Wine Articles VIII
|Wine Articles VIII|
|23 feb 2011|
Facebook e-commerce: the next big thing?
Reuters, by Alistair Barr- Apr 5, 2012
(Reuters) - A group of e-commerce start-ups, backed by some of the tech world's most pedigreed financiers, are betting that Facebook Inc can become an e-commerce powerhouse to rival Amazon.com Inc and eBay Inc.
As the world's largest social network hurtles toward a $5 billion initial public offering, it will come under more pressure from Wall Street to find new sources of profit growth and reduce its reliance on advertising, which accounted for 85 percent of its 2011 revenue.
Some entrepreneurs and investors increasingly think "f-commerce" - meaning e-commerce on Facebook - is the answer. Start-ups such as BeachMint, Yardsellr, Oodle and Fab.com are coming up with novel ways to persuade Facebook users to not just connect with friends on the social network, but to shop as well.
Backed by tens of millions of dollars from venture capital firms like Accel Partners and Andreessen Horowitz, and other big investors like Goldman Sachs, these start-ups are pushing out shopping apps, hosting online garage sales and testing out new business models on Facebook.
"E-commerce is a huge category with very strong tailwinds and it's a natural move for Facebook," said Sam Schwerin of Millennium Technology Value Partners, which owns Facebook shares and has a stake in BeachMint.
Amazon revolutionized online shopping by crunching lots of customer and purchase data to come up with relevant, personalized recommendations. In the same vein, Facebook's combination of data, analytics and payment technology could fuel the next generation of e-commerce, Schwerin said.
Harvard MBA David Fisch, a former executive at eBay's StubHub online tickets business, oversees Facebook's e-commerce efforts, working with retailers to build social commerce businesses on the platform.
"People have always shopped with their friends; now they expect it online," Fisch wrote in a December blog. "Companies who think differently about social will find success."
Fisch declined to comment, but investors said Facebook understands the importance of having an e-commerce strategy.
"It's a big imperative for them," said Theresia Gouw Ranzetta of Accel Partners, an early backer of Facebook. "They understand it's an important strategic benefit for them to make e-commerce players successful on the platform."
BIG BRAND STORES FLOP
Facebook had 845 million monthly active users at the end of 2011, far higher than Amazon's 164 million active accounts or the eBay online marketplace's 100 million active users.
But despite that huge base, Facebook is primarily a way to connect with friends, and not an online shopper's first destination. Big retailers including J.C. Penney, Gap and Nordstrom had previously set up stores on Facebook but shut them after generating few sales.
That has not stopped venture capital firms from pouring money into rookie companies they think have cracked the code.
There is a lot of buzz about Fab.com, which has amassed 3 million users who broadcast purchases via a "bought" button that advertises their shopping habits to friends. Fab built its user base in part by offering $5 a month to those who agree to share their Fab purchases and favorites on Facebook. Chief Executive Jason Goldberg said "tens of thousands" opted in.
BeachMint co-founder Diego Berdakin said his company had set up a live video event called StyleMint.tv last holiday season featuring a brief appearance by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's sister, Randi Zuckerberg. For about two hours, they showcased BeachMint products that people could buy with one click.
More than 50,000 Facebook users watched the show and a "huge percentage" bought something, Berdakin said, adding, "At the time, it was the biggest day in our history in terms of sales."
Yardsellr, started in 2010 by former eBay manager Danny Leffel, organizes people into 3,000 communities, or "blocks," based on common interests. When someone posts a product for sale, it is sent to the news feeds of people in that block and purchases can be made with a few clicks.
Gross merchandise sales, a measure of the value of products, has been growing about 30 percent a month, according to Leffel. "Social commerce could be bigger than eBay," he argued.
Then there's Oodle, a start-up headed by Craig Donato, who runs Facebook's official marketplace, which boasts more than 3 million unique monthly users. When buyers and sellers post items, their Facebook identities are attached, giving users more confidence in the transactions, Donato said.
For now, Facebook is making money mostly by selling ads to merchants trying to target potential customers. But many experts say it is a matter of time before the eight-year-old social network will ask for a cut of shopping transactions, or seek other ways to profit.
They point to Facebook's relationship with online games developer Zynga Inc as an example. Facebook takes a 30 percent cut of revenue generated from the sale of virtual goods used to play Zynga games.
Gamers pay for those virtual goods using Facebook Credits, a virtual currency that could eventually be used to buy physical goods, according to some Internet entrepreneurs.
"Facebook has a huge opportunity to monetize e-commerce," said Christian Taylor, chief executive of Payvment, a startup that operates thousands of Facebook stores. "They have the infrastructure and team to pursue that."
Others downplay the potential for Facebook Credits, saying physical goods offer much thinner profit margins than virtual products.
"The 30 percent model is great for products with near-zero cost of goods sold," said Kevin Hartz, head of ticketing start-up Eventbrite, which works closely with Facebook. "But selling a TV with thin margins, that model will just not apply."
Nevertheless, if e-commerce on Facebook takes off, many expect the social network to find a way to make money off it.
"When you build on top of a platform like Facebook, there is always the risk that the platform provider decides to change the rules later on," said Laura Valverde of Beetailer, which runs more than 3,000 stores on Facebook.
"We have seen this with Facebook Credits and games. So, once social commerce fully takes off, it will only be natural that Facebook tries to benefit one way or another from it."
(Editing by Edwin Chan, Tiffany Wu and Bob Burgdorfer)
Pancho Campo looks outside wine after ‘disgusting attacks'
Harpers, by Richard Siddle - 05 April 2012
Pancho Campo MW of the Wine Academy of Spain is switching his business away from wine trade-only events in part response to the "deeply upsetting" attacks he and his family have suffered in recent months.
Campo admitted to Harpers he needed to step out of the wine industry's "limelight", following the fierce criticism levelled at him from some quarters over the alleged access to Spanish wineries given to US wine critic Jay Miller and the Wine Advocate.
The controversy resulted in the Wine Advocate's Robert Parker conducting a review of Miller and Campo's business arrangements.
Campo said he looked forward to the results of the report, which is expected soon, so that he and his family could "move on" from what he described as the "disgusting attacks" on himself and his close family.
"This is a family business and we want to grow and be proud of what we do. The attacks received have been deeply upsetting and very personal, not only about myself but members of my family, which they do not deserve."
He said it had left a "bitter taste" after all the good work he felt he and his team had done in building up the Climate Change and Wine Future events. He did not rule out running similar events in the future, but said his focus was no longer just on the wine trade.
Specialist lifestyle events company Chrand Management has bought the Wine Academy of Spain to help run a series of consumer events featuring gastronomy, sport, wine and culture. Campo, who maintains a small shareholding in the academy, said he was excited by his first two events set to run side by side in Barcelona in October.
The Barcelona Experience event, taking place between October 21-23, will give people the chance to train with ex-Barcelona football stars and former Spanish tennis player Arantxa Sánchez Vicario, as well as take part in gastronomic dinners, specialist wine tours and tastings.
This follows a separate event on October 20, where Campo has invited former US vice-president Al Gore to be the keynote speaker at the Green Economy Forum aimed at all business areas. "This is going back to what we used to do in sport and lifestyle events as well as wine. We are bringing them altogether in a new blend for consumers to enjoy."
Red wine may block fat cells
Brian Wallheimer, Purdue University
Thu, 2012-04-05 09:59
Red wine, grapes may prevent obesity.
A compound found in red wine, grapes and other fruits, and similar in structure to resveratrol, is able to block cellular processes that allow fat cells to develop, opening a door to a potential method to control obesity, according to a Purdue University study.
Kee-Hong Kim, an assistant professor of food science, and Jung Yeon Kwon, a graduate student in Kim's laboratory, reported in this week's issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry that the compound piceatannol blocks an immature fat cell's ability to develop and grow.
While similar in structure to resveratrol – the compound found in red wine, grapes and peanuts that is thought to combat cancer, heart disease and neurodegenerative diseases – piceatannol might be an important weapon against obesity. Resveratrol is converted to piceatannol in humans after consumption.
"Piceatannol actually alters the timing of gene expressions, gene functions and insulin action during adipogenesis, the process in which early stage fat cells become mature fat cells," Kim said. "In the presence of piceatannol, you can see delay or complete inhibition of adipogenesis."
Over a period of 10 days or more, immature fat cells, called preadipocytes, go through several stages to become mature fat cells, or adipocytes.
"These precursor cells, even though they have not accumulated lipids, have the potential to become fat cells," Kim said. "We consider that adipogenesis is an important molecular target to delay or prevent fat cell accumulation and, hopefully, body fat mass gain."
Kim found that piceatannol binds to insulin receptors of immature fat cells in the first stage of adipogenesis, blocking insulin's ability to control cell cycles and activate genes that carry out further stages of fat cell formation. Piceatannol essentially blocks the pathways necessary for immature fat cells to mature and grow.
Piceatannol is one of several compounds being studied in Kim's laboratory for its health benefits, and it is also present in different amounts in red grape seeds and skin, blueberries, passion fruit, and other fruits.
Kim would like to confirm his current finding, which is based on a cell culture system, using an animal model of obesity. His future work would also include determining methods for protecting piceatannol from degrading so that concentrations large enough would be available in the bloodstream to stop adipogenesis or body fat gain.
"We need to work on improving the stability and solubility of piceatannol to create a biological effect," Kim said.
The Purdue Research Foundation funded the work.
Do You Have a Good Palate?
Wine Spectator, Matt Kramer- April 3, 2012
Some years ago I moved into an apartment in San Francisco, one of those arrangements with two units per floor with a connecting deck.
I was spending a week painting the apartment, and my neighbor, who shared his apartment with his brother, stopped by to invite me over to their place for a glass of wine. I thanked him and said that I'd be over after I cleaned up a bit.
When I went over, I was handed a glass of wine. It was a Napa Cabernet, if I recall correctly. I tasted the wine and said nothing.
"So, what do you think of this wine?"
"It's all right," I replied, as neutrally but politely as I could.
This was not the expected response. I soon learned that they worked in restaurants, liked wine and considered themselves knowledgeable. They were put out.
"Well, what do you know about wine?"
As good luck would have it, lying on the coffee table was a copy of Wine Spectator. Saying nothing, I reached over and opened it to the page with my column (which sports a mug shot of you-know-who), turned the magazine around and pushed it toward them.
You can imagine their reaction. We all laughed heartily and bonded on the spot. Ever since, we've all dined out on that story.
I mention this only because it's one of those ridiculous situations where it would seem that you could "prove” that you have a good palate. Of course, having a column in a wine magazine proves nothing of the sort, but it's a credential of a kind.
This brings me to today's headline: "Do You Have a Good Palate?" Allow me to answer that. Most folks decide that you have a good palate when your judgment of a wine agrees with theirs.
Given this, you can reasonably ask: Does such a thing as a "good palate" even exist? Or is it all just a matter of consensus?
I do believe that such a thing as a "good palate" exists. And no, I don't think it's all a matter of whether you and I (or anybody else) concur in our respective opinions. So what, then, makes for a good palate?
The usual expectation involves taste acuity, the ability to play "I Spy" all day long, spotting the scent of blackberries, red currants, coffee (light roast or dark) and a seemingly endless array of precise-seeming descriptors.
Understandably, a lot of folks think that this ability to tease out all these "distinctions" is what makes for a good palate. Put bluntly, it ain't so. It's a bit of a parlor trick, really. Anyone can do it by paying attention to the smell and taste of what's around us (chalk dust, strawberries, pencil shavings) and then applying those remembered associations to what's in your glass. It does, however, remind us about what is so wonderful about wine: namely, that unlike, say, orange juice, it offers such shadings.
"A genuine good palate has both the capacity and the experience to deliver good judgment. It's not enough merely to weigh a wine. Instead, the question is: What does it add up to?"
The other parlor trick that most people associate with a "good palate" is the ability to identify a wine blind, i.e., to name the variety, the producer, the village, the vintage and the color of the winemaker's socks without seeing the label.
Now, I'm the first to admit that it sure is impressive to see this trick performed well. But if you ask just about any really experienced wine drinker, especially professionals, you'll soon discover that, to a man and woman, this pull-the-rabbit-out-of-the-hat ability is viewed with envy but with little belief that it's the defining feature of a "good palate." Calling the wine blind is not so much a trick as it is a matter of considerable experience allied with an admirable ability to focus on "landmarks" within a wine that reveal its pedigree.
In fairness, it's not nothing. You do need to have been around the wine block to pull it off with any frequency. You also need to be almost surgically analytical, slicing away all extraneous, distracting elements of the wine (such as "Gee, this really tastes good") to get at the "giveaway" elements that will help you identify the wine.
As many successful blind tasters will attest, the process can be surprisingly swift, resulting in what's often described as a "click" of recognition. (My experience, for what it's worth, is that your first guess is likely your best guess.)
But being a great blind taster doesn't mean you have a "good palate," any more than being a technically proficient surgeon necessarily makes you a good doctor. I'll always remember asking Larry Stone, a sommelier of extraordinary accomplishment and the best blind taster I've ever known, if he'd ever met anyone better at blind tasting than himself. (By the way, Stone is returning to his former position as sommelier of Charlie Trotter's in Chicago for that restaurant's swan song last few months before it closes Aug. 31.)
Larry replied that he indeed had met a better blind taster. "Who?" I exclaimed in genuine surprise.
"Oh, you don't know him," he replied. "I'd never met him before either. We were at a big tasting where the labels were covered and this guy just went down the line, bang, bang, bang, saying ‘Mouton '82,’ ‘Ridge Montebello '75,’ and so forth. I'd never seen anything like it.
"But then," Larry continued, "after the tasting I introduced myself to the guy and we got to talking. And I quickly realized something: He had no ability to describe a wine. Or even analyze a wine. If he hadn't had it before, he was lost. He couldn't put words to a taste or analyze a wine. He just had this crazy-good ability to remember everything he had ever tasted and file it away in his head. It was impressive as hell but didn't show any understanding of wine."
So what, then, makes for a good palate? Many features are at work. Larry Stone believes, with reason, that you cannot have a good palate without the ability to properly analyze a wine. "If you can't recognize whether a wine has low or high acidity—and some people can't, it seems—then you can't have a good palate. You've got to be able to properly analyze a wine and be able to put words to it."
That noted, I would submit that a genuine good palate has both the capacity and the experience to deliver good judgment. It's not enough merely to weigh a wine, as it were. Instead, the question is: What does it add up to?
It's not enough to accurately analyze. You have to have insight. And to acquire that takes not just experience, but also an ability almost to empathize. (This is why someone can have a good palate for, say, Cabernet but not for Pinot Noir.)
Insightful palates find the (sometimes hidden) thrill of a wine, that electric spark that makes it stand out from other, seemingly similar, wines. How many times have you tasted with someone who has just such an insightful palate and, after hearing his or her appreciative discussion, returned to the wine and seen it anew? It's happened to me many, many times.
Judgment and insight are the hallmarks of a good palate. Everything else is a technicality.
When wine means backache
3 Apr 2012 by Jancis Robinson/Syndicated
Wine is made in the vineyard, as we are increasingly told. But by whom?
One absolutely crucial aspect of wine production that is, curiously, hardly ever written about is vineyard labour. Wine needs grapes which need vines which need people to ensure that they are persuaded to grow in a way beneficial to wine production as opposed to climbing at random up trees, posts and the like. And once a year grapes need to be picked, often with care, sometimes with sunstroke, and usually with backache.
Despite widespread recession and high levels of unemployment in much of the world, and despite the glamour that now attaches to wine, it has in recent years become more and more difficult to recruit agricultural labourers in general, including vineyard workers - which has potentially serious consequences for the future of wine production.
Even in the UK where I live and where one of our most chronic social problems is long-term unemployment, and especially the dearth of prospects for young people, those fittest and arguably best suited to demanding manual outdoor labour, farmers have the utmost difficulty persuading Britons to go out into their fields and have generally had to rely on itinerant immigrants from eastern Europe. The nub of the problem is the very low going rate for agricultural pay, exacerbated by quite how physically demanding the job is.
In France only the very top estates and/or those with the most hard-working and loyal troupe of friends, family and workers can rely on any consistency among those who pick their grapes. Burgundy is the wine region most famous for the extent to which even the wine superstars get their hands and boots dirty by working in the vineyards. But they can't do everything themselves. Even a Burgundian vigneron as well respected as Anne Gros of Vosne-Romanée told me how, in 2010, her harvest was spread out over such an extended period that she simply had to rely on whomever the contractor could supply on a given day for a given vineyard.
It is hardly surprising that the proportion of French grapes that are picked by machine continues to rise each year, even though one would expect the widespread unemployment in southern Europe might translate into increasing numbers of potential grape pickers moving north each autumn, as was traditionally the way. A group of workers might start in the earliest-maturing vineyards of Roussillon and gradually move north towards the latest harvest in the Loire valley, always visiting the same estates.
Further east, and with some of the world's steepest and most difficult-to-work vineyards in the Mosel Valley, German vintners have for years had to rely on eastern Europeans to take over from the increasingly elderly native Germans with experience of vineyard work. Poles and now Romanians regularly invade German vineyards for the annual grape harvest, some of them leaving their own farms back home to be cared for by migrants from even more straitened economies such as those of Belarus or Moldova. This phenomenon is not unknown in Iberia, where, at least until Spain's short-lived economic boom, Spaniards would migrate north to pick crops in France while an increasing proportion of the work on Spanish farms has been done by immigrants from North Africa - who have also been employed by Italian farmers.
American vineyards, and especially those in California, have long provided the most dramatic lesson in dissociation between wine production and viticulture. For almost as long as California has had a flourishing wine industry it has depended utterly on the skills of a Mexican labour force whose knowledge of vines, vineyards and viticulture generally far outstrips that of those whose names are on the labels. Mexican skills and speed of tasks such as picking and grafting have a worldwide reputation and, only partly thanks to well organised unions, pay rates for vineyard workers here tend to be rather better than elsewhere. We have even seen over the last decade or so the emergence of some wineries actually owned and operated by the descendants of Mexican families who arrived in California as itinerant vineyard labourers, and an increasing number of California wine producers are now explicitly acknowledging the role played by their hugely experienced vineyard managers.
This is why Mexicans in search of vineyard work determinedly migrate north, whether legally or, very often, not. South American vineyard workers have been notoriously downtrodden, even if not perhaps quite as dramatically as South Africa's farmworkers were until recently. Persisting social structures in Argentina and particularly Chile have traditionally restricted vineyard ownership to a small, economically privileged elite, although this is starting to change, accelerated by the arrival of so many vineyard investors from more socially liberal Europe, attracted by relatively low land costs and predictable weather. But the average South American vineyard worker is very much less likely to see themselves not just as an employee but as part of a winemaking team than, say, their Australian counterparts.
Australian wine producers may have an admirably democratic attitude towards those they employ in the vineyard, but the problem is, even more than in Europe and North America, an acute shortage of vineyard labour. The Australian bush is famously under-populated and in recent years pointed bamboo coolie hats and carefully swathed Asian scarves have become commonplace sights in Australia's vineyards as the wine industry has leant more and more on labour from the likes of Cambodia and Vietnam, countries with long traditions of skilled agricultural workers.
For all these reasons, the technology industry has in parallel worked hard to develop ways of mechanising regular vineyard tasks, not just picking but pruning, pre-pruning, lifting canopy wires, trimming, and even banking up vines in preparation for particularly cold winters. (The mass migration from country to city in China is already having implications for the burgeoning wine industry there, for example.) But, as was proved in Coonawarra in South Australia, fine wine viticulture can often be too sensitive and complex to mechanise completely. And this is likely to be accentuated as the world learns to cope with increasingly unpredictable weather patterns.
So I see sourcing of vineyard workers as a serious and pressing problem for the world's wine producers, wherever they are. It seems inevitable to me that the cost of vineyard labour will have to increase - and we consumers will have eventually to pay for it.
Millionaire splurges on luxury bubbly
4th April, 2012 by Martin Crummy
A Saudi millionaire is reported to have paid US$136,000 for a six-litre bottle of Champagne in Dubai over the weekend.
The man bought the Methuselah of Louis Roederer Cristal in the early hours of Saturday morning for him and his friends.
The vintage bottle is believed to be one of three available worldwide. There are, apparently, two other bottles for sale at nightclubs in New York and London.
The unidentified Saudi national was described by bar staff as a ‘well educated gentleman… who spoke several languages and ordered the bottle in French.’
It is reported that the Cristal bottle was from the 1990 vintage originally intended for the Millenium celebrations.
The manager of the club refused to reveal anymore of the evening’s bill, saying only that it was “very high” and included a “luxurious dinner”.
It was confirmed that the Dubai club bought the Champagne at Christie’s auction house in London at a cost of around US$93,000.
This Champagne has always done particularly well at auction – in January a magnum of Louis Roederer Cristal brut rosé 1985 doubled its high estimate to settle on £748.
'Mixed' findings from Bordeaux 2011
Harpers, by Gemma McKenna - 03 April 2012
Initial reports from tastings of the Bordeaux 2011 vintage are mixed - with strict selection and “smart winemaking” some excellent wines have been produced, while others have been less successful.
The British wine trade has decamped to the region for a hectic week of meeting negociants and chateaux and tasting their latest offerings.
Stephen Browett, chairman of Farr Vintners, visited the Northern Médoc and in particular the appellations of St Estèphe, Pauillac and St Julien yesterday. He blogged: “What is becoming very clear to us is that 2011 is a very mixed vintage. This is certainly not one of those years when wine-makers could let nature take its course. Far from it. There was a really challenging growing season full of complications and difficulties. It seems that those who had the biggest problems to face have vineyards in the Northern sector of Pauillac and the Southern part of St Estèphe.”
He said Cos d’Estournel had an excellent 2011 “but not without massive sacrifices in the selection process”. There will only be 9,000 cases this year - half the amount of last year and a third of what was produced a decade ago, said Browett. “By contrast, there will be 21,000 cases of Pagodes which is consequently a very good second wine indeed.”
Lay & Wheeler’s Nick Dagley blogged: “It would be fair to say that right bank seems stronger than left, with clay and limestone Merlot working well and some great Cabernet Franc. Also some good surprises from less ambitious but sure to be good value wines and an interesting line up of Médocs who have already pre-released prices, including the excellent Beaumont.”
Bibendum’s Juel Mahoney said despite 2011’s challenging weather, winemakers have adopted the “‘when you have lemons, make lemonade,’” philosophy. “They have produced small quantities of good fruit, with strict selection and smart winemaking they have made some very good grand vins.”
She singled out Chateau Palmer’s grand vin as “the team favourite of the day in the Left Bank”, describing it as “unctuous and velvet with great texture and plenty of ripe, classy fruit”. “It was not only a technically good wine, but it also had charm,” she said.
But others didn’t live up to expectations - such as the Lafite-Rothschild. “It is a very good wine. However, tasting it was a bit like watching a technically brilliant tennis player who plays all the shots but who does not really connect to the emotion of the game. Excellent, but not thrilling,” she said.
Will Lyons of the Wall Street Journal expects “price falls and probably value” from the vintage. But the Independent’s wine critic Anthony Rose is less confident of significant changes in pricing. “On a scale of 1 – 10 what are the realistic chances of Bordelais coming down by 50% or less for #bdx11?,” he tweeted.
As online reviews and tweets about the vintage started to gather momentum, Gavin Quinney, owner of Chateau Bauduc, warned via Twitter: “Worth remembering that at this stage, the more you talk up #bdx11, the more it will cost consumers.”
Craft Wine : What the Wine Industry Can Learn from Craft Beer
April 2, 2012 by Jules Van Cruysen
The wine market is crowded. There are thousands of wineries jumping up and down screaming, ‘ME, ME, ME!!!’, all trying to tell a story about what makes them different. It’s a story that wine buyers and potential customers are getting bored of.
It is not the top tier of producers we are talking about – those making truly fine wine. While fine wine has problems of its own, there will always be demand for the best of the best, whatever the price. Neither is it the industrial wine producers, for whom style trumps substance, who use cold hard cash to open the right doors and who, largely, cater to the lowest-common-denominator drinker.
The producers I am talking about cover the middle ground – independent, small- to medium-sized producers making good everyday wine.
Who are they competing with for shelf space, for by the glass listings, for column inches? Not fine wine, and not corporate industrial wineries – they’ve already bought that shelf space, those listings and that media attention. In truth they are competing with their neighbors – other independent producers.
Now, take a look at the beer market according to The Brewers Association. Overall beer sales by volume are decreasing every year, yet the market for craft beer is stronger than ever. It has grown by figures between 7 and 12 percent for the past couple of years. To put it simply, craft beer is making huge gains in a sector that is contracting.
How are craft beer producers doing this? The answer is simple – they have mobilized their consumers around a set of shared principles to advocate on their behalf – not only to drink craft beer, but to demand it at restaurants, bars and liquor stores and to force it into the hands of family and friends.
To get an idea of this, watch this video. If only wine lovers were that passionate and driven! Those are real consumers and, even more powerfully, front line sales people. And how have craft brewers achieved this?
Innovation, colaboration and risk taking.
To Greg Koch, CEO and co-founder of Stone Brewing in San Diego, wineries have to be genuinely innovative, if they are to succeed in the same manner that craft breweries have. He states that for wineries who want to embrace a craft beer ethos of innovation, style and collaboration, the trick “is to actually do those sort of things!” He believes that the success of the craft brewing industry is due to the fact the “the true differentiation was in the beer itself.” He poses the question: “What does true innovation look like in the wine world?”
Koch encourages small wineries to look at their larger competitors for cues about “what not to do”, particularly when it comes to sales and marketing. He also points out that, from the get go, craft brewers wanted to be authentic – which to him means being authentic in every part of your business practice, not just your product.
More than any industry today, the craft brewing industry is one that celebrates collaboration – that recognizes that a win for one craft brewer is a win for entire industry. This collaboration is taken to its logical conclusion – it is now the norm for craft beer brewers to get together and brew one-off collaborative brews – exchanging ideas, techniques and skills for the betterment of all involved.
While this does happen in the wine industry, it is the exception and not the rule, and it tends to be concentrated at the very top tier – you all know the names. This is despite the fact that collaboration happens every day in the wine industry – winery one sells grapes to winery two, for example – and no one seems very keen to be public with it.
The consumer is smart enough to understand that the reason winery one sells grapes to winery two is not that the fruit isn’t very good, but rather that it just isn’t suited to making the type of wine winery one wants to make or that the vineyard produces more wine than winery two can sell.
Why can’t those two (or more) wineries use their collective marketing power to sell wine for both or all of the producers involved? One great example of this from my neck of the woods is the 2010 Riesling Challenge. The idea is simple – give 12 fantastic winemakers the same fruit and then see what they come up with. The wines are released in packs of 12, one from each winemaker. This forces a winery’s customers to try other like-minded producers’ wines – but it also means that those 11 other sets of consumers may be trying wine from an unknown or off-the-radar producer. Beyond that, the media spin-off from a collaboration also raises the profile of the producers, as well as exposing others to the message they are trying to communicate in a exciting, fun way.
Collaboration also happens on an international scale. It is pretty normal for winemakers from different regions to visit others and work in other wineries over harvest time. Why not make collaborative wines – small scale, one off wines that push the boundaries as craft beer collaborations do – with all parties taking a share to sell in their respective cellar doors and on their mailing lists? For Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, the Danish ‘Gyspsy Brewer’ who brews beers for his brand Mikkeller at different craft breweries in Europe as well as in the UK and USA, international collaboration brews were important in gaining name recognition in new markets, thanks to the prestige of working with a well-known and respected local brewer.
The craft beer industry is also one that takes risks. Luke Nicholas, owner of Epic, a New Zealand craft brewer who specializes in hoppy pale ales and lagers puts it quite simply: “Try new things. It’s great, following tradition and making wine that everyone else is making, but why do that when someone or many others are already doing it? Do something unique, own that space.”
He also acknowledges that there are other challenges for wineries – that beers can be brewed several times a year, ingredients for making a unique product sourced from anywhere in the world, while turnaround is generally a lot quicker. However, wineries also have advantages, he points out: “the special thing wineries have going for them is the geographic location and the wine maker as a personality.”
That connection to a place, as well as to the people who make the product is becoming increasingly important, not just for wine lovers, but for average eaters and drinkers as well. For the craft beer industry, it means social and corporate responsibility with a special emphasis on having a craft brewery being a positive force in the community. As Greg Koch states: “I think that if you want to be important in the community, you have to be important to the community” and more than that, it has to be “a natural part of who you are as an entity.”
The biggest risks the craft beer industry took have paid off, big time. Craft brewers chose to collectively define themselves against the status quo of mainstream industrial brewers’ “fizzy yellow beer” that still represents the majority of the beer market. In doing so, they created the market for craft beer. To seize this opportunity, wineries have to be prepared to do the same – collectively differentiating themselves against mass-produced industrial wine, but also teaching the consumer what they do stand for – in many ways, the same principles as the craft breweries.
How those principles are to be interpreted is up to the collective of producers who embrace them. Obviously this may entail some commercial risk. But isn’t doing nothing even riskier?
Which Comes First – the Winery or the Farm?
March 12, 2012 by Kristina Anderson
How many of us haven’t, at some point, fantasized about leaving it all to go run a winery? This dream always seems to entail lunch shared with friends and family, a light dish accompanied by a bottle of one’s own red wine, eaten al fresco and overlooking breathtaking views of one’s own vineyards. A labor of love? Yes. An idyllic life? Maybe.
There seems to be an innate tendency to idealize farm life. This author’s own father moved his family from urban Chicago to a working Wisconsin dairy in pursuit of the pastoral. In spite of coming to learn how misplaced this dream was for her family, thirty years later the author conveniently found herself in ignorance of the fact that wineries are farms, too. And while they must live in the day-to-day reality of working a farm, many of these winery owners are finding clever ways to seek the idyllic life.
Julie Johnson, winemaker and owner of Tres Sabores in Napa Valley, recently shared how she has integrated the vineyards into their larger farm business. “All I’m really looking for is an authentic Napa Valley reality that resonates for my family and our guests and works for us in an earth-wise and financially viable way,” she comments. She established the winery in 1999, she adds, “as a natural offshoot of wanting to explore the dynamics of the land. Establishing a winery helped to keep the energy on site, especially since we live here as well.” It also helped pay homage to history; as the story goes, her lands were used to grow petite sirah as far back as pre-prohibition times.
Johnson’s is just one in a growing number of vineyards across the country who call themselves farms and who are producing more than wine as part of a more integrated approach to farming. Chris Hall, General Manager of Napa’s Long Meadow Ranch, relates: “Our integrated organic farming system includes world class estate-produced olive oil, a substantial herd of grass-fed Highland cattle, an organic vegetable garden, and an egg-producing poultry flock. We even breed and work our own Appaloosa and POA (Pony of America) horses and keep two teams of Haflinger draft horses.” The aim, according to Hall, is to create a modern, commercially successful version of the family farm, while at the same time being acknowledged as a purveyor of fine food.
Lise Ciolino, owner of Montemaggiore in Sonoma County, explains, “Through the years, we’ve realized that we needed a poly-culture since multiple crops lead to fewer pests and diseases. Crop diversification also means huge risk reduction when one considers the unpredictability of Mother Nature. We’ve realized animals can play a huge role in providing fertilizer, cultivation, and weed control—in addition to food. Our goal has become making our small family farm a complete ecosystem—farming organically, growing multiple crops, and raising different types of animals.”
Brook Drummond, General Manager of Skipstone in Alexander Valley, CA points out that, to Owner Fahri Diner, a third generation olive farmer from Cyprus, “it’s really important that the estate operates in a symbiotic relationship with nature.”
Don Coe, Managing Director at Black Star Farms in Michigan suggests the land—and industry competition—dictated Black Star’s model. “We farm 160 acres—not all suitable for grapes –so we have a mix of vineyards, orchards, hayfields, pastures, woodlots, other fruits and vegetables, etc. all growing for processing by our various on-farm businesses and retailing directly to consumers,” he says. “For us it creates our unique selling point. We knew that there would be rapid growth of the wine industry and we wanted to ensure that we would be a ‘must see’ winery. We do this through the breadth of our offerings: a winery, distillery, creamery, inn, restaurant and vineyard café, bakery, farm market, stables and farm animals. All of which celebrate the bounty of the land and the artisans who produce the products from the land. We support and practice value added agriculture and agricultural tourism as well as offering something of interest to all of our visitors. The most important aspect of our business remains the winery and all the other businesses are here to support the winery.” Coe points out, “the idea was to have our wines benefit from the regional food movement and vice versa. When you enjoy the Raclette cheese with our wine you know that the cows were grazing on hillsides facing the vineyards and the two products, that pair so well together, are an expression of place.”
Getting “back to nature” is a common theme that runs throughout this integrated farm-winery model, and it usually means growing other crops and raising livestock. “The plantings I’ve established at the ranch myself—pomegranates and citrus, herbs, cover crops, and decorative landscaping—augment the health of the vineyards,” says Johnson about Tres Sabores. She’s at work restoring a large grove of olives planted over 130 years ago. She also raises sheep and guinea fowl as a source of manure (for fertilizer) and as a way to deal with the material side-products of wine production. Rather than pay one company to cart away the seeds, stems, and skins after pressing, and the barrel lees removed during clarification, and then pay another to return later with the compost required for fertilizing the vineyards, Johnson instead makes use of the byproducts by layering them with the sheep’s manure to create her own, rich compost. That’s just one benefit to owning the sheep. “[Another] side benefit to the critters,” she notes, “is that they’re entertaining, often very sweet to be around, and are terrifically tasty when cooked and served with wine. Everything has a consequence: having a farm winery means that I marshal those elements into a system that really works in an integrated way.”
This is no small feat. As Montemaggiore’s Ciolino points out, “Having a complete farm means understanding additional crops and animals—and understanding how to leverage their benefits! Instead of just understanding vineyard design, grapevine pests and diseases, and vine pruning methodologies, we must also understand olive tree pests and diseases, pruning of olive trees, olive harvest methodologies, and olive oil pressing technology. Having sheep and chickens means that we must understand animal husbandry, pests, diseases, and nutrition.” For all the hard work, the payoff is worth it. “Farming is a 24/7 business. You are always working, but it’s never a job,” she says, pointing out that she feels their family farm provides a healthy, fulfilling lifestyle for the whole family.
In a world of mass consumption and growing landfills, this “back to the earth” approach is a gentle reminder to consider our connection to our food sources. Sarah Cahn Bennett, co-owner of Navarro Vineyards, notes, “As a society, we have forgotten how to farm, process, and preserve. Not that everyone out there should go raise sheep, or can tomatoes, but go produce something, realize how much work it is, and what the value is, question how sustainable you think it is. We are so dependent as a society on just running to [a grocery store] and picking up dinner.” Navarro Vineyards incorporates cover crops between vines to reduce sedimentation and encourage beneficial insects, raises dairy cattle for its creamery, and uses sheep and chicken as a fossil-fuel-free method of mowing, suckering, and limiting pests. Chickens, apparently, provide “some of the best manure out there and work great at debugging vineyards, “ she says, “but aren’t really mowers.”
That’s where sheep enter the picture. Deborah Walton, the owner of Canvas Ranch in Petaluma, CA, has been leasing out Babydoll Southdown sheep to Sonoma and Mendocino wineries for years. She chose this particular breed for three reasons: they are small (only 24 inches at the shoulder) and therefore easier to handle, can be used for both wool and meat, and were on the endangered species list. After receiving a grant to test these sheep on the vineyards at California Polytechnic State University, a business was born.
Walton admits that many wineries hesitated to “get into the whole new arena of farming by owning sheep. So, I offered to simply loan the sheep for 3-4 months to graze and then bring them back to home pastures for the summer and fall to breed, have their lambs, and care for our property.”
Babydoll Southdown sheep are a rare breed, and it follows that they would be pricey. Even so, Walton has found wineries have been increasingly interested in purchasing the lambs to raise for meat as well as for their ability to work the vineyards. Navarro Vineyards raises Babydolls to graze in the older vineyards throughout the growing season, allowing the farm to use the sheep almost 10 months of the year. They chose the sheep because “they are herbivores that can live with very little outside input,” says Bennett. “We are grape growers but we spend a lot of time fussing over our ground covers and growing grass anyway. Sheep are very gentle of the vines. They also graze with minimal erosion concern which is good for our hillside and help controls fire danger.” For Ciolino, the decision was easy: “Cows would rip out the grasses, roots and all, making a bit of a mess. Goats on the other hand, would eat everything in the vineyard including the fence posts and irrigation hose. So, sheep are a natural choice for vineyard floor management.”
One of the reasons wineries seem to exist outside the realm of traditional farming is perhaps the fact that wine has always been seen as a luxury good. Wine grapes quickly lose their magic when paired alongside more banal crops—let alone with sheep manure. To produce your own applesauce is quaint, to produce your own wine is elite. Wine is so standalone, that is seems both sacrilegious and funny for wineries to produce anything but the elixir of the gods.
But what if this weren’t the case? What if we came to think of grapes for wine as just any other crop? As Johnson explains, “I don’t subscribe to the ‘wine as hallowed elixir’ hype. A gift of the gods—yes!—but only in the context of being able to really enjoy the beverage with great food and fine friends. I figured that it made absolute sense to be a winegrower who also supplies some of the other ingredients for the table.” Sarah Cahn Bennett says, “to me wine is something you enjoy with food, and farms are food. Being a winemaker and enjoying wine is exciting, but it’s only part of the experience. Food is a big part as well.”
All this raises the question: which comes first, the farm, or the winery? Do we call these types of places farms with winery components, or do we say that some wineries also operate as farms? Wine with its infamous markup and income potential probably does mean the farm’s vineyards will inevitably reign supreme. It really depends on the farmer, and how she wants to identify herself. Will this newest generation of vintners be able to reconcile the status of being a vintner with the day-to-day lifestyle of running a working farm? Or will they remind us that there is no real difference?
Sunny Site + Gravity Flow = Quality Pinot Noir
Copyright © Wines & Vines
When Richard Blair discovered Pinot Noir and became inspired to grow grapes that would make a great wine, he did what many people do: He planted the family farm. In his case, however, the family had 300 acres of farmland in the foothills of southeastern Pennsylvania. “Unfortunately, not much of the land was suitable for quality grapegrowing,” Blair told Wines & Vines. “The slopes weren’t right, and too much was northeast facing.” In 1998 he planted 8 acres of winegrapes high on a hillside at 1,050 feet—and, most importantly, facing south. He put in varieties appropriate for cooler Pennsylvania sites: Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and (his personal favorite) Pinot Noir. What he didn’t realize at the time was that while his hillside Rockland Vineyard faced the right direction, the woods surrounding it limited the amount of sunshine available to the grapes. Initially Blair sold some of his grapes, and then in 2004 he opened a small winery at the Rockland Vineyard. He might have stayed right where he was with a small winery and 8 acres of vines, but his eldest daughter, Missy, had also been bitten by the wine industry bug. She encouraged Blair to find a vineyard site that would allow the winery to expand in the future. “I definitely learned it is best to find the site for growing quality grapes and not to plant the farm,” Blair says with a smile. Greenwich Vineyard He made numerous trips to France—especially Burgundy—and to Oregon to learn from growers and winemakers working with Pinot Noir and other grapes in somewhat cool and cloudy environments. “I came back from trips to Oregon in 2005 and 2006 knowing what I needed to find,” Blair stated. He placed an ad in a local farming publication for sloping farmland that faced south. While he had several responses, most farmers seemed somewhat directionally challenged, and the land available was definitely not facing south. When Blair first saw the property he would eventually buy, it was covered in a half-foot of snow. After searching the Internet for geologic and weather data, taking soil samples and appraising its viability for growing grapes, Blair bought 35 acres in April 2007. The land now known as the Greenwich Vineyard (pronounced the Pennsylvania Dutch way: “Green-witch”) was 300 feet lower than Blair’s home vineyard, totally open with no woods, and the 10°-15° slopes faced southeast, south and southwest. Blair firmly believes that sites like his Greenwich Vineyard bring out the quality of the grapes. “It’s not just the growing-degree days,” he states. “It’s all about the increased amount of sunshine from early morning to late afternoon. If you can find a good site for Pinot Noir, I think we can do remarkable things with Pinot Noir on the East Coast.” By May he had planted 10 acres, and has added approximately 5 acres each year since then. A total of 23 acres are now planted with Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Pinot Noir, and he is considering planting some Sauvignon Blanc this year. The winery With the vineyard site planted, Blair turned his attention to designing his winery. One Oregon winery he visited particularly inspired him. The three-tier, gravity-flow winery at Penner-Ash Wine Cellars in Newberg, Ore., appealed to Blair because of the potential for gently handling the grapes as they were moved from picking lugs to fermenting tanks, and the wine from barrel storage and finally bottling. The hillside Greenwich site was ideal for building a gravity-flow winery. Blair, who worked in the family real estate development and construction company Blair and Son Inc., now located in Paoli, Pa., outside Philadelphia for many years, designed the basic plan, while the finishing details were done by a local architectural firm, Home Field Advantage, in Pottstown, Pa. The top level is the main entrance into the winery and consists of the tasting room, a kitchen, offices and an outside covered tasting pavilion. Grapes also come in from the vineyard at this level, and lugs are dumped into the destemmer-crusher or directly into fermentors on the middle level. The lowest level is built into the hillside and contains the stainless steel tank room, the barrel room, a bottling area and finished bottle storage. Because the building is based on bedrock, there is no heat in the lowest level. The natural geo-thermal temperature remains between 55° and 65°F in the barrel room, while the storage room gradually shifts from a low of 40° to a maximum of 70°F in the summer. The winery was built in 2009-10, with Blair acting as his own general contractor. The facility opened in summer 2010 and is now producing 12,000 gallons of wine. Initially, Blair handled everything from growing the grapes through making and bottling the wine. He soon realized, however, that he prefers to be in the vineyard and leave the winemaking to his consultant, Catherine Peyrot des Gashons, and her assistant, Hilary Gary, who does cellar work and some wine marketing. Peyrot des Gashons, who graduated from the University of Bordeaux, has worked at wineries in Burgundy and Oregon and currently lives in Philadelphia. Gary worked as a financial planner and now is both learning from Peyrot des Gashons and participating in the enology program at the Harrisburg Area Community College. All grapes are handpicked into lugs, which are delivered to the top level of the winery 2 tons at a time. Some of the whites are fermented as whole clusters, while others go through the PMH crusher-destemmer that Blair bought from More Wine in California. Chardonnay goes directly into barrels for fermentation. Primary fermentation occurs on the second level in 1-ton bins and in variable-capacity tanks ranging in size from 1 to 5 tons, which Blair purchased from GW Kent in Ypsilanti, Mich. Various strains of yeast are added to the different lots of wine depending on the varietal and style of wine that Blair is planning to make. Punch down is done hydraulically by a special piece of equipment by the SK Group, which Blair found in France and purchased through Pleasantville, N.Y.-based Prospero Equipment Corp. It takes approximately five minutes to punch down a cap using this equipment. Pressing is done using the 35-hectoliter press manufactured by SK Group and sold by Prospero Equipment. Blair believes that vari ety in barrels is the best way to achieve a balance of flavors, and consequently he has acquired barrels from a variety of sources including Dargaud & Jaegle Tonnellerie (from Premier Wine Cask), Tonnellerie Cadus from Bouchard Cooperages and Seguin Moreau. Chardonnay is the only variety that Blair ferments in oak. He uses 228- and 400-liter barrels for the Chardonnay and, depending on the season, leaves it in the barrel for seven to 10 months. All of his other wines are fermented in open-top fermentors; Pinot Noir is then put in French oak (90%) and Hungarian oak (10%) for between nine and 13 months. Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are left in French and Hungarian oak for between 11 and 15 months. Because the winery is gravity flow, Blair does not own a must pump. When he does pump a wine—from tank to the bottling line, for example—he uses a Liverani pump from Prospero. His hoses are all 1.5 inches. Blair’s bottling line is one not usually found in the wine industry. He acquired the line from SBC Bottling and Canning Group in Chicago, Ill. It has a five-spout filler and does between 700 and 800 bottles per hour. The winery receives its bottles in bulk from Hauser Packaging. After the wine is bottled, it is stored as clean skins in wire cages that Blair imports from France. Cardboard cases are used only for transporting wine from the winery to restaurants or Blair’s other tasting rooms. The challenges Winegrowing east of the Rockies offers numerous challenges; along the entire East Coast including Pennsylvania, hurricanes are an annual problem. Growers prepare by applying appropriate sprays throughout the growing season, but the intensity and duration of different storm systems can have a major impact. The harvest in 2011 was more difficult than most. Hurricane Irene arrived with strong winds and many inches of rain; it was followed within a week by Hurricane Lee. “Our vineyard survived Irene okay,” Blair reported, “but Lee stayed around for a week, and grapes started to rot. As a result, we didn’t pick half the vineyard.” However, Blair reports that his Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer were fine. Later red varieties such as Cabernet Franc and Syrah had 11 days of sunshine that helped color accumulation, and those wines are coming along nicely. Marketing is another challenge, although major metropolitan population centers are not far away. Blair is located just west of Allentown, Pa., 70 miles from Philadelphia and less than four miles south of Interstate 78, a highway that feeds directly into New York City about 100 miles east. The winery belongs to the Berks County Wine Trail, a group of eight wineries that sponsor four weekend events during the year: Wine and Chocolate in February; Food of the World, April 21-22; Christmas in August, Aug. 4-5; and Wine and Cheesecake Pairings, Oct. 6-7. As many as 1,000-1,200 customers come to visit the winery during the Wine and Chocolate weekend, while the other weekend trail events attract about 600 people. In addition, Blair holds winemaker dinners once a month at the winery, which can seat up to 60 people. Future plans At some point, Blair plans to add more vineyard acreage at the Greenwich Vineyard site. He has 20 acres in vines now and could add between 5 and 9 more acres in the future, possibly adding some Sauvignon Blanc. Although the winery was constructed less than two years ago, Blair already has plans for its expansion. “I’d like to add a cut-and-cover cave to use for product storage—both barrels and finished product,” he said. The tasting room, which currently is approximately 1,000 square feet, also is proving to be too small. The covered patio outside the tasting room may be enclosed while a new, larger patio is added closer to the vineyard.
Italian wine now 22% of global market
Decanter, 19 March 2012
After a record-breaking export year, Italy now has nearly a quarter of the global wine market, according to the latest statistics.
National statistics agency ISTAT reported exports of Italian wine rose by 12% to more than €4.4bn.
Exports by volume were also up, by 9%, to 24m hectolitres, giving Italy a 22% share of the global wine market, the agency said.
The US was the most significant export market in value terms, followed by Germany and the UK, while Germany was the leading importer of Italian wine by volume.
Prosecco led the charge with a surge in shipments of more than 17% to the US, ISTAT added.
Giovanni Mantovani, director general of Veronafiere, which organises the annual Vinitaly trade fair, said there had been ‘a growth of professionalism’ among Italian producers of all sizes.
‘So, alongside great names, it is now easier to find small producers who are appreciated in restaurants and wine bars around the world,’ Mantovani added.
‘Everyone finds their own channel or market niche based on their potential.’
Italy outstripped France to become the world’s biggest wine producer in 2010 – the last year for which figures are available – bottling nearly 5bn litres of wine.
More than 4,200 producers are due to exhibit their wines at Vinitaly, which is held on 25-28 March in Verona.
Bordeaux 2011: Merlot succeeds in 'unpredictable' year
Decanter, 16 March 2012
The first London tasting of 2011 right bank wines has confirmed oenologist Denis Dubourdieu's comments that the vintage is as varied as the bizarre weather patterns that produced it.
In his annual report the renowned consultant talks about the ‘unpredictable consequences’ of the incredibly hot spring, cool July, rainy August and Indian summer.
Winners this year are Merlot-based wines on clay and limestone soils, Cabernet Sauvignon on gravel and clay-gravel, the botrytised sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac, and the whites of Pessac.
Cabernet Franc, when it worked, was exceptional, Dubordieu said.
Producers from St Emilion and Pomerol and their neighbouring appellations, in London yesterday for the Cercle Rive Droite 2011 tasting, agreed.
‘It was the best year ever for Cabernet Franc,’ Paul Goldschmidt, owner of St Emilion Grand Cru Classe Chateau Le Prieuré said.
One of the oddest factors in the ripening cycle, across Bordeaux, was the spring, which saw temperatures in the high thirties – ‘true summer weather’ as Dubourdieu calls it.
Then came a summer characterised by ‘persistent drought’, including a heat spike of 40C for two days in June which roasted grapes on the vine. Up to 20% of the Cabernet crop was lost, the Merlot faring better, possibly because its wide leaves provided protection.
August rain then swelled grapes, diluting the flavours in some areas, followed by ferocious hailstorms at the beginning of September, devastating vines in St Estephe especially.
This was followed by an Indian summer, with a ‘spectacularly dry’ September.
On the right bank, in areas where clay and limestone predominates, producers are pleased with their Merlot – Dubourdieu recalled tasting ‘delicious Merlot grapes from clay and limestone soils’.
But, he warned, ‘Merlot grapes from gravel soils were not nearly as good, and those from sandy or silty soil were downright disappointing.’
Right bank producers say it was a difficult vintage to ripen, and one requiring a good deal of work in the winery, extensive sorting, and the powerful tannins needing particularly gentle extraction.
‘Those that tried to extract more flavour ended up with dry, astringent wines,’ Alain Raynaud, who consults for some two dozen properties on the right bank, said.
‘It was a winemakers’ vintage,’ Helöise Aubert from Vignobles Aubert, owners of eight properties including St Emilion Grand Cru Classe Chateau La Couspaude, said. ‘The Merlot was very successful but you had to have a very smooth extraction to be gentle with the tannins.’
Raynaud added, ‘It was a very strange year. At the beginning of summer we seemed to be on the verge of disaster, our grapes burnt by the sun. But those berries that were left gained in intensity.’
Making the Switch
March 2012- Copyright © Wines & Vines
What to know when pursuing mechanical winegrape harvesting.
It’s faster, it’s cheaper, and proponents claim the quality has never been better. In fact, some say machine-harvested grapes often arrive at the winery in better condition than hand-harvested fruit. But what does a grower need to know to make the switch? What are the costs and potential savings, and what preparation is necessary in the vineyard? As machine harvesting grows more prevalent, Wines & Vines is talking to growers and other experts to gain a better understanding of what vineyard owners and winemakers should know if they want to use the method. Cheaper and faster Like everything in the vineyard, the cost of machine harvesting depends on a host of variables. Yet most sources we interviewed said machine harvesting costs about a third to half of what it costs to hire a crew to hand-pick grapes. John Ledbetter, a partner and CFO of Lodi, Calif.-based Vino Farms, said it generally costs about $40 to $50 per ton to harvest with a machine. To pick the same grapes with a hand crew, it would probably be closer to $100 per ton. Add to that the cost of the tractors and trucks still needed with a hand crew, and the cost is closer to $150 per ton. Vino Farms manages more than 13,000 acres in 10 California counties stretching from Sacramento County in the northern Central Valley to Santa Barbara County on the Central Coast. Most of the company’s acreage is machine harvested. Ledbetter said machines are faster and far more efficient. Two to four people operating machines can replace a crew of 60 to 70 laborers. “It’s pretty easy to do the math on that,” he said. Ledbetter said that some of the early harvesting technology was pretty rough on the vines. A few decades ago, he said, you could tell a machine had gone through by telltale signs of battered vines and torn canes. “Today, with the technology that’s out there, you have to get out of your truck to see if the vines were picked by machines.” The new technology is also being embraced by the next generation of winemakers, whom Ledbetter said have seen the advantages of machine harvesting. Towle Merritt is a viticulturist with Napa, Calif.-based Walsh Vineyard Management Inc., which operates the new Pellenc Selectiv’ Process Harvesters. In a general example, not including hauling and with the assumption that grapes are being picked into half-ton bins, he said the Pellenc system will average $140 per ton, while a hand-harvesting crew would average $385 per ton. (Those costs also include loading area, ground support and night harvesting as a constant.) Merritt said the machines may require 90-120 minutes of cleaning, service and set up to be ready for the next shift. Once at a vineyard, they can be picking about 30 minutes after warming up. In comparison to a hand crew, the machines are not just faster but also require less supervision and extend the working day. Merritt said the machines can average about 1.25 acres per hour. The main interest in Walsh’s machines has been quality, Merritt said. The top priority for clients in the Napa and Sonoma area is to preserve the condition of their grapes. “Saving money at harvest doesn’t work at all if we cannot meet our clients’ high wine quality expectations. Our clients are specifically requesting Pellenc Selectiv’ Process Harvesters. We have other harvesters available to our clients, but many do not want to use them. The economics gets them to the door; the technology and quality of harvest pushes it over the top, no matter what the headline is in the business section.” On the Central Coast Gregg Hibbits, general manager at Mesa Vineyard Management, based in Templeton, Calif., said Mesa owns seven harvesters and manages five more. The company uses nine Gregoire machines, two from Braud and one Pellenc. He said costs for machine-harvested fruit tend to average $300-$350 per acre. When compared to hand harvesting, which Hibbits said can run $150-$200 per ton, machines are often the cheaper option. He added that growers should be aware that new machines with equipment like onboard destemmers can yield fruit so clean that they may lose money on total weight. Mesa mainly farms large properties, so Hibbits said he will park a machine at the vineyard until harvesting is finished. He said the company does some custom harvesting, and Hibbits said he likes to have at least 24-hour notice. He admits, though, that harvest is often “organized chaos,” and he’ll just shoot for noon on the scheduled day to pick. On the Central Coast, Hibbits said machine harvesting has gone mainstream, and only the smallest vineyards (one to two acres) are still harvested by hand. Greg Kovacevich, owner of Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Vineyard Ops Inc., said he gained a few new clients for machine harvesting during the past vintage because of a lack of labor. He said many of his clients already have long-term agreements that spell out whether to harvest with machines or not as well as the responsibilities of the harvester and grower. Contracts can vary based on what costs the growers and wineries may be willing to shoulder, such as hauling the harvested grapes. Kovacevich said he prefers just to harvest and leave the hauling to his clients. Kovacevich said growers need to determine if their property can be harvested with machines and if the winery on the receiving end can process machine-harvested grapes. He said many of his machines get scheduled at large vineyards for the duration of harvest. In between those larger picks, Kovacevich said he likes to fill in the gaps with custom harvest jobs for growers with vineyards in the range of 20-30 acres. He prefers to visit a vineyard in the winter or spring to get a sense of the terrain, but if a grower calls him and needs a machine, he can probably arrange for one the same week, sometimes with just 24-48 hours notice. “Harvest is so fast and furious, it’s really difficult to make too many long- range plans,” he said. While he can run the machines at any time of the day to pick, he prefers to operate at night, when it’s cooler. Vineyard Ops has six Braud machines and can harvest from Lake County to the Central Coast. In past vintages, Kovacevich said he’s gone from Healdsburg to Paso Robles and can be set up to run in 20 hours. “When you’ve only six weeks to make 90% of your revenue, you make it happen,” he said. 90% in New York Dr. Timothy E. Martinson, senior extension associate with Cornell University, said that even in New York—the birthplace of the mechanical grape harvester in the United States—some growers were skeptical of machines. These were owners of smaller vineyards who prided themselves on producing premium grapes. However, as technology improved from some of the first-generation Chisholm-Ryder machines to harvesters with gentler processing methods, more growers opened up to the methods. And it takes just a few challenging vintages for growers to see the benefit of harvesting in terms of acres per hour rather than days. “That seems to change a lot of minds about it.” Now Martinson estimates that more than 90% of the region’s winegrapes are harvested with machines. In addition to being cheaper and quicker, Martinson said the machines enable growers to manage the varying ripening patterns of the many different varieties of grapes in the state. Some trellis styles like split canopy, Lyre trellis and head-trained vines do not work with machine harvesting. Older wires, posts and sprinklers may not be able to hold up to machine harvesting. And just like other vineyard machines, harvesters can be limited when the ground is saturated after heavy rain. While the harvesters continue to improve, many hillside vineyards remain inaccessible. Machines may require fewer workers, but operators need to be trained to drive the machines and coordinate the speed of the harvesting apparatuses, machines and ancillary trucks or tractors. Operator must dial in Mark Neal, owner of Napa Valley vineyard management company Jack Neal and Son, owns two Pellenc harvesters. “They’re beautiful machines, and they do a great job,” he said. “It does a fantastic, clean job, and if you have the right operator that’s dialed in correctly, it makes all the difference in the world.” Neal said he has seen an increase in demand for machine-harvested fruit, and that’s largely because quality has improved. “It’s not always 100% the answer, but the quality aspect of the machines is something a lot of people need to look at.” Some of the newest machines feature sorting systems on board, but one limitation to mechanizing can arise if a grower has to contend with rot or other crop problems. “At some point you have to accept a hand crew going through and selecting out clusters or sending a machine through that picks everything,” said Dr. James Wolpert, viticulture and extension specialist for the University of California, Davis. The challenge of mechanically harvesting fruit infected with Botrytis has been one of the reasons that the method has not caught on in Oregon, said Kevin Chambers, chief marketing officer for Oregon Vineyard Supply, which includes the vineyard management company Results Partners. He added that grower concerns for quality also have limited the spread of mechanical harvesting. “First off, most of Oregon’s production is focused on the highest quality portion of the production spectrum. In that vein, mechanically harvested fruit has always been viewed as suspect. Some larger growers (or) wineries have moved in that direction to reduce costs, but they find that the machines aren’t used enough to amortize the cost, so the savings are suspect.” Chambers also observed that many of the state’s vineyards are located on steep hillsides and were established with trellising that makes mechanized harvesting difficult. “I do think there will be a place for mechanical harvesting in Oregon, but it needs to be planned from the start.” Big initial costs New machines can cost around $350,000, and even used machines can fetch prices of $100,000. Wolpert, the UC extension viticulturist, said that demand could outstrip the supply of available machines. The benefit of quicker mechanized harvesting is obviously lost when a machine can’t get to your vineyard in time. How demand will balance supply in the next few years remains to be seen. “The question is how in sync will that be.” While Virginia is home to a fast-growing wine industry boasting nearly 200 wineries and almost 300 vineyards, Virginia Tech’s Dr. Tony Wolf said he believes only one winery has a mechanical harvester. “Some of us have talked about cooperative ownership or custom harvesting, but nothing has been done on that here,” he said. “We don’t have economic models to inform us what size vineyard or what grapes are valued at to justify a harvester.” Wolf also reiterated concerns about dealing with rot. “Sure, it’s one thing to use the harvester to beat a hurricane with a few days’ advance notice—if the grapes are nearly ready to harvest anyway. But if the grower is willing to accept some loss to rot in return for higher wine quality potential of the remaining fruit, she will be forced to go in and sort the fruit at harvest; something the machines don’t do a good job with.” Merritt, of Walsh vineyard management, said buying a new harvester is a serious undertaking. “Buying new technology harvesters is very capital intensive. One should consider that having one harvester is not a robust business plan. Other considerations are the learning curve, equipment transporter requirements and having mechanics that can work on them,” he said. “We see this as a highly specialized business with economies of scale playing a big factor in keeping down costs and quality of service high. Owning the harvester is 50% of what is needed to be successful; the other 50% is the hard part.” In California’s Central Valley, more than 95% of all the region’s grapes are harvested by machine, and Nat DiBuduo, president of Allied Grape Growers, expects that number to rise to 99%. When asked if that trend will likely cont inue through the rest of California, Wolpert is unambiguous, saying, “Yes, no doubt about it.”
Wine Barrel Process Cuts Risk of Brett
15 March 2012-Copyright © Wines & Vines
Oregon woodworker says Brettanomyces contamination reduced with shaved and toasted barrels.
A shave and a tan may be a prescription for eliminating Brett-contaminated barrels, according to studies performed by ETS Laboratories on behalf of a Salem-based barrel company. Founded in 2009 by master woodworker Todd Dollinger, Rewine Barrels LLC refurbishes wine barrels by shaving 3/16-inch (about five millimeters) from the staves and then toasting the exposed wood to restore the barrel’s original flavor profile. Tests this winter by ETS Laboratories in St. Helena, Calif., confirmed that Rewine’s patent-pending process could rid used barrels of Brettanomyces contamination. “Brett” is a conundrum for many winemakers: Some find a touch in Pinot Noir attractive, but the barnyard characters that the yeast imparts are not generally welcome at the dinner table. A Brett-contaminated barrel is even worse, laying the foundation for all-out spoilage. By shaving used barrels and then toasting them with dry, radiant heat for two hours—rather than steaming or washing them—Rewine appears to have cleaned up contaminated barrels and made them good as new. How it works Peter Salamone, technical manager for Laffort USA and technical consultant to Rewine, believes the key lies in the fact Rewine toasts barrels at 400°F for two hours, During the process, the exterior of the barrel typically reaches a temperature of 190°F. “There’s no organism, not even thermal vent bacteria, that will survive 190°F-plus temperature for over an hour,” Salamone told Wines & Vines. “Treating it longer than 20 minutes actually drives all of those bad components out and enables the toast to refurbish the barrels to like-new status. The chemicals volatilize and come out of the wood.” To verify the results, Salamone took six barrels from a willing winery, then asked the winery to wash three of them according to its own best cellar practices. The other three went to Rewine for refurbishing. Three new barrels of the same make and toast served as controls. The barrels were then analyzed by ETS. Those treated according to winery best practices returned microbe counts in the range of 100,000 per milliliter, while Rewine’s treatment virtually eliminated bacteria. “Best cellar practices didn’t disinfect or clean the barrels very well,” Salamone said. The next phase of Salamone’s trial will examine the character of wines made in the refilled barrels, with an eye to microbial and flavor development. Salamone ultimately hopes to present the results in a formal article. In the meantime, Dollinger circulated a sheet at February trade shows to drum up winery interest. Winemaker experiences Brad Ford, winemaker at Illahe Vineyards in Dallas, Ore., said he accepts Brett as a fact of winemaking life. Illahe, launched in 2006, has a stock of about 80 to 100 barrels and aims to make wine as naturally as possible. It doesn’t engage in cross-flow filtration to address Brett contamination, so any process that eliminates it from barrels is welcome. “We are a natural winery,” Ford said. “I believe I’m adding Brett to my barrels when I put wine in them, so this process means I’m not worried about it already being there at the start.” Ford said the barrels that Rewine refurbishes contribute flavors similar to when they were new, something confirmed by John Grochau of Grochau Cellars in Portland, Ore. “Some of the toasting flavor profile is already innate in the barrel from the original coopering,” he said. Grochau has worked with Rewine since 2009, when he introduced a line of affordable wines to address the prevailing economic environment. “I wanted to see if I could lower my costs a bit and still produce some good quality wine,” he said. “By and large, I try to earmark them for my lower price points, but I do put one of those barrels into every vineyard lot.” He believes that shaving 3/16-inch off the staves promotes a faster aging period, allowing him to bring some wines to market faster. “One of my lower price-point wines is a very quick-to-bottle red wine. It’s seven months in barrel,” Grochau said. “Shaving 5 mm, and working with 22 mm staves, I would imagine we’re getting a little bit better air flow through the barrel, and perhaps even a quicker aging of the wine. That’s another part of my equation that I see as a benefit.” The barrels are holding up fine, Grochau added, and refurbishment has extended the life of the 300 barrels in his cellar. He treats the refurbished barrels cautiously, however, stacking them no more than three high. Salamone, for his part, believes Rewine’s process is good news for wineries, whether they use it to simply refurbish barrels or eliminate Brett. “There’s a lot of 50,000-barrel cellars where 12,000-plus barrels a year are being scrapped out,” Salomone said. “You could conceivably recycle 80% of that. If you’re refurbishing 10,000 barrels, times $800 savings, that’s $8 million per year you can just put right back in your pocket.” Or, he suggested, wineries could opt initially to purchase more expensive barrels, because they could count on doubling their life through refurbishment down the road. “This is a paradigm change in how cellars will manage their oak,” he said. “You can increase your budget for new oak, be cause you can then refurbish it at a fraction of the price.”
Croatia and the New New World
Decanter, 9 March 2012
When will the New World stop being called the New World? Maybe when there is a New New World to take its place.
A trip to the Zagreb Wine Festival convinced me that we are, in fact, about to see that New New World, and that it is called Eastern Europe.
I got a fascinating sense of what is going on viticulturally recently, by visiting the Zagreb wine festival, which gathers together the best producers from Eastern Europe. This year’s event took place in Zagreb’s Museum of Contemporary Art, and was organised by the dynamic duo Ingrid Badurina Danielsson and Irina Ban Vakosavic.
The break up of old Yugoslavia and the emergence of countries such as Croatia 20 years ago have given the wine industry a new dynamism. In the past many of the grapes headed straight to the co-operatives, but now individuals are relishing their chance to make their name and to experiment with both international and indigenous varieties. Wherever I went in the fair I was met by young enthusiastic winemakers, showing off wines that were new in many ways.
Croatia has two major regions, 12 sub regions and 71 appellations. There are 17,000 winegrowers and 800 producers growing 60 varietals, the major three being Grasevina, Mavazia and Plavac Mali (which means little blue and is the ancestor of the Zinfandel grape). The three account for 47% of what is under vine.
What struck me most was the freshness and acidity in both whites and reds. There were some terrific examples of terroir-driven wines with delicious freshness and minerality. I particularly enjoyed Kozlovic Malvazija 2009 from Istria which reminded me of when I first tasted Pieropan’s Soave, a wonderful texture, very elegant with depth of fruit and refreshing minerality,
For the reds the combination of Merlot and indigenous grapes such as Babic, Teran or Plavac Mali were successful and had a delicious black-cherry bite, like some of the wines of Northern Italy. My star red was the 100% varietal Gracin Babic 2008, a pugnacious earthy wine with full mulberry fruit, crisp acidity and bags of character.
The problem came with some reserve wines, when power and oak handling strangled any sense of place. One winemaker told me he left his grapes on the vines three weeks longer for his reserve wine; it showed in the contrast between his delicious, drinkable regular selection and the reserve’s extracted dead fruit.
What is exciting is that the raw material is here and, as important, the determination. I will definitely be going back--with some of the best winemakers only having two or three vintages under their belt, there is a lot to look forward to.
Mixing Tanks With Air
Wines & Vines, March 2012, by Laurie Daniel
Winemakers like Pulsair for cap management and mixing blends.
During the most recent harvest at Silver Mountain Vineyards in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains, a compressor pumped air into hoses connected to three evenly spaced valves near the bottom of a 4,000-liter tank of fermenting Pinot Noir. There was a blub, blub, blub sound of air bubbles, then the fermenting juice erupted through the cap of skins at the top of the tank. It was Pulsair technology in action. Simply put, Pulsair uses large bubbles of compressed air or another gas to mix a tank. The bubble can be introduced from the top of a tank, using a probe, or through other mechanisms at the bottom of the tank. Wineries large and small use it for cap management—as a substitute or adjunct to pumping over or punching down in red wines—or to combine a blend. Jerold O’Brien, Silver Mountain’s owner, likes Pulsair for several reasons and uses a portable unit on all his reds. “Rising bubbles of air are absolutely the most gentle way to mechanically mix,” says O’Brien, who doesn’t use pumps at his 6,000-case winery. In addition, the process is less labor intensive than his other cap-management regimen, which he calls a “drain over” because the juice is drained from the tank into bins, which are hoisted with a forklift, then drained through a hose over the cap and back into the tank. Not exactly new Pulsair technology was introduced to the wine industry about 25 years ago—the company calls its wine system “pneumatage”—but not much has been written about it. O’Brien and other winemakers who are fans of the process talk about how gentle it is, resulting in wines with supple tannins. Pulsair also allows winemakers to aerate the must, which helps with healthy fermentations, mitigates reduction issues and assists with even distribution of any additions to the tank. Some say that the process even helps blow off excess alcohol. The technique of using a bubble of air to mix things was developed about 30 years ago by Dick Parks, who was looking for a way to gently mix some salmon eggs. He went on to establish Pulsair Systems Inc., based in Bellevue, Wash., which now has customers in more than 40 countries and a variety of industries. The oil industry is Pulsair’s biggest customer, but in 1985, Parks got in touch with Doug Gore, now executive vice president for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, who at that time was red winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle in eastern Washington state. “For some reason, (Parks) got fixated on wine and grapes and (whether Pulsair could) work in a winemaking context,” Gore says. Gore says he tried Parks’ device, which involved piping the compressed gas under stainless steel discs at the bottom of the tank, on some square, open-top concrete tanks, but it didn’t work properly. “It’s the geometry of it,” Gore says. Pulsair did, however, work “wonderfully well” on some 2- to 3-ton open-top tanks. “That was the start of it,” he says. Parks, meanwhile, experimented with the technology at some other wineries, refining it as he went along. Gore became winemaker for Ste. Michelle’s Columbia Crest, and when that winery installed some new stainless tanks, he got in touch with Parks. “We’ve used it ever since for mixing our large tanks” during blending, he says. For that purpose, inert gas, usually nitrogen, is used. Gore says that Pulsair is turned on when the tank is 85% to 90% full, and “by the time it’s filled, your tank is mixed.” Use with portable wand These days, Columbia Crest, which has annual production of about 2 million cases, also is using Pulsair in some of its red wine fermentations, says current winemaker Juan Muñoz Oca. Pulsair capability is built into 15 of Columbia Crest’s blending tanks, but for fermentations, the winery uses a portable system with a wand that’s inserted through a racking valve. The wand is moved so that a pulse of air is dispensed toward the side of the tank close to the operator, in the middle and on the far side. Muñoz Oca says that one person watches from above the tank to make sure the whole cap gets wet. He uses it only on open-top fermentors; the other tanks, he says, have only a small opening on top, so “you can’t see the burp.” Pulsair is available in a variety of configurations, says Skip Brunhaver, Pulsair’s head of sales for the western United States. There are several compact, hand-held models suitable for use on bins and small tanks. The next step up, he says, is a wheeled “wine cart” with multiple valves and a controller. A portable unit that’s big enough for a 20-ton tank, he says, costs a little less than $4,500, plus accessories and the cost of any necessary modifications to the tank. The top of the line is a Pulsair system with permanently installed injection valves and a computer system. Brunhaver says that such a system for eight tanks or more would cost about $5,000 to $6,000 per tank, including the computer. That’s the type of system that will be installed at Villa San-Juliette’s new winery in Paso Robles, Calif. Winemaker Adam LaZarre plans to use a fixed, computerized system on a variety of tank sizes. “I’m going to outfit everything with Pulsair,” he says. A primary reason is the labor-saving aspect. “I’m a one-person show in the winery,” he says. He also liked the results he saw when he worked with the technology at Monterey Wine Co., a custom-crush facility in King City, Calif. LaZarre says he compared some Pulsair lots with wines that had been put through pump overs. He thought that Pulsair provided better tannin management because extraction could be more carefully controlled. The system he is installing can be switched between using compressed air and inert gas, so he also plans to use it for blending and making additions to tanks. “I’m going to use it as often as possible,” he says. Automated versions save labor The labor-saving aspect can be huge with the automated systems: You just program how often and for how long you want the air pulses. Brunhaver described a large winery, which he wouldn’t identify, that installed a Pulsair system in 40 tanks. The winery was able to cut 11 workers from each of two shifts. But for many wineries, the main reason for using it is the gent leness of the process. That’s why Luisa Ponzi, winemaker at Ponzi Cellars in Beaverton, Ore., likes it. Although she doesn’t use Pulsair every year, she employs it for vintages “where that use of air is important (because of reduction issues), or I want to be more gentle” because the grape clusters are fragile. She also uses it for mixing additions into her white wines. “It’s really a great tool,” she says. However, she notes that it’s possible to overuse it. Too much can strip color and aromatics, she says. “There’s a learning curve at first.” Brunhaver acknowledges that overuse of Pulsair can be a problem. If you run it for too long, he says, “you make mush out of the wine.” Brunhaver also says that the process, used properly, provides more uniform extraction and eliminates hot spots in the fermentation tank. Winemaker Neil Collins, for one, hasn’t seen much of a downside. Although Collins, winemaker for Paso Robles, Calif.-based Tablas Creek Vineyard, says he was a skeptic at first, he now sees Pulsair as a good tool. “It seems to be gentle and effective. We’ve seen absolutely no detriment,” he says. “Wines come out soft and supple.” Videos of a small Pulsair unit being used for winemaking are posted on pulsair.com and pneumatage.com.
Copyright © Wines & Vines
The secret of a great wine list? Keep it short
Decanter, 8 March 2012
Restaurant wine lists should be slim, seasonal and pared-down, Decanter’s guest columnist Tom Harrow – aka The Wine Chap – argues this month. Harrow, whose website winechap.com reviews and recommends restaurant wine lists around the world, reckons the days of 40-page wine lists are over.
‘Who wants to linger over a 40-page restaurant wine list?’ he asks. ‘Two people and a …200-bin list means either a hasty choice or one person staring at the wall for 15 minutes.’
Harrow quotes Xavier Rousset MS of London restaurants Texture and 28:50, who has said that it’s easy to create a great large list but the real skill lies in creating a great small one.
He approves of such restaurants as Copenhagen’s Noma, voted the best in the world in 2010, listing ‘oddities and also-rans’ rather than tried and tested favourites. Noma offers more ‘Blaufränkisch than Bordeaux on its modest list’, he notes.
Lists should not only be short but rapidly-changing, Harrow says – a strategy that means lower price mark-ups as it requires less stock, and wines shifting more quickly.
‘Consumer choice moves from mulling over which of 20 Riojas to try, to trusting the wine buyer to have one really good one – and then returning to try another as the list is updated.’
Camel Valley and Ridge View top latest blind test
Thursday 8 March 2012 Decanter, by Richard Woodard, and Adam Lechmere
English sparkling favourites Camel Valley and Ridge View came out ahead in a major tasting of 94 sparkling wines – most of them from the UK - held in London last week.
Rosé styles and traditional Champagne varieties were also clear favourites at the second annual UK sparkling wine tasting organised by Stephen Skelton MW, with Jancis Robinson MW, Steven Spurrier and Essi Avellan MW on the judging panel.
But the four non-UK sparklers among the 94 wines tasted fared less well with the panel of 12 judges.
Of the four non-UK wines, the only one to finish in the top 20 was Sainsbury’s Blanc de Blancs from Duval-Leroy at 19. Nicolas Feuillatte Rosé NV was 35th, Domaine Chandon’s Green Point in Australia’s Yarra Valley was 43rd and Lanson Black Label NV 88th.
Skelton said the non-UK entrants had done much worse than last year. He added, that he appreciated that four wines against 90 ‘is hardly a fair fight, but the non-UK wines were selected for quality...and there was no intention to make them appear as second-class citizens.
‘The fact is that the best UK sparkling wines have better fruit, better acidity and greater length than wines grown in warmer climates.’
In a tight round of scoring where only two points separated the top 43 wines, Camel Valley’s Pinot Noir Rosé Brut 2010 was a relatively clear winner, 0.25 points ahead of Ridge View Grosvenor 2009.
Ridge View wines occupied eight out of the top 25 places, while Camel Valley, Breaky Bottom and Chapel Down all supplied three wines each out of the top 30.
The top 18 were all UK wines made from traditional Champagne varieties, and seven of the top 11 were rosés.
In general, wines made from non-Champagne varieties were less successful, although Breaky Bottom’s Cuvée John Inglis Hall and Cuvée Brian Jordan – both made from Seyval Blanc – made the top 30.
Rude or Righteous?
Wine Spectator, 6 March 2012
The vexing issue of what's right, wrong or just borderline in wine etiquette
So what would you do? Here was the situation: My wife and I were invited to a private dinner in the home of new acquaintances. This couple is very much interested in wine—indeed, they attend Wine Spectator's Wine Experience every year—and take pride in their wine collection.
Let me reiterate that we didn't know these people very well. I had met the husband just recently, and until this dinner had never met his wife. My wife, for her part, hadn't met either of them. So we’re not talking here about old friends whom one knows well.
The dinner party started smoothly and we all seemed to be enjoying ourselves. But when the first wine, which our hosts were quite proud of, appeared at the table it was unmistakably (to me, anyway) corked. But nobody said anything.
Here lies the dilemma: In such a situation, do you say something? Or, even though you are sure you're correct, do you keep your gob shut? (As you might imagine, I often have a problem keeping me gob shut.)
What if no one else at the table says anything, not even a discreet, diplomatic question along the lines of, "Is this the way this wine is supposed to taste?" I've used just that construction on other occasions, but since I was the acknowledged "expert" at this dinner, asking such a question would have seemed a little odd.
I decided that because our hosts were very interested in wine—and seemed to be reasonable sorts—I would suggest that the wine was corked. I said as much, trying to put it as mildly and gently as possible. The hosts retasted and agreed that something was not quite right. Then came a brief discussion about whether to find another bottle of the same wine, which would have taken some time. I urged them to instead move on to the next wine, knowing that they had many wines in reserve for dinner that evening.
Was I right to say something? Would you have said something? I frequently find these problems of what might be called "wine etiquette" to be perplexing, even vexing.
For example, I was surprised to read in Wine Spectator's anonymously-written Ask Dr. Vinny feature that "it’s considered rude to invert an empty bottle of sparkling wine in an ice bucket." Really? This was news to me. I've long inverted the empty Champagne bottle in an ice bucket in a restaurant. How else would the server know that we had finished the wine (and might want another bottle)?
According to Dr. Vinny, "There’s no particular reason other than that it’s just seen as improper. After all, we don’t flip over our dinner plates or upend our wineglasses when we’re finished."
Frankly, I don't see why it's rude or improper. Am I missing something here?
These issues of wine etiquette seem to be all around us. For example, if your host hands you the wine list at a restaurant and asks you to make the selection—this happens to me all the time and I'll bet anything it happens to you too—what's the etiquette in deciding how high-priced a wine to choose? I mean, can you really say to the person who's picking up the bill that evening, "So, Susie, how much do you want to spend on wine?" That seems to me to be inappropriate, to say nothing of putting the host on the spot.
On the other hand, as the person asked to choose the wine, you are on the spot. My approach, for what it's worth, is to look for wines that are inexpensive and preferably on the weird side. That way I can turn to the table and say, "I've chosen a couple of wines that you’ve probably never tasted or even heard of. They're not very expensive, but I think you'll enjoy how different they are."
I like to think that the person picking up the tab is silently grateful for my frugality. But for all I know, the host may have wanted a grand California Chardonnay that cost $100 on the list—and could care less about the expense—while I wrongly subjected everyone to a lively, if less dramatic, Spanish Albariño for $35.
Then there's the question of what to do with wines people bring when they arrive at your house for dinner. I often bring wines to other people's homes and make a firm point of declaring that these are gifts and that my host should not feel any obligation to open the wines that evening. That seems to me to be the polite thing to do. Yet my wife and I have had guests who’ve said no such thing, and I've often wondered whether they were disappointed—or worse—that I didn’t pour their wines that evening. Should I have asked if they wanted their wine served? Am I rude not to inquire?
Here's yet another example: What if, in a restaurant, you would like to try a wine in a differently shaped glass than the one in which it was served? I am a major offender (if that is the word) of this sort of thing. Maybe I've spent too much time with Georg Riedel, but I am deeply impressed with the difference the shape of the glass makes to the scent and taste of a wine.
Very often when we are dining at what I call a "wine serious" restaurant, I will ask for a different glass than the one I have been presented with. And yes, I will do this when other people besides my wife are present at the table. Is this wine geekery? Yes, I suppose it is. But is it rude or inappropriate?
My answer to that last question is that it depends upon who else is at the table. Believe me, I didn't do this when I went out to dinner with my parents. They had no interest in wine.
But if the other people at the table are interested in wine, then why not? I recognize that it's an added complication for the restaurant and the server, but a "wine serious" restaurant has just such a variety of glassware for just such an inquiry. But maybe such "geekery" is best saved for the privacy of your own home and shouldn't be pursued in a public space. You tell me.
Of course, there are all sorts of other minor wine etiquette matters, such as:
Decanting: I leave that up to the sommelier.
Smelling the cork: I never do it. You can no more tell the quality of a wine by smelling the cork than you can the quality of a shoe by smelling the sock.
Calculating the tip on a bill chockablock with expensive wines: If the service is good, I leave a tip of 25 percent on the food and then a generous pourboire—just the right word here I think—on top of that.
If you're the person handed the wine list, should you try to ensure that others at the table—especially the women, who often seem to be ignored at such moments—also be handed a wine list? Or at least each couple? I try to do this, but often restaurants simply don't have enough lists to go around.
All of these matters, and more, are part of modern wine life. Is there an invariable etiquette to dealing with these situations? Or is it strictly a case-by-case basis? Have you found yourself perplexed, flummoxed or embarrassed in situations such as I've described? Are you, like me, not quite sure what is or isn't rude? (I spent my formative years in New York, where "rude" is a relative notion.)
It might surprise you to know that even a so-called wine expert finds himself walking on what often feels like a social quicksand. What's a wine guy (or gal) to do?
U.S. and Europe Have Different Definitions of Organic Wine
Wine Spectator, February 24, 2012
A fight over labeling leaves American producers at odds over the meaning of organic, even as the European Union allows added sulfites
What is the difference between certified “organic” wine and wine “made with organic grapes” in the United States? As far as the contents, added sulfites—up to 100 parts per million, or 1/2000th of an ounce in a glass—and that’s it. But on the label, only the former can display the easy-to-understand, green USDA Organic seal that helps producers attract customers seeking “green” products. The distinction has sparked a battle between winemakers over what organic wine should be.
The U.S. standards differ from new rules in the European Union, which as of the 2012 harvest will allow winemakers to use the label "organic wine." (Previously, only "wine made from organic grapes" was permitted.) In early February, an EU committee agreed upon standards for organic winemaking practices—including the allowed addition of some sulfites.
Due to the discrepancy, “organic wine” has been left on unequal footing in a three-year trade agreement, signed Feb. 15, recognizing the U.S. and EU organics programs as equivalent. Most products certified in either the United States or European Union can be marketed as organic in both places starting June 1, eliminating the need to get a second set of certifications. American “made with organic grapes” wines can soon be sold as organic in Europe, but European “organic wine” bottlings with added sulfites will still need to carry the “made with organic grapes” label in American markets. (The same problem persists in U.S. agreements with Canada, which has allowed added sulfites in organic wine since 2009).
“If we could put everyone into the same category who is using 100 percent organic grapes, there could have been about 800 more winemakers around the world who could get into the U.S. market and use the USDA organic seal,” said Paolo Bonetti, president of Organic Vintners, a Colorado-based importer who feels the National Organic Program’s labeling regulations for wine are confusing consumers and stunting growth. With more volume, it would be easier for retailers to devote a section to organic wines.
Rankled by the U.S. rules, Bonetti and three California wineries who specialize in organically grown wines—backed by 35 other businesses and 60 individuals—petitioned the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) in April 2010 to allow all wines made entirely from organic grapes to be labeled “organic,” regardless of whether the preservative sulfur dioxide is added.
Quibbling over a widely used preservative, the group claimed, discourages more winegrowers from embracing organic certification and eschewing synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides in favor of more natural methods. “Without the USDA Organic seal, many consumers don’t understand that it’s an organic product,” said Bonetti, who filed the petition with Barra of Mendocino, Paul Dolan Vineyards and Redwood Valley Cellars. If consumers won’t pay a premium for the organically grown wines, as they do with organic milk, Bonetti said, “there’s no incentive for farmers doing really good work.”
Although an NOSB committee originally approved the petition, the full board voted 9 to 5 to reject it in December 2011, after another coalition of organic winemakers and distributors—including Frey, LaRocca Vineyards, the Organic Wine Works and Organic Vintages—argued to keep the standards the same. They were backed by the Minnesota-based Organic Consumers Association, which collected more than 10,000 signatures opposing the petition.
“If you’re going to call something organic across the board, whether it be wine or bread or pasta sauce, you should try to keep the standard to the highest level,” said California winegrower Phil LaRocca, who has been making no-sulfite-added organic wines for 30 years and helped develop the original standards.
Sulfur dioxide, a naturally occurring compound, is permitted in organic vineyards as a non-toxic fungicide. Added during wine production or bottling, it protects against oxidation and microbes, keeping wine fresh, stable and free of flaws throughout shipping and non-refrigerated storage. A small but growing number of producers make no-sulfite-added wines, however, most winemakers believe some sulfites are essential to making quality wine for commercial distribution.
LaRocca and his group consider the form of sulfur dioxide added to wine to be synthetic, which violates the principles of organics. “Our fear is that this would open the door to other issues. Why couldn’t a breadmaker say they would like to use calcium propionate as a preservative in their breads?” asked LaRocca. He acknowledges that making wine without sulfites is not easy but feels the “made with organic grapes” label is a fair way to accommodate the producers who do so.
In the United States, both “organic wine” and wine “made with organic grapes” are made from grapes only from certified organic vineyards and are produced in certified wineries. But the former have less than 10 parts per million of sulfites, accounting for those that occur naturally during the fermentation process, while the latter can contain added sulfites up to 100 parts per million, well below the 350 parts per million allowed in conventional wine. (The “contains sulfites” label is required because some asthmatics have adverse reactions; while many other people blame sulfites for headaches and allergic responses, these may be caused by histamines and tannins in the wines.)
In contrast, the new EU rules for “organic wine” allow a maximum of 100 parts per million for red wine (compared to 150 for conventional reds) and 150 parts per million for whites and rosés (compared to 200 for their conventional counterparts). Sweet wines are allotted an extra 30 parts per million as more sulfites are typically needed to prevent residual sugar from fermenting in the bottle. Canada allows up to 100 parts per million in its organic wines.
When it comes to the distinctions between organic food labels and wine labels in the United States, even sophisticated organic shoppers can get confused, Bonetti believes. In both cases, “organic” must contain 95 percent organic ingredients, allowing for processing aids for which there are no organic options. However, in the organic foods category, the “made with …” label means the item is only required to have a minimum of 70 percent organic ingredients. For example, a salsa made with organic tomatoes but conventional onions couldn’t be “organic” salsa but rather “made with organic tomatoes.”
Because wine is essentially a single-ingredient product, any wines that just say “made with organic grapes” are entirely organic grapes. A wine that contains up to 30 percent non-organic grapes would have to be labeled with another category—“made with organic grapes and non-organic grapes”—and the grapes must be different varieties, such as 70 percent organic Cabernet Sauvignon and 30 percent non-organic Merlot. (Wines with less than 70 percent organic ingredients can only list that in an ingredients statement, with the corresponding percentage.)
For now, Bonetti is taking a break from the time and expense of trying to change the regulations, concentrating instead on educating customers about organics, labeling and sulfites. But he’s not ruling out a petition rematch in the future. “If someone gives me $40,000 to $50,000,” he added, “I will do it all again in five years, when the 15 board members are all new.”
Bordeaux chateaux boycott Chinese names poster
Decanter, 1 March 2012
Christie’s China has become embroiled in a ‘misunderstanding’ with Bordeaux over translations of chateau names into Chinese.
Last week Christie’s announced it would publish a poster showing Chinese names for nearly all the 61 chateaux of the 1855 classification.
Although this is not the first time it has been done – Ch’ng Poh Tiong, Decanter columnist and publisher of the Singapore Wine Review, set up a phonetic translation system in 2008 – Christie’s head of wine for China, Simon Tam, implied it was official, with written approval from all but a handful of properties.
Now the Conseil des Grands Crus Classés en 1855, as well as a number of chateaux, are refusing to have anything to do with the poster, claiming they did not approve the translations.
The issue of trademarks in China is fraught with pitfalls, they say, with many names awaiting approval from the Chinese authorities.
‘This is a very sticky subject at the moment, and no one has the right to officially make any statement until all our requests and the registration have been confirmed by the Chinese office of trademarks,’ Philippe Delfaut, managing director of Chateau Kirwan told Decanter.com.
Delfaut has boycotted the poster, and Sylvain Boivert, director of the 1855 Classification, told Decanter.com he had the names of at least 17 chateaux that had not given their approval.
Boivert also said the 1855 had given approval ‘for the [Christie’s] catalogue, not for the poster’.
Speaking from Singapore, Tam insisted he had never said this was an official translation.
Moreover, he said, the situation was 'a misunderstanding' due to the fact Christie’s had appended the Chinese characters for the word ‘chateau’ to the approved names, making them two to three characters longer and therefore unfamiliar.
Corinne Conroy, marketing director at Chateau Brane Cantenac, accepted this explanation but said, ‘Nonetheless, we did not wish for the name to look longer. On the contrary, we have been advised by our various importers to keep our Chinese name as short as possible so that it would be easier for the customers to read and remember. This is why we chose the three-character translation that I recommended.’
Tam told Decanter.com he appreciated it is ‘a touchy subject’ but he would not withdraw the poster, of which 500 had been printed to be distributed to the chateaux for en primeur week on 1 April.
Wine experts' ratings may be a wash for many consumers
Penn Stae University, March 1, 2012
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Not all wines are created equal; neither are all wine tasters.
A wine expert's acute sense of taste may mean that expert ratings and recommendations are irrelevant to wine consumers who were not born with the ability to discern small differences in a broad range of tastes, according to a team of international researchers.
"What we found is that the fundamental taste ability of an expert is different," said John Hayes, assistant professor, food science, and director of Penn State's sensory evaluation center. "And, if an expert's ability to taste is different from the rest of us, should we be listening to their recommendations?"
In a taste test, wine experts showed more sensitivity to tastes than average wine consumers.
Hayes said that the participants sampled an odorless chemical -- propylthiouracil -- that is used to measure a person's reaction to bitter tastes. People with acute tasting ability will find the chemical -- also referred to as PROP, or prope -- extremely bitter, while people with normal tasting abilities say it has a slightly bitter taste, or is tasteless.
The researchers, who reported their findings in the current issue of the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture, said that wine experts were significantly more likely to find the chemical more bitter than non-experts.
"Just like people can be color blind, they can also be taste blind," said Hayes.
Hayes, who worked with Gary Pickering, professor of biological sciences and psychology/wine science, Brock University, Ontario, Canada, said that the acute taste of wine experts may mean that expert recommendations in wine magazines and journals may be too subtle for average wine drinkers to sense.
The researchers also found that people who were more adventurous in trying new foods were also more willing to drink new types of wines and alcoholic beverages, but this food adventurousness did not necessarily predict wine expertise. While wine experts were more likely to try new wines and alcoholic beverages, Hayes said they were not more likely to try new foods.
Wine critics typically rate wines on a 100-point quality scale that incorporates a range of characteristics, including tartness, sweetness and fruitiness, varietal typicity and over all liking, among others. Their descriptions of the wines can be specific, highlighting grapefruit or grassy notes, or the balance of sugar and acid. However, according to Hayes, average wine consumers probably cannot discern these subtle differences between wines. While prior experience matters, biology seems to play a role.
Prior to the taste test, the researchers passed out short questionnaires to determine the involvement in the wine industry of 330 participants at wine-tasting events in Ontario. Based on the answers to the questionnaire, they divided the people into two groups: wine consumers and wine experts. Approximately 110 of the participants indicated that they were professional winemakers, wine writers, liquor control agents and wine judges and were classified as wine experts. The researchers classified all the other participants as non-experts.
"Statistically, the two groups were very different in how they tasted our bitter probe compound," said Hayes.
Hayes said that previous studies have shown that biological factors may explain the acute taste of experts. Many wine experts may be drawn to careers in the wine industry based on their enhanced ability to taste. While learning plays a role in their expertise and other factors matter, such as how they communicate their thoughts and opinions on wines, some wine experts may have an innate advantage in learning to discern small differences in wine.
"It's not just learning," said Hayes. "Experts also appear to differ at a biological level."
Does Nitrogen Cause Pinot Leaf Curl?
16 Feb 2012, by Andrew Adams
Researchers analyze mystery ailment at Sonoma County Grape Day.
Santa Rosa, Calif.—In the past three years, the vine sickness Pinot Leaf Curl has struck more often and with greater severity in Sonoma County’s valuable Pinot Noir vineyards. The ailment also can affect Pinot Blanc vines and has been observed less frequently in Pinot Meunier. Pinot Leaf Curl, or PLC, appears during spring; symptoms can range from stunted or distorted leaf growth to severe instances in which an entire shoot and node can die. Rhonda Smith, University of California extension advisor for Sonoma County, made the ailment a focus of Sonoma County Grape Day on Feb. 16. She said she wanted to draw attention to the sickness and explore a possible relationship between the disease and nitrogen. She said the disease, which has been found in every Pinot Noir region of California, is known to be more common during cold, wet springs. Dr. Doug Adams, a professor of viticulture with UC Davis, joined Smith on the panel. Adams said that when vines enter dormancy, they store nitrogen to support growth in the coming spring and summer. When the growing season arrives, the plants convert the stored nitrogen into a form that can be metabolized by the plant. The nitrogen compounds used during this process can also yield putrescine. Elevated levels of putrescine can be toxics to vines, he said. Is putrescine the culprit? The next step, Adams said, is to find a 100% asymptomatic Pinot vineyard and determine “normal” levels of nitrogen compounds. Then researchers can evaluate if symptomatic tissues contain elevated levels of putrescine. “You can find putrescine in most plants, but only in trace amounts,” Adams said. Various terms have been used to describe PLC. Smith said the condition was known, but it has not been a major problem until recent years, when Sonoma County growers began to become concerned by the increased incidence and severity of symptoms. Smith said the condition can reduce crop loads, but it was hard to discern how much of an effect it may have had on the 2011 harvest totals because of losses from botrytis and other, more common pests. Smith also wanted to draw growers’ attention to the fact that while PLC can sometimes look like botrytis, it is a wholly separate condition. She said PLC first weakens tissue, and then opportunistic botrytis finds a way to attack the vine. Therefore, Smith stressed that fungicide applications do not work on PLC. There appears to be some variation in clonal susceptibility for PLC: When present in a vineyard, the condition tends to be found in mature blocks, and mild symptoms can occur in up to 80% of vines, Smith said. Symptoms to watch According to a report written by Smith, symptoms of PLC can range from mild to severe. Onset occurs early in the growing season, most commonly when three or more leaves separate from the shoot tip. The leaves then appear to “bend or fold downward across the middle of the blade, perpendicular to the main vein”—hence the descriptive “leaf curl” name. The vines will appear to have “broom-like growth” with multiple lateral shoots pushing at all nodes, with abnormal leaves until a single lateral becomes dominant. Mild symptoms are often limited to darkened or necrotic regions on the underside of leaves. In a severe case of PLC, the necrotic region will extend to the petiole: Both the blade and petiole abscise from the shoot. If that is a cluster-bearing node, the disease can reduce crop load.
Copyright © Wines & Vines
Muscat Wines Steal Sauvignon Blanc's Slot
14 Feb 2012, Wines & Vines
Sweet, low in alcohol and low-priced, these varieties are cheap to grow by Paul Franson sweet wines Muscats racked up 2.8 million 9-liter case equivalents in the 52 weeks ending Jan 22. Napa, Calif.—It wasn’t that long ago that Pinot Grigio (Pinot Gris) displaced Sauvignon Blanc as the second most popular white wine variety in the United States. Now Sauvignon Blanc has ceded its third place status to fast-growing Muscat wines. Chardonnay remains by far the best-selling wine, red or white. Symphony IRI reports that volume sales of Muscats, generally labeled Moscato, racked up 2.8 million 9-liter case equivalents in the 52 weeks ending Jan 22. For that period, Sauvignon Blanc sales were 2.77 million cases. Muscat sales grew at 70%, while Sauvignon Blanc grew at only 7%; total table wine volume was about 84 million cases, and total table wine sales were $6 billion during the period, according to Symphony IRI. By dollars, Sauvignon Blanc remained in third place with $265 million compared to $186 million for Muscats. This reflects the low retail prices of the most popular Muscats: The average price per bottle was $8 for Sauvignon Blanc vs. $5.54 for Muscat. However, Muscat dollar sales are also growing at 70%, so the variety will likely climb to third place by revenue this year. Like Pinot Grigio, which rose from nowhere to raging popularity in the past decade, Muscats originated in Northern Italy. Patterned somewhat after elegant Moscato d’Asti or Asti, formerly called Asti Spumante, the most popular wines are low in alcohol, frizzante (mildly bubbly) and slightly sweet, with the characteristic floral “grapeiness” of Muscat grapes. The wine is most popular with younger drinkers, but it also appeals to the multitudes that don’t like drier wines: Those who might have chosen White Zinfandel or sweet cocktails. Moscato’s popularity among urban hip-hop and rap performers fueled interest among millennial-generation drinkers. Rap star Drake gave a shout-out to Moscato in his song “Do It Now,” and DJ Khaled, Kanye West, Lil’ Kim and Waka Flocka Flame have all mentioned it in songs or videos. “Real Housewives of Atlanta” reality star NeNe Leakes is creating a “Miss Moscato” line. The varietal has also become a popular club drink mixed with vodka. Muscats have been on the market for some time, including the more upscale ($25 list for 375ml) Robert Mondavi Moscato d’Oro—the most-requested wine in the winery’s tasting room—and St. Supéry’s $16 Moscato, which regularly sells out, has its own wine club and limits on purchases. But like many other wine trends, the recent phenomenon seems to have started with E. & J. Gallo. Gallo introduced Barefoot Moscato in 2008 in response to customer requests for a sweeter, light-bodied wine, according to Stephanie Gallo, vice president of marketing. The wine retains more than 6% residual sugar and a modest alcohol level close to 9%. Gallo has depended on word-of-mouth and some social media, but it hasn’t promoted the wine through advertising, yet Barefoot is now the top Moscato in the U.S., and the company’s Gallo Family Vineyards version ranks third. The company also produces and imports Moscato under at least seven brands, with more coming. E. & J. Gallo’s Mirassou Winery has expanded distribution of its California Moscato to all 50 states. First launched into key U.S. markets last April, the Moscato is priced at about $12 per bottle, comparable to Mirassou’s other wines. Trinchero’s Sutter Home is in second place and also offers variations including Sutter Home Bubbly Moscato and Pink Moscato, Terra d’Oro Moscato and Trinchero Family Estates Moscato. Trinchero also blends Muscat into its popular white wine, Mènage a Trois. Altogether, Gallo is estimated to produce 4 million cases per year, Trinchero 3 million. Most are inexpensive wines, but wines in the teens are also selling well. Jumping on the bandwagon, Australia’s Yellow Tail introduced its version last April, and the brand sold 330,000 cases by the end of the year; it is expecting twice that this year. As with Pinot Grigio, although the craze may have started with Italian wines, U.S. producers are now driving the market. They’ve scooped up all the Muscat they can find—typically ordinary Muscat of Alexandria also used as a table grape—and growers enthusiastically have been planting the prolific grapes. It typically produces more than 20 tons per acre, a necessary yield to produce wines that can sell for less then $5 per bottle. Until the vines mature, U.S wine companies are importing wines from all over the world where Muscat is grown, including Italy. Because Muscat grapes are so fragrant, many producers blend in neutral varieties like French Colombard to extend the volume. The Moscato craze has been compared to that for wine coolers or today’s sweet red blends, but it might be like White Zinfandel, which still remains strong if less popular than in the past; or Pinot Noir, rosés, or Pinot Grigio, which appear to have legs. One thing is for sure: Growers are planting Muscat as fast as they can, particularly in the San Joaquin Valley, where yields are high.
Copyright © Wines & Vines
Organic and Beyond (Jefford on Monday)
Decanter, 20 February
It's been a long pregnancy, but the baby is, at last, almost with us. In the next few weeks, the European regulations regarding 'organic wine' (as opposed to 'wine made with organically grown grapes') are due to be published in the EU's Journal official.
The regulations come into force on August 1st this year, and can be applied retrospectively to wines from the 2011 harvest, supposing they were made in conformity with the new requirements. This year's wines, of course, can be vinified with the rule book in hand. European organic wine will be a reality from this autumn.
The new regulations should ensure that everything which happens to the grapes between harvest and bottling is carried out in an organic spirit. No one, of course, is suggesting that pigeage (punching down) is more organic than remontage (rack and return) when it comes to extracting colour, flavour and tannin from red grape skins, or that there might be an organic and non-organic way to press white grapes. What does matter, if you are wedded to the ideals of purity and naturalness which the word 'organic’ implies, are winery additions. Will ‘organic’ mean fewer of them?
This is a matter of consequence, for the simple reason that ingredient labelling for wine is more lax than it is for foods and soft drinks. Unless you buy all your wine from the heroic Co-operative chain in the UK (or drink nothing but Bonny Doon), you won’t know exactly what non-grape ingredients have been added to your wine, the obligatory mention of sulphites aside. The Co-operative does spell out further additions on its back labels – carboxy methyl cellulose, tartaric acid and pectinolytic enzymes on its Fairtrade Chilean Sauvignon Blanc Riserva, for example (and nothing at all bar a little bentonite and gelatine for fining in the Puerta Colorada Rioja Tinto).
My guess is that most of those buying ‘organic wine’ would do so in the hopeful spirit that it will contain fewer additions than conventional wine. That magic word ‘organic’, though, would be the only clue, since the labelling laws let us all down so badly in this respect.
Alas, these hopes are likely to be dashed. The only snippets we have been offered of the coming legislation is that additions of sorbic acid (potassium sorbate – a sweet wine preservative) will be forbidden, as will the relatively uncommon process of desulphurization. Overall maximum sulphur levels will also be lower than that permitted for European wine in general. A bit lower: 100 mg/l in place of 150 mg/l for red wines, and 150 mg/l in place of 200 mg/l for white and rose wines. Daring this is not: the wines of good ‘conventional’ producers will be comfortably under the new organic limits. And organic producers, it would seem, will still be able to use the full panoply of acid additions, must enrichment, yeast nutrients and enzymes.
I still welcome the legislative development: it’s important to step in the right direction. Remember that the rules regarding organic cultivation are not yet perfect, either. Few organic producers like having to use copper sulphate in their vineyards: there is an unhappy friction between the organic ideal and the reality of spraying a metal residue into your soils. Out of that unhappiness will come progress. Maybe the presence of a different set of rules for organic vinification, too, will begin to convince Europe’s legislators that current labelling requirements for all wine, whether organic or not, need revision.
I’m not saying, of course, that full disclosure of additions would result in better wine. It’s not the presence or absence of an intervention, an addition or an adjustment which matters, but the quality of judgment which lies behind that presence or that absence. Full disclosure would, though, make all winemakers at least stop and think about why they are making an addition – and might spare us some of the wine caricatures which undisclosed, heavy-handed additions create.
Are Americans' Tastes Changing?
Wine Spectator, February 21, 2012 by Matt Kramer
Big coffee roasters and a small bunch of California winemakers think it is.
Did you happen to notice the announcements a few weeks ago about how Starbucks and Peet's are now offering lighter-roast coffees? This was no small thing, and I confess that it took me by surprise. Now, I do not consider myself any sort of coffee connoisseur. Oh sure, I buy whole beans and grind them before making a double espresso in the morning. But compared with the obsessive coffee geeks out there (and if you think wine geeks are nutty take a look at the blogs of the coffee crowd), I hardly count as anything other than an amateur.
Still, I was struck by the report from Starbucks, a company that hardly makes a move without intensive market research. "It took eight months and more than 80 different recipe and roast iterations before we landed on the exact flavor profile our customers told us they were looking for,” said Brad Anderson, master roaster for Starbucks. “They told us they wanted a flavorful, lighter-bodied coffee that offers a milder taste and a gentle finish."
For its part, Peet's Coffee & Tea, a coffee roaster that started in the Bay Area, introduced lighter-roasted beans in 6,400 grocery stores this past summer and will soon serve a lighter-roast coffee in its 197 stores. That the likes of Peet's, which acquired a near-cult following for its extremely dark–roasted beans, is now embracing a lighter roast is as astounding as hearing that North Korea will hold free elections.
Before you snobbishly say that these coffee marketers are merely pandering to middle-brow coffee tastes, consider that the Wall Street Journal noted in a report on this topic that "A raft of new high-end cafes and coffee roasters, including Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago and Los Angeles, Blue Bottle Coffee Co. in New York and San Francisco, Four Barrel Coffee in San Francisco, and Handsome Coffee Roasters in Los Angeles, take the embrace of light roast even further: They only sell light-roasted coffee and say that dark roasting is tantamount to ruining good coffee."
What has this to do with wine, you ask? A whole helluva lot, is my answer. Once again, Americans' tastes are changing. Not all of us, and hardly all at once. (With a population of 300 million people, that's never going to happen.) But make no mistake: As has happened before, the American palate is evolving. Anyone with some age on his or her bones knows that the past few decades have seen stunning changes in American food choices, the great majority of them for the better and more sophisticated.
The same applies to wine. What the market-savvy likes of Starbucks have discovered presages what is, in fact, slowly occurring in American wine as well. It's not a wholesale change. After all, both Starbucks and Peet's are continuing to offer their trademark dark-roasted coffees alongside the new, lighter roasts. Rather, it's a parallel universe sort of thing.
In California right now you can find—hell, you can easily drown in—a flood of, er, dark-roasted red wines made from overripe grapes that, as finished wines, clock in at 15 percent alcohol or higher.
Actually, these already-heady "15 percent alcohol" wines can be even more alcoholic than the stated figure on the label. Not only does the federal government allow a generous leeway of 1 percent from the precise measurement for wines with 14.1 percent alcohol or higher, but winemakers often "water back" the unfermented juice of their overripe grapes, effectively reducing the alcohol-by-volume measurement. But the label piously declares a lower alcohol level. Two deceits are accomplished in one stroke. One is a misrepresentation of the actual alcohol content. The other is a misleading impression of how ripe—or rather, overripe—the grapes really were at the moment of picking, at least if you're naively assuming that the alcohol content actually reflects the ripeness of the grapes at harvest.
As the marketing mavens of Starbucks have discovered, the American palate is seeking an alternative to heavy flavors. Are we becoming—dare I say it?–more nuanced? By golly, I think we are.
Witness the recalibration among an increasing number of California winemakers as to what constitutes "ripeness" in a grape. In a reaction against the wine version of "dark-roasted grapes,” newer producers such as Rhys, Copain, Arnot-Roberts, Peay, Kutch and Parr, among others, have put their pocketbooks where there palates are by making wines (mostly Pinot Noir, as well as Syrah) with alcohol levels as low as 12 percent. Longtime producers such as Mayacamas, Au Bon Climat and Cathy Corison, among others, have quietly gone their own restrained way for decades.
Are these producers the mainstream? Hardly. But when Starbucks and even Peet's have recognized that a good number of their customers want flavors that are less imposing than what originally made these businesses so successful, can fine wine be far behind?
Sure, there will always be a considerable demand for big wines with obvious, outsize flavors and plenty of oak. But the day of the "lighter roast" wine is arriving. It's already here in small, prophetic quantities. The more wine lovers try such wines—especially, even essentially, paired with food—the more a taste for such wines will increase.
Remember, it's already happening at a coffee shop near you. Can you doubt that fine wine is next?
Château Margaux unveils organic and screwcap wines
Decanter, 22 February 2012 by Beverley Blanning MW
Organics and screwcaps could be the way forward for Chateau Margaux, according to new research by the Bordeaux first growth
The estate's managing director and winemaker, Paul Pontallier, claimed that organic farming was the future direction for Margaux. ‘We are very close to organic farming. I think it’s a matter of a couple of years,’ he said at a London seminar.
Pontallier presented 16 wines at the event, including wines produced using alternative farming methods.
The organic and biodynamic examples rated more highly than those conventionally farmed.
Margaux also unveiled its experiments with alternative wine closures on the estate's second wine, Pavillon Rouge.
‘We’ve all been disappointed and frustrated by corked bottles. Another closure would be welcome if it is better,' he said.
While trials on synthetic corks were ‘absolutely catastrophic,' screwcaps fared better.
A 2003 red wine sealed with an impermeable screwcap closure was preferred to the same wine sealed with a cork or a permeable screwcap at yesterday’s event. Pontallier revealed that this was consistent with tests at the estate.
'If we have consistent proof that it works better, I don’t see how we could resist,' said Pontallier on moving to screwcaps.
The same test on a 2004 white wine from the property drew a less conclusive result from both the audience and Pontallier, who preferred natural cork.
‘It’s very difficult to draw conclusions and every time we do these experiments, we don’t agree. Or if we agree it’s on things we don’t expect to agree on,’ he added.
Consumers pay more for tongue-twisting wines
Decanter, Wednesday 22 February 2012 - by Rebecca Gibb
Wine tastes better if a winery is difficult to pronounce, according to new research.
In a study by Brock University professor, Dr Antonia Mantonakis, it found English-speaking wine consumers were more likely to buy wine from a winery with a difficult-to-pronounce name.
Participants also rated wine more highly in a blind tasting, and were prepared to pay more money for the same wine, if it had a name that was difficult to say in English.
Dr Mantonakis said: ''Wines associated with more difficult-to-pronounce names are associated with higher ratings.
'Things that are difficult to pronounce are unfamiliar because they are usually rare,' she added.
'Perception of tastes are different if they are associated with a more disfluent winery name and that result is especially pronounced for high wine-knowledge participants.'
Mantonakis admitted the laboratory findings might not be reflected in wine purchases. 'Whether these results would replicate in a more natural setting is something that we don't know.'
Wine-based cocktails turning heads
The Shout, 20/02/2012 -By James Atkinson
Hunter Valley winemakers may have raised their eyebrows when local bar manager Jamie Walker began using their wines in his cocktails, but he says the concept is taking off.
Walker, of Goldfish Hunter Valley, told TheShout the idea of wine-based cocktails came from his experience bartending in fine dining restaurants with cocktail bars attached in his native home of Scotland.
"I used to have to work on my wine knowledge while working on my spirits knowledge," he said.
"Vermouths came into it quite a lot, when you're making gin martinis you realise they are all wine-based."
Walker, who relocated from Goldfish's Sydney venue last year, said the Hunter location had given him the opportunity to do something different.
"I had a huge arsenal of wines to play around with, and a lot more information on wine than I'd ever had before," he said.
"So I started to match flavours and it all erupted from there."
As well as creating drinks that were local and unique, Walker said the lower alcohol wine-based cocktails on the menu were well suited to the bar's rural location, which is only accessible by car.
"Wine's a fantastic option for lowering the ABV of your cocktail, and it's got so many different, beautiful flavour combinations," he said.
"White wines with gins and vodkas and liqueurs work very well. Obviously with your darker reds, you can start adding whisky, rums, and then you've got your dessert wines which are fortified, they tend to work really well with richer spirits that have a slight residual sweetness to start."
He said he's lucky to be friendly with lots of local winemakers who drink at the bar, and have been very helpful in giving him their ideas on what they think he should do.
"And sometimes what they think I should try and avoid!"
Walker told TheShout that a few of the Hunter's "old guard" were at first sceptical of the concept, but many have since come round to the idea.
He said they understand the value of putting younger drinkers, or people who wouldn't normally drink wine, onto Hunter wines.
Petrus Vies With Ausone as Wine Sales Move to U.S., U.K.
Bloomberg 22 Feb
Feb. 22 (Bloomberg) -- The most expensive Pomerol producers Chateau Petrus and Le Pin are competing with Bordeaux first- growth Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Saint-Emilion estate Chateau Ausone and top Burgundies at sales worth as much as $11 million.
Five auctions are scheduled this week in London, New York and California. Sotheby’s has a top estimate of $1.78 million at its London sale today, Christie’s International of $1.23 million in a U.K. auction tomorrow and Zachy’s of $5.1 million at its two-day Burgundy-focused sale in San Francisco ending Feb. 24. Sotheby’s also has a New York sale Feb. 25 and Bonhams holds events in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles the same day.
Prices for top Bordeaux wines have fallen 20 percent from mid-2011 highs as Asian demand has switched to second-growths and rarer Burgundies. There are signs now of the market stabilizing, with the Liv-ex 100 Fine Wine Index rising 1.4 percent in January, its first monthly gain since June.
“We have had six months of falling prices owing to the selling down of inventories by major market players in response to a two-year fine-wine-market bull run that ended in the spring of 2011,” Miles Davis and William Beck, partners in London- based Wine Asset Managers LLP, wrote its February market report.
Bordeaux’s “very consumer-unfriendly 2010 en primeur campaign, debt crises in the U.S. and Europe and a credit crunch in China” have also pushed wine prices lower, they said.
The 15 percent drop in the Liv-ex 100 Index last year followed two years of gains, with a 40 percent jump in 2010.
Christie’s sale includes cases of Ausone 2000 and Petrus 2001 each carrying a top estimate of 14,000 pounds ($22,200) as well as cases of Lafite 2000 and 2003 valued at as much as 15,000 pounds and 13,000 pounds respectively.
The top estimate for the Ausone 2000 is 44 percent below the HK$306,000 ($39,400) that a case of the same vintage fetched at a Christie’s sale in Hong Kong in September 2010, as the two- year bull market in wine approached its peak.
“There was a bit of a bubble and the auction market for Bordeaux took a hit,” Simon Davies, head of marketing at London-based brokers Fine + Rare Wines Ltd., said in an interview. “The new price structure has settled down now. Asian bidders have got a lot more savvy and they’re not just buying to show off to their friends.”
Sotheby’s features a case of Le Pin 1990 carrying a top estimate of 26,000 pounds and two lots of three Petrus 2000 magnums each priced at as much as 17,000 pounds.
Zachys is holding its auction in San Francisco on Feb. 23 and Feb. 24. Its top lots include half a case of Romanee Conti Domaine de la Romanee Conti 1996 with a high estimate of $60,000, a magnum of the same vintage at $20,000 and a three- liter jeroboam at as much as $42,000.
Zachys also has three cases of Romanee Saint-Vivant Dujac 2009 from San Francisco-based Burgundy collector Wilf Jaeger, who has had an investment in the vineyard since 2005. Each lot carries a high estimate of $30,000, while two three-magnum lots are on sale at $15,000 each and a jeroboam at $10,000.
At Sotheby’s in New York Feb. 25 top lots include two cases of Petrus 1982 with a top estimate of $60,000. It estimates it may sell as much as $1.9 million of wine at the auction.
Bonhams has sales on Feb. 25 in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, with a top estimated value of $1.59 million.
The Liv-ex market in London said its monthly transactions rose 41 percent in January from a year earlier, with increased trading in 2006 and 2008 Bordeaux wines. The 2009s led in value terms and accounted for 13 percent of turnover before U.S. critic Robert Parker releases revised vintage scores this month.
“What we’re seeing now in the market is it’s actually strengthening by diversifying and going outside of the Bordeaux box,” John Kapon, Chief Executive Officer of New York-based Acker Merrall & Condit, the world’s largest wine auction house, said in an interview with Deirdre Bolton on Bloomberg Television’s “Money Moves” Feb. 17. “Other consumers from elsewhere are really looking to Burgundy, they’re looking to Italy, they’re looking to California,” Kapon said.
(Guy Collins and Scott Reyburn write about the art and wine markets for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News.)
--With assistance from Deirdre Bolton and Courtney Donohoe in New York. Editors: Mark Beech, Farah Nayeri.
Russian producers 'on brink of wipe-out' after worst winter for decades
Decanter, 20 February 2012 by Richard Woodard and Dmitry Kovalev
Russian producers are calling on the government to avert a crisis as the worst winter weather in half a century has wiped out up to half this year's wine harvest.
The federal government to take action, one producer said, with another warning, ‘Everybody was on the brink of a wipe-out.’
Temperatures dipped as low as as -30C in some areas, with Chateau Le Grand Vostock, based in Krasnodar’s Krymsk district, recording 15 days with an hourly average temperature of -15C – and three nights below -20C.
‘It is really the limit of resistance for vitis vinifera – especially Merlot – even if we cultivate them with a plough,’ winery director Frank Duseigneur said.
‘The weather is milder and we are now pruning again … The reality of the damage will only be seen in May.’
In Dagestan, leading brandy and fortified wine producer Citadel, whose vineyards are the most southerly in Russia, saw about 600ha of young vines destroyed – described by Citadel’s Oxana Oldakovskaya as ‘the most promising plots’.
‘In 2007 everyone was speaking about the cold, but it was only two days,’ said Villa Romanov owner Andrey Romanov.
‘This year we had some two weeks of bitter cold … We will probably have only half our normal harvest. This would be a good moment for our government to step in.’
Pavel Titov, of sparkling wine producer Abrau-Durso, said it was too soon to assess the full damage, but 40-50% of the area’s harvest had probably been lost.
Abrau-Durso itself had been less affected, since its vines were sheltered from the biting wind and protected from the freezing rain by being covered in snow.
‘We will definitely see dead vines this year in places less protected and closer to the [Black Sea] coast,’ Titov added.
‘Right now it is difficult to speculate how much, but everybody was on the brink of a wipe-out.’
The people business
Meininger's Wine Business International.17 February 2012, By Felicity Carter
The story is a familiar one: British millionaire buys château in France, hoping to spend his twilight years enjoying the vineyards. Millionaire then swiftly discovers the château is a money pit, and the wines are impossible to sell.
Except at Château de Sours in the Entre Deux Mers region of Bordeaux. Former headhunter Martin Krajewski invested in it in 1996, and then bought it outright in 2004. What he got for his money were derelict buildings and a beautiful, if uninhabitable house, with rotten floorboards and a ceiling slowly descending towards the floor. The vineyards were just as bad.
But Château de Sours had one thing going for it: a well-known rosé, made famous by praise from influential UK critics such as Auberon Waugh. The wine came with good UK distribution and an unusually high retail price – £8.00-10.00 ($12.50-15.60). Crucially, nobody else had managed to displace it as the quintessential Bordeaux rosé. From those beginnings, Krajewski has built a portfolio of respected wines, sold in 25 countries.
Today, the château offers spacious entertainment areas, accommodation with rustic charm, and walls covered in artwork. The winery and barrel hall have been rebuilt, the vineyards replanted and equipment upgraded, and the labels redesigned several times. Production is now up to 650,000 bottles. And Krajewski is still firmly ensconsed in the property, although his original intention was to renovate and sell. “Originally we were going to secure it and renovate it and put it in a condition where the next person would come in and do the colours and soft furnishing, but over time we went a little bit further and a little bit further,” says Krajewski. Two and a half years had passed and he realised he couldn’t leave.
Costs were steep: refurbishing the winery was €5m. Then there was the cost of buying more land and getting planting rights, to bring it to 50ha of vineyards, leasing another 35ha. Krajewski faced another, perhaps bigger, problem; the wines, other than the rosé, had a poor reputation. “It was a question of making people listen, to understand there was a new story,” says Krajewski. “We were doing things in a different way, but it needed time.”
The first red vintage, the 2003, was good enough to be going on with, but it was the rosé that saved the day. “I sacrificed a great deal of red production to produce rosé, because that’s what we could sell,” says Krajewski, who raised production from 4,000 cases in 2003 to 8,000 cases in 2004. “From a business perspective it’s a cash crop, because you’re picking in September and it’s on the market from January, unlike the red, which will sit in tank and barrel for 16 to 18 months.”
That period was the start of the rosé revolution, so the timing was good. But, of course, Krajewski wanted to sell red and white wine as well. Fortunately, he had a stroke of luck – the 2005 vintage. “It didn’t matter what you did in the vineyard, because it was such a wonderful year,” says Krajewski. “By then we’d convinced one or two people that the wines were worth buying and the press started to get behind what we were doing.” He says that although 2006 was a difficult year and 2007 was worse, both vintages proved advantageous, because they “allowed us to demonstrate that even in poor vintages we could produce good wine”.
Today, if capital expenditure is stripped out, Krajewski says the château has been breaking even since 2008, even though “the investment since 2008 has been substantial. It will take a long time to recover all of those costs.” He says he now looks at them in a different way. “The buildings, the land, the vines are assets and have a very long life,” he says. “The vines won’t need to be replanted for 40 or 50 years, so that’s done. The new winery will be good for 25 years as long as we maintain everything properly.”
The lesson so far is that deep pockets, coupled with an existing distribution deal, can work wonders. But talk to people who do business with him, and it seems that Krajewski is in possession of another great asset – his ability to build relationships.
Starting out with Drake Recruitment in 1977, Krajewski went on to found his own recruitment company. When he sold the Blomfield Group in 2007, its annual turnover was £100m. Krajewski’s career was a stellar one: he was the first to negotiate a £1m salary for a woman in London and he won a prestigious award for his pioneering work in corporate social responsibility. Recruitment is, above all, a people business, and his relationship skills have stood him in good stead in the wine trade.
Emma Dawson, the wine buyer for Marks & Spencer online says it’s normally difficult for someone to bring out a new product – such as Château de Sours’ new sparkling rosé – and expect to get into a major retailer, adding that most of the approaches people use don’t work: “Unsolicited approaches, people sending invitations on LinkedIn without people knowing you, that sort of thing. It doesn’t work. You need to build your brand slowly.”
But Krajewski’s strategy of being visible at fairs and events works well. “He’s got an old-fashioned, face-to-face business style,” she says. “It’s very unusual for us to work directly with a person who owns a château who has such a hands-on way of working.” She explains that such people tend to surround themselves with consultants who take care of everything. “He’s always there, at every fair, on the stall with his winemakers. That gives us the impression of how much they care.”
Bruce Tyrrell, of Tyrrell’s Wines, Château de Sours’ Australian distributor, says that Krajewski’s success is a combination of things, starting with a good wine that offers value for money and excellent packaging. “We can’t get enough of the Bordeaux red – people are falling all over it,” he says. “When you enter a new market, one of the things that helps is to be seen to be good value, whether the wine is $50.00 or $500.00.” Krajewski can also spot opportunity. “One of the local caterers here catered for eight weddings, and when we showed Martin the sparkling rosé, his eyes turned round like a cash register,” Tyrrell recalls. “Now he’s got a French sparkling rosé on his register and it’s cheaper by $10.00 than Champagne and people look at it and go ‘wow, that’s great value’.” He agrees that likeability is a big factor. “If he’s in a room, people are attracted to him,” says Tyrrell. “If he’s been out with my sales people, he follows up. I’m sitting here twirling a Mont Blanc fountain pen and every time I write something, I think about Martin.” He pauses. “That’s a horrible thought, isn’t it?”
Andrew Caillard MW, the fine wine principal of Woolworths in Australia, says Krajewski is “such a charming man. He’s the kind of guy who would help anybody.”
But Bordeaux has many charming men, not all of whom can sell their Entres Deux Mers red wine. “There is a lot of very poor wine being made in Bordeaux,” agrees Caillard. “Very few have the richness and volume that are expected of modern contemporary wines.” He says it comes down to investment in the vineyards, and too many producers in the region are resting on the claim that they have terroir. “Winemaking technology is essential, even at the low end.” Caillard also suggests that Krajewski bypassing the closed world of the negociant was a big help. “Negociants have far too many brands,” he says. “How many can they sell at exactly the same price?”
Krajewski himself says that nothing beats pounding the pavement if you want to sell wine. “From my days in the City, I know that marketing and PR is one of your most valuable assets, and that creates interest, reputation and loyalty.” He says he runs the château on a transparent basis, and invites people to come and see how things are done.
He also spends considerable time on branding, packaging, reaching out to journalists and updating the website. Then there’s the travelling, as he spends time in each of his markets, as well as at the major fairs. “You have to be in front of people. And don’t try and sell them what they don’t want – if they only want one wine, give it to them.” He adds, “The small guys are just as important as the big ones. They might lead to an opportunity that you’ve never seen.”
Today, production is 40% rosé, with 40% red, 5% white and 15% sparkling. The target is 850,000 bottles by 2013; according to the Financial Times, the business broke even two years ago and expects to be profitable this year. And now Krajewski’s children are getting involved. His daughter Charlotte is studying winemaking at Plumpton College, to which he recently donated £75,000.00, while son Matthew studies oenology at Bordeaux University.
Krajewski is also busy with Clos Cantenac in St-Émillion, which he’s co-owned since 2007. The difference between the two properties is instructive; even at a high retail price and good distribution, Château de Sours needs to sell around 45,000 cases per year to break even. But the substantially higher prices commanded by St-Émilion allowed Krajewski to break even in his first vintage and make money within three years. There is no getting away from the old rules: if you want to make a small fortune in wine, start with a big one. Buy the best terroir possible. Make quality wine. But for those who want to pursue their dreams come what may, the Krajewski story offers other pointers. Product innovation, such as creating a sparkling wine in a region known for still, can work. Pound the pavement. And, above all, build good relationships.
This article first appeared in the Issue 6, December 2011 edition of Meininger's Wine Business International. The full magazine content is only available to subscribers.
Moet Hennessy to make red wine in China
Decanter, 17 February 2012 by Richard Woodard
Moet Hennessy is to make red wine for the Chinese market after investing in a high-altitude vineyard in the Yunnan Mountains near Tibet.
According to French business magazine challenges.fr, the Champagne, Cognac and fine wine business has signed an agreement with VATS, a local wine and spirits business, to plant the 30-hectare vineyard in the south-west of the country.
Vines will be planted at an altitude of about 2,400m, the reports say, and the red wine, which will be released in four or five years’ time, will be destined for the domestic Chinese market.
Moët Hennessy’s move follows the investment of Domaines Barons de Rothschild – owner of Château Lafite – in a 25ha vineyard on the Penglai peninsula in Shandong province, announced in 2009.
Moët Hennessy is already extremely active selling Champagne, Cognac and fine wine in China, and also owns Sichuan-based white spirit or baijiu brand Wenjun, after acquiring a majority stake from owner Jiannanchun in 2007.
Yunnan has been a centre of grapegrowing for some 200 years, with Christian friars bringing vines from France in the mid-1800s for table grape production, Chinese wine expert Jim Boyce says on his blog Grape Wall of China.
According to Yunnan Red Wine, the major wine company in the region, some 2,600ha are planted to vine.
Heroes of the Vine
Andrew Jefford, Decanter 13 Jan
We won't know for six weeks or so if damage has been caused to Europe's vineyards by the prodigiously cold weather of early February. It's only as spring's warmth returns that the difference between a dormant vine and a dead vine becomes apparent.
Since this cold spell has come late in the season, the vines will have had plenty of time to acclimatize and establish mid-winter hardiness. In general, all growers welcome a winter cold snap: it's a natural way of minimising disease and pest risks for the coming season.
The lowest temperatures have been worrying, however. Unless you protect vines by banking the earth up around them during winter, temperatures of -15°C or less (5°F) can kill Vitis vinifera vines, and temperatures as low as -20°C (-4°F) were recorded in Champagne, Alsace and German vineyard regions, in particular over the nights of February 2nd and 3rd 2012. Many regions have had a run of a week or more with temperatures consistently and sometimes substantially below -10°C (14°F). The lack of protecting snow after what had been a generally mild start to winter may be a further aggravating factor. It will be a disconcerting early spring for many growers.
If you want a certainty, though, let me tell you this. I have never been as cold in my life as I was during my latest spot of vineyard touring on those same two days in early February. Was this the Swiss Valais, Germany’s Franconia or Romania’s Dealul Mare? No, it was Châteauneuf du Pape.
Temperatures of -5°C (23°F) or so would, on their own, have been uncomfortable enough, but when you add a Mistral (the north wind which streaks down the Rhône valley) gusting at up to 100 km/hour, the results were skin-stripping, flesh-withering, bone-juddering. (A temperature of -5°C in a 60 km/hour wind feels like -16°C.) Even inside, chill draughts seemed to strafe every room (including the crowded Mère Germaine restaurant in Châteauneuf at lunchtime), while the rage of the wind against the windows of Château La Nerthe as I tasted there was as unsettling as a riot or a siege. Cars rocked, olive trees flailed. The miserable crows had no sooner clambered into the sky in search of a spot of carrion when they were hurled sideway by the wind’s express train.
I ventured up on to the plateau of La Crau with Daniel Brunier of Le Vieux Télégraphe, cocooned inside his 4x4 (4WD). He waved to a band or two of distant pruners, bent over his vines. How did they manage? I toppled out of the car to take a photograph or two and was blown back in, shivering, just seconds later. They, by contrast, worked through most of the hours of daylight. The following day was worse still. “When it’s like this, we find something else for our workers to do,” Gilbert Sabon of Domaine Roger Sabon told me – but someone had still spotted a team at work up in Cabrières, barely less exposed than La Crau.
That was when I resolved to devote a private day of thanks for the work of vine pruners everywhere in the future. It was a rare treat to taste the magnificent Châteauneuf 2010s while I was there, most of them as yet unbottled. It seems at this stage to be a vintage with everything (except quantity – the Grenache was coulure-hit). In particular, the freshness of 2010’s acidity and the shapely poise of its tannins combined with the intrinsic perfume and richness of its fruit makes for a beguiling combination, without the slightly excessive, drying qualities of some of the region’s warmest vintages.
Tens of thousands of us will enjoy those wines – but not a single bottle would be possible without those who are prepared to go out, day after day, through the clenched jaws of winter to cut and shape vines for the coming season. This is work no machine can yet duplicate (though prototypes exist). If there is physical courage and endurance involved in the creation of wine, it belongs to those who wield the secateurs; I certainly caught a glimpse of it on La Crau the week before last.
You might choose to honour France’s St Vincent on January 22nd; you might prefer Bulgaria’s St Trifon on February 1st (or February 14th according to the old Julian calendar); or you might simply adopt your own date between the two. Don’t forget to raise a glass, though, to wine’s winter heroes.
Fury and charges of 'egotism' as Loire's Baumard challenges Grand Cru
Decanter, 13 February 2012 by Jim Budd
Loire producer Domaine des Baumard has provoked fury by challenging the new Quarts de Chaume Grand Cru appellation in France's Supreme Court.
Jean and Florent Baumard of Domaine des Baumard are seeking to have the new decree annulled as well as that of Coteaux du Layon Premier Cru Chaume.
The two new appellations were agreed unanimously by the INAO on 28 September last year.
They set strict rules: yields of 20 hectolitres per hectare for Quarts, and 25hl/ha for Chaume and no chaptalisation. Mechanical freezing or cryoextraction, which had been allowed as an experiment, will be phased out.
Florent Baumard (pictured) told Decanter.com they were not against the idea of a grand cru appellation, but the text of the decree is ‘full of contradictions and errors’.
The Baumards successfully mounted two previous legal challenges to Chaume appellations in 2005 and 2009, arguing that different allowances for yields and chaptalisation for Chaume devalued Quarts de Chaume and would confuse wine drinkers.
‘The producers wanted to have a grand cru at any price. Many want to sell their domaines and think that if it's is a grand cru it will be easier to sell.’
The Baumards' legal challenge has provoked a furious reaction from fellow producers.
Pierre Aguilas, producer and president of the INAO regional committee, said: ‘Quarts de Chaume is a very great appellation and many have worked very hard to bring it up to a standard that merits a grand cru. Now all this work over the past 20 years, here and in the rest of Anjou, is threatened by the egotistical actions of one individual.’
Stéphane Branchereau of Domaine des Forges said, ‘We tried to be conciliatory – for example in the phasing out of cryoextraction – but it hasn’t worked.’
A Fashion for Stones
Decanter, Andrew Jefford- 6 February
It was a grey, rainy start to a winter's day in Chablis: darkness was sliding from the long, sinewy shoulder of hillside outside Didier Defaix's tasting room in Milly.
“I had an Australian winemaker here once,” he remembered. “‘How do you do that?’, he asked. ‘How do you create so much minerality?’ I pointed out of the window, to the Côte de Léchet. ‘We don’t do anything,’ I said. ‘It’s the place that does it. You can create opulence in the cellar, but you can’t create minerality.’ That’s the strength of Chablis. It’s never just fashion.”
Stoniness may be neither new nor modish in Chablis, but there’s nothing more fashionable in other wine regions than the search for minerality, whether real or imagined. Allusions to minerality in tasting notes, too, are now common. A quick flick through the latest copy of the Wine Advocate (issue 198) plus the December/January issue of Australia’s Gourmet Traveller Wine and the January edition of Decanter reveals ‘minerality’ in such diverse wines as a Tupungato Malbec (the 2008 Single Vineyard Viña Cristina y Bibiana Coletto from Trapiche), a Yarra Valley Pinot Blanc (the 2010 Hoddles Creek Estate) and a Châteauneuf du Pape (the 2009 Domaine de la Janasse Vieilles Vignes) -- just three examples among dozens in each publication.
The fact that minerality is the hottest quality in wine right now hasn’t escaped attention in Chablis itself, where it is regarded as a birthright. The BIVB’s Chablis press dossier is entitled ‘De pures émotions minérals’ (whatever those might be). More rigorously, the region’s leading co-operative La Chablisienne has produced an 11-page discussion of the subject, while the Burgundy-based Revue des oenologues published a study in October 2011 entitled (my translation) Wine minerality – a sensorial reality?
Note the question mark: the study showed that there was absolutely no agreement among the 34 Burgundy experts and the 33 trained wine tasters about what minerality might actually smell or taste like, or about the wines in which it was considered to be present (from a range of white burgundies from up and down the region). Some found it chiefly in fruity and floral wines; others seemed to associate it with reductive or lactic notes; a third set of tasters found it chiefly in oaked or spicy examples. The one point of agreement was that it was least associated with slightly sweeter dry white burgundies, and most associated with dryer and more acidic dry white burgundies.
Scientific thinking about ‘minerality’ remains resolutely sceptical. The consensus thus far is that it may be a quality associated with one of the 30 to 40 acids found in wine (and particularly white wine). It may also be a feature of white wines whose flavours are less fruity than most. ‘Minerality’, though, is not a simple mineral residue in wines, nor does it equate to dry extract.
I suspect that the term is beginning to be over-used in wine descriptions: ‘crisp, minerally and tight’ is an almost standard formulation for any fresh, dry white. The basic snare is the assumption that any acidic white wine is ‘mineral’. Low-acid whites like Hermitage Blanc often strike me as more mineral than acidic whites, particularly when high acidity is the result of early picking and hence raw and lacking in glycerol (which seems to act as a vehicle for minerality).
Associating minerality with a lack of fruitiness seems unsatisfactory, though – what about all those slaty Mosel Riesling Kabinetts? I’d also turn tetchy if asked to limit minerality to white wines alone; for me it’s a quality of many of the world’s greatest wines, reds included (we all know about the earthiness of wines from Pessac-Léognan, but those of Roussillon and Priorat can be decidedly mineral, as can wines from Bendigo, the Pyrenees and Heathcote in Australia). Principally dry? More nonsense: minerality is a structural element of the composition of sweet Loire wines and Tokaji Aszú, as well as Germany’s sweet Rieslings and unctuous, low-yielding Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris in Alsace.
The problem, I suspect, is that we are too literal about minerality as a tasting descriptor. Write or say ‘mineral’, and we instantly imagine vines growing in stony rubble, sucking mineral juice from them, and pumping it into the grapes. It doesn’t happen. We have to forget those images if we are to understand the use of the term as a descriptor.
We have no trouble accepting that blackcurrant, cherry, chocolate and coffee are meant analogically (though the words, understandably, often puzzle newcomers to wine). Minerality is no different. Its use in wine description is primarily metaphorical, to describe a distinctive sensorial spectrum which evokes stones, rocks and earth (something which anyone who has ever dug a garden or hammered a rock for fossils will be familiar with). Yes, it’s a quality common to many fine wines -- though it’s not essential, either. We should be fastidious about using it, but unapologetic when we find it. Why? Only wine can do that.
What kind of wine grape harvest will 2012 bring?
NBC 9 Feb 2012
KENNEWICK, Wash.—The success of the wine industry is largely based on the weather, but with the cold snap in 2010, and the rain in 2011, what will we see in this year's wine? The overall tone is hopeful.
Wine grape growers at the 2012 Annual Meeting and Trade Show sponsored by the Wine Grape Growers Association say they predict they'll have a good year.
"Well it's going to be an interesting year that's for sure. We've had some freezes and we had some heavy water issues that have related to an extended season," says Lynne Chamberlain, WA Association of Wine Grape Growers.
"With the winter we had it has been real easy on them and this point we should have a full crop," says Paul Champox, grower for 33 years.
"We're optimistic. We've had a good winter, not a log of very cold temperatures and decent snow pack in the mountains for irrigation," says Brenton Roy, grower for 15 years.
Last year growers say they were down by 20% to 25%. Temperatures plummeted from 20 degrees to the negative single digits within days. Vines and buds were not acclimated. However, many say a down year typically means a good year isn't too far off.
"We seem to be on the downside of a cooling trend so we're hopeful that we will see warm weather early on. We'll get a rain profile from now to April or may filling those soils and getting us back on track," says Lynne Chamberlain, WA Association of Wine Grape Growers.
The Annual Meeting and Trade Show for wine grape growers and wine makers lasts through Friday at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick. It's one of the largest events of its kind in the country.
Austria chases lower UK prices
9th February, 2012 – The Drinks Business,by Gabriel Savage
Austria is seeking to reduce its average UK price significantly in a bid to broaden its exposure and boost volume exports to one million litres a year.
In a move that contrasts with other generic bodies, Willi Klinger, head of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, described Austria’s current UK average ex-cellar price of €7.50 as “way too high.”
Insisting that “we have something to offer at lower price points too,” he remarked: “We must make it easier for customers.”
Setting out a target average price of around €4.50, Klinger emphasised that his aim was not to see Austria targeting supermarket entry levels, except in the case of a particularly large harvest, but rather to expand its presence in the UK’s gastropubs and what he described as “ethnic” restaurants.
In an effort to support this goal, AWMB will launch a new brochure entitled Cool Wines by the Glass, at next month’s ProWein.
Designed as a tool for the trade, Klinger outlined its message that “There’s more than entry level Grüner Veltliner to sell by the glass. We have local grape varieties, aromatic varieties, red wines and rosé.”
This strategic shift would bring the UK more closely in line with other key export markets. Austria’s average export price rose last year from €2.50 to €3.00, a level which Klinger is keen to maintain “even in the higher harvest volume vintages.”
By retaining this average price but increasing export volumes to a target of 70m litres, Klinger suggested: “An export value of €200m could be achieved.”
He announced the goal in the wake of a year which saw Austrian wine achieve record total exports of €126 million in 2011, despite a 25% drop in volume to 46.5m litres after the country’s small 2010 harvest.
Breaking down this headline figure, Klinger attributed the country’s success to a 5% value increase in bottled wine sales, a sector that has tripled in value since 2000. In contrast, he noted: “Bulk wine went below 10m litres in 2011 and we want to keep it that way”.
Controversial call for watered-down drinks
8th February, 2012 – The Drinks Business, by Alan Lodge
Health minister Anne Milton has called for alcoholic drinks in the UK to be watered down as part of government efforts to tackle binge drinking.
The controversial proposals will put her at odds with the industry and would cause legal difficulties when it comes to the classification of certain drinks.
Under European Union rules, for example, any European vodka must be a minimum 37.5% abv. The same law applies to any drink calling itself “gin”.
Elsewhere, both the Scotch Whisky Act of 1988 and EU legislation specify a minimum bottling strength of 40% abv for Scotch whisky.
Milton, however, said the coalition government was determined to see a “significant” reduction in the number of units in beer, wines and spirits across the board.
Ministers are now hoping for a voluntary agreement from the drinks industry to water down their products.
Speaking during a Westminster Hall debate, Milton told MPs that the government wanted to “remove a significant number of units of alcohol from the UK market through changes in how alcohol is produced and sold”.
She added: “Quality above quantity is something we’re aiming to do. We can’t turn this problem around overnight but we’re deadly serious about a deadly problem.”
Milton clearly has not recognised the efforts of many major drinks companies to reduce their alcoholic content. Brewer AB InBev has already agreed to make small reductions in the alcohol content of its products, with major brands such as Budweiser, Becks and Stella Artois seeing their abv cut from 5% to 4.8% last month.
Diageo has also announced the UK-wide roll-out of Guinness Mid-Strength, with an abv of just 2.8%.
Likewise major wine brands such as First Cape and Banrock Station have similarly released low-alcohol wines to help drinkers cut down on their alcohol intake.
Department of Health sources have also confirmed that one of the ideas under consideration is the introduction of higher taxation for stronger alcoholic drinks, while Prime Minister David Cameron is still firmly behind the idea of introducing a minimum pricing scheme which would stop the sale of alcohol at below 40p to 50p a unit in shops and supermarkets.
However, as has been noted on many occasions, such a scheme would more than likely be illegal under EU rules.
Record Austrian exports defy forecast
12th January, 2012 – The Drinks Business, by Gabriel Savage
Austrian wine achieved record exports of €126 million last year, despite a 25% drop in volume.
Latest figures from Statistik Austria reveal that, despite exports falling to 46.5m litres in 2011, the country achieved a 2.6% increase in value exports.
This resulted in a surge in Austria’s average price from 2010’s figure of €1.98/litre to €2.71/litre in 2011.
The news contradicts a forecast by the Austrian Wine Marketing Board (AWMB) at the end of last year, which suggested that wine exports would “stagnate” as a result of small harvests in both 2009 and 2010.
Much of this uplift in value can be attributed to the country’s bottled wine exports. Despite volumes of bottled wine declining by 13% to 39m litres, Austria saw the value of this sector grow by 5% to €117.5m, with the average price of bottled wine rising from €2.5/litre in 2010 to €3/litre in 2011.
Attributing Austria’s record breaking year to “the outstanding efforts of our winemakers,” Willi Klinger, head of the AWMB, remarked on the country’s success in avoiding excessive discounting.
“The wines are no longer offered at giveaway prices,” he insisted. “There are fewer special offers at the lowest prices – a segment for which, in Austria, we cannot produce cost effectively, and nor do we want to do this. But even despite the rising average prices, Austrian wine is still a great value because of its excellent quality.”
Describing results from the UK, which saw value exports rise by 10.6% last year, as “extremely positive”, the AWMB picked out this market, together with the Netherlands and Scandinavia, as “becoming more and more important volume-wise in the high average price segment.”
Germany remains by far the largest foreign market for Austrian wine, accounting for 55% of total exports, although it was one of the few to record a slight decrease in both volume and value last year.
Meanwhile the US, Austria’s third-largest export market after Switzerland in second place, saw value exports rise by 8.9%, despite a 3% volume slip.
Setting out targets for the future, Klinger stressed the need for Austria to focus on improving its value exports even more. “We must further increase bottled wine exports and, even in the higher harvest volume vintages, increase the average price to € 3 per litre,” he set out.
Estimating Austria’s potential export volumes at “60 to 70m litres”, a significantly higher figure than last year’s 46.5m figure, Klinger suggested: “an export value of around €200 million could be achieved.
Looking forward to the prospect of releasing wines from a higher yielding vintage than the small 2009 and 2010 crops, Klinger concluded: “The 2011 vintage will bring us closer to this goal, because we’ve harvested a plentiful amount of perfect grapes.”
Lionel Messi wine set for launch
9th February, 2012 – The Drinks Business, by Alan Lodge
Football superstar Lionel Messi is to become the latest sportsman to enter the wine industry after Argentinian winery Bodega Valentin Bianchi announced it is to launch a new wine bearing his name.
The wine will be called “Leo” after the Barcelona and Argentina star and it has the full backing of the three-time FIFA World Player of the Year.
According to the winery – which is based in Messi’s home province of Mendoza – the project will be carried out in cooperation with the Leo Messi Foundation, with the profits being diverted to charitable causes.
“This venture will collaborate with the Leo Messi Foundation in order to continue creating projects focused on infant health and education, as well as establishing sporting activity as a key part of the fight against poverty and vulnerability,” a statement said.
“These are the fundamental aspects of the Foundation, which since 2008 has worked tirelessly to carry its mission forward; acting to help at-risk children and adolescents.”
This new partnership is far from the first charitable project that Messi has aided through his foundation.
He has helped to fund new sporting facilities in Rosario, as well as set up a scheme which offers scholarships in Barcelona to Argentine students studying pediatric medicine.
At just 24 years of age, Messi has won three consecutive FIFA Ballon d’Or (“World Player of the Year”) awards and is considered by many to be the best soccer player on the planet, if not one of the best of all time.
There seems to be something of a growing trend in sportsmen getting involved in the wine industry. Last year we reported that Chinese basketball star Yao Ming is venturing into business just months after retiring from the NBA, setting up a wine company to meet a growing thirst for wine in his home country.
In 2008 former France, Newcastle and Spurs winger David Ginola received a silver medal at the International Wine Challenge for a rosé wine produced at his vineyard in Provence.
Meanwhile Manchester United trio Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Patrice Evra were widely lampooned for their lack of acting talent after appearing in this advert for Chilean wine brand Casillero del Diablo, the club’s official wine sponsor.
New EU rules for ‘Organic Wine’ agreed
Brussels, 08 February 2012 - "New EU rules for “organic wine” have been agreed in the Standing Committee on Organic Farming (SCOF), and will be published in the Official Journal in the coming weeks. With the new regulation, which will apply from the 2012 harvest, organic wine growers will be allowed to use the term “organic wine” on their labels. The labels must also show the EU-organic-logo and the code number of their certifier, and must respect other wine labelling rules. Although there are already rules for “wine made from organic grapes”, these do not cover wine-making practices, i.e. the whole process from grape to wine."
Luxury Champagne brands need to rethink online marketing
Harpers- 1 Feb 2012
Luxury Champagne brands will have to rethink how they interact with customers online as “clunky brand websites will become archaic”.
That’s according to Peter Cross, Mary Portas’s business partner at Yellowdoor, said luxury brands perform very strongly in the online arena, but needed to become even more sophisticated as consumers change how they shop.
Cross, speaking at last week’s Champagne Assembly hosted by Pernod Ricard, said: “Luxury brands initially poo-pooed digital marketing - it scared the pants off them.” Although luxury firms had upped the ante to better engage with consumers online, now is the time to do more, he said.
Cross predicted even greater change in how consumers do their shopping, with mobile commerce growing by 500% in the next five years. Alongside the advent of social media, engaging with consumers is “more sophisticated”, and interacting with brands has become “integrated into our lives”.
He said firms must now navigate through three different types of shoppers - “empowered” - those constantly online; “universal” - those who “spend the evening trying to shave £10 off their car insurance but think nothing of spending £4,000 on a watch” and “value hunters”.
He said the luxury industry had for too long been “bending over backwards to whatever customers wanted”, and that now was the time to say ‘no’.
Pernod Ricard’s Pierre-Aymeric du Cray, global sales director for Champagne, said the “bling bling” era pre-2008 where people wanted to get “recognition” and “show off” with their brand choices was over. “People want to return to genuine values,” of timelessness, authenticity and personalisation, he said.
James Amos, managing director of Boodles, agreed - he said in the luxury jewellery market consumers were looking for pieces “anchored in history”. There is a “conscious movement away from big showy” looks to more design-led pieces which “show off the craftsmanship”, he added.
Changing weather impacts vintages, say top winemakers
Harpers- 1 Feb 2012
Winemakers around the world are noticing huge vintage variation thanks to changing weather patterns.
Boris Champy, joint director of Maison Louis Latour in Burgundy, said that analysis of the growing season for the past 70 years showed harvests had advanced by 10 days thanks to global warming. Champy added that 2011’s harvest was two months ahead of schedule, but said: “I don’t think it’s a good or bad thing, we just want it to happen naturally”.
Looking at data since 1940, Champy said “it’s not the summer temperature that’s changed - it’s the spring - March, April and May - is clearly warmer than 20 to 40 years ago”.
“We don’t worry too much about it, if it was global cooling we would really worry, but we have to adapt,” including making changes to pruning techniques.
In Australia, Wakefield Wine’s chief winemaker Adam Eggis said the wine indsutry there was adapting to the 20-year cyclical weather patterns of El Nino and La Nina. Eggins told Harpers: “What is fascinating is that we seem to be in a 20 to 30 year cycle of heavy rain events. 2011 being the latest, before this 1993 wet, 1974 wetter, then back into the 1940s.“The good news, if history holds, is that the wet events do not hang around for long and hopefully 2012 will a perfectly normal year.”Eggins described the effect on 2011’s wines - “the white wines will be fine”, he said. “In fact many of the Rieslings are delicious. Red wines will be challenging from South Australia and Victoria. Many of us may not release any premium 2011 red wine but jump from 2010 to 2012.”But other areas were more fortunate - the Hunter Valley and Western Australia “escaped the wet” and had “very good” vintages, said Eggins.
Australian Vintage to launch 5.5% abv Vinni
Australian Vintage is entering the lower-alcohol market with the launch of 5.5% abv Vinni, targeting 18 to 25 year-olds.
Vinni, a sparkling wine based product whose packaging resembles a cider, will retail at around £3 and is scheduled to hit supermarket shelves by the summer.
“We’re taking a different spin on how to approach the 5.5% abv category - we want to do it in a way that still delivers flavour,” said Paul Shaafsma, UK and European general manager for AV. “[We’re targeting] the 18 to 25 year-old consumer that hasn’t entered the wine arena. This product acts as an introduction, and ticks the box when it comes to the flavour profile, but is still different to cider, beer or RTDs.”The producer is also planning to release McGuigan Reserve in May, which will sit between the brand’s Classic and Shortlist ranges with an rrp of around £10.
Shaafsma said: “We’re working off the awards we’ve won and we’re taking people on a journey through the range to a reserve - we’ve seen a 30% increase in McGuigan sales.
Julian Dyer, AV’s recently recruited senior business manager, who starts with the firm on March 5, said: “There’s a lack of viable premium Austalian products, and the customer is looking for them. McGuigan has the brand equity [...] to appeal to those customers.” The firm has worked with design agency Stranger & Stranger in the design of the new products.
In December McGuigan Wines broke into the top 10 wine brands in the UK for the first time, according Nielsen data, coming in eighth by value.
Wine Marketing More Than a Message
Wines & Vines 23 January 2012
Wineries attending direct to consumer symposium urged to provide experiences. San Francisco, Calif.—An interactive marketing expert told an estimated 315 wine industry attendees at the Jan. 18-19 Direct to Consumer Wine Symposium in San Francisco that low-cost digital tools, apps and games are driving today’s most successful brands—not messaging, the traditional advertising approach. “The good news for small and medium-size wineries here today is that marketing is becoming more democratic,” said David Blum, the managing director of Ozone Online. “We are experiencing a massive and pervasive shift in the way that brands engage and communicate with their customers.” Blum has developed marketing campaigns, platforms and experiences for big consumer brands like MINI cars, RadioShack and Columbia Sportswear. He explained what big brands like these are doing to create memorable experiences for their potential customers using digital media, and urged the many winery employees and supplier companies in the audience at the Stanford Court Hotel to follow their lead.
To make his point clear, Blum cited the recent Dos Equis beer ad campaign featuring “the world’s most interesting man” as a particularly good example of old-school messaging. It’s one-way communication from the brand owner to the general public. The new experiential form of marketing is better illustrated by North Face, the outdoor gear maker, which built an app for smart phones called the Trail Finder. It uses GPS technology to help hikers find the nearest trailheads. The app is branded by North Face, but it does no direct selling or promotion of North Face goods. Charmin developed a somewhat similar app for travelers needing to find public restrooms in a hurry; they called it called Sit or Squat. The restrooms may or may not be equipped with Charmin toilet paper in them, but the app carries the Charmin name and helps make friends for Charmin in a relevant context. A winery that can’t think of an app like these may still be in an excellent position to create memorable experiences for potential customers if it has a tasting room to visit, conducts winemaker dinners or uses other marketing techniques that are old hat to wineries.
Giving customers and potential customers a way to interact with your winery is a good idea, Blum said. As inspiration, he cited MINI’s mass customization options for its cars. Consumers can go online at no cost and design their own personalized MINI with dozens of options in colors, equipment, styling, etc., leading to hundreds of combinations. Blum said 30% of people who configure a car this way actually buy it.“Personalized brand experiences create empowered, inspired and more loyal customers,” Blum said. Many wineries already offer custom labels for the trade, and some do so for consumers. Could a winery take the idea further and let consumers blend their own wines without even coming to the winery? Besides Blum’s keynote speech, the Direct to Consumer Wine Symposium included 10 other general and breakout sessions and a trade show that involved about 60 supplier personnel. It was the fifth annual edition of the symposium, and the first in San Francisco after two years in Napa and two in Santa Rosa. Two wine industry organizations, the Coalition for Free Trade and Free the Grapes, operated the event.
Sean Carroll of the Benson Marketing Group said the San Francisco location helped attract several winery attendees from the Central Coast and at least 20 attendees from other regions including Washington, Oregon and Canada. Registration fees were $395 for the Thursday program and an extra $75 for the Wednesday evening mixer.
Red Flag for Merlot?
Wines & Vines, 23 Jan 2012
Questions remain for troubled variety as demand increases. Santa Rosa, Calif.—With the availability of bulk wine, especially Cabernet Sauvignon, at its lowest level in more than a decade, and growing consumer interest in red blends, grapegrowers may see an increase in demand for Merlot—if, that is, there is enough acreage to support it. During a recent grower forum in Santa Rosa, Brian Clements, vice president and partner of Turrentine Brokerage, said Merlot acreage is at levels not seen since the mid-1990s, when growers ripped out vines in response to a demand shift. In California’s Central Valley, Clements said, growers pulled 40% of their Merlot vines. Clements’ remarks came during the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission’s “Dollars and Sense” meeting and tradeshow. This year’s event drew 550 attendees, with 55 exhibitors at the tradeshow. While Merlot withered, the industry had a bountiful supply of bulk Cabernet. During the past decade, Clements said, “Cab was the biggest Cab blender.”
Today, bulk Cabernet Sauvignon inventories are around 400,000 gallons or just 8% of 2007 supply. “Now, there’s really no Cab,” Clements said. “So what do they turn to? It’s Merlot.”
Interest in Merlot may also be fueled by growing demand for red blends. Mike Colicchio of Nielsen’s alcohol beverage division said red blends saw an 8% growth in sales. “Merlot has served as the backbone of a lot of those programs,” said Marc Cuneo, a broker with Turrentine. Clements, however, marked the Merlot situation with a “red flag,” illustrating that the dynamic could be out of balance. “Is there enough? That’s something to take note of,” Cuneo emphasized. Merlot saw a 5% drop in its share of wine sales in 2011, but the varietal remains the second-most popular wine overall, with a healthy 23% consumer loyalty. While growers of Merlot—and in fact all other varieties—could hope the diminished bulk market may mean an increase in grape prices, Clements and Cuneo cautioned that most wineries are still moving inventory at discount. Clements said this is the first time he’s seen a market switch that has not been driven by increased winery sales, explaining that the past two light vintages changed the market dynamics. “Mother nature kind of flipped this market,” he said.
The sweet tsunami
Moscato and other sweet wines continue their surging success in the market, said Nielsen’s Colicchio. As consumers across the board continue to buy more wine—and beer has “just fallen off a cliff” with a 2% drop in total volume sales this year, following years of anemic sales growth—more and more drinkers are going sweet. In the past 13 weeks of market research, sweet table wine enjoyed a 207% growth in total value of sales and a 213% growth in total volume of sales. “Clearly the sweet wine category is starting to take hold,” Colicchio said, adding that brands labeled “sweet” are seeing the biggest increase. Leading the sweet surge is Moscato, with 78% growth, accounting for more than 3% of total wine sales and more than $200 million in value.
Moscato has skyrocketed since it first was popularized in rap music. In 2005, Kanye West ordered up cases of Saracco Moscato d’Asti for a party; other rappers followed suit, praising the wine. A 2010 album by artist Waka Flocka includes the song “No Hands” that has the artist rapping: “Girl the way you movin’ got me in a trance, DJ turn me up, ladies this yo jam, I’m-a sip Moscato.”
Table wine still the growth engine
The “engine of growth” for most wine, though, is still table wine, of which two-thirds is Californian. Cabernet is strong with high varietal loyalty, solid 6% growth in 2011 and 15% share of the total market. Chardonnay held the largest share of the market in 2011 at 21%, but demand for the varietal stayed constant. Pinot Noir enjoyed a 10.5% increase in sales in 2011 with a nearly 9% bump in the past 13 weeks. Sonoma County is on par with Napa County for share of the market, but Napa and the Central Coast had bigger gains in the market for 2011 and the past 13 weeks. Napa continues to lead with the biggest sales increases in the higher priced wine tiers. Imports across the board are losing sales and market share, except for Argentina, due to growing interest in Malbec, and New Zealand because of Sauvignon Blanc. People who enjoy the cheapest wines are also the most loyal. Wines priced less than $2.99 maintain a 68% consumer loyalty.
Nick Frey, president of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, said he was very happy with the turnout for Dollars and Sense because it showed that growers in Sonoma County are engaged with the changing wine industry. He hopes prices will rise: Some growers had been producing grapes at a loss in recent years. He said he found the news about a tight bulk market good, but cautioned, “We can’t get too excited.”
The Slow Boat to China
Entering the Asian wine market takes time
by Kate Lavin, Wines & Vines
“With patience comes success,” according to Jeff Harder, managing director of Ex Nihilo Vineyards. The phrase is a Chinese proverb, he said, one of particular relevance to North American wineries looking to enter the Asian market. Ex Nihilo was one of five Canadian wineries in attendance at the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair this past fall, and the brand gained a Hong Kong distributor as a result of the trip, but Harder stressed that forging a trade relationship in the Far East is not a swift endeavor.Finding the right business partner involves a significant investment of time and money, he said. “Don’t think you’re going to run over there tomorrow and find somebody to distribute your wines.”Unlike the North American mentality of pouncing on a great investment immediately, businesspeople in Asia are more inclined to walk away and mull the deal over—and that’s to say nothing of the obligatory negotiating stage (note: your price will always be too high), said Harder, whose 4,100-case premium wine brand also has distribution in Japan. “Once you agree on a price, then your business partner can be for life. When they make a commitment and give you a number in terms of wine and case sales, they will follow through on that,” he said of distributors in mainland China. “Hong Kong is a little different. It’s faster than mainland China, but they’re still cautious before making any large commitments.”
For wineries that are willing to invest the time and money required to enter the Asian market, consumer demand is growing. David Andrews, general manager (Hong Kong and Macau) for ASC Fine Wines Trading Corp., said that imported wines now represent 25% of the market share in China, where wine imports have grown more than 14 times in the past five years. If such growth continues, he said, China might be importing 28 million cases by the end of the year. The bad news, at least so far, is that North American wineries have been reaping few of the benefits from this demand. Forty-five percent of the imported wine in China comes from France, with Australia, Italy and Spain taking the second, third and fourth seats, respectively. In 2010, Adams estimated that China imported just over 1 million cases of wine from the United States, or 6% of the total wine imported; Canadian imports of 44,226 cases represented 0.2% of China’s total wine imports during the same year. Andrews assessed per capita wine consumption in China at just over one bottle per year. The volume sounds small initially—by contrast, in 2010 the Wine Institute pegged U.S. wine consumption at 13 bottles per capita—but when you consider that China is a nation of 1.3 billion people, one bottle per person adds up to a whole lot of wine—108 million cases, to be exact—and that figure is growing.
Strength in numbers
Jim Trezise, president of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation (NYWGF), hosted the Uncork New York booth to promote his state’s wineries at the Hong Kong fair. After extending an open invitation for New York wineries to have their wares poured at the fourth annual event, Trezise said about 30 wineries (most of them in the 10,000-30,000-case range) had bottles delivered to the NYWGF offices, and the response to them in Hong Kong was positive. “We have an advantage in that New York is recognized around the world, but people think only of the city, so being able to present them with good wines is a fun surprise,” Trezise told Wines & Vines. His trip was made possible by funding from the USDA’s Market Access Program (MAP), which finances U.S. producers and trade organizations in their efforts to promote U.S. agricultural products. According to the USDA, “MAP encourages the development, maintenance and expansion of commercial export markets for agricultural commodities.” Put more simply, Trezise said, “Without MAP, we simply would not have an export program at all.” The day before the fair started, he added, staffers from the local USDA office provided a briefing for U.S. participants about doing business in Asia. Jahan Byrne, a marketing and business development executive for the Port of Oakland (Calif.), had a similar idea for winery representation on a commercial scale. Since many Northern California wines ship wines out of his port, Byrne solicited area wineries interested in entering Far East markets and offered to represent their wines at the event in Hong Kong, where he previously worked as a news reporter. A handful of California wineries answered his call, and Byrne represented their selections at the Wines of California tasting area alongside firms such as wholesaler/export agent Crosbie Co., importer and distributor Drunken Dragon and wineries such as JC Cellars of Oakland and San Joaquin Wine Co. of Madera.
Small fish, big pond
Due to China’s enormous population, only the very largest North American wineries could hope to have a large prese nce across the country. For the rest, finding the right niche is key. “As far as we can tell, China is looking for large volumes of very inexpensive wines, which we (in New York) simply don’t have,” said Trezise of the NYWGF. “New York is essentially a small winery industry that makes good quality wines.…The only real possibility that I see, in all of these countries including China, is for some New York wines to be featured in high-end restaurants and the better wine shops.” Marc Mousseau of Vineland, Ontario-based Stoney Ridge Estate Winery agrees. Stoney Ridge set up a booth at the Hong Kong Wine & Spirits Fair to gauge the interest locals had in distributing ice wines around Hong Kong, mainland China and Vietnam. Representation in any of these areas would be a first for Stoney Ridge, which currently only sells inside Ontario. “Inter-province regulations are so strict that it’s easier to penetrate China than other areas in Canada,” Mousseau said. “Very few could afford to come (on an exploratory trip) except the big guys.…It’s an investment to get here, but I think it’s a long-term investment.” Trezise echoed the sentiment that entering new international markets demands long-term presence. Up until recently his organization concentrated its international marketing efforts in Canada and the UK, although trips to the Prowein show in Düsseldorf, Germany, in 2010-11 and the London Wine Fair in May 2011 have started to bear fruit for some producers in the Finger Lakes region.
The big leagues
Plenty of large wine corporations are following business prospects across the Pacific as well. Jackson Family Wines has a presence in 70 global markets, according to Nick Bevan, senior vice president of international sales and distribution. Within Asia, the company’s priority markets include Japan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong and Singapore. “We definitely think there is a huge opportunity in the Chinese market, and demand for wine is growing exponentially,” said Jackson family representative Julia Jackson. “Hong Kong in particular is a very sophisticated wine market, where we want to showcase the highest end wines we have in our portfolio.” For large companies that routinely receive sizable orders, the slow nature of doing business in Asia can be dual-sided. Jackson said that international marketing trips generate a good number of leads for the company’s wines, but the corporate arm behind its 35-plus wineries researches overseas importers before making any concrete agreements.
As in North America, larger corporations have better access to the wine-drinking public in Asia; bulk deals on materials and supplies reduce the average bottle price, which is especially important in a country like China, where income swings wildly but the per capita average is less than $8,500 per year. Further, unlike French chateaus, which sell bottles for exorbitant prices at upscale restaurants in Shanghai and Hong Kong, U.S. and Canadian wineries can find themselves lumped in with other New World wine producers.“Distributors go into other world markets and buy Argentine and Chilean wines for amazing prices, as we know those countries can offer,” said Harder of Lake Country, BC-based Ex Nihilo. This is where his saying about patience comes in. Trezise opines, “The first time you appear at a trade show, it’s a surprise and curiosity; the second time, some people remember you, and the third time they figure you’re serious about the market and are willing to talk business.”
Extreme Wines on the Vine
Wines & Vines Jan 2012
South African winery desiccates grapes by squeezing rachises. As a renowned neuroscientist, Dr. Mark Solms has spent much of his professional life attempting to connect thoughts, feelings and memories with the anatomical structure of the brain. Ironically, as a wine producer in the scenic vineyards of Solms-Delta Wine Estate in Franschhoek, South Africa, a splendid valley about thirty miles northeast of Cape Town, Solms has dedicated his energies for much of the past decade to artfully separating grape clusters from their nutrient source.When Solms resettled in his native South Africa after more than a decade in England, and decided to revive the family’s wine farm, he studied up on viticulture and discovered that the ancient Greeks spoke of twisting the rachis, or stem, to strangle the grape cluster while on the vine. In concept, the desiccated berries would lose their water content, gain intense concentration in flavor and aromatics, and deliver the essence of their varietal character without succumbing to cloying over-ripeness. By comparison, Amarone producers in Northeastern Italy today achieve similar results by drying the picked, ripe Corvina and Rondinella grapes in a chamber or on straw mats for three months. Like many noble abstract ideas, Solms’ strangulation method made perfect sense in theory and created a recipe for disaster when first implemented. “We first desiccated both Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, in 2004—as well as Shiraz. We did it by crushing the stems with a regular pliers, then a long-nosed pliers about a week or so before picking. But Pinotage ripens earlier than Shiraz, and by the time we started to choke off the Shiraz stems, the Pinotage had developed volatile acidity. It was a nightmare; we had to get rid of the whole vintage.” There were some blatant conceptual miscalculations to overcome. As many destitute late-harvest and ice wine producers have learned, desiccation evaporates dollars (or South African rands) as rapidly as water molecules, for those dried clusters produce only about half as much juice while demanding at least twice as much labor to pick and process. “We were daunted to put it mildly,” Solms recalls.
Solms-Delta makes “normal” wines from non-dried grapes, too, but by experimenting with new techniques, Solms explains, he was upsetting the natural order of things. “The South African industry has long suffered from a colonial mentality, which is: ‘We want to do it like they do it in the real countries,’ which has led to aping the great winemaking styles of Europe. But there has not been any emphasis on what is uniquely South African wine. What I’ve set out to do here is to shake that kind of emulating mindset. I want to make wines that embody this place and no other.” Sitting on the patio of the Solms-Delta restaurant, Fyndraai, diners look out on the towering, jagged violet-tinged Groot Drakenstein mountain range that rings the southern vista of glistening, gently arching vineyards. Inside, Fyndraai’s interior glass floor covers the lit archaeological substructure of the 1740 wine cellar over which the restaurant was built. To make a radical break, Solms began reading up on Mediterranean winemaking techniques. His prodigious quest for knowledge led him to ancient Greek viticulture texts. “What was said time and again was that there are two ways to make wine—this way, for the masses, as we conventionally make it now, and that way, for the aristocracy, by strangling the stem, killing the stalk, leaving it only physiologically attached to the vine so that it dehydrates and carries on ripening.” The result, Solms continues, is “a semi-raisined grape” that retains its acidity and sugar, and whose natural descendent is Amarone. According to an ancient Venetian saying that he came across, “A month on the rack is worth a week on the vine.”
The collected wisdom suggested to Solms that ancient winemakers actually preferred to leave the grapes to desiccate in the vineyards. They chose not to, he conjectured, because those luscious raisining grapes were prey to every animal and insect that could fly or walk. He expected a similar onslaught of predatory invaders when he first attempted to strangle his vines, but to his surprise the clusters survived unmolested—and they have remained undamaged through eight vintages from 2004 through 2011. “We’ve learned a great deal. Some varieties like Shiraz respond much more favorably than others. The thickness of the skin is crucial. Also, you don’t want a grape that ripens too late in the season. On the white side, we’ve had the greatest success with Grenache Blanc.”
Desiccation leaves acidity
By trapping the acidity of an early harvest at about 20° Brix, Solms-Delta vineyard workers desiccate the clusters without creating flabby wines that deliver unpleasantly jammy flavors; still, a sufficient sugar level ensures an adequate degree of phenolic ripeness. A single hard squeeze is applied to each rachis to damage the channels that communicate between berry and vine. On the following day a second team returns to the vineyard and re-crushes the same stems—but at a 90° angle to the previous day’s action, taking care not to sever the bunches. All irrigation is stopped. Dry, windy conditions accelerate the dehydration. The natural acids are captured in the berries, along with the grape sugars; but during a period averaging four weeks, up to 40% of the water content evaporates. When the berries show the desired flavor profile, they are selectively picked. Special care is taken that no berries fall off in the process; in their fragile state, they can easily separate from the stalks. The yield is remarkably low—two tons per hectare. That pencils out to 0.8 tons per acre. What Solms describes in detail is an exhausting process. I remark, naively, that crushing more than 20,000 stems twice each by hand with long-nose pliers must be enormously labor intensive. “It is!” Solms nods. “And massive unemployment is one of our major local conditions. I think it is a sin not to employ as many people as you can.”
Winemaker Hilko Hegewisch leads me through rows of desiccated Shiraz vines shortly before harvest in mid-March. As he is about to show me a cluster he pauses to close his eyes and smile into a steady breeze that fluffs our hair. “That wind is called ‘The Cape Doctor,’” he explains. “It sweeps away pollution, and it helps protect our desiccating grapes from mold and mildew. “We thought, ‘How do we add value to the Shiraz?’ In our Mediterranean climate, if you don’t do anything to the Shiraz you can lose all its acid. You’re left with high sugar levels, period—not so if you choke off the cluster early. But there was much more to learn through experimenting. We started by cutting the canes, but with that method you cut off part of the producing vine and rob the vine of reserves it needs for the winter and next year. Now we crush just the stem, about four weeks before picking. The Shiraz goes into two wines, our Africana and the Port-style Gemoedrsus. For that wine we pick in two tranches (harvests). The first skins are distilled into grappa; then we ferment from the second, later picking in open oak barrels and add grappa to the wine on the skins to fortify before pressing again. The goal is to maintain the primacy of the fruit.”
Taste profile like no other
A Rhone blend, Hiervandaan contains 12% desiccated fruit, but the showpiece at Solms-Delta for this technique is the winery’s Africana, which boasts “smoky oak flavors,” according to the data sheet. After touring the vineyards, Hegewisch guides me to the tasting room and opens a vertical flight of Africana from 2005 through 2009. The dark, inky wine is 100% desiccated Franschhoek Shiraz. It arrives with its own press kit. Neil Beckett, a British wine writer, lists it in the book he edited among “The 1,001 Wines You Must Try Before You Die,” praising its fire-roasted chocolate and huckleberry flavors. The wine I taste is nothing like any other wine I’ve ever encountered in more than 40 years of sipping. I thought I’d tasted every imaginable variety and blend. Nope. The desiccated ’05 packs intense power and coats the mouth with a kind of caramelized sherry and toffee blend. It should be too cloying to swallow, but it strangely also delivers enough acid to counter these opaque, unctuous notes. Later vintages are less integrated, but they become immediately and distinctly recognizable in flavor and aroma. The wine is heavy without becoming syrupy, thick yet reasonably balanced with tannic structure to support the dark, mocha-layered fruit. Not a picnic wine, a cigar wine. Above all, the Africana is a wine that defines Mark Solms’ personality: It’s a wine with gravitas, there’s nothing glib about it. And it’s a wine that only a man with the courage of his convictions would attempt to make.
Worker involvement improves terroir
Quite apart from enthusing about his innovative approach to harvesting grapes, Mark Solms is so passionately articulate about the need for social and worker-relationship changes in post-apartheid South Africa that his comments time and again veer sharply from rachis strangulation to these much broader concerns. The shift in subject is not as jarring as it may first appear: apartheid and South African viticulture entangled one another for many decades, since the wine industry was built first on slavery and then on cheap black labor. During the period of trade sanctions, the government controlled production with no concern about competing in world markets and no incentive for making improvements. Vast hectares of marginally drinkable Chenin Blanc blanketed the Cape Winelands. Freedom from the strictures of apartheid in the early 1990s was paralleled by freedom for winery owners to break loose from governmental control—finally rescinded—and to achieve wine quality and varietal goals never before attempted in the country. Solms grew up in South Africa, but he abandoned that country for England as a young man when he and many other Caucasians found apartheid too oppressive to tolerate. He expected to live out his life thousands of miles from the wine farm that had been in his family for centuries, but when Nelson Mandela was finally released from prison after 28 years, apartheid abolished and non-racial elections held in 1994 for the first time in history, Solms decided he could again proudly embrac e the country of his origins. Solms rescued the family winery from bankruptcy and resurrected and refurbished its equipment and facilities. With his newfound freedom of choice he planted acres of Rhone varieties and created a program to offer the black vineyard and winery workers, descendents of slaves who toiled on these Cape Winelands area farms in the 19th century, a share of ownership in Solms-Delta Wine Estate.
With help from his neighbor, American Richard Astor, he expanded the winery’s land holdings to purchase the farm next door and deeded it to his farm workers, putting his own farm up as collateral. He erected a free on-site pre-school for their children, and he built a museum on the property that traces the lineage of the nomadic Bushman tribes that once inhabited the valley and farm, inviting musicians to create and perform songs that celebrated and revived local traditional music. Terroir, to Solms, goes far beyond soil and climatic conditions. It also includes the attitudes of the men and women who help to produce Solms’ wines. “On my farm, we realize unless something is done that brings all of us into a sense of ownership, our wines will be made with resentment and bitterness and despair. And that terroir will show itself in the bottle. We now all have a vested interest in making this thing work.”
Wineries Continue to Proliferate
24 Jan 2012- Wines & Vines staff
Wines & Vines Counts 7,834 wineries in North America, an increase of 6%—In spite of a weak economy, the number of wineries in North America continued to grow in 2011. The latest tally by WinesVinesDATA, the research arm of Wines & Vines magazine, identified 7,345 wineries now operating in the United States, up by 450 wineries or 6% from a year ago. Canadian wineries now number 465, up 17%. Wines & Vines publisher Chet Klingensmith released the count today at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, the industry’s largest trade show and conference, the same day the magazine’s annual Directory/Buyer’s Guide went on sale. The growth rate for wineries defied the general economic doldrums and scattered incidents of winery closings. Instead, it paralleled the increase in wine consumption in the United States, which last year became the world’s biggest market for wine.
196 new California wineries
California continues to count the most wineries in North America, rising to a new high of 3,519 this month, as a net gain of 196 wineries materialized. However, less than half of the wineries are in California, and fully 16 states and two Canadian provinces (British Columbia and Ontario) have more than 100 wineries. The six biggest states for wineries, in order, are: California, Washington, Oregon, New York, Virginia and Texas. With 230 wineries, British Columbia has more than Virginia. Each of the states has at least two wineries, and even Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have some. Mexico is home to 24 wineries, for a North American total of 7,834. Most of the wineries with large production are in California, which continues to bottle more than 90% of the nation’s wine. However, many states are now making excellent wines and have developed regional, if not national, customer followings.
Raise a Glass to the Free Market in Wine
Wbblog, January 9, 2012
Widely respected Wharton Business School published, "Raise a Glass to the Free Market in Wine" last week - an op-ed piece written by George M. Taber. Taber is the author of four books on wine. His latest, A Toast to Bargain Wines: How innovators, iconoclasts, and winemaking revolutionaries are changing the way the world drinks.
Taber says that the worldwide wine business is a good case study in free trade, given that there are many producers and few restrictions on commerce. Are there really few restrictions? Some would argue otherwise. Taber goes on to say that in recent years, the cost of wine has reflected this generally free global market in two ways - one good and the other bad
"Wine remains today a good case study in free trade since there are many producers and only a few restrictions on commerce. Wine is a worldwide business reaching from Germany to South Africa and from Canada to New Zealand. It is now made in every state of the U.S., including Alaska and the Dakotas. Relatively young wine countries such as Mexico and Brazil have also joined traditional producers. Farmers in all countries are an independent lot who don’t take orders from anyone, and so there is large global overproduction. Supertankers of wine are now sailing the world to unload the product wherever they can get the best price."
NSA Not What You Think
Wbblog, January 10, 2012
This year, America sipped past France to become the largest wine-consuming nation, as wine enthusiasts are increasingly embracing a lifestyle with wine and food. At Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFM), shoppers are not only trying new varieties, but they are also increasingly turning to organic wines with no sulfites added (NSA). To meet this demand, the company is expanding its offerings and is now the only national retailer to carry the first USDA Certified Organic NSA wines from Italy and Spain.
Whole Foods Market now carries wines from Bodegas Iranzo, Spain's oldest estate-bottled winery, and La Cantina Pizzolato, Italy's top-selling organic winery. Specifically, Whole Foods Market stocks Spartico Organic Tempranillo from Bodegas Iranzo, and La Cantina Pizzolato Organic Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Rosso Convento, all priced under $13.
"We are thrilled to add these quality Italian and Spanish wines to our line-up of domestic organic wines, providing shoppers with the best selection of organic NSA wines available at a retail supermarket," said Geof Ryan, national wine buyer for Whole Foods Market. "We see more and more interest in these wines from wine enthusiasts who believe NSA wines provide the most pure expression of the grape and from those who have sulfite sensitivities or allergies."
Depending on the store, approximately 10 to 20 wines of the wines on Whole Foods Market shelves are organic NSA wines. Domestic producers offering these wines at Whole Foods Market include Roulé Rouge from northern California, which makes a red table wine, and Frey Vineyards from Mendocino County, which produces such wines as an Organic Red, White and Rosé as well as true varietals like Organic Chardonnay and Petite Syrah.
"The quality of organic wines improves every year, and these wines from Italy and Spain are a testament to the traditional artisan winemaking craft passed on for generations," said Ryan. Since 1994, Bodegas Iranzo has exclusively produced wine from organically grown grapes and was one of the first wine producers in Spain to be USDA National Organic Program-certified organic.
Organic Winegrowing Manual Will Serve All
Wines & Vines 5 Jan 2012
University of California experts collaborated for years on new viticulture guide.
A group of 15 experts came together to write the "Organic Winegrowing Manual" that offers a detailed and comprehensive look at establishing and maintaining an organic vineyard.
San Rafael, Calif.—A just-published new guide to organic grapegrowing, written by experts in the field, is one of the most comprehensive texts about viticulture written in the past 30 years, providing valuable data that will be useful even to conventional growers.
Authored by a panel of University of California researchers and others, “Organic Winegrowing Manual” presents detailed, step-by-step analyses of all phases of organic grapegrowing, from soils to canopy management and pest and disease control.
Wines & Vines columnist Glenn McGourty, UC cooperative extension winegrowing and plant science advisor for Lake and Mendocino counties, edited the book and wrote some chapters. He said that while the book comes from a “California-centric” perspective, it offers a complete look at establishing and tending a vineyard. Compiled by McGourty as well as Dave Chaney and Jeri Ohmart, publication coordinators at the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (UC SAREP), the book represents the work of 15 author/researchers. McGourty served as technical editor and said it's the most comprehensive work since "General Viticulture" by A.J. Winkler (reissued in 1974).
“It’s a user manual for someone who wants to farm organically,” McGourty said. “They could find pretty much everything they needed to know in that book.” Following the steps in the book would provide winery owners with a road map toward earning third-party organic certification and putting “organic” on their wine label, he said.
Growers who are already farming quality grapes with sustainability in mind won’t find the next step to organic that high a hurdle. “It’s not super different from quality winegrowing that most growers already use. Organic growers are limited in their chemical tool bin,” according to McGourty.
Ready for a change?
For growers in areas where organic methods are not so prevalent, McGourty acknowledges that making the switch could be more challenging because of “more pesticide use, which has the potential to limit beneficial predacious insects.”
McGourty wrote the chapter about cover crop systems for organic vineyards: It summarizes how organic growers mix different cover crops to protect their soil and how those plants can interact with grapevines.
The full-color guide features 18 tables and 89 figures, and photos depicting notable pests as well as what McGourty described as “beauty shots” of Mendocino County vineyards by Ukiah, Calif.-based photographer Tom Liden. There are nearly 4,000 acres of certified organic vineyards in Mendocino County—more than anywhere else in California—according to state crop reports.
McGourty said he was honored to work with Dr. Pete Christensen on one of his last UC publications. Christensen, who died in 2011, contributed an overview of organic fertilizers, and information about soil nutrients and their uptake by vines.
Drs. Doug Gubler and Jenny Broome provided a summary of vine diseases in California that Mc Gourty termed “a valuable reference for anyone interested in grapevine diseases.”
Seven experts, including McGourty, co-wrote the chapter “Biodiversity, Habitat and Natural Resource Issues in Winegrape Production.” McGourty said the group strove to define biodiversity and explain in detail the factors affecting it.
A truly collaborative effort, the book took more than seven years to complete. In 2004, Dr. Sean Swezey, then director of the UC SAREP, initiated the project after receiving grant funds to publish a series of organic growing manuals.
The paperback guide sells for $35 through the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Press; order online from http://anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu/Items/3511.aspx
Copyright © Wines & Vines
Red wine may inhibit breast cancer: US study
Decanter, 9 January 2012
Red wine may have some effect in inhibiting the hormone that causes breast cancer, a study has found. The study at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles found that chemicals in the skins and seeds of red grapes slightly lowered oestrogen levels among premenopausal women.
The same effect was not seen in white wine.
The study, published online in the Journal of Women’s Health, challenges the widely-held belief that all types of alcohol consumption heighten the risk of developing breast cancer.
Alcohol is known to increase levels of oestrogen, which fosters the growth of cancer cells.
However, the research at Cedars-Sinai suggests red wine acts differently, appearing to block the process that converts hormones such as testosterone - which is present in women's bodies - into oestrogen.
In the study, 36 women drank either Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay daily for almost a month, then switched to the other type of wine. Blood was collected twice each month to measure hormone levels.
Researchers were trying to determine whether red wine mimics the effects of aromatase inhibitors, which play a key role in managing oestrogen levels and are currently used to treat breast cancer.
Investigators said the change in hormone patterns suggested that red wine may stem the growth of cancer cells, as has been shown in test tube studies.
They stressed that the results do not mean that white wine increases the risk of breast cancer, but that white grapes may lack the same protective elements found in the grapes used in red wines.
At the same time they said findings were encouraging, and that changing to red wine might ‘shift the risk’ of getting breast cancer.
‘If you were to have a glass of wine with dinner, you may want to consider a glass of red,’ said Chrisandra Shufelt, assistant director of the Women’s Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute and one of the study’s co-authors. ‘Switching may shift your risk.’
Glenn D Braunstein, vice president for clinical innovation at Cedars-Sinai said, ‘There are chemicals in red grape skin and red grape seeds that are not found in white grapes that may decrease breast cancer risk,’ but he also advised that large-scale studies are still needed.
Even moderate amounts of alcohol intake may generally increase the risk of breast cancer in women, he said, and until larger studies are done, he would not recommend that a non-drinker begin to drink red wine.
Australia grubbing up programme 'too slow' and too little
Decanter, Tuesday 10 January 2012
Wine bosses in Australia are frustrated by the slow progress of the country's vine removal programme, with around half the projected amount of vines being grubbed up since 2009. The 2009 Wine Restructuring Action Agenda (WRAA) indicated there were 20-30,000 hectares of surplus vineyards in Australia.
The Winemakers' Federation of Australia estimates 14,000 ha have been removed since the Agenda's launch but reform has not been as been as extensive as hoped.
Stephen Strachan, CEO of the WFA, told Decanter.com, ‘Reform has been slower than we hoped it would be but it is happening.
‘The reassuring news is that there is some progress, albeit slow progress. Based on two surveys, we estimate that, in the two years to June 2011, there have been approximately 14,000 hectares removed,’ he added.
Since the launch of the Agenda, the global financial crisis and an increasingly strong Australian currency has made business even tougher for Australian producers.
‘Moving forward two years, if anything, the outlook for Australian wine sales is even more challenging, largely on the back of the Australian dollar appreciation,’ said Strachan. ‘Accordingly, the [estimate of] 20,000 hectares of surplus vineyards ought to be considered to be on the low side.’
Figures from another national body, Wine Australia, show there are another 5,000ha of vines not yet bearing fruit, which could potentially add another 50-60,000 tonnes to current production within the next three years. In 2011, the harvest stood at 1.63m tonnes.
EU resolves White Zinfandel row
Harpers 9 January 2012
A dispute over the use of the term White Zinfandel in the European Union has been resolved.
The row broke out last autumn after Italian authorities complained about the grape being referred to as “White Zinfandel” when it is a red grape, which they said would be confusing to consumers. However the term is widely understood as a brand name in the USA and UK denoting the popular rosé wine.
A Blossom Hill spokeswoman said: “We are delighted to confirm that the labelling issue regarding the term ‘White Zinfandel’ has been resolved. Diageo has worked closely with the WSTA to establish positive dialogue with the EU, and the EU institutions have been supportive in getting to a solution with the Italian authorities.
“The issue relating to the labelling of White Zinfandel was put on the agenda at the US/EU mid November bi-lateral trade agreement meeting, which resulted in White Zinfandel being officially recognised for use on labelling within the EU, as it has been in the US since its introduction.
“This was subsequently ratified by all 27 EU member states in December. As a result Italian authorities have now released the small volume of stock originally impounded.
“Whilst the liquid and product have remained constant during this period, we had altered the labelling to Zinfandel Rose. The labelling will now transition back to White Zinfandel with immediate effect.”
The biggest challenge to a winery
by Jeff Miller of Artisan Family of Wines (Seven Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars, Red Côte)
I was talking to a relative in the film business about independent movies. He said they are always a bad investment, because no matter how good the movie turns out to be, there’s no guarantee the film will succeed in obtaining distribution. How apropos of the wine business, where the same problem holds true.
This topic, which is rarely far from my thoughts, came home as our broker (not our distributor) in one of our most important states announced it was ceasing operations. Bad, but not nearly as bad as it could be—at least our distributor is still in business.
For those not in the industry, a distributor is the company that buys your wine, and turns around as sells it to retail outlets (stores and restaurants). A broker in most cases (though not all) is a marketing company that works at moving your product through the pipeline. They don’t own the wine and resell it, as a distributor does. They do play an important role in doing a lot of the work necessary to keep product moving through the distribution pipeline, assisting the sales efforts of the distributor.
I am not privy to the reasons why the broker decided to go out of business, but I could hazard what I’m sure is a pretty good guess. The broker dealt primarily with smaller wine and liquor companies. In fact, most brokers do, as larger wine and spirit manufactures usually bring the task in-house. The math is relatively simple: if you’re dealing with smaller companies, then when you multiply your commission times the sales of these smaller companies, the result isn’t enough to keep things going.
I particularly regret the demise of this broker, as they had done an excellent job for us. A small winery is very limited in its ability to project itself into the market place, particularly in far-off places where the hassle and cost of travel makes frequent trips to the marketplace difficult and cost-prohibitive. Having a local broker that can assist in these sorts of efforts is, if not absolutely essential, very helpful.
So where does that leave us, the winery? I’m hoping that we’ve established enough of a presence in that market that we’ll be okay. After all, we still have the distributor, who is out there selling out wines. But now that assist that the distributor received from the broker is history. So we’ll have to wait and see.
But the message for the wine market as a whole isn’t a good one. The economics of running a small operation are challenging. When the volume of goods to be sold is small, it’s tough for anyone to make enough money to justify the time and effort required to move them. Gallo doesn’t have that problem, but small producers always have. But this last recession took many of the small players (such as the broker) that were just above the line below the line. Hopefully, the economy is finally pulling itself out of the most significant downturn in my lifetime, which hopefully will counteract some of the long-term trends running against the plight of the small distributor and broker. But it’s hard to be sanguine about the long-term plight of these smaller companies, which are so essential to the small winery.
‘Super-star’ fine wine prices plummet as market crashes
Harpers, 5 January 2012
Lafite 2008’s 45% drop in value is the “pin-up for what’s gone wrong in the market”, according to Liv-ex’s co-founder.
Liv-ex’s Justin Gibbs said the 15% overall fall in its Fine Wine 100 index in 2011 was “rational behaviour”.
He said the combination of already very high prices for Bordeaux first growths, capped by the “ridiculously-priced” 2010s, the Chinese moving out of the market and global problems with the Euro, led to the correction.
The Liv-ex index showed that during the first half of last year, prices for top Bordeaux rose rapidly - eventually reaching a peak in June. But since then demand for the first growths softened and the index fell by 21.5% - matching the drop in August 2008 when Lehman Brothers collapsed. Gibbs said: “22% is a big number, it’s beyond a correction, it’s probably a crash.”
Gibbs added that the "rational" market behaviour meant the most recent vintages were experiencing the greatest “pull-back”, while the scarcity value of older vintages was helping maintain value. He also predicted that “people will start to dip their toes in the market again quite soon”.
Stephen Browett, managing director of Farr Vintners, was also optimistic. “The big names in Bordeaux did indeed rise dramatically and have now fallen back. The most extreme example of this is Lafite and the most extreme vintage is 2008. It was released at £2,000 in 2009, hit £15,000 in June 2011 and has now dropped back to £8,000 to £9,000. Lafite is a wine that became too expensive, as a result of speculative buying, and it was no surprise when prices started to fall.”
But Browett said although other top wines had “come off the boil”, they hadn’t had such dramatic falls as Lafite 2008. Older vintages, including Haut Brion 1989 remained steady. It was on sale at £12,000 in January 2011, hit £14,500 by June 2011 and is now at £12,000. Latour 1990 started at £6,800 last January, six months later was £7,300, and is now trading around £6,900.
Browett pointed out that wines outside of the stellar first-growths are still holding their own. He said: “The price of ‘good‘ Bordeaux and Burgundy that is not of ‘super-star’ quality has not gone down at all. An example of this would be wines like Grand Puy Lacoste, Lagrange or Domaine de Chevalier – top quality Bordeaux that is not bought for speculation, not especially strong in the Far East and the sort of wine that connoisseurs around the world actually drink, rather than just collect. Prices are firm on wines like these.”
'Green' wines less popular with consumers, says Berry Bros
Harpers 3 Jan 2012
Top merchant Berry Bros & Rudd says environmentally-friendly wines are proving less popular with consumers - biodynamic wine sales fell 54% in 2011 and organic wine sales dropped 63% on 2010.
But Berry’s saw strong sales from Champagne - up 17% by volume and 41% by value on 2010; while Prosecco sales soared by 28% in terms of volume and by 37% in value on 2010. Another star performer was English wines, which saw sales up 50% by value and 25% by volume on 2010, while the value of English wine sold more than doubled between 2006 and 2011.
The merchant said premium wine sales continue to grow - the average cost of a bottle of wine has gone up by almost 56% – or almost £20. Its customers are now spending £51.60 on a bottle on average, up from £33 in 2008. What’s more, consumers are keen to improve their wine knowledge with a 71% increase in bookings for its tutored tastings and wine courses since 2008.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the most popular grape for Berry’s for the third year running, Chardonnay is second and Pinot Noir third.
Alun Griffiths, MW, buying director, said: “2011 has been a great year for wine at Berry Bros. & Rudd despite the very challenging economic circumstances. With a marked slowdown in fine wine sales, it has been reassuring to see that sales in the mid-priced drinking categories have held up well.
“Spain will be a region to watch in 2012 with its well-made, attractively-priced red and white wines; Argentina continues to make huge strides and South Africa is now producing some excellent wines.”
Postmodern Winemaking:Integrated Brett Management
Wines & Vines 2011
“It’s high time I post my views concerning this beast and its handling—as usual somewhat at odds with modern enological thinking. For winemakers interested in bypassing sterile filtration when possible (count me in), Brettanomyces management is the central problem facing the making of serious wine.
The reason is simple: The focus of postmodern philosophy is the creation and preservation of beneficial macromolecular structure. This structure manifests in wine as colloidal particles sometimes nearly as large as a bacterial cell. The benefits of good structure (profundity, aromatic integration and graceful longevity) appear to be lost by sterile filtration despite the fact that no tannin material may be retained by the filter. Our hypothesis is that the action of tight filtration somehow disrupts rather than removes structure.
Integrated Brettanomyces Management (henceforth referred to as IBM) advocates another approach that both preserves and takes advantage of the benefits of good wine structure. It utilizes a three-legged approach:
1. Create a nutrient desert
2. Microbial balance
3. Aromatic integration through good structure
Microbial activity when properly husbanded can amplify distinctive terroir characteristics and soulful appeal. On the other hand, wines lacking good structure fail to properly incorporate the influences of microbial activity; the resulting perception of Brettanomyces as a defect has led to draconian control measures that produce wines of less interest.
When these measures become incorporated into a winery’s general protocol, they generally harm the development of its wines. Paradoxically, these wines not only carry Brett less well, they are more susceptible to it, leading to a snowball effect in exactly the wrong direction. Due to its clever survival strategy, Brett in this environment outlasts organisms whose competition normally controls it. Brett is a hospital disease, fostered by the very sanitation measures designed to suppress it.
In the recent past, such practices have reached the level of academic dogma, with the consequence that Brettanomyces (together with its sexual spore-producing twin Dekkera) is now classified outright in many quarters as a spoilage organism. The intrusive aromas of unmanaged Brett include horse sweat, leather, shoe polish, salami, fois gras, truffles, dog doo and (Ralph Kunkee’s classic descriptor) “wet dog in a telephone booth.”
Neurological studies in guinea pig brains have shown that sensory inputs associated with important events—e.g. an A-flat played to signal feeding time—result in increased neural mapping for the stimulus. In the same way, wine tasters can become sensitized to aromas of oak, bell pepper, VA and other “defects” so that they no longer experience them as untrained consumers do.
Nevertheless, only the most zealous of its critics fail to acknowledge “good Brett” at least occasionally. In his hilarious article “Attack of the Brett Nerds,” wine importer Kermit Lynch issued a call to reason that unfortunately has been largely ignored.
Why not simply eradicate this organism and make clean, sterile wines of appealing fruit character? Fresh, unstructured wines such as Rieslings are easily stabilized by modern technological tools (sanitation, fermentation with pure yeast strains, temperature control, pH adjustment, maintenance with inert gas and sulfites, and sterile bottling). But winemakers often find these tools are best placed aside in the development of fully-evolved, structured wines for which profundity rather than varietal purity is the goal. This discovery is the beginning of the path to postmodernism. A fully evolved Brett strategy completes the journey.
The emergence of ‘conventional’ wine
The modern technological system developed in Germany shortly after World War II brought into being a kind of wine previously unseen in history. Without sterile filtration, the off-dry German wines we regard as “traditional” were impossible to make because they were unstable in the bottle.
Such wines, more properly called “conventional” wines, did not exist in commerce in the 6,000 years of truly traditional winemaking. Reductive winemaking methods were extremely effective for the production of aromatic white wines whose appeal is based on freshness, varietal purity, crisp acidity and, sometimes, mineral depth.
Fine. No problem. I love a good Mosel. But take note: This style has in the past half-century almost entirely eradicated the market presence of traditional white wines, which once shared the mature evolution, oxidative development and microbial complexity that today is the exclusive province of red wines.
Fresh wines target quite distinct aesthetic goals from mature wines. Freshness, varietal simplicity and crisp acidity are undesirable traits in even today’s conventional reds. The point of most red wine (with exceptions such as nouveau Beaujolais) remains to evolve its initial simple aromas of berries and herbs into something richer and warmer and that more profoundly touches the soul. Tannins must themselves evolve from a coarse astringency into a rich underlying structure that supports and integrates developing flavors into a coherent single voice.
Reductive winemaking has several disadvantages for vins de garde (wines intended for cellaring). These wines depend on properly formed phenolic colloids, where almost all red pigment and tannin reside, to provide a refined structure that does not interfere with fruit expression through harsh aggressiveness. Aromatic products of microbial metabolism, oak influences and vegetal characteristics also are integrated by good structure into a coherent background that is positive rather than interruptiv e. Modern oxygen-free practices suppress the development of good structure, and sterile filtration disrupts it. Low pH and high titratable acidity also present challenges for mature reds.
Ecology of the organism
1. In an aerobic environment, Brettanomyces can utilize proline as a sole source of both carbon and nitrogen. This amino acid is available in high quantities in both wine and beer, and it is not metabolized by Saccharomyces spp.
2. Brettanomyces employs a parasitic, secondary contaminant strategy--rarely taking over. It lacks the genetic capability to synthesize biotin, folic acid and other essential micronutrients that it depends on other organisms to exude during their autolysis. Brett is well controlled to less than 500 cells per mL by other organisms normally present in wines. Sterilized wines can reach 10,000,000 cells per milliliter.
3. It principally enters wineries from bees and is spread by barrels and bulk wines from other wineries. In wineries, Brett establishes ubiquitous sequestered low populations that are extremely difficult to eradicate.
4. Brettanomyces can ferment cellobiose, a synthetic sugar produced by toasting of new wood.
5. It cannot grow at temperatures below 59°F.
The fallacy of acidity as a virtue
High titratable acidity exacerbates tannic aggressiveness by drawing excessive salivary protein into the mouth and coarsening the impression of tannin, thus counteracting the winemaker’s efforts at textural refinement. Low pH inhibits wine development and microbial stabilization, as do sulfites and cool cellars. Palate liveliness is to be prized, but its best source is minerality, which confers liveliness to the finish whose sources and mechanisms are still poorly understood.
The mastery of winemaking at high pH levels is essential to postmodern work. The reaction speed necessary to useful phenolic development requires elevated pH. If pH is the gas pedal of aging, then pH 3.70-3.85 is analogous to the 55-70 mph of freeway driving, allowing us to cover some developmental distance in the cellar.
Creating a nutrient desert in the vineyard
The first steps toward microbial balance should be taken in the vineyard. The goal of these procedures is that a vigorous fermentation can occur that will consume not only all traces of sugar but also essential micro-nutrients, the absence of which can hold Brettanomyces secondary growth in check. Paradoxically, the production of a wine poor in nutrients requires a must rich in nutrients to promote healthy yeast action.
Brett’s strategy is insidious. It is designed not to compete with Saccharomyces (normal wine yeast) during primary fermentation, but emerges later during aging. The nutrient status of wine in support of secondary microbial growth can be considered to have four aspects: fermentable sugars, nitrogen sources, micronutrients (vitamins and other cofactors) and oxygen. Brettanomyces growth must be suppressed in both of its modes—fermentative (requiring sugar) and respiratory (requiring oxygen.)
We can assess the risk of Brett fermentation by measuring enzymatic glucose + fructose. Levels above 1,000 mg/L are unsafe, and we’d prefer to see less than 500 mg/L. The winemaker must determine empirically the best method to achieve sugar dryness. Considerations include the choice of commercial yeast inoculum vs. wild yeast, temperature of fermentation, avoidance of highly elevated sugar in the must and a host of other factors.
Since oxygen is not necessary for later fermentative growth, we must depend on primary fermentation to reduce fermentable sugars. Even given good consumption of sugar, toasted wood contributes to wine the fermentable sugar cellobiose, which Brett can also utilize. Thus a secondary inhibitory strategy is advisable.
As part of its strategy as a secondary infectant, Brett is a nutritionally fastidious organism lacking the ability to synthesize for itself many micronutrients. In order to inhibit Brett in both of its growth modes, it is beneficial to encourage consumption of micronutrients during primary fermentation. To do so, the vineyard conditions to deliver a healthy, nutrient-rich wine should be mastered. Petiolar nitrogen measurements at bloom can be used to evaluate where deficiencies require fertilization, often in “hot spots” rather than throughout the field. Over-fertilization, which results in excessive vigor and poor ripening, still must be avoided through careful topological nutrient management.
In nutrient-deficient musts, the addition of simple refined chemicals such as diammonium phosphate (DAP) should be minimized. This chemical is a favorite of modern enologists because it relieves yeast stress and brings about a vigorous, smooth fermentation without sulfide production. However, this mode of fermentation is not useful for consuming micronutrients. When the yeast is fat and happy, it does not need to make enzymes to digest micronutrients as a food source. (If you feed them Twinkies, they won’t eat their oatmeal.)
Our primary ally in suppressing respiratory growth in the barrel is the wine’s reductive strength. It has been shown that Brettanomyces is able, in the presence of oxygen and ample micronutrients, to feed on ethanol as a carbon source. Unlike Saccharomyces spp., Brett can oxidatively metabolize the amino acid proline, ubiquitous in wine, as a sole source of both carbon and nitrogen. Primary fermentation inevitably leaves behind plentiful amounts.
If the wine is to protect itself, it must maintain its ability to consume oxygen. In the vineyard, our goal is to maximize reductive vigor through good concentration of tannins and to avoid excessive maturity, which can damage reductive vigor.
Microbial equilibrium in the cellar
Exactly like Integrated Pest Management in the vineyard, Integrated Brett Management seeks in the wine cellar to utilize the natural competitiveness of a complete ecology to maintain the activity of each type of microbe at an acceptable level. It seeks to play out in the cellar any metabolic conversions to which the wine is prone, so that sterile filtration is unnecessary. Any influence inhibitory to this goal should be dialed back to the point where microbial processes achieve completion. Among inhibitors to be considered are alcohol, temperature, sulfites, volatile acidity and pH. Storage temperature must, for example, be held above 60°F for a sufficient period to permit activity to proceed (a couple of summers, for example.)
Just as the most flavorful and distinctive grapes derive from vineyards employing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) rather than draconian pesticides, so a microbial equilibrium results in more interesting flavor development in the cellar. Like the great unpasteurized cheeses of Europe, wines permitted a natural microbial balance can achieve richness and profundity beyond comparison. Since many dangers await a wine or cheese so exposed, the transformation must be handled with great skill and attention through a carefully thought-out program that considers application of postmodern principles to every facet of the wine’s development.
Except in new cellars, Brettanomyces is a ubiquitous organism, a fact of life. Like athlete’s foot, one usually cannot hope to eradicate it, and like keeping ones feet dry, control of this organism is based on suppressing growth by denying it facile growth conditions. Keep in mind that the goal is to facilitate a truce with Brett so that a stable condition exists at bottling. Through nutrient depletion and good reductive strength, we create the best environment to allow the wine time to play out its inevitable development. Any reductions in alcohol and volatile acidity as well as exposure to new toasted wood should occur early, prior to the period when the wine is held above 60°F to resolve its development.
Final blends should be assembled well in advance to avoid the possibility that a blend may promote additional activity of which its parts were not capable. Different wines can hold back activity for different reasons. The blend may be less stable than its parts.
An appreciation of the wine’s reductive strength is critical to good cellar management—and to the timing of bottling. Reductive strength is a function of phenolic reactivity, mineral composition and lees contact. Late-harvest reds may appear heavy in tannin and color, yet be very low in reductive strength. Sensory properties of reductive wines are vibrant purplish hues, a closed aromatic profile and the presence of sulfides. (Direct measurement of reductive strength is the subject of an upcoming article.)
The third leg of the IBM system is the aromatic integration that takes place in wines of refined, stable structure. The basic idea is that in wines of good structure, microbial aromas that otherwise would appear as spoilage elements can be integrated as elements of positive aromatic complexity. Just as in a good béarnaise sauce we cannot perceive distinct aromas of tarragon, shallot, vinegar and peppercorn but instead a rich “single voice,” so the aromas of varietal veggies, oak and microbial activity can be integrated into a good phenolic structure.
I have discussed the essentials for creation of good structure in previous articles. The finer the colloids in such a structure, the more surface area will be available for aromatic integration. Monomeric color is essential for building fine structure. Oxygen, properly applied to a balanced tannin/pigment phenolic blend, acts like a wire whisk in the creation of a rich, light tannin soufflé, and lees stirring after this is accomplished can add fatness and refinement. These steps are also similar to chocolate making, in which the conching process uses oxygen to convert cocoa powder into dark chocolate, and milk protein softens this to milk chocolate.
Wines of proper ripeness and good extraction afforded early structural refinement can carry many times the supposed “threshold” of 400 ppb of the Brett metabolic marker 4-ethyl-phenol without apparent aromatic expression. Indeed, the nuances added to the flavor impression in the nose and by mouth imparted by a Brett manifestation in these conditions are likely to be absent of objectionable intrusion of spoilage characteristics, resulting in wines of greatly enhanced profundity and soulfulness.
Although presented here as a third leg, the creation of good structure should be addressed quite early in the wine’s life, creating the conditions for integrating subsequent microbial activity. Wines benefit most from oxygen immediately after completion of alcoholic fermentation. It is best to delay malolactic fermentation through the use of slightly elevated SO2 addition (I use 45 ppm) at the crusher and also to warm or cool the new wine to 65°F, immediately commencing treatment.
Since many aspects of Phase I oxygenative structuring are counterintuitive, it is best to work with someone skilled in the art.6 Properly administered, oxygenation is homeopathic, increasing rather than degrading the wine’s reductive strength, bizarre as that sounds.
Most problems with Brett are the results of indecision. The organism is easily controlled in fresh, unevolved white wines by a combination of sanitation, low temperature, low pH, SO2 maintenance and sterile filtration. However, since these conditions preclude the development necessary for the production of top reds, a strategy of moderate suppression in the cellar can lead to completion in the bottle. The balanced ecological strategy advocated here cannot be implemented halfway. If you’re making classic red wines, you’re probably already a little bit pregnant, so maybe it’s time to embrace the baby and take up responsible parenting.
Custom Crush in a Cave
Wines & Vines -December 2011
Justin Hunnicutt Stephens held his first harvest this year at the new Hunnicutt Winery in St. Helena, Calif., a rare winery built at a time when many wine businesses have been struggling. The winery is also rare in other ways: Stephens and his father designed it from the start to provide custom winemaking for other boutique wineries—this is not unusual in itself, but Hunnicutt was constructed to the high standards typical of a boutique winery.
Most new custom-crush wineries, by contrast, are utilitarian buildings—often in industrial areas. Stephens’ winery is largely built in an elaborate cave that also offers opportunities to impress visitors.
The craft winery occupies a hilltop on the Silverado Trail across from Rombauer Vineyards and has another unusual twist: The property doesn’t include a vineyard. Most newcomers planning high-end wineries in the Napa Valley start with vineyards—the romantic image that draws many to the attractive valley. They buy a 20-acre parcel that also allows construction of a winery, hire a vineyard manager to plant vines and build a fancy house with the intention of someday adding a picturesque winery, perhaps made from local stone or in the form of a faux-Tuscan villa or French chateau.
The Hunnicutt property is big enough for a winery at 15.1 acres, but the steep hillsides can’t be planted to grapes. The land, not being suitable for vineyards, was also relatively reasonable (by Napa Valley standards), though Stephens declined to disclose the price.
Rather than a mansion, the property is home to a 1950s-era Sears Roebuck fabricated house kit and the new, 2,400-square-foot office building. It also is modest as it only contains offices, the lab and a temporary tasting room. Stephens plans to build a proper tasting room in the future and has allotted space for a 900-square-foot building.
Perhaps the reason for the unusual approach to constructing a winery is that Justin Hunnicutt Stephens knows his way around the valley and the wine business. The son of Don Stephens, owner of boutique wine brand D.R. Stephens, Justin Stephens didn’t intend to go into the wine business—at least not initially. He studied business at the University of California, Berkeley, and then went into commercial real estate thinking that, like his father, he’d work for 40 years and then get into wine.
Unfortunately, he found the work boring. “After six months, I found myself waiting for weekends.” He started taking wine classes at Napa Valley College, spending more and more time hanging around his long-time friend, winemaker Kirk Venge, as well as D.R. Stephens’ founding winemaker, Cary Gott.
He also worked part-time at Miner Family Winery and Saddleback Cellars, then Seavey Vineyard before joining his father at D.R. Stephens. Meanwhile, he made his first Hunnicutt wine in 2004 at Seavey.
Stephens and his dad reasoned that a quality wine at a price lower than the D.R. Stephens label (typically $100-plus) had potential, so they merged the companies. Hunnicutt wines are mostly $30 to $48.
It seemed the perfect match: D.R. Stephens owns 15 acres of estate vineyards but no winery, while Hunnicutt has no vineyards (it contracts for grapes from 12 vineyards) and will provide production space for both brands.
They keep the wine brands distinct and don’t market the wines together. The two brands even have different winemakers, Venge for Hunnicutt and Mike Hirby for D.R. Stephens.
A winery in a cave
Vincent Georges’ The Cave Co. dug the 10,000 square feet of caves that are home to the winery as well as a larger partial “cut and cover” space that contains fermentation tanks. Digging began March 1, 2010, and the winery moved in Aug. 22, 2011.
Stephens was very happy with The Cave Co. and most of his other contractors, but he was so unhappy with the general contractor he used that he wouldn’t even disclose the name.
Interestingly, no engineer or architect was required to dig the cave, though Stephens had to get a mine permit from the federal government and permits for the entrances from Napa County. By contrast, getting the permits to build a winery in Napa County can be very challenging.
Stephens leases space to a number of other wine brands besides Hunnicutt, natural ly starting with D.R. Stephens. Winemakers Venge and Hirby make wine for the other brands produced at the winery. Most operate as alternating proprietors, though a few operate with California Alcoholic Beverage Control 17 wholesale and 20 retail licenses as “virtual wineries,” which are legally wholesalers and retail wine sellers.
The brands produced, by winemaker, are D. R. Stephens Estate, Parallel, Charnu and Relic by Mike Hirby; Hunnicutt, Scully, RemRidg, Winter, Moffett, Carte Blanch and Bure by Kirk Venge.
The permit for the winery allows a 25,000-case output per year, but the initial facility can handle about 15,000 cases. D.R. Stephens and Hunnicutt total about 4,000 cases combined.
A single assistant winemaker helps all the brands under the direction of Hirby and Venge.
Designed for collaboration
Though it seems an ambitious project for these trying times, Stephens says the cave cost half what a basic metal industrial building would, and it saves money in utilities and ongoing maintenance as well. Stephens designed the facility for custom crushing small lots in collaboration with the winemakers. “We’re not looking for overflow from larger wineries,” he emphasizes.
The grapes are crushed outside on a crush pad. The cave contains many small tanks of different sizes for flexibility, though small tanks cost almost as much as larger ones.
Equipment includes two 3,000-gallon tanks, 16 1,500-gallon tanks and three 1,000-gallon tanks. All but four are new tanks from Criveller; four 1,500-gallon tanks were moved from the facility where Hunnicutt and D.R. Stephens formerly made wine. Hunnicutt also uses smaller tanks like a 500-gallon TransStore and some stainless barrels.
All wine brands share the Armbruster RotoVibe E2 destemmer (they don’t really crush), and utilize three different sorting methods to remove undesirable fruit.
The first sorter is a P&L manual incline sorter used to remove bad clusters, leaves and material other than grapes. The second sorter is a Le Trieur shaker table that lets shot berries and raisins fall out. Hunnicutt doesn’t charge clients for using this automated shaker.
The final sorter is a P&L belt sorter where bad berries can be removed; like the first sorter, it can accommodate six operators. The winery generally contracts with Maldonado Services for workers.
The press, a small Bucher RPF 22 bladder press, handles all wines, but the winery may buy another larger press because of the time involved with whole-cluster pressing of white grapes.
Reverse osmosis for H20
Winery water comes from wells dug by Don Huckfeldt. A reverse-osmosis system provided by North Coast Water Works removes silica from the water. The winery had to get a permit to dig the well and monitors its usage.
The winery has separate drainage systems for rainwater and winery wastewater, which it stores in two tanks. The East Bay Municipal Utilities District carries it away and mixes it with its wastewater.
As a custom-crush winery, Hunnicutt doesn’t break out every small charge but collects flat fees (with some operations like berry sorting costing extra.) “We don’t charge small-lot fees—that’s what we do—and we don’t nickel and dime customers,” he claims, acknowledging that the facility’s prices reflect the service and facilities it offers.
The winemakers choose coopers and barrels, and between Hunnicutt and D.R. Stephens alone, 11 coopers are involved. The winemakers ferment some red wines in barrels experimentally, removing and reinstalling the heads themselves.
Hunnicutt now has about 600 barrels in use, but it has the capacity to house 1,465 comfortably, according to Stephens. The barrels are stored no more than three high using Western Square racks.
Family money wasn’t used for the bulk of the project. Stephens borrowed from Mechanics Bank to buy the property and build his cave. Stephens says digging and finishing the cave was half the cost of a conventional building—not even considering the savings in energy for cooling or heating.
Most of all, he emphasizes that this is a business, not a hobby. “If it doesn’t work out, someone else’s name will be on the property in a few years,” he says.
All French oak for Hunnicutt
As the winemaker for Hunnicutt Wines, Kirk Venge manages the barrel program and chooses coopers. Venge says that the winery uses different levels of new barrels—all French oak—for its three levels of wine.
It’s a minimum of 50% new oak for all wines, increasing to 80% for the winery’s AVA series that names specific source appellations on the label. Reserve wines age in 100% new French oak. Venge uses several coopers regularly, including Tonnellerie Taransaud, Fabbrica Botti Gamba, Demptos, Alain Fouquet and Tonnellerie Sylvain. He specifies thin stave, medium toast plus, tight grain wood from the Allier and Tronçais forests. He also uses some other barrels.
This year, Venge fermented a small lot of red wines from Beckstoffer’s Georges III vineyard in barrels. The winery removed the heads and then fermented the wines for about 12 days. “We use wild yeasts, and it takes a few days for them to take off, so the fermentation itself is about eight days.”
He has a cooper replace the heads, then cellar staffers rinse out the barrels and immediately refill them with wine.
Venge leaves the Hunnicutt Napa Valley Cabernet in barrels for 22 months, with the reserve getting a few more months of aging at 27 to 28 months. The wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered, then he tries to keep them in the bottle for three to six months before releasing them, unless customer demand makes that impractical.
Venge adds that customers are especially eager for the winery’s Zinfandel and Chardonnay, so the winery turns those wines faster. “It’s good for cash flow, but also the wines are drinking nicely young.”
Copyright © Wines & Vines
Manipulative winemaking declared a fault
8th December, 2011 by Patrick Schmitt -The Drinks Business
Over-manipulation is a wine fault claimed Douglas Wregg from Les Caves de Pyrène during a debate on natural wines last week.Speaking during the official launch of Jamie Goode and Sam Harrop MW’s Authentic Wine: Toward Natural and Sustainable Winemaking, Wregg defended a low-interventionist approach to winemaking for more accurately expressing site specifics.
“If you are intervening too much you’re not an authentic, but a commercial product,” he said, when invited to speak about what authenticity signified in wine.
However, he also commented that he didn’t like the term “natural wine”. “It’s a semantic thing… it seems to offend so many people who make wine,” he explained.
Indeed, Jamie Goode, who introduced the discussion, said, “Natural seems to be a term that polarises people: some love the concept but for others it’s a red flag.”
Continuing he explained, “And even most natural wine has some level of human intervention so we came up with the concept of authentic wine.”
For Goode, to be an authentic wine you must add as little as possible; have a sense of place; be fault free; pick at appropriate ripeness and be sustainable.
While Wregg admitted “very few winemakers are zero interventionalists” he stressed, “sustainability should be top of the list because wine is a luxury, we don’t need it, and we should bequeath the land in the state we received it.”
For Wregg, “the notion of diversity is the most important thing we have in the wine world,” before expressing distress at the idea you can “chemically create wine”.
He also said, “Today the lowest common denominator of wine is higher but it is still incredibly mediocre.”
David Gleave MW, founder of Liberty Wines, who spoke along with Wregg during the discussion and tasting, said, “We are in the job of pleasing the consumer, we’re in a service industry.”
Continuing, Gleave said that this meant it was vital to offer consistency, something natural wines are widely accused of lacking.
Bulk wine prices on the rise
8 December 2011, Meininger's Wine Business International
At a time when the world’s consumers are looking for value, bulk wine supplies are becoming more expensive. The quality, however, has never been better, according to attendees of the World Bulk Wine Exhibition (WBWE), held in Amsterdam in November.
“On average, the quality presented was amazing,” said René Keutgen of Vicotra S.A. “The very cheap wines belong to the past.”
The WBWE brought together more than 120 producers and shippers in Amsterdam. Organised by the Spanish firm Pomona Keepers, the show originally had a strong emphasis on Spanish wines. However, as the bulk wine market has never been as organised and transparent as the bottled wine market, the show appears to be fulfilling an industry need and is attracting a wider audience. Although many of the exhibitors are still drawn from Spain, countries such as Argentina, Chile, France, New Zealand and Italy were also represented.
This year also saw the first International Bulk Wine Competition, organised by Meiningers Weintest. Held several weeks earlier, the highest scoring wines were presented at the exhibition, with entries coming from countries as diverse as Austria, Chile and Italy, among others. Program coordinator Susanne Bauer said what was striking was the high quality of the wines; however, the higher prices of the wines, from €1.25 to €3.45 ex-cellar, makes some of them relatively expensive. This is in line with what visitors to the fair were observing in the bulk wine market in general.
“It’s an interesting occasion to see the market changes,” said Salvatore Ricciardi, export manager for Italian firm Mezzacorona. “Three years ago, it was small and Spanish-oriented. This year, all the world was there.” He says what was striking is that there is less bulk wine available to fill demand and agrees that prices are much higher than they were three years ago. “Buyers were having trouble finding the same prices as in previous years.”
Bulk wines sales rose strongly in 2010. According to the WBWE, the international bulk wine trade reached an all-time high of 33m hL worth €1.96bn; in the past ten years, bulk wine sales have risen by 60%, up from 19.6m hL in 2000.
Several things are contributing to the prices rises. According to the WBWE, environmental concerns may be part of it, possibly sparked by the need to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.
Italian broker Filippo Lazzaretto of Intermediazioni Lazzaretto, writing in the current issue of Meininger’s Wine Business International, says that the main reason for strong bulk sales was “due to low production in Eastern European countries and growing demand for bulk, especially from new markets such as China, where demand is growing very fast.” In the same article, he notes that the 2011 vintage in Italy is one of the worst in recent years, and so Italy’s output may have dropped this year by as much as 17%.
Florian Ceschi, director of French brokerage, Ciatti Europe, agrees. “Last year the Spanish and Italian market turned from a market where the buyers used to be powerful, to the opposite,” he said. “This year the small production in Italy forced them to buy a lot of generic from Spain.” He adds that, according to ISTAT, 647,000hL of Spanish wine, with an average value of €30.00 per hL have been bought by Italy, from January to July 2011. Other factors contributing to the price rise, said Ceschi, were the Chilean earthquake and a renewed interest in Old World wines.
Ceschi says it’s difficult to predict the future of bulk wine pricing, because of the current economic situation.
Regardless, the future of the World Bulk Wine Exhibition itself seems clear – it can only get bigger.
Responding to this suggestion later in the discussion, Wregg commented, “I don’t want consistency, I want to be surprised, delighted, upset and challenged.”
He then added, referring to wines with minimal intervention, “I’ve had amazing epiphanies and huge disappointments.”
Sam Harrop concluded the evening by applauding the notion of low interventionist winemaking but stressed the need for “a certain level of consistency because otherwise we are distancing ourselves from the mass market”, a comment echoed in an interview db ran last month with biodynamic advocate and practitioner Christophe Ehrhart, managing director of Josmeyer.
Australian Shiraz wins 'world's best label'
Decanter, 8 December 2011
A small-production Australian Shiraz has earned global renown by being named the world’s best label in 2011 by the World Label Awards Association.
The label of Alpha Crucis Shiraz 2008, produced by Chalk Hill Winery in McLaren Vale, was named best in Australia before taking on and beating the best from Europe, the US, India, Japan and New Zealand in the global final.
The awards are recognised as the peak competition for printing and label associations around the world.
The clean, minimal label, curved at the top, focuses on the constellation of the Southern Cross, in which Alpha Crucis is the brightest of five stars.
Explaining the thinking behind the design, Alpha Crucis says: ‘The ellipse or partial parabolic arc over the top of the label reflects the shape of the celestial night sky, with the Southern Cross constellation identified by a dotted line as they were in star maps from the last century.
‘Stars surrounding the Southern Cross are highlighted in muted colours with an embossed texture.
‘The gold band towards the base of the label reflects the borders found on early examples of European star maps.’
The label was designed by Motiv Design and printed by Studio Labels, which prints about 70% of South Australia’s wine labels.
Studio Labels, which is owned by Portugal’s Cork Supply Group, said the award reflected the need for the wine industry to strive for quality and focus on brand development as a long-term strategy.
‘This award is the culmination of seven years’ work and the dedication to excellence by our staff,’ said managing director Miguel Alemao.
First harvest for Sark – the world's newest wine region
November 01, 2011 - http://www.prleap.com/pr/182615/
SARK HAS become the world’s newest wine region after its first grape harvest took place under the direction of Bordeaux winemaker Dr Alain Raynaud.
An island in the English Channel, Sark is just three miles by one mile in size. It is located 8 miles from Guernsey and around 20 miles from the north coast of France [Normandy].
Much of its food produce comes from its land and surrounding waters of the English Channel. But in 2010, Dr Raynaud and his team analysed Sark’s soil and it became apparent that quality wines could also be made.
Around 100,000 vines have been planted in Sark’s vineyards covering just 2% of its total land area. Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Savagnin are the main varietals planted across 11 hectares, along with small parcels of Pinot Noir, Gamay and Albariño. The soil on Sark varies between gravel, sand, granite and schist.
At the end of October, around 30,000 vines were picked by hand in Sark’s first harvest and it is expected that the very first wine will be a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Savagnin. A new label and name for Sark’s first wines are also in planning stages.
Dr Raynaud, a respected personality in Bordeaux wine circles, said: "We had a warm summer on Sark so the grapes were able to evolve well and produce quality fruit. Sark’s first grapes are showing us a good balance between acidity and sugar. We are now beginning our journey to make an excellent quality sparkling wine for Sark, using the Champagne method of production."
Sark’s wine regions are Rondellerie, Beauregard and Jaspellerie where a state-of-the-art winemaking facility has been established by Sark Estate Management – it has made around £1million investment in Sark’s vineyards to date.
evin Delaney, managing director of Sark Estate Management, said: "Over the past 18 months, Alain and his team have undertaken extensive analysis of the soil types here on Sark and have planted the varieties of grapes that will best thrive here.
"We will put Sark on the world wine map for producing first class sparkling wines and still white wines. This, our first harvest, takes us a step closer towards achieving our objectives."
Raynaud and his team include French winemaker Etienne Longuechaud and vineyard specialist David Pernet. Sparkling wine will be produced in the traditional method used in Champagne – and by experienced Champagne winemaker Mark Quertenier.
With no cars, no streetlights and new sustainable initiatives underway on the island, Sark Estate Management’s harvests promise to be among some of the most eco-friendliest in the world. Horse and carts will in future supply Sark Estate Management’s hotels and restaurants with fresh produce – and will also be used during future harvests.
Notes to editors
1. Sark is situated in the English Channel, around 8 miles from Guernsey and 20 miles from the north coast of France.
2. The island’s new vineyard areas have potential to produce around 100hl of wine.
3. Dr Alain Raynaud is a former physician and president of the Union des Grands Crus in Bordeaux. He is best known for producing Quinault L’Enclos – a Bordeaux wine counted among the Right Bank’s "supercuvées".
4. Raynaud is also the former owner of the Pomerol estates Château La Croix-de-Gay and Château La Fleur-de-Gay.
5. Sark’s history dates back to 1565 when Helier de Carteret was granted permission by Elizabeth I to colonise the island – its population today is around 600 people.
6. Jancis Robinson MW’s story about Sark’s first harvest: http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/a201110315.html
New Zealand. Party is over as wine prices plummet
Sunday Star Times 30 Oct 2011
Although wine exports more than doubled in the past four years, it has been accompanied by a sharp slide in the average price per litre, a major determinant of industry profitability.
More than 70 vineyards for sale as wine profits plummet.
Export wine prices have slumped to a new low as the industry struggles to cope with changes wrought by a massive increase in supply of Marlborough sauvignon blanc.
Latest Overseas Merchandise Trade figures show that wine exports have more than doubled in the past four years. That includes 47 million litres exported in the three months to September, a 114% increase on the same period in 2007.
Although that has pushed the total value of New Zealand's wine exports up past the $1 billion mark, it has been accompanied by a sharp slide in the average price per litre, a major determinant of industry profitability.
The figures, released last week, show that the average fob price (the price at which a product is delivered to the ship or aircraft) climbed to $9.28 per litre in the September 2008 quarter and then began a steady slide as the volume of exports increased, driven by a massive increase in the supply of sauvignon blanc grapes.
In the three months to September this year, the average export price slipped to $6.28 a litre, equivalent to $4.71 per 750ml bottle and a 48% decrease on the average price being achieved three years ago (see graph).
There are also signs that lower prices are also flowing through to the domestic market. Retailers such as online wine store vineonline.co.nz are selling Marlborough sauvignon blanc for as little as $5.99 a bottle, a price that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.
The decline in export prices suggests much of the increased supply of sauvignon blanc has gone into the bulk wine market, to be sold in casks or bottled under retailers' house brands, which generally sell at much lower prices than well-known labels.
But Brent Marris, the director of Marlborough-based wine producer Marisco Vineyards, said other forces were at play.
Some of the huge multinational liquor companies which now dominate this country's wine industry are producing wine for export in Marlborough and having it shipped overseas in bulk, to be bottled under their mainstream brands.
That would not necessarily affect the retail price overseas, but it could reduce the producer's costs, as well as the amount of value added to the product in this country.
Marris said he considered that option last year, but his local packaging suppliers were able to "sharpen their pencils" allowing him to continue bottling his export wine in this country.
He said some overseas retailers are such large players in the wine industry that they are buying grapes directly from vineyards in Marlborough and having them processed at a contract winery before the wine is shipped to their home country in bulk, where they have it bottled.
One of the dangers of such developments for New Zealand is that cheaper wine on overseas retailers' shelves could affect the ability of wineries with established brands to continue charging premium prices, leading to long-term profitability issues for the industry.
Low grape prices and a resulting fall in the value of viticultural land are already forcing many smaller players out of the industry.
Last week the website of real estate company Bayleys listed 71 viticultural properties for sale, of which 39 were in Marlborough, where the price of developed vineyards has approximately halved over the past five years.
Triumph for Argentina'sTorrontés
2nd November, 2011 by Alan Lodge
Torrontés, the white grape variety unique to Argentina, has triumphed in a recent consumer study by a leading wine research agency.
The study aimed to discover consumer taste perceptions of Torrontés by pitching it against the UK’s best-selling white wine varieties including Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc.
The respondents in the Wine Intelligence study blind tasted six wines from two key price brackets including £5 – £7.99 and £8 – £10.
They were asked to assess them each on criteria including overall likeability of aroma and taste, likelihood to buy and recommend, and recognition of the grape variety itself.
Three Argentine Torrontés wines were tasted in each price bracket – two single varietal and one blend – along with a well known branded New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Australian Chardonnay and Italian Pinot Grigio.
Highlights from the research include:
* Within the £5-£7.99 bracket two Torrontés – a single varietal and Torrontés/Chardonnay blend – ranked highest (above all competing classic varieties including New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Australian Chardonnay and Italian Pinot Grigio).
* Within the £8-£10 bracket, a Torrontés achieved second overall favourite, only beaten by a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
* Both single varietal Torrontés and Torrontés blends scored highly, indicating the potential for both styles in the marketplace.
*Torrontés competed favourably against its rivals on all measures including taste, aroma, and likelihood to buy and recommend.
While the results clearly show a great appreciation of Torrontés amongst UK wine consumer, the study also highlighted that their knowledge of the grape is currently low – with only 18% recognition of the name Torrontés versus over 90% for the other varieties tested.
Andrew Maidment, European director for Wines of Argentina, said: “We were delighted by these results because they not only confirmed our belief that Torrontés has a place in the UK market, but that it also offers consumers a real alternative to the classic white wine varieties.
“The challenge now is to raise its profile, both through increased marketing activity and distribution in the on-trade and off-trade.”
The Science And Tradition Of Winemaking
By Enrico Uva- October 31st 2011
Since my last name means "grapes" in Italian, it is fitting that my father and brother are both amateur winemakers. While my dad stubbornly sticks to medieval techniques, my brother, a chemical engineering consultant, makes use of science. But although our understanding of winemaking has deepened, and although additives serve an important purpose, the basic process has remained unchanged for about 6000 years.
Commercial winemakers who rely on grape suppliers and hobbyists are both at the mercy of the harvester, who exercises control over the most critical stage of winemaking. The concentration of various grape ingredients that will impact the taste of wine vary significantly. During ripening, the levels of sugar, phenolic compounds and aromas rise while the amount of acid decreases. A few weeks before picking grapes, results of laboratory analyses and weather forecasts are consulted to choose the optimal time for harvesting.
No winemaker in my extended family relies on concentrated grape juice from kits. Instead they get their fruit from 36 pound wooden cases called lugs. These make their way to Montreal from California by either truck or train. Upon close inspection, a few bunches don't exactly appear to be fresh off the vines. But most are impeccable and delicious, far sweeter than table grapes. As a kid I would often sneak into the garage to smell and taste them.
The two main sugars in grapes are fructose and glucose, accounting for a whopping 18 to 25 % of their content. Pectin only accounts for about 0.06%, which is why it's necessary to add pectin when making grape jam. But in winemaking that same amount of pectin has to break down; otherwise it reduces the clarity of wine. In dry wines, most of the sugar will have been converted to alcohol during fermentation, an oxygen-independent reaction that provides yeast with adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
Why is the acid-level important in winemaking? Low acidity (high pH), common in grapes that are too sweet because they were grown in excessively warm climates, lowers the amount of subtle flavors in the grapes and wine. There is also an optimum pH for fermentation because, as Pasteur demonstrated, it is an enzyme-driven process. Prior to fermentation, pH is measured either by titration or more conveniently with a pH meter, and if it is too high, an acid blend is added. The acid blend consists of the three organic acids that are found in grapes: citric, malic and tartaric, the latter is less common in fruits but the most common in grapes. It led to Pasteur's discovery of enantiomers, molecules that are mirror images of one another. (The original Pasteur experiment, however, has been difficult to replicate.) Yeasts themselves will then add a small amount of other acids to wine.
Phenolic compounds which include the same type of compounds that make autumn leaves red affect the astringency and color of wine. Normally fermentation occurs in stainless steel tanks. But some chardonnay wines undergo fermentation in oak barrels and owe part of their taste to tannins transferred from wooden barrels.
When grapes have the right balance of sugar and acid, they are harvested and are quickly brought to the winery to be destemmed and crushed. Destemming the grapes prevents the stalks and stems from being crushed with the grapes, which would produce an excess of tannins. Red grape juice or must is fermented with their skins to extract color. White grapes are pressed after they are crushed so only the juice is kept for fermentation. A five to ten percent solution of sodium metabisulfite (Na2S2O5) is added to kill wild yeast on the grapes. This creates an equilibrium with sulfur dioxide(SO2), the truly active ingredient. The wild yeasts are too varied in composition and are often intolerant to wine alcohol concentrations, causing fermentation to stop prematurely, leaving a high residual sugar content in the finished product. In addition, SO2, inhibits enzymes that oxidize phenolic compounds responsible for discoloring wine. If a minimum of 80 ppm of SO2 is not present, more SO2 gas is bubbled into the juice, but the legal limit is 200 ppm.
Due to SO2 treatment, fermentation won't start until a selected wine yeast is reintroduced, usually a pure culture of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Interestingly my father and brother have at times started with the same grapes, with my dad refusing to add metabisulfite and yeast to his vat. You can guess which wine usually comes out looking and tasting better.
Fermentation is an exothermic process (it releases heat). But in winemaking, the temperature cannot exceed 29oC for red wines or 18oC for white wines), otherwise the growth of yeast cells may stop. Moreover, a lower temperature is desirable because it prevents the loss of volatile aromas and flavours. In homemade wine, excess heat is usually not a problem, but since large commercial vats have lower surface to volume ratios, they cool to slowly on their own.
As sugars get converted to alcohol, the density of the mixture decreases. Since an aqueous alcohol is less dense than an aqueous sugar solution, a hydrometer can help determine when fermentation has stopped, usually when the specific gravity has fallen to about 1.000. An alternative to measuring sugar concentration is the Fehling reagent. I've also watched my brother use a hydrometer prior to fermentation to predict the wine's potential alcohol content.
The freely run juice after fermentation is of the best quality. Going for quantity by squeezing the pulp dry severely compromises the quality of wine. It should be used only for later distillation of alcohol, which can then be added to other products. My father is fully aware of this fact, but driving his cost down to two dollars per bottle takes priority over fine taste.
To clarify the wine, the fermented juice is transferred into a settling vat, or if made on a smaller scale, into a demijohn. In these, suspended yeast cells, cream of tartar and particles of skin and pulp settle to the bottom of the container. As the yeast cells break down within the precipitate, they stimulate the growth of Lactobacillus bacteria that convert the wine's malic acid into lactic acid. This malolactic fermentation process is especially important in wines made from highly acidic grapes because lactic acid is a weaker acid than malic acid. (Bacteria decarboxylate malic acid , thus removing one of the acidic carboxyl groups), so it mellows the wine's taste.
After the demijohn stage, the wine is repeatedly racked to leave behind less and less sediment called lees. During the repeated racking, the wine is also given a chance to rid itself of the excess carbon dioxide from fermentation. As the CO2 escapes, oxygen enters the wine with each transfer, helping eventually to age the wine.
The wine's final flavor comes from its blend of phenolics, acids and sugars. But aromatic compounds are said to give it "character". In reality we do not taste wine without also smelling it, and molecular gastronomists remind us that we don't perceive what we smell directly through the nose in the same way as what we smell through the mouth. The concentrations of volatiles is quite low: in the 1 to 4 ppm range. The fruity or floral smells are due to the monoterpenes (natural products with repeating units of carbon and hydrogen but ending with an OH group) containing citronell, alpha-terpineol, geraniol and linalool. Aged wines have compounds like vitispirane and TDN(1,1,6-trimethyl-1,2-dihydro naphtalene).
In the CBC documentary by Josh Freed, "The Trouble With Experts", a professional winemaker and university professor fooled wine-tasting experts by switching the labels on them. Non-connoisseurs, however, preferred the more expensive wines, without knowing which was which. The idea was that expectation plays a role in judgment, but there is a distinguishing chemistry between different wines, nevertheless, one that is not always worth the exuberant price difference.
Occasionally, despite my dad's outdated winemaking methods, I have caught myself saying, "You know, this wine isn't half-bad!" Especially after the first glass.
Fairtrade wines need to do more to convince restaurateurs
Harpers Editorial team -
21 October 2011 09:04
Restaurants might be serving Fairtrade coffee as a matter of course, but the logo is failing to persuade on-trade buyers to add ethical wines to their list.
Leading suppliers and producers have warned that a vital step change in awareness of Fairtrade wine is needed if sales are to grow beyond the supermarkets.
Lucy Warner, Thierry's South Africa portfolio manager, said Fairtrade wines have "little recognition" in the eating and drinking out sector. "The potential to develop a brand that is Fairtrade for the on-trade is enormous. The demand is there and restaurateurs are really missing a trick. You only have to compare how much Fairtrade coffee and sugar there is in cafés to see how huge the potential is," she added.
"If organisations are supporting Fairtrade coffee, they should be supporting wine," agreed Paul Hinks, retail sales director of International Brands.
The biggest obstacle Fairtrade wine faces is that consumers think they're cheap, according to Iain Muggoch, Bibendum's director of buying for the Southern Hemisphere. "Unlike categories such as chocolate and coffee where premium brands have adopted Fairtrade, wine consumers only see the logo on bottles of inexpensive supermarket wine," he said. "Until we break the consumer perception that Fairtrade wine equals cheap and of limited quality, the sector is going to struggle."
He said that allowing brands to leave the large Fairtrade logo off the front label would help change customers' perception. It acts as "a barrier to gaining listings", he said, and indicates to buyers "the wine is cheap rather than fair".
Fairtrade wine has become "very off trade-centric," agreed Jon Woodriffe, sales director at Origin Wine. The firm is working with Matthew Clark to increase the range and offering of Fairtrade wines, including partnership activity during Fairtrade Fortnight (February 27 to March 11, 2012) and at the Hotel Olympia trade show.
Restaurants' wariness of listing Fairtrade wines will lessen in the long-term, believes Alliance wine buyer Garech Byrne. "The second generation of Fairtrade wines that are now coming through - wines where the emphasis is on quality rather than whether the wines are Fairtrade or not - will become more relevant to the on-trade in the future," he said.
Harpers, Written by Gemma McKenna
|Wednesday, 26 October 2011|
Russian wine producers have agreed to stop calling their sparkling wines Champagne, and are working towards creating geographical indications or appellations.
At a sparkling wine fair over the weekend in Russia’s wine producing area of Abrau Durso, producers got together to showcase their wines to Russian restaurateurs, wine industry professionals and journalists.
Boris Titov, owner of Abrau Durso, said: “We see our problems - we’re trying to build up the infrastructure of a professional society [of Russian producers], which will include technology, tasting, marketing and allow us to interact.”
On Saturday, as a first step, producers signed a protocol, developed alongside the Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne, committing to use the term sparkling wine rather than Champagne on its wine labels. “It’s a very important decision - we’ve been working on the issue for the last two years, and initially producers thought, ‘why should we?, we’ve been using the term for centuries’,” said Titov.
He said an important aim for the association would be to carry out a survey of the Russian wine industry, analysing its potential domestically and internationally. He said producers need to know “what steps should be taken in turn Russia into a new world wine province”.
Titov added that it also needs to work hard to “convince the Russian government that wine is not part of the pro-alcoholisation of the country - it’s the opposite”.
Titov admitted that the standard of some Russian winemaking is “still low”, blaming outdated winemaking technology. But he said the combination of good terroir, planting good vines, employing foreign wine consultants and the increasing use of technology that reaches European standards, were helping speed up improvements. The government should help with the “huge investment” required in grape production, added Titov.
Denis Roudenko, who runs a tasting club in Moscow and also blogs, said that although some of the country’s wines are “not so good yet”, they have “very good potential to develop”. He said that period of time wineries have had to develop - only around eight years - was too short to be able to best evaluate which varieties should be grown there. Roudenko believes that there is a place for both indigenous and international varieties - the latter being vital as “we need to have something to compare ourselves to”.
Moscow-based importer Slava Tzmailovs, from Fine Wines Russia, said the Russian wine industry was “like Portugal 50 years ago”. He said that while Russian wines could have great quality, producers “need to suffer now, and go through the tough times in terms of image”.
“They have to spend a lot of energy, be patient, and continue to focus on quality over quantity,” he added.
Both CVBG Grands Crus and Vintex have told Decanter.com they are seeing ‘very strong interest’ in the 5th growth and Cru Bourgeois wines retailing at around €20.
Online wine retailer Naked Wines was named Innovator of the Year for the second year in a row, at the prestigious International Wine Challenge Awards.
Drinks International Ranking: Concha y Toro is the Most Admired Wine Brand in the World
Marketwatch – 7 Sep 2011
SANTIAGO, Chile, Sept. 7, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- The global wine brand Concha y Toro was awarded this important distinction in a comprehensive survey made by the prestigious British magazine Drinks International. The August edition of the magazine publishes the "World's Most Admired Wine Brands" ranking, where the Chilean Concha y Toro obtained the top position in the list, being nominated the most number of times and surpassing long-established brands like Torres, Vega Sicilia, Antinori, Penfolds and Jacob's Creek, to mention just some.
HONG KONG: Cash-rich emerging Asian markets, especially India, could see an explosion in wine consumption in the future - if their government scraps import taxes altogether, the way Hong Kong did in 2008, maintains wine expert Jeannie Cho Lee.
That move ushered an explosion in fine wine consumption and sales in all of greater China - including Hong Kong, Macau and on the mainland - accompanied by frenzied wine auctions and an insatiable demand for wine storage and logistics.
Given its status as a market with a huge population rivaling that of China, India's potential as a wine market looks just as exciting, said Lee, a Master of Wine who has written several books on the subject.
"From an economic perspective, because (of) the sheer number of people in India who are getting wealthier and who have traveled, and who are not strictly practicing a certain religion and are much more international, that proportion of the population in India is growing," Lee said
"So that means, inevitably, wine (interest) is growing." The main hindrance to a potential boom in India's wine market, given the rapid growth of a freer-spending middle class, is prohibitively high alcohol taxes in key cities such as Delhi and Mumbai, though taxes are lower in Delhi.
"Mumbai being the sort of business hub of India, even though there's close to 300% duty, people still drink. People still enjoy wine," Lee said.
"So at the fine wine end of the spectrum, a lot of the Bordeaux chateau owners are telling me they're doing quite well in India."
Wine consumption in Asia has already seen double digit growth over the past five to 10 years as economies grow and people become savvy travelers, but if the region's governments scrapped all wine taxes, Lee is confident sales and growth in the market would boom.
Fine wine - those priced above US$100 -- as a volume of percentage makes up less than 10% of the wine consumed in greater China. But in that segment alone, mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau have seen growth double year-on-year, Lee said.
Inevitably, part of that growth is due to status. "Wine is seen as a luxury, and within that luxury, people are looking for familiarity with the brand, thus the power of Lafitte or Mouton, just as in the fashion world," she said.
"So it's got that brand attraction as well, that's why a lot of elite chateaus in France are benefiting so heavily from this."
The impact of the Hong Kong tax move also had a significant effect on wine auctions, which began to grow explosively. From virtually none, the number of auctions coming to Hong Kong grew about four-fold within a year -- and prices shot up as well.
"Definitely by 2009, it [Hong Kong] was the place you can sell the same wine, but if you sold it in a New York auction, you would get 20 or 30, sometimes even 50% less," said Lee.
"Now they regularly do anywhere between I would say for each auction house, 4, 8 or 10 auctions a year in Hong Kong from nothing, from zero, so that's really in the last three years."
Lee says India may be well behind Hong Kong or China when it comes to wine consumption now, but that for wine producers who see the potential, this may be the time to get in.
"It's never going to be that kind of open market as in Hong Kong or have the same kind of growth potential as in China but they do see that there is a niche market," she said.
"As soon the regulations are, if they are ever relaxed, then there really will be a boom."
Topnews – 7 Sep 2011
Making an amazing disclosure regarding healthy drinking habits among elderly women, a recent study, which was published in journal PLoS Medicine, has claimed that women who relish drinking alcoholic brews on sundown have an increased tendency of living a healthy life as they inch closer to the prime of their life.Researchers have revealed that nightcap can, for sure, be a goblet of wine, pint of beer or a single gauge of spirit.During their study, researchers examined in excess of 14,000 women, and found out that women who enjoy drinking in restraint were extensively expected to achieve 70 years-of-age, and that too, in a sound state of health as compared to binge drinkers, even abstainers.
Despite being a nation of wine lovers, SPAR has found that seven out of ten Brits wish they knew more about wine (71%).
Over half of consumers are so nervous about their lack of knowledge that they will leave wine related decisions to someone else (55%), or simply choose a brand name they recognise (28%) in an effort to avoid being embarrassed.
The research also found that as a result of this confusion, wine drinkers are sometimes lulled into a false sense of security; by believing several common wine myths.
From assuming the fruit used to describe a wine on its label, such as gooseberries or blackberries, went into making it (54%) to a wine bottled with a cork is better quality than a wine with a screw top (35%) – British wine drinkers are struggling to cut through the complexities of wine.
Baffled by wine types, the research also found another common misunderstanding is that Bordeaux, Chablis and Champagne are all grape varieties (32%). In reality these are all wine regions and also the names of the wines grown there – so Champagne can only be labelled with that name if the grapes are grown in France’s Champagne region.
Most Commonly Believed Wine Myths % who were mistaken
1 Chablis is made up of different grapes to Chardonnay 65%
2 The fruit used to describe a wine on its label went into making it 54%
3 Water is added to grapes to make wine 48%
4 The older the vintage on a bottle the better the wine is 43%
5 A wine bottled with a cork is better quality than a wine with a screw top 35%
6 Bordeaux, Chablis, Champagne, Sherry and Port are grape varieties 32%
When it comes to serving wine many of us become so flustered that we make common mistakes such as trying to pour wine with the cork or cap still on (31%), using a cork screw to open a screw-top bottle (15%) or attempting to swill the wine around a glass so it can breathe, only to end up spilling it (18%).
As wine’s popularity continues to grow in the UK, SPAR’s own brand wine sales are up over 20% year on year, the retailer is seeking to bust confusing myths and make wine more accessible to all.
SPAR’s Wine Trading Controller, Xenia Irwin MW, said: “We want our customers to continue to enjoy wine and not to get hung up on the industry terminology that gives these wine myths credence. Not everyone is a wine buff, but as long as you’re enjoying yourself just be adventurous and try new things, because that’s half the fun of wine.
“Learn to trust your wine retailer and try something different to your usual, branded wine. There are some fantastic wines available and at SPAR we have put a lot of time and energy into creating our own-brand range – so you can trust that you are getting a good quality wine at great value.”
To help those who want to enjoy wine bust these myths, SPAR has put together the following top tips:
Busting wine myth one (and six)
What’s in a name?: there are a number of wine regions that people believe to be grape varieties. The most common examples of these are Chablis, Champagne, Bordeaux, Sherry and Rioja. Wines in many European countries are named after a specific region, rather than a grape variety. These regions have laws to state what grapes can be used to make wine there, for example Chablis has to be made only using the Chardonnay grape.
Busting wine myth two
Not what it says on the tin: unless you are buying a wine made from a fruit other than grapes, it is made from the grape variety on the label and not from the fruit used to describe it (e.g. black cherry or kiwi). When you see, “hints of raspberry, cherry, and vanilla” on the label, the producer is simply describing how the wine tastes.
Busting wine myth three
Water into wine: due to the volumes of wine produced every year, a common assumption is that water is added to the liquid in order to make producing such large quantities easier – as is the case with beer and spirits. However, wine is made from 100% grape juice; it is illegal to add any other liquid to the wine. It takes roughly 1kg of grapes to make one bottle of wine, and with 1.7 billion bottles of wine drunk in the UK last year, that is a lot of grapes grown!
Busting wine myth four
The older the better: a vast majority of wines are made with the intention that they will be drunk in a couple of years, a very small number of wines have the proper structure to hold up to aging. If you’ve been saving that White Zinfandel from 10 years ago because you think it’s getting better, you might want to cut your losses now.
Busting wine myth five
Put a lid on it: most people seem to associate cork with expensive wine and screw caps with cheap wine. This may have been true in the past, but today some of the best vineyards in the world are bottling their wines with screw caps.
Research was carried out by One Poll in August 2011 amongst 2,000 adults.
Sydney Morning Herald- September 5, 2011
A 300-bottle collection of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, spanning every year from 1981 to 2005, fetched $HK4.2 million ($500,000) at the start of a two-day Hong Kong auction estimated to raise as much as $US8.3 million ($7.7 million).
In a difficult economic environment, French wine exports have risen dramatically so far in 2011.
Wine grape growers are already thinking about how to tackle disease, five months out from harvest.
In the 2010-2011 sales season, shipments of cognac reached a volume of 452,072 hectoliters of pure alcohol, that is to say 161.5 million bottles, up 11.5%. Volume growth has been concentrated on the top of the range (XO: + 26%, and VSOP: +17% yoy), causing a substantial increase in turnover : 2 billion euros (i.e. 39 Airbus airplanes).
The cognac production and trade union says that over 5 bottles of cognac are sold every second around the world. The breakdown of the Cognac market is very balanced between three main geographical areas. The Far East, the first destination in volume and in value, concentrated on the higher end products (VSOP, XO and above), represents 34.8% of the global market of cognac, up 23.9% over the year. The Chinese market is particularly strong (+31.3% year on year to 1.7 million cases). The NAFTA continues to recover (31.4% of the world) and increased by 2.2% year on year. The United States remains the leading consumer of cognac with 4 million cases. Europe, which represents 29.6% of the global market, is growing by 8.3% year on year.
US wine lovers sweet on their 'moscato'
For importers in South Korea, the reason for this slowness is due to the complexity of customs procedures. Currently, for a sales agent to be reimbursed 15% of customs duties, he or she must provide documents proving the origin of European imports. The Protocol on the origins, which establishes this special rate, also requires from European suppliers that they comply to special customs formalities, for their wines to be recorded as traceable supply products. These formalities can take up to two months.
South Korean customs defend themselves for their not being able to speed up the process of implementing the free trade agreement, while South Korean consumers are impatient. In 2004, South Korea had set up a free trade agreement with Chile, but the price of South American wines have not declined thereafter. At that time, the media accused the importers and distributors of having increased their margins and not having passed down their savings to consumer prices. This time, therefore, the expectation is high and has been expertly maintained by the Korean supermarkets, which have set up promotional offers (-15% on a selection of European wines), to prepare consumers for new rates
The biosensor system is called SAFEGRAPE and is represented by both mobile and fixed models. The second is intended to be used in cellar during wine production. It is a simple and economic tool for the wine industry, able to provide a quick, quantitative and reliable estimation of the presence of the grape grey mould infection.
The corporate bodies that participated in the project are:
· E.Begerow GmbH & Co.KG – Food and Beverage (Germania)
· Bodegas del Medievo SL (Spagna)
· Ecobioservices Srl (Italia)
· VitisTop SL (Spagna)
· German Wine Growers Association (Germania)
· Istituto Nazionale di Biostrutture e Biosistemi (Italia)
· Labor Srl (Italia)
· Geisenheim Research Center (Germania)
· Universidad de la Rioja (Spagna)
The representatives of these corporate bodies organised a job meeting last July for the presentation of the first prototypes of the developed devices and for the realization of the first tests.
According to the initial agreement of the project, E. Begerow GmbH (Germany) will produce and will commercialize the devices, VitisTop SL (La Rioja) will be the only provider of the devices 'Safegrape' in Spain and Ecobioservices (Italy) will produce the biosensors used by the instruments.
As the type of cava is determined by the amount of sugar added, it was important to find out the sugar content to distinguish between different wine varieties, said the scientists. The resulting classifications are: Brut Nature (<3 g/L, no sugar added), Extra Brut (<6 g/L), Brut (<12 g/L), Extra Dry (12-17 g/L), Dry (17-35 g/L), Medium-Dry (33-50 g/L) and Sweet (>50 g/L).
Electronic tongues contain a sensor matrix to obtain chemical information from samples in the same way that they are obtained by human senses, said the scientists.
Once white grapes were harvested, single vinifications were performed. To evaluate possible modifications in aroma composition of wines, Odour Activity Values (OAVs) were estimated due to this parameter provides information about sensorial changes.
Fungicide residual levels found in treated wines with respect to the control wine reduced the varietal aroma of wines attributed to geraniol.
However, treated wines showed an increase in the fruity aroma due to several ethyl esters (ethyl hexanoate, ethyl octanoate, and ethyl decanoate) and acetates (3-methyl-1-butyl acetate and 2-phenylethyl acetate) increased their levels and OAVs in presence of fungicide residues; these secondary products of the fermentation process influence strongly the aromatic profile of young wines.
Winealley (Aug 01, 2011)
However the seasonal sales of rosé wines seem lower than expected. But wine merchants have confidence in overall sales for 2011 summer. It is mainly the sales of red wines which indicate a significant loss of speed. The proportion of wine retailers holding an "important" stock of red wines has tripled in one year, from 10.1% in June 2010 to 29.5% in May 2011. Sales of sparkling wines are good for their part. Although it has been fairly stable for the wines of Champagne over the last year, there is a growing interest in wine shops for other sparkling wines. The stocks of wines (all types and colours) are generally little tense: only 10.7% of respondents consider it lean, which is the lowest rate since June 2010.
*: Completed in May 2011 among 2 600 French wine retailers
Currently, the headquarters of Castel Bordeaux (Blanquefort) is the first institution certified under ISO 14001, which concerns the management of the environment. The sustainable approach that has been set up based on the optimization of water use (reduced flows, increased pressure, dry cleaning ...), the recovery of hot air compressors, improved recycling, the use of solvent-free adhesives for carton ... The other centers of Castel Frères now focus on that development, including the one in central Loire (La Chapelle Heulin) which is one of the largest winemaking and bottling operations in France.
Castel carries 21% of its turnover from exports, with sales volume up 8% in 2010. With 20 million bottles sold in 2010, the group is the leading wine importer in China. Castel has a complete offer with its specialized subsidiaries: Barrière Frères and Barton & Guestier, for the great wines of Bordeaux, Patriarche for the wines of Burgundy and Beaujolais, and Kriter for sparkling wines.
Currently, a large proportion of India’s vineyard is dedicated to growing dessert grapes with production reaching 15,940 quintals in 2008. India’s unusual climate, which is both wet and warm all year long, allows Indian grape growers to harvest grapes twice a year in some areas. Most of the country’s vineyards are located in three regions - Maharashtra (west coast), Bangalore (south) and Himachal (north).
Rare Cognacs go up for auction
AC/DC launches wine range
Decanter-15 August 2011
World's most expensive white wine sold for £75,000
Democrat and Chronicle –
Copyright © Wines & Vines
He wrote that the wine ‘had been enough to make me cry: sour, blunt and over-oxidised stuff, bad-quality ingredients collected from all kinds of leftovers, grey mould plus a bit of sugar from Szerencs, musty barrel – but because we are still there ... hundreds of thousands of Hungarians drink [this] shit with pride.’
He was convicted of defamation in June
Uj appealed and the following November the
This judgement was upheld in the Hungarian Supreme Court in May 2010.
In its judgment on 19 July the
But it said ‘there was a difference between damaging a person’s reputation, with the repercussions that that could have on their dignity, and a company’s commercial reputation, which has no moral dimension.’
The court found that Uj's intention was 'satirical...that the applicant's primary aim was to raise awareness about the disadvantages of State ownership rather than to denigrate the quality of the products of the company in the minds of the readers.'
In finding a violation of Uj’s right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Court ordered the
The case is a direct echo of the celebrated case of
Wines & Vines 20 July
Copyright © Wines & Vines
Susan Cole, the director of consumer marketing at 10,000-case Pezzi King Vineyards in Healdsburg, has run an in-house telemarketing program and also used outside services. She explained several lessons she learned about the in-house approach.
Sonyia Grabski is an experienced winery sales manager who now runs her own company, DTCinsider. She gave advice about when to outsource outbound telemarketing. If a winery has excess inventory, a healthy database of active purchasers—and if the outside vendor understands the brand and can relate to its customers—it makes more sense to telemarket rather than use a flash site or other blatantly discounted sales channel. She and other panelists explained that outbound telemarketing does what flash sales do not: It builds a relationship between the winery and the customer and avoids overly visible discounting. The discount is almost always apparent in a flash offer. Winery telemarketing offers contain discounts, too, but they are subtler and tend not to devalue brands. Plus, wineries tend to make higher margins with telemarketing. Grabski estimated that more than 130 wineries currently outsource their outbound telemarketing, and 2010 sales were in the range of $3 millio n to $8 million per company. This year, such sales are estimated to grow 50% to 80%, she said. She noted that outside vendors also can handle an overflow of inbound calls at peak times, can recover credit card declines and expirations, can find phone numbers for customers who only left an address and can reactivate wine club memberships. One point stressed by all the panelists: Telemarketing salespeople must be both really skilled and really well informed about the winery and its products.
Copyright © Wines & Vines
Wines & Vines
Copyright © Wines & Vines
Grace Cai of Aussino told Decanter.com, ‘The prices of the Grand Cru wines are too high because of the booming wine market in China, and it is very dangerous to keep on promoting them.
‘It should attract attention and be sexy, but not be cheap or overly erotic,’ she added.
The young wine workers had different reactions from family and friends when they told them they were appearing in the calendar, according to interviews with the Austrian Krone newspaper.
‘On Christmas Eve I gave everyone in my family a calendar and told them that they need to buy one next year, because I will be in it,’ said 23-year Stefanie Sauer of Weingut Sauer in the Austrian town of Grossklein.
There were some ‘unpleasant minutes of silence’ before the family gave their consent, she said. ‘I reassured them I would not be naked.’
‘My boyfriend was not so excited about the idea, but he is backing me up on my decision,’ 18-year-old Cornelia Gamser of Weingut Gamser in Leutschach said.
Some 3,500 copies have been made of the calendar, which goes on sale in September for €25
It can be ordered online at www.e- ledermueller.com.
Other labels will warn, ‘Kids and alcohol don’t mix’, ‘Is Your Drinking Harming Yourself or Others?’ and ‘It is Safest Not to Drink While Pregnant’.
The labels will not be compulsory but DrinkWise has published a list of its member companies which have signed up to the initiative.
DrinkWise represents 80% of Australia’s drinks brands, with multinationals including Diageo Australia, Lion, Premium Wine Brands and Suntory, owners of major brands such as Bacardi, Absolut, Johnnie Walker, Jack Daniels, Strongbow, Cooper’s beers as well as leading wine brands.
Dr Trish Worth, chair of the DrinkWise Australia board said research had found high levels of support in the community for consumer information messages on alcoholic drinks.
‘Two thirds (61%) of consumers surveyed said they would support the idea of information messages on alcohol labels and one third (32%) said they would be likely to seek more information about responsible drinking as a result of seeing a label.’
The growth in popularity of pink wines has been one of the few success stories for wine retailers in the UK recently. That growth has apparently slowed down but that's fine. Rosé has firmly established its position as a valid, non-wimpy wine style. Franco's restaurant in London's Jermyn Street has established such a popular annual rosé wine tasting that they now charge their well-heeled customers for the chance to sample from a range of 60 of them every spring.
I have been tasting as many different examples as possible over the last few months. Yapp Bros have a particularly interesting selection and I have come to the - admittedly hardly devastating - conclusion that Provence does pink better than anywhere else. Or rather, Provence produces more great rosés than any other wine region. There may be other candidates but their pink wines rarely manage to combine the delicacy and subtle, dry, herbiness of a really fine Provençal pink.
While there were of course some excellent Provençal practitioners before his advent from Bordeaux, newcomer Sacha Lichine did the rosé market a great service by showing just how fine (and expensive) his Château d'Esclans pink wines could be. The Provençal estate of the couple behind JCB and Daylesford Organics, Château Léoube, has been catching up fast, however.
Fortunately for us Brits, there has been a determined generic effort to increase the number of fine Provençal rosés available in the UK and I have certainly seen a big difference in what's available this year compared with last. Tourists beware, however. It is still horribly easy in Provence itself to find very ordinary, sticky pink. A particularly pale salmon colour is a good but not infallible clue to quality in Provençal pink.
Navarra to the north east of Rioja is another great source of dry rosé, or rosado, but this time much beefier and more obviously fruity than a typical Provençal offering, and based on the Garnacha/Grenache grapes that thrive there. And the dry pink wines were some of the most agreeable surprises of my recent trip to Puglia. Although there are few other regions with a long tradition of making really successful rosés (most Tavel seems so heavy to me), there are individuals all over the wine world, not just in Europe, who are making exciting rosés with much more character than this.
One style not to be overlooked is the low alcohol, lightly grapey Moscato d'Asti tastealikes.
The standard commercial rosé is a lurid pink colour looking as though it has been literally stained by contact with very young red wine. It starts sweet and ends very tart with a distinct lack of fruit in the middle. Below are the most impressive wines among the scores of rosés I have been sampling, all of them with something positive to offer.
Decanter- 7 July 2011
The scientists said that by 2040 there could be 50% less land suitable for cultivating premium wine grapes in high-value areas of Northern California.
However, some cooler parts of Oregon and Washington state would become correspondingly better for growing grapes.
The study examined climate change over the next 30 years, Noah Diffenbaugh (pictured), of the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University said.
This is ‘a timeframe over which people are actually considering the costs and benefits of making decisions on the ground,’ he said.
These results follow the researchers' 2006 climate study, which projected that as much as 81% of premium wine grape acreage in the country could become unsuitable for some varietals by the end of the century.
For the present study the team assumed a 23% increase in greenhouse gases by 2040, which would amount to a 1C increase in global temperature.
Researchers used a climate model incorporating local, regional and global conditions and including factors such as wind conditions and coastal variations. The model was tested against actual data between 1960 and 2010.
They predicted that by 2040 all four wine regions are likely to experience higher average temperatures during the growing season and an increase in the number of ‘very hot days’ when the temperature reaches 35C.
In Napa the average temperature could increase by 1.1C, with 10 more very hot days.
As a result the amount of land suitable for growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay would shrink by half. In Santa Barbara, the corresponding loss of suitable land would be 20%.
In Oregon’s Willamette Valley there would be slight increase in suitable land, but in Columbia Valley in Washington there would be a 30% reduction.
Diffenbaugh stressed that there while there is ‘a lot more than temperature that goes into making wine’, temperature is a consistent factor that can be measured across decades.
Growers have two options, the report’s authors warn. They can either find grape varieties that can withstand up to 45 very hot days, or they can move their growing operations and employ a range of strategies, such as new trellising methods and irrigation, to keep vines cool.
The Guardian - 5 July 2011
For the producer, participation in medal competitions is a very useful marketing and communication tool, as well as participation in trade shows. Without follow up work however, it is useless: winning a medal is evidence in a negotiation, but above all the means of sending a message to clients, and prospective clients, in order to promote your brand, name and vineyard.
I speak of negotiation; it is this question that faces a buyer, in the first instance of facing retail buyers. The medal is evidence because the buyer knows that the medal is what clients are looking for; it is particularly true in retail, in the absence of contact with a wine merchant or a wine steward. Francis Lerminiaux, buyer of wines for Carrefour Belgium, confides that a wine must make a difference in 3 areas in order to appear in the range: quality, price and medals/commentaries/good marks. In Gondola retail, a medalled wine showed superior sales of 15% to those of un-medalled wines. The reputation of a brand is one thing, it is more difficult to promote a wine without the garantee of quality. So why does a company like Gallo, who makes millions of hectolitres of wine and is well known across the world for its reasonably priced wines, enter their wines in competitions? Because a quality seal of approval is more evidence for the consumers.
The array of electrochemical sensors is composed of six ISFETs based sensors, a conductivity sensor, a redox potential sensor and two amperometric electrodes, an Au microelectrode and a microelectrode for sensing electrochemical oxygen demand.
The optofluidic system is entirely fabricated in polymer technology and comprises a hollow structure, air mirrors, microlenses and self-alignment structures.
The data obtained from these sensors has been treated with multivariate advanced tools; Principal Component Analysis (PCA), for the patterning recognition and classification of wine samples, and Partial-Least Squares (PLS) regression, for quantification of several chemical and optical parameters of interest in wine quality.
The results have demonstrated the utility of this system for distinguishing the samples according to the grape variety and year vintage and for quantifying several sample parameters of interest in wine quality control.
“Kent and Sussex in particular have a chance to produce sparkling wines to rival the best in France. The English can be as good as anyone in the world at making wine, but it will take time and investment.”
Balfour-Lynn has just struck a deal with British Airways to serve the 2007 vintage of his award-winning Balfour Brut Rosé in the airline’s first class cabins and lounges.
“It’s a triumph to be taken on by a national carrier and for so many international clients to have the opportunity to try an English product,” he said.
He admitted that English sparkling still has a way to go before it is as good as Champagne, but thinks there is an opportunity for it to compete in the mid-tier.
“A lot of mid-priced Champagne has suffered and it’s in this area that English sparkling can compete. Having Champagne on sale for £5 at Woolworths a couple of years ago was really damaging to the brand.”
Prior to the new winery, housed in an old cow shed, Balfour Brut was made and bottled at neighbouring Chapel Down. In his “ruthlessly uncompromising” quest to be the best, Balfour-Lynn has taken on Chapel Down’s former winemaker Owen Elias as consultant winemaker at Hush Heath.
The entrepreneur has ambitious expansion plans for the estate, which currently has 30 acres under vine. He wants to take production up from 30,000 to 100,000 bottles a year, and is releasing his first still wine, Nannette’s English Rosé – a second pressing of the three Champagne grapes, onto the market this year through Bibendum, with an unoaked Chardonnay to follow later in the year.
The first growths and their Right Bank equivalents ‘will sell at any price’, Chris Adams of importer Sherry Lehman in New York said.
But the problem is in the mid range, ‘where wines that used to be $50-$60 a few years ago now come out between $100-120.’ The poor euro-dollar exchange rate compounds this problem, he added.
Too many wines are reaching ‘dangerous’ price levels, Shaun Bishop of JJ Buckley in California said. ‘I think people really do want to buy the wines, but too few wines in this campaign so far offer compelling prices for what the consumer expects to be in the bottle.’
Both Adams and Bishop expressed dismay at the 2010 price of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, for example. The respected Pessac Leognan property came out at €77 and is retailing at over €100 a bottle.
Still, potential 100-point Parker wines, such as Chateau Pontet Canet, will sell, regardless of the price increases, Bishop predicted.
‘We sold 30% more of Pontet Canet at a higher price in 2010 in the first two days since its release than we did of the 2009 in the first two days of its release,’ said Bishop.
Long-time Washington DC importer Elliot Staren of Wide World of Wines said that he is buying less this year. ‘We are buying so far, but being much more selective.’
The report, ‘Splendide Mendax – False Label Claims about High and Rising Alcohol Content in Wine’ from the American Association of Wine Economists, analysed climate data from1992-2009.
This comprised 129,123 samples of wines, including 80,421 red wines and 46,985 white wines from all around the world.
It found that the heat index in most wine-making countries grew less than the rise in alcohol, and could not be attributed as the major factor driving the steady increase.
The heat index was created by averaging the daily high and low temperatures over the relevant growing season in the various countries sampled.
The research indicates, the authors say, that the average alcohol content in wine has increased by 1.12% over 18 years, from a mean of 12.7%.’
This, they say, is considerably higher than would be expected when set against the heat index, which predicts an average rise of 0.05% in alcohol per year.
‘It would take a whopping 20 degree Fahrenheit (6.67 Celsius) increase in the average temperature in the growing season to account for a 1 percentage point increase in the average alcohol content of wine.
The study also found discrepancies between alcohol content stated on labels and actual content in bottle. In 57% of the 100,000 samples the alcohol level was understated with the worst offending being New World red wine, which averaged 0.45 percentage points below the stated level.
Lead author Julian Alston of UC Davis cited other factors such as evolving market preferences as key contributors.
But laid the responsibility with winemakers: ‘Label claims appear to be biased towards a perceived norm, a desired alcohol percentage to report for a particular wine - red or white.
‘It may be profitable for the winery to give the consumer both the desired wine characteristics (including higher actual alcohol content) and the desired label characteristic, by understating the true alcohol content. This parable is consistent with explanations we have been given by some winemakers.’
Alston also pointed out that tax rates were a powerful inducement to distort alcohol information: Federal Wine Excise Tax is US$1.07 per gallon for wine of 14% alcohol or less, and US$1.57 per gallon for 14.1% to 21% alcohol.
As regards the reasons for the actual rise in alcohol around the world, the authors suggest there may be many climatological or cultural factors that have not been measured, but ‘our findings lead us to think that the rise in alcohol content of wine is primarily man-made.’
The wines typically contain between 6.5 per cent and 9 per cent alcohol.
Lead author Dr Stephen McKenzie said if these wines were drunk in larger quantities than regular wine, they could pose a public risk.
Last Updated (Friday, 06 April 2012 14:23)