Friday, April 29, 2005

Ostrich Fricassee, anyone?

This Scotsman (UK) article is essentially a review for the film Mondovino (you’ll have to read the article referenced to find out what my title means). Within it hides bits of insight and clarity of larger wine and culture issues that author Kirsty Milne should be lauded for (perhaps even knighted), like…

"The fact that taste is changing cannot be laid at [Robert] Parker’s door. It has more to do with affordable imports from English-speaking countries that have swapped obscure acronyms for bright images of whales and porcupines. As well as new wines, there are new drinkers - single working women, who are largely responsible for driving the increase in UK wine sales. Just as female consumers like different cars, they may prefer different wines."

I don’t think this subject gets anywhere near the amount of attention it should. No, not the parts about whales and porcupines, female buying habits, bright images, or even the use of plain language as opposed to obscure acronyms (though these latter three points are very germane…).
I’ve mentioned before that I feel wine has always been made in some sort of ‘style’, and that wines have evolved with mankind as they’ve traveled, traded, and grown. From that viewpoint wine has been changing and evolving, always volatile in its 'style' since time immemorial. To point a finger at one single man – an individual out of a 5+ billion population! – and then claim he’s the culprit for changing the wine world is absurd. Or a single culture, country, continent, or hemisphere is equally absurd for that matter…

When some group finally moves to a point where they are implicating what appears to be the majority of the wine consumers in the world as the ‘problem’ to support their argument…well, it becomes obvious that they themselves are unclear about what that ‘problem’ is. Perhaps the real issues revolve around fear of change, or lost revenue, etc.
Western cultures (European) are externally based; problems and solutions have always been viewed as coming from outside of the individual, and introspection has never had much place in our thought process when looking for solutions. The arguments in the film are based on that same system...if something is wrong then there must be an external cause...
The trouble with this thinking is that it precludes us from examining what the real root of the problem is (ourselves perhaps?), and we end up subconciously creating external straw dogs to rationalize the cause of our problems.

But enough psycobabble, let's get back to the article.
If you’ve seen the movie or read a lot of reviews already, then perhaps you don’t need to bother with the article in full (although it’s still worth reading)…but please DO read the last 2 paragraphs. In those lines is a point where one of those straw dogs is revealed.

I’m not going to spoil it for you here by pasting more quotes, and I’ll let the title of this post hang until you read Milne’s article…
It’s well worth a read at the
original site.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Armida Buys La Famiglia Brand

Armida winery has purchased La Famiglia (late of the Mondavi package that Constellation has now broken off).

This should bring quite a bit more production for them, but perhaps a bit too much, as in +300% ! (see the article here at the Press Democrat).

Armida introduced a Zinfandel labeled with a skull & crossbones a few years ago called "Poizin". I think it's the most questionable package design I've ever seen. In a time when the wine trade in the US is under more and more attacks centered on "irresponsible" use and image (especially when the discussion turns to interstate shipping), and potentially just adds more fuel to the neo-prohibitionists fire. But hey, people did start talking about their 10,000 case brand a bit more, and they did get on the cover of Vineyard & Winery Management magazine. I still feel strongly that they never should have used that design - regardless of what it did for their sales. It's just too far over the line of responsible marketing.

Name your Poizin?

The offending bottle dress in the picture is on the right side, complete with it's (clever) casket shaped wooden box, which is also branded with a skull & crossbones.

A better picture

Really though, I mean, what can you tell a kid who sees you drinking from a bottle that's clearly labeled like everything you've ever told them to avoid? The ATF/TTB never should have approved the design for use.

The wine itself will put you back $50/bottle, which is interesting when you look at their website and see it conspicuously missing from their 'accolades' page where they list their medals received over the past few years...strange for a wine they want to charge that much for...(they do also use the same 'Poizin' dress for their other $20 Zins, however those bottles are silk screened not etched and have red foils capsules in place of the red wax.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Constellation and Brown-Forman Bidding For Allied Domecq?

Constellation is beginning to remind me of someone with a tapeworm. It just can't stop consuming.

Now that Allied Domecq has accepted an offer from Pernod Ricard (with Fortune Brands (Jim Beam) cleaning up the overlapping brands) Constellation is reportedly pairing with Brown-Forman to make a rival bid. Constellation just spend $1.3 billion for Robert Mondavi last December and AU$2.5 billion for BRL-Hardy in 2002. Their appetite seems to know no bounds!

However, I expect that after all of the recent wine acquisitions, Constellation might well be after Allied's spirits portfolio which has much better brands than its spirits portfolio does. In addition, Brown-Forman owns little in the wine business beyond Fetzer and Sonoma-Cutrer and might benefit from Allied's portfolio of wines more than Constellation would. I would then expect Constellation to take the spirits brands (Beefeater, Ballantine's, Sauza, Stoli, Maker's Mark, Kahlua, Malibu) and Brown-Forman to carve out the wine portfolio (Clos du Bois, Buena Vista, William Hill, Callaway Coastal, Gary Farrell, etc).

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The light’s on…is anybody home?

More sharpshooter eggs shipped into Napa

“Ag Commissioner Dave Whitmer said that it was not clear why inspectors checking the shipment in Riverside County did not spot the egg clusters

That’s a pretty scary thought…they were checked and still the pests got up here. For those who are counting that’s the fourth instance this year that clusters of eggs have been shipped into Napa County. (Sonoma County has had, what – an additional three instances so far this year?) The question that runs through my mind is “who’s watching the fort down South?”

With the amount of rainfall that California (especially the Southern portion) has had, there’s been a bumper crop of foliage on the host plants that the sharpshooters favor. Less pesticide usage due to the wet weather hasn’t helped either.

But as far as doing their job properly in Southern California…
Hello?! Is anybody home?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Wine Consumption by Country

I get frequent requests for wine consumption data, so I thought I'd share a link to one of the best lists by country that I know of. This chart from the Wine Institute is a bit dated, but its the most comprehensive one available online that I am aware of. I can help with some more updated information that's available off-line , just ask.

As I have pointed out before, you have to go a long way down to find the US. This is something that will continue to be addressed in this space.

Friday, April 22, 2005

New food guidelines include alcohol recommendations

The new federal dietary guidelines include a chapter on Alcoholic Beverages (Ch.9). [main site is here]

"Moderate alcohol consumption may have beneficial health effects in some individuals. In middle-aged and older adults, a daily intake of one to two alcoholic beverages per day is associated with the lowest all-cause mortality. More specifically, compared to non-drinkers, adults who consume one to two alcoholic beverages a day appear to have a lower risk of coronary heart disease. In contrast, among younger adults alcohol consumption appears to provide little, if any, health benefit, and alcohol use among young adults is associated with a higher risk of traumatic injury and death. As noted previously, a number of strategies reduce the risk of chronic disease, including a healthful diet, physical activity, avoidance of smoking, and maintenance of a healthy weight. Furthermore, it is not recommended that anyone begin drinking or drink more frequently on the basis of health considerations. "

It’s a start, eh?

a simple humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.

The newly elected Pope Benedict XVI referred to himself as “a simple humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.”

I’m not looking to turn this blog into a religious discussion, but I sure do like his choice of metaphor so far!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Chinese forgeries

Just a few weeks ago I’d mentioned a story (in my cork sniffing post) I’d heard from a wine merchant in China about a well to do family there who had purchased a bottle of forged Petrus unknowingly.

Here’s an
article from the Globe and Mail (Toronto, ON, Canada) about some more forgeries in China, though the product forged isn’t quite as lofty as the Petrus. In this news it appears to be Canadian Ice Wine, and the ersatz product is described as both horrid and, unfortunately, ubiquitous enough to have put a stranglehold on the sales of the genuine article.

Canadian companies aren’t taking these incidents lightly, and are righteously defending their products and reputation.

I say “Go get ‘em!”…

During the same conversation I had with the Chinese wine merchant they confided in me that the Asian market consumers are extremely wary of bottles with foil capsules on them. Specifically, foils that have two small holes on top of them.

Now the manufacturers of the foils place those two pin-pricks in the foils to allow air to escape, and the foil sits down on the bottle much quicker, and makes for better placement before the bottles enter the foil spinner (foils up too high get creases in them, don't look good, and have to be reworked).

Apparently in Asia, having been saturated in the past with knock-off products, people have developed a rather interesting urban legend regarding the holes. Popular belief is that these holes are from thieves who have a device with two hypodermic needles on it, inserted through the foil & cork and then exchanges the good original product for some ersatz concocted 'wine'.

The merchant referred to this as a type of "Vampire's kiss", which locals looked for, and then avoided.

I'm not sure how to correct that misconception, but I'd look at modifying any package I was sending to China with a few more "tamper evident" security measures to make sure people had faith in my product. Though any product that's popular will still have considerable efforts from thieves to forge them.

Dang! Where's the MythBusters when you need 'em?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

"Take a fresh look at Allied-Domecq"

Allied Domecq's website says "Take a fresh look at Allied-Domecq" and that's just what a couple of companies are doing. A-D is a conglomerate that own many prominent spirits brands (Beefeater, Malibu, Kahlua, Maker's Mark, Suaza, Stoli), wine brands (Clos du Bois, Gary Farrell, Callaway Coastal, Champagne Mumm, Bodegas & Bebidas) and food companies (Dunkin' Donuts, Baskin Robbins ice cream and Togo's sandwiches). They are currently being pursued by Pernod Ricard, the world's third largest spirits company who owns Wild Turkey, Chivas Regal, Bushmills, Jameson and a lone wind brand, Jacob's Creek from Australia. Oddly, P-R has partnered with Fortune Brands who owns numerous golf brands, home and hardware companies, spirit companies (DeKuyper, Vox, Knob Creek, El Tesoro) and just a couple of wine companies (Geyser Peak/Canyon Road and Wild Horse) .

How the two suitors will split up A-D is anyone's guess right now. Since P-R has only one wine brand, my guess is that they will go after the wine portfolio to give Jacob's Creek some leverage in the US market. Further, since Fortune's wine interests are 90% in Sonoma County, its unlikely that the Sonoma-heavy A-D portfolio will interest them (Clos du Bois, Buena Vista, and Gary Farrell are all Sonoma County brands). Fortune may, however, have interest in some of A-D's non-US brands like Montana in New Zealand, Cockburn's Port, and some of the Spanish wines.

It is expected that A-D will accept a friendly offer of $14 billion tomorrow. The fallout in the wine sector will be interesting to watch....

Defending California Wines - I Swear I Didn't Write This

This article reads like something I would have written. There are several great quotes, so I won't paste them here. Rather, you should read the entire (brief) article. It is well said and speaks for itself.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Update on Sharpshooter Vigilante Post

Here's an additional website on the Glassy-winged sharp shooter for those who are interested:

Wine and olive oil

ABC News reports that an Australian study found red wine raises blood pressure slightly in men. Several American researchers could not duplicate that effect, which leaves the subject open to different interpretations. Even with the results, the Aussie authors still state that up to two glasses daily are beneficial to overall health.

And a
Toronto Sun article states that the inclusion of more olive oil in your diet (a principal part of the Mediterranean style diet) may counteract this effect of wine.
As they state “the good news about this study is that not only will you live longer but you'll do so while enjoying some pretty wonderful foods.”

Sounds pretty good to me…

Monday, April 18, 2005

More on hang time

Deliberately left on the vine? I think not!

An article @ continues the discussion regarding ‘hang time’, that period of time which the wineries request the grapes’ remain on the vine beyond the traditional maturity levels of sugar, acid (titrable acidity, or TA), and pH. Sadly, the online article doesn’t do the subject much justice, and that fact is telegraphed by the photo which accompanies the story. It’s obviously a white grape that either suffered some malady, or was otherwise slated not to be picked during the harvest in question. If it was scheduled to be picked, then the winemaker (or vineyard manager or enologist) wasn’t doing their job properly & should’ve been fired. A better example would have only some dehydration shrivel to act as an illustration of the problem growers want to discuss (the photo included is so severe that no winemaker worth their salt would ever let their grapes get into that condition if at all possible, and certainly never request a grower to put the fruit into such an abysmal state). Indeed, the photo is so bad it acts as a straw-man argument against the grower’s side of the article itself (click here for an enlargement of the photo) .

Gabe Friedman (of also states that the practice is used to raise sugar levels in the fruit, so the wineries can produce high alcohol wines.
This simply isn’t true. Past a level of 24°Brix (aprox. 24% sugar) the winemakers really aren’t looking to increase the sugar content. What they’re looking for is riper tannins and better flavor development. This is precisely why grapes produced in the coastal areas of California continue to be the most sought after. With the amount of heat in the Central Valley the vines never get a chance to fully ripen their tannins and flavors before the sugar skyrockets to the point that they’ll be difficult, if not impossible to ferment fully. You really can’t successfully keep the fruit on the vine anywhere else in California and still have a balanced wine other than the coastal counties. As the climate along the coast allows more acid to remain in the fruit as well, the wines created are more lively and more enjoyable.

Anyway, the Winemakers argue that it’s flavor & tannin maturity that they’re striving for and that these two aspects of fruit ripeness are not addressed by testing for sugar, acidity or pH (the winemakers are right on that point too, laboratory tests currently cannot assess ripeness of flavor). The point of the wineries trying to make wines in this style (bold super-ripe flavors and extraction) merely for the satisfaction of the critics’ palate seems over simplified. Consumers are looking for more flavor and ripeness in their wines (which is one of the reasons that sales of Old World style wines are currently retreating). Wines which appeal to the buyer are obviously what the wineries are looking for.

Growers of course, continue to voice concerns that they are exposed to more risk of foul weather or rot by the extended period. And they may rightly complain of possible dehydration of the crop, which when paid for by the ton, could truly result in reduced revenue for them.
Claims also are made that the wineries are deliberately waiting for dehydration to take place to save money at the time of fruit purchase, only to add water back after the fact at the wineries in question. This seems somewhat disingenuous to me…I don’t know of any winemaker who’s ever looked to add water to his wine if it weren’t absolutely necessary for the fermentation to go to completion (avoiding ‘stuck’, or sweet wines that don’t finish the sugar conversion to alcohol).

As for the issues of damage to the vines due to the longer hang time before harvest, I’ll submit this link to an article from
Wine Business Monthly written by Paul Franson (from this information it doesn’t sound like the experts support the idea that the vines are hurting).

Another way to address the issue of lost revenues is for growers and the wineries to develop some language in their contracts which allows some premiums to be paid on the ton for keeping the fruit hanging longer.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Vigilantes wanted...

The enemy!

We either can't continue to allow shipments of landscaping materials and other plants from the infected areas of California (or other parts of the US where there are viable populations of the Glassy-winged sharpshooter) into uninfested areas, or we all have to become much more vigilant against this pest.

Not only does it threaten the wine industry, but also the citrus farmers and a host of other agricultural and ornamental crops. The following information is from a GLASSY-WINGED SHARPSHOOTER STATEWIDE SURVEY & DELIMITATION PROTOCOLS, published online by the California Department of Food and Agriculture :

Hosts: Preferred hosts should always be selected for trap deployment. Crape
myrtle, when leafed out, is an excellent host and should be utilized when
available. Other good hosts include the following:
Spring: Citrus, euonymus, and early stone fruits.
Summer: Apricot, carob, citrus, euonymus, grape, mulberry, plum, red
bud, and sunflower
Fall: Citrus and eucalyptus.
Other locally favored hosts may be utilized for trap placement.

Personally I don't think the first option I laid out above is feasible (and unfortunately, it wouldn't be 100% effective in stopping the spread of the sharpshooter either). Therefore it's incumbent upon us to encourage as many people as possible to become Sharpshooter Spotters (go to to find out more). By doing this hopefully we can at least be sure that any of these pests which get carried into uninfected areas will be spotted as early as possible, and dealt with befor it can establish itself on the North Coast of California.

Some links that can help: Napa Valley GWSS website, Bugspot.Org

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Does California Make Comparatively Good Value Wines or Not?

Interestingly, two recent articles regarding the search for value wines produced different results. Lettie Teague, who (as Alder at Vinography points out) is a James Beard writing award nominee, finds no value wines from California yet the San Francisco Chronicle found quite a few.

Why the difference? Perhaps Ms. Teague, like many others these days, dislikes wines made by the larger producers (Kendall-Jackson and Gallo have a number of wines in the Chronicles list), or finds little "terroir" in sub-$10 California wines, but more than likely she prefers to promote wines made by smaller producers be they foreign or domestic.

I understand why this is the case. Larger producers usually have their own promotion, PR, and marketing departments and don't need the publicity in the same way. However, as far as wine style, I've said it before and I'll say it again, big wineries can make wines that are just as good (be they 10,000 case lots or 150 case lots) as small wineries and I have yet to find someone who can explain the difference in winemaking processes that automatically makes small-winery products better.

That said, there are still many California wines made by smaller producers under $10 that I would recommend to Ms. Teague. If anyone would like to make suggestions, please do and I will include them with my email to Ms. Teague.


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

How to Promote an Entire Industry Successfully

Great article in today's Fresno Bee about the success of the "Real California Cheese" campaign. Check this out "California's dairy industry in 1982 found itself faced with declining fluid milk consumption and a surplus of milk produced in the state. The advisory board, which represents the state's dairy producers and is funded by assessments that dairy operators pay, spent more than $1 million to starting in 1983 for a Stanford Research Institute analysis of growth options"

Are you listening,
Wine Market Council???

You Can't Make This Stuff Up.......

Juanita Duggan's remarks at this week's Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America annual convention.

"Let me ask you the same question I asked a roomful of police chiefs in Albuquerque last year: What would you do if you saw a guy parked near a school with his trunk open, putting bottles of alcohol in brown paper bags, and handing them out to kids? Their answer - lock him up, of course. But you can only lock him up if you can find him. And chances are you can't find him if he's selling that same alcohol on the Internet.

As an industry, we have always understood our moral obligation to ensure that this sort of thing does not happen - that we know who is selling what to whom, in what quantity, and that alcohol is not put into the hands of people who are not supposed to drink. It's the right thing to do."

Let's remember that Ms. Duggan (the former lobbyist for Phillip Morris) represents an organization that has few issues with moral obligations when it comes to selling to alcoholics, habitual drunk drivers, opening liquor stores near schools, Colt 45 on skid row, etc. They do not view children as something to protect, rather they view them as "unmature clients".

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Next Red Wine Trend

First, it was Merlot - approachable and generally made in an easy to drink style. Good for beginners to wean themselves on, but it was gradually dismissed as being too simple and unsophisticated.

Then Syrah hit a big boom, principally from Australia and successful for its ripe in-your-face fruit character, but California growers really overplanted the stuff and now Syrah is likely to stay in an oversupply for some time. In addition, much of the California Syrah was planted in the wrong areas, leading to pretty mediocre wine while the Australian Shirazes are becoming better known for yellow tail than they are for Penfold's Grange.

What will come next? My guess is that we'll stay in the Rhone region and that Grenache will have its day. The old world will be represented by the still affordable Cotes du Rhone and many of the Grenache-based wines from Spain (some of which I feel bad buying for just $8 given how good they truly are!). The new world will be represented by Australia when they stop blending so much of their Grenache away into their Shiraz. Unfortunately, although California makes some nice ones (Clos du Gilroy by Bonny Doon, Unti, Qupe, and others on the Central Coast) there simply aren't enough vineyards planted in premium areas to catch up if the varietal takes off. California's coastal regions (North Coast and Central Coast) only have about 600 acres planted. Too bad, as I think there is real potential.....are you listening premium-area grape growers? Plant now. Better yet, graft over some overplanted Merlot and Syrah vines to Grenache and get a head start.

Friday, April 08, 2005

The thirty year’s war: Reds retake White wines in US sales

Red, red wine!

Red wine has returned to outsell White in the domestic market for the first time in 30 years. This news seems about a decade behind where it should’ve been. My feeling has always been that the re-expansion of red wine was long overdue, and never really followed on the heels of the 60 Minutes’ French Paradox segment back in ’91, as it was expected to. The good news is that the American wine trade has increased 63% since the time of that original broadcast, bolstered by the plethora of studies (both foreign & domestic) showing moderate wine consumption’s strong relationship to a healthy lifestyle and longevity.

Undoubtedly, many of the people now buying red wines were drinking Chardonnay during the 90’s and have now “graduated” to the tastes the red wines have to offer. However, the marketing of the “ultra bargain” and bargain wines of the recent wine glut have had a large role in the growing experimentation of Americans with red wines. Before their availability, many people were afraid to purchase a bottle of red wine for fear they wouldn’t like it & be out the money they paid for it. So with lower prices came more purchases (with less perceived financial risk)…and with what results? That the public has found they like red wines again. This rediscovery may require wineries to shift their focus, and while white wines won’t disappear from the market, some vineyards will need to be converted over to red to meet the new demand should this trend continue for the foreseeable future.

California’s north coast counties of Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino will be the areas looked to for increased vineyard acreage and production, as they produce the highest quality fruit. That isn’t to say that Amador, El Dorado, and Placer counties won’t see any new demand, just that they’ll likely play a secondary role as far as demand is concerned. Especially as it becomes more difficult to plant new vineyards in Sonoma County. And with Napa already under quite a bit of grape cultivation, look to a boom for both Mendocino and Lake counties (provided they can generate a big enough marketing campaign).

Here’s just a few of the many articles available online about wine and it’s health benefits:
Red wine & health; red wine & saponin; WebMD article; red wine helps against skin/breast/prostate cancer & leukemia; Oak wine barrels contribute to cancer fighting; etc. (The Wine Spectator used to have a nice list of articles & links related to the health effects of wine consumption, but that list now requires a subscription to access. Too bad too, as it had extensive listings…)

Or you can Google the following & get your own list. Try these keywords to search from: “red wine”, health, saponin, polyphenol, anthocyanin, antioxidant, resveratrol, “French paradox”, anticancer, etc.


Thursday, April 07, 2005

The power of Suggestion

Many claims have been made regarding various individuals abilities to taste. Some, like Robert Parker, have tastebuds so sensitive and important to our civilization that they even have their palates insured by large companies.

Never have I heard of one of these grand wine experts claiming the ability to taste "humility" in a wine. Yet that is exactly what Mondovino producer Johnathan Nossiter would have you believe he can taste.

Apparently he is in the same league as Msr. Nicolas Joly (whom I've ridiculed in the past) who can taste "authenticity" in wines as well.

Dear Lord! How I'd love to see the both of them perform in a blind tasting! And I do mean perform...because that's exactly what you'd be seeing - a performance by a nouveau 'wine drama king'...and I seriously doubt he could ever pick a wine out based soley by it's producers size without looking at the bottle first. And his hectoring about the follies of mass marketing and making wine from anything more than a few acres (perhaps a hectare or two) is patently absurd. That notion I think dates back to a Roman practice of issuing each citizen an 'iugera' of land to cultivate which they thought was an appropriate amount for an individual to spend an entire year tending (1 iugera ~ 2/3 acre, or 1/4 hectare). Having more land under cultivation was not discouraged, but the need for more manpower (the Romans used slaves for this) was suggested by their writers during their 'civilization'.

But I've digressed somewhat. The idea is that Nossiter suggests some force or ability that he alone can detect, and therefore supports his delusion of grandeur allowing him to appoint himself 'Saviour' of the world's wine culture.

How incredibly pretentious is that?


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Still sniffing the cork?

I received an email last week regarding ‘sniffing’ or smelling the cork when purchasing a wine in a restaurant. Specifically, about how some of the sommeliers have advised this couple that sniffing the cork has become tres cliché and that they shouldn’t do it anymore.

Their comment was that sniffing the cork could still tell them if the wine was utterly contaminated with TCA, and might save a glass from being washed. Several times in their experience they had handed the offending cork to the steward, and that was enough to send them off for another bottle.

While it’s true that a really stinky cork can help you get the bottle returned, I’d recommend having it poured into a glass anyway. With individual sensitivities to TCA varying over such a really large range, a cork that’s patently offensive to you may only register slightly to the next person. Having that wine in a glass & allowing the TCA to ‘bloom’ will help make your point to the wait staff. And at the time you’ve got a bad bottle, you’ll want all the ammunition you can get to make sure that bottle’s not charged to your account.

Personally I rarely ever sniff a cork. More often than not, I’ll pick up the cork to how it’s held up physically, and perhaps to see if the cork supplier has a stamp on it, so I can see whom the winery purchased them from. But them again, my background is somewhat different from the average consumer.

Four years ago I had a talk with a Chinese wine broker/distributor who lived and worked in Shanghai. They said that they knew of an affluent couple who had bought a bottle of Petrus and opened it at a swanky dinner party they were throwing. The foil was cut and everyone was shocked to find that the cork which emerged from the bottle was actually from (a large California winery)! Obviously the bottle was a forgery and they’d been taken….they were quite embarrassed, and out a small fortune to boot.

So looking at the cork can help spot problems like this, but usually by the time you see this sort of evidence it’s far too late to do anything about it.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Fallout from Napa Vintners vs. Bronco

What will the Supreme Court's refusal to hear the Napa Ridge labeling issue mean for other producers? Is Fred Franzia right that these strict labeling requirements are misunderstood by most consumers and an unfair infringement of free trade?

I wouldn't have thought that I would find myself on Fred's side, but if you extend the argument put forth by the Napa Vintner's Association, you do start to wonder about the ramifications. For example, consider the following:

Napa Ridge actually has a line of Napa wines, and also has a range of wines that aren't from Napa and many other wine brands with appellation-based names do not exclusively sell wines from that same appellation, for example:

  • Stag's Leap Winery
  • Edna Valley
  • Healdsburg Vineyards
  • Mount Veeder
  • Guenoc
  • Sonoma Creek
  • Rutherford Hill
  • Coastal Vintners
  • Glen Ellen (okay, okay not an appellation, I know)
  • And others, no doubt

There are also innumerable wines from wineries with geographic names real or imagined (Corbett Canyon, Crane Canyon, Eagle Canyon, Manzanita Canyon, Adobe Canyon, Peach Canyon, etc.) yet none of these are held to the same high standard as Napa either.

Should Chalk Hill Winery want to release a wine with a Sonoma County appellation, should they be banned from doing so? Food for thought....

Friday, April 01, 2005

What to write about...

Tom's recent post regarding "wines to drink....not write about" got me thinking. Is there really no market for entry-level wine consumer writing? It seems that if all of the writing is about the so-called "intellectual" and "artistic" components of wine, aren't we just reinforcing wine's insular behavior?

By that, I mean that the most frequent reason that people don't get into wine is that they find it intimidating, full of obscure terms phrases that require a
dictionary to understand. Is there no need for writing at multiple levels? For example, I really like the San Francisco Chronicle's weekly wine section because it has articles for the wine geek as well as introductory articles for those with less exposure to wine and its terminology (note their recent article on Sauvignon Blanc descriptors). Also see this article from the Washington Post and this one from the Detroit News.

Honestly, this kind of approach is much of the reason why I started this blog. I want people to realize (among other things) that:

1) pink/sweet wines are wines too
2) any wine you like is a good wine, and
3) just because the wine world is full of pretentious assholes doesn't mean that you can't find a place for your own enjoyment of the beverage.