Daily Wine News: Low & No

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 03-20-2023

Cupcake’s new line of low-calorie wines.

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Esther Mobley examines the rise of low-alcohol wines. “This category is poised for better success than wine overall. While sales of full-strength wine are projected to decrease 2% by volume from 2022 through 2026, according to analyst IWSR, low-alcohol wine is slated to grow by 10% during that same period…If you want to reduce your alcohol or calorie consumption, my advice would be to simply drink fewer servings of full-strength wine.”

In Penta, Abby Shultz charts the rise of Sonoma, where “winemakers and producers who are proving [they] can offer beautiful, collectible, and varied wines to rival Napa Valley’s powerful—and more than $500-a-bottle  pricey—Cabernet Sauvignons.”

Is Loire Chenin Blanc better than ever? James Lawther says so on JancisRobinson.com.

In InsideHook, Kate Dingwall talks with Aaron Ayscough, author of The World of Natural Wine, about small, sustainable producers and debunking natural wine disdain.

In Wine-Searcher, W. Blake Gray on what recent investments in Vino Nobile di Montepulciano can tell us about where Tuscan wine is headed.

Chris Losh offers a wine traveler’s guide to Bordeaux in the World of Fine Wine.

Arielle Weg highlights a handful of Sauternes bottles in Wine Enthusiast.

Wine Reviews: C.L. Butaud’s Texas Wines

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 03-18-2023

Today we’re taking a trip down the wine road less traveled  (at least by me) – Texas. I’m not going to make any broad generalizations about Texas, as it so huge and diverse and the tropes fall flat. I lived there for a year as a teenager, before I knew about wine, and have made somewhat frequent trips since. But I’ve yet to tour the Texas High Plains wine country and other areas, or dig deeply into producers across the state who have been laying the groundwork for decades now.

As an outsider, I’ve enjoyed a few of the Texas wines I’ve managed to find. But a proper trip is in order for me to get a better handle on things — long drives, visiting with winemakers, walking through vineyards, and perhaps adding on some rock climbing or hunting. This is all making me nostalgic for Texas, and the wines from C.L. Butaud were a great reminder to keep up with wines from the Lone Star State.

Houston native Randy Hester kicked off his first Texas vintage in 2014, after working in the wine industry for years, including at Cakebread and with a host of renowned winemakers. They take a low sulfite approach, use some whole clusters in their fermentation, and produce wines with a unique spice and appeal. While these wines are very distinct, I was reminded of Arizona wines (with which I have much more experience) in the sense that, when tasting them I get this earthy nuance that makes me want to visit the land itself. To get my feet in the dirt and hands on the rocks.

This was my first time with this producer, and it won’t be my last. These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

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.