Daily Wine News: Outcry in France

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 07-05-2018

(Wikimedia)

(Wikimedia)

A deportation threat to Japanese winemakers has caused an outcry in France. In the Drinks Business, Rupert Millar reports on the case. “Back in April French authorities issued a deportation order, saying that they do not consider the vineyard economically viable; the suggestion being that the pair could become burdens on the state purse should they struggle to pay their taxes etc… Locals involved with the local on and off-trades have been widely quoted as saying what a “shame” and a “great loss” it would be to the area if the Shojis were made to leave.”

A move away from the keyboard to voice commands means winemakers will have to think carefully before they name a wine, says Robert Joseph in Meininger’s.

Chile’s 2018 vintage has been tipped by several winemakers as one of the best in recent years,” reports Amanda Barnes in Decanter, “with a good crop, moderate temperatures and relatively few weather-related dramas.”

In VinePair, Tim McKirdy talks to La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels’s James Sligh about his love for chenin blanc.

Brian Croser reviews Wine and Place by Tim Patterson and John Buechsenstein on JancisRobinson.com.

In SevenFifty Daily, Courtney Schiessl talks to importer Athena Bochanis about how she carved out a niche for Hungarian wine.

In Bloomberg, Elin McCoy encourages chilling red wines.

Ray Isle offers a travel guide to Australia’s Hunter Valley in Travel + Leisure.

On Good Vitis, Aaron Menenberg tastes through and offers notes on healthy amount of Oregon wines.

Daily Wine News: The Rosé Spectrum

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 07-03-2018

(Flickr: andyket)

(Flickr: andyket)

Elaine Chukan Brown explores the rosé color spectrum in Wine & Spirits Magazine. “Whether wine drinkers are choosing based on taste or reputation, the popularity of pale Provençal pinks on the marketplace has had one clear effect: light-colored rosés have become de rigueur—to the point where vintners feel pressured to keep colors light.

“The County Fire is huge: 44,500 acres as of Monday morning, with only 3 percent contained. It is already larger than the Tubbs Fire that last year devastated northern Napa Valley and neighboring Sonoma County, and it is growing at a faster rate.” W. Blake Gray offers updates on two Wine Country fires in California in Wine-Searcher. “To the north of Napa, however, the Pawnee Fire has already destroyed 22 structures in Lake County.”

In the Washington Post, Dave McIntyre looks at Madeira’s role in American history, and proposes a toast to it as “the wine of American Independence.”

Kelly A. Magyarics explores what makes Georgia the “it” region for wine lovers in Wine Enthusiast.

In SevenFifty Daily, Adam H. Callaghan explores the reasons why some American winemakers are using acacia wood barrels for the production of certain white wines.

Matt Kettmann on the allure of old wines in the Santa Barbara Independent.

In Forbes, Tom Hylan says Taurasi is Italy’s unsung great red wine. “Yet despite its magnificence, Taurasi does not have the marketplace recognition it deserves.”

The Drinks Business reports that Jancis Robinson is launching her own wine glass.

Book Review: Tasting the Past, by Kevin Begos

Posted by | Posted in Book Reviews | Posted on 07-02-2018

Tasting the Past - Book CoverThis book wouldn’t exist had Begos not found himself bored in a hotel room in Jordan. Reaching for a bottle from the minibar, he encountered Cremisan Cellars, and sparked a journey that has culminated in Tasting the Past: The Science of Flavor & the Search for the Origins of Wine.

Begos documents his visits to some of the oldest wine sites in Europe and the Middle East, searching for (but as you’d expect, not conclusively finding) the origins of wine. Along the way he encounters experts, scientists, and passionate winemakers who, each in their own way, are seeking to discover and experience wine in its most ancient forms.

A former MIT Knight Science Journalism fellow, Begos does an excellent job striking a balance between travel writing, history, and science—the science, thankfully, isn’t too heavy handed. What I admire most, however, is his relentless curiosity.

Begos could not shake his desire to learn more about Cremisan’s unusual grapes (Baladi, Jandali, Hamdani) and to understand why, in a world full of thousands of wine grape varieties, each suited to its particular clime, we have limited ourselves to just a handful. Most of it is market driven, of course, but Begos laments how we’ve “rammed the famous [i.e., French] varieties” into so many unsuitable habitats.

A recurring theme in the book is the friction between nature and viniculture: what the vine desires to do and what man makes it do. It’s actually what I found most compelling. For instance, I was surprised to learn (so was Begos, when Swiss grape geneticist Dr. José Vouillamoz told him) that “if you plant the seeds from any grape … the new vine will have different flavors and characteristics.” It seems obvious, until you realize what this actually means, that the varietals familiar to us today have all been propagated through the centuries by cuttings alone.

How had I not known this?

Take Cabernet Sauvignon. It was born of a “vineyard love affair,” as Begos calls it, between Sauvignon Blanc (yes, a white grape) and Cabernet Franc, 200-300 years ago in southwest France. Carole Meredith, plant geneticist at UC Davis, puts it simply: “A single pollen grain landed on a single flower and a single seed grew into a single plant. Every Cabernet Sauvignon vine across the world comes from this one original vine.”

The modus operandi of modern winemaking is to “lock in the tastes but shut down any evolution,” says Begos. But this desire for vinicultural consistency comes at a price.

Because today’s most popular wine grapes exist in a state of arrested evolution, they’re particularly susceptible to pandemic disease (which is what happened during the Irish Potato Famine). Climate change, too, will increasingly come negatively to bear on a world full of vines that have been artificially kept from adapting and evolving. For winegrowers, if Begos’s experts are right, it looks to be a losing battle.

The silver lining here is novelty. There exists the possibility for entirely new varietals with new flavors—flavors not merely coaxed out of existing varietals by the next great winemaking process innovation, but flavors born organically of seed and soil. A few winemakers are already on it, says Begos.

Tasting the Past is a rallying cry for the obscure grape and for regional particularity. I’m on board with that. There’s a great big world out there beyond the French grape.

My Recommendation
There are so many great stories and characters contained within Tasting the Past’s 250 or so pages, and Begos’s journalistic style keeps it all moving. I liked, too, that each chapter concludes with information on how to obtain the wines he discusses (although some are unattainable outside of the wineries themselves). Anyone who wants to know what else is out there, beyond even what your local Total Wine can supply, will want to read this book. Those with a bent toward wine history, paleobotany, or grape genetics will be especially pleased.

Daily Wine News: Inside Importing

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 07-02-2018

Flickr, Frank Fujimoto.

Flickr, Frank Fujimoto.

So you want to be a wine importer? Guild Somm’s Kelli White talks to the owners of five different companies about the perils and pleasures of building and running an import portfolio.

In the Oregon Wine Press, Michael Alberty reviews Jason Wilson’s book Godforsaken Grapes. “Fight the monoculture power, defy Robert Parker, and go find your epiphany wine. Wilson has given you the perfect map.”

Is it time to give up on points, ratings and medals? Or do they work for consumers? In Meininger’s, Robert Joseph offers his opinion.

Jamie Goode is also thinking about wine scores. “Should wine scores be absolute? That is, should a 95 point Bordeaux be the qualitative equivalent of a 95 point Douro red or a 95 point Chilean Cabernet? I think: yes. I can’t see a sensible alternative.”

Jancis Robinson reports from a visit with Gianfranco Soldera in southern Tuscany. “Soldera may take it to extremes but being fanatical about quality (and, like Soldera, preoccupied by the effects of climate change) is not so unusual in wine producers today. What is unusual is the breadth of his vision.”

In Grape Collective, Lisa Denning talks to Randall Grahm about his attempt to capture California’s terroir and the challenges of doing something original.

AFP reports on the popularity of graphic novels for adults about wine in France.

In Wines & Vines, Stacy Briscoe explores how Lodi grapes can avoid a commodity trap.

Wine Reviews: Crémant d’Alsace

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-30-2018

alsaceHigh quality Champagne-method sparkling wine and value — not always an easy combination to come by. Luckily, Crémant d’Alsace exists.

For less than $25, Crémant d’Alsace provides some of my favorite sparkling wines from France. In Alsace, the producer Lucien Albrecht first began applying the Champagne method process to their own grapes in 1971, and, after lobbying the French authorities for an official designation, the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée Crémant d’Alsace was born in 1976. Now, producers all over Alsace make wines this way from a variety of grapes. I’ve been drinking Crémant d’Alsace since I was legally able to purchase alcohol, because I found a few reliably good producers whose wines were so delicious and affordable.

I’m a Champagne worshipper; nothing will ever rival that. But I can’t always spend the money on Champagne, and sometimes I want something good but inexpensive to share with family and friends. And this is where Alsace wines excel, with high quality and $20-ish price points.

Since my last post on Alsace, I received four Crémants d’Alsace, all of which should retail for $25 or less. These wines were received as samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Asimov on Aligoté

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 06-29-2018

Aligoté wine from Burgundy. (Wikimedia)

Aligoté wine from Burgundy. (Wikimedia)

“It turns out that aligoté is just like any other sort of wine. You can find good examples, great examples, bad examples, even horrendous examples.” In the New York Times, Eric Asimov offers notes on the most recent Wine School, aligoté, and announces what’s up next: frappato.

Why is wine tasting so hard? Drawing on the latest findings in neuroscience and psychology, Professor Barry C. Smith attempts to establish the full extent and limits of wine tasting in the World of Fine Wine, challenging the currently fashionable, skeptical view of connoisseurship, and explaining why it is such a difficult skill to master.

In Wine-Searcher, W. Blake Gray reports on native Burgundian Jean-Charles Boisset’s new project—a winemaking collaboration in India with Fratelli Wines.

David Schildknecht offers his thoughts on the top Pflaz Rieslings of 2016 in Vinous.

In Punch, Zachary Sussman gets a look inside the cellar at Passionfish, a seafood-focused restaurant in Pacific Grove, California.

In VinePair, Cat Wolinski looks at Bern’s Steak House’s wine collection.

In SevenFifty Daily, Kathleen Willcox talks to the Scale Wine Group about their approach to selling cult California classics.

CNBC looks at how winemakers all over the world are adapting to climate change.

Lighter Side of Alentejo: White Wines Offer Quality, Value

Posted by | Posted in Grape Adventures, Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-28-2018

Ask a group of wine geeks to free associate based on the phrase “Alentejo wines” and I’m guessing you’ll get comments about big, bold, jammy red wines. And they wouldn’t be wrong. But, after spending five days tasting my way through this region of Southern Portugal, I was impressed with how many exciting white wines I found.

susana

Susana Esteban’s white wines (field blends from higher elevation sites,old vines) were some of the most exciting wines of my trip.

Aside from the thrilling and ancient amphora wines of Alentejo (which I wrote about in detail in this post), the high quality of the white wine (branco in Portuguese) was one of my biggest takeaways from the trip. White wine grapes are seriously outnumbered, with about 27,000 acres planted to red grapes and less than 9,000 planted to whites, according to data from the Vine and Wine Commission of Alentejo. But that’s still a lot of white wine, spread out across a large region, and the quality can be quite high.

Antão Vaz came up again and again in the wines that I found exciting, usually as the dominant grape in a blend. This indigenous local variety is heralded especially in the subregions of Evora and Vidigueira. It survives well in heat and is quite drought-resistant, which comes in handy in a region that has suffered through several years of drought. (Although this year has been quite wet, and I certainly got rained on quite a bit during my visit in early June.) The grape is quite aromatic and provides lots of oomph to white blends, and can stand up to a good amount of new oak. However, the grape can lack focused acidity, especially if picked later.

Hence: Arinto. This grape which can produce crisp, vibrant wines with deep minerality and tropical fruits. This wine popped up again and again in the white blends I fell for. Gouveio fits into blends quite a bit as well, which used to be called Verdelho, and that was confusing (as grape names are always) because it’s genetically separate from the Verdelho of Madeira fame.

Roupeiro and Fernão Pires round out the grapes you’re most likely to encounter in Alentejo white blends. Portugal has tons of indigenous grape varieties, and I definitely encountered some hard-to-pronounce grapes I’d never heard of before. But I also found some white Rhone grapes that seem to do quite well in this hot region, and I even found an exciting Sauv Blanc from a cooler vineyard near the ocean.

Stylistically, the whites were all over the map. From lip-smacking, lighter-bodied versions to drink with Portuguese seafood, to rich, unctuous, barrel-fermented, lees-stirred creamsicles — there’s a bit of everything out there.

Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Chianti Classico, Cool?

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 06-28-2018

chianticlassicologoIn Wine & Spirits Magazine, Stephanie Johnson makes the case for Chianti Classico. “A few key tastemakers have taken notice of the growing number of value-driven, terroir-expressive Chianti Classicos now coming into the market. Their voices, along with a pair of very good vintages about to hit our shores, might just be enough to push Chianti Classico back onto the lists of savvy wine buyers.”

“Wine and spirits mogul Dave Phinney just sold another wine brand to E. & J. Gallo: Locations, his 90,000-case brand of wines from around the globe. A price was not disclosed,” reports Esther Mobley in the San Francisco Chronicle.

On Tim Atkin’s site, Peter Pharos responds to Lisa Perrotti-Brown’s recent article, “The Big Parkerization Lie”: “There is a kernel of truth in Lisa’s argument. Indeed, one way to tell the story of that era is as the arrival in the global wine stage, not of Parker, but of the American consumer…According to this narrative, Parker didn’t make this wave as much as rode it…There is, however, a big lie in the heart of The Big Parkerization Lie: the implicit assumption that the Dictatorship of Taste was solely about style. Instead, the true Parkerization of wine came in the form of The Score.”

Fiona Adams profiles the producers that are redefining American wine in Wine Enthusiast. The winemakers hail from New Mexico, Michigan, Texas and Vermont.

In Wines & Vines, growers from Paso Robles to Santa Barbara weigh in on unusual growing season thus far.

Chantal Martineau looks at how climate change is shaping Canada’s wine regions in SevenFifty Daily.

In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague finds much to love in Germany’s Mosel Valley. (subscription req.)

In Punch, Jon Bonné recommends 20 wines under $20 to drink this summer.

Daily Wine News: Wine and Weed at War

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 06-27-2018

(Flickr: jewdini)

(Flickr: jewdini)

In the Outline, Natalie O’Neill chronicles the war being waged between wine and weed in Oregon. “The bigger story here pits wine against weed — and traditional farmers against burgeoning marijuana entrepreneurs — in states where growing bud is freshly legal (Oregon legalized it in 2014)… But the squabbles are as much about property values and quality of life gripes as a deep-seeded culture clash.”

It’s official: Napa’s Measure C Lost,” reports Kerana Todorov on WineBusiness.com.

Tom Wark reacts to the Measure C results: “Measure C failed and reason prevailed. But not by much. It’s absolutely clear, based on the Measure C campaign and the results, that a good percentage of Napa County residents believe that the wine industry here needs, in some way, to be reined in.”

In Wines & Vines, Stacey Briscoe talks to Bruce Cohn, founder of Sonoma’s B.R. Cohn Winery, about the sale of his original winery and his new label, Trestle Glen Vineyards.

In Wine Spectator, Emma Balter reports on Italy’s push to make premium sparkling wine in regions like Franciacorta and Trento. “Although exports are on the rise, Franciacorta will never compete with Champagne or Prosecco in terms of volume. But this allows the region to be quality-conscious, as well as mindful of the environment.”

In the Robb Report, Dan Dunn talks to Tom Gearing, managing director of wine investment company Cult Wines Asset Management, about his predictions for the global market for fine wine.

Wine Enthusiast compiles a list of the best box wines to buy right now.

In Sprudge Wine, Christina Rasmussen visits Eben Sadie in the heart of Swartland.

Daily Wine News: Charting Changes

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 06-26-2018

New Zealand vineyards. (Wikimedia)

New Zealand vineyards. (Wikimedia)

In Decanter, Elin McCoy is impressed with recent developments in New Zealand wine. “It all leaves you a little breathless, as does the surprising speed with which the wine industry has changed and grown since my last visit to New Zealand in 2009.”

In Meininger’s, Felicity Carter looks at the demographic changes that will upend the wine sector. “In the short-term, then, the wine industry will likely face consolidation, as heirs sell small, unviable properties and get on with their lives. Those businesses that remain in family hands are likely to become more modern, more professional and more open to ideas and practices taken from other industries.”

Antonio Galloni finds “a bevy of striking, captivating wines in Alto Piemonte and Lombardy’s Valtellina,” and offers his notes in Vinous.

In the Buyer, Peter Dean talks with Marcus Notaro of Stags’ Leap about surviving the Napa fires.

Ella Lister explores Bordeaux en primeur’s existential crisis on JancisRobinson.com.

Wine Spectator reports that Eric Albada Jelgersma, the owner of third-growth Bordeaux estate Château Giscours and fifth-growth Château du Tertre in the Margaux appellation, as well as the Tuscan winery Caiarossa, died on June 21. He was 79.

In VinePair, Tim McKirdy makes the case for age-worthy sauvignon blanc.

In Forbes, David Rosengarten talks to David Phinney about shifting his focus from wine to spirits.