Daily Wine News: Australia Suffers

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-17-2023

Two years after China imposed a punitive tax on Australian wine, Australia’s grape growers are still suffering. The New York Times reports on the crisis. “Farmers are facing a choice between selling grapes at a huge loss or keeping costs to a minimum and not harvesting…China went from being the biggest buyer of Australian wine, accounting for 40 percent of exports, to 23rd, below countries like Sweden and the Philippines. It was devastating for an industry that had reoriented its priorities after the two countries struck a free-trade agreement in 2015.”

“Bordeaux grapegrowers are planning to tear out almost 23,500 acres of vines—and they’re thrilled. After nine months of negotiations with local, regional and national government representatives, on March 1 the Bordeaux Wine Council (CIVB) reached an agreement with Marc Fesneau, France’s minister of agriculture and food sovereignty, for financing the vine pull,” reports Suzanne Mustacich in Wine Spectator. “These uprooting efforts will allow struggling growers to find new uses for their land and hopefully end a perpetual surplus of low-cost Bordeaux wines.”

In January, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which owns and operates Monticello, acquired the nearby Jefferson Vineyards. Dave McIntyre reports on the news in the Washington Post. “We’ll see how the foundation, a non-profit entity, succeeds in managing a winery, a type of business that does not always fit comfortably into a corporate culture….Integrating Jefferson Vineyards into one of Virginia’s largest tourist attractions could boost the profile of Virginia wine, especially as tour buses stop at the tasting room after leaving Monticello.”

In Wine Enthusiast, Kathleen Willcox explores the important role of bees in vineyards.

Janice Williams offers a guide to Bulgarian wine in SevenFifty Daily.

Natural wine skeptic Lettie Teague explores New York City’s natural wine bars in the Wall Street Journal.

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Esther Mobley delves into tipping at wineries.

Daily Wine News: ChatGPT

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-16-2023

OpenAI’s ChatGPT continues to confound with its seemingly endless scope – including passing three levels of the infamously tricky Master Sommelier exam, reports Christian Smith in the Drinks Business. 

Alder Yarrow considers the impact of ChatGPT on the wine industry. “What the doctor learns in residency, what the sommelier learns on the floor, and what wine writers learn in the vineyards can’t be equaled by simply ingesting more data. The fact that GPT-4 can pass the second-most rigorous written theory examination in wine (I’m sure the MW exam will be next) does make me wonder, however, the weight we place on the ability to regurgitate facts when it comes to wine education and its attendant certifications.”

In Wine-Searcher, Barnaby Eales looks at the decline of organic certification in French vineyards.

Robert Joseph offers his two cents on Silicon Valley Bank’s failure in Meininger’s.

“Château Latour 2015 was released for the first time yesterday (14 March), as part of the Pauillac first growth estate’s well-established strategy of eschewing Bordeaux’s annual en primeur campaign in favour of releasing vintages after several years of ageing,” reports Chris Mercer in Decanter.

On JancisRobinson.com, Julia Harding explores Slovak wines.

In Wine Enthusiast, Christine Chitnis explores the Lake Michigan wine scene.

Daily Wine News: Looking Inward

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-15-2023

“Some aspire to make the best wines in their region; others, the country or the world. But for me, the most enlightened approach is simply to try to make the best possible wine from the place where the grapes are grown. This might sound like the least ambitious path, but it’s the most demanding one of all, requiring a strong set of beliefs. My favorite wine producers look inward, not outward. They ask themselves, “How can I do my utmost to convey the character of this particular patch of earth?” And they often conclude: “I’m going to make the wines that I like to drink. If nobody buys them, I’ll drink them myself.’” Eric Asimov on the beauty of small wine producers in the New York Times.

In Wine Spectator, Mitch Frank continues the ongoing reporting on the fallout from SVB’s collapse. “When the bank went under, winemakers with accounts there suddenly found their SVB credit cards no longer worked, their checks would no longer clear and the bank’s app wouldn’t even let them log on…Most people started breathing again on Sunday night, as the federal government announced that bank customers’ deposits would be completely covered, even funds over $250,000, which is usually the limit to FDIC coverage. They were able to begin withdrawing their money Monday morning. The Feds are actively looking for a bank or banks to buy SVB’s assets and take over its operations. But the panic is not completely over, and for the wine industry, SVB’s collapse brings both short and long-term concerns.”

In SevenFifty Daily, Danielle Beurtreaux reports on an analytical framework known as Vineyard Geological Identity, which aims to identify the link between a vine’s physical environment and the resulting wine.

In VinePair, Adam Teeter explores Napa’s nightlife problem. “A fine-wine region will inherently attract those with massive wealth, and that wealth means fewer places for younger people to live. The valley has become a place for wealthy retirees and families of means. The problem is, these populations don’t go out all that much. If you don’t have a larger young population, you really can’t have a booming nightlife.”

According to the Drinks Business, bulk wine imports saw the biggest volume rise of any category in the US last year, up 10.2%.

In Club Oenologique, Adam Lechmere talks to Olivier Krug about soundtracked wine flights, and other intersections of wine and music.

On JancisRobinson.com, Alder Yarrow explores the Mokelumne Glen Vineyard, “California’s geekiest vineyard.”

Daily Wine News: Vinous History

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-14-2023

As new research emerges challenging established ideas on the evolution of Vitis vinifera, Stuart Walton ponders the origins of wine, and the branch of vinous history that can be traced back to Armenia’s Areni-1 cave in the World of Fine Wine.

Since moving to lightweight glass bottles in 2010, Tablas Creek Vineyard has saved more than $2.2 million.

In TRINK Magazine, Jordan Michelman explores the beauty of aged Grüner Veltliner. “It will probably be another 20 years before enough consumers have seen what Grüner can do with 10, 15, or 20 years of age before it starts to become a serious collector item.”

In Vinous, David Schildknecht pens a profile of Germany’s Klaus Peter Keller. “The Keller story can be mined for insights into growing, vinifying and marketing great Riesling (or Silvaner, or Pinot Noir), into the unique features of Rheinhessen and, more generally, of German Riesling.”

Jancis Robinson explores the regenerative viticulture movement in New Zealand and beyond.

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Esther Mobley profiles Rex Pickett 19 years after the movie and book Sideways came out, and explains why she broke her resolution to never write about it. “While chatting with him, I realized that there was a different “Sideways” story I’d never heard before, and which was unfolding in real time: Pickett felt ripped off, he told me, by the way his movie and book deals went down. Now, he’s trying to capitalize on the notoriety of his creation to finally make his own fortune off of it.”

Elsewhere in the Chronicle, Jess Lander highlights the best wineries in Paso Robles.

Daily Wine News: Silicon Valley Bank’s Demise

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-13-2023

2023 will be the last year for Silicon Valley Bank’s State of the US Wine Industry report.

“The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation said on Friday that it would take over Silicon Valley Bank, a 40-year-old institution based in Santa Clara, Calif. The bank’s failure is the second-largest in U.S. history, and the largest since the financial crisis of 2008,” the New York Times reported.

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Esther Mobley and Jess Lander explain how the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank is causing a financial crisis for California’s wine industry. “The list of potential impacts for wineries, which represented 2% of the bank’s total loan business, according to an internal report, is extensive…Since 1994, Silicon Valley Bank has extended more than $4 billion in loans to wineries and vineyards, providing financing for endeavors like vineyard acquisition and development, real estate and equipment purchases, according to the bank’s website. McMillan carved out a niche by establishing the bank as one of the few institutions that could cater to the nuanced needs of the wine industry. Wineries tend to make substantial investments in land, equipment and other assets years before they can sell a bottle of wine — a complex system that McMillan made a business of understanding.”

“The bank seemed to understand the unique demands and challenges of the industry, offering low-interest rate loans, “seasonal crop lines of credit” and “equipment loans and debt restructuring,” according to SVB’s website. So when the bank collapsed this week after a run of $42 billion in withdrawals, tech start-up founders and VCs weren’t the only cohorts shocked by SVB’s demise.” In Business Insider, Lloyd Lee considers the impact Silicon Valley Bank’s demise on the wine industry.

In Al Jazeera, Nis Adler reports on how Ukraine’s winemakers have continued to make wine despite the dangers of war.

In the Oregonian, Michael Alberty explores Oregon winemakers’ fascination with Aligoté.

We’ve all heard of whiskey barrel-finished wine. But what about wine-finished whiskey? Kara Newman explores the growing category in Wine Enthusiast.

“The Argentinian government is set to implement a new foreign currency exchange rate, based on the country’s wine exports, a in bid to boost greater competitivity in the sector. The move, which follows a similar initiative established in the soy bean sector (the so-called “soy dollar” rate was established in 2022), was announced by economy minister Sergio Massa at a recent AGM for the Argentinian Wine Corporation (Coviar),” reports Oliver Styles in Wine-Searcher.

Daily Wine News: Ukraine’s Resilience

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-10-2023

Chateau Chizay in Ukraine. (Photo credit: Wines of Ukraine)

In Decanter, Barnaby Eales explores how—after a year of facing occupation, damage to vineyards and a collapsed domestic market—Ukraine’s winemakers are seeking to grow exports and are monitoring EU moves to unlock funds from frozen Russian assets.

Iconic New York City wine shop Sherry-Lehmann has abruptly shut its doors as the cash-strapped retailer faces a clampdown over failure to renew its liquor license, reports the New York Post.

In Wine-Searcher, Jim Boyce explores China’s new wave of natural wine.

In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague consults with Warren Buffett to talk about value in wines.

Robert Joseph looks back across four decades of wine fairs in Meininger’s.

Fiona Beckett on the the art of blending in wine in the Guardian.

Daily Wine News: Shifting Chenin

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-09-2023

Chenin Blanc.

In Wine-Searcher, Margaret Rand explores the changing face of Chenin Blanc in the Loire Valley. “What we can say for certain, however, is that Chenin Blanc from the Loire is much, much nicer than it used to be. It is riper, cleaner, better made, more concentrated, more precise, more reflective of its terroir than it has ever been in living memory.”

In Wine Spectator, Robert Camuto visits with the three sisters behind Soave’s Suavia winery. “Over the years, the sisters have more than tripled their vineyards, from about 20 acres to more than 66—all within the boundaries of Fittà. They did this by doubling down on their commitment to high-quality hillside terroirs. As many of their neighbors decided to step away from farming or abandoned Fittà for the easier-to-cultivate valley floor, 1,000 feet below, the sisters bought up those old vineyards.”

“While Disney-like experiences will be big attractions for many visitors, I believe this is not good for the soul of Napa and the Wine Country. The race to build bigger and arguably gaudier palaces to an owner’s ego will backfire. While it may artificially increase the reputation of a winery’s offering, it’s artificial and not realistic.” Chris D. Craiker shares his gripes with Napa’s race to build up in the North Bay Business Journal.

In Imbibe Magazine, Jennifer Fiedler charts the rise of Mexican wine. “A new generation of Mexican wine is turning the heads of importers, sommeliers, wine store owners, and, most importantly, consumers…Buoyed by an anything-goes mentality when it comes to wine, an enduring fascination with Mexican cuisine and spirits abroad, the rise of culinary travel to destinations like Mexico City and Baja, and a rapidly expanding number of wineries throughout the country, Mexican wine’s newfound popularity offers an intriguing case study in how tipping points happen in emerging regions.”

In Decanter, Andrew Jefford ponders the future for Georgian wine and its many characterful styles.

In InsideHook, Josh Sims explores the ice wines of Canada’s Niagara region.

Mike Veseth, the wine economist, explains how the classic game Chutes and Ladders can teach us a lot about the premiumization game that is a stint characteristic of the wine industry today.

Daily Wine News: Labor Violations

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-08-2023

Vineyards in Brazil. (Source: Wines of Brasil)

Three of Brazil’s biggest wineries have been suspended by ApexBrasil, the government Trade and Investment Promotion Agency, following an operation to rescue over 200 workers from what were described as “conditions analogous to slavery.” The story could affect Brazil’s ambition to boost wine exports. Alexandra Corvo and Robert Joseph report in Meininger’s.

Following the news, the Brazilian Church released a statement affirming that wines made by manufacturers which violate “the respect to human dignity” must not be chosen as sacramental wines.

Nat Sellars explores the limitations of the language of wine in Wine-Searcher. “The manner of how various fruits and vegetables are consumed can also drastically differ around the world, rendering generic terms on a tasting note or on the back of a bottle meaningless. Take a tomato, Taylor explains. “Is it fresh? Is it sun dried? Is it overripe? Is it green? Is it tomato leaf? Is it tomato skin? And that’s just one fruit or vegetable.””

Wine Spectator’s James Molesworth checks in with Robert Mondavi Winery, where new winemaker Sally Johnson Blum brings decades of experience from Pride Mountain and St. Francis, while new vineyard manager Blake Wood has already worked with Beckstoffer’s section of To Kalon.

A finance package expected to total more than €50m and including a portion of state aid has been agreed to help the Bordeaux region’s wine industry pull up vineyards, as part of efforts to cut overproduction. Chris Mercer has the details in Decanter.

In Wine Enthusiast, Julie H. Case on the importance of drinking orange wine at the right temperature — not too cold.

In Condé Nast Traveler, David Amsden explores California’s Santa Ynez Wine Country.

In the World of Fine Wine, Ken Gargett makes the case for the singular appeal of the long-lived dry Semillons of the Hunter Valley.

Daily Wine News: Zippy Zinfandel

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-07-2023

Zinfandel (Flickr: naotakem)

In Wine-Searcher, Kathleen Willcox looks at how winemakers are making affordable, versatile Zinfandel wines to tempt young people into drinking wine. “Zinfandel’s newfound light side comes courtesy of vintners, who have been transforming their production practices. It’s not all new oak anymore…Moderately priced, capable of presenting as lush or restrained, sustainably farmed, poised to weather climate change better than most – and in possession of a rollicking backstory – it is surely better positioned to do so than many of its more respected and pricey peers.”

When we taste wine, how accurate are our perceptions? Jamie Goode delves into the science of professional wine tasting.

In Club Oenologique, Jane Anson explores top Bordeaux blends outside of Bordeaux.

Thanks to convoluted, often contradictory state laws, consumers in many parts of the country cannot receive shipments of wines they’d like to buy. The Wall Street Journal’s Lettie Teague explains why that is.

In the Washington Post, Dave McIntyre reports on the movement to make wine vocabulary less Eurocentric.

KQED explores how Mexican-American winemakers are reshaping California’s wine industry.

“Just a few minutes’ drive from the wine-centric amenities of St. Helena, Napa’s highly acclaimed Juslyn Vineyards is for sale, offering a sprawling estate of nearly 45 acres priced at $35 million,” reports SF Gate.

Daily Wine News: Alternative Viticulture

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-06-2023

In Ambrook Research, Kathleen Willcox explores how wine growers are increasingly exploring alternatives to chemical inputs and machine-based farming, opting for bugs, raptors, and livestock instead. “For many, beginning to use insects, wild birds, and/or farm animals in the vineyard instead of chemicals and tractors will require, at the very least, a mental adjustment. And while adding insectary rows and bird boxes probably doesn’t require such a huge philosophical shift or a hefty financial outlay, recruiting a herd of sheep to do the weeding or trading horses for a tractor does.”

The owners of The Wonderful Company, whose holdings include Justin Vineyards and Winery in Paso Robles, continue to invest in the Napa Valley with the recent acquisition of a vineyard near Calistoga, reports Kerana Todorov on WineBusiness.com.

In SevenFifty Daily, Caitlin A. Miller catches up with Washington, D.C.-based wine director Danya Degen, who has found success highlighting women-made and -owned U.S. wines made from nontraditional grape varieties like Barbera, Gamay, and Grignolino.

In Wine Enthusiast, Amy Beth Wright tracks the Malvasia Bianca grape around the world.

Michael Alberty highlights the wines of Savage Grace in the Oregonian.

A new study shows that humans first started growing wine grapes 11,000 years ago.

In the Hollywood Reporter, Elycia Rubin explores Santa Barbara Wine Country.