Archive | July, 2012

Wine Importers to Rely On: Terry Theise (Germany, Austria, Grower Champagnes)

16 Jul

by Sharon Kapnick

Terry Theise has brought outstanding wines from an underappreciated wine-making country and a virtually unknown wine-making country to the U.S. And then he introduced us to a collection of artisanal grower Champagnes from the most esteemed wine region of all.

Not so very long ago, when Americans thought of German wine, they thought of the lackluster Blue Nun and Liebfraumilch. Theise almost singlehandedly changed this. Influential wine critic Robert M. Parker  Jr. wrote in 1991 that “in less than 4 years, Terry Theise has done more for the image of high-quality German wines than anyone in the previous eight decades…. By beating the back roads of less renowned viticultural regions, Theise has put together a portfolio of … individualistic wines of astonishing quality…. The result is a bevy of phenomenal wines and extraordinary wine bargains.”

Then, in 1994, Theise added Austrian wines—which most U.S. wine lovers knew nothing about—to his portfolio. Grüner Veltliner, the food-friendly white that accounts for more than a third of Austrian production, is Austria’s signature wine. It was a great discovery for food-and-wine lovers because, as Theise says, Grüner Veltliner complements “all the foods that are supposedly wine killers,” including “every manner of obstreperous veggie.” It thrilled sommeliers, who educated their clientele about its virtues. Austria is also reputed for its Rieslings and sweet dessert wines, and Theise offers them too (as well as its Sekts [sparkling wines], Weissburgunders, Gelber Muskatellers, Bläufrankisches, St. Laurents, Zweigelts and more).

In 1997 Theise’s next venture uncharacteristically took him to the best-known wine region in the world. He was intrigued by a new trend in Champagne: Small growers were bottling their own wines rather than selling their grapes to the big houses. Instead of Champagne that tastes the same each year—a style the large houses strive to achieve—these grower Champagnes aim to be unique every year. “Champagne, like any other wine,” Theise said, “is fascinating to the extent it’s distinctive.” Grower Champagnes bubble up with individuality. They’re brimming with the local character that the large Champagne houses blend away.

Along the way, Theise has received much recognition from the wine press and others. In 2001 he was Wine & Spirits magazine’s Man of the Year; in 2005 Food & Wine magazine named him Importer of the Year. In 2008 he won the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional.

Theise’s portfolio is overwhelmingly white. “I love red wines,” he says, “but I have mined a seam of whites from a narrow latitudinal band of northern Europe”—for which many white wine lovers are very grateful.

Theise has partnered with top importer Michael Skurnik Wines. For more on Theise and his wines, visit And look for his name on the bottle labels.

Rosé and Red Wines for Summer Sipping and Dining

1 Jul

by Sharon Kapnick

Rosés have some of the qualities of white wine—delicacy and crisp acidity—and some of the qualities of red–flavors and, often, body. Of course, they have a charm all their own. And they boast another great attribute: Wine doesn’t get any food friendlier.

Rosés  are synonmous with summer. Jeff Morgan, author of Rosé: A Guide to the World’s Most Versatile Wine and co-owner of SoloRosa, a rosé-only winery in the Napa Valley, believes that “rosé and barbecue is a match made in heaven.” Rosés are lovely with grilled foods too. “They have the brightness to handle grilled fish,” said Morgan. “They’ve got the chilled, fruit-driven freshness to match up well with warm summer days and nights, and–because they’re technically red wines–[some have] got the moxie to handle burgers, steaks and all manner of kebabs.” They’re also the ideal picnic wine.

Recommended Rosés

El Coto de Rioja Rioja Rosado 2011 (SRP $12; 50% Tempranillo, 50% Garnacha): El Coto is a producer to rely on for good, good-value wines. Its Rioja Crianza is one of Spain’s most popular reds.   Its rosado is dry, fresh, exuberant and delightful. Aromas and flavors of watermelon, cherry, red berries and apple. Full of flavor and personality.

Bannier & Hecht Languedoc Rosé 2011 (SRP $11**; 34% Grenache, 33% Syrah, 33% Cinsault): Bannier & Hecht is also a name to remember because it produces some lovely wines at very reasonable prices, like this dry, crisp rosé. Aromas and flavors of raspberry, strawberry, watermelon, pomegranate and pineapple.

Kir Yianni Akakies Amyndeon Rosé 2011 (SRP $16): For something different, try this full-bodied Greek rosé from the Xinomavro grape. Made in the Amyndeon appellation in northwestern Greece. Aromas and flavors of strawberry, tart cherry and other red fruits. Dry and rather austere with refreshing acidity.

More Good Food Partners for Rosés: Antipasto; salads; gazpacho and other cold soups; tapas; bouillabaisse; smoked salmon; omelets; frittatas; quiche; sandwiches; pan bagnat; tagines; ham; cold cuts; hot dogs; seafood; vegetarian dishes; tomato-based dishes; pizza; ratatouille; grilled vegetables, grilled fish and other grilled foods; salad Niçoise; paella; light pastas; gnocchi; vegetable and meat pâtés; chicken; turkey burgers; hamburgers; stews; duck; goose; pork; spareribs; lamb chops; barbecue; Mediterranean, Southwestern, Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Middle Eastern, Mexican and Cajun cuisines and other spicy foods


Recommended Red Wines

Red wines that accompany barbecued and grilled foods should as a rule be flavorful and fruity so they won’t be overwhelmed by the strong flavors of the food. Beaujolais quickly comes to mind. Because it has low tannins, a smooth, silky texture and is best when served chilled (55 to 65 degrees is ideal), Beaujolais is the red wine that white wine fans will find easy to love. It’s often described as the only white wine that just happens to be red.

Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages 2009 (SRP: $9.99): Aromas and flavors of strawberry, black fruits and spice. Fruit forward. Medium bodied, soft tannins, balanced alcohol and moderate acidity. From a great vintage.

Another red that comes to mind immediately is Malbec. Malbec and churrasco, meats grilled the Argentine way, go together like Sauvignon Blanc and oysters. Try it with grilled or barbecued beef, game, lamb, sausage, steak, venison, goat and cheeseburgers–well, with any meat that comes off a grill or a barbecue.

One producer to rely on is Crios. Susana Balbo has been making wine for three decades in Argentina–as well as in Australia, California, Chile, France, Italy, South Africa and Spain. She was the first Argentine enologist to be hired as a consultant by European wineries. Parker’s “Wine Advocate” has touted “all Crios wines [as] phenomenal values worth buying by the case.” And Wine & Spirits has repeatedly chosen it as a Value Brand of the Year.

Susanna Balbo Crios Malbec Mendoza 2010 (SRP $14; 95% Malbec, 5% Bonarda): Aromas and flavors of black cherries, jammy fruit, spice and toasty oak. Full of ripe fruit flavors, well balanced, smooth tannins. Crios recommends the wine paired with grilled tuna steaks, tandoori lamb and jambalaya.

Pink Port

From one of Portugal’s oldest port houses—Croft, founded in 1588–comes the newest style of port, a rosé. This innovative Croft Pink Port, which first arrived in the U.S. in 2008, combines white port technology and red port grapes. Croft’s rosé port is unique. If you’re not yet a port fan, Croft Pink just might convert you. If you’re already a port lover, you’ll want to try this port especially designed for warm weather.

Croft Pink Porto (SRP $20; Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Cao, Touriga Franca and Tinta Amarela [all primary port grapes]): Aromas and flavors of berries and cherry, refreshing, crisp, vibrant, medium bodied, medium sweet. Serve it chilled or on ice, with a splash of soda and a twist of lemon. See and for more serving ideas. An excellent aperitif with roasted almonds or olives. Or pair with small plates, salads, barbecue, picnic foods, lighter desserts and fruit.

**Wines can usually be found for less–sometimes considerably less–than the SRP (suggested retail price). Check out to get an idea of actual prices.

I requested samples of some of these wines and was sent samples of some others.