Uncategorized


Readers, colleagues, friends, this blog, Bigger Than Your Head, has been nominated for a third year in the category of “Best Wine Reviews” in the annual Wine Blog Awards. We won the first two times, and I hope you won’t consider me selfish to want to win again! It’s an interesting rosters of nominees, with several strong contenders. The awards are based 50 percent on popular vote and 50 percent on the judges’ evaluations, so your vote really counts. If you enjoy the blog, if you learn something from my posts, if my reviews lead you to an understanding of individual wines and wine as a whole, if the complete package is informative, educational and a little amusing, then give me another chance to add a third winner’s badge to the sidebar. Voting ends June 27. Here’s a link to the voting page: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CNTK5P8

Thanks! Cheers!

My Readers … I want to steal a moment from the calm of New Year’s Day — blackeyed peas, hogjowl and turnip greens simmering on the stove; more Champagne chillin’ in the fridge — to thank you for your attention, your concern, your regard during 2010. In December, a month that concluded just 12 hours ago, this blog received 61,351 visits, the highest monthly figure since the thing was launched four years ago. And here’s what’s thrilling: For 2010, the total number of visits received by biggerthanyourhead.net was — ta-dah! — 516,015. That’s right, a shade more than half a million! In comparison, the total visits for 2009 was 383,511. Wow, that’s quite an increase. Naturally, I would like for those figures to climb exponentially for 2011, so do your part, come back and read my reviews, recommendations and commentaries, and click on those advertisements. I need the dough.

Happy New Year!


Readers, today, June 11, 2010, BiggerThanYourHead is the Featured Wine Blog on Foodista.com, “The Cooking Encyclopedia Anyone Can Edit.” You’ve already read the post — it’s Monday’s “Wine of the Week” — but follow the link to see what’s up on their website. Thanks, Foodista!

Lo, my children, such a thing has never happened in my many years of extracting corks from wine bottles, thousands of wine bottles.

Look at the picture. Yes, that’s my treasured Laguiole corkscrew, a gift, broken by the cork in this bottle of Bastianich Tocai Plus 2006, Friuli, which, as it happens, is a terrifically suave, layered and delicious wine. Now the bizarre accident didn’t occur as I was trying to lever the cork from the bottle. No, this happened when I was trying to insert the screw into the cork, which felt like iron. It took a mighty effort just to get the screw to scratch the surface of the cork. It was like trying to dig a hole with a shovel in dry, rocky soil. As I attempted to cope with this anomalous situation, I looked at LL, who raised her eyebrows and said, “Having a problem?” I replied, “Lord have mercy, this is the hardest cork I have ever seen,” meanwhile grunting with the effort and, naturally, swearing a bit. And then the screw part of the corkscrew snapped.

How do I know what the wine tasted like?

Later, I put the bottle in the sink and cracked the neck with repeated blows of a rubber mallet. I mean, what else?

This morning we’re tasting Barbera d’Asti from the Monferrato sub-region.

Here we go.

It’s snowing, and the roof of the building across the street wears a thick slope of pure white snow. A woman in a yellow house-dress just opened the double glass doors to her little balcony and used a broom to brush the snow off the plants in the box hanging from the wrought-iron balustrade.

I’m finding the Monferrato wines not stridently oaky, certainly not as much wood as the wines from Days One & Two. The acidity is certainly there; a couple of these so far have fairly screamed with acid, yet several examples strike me as being wholly satisfying. Of course my colleagues may disagreed; they’re a feisty bunch!

Again, though, the problem is inconsistency. One wine will brim with purity and intensity of fruit and penetrating mineral qualities; it’s the breath of fresh air syndrome. The next wine, however, smells so earthy that it feels unclean, so macerated that it’s sweetishyly cloying. And another will feature the whole box of dried spices and flowers and I think, “Very attractive,” until the acidity sears my palate. (After 25 years, my palate should get combat pay and Purple Hearts.) And I just wrote of another wine that’s it’s “so middle-of-the-road that it’s comforting.”

And I just wrote of another wine: “Dried spices, flowers and fruit, very attractive; v. intense, dense and concentrated, but fairly well-balanced, but very dry, now increasingly austere, does it need all this tannin?”

You, see? These wines are all over the map, and the map itself is not very large.

The most consistent aspect of this morning seems to be the snow.

I just saw that Imbibe online lists BiggerThanYourHead as one of 10 “bookmark-worthy” wine blogs that are “honest, outspoken, accessible and often funny.” I say “Yes!” to that. Here’s what they say about Yours Truly and BTYH:

“Sure, you’re initially drawn to this blog for its larger-than-life name, but one visit and you’ll be sold on Fredric Koeppel’s site which solely focuses on unfettered and unbiased wine reviews and tasting notes. Added bonus? He lists the U.S. importer of every wine he mentions, making it extra easy to track down a bottle of your own.”

To which I say “Amen” and “May a Thousand Blessings Fall Upon Your Bones.”

I’m happy to be in good, if not enviable company on this roster: 1 Wine Dude; Brooklyn Guy Loves Wine: Dr. Vino; The Good Grape: Good Wine Under $20; The Pour; Swirl Smell Slurp; Veritas in Vino: and Vinography. Wow, that’s pretty breathtaking.

Thanks again for the honor Imbibe, and thanks for getting it.

My former father-in-law, Ed Harrison — whom we saw last weekend at one of my daughter’s dance performances — at some point wisely bought a case of the Simi Reserve Vintage Cabernet Sauvignon 1974, Alexander Valley, a wine of which he was particularly fond, and with good reason: This is one of the great Simi cabernets. At the time, in Memphis, it sold for $16 a bottle. Winemaker in the early 1970s at Simi was Mary Ann Graf, with the legendary Andre Tchelistcheff serving as consultant. After passing through many ownership phases, Simi is now part of the Icon Estates portfolio of Constellation Wines.

I think it was the last bottle of the case that Ed opened for Christmas dinner in 1984, and what a superb wine it was, rich, mellow and flavorful at 10 years old. Here are my notes from that day:

“Wonderful wine, aged to perfection. Fading brick-reddish color; fragrant nose, lots of depth of fruit & currant undertones; soft tannin, bell-tone roundenss, elegant fruit, levels of berry undertones, dry yet with a hint of ripe sweetness. Long finish.”

Wow, I can almost smell and taste that wine now! Next time I see Ed Harrison, I’ll have to thank for for that experience.

The pizza had a medley of marinated and sauteed mushrooms — oyster mushrooms, shiitakes, chanterelles, criminis — with applewood smoked bacon as primary toppings, with some sliced Roma tomatoes, green onions, thyme, rosemary and oregano and then mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Clearly a boldly flavored wine was required.

Filling that criteria with no problem whatever was the Two Hands Gnarly Dudes Shiraz 2008, from Australia’s Barossa Valley.

This is a rich, ripe, deeply saturated wine that bursts with black currant and blueberry scents and flavors imbued with a wealth of exotic spice, fruitcake notes, briers and brambles and granite-like minerals. Dauntingly dry but luscious and juicy, this shiraz comes close to being jammy, but its exuberance is just held in check by singeing (or singing) acidity and dense tannins that seem fathomless. Hints of brandied plum pudding and bitter chocolate draw in touches of lavender and licorice, all of which are etched on that circumference of pure earthy minerality. Oak is carefully done; the wine aged 12 months in hogsheads, that is to say large barrels, only 12 percent of which were new, so the effect is of tone and suppleness and resonance. There’s no denying the influence of 15.2 percent alcohol; innate ripeness and sweetness gather from entry to mid-palate, where they are subdued by immense tannins through the long, smooth, fruit-and-shale drenched finish. This is, in three words, quite a ride. Closed with a screw-cap for easy opening. Drink through 2012 to ’14. Excellent. About $25.

Imported by Terlato Wines International, Lake Bluff, Illinois, which supplied this bottle as a sample for review.


Looking at this illustration, fellow wine-writers and bloggers will understand what came in the mail to me yesterday. That’s right, the funky little VW bus, observed here by a pair of astonished, ghostly salt-and-pepper shakers, accompanied bottles of the Beaujolais Nouveau 2009 and Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2009 from the ever-busy producer, the so-called “King of Beaujolais,” Georges Duboeuf. Ah, the perks of the job!

It’s astonishing indeed how Duboeuf, whose title should be “King of Marketers,” elevated what was once, in long ago simpler times, a simple, innocent harvest ritual, into a worldwide phenomenon in which hundreds of thousands of people stay up all night in restaurants from Japan to New Jersey waiting to taste the first Beaujolais Nouveau shipped by overnight shipping companies. Actually, the product is already on the ground in most countries, just waiting for the traditional third Thursday in November, the 19th this year, for release. This year’s vintage is reported to be excellent but smaller in quantity due to a warm, dry summer. In Japan, for example, according to JapanToday.com, bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau shipped totaled 4.8 million, or 400,000 cases, a reduction of 30 percent from last year. Perhaps that steep of a reduction also reflects lack of interest.

This is all silly and rather harmless stuff. The sad part is that people who so eagerly participate in this annual folderol will probably never try a bottle of the great Beaujolais wines produced at the cru level from the 10 named communes of the region or even a bottle of respectable Beaujolais-Villages, typically a quaffable bistro wine.

Normally, I would rather be strapped onto the hood of a speeding Escalade and have “The Moon and New York City” mainlined into my brain 24/7 than actually review any Beaujolais Nouveau, but this year I will go along with the game and hold off until next Thursday and make a few comments on the fresh, grapey stuff, thereby, of course, just adding to the visibility of the silliness.

This year’s red and gold label for the Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau and Beaujolais Villages Nouveau is one of the most garish in the annually changing series, resembling wallpaper in a Chinese restaurant. The wines will be priced at $10 and $11, respectively.


I am no great fan of the products of Folonari, a company that annually pumps out thousands of bottles of wine that rarely rise above the level of decent — not that decent is bad — so you could have knocked me over with a plastic pipette when I tried the Folonari Pinot Grigio delle Venezie 2008 and found it to be not only more than decent but downright delightful.

Made completely in stainless steel and distinctly a wine of the moment — I mean, drink it before next spring — the Folonari Pinot Grigio 2008 is a pale straw color with faint green highlights. The bouquet is quite grassy and meadowy, not a meadow of flowers but of a multitude of grasses and herbs, and then with an intriguing bottom note that’s damp, foresty and piney. A wafting of citrus turns out to be more like lemon-grass than lemon; in fact, the effect is of that startling earthy grassiness that we used to get when we were kids chewing on grass blades, the ones that made a little whistle or squeak when we pulled them from the earth. Ah, those days of innocence! In other words, this wine is all about freshness and immediate appeal and vibrant acidity, and when I say that it goes down easily, I don’t mean that (in this case) as a criticism. Drink and enjoy, as an aperitif or with light appetizers and seafood dishes. Very Good. About $8.50.

Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York

(This is the 500th post to BTYH since December 2006.)

« Previous PageNext Page »