaker anticipated the return of “magisterial clarets…gay, crackling Vouvray…venerable Hermitage…pale Chablis”.[7]  He wrote that there was “probably about as much fine wine in France as there ever has been”.  The French had done an extraordinary job of hiding these precious bottles by “bilking, cheating, duping, and deceiving the Germans on every possible occasion and in every possible way.”  He foresaw that these better bottles would be released in small parcels at a time and at strong prices.  There was to be no cheap French wine in America for some time.  He felt, then, that Californian wine would have no competition.  It was in the fall of 1947 that Frank Schoonmaker felt that “at last, a potable American vin ordinaire is not altogether a mirage”.[8]  He did admit he felt “it will probably be more difficult than it sounds” to find satisfactory wine.

Jane Nickerson helped people select and find good wine.  She began to write about wine for The New York Times when there was a growing thirst for both domestic and imported wine.  There was a need to educate the public not only on how to store and serve wine but also on narrowing down the best selections from new Californian wineries and those of returning European estates.  To educate herself, Jane Nickerson attended tastings such as those held by the Wine and Food Society of New York.  However, she primarily interacted with the leading wine experts in the city.  This group included the legendary wine importers, writers, and retailers Frank Schoonmaker, Alexis Lichine,  James Beard, Sam Aaron, and Robert Haas.  There were but few post-Prohibition wine books published in America so the importance of Jane Nickerson’s columns should not be neglected.  In this and future posts I hope to shed light on the forgotten early history of American wine journalism.

[0] Empire State Building at night. c. 1910. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. URL:
[1] News of Food: Red Burgundies of 1947 Vintage Here From the Domaine de …By JANE NICKERSON New York Times (1923-Current file); Nov 26, 1951; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2010) pg. 26
[2] Volumes of Taste : A Collection of Old and New Books to Grace Any Wine Lover’s Library. By Robert Lawrence Balzer; July 01, 1990. Los Angeles Times. URL:
[3] Robert Lawrence Balzer dies at 99: L.A. Times wine writer. Elaine Woo. December 09, 2011. Los Angeles Times. URL:
[4] War Brides, Beware!: The GI wants a wife who can cook something tastier than dehydrated eggs. New York Times (1923-Current file); Jun 17, 1945; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2010) pg. SM11
[5] News of Food: American Vintners Plan for Resumption Of Pre-War Rise … By JANE NICKERSON. New York Times (1923-Current file); Mar 23, 1946; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2010) pg. 9
[6] Schoonmaker, Frank. “France A.D. 1945”. January 1946. Gourmet Magazine.
[7] Schoonmaker, Frank. “New Wines of France”. May 1946. Gourmet Magazine.
[8] Schoonmaker, Frank. “Vin Ordinaire in America”. October 1947. Gourmet Magazine.