Good Reads Wednesday

July 2nd, 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.

Eight stunning grower Champagnes

jamie goode’s wine blog

http://www.wineanorak.com/wineblog/champagne/eight-stunning-grower-champagnes

When I visited Champagne a number of years ago, I was blown away by the number of small Champagne houses producing incredibly good sparkling wines at about half the price of comparable product from the large houses. I don’t know if these recommendations are that good, but my guess is that they are.

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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Estate bottling

June 30th, 2014

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

One of the things that you as a winery are always happy to put on a label is that the wine is “Estate Bottled”. Unfortunately, the vast majority of wine does not meet the requirements, since the grapes and wine pretty much need to be, at least in theory (more on this later), under the control of the winery from beginning to end of the process.

While there is a general perception (which may even be backed up by some evidence) that having “estate bottled” on the label helps when it comes to sales and/or pricing, there is less evidence that “Estate Bottled” wines are really any better. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that they are really any better because they are Estate Botttled.

Or, put another way, I do think it is probably fair to say that, broadly speaking, estate bottled wines are better. But correlation does not equal causation. And I certainly would much rather have grapes that are well grown by an outside farmer than grapes that aren’t as well grown under the direct control of the winery. Which is all kind of obvious. And there is no particular reason to think that the winery will, necessarily, do a better job of it than a dedicated farmer.

Of course, it can be argued, with some legitimacy, that the winery’s goal is to produce grapes that will produce superior wines. The farmer may have other goals, such as higher yield. However, it is really hard to sort all of this out, as one winery may in fact be more interested in yield and one independent grower may more interested in quality. It’s hard to come up with any across the board generalization.

But I do think it is fair to say that a winery that can control the entire process from vineyard to bottling is going to have deeper pockets than one that cannot. So to the extent that “estate bottled” implies higher quality, I think it’s more because of more money behind that winery than anything pertinent to the estate bottling process itself.

“Estate bottled” in fact implies a little bit more than it necessarily delivers. What it requires is somewhat limited. And, to some extent, irrelevant. While the winery is supposed to have a certain degree of control over the grape growing process, that degree of control is really not very great. With many estate bottled wines, the winery in fact does have a very high degree of control and in many cases actual ownership and stewardship. However, neither is in fact required. A fairly loosey-goosey supervision passes muster.

Some of the requirements to qualify as Estate Bottled really are more in the category of crossing T’s and dotting I’s. If you remove the wine from the “estate” even for a short period of time for some fairly minor processing, you lose the right to call the wine Estate Bottled.

There is also the designation which I see from time to time “Estate Grown”. As far as I can tell, this is not an official designation of any sort. At least in theory, I would assume that it means that it meets the requirements for estate bottled up to the point of harvest. But as a legal matter, I don’t think it means anything at all.

So like so much in the wine world, what on the surface seems fairly clear is anything but once you get down into the nitty-gritty.

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Good Reads Wednesday

June 25th, 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.

No Wine, But Lots of Swill in This Study

Fermentation

http://fermentationwineblog.com/2014/06/wine-lots-swill-study/

This graphic is pretty depressing. Young people don’t drink much wine. Albeit, this is the 13-20 age group, so they should not really be drinking at all. And there’s hope for the future still.

What electric car patents and some AVAs have in common

Steve Heimoff

http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2014/06/16/what-electric-car-patents-and-some-avas-have-in-common/#sthash.bSqtexl4.dpuf

Unfortunately, it’s really hard for a small AVA, and a small winery in a small AVA, to do much to get that AVA on the consumers’ radar.

Understanding sulfites’ role in wines

Wine Blog

http://www.wine-blog.org/index.php/2014/06/17/understanding-sulfites-role-wines/

I found this article on sulfur dioxide as a naturally occurring substance in wine really interesting, even if it was a bit on the technical side. It didn’t really change my understanding that sulfur dioxide occurs in small amounts in wine naturally, but I had not understood that it occurs due to the fermentation alone.

Uncorked! in Suisun Valley continues on June 21, 2014

Wine Blog

http://www.wine-blog.org/index.php/2014/06/12/uncorked-suisun-valley-continues-june-21-2014/

I was going to be pouring at this event, but unforeseen business requirements landed me in Los Angeles instead. By all reports, this event was a great success however.

Blind Tasting: Unreliable but Necessary

W. Blake Gray

http://palatepress.com/2014/06/wine/blind-tasting-unreliable-necessary/

It is something of a quandary. If you look at how blind tasting stands up to scientific evaluation, well, basically, it doesn’t. The same wine tasted on multiple occasions by different, or even the same, taster, will get wildly different scores. On the other hand, what is the case for non-blind tasting? Of course, scores will not be as erratic, because everybody knows that if they are tasting a Margaux, they are supposed to give it a high score. Damn how it tastes. Throw in the fact that wines can taste very differently bottle to bottle, and can be affected by such things as the mood of the taster, or the food that it is consumed with, and it is very hard to come to any hard and fast rule about how wines should be evaluated. Or, more accurately, that hard and fast rule is not just elusive, it simply does not exist.

The Release Of Your Wine Is Not “News”

1 Wine Dude

http://www.1winedude.com/the-release-of-your-wine-is-not-news/#more-13530

The graphic on this alone is humorous enough to justify reading the post.

Wine competitions and wine scores

The Wine Curmudgeon

http://winecurmudgeon.com/wine-competitions-wine-scores/

It’s kind of hypocritical to criticize wine competitions as being the charade that they are, and then go judge one. Which is the problem that the Wine Curmudgeon has here. But I’ve been in that predicament myself, so I sympathize.

Are we facing a cheap wine crisis?

The Wine Curmudgeon

http://winecurmudgeon.com/are-we-facing-a-cheap-wine-crisis/

Is the cheaper segment of the wine market going the way of Coca-Cola? That’s really the question that the Wine Curmudgeon asks. And it’s pretty hard not to conclude that the answer is “Yes”.

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 Celebrity Winemaker

June 24th, 2014

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

I really have a big problem with the whole idea of the celebrity winemaker. And that’s primarily because I think its more a marketing thing than anything else. I also think many of these winemakers have subscribed to a similar style (generally called “international”), that for me is big turnoff.

This whole subject was brought to mind by Steve Heimoff’s post, “Are consultants “killing” wine?” Which can be found at: http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2014/06/19/are-consultants-killing-wine/, which is well worth reading.

First, the idea that there is any great secret to great winemaking is something of a myth. There are certainly things you can do, and can refrain from doing, with a bunch of grapes, which will impact the final wine. And two winemakers presented with the same grapes will turn out different wines. But let’s not get too hot and bothered by all that. The similarities will, barring some major screw-up, outweigh the differences. And the differences will be stylistic—differences in what the winemaker wants to achieve in the finished wines, not the capabilities of the winemaker. Two different but well made wines are just that. One winemaker, because he is a cult or celebrity figure, isn’t by virtue of that fact better than the other. As with celebrity chefs, they are what they are because they have the skills of their profession with the flair of the entertainer. The equally skilled practitioner who lacks the entertainer’s flair is equally capable at making food, or wine, or whatever.

If you start with good grapes and don’t commit some major error, or suffer some unfortunate stroke of bad luck, then you should end up with a pretty good wine. You may add more or less acid (or none) than another winemaker, more or less oak, etc., etc. At the extremes, wines produced will be noticeably, and even dramatically different. But most of the wine will be similar in overall quality, even if there are, as I say, stylistic differences. There’s not a lot of magic tricks when it comes to winemaking. The most important “trick” is to make damn sure you’re starting off with good grapes. If there’s a point where there really is skill, it’s blending, but even here, there’s a lot of disagreement about what is the best blend when you do a blending trial. So, like so much with wine, this is more subjective than objective.

And certainly the “international” style represents one of those extremes that you can produce from the same grapes. Round, soft wines, low in acid, high in oak. And when you are talking about the celebrity winemaker, you’re pretty much talking about winemakers who make wines in that style. I don’t so much have a problem with that style of winemaking per se. My problem with it, aside from the fact that I myself, personally, don’t like it, is that it has pretty much monopolized what the public perceives and expects of wines to a degree that freezes out other styles. Of course, that’s not entirely true, as most Pinot Noirs are not (in fact could not be) made in an international style. But it is largely true for Cabernet Sauvignon, which is very unfortunate, as that variety has been largely consigned to and identified with that style.

So I would very much like to see the celebrity winemaker thing toned down. But since marketing drives the wine world, and many new wineries with lots of money behind them are looking for that hook that will generate publicity and sales, it’s not very likely I’m going to get my wish.

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Good Reads Wednesday

June 18th, 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.

On “blindfolded monkeys” and blind tasting

Steve Heimoff

http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2014/06/10/on-blindfolded-monkeys-and-blind-tasting/

“No, I mean only to suggest that, if you consistently taste wines blind, wrapped in their little brown paper bags, you will find results quite different from those published by the majority of famous magazines and newsletters.”

Uncorked! in Suisun Valley continues on June 21, 2014

Wine Blog

http://www.wine-blog.org/index.php/2014/06/12/uncorked-suisun-valley-continues-june-21-2014/

For those of you who live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’m hoping to see you at Uncorked next Saturday.

Anti-Winery Sentiment is Building

SVB on Wine

http://svbwine.blogspot.com/2014/06/anti-winery-sentiment-is-building.html#more

An interesting discussion of how things aren’t nearly as friendly as they once were, or at least as friendly as they were once perceived to be.

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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