Wines by Pablo
By Paul Heidelberg

(The name dates from a high school Spanish class -- it is not an imitation of Senor Picasso, much admired by Pablo, nonetheless).

  Paul Heidelberg
Heidelberg Poetry
Art in Paris 2000
Wines By Pablo

Cognac, the world's finest spirit, comes from only one place -- France's Charente Region, where the towns of Jarnac and Cognac are located, about 100 miles north of Bordeaux. Cognac is twice distilled from grapes from the Charente's top six growing areas. If the grapes come from the Charente's top two growing areas only -- the Grande Champagne and the Petite Champagne vineyards, with at least 50 percent coming from the Grande Champagne -- the cognac is entitled to be called "fine champagne" cognac, as in Remy Martin VSOP, fine champagne cognac. Qualities of cognac, in ascending order by years of aging are: VS, VSOP, Napoleon, XO, etc. Otard VSOP is the finest VSOP Pablo has sampled after five trips to the Charente. It is a fine champagne cognac and it is aged a full eight to nine years, longer than some cognac house's Napoleon and XO grades.

Mark Yatcysn
Mark Yatcysn noses a white wine at The Great Match: Wine and Tapas, October 2001 at the Biltmore hotel in Coral Gables, Florida. Wines from Spain of New York City hosts The Great Match events throughout the U.S. each year.

As delicious as the greatest wine -- the most basic drink: water, fresh from the mountains that surround Salzburg.

Montalembert Hotel
Barman and waiter at the Montalembert Hotel and Restaurant on Paris' Left Bank. At the Restaurant, Pablo enjoyed a nice-and-ready-to-drink 1995 Bordeaux -- a Saint Emilion (chiefly merlot), Chateau Les Vieux Maurins, in a 375 ml bottle (wine ages more quickly in smaller bottles).

Paul The Man From Meursault
Paul, the Man from Meursault, and the flowering vine his mother planted 70 years ago (it flowers each Spring, for three weeks only).

Vineyards Near Pommard
Vineyards near Pommard -- home of the great red Burgundy.

Wirt Hord
Wirt Hord, Oktoberfest 2000 in Munich, Germany.

Three tips to open this Wine Website:

1. THE YEAR 1990 WAS ONE of those vintages where things clicked worldwide -- look at the "Wine Spectator's" vintage chart released in December, 1997 and you will see EVERY vintage from EVERY country was rated at least 90 (on the magazine's 1-100 rating scale).

In tastings I conducted during a visit with my family in Texas, we had a 1990 Banfi Brunello di Montalcino from Tuscany one day and a 1990 Lafon Rochet Bordeaux the next; both were simply superb, and, indeed, it was interesting to see how similar they tasted. Both were rich and smooth, with great depth.

2. THE SECOND TIP CONCERNS Bordeauxs. Most Bordeaux reds since the 1989 and 1990 harvests have been quite undistinguished. The 1995 vintage finally produced some real winners again. "Wine Spectator" rates Chateau Margaux as the best ever with a 100. Try to find some bottles of that precious liquid at your local wineshop!

If you locate a Margaux, or Chateau Petrus from any vintage, you can be sure the price will be prohibitive. Look for these instead: Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, Clerc-Milon-Rothschild and Chateau d'Armailhac.

In the famous 1855 classification of Bordeaux red wine, the following wines were rated as the best, as premier cru, first growths: Chateau Haut-Brion, Chateau Lafite-Rochschild, Chateau Margaux and Chateau Latour (Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, after steady lobbying by its flamboyant owner Baron Philippe de Rothschild, who among his many credits raced a sports car at LeMans and was also a poet, has been the only wine added to the first growth list, and this occurred in 1973; since Philippe's passing, his daughter Baroness Philippine de Rothschild has run the estate).

When it was first released, the superb 1995 Mouton-Rothschild, rated a W.S. 96, was available at one South Florida wineshop for $299.99.

If that is too much for your budget, try instead the house's other two wines, available for much less. When first released, the '95 Clerc-Milon-Rothschild, rated a 95 by W.S., was available for $49.99 at the same wine shop; the house's other vintage, the '95 Chateau d'Armailhac, with a W.S. rating of 92, was available for $39.99.

(Alas, Pablo must add that this was written some time ago and you will never find these wines at these prices, not the '95s, at any rate; that is a big part of collecting fine wines -- if you don't get them when they are first available, good luck finding them anywhere later. But this story has a happy ending for those who did not purchase the highly-rated '95 Chateau d'Armailhac. Pablo did and he was amazed to find it -- as Mrs. Slocumbe of "Are You Being Served?" fame would say: "Weak as water. " I thought the tannins in this young wine would be overwhelming but I was totally surprised by its thinness. This was not the wine I had hoped for. Update: The 2000 Bordeauxs are very highly rated).

If these prices are still too high, try other Bordeaux appellations such as Fronsac and Canon Fronsac, which offer very good value. Wines from France's Languedoc-Roussillon region in the South of France are also great bargains, and many new varietal growths have been planted in recent years -- just look for "Vin De Pays D'oc" on the label (the name means wine from the country of "Oc," the language that used to be spoken in that part of France).

One of my first great surprises with wine was tasting a several years old Chateau Haut-Bages-Averous, the second label of Chateau Lynch-Bages, itself down a ways on the 1855 list. Swirling the wine in my glass, I noticed the wine had "legs" like molasses; tasting it, I was overwhelmed by the smoothness. Drinking a young Bordeaux is much akin to sucking on an aspirin. The astringency is often just too much. The Haut-Bages-Averous was just the opposite. Of course, the wine was from the 1989 Bordeaux vintage, which, like 1990, produced truly superb wines.

3. FORGET WHAT YOU'VE HEARD, YOU CAN DRINK THEM COLD. During a March trip to France's Charente Region, home of the world's best spirit cognac, a double-distilled brandy, I was amazed to be served heavily-chilled red wines on two occasions.

The first was at the charming Brasserie Coq D'or in Cognac, where cognac trade in the old days used to be conducted by handshake, over a beer. On that occasion, I had a Chinon, a cabernet franc from the Loire Valley. Two days later at a very elegant restaurant, I had another cold-cold Loire Vallery cabernet franc -- this time a Samur Champigny.

This was March, and the weather was chilly, which added to my surprise. Talking with French and French Canadians since then, I have learned that chilling young red wines is now en vogue. Where this really makes since is in the good old USA, especially in the summer. Try drinking a "room temperature" knock your socks off red Bordeaux or California cabernet sauvignon in Fort Lauderdale in the summer -- Good Luck! Try a chilled cabernet franc instead.

That brings me to a very basic point. These five grape varieties have gone into fine Bordeaux reds for centuries: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, malbec and petit verdot.

I saw one "Wine Enthusiast" refuse a merlot because it came from France. "No," she insisted, "I want a Merlot. You know, from California."

The wine she wanted was likely to have come from vines planted within the past 10 years. If she would have had a French one instead, the vineyard would likely have been producing fine merlots for centuries.

If you prefer the usual-smoothness of merlot over the sometimes harshness of tannic cabernet sauvignons, try Pomerols and St. Emilions from Bordeaux, which are more merlot-based vintages.

-- Pablo
Wines by Pablo

Petite Champagne Cognac

Three hundred and fifty liter barrels of Petite Champagne cognac age in the cellars of Otard Cognac; Otard is located in the town of Cognac, near the Charente River, where Francois I, France's greatest art patron king, was born in 1494.
Parisian Still Life
Bread, wine, cheese and Cognac -- an XO from Otard, one of the premier cognac houses.

Bad Cork

This is a good example of a bad cork. This should have been an excellent wine -- a 1990 premier cru gevrey chambertin from a particular vineyard, from a respected negociant. The 1990 red burgundies were very highly rated. This bottle was purchased in a Beaune wineshop; at some point, it was stored improperly, or the cork was faulty to begin with. You can see the wine has travelled the length of the cork and has escaped, letting in air that ruined the wine. A real shame.

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