Good Reads Wednesday

September 10th, 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.

Behold…The Rational Wine Consumer

Fermentation

http://fermentationwineblog.com/2014/09/behold-rational-wine-consumer/

The general public really wants more choice when it comes to where and when it can buy wine. But vested interests have other priorities which all too often prevail.

The First Global Village ~ How Portugal Changed the World, by Martin Page

Wine Blog

http://www.wine-blog.org/index.php/2014/09/05/first-global-village/

Very interesting post on Portugal.

No Dessert, Please: Chenin Blanc Is the Loire Valley’s Sweet Rock Star

http://palatepress.com/2014/09/wine/desserts-please-chenin-blanc-loire-valleys-sweet-rock-star/

Chenin Blanc is one of those grapes that is world-class except for the fact that, because it’s not Chardonnay, it’s entirely ignored. That is unfortunate because it is capable of making some absolutely stunning wines.

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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The glass ceiling

September 8th, 2014

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

My primary profession is law and there was a time largely but not entirely before my time when a glass ceiling existed in the profession. If you were a woman, it hardly mattered how good you were. Sandra Day O’Connor, who eventually served on the US Supreme Court, had a really tough time getting a job. It had nothing to do with capability. It had only to do with a perception that certain people (i.e. women) could never cut the mustard. Or maybe it was even worse than that. Maybe it was that the men who dominated the profession didn’t care whether women could cut the mustard or not. They just were not going to be allowed into the elite club.

Of course, that was a whole lot worse than the glass ceiling that exists in the wine world today, but it does not make the wine world’s glass ceiling any less excusable. Two posts that appeared this last week discussed this point and they are well worth reading. The first can be found at:

Dark Secrets of the 100 Point Wine Scale http://gargantuanwine.com/2014/09/different-drinking-styles-different-values/

The second is Steve Heimoff’s comment on the first, and it can be found at:

Is there a “glass ceiling” when it comes to scoring certain wines? (Hint: yes)

http://www.steveheimoff.com/#sthash.mtSnCiF0.dpuf

Both posts acknowledge that if you are a particular type of wine you can forget about achieving a high score. It really doesn’t matter how good a wine you are, or how much pleasure you impart. You had better be a Cabernet or a Pinot Noir or you need not apply for one of those uberscores.

I can’t begin to say how pernicious this is. One can make the argument that certain wines are innately superior and that other varieties are innately of lesser worth and quality. If you are one of the latter, albeit one of the best, you are still second-rate.

Except there is no objective basis for saying any particular variety of wine is entitled to those presumed laurels. Or, even more to the point, there is no basis for saying that some other variety, even at its best, isn’t as good as the really good varieties.

If you define wine quality as being Cabernet and Pinot Noir, to the exclusion of other varieties, then you have a tautology, a self-fulfilling prophecy. The second rate can never be first rate because it is, by definition, second-rate.

As anyone can see, this is a ridiculous state of affairs. Ridiculous, except for the fact that it in fact represents the state of affairs that exists in the wine world today.

Suppose you were a wine explorer, a Christopher Columbus of viticulture, and found in some obscure valley in the Caucasus a variety hitherto unknown, transplanted it to California, cloned it, planted a vineyard, and produced wine from. It could be the best wine ever made (assuming there were some objective way to come to that conclusion). For your effort, you would probably get an 88 and a few words of praise on some obscure page of some wine review publication which would then bestow 95-100 point scores on the latest California Cabernets.

Of course, my fantasy about a Christopher Columbus of the vineyards is just that. By if you are a producer of Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Montepulciano, or any number of other varieties, you are essentially locked out when it comes to the ratings game.

If you are a member of the clique (Cabernet farmer, winery, critic, etc.) that profits from the feeding frenzy that attends each new vintage of Napa Valley Cabernet, then all is good. But the end result is a perpetuation of the perpetual. It is not revered because it is superior–it is superior because it is revered.

I do not intend to cast aspersions against California Cabernet and Pinot Noir. They are wonderful grapes and produce great ones. But there is without a doubt a glass ceiling that prevents others from entry. It is not a ceiling that I see disappearing anytime soon.

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Good Reads Wednesday

September 3rd, 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.

Abraham Lincoln Was Right About Wine Laws

Fermentation

http://fermentationwineblog.com/2014/08/abraham-lincoln-right-wine-laws/

Pennsylvania has the most stringent, and therefore the dumbest, control state laws of any in the country. Like so much regulation, it gets hijacked by special interests who are more concerned with maintaining their favored position than in the general welfare.

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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The perpetual problem

September 1st, 2014

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

While going through my posts for the week, I came across this one from SVB On Wine:

Oversupply and a Bubble Forming. Now What?

http://svbwine.blogspot.com/2014/08/oversupply-and-bubble-forming-now-what.html#more

While the gist of the post is how to deal with a situation of oversupply (the suggested best course of action is to cut your losses early), I want to talk here about the nature of the problem to begin with.

Most businesses that produce a product can make some reasonable prediction about demand and adjust their production accordingly. Agriculture in general, and winemaking in particular, are in the unfortunate situation that nature dictates their production, at least in the short term, irrespective of demand.

So we are constantly struggling with oversupply and undersupply. When the great recession hit, it had a negligible impact on overall wine consumption (although a significant impact on pricing). But we were hit with what seemed like a never ending series of bountiful harvests which the industry struggled to offload. The combination of excess supply and tepid demand was a killer.

As things started to recover, we were hit with a series of short harvests. If we could have flipped the situation, we would have, but nature does not give us that option.

Now we have had two large harvests and are probably looking at a third. We may get grapes than we neither need nor want, but somehow they need to go away.

So what do you do? Taking the industry as a whole, SVB on Wine’s outlook is probably pretty fair. If you have too much, in one way or another you need to discount it to blow it out. Unfortunately, unless that results in an increase in demand, it’s basically a race to the bottom. Not a happy situation. The winners of the race are none too happy. The losers are even less happy still. But that is the situation of individual producers who have little choice but to match their competition.

As a small producer with primarily direct to consumer sales, all of this is not nearly as much of a concern. The difference in production may not be enough to really impact things all that much.

Of course, the person who takes the brunt of all this is the farmer. The winery probably has some wiggle room to buy more or less grapes unless it is locked into contracts which require their purchase. However, most contracts have maximums which protect the winery to a great extent. But the farmer has no such protection.

If the farmer is in a prestigious appellation, such as Napa Valley, he is not in nearly the predicament of a lesser appellation, or a farmer who must sell his product as California appellation. Since there is only a limited ability to process so much wine, all Napa Valley grapes will get processed. Each more prestigious appellation will bump the less prestigious until those at the bottom of the pecking order may have no place to go. That has happened in the past, though I don’t know if it is happening more recently. There is some capacity to absorb larger production, but then, as I say, it results in oversupply which creates its own set of problems.

For the large scale producer, which may be looking at a world market, overproduction in one place can get balanced out by shortage in another. But that only goes so far. And over the long term, the only solution for overproduction is ripping out vines, which in fact has been happening on a large scale in Europe. In the long run, that is probably a good thing as supply and demand are brought into better balance, and the grapes removed from production are of lower quality.

But short of being able to control nature, the problem of alternating over and undersupply is not going to go away. It is a problem built into the business, and, unfortunately, introduces unpredictability in everything that we do.

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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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