The Wine Connoisseur

Pixabay photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

The region of Provence sits along the Mediterranean coast at the southern end of the Rhône Valley, east of the Languedoc region. Wine has been made here for around 2,600 years, with grapevines brought by the Greeks, thus making it the oldest wine-producing region in France.

Mediterranean vegetation, described as a combination of brush, piney shrubs, spicy herbs, and fragrant plants, such as juniper, lavender, rosemary, and thyme, referred to as garrigue, grow along the limestone hills.

The refreshing rosé wines of Provence, long popular among dwellers and visitors to the French Riviera, are popular throughout the region, especially in famous gastronomic cities such as Nice and Marseilles. In 2022, over 150 million bottles were produced, accounting for almost 40 percent of France’s rosé production.

In Provence, where both red and white wines are produced, rosé makes up almost 90% of the wine and is produced in all nine appellations. While there are dozens of grapes grown in Provence, the most important white grapes are Clairette, Vermentino, Grenache Blanc, and Roussanne. The most important red grapes are Grenache, Cinsaut, Mourvèdre, Syrah, and the local Tibouren.

Some wines I recently tasted are…

2021 Château Miraval “Côtes de Provence” Blanc. (Made from Rolle grapes.) Pale straw color with a bouquet and flavor of apples, pears, almonds, and citrus. Clean tasting with hints of chamomile, herbs, and minerals.

2022 Château de Berne “Inspiration,” Rosé. (Made with organic grapes.) Blend of Grenache Noir, Cinsaut, and Syrah grapes. Light pink color with a perfumed aroma of apple blossoms, lavender, and orange peel. Delightfully fruity with flavors of citrus, peach, clove, and tart berries. There is a hint of fennel in the aftertaste.

2022 Château de Berne “Romance,” Rosé. (Blend of Grenache Noir, Cinsaut, Syrah, and Merlot grapes.) Salmon-colored with a faint floral bouquet of berries, flowers, and spices. Full flavors of honeysuckle, tart orange, and citrus. Very smooth finish, with an aftertaste of honeydew melon.

2022 Château de Berne “Ultimate,” Rosé. (Blend of Syrah, Grenache Noir, Cinsaut, and Rolle grapes.) Pale coppery color with a fresh bouquet of raspberries, tangerine, and some spices. Full in the mouth with flavors of strawberry jam and citrus. There are hints of jasmine, white pepper, and geranium.

2017 Domaine de La Bégude “Bandol.” (Mostly Mourvèdre grapes.) Deeply colored with a bouquet and flavor of blackberry, cranberry, licorice, clove, and plums. It is quite tannic with a spicy oak aftertaste.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at OR [email protected].

Pixabay photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Up in the northern region of Trentino-Alto Adige lies an area known for making some of Italy’s highest quality sparkling wines. It is the only “traditional method” sparkling wine region located high in the mountains, with vineyards planted at up to 3,000 feet above sea level.

The sparkling wines from the province of Trento in Trentino-Alto Adige are known as “Trentodoc,” a trademark name created in 2007. Their sparkling wines were already being made in the early 1900s by Giulio Ferrari, a student at the Imperial Royal Agricultural School of San Michele. He first started the “traditional method” production in Trento, after many study tours to France. Trentodoc sparkling wines officially received their DOC designation in 1993.

Trentodoc wines can be white or rosé and are made from any combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes, and must be made by the classic metodo classico method.

Aging in the bottle varies from a minimum of 15 months for a nonvintage; 24 months for a millesimato (vintage); and a minimum of 36 months for a riserva (aged).

Currently, there are 67 Trentodoc sparkling wine producers. Below are some of my tasting notes.

NV Ferrari “Brut” (100% Chardonnay): Bright straw-yellow. A clean and refreshing aroma of crusty bread, white flowers, green apple, and pears. Medium-bodied and crispy with flavors of citrus, peach, and slightly honeyed. Clean finish and very long and pleasing aftertaste. Serve it with slightly melted Brie.

2016 Rotari “Brut Rosé” (75% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay): Aged 24 months. Salmon-colored with tiny, pin-point bubbles. A fresh aroma of cream and raspberries, with complex flavors of spicy cherry and peach. Refreshing acidity with a lingering aftertaste. A simple dish of prosciutto and melon.

NV Cesarini Sforza “Brut” (100% Chardonnay): Subtle bouquet of yellow fruit, tarragon, and freshly made biscuits. Complex flavors of golden Delicious apples, lemon sorbet, and spices. Subtle finish with an aftertaste of nuts and ginger. Fried calamari would be perfect.

NV Monfort “Brut Rosé” (Blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir): Lovely rose colored with a fragrant aroma of strawberries and brioche. Light and delicate in the mouth with hints of red apple, citrus, herbs, and spices. Very easy to drink. Serve with a medley of sautéed wild mushrooms.

NV Moser 51,151 “Brut” (100% Chardonnay): Pale-yellow with a subtle bouquet of blueberry, cherry, and lemon tart. Medium-bodied, and dry, with hints of apples and pears. Pair with chilled smoked salmon.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at OR [email protected].

Riesling grapes. Pixabay photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

When asked about Riesling, the average wine drinker often says, “I don’t drink Riesling because it’s too sweet. I like dry wines.” While it’s true that some Riesling wines are sweet, many more are dry or off-dry.

The confusion lies in the smell of fruit versus that of sugar in wine. Humans cannot smell sugar but can smell the fruit from the grape. So, what is often “perceived” as sugar or “sweetness” in a glass of Riesling or other wines is exceptionally pronounced fruity or floral aromas; that of tropical fruits such as mango, papaya, and pineapple, which we would assume to be very sweet.

Unfortunately, consumers have a hard time predicting how sweet a Riesling will be just by looking at the label, unless there is some type of indication as to the sugar level on the front or rear label. Terms such as late-harvest, spätlese, auslese, beerenauslese, and eiswein indicate a semisweet to sweet wine.

In 2007, a global organization called the “International Riesling Foundation (IRF)” was founded. Its members included wineries from Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, South Africa, and U.S.A. Its goal was to inform consumers how dry or sweet the Riesling wines were by using a sliding scale, depicted on the rear label. Unfortunately, it was not embraced by many wineries and as of this writing, it appears the organization is defunct.

Riesling is a thick-skinned, high acid white grape variety; the predominant grape in Germany. Riesling also flourishes in France (Alsace), Australia, Austria, and the United States, as well as other parts of the world. Riesling was probably derived from a wild grapevine, Vitis vinifera silvestris, in the 1400s. It first appeared in a written document dated March 13, 1435, by Count John IV of Rüsselsheim, which reported it growing near Hochheim in the Rheingau.

The countries from the highest to the lowest acreage of Riesling grapes are Germany, the United States (Washington State, New York State, California), Australia, France, and Austria.

Riesling produces dry, semidry, sweet, and even sparkling wines and has a naturally high level of acidity, which often needs some residual sugar for balance.

Some characteristic aromas and flavors of Riesling are green apple, citrus (lemon, lime, tangerine), ginger, grapefruit, honeysuckle, lychee, mango, orange, papaya, peach, pear, pineapple, and tropical fruits.

Riesling is a great accompaniment to many foods, especially spicy hot, fried, cream and butter sauces, charcuterie, smoked meats and cheeses, sweet and sour sauces, and dishes containing ginger, soy sauce, and fish sauce.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at OR [email protected]

Grapevines at Pindar Vineyards in Peconic. File photo by Alex Petroski/TBR News Media

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Long Island stretches across the land mass of the same name, located east of New York City, and separated from Connecticut by the Long Island Sound. 

The Atlantic Ocean, Long Island Sound, and the Great Peconic Bay moderate temperatures to ward off frost. It also cools the vines during the hotter summers and barricades against warm southerly currents. The climate is warmer than elsewhere in New York, allowing for the growing of many premium grape varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer, and Riesling.

Long Island has over 2,500 acres of vineyards and more than 60 wineries. Most of the vineyards are concentrated on the island’s eastern half. Long Island wine country includes the North Fork, South Fork, Nassau County, and western Suffolk County. There are three distinct American Viticultural Areas or AVAs. The larger “Long Island” AVA (established 2001) covers Nassau and Suffolk Counties, and splits into two narrow forks (north and south). Each fork has its own sub-AVA: the “North Fork of Long Island” (1986) and “The Hamptons, Long Island” (1985) in the south.

Grapes were grown on Long Island in colonial times and “Moses the Frenchman” Fournier had extensive vineyards in Eastern Long Island in the eighteenth century and it is speculated that he grew Vitis vinifera grapevines. 

In the early 1800s, William Robert Prince experimented extensively with many varieties of grapes in Flushing, Queens. Through his catalog, he even offered a Zinfandel that was known as “Black St. Peter.” Over the decades, small backyard vineyards flourished, but it wasn’t until the mid-1900s that commercial grape-growing began.

In the early 1970s, local farmer and grape-grower John Wickham, who had years earlier obtained and planted a selection of table grapes from Cornell University, met Alex and Louisa Hargrave. He is credited with introducing the Hargraves to the North Fork’s climate and soil, which was excellent for grape-growing. 

The Hargraves purchased a 66-acre potato farm near Cutchogue and in 1973, they planted 17-acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc grapevines and became Long Island’s first commercial winery. Hargrave Vineyards officially opened in 1976 for wine sales. Since then, dozens of vineyards have been planted and opened, each with a remarkable story and a multitude of wines to try.

Today, Long Island wineries offer many types of wine including red, white, rosé, sparkling, and dessert. Be certain to visit and try a sampling of each.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at OR [email protected].

Pixabay photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Lodi, the largest and most important Central Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area) designated in 1986, is home to over 20 percent of California’s total wine grape production, with over 100,000 acres of vineyards. 

Located in the northern part of the San Joaquin Valley, just south of Sacramento, on the eastern edge of the Sacramento River Delta, Lodi is slightly cooler than much of the Central Valley because as temperatures rise, marine breezes are pulled from San Francisco Bay, creating a distinctly cooler climate than the rest of the valley. Lodi’s sub-AVAs are Alta Mesa, Borden Ranch, Clements Hills, Cosumnes River, Jahant, Mokelumne River, and Sloughhouse.

The city was originally called Mokelumne (Mokul is a corruption of the Miwok word for river, and umne means “people of”), and was established as a town in 1869 after a group of major landowners persuaded the Central Pacific Railroad to make it a stop between Stockton and Sacramento. The town of Mokelumne was often confused with the nearby communities of Mokelumne Hill and Mokelumne City, which often delayed mail and shipments of goods and supplies. For these reasons, the town’s name was changed to Lodi in 1874.

Lodi is home to both large brands, like Sutter Home and Robert Mondavi Woodbridge, and over 85 small boutique wineries, many of whom specialize in “old-vine” Zinfandel production. In addition, many leading California wineries buy Lodi grapes, including E. & J. Gallo, Constellation, Fetzer Vineyards, Delicato, Napa Ridge, Ravenswood, and Beringer, among others.

Lodi is considered the “Zinfandel Capital of the World,” producing over 30 percent of California’s premium Zinfandel. Many of the city’s most distinctive Zinfandel wines come from about 2,000 acres of Pre-Prohibition, “old vines,” some dating back to the 1880s. These vines are naturally low-yielding due to age, but consistently produce high-quality grapes. Besides Zinfandel, major grapes grown include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Syrah, Petite Sirah, and over a hundred other varieties.

Some recommended wineries to try Zinfandel from are:

Berghold Vineyards

Borra Vineyards

Gnarly Head Wines

Harmony Wynelands

Harney Lane Winery and Vineyards

Ironstone Vineyards

Jeremy Wine Company

Klinker Brick Winery

Lange Twins Family Winery

Macchia Wines

McCay Cellars

Mettler Family Vineyards

Michael David Winery

Oak Farm Vineyards

St. Amant Winery

Van Ruiten Family Vineyards

“What is the best California wine?” Now it is impossible to answer that question as phrased. The range of wines is wide and the list of different types and their makers is long. (Lindley Bynum, Davis Bynum Winery Inc.)

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at OR [email protected]

Cognac. Pixabay photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Cognac is a brandy distilled from the fermented juice of grapes in the province of Charente and is also the name of a region in the southwest of France, north of Bordeaux and southwest of Paris. The re­gion’s stony, chalk-rich soil (because of ancient oyster beds), its climate, the specific grape varieties grown there, and the methods used in distilling, blending, and aging the brandy, gives cognac its unique flavor.

Cognac AOC area of production was first defined in 1909 and then finalized in 1938. The six defined grape-growing areas are Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fins Bois, Bons Bois, and Bois Ordinaires (Bois à Terroirs).

The following grape varieties are used to produce cognac: Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Folle Blanche, Montils, and Sémillon, with lesser amounts of Folignan. The grapes are harvested quite early, ensuring a wine with a low alcohol content and a very high acid level.

The wine must be double distilled in a copper pot still called an alembic Charentais. After the cognac has been distilled, it is put into barrels that are made of oak from the Limousin or Tronçais forests. The oak has a considerable influence on the bouquet and taste of the cognac. When cognac is put in the barrel, it is about 70 percent alcohol and is clear in color. During the aging process, the oak from the barrels imparts taste, color, and odor to the final product, turning the clear spirit into a mellow, golden drink. The older a cognac becomes, the smoother its flavor and the subtler its aroma.

Most cognacs are blends that combine brandies from varying sections and vintages into a final product. In the town of Cognac, there are barrels of cognac that have been aging for a hundred years or more.

Label designations as of 2018

VS/ Three-Star (***): aged a minimum of 2 years

Supérieur: aged a minimum of 3 years

VSOP/ Réserve/ Vieux: aged a minimum of 4 years

Vieille Réserve/ Réserve Rare: aged a minimum of 5 years

Napoléon / Très Vieille Réserve: aged a minimum of 6 years

XO/ Hors d’Âge/ Extra/ Ancestral: aged a minimum of 10 years

 XXO: aged a minimum of 14 years

Enjoying Cognac

Although most people prefer not to mix cognac, young­er (VS, or three-star) cognac makes delightful highballs when mixed with soda water, leaving the palate more receptive to wines. Cognac and freshly squeezed orange juice make an enjoy­able cocktail. After dinner, cognac is the perfect companion for coffee.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at OR [email protected].

METRO photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Recently I was invited to a friend’s house for dinner and as we enjoyed a few appetizers, he served a bottle of a 1998 Australian Chardonnay from a winery I’ve never heard of. The wine was dark yellow and when tasted, it was well past its point of drinkability.

According to my friend, the wine was stored in his temperature-controlled cellar for over 10 years. He was dismayed to learn that some wines need aging, but the vast majority are best drunk when released for sale by the winery.

I explained that there is no precise answer when a wine will be at its peak because wines age at difference paces. The vintage, growing conditions, winemaking and barrel or stainless-steel aging, also plays a part in wine’s ability to age. The aging curve of wine depends on the location and conditions where the wine will be stored. Also, personal taste plays a significant role in the enjoyment of wine. As an example, many people enjoy champagne when first released with its youthful freshness, while others enjoy the more mature, bottle-aged versions.

Vintage charts and vintage reports, often touted by online sources, will provide you with a ballpark idea when the wine will be at its peak. They often say, “drink by this date or hold until that date.”

Wine’s longevity can be attributed to many factors, among them higher acidity, higher alcohol, carbonation, concentrated fruit, sugar (residual), and tannin, which is an antioxidant.

Not all wines are age-worthy, and in fact, most wines available for sale are not. Wines that benefit from years in the bottle (cellar) tend to be more expensive. I generally purchase several bottles of the same wine and after a few years, open one bottle and see if it’s approaching maturing. Then I decide (with some guesswork) when the next bottle should be opened.

Except for most Chardonnay, Riesling, and sweet wines, white wines should be consumed within three years after the vintage. Most red wines are best between four and seven years after the vintage. Red wines that can age much longer than seven years include Amarone della Valpolicella, Barbaresco, Barolo, Bordeaux, Brunello di Montalcino, Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chianti Classico Riserva.

My rule for aging wine is simple. I’d rather open a bottle of a young wine and say, “It tastes good now but will be better in ‘X’ years” rather than opening a bottle of wine aged for many years and say, “It was probably good several years ago, but now it’s over-the-hill!”

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at OR [email protected].

A pint of beer. Pixabay photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Although there are dozens of styles of beer produced globally, the most commonly consumed are those labeled “lager” and “ale.” Within these two categories are many lesser-known styles, some hundreds of years old that are well worth searching out. Eight that I recommend are:

Altbier (Germany): “Alt” refers to the “old” style of brewing (i.e., using top-fermenting yeast) that was common before bottom-fermenting lager brewing became popular in the mid-eighteenth century. They are copper-colored ales with a high barley and hops content. The traditional style of beer found in brewpubs in Münster and the Altstadt (“old town”) section of Düsseldorf.

Gose (Germany): An old-style beer that originated in the Middle Ages in the town of Goslar on the Gose River in Lower Saxony (Sachsen). Gose is a highly carbonated, tart, and fruity wheat ale with a citrusy, tangy, and salty flavor, low in bitterness with hints of coriander.

Kölsch (Germany) Light gold-colored ale brewed since the Middle Ages, but the beer now known as Kölsch was developed in the late 1800s. It is dry with a very subtle tart fruit and hop character. Kölsch is an appellation protected by the Kölsch Konvention (1986) and is restricted to the 20 or so breweries in and around Cologne (Köln).

Lambic (Belgium): A family of spontaneously fermented ales generally brewed near Brussels. They are often aged up to three years in barrels. Some ingredients added during the brewing process are brown sugar, cranberries, peaches, raspberries, sour cher¬ries, and wheat. Most of the beers are winy, distinctively sour, and somewhat acidic, almost resembling vermouth rather than beer. Some examples of lambic beers are Faro, Framboise, Gueuze, and Kriek.

Gueuze (Belgium): A lambic-type ale made by mixing one, two, and three-year-old lambic beers. It is moderately sour, acidic, and highly effervescent with aromas of apple, rhubarb, and leather.

Kriek (Belgium): A lambic-type ale that has been further fermented by adding sour or bitter black cherries to produce a dry beer with an unusual cherry flavor. Some similarity to a kir royale.

Rauchbier (Germany): An amber to dark-colored lager beer, with a smoky, bacon-like aroma and flavor. It is brewed by adding malt that was dried over smoking beechwood, before being brewed, making it intensely smoky. It is brewed in the city of Bamberg, in Franken.

Saison (Belgium): Translates to season. A sharply refreshing, amber-colored, summer seasonal ale that is fruity, moderately bitter, and has a slightly sour taste. It is brewed in Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at OR [email protected].

Goat cheese. Pixabay photo

By Bob Lipinski

Bob Lipinski

Goat cheese, known as chèvre in French, is a classification of cheeses made worldwide from goat’s milk, which vary in style, appearance, and flavor. Goat’s milk cheese is made in a variety of shapes, such as cones, cylinders, disks, logs, ovals, pyramids, wheels, and “buttons.” By French law, cheese labeled as pur chèvre must be made entirely from goat’s milk. Cheeses made from a blend of goat and cow’s milk are labeled mi-chèvre.

Goat cheese costs more because of the relative scarcity of the milk: cows produce around six times as much milk as goats do. Hence, there is less cheese at higher prices.

Some goat cheeses are rolled in paprika or chili powder to give it a brick-red, colorful exterior. Others are wrapped in chestnut or grape leaves and dipped in brandy, marc, white wine, red wine, or olive oil. The outer chalk white surface is sometimes coated in ash, black pepper, or herbs.

Although the most common goat cheeses are soft and spreadable, others are semisoft, firm-textured, dry, and crumbly, and occasionally very hard, which can be grated. Some goat cheeses are smoked, while others are flavored with garlic, black pepper, curry powder, fennel, rosemary, and various herbs. Goat cheese varies in flavor from mild to acetic, tangy, sharp, nutty, grassy, earthy, barnyardy, or mushroomy.

Goat cheese. Pixaay photo

Some recommended goat cheeses to try are Alicante, Banon, Bouton-de-Culotte, Bûcheron, Cabécou, Camerano, Capricette, Chabichou, Chevrotin, Crottin de Chavignol, Garrotxa, Ibores, Lormes, Montrachet, Pélardon, Picodon, Pyramide, Sainte-Maure, Valençay, and Ziegenkäse.

There are many red, white, and rosé wines that pair well with goat cheese. Some red wines are Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Grenache, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Zinfandel. Some white wines are Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Grüner Veltliner, Muscadet, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc. I especially enjoy goat cheese with a brut or blanc de noirs champagne, brut Prosecco, tawny port, a dry rosé, or a chilled glass of a fino (dry) sherry.

Some suggested wines to try are…

2019 Stephane Aviron Moulin-à-Vent “Vieilles Vignes” Beaujolais, France. Cranberry-colored with an aroma and flavor of blueberry, raspberry, plums, spices, and licorice. Dry and medium-bodied, with hints of roses.

2018 Murphy-Goode Pinot Noir, California. Ruby colored with an aroma of spicy black cherry and flavors of cranberry, plum, and cola with hints of cinnamon, earth, mint, and tea leaves.

2019 Greywacke “Sauvignon Blanc,” Marlborough, New Zealand. Straw-colored with a fresh aroma of citrus and herbs. Dry and medium-bodied with flavors of chamomile, grapefruit, passion fruit, white pepper, and stone fruit.

Bob Lipinski is the author of 10 books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on He consults and conducts training seminars on Wine, Spirits, and Food and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at OR [email protected]