“Wine is about enjoyment,” observed Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, co-owner of Château Mouton-Rothschild, while speaking to more than 1,000 guests at the 2022 New York Wine Experience as they enjoyed a vertical tasting of wines from his family’s famed first-growth. “It’s a people business. Don’t forget about that.”
It was impossible to forget how much wine is a people business at the 41st iteration of Wine Spectator’s annual gathering of wine lovers, winemakers, sommeliers, chefs and more. This was the first truly post-pandemic Wine Experience. The 2020 event was canceled, and while the 2021 event brought people back to the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square, attendance was limited to reduce crowd size, and U.S. travel restrictions prevented many foreign vintners from attending.
With those barriers now gone, veteran attendees were elated to be back together with their vinous extended family, from fellow winemakers representing different regions to longtime loyal customers. Over three days, from Oct. 20–22, people gathered for two evening Grand Tastings of more than 250 wines, two packed days of tasting seminars highlighting regions and wine stars, two lunches hosted by vintners from Napa and Chile and a closing Champagne reception offering dishes from some of New York City’s greatest restaurants.
And there was plenty of wine to go around: In all, 331 different wines were poured from 14,268 bottles into 65,306 glasses. Because what better way to bring people together than a whole lot of wine?
A giant family reunion
“We are happy to be back after two years away,” said Albéric Bichot, president of Burgundy's Albert Bichot winery, as he poured his grand cru Chablis for guests attending the opening night of the Grand Tastings. “This year there are more people and a great energy. You can tell these people are happy to be alive.”
And what better way to celebrate than to sample new wines and meet new people? The Grand Tastings featured winery owners and winemakers at more than 250 booths who poured some of their best wines—all rated 90 points or higher by Wine Spectator editors. They also chatted with guests, allowing consumers the chance to meet the people behind their favorite wines and allowing vintners to get to know some of their best existing or potential customers. Offerings ranged across numerous grape varieties and multiple regions around the world, giving people a chance to taste favorites and learn about wines they had never tried before.
The following morning, the seminars kicked off in style: Magnums of Cristal were the first bottles to be served, as senior editor Alison Napjus hosted a panel of Champagne's top producers discussing and sharing prized cuvées from the 2008 vintage. Before the bubbly was even poured, the proper mood was set with a showing of Steve Jacobson's “Cabernet Tonight” video, an exuberant tribute to all things wine and the winner of Wine Spectator’s 2022 Video Contest. Editor and publisher Marvin R. Shanken also gave a Distinguished Service Award to former executive editor Thomas Matthews for his years of service to the magazine and wine.
As the seminars continued, vintners shared their decades of knowledge, explaining the incredible variety and nuance of what the wine world offers. Four winemakers from Oregon discussed how their particular terroirs, which are just beginning to be understood, shaped their 2019 Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs. A panel of Chianti Classico's biggest stars spoke with obvious pride of how their historic Italian region has reclaimed its mantel of greatness after decades of hard work in the vineyards and cellars.
Three California Chardonnay legends—Paul Hobbs, David Ramey and Mark Aubert—shared several of their wines and laughed as they explained their different approaches, showing that there is more than one path to greatness. And Sereys de Rothschild and estates manager Jean-Emmanuel Danjoy took guests on a vinous tour of Mouton-Rothschild, serving the 2016, 2006, 1996 and 1986 vintages. Ten vintners—the producers behind the Top 10 Wines of 2021—shared their stories, with the man behind the 2021 Wine of the Year, Christian Moueix, sharing that wine, Dominus Estate Napa Valley 2018, along with three other vintages to cap off the seminars.
And then there were the wine stars—vintners selected to highlight their contributions to the industry and their personal stories. Franco Conterno spoke of his family's journey at Barolo's Aldo Conterno winery. Aurelio Montes discussed the special terroirs he has explored within Chile and how that work helped the country’s wines evolve. Josh Scott explained how his parents grew their small family winery in New Zealand into an outstanding producer of Sauvignon Blanc, and Hollywood screenwriter Robert Kamen explained how a guy from the Bronx started writing movies while developing a 300-acre wine estate on top of a Sonoma mountain.
Passion in a glass
What makes these seminars so special is not just the wine, but also the heartfelt stories. Florent Latour shared two beautiful Burgundies from Maison Louis Latour in place of his brother Louis-Fabrice Latour, who passed away in September. "It is a fitting tribute to a wonderful man with a big heart who left us too soon," said senior editor Bruce Sanderson of the seminar.
Pingus founder Peter Sisseck talked about his dedication to saving small, old-vine plots in the Spanish region of Ribera del Duero, while Christian Seely, who manages Quinta do Noval in Portugal’s Douro Valley, spoke of his personal passion for a four-acre parcel of the estate: the Nacional vineyard, planted with ungrafted vines, many nearly a century old. Though the 2011 Nacional could last for decades more, he said, “We might as well drink these wines while we can.”
Some culinary heavyweights shared their passion for good food and affection for each other in the annual Chefs’ Challenge, a wine-and-food pairing exercise starring chefs José Andrés, Eric Ripert and Emeril Lagasse and restaurateur Danny Meyer this year. Meyer received an unexpected serving himself when Shanken made a surprise announcement that the Union Square Hospitality founder earned the 2022 Distinguished Service Award, recognizing his contributions to American dining and his charitable works.
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 passion-inducing 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.
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.
As this year's Wine Experience wound down, guests gathered for a Champagne reception featuring multiple top cuvées, as well as five Whisky Advocate Whiskies of the Year and small plates from seven Grand Award–winning restaurants in New York. It was one final chance to chat with friends, new and old, about the old wines and new memories they experienced over a packed three days. As Christian Moueix explained during his Dominus seminar: “We taste the wines together, and we become friends. You have brought us together, and that, after all, is what wine is about.”
The Wine Experience will return to New York Oct. 19–21, 2023.
—with reporting by Kenny Martin and Collin Dreizen