Wine and the economic downturn: a sense of paradox

It’s a story about the Emerald Inn in the New York Times that got me thinking about the whole, strange relationship between wine (and booze in general) and the economy.

You see, the Emerald Inn is a historic pub from New York’s Upper West Side that was supposed to close in the spring, because its rent was set to more than double in the red-hot Big Apple real estate market. Until that market tanked, and the owners saw that they’d never get a tenant who could pay that much. The owners traded down a bit (but still raised the rent), and so the Guinness will keep flowing, and the customers will keep drinking. And everyone seems happy. And if they’re not, they’ll probably be drowning their sorrow in an extra pint anyways.

Which is a bit what has been happening in the wine business over the holidays. (more…)

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Twitter Recipe #1: Wine suggestions for Anthony’s white bean sunchoke purée crostini (and another recipe)

The other day, I was getting ready to cook some white beans, and wanted to take the dish in a different direction than what I usually do. So knowing that I have many friends on Twitter who are well-versed in the culinary arts of the Mediterranean, I tweeted for suggestions while the beans simmered and got many good ideas.

Caroline (aka @gastrolinguista) suggested a Fabada, a bean dish with chorizo and saffron, among other things. I wound up doing a kind of fabada, that evening, with some of my homemade chorizo and dry-cured bacon.

There was also this very simple one from Anthony Nicalo, of Farmstead Wines:

@RemyCharest sweat onion & garlic, add chopped tomato, lightly color, deglaze w wht wine; add beans, and simmer w po rk stock, rosemary, salt

And then, as I dug through the fridge (more…)

75 years ago today, Prohibition was repealed. I’ll drink to that!

It  was on a post from The Passionate Foodie, yesterday, that I read about it: today marks the 75th anniversary of the Presidential Proclamation of the repeal of Prohibition, a US Constitutional amendment that caused a lot of criminality and made fortunes for Canadian distillers, among other things.

While Franklin D. Roosevelt had announced his intention to repeal Prohibition from the time he ran for President, it was only on December 5, 1933 that the Constitutional amendment repealing the one that had brought it into effect actually was validated. Indeed, it was on that day that Utah (!) became the 36th State to approve what then became the 21st amendment.

It’s certainly worth cheering that anniversary. Moderation being much preferable than prohibition, obviously.

But it’s interesting to note that (more…)

Twitter Taste Live: from sake to sherry, with Hahn in the middle

If you think that people who write about wine are all stuck up wine bores, you need to come on board and watch (or take part in) Twitter Taste Live, a live wine tasting event imagined by the folks at Massachussetts wine merchant Bin Ends Wine. A clever use of social media for marketing purposes, the TTL events are also just plain fun. Earlier this fall, I took part in one such event where Etienne Hugel, from the famous Alsace wine producer Hugel et fils, was the guest of honor as we tasted various Hugel wines. The sharing of notes, and opportunity to talk with the producer and fellow online wine lovers… it was just terrific. You can see a summarized recap right here which gives a sense of the event – but not all the grat atmosphere.

For the 5th Twitter Taste Live event, which took place in a lighthearted, football-and-vacuum-pump joke-filled session just a few hours ago, wine bloggers were invited to take the floor and propose wines and themes. And the proposals (more…)

Tasting Note: Dr Konstantin Frank 2006 Rkatsiteli, Finger Lakes

It’s kind of a tribute to the complicated nature of wine distribution in North America that I had to go to California to finally taste a wine from New York’s Finger Lakes, which are only a few hours drive from my home in Quebec.

How did that happen? Well, Lenn Thompson, the great defender of New York wines on the Lenndevours blog, along with his Finger Lakes correspondent Melissa Dobson, had conspired to bring one of New York’s most unique wines to the Wine Bloggers Conference, so that the dozens upon dozens of bloggers present at Santa Rosa’s one and only Flamingo Resort could discover the good stuff that’s produced out East.

It was certainly not the only wine that they had brought out. In fact, (more…)

California Wine all tastes the same? Says who?

Well, finally back to blogging. After an intense weekend at the Wine Bloggers Conference, followed by four full days of running around Sonoma and Napa – and Fairfield, and Berkeley and San Francisco – and then returning to a new position at the newspaper in Quebec City, and mulling over about twenty different potential post subjects, I finally managed to focus long enough on one subject. And here it is.

One of the things that truly struck me, throughout the tastings I attended at the Wine Bloggers Conference and in the days that followed, was the great diversity of wines I tasted. Yes, there were a good lot of big, fruity, oaky cabernet sauvignons and chardonnays, but there was also a great deal more, in terms of grape varieties, climate variations and winemaking styles. More than I had expected, certainly.

Over my week, I had everything from grassy sauvignon blanc to jammy zinfandels, rustic carignan to (more…)

Poetry in a bottle, and all the hard work that goes into it

Opening a bottle, pouring yourself a glass, sensing the complex aromas and flavors, the velvety texture: that’s the pleasure of wine.

But to get there, it’s good to remember just how much hard work has been put in by everyone that’s hard at work in the vineyards and cellars. As Wayne Young writes on the Bastianich Winery blog:

There’s  romantic misconception about the harvest… Grape Picking. Most people imagine lovely ladies in sun-dresses happily carrying their wicker baskets of beautiful fruit through the vineyards…

I would rather spend 8 hours in the cellar working with tanks and pumps and hoses, than 4 hours picking grapes. It’s messy, buggy, sticky, hot, nasty work.

Wayne has been doing a great job giving a sense of what harvest is all about, by describing everything from the equipment and how it’s used to fermentation, grape varieties, the method of drying grapes by appassimento, wasp attacks and the quick onset of a storm, just as fresh grapes are waiting to be brought into the winery. In other words, (more…)

Wine and the electoral process

In times of political campaigns, politics can seep into just about any part of life. It may even get into your wine.

For at least one Chilean wine producer, as I found out on Twitter, thanks to wine educator Bruce Cass, the ricochet from recent political events is rather stupefying. The name of the wine? Palin Syrah, a reasonably-priced organic wine made by renowned winemaker Alvaro Espinosa for GeoWines. The association with the one and only republican vice-presidential candidate is apparently causing people to walk away from it in San Francisco, while Texans are buying it with extra enthusiasm in Houston.

As a quick Google search will tell you, (more…)

Tasting Note: 1998 Conundrum, Caymus Vineyards

If you do things well enough, you can make pretty much anything work in winemaking. Even combinations and approaches that simply shouldn’t make sense.

Want proof? Try some Conundrum, the impossibly complicated blend created by Caymus winemaker John Bolta. It’s made from chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, semillon, viognier and muscat from Napa Valley, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Lucia Highlands and (more…)

A Dash of Economics With Your Wine?

Just a quick word to share a site I’ve been reading with great interest over the last couple of weeks. It’s called The Wine Economist, and it’s written by Michael Veseth, a professor of International Political Economy at the University of Puget Sound – which is obviously near one of the West Coast’s most interesting wine regions.

The blog is full of interesting articles about how the various roads that wine takes from the vine to your glass. Recently, he’s talked about the effects of the exchange rate on the price of wine in the United States and on the domestic market for American wines, and about a series of trades, buyouts and acquisitions by wine giants such as Constellation, The Wine Group, Ascentia and Fosters.

It’s insightful, well-researched and original in that it offers a point of view too rarely seen as we discuss the aromas of green pepper and grapefruit in sauvignon blancs or which bottle of 2005 Bordeaux we’re getting en primeur.

Why do wines tend to taste one way or the other? It may, in part, have to do with what The Wine Economist is discussing. It’s a worthwhile read, in any case.