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WineSpeed is the first fast wine e-letter—great info and advice, all from Karen MacNeil, author of the bestselling book, The Wine Bible. On this homepage are examples of the kind of fun intel you’ll get delivered to your inbox each Friday.

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Boston Bual Madeira


Historic Series Madeira “Boston Bual”

Special Reserve

(Madeira, Portugal) $50

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

The WineSpeed Blog

Wine Question

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

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.”


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

— Ted Lemon,

owner and winemaker, Littorai

Wine Words


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.

The Wine Clip

Survival Guide:


Wine Geo Ghallenge

Answer to yesterday’s (Thurs Mar 16)
Wine Geo Challenge

B. Pessac-Léognan

To get the question, go here on Karen’s Facebook page.

Fascinating Facts

The Angst of Innocence

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 till 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.


Approximate number of times a cork oak tree may be harvested for wine stoppers over the tree’s 200 year life. It takes an individual cork oak tree 25 years before it can be stripped for the first time, and thereafter, the tree can be stripped of bark only every 9 years. It is not until the third harvest that the cork reaches the high standard of quality necessary for wine stoppers. The first two harvests don’t go to waste—this cork becomes the raw material for flooring and insulation.


Amount (in grams per liter) of the average drop in dosage (sugar) levels in Brut Champagnes in the last fifteen years. The reasons for the big decline in the amount of sugar used in Champagne? Harvesting riper grapes, plus a trend toward longer time on the yeast lees and using more reserve wine, both of which mitigate against the need for sugar as camouflage.


Year that New Zealand got its first sauvignon blanc cuttings. The cuttings were imported to Marlborough, New Zealand, from California’s Foundation Plant Services department of the University of California at Davis. The cuttings were so-called “Clone 1” sauvignon blanc which was brought to California from Chateau d’Yquem (Bordeaux) in the 1880s by Charles Wetmore, then the CEO of the Board of State Viticultural Commissioners.

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