Hello my friends, happy weekend to you. As you read this, I will be sitting in one of my WSET Diploma classes—hopefully learning lots and having fun. If you’ve missed any of my latest WSET posts, make sure you scroll back through the home page roll—lots of good notes, tasting and test-taking tips, etc.
I’ve got a good list of wine-related newsy items for you today, but I’ll be honest, the best news from my week is the first item on the list.
Enjoy your weekend…Cheers!
New York Times: Biden Inaugurated as the 46th President Amid a Cascade of Crises
Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. and Kamala Devi Harris took the oath of office at a Capitol still reeling from the attack of a violent mob at a time when a deadly pandemic is still ravaging the country.
Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was sworn in on Wednesday as the 46th president of the United States, assuming leadership of a country ravaged by disease, dislocation and division with a call to “end this uncivil war” after four tumultuous years that tore at the fabric of American society.
Mr. Biden sought to immediately turn the corner on Donald J. Trump’s polarizing presidency, inviting Republicans to join him in confronting the nation’s dire economic, social and health crises even as he began dismantling his predecessor’s legacy with orders to halt construction of his border wall, lift his travel ban and rejoin the Paris climate agreement.
The ritualistic transfer of power ended weeks of suspense as the vanquished president waged a relentless bid to hang on, only to be rebuffed at every level of government, clearing the way for Mr. Biden to claim his office. With his hand on a five-inch-thick Bible that has been in his family for 128 years, Mr. Biden recited the 35-word oath administered by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. at 11:49 a.m., 11 minutes before the constitutionally prescribed noon hour. READ MORE…
SevenFifty Daily: Will Biden Remove Wine Tariffs?
Despite sudden additional tariffs, industry groups are organizing with optimism that the incoming administration could issue a game-changing executive order
Two days before the ball dropped on 2020, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced additional tariffs on new wine and spirits categories as part of the long-running saga formally known as the Enforcement of U.S. WTO Rights in Large Civil Aircraft Dispute.
Although the end-of-the-year timing brought a dramatic flair to the announcement, such retaliation of this sort did not surprise the groups that have been working to bring attention to the impact of these tariffs on small businesses across the U.S.
But now, as the Biden administration prepares to assume power, there’s new optimism about the future of U.S. tariff policies. Many parties are vying for the president-elect’s attention on his first day in office, but the act of removing tariffs offers an easy win with little cost, says Ben Aneff, president of the U.S. Wine Trade Alliance (USWTA). “The budget office is not allowed to consider income from tariffs in any budget matters,” he explains. “Eliminating tariffs on wine and spirits is something that could provide relief, and it officially costs the United States zero dollars.” READ MORE…
Wine & Spirits: A New Cure for Cork Taint
Amorim, the world’s largest cork company, today launched Naturity, a new technology that the firm asserts will help bring an end to cork taint. Naturity is a treatment for natural cork stoppers that removes a range of potential taint compounds.
Cork taint is as old as the use of cork as a closure, but became a topic of intense debate in the late 1990s, leading to the emergence of alternative closures, and the first big rollout of screwcaps in Australia’s Clare Valley with the 2000 vintage. Very soon, screwcaps became the main closure in both Australia and New Zealand, and synthetic corks gained traction elsewhere. The cork industry responded by implementing preventive measures, including new cork-storage and -washing protocols, and began developing curative technologies. Estimates at the time were that around five percent of cork-sealed bottles were tainted, a figure that has gone down somewhat, but which is very hard to quantify as no one has collected data systematically. READ MORE…
Wine Enthusiast: Animal Rights and More—12 Vodkas with Charitable Goals
Want to save the world? Drink vodka. There seems to be a vodka to benefit every charitable endeavor. Want to help the environment? Look to Good Vodka. Care about LGBTQ+ issues? Live Proud and Supergay benefit that demographic. Animal rights, political causes, local community outreach. There’s a vodka for that.
Why vodka, and not, say gin or whiskey or rum? First of all, because vodka sells. “Vodka is the most consumed spirit within the category,” explains Danny Lafuente, CEO/cofounder, Simple Spirits Company, which makes a potato vodka that raises funds to benefit hunger relief organizations. “As opposed to changing consumer behavior, and in order to maximize impact, we wanted to meet them where they already were.” READ MORE…
New York Time: In Fleurie, Looking Beyond the Clichés of Beaujolais
At the base is plain Beaujolais, wines that can be delicious but are not considered to have more specific local characteristics. Then comes Beaujolais-Villages, made from grapes grown in areas thought to have a higher potential for quality.
Finally come the 10 crus, each of which comes from an area with terroir fine enough to warrant its name on the label. They include, from north to south, St.-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly. READ MORE…
La Revue du Vin de France: Yquem takes the turn of biodynamics
Bernard Arnault had announced it: the famous classified growth of Sauternes is committed to organic certification, the first step towards biodynamics.
“If we want everything to stay the same, everything has to change.” The famous formula of the Italian writer Tomasi di Lampedusa in his novel Le Guépard (1953) seems to have been cut for the castle of Yquem , in Sauternes. Since May 14, 2019, the team at the helm of the most famous wine in the world has taken on an unprecedented challenge. That day, in fact, the owner of Yquem, Bernard Arnault, publicly announces that Yquem is going to switch to biodynamics. READ MORE…
Press Democrat: Old fire burning east of Geyserville as gusts hit over 80 mph in North Bay mountains
Firefighters early Tuesday were continuing their work seeking to contain to a wildfire burning in the wind-whipped hills east of Geyserville, where confirmed gusts reached at least 85 mph overnight.
The blaze, called the Old fire, was first reported about 9:55 p.m. Monday off Big Geysers Road. The fire’s reported acreage, 10 acres, did not change, but winds became steadily more fierce, with the National Weather Service reporting consistent gusts above 80 mph in the region and at least one measured at 94 mph, making for one of the strongest wind storms to hit the North Bay in years if not decades. READ MORE…
Vitisphere: A technique for regaining taste and sense of smell after Covid
“Whether Covid-induced or not, impairment of sense of smell or taste affects 5 to 15 % of the population”, explains Laurence Gény, vice-director for education at the Institute of Vine & Wine Sciences (ISVV). “We have been working on the issue for years in conjunction with teams of French and overseas researchers”. Being ahead of the curve was extremely useful for lecturers after the summer recess. “When five students recovering from coronavirus were worried about not regaining their taste and sense of smell, lecturers immediately knew how to provide them with support”, continues Gény. READ MORE…
Business Insider: Sweden is turning into a wine hotspot because of climate change
Climate change has transformed Sweden into a new hotspot for wine.
Warmer and longer summers have led to boomtime for an industry that barely existed just two decades ago. Now, experts predict the country could compete with wine powerhouses like France, Italy, and Spain in the years to come.
There are some 90 commercial vineyards in Denmark, 40 in Sweden, and a dozen in Norway, with more popping up each year. READ MORE…
Wine Industry Network: Craig Camp—Leading the Way for Vineyard Rejuvenation from Conventional to Biodynamic Farming
Craig Camp seems to be universally respected in the West Coast wine industry. He made great wines at Cornerstone Winery in the Napa Valley and Anne Amie Vineyards in the Willamette Valley, but Camp’s latest chapter in life might turn out to be his most influential and, ultimately, fulfilling. He is resurrecting a pioneering vineyard that had been neglected, overplanted and overworked, producing wines that had become an afterthought in the wine industry.
Winemaking experience in California, Oregon, a few years in Italy, and a history of building wine distribution companies in the midwest means Camp knows just about every aspect of winemaking and wine marketing. Camp is now charged with getting deep into vineyard management, making the neglected Troon Vineyards and Winery into a biodynamic powerhouse and, subsequently, turning out wines from grapes planted in healthy soils that are appropriate for the vines planted there. 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.
Randall Grahm: California Dreamin’ or What Are You Smokin’? (Finding a Path to True Sustainability and Distinction)
I might argue that “fine wine” has existed for a long time in California, but in recent years, significant technological advances and a greater understanding of the mechanisms for manipulating certain accepted signifiers of wine “quality,” have enabled certain winemakers to more consistently achieve greater commercial success, but, alas, I fear, at the cost of a certain loss of originality and distinctiveness. The fact that the wine business – largely in virtue of the enormous cost of entry – has become in many cases first and foremost a business, has imparted an enormous amount of self-consciousness (and cynicism) about the wines that we produce.3 The California wine industry like the American movie industry seems to have a strong financial motivation to play it safe; I would, however, argue that in an overcrowded and possibly shrinking market,4 following the herd is the least safe thing you can do. The real answer, I believe, is to try to find a unique and viable market niche based on fundamental structural features (like a unique terroir), not ephemeral ones like the endorsement of a rap star or the presence of an unholy amount of residual sugar or goût de charred bourbon barrel in the finished wine. READ MORE…
As someone who owns his share of businesses in the hospitality space, President Donald Trump might be expected to be sensitive to, let alone supportive of, the restaurant and wine industries. Yet one of Trump’s last acts as President has been deliberately and undeniably punitive to both.
Yes, I’m talking about the 30 December 2020 announcement that extended his October 2019 25% tariffs to French and German wines over 14% alcohol (not that there are many German wines over 14% …). But while unexpected, the imposition of the tariffs themselves is not the egregious act. Certainly, American businesses and their customers will feel the sting of an additional 25% price increase on their favourite Châteauneuf-du-Papes. But the insult that has been added to this injury comes in the form of the deliberate and conspicuous absence of what is known in the business as a ‘goods-on-the-water’ exemption. The conscious omission of this clause for a set of tariffs that go into effect within weeks amounts to nothing short of a stab in the back to the already ailing wine trade and hospitality business. READ MORE…
Domestication is the process of selection driven by humans that transformed wild forms into domesticated crops modifying morphological and genetic traits. The domestication process in the grapevine (Vitis vinifera L.) began in Transcaucasia 8000 years ago, during the Neolithic Age, and gave place to the appearance of the subspecies sativa or vinifera (V.v. ssp. vinifera) from the wild subspecies (V.v. ssp. sylvestris). This process probably took place along thousands of years, starting with exploited wild individuals, then early domesticated and intermediate vines and finally fully cultivated populations, with a continuum of all those vine populations during early stages, where the frequency of the formers was diminishing and of the latter was rising along time. Thus, no representatives of exploited wild individuals were currently expected but, in a recent work we found in Montenegro vines of the subspecies sylvestris being cultivated in orchards, which could be considered as proto-varieties and may represent novel active domestication event. READ MORE…
We’ve been fans of the wines of Matrot for a long time, so the wines sent by importer Vineyard Brands got us caught up with them as well. Back in 2009, two made our list of favorites in our Valentine’s Day column for The Wall Street Journal, and we gave a third a warm assessment. We’d recommended passing on the restaurant scene to enjoy a romantic dinner at home, advice that is certainly apropos this year. The two favorites back then were Pierre Matrot Premier Cru “Perrières” 2005 and Thierry et Pascale Matrot Premier Cru “Charmes” 2005. The third, also from Chardonnay, was the regular Thierry et Pascale Matrot 2006 Meursault. Pierre, whose great-grandparents founded the domaine, was Thierry’s father. The Perrières vineyard is famous and seeing it on the label reminded us of our first glimpse of the fabled Cote d’Or where it is located. READ MORE…
The Drinks Business: Benjamin De Rothschild Dies, Aged 57
Benjamin de Rothschild, the scion of the Edmond de Rothschild banking legacy and wine estates around the world, has died of a suspected heart attack aged 57.
Benjamin took over the running of his father Edmond’s empire in 1997 and had a great love of boats, motor racing and wine.
The Edmond de Rothschild group’s viticultural holdings span France, New Zealand and South America as well as a joint projects with the Rupert family in South Africa and Vega Sicilia in Rioja, many of which came about through his own willingness to forge new connections with other families worldwide. READ MORE…
Jancis Robinson: The glass may not be greener
To the average consumer a glass bottle seems virtuous because it is assumed that it is both recyclable and recycled. This is presumably why, when the European glass manufacturers association FEVE commissioned a consumer research project involving 10,000 15-minute interviews in 13 European countries over the last year, they were able to boast that 91% of interviewees agreed (with the interviewer presumably) that glass is the best packaging material for wine. (Although we Brits are the most sceptical about glass, apparently; only 82% of us agreed.)
On the strength of this research the glass manufacturers have come up with a new hallmark on bottles which, as far as I can make out, merely confirms that the bottle you have in your hand is indeed made of glass. READ MORE…
The Gray Report: I drank smoke-tainted canned wine and liked it
I didn’t catch the smoke taint in the Carignan, and I liked it when tasting it, so I decided to double down and we drank that wine with dinner. The safe thing to do would be to say, “Oh, now I get it. Ewww!” (Something else I have seen many people do at professional tastings.) That didn’t happen.
Knowing that I was consuming a smoke-tainted wine didn’t change a thing: We had it with country ham and beans, and it was fine; we finished the (375 ml) can. Granted, that was smoke on smoke, but I didn’t choose the meal based on the wine; it was what we were planning to have anyway. Ironically, the 2017 Sans McGill Vineyard Rutherford Riesling, which I liked on its own and which wasn’t smoke-tainted, was not as good with the meal. Maybe the smoke helped the Carignan.
You could take that under advisement: if you have a wine that you believe might be smoke-tainted, maybe drink it with barbecue. But honestly, I liked it just fine on its own.
Deborah Parker Wong: Cava – a Spanish Wine Category in Transition (Guest Post)
Best known as an easy-drinking sparkling wine that’s also easy on the wallet, Cava and the expanding Spanish sparkling wine category are undergoing a transition that aims to improve both the quality and the image of this largely underrated wine.
The Cava wine category is evolving from its origins as a Denominación de Origen (DO) to the inception of five sparkling wine designations that are in use today: Conca del Riu Anoia, Clàssic Penedès, Corpinnat, Cava de Paraje Calificado, and Espumoso de Calidad de Rioja. These designations seek to improve the overall quality and global image of Spanish sparkling wine by focusing more on terroir and establishing higher standards—for aging, for production, for winegrowing, and more—than the original Cava DO traditionally has. READ MORE…
These are some press releases I received this week that I actually thought were interesting…enjoy!
Amorim: Amorim reveals breakthrough technologies to eradicate detectable TCA
The world’s greenest, most efficient anti-TCA technologies are launched simultaneously for both natural whole corks and technical cork stoppers
Research for the patent-pending Naturity technology began in 2016 with the NOVA School of Science and Technology, and is based on the principles of thermal desorption through a proprietary, non-sequential use of pressure, temperature, purified water and time. No artificial elements are used in the process, which facilitates the extraction of 150+ volatile compounds, including TCA. Launching in USA and worldwide, Naturity expands non-detectable TCA performance in the natural cork product segment, while further strengthening the operational deliverables of NDTech, the advanced screening service that individually analyzes and removes any natural cork with more than 0.5 nanograms per liter (ng/L) of TCA*. READ MORE…
Glancy Wine Education Foundation Announces Game-changing Donation from Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation
The Glancy Wine Education Foundation is pleased to announce a charitable contribution in the amount of $100,000 from the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation to provide financial aid to disadvantaged and minority workers seeking wine education as a means of increasing their earning potential.
The donated funds provide a significant boost to the foundation, allowing it to support more than 30 students in need of financial aid, especially those from disadvantaged and minority communities, during the most difficult time facing the hospitality industry in decades.
“We are positively thrilled at the generosity shown by Wine Spectator’s Scholarship Foundation in this donation,” said Glancy Wine Education Foundation CEO Cheryl Halloran. “Support from industry leaders like this has never been more crucial to this industry.” READ MORE…
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