Happy weekend. I hope everyone had a safe, healthy, and happy Thanksgiving weekend last weekend and is off to a great start to the Christmas/Hanukkah season. For my part, I’m keeping busy with work and studies.
The biggest news this week came on Thursday when Governor Newsom announced another wave of stay-at-home orders for several California counties which will undoubtedly affect several small businesses, including wineries and tasting rooms. I’ve included a few pieces to give you an idea of what’s going on.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Scroll through and find some fun—What’s it like to be quarantined with Francis Ford Coppola? Discover the myth of witch’s wine. And of course go down to the blogs for some independent insight.
New York Times: Amid Sexual Harassment Scandal, Elite Wine Group Elects New Board
But the Court of Master Sommeliers’ new leaders don’t look so different from the old.
The Court of Master Sommeliers, the most elite body in American wine, has elected a new board of directors following a sexual harassment scandal in October and accusations of racism this summer.
Of the 11 new board members, three are women, and two identify as gay and two as Asian-American; seven are white men. (The two Black men who were eligible for the board did not run.) The outgoing board had two women, one Black man and no one who identified as gay among its 14 members; 11 were white men. READ MORE…
SF Chronicle: California wineries brace for big losses during holiday season after looming lockdown
Following news of a looming shutdown, winery owners and executives throughout the Bay Area said that while they understood the public health concerns, they were disappointed that they would likely have to close their tasting rooms at some point in December for at least three weeks.
“If there is a shutdown, three weeks is a long time to be closed at this time of year. We’re all looking to maximize holiday season,” said Steven Mirassou, owner of Steven Kent Winery in Livermore. “That’s problematic, but it’s much less important than the overall health of my team and our customers. The sacrifices are real, but they need to be made.” READ MORE…
Press Democrat: Sonoma County and Bay Area brace for tighter pandemic restrictions
Sweeping new restrictions to be imposed around California over the coming weeks to combat a severe resurgence of the coronavirus are expected to exact an excruciating toll on consumers and business owners already struggling amid pandemic fears and limits.
Sonoma County and its Bay Area neighbors are in a more favorable position than most parts of the state, given area hospitalizations of virus patients are still at a manageable level.
But each of five California regions is expected by late December to reach a critical limit on available intensive-care hospital beds, triggering new stay-home requirements Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday that greatly limit commercial operations, recreational and worshipping opportunities and social gatherings beyond what’s now allowed. READ MORE…
Harpers: From hospitality to homelessness
With 30-40% of people made homeless this year estimated to be former hospitality workers, the situation has become dire for many. Hugh Jones, who also lost his job this year as a result of the pandemic, investigates the depth of the problem, and how the trade can help.
It doesn’t take much to end up on the streets. Unfortunately, this is something that many in our industry have discovered this year, with growing numbers of former hospitality staff finding themselves without not only their jobs, but without a roof over their heads. The numbers should be cause for concern. According to CHAIN, the official database for homeless counts in London, 1,841 people became homeless in the first three months of this incredibly tough year. From there, the numbers grew: 2,680 from April to June; 1,901 from July to September. That’s a total of 6,422 (N.B. some might only have been homeless for a short period of time), of which homeless charity Glass Door estimate 30-40% are former hospitality workers. READ MORE…
Esquire: In Quarantine with the Godfather, Francis Ford Coppola
What’s it like to spend seven months holed up with the director and 25 members of his family? For starters, wine, movies, and zero regrets
As quarantines go, Francis Ford Coppola’s setup in the Napa Valley sounded pretty sweet.
I did a couple of Zoom conversations with the film director and winemaker over the summer, and what he described, as I sat by my laptop with yet another tin of tuna, struck me as a sort of Italian-American midpandemic Eden. Coppola and his family were sequestered on the expansive acreage of the old Inglenook estate that he and his wife, Eleanor, had purchased back in 1975, when the Coppolas were flush with cash from the first two Godfather films. And when I say “family,” I mean much of Coppola’s extended clan, including his children and grandchildren and nephews and apparently anyone else with a soft spot for cabernet sauvignon and wraparound porches—about 25 people total, depending on the day, all coming together for group meals and film screenings. READ MORE…
Wine Spectator: ‘Lore’ Podcast Revives Legend of Witch’s Wine
The unsavory tale of a mysterious wine bottle from Antiques Roadshow is back in the spotlight, and appraiser Andy McConnell relives his brush with folk magic
“It looked like your average, everyday old wine bottle,” Aaron Mahnke says in “Bottled Up,” the Oct. 26 episode of Lore, his podcast devoted to all things spooky, macabre and mysterious. “But the contents were anyone’s guess.” And just like that, Mahnke brought new life to a stomach-turning tale of a very old wine bottle, a popular British TV series and literal brass tacks. But what, exactly, is the story behind this revived mystery?
In a 2016 episode of the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow, the show’s glass specialist and mainstay appraiser Andy McConnell was asked to put a price on a dark and presumably very old wine bottle, discovered underground (and upside down) on its owner’s property. McConnell estimated the bottle’s value at about $135. But the question remained: What was inside? READ MORE…
Eater: Survey Finds That Pandemic Has Exacerbated Sexual Harassment of Tipped Workers
“He asked me to take my mask off so they could see my face and decide how much to tip me”
A new report from One Fair Wage outlines the unsafe and unfair treatment of tipped service workers during the pandemic, and as is unfortunately expected, the current state of affairs is bleak as hell. The survey of 1,675 tipped service workers in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Washington D.C. reveals that workers are worried for their health and safety as restaurants refuse to follow COVID-19 guidelines and customers ignore mask protocols.
Some of the most appalling revelations from the survey are regarding sexual harassment. About 250 workers reported a massive uptick in sexual comments from customers, “a substantial portion of which were requests from male customers that female service workers remove their mask so that they could judge their looks, and, implicitly, determine their tips on that basis.” READ MORE…
Harpers: Wine industry falling behind other sectors on creating a global sustainable standard
A global framework used by other sectors like palm oil, mining, textiles and even golfing is needed to build best practice for the wine industry, some of the world’s leading experts in environmental management have said.
The consensus, from panellists at one of this morning’s Future of Wine Forum 2020 seminars, brought together an audience from across the wine world to debate whether our industry needs to agree on a global definition of sustainability.
Yes, was the resounding answer – with caveats that acknowledged the difficulty that comes with such an ambition. Panellists agreed that common frameworks were needed to show leadership and build best practice. So far, they said, this is something that the wine industry has failed to galvanise.
“At a global level, we need some degree of consistency,” Anne Jones, Waitrose partner and category manager for drinks, wines, beers and spirits buying, said.
“The question is how we [tackle] confusing messaging around what sustainability is. Even in this audience, we would end up with hundreds of definitions. A global certification would enable us to have a much clearer conversation with our customers. READ MORE…
Decanter: Mouton Rothschild reveals 2018 vintage label by Chinese artist
Château Mouton Rothschild has revealed its 2018 vintage label, designed by the contemporary Chinese artist, writer and sculpter Xu Bing.
Considered one of China’s most pioneering and best-known creative figures, Xu Bing was commissioned to create the Mouton Rothschild 2018 label by the Bordeaux first growth’s owners, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, Camille Sereys de Rothschild and Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild.
Xu Bing, born in 1955, is known for his creative use of language and the Mouton Rothschild 2018 label is an example of his ‘square word calligraphy’.
This technique is used to create artwork that resembles traditional Chinese characters but is composed of words and letters from the Latin alphabet.
‘Mouton Rothschild’ can be read in the artwork adorning the Pauillac Château’s 2018 vintage. READ MORE…
wine-searcher: Chinese Wine Tariffs will have Global Impact
Crippling trade tariffs imposed by China on Australian wine could lead to a worldwide chain reaction.
Australia’s trade war with China will have a huge impact on the wine world in 2021, because suddenly Australia has a LOT of expensive wine to sell, and no obvious place to sell it.
Last week, China announced tariffs on Australian wine of 107 percent to 212 percent. Australia’s trade minister called it “a devastating blow” to the country’s wine industry, and said that it may make some wineries’ business “unviable”. It’s shocking how dependent Australia’s $3 billion wine industry, especially at the high end, had become on China. READ MORE…
Eater: A Restaurateur Reluctantly Becomes a Civil Rights Leader in Steve McQueen’s Brilliant ‘Mangrove’
The “Small Axe” miniseries depiction of the Mangrove Nine — and the restaurant that they’re named after — bristles with both anger and joy
A man’s right to be nothing but a restaurateur, “to serve spicy food for a particular palate,” and a society’s flat refusal to allow him the satisfaction of this simple wish is at the heart of the molten magnificent Small Axe: Mangrove. The first in a five-part miniseries that chronicles England’s oft-overlooked Black civil rights movement, Steve McQueen’s feature — which was released last month and whose brilliance has already been unfortunately eclipsed by the stellar Small Axe follow-ups, released weekly on Amazon Prime, Lovers Rock and Red, White and Blue — bristles with anger (righteous), outrage (outrageous), and joy (palpable). It also is, though not technically about restaurants, the film that most holistically captures what a restaurant can be, and why they’re so vitally important, particularly in times of duress and to communities under threat. READ MORE…
Drinks Business: Sexist Cartoon Prompts Outrage in French Wine Circles
A “crude” and “misogynistic” cartoon that recently appeared in the French wine guide ‘En Magnum’ has sparked a fierce debate about attitudes towards women among the, predominantly older, male members at the top of the Francophone wine writing scene.
The cartoon, entitled ‘Covid requires new strategies’, depicts a tall, blonde woman wearing a revealing red dress talking to a squat, rotund wine merchant, flustered and excited by what he is hearing.
The lady tells ‘Monsieur Georges’ that her company has a “new strategy” to defeat Covid-19 and that if he buys a pallet of wine she’ll take her top off and if he buys a container…”Georgie, darling. Can you guess? Go on…” 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.
Tim Atkin: Wine In The Time Of Bushfires
Covid-19 may have monopolised the world’s attention since March 2020, but the previous six months in Australia were dominated by the most traumatic bushfire season in memory . The so-called ‘Black Summer’ of 2019-20, which claimed 35+ lives, around 6,000 buildings, 20 million hectares of land and many billions of creatures, had itself come on the back of a decade of debilitating drought.
Australia’s wine sector was inevitably affected by the bushfires, but – when the dust had finally settled – were those impacts widespread and how have things evolved since? READ MORE…
Jancis Robinson: Steven Spurrier’s hopes and triumphs
Steven is now a vine grower and produces Bride Valley sparkling wine from slopes near his house in Dorset. The Bride Valley office, tasting room, wine and art room and eventually a club room (he is setting up a members club to offer 15% off for a guaranteed purchase of six bottles a year) are all in the stable block behind his house. He says, ‘the verdant and wooded part behind this is a lovely place for visitors to taste in good weather and this is where I have put some of my sculptures collected over the years.’ He shares the bench above with The Sleeping Hare by local artist Clare Trenchard. Below is Spring by Marzia Colonna – a cousin of the Ricasolis, Steven points out – with the vineyard in the distance. READ MORE…
Masters of Wine: Stage one MW student Evmorfia Kostaki awarded George T. Gamblin Memorial scholarship
The scholarship is awarded annually to a Master of Wine student who demonstrates a particular appreciation for how wine taps into our creative senses. In years’ past, students have been asked to write essays based on inspired prompts or pair a wine with a photograph. This year, students were asked to reflect on their journey to become a Master of Wine after reading Greek author C.P. Cavafy’s poem, ‘Ithaka.’
Though there were many outstanding submissions, including several beautiful poem responses, stage one MW student Evmorfia Kostaki’s essay was chosen unanimously by Mary Margaret and her family.
Evmorfia will be awarded $500 USD to be used toward her Master of Wine studies. She grew up in Samos, Greece, where she currently lives and works, and holds a Master in Viticulture and Enology with studies in Montpellier, Bordeaux, Udine and Davis, as well as the WSET Diploma. READ MORE…
The Wine Gourd: Are CellarTracker wine scores meaningful?
I have written before about the quality points awarded to wine by many critics (Quality scores changed the wine industry, and created confusion). This sort of thing is not unusual in the modern world, where just about every human endeavor is rated by someone, somewhere; everything from restaurants and hotels to books, music and holidays. The only things that is not rated are the customers, which may explain a lot of the problems.
All of these scores are assigned by individuals, and thus represent a single opinion, whether by an expert or not. However, particularly in the modern world, there are now commercial groups that aggregate what might loosely be called user ratings, to provide some sort of consensus score. The important word there is “consensus”, which is a fairly nebulous concept, but which needs to be made concrete if a combined score is going to be reported.
This is the topic of this post. CellarTracker, as but one example, aggregates scores provided by wine drinkers, and provides a consensus score. So, the blog post title translates as: Does the concept of a consensus rating make much sense for wines? READ MORE…
Great British Wine: Tillingham
Listening to a summer shower pelt down on a tin roof, piping hot sourdough pizza slice in one hand and glass of slightly hazy English Sparkling Wine in the other, you can’t help but feel incredibly relaxed. Looking up at the towering, rusted roof of the Dutch barn above us, it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine that we’d trespassed onto a derelict farm, if it weren’t for the lights shining through the plate glass window of the tasting room opposite.
This is Tillingham in Peasmarsh, East Sussex, one of England’s many new wine estates that has sprouted across the South-East in the past few years. Despite an increasingly crowded field, Tillingham has distinguished itself as one of England’s most innovative producers. Their minimal intervention approach to winemaking and evocative labels have given them a strong following amongst Natural Wine lovers in London, Brighton and Bristol. It has also earned them a few raised eyebrows from more conservative members of the wine trade.
It has been a busy year at Tillingham. When we visited, in late August, they were bottling the last of the 2019 vintage (made from grapes bought from local growers) and were getting ready to bring in the first harvest of the estate’s own fledging vines. Having been forced to close the brand-new restaurant, hotel and tasting room during the lockdowns, they re-opened their doors to guests this week. READ MORE…
Matthew’s World of Wine and Drink: English Bubbles—Interview with Trevor Clough of Digby Fine English (Podcast)
A Restaurateur Reluctantly Becomes a Civil Rights Leader in Steve McQueen’s Brilliant ‘Mangrove’
Thirty years ago English sparkling wine wasn’t a thing; twenty years ago it was barely known about; ten years it was little understood; now it’s appreciated as one of the best regions for quality bubbles; the next ten years may see England really become established on the world map. To discuss all this more, listen to my interview with Trevor Clough of Digby Fine English – who make some fantastic sparkling wine. LISTEN HERE…
Spit Bucket: Three Lessons Learned After 7 Months of Virtual Wine Events
Today marks the 7 month anniversary since the launch of VirtualWineEvents.com. Despite still being a very young site, I’ve been thrilled with its growth. We’ve had more than 7400 events featured with over 5700 unique site visitors. Additionally, more than 400 folks have created accounts to submit events.
But the most exciting part is seeing the data from the site about what kind of virtual events consumers are seeking. It’s one thing to have anecdotes, but the hard numbers about what people are actually clicking on are deeply fascinating. READ MORE…
Booze Business: Misunderstood Whiskey
What I particularly enjoy about the craft spirit movement is that it attracts people with vision and who are willing to think outside the box. This is the story of two childhood friends who had an idea and the tenacity to make it happen, in no less a difficult and complicated endeavor than the spirits business.
JD Recobs and Chris Buglisi, founders and owners of Misunderstood whiskey, have been friends since childhood, age seven to be exact. They grew up a block apart in Montclair, NJ and often worked together in various “enterprises” ranging from lemonade stands to DJ events to house painting. READ MORE…
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