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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Grape, the obscure

August 11th, 2014

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

I’ve always held a special place in my heart for Sicily, which has to be one of my favorite places. So I read with interest this article that appeared in Palate Press:

The Grapes of What?

Michelle Locke

http://palatepress.com/2014/07/wine/grapes-sicilys-wine-revolution-challenge-marketing-unfamiliar-grapes/

While the article was about Sicily, and Sicilian wines, the point of the article is one that applies worldwide. It is simply difficult bordering on impossible to make a dent with wine varieties no one has ever heard of in a world awash with Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Merlot.

Having played around with different wine varieties from the south of Italy, I have to admit I have my own thoughts about them. It is no doubt true that Nero d’Avola is a dominant grape in the region, but I simply cannot get very excited about it.

On the other hand, Aglianico and Negroamaro both make stunning wines. Of course, as far as most wine buyers are concerned in the United States, I may as well be speaking Klingon. Because the vast majority of those buyers have never heard any of those three grapes. And if they have heard of them, they have never tasted them, and if they have tasted them, they’ve certainly not tasted enough of them to gain any real insight into what they are capable of doing.

To some extent, it is an insoluble problem. Between a day at the office and picking up the children at day care, a parent makes a quick stop at the local grocery store. There is simply no room in that person’s life for a sophisticated comparison of grapes obscure if not unknown. Why would that person ever consider pulling a bottle of Aglianico off the shelf even in the unlikely event that there were one there that could be pulled off?

Of course, they wouldn’t. And so it doesn’t matter how good a wine Aglianico makes if nobody tries it.

So I guess that is where the tasting room can really make all the difference. I experimented with a number of varieties some years ago and one of the most successful was Montepulciano. Good luck selling that in to national distribution. But in our tasting room it is a big hit. If you can sweep away all the hype, all the branding, all the association with the big-name grapes (Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay) and strip the process down to its bare essentials (i.e., just tasting the wine), the “mano a mano” square off where the only thing that counts is how they taste, then all of a sudden Montepulciano has a fighting chance. And that’s all it needs, because everybody who tastes it (or at least almost everybody) loves it.

Of course, you should not expect to see a Gallo Montepulciano on a grocery store shelf in a market near you anytime soon, since the chances of our quasi-prohibitionist nation allowing that type of tasting on a broad basis is remote at best. And even if it were to happen, the marketing machine that supports the status quo is an immense force that is not easily overcome.

So, at best, I think we will see a few “obscure” varieties transition from “obscure” to “niche”, in somewhat the way Zinfandel and Petite Sirah have done. They may still be drops in an ocean of wine, but at least most wine consumers when they hear “Zinfandel” can identify it as a wine grape, which puts it way ahead of Aglianico.

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Good Reads Wednesday

August 6th, 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.

Is “terroir” a social construct, or an objective fact?

Steve Heimoff

http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2014/07/30/is-terroir-a-social-construct-or-an-objective-fact/#sthash.IlJykrgh.dpuf

I have often written on my belief that the whole concept of terroir is overblown. And I continue to believe that. I can’t say that it is a total fabrication, but certainly overblown. In this post, Heimoff addresses the assertion that terroir has more to do with the social fabric that forms in an area (think Silicon Valley) than it does with the soil, climate, etc. I really don’t believe it is an either/or situation. Both contribute. The best social network is not going to produce great wines in Antarctica. And it takes a certain level of social interaction of winemakers and entrepreneurs to make great wines no matter where you’re at.

Who has the best job in wine?

Wine Curmudgeon

http://winecurmudgeon.com/who-has-the-best-job-in-wine/

I appreciated this post most for recognizing how much drudgery goes into making fine wine.

Is it the Right Time to Start a Second Label?

SVB on Wine

http://svbwine.blogspot.com/2014/07/is-it-right-time-to-start-second-label.html#more

Is it a good idea to start a second label? The answer here is, in most cases, 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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Cork, or how to close a wine bottle

August 4th, 2014

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

I have to admit that I am something of a nerd so when it comes to something as mundane as figuring out how to close the wine bottle, the first thing I want to look at is what works best.

Of course, others see things in a totally different light.  Take Jo Diaz for one.  You can find her views at: “Cork … It’s what’s for dinner”

http://www.wine-blog.org/index.php/2014/07/24/cork-whats-dinner-2/

The argument against cork is simply stated: Cork is something of a crapshoot. Most of the time it’s just fine. But on occasion you get a really bad cork and the wine is spoiled. Even when the cork is not “bad”, there is a degree of variability. A cork lets in a certain amount of oxygen over time. More oxygen, and the wine will age more quickly, eventually reaching senility and then worse.  So you can have two bottles of the same wine that come off the same bottling line right next to each other that, because of variation in the corks, will taste very different a few years later.

By contrast, other types of closures are far more predictable. A screwcap, for example, will do whatever it is designed to do.

The downside to a screwcap, at least when I last checked into the matter, was that it essentially let in no oxygen, which for many wines was not a good thing. I understand that it was technically possible to design a screwcap to allow some oxygen in and for all I know such a screwcap is now available.

But, for the reasons expressed by Jo Diaz, it really doesn’t matter. Because when people buy wine they really aren’t looking for something that only a nerd could love. They want to have an emotional connection with it.

Enter the cork. And so, for all its flaws, the cork continues to be the closure of choice for the vast majority of wines. And the fact that it is not technically the best closure? Nobody cares.

If there is one thing that is driving this home to me it is manning our tasting room a day or so a week. I have no doubt that our patrons want to taste, in fact insist on tasting, good wines. But if that is all you have to offer, then it is not enough. People want to feel some sort of connection between themselves and the winery. If they don’t feel that, they may as well walk into Safeway and pull a bottle of wine off the shelf that was produced half a world away by some conglomerate.

So if they are going to buy a bottle of wine from us, they need to feel some connection to a local enterprise, whose grapes are grown in a field that they drive by on occasion, and are processed on equipment that they actually see.

Portugal may be a far ways away from Suisun Valley, but at least there is a sense that somebody is growing a product, harvesting it, and converting it into something that somebody actually made, as opposed to something that came out of a laboratory and a factory. Maybe some people are happy with the product that performs best irrespective of its pedigree, but it is quite obvious to me that most people don’t feel that way.

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