I am spending the day in Ann Arbour, a small city in the south of the state that is home of the University of Michigan as well as Domino’s Pizza. I am looked after by Joe from Woodberry Wines who clearly knows the local market well. ‘This is a funky, left wing city with an international perspective. I would never wear a suit here - this is Birkenstock city’ he explains before our first visit. ‘There are lots of food shops and there is a good understanding of old world wines.’ And so it proved. From stores like The Village Corner, Arbour Farms and Everyday Wines to restaurants like Café Zola, Pacific Rim and West End Grill I found a very lively market, receptive to Portuguese wines. The comment of the day went to a restaurateur who enthused over the ‘rusticity and mineral funk’ in Pedra Basta 2010. She ordered some. In the evening I was immersed into a totally different market: a wine dinner for members at a suave golf and country club in Birmingham, a smart suburb of Detroit. The dinner was organized by Elie Boudt of Elie Wines. Elie is married to our importer and came from Libya to set up a model wine shop on 14 Mile Road on the outskirts of Detroit. This about as far from the bankrupt Detroit you hear about as it can possibly be with a wealthy clientele buying the best from Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhone. Elie claims, with justification, to have the best selection of the top French wines in the USA and, pinch yourself, this is Detroit! The dinner for about 60 guests is outstanding and is attended by other producers from France and Spain. At the end of the dinner we are asked to talk about each other’s wines. I enthuse over two reds of Domaines Lupier, a producer in Navarra making dense, fine-grained reds from 27 parcels of 100 year old Grenache. As soon as I get back to the UK I see that they are listed by the Wine Society, so I buy a case of Domaines Lupier El Terroir.
19 - 20 An outstanding wine (*****)
17 – 18 An excellent wine in its class, highly recommended (****)
15 - 16 A good wine, with much to recommend it (***)
13 - 14 An enjoyable but simple, straightforward wine (**)
10 – 12 A very ordinary wine without faults but with no great merit (*)
8 - 10 Disagreeable (no stars)
Below 8 Faulty