You made it through another week! Hope you have something amazing to pour in the glass to celebrate. Me? I’ve got so many bottles of wine after doing some conjunctive tastings along with my Portugal and Greece studies this past week. (To be released in the coming weeks). In case you missed my Italian notes: DipWSET Theory and Tasting—PiemonteDipWSET Theory and Tasting—ValpolicellaDipWSET Theory—Southern Italy , and DipWSET Personal Theory and Tasting—Gavi di Gavi.

Below I’ve got this week’s round up of wine industry news. A few highlights—looks like there’s some new data/research surrounding the loss of smell due to Covid; John Fox, who ran the world’s largest wine Ponzi scheme, is officially out of prison (hold on to your magnums!); we’ve got Argentinian wine aged under the sea, the latest on Brexit, and the seemingly endless tariff wars between Australia and China.

And for for all my wine grape growing friends or those interested in learning more about California viticulture: I’ll be leading a panel discussion on regenerative agriculture at the upcoming Vineyard and Grower Conference. Other sessions include a look at the CA Crush Report and a deep dive into the latest research on smoke taint. Find out more and sign up here. I’ve also included some additional details below.

That’s all from me for now. Happy weekending. Cheers.


Wine Industry Network:

Join us for this FREE Virtual Conference on March 3rd

Growing Forward is a ½-day, online conference focused on preparing Grapegrowers for the year ahead. The conference will kick off with a session highlighting key takeaways from the 2020 California Crush report and consider potential implications for the 2021 bulk and grape market. Following, we’ll discuss Regenerative Farming: what makes it different—some say, superior—than other sustainable farming methods. The conference closes with a panel discussion examining the impact of last years’ west coast fires on grower contacts, crop insurance, and best practices for protecting your ag business in the years to come. Find out more and sign up here.

Wine Enthusiast: For Wine Professionals, Loss of Smell Due to Covid-19 Raises New Concerns

Last spring, when winemaker Kelby Russell lost his sense of smell, it had not yet been recognized as a possible symptom of Covid-19 / Photo courtesy Red Newt Cellars
Last spring, when winemaker Kelby Russell lost his sense of smell, it had not yet been recognized as a possible symptom of Covid-19 / Photo courtesy Red Newt Cellars

It’s been nearly a year since Kelby Russell first started losing his sense of smell.

During the second week of March 2020, Russell, winemaker at Red Newt Cellars in New York’s Finger Lakes region, was in London showcasing his wines. Or at least, that was the plan. About 48 hours into his visit, the world began to go into lockdown amid fears of the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus pandemic. He took an emergency flight back to the United States.

Four days later, while isolating at home, he started to feel a bit run down.

“Given that London was a few weeks ahead of us in terms of the transition from winter to spring, I assumed my allergies had flared up some and used nasal spray,” says Russell. “Three hours later, I noticed the dish soap I was using suddenly seemed to lose its aroma. I could breathe perfectly fine through my nose, but aromas were suddenly gone.” READ MORE…

Wine Searcher: Covid’s Impact on Wine Tasting

© Pexels | Covid can affect how we taste and smell wines.
© Pexels | Covid can affect how we taste and smell wines.

About 5-10 percent of people who experience Covid-related olfactory dysfunctions continue to suffer from it for an undetermined amount of time. It’s not always anosmia: some people suffer parosmia, in which some things or even everything smells disgusting.

“The majority of my male patients who come to me, their main problem is they can’t enjoy wine anymore,” said Simon Gane, a rhinologist at the Royal National Throat Ear Hospital in London. “Most of the pleasure of wine is the sensory experience. Even if you’ve lost your sense of smell, it can regenerate. I hope this will drive a better appreciation of enjoying what you have at the moment.”

Gane said that if you do lose your sense of smell, don’t wait to act.

“There’s some information from other senses we have, like hearing loss, we know that when we give steroids early, the earlier you give them, the better recovery is,” Gane said. “We don’t have evidence yet about Covid-19 but it’s vital to get help early, and to talk to someone who knows what they’re talking about. Even if you’ve lost your sense of smell, it can regenerate.” READ MORE…

Eater: San Francisco Officials Expect to Reopen Indoor Dining on March 3

SF will reopen dining rooms as soon as the city reaches the red tier of reopening

The dining room of Sociale is dark now, but can reopen to diners as of March 3 Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
The dining room of Sociale is dark now, but can reopen to diners as of March 3 Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

During a Wednesday webinar from San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, SF Deputy Health Officer Dr. Susan Philip announced that SF restaurant owners should plan to reopen their dining rooms on March 3, assuming that COVID-19 infection rates continue to drop.

Of course, if there’s anything the past year has taught us, it’s that nothing is certain. Philip made clear that those dates could change if infection rates increase, or if state officials make changes to their reopening plan. READ MORE…

Berkleyside: John Fox, who ran the world’s largest wine Ponzi scheme from his Berkeley store, gets out of prison

He was sentenced to six and a half years but is getting out a year early.

A still of John Fox from American Greed
A still of John Fox from American Greed

John E. Fox, who admitted to running a $45 million wine Ponzi scheme from his store, Premier Cru, on University Avenue, will be released from federal custody tomorrow, a year earlier than expected.

Fox was sentenced in December 2015 to 78 months in prison, or 6.5 years. He had pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud although he also admitted he sold phantom wine futures to some of the richest and most powerful men and women in the United States. When money came in from one customer, Fox said that he would use it to pay off suppliers or buy wine to give to customers who were complaining about not getting the bottles they ordered. READ MORE…

VinePair: #DrinkTok: How One App Is Influencing What We Sip

illustration: REBEKKA DUNLAP
illustration: REBEKKA DUNLAP

After the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, everyone and their neighbor joined the seemingly frivolous app for a much-needed escape, spiking downloads to over 2 billion worldwide, with over 1 billion monthly active users as of 2021. And if you’re not convinced that the pandemic is to blame, downloads of the app jumped from 718.5 million in 2019 to a whopping 987 million in 2020. As a result, the wide world of TikTok grew even larger to include millions of subsections and mini-communities for nearly every interest, including beans, retail, and, of course, drinks.

Drinks TikTok, or #DrinkTok, is where you will find all content relating to beverages — the good, the bad, and the bizarre. While it might seem flooded with rainbow shots and candy-rimmed cocktails, if you wade through enough of them, you’ll happen upon talented people making concoctions you’ll actually want to drink. And in a year when the world has been shut inside and bar and restaurant culture has been all but nonexistent, TikTok and other online social settings like it now have the power to not only create drink trends but also propel the drinks industry forward.

But how did we get here? And what do actual beverage professionals think? Let’s go back a few years…READ MORE…

Vitisphere: “Young people can be passionate about wine and talk about it in an accessible way”

(to 300,000 followers on TikTok)

“Young people can be passionate about wine and talk about it in an accessible way” explains Émile Coddens. - Photo credit : DR
“Young people can be passionate about wine and talk about it in an accessible way” explains Émile Coddens. – Photo credit : DR

At just 23, Émile Coddens, deputy winemaker at Domaine Plou & fils (75 ha in Touraine), has released a raft of viral videos for young people on the app of the moment. Using a combination of education and wit, the brains behind the Le.Vigneron channel reaches out to an audience primarily interested in the culture of wine. READ MORE…

Decanter: Argentinian producers age wine in the ocean

Two Argentinian producers have ventured out to the coast of Patagonia to age their wines in the Atlantic Ocean.

A bottle of wine in the sea. Credit: Alexandr Malyshev / Alamy Stock Photo
A bottle of wine in the sea. Credit: Alexandr Malyshev / Alamy Stock Photo

Patricia Ortiz, founder and co-owner of Rio Negro-based Wapisa, created a cellar in the bed of the ocean 25 km away from their vineyard, aided by a biologist and a diver.

‘We seek elegance in our wines. We were curious to explore if underwater ageing could actually allow us to have young wines with the benefit of maturity,’ said Ortiz.

In February 2020 they placed fifteen hundred magnums of their 2017 Malbec in crates at a ten-metre average depth one mile off the shore of Las Grutas. Nine months later, they fished out bottles beautifully covered in maritime life. READ MORE…

The Drinks Business: Austria Reflects on Challenging but Rewarding 2020 Vintage

The Austrian Wine Marketing Board (AWMB) has published a report on the 2020 vintage, which saw changeable weather conditions cause challenges but patience pay off.

To read the full Austria Wine report, please click here.
To read the full Austria Wine report, please click here.

While conditions varied throughout Austria’s wine regions, the AWMB said that 2020 was characterised by a succession of opposite weather patterns.

The first part of the growing season until May was warm and dry with “insignificant” frost episodes. What followed was a period of wet and fluctuating weather patterns with heavy rainfall in May and parts of June. Despite this pattern, flowering occurred at the usual time across the board.

AWMB said the country experienced a “good old-fashioned summer”, with alternating periods of dry, sunny weather and rain. This, the organisation said, led to “strong plant growth and high disease pressure” making good vineyard management essential. READ MORE…

Decanter: Brexit—Concern over plan for wine import papers

Credit: Photo by Yoko Correia Nishimiya on Unsplash
Credit: Photo by Yoko Correia Nishimiya on Unsplash

Post-Brexit plans to introduce paper import certificates on EU wines from 1 July are ‘worrying’, according to a letter sent to Victoria Prentis MP, the UK’s under-secretary of state for farming, fisheries and food.

Requiring the certificates on top of the extra administration already caused by Brexit ‘will make wine more expensive for the consumer,’ said the letter, dated 24 February.

It was shared on Twitter by Daniel Lambert, of the namesake wine importer and wholesaler.

The letter includes dozens of signatories, such as Accolade Wines, Liv-ex and supplier group Bibendum, with a range of retailers and merchants, including Fine & Rare, Farr Vintners, Lea & Sandeman and The Wine Society. 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.

Vinous: Valpolicella & Soave: The Times, They Are A Changin’

Inama's Foscarino cru in Soave Classico.
Inama’s Foscarino cru in Soave Classico.

How does one sum up Valpolicella and the multifaceted wines that this region produces? For one thing, it’s safe to say that a wine lover could find every desirable experience possible here, from easy-drinking Valpolicellas, to the richer and more structured Superiores, to the darker and more bitter Ripassos, then the more opulent, sometimes sweet, sometimes savory Amarones, and of course, the decadent Reciotos. Add in the myriad of IGTs, some of which are world-class with their depth, concentration and balance, and you have a little of something for everyone.

It all starts with the basic Valpolicella (translated to “valley of many cellars”) and Valpolicella Superiore, which on their own cover many possible styles. READ MORE…

Jancis Robinson: Battle of the Bolgheri giants

Left to right: Axel Heinz, Giovanni Geddes and Marchese Ferdinando Frescobaldi, with coral-bedecked bottle
Left to right: Axel Heinz, Giovanni Geddes and Marchese Ferdinando Frescobaldi, with coral-bedecked bottle

The 2018 vintages of arguably the two most famous wines of Bolgheri, produced on neighbouring estates, have just been launched. Sassicaia and Ornellaia are not cheap, and are almost identically priced. According to Wine-Searcher, the average price per bottle of these two 2018s is around £170 apiece excluding taxes.

Bottles of each reached me almost on the same day and it was a fascinating exercise to taste them side by side. READ MORE…

Vino Joy News: China blocked 3,000 bottles of Penfolds over “labelling issue”

Penfolds Bin 128 (pic: Penfolds)
Penfolds Bin 128 (pic: Penfolds)

Chinese customs authorities have blocked around 20,000 bottles of Australian wines, including Australian flagship wine brand, Penfolds, over what it calls as “labelling issue”, as Australian wine exports to China essentially ground to a halt, after being slapped with 212% anti-dumping tariff.

This adds onto a long list of woes for Penfolds’ parent company Treasury Wine Estates, just a week after it announced its China business suffered a 37% drop in profits in the six months ended in December last year.

According to information released by Chinese General Administration of Customs, two batches of Penfolds wines imported by a Fujian based cross-border e-commerce company were flagged and blocked by customs authorities in Shenzhen, the southern metropolis near Hong Kong. READ MORE…

Great British Wine: Defined Wine

Definied Wines in Kent, England
Definied Wines in Kent, England

With the immense growth in the planting of vines in England over the last few years (see Wine GB for stats), and with a steadily increasing stable of English wineries, one question that people have started to ask is “who is going to make all this new wine”. It’s a question that led CEO, Henry Sugden, to embark on a rather ambitious plan to create a contract winemaking hub in the thriving English wine county of Kent. Defined Wine launched in 2018 with the intention to only make wines for their customers, not from their own labels. Now on their second vintage (the hugely promising 2020), I caught up with Henry and head winemaker, Nick Lane, as part of an online group talk and tasting of some of their upcoming releases.

Henry began by explaining that because their focus is 100% on contract winemaking, their attention is entirely on making the very best from each and every wine, following every process from crate to case. The winery houses everything needed to handle the processes of still and sparkling wines of all types, including the more experimental orange wines and Pet-Nats. With over 100 stainless steel fermentation tanks and a theoretical tank storage capacity of 400,000 bottles, Defined Wine is certainly positioned well in this current English wine boom. READ MORE…

The Institute of Masters of Wine: Ten new Masters of Wine

The Institute of Masters of Wine has announced 10 new MWs.
The Institute of Masters of Wine has announced 10 new MWs.

The Institute of Masters of Wine has announced 10 new MWs. Based in five countries, the new IMW members – including the first MW based in Italy – are James Doidge MW (UK), Gabriele Gorelli MW (Italy), Susan Lin MW (US), Moritz Nikolaus Lueke MW (Germany), Sophie Parker-Thomson MW (New Zealand), Álvaro Ribalta Millán MW (UK), Tze Sam MW (UK), Melissa Saunders MW (US), Kryss Speegle MW (US) and Clare Tooley MW (US).

There are now 418 MWs globally – 149 women and 269 men living or working in 32 countries. Since the first exam in 1953, 493 people have become an MW.

The MWs have proved their understanding of all aspects of wine by passing the Master of Wine exam, recognised worldwide for its rigour and high standards.

The MW exam consists of three distinct parts: the theory and practical exams taken at the end of stage two and the research paper submitted at the end of stage three. The RP is an in-depth study on a wine-related topic from any area of the sciences, arts, humanities, or social sciences.

In addition to passing the exam, and before new members have the right to use the title Master of Wine or initials MW, they must sign the IMW’s code of conduct. By signing the code of conduct, MWs agree to act with honesty, integrity and use every opportunity to share their understanding of wine with others.

The top countries where MWs are based around the world are Australia (28), Canada (10), France (18), New Zealand (15), the UK (210) and the US (56).

Meet the new Masters of Wine … READ MORE…

BK Wine Magazine: Wanted—More red and white wine from Provence | Britt on Forbes

Vineyards, pine forests and mountains in Provence, copyright BKWine Photography
Vineyards, pine forests and mountains in Provence, copyright BKWine Photography

Provence is beautiful, sunny and colourful. The Mediterranean is blue, the mimosa is yellow, the lavender is purple. And the wines are pink. Yes, but not all of them. The success in recent years of rosé wines has not completely suppressed the excellent red and white wines that Provence is also known for.

The production of rosé wines has exploded in Provence at the expense of other colours. Today, more than 86% of the wines in Provence are rosé. But not all producers have abandoned the tradition of making red and white wines. And often these wines are excellent. You can make great reds in this sunny climate, and there are enough cool spots to produce high-quality whites as well.

We recently had the opportunity to taste red and white wines from Provence, and these wines confirm the feeling we have had for a long time. Provence should make more reds and whites. But the pink wines are here to stay. READ MORE…

Fermentation: Utah Vies To Keep Title of “State With Crazies Alcohol Law”

Apparently fearful Utah might get bypassed by other states in the look-at-our-crazy-alcohol-laws sweepstakes, the state is considering a bill that would finally allow Utahans to buy beer, wine and spirits online. One caveat, the buyer can’t pay for the beer online and must go into the store to pick up and pay for the wine. 

Come on…That’s just humor. Straight-up humor, right. People often accuse Utahans and particularly their Morman majority of being humorless. But I think this attempt at “e-commerce” proves that stereotype worthless. READ MORE…

Sovos ShipCompliant: Don’t Fear the Fulfillment House

Recently, lawmakers in Tennessee introduced proposed legislation that would prohibit the use of fulfillment houses by direct-to-consumer (DtC) wine shippers for their sales to the state. If passed, this legislation could severely hamper the ability of DtC wine shippers to service the state, cutting off Tennessee consumers from accessing wineries of all sizes.

However impactful this legislation might be on the Tennessee market for DtC wine shipping (and keep in mind that it is far from certain it will pass; most proposed bills die before coming to a vote), the proposed law speaks to a broader question about fulfillment houses and how they fit into regulations around shipping wine DtC.

Tennessee regulators are far from alone in fearing fulfillment houses and seeking to restrict them, though this kind of outright ban is an extreme reaction. Much of this fear comes from misperceptions about what fulfillment houses are and what exactly they do in the context of DtC wine shipping. Better knowledge of who they are and what they do can lead to better rules and regulations that allow these invaluable services to operate in the DtC wine shipping market in a visible and compliant manner. READ MORE…

Shana Bull: What Small Businesses Need To Know About The 2nd Round Of PPP Loans

For millions of small businesses that are still struggling because of the pandemic – there is good news coming out of the White House this past week (how great does THAT feel to read?!?!), The Biden Administration is modifying the new PPP rules.

For two weeks in late February/early March, *ONLY* small businesses with fewer than 20 employees can claim pandemic relief loans.

.. AND they are making it even easier for solo entrepreneurs, and immigrants who have their tax ID to get a loan. During the last round, there were even restrictions on small business owners who had outstanding college debt and that is gone.

So, if you are a small business owner — OR you know one, listen up: READ MORE…

Press Releases

These are some press releases I received this week that I actually thought were interesting…enjoy!

Masters of Wine: MW study programme update

The S1A will take place online, on 4 August. The stage two closed book exam will take place from Tuesday 31 August to Friday 3 September, in person.
The S1A will take place online, on 4 August.
The stage two closed book exam will take place from Tuesday 31 August to Friday 3 September, in person.

After rigorous internal debate and extensive consideration of all options, the IMW has postponed the June stage one assessment and the stage two closed book exam.

Ultimately, despite our exam committee, education committee and executive team’s best efforts, we feel there is no choice but to move the date.

The decision has not been taken lightly. There is still so much uncertainty in the world, and the safety of our students, MWs and the executive team remain paramount.

Our aim from the outset of this extraordinary academic year has been to ensure as many students as possible can complete the exam or S1A. READ MORE…

Report Shows $237 Million in Political Spending By American Alcohol Industry

Wholesalers Dominate Political Spending and Support Trump in 2020 Election

This new report is based on information available in public databases that track campaign contributions at the state and federal level as well as spending on lobbying, again both state and federal.
Report based on information available in public databases that track campaign contributions at the state and federal level.

A new report detailing money spent on political influence by the Alcohol industry shows more than $237 million spent on campaign contributions and lobbying over the past two election cycles. “Politics Under the Influence”, produced by Tom Wark of Wark Communications, looks at alcohol industry political contributions and lobbying at the state and federal level from 2017 to 2020.

Click to download “Politics Under the Influence”.

Perhaps the most stunning revelation in the report is that American wholesalers alone spent more than $55 million on campaign contributions to federal and state political races in the past four years. That figure is nearly double what all wineries, brewers, distillers, and wine retailers spent in the same time period. 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.**

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