WineSpeed with Karen MacNeil | The Rare Wine Company


(Madeira, Portugal) $50 (750ml)

Madeira, the wine that the founding fathers drank while signing the Declaration of Independence, was also a revered staple of the Continental Congress. (The 115th Congress could probably use a little right about now.) RWC’s “Boston Bual” is nothing short of sensational. Languorous on the palate, it fairly howls with coffee, toffee, sassafras, exotic spice, roasted nut, sea salt and orange peel flavors. The complexity is simply off-the-charts. Try this in the early evening with a fine hard cheese like Manchego, Mimolette or aged Gouda. (19.5% abv)

95 points KM

Available at Rare Wine Company

Long before the French appellation system was established, the monks of Burgundy had already begun to characterize the region’s vineyards and the quality of wines that came from them. Which of the following were the three categories used by the monks to differentiate wines?

  • A. Wines for farmers, wines for monks, wines for kings
  • B. Wines for villagers, wines for farmers, wines for monks
  • C. Wines for monks, wines for cardinals, wines for popes
  • D. Wines for monks, wines for popes, wines for kings

Scroll down for the answer!

“Knowing what minerality is reminds me of that line about pornography: I know it when I see it.”

—Ted Lemon, owner and winemaker, Littorai


Here’s one thing I know after being in the wine business for 30 years: If it seems like a good idea to hang out until midnight and drink grappa, I probably should have gone home two hours ago. Ah, grappa. It looks innocent enough. But nothing could be further from the truth. Grappa is the clear brandy that results when the pulpy mash of stems, seeds and skins left over from winemaking is refermented and then distilled. In most parts of the world, this mass of leftover stuff is usually thrown away or spread on the ground as fertilizer. But in Italy, nothing gastronomical is wasted—even if it sometimes tastes like a grenade has just exploded in your throat. Historically, grappa was a specialty of the cold, northern part of the country, where people put a small shot of it into their morning coffee. In fact, because of their feverish allegiance, grappa fans are fondly called tifosi di grappa—which more of less translates as typhoid victims of grappa.


The French term (pronounced KIGH-you) for stones or pebbles left behind by ancient rivers or glaciers. Although it can seem next to impossible, vineyards exist in soils composed mainly of such stones including, in the U.S., the Rocks District of Milton Freewater, an appellation near the town of Walla Walla, Washington.

Windspeed with Karen MacNeil - Winespeed blog


In Napa Valley where I live, most kids taste wine. I remember my own daughter—at 4 years old—sitting at the dinner table one night. She swirled her milk, sniffed it, smiled and said matter-of-factly: “Mama, slightly herbal character.” But the subject of children and alcohol is filled with controversy…Continue Reading

C.The wines from the lower part of the slope, which suffered the most rain, were known as cuvées des moines or “wines for the monks.” Wines from the top of the slope had the least rain, but there, the sun did not have ideal solar panel–like focus. These were called cuvées des cardinals or “wines for the cardinals.” And last, wines from the preferred middle belt of the slope, which had perfect sun orientation and the right degree of rain runoff, were called cuvées des papes or “wines for the popes.”


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