#TasteWithKaren Live

Announcing these exciting live virtual tastings:

Merlot Rising

Thursday, October 21 at 5pm PT / 8pm ET

Register HERE.

The first episode of:

Champagne Tasting Series

International Champagne Day

Friday, October 22 at 4:30pm PT / 7:30pm ET

Bookmark your calendars and join the virtual event live on Instagram @karenmacneilco

More info on #TasteWithKaren LIVE here.


Chianti Classico Riserva 2017

(Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy) $25

Volpaia is a walled village built in the eleventh century on the top of a hill near the commune of Radda. In 1172, the village’s vineyards began to be planted. Over centuries, most of the village (with its formerly stunning churches and towers) and vineyards were abandoned or fell into disrepair. But beginning in 1966, the Stianti Mascheroni family began buying parts of the village and vineyards and painstakingly restoring them. Today Volpaia (the name means “foxes’ lair”) is a thriving rural village and wine estate, and nearly every inhabitant works directly or indirectly with the winery. The wine (not surprisingly) tastes of tradition, with its lovely aromas and flavors reminiscent of violets, ripe cherries, dried leaves, spices, truffles, and a walking-in-the-forest scent that’s totally seductive. A wine like this makes you crave great pasta. (14% abv)

95 points KM

Available at Gino Vino

The WineSpeed Blog

A. A small monastery or nunnery that is governed by a prior or prioress

B. The black slate and quartz soil that characterize the region

C. A great Catalan warrior who fought during the War of the Spanish Succession

D. The name of the family responsible for founding the Priorat denomination in 1954


During the Middle Ages, as the story goes, a villager had a vision of angels ascending and descending a stairway to heaven in the region. The next year, King Alfonso II of Aragón founded a small town and Carthusian monastery on the spot. The monastery became known as La Cartoixa, (Catalan for “charterhouse,” another name for a Carthusian monastery) and the town, Scala Dei (“God’s stairway”). Given the important presence of the monks, the region came to be known as Priorato, from the Spanish word for “priory.” Today, although the monastery has been long abandoned, the little hamlet nearby is still known as Scala Dei, and one of the oldest and best wineries in the region—Cellers de Scala Dei—operates in some of the old buildings that once belonged to the monastery. (The Scala Dei wine called “Cartoixa,” a blend of Garnacha and Carineña, is massive, savory, and delicious).

Answer: True.

A microcontinent is a landmass that is bigger than a typical island, but smaller than a typical continent. Microcontinents usually break off of a larger “parent continent.”  In the case of New Zealand, the country’s two main islands are the above-sea-level part of Zealandia, a submerged microcontinent about half the size of Australia. Zealandia broke off from Antarctica about 100 million years ago and from Australia about 80 million years ago. Today the country lies at the abrasive juncture of two of the world’s great tectonic plates, the Indo-Australian Plate and the Pacific Plate. Because these plates actively rub against each other, New Zealand has many natural hot springs, as well as occasional volcanic eruptions.


The crusty layer, up to two feet or deeper, of grape skins, pulp, stems, and seeds that rises and floats on top of the juice during a red wine’s fermentation. In parts of the northern hemisphere, red wines are fermenting right now. The cap must be kept in contact with the juice by one of several methods. It may be frequently pushed down into the juice, called “a punch down,” or the juice can be pumped over, that is, drawn up from the bottom of the tank and then showered over the cap. As a result of being punched down or pumped over, the alcohol and heat from the fermenting juice can extract color, aroma, flavor, and tannin from the cap. If the cap is not broken up and kept wet with the juice, it dries out and becomes a haven for acetic acid bacteria which will ultimately mar the wine, turning it to vinegar.

White Truffles: Piedmont’s Other Treasure

It’s October— and that means it’s time for white truffles. Just imagining autumn in the Piedmont region of Italy—drinking sumptuous Barolos alongside warm strands of buttery homemade taglierini or “tajarin” (thin, fine ribbons of egg pasta) mounded with shaved white truffles—is enough to send shivers up my spine. Of the more than seventy species of truffles that can be found throughout the world, Piedmont’s hypnotically delicious white truffles are the most highly sought after. Considered ectomycorrhizal fungi (they have a symbiotic relationship with the roots of a nearby plant), they grow a foot or more underground, generally near oak, chestnut, or beech trees. They ripen throughout the late fall; conveniently, at the same time as Piedmont’s grapes.

A variety of compounds contribute to white truffles’ spellbinding, sweaty/musky pungency, notably androstanol, a pheromone also found in the testes and ovaries of humans and the saliva of boars. The substance has a powerful psychological effect on human beings.

Because they grow underground, white truffles cannot be detected by humans and must be found by animals with a more refined sense of smell. Dogs and female pigs are trained to sniff them out. (Pigs are rather less preferred because of their habit of quickly gobbling the truffle after digging it up.) Truffle hunters “trifalaos” hunt alone and secretly, usually at night. The next morning they’ll sell the truffles they find (for $1500 to $4000 per pound as of last year) in hush-hush style (often in a bar) almost like illicit drugs.


Year the first canned wine was produced. According to Drinks International, wine canning began one year after the first beer was canned, yet with much less success. Primitive techniques and unstable wines made for a rough outcome. It wasn’t until 2004 with the release of Niebaum’s-Coppola Mini Blanc de Blancs, sparkling wine from California, that canned wine went mainstream. Today, the canned wine makret is worth more than $86 million in the United States alone.


Percentage of growth in dry table wines produced in the Douro region of Portugal since 2005. According to Harpers, the Douro, which is known mostly for Port, first began making dry wines 70 years ago. Within the last 15 years, however, the number of dry wine producers in the region has doubled. The hope is to counteract falling sales of Port which have declined 26% since 2006.


Number of acres of grapevines certified as biodynamic worldwide. According to the global biodynamic certification organization, Demeter, both vineyards and wineries can gain certification separately. As of 2020, there were 1,010 wineries certified globally— of which only 32 are in the U.S. However, the number of acres of certified biodynamic vineyards in the U.S. currently stands at 3,788. Since many winemakers farm biodynamically without becoming certified, the actual number of biodynamic vineyards is probably even larger.

Get WineSpeed

Join tens of thousands of other wine lovers. Get each week’s edition of WineSpeed delivered to your inbox every Friday. It’s fast. It’s free. It’s the smartest way to stay up to speed on wine.
Email address
First Name
Last Name
Be sure to check your inbox to confim your subscription.