A Matter of Taste: Alsace

Today we launch our weekly tasting and events “newspaper” A Matter of Taste.  Each week we will share with you the wines we tasted, the wines we loved, wines that were offered to us both from collectors and in the market.  

Last week I had the pleasure of attending some spectacular tastings here in Boston.  I share with you my favorites and some fun facts about the regions, the producers and the wine. Do not hesitate to reach out should you want more information on the wines or would like us to find some for you.  

Alsace is one of the most under appreciated regions in France.  Renowned the world over for wines that are a perfect combination with food.  Alsace produces a full range of wines from distinct, rare varietals and in styles from dry to sweet.  The region also benefits from being the only region in France with all three distinct soil types (clay, loam and sand) making the wines expressive of place across various plots of land in connected vineyards.   


Domaine Marcel Deiss is a leader in bio-dynamic practices within Alsace and has been actively pushing the boundaries of wine production using bio-dynamic practices since 1990.  In Alsace there are officially 13 varietals of wines. Many producers in the region have single vineyard plantings of varietals, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Sylvaner, etc. but Jean-Michel, the winemaker, practices selection massale, growing multiple varietals in one vineyard. 

Our favorite wines of the tasting were the 2002 and 2013 1er Cru Gruenspiel comparison, which is a blend of Riesling, Pinot Noir and Gewurztraminer. I also enjoyed the vast differences between the three Grand Cru wines we tasted, Mambourg, Altenberg and Schoenenbourg, 2013.  We also tasted a 2001 Altenberg which was amazingly complex and a roadmap to the way the young 2013 will evolve. 

Schoenenbourg 2013 pictured left and '02 1er Cru Gruenspiel pictured right

Schoenenbourg 2013 pictured left and '02 1er Cru Gruenspiel pictured right

'02 1er Cru Gruenspiel pictured left and '01 Altenberg pictured right 

'02 1er Cru Gruenspiel pictured left and '01 Altenberg pictured right 


Schoenenbourg was one of the most famous wines of the Middle Ages, revered for its ability to age and evolve.  The unique pure clay subsoil in Shoenenbourg has 40% natural gypsum, yep the stuff in we use to make walls, making it remarkably resistant to oxidation.    



Learn more about the evolution of Alsace.  The new and old generations are transforming classifications and recognizing the value in distinct wines that qualify as Grand Cru.

Six Top Tips for a Better Wine Year

Wine and time have a complicated relationship. Unlike other collectibles, wine goes to zero and as a "wasting asset" the need to actively manage and engage with a collection is imperative. Wine collections should be valued and reviewed every year just like any other asset. Here are six things we review for clients to set them up for a positive wine year to come.

1) Drinking Windows - Somewhat subjective but in actuality very quantifiable and important to the evolution and value of wine. The 2017 drinking window will open and the 2016 windows will close. The market will also look at the windows and assess a value accordingly. Knowing what wines to drink when over the next 5, 10 and 20 years can set a collection up to be fully enjoyed over time. Make a wine plan.

2) Diversity - Palates can change over time but the reality is palates vary by experience and education. The concept of a sophisticated palate should not be lost on a wine collection when reviewing its long term value. Wines from various regions, producers and varietals add to the offering and really shows the adaptability and range of experiences wine can offer.

3) Provenance - Where were the wines bought, where and how have they been stored? Is there original documentation to prove the source of purchase? Have the wines been stored with proper temperature, light and humidity? Not only will this affect the quality of the wine but its longevity and inherent value too.

4) Vintages - Well diversified collections across many vintages hold value over time much like a bond portfolio. As one vintage rolls on others evolve creating a unique value proposition. Top wines from top vintages and producers is traditionally the best strategy for holding value, but so called "off the run" vintages offer value and variability and may find increased demand as a result. Each vintage expresses the unique attributes of the weather which will affect how a wine will age. Each potential wine buyer has a level of knowledge or interest that varies from one to another and will influence their wine choices.

5) Rarity - Production size does matter. The Bordeaux Chateaux produce on average between 15,000 to 20,000 cases a year making them relatively accessible and liquid. Some Burgundy producers from one plot of land can produce as few as 300 to 5,000 cases. Wines not readily available from merchants, mailing list and allocated wines often have a brand value that is always in demand regardless of consistency. Supply and demand are the reality of the wine market and as time goes on the value of the wines has the potential to go up based on pure market force.

6) Format - Are wines in single bottles, six packs or 12 packs and do they have original wooden cases. Are the wines in unique hard to find formats like 5 L or 6 L or even larger. Larger formats tend to age longer, better and fewer of them are made. Larger formats are fun to share and offer an added bonus for the experiencing the wine.

Keeping up with a collection is not easy. Making it as hassle free and easy to engage with will only increase the value of your collection as well as it's enjoyment. Managing acquisitions and disposals throughout the year is easily accomplished with monthly updates. Following news on wines and vintage developments can be achieved when you know what you already own and where your wine interests lie. New year planning is the perfect opportunity to take stock, make a wine plan and get focused on the year ahead.

Contact us today for a free year-end consultation for you or your estate, wealth or insurance clients. You will be glad you did. No wine to zero.


A changing of the political guard is coming and whether you are celebrating or drowning your sorrows, the wine market has been a major beneficiary of the uncertain political climate.

The fine wine market is up 23% this year after over five years of dismal performance, thanks in part to politics and time. Wine represents a hard asset with little volatility and more visceral enjoyment in a low yielding, highly volatile and uncertain world. The deepest secondary market for fine wine is the United Kingdom and when the decision was made to jump from the European Union ship, the pound started it's now 20% decline down from 1.51 to a low of 1.21. Prices for wine in the secondary market have remained steady so dollar buyers have found plenty of reason to look across the Pond for value and sellers are ready to move stock before the next shoe falls.


The fine wine secondary market reflects it's physical nature, where diminishing supply drives vintage movements and tasting reports from critics can move demand. The investment grade wine market is approximately $15 billion dollars with millions rather than billions traded each day, but it is an important part of a wider ecosystem that sheds insight on how rare and hard to find "assets" can be aggressively bid within a few dollars or the bid-offer can be as wide as thousands for the really rare gems. The market has constituents and indices to follow and has provided a source of value and opportunity in 2016. There are six wine exchanges in the United Kingdom and a few in France too and they bring together traders looking for fine wine where they can bid and offer to their heart's content, me included.

The catch, however, because there always is one, is wine has a finite life. Like a bond it has duration and as it moves through time it's value will sadly fall not even back to par, but to zero. Like any asset, being able to actively manage quantities, regions, producers, drinking windows, performance and values means making an investment in the time and the tools to engage with the assets and make informed decisions. It's just not as easy as heading down to the cellar to see what catches your eye, some of those bottles are moving quickly through time and need attention in your glass before you miss the opportunity.

Whatever politics dictate, wine will remain steadfast and true so head to the fine wine section this week, either way you will be glad you did.

No wine to zero is our motto @ V.2. launched this week with it's cool new add, delete and search features. 

Bye Bye Summer Wine

Strawberries cherries and an angel's kiss in spring. My summer wine is really made from all these things. 
Listen to Nancy's Sinatra's Summer Wine

Sad, but true.  In a few weeks fellow wine lovers in many geographies will begin the seasonal yearning for big, deep reds and full bodied whites.  As the temperature dips and nights grow longer, who doesn't yearn for a full bodied wine to take comfort from the cold and mark seasonal transition.  With the changing seasons so too will come new foods and wines to complement them. The season also brings a new vintage and so we will welcome the 2016 grapes to share their juice in the wineries around the globe. It will also begin the countdown to 2017 where the 2007 and 1997 vintages will turn 10 and 20 years old.  Typically, fuller bodied reds can be more age worthy and so the season of heading to the cellar and updating the inventory is soon to be upon us.   

As the years pass and wine ages, we revisit the vintages and harvests and how the climate and conditions can affect a wine and its ability to age over time.  The good news about 2007 is it was a great one for big red producing regions. Chateauneuf du Pape in the Rhone and Italy's Piedmont Barolos and Barbarescos, Tuscany's Brunellos and Vintage Port are all 96+ vintages to be explored and enjoyed in their 10th year. 1997 was a good year for Austrian wines 96+. Interestingly, once again Italy and California also had good vintages at 95+ to 90+.  Tuscany in particular had a strong vintage as did Piedmont and Chianti.  California Zinfandel and Washington Cabernets and Syrah eeked 90s in 1987 with the rest of the world showing a mixed vintage. 

As the last few months of 2016 roll in let's also not forget that 2006 was a top year for Tuscany and Piedmont's Barolos and they can age beautifully. The 2006 Bordeaux I have had the pleasure of drinking are ready to be enjoyed. 1996 was superb for Left Bank Bordeaux Saint Julien, Saint Estephe and Pauillac. We have been buying the rare 1996 Bordeaux offers for clients for them to enjoy now and the next few years to come as supply continues to dwindle.  Champagne from 1996 is also as collectible today as when it was released and Barolo and Barbaresco also had strong vintages. We are always on the lookout for those rare offerings that come our way or clients ask us to seek out for them. 

While vintage ratings are a general guideline, they are an important first step to think about when buying, selling or drinking a wine.  Each wine has its own story to tell of the vintage and the management of one vineyard and decisions made throughout the season may dramatically alter how a wine shows in a given year.  

That is the beauty of wine.  Made from a place in variable conditions and able to express itself in a glass.  

Vinolytics simplifies wine management by letting collectors and their advisors know exactly what 2007s, 1997s and even 1987 and any other vintage wines they own, how much they are worth, how they have performed and most importantly when they should be or should have been consumed.  

No wine to zero.  Drink it, sell it, share it.