Happy weekend everyone. Hope you’re all staying safe and healthy out there. I’ve got your weekly round-up of wine related news. A few highlights—the alcohol ban has been lifted in South Africa (woohoo); the WSET had to halt all educational programs in China (uhoh); Eric Asimov discusses the current state of the industry; and a recent post on Tim Atkin’s blog informed my most recent (wine-related) Amazon impulse buy.
I also had an article published on Wine Enthusiast. If you haven’t had a chance to see this piece in which I interview nine very different influential females in the wine industry, it’s the first link below.
Other than that, I’m studying hard. And, yes, I’ll have more DipWSET-related posts in the near future.
Wine Enthusiast: ‘Know Your Worth’: Nine Women Winemakers on Mentorship and More
From the vines to the lab, tasting table, boardroom and beyond, women have long made waves in wine production. They’ve developed farming techniques, proved yeast’s impact and connected clonal specificity to terroir; they’ve built businesses and brands to share research, and created quality wines for all palates. However, they’ve also faced incredible adversity within the wine world simply because of their biological gender. READ MORE…
Wine Spectator: McBride Sisters Award $300,000 in Grants to Black Women–Owned Businesses
She Can Professional Development Fund offers hope for business owners affected by the COVID-19 pandemic
McBride Sisters Collection, one of the largest Black-owned wine companies in the United States, created the She Can Professional Development Fund in 2019 to promote the professional advancement of women in the wine industry. That year, sisters Robin McBride and Andréa McBride John awarded nearly $40,000 in scholarships to help close the gender and race gap in wine.
Since then, the fund has grown by more than 600 percent, and will distribute $300,000 in grants to the She Can Thrive class of 2020 (the fund shares its name with McBride Sisters’ She Can brand of canned wines and spritzers). The charitable fund’s growth has received a big boost from individual donors following along with the #SheCanThrive2020 social media campaign. READ MORE…
New York Times: For the Wine World, 2021 Brings Familiar Problems
The year has changed. So has the government. But the challenges facing the wine industry — Covid, tariffs and climate change — remain.
What will that new world look like? It’s hard to say with any degree of certainty. The failure of governments at all levels to offer sufficient support to restaurants and their employees, while rightly demanding they operate at a fraction of capacity or close entirely, means that the hospitality industry will require years to recover.
Though the pandemic is the greatest obstacle for restaurants and the wine industry, it is far from the only one. READ MORE…
The Drinks Business: WSET Halts All Operations in China
The WSET has announced an immediate (temporary) halt to all its activities in China, including all courses and examinations.
Today (1 February), the organisation made an official announcement on its Chinese official website and WeChat account that it has put its operations in China temporarily on hold due to “administrative issues”.
As the company stated, it has recommended, “that WSET course providers in China pause all their WSET-related activities, including all courses and exams”.
The company says it is, “currently taking urgent steps towards a solution that will allow us to resume their activities in China as soon as possible”. READ MORE…
Eater: The New Risks of Dining Out
While the pandemic is easing in many places, and millions stand to be vaccinated in the coming months, continued community spread and new, more contagious variants of COVID-19 make this moment riskier for workers and diners alike
Even when outdoors, a small restaurant table doesn’t leave much room for social distancing with friends from another household, and yet again, masks have to come off to eat and drink. The ability of fresh air to push out lingering infectious particles also depends on the outdoor setups that actually resemble the outdoors, rather than the enclosed structures that struggling restaurateurs in colder climates have erected so they can continue serving diners through the winter. Unfortunately, many of these structures — think yurts, igloos, solariums, and cabanas — prohibit the free movement of air that makes outdoor dining much safer than eating indoors. …
Even if you’re dining outdoors, wear a mask with a filter, consider layering two masks on top of each other, and pull the mask(s) back over your mouth and nose in between bites. This doesn’t protect just you and your fellow diners, but also restaurant workers, many of whom do not yet have access to a COVID-19 vaccine, have not been able to claim unemployment, and must put themselves at risk of serious illness to collect a paycheck. The least risky option, for you and for restaurant workers? Eat your favorite restaurant dishes from the comfort (and safety) of your own home, and treat tipping generously as a non-negotiable part of paying for your meal. READ MORE…
Blogs Worth a Read
Taken from the list of Blogs I follow regularly, here are just a few posts from this past week I think are worth a read. Shoot me a note if you have suggestions of blogs to follow or want your blog included on that list.
Jancis Robinson: Alcohol ban lifted in South Africa
It’s a hot, still day in Cape Town, one of those summer days where the wind has given us residents a reprieve. The sky is a startling blue; the land a verdant green from so much winter rain; this is The Mother City in all her peachy glory – a day where the only possible destination is the beach. Luckily, after five weeks of thirsty gazes at the empty white stretches of sand that trim the Atlantic (see Cape faces a sober New Year), we’re finally allowed back onto our beaches.
On 1 February, South Africans eagerly gathered around TV screens for what’s become known as the ‘family meeting’, the nation largely anticipating an easing of the throttlehold restrictions that were meant to be in place only until 15 January 2021. The most devastating of these to the wine industry was the third blanket ban on alcohol sales as well as the closing of the country’s world-famous beaches. Both restrictions have wrought calamitous consequences on the wine, hospitality and tourism industries – all three being the lifeblood of the Western Cape. READ MORE…
Vinous: Extreme High-Altitude Wines from Argentina’s Northern Valleys
The list of those who have fallen under the spell of northwestern Argentina is long and distinguished. But all these stories began with a bottle that so well reflected the wild landscape and the determination of people that they kept coming back for more.
Looking to find out a little more about where these bottles came from, last December I managed to negotiate my way through the maze of COVID-related permits to travel across Jujuy and Salta provinces, hoping to reproduce that spell and subject it to an exhaustive examination through the 250 wines featured here. This report comes with a warning for the terroir-sensitive reader: some of these wines are the real deal. READ MORE…
Grape Collective: Warren Winiarski’s ‘Aha!’ Moment with Nathan Fay’s Homemade Wine
This is a story about a grape and two men and how the three of them together changed the modern world of wine forever.
Both men were in Europe in 1955, but it would be more than a decade before they met. Warren Winiarski, a post-graduate academic and lecturer at the University of Chicago, was in Florence, studying the Renaissance statesman and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli. Nathan Fay, a California native who loved the outdoors, was climbing the Matterhorn, that massive range of mountains along the Swiss-Italian border so vast and forbidding it is known as the Mountain of Mountains. Fay, who had trained on lesser mountains, topped the Matterhorn in record time among the climbers on that day. According to Fay’s notebook in which he kept a diary of his preparations and the final Matterhorn climb, his guide won a handsome sum from fellow guides – they had bet that the “American” wouldn’t even summit.
Six years later, in 1961, Fay planted the first Cabernet Sauvignon vines in what would become the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley, a location widely believed to be too cold for that variety to thrive. That planting happened 60 years ago this year and, in an extended sense, the seeds of those vines still bear fruit all over the wine world. READ MORE…
Vino Joy News: WSET suspends operation in China
The WSET, the largest global provider of wines and spirits qualifications, has suspended its operation in China indefinitely, after it was reported that the education provider allegedly failed to comply with the country’s education laws and non-governmental organization (NGO) management law.
The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), the largest global provider of wines and spirits qualifications, has suspended its operation in China indefinitely, one of its top markets, after it was reported that the education provider allegedly failed to comply with the country’s education laws and non-governmental organization (NGO) management law.
It’s not immediately known if the decision is prompted by an investigation or after WSET’s internal review of its China operations, but it’s understood the suspension involves all WSET courses and examinations inside China, with immediate effect. READ MORE…
Tablas Creek: Assessing the Historic January 2021 Winter Storm on California’s Central Coast
I sit here in my office at the vineyard, looking at a sunny landscape outside, listening to birdsong coming in through my open window. It could be a California Chamber of Commerce commercial. What a change from the last 72 hours, during which we saw the largest storm in our 31-year history drop 12.71″ of rain on us. For perspective, that’s almost half of what we expect to receive in a normal year (26″) and 828% of the total that we’d received so far since fall. Since we installed our weather station in 1996, we’ve had just five months that exceeded the rain we received in this storm. READ MORE…
Wine Curmudgeon: “Curated” wine clubs, and why they don’t seem to be the answer
“Curated” wine clubs are supposed to use science or experts to find wine you like. But they keep recommending oaky California chardonnay to the Wine Curmudgeon
Know two things about a host of “curated” wine clubs making the rounds these days, companies like Sippd, Bright Cellars, and SommSelect. First, they’re supposed to use science or an expert to take the confusion out of buying wine. Or, as Sippd claims, “Sippd uses AI to provide you highly personalized wine recommendations.” Second, they really don’t work, and certainly not any better than asking the woman at your local wine shop what’s on sale that you might like.
I pointed and clicked through a variety of those websites last week and used three for this post (a tip o’ the WC’s fedora to regular blog visitor Wiseguy for setting me off on this adventure). The results were past discouraging. READ MORE…
Jancis Robinson: Project Loire – Muscadet and Chardonnay
Is Muscadet, possibly, the most underrated, misunderstood, underaged and underpriced wine in the world? Sounds overdramatic. Maybe.
In The Oxford Companion to Wine, Muscadet is described as ‘one of France’s dry white commodity wines currently undergoing revolution while trying to survive’. Written at least five years ago (probably more), it’s frustrating that this is still true today. Muscadet still suffers from the misperception that it is a light, simple anodyne wine. In fact, even Victoria Moore in her Wine Dine Dictionary (my much-thumbed bible) disappointed me somewhat by trotting out two well-worn clichés about Muscadet. One is true. One is not.
She writes that it is the ‘daddy of all fish wines’. Absolutely, yes! She writes that it is ‘unpretentious and plain’. Absolutely not! Plain means without any discerning features of interest. In this tasting of more than two dozen Muscadets, I found quite the opposite. READ MORE…
Palate Press: The search for high-quality Cava begins in Penedès
Although oceans of Spain’s sparkling Cava wash up on U.S. shores each year, high end Cavas do actually exist and are beginning to appear on restaurant lists – at prices that rival Champagne.
Like Champagne, Cava is produced using the Traditional Method for sparkling wine. Cava, however, is most often a blend of varieties based on the indigenous xarel-lo, macabeo and parellada. In Catalonia, as in sparkling wine regions elsewhere, some producers are playing with Champagne’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (permitted in 2002 and 2008 respectively) in their pursuit of producing high quality Cavas. READ MORE…
Tim Atkin: Making Sense of Life
I once spent three hours working out which destination would be far away enough for my main character to be unable to return to her dying father’s bedside in time to say goodbye while thinking it could be possible. That’s how she ended up being initially employed by an Argentinian company.
‘You want to write about the wine business? Take me there with you then. I want to see the inside of that bottling plant, I want to hear the noise, I want to smell and taste the wine, I want to feel the sun on my back,’ said, Adam Baron, now writing bestselling novels for younger readers, said. Adam likes wine. READ MORE…
Wine Gourd: Does bottle price have anything to do with cellaring desirability?
I recently asked the question: How soon is wine consumed after purchase? This inevitably involved the topic of cellaring wines, since most wine production seems to be intended for consumption within 1—3 years of bottling. Indeed, only c. 10% of the people surveyed said that they preferred to cellar their wines.
Having a wine collection seems to be associated with a certain amount of wine snobbery, although we might prefer to see this as “wine interest”, instead. Another aspect of snobbery is, of course, cost. Having expensive bottles in the cellar is much “better” than having cheap ones, as explained in Leonard S. Bernstein’s 1982 classic The Official Guide to Wine Snobbery.
The obvious question, then, is: Does the wine price have anything to do with cellaring desirability? READ MORE…
Shana Bull: Digital Marketin: 10 Ideas For Instagram Reels For Wine Businesses
I will say it. Instagram Reels is intimidating for Instagram marketers who aren’t already creating videos for their social media efforts on an ongoing basis. I know, because it is intimidating for me. When Tik-Tok, and then Instagram Reels become popular it was at the beginning of the pandemic. I had a kid at home and was just focused on getting all my work tasks done. Fast forward months later, being bedridden from the cancer stuff, I wasn’t making videos from my bed.
Now, I am learning by playing around with the Instagram Reels platform, trying to splice videos together, attempt to lip-sync to songs while watching myself on camera, playing around with which Instagram reels music I want to save for later, and figuring out the best formula for creating a good Instagram Reel.
… And I do this for a living. And it is still intimidating. READ MORE…
These are some press releases I received this week that I actually thought were interesting…enjoy!
Catena Institute of Wine: The Catena Institute of Wine Publishes Groundbreaking Article in the Most Extensive Terroir Study of Any Varietal Wine
The Catena Institute of Wine announces the publication of groundbreaking research, irrefutably proving the existence of terroir and its persistence across vintages. The article, “Terroir and vintage discrimination of Malbec wines based on phenolic composition across multiple sites in Mendoza, Argentina,” appears today in Scientific Reports, one of the most-cited journals in the world. The Institute chose to submit the study to Scientific Reports, a Nature Research journal, because of its rigorous peer review acceptance process and open access—making it available to everyone.
“Mendoza is one of the few places in the world with strikingly different wine terroirs within short distances,” said Dr. Laura Catena, founder of the Catena Institute of Wine. “For the first time, this study shows that the terroir effect can be chemically described from vintage to vintage in larger regions as well as in smaller parcelas (parcels). We were able to predict with 100% certainty the vintage of each wine of our study through chemical analysis.” READ MORE…
Wine Institute: California Wines Launches “Golden State of Mind” Campaign in International Markets
Wine Institute’s California Wine Export Program has launched a new global brand campaign and business strategy, showcasing California wine as a leader in sustainable winegrowing, innovation, and winemaking advancements while promoting the commitment of generations of family farmers and winemakers to producing high-quality wines. The global campaign is part of a 10-year strategy to boost export sales of California wines across international markets. The first phase aims to grow awareness and appreciation for California wines through digital advertising and consumer-focused promotions to meet wine drinkers where they are most active in discovering and purchasing wine. READ MORE…
Victor George Vodka: Columbus Ohio Native, Victor G Harvey, Launches Victor George Vodka, “VG” Statewide On First Day Of Black History Month
Black-owned Victor George Vodka “VG”, announced it has launched its award-winning vodka throughout the State of Ohio. Based in South Florida, VG is also distributed throughout the U.S. including Florida, Georgia, Nevada, New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois, Tennessee and more than ten additional states with new distributors and major retailers continuing to introduce VG Vodka this Spring. READ MORE…
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Educational posts are in no way intended as official WSET study materials. I am not an official WSET educator nor do I work for a WSET Approved Program Provider. Study at your own risk. Read the full disclaimer.
**Please note: all reviews and opinions are my own and are not associated with any of my places of business. I will always state when a wine has been sent as a sample for review. Sending samples for review on my personal website in no way guarantees coverage in any other media outlet I may be currently associated with.**