Hello and happy weekend. I’ve got your weekly round up of newsy wine items. Lots of great stuff both in traditional media and inside the blogs. So have a fun scroll-through.
For those of you following along on my WSET Diploma Studies, this past week we hit Italy (DipWSET Theory and Tasting—Central Italy (Part 1) DipWSET Theory and Tasting—Central Italy (Part 2) [Paired with Metalica] DipWSET Theory and Tasting—Umbria ) and will continue with that massive, detailed country into next week.
Wine Enthusiast: DTC Wine Shipping at All-Time High, Average Bottle Price at Historic Low
In 2020, the U.S. wine industry saw the largest year-over-year increase in direct-to-consumer (DTC) shipping in the past decade. As the year and pandemic-related quarantines progressed, there were 8.39 million cases of wine sent to consumers, a 27% increase over 2019. Comparatively, over the last nine years, winery DTC experienced an average of 10.5% annual increase in shipment volume.
“We knew we were going to set records for volume shipment, but the big surprise was on the value side—we didn’t anticipate such a significant drop in price per bottle,” says Larry Cormier, general manager, Sovos Shipcompliant. READ MORE…
New York Times: How to Think About Wine Vintages
Conventional wisdom can often lead consumers away from delicious wines. Better to think of individual years in terms of character than of quality.
Recently I took part in a brief exploration of the Northern California vintage of 2011, a year that was widely regarded at the time as the worst in recent memory for cabernet sauvignon.
James Laube, a columnist for Wine Spectator magazine, called it “the most damning vintage in perhaps 15 years.” Yet the six wines we tasted for the exploration, all cabernet-based, were gorgeous, evocative, complex and elegant, not at all what one might have predicted going by the general depictions of a mediocre year. READ MORE…
Eater: ‘Challenging Is Not Nearly a Strong Enough Word’
High-risk restaurant workers are struggling to navigate the pandemic
For those who are at above-average risk for severe COVID-19, or who care for someone in this category, following this guidance can present a seemingly impossible choice. On the one hand, the safest course of action is to stay home; on the other hand, that’s not an option for many workers and owners who depend on restaurants for their livelihoods. Sandy Levine owns Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails in Detroit and is also high-risk. He says that keeping himself and his staff healthy has “consumed” his life. Workers and owners both have had to make tough decisions about whether to continue working in restaurants at all, weighing each risk-mitigation strategy against the very real possibility of contracting COVID. As Levine puts it, “Challenging is not nearly a strong enough word.” READ MORE…
Wine Spectator: Exclusive: Penfolds Debuts California Collection
Hollywood Reporter: Beyond Typical Product Placement—Vino-Focused Film Launches a Wine Brand
Wine has famously inspired feature films and docs (Sideways, Somm). Add in entertainment-themed wines (The Walking Dead wine) and clubs (like TCM’s wine club), and even more celeb-backed bottles swirling around right now, and it’s clear that vino and film go hand in hand.
But it’s likely that no one has ever released a new wine brand alongside producing a wine-focused film. Enter producer Gene Kirkwood (Rocky, The Defiant Ones), writer-director George Gallo (The Comeback Trail, Bad Boys) and Broadway producer Kevin Kinsella (Jersey Boys), who are prepping a canned wine called Chasing Crush alongside a movie of the same name that will shoot this summer. READ MORE…
WineSearcher: Test Tube Vino
As the world continues to tackle the pandemic, Bordeaux is slowly but surely rising to the challenge.
How do you feel about Cru Classé Bordeaux served from a 50ml test tube?
My personal gripe is that 50ml isn’t so much a tasty appetizer, as a frustratingly transcendental slither. Nevertheless, the idea is undeniably catching on – Catena Zapata recently signed a deal with a Dutch manufacturer to distribute their wines in sample sizes. It was a pioneering move, and yet some members of the Bordeaux establishment had actually beaten them to it.
“We’ve been selling our wines in tube formats for a while now,” says Luc Planty, General Manager at Château Guiraud in Sauternes.
“We just wanted to try something new, to help more people discover Bordeaux wine. It makes Sauternes accessible to a wider audience. We make wine for consumers, not just for us.”
The de Bouard family have also adopted small formats in markets like the US, to tempt younger drinkers into the fold. “The truth is that tubes work,” says Hubert de Bouard. “It is a great opportunity for us to distribute high-quality samples.”
This all sounds frighteningly, unfathomably close to modernity. Has hoity-toity Bordeaux really joined the 21st century? Or is it all an act, a temporary hangover caused by Covid’s upending of business as usual? READ MORE…
SevenFifty Daily: Beyond High-Profile Scandals, Wine Fraud Is Rampant
How the pandemic-fueled increase in online sales and decrease in vetting has led to more counterfeit bottles—and how wine professionals can spot them
From Penfolds to Jacob’s Creek, even a counterfeit whiskey ring recently uncovered in Rioja, fake bottles are produced and being sold around the world. And with the pandemic-fueled uptick in online sales of fine wine, combined with lessened ability to enact preventative measures, a growing number of fraudulent bottles are circulating undetected. READ MORE…
Reuters: Australia’s Treasury Wine to overhaul business, sell assets as Chinese tariffs bite
Treasury Wine Estates plans a major overhaul of its business that includes the likely sale of low priority brands and other assets, aiming to gain at least A$300 million ($230 million) as it reels from the impact of steep Chinese tariffs on Australian wine.
The restructuring was unveiled on Wednesday as the world’s largest listed winemaker reported a 43% slump in first-half net profit to A$120.9 million ($94 million) and cut its interim dividend by a quarter to 15 Australian cents per share.
Second-half earnings are expected to come in below first-half earnings, it added.
Treasury Wine will reorganise into three new divisions: Penfolds, Treasury Premium Brands and Treasury Americas. READ MORE…
Decanter: Whisky can show terroir like fine wine, suggests study
Whisky flavour can be partly influenced by growing environment and ‘vintage’ conditions, says a study that is part of an ongoing research project and has cast new light on a long-running debate.
Whisky and terroir has been a contentious subject, but is it possible for whiskies to reflect a sense of place in the way wine lovers might eulogise appellations or grand cru vineyards?
A peer-reviewed study has found a link between flavours in Irish new-make spirit and the origin of barley used to produce it.
Authors also found evidence that growing season – or vintage – can influence taste, according to the research, which included sensory analysis of ‘single malt ‘whisk(e)y new make spirit’ produced in laboratory conditions.
It’s the latest chapter of an ongoing project spearheaded by the Republic of Ireland’s Waterford Distillery, which is a strong proponent of the whisky and terroir concept and has a ‘single farm origin’ range of Irish single malts. READ MORE…
Forbes: Despite Difficulties In Wine Industry, Vineyard Brands Grows Its Portfolio
The global wine industry is reeling from the effects of simultaneous crises, including US tariffs on European wine as well as Covid-19 and its ramifications in the hospitality industry and subsequent wine sales. In the face of these headwinds, US fine wine importer Vineyard Brands began 2021 with the announcement that it had added wine brands from France, Italy and Chile to its diverse portfolio.
Its four acquisitions are Alto Adige estate Cantina Kurtatsch, historic Valpolicella winery Serego Alighieri, South American powerhouse Miguel Torres Chile, and Bordeaux-based Domaine Comtes de Malet Roquefort. The latter includes Château la Gaffelière and Château Armens from St. Emilion, La Connivence and La Belle Connivence Pomerol, Château Chapelle d’Aliénor Rouge, and Comtesse de Malet Roquefort. The domain produces 108,600 cases of wine annually across its brands, of which Vineyard Brands will be bringing 35,300 cases to the United States. READ MORE…
Sonoma Index Tribune: The Girl & the Fig Reopens After BLM Backlash
After a week’s closure following Bay Area-wide and international media coverage about its uniform and mask policy, the Girl & the Fig restaurant reopens Wednesday for lunch and dinner on its patio, in its parklet on First Street West, or for takeout. The Fig Café & Wine Bar in Glen Ellen also reopened on Wednesday for takeout and groceries.
The closure was primarily due to death threats to the owners, threats to burn down the building. 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.
BK Wine Magazine: “The Mythology of Wine” by Arthur George, a book review
The ancient world and all its gods are an inexhaustible source for finding inspiring names. The Greek goddess of agriculture Demeter has given her name to the biodynamic certification body. Nysa was the name of the mountain where the Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, grew up and it is also the name of a chain of excellent wine shops in France.
The vine, the grapes and the wine have accompanied humans ever since they first learned to make wine, presumably somewhere close to present-day Georgia around 6000 BCE. The wine was used in religious rituals, as sacrifices to the gods, for medical use. The wine could make you drunk, but it was also a healthier drink than water. READ MORE…
Science & Wine: Facing Giants: The Wine Industry in Canada
The Canadian wine industry is relatively small and young, but nonetheless growing and innovative. From its inception, winemakers in Canada have had to use ingenuity to find the most suitable micro-conditions in an otherwise rather harsh environment. The industry has developed around a limited number of regions in Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec. These regions are generally categorized as cool climate, meaning that the growing season is short, and the risks of winter injuries are high. These conditions have, of course, shaped the nature of wine production in Canada, with specializations in the Vitis Labrusca varieties in Quebec for instance, which are known for their greater resistance to cold, and the production of niche, but highly praised ice wines across Canada. Overall, the industry comprises just over 500 wineries and is mostly composed of small enterprises and family-run businesses. While the industry in Canada is certainly growing and there is now a larger appetite from consumers for local products, it is facing two important challenges that I am going to discuss here: global competition and environmental change. READ MORE…
Jancis Robinson: Project Loire – Chenin Blanc
Chenin, you see, as a food-pairing wine, is the ultimate negotiator, the networker. It doesn’t need to match perfectly with one ingredient – although often it does – but Chenin’s strength is a plate of food. Chenin likes complexity, the jostling of flavours on a plate, whether it’s the ordinariness of the dinner table on which an oozingly cheesy-rich lasagne might sit alongside a vinaigrette-dressed rocket-leaf salad and garlic bread, or an Indian thali where there is a kaleidoscope of sweet-sour-bitter-salty-astringent-spicy flavours.
Chenin works when you’ve got six people around a restaurant table and everyone has ordered something a little different. Chenin works for a buffet. Chenin threads people and food together, bridging flavours and textures, ameliorating spices, highlighting the quiet flavours, melting the strident ones. It pulls the ingredients on a plate together, plates on a table together, courses in a dinner together. Chenin can make Eastern spices talk to Western sweetness. Chenin can make the most stubbornly oppositional flavours work. READ MORE…
The Wine Economist: Kiwi Malbec? Signature Wines & the Dutch Disease Effect
Consider New Zealand wine. What comes to your mind? Chances are that Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc comes first, with Pinot Noir from Central Otago on the list for many. I’m a big fan of these wines, but the Dutch Disease dilemma applies here, too. Other wines and other regions don’t get the attention (Rodney Dangerfield would say they don’t get the respect) they deserve because of the signature wine phenomenon.
So what would you think about a Hawke’s Bay Sauvignon Blanc or a Gimblett Gravels Malbec? Well, I hope your interest would be piqued at the very least. Sue and I visited the Hawke’s Bay area (think Napier on New Zealand’s north island) several years ago, where we were fortunate to meet with Steve Smith MW of Craggy Range. He helped us understand this interesting region and introduced us to the Gimblett Gravels’ rocky dry river bed terrain that makes me think of alluvial fan terroirs such as To Kalon in Napa Valley or The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater in Oregon. Hawke’s Bay is warm enough to make great wines from Bordeaux grape varieties (of which Malbec is one), which are unexpected for those who haven’t fully explored New Zealand’s varied wine scene. The Gimblett Gravels is a special case within that special case. Fascinating. READ MORE…
Vino Joy News: TWE profits down 24% due to pandemic and China tariffs
Global pandemic coupled with China’s crushing anti-dumping tariffs on Australian wines have shaved off 24% of profits for Australian wine giant, Treasury Wine Estates, parent company of Penfolds.
Global pandemic coupled with China’s crushing anti-dumping tariffs on Australian wines have shaved off 24% of profits for Australian wine giant, Treasury Wine Estates, parent company of Penfolds.
In its latest report for the first half of its 2021 fiscal year, the wine group said its net profits after tax were down 24% to AU$175.3m and its earnings dropped by 23% to AU$284.1 million.
TWE explains that global pandemic disrupted sales channels for higher margin luxury wine in key markets, and reduced shipments in China resulting from the anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations initiated by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. READ MORE…
Jamie Goode: An ode to Carignan, Carineña, Mazuelo…
Lisse Garnett spells an ode to Carignan, a variety that never seems to get any credit. And Jamie Goode taste tests Carignans with personality – his notes follow below.
Carignan gained notoriety for its ability to produce enormous yields (up to 11 tons an acre) of deeply coloured, tannic grapes perfect for the cheap bulk wine requirements of France’s industrial North. In Europe’s wine growing countries, people used to drink cheap wine by the bucketful but by the 1980s and 90s tastes had changed. Late to ripen, sensitive to mildew and rot and impossible to machine harvest, Carignan is not the easiest variety to work with. Generous yields were no longer such as asset in a market of over-supply. Mindful of a glut, the European Union paid many poor famers of the Languedoc to grub it up in the 1990s. It was rumoured to be the principle component of the EU’s infamous wine lake. READ MORE…
Jamie Goode: Furmint study—investigating the dry wines from Hungary’s famous white grape
Hungary used to be the third biggest wine producing country in the world, says Caroline Gilby who was leading this deep dive into Furmint, its best known grape variety. [Gilby is the UK expert on the wines of Hungary and other Balkan countries.] Back in the 18th century it had 571 000 hectares of vineyards. Now it has a tenth of this vineyard area, with just 58 000 hectares, and it struggles to make itself known in a crowded wine world.
Why has Hungary been bad at marketing its wines globally? The Hungarian ambassador to the UK, Dr Ferenc Kumin, introduced the tasting, and offered an explanation. He says that Hungarians have such a strong conviction that their wines are the best in the world, so they don’t feel they have to make much effort: surely everyone else is going to recognize this too. After all, Tokaji, its famous sweet wine, features in the national anthem. READ MORE…
BK Wine Magazine: Organic certification in France, from 1% to 24%; which wine regions are leading the way? The ranking
It is interesting to look at the statistics showing how big a portion of the different wine regions in France is organically certified. The differences between the regions are partly due to climate and weather and partly due to the demand.
Cognac’s meagre result reflects both the humid Atlantic climate and the low demand for organic cognac. So far, the market has been small also for organic champagne. Champagne is investing heavily in the HVE sustainability certification, which many see as an alternative to the organic label. READ MORE…
Jancis Robinson: CA wine in the UK
We see too few California wines in the UK but we review some of those that made it across the Atlantic.
Jancis writes The California Wine Institute is particularly keen to encourage exports at the moment. (California wines are presumably fighting for shelf space with Australian wines now that Chinese protectionist tariffs have shrunk that country’s exports to what was its most important export market by 98%.)
Julia and I selected these wines from a long list of California wines available in the UK; they tended to be the quirkier ones, many representing the new wave of California wine, so no Napa Cabernets selling for hundreds of dollars. But unfortunately most of them do look quite expensive relative to many wines from elsewhere. There is one VGV for very good value below, and it pertains specifically to the bargain price of the Matthiassons’ 2018 Tendu red in the US. What sells for $14.95 there costs £23.70 in the UK, which doesn’t seem quite such good value. READ MORE…
These are some press releases I received this week that I actually thought were interesting…enjoy!
Wine Market Council: Organic Wine Remains #1 Sustainable Wine Type
But Desire to Buy is Waning
The Wine Intelligence SOLA: Opportunities for Sustainable and Organic Wine 2021 report shows consumers are increasingly aware of sustainable and alternative wines, but the audience looking to purchase these wines has reduced in the Covid era
Has Covid changed our relationship with sustainable and organic wine? In general terms, concerns about climate change and buying local appear to be scoring highly amongst consumers in the Covid era. Amongst the range of sustainable wine types and which resonate most with drinkers, organic wine holds its #1 rank in our global opportunity index amongst alternative wine types. However within the data we are seeing some changes that may cause concern for the many wine businesses around the world that are dedicating time, effort and resources to migrating their production towards organic, sustainable and related disciplines. READ MORE…
McBride Sisters: Simon & Schuster and McBride Sisters Collection Launch Black Girl Magic Wine & Book Club
Book clubs have been rising in popularity for years. It’s estimated that there are more than 5 million book club members in the US alone, and 70-80% are all-female. McBride Sisters Collection and Simon & Schuster are putting a new spin on the concept by offering some bold wines alongside a bold book.
Inspired by McBride Sisters Collection wines of the same name, this new club will invite book lovers and wine enthusiasts to enjoy two bottles of the brand’s most popular wines – Black Girl Magic Riesling and Merlot – while poring over one of Simon & Schuster’s most anticipated titles, such as the inaugural selection The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton. The first 50 Book Club members will receive the title ahead of its commercial release and all purchasers will be invited to an exclusive chat with the author and the founders of McBride Sisters Collection, Robin McBride and Andréa McBride John, in May to discuss their thoughts on the novel. READ MORE…
350+ Womxn Restaurateurs Launch Nationwide Movement Across Major U.S. Cities & Present “Dine Together & Let’s Talk” On International Women’s Day
Let’s Talk Womxn was started in July 2020 in Chicago with 15 members. It was created as a forum for women restaurateurs to talk to each other and share resources. It has rapidly evolved to these entrepreneurs undertaking joint initiatives and combining their voice for actions to save their businesses. It is founded and led by Rohini Dey, Ph.D., owner of Vermilion restaurant (Chicago), a former trustee and founder/chair of the James Beard Foundation Women’s Leadership Program and former McKinsey & Co. consultant and World Bank economist. Let’s Talk has expanded to 350+ members across 12 cities including Washington DC, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Lexington, Louisville, Cincinnati, the Bay Area/San Francisco, Phoenix, Boston, Los Angeles and Seattle. The objective of Let’s Talk is to increase visibility, funds and combine economic power for women restaurateurs through this crisis and beyond. READ MORE…
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