Various Goings On in the World Wine Web

The fluidity of the world wide web is only surpassed, perhaps, by that of wine. OK, I’m reaching, here. It just sounded good.

Yet, there is something true to that idea. Things can move fast, and in sometimes suprising ways, on the Web.

For instance, thanks to a timely Tweet from Tim at Winecast, I found out that Amazon is supposed to add wine to its expanding catalogue of goods within weeks. We’ve come a long way from the world’s largest online bookstore.

Tim points out that, interestingly enough, (more…)

Market matters

Ah, there’s nothing quite like reading the Western Farm Press to get your day going.

OK, I’m overstating a little, but I have to say that this article on trends in the U.S. wine market did get my attention. It reports on a conference by Jon Fredrikson, head of a consulting firm specializing in the wine business, Gomberg, Fredrikson and Associates, where Fredrikson gives a portrait of the market in 2007. (If you want the full report, you can purchase it here – for 295$)

A number of interesting tidbits emerge : (more…)

Carbon zero? Well, looking more closely…

In a previous post, I’d spent a certain amount of time exploring the limits and vagaries of “green” wine. I’ve always been skeptical of full-frontal claims of virtue, which seem to be as much about marketing than about actual environmental concerns. I tend to feel more in tune with winemakers who go the green way more naturally, so to speak, and don’t talk so much about it. There are limits to the claims of greenness, and pitfalls to promising too much.

Case in point: Grove Mill winery, a great New Zealand outfit that has laid a claim to being the world’s first CarboNZero winery. They put a lot of effort into this, even factoring in the shipping to Britain in their calculations. But guess what. Standards are changing for the CarbonZero program, so (more…)

Published in: on March 20, 2008 at 10:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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This wine tastes like a million bucks

If you have any doubts that blind tasting is essential to formulating a relatively objective judgment about a wine, you just have to read this article sent out on the wires by Agence France-Presse. It summarizes a study conducted at the California Institute of Technology, which demonstrates quite clearly that our knowledge about the (supposed) price of a wine influences the pleasure we take drinking it.

Researchers scanned the brains of subjects who were drinking (more…)

Don’t be shy, show us what you’re made of

You can always count on Randall Grahm, the maverick behind Bonny Doon and Ca’ del Solo, militant winemaker and marketing whiz, to make interesting statements. A news item on the Wine Spectator website states that Grahm will start to include all of a wine’s ingredients on his labels. Yeasts, fining agents, you name it, anything included in the wines will be stated:

“Randall feels that it’s important to openly share with consumers any additions made to the wine, and by extension to make other winemakers responsible for [acknowledging] their own additions and interventions,” explained Alison Davies, marketing associate at Bonny Doon. “We hope for a number of results: by stating all the ingredients, this could lead the industry in the direction of full disclosure and encourage winemakers to be more hands-off and less interventionist.”

The first two wines with the new back labels—the 2007 Ca’ del Solo Vineyard Albariño and Muscat, both from the Monterey County AVA—will be released this March. The Albariño, for example, will list biodynamic grapes and sulfur dioxide as the ingredients, and will also indicate that indigenous yeasts, organic yeast hulls and bentonite were used in the winemaking process (yeast hulls, the cell walls and membranes of yeasts, facilitate problem-free fermentations, while bentonite is a fining agent often used to clarify white wines).

I’m all for it. I think it could cut a lot of pretense out of the wine world. If winemakers are going on and on about their fantastic terroir, (more…)

Published in: on December 1, 2007 at 11:07 am  Leave a Comment  

Bordeaux through a straw

Decanter’s online news section reports that Bordeaux négociant Cordier Mestrezat has started selling Bordeaux in a fruit-juice-box-like TetraPak with a straw. The product, called Tandem, features a special straw with four holes, so that it feels more like drinking from the glass when you suck on it. It’s being tested in Belgian supermarkets, and should be introduced in France (where resistance is expected) and in Canada (aren’t we lucky) next year.

I’m not convinced.

I’ve argued in a previous post that we may be oversensitive to packaging, and that great wine will still taste as great coming out of a bag-in-a-box than out of a glass bottle. I maintain that there can be advantages to alternative packagings.

This feels different, however, because you’re deprived of a good part of the sensory experience, when you drink through a straw, no matter how high-tech said straw is. Forget color, forget aromas, you’re just getting a quick taste through a straw – a device that some of my friends used to get drunk quicker, when I was a teenager. As a marketing ploy, it certainly doesn’t convey an idea of quality, of a special experience surrounding wine.

The marketing intention seems to be (more…)

Published in: on September 17, 2007 at 9:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Mixing it up

There is a New World trend in wine that is intriguing, promising and annoying, all at once. It’s the habit of mixing varietals that don’t usually go together: chardonnay and viognier, verdelho and chenin blanc, touriga and tempranillo, etc. Australians do it with particular enthusiasm, determined to go, it seems, where no wine has gone before. There’s even a whole line of wines from Argentina based on that concept: Familia Zuccardi’s Fuzion brand. And other examples from Chile or the USA.

Sometimes the results are pleasant and harmonious, or really add up to something greater than the sum of the parts.  Like certain supertuscan blends of Bordeaux varietals and Sangiovese, or successful combinations of cabernets and shiraz.  Even more basic wines can do it well: Penfolds’ white Rawson’s Retreat is a blend of chardonnay and sémillon that is simple, accessible and, well, balanced. Which is probably the keyword that some winemakers forget as they seek to make daring, unusual blends.

For some producers, the fact that the blend is unusual seems to be the whole point, along with some notion of complementarity: freshness in one varietal, structure and richness in the other. Sometimes, going against the grain seems to be an end in itself. I’ve tasted mixes that should never have come together – and actually didn’t come together, even though they had been blended.

It’s just not that easy. There are historical reasons why certain blends have come together in different regions of the world, thanks to the way the climate favored certain varietals that came together properly in terms of flavors, textures, color and balance. Like sweeter, earlier ripening merlot with more tannic and tighter cabernet sauvignon in Bordeaux blends. Creating a new blend with varietals that have hardly established themselves in a new land, and trying to figure out how they’ll behave together is risky business, to say the least.

Mission impossible? Not really. But more care should be exerted by winemakers who choose that route. A hit or miss approach just doesn’t cut it. If it takes several years to build up a vineyard, it could be an idea for winemakers to give themselves many years of tasting and experimenting before releasing new, untested blends.