Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Superbowl Wine Pairings?

Please don't come here looking for good wine pairings for Sunday......

First, I generally dislike food and wine pairings as I think they're overblown, overdone, and generally contribute to the lack of American wine comprehension by adding "rules". I tend not to like rules - drink what you like!

Second, the Superbowl is like St. Patrick's Day, the Fourth of July and your 21st birthday - each require beer consumption, not wine - sorry.

This post brought to you by yet another rather sad attempt by the wine market council.


Sunday, January 28, 2007

A few comments re Biodynamics

A slightly contentious thread regarding BioD is going on at (click on the link, and head to the Biodynamics comments). This in response to an article rebutting the practices of BioD, and has some interesting comments so far - including some by Beverly Blanning (MW) in favor of BioD...

Shocking, I say! Just shocking!
To have an MW who has in the past written quite well regarding wine and health spouting off the same dogmatic anecdotes of the cult followers who've already sipped the metaphorical Kool-aid.
Specifically, she comes to the aid of BioD by regurgitating the old wives tale about wines being easier to filter during certain phases of the moon, Steiner's followers not needing to produce proof of their claims, etc.

Bah! Hogwash!
In fact, I've been racking
wines for decades and haven't witnessed this effect, though perhaps by some misfortune I have always done so over some gravitational anomaly...though some local winemakers seem to have alleviated that pesky gravity problem by "open[ing] up the floors in their barreling rooms so the earth's gravitational forces can better meld with the wine's energy".

Have a good read at the link & make up your own mind...

(I wish I could reproduce the original article here for you in its entirety - I'll check to see if that is possible, if not I may be able to reproduce parts here and there with permission from the two authors.)


Monday, January 22, 2007

The Demise of Domestic Wine Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

You may remember a year ago when 2005 market data showed that imports were growing faster than domestic wines. Some bloggers called this a trend, but I didn't believe that, calling it a "blip". Well, the worm has turned and IRI data in 2006 showed robust growth for domestic wines, who grew 10.5% compared to domestics, who increased 8.6%. Imports did grow volume (i.e. bottles) faster, but did so at the expense of price point (in other words much of their growth must have come from lower-priced wines like yellow tail, Black Swan, Cavit, etc.).

Interesting information by region as well:

California +10.1% sales growth
Oregon/Wash. +16.1%
Argentina +31.5%
Chile +.2%
France +3.4% (the revolution lives...? or struggles on?)

This information was reported by Wine Market Report, check it out for the full story.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Kermit Lynch: Keepin' it real for the rest of us

This is just brilliant!

The Wine Enthusiast Online has this short but oh!-so-sweet interview with Kermit Lynch...
Some of the absolute highlights are:

Wine Enthusiast: As overall interest in wine spreads, is there any advice you wish to impart to the newcomers?

Kermit Lynch: You don’t need an excuse—or a textbook—to drink and enjoy wine. People seem to be getting caught up in acidity levels and so forth. Wines aren’t meant to be studied.


WE: What are your thoughts on people who buy by the ratings?

KL: A lot of people are inspired by 100-point wines. I don’t drink wine with any of these people. Most often, I’m drinking inexpensive wines—and not because I have to. First off, at my house, a bottle of wine doesn’t last very long. I can hear the cash register with every sip of a $150 bottle. But if that’s a starting point for some people, then so be it.


Unfortunately, there's still that old wives tale being propagated about soil mineral content and the "ability" to taste the soils ("KL: I’ve always been a lover of old white Burgundy. Chablis as well. With many Chablis wines, you can literally taste the domaine—the changes in mineral content of the soil. It’s a thrill....").

I'd like to suggest that the perception of being able to "taste the soils" is largely psychological. Double blind tastings would probably bring that to light, but then again Kermit is "old school", and those lines were likely laid down very early in his wine experience as the prevailing wisdom.

Maybe it's an old-dog-new-trick scenario: hear something often enough early enough in your studies, and it's incredibly hard to toss out later...

Oh , well. He still gets enormous points for the down to earth quotes & attitude he sports!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Test Your Wine I.Q.

Not sure this is really the best way to do it, but this test allows you to test your wine I.Q. One might quibble with the very slight differences on the pronounciation questions as well as the question I missed (bubble gum and fruit flavors can be found in Riesling, dammit!). Oddly, the place where my wine I.Q. dropped was because I'm cheap and don't like to overpay for wine! Doesn't that make me smarter, not dumber?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Vineyard Voodoo

Wednesday January 17th the Moon will pass 4.5° south of Mars.

How fortuitous for those biodynamic farmers of red grapes out there!

What luck – two of the most powerful bodies in the heavens according to Rudolf Steiner, in what is the most perfect of configurations: Mars (representing the plants with red fruit, and also that part of plants above the ground) is North (above) the Moon (representing the portion of the plants below the ground) which is celestially below! And soooo close to each other (but only when viewed from Earth!)…

What a perfect day to make your offerings to those celestial spirits who might help balance the soil Karma in your vineyard…

Since the weather is sooo cold, it seems like a perfect time to make a burnt offering to enhance the effectiveness of the pruning I’ll be doing this week on my red vines (I’ll have to wait until Jupiter is in some propitious arrangement before I can make an offering which will be helpful to my white vines – so they’ll have to wait until later in the spring…actually, the Moon is near Jupiter’s today, but I only bought enough supplies for one "sacrifice" …such are the limitations of needing external potions, supplies, etc.).

The item to be sacrificed needs to be dear to the one who is making the offering, and also of some symbolic meaning to those cosmic forces being plied. Hmmmm, something dear…

Well, I suppose we could use red wine, but no doubt everyone would go there first, so Mars & Luna have probably had their fill by now. Maybe something that I think of with red wine…

Some of those steaks in the fridge, maybe? No, Mrs. Johnson’s gonna use those for dinner this week…

I know! Chocolate! But in some form where it will symbolize sacrificing my disbelief in Biodynamic agriculture – so they’ll know I really mean business & want to make the absolute best wine I possibly can! Hmmmmm…

Maybe if I get one of those chocolate Voodoo dolls that are on the market right now...

Yup, for me I’ll sacrifice something that will at least taste good (because it’s impossible that it would do anything else!). Thanks to Powell’s Sweet Shop in Healdsburg for stocking these babys…

And to make it all workout right, I guess we should have some sort of solemn setting for this guy to rest upon…maybe some purified sugar cushions to ease his worldly woes…like marshmallows! Yeah, that’d make him more comfortable, and would be more substantial for Mars & Luna to feast upon…

Now he’ll need to have some of the attachments of this world that we’re trying to get rid of before he's immolated: BioD, globalization, homogenization, fear of progress, fear of science running rampant and amok with our world…perhaps he’ll take them all with him when he burns. (Yes, I get the redundancy of using voodoo to rid the world of BioD...)

But it’s still not quite right.

I can’t send him off without at least a blindfold and a last (candy) cigarette (thanks again to Powell’s for stocking such a non-PC item like the old candy Death Sticks! I haven’t seen these on any store’s shelves since the early 70’s !!).

So there it is.

Quite the offering I’m making of my own conscience, and submitting myself to Steiner’s belief system (or at least I hope that Mars Silvanus and Luna think I’m doing so!). And there in this pan the effigy will lie until Wednesday evening, when I submit him to the flames of ignorance! Ha! Bwa-ha-ha-ha!...uhhhm, I mean Hallelujah!

And later, after they both have set, I can clean up the pan with a few graham crackers and a glass of milk.

MMMMMMM! Biodynamic s’mores!


Wednesday 17th January 2007 is Wine Blogging Wednesday (WBW) # 29. It is supposedly slated for a slew of articles on BioD wines this round. I don’t participate in WBW, and thought that the choice of dates was rather strange on the part of the organizers – I wonder if they chose it for the astrology of the day? Anyways, I re-read Steiner’s notes about those bodies, and a few other .

BTW – Forkandbottle is hosting the event, and Jack over there has this lovely quote on his post notifying everyone of the topic of Biodynamic wines:

“Advantages: Sustainability & More
While the term "organic" gets cheapened further every day, biodynamics is sort of an ultra-organic label and, unlike organics (which just means using no chemical fertilizer), the biodynamic program is extremely sustainable...”

I’ve touted the public confusion about BioD vs. organic vs. sustainable agriculture, and about how proponents of the BioD system have continually tried to position themselves as the environmental vanguard movement to further their own interests and sales. My suspicion that the public is generally confused is confirmed yet again with that nugget of Jack’s above.

Good night, and good luck!



Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Calendar: 2007

Time again for the Unified Symposium in Sacramento, California, Tuesday 1/23/07 thru Friday 1/26/07 !

These tidbits are to be offered up in seminars during the course of the event:
...and finally, the ASEV will be offering a full day course Friday 1/26/07 on...
Certainly to be entertaining, as it will have winemakers from Gallo, Opus One and Mondavi. Also present will be James Kennedy from OSU, Corvalis, and a few more industry insiders. It should be quite interesting!!

The all day event on ripeness will run you $300 alone, and the other seminars also require a registration/attendance fee, which you can find by visiting their sites.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Wealthy Consumers No Better Informed Than the Rest

From this press release:

"Wealthy consumers who know the brand rate Robert Mondavi Private Selection highest in delivering consistently superior quality and being consumed by those who are admired and respected.......Respondents had an average household income of $340k and average net worth of $2.7m. "

I'll defend many wines made by big producers (for both being what they are and also for being of highly consistent quality), but this I cannot defend.

I know people who sell directly to high-end consumers and most of them (the consumers) truly do not know what they're buying, but they do pay for image and prestige. As Alder recently noted, its about the label, which is why I would expect this type of consumer to pay for high-end wines, like them or not. I have trouble with the idea that consumers making over $340k have the highest image of Mondavi's Private Selection, generally a sub-$10 wine. I think this was a skewed survey, but since they didn't publish the questions and methodology, we'll never know.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Wine Tastes Gud

Never one to shirk from my self-appointed role as hedonist of the wine blogosphere, I have to say that I've now read Tom Wark's recent post three times and I'm still not sure what he's after. Perhaps as a PR rep for Appellation America, he is trying to wrap his head around some new thoughts on the potential for New World Terroir, but frankly it lost me. Rather than reply further and get this lost in the myriad replies, I wanted to post it here with a little more clarity and depth.

I believe that wine is the quintessential beverage of mankind. It represents everything life can bring us - pleasure, joy, communion with God and our fellow man, an appreciation for nature and her works…..because wine brings these things, both small and large, to my life I have always wanted to encourage others to seek it out, to draw it into their own lives to make them as full as mine has been.

Much of the mission of this blog has been in line with that, encouraging both the industry and consumers to reach out to each other to broaden wine's appeal and increase US consumption (to be somewhat blunt). I doubt I've succeeded in any measurable way, "but I'm tryin, Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard to be the shepherd."

That's why my dander gets up a bit when I see the implication that we should be appreciating wine as an intellectual exercise and that expression of terroir should be evident in every wine. As I said in my reply to Tom's post, I don't drink wine for intellectual stimulation. I do love to discuss and debate wine. I've done many blind tastings and argued over many different style issues, but I've never found them to be intellectually stimulating except as it applies to my work. At home, as a consumer, I drink for pleasure. I do not shop for wines as an exercise for my brain, rather I seek those that "taste gud" - I shop for them as an exercise for my soul.

I once worked with a winemaker who played classical music while she worked, not to exercise her brain, but because she said she wanted her "soul to soar" while she crafted her wines. She wasn't after analytical thought - "does this blend best express the terroir of the site?" - she was after an emotional expression - "does this wine taste delicious (her favorite descriptor) and make me happy?"

I'm sure that there are those find the solitary contemplation of a glass of Burgundy equal to a measured reading of Keats, and Tom is probably one of these people, but IMO they constitute less than 5% of all wine drinkers (wine geeks). This is why I don't think that changing New World wine styles to capture a minority that is already captured is going to help either the industry to find more consumers or for more Americans to discover wine. Its already confusing enough, let's not overcomplicate it and further isolate ourselves from those unwashed, non-intellectual masses . [sarcasm]

Bottom line - let me point out what's really being debated here - this is about New World wine style and the perception by some that the expression of terroir is the end-all be-all of winemaking. Let's not mask the desires of those who want wine of a different style (less ripe, less "intervention", more "terroir") under the guise of "intellectual exercise". If you want wines of that style, support them with your dollars, your blog and your reviews. I'll keep drinking wines, both those that express their "terroir" and those that exhibit an "international style" because they taste gud.

(On a related note: my thoughts, for those who are interested, on "terroir" driven wines vs. "style" driven wines and the nebulous concept of "authentic wine" )

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

More news from India

Wine consumption increasing (Bangalore)
"BANGALORE: It is not surprising that Bangaloreans are ringing in the new year with bubbly spirits.

The city has seen a steady increase in wine consumption in recent years, and according to a survey conducted by consultancy firm Brounens in July last, Bangalore has the third largest market for wine in the country after Mumbai and Delhi.

The city consumes around 31,000 cases a year as against the one lakh [1 lahk =100,000] cases in Mumbai and around 54,000 cases in Delhi.

As the fastest growing city in wine consumption with 30 to 35 per cent increase annually, the wine drinking culture in Bangalore has grown with the growth of the Information Technology sector and a large and ever- increasing floating population of international visitors who come to the city on work.

While domestic wine brands have witnessed an increase in sales by 33 per cent in Bangalore, the imported wine segment has reported an increase by seven per cent over the previous decade."

Interesting to note that while Delhi has a population of 15.0MIL, and Mumbai 18.2MIL, Bangalore only(?!) has a population 6.5MIL - so Bangalore consumption is about on par per capita with Mumbai.

Other than the country having 1/5 of the world's population, it's important to realize that ~32% of their population is under the age of 15....just wait a few years & see what happens as the children of the ever increasingly mobile & affluent technology sector begin to come of age.