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…)

The great closure debate: Corked wines? What corked wines?

A little while a go, I worte about how Decanter had moved into the debate about corks and screwcaps by siding with the screwy side of the argument. If corked wines are a huge problem – up to 12% of wines are corked, according to some wildly flung statements -, then it is time to take a stand.

But again, where do those percentages, like the 12% stated on some web sites, actually come from? Hard to tell. Nobody mentions any clear statistics, and those that have taken a personal sample of their tastings, for several hundred bottles a year, come out at much lower levels.

So is cork taint actually such a huge, wine-world-shattering problem?

Check these figures out. (more…)

Dreaming of Starting Your Own Vineyard? Read This.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been reading through a special Decanter page called “Living The Dream“, where Richard Mayson, a writer from said magazine, presents his thoughts and impressions on a project that has been taking him away from wine writing. Back in 2004, he decided to start his own winemaking operation and bought an estate in the Alentejo, in Southern Portugal. Twenty hectares up in the mountains, called Quinta de Centro, which he decided to partly replant, as he went on to built a new winery and deal with everything that Portugal had in for him, from weather to bureaucracy and commercial practices.

It’s a fascinating read, pages and pages full by now, that you have to read from the bottom up if you want to read the story in order. You’ll find a bit of everything in there, from winemaking questions, of course, to the importance of the cafés in the portuguese business world to local authorities’… er… peculiar management schemes, environmental questions, fauna and flora, branding, exports, wine transportation, etc.

Going from a dream to the reality of vineyard ownership, winemaking and sales is quite a step, as Richard Mayson’s writings clearly show. But as you go through it, it does seem that, if you really, really want it, the pride and satisfaction felt are truly worth all the gigantic hassles.

Now, I seem to remember there were some nice old vineyards around Calce…

Decanter screws up its courage

Decanter magazine made quite a bold statement this week – and a bit of a marketing move for their August issue. “Screwcaps are best: Decanter Verdict“, says the title, as if the pronouncement was the definite word on the issue.

Many of the big guns are on deck to affirm the position. Steven Spurrier calls the Stelvin screw cap enclosure “one of the best things to have happened to wine in my lifetime”.

Yet if you keep reading, there is a big if that pops up further down in Adam Lechmere’s article:

Decanter may champion screwcap even for many robust reds, but on the subject of ageing wines, the jury is still out.

Anyhow, just reading the host of sometimes harsh and fiery comments (more…)

A glimpse at the WineCreators

Little has filtered, as of yet, about what went on at the incredibly ambitious WineCreator meeting that was held in Ronda, in Jérez country, last weekend. Yet a lot of people are surely curious about knowing what the “greatest” minds in winemaking and wine journalism came to discuss during this ” tribute to creativity in a world where the signs of globalisation are becoming increasingly evident”.

Jancis Robinson, a key participant in the meeting, (more…)

Pulling back just a touch – take two

The LA Times story about Adam Tolmach, from Ojai Vineyards, saying that he would reduce the alcohol content in his wines to move away from the world of Parkerized wines, which I had mentioned in my previous post, has been gathering a fair bit of steam. The original story was picked up by many on the blogosphere and in the media, including Decanter and The Telegraph in the United Kingdom, often with a sort of glee from people who obviously think that the higher-alcohol trend is just plain wrong.

Yet the shocker comes from Eric Asimov, of the New York Times, who found the characterization of Ojai vineyards’ wines as “over the top” rather strange, since he (and others, like Allen Meadows of Burghound, who is a harsh critic of high-alcohol wines) tends to find Tolmach’s wines rather balanced and elegant. Asimov called Tolmach, who told him he was misquoted, and that his reference to his own, over the top wines pointed to a particular series of pinots he produced from 1992 to 2001.

Still, even though he disagrees with the particulars of the article (more…)

Tony Aspler, OC, WWA

It’s funny how we learn about such things. Tony Aspler, very probably English Canada’s most respected wine writer and certainly the top authority on Canadian wine, was made a member of the Order of Canada last week… something I found out from a news item on the Decanter web site. Feels a little weird to go to a British site to find out something about Canada.

Anyhow. Congratulations to Mr Aspler, who (more…)

Published in: on January 3, 2008 at 5:52 pm  Comments (2)  
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