Good Reads Wednesday

June 11th, 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.

Coravin halts sales because of exploding wine bottles

Dr. Vino

http://www.drvino.com/2014/06/02/coravin-exploding/

I find this pretty surprising considering that most systems which use inert gas to preserve wine operate under very low pressures, much lower than most bottles are supposed to withstand.

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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“Natural”

June 9th, 2014

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

“Natural” and “unnatural” are really very charged words. But they are words that we use and accept superficially, and which, on examination, really have nothing to do with much of anything, really.

Take, for example, something that I’ve heard many times in my life, “homosexuality is unnatural”. Well, it only takes a second’s thought to realize that this statement is factually false. Homosexuality exists in nature. When someone says homosexuality is “unnatural,” that is not a comment on whether it is really natural or not, but the moral judgment of the speaker. And that’s generally the case when it comes to “natural”. When someone says something is unnatural, it’s not a comment on whether it exists in nature (which it always does), but the moral condemnation of the speaker.

Which brings us to wine. And the “natural” wine movement. If you can call it a movement. I guess when it comes to “natural” wine, there is a little bit more validity to the idea in that it bespeaks an adherence to low-tech wine production (though there is no real agreement about what qualifies and what doesn’t, since there are no clear standards on what you need to do to qualify as a “natural” winemaker).

For example, I think most “natural” winemakers would at least tow the line that they are against the use of chemicals. Of course, since everything is chemicals, that really doesn’t advance the discussion one whit. Now you can say it’s okay to use naturally occurring chemicals, but not those made in a laboratory. But is it okay to use sulfur dioxide? If you want to talk about relatively noxious chemicals, sulfur dioxide certainly meets the bill. But only the most extreme of “natural” winemakers eshew the use of sulfur dioxide for the simple reason that it is almost impossible to make a good wine that will last very long without it. So orthodoxy has to yield to expediency.

What about something like a centrifuge? In a sense, this is pretty natural since all it does is spin something around to clarify it. But I don’t think most “natural” winemakers would have much tolerance for centrifuge use.

So, “natural” winemaking really doesn’t have a whole lot to do with what is truly natural, but with what a group of self-proclaimed prophets want you to buy. Which is, not surprisingly, their wines.

I do think that there is a type of “generally” minimalist winemaking which “generally” adheres to the idea that when in doubt, do less. I myself subscribe to this winemaking philosophy. But I think it is fair to say that to the extent someone describes this philosophy as “natural”, he is engaged in an exercise in marketing more than anything else. The things that you do to wine which are in excess of minimal, are every bit as natural, in the sense that they use natural processes and exist in the real world.

And much of what the most minimalist winemaker does uses techniques that are intended to inhibit what wine would otherwise do. After all, left to itself, the endgame for wine is not wine, but vinegar. And nobody wants that, except maybe on their salad.

For, truth be told, even the most minimalist schools of winemaking routinely use materials and techniques which, though natural, or not “natural”. But, then again, if “natural” is really just a marketing moniker, then what difference does it make as long as you’re moving cases.

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Good Reads Wednesday

June 4th, 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.

Couldn’t find a thing, except the article on SVB on Wine that is the centerpiece of Monday’s post.

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 wine business in 20 years

June 2nd, 2014

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

SVB on Wine posted an interesting blog on the projected state of the wine business in 20 years. It is well worth reading and can be found at: “What Will The Wine Business Be in 20 Years?”,

http://svbwine.blogspot.com/2014/05/what-will-wine-business-be-in-20-years.html#more

While there is much of interest in the post, I think the following quote sums up the gist of it:

My crystal ball sees that we will be far more international in our sales efforts, the Millennials will be the dominant consumer with the Boomers an afterthought, there will be more roll-ups of wineries to deliver great quality wines in larger volumes, we’ll apply unimaginable technology to production and management, there will be more hedge fund and family office ownership, the AVA’s outside the West Coast will find their stride with some being recognized internationally for their high quality unique wine production, and far from label consolidation, I expect to see double the number of wineries and labels.

To put this all in perspective, suppose you come up with a new idea for a superior toothpaste. You borrow money from your relatives, put together $100,000 or two, and start producing the superior toothpaste. Is it truly superior? Well, for all intents and purposes, it doesn’t matter. Your chances of beating out Crest and Colgate to establish even a small niche in the marketplace are someplace between slim and none, with none the far more likely alternative.

When you look at almost any product, you see the same thing. The combination of existing market share, marketing power, and the ability to force products into distribution by the existing leaders makes entry by new, small, competitors almost impossible. You can add in regulatory burdens which almost require a large entity to able to absorb those costs and spread them across a large production.

The wine business for who knows what reason has been far more resistant to this trend than most businesses. But more resistance does not mean anything close to total resistance. While there are many small players in the business, when you tally up the total production of small producers against large producers, it is impossible not to conclude that even in our industry, the big players dominate the marketplace.

So I think what the future is going to bring is a bifurcated marketplace. National distribution, which includes all major grocery chains, the larger wine and liquor outlets such as BevMo and Total Wines, and even most local wine shops, is going to be dominated by the huge wineries such as Gallo and Kendall Jackson.

Small wineries will continue to exist, but they are going to need to go smaller and smaller. In the food business, you see the giant companies such as McDonald’s dominating the large chain and national marketplace, and then you see your mom and pop local restaurant or deli that caters to a clientele that want something a little different, something a little less corporate, and something where there is some human connection between buyer and seller. The same dynamic is playing out in the wine industry as well.

I think middle sized wineries are going to have the most difficult time of all. Based upon our own experience trying to sell into national distribution as a smaller company, it is really really hard. The large distributors have little interest in the volumes that small wineries can provide to them. Why sell 10 cases of the small winery’s product when you can sell 1000 cases of Kendall Jackson? The smaller distributors that can be an outlet for the smaller winery are a dying breed.

So while I think SVB on Wine may be correct that in 20 years will you will see even more wineries than we do now, the vast majority of those wineries will be very small catering to local clientele, and relying largely on direct to consumer sales. While we may see twice as many wineries, I think we will see the market share of all but the largest wineries shrink.

I, personally, don’t look upon these developments with any glee. But, realistically, in a nation where everything is trending towards dominance by a small number of large companies, it would be naïve to think the wine business is going to be able to dodge the bullet.

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Good Reads Wednesday

May 28th, 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.

Would You Rather Have a New BMW or a Bottle of Rosé?

VINOGRAPHY: a wine blog

http://www.vinography.com/archives/2014/05/would_you_rather_have_a_new_bm.html

A bottle of 1995 California Rosé sold at auction for over $37,000. I agree with Yarrow this is totally nuts.

Why a famous critic’s 100 point wine may disappoint you

Steve Heimoff

http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2014/05/22/why-a-famous-critics-100-point-wine-may-disappoint-you/

I agree with Heimoff that when you taste wines knowing which wine you are tasting, and particularly if you’re tasting it with the winemaker at the estate, rating inflation is inevitable. But even more to the point, one person’s 100 point wine is not going to be the next persons 100 point wine. It’s really that simple. No two people are going to react exactly the same to any wine.

Wine tasting + perfume = disaster

Wine Blog

http://www.wine-blog.org/index.php/2014/05/20/wine-tasting-perfume-disaster/

It’s one of those seen things that seems so obvious once you think about it, but since I never had, it had never occurred to me that wearing perfume while winetasting makes no sense whatsoever.

Update: How much should an everyday wine cost?

Wine Curmudgeon

http://winecurmudgeon.com/update-how-much-should-an-everyday-wine-cost/

This admittedly unscientific poll concluded that an everyday bottle of wine should fall in the $5-$12 price range. Admittedly, that’s a pretty wide range, but it’s still less than the wine industry would like to see. Including me.

2014 Secrets of A Successful Tasting Room

SVB on Wine

http://svbwine.blogspot.com/2014/05/2014-secrets-of-successful-tasting-room.html#more

A pretty interesting discussion of tasting room strategies.

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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