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Boston Wine Expo Report: 2001 best vintage ever
by Jonathon Alsop
January 2000


At the end of its first decade, the Boston Wine Expo continues to be the envy of wine shows around the world. In its tenth year, the show finally hits on all cylinders for two days last weekend at the giant World Trade Center, making 2001 a Wine Expo worth savoring.

This year, the Expo organizers promised smaller crowds and more food than previous years, and they delivered. Ticket prices were up, and the number of tickets for sale was down.

In previous years, the Saturday session has felt like the start of the Boston Marathon with everyone crowded together and trying to stake out some turf, while the Sunday session was like the finish line, with just the hardiest wine lovers making it to that second day.

Saturday was swirling, noisy, upbeat and busy, but with about a third fewer people than last year. Sunday was a thing of beauty. There were no lines anywhere, winemakers and salespeople were relaxed and unhurried and really able to spend time talking wine lovers through what they were tasting. They should have put up a big sign: "5000 wines, no waiting."

Another thing that makes the Wine Expo great is that it has something for everyone. Consumers get to taste a range of wines they could never hope to taste just going from wine shop to wine shop, even if they spent an entire year doing that.

People in the wholesale and retail business (wine writers too) get a nice three-hour window of opportunity at the Expo when they can taste and schmooze free from the companionship of their consumers. That makes for some nice frank conversations (mostly off the record) about how much wine really costs, why you can or can't get it at the local wine shop, and how some darling wine got such a huge score in the Wine Expectorator.

Even with the weather worries and the mini-nor'easter that blew through Saturday and Sunday, 2001 will go into the books as the best vintage of the Wine Expo ever.

FAVORITES:

Abbotts Wines This winery, from Minervois in the south of France, is owned by a couple of Australians who really know what they're doing with the syrah grape (Aussies call it shiraz). '98 Abbotts Nimbus Shiraz is only $10-$12, and it's a tremendous value at that price. '97 Abbotts Cumulo Nimbus at $36 is a more refined version with more oak, more fruit, more concentration, more of everything. Probably my single favorite wine of the Expo, and only $7 a glass, if you look at it that way.

1997 California Cabernet Sauvignon America's big wine magazines called this one right: 1997 is a fantastic vintage for California cab and the '97 merlot is tasting pretty good too. '97 William Hill Reserve Cab is tremendously rich and chewy, almost chocolatey, a real special-occasion bottle at $50, if you can even find it. '97 Simi Cabernet is in the $25 range, rich and excellent, full of fruit and soft tannin.

Cline I have been a big fan for a while already, and when I tasted the '97 Ancient Vines Carignane -- the second carignane of the day -- I became an even more dedicated Cline camper. Like the Fife carignane, the Cline is short on fruit and long on structure, which I love as a nice change from a lot of over-jammy wines (zinfandel comes immediately to mind) in the same $15 price range.

Fife Always explosive, the fiery red label promises intensity that all the wines deliver. Loved the awesome tannin of '98 Redhead Carignane, a big black wine from a strong country French blending grape that's almost never made on its own. Except in California, of course, and a small winery on the island of Maui called Tedeschi. Carignane is a great hot weather grape that can stand the heat. The product is a wine with very little fruit but with tremendous structure. Ripe fruit flavors and juice were absolutely there, but overwhelming everything was the skeletal structure of tannic backbone.

Four Vines But two zinfandels. '98 Old Vine Cuvee is only $10, and that makes it a prime candidate for Tuesday night consumption. '97 Paso Robles Zin is $19, way out of the "fine wine on a tight budget" range, but worth finding.

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