Something old, something new. Wine has a magical way of being both timeless and innovative. Winemakers are rooted in tradition, but always looking for new ideas for improving the quality of their wines and tending the land that produces the wines we treasure.
Both of those qualities were on full display at the 2023 New York Wine Experience, held at the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square Oct. 19–21. For 42 years, Wine Spectator has been bringing wine lovers, winemakers, sommeliers, restaurateurs, chefs and retailers together to celebrate the lasting power of wine, to celebrate old traditions and new ones, to enjoy the way wine can bring us together to remember great times and to forge new memories.
The weekend featured two evening Grand Tastings of more than 260 wines, two packed days of tasting seminars and presentations from wine stars, lunches hosted by Tuscan and Washington vintners and a Champagne and whisky reception catered by some of New York’s greatest restaurants. Over the course of the weekend, more than 4,000 attendees got to sample some of the world’s best wines: a total of 339 wines poured from 16,872 bottles into 48,582 glasses.
Outside the event in Times Square, billboards flashed with digital messages hawking the latest dishes from fast-food restaurants and the newest reality shows. Inside, winemakers shared stories of winemaking methods that have taken centuries to perfect and bottles that have taken decades to mature.
“When you create great wine, you need time,” observed Frédéric Rouzaud, president of Louis Roederer Champagne. For three days, everyone could take the time to truly enjoy wine’s timelessness and its timeliness.
Seeing Old Wine Friends and Making New
“We are so happy to be here! I came from Rome all the way to New York for this,” said Bernardino Sani of Argiano winery, as he surveyed the crowd on the first night of the Grand Tasting.
Sani was pouring his Brunello di Montalcino Vigna del Suolo 2018, a work a decade in the making. “It’s our first single-vineyard wine. In 2012, I had a mind to make a single-vineyard wine, to change the approach to Brunello di Montalcino wines a little bit. It has taken over 10 years to be able to pull this off, so being here really feels like the arrival of all that effort.”
The 263 wineries at the Grand Tasting were pouring perennial favorites and new wines like the Vigna del Suolo, all rated 90 points or higher by Wine Spectator editors. For the consumers, the evening was a chance to revisit old favorites or rare vintages of classic wines, or to discover new wines or regions they had not tried before.
“One of the things that just floors me is not only wines from all around the world—Priorats, beautiful grand cru Chablis—but the fact that people bring wines in magnum or really old vintages, wines that you really can’t find anywhere else,” said Chris Kajani, winemaker at Bouchaine Vineyards in Carneros.
For wine fans, it was a chance to talk with the people behind those wines. And for vintners, it was a chance to meet the world’s most devoted wine consumers. “It’s an opportunity for me to thank them,” said Greg Brewer of Santa Barbara Pinot Noir star Brewer-Clifton. “There are a zillion choices of wine in the world, and if there’s something about our wine that resonates with them, I’d love the opportunity to be able to acknowledge that and celebrate that and thank them. That’s the best.”
And there’s the chance to catch up with old colleagues from around the globe. “You get to hear someone really talk about what the vintage was like, either the winemakers or the people who planted the vines,” said Kajani. “Plus there’s a whole aisle of Champagne.” (In fact, there were two aisles of Champagne and other sparklers.)
“We’ve loved the Champagnes and the white wines,” said Anairis Ramos, a 23-year-old health care student who came down from Westchester with two friends. “It’s been so interesting to learn about when these people started their companies and the background to all of them. We’ve been taking pictures of all the ones we like the most!”
For many, coming to the Wine Experience has become a tradition. “This is our second year here, and our first year as sisters representing our family, so that’s super exciting and we’ve been having a lot of fun,” said Hannah Salvestrin of Napa’s Salvestrin winery, who was pouring with her sister Emma. “I feel like we’ve grown up watching our parents do these events and grow the brand and now we get to do that together, which is really amazing.”
Wine Traditions New and Old
At the seminars over the next two days, it was apparent that some traditions date back further than others. “It took one thousand nine hundred years to develop the vineyards of Burgundy,” explained Pierre-Henry Gagey, the retiring longtime president of Louis Jadot, and the first of the weekend’s wine stars. Gagey used his time on stage to recount Burgundy’s long history and its recent revival (and to share some grand cru wine—the Corton Pougets Domaine des Héritiers 2017).
Gagey was one of several speakers to focus on wine’s long history. Several of the presenters representing the Top 10 Wines of 2022 have worked for generations to reach this point. Fattoria dei Barbi CEO Stefano Cinelli Colombini represented his family, which has been in Montalcino since 1352, as he spoke about their Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2015, the No. 2 Wine of 2022. The No. 5 wine, Antinori Toscana Tignanello 2019, was presented by Albiera Antinori, the 26th generation of her family in the wine business.
But traditions don’t last if people cannot innovate. Gagey remarked on how Burgundy improved quality in the past four decades. Antinori may be the 26th generation, but she is also the first female CEO of her family company. Vitalie Taittinger, who presented her exquisite Brut Rosé Comtes de Champagne 2009 on a panel of blockbuster pink Champagnes, is also her family firm’s first woman president.
Wine star Adrian Bridge spoke of how Port house Taylor Fladgate, dates to 1692, but has worked tirelessly in recent years to attract new consumers to Port, opening a huge cultural center, World of Wine (WOW), and a hotel in Oporto. Christophe Baron, presenting a vertical of his Wallah Wallah Special Syrahs, explained how a young man from a Champagne family ended up leaving to make wine on the Washington-Oregon border. Jean-Charles Cazes of Château Lynch Bages teared up watching a video of his father Jean-Michel, who recently passed away, and spoke of how the three generations before him labored to turn a Bordeaux fifth-growth into what experts consider a “super second,” one of the Left Bank’s iconic estates.
Traditions work best when they inspire us to strive for something grounded in the past but firmly looking toward the future. As he discussed his Raen Sonoma Coast Royal St. Robert Cuvée, Carlo Mondavi recounted how his grandfather, Robert, took him, his siblings and cousins to European wine regions in 2002, showing them how great wine can be. In the cellars of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Aubert de Villaine poured them an old wine and Robert knew it was a 1964 Richebourg, the same wine de Villaine had served the elder Mondavi on his first visit to DRC. Carlo said he was inspired at that moment to labor for greatness in Pinot Noir.
Listening to multiple speakers, it became clear that the biggest innovation in wine’s next decade will be efforts to connect with the land that underpins great wine. Pinot Noir pioneer Tony Soter spoke of how he and his wife have built a farm in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, planting grains and flowers, which help replenish the soil and lead harmful insects away from the grapes, and breeding livestock that create compost for the vineyards.
“If I have a legacy 20 years from now,” said California winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown as he presented his Rivers Marie Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Old Summa Vines 2021, “It’s the stewardship of this vineyard.” His dream is to hand it to his kids better than it is now. Château de Beaucastel’s Marc Perrin echoed that feeling as he presented a vertical of his family’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape and explained the innovative design of their new winery, built to tap the strength of the Rhône Valley’s famed mistral winds to power their operations. “We wanted to build a winery our grandchildren could be proud of,” he told the audience.
Building a legacy also means training the next generation. At its heart, the Wine Experience is about giving back. The event would not be possible without the incredible generosity of vintners who donate all the wines of the weekend. All net proceeds from the event go to the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation, which has raised more than $35 million for scholarships and grants for the hospitality and wine industries, helping train the next generation of vintners, sommeliers and wine professionals.
Foundation beneficiaries have included students at Napa Valley College, the University of California at Davis School of Viticulture & Enology, The Roots Foundation, Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute, Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management and the Culinary Institute of America, among others.
Wine is Made For Food—and Vice Versa
“This is exactly what I love about this event,” famed restaurateur Danny Meyer said to the crowd during the Chefs’ Challenge, a highlight of the weekend. “This is what wine is made for—food. This is what food is made for—wine.” Meyer and chef Lena Ciardullo of Union Square Cafe, Eric Ripert, Emeril Lagasse and José Andrés brought four fantastic dishes to taste, and the chefs and senior editor Bruce Sanderson brought wines to pair with those dishes, questing for the perfect match.
There were many more delicious matches over the three days, between lunches paired with iconic super Tuscans and innovative Washington wines, plus a closing reception featuring eight top Champagnes, six award-winning whiskies selected by Whisky Advocate and an array of dishes from restaurants such as the Modern, Per Se, Tribeca Grill and Bar Boulud. Winemakers and guests alike could eat and drink together and share favorite moments from the weekend.
Wine may be steeped in heritage and invention, but it’s fundamentally about dining and camaraderie. It’s about the pleasure we take when a bite of food and a sip of wine become greater together than on their own. It’s about the moments we share when we raise a glass together and about the memories we forge. Presenting an incredible vertical of the super Tuscan Masseto, Lamberto Frescobaldi may have said it best. “Our job is not to make a perfect wine. It’s to make an emotional wine. You should remember it.”
—With reporting by Collin Dreizen, Julia Larson, Olivia Nolan and Robert Taylor