I’ll keep this intro short and sweet. By the time you read this, I’ll be sitting in another WSET course, studying away. This week I’ve pulled a good variety of wine related news from around the world, incorporating everything from the wines of Greece, cork production, New Zealand red wines to watch for, modern day Douro wines and winemaking, the stink bug that’s invaded UK vineyards, and so very much more. Hopefully you have some time to relax, scroll through, and read what suits your fancy. Enjoy!
New York Times: So Ancient, Yet So New: Gorgeous Red Wines From Greece
While the country is better known for its white wines, it also produces distinctive, superb reds from a number of little-known grapes.
It may seem paradoxical to think of Greece as an emerging wine producer, considering the ancient lineage of its grape vines and wine production.
But in the global marketplace of fine wines, that’s exactly how Greece should be seen.
It is not a question of how long a country or region has maintained a culture of winemaking, but how recently its bottles have begun to appear in far-flung parts of the planet.
By that standard, it’s only in the last 20 years or so that the rest of the world has gotten an opportunity to learn firsthand about the beauty of wines from Greece, or, for that matter, about other ancient winemaking cultures, like in the Caucasus and, indeed, lesser-known parts of France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. READ MORE…
Wine Spectator: What’s a Sommelier to Do When They Lose Their Sense of Smell?
Wine professionals struggling with COVID-related smell loss fear losing their jobs and their livelihoods; French sommeliers and winemakers have called for vaccine priority
Last March, Philippe Faure-Brac, one of France’s best-known sommeliers, shuttered his Paris restaurant, Bistrot du Sommelier, as France entered its first national COVID-19 lockdown. Two weeks later, Faure-Brac, who had just turned 60, was diagnosed with COVID. Following a week of fever, gastric problems and fatigue, a new chapter of the illness opened.
“When I started eating again,” he recalled, “I realized I had a problem.” READ MORE…
The Drinks Business: Top Bordeaux Chateaux are Going Organic
A growing number of top Bordeaux châteaux are experimenting with organic and biodynamic viticulture. James Lawrence brings us the lowdown on the region’s green revolution.
Sustainability evokes mixed emotions – its critics argue that the term is so vague it’s meaningless. And if it’s not meaningless, then it’s misleading. Yet any visitor to Bordeaux in 2021 would struggle to dismiss recent progress and innovations as cynical ‘greenwashing’.
According to the CIVB, over 1,500 properties (out of approximately 6,000) have now achieved HVE sustainability certification. HVE is a three-tiered system introduced by the French Ministry of Agriculture in 2001. It encourages growers to focus on increasing biodiversity and decreasing the negative environmental impact of their operation.
For a critical mass of producers, sustainability offers the right balance between ecological winegrowing and commercial pragmatism. Unlike organic and biodynamic viticulture, sustainability programmes allow the use of synthetic chemicals, albeit with several caveats. READ MORE…
Wine Enthusiast: Put a Cork in It? The Wine Closure Industry is Changing
The next time you open a bottle of wine, take a closer look at the stopper, or maybe even give it a sniff. Whether it’s made of natural cork or a manufactured material, it may have been specially designed to eliminate tainted wine.
Cork taint, most commonly caused by trichloroanisole (TCA), affects a significant percentage of bottles each year. At best, it lessens enjoyment. At worst, it ruins a wine.
Last month, Amorim, a Portuguese company that produces more than 5.5 billion wine stoppers annually, announced it had eliminated cork taint from its production.
“We managed to deliver on an important promise, which is to be able to get rid of TCA and defeat TCA once and for all,” says Carlos de Jesus, director of marketing and communications. Amorim did so by using temperature and pressure to remove TCA and other contaminants during production. READ MORE…
North Bay Business Journal: Pandemic drives winery demand for smaller bottles — if they can be found
Knights Bridge Winery has dedicated roughly a couple hundred of its roughly 7,000-case annual production to half-bottles, but the team at the high-end Sonoma County winery wished they had a lot more during the coronavirus pandemic.
Virtual tastings for consumers and trade accounts have become the norm for many vintners under travel, dining and on-site tasting restrictions intended to slow the viral spread over the past 11 months. And these producers have been caught between demand for ways to make these tastings happen and global supply chain challenges that have impacted the supply of smaller-format wine bottles.
“If we could have polished up our crystal ball, we sure would have bottled more in pre-pandemic times, because they have been a really popular item,” said Laura Kirk Lee, director of sales and marketing. READ MORE…
Decanter: Brown stink bug ‘invasion’ alert for UK wineries
Flying pests known as brown stink bugs that can spoil wine and contaminate fruit crops have arrived in the UK, say scientists.
Experts have warned of a new threat to UK wineries and fruit crops after discovering the brown marmorated stink bug in the country.
One of the bugs was caught in the Natural History Museum’s wildlife garden in London, as part of a wider study project involving the museum and the horticultural research institute, NIAB EMR.
A member of the public in Surrey, south-east England, also reported a stink bug in her home.
While the brown stink bug isn’t considered a health risk, the fast-breeding pests are capable of damaging crops, including wine grapes.
Their scent, described as an ‘unattractive almond-like smell’ by researchers, can leave its mark on wine. READ MORE…
Press Democrat: UK variant of coronavirus identified in Sonoma County
Public health officials reported Tuesday the U.K. variant of the coronavirus, a more contagious strain of the infectious disease, has been detected in Sonoma County.
The California Department of Public Health notified county officials Monday the mutation was present in a local COVID-19 test sample.
The variant was discovered after a county resident went to an unidentified local pharmacy to be tested for the pathogen, said Dr. Kismet Baldwin, the county’s deputy health officer. READ MORE…
Eater SF: San Francisco Officially Reopens Indoor Dining
SF restaurants can seat diners indoors as of March 3
As expected, San Francisco restaurants will reopen indoor dining on Wednesday, March 3, Mayor London Breed announced at a media event held Tuesday. This will be the first time diners are allowed to take a seat inside the city’s restaurants since COVID-19 cases skyrocketed by 250 percent last November, a spike that prompted an eventual shutdown of all service but takeout or delivery. It comes as California health officials confirm that San Francisco has moved from the most-restrictive purple tier of the state’s color-coded reopening plan to the red, which allows indoor dining at 25 percent capacity and a maximum of 100 people. READ MORE…
Sonoma Index Tribune: California moves Napa County to less restrictive category as coronavirus cases decline
Napa County learned Tuesday it will exit the purple tier — the state’s most restrictive status in the Blueprint for a Safer Economy — to the red tier, effective just after midnight Wednesday, according to California officials.
Napa County’s move to red status follows Marin County, which advanced last week. READ MORE…
VinePair: How Texas’s Historic Weather Will Affect Its Wine
It’s too early to know the impact February’s massive Texas storm will have on the state’s wine industry. The first clues will likely emerge at the beginning of springtime, when the vines come out of their dormant period and bud break occurs. Hopefully, the damage will prove minimal to non-existent. But if there is some harm, it won’t be anything that Texas wine producers haven’t seen before.
Dealing with bursts of severe weather is an annual affair for Texas wineries, to the point where they almost are a rite of passage among wine growers. “If you grow grapes in Texas, you get used to having to find creative ways to deal with what Mother Nature gives you every year,” says Ron Yates, owner of Spicewood Vineyards in Spicewood, Texas. “You always have to be ready to pivot.” READ MORE…
Sonoma Index Tribune: Sonoma County hospitality businesses grapple with employee activism
The recent brouhaha at Girl & the Fig restaurant in Sonoma after a server who angrily quit over wanting to wear a Black Lives Matter mask as part of her uniform reverberated through the local hospitality sector.
Owners walk a tightrope with a younger workforce and a deeply politicized society grappling with social change and the demand for racial equity. They don’t want to hurt staff morale, while knowing a misstep by an employee on the job can become social media fodder and quickly cause an uproar harmful to a company’s reputation. 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.
Grape Collective: Ten Takeaways from the Unified Wine Session on Diversity—It’s About Growth
Diversity is not charity.
With those words, Dottie kicked off an extraordinary discussion at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, a giant trade show held every year in Sacramento, Calif. More than 13,000 wine and grape professionals from 30 countries attended this year in its first virtual presentation.
While this three-day symposium often focuses on issues such as “Precision Management in Vineyards,” the organizers decided this year that the issue of inclusion is so pressing that they made it a general session called “Strength in Diversity: Achieving Meaningful Change for Business Success in the Wine Industry.” They invited Dottie to moderate an all-star panel that included an über talented winemaker, a renowned sommelier turned social activist, a marketing dynamo and a trailblazer steering a luxury, legacy brand. Here are some key takeaways, which are widely applicable. READ MORE…
Jamie Goode: Curettage—a ‘surgical’ treatment for trunk diseases that seems to work
Jamie Goode reports on a pair of scientific papers that validate the practice of curettage/curetage for treating grapevine trunk diseases.
Trunk diseases are a major concern in the world of wine. And one in particular has been scaring European winegrowers over the last couple of decades: ESCA. It’s caused by a range of fungi that attack the woody tissues of vines, destroying them – a process called necrosis. In the period 2012-2017 the proportion of the vineyard in France that was unproductive was 12%, with ESCA the leading cause. Since the outlawing of sodium arsenate in 2003 in the European Union, there has been no remedy.
There are preventive measures that can be taken. You can try to avoid pruning during wet weather. Pruning cuts shouldn’t be too large or too close to the remaining wood (to avoid what is called a cone of desiccation spreading back from the cut and obstructing the sap flow). Pruning should try to respect the sap flow. And pruning wounds should be sealed. Some varieties are also more susceptible than others. There is also a question mark around nursery practices, and the omega graft itself. READ MORE…
Vino Joy News: South China’s leading wine company announces closure
Dashui Wine, the company that was credited for expanding drinkers’ palate in China’s southern metropolis Shenzhen, has announced that it is closing its business for good at the end of this month, crushed by economic pains worsened by the pandemic.
Founded in 2001 in Shenzhen, the bustling metropolis in Guangdong province, its founder Li Hanqiang was revered by peers as “godfather of Shenzhen’s drinks world” for bringing for the first time branded Baijiu and wine into Shenzhen, at a time when a popular local drink, rice wine (米酒), was the singular alcoholic beverage consumed in the market. READ MORE…
Jancis Robinson: The New Douro
This Primeira Prova, or first tasting of recently released wines from The New Douro producer association, should have taken place in the Douro in June 2020, at the Museu do Douro in Peso da Régua, about 100 km (62 miles) east of Porto but was forced to reinvent itself as an ‘at-home’ tasting, with a vastly reduced number of wines, one per producer.
They always used to do a follow-up event in London (see my report of the 2017 event, for example), which they opened up to consumers in 2016, but this was abandoned in 2018 because, rather in the spirit of Walter’s account of tramping the Dolomites for the sake of understanding Schiava, they wanted the wines tasted in situ, where the majesty and drama of these mountain vineyards could be more fully appreciated. (A visit to the region makes it abundantly clear why farming is expensive here.) READ MORE…
Vinous: Making the Case for New Zealand Reds
Almost a century before Pinot Noir found its feet in Central Otago and Martinborough, a Croatian-born viticulturist toured New Zealand to assess the potential for making wine. In 1895, Romeo Bragato visited the country’s fledgling vineyards, tasting the fruit and delivering his thoughts on the suitability of the climate and soils. In his Report on the Prospects of Viticulture in New Zealand, he declared that Central Otago, the Wairarapa and Hawke’s Bay were well adapted to wine production. In a later publication Bragato suggested that the most suitable red grapes were Syrah, the two Cabernets, Dolcetto and Pinot Noir. However, the brakes were slammed on New Zealand’s development as a wine-producing nation. Bragato’s report coincided with the rise of a strong temperance movement, which led to a close-run vote on prohibition in 1919 and ushered in a slew of restrictive measures on wine sales, some of which endured for the best part of the century. Voters continued to be asked if they were in favor of staying wet or going dry at every general election until 1987. In that same year, the first commercial Pinot Noir was produced in Central Otago, as was the first inaugural Gimblett Gravels Syrah. It had taken 92 years but some of Bragato’s predictions had finally come true. READ MORE…
Dallas Wine Chick: Rae Wilson—A New Texas Wine Perspective
Rae Wilson didn’t come to Texas with the ambition of disrupting the wine industry. It was a big challenge – an emerging region that is the size of the country of France, a 40-year history, lots of varietals to choose from and the need to build a community of like-minded advocates.
But entrepreneurship runs deep in Rae’s blood. And she was up for the challenge. The St. Louis native became a sommelier and later learned winemaking in Napa Valley and Portugal. She brought that talent to Texas and started to talk to anyone with influence in wine circles. Rae’s name immediately surfaces as someone who has helped change Texas wine. I’ve heard her name for a long time, but a good friend has been telling me I needed to dive in more when she featured her as one of the top wines in her State Fair Texas collaboration.
But Rae didn’t strike gold in Texas immediately. When she moved here, she dove right in planting a small vineyard in Texas. Ironically, six years later, this particular vineyard has not yielded fruit. That didn’t stop her. READ MORE…
Jancis Robinson: Oak decline
Oak has been by far the material of choice for wine barrels. Being watertight, supple but hard, oak has a natural affinity for wine. As the wine ages it allows in just enough oxygen to encourage stability and clarity and its flavours seem to marry particularly well with many wines. American oak is used for ageing many spirits and sherry but for wine producers French oak has been the ne plus ultra – not least because for centuries the French government has been managing extensive forests carefully dedicated to the needs of winemakers.
Around the turn of the last century, however, consumers fell out of love with overtly oaky wines. Whereas in the 1980s and 1990s, wine producers would boast to the likes of me about how many new French barrels they bought every year – and at several hundred dollars each, this would be their single biggest annual capital cost – ‘oaky’ swung from being a compliment to a criticism. READ MORE…
The Wine Gourd: Do different wine critics agree on value for money?
There are only two things I really need to know about a bottle of wine that I am thinking of buying: 1. Is it good value for money? 2. When should I drink it? Let’s look at the first question in this post. (Other features, such as possible food pairings, I can work out later.)
I have written several times about evaluating value-for-money, when searching for wines (see “Value for money” under the “Labels For Posts” list at the right of this page. One simple idea is to compare the current bottle price with a quality score from one or more wine commentators.
We all know that different wine tasters can come up with very different opinions (and scores).* However, a somewhat different question is whether they agree on which wines are value for money, irrespective of the actual score they give. This involves the relationship between their points and the cost of the wine — high points for low cost = good value for money.
It therefore becomes relevant to ask whether we would get the same outcome depending on which commentator we choose. READ MORE…
Wine Enthusiast: The Pros and Cons of Self-Distribution for Independent Winemakers
For independent winemakers who lack corporate support and favorable relationships with big distributors, this type of hands-on approach is increasingly viable in the digital age. Some wineries eliminate the need for distributors entirely by selling their bottles directly to consumers via e-commerce sites and social media.
Winemaker Rosalind Reynolds had zero sales experience when she took on the challenge of distributing her wine, Emme.
“Winemaking isn’t just making wine,” she says, so she began the work of cold calling and emailing potential buyers and distributors. She believes all that personal, direct communication helps build her brand. READ MORE…
These are some press releases I received this week that I actually thought were interesting…enjoy!
Decanter: Wine ‘diversity scholarships’ launched by Gérard Basset foundation
New scholarships to help improve diversity among Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers, and set to include internships at renowned wineries, have been announced by a foundation created in memory of Gérard Basset OBE MW MS.
The Golden Vines Diversity Scholarships are being launched by the Gérard Basset Wine Education Charitable Foundation and also Liquid Icons, the publishing and research company cofounded by the late, great sommelier.
There will be two scholarships ‘for aspiring black and ethnic minority students wishing to undertake the Masters of Wine (MW) and Master Sommelier (MS) programmes – open to candidates from all over the world,’ said the groups this week.
‘The fine wine industry is at ‘ground zero’ when it comes to diversity,’ said the groups in a press release. READ MORE…
BriscoeBites officially accepts samples as well as conducts on-site and online interviews. Want to have your wine, winery or tasting room featured? Please visit the Sample Policy page where you can contact me directly. Cheers!