Good Reads Wednesday

August 27th, 2014

jeff-smby Jeff Miller of Artisan Family of Wines (Seven Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars, Red Côte)

Every Wednesday I post my recommendations of the best of last week’s postings concerning wine, whether blogs or news. I list them in the order I read them, so you shouldn’t infer anything about the order in which I list these posts.

Why grocery stores love wine

Wine Curmudgeon

http://winecurmudgeon.com/why-grocery-stores-love-wine/

Some interesting statistics on wine sales in grocery stores.

Do Tasting Rooms Take Away Sales from Distributors?

SVB on Wine

http://svbwine.blogspot.com/2014/08/procter-gamble-has-long-been-respected.html#more

Do Tasting Rooms Take Away Sales from Distributors? Clearly the answer is yes. Do they take away enough sales to matter? Clearly the answer is no.

For keeping up to date with what’s going on the in wine world, the best all around source is http://winebusiness.com.

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Wine is not a natural product

August 25th, 2014

jeff-smby Jeff Miller of Artisan Family of Wines (Seven Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars, Red Côte)

With all the hoopla about the natural wine movement, a nasty little fact is that wine simply is not all that natural a product.

We have a vegetable stand in Suisun Valley, Larry’s Produce. If you go there, you can buy all kinds of fruits and vegetables. Corn, avocado, lettuce. The list goes on and on. These products are pretty much pulled from the earth or the trees that they grow on, brought to Larry’s, and sold. I think it would be fair to characterize them as natural.

Wine is a not like that. It is a processed product. The “natural wine” movement would more accurately characterize itself as the “less unnatural wine” movement. Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but certainly more truthful. Of course, “less unnatural” doesn’t generate sales in quite the same way as “natural” does, so don’t expect it to show up on a supermarket shelf near you anytime soon.

But if we are going to be honest about it, then wine violates any realistic concept of being “natural” from the beginning of the process forward.

First of all, there’s this nasty little fungus called powdery mildew that attacks the vines and the grapes. If you want to control it (and believe me you do), you pretty much need to use sulfur in some form, or else some chemical brewed up in a laboratory. Now you can say sulfur is “natural” and, in a certain sense, I guess it is. I’m not sure how you define “natural” because if you define it as everything that is a product of nature, then you eliminate nothing. At any rate, for anyone that has had the pleasure of spraying sulfur on some vines, it’s not a particularly pleasant experience. And I doubt very much of the process by which the sulfur is mined, processed, manufactured, packaged, and applied, would meet most consumers concepts of “natural”.

But be that as it may, even the most “organic” of farmers use a group of chemicals in their farming that, like sulfur, may occur in “nature”, but are chemicals nonetheless.

Once grapes are harvested, normally the first thing you do with them is hit them with a dose of sulfur dioxide. Whatever your thoughts are about chemicals, if you are going to make wine, you have very little choice but to use sulfur dioxide from start to finish throughout the winemaking process.

And the reason for that is simple: they are just all kinds of microbes out there that could care less about the stability of the wine that is being made. If you want to control those microbes, you’d better be using sulfur dioxide pretty much from the point of the grapes come in from the fields to the point that they go, in liquid form, into the bottle.

Probably the second thing that you add to your grapes once they come in from the field, at least after you’ve crushed them, is some tartaric acid. Again, tartaric acid is in a certain sense, like sulfur, a natural product. But it didn’t come from the grapes that came in from the field. True, it is the same acid that is in those grapes, but, in California, most of the time our grapes simply don’t have enough of it. So we add some more. It comes out of a bag. It looks like a pile of crystals until you dissolve it.

We also often add diammonium phosphate, which is, for all intents and purposes, nitrogen. If you want a nice, smooth, and uneventful fermentation, your yeast had better have enough nitrogen. The grapes, as they come in from the field, do have nitrogen, but often not enough. So you add some diammonium phosphate, generally referred to as DAP. Often you will add a nitrogen soup of sorts as well containing amino acids to facilitate a smooth fermentation as well. There are various brands out there with names like Superfood and Fermaid-K.

Without making things too complicated, once your primary and secondary fermentations are done, there is a third process that the wine wants to go through, the one that converts it from wine to vinegar. Unless you’re in the vinegar business, it’s pretty important that this third process not occur. So a genocide of the microbes that cause that conversion is in order. So we introduce another massive dose of sulfur dioxide.

Hopefully, this whole process occurs without incident. But sometimes “shit happens”. When it does, usually the solution is more chemicals.

I think pretty much every winemaker would subscribe to the “less unnatural” philosophy of winemaking. But no winemaker worth his salt would subscribe to a philosophy that, at least in my view, would be a really “natural” winemaking method. Because if he did, he would end up with some pretty crappy wine.

As processed foods go, wine is certainly less processed than many others. And trying to keep interventions to a minimum is, in my view as well is that of probably the vast majority of winemakers, the way to go. But it is only fair to acknowledge that “keeping interventions to a minimum” is a far cry from keeping interventions to zero. You can do that with table grapes pretty much. You can’t do that with wine.

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Good Reads Wednesday

August 20th, 2014

jeff-smby Jeff Miller of Artisan Family of Wines (Seven Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars, Red Côte)

Every Wednesday I post my recommendations of the best of last week’s postings concerning wine, whether blogs or news. I list them in the order I read them, so you shouldn’t infer anything about the order in which I list these posts.

The last word on single-blind, double-blind and open tasting

Steve Heimoff

http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2014/08/15/the-last-word-on-single-blind-double-blind-and-open-tasting/#sthash.d931hj2T.dpuf

I personally believe tastings should be double-blind. I sort of understand the argument for single blind since there is an argument that a wine should be “typical” of its type. I see no argument at all for open tasting, which is, to me, nothing more than an invitation to bias. One thing I think we can be pretty sure of though: this will not be Heimoff’s “last word” on single-blind, double-blind and open tasting.

When sommeliers go wild

Steve Heimoff

http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2014/08/14/when-sommeliers-go-wild/

Heimoff is critical of a sommelier who is more concerned with his wine list than what the customer really wants. And I am quite sure that Heimoff is correct on this point. Still, I can’t help but sympathize with the sommelier. I forget which Justice of the Supreme Court it was that said it, but the quote went something like this: “we are not final because we are infallible; we are infallible because we are final.” It really is the same with the consumer. The consumer may be well educated and informed or downright stupid and pretentious. It doesn’t matter. “The customer is always right.”

Terroir in Pinot Noir: an approach, and a problem

Steve Heimoff

http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2014/08/12/terroir-in-pinot-noir-an-approach-and-a-problem/

If there’s one thing we really needed it was another article on terroir. I’ve always felt that the whole concept was overrated, though not entirely nonexistent. At any rate, here are Heimoff’s views on the subject, at least as they concern Pinot Noir in California.

For keeping up to date with what’s going on the in wine world, the best all around source is http://winebusiness.com.

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Is a little responsibility in the media too much to ask?

August 18th, 2014

jeff-smby Jeff Miller of Artisan Family of Wines (Seven Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars, Red Côte)

I think TomWark is a little off the mark in his diatribe which can be found at: “A Little Responsibility in Wine Journalism Please”,

http://fermentationwineblog.com/2014/08/little-responsibility-wine-journalism-please/

To give a little context, the article that Wark finds so offensive seeks to give five tips to baby boomers from millennials when it comes to wine. Wark finds this pretty insulting. Being a baby boomer myself, I could not agree more.

But let’s face it. Is the purpose of the media to inform a public hungry for information and insight?

Or is it to make money mostly by selling stuff?

Of course, if the idea that millennials should be preaching to us baby boomers is offensive in broad brush, the details of the tips themselves could be expected to piss us off even more. They do not disappoint.

Tip one: rely upon your own taste buds instead of what some self-appointed expert tells you you should like. Or, in other words, stop being the idiot that you are and always have been. Pretty offensive, right? I should stop reading that this point.  But, of course, I don’t.

Tip two. Be willing to try something new, instead of recycling the same old wines that you’ve been drinking for the last 30 years. Of course, since I’m a big advocate of Montepulciano and Aglianico, I take particular offense at this one. But wasn’t that the point (at least in general terms if not precisely concerning Montepulciano and Aglianico)?

Tip three. “Love a good tale.” This is just a rehash of the age old “tell a story”. Whether you like marketing or not, this is marketing, plain and simple.

Tip four. “Look for boutique wineries and shops.” I’m not sure what to make of this. Everybody wants boutique this, or artisal that. Yet the consolidation of market share in the largest producers continues. I think the buying habits in this respect can’t be much different between millennials and baby boomers. But, of course, it’s all the baby boomers fault.

Tip five. Make it fun. In a way, this pisses me off the most. It conjures up images of scantily clad babes hopping around with broad smiles on their face and Buds in their hands. Who cares that the product sucks? Because when you say, “make it fun”, what you’re really saying is that marketing trumps quality.

Which, I guess it does. Certainly if you look at the beer market, I would be quite sure that Bud outsells by a wide margin all of the quality microbreweries put together.

Which, brings me back to my point. Namely, that the purpose of most articles is not to elevate the general understanding of things. It is to sell things. Wine is no exception. Better to shock and tease then to explore subtleties and nuances. They are such a bore.

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Good Reads Wednesday

August 13th, 2014

jeff-smby Jeff Miller of Artisan Family of Wines (Seven Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars, Red Côte)

Every Wednesday I post my recommendations of the best of last week’s postings concerning wine, whether blogs or news. I list them in the order I read them, so you shouldn’t infer anything about the order in which I list these posts.

The Romance of Terroir is Most Important…Not the Truth

Fermentation

http://fermentationwineblog.com/2014/08/romance-terroir-important-truth/

I have to agree with Wark. Terroir does exist and it is important. Just not so much as a viticultural or enological concept, but as a marketing one. But if you want to sell your wine….

Talking about tasting room staff

Steve Heimoff

http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2014/08/08/talking-about-tasting-room-staff/

Having worked in our tasting room, I’ve had the experience of seeing how impressive theories about wine meet with what is required to satisfy the consumer and sell a few bottles of wine. This post deals with some of the same sorts of issues, and Heimoff intends to spend some time pouring in the tasting room and report on it. Should be interesting.

Research suggests fruit flies could be responsible for wine’s pleasant aromas

jamie goode’s wine blog

http://www.wineanorak.com/wineblog/wine-science/research-suggests-fruit-flies-could-be-responsible-for-wines-pleasant-aromas

Just when you’re beginning to forget how complex the whole subject of winemaking is, you read an article like this and get reminded.

For keeping up to date with what’s going on the in wine world, the best all around source is http://winebusiness.com.

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